1. Tapassu, Tapussa.-A merchant of Ukkala. He and his friend, Bhalluka (Bhalliya), while on their way to Rājagaha, saw the Buddha at the foot of the Rājāyatana tree, in the eighth week after the Enlightenment. Urged by a deity, who had been their relation, they offered the Buddha rice-cakes and honey in a bowl provided by the Four Regent Gods. They became the first lay disciples of the Buddha, and their formula of Refuge contained no reference to the Sangha (Vin.i.3f; A.i.26; UdA.54; J.i.80).
According to the Theragāthā Commentary (i.48f), Tapassu and Bhalluka were brothers, sons of a caravan leader of Pokkharavatī. Some time later they visited the Buddha at Rājagaha, where he preached to them; Tapassu, thereupon, became a Sotāpanna, while Bhalluka entered the Order and became an arahant.
In the time of Sikhī Buddha they were brahmins of Arunavatī. Hearing that two caravan leaders, Ujita and Ojita, had given the first meal to the Buddha, they gave alms to the Buddha and his monks, and wished for a similar privilege for themselves under a future Buddha. In the time of Kassapa Buddha, they were sons of Gopāla-setthi, and for many years provided the monks with milk rice.
The Anguttara Commentary (AA.i.207f) says that the deity, who caused Tapassu and Bhalluka to give alms to the Buddha, was their mother in their previous birth. The Buddha gave them, for worship, eight handfuls of his hair, which he obtained by stroking his head. They took the hair with them to their city - which, according to this account, was Asitañjana - and there built a cetiya, from which rays of blue light issued on fast-days. Tapassu is called a dvevācikaupāsaka (AA.ii.696), and is included in a list of eminent upāsakas. A.iii.450. The Sanskrit books call him Trapusa (Dvy.393; Mtu.iii.303.)
See also Tapassu Sutta below.
2. Tapassu.-Chief of the lay disciples of Dīpankara Buddha. Bu.ii.215.