[i]‘Thus have I heard.
At one time the Buddha was staying in Śrāvastī, at Jetṛ’s Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park.
Then the bhiksu Kokālika went to where the Exalted One was. He bowed down his head at [the Exalted One’s] feet and sat down at one side.
Then that bhikṣu said to the Exalted One: the intentions (samudācāra) of the bhikṣus Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana are very wicked; there are many [instances of] misconduct (duścarita) [on their part].
Do not say so, demanded the Exalted One, you whose heart takes delight in the Tathāgata, [listen to me]: Śāriputra’s and Maudgalyāyana’s conduct is absolutely virtuous (ekāntakuśala) and not at all unvirtuous.
Now the bhiksu Kokālika said to the Exalted One a second and a third time: What the Tathāgata says is true and not false (abhūta). However, the intentions of the bhikṣus Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana are very wicked; they have no roots of merit (kuśalamūla).
You are a fool (bāla), replied the Exalted One, you do not, alas, trust what the Tathāgata says. Bt claiming (nir- √vac) that the bhikṣus Śāriputra and Maudgalyayana are very wicked this is now [such an instance of] misconduct on your part that before long you will face the consequence [or it].
Then that bhiksu rose from his seat and his body became covered with terrible abscesses: [first] in size of sesame seeds, [then] they turned pea-sized, gradually āmalaka[ii]-size, then even walnut size and [finally] añjali-size[iii]. Pus and blood gushed [from the abscesses, that bhikṣu’s] body broke up, his life came to an end and he was reborn in the Lotus Hell (padmaniraya).
When Venerable Maha-Maudgalyāyana heard that Kokālika’s life had come to an end, he went to where the Exalted One was, bowed his head at [the latter’s] feet and sat down at one side.
Instantly[iv] he rose from his seat [again] and asked the Exalted One: Where was the bhikṣu reborn?
When his life had come to an end, he was reborn in the Lotus Hell, replied the Exalted One.
Now I would like to go to that hell, said venerable Maudgalyāyana, in order to instruct that person.
You need not go to him, Maudgalyāyana, remarked the Exalted One.
I [still] would like to go to hell in order to instruct that person, repeated Maudgalyāyana. Thereafter the Exalted One remained silent and did not reply.
Then, as fast as a strong man bends his arm, Maha-Maudgalyāyana disappeared from Śrāvastī and arrived in the Lotus Hell. Just at that time the bhikṣu Kokālika’s body was all ablaze, and there were a hundred head of cattle ploughing into his tongue. Sitting cross-legged (paryaṅkam ābhujya) in the air and snapping his fingers[v], Maha-Maudgalyāyana signaled [his arrival] to that bhikṣu, and at once the latter, while looking upwards, asked him: Who are you?
Kokālika, Maudgalyāyana answered, I am a disciple of Śākyamuni Buddha. My personal name is Maudgalyayana, my family name is Kolita[vi].
Having recognized Maudgalyāyana, the bhikṣu spat these malicious words [at him]: Now I am sunk in this miserable destiny (durgati) but, alas, without being spared from your presence.
He had hardly uttered these words when, consequentially, a thousand head of cattle appeared, ploughing into his tongue. When Maudgalyāyana had witnessed that, it saddened him all the more, [realising]that in [Kokālika] there was no change of heart making him repent.
Maudgalyāyana returned to Śrāvastī and went to where the Exalted One was. He bowed down… and stood at one side. Then he reported the whole matter to the Exalted One who replied: I told you before that it was not necessary to go to see that wicked man.
On this occasion, the Exalted One uttered the following verses:
The man was born to have a hatchet in his mouth with
Which he cuts up himself. Through his malicious words
He has rendered both his and my breathing (āśvāsapraśvāsa)
Obnoxious (aprāsādika), [whereas breathing] in and out
Is [otherwise] entirely wholesome, Such [a person] is
Sunk in a miserable destiny; his action was extremely
Wicked. Such a wicked [action] directed against a
Tathāgata, either of the past or present[vii], [entails] the
Gravest [consequences]: thirteen thousand and six
[Aeons] and [yet] one [more of staying in] the Hell of
Hot ashes (bhasmaniraya). He who commits [wicked]
Actions by deed or word [such as] abusing noble
Persons, will go to that [hell].
Thereupon the Exalted one said to the bhikṣus: You should train in three things to perfect your conduct. In which three? In virtuous conduct by deed, word and thought. Thus, bhikṣus, you should train.
After listening to the Buddha’s words, the bhikṣus were pleased and respectfully applied themselves to practice.[viii]
[i] CBETA, T02, no. 125, p. 603, b2-c17. This translation originally published as Ekottarāgama XXXI, Buddhist Studies Review 20.1, 2003, p 80-82. Translated from the Chinese version by Thích Huyên-Vi and Bhikkhu Pāsādika in collaboration with Sara Boin-Webb.
[ii] I.e. fruit of the emblic myrobalan
[iii] I.e. size of cupped hands
[iv] According to the reading of T2, 603, n. 19, and Hayashi against that of CBETA.
[v] See Karashima, p.440.
[vi] See BHSD, p.194b.
[vii] After Hayashi’s Japanese transl. (p.195); cf. also Hackmann, p.115 under ##
[viii] For a parallel to this EĀ sutra, which includes some colourful details of the Buddha’s reaction to an irremediable person, see S I, p.149 ff.: Sāvatthī … Atha kho Kokāliko bhikkhu yena Bhagavā… Pāpicchā bhante Sāriputta-Moggallāna pāpikānaṁ icchānaṁ vasaṁ gatā ti… purisassa hi jātassa kuṭhārī jayate (read with Nalanda ed.: jāyate) mukhe yāya chindati attānaṁ bālo dubbhāsitaṁ bhaṇaṁ…
Another parallel is found at AV, p.170 ff. C.A.F. Rhys Davids, Kindred Sayings I, PTS, 1917, p.188 ff., translates: ‘On another occasion,at Savatthi, the Kokālikan bhikku, coming into the presence of the Exalted One,… Wicked, lord in their desires are Sāriputta and Moggallāna! They are ruled by wicked desires!...
‘In sooth to every man that’s born
A hatchet grows within his mouth,
Wherewith the fool, whene’er he speaks
And speaks amiss, doth cut himself…’
On p.188 f., ibid., n. 4, Rhys David’s gives further places where the popular Kokālika story is told.