Kassapa and the Fire Worshipers

This lesson was shared with children between the ages of 4 and 7.  However, I plan to use this again with upper elementary students.  Some of my older kids have been asking for more lessons that include art and projects.

Kassapa was the chief of a group of Brahmin hermits who worshiped fire.  In a sacred room they kept a fire burning.  The room also housed a great serpent that was rumored to be a monstrous fire dragon.

The Buddha visited the hermits.  He told Kassapa that he would like to sleep in the room of the sacred fire.  This concerned Kassapa.  He was certain that the serpent would harm the Buddha.  That night the Buddha sat erect in perfect mindfulness.  The fire serpent tried to attack the Buddha.  It spewed it's poison all over, but the Buddha was protected by his special powers.  The serpent was consumed in it's fiery rage.

In the morning, Kassapa entered the fire room, expecting to find the Buddha consumed by the serpent.  He was amazed to find the Buddha alive and the serpent destroyed.  The Buddha said to Kassapa, "His fire has been conquered by my fire."  Kassapa realized that the Buddha was an extraordinary man.  He decided to shave his head, put on robes and follow the Buddha's teaching.

When the other fire worshipers learned that Kassapa had become a disciple of the Buddha, they too decided to become monks.  The Buddha gave a sermon to the men who had worshiped fire.  He said, "The three most powerful fires are greed, ingorance, and hatred.  One must put out these fires to end suffering."

Keep it simple.
I wanted the children to  remember what the Buddha said about the three fires.  Our lesson activities centered around this theme.

Use what you have.
This story is an exciting one for the children.  Rather than reading it from a book, I recommend using props.  Using felt or paper images of the characters and the snake, or dolls and a toy snake would be a nice way to keep their attention.  I'd love to give a few of my son's Lego action figures a bit of a "make-over" for this lesson next year.

After the story I laid out a felt cloth and placed three felt images of fire on it.  These were made by cutting brown felt into 6 strips.  Then I cut red or orange felt into the shapes of three flames.  You could use construction paper instead.
The children were asked to recall the three greatest fires.  As they called them out I placed an index card with the word underneath one of the flames.  My stepson is great at making "burning letters".  He made the index cards with the words GREED, IGNORANCE, and HATRED in fancy, flaming letters.

Then I asked, "What did the Buddha say we must do to these fires to end our suffering?  Do we have to make the fires bigger?"  The children all knew that my suggestion was silly.  "You have to put it out!"   Our group was small enough, that we had time for each child to take a turn labeling the three flames and then putting out the fires, by removing the flames from the wood.

We talked about each word in simple terms.
Greed is wanting more and more.  It's wanting things so badly that you are angry when you can't get them.  It's wanting things so badly that you're willing to hurt yourself or others for it.  

Ignorance means to not know about something.  When the Buddha speaks of ignorance he is talking about not understanding the Dharma, his teachings.

Hatred is being so angry that you want to hurt others or yourself.

To help the children remember these three dangerous fires we also did a little pasting project.
They were each given a paper with the words Put out the fires of: at the top.
At the bottom of the paper were the words A
nger, Greed, Ignorance. 
 Each child was also given 3 pre-cut paper flames and 6 pre-cut paper logs. 
  They pasted the logs and fire above each word.  The final product looked like this:
When I do this project with my older students I will make a few changes to the presentation.  First, we will read the story aloud together.  Second, instead of a felt board, the three fires will be introduced with three actual candles.  The children will have a chance to label and light the candle.  Other children will then use a snuffer to put out the flames.  Also, when it is time to create the art, I'll give them the paper and scissors and let them create their own interpretation of the fires however they like.

May all be free from suffering by the power of the Triple Gem!


  1. Finally found material which i could use on for my special needs class. Neede something simple, practical with losing the essence of the message. Will give feed back. Sincere thanks,

  2. I'm so glad it will help. Thanks for the encouraging feedback!