An ascetic who possessed various psychic powers. Once, while in Tāvatiṃsā heaven, he saw the whole city decked with splendour and the gods engaged in great rejoicing. On inquiry he learnt that Siddhattha Gotama, destined to become the Buddha, had been born. Immediately he went to Suddhodana’s home and asked to see the babe. From the auspicious marks on its body he knew that it would become the Enlightened One and was greatly overjoyed, but realising that he himself would, by then, be born in an Arūpa world and would not therefore be able to hear the Buddha preach, he wept and was sad. Having reassured the king regarding the babe’s future, Asita sought his sister’s son, Nalaka, and ordained him that he might be ready to benefit by the Buddha’s teaching when the time came. Snp.p.131–136
A sage (isi). His story is given in the Assalāyana Sutta. MN.ii.154ff. Once there were seven brahmin sages living in thatched cabins in the wilds. They conceived the view that the brahmins are the highest class of men and that they alone are the legitimate sons of Brahma. Hearing of this, Asita Devala appeared before their hermitage in orange attire, with stout sandals and staff, and shouted for them. The brahmins cursed him with the intention of shrivelling him into a cinder, but the more they cursed the more comely and handsome grew Asita. Feeling that their austerities were evidently fruitless, they questioned Asita who urged them to discard their delusion. Having learnt his identity, they saluted him and wished to be instructed; Asita examined and cross-questioned them about their pretensions regarding their lineage and they could find no answer. They thereupon followed his advice and renounced their claims to superiority.