From the sixth to the eighth weeks after the Enlightenment the Buddha spent his time going back and forth between the Bodhi Tree and the goat-herds' banyan tree. On the fourteenth day of the waxing moon of the eighth lunar month, in the eighth week after the Enlightenment, the Buddha took leave of the area of the Enlightenment to make his way to the Deer Park at Benares, nowadays known as Sarnath, in the vicinity of Varanasi. At that time the Group of Five who had once followed the Buddha in his renunciation and lived with and tended him had come to live at this place.
On the way, specifically when he reached the Gaya River on the border of the district in which he had been Enlightened, the Buddha met a matted-hair ascetic by the name of Upaka coming the opposite way. Upaka was was said to be an Ajivaka one of the kinds of ascetics who were common in the Buddha's time and a Digambara.
The Buddha goes to find the Group of Five
meeting Upaka the ascetic along the way.
As the Buddha drew nearer, the ascetic asked him who his teacher was. When the Buddha answered that he had no teacher, that he was a ayambhu, fully self-Enlightened, the ascetic Upaka muttered: "It may be so, friend," shook his head and giving way to the Blessed One, went on his journey.(source)
It is important to note carefully this event of Upaka's meeting with the Buddha. Here was Upaka coming face to face with a truly Enlightened One, but he did not realize it. Even when the Blessed One openly confessed that he was indeed a Buddha, Upaka remained skeptical because he was holding fast to the wrong beliefs. In those days as well as today, there are people who follow wrong paths, refuse to believe when they hear about the right method of practice. They show disrespect to and talk disparagingly of those practising and teaching the right method. Such misjudgments arising out of false impression or opinion should be carefully avoided. See Silabbata Paramasa, which is generally translated into meaning the adherence to wrongful belief, rites, rituals and ceremonies.
Even though he did not evince complete acceptance of what the Buddha said, Upaka appeared to have gone away with a certain amount of faith in the Buddha, as he came back to the Buddha after some time. After leaving the Buddha on the road to Benares, he later got married to Capa (Chawa), a hunter's daughter, and made his living selling the meat his father-in-law, the hunter, killed. Capa, who had aparently greatly admired Upaka as long as he had been an ascetic, began to dispise him for having been entrapped by HER and endlessly ridiculed him. Because of that, even though they had a son, he became weary of the household life and left, making his way to Savatthi, found the Buddha and entered the order. Practising the Buddha's teaching, he gained the stage of Once-returner, the Anagami. Foreseeing this beneficial result which would accrue out of his meeting with Upaka, the Blessed One continued on foot on his long journey to Benares.
The Therigatha Commentary supplies a favorable ending to the story of Capa, Upaka's wife. She is said to have followed her husband to Savatthi and likewise gone forth into the homeless life. She then outdid her husband by becoming an Arahat. The Therigatha contains at least twenty verses attributed to her, some taking the form of a dialogue with her husband. As for their son, Subhadda, the texts do not mention what became of him, but more than likely his care would have been entrusted to the Bhikkhunii Sangha.
For additional insight and further clarification regarding the incident above where Upaka, even in the presence of the Buddha himself, is unable to discern the Great One's Enlightenment, please see: Dark Luminosity. See also The Honeyball Sutra wherein one Dandapani the Sakyan also, upon meeting with the Buddha, just walked away from him expressing doubt.
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
WHEN INFINITIES COLLIDE
HOW TO RECOGNIZE ENLIGHTENMENT
IN THE WAY OF ENLIGHTENMENT: the Ten Fetters of Buddhism
Interestingly enough, Upaka was not the only one to walk away from the Buddha. The following is from the HONEYBALL SUTTA:
"I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was living among the Sakyans near Kapilavatthu in the Banyan Park. Then in the early morning, having put on his robes and carrying his bowl & outer robe, he went into Kapilavatthu for alms. Having gone for alms in Kapilavatthu, after the meal, returning from his alms round, he went to the Great Wood for the day's abiding. Plunging into the Great Wood, he sat down at the root of a bilva sapling for the day's abiding."
"Dandapani ("Stick-in-hand") the Sakyan, out roaming & rambling for exercise, also went to the Great Wood. Plunging into the Great Wood, he went to where the Blessed One was under the bilva sapling. On arrival, he exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he stood to one side. As he was standing there, he said to the Blessed One, "What is the contemplative's doctrine? What does he proclaim?"
"The sort of doctrine, friend, where one does not keep quarreling with anyone in the cosmos with its deities, Maras, & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & priests, its royalty & commonfolk; the sort [of doctrine] where perceptions no longer obsess the brahman who remains dissociated from sensual pleasures, free from perplexity, his uncertainty cut away, devoid of craving for becoming & non-. Such is my doctrine, such s what I proclaim."
"When this was said, Dandapani the Sakyan -- shaking his head, wagging his tongue, raising his eyebrows so that his forehead was wrinkled in three furrows -- left, leaning on his stick."
The Ball of Honey
Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Return to: The Buddha's Meeting With Upaka