Asita or Kaladevala or Kanhasiri was a hermit ascetic depicted in Buddhist sources as having lived in ancient India. He was a teacher and advisor of Suddhodana, the father of the Buddha, and is best known for having predicted that prince Siddhartha of Kapilavastu would either become a great chakravartin or become a supreme religious leader; Siddhartha was later known as Gautama Buddha.
The Theravada tradition depicts Asita as an advisor and chaplain to Sihahanu, the grandfather of Gotama Buddha. He was the teacher of Suddhodana, and then served him as he had his father. At the time of the birth of the Buddha, he had retired by permission of Suddhodana and was living in the forest as an ascetic.
A vision alerted Asita of the birth of the Bodhisattva Gotama, causing him to leave the forest and travel to see the infant, where he prophesied that he would become either a ‘wheel turning monarch’ (chakravartin) or a Buddha. Disappointed that his own life would end before the Buddha awakened and began preaching, he ordained his nephew, Nalaka, so that he would be able to hear the Buddha’s teachings. Nalaka is called Naradatta in the Lalitavistara.
Names and Related Figures
Another sage or rishi known as Asita Devala is sometimes confused with him in literary sources- this second Asita Devala was a sage from ancient times who was reborn as a disciple of the Buddha. This confusion may explain why in the Lalitavistara Sūtra there are two versions of Asita’s prophecy- one where Asita visits Suddhodana as described in the Pali sources, and another where Asita is a hermit living in the Himalayas who never meets Suddhodana but perceives the birth of the Buddha due to his supernatural powers.
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