kasyapa and the flower sermon

“Alright, I’ll tell you one.  Just one, then you’ve gotta go to sleep.  Your mom’s already going to kill me for letting you stay up this late.  Deal?”


“I’ll tell it to you as it was told to me, but forgive me if the details aren’t perfect, this old brain has seen better days.  You remember Siddhartha?  From last time?”

“Yeah, the prince who gave up all his money.”

“Yeah, that guy.  Well, he had been on the road a long time now, and a group of people had taken to following him.  Each morning at dawn these folks who had abandoned their lives gathered to hear Siddhartha talk.  The talks weren’t religious, not in any organized sense, he was just thinking out loud, trying to figure out how to live.  One of these followers was a young man named Kasyapa.  He was new to all of this, Kasyapa.  He struggled with the teachings, and the others made fun of him for his difficulties.  But still each morning he came and sat before Siddhartha and tried to understand.

One morning the people gathered as usual, but instead of speaking, Siddhartha held up a white flower and sat looking at it. His students waited patiently for him to begin.  Minutes passed.  Then hours.  “What is it?” Someone asked. “What’s the lesson?” said another. Soon it was noon, and still Siddhartha simply sat in silence with the flower.  One by one the people, shaking their heads, some in confusion, some in disgust, rose and went about their daily chores.  There was still much to be done in a camp in those days, even for poor wanderers.  So they drifted away, until only Kasyapa was left, sitting alone before the portly sage.

He stared and he stared, this boy, with his brow scrunched and his tongue peeking from the corner of his mouth.  He tried with all his power, straining until sweat beaded on his brow, but nothing changed, nothing became clear.  “I’m sorry, master, I don’t know what you want me to say. I don’t understand.”  Siddhartha just sat, unchanged, looking at the flower.  Kasyapa let go a long breath, closed his eyes, and bowed his head.  He had chores to do.

Before he got to his feet, however, he looked one last time at the flower.  And this time, in a wordless stillness that stretched on forever, he looked and he saw.  And he smiled.  When he looked up, grinning, at Siddhartha, the Buddha was smiling back at him.”


“…I don’t get it.”

“Hush now, give it time.”

“But, why–”

“Shh, child.  Stop talking.”


“Stop talking and you’ll see.”

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