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Erakapatta

A Nāga king. In the time of Kassapa Buddha he was a monk. One day, while in a boat, he grasped an eraka-leaf, and through his failing to let go, the leaf was broken off. Though he practised meditation for twenty thousand years in the forest, at the moment of his death he thought of the lapse with great remorse and was reborn in the Nāga world as large as a dug-out canoe, much to his grief and despair. When a daughter was born to him he taught her a song and, once a fortnight, he appeared with her on the surface of the Gaṅgā, where she danced on his hood and sang the song. She was offered in marriage to anyone who could sing a reply to her song. Erakapatta hoped thereby to become aware of it when a Buddha should appear in the world. Many suitors came, and an interval between two Buddhas passed and still no one was successful. At last a young brahmin, Uttara (q.v.), well-schooled for the task by the Buddha, appeared before the Nāga-maiden and answered all her questions. (Uttara himself became a Stream-winner when he finished learning his lesson from the Buddha). Erakapatta at once knew that a Buddha had come, and asked Uttara to take him to the Teacher. At the sight of the Buddha, Erakapatta was seized with great sorrow on account of his condition, but the Buddha taught him and consoled him. It is said that the Nāga king would have attained the Fruit of Conversion had it not been for his animal nature. DhA.iii.230‑6.

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