Asita (1) ［阿私仙人］ (; Ashi-sennin): A seer mentioned in the “Devadatta” (twelfth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra and referred to as a former incarnation of Devadatta. According to this chapter, when Shakyamuni was a king in a past existence, he renounced the throne to seek the Law. At that time, a seer named Asita came to the retired king and said: “I have a great-vehicle text called the Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Law. If you will never disobey me, I will expound it for you.” Overjoyed, the former king served the seer, carrying firewood, drawing water, and making a couch of his own body for the seer to sleep on. One thousand years passed, and the king finally received instruction in the Lotus Sutra from the seer. In the “Devadatta” chapter, having related this story, Shakyamuni identifies the king with himself, and the seer with Devadatta. Moreover, he says that Devadatta acted as a “good friend” to him, or one who leads other people to the correct teaching, and that he was thus able to attain enlightenment. He then predicts that Devadatta will become a Buddha named Heavenly King. Kumārajīva’s Chinese translation of the Lotus Sutra carries the name of this seer, but his name does not appear in the extant versions of the Sanskrit text.
(2) ［阿私陀］ (, Pali; Ashida): A seer of Kapilavastu, the kingdom of the Shākyas, in northern India. According to the Causality of Past and Present Sutra, when Shakyamuni was born, his father, King Shuddhodana, asked Asita to examine his newborn child’s physiognomy. Asita, perceiving in the child the thirty-two features of a great man, foretold that, if the boy remained in the secular world, he would become a wheel-turning king by the age of twenty-nine; but if he renounced secular life, which was more probable, he would achieve supreme wisdom and become a Buddha. Asita lamented that, since he himself was already ninety years old, he would die before the prince attained enlightenment and therefore be unable to hear the Buddha’s teaching.