On how a corpse can confirm the wisdom of the Buddha

charnel-ground

A curious passage occurs in the Pātika-sutta (D III 1-35). It has to do with an ascetic called Korakkhattiya (D III 6), who goes on all fours, naked, eating his food like a dog. In his ascetic practices he is clearly comparable to Seniya in the Kukkuravatika-sutta (M I 387-392). Seniya is a naked dog-duty ascetic (kukkura-vatiko: A dog, usually of a fierce character, a hound. Imitating a dog. M I 387; Nett 99).

Korakkhattiya, according to the Index of Pali Proper Names, was a naked ascetic who bellowed like a dog, walked on all fours, and licked up food with his mouth, like a dog. In the Pātika-sutta it is prophesized by the Buddha that he will die in seven days of indigestion and be reborn among the Kālakañjaka asuras (‘dark demons’), who are very lowly (D III 7).

The prophesy comes true, and, in a curios passage, Korakkhattiya’s corpse, having been discarded in the charnel-ground, is struck three times by a disciple of the Buddha, named Sunakkhatta, and is asked his fate. The corpse of Korakkhattiya sits up, rubs his back and indeed confirms that the Buddha was correct, he had indeed been reborn among the Kālakañjaka asuras (D III 8).

As I said, I find this passage curious. However, a few things are clear. There is the mention of so-called ‘dog-duty’ ascetic practices. The Kukkuravatika-sutta expands on some details of these practices, and has a long discussion of the karmic consequences of this type of behavior (I have recently published an article describing the Kukkuravatika-sutta: Paul Fuller, ‘The Dog-Duty Ascetic: Action in the Pali Canon with Reference to the Politics of Action in Modern Burma’, Thai International Journal of Buddhist Studies).

Second, there is the idea, common in the Pali Canon, that the Buddha knows the events of the future, particularly the place and type of rebirth according to the actions performed by the individual. This is an example of him making use of one of the three knowledges (tevijja) he gained when he achieved awakening, namely the ‘divine eye’ (dibba-cakkhu) by which he is able to know people’s rebirth according to their actions (karma/kamma). 

Finally, there is the corpse, miraculously confirming that the Buddha’s prediction was indeed correct. What better witness to the wisdom of the Buddha than a corpse who can indeed confirm the place of his rebirth, who can confirm that the Buddha does indeed possess the ‘divine eye’, and with the pronouncement, the law of karma is also established.

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