Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “story of devadatta, the victim of profit and honors” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Story of Devadatta, the victim of profit and honors


When the Buddha returned to the land of Kia p’i lo p’o (Kapilavastu) for the first time, he was accompanied by 1250 bhikṣus, all brahmacārins; since they had been worshippers of fire (agni), their appearance was miserable; since they had practiced fasting and asceticism, their bodies were emaciated. King Tsing fan (Śuddhodana) said to himself: “My son’s companions (parivāra), although animated by pure intention (cittaviśuddhi), are really not good-looking. I am going to choose among my sons and grandsons; each family will give one of their members to be a disciple of the Buddha.” Having had this thought, he published an edict in the land enjoining certain young men of the nobility of the Śākyas to leave home and go forth (pravrajyā).[1] It was then that Devadatta, son of king Hou fan (Droṇodana),[2] left home practiced the Path and recited the 60,000 items of the Dharma (dharmaskandha).[3] For twelve years he pursued his efforts zealously.[4]

Conquest of the supernatural powers.

(see note on Devadatta’s magical powers)

Later, coveting honor (satkāra) and gain (lābha), he went to find the Buddha to ask him to teach him the supernatural powers (abhijñā).[5] The Buddha said to him: “Gautama, consider the impermanence of the five aggregates (pañcaskandhānityatā): this is how you will be able to find the Path and, at the same time, obtain the supernatural powers”; however, the Buddha did not teach him the means of acquiring them. Devadatta went away and made the same request of Śāriputra, Maudgalyāyana and up to five hundred arhats, but all of them were silent about the method, saying: “Consider the impermanence of the five aggregates: you will thus find the Path and at the same time acquire the supernatural powers.” Devadatta wept with vexation and, going to Ānanda, begged him to teach him the supernatural powers. At that time, Ānanda did not yet have the knowledge of another’s mind (paracittajñāna); however, out of consideration for his brother and on the advice of the Buddha, he taught Devadatta the means of acquiring the supernatural powers. Devadatta withdrew to the mountain and soon acquired the [first] five powers.

Connection with Ajātaśatru.

Once in possession of these five powers, he said: “Who should be my benefactor (dānapati)? Prince A chö che (Ajātaśatru) has the marks (nimitta) of a great king; I want to make him my friend.”

At once he went to the heaven [of the Trāyastriṃsas] and took the celestial food (divyāhāra);[6] on his return, he went to the Yu tan lo yue (Uttaravatī) and gathered the rice [growing there] spontaneously;[7] finally he came to the Yen feou (Jambuvana) forest and there he gathered the fruit of the rose-apple (jambuphala). He gave all of these to prince Ajātaśatru as a gift.

He transformed himself several times, changing into a marvelous elephant (hastiratna) or a marvelous horse (aśvaratna) and disturbing the prince’s mind. One day he changed into a child (kumāraka) and came to sit on the prince’s lap; the prince took him in his arms, kissed him and gave him some spit.[8] Each time Devadatta stated his name so that the prince recognized him.

Devadatta moved Ajātaśatru’s mind by means of these transformations (pariṇāma); the prince lost his head. He built a large monastery (vihāra) in the Ngai yuan (Ambavana);[9] nothing was missing in it, not the fourfold pūjā, not the most varied furnishings. He made a gift of this monastery to Devadatta and, each day, leading his great ministers (mahāmātya), Ajātaśatru brought five hundred cauldrons of rice soup.

First sin: the schism.

(see notes on the first sin)

Although Devadatta received so many offerings, his community was limited. He said to himself: “I have thirty marks of the Great Man (mahāpurusalakṣaṇa),[10] a few less than the Buddha [who has thirty-two]; but my disciples are not numerous. If I had a large community (mahāsaṃgha) [165a] around me, in what way would I be different from the Buddha?” Having had this thought, he provoked a schism in the assembly (saṃghabheda) and won five hundred disciples to his cause.

Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana came to preach the Dharma to them and converted them; [the Buddha’s] community was reformed.

Second sin: Wound inflicted on the Buddha.

(see notes on the second sin)

Then Devadatta conceived a dire plan (duṣṭacitta): he pushed down a rock to crush the Buddha. But Kin kang li che (Vajrapāṇi) with his thunderbolt (vajrakīla) threw the rock far away. However, a rock splinter split off which wounded the Buddha’s toe.

Third sin: Mortal wounding of an arhatī.

(see notes on the third sin)

When the bhikṣuṇī (Utpalavarṇā) reproached him, Devadatta struck her with his fist. At that moment, her eyes fell out of [their orbits] and she died.

Thus Devadatta committed three sins of immediate retribution (ānantarya).[11]

Connection with the heretics.

He joined in friendship with bad teachers, the heretic Fou lan ma (Pūraṇa), etc.; he destroyed all the roots of good (kuśalamūla) unashamedly.

Attempt to poison the Buddha and fall into hell.

(see notes on the poisoning of the Buddha)

Finally, Devadatta dipped his fingernails into poison (viṣa) and, under the pretext of going to bow before the Buddha, he tried to wound him. He wanted to go, but had not arrived at the city of Rājagṛha, when the earth opened up and a fiery chariot came to get him. Devadatta entered into hell (niraya) alive.

Although Devadatta did possess on his body thirty marks of the Great Man, he was unable to tame his mind; carried away by the lure of honors and gain, he committed the great sins and, alive, entered into hell.

This is why the sūtra says that profit and honors are a deep wound that breaks the skin and penetrates as far as the marrow. One must keep from liking toadies. In the bodhisattva, patience consists of not clinging to those who cover one with veneration (pūjā) and respect (satkāra).

Notes on the story of Devadatta:

The story of Devadatta is of considerable interest from the point of view of the formation of Buddhist legends and scriptures; see Kern, Histoire, I, p. 186–206; Manual, p. 38–40; T. W. Rhys-Davids, Devadatta, ERE,IV, p.676–677. Thomas, Life of Buddha, p. 131–138. Here is a brief account of the sources:

1) The Suttapiṭaka makes only brief allusions to Devadatta: the Dīgha has not a single word about him; the Majjhima and the Saṃyutta know him as a man of evil desires (Saṃ.,II, p. 156), lost in greed and ambition (Maj., I, p. 192); Saṃ, II, p. 240–242), condemned to hell (Maj., I, p. 392). The Aṅguttara is better informed; but, except for a single passage (Aṅ., IV, p. 402 seq.), all the places dealing with Devadatta seem to be borrowed word for word from the Pāli Vinaya (Aṅ., II, p. 73 = Vin., II, p. 188; Aṅ,, II, P, 123 = Vin., II, p. 185; Aṅ., IV, p. 160, 164 – Vin., II, p. 202) and may be considered as interpolations. Similarly, the Udāna, p. 60, is taken from Vin., II, p. 198; Ittivuttaka, p. 85 is taken from Vin., II, p. 203.

The Chinese Āgamas do not seem to know the famous heretic any better, except for the Ekottara of late date and encyclopedic nature, which tells the story of Devadatta in full detail (T 125, k. 47, p. 803b–806a).

The Mahāsṃghikas are limited to presenting Devadatta as the Buddha’s cousin and rival in childhood (cf. Mahāvastu, II, p. 74; III, p. 176 seq.; Fo pen hing tsi king, T 190, k. 12, p. 705b–c), but seem to be unaware of the schism he provoked in the community; according to them, Devadatta was not part of the order because the Buddha had refused to ordain him: cf. Mahāvastu, III, p. 181, l. 3; T 190, k. 59, o. 923c (tr. Beal, Romantic Legend, p. 380). It may be that the Mahāsaṃghikas separated from the Sthaviras before the legend of Devadatta was completed.

2) The Vinayas and the sources that depend on them give us plenty of information on the collusion between Devadatta and Ajātaśatru, the schism which he caused in the community, the plots which he concocted against the Buddha, as well as his fall into hell. But here again it is necessary to distinguish between two groups of Vinaya:

a. The Pāli Vinaya (II, p. 182–203; tr. Rh. D-Oldenberg, III, p. 224–265) as well as its two tributaries, the Vin of the Mahīśāsakas (T 1421, k. 25, p. 164a–166b) and that of the Dharmaguptas (T 1428, k. 46, p. 909b–910c), know the main features of the legend only. It seems that in the Pāli language these became congealed in the Vinaya, for later sources such as the Jātaka II, p. 355–358; Iv, p. 158–159; V, p. 333–337; VI, p. 129–131, and the Dhammapadaṭṭhakathā, I, p. 133–150) show no appreciable evolution.

b. On the other hand, the Sarvātivādin sources developed the story of Devadatta considerably and inserted a number of unedited episodes. To be convinced of this, it is enough to glance at the lengthy pages which the Sarvāstivādin Vinaya and related texts have dedicated to him: Sarvāstivādin Vin, T 1435, k. 257a–271a; Mūlasarvāstivādin Vin., T 1450, k. 13–14, p. 168a–174c; k. 20, p. 203; T 1464, k. 2, p. 859a–860a(cf. Rockhill, Life, p. 83–87, 92, 94, 106–107). From these developed sources, the Mppś has borrowed the complete biography of Devadatta of which it gives a summary here. The Memoirs of Hiuan Tsang repeat it in almost the same words: Cf. Si yu ki, T 2087, k. 5, p.899a–900a (tr. Beal, II, p. 8–9; Watters, I, p. 390).

Notes on Devadatta’s supernatural powers:

One day when the Buddha was at Rājagṛha, a famine broke out. The bhikṣus who had magical powers went to various mythical regions, Jambudvīpa, Pūrvavideha, Aparagodāna, Uttarakuru, the Trāyastriṃśa heaven, to gather the marvelous foods and fruits which these regions produced and distributed them to the community. Envious of their powers, Devadatta asked the Buddha to teach him magic, but the Buddha advised him rather to work for his own salvation. Devadatta then addressed the great bhikṣus, Śāriputra, Maudgalyāyana and up to 500 arhats, but all of them refused him. In despair, Devadatta then had recourse to his brother Ānanda who, giving in to his entreaties, gave him the secrets of magic and other miraculous powers.

– Cf. Che song liu, T 1435, k. 36, p. 257a–b, which the Mppś follows almost textually here; Pi nai ye, T 1464, k. 2, p. 859b; Tch’ou yao king, T 212, k. 14, p. 687b–c. In the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vin. (T 1450, k. 13, p. 167c–168b; Rockhill, Life, p. 84–85), it is Ānanda’s teacher, Daśabala Kāśyapa, who communicates the secrets of magic to Devadatta; in Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 47, p. 802c, it is the bhikṣu Sieou lo t’o (Surādha).

This episode does not occur in the Pāli sources: the Vinaya, II, p. 183, notes only that Devadatta had acquired the ordinary magical powers (pothujjanika iddhi).

Notes on Devadatta’s transformations:

Among these transformations, Devadatta’s metamorphosis into a child is the best known; some sources do not mention any others. Pāli Vin., II, p. 185: Having changed his own shape and taken that of a little boy, Devadatta appeared on the lap of prince Ajātaśatru adorned with a belt of snakes. Ajātaśatru was frightened, dumbfounded and terrified. Devadatta said to him: Are you afraid of me, prince? – Yes, who are you? – I am Devadatta. – Then show me your own form. – Then Devadatta put away the form of the little boy and stood up before prince Ajātaśatru, begging bowl in his hand, clothed in his monks’ robes. See also Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 139 (tr. Burlingame, Legends, I, p. 235); Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 47, p. 802c; Tch’ou yao king, T 212, k. 14, p. 687c; P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 85, p. 442a.

There were yet other metamorphoses that the Sarvāstivādin sources enumerate: they tell how Devadatta changed into an elephant, a horse, a veil, a cap, a monk, and finally a child: cf. T 1435, k. 36, p. 257c, which the Mppś follows closely: Devadatta changed into a precious elephant in prince Ajātaśatru’s house: he came in by the door and left by the window … Then he changed into a precious horse that did the same … Then he changed into a precious veil and appeared on the prince’s lap who took it and fastened it on his forehead … Finally, he changed into a handsome little boy wearing a necklace of precious gold and appeared on the prince’s lap who took him in his arms, played with him and spat into his mouth. The same story with details almost the same in Ken pen chouo… p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 13, p. 168c (cf. Rockhill, Life, p. 86); Pi nai ye, T 1464, k. 2, p. 859b; Pie yi tsa a han, T 100, k. 1, p. 374c.

Notes on the first sin:

Here is a brief summary of this schism, told by all of the sources in a more or less concordant way: Blinded by his success, Devadatta went to Rājagṛha in the Veṇuvana where the Buddha was preaching the Dharma.

Respectfully bowing to the teacher, he made the following statement:

“Lord, you are already old; entrust the assembly to me: I will take care of it.”

The Buddha refused three times:

“I would not entrust the assembly even to Śāriputra or Maudgalyāyana, still less to you who are nothing and worthless.”

Devadatta went away furious.

– Cf. Pāli Vinya, II, p. II, p. 188–189; Che song liu, T 1435, k. 30, p. 258b; Ken pen chouo… p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 14, p. 169b (cf. Rockhill, Life, P. 86); Pi nai ye, T 1464, k. 2, p. 860a; Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 139–140.

It was undoubtedly after these events that Devadatta tried to foment discord in the Saṃgha. He persuaded Kokālika, Katamoraga-tiṣya, Khaṇḍradravya and Samudradatta to go with him to advise the Buddha to impose on the monks a more severe way of life. The new rule would involve the following points: i) to live as hermits in the forest; ii) to live entirely on begged food, never to accept an invitation; iii) to dress in gathered rags and tatters; iv) to spend the nights at the foot of a tree; v) to abstain from meat and fish.

The teacher refused to agree to these demands and declared that he would allow those who wished to adopt this kind of life free to do so, but that he would not make these rules obligatory for all the monks. Already expecting this refusal, Devadatta took it as a pretext to revolt against the Buddha; he won over five hundred monks to his cause. Vṛji, natives of Vaiśalī, who, since they had only recently entered into the community, were ignorant of the rules.

– Cf. Vinaya, II, p. 196–198; Wou fen liu, T 1421, k. 25, p. 164a; Sseu fen liu, k. 46, p. 909b; Che song liu, T 1435, k. 36, p. 259a; Ken pen chouo… p’o seng che,T 1450, k. 14, p. 70b seq. (cf. Rockhill, Life, p. 87); Dhammapadṭṭha, I, p. 141–142.

Surrounded by his supporters, Devadatta went back to the monastery of Gayaśīrṣa. One day when he was preaching the Dharma, he saw in the assembly Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana. Thinking that they had come to join his side, he invited Śāriputra to address the assembly and, feeling tired himself, he lay down to sleep. Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana spoke and easily persuaded the five hunderd schismatic monks to return to the Buddha. Awakened from his sleep by Kokālika, when Devadatta learned what had just taken place, hot blood flowed from his mouth.

– Cf. Vinaya, II, p. 199–200; Sseu fen liu, T 1428, k. 46, p. 909c–910a; Che song liu, T 1435, k. 37, p. 265b–c; Ken pen chouo… p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 20, p. 203a–b (cf. Rockhill, Life, p. 94); Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 47, p. 803a; Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 143.

Notes on the second sin:

Actually, Devadatta made not one but three attempts against the Buddha:

  1. He hired assassins to kill him;
  2. he caused a rock to roll down to crush him;
  3. he loosed the mad elephant Nālāgiri against him.

In the Pāli sources (Vinaya, II, p. 191–196; Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 140–141; Jātaka, V, p. 333–3370, these attempts immediately preceded the schism instead of following later as is the case here.

Notes on the third sin:

This last crime was invented at a late date in order to be able to attribute to Devadatta a third ānantarya sin. The Pāli sources are completely ignorant of this and the Chinese sources give at least three different versions:

a. After his conversion, Ajātaśatru forbade entry into his palace to Devadatta and his followers and reserved his gifts for the Buddha and his disciples. Seeing himself rejected, Devadatta stood behind the palace door: one day he saw the bhikṣuṇī Utpalavarṇā coming out of the palace with her bowl full of food; attributing his blighted hopes to the intrigues of this “shaved woman”, he came before her and struck her.

The nun protested her innocence in vain: never had she wanted to offend Devadatta, “brother of the Buddha, member of the Śākya family and a monk”.

Without listening to her protests, Devadatta struck her head with his fist and broke her skull.

In a burst of energy, Utpalavarṇā succeeded in getting back to the nunnery and when her sister nuns asked about her adventure, she said:

“Sisters, all that lives is transitory, all dharmas are without self, nirvāṇa is peace (śanta). Devadatta has just committed his third ānantarya. As for me, today is the very day I will enter into nirvāṇa.”

Then in the presence of the community of nuns, she manifested all kinds of miraculous transformations and entered into nirupadhiśeṣanirvāṇadhātu.

– This first version is summarized in the Mūlasarvāsivādin Vinaya, Ken pen chouo… p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 10, p. 147c–148a (cf. Rockhill, Life, p. 106–107).

b. According to the Pi nai ye, T 1464, k. 2, p. 857c, Devadatta assaulted Utpalavarṇā at the beginning of his criminal career when, after twelve years dedicated to studying the sūtras and practicing the Path, he began to harbor bad feelings against the Buddha and to violate the precepts.

This Vinaya says:

“In all the rooms of the monastery, mats (niṣadana) had been laid down on the ground and the Buddha had proposed a precept forbidding entry into the monastery without having washed one’s feet. One day, Devadatta entered without washing his feet.

The bhikṣuṇī Utpalavarṇa said to him: “Hey, Devadatta, the Bhagavat has forbidden entering without washing your feet!”

– “Wicked nun”, replied the latter, “do you know the precepts better than I do?”

– And, with the colossal strength (vīrabala) of his fist, he struck the bhikṣuṇī on the head, killing her.

The bhikṣus brought the matter to the Buddha who said: “Have pity on this poor nun; he committed an ānantarya sin; as for the bhikṣuṇī, she has attained arhathood.”

c. In the Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 47, p. 803, Devadatta lifted his hand, not against Utpalavarṇa, but against the nun Fa che, probably Dharmadinnā, a well-known nun, who appears in the Majjhimā, I, p. 299; Aṅguttara, I, p. 25, and Therīgāthā, v. 12.It was in vain that Devadatta, with the complicity of Ajātaśatru, loosed the mad elephant Nālāgiri against the Buddha. The plot failed miserably and Ajātaśatru was about to repent.

Worried and displeased, Devadatta left Rājagṛha, Seeing him from afar, the bhikṣuṇī Dharmadinnā said to him:

“What you did was very bad; the regret that you feel today is slight; tomorrow it will perhaps be heavier.”

Hearing these words, Devadatta’s anger increased and he answered:

“Bald slave, what is this error, the regret for which, slight today, will increase tomorrow?”

– The bhikṣuṇī answered: “By committing the sin today, you have created the roots of evil (akuśalamūla).”

– Then Devadatta, inflamed with anger, struck her with his hand and killed her.

Notes on the poisoning of the Buddha:

The Pāli Vinaya is silent on the death of Devadatta; the Buddha just said that he will go to hell for a kalpa.

– The Milinda briefly mentions that he was swallowed up by the earth (p. 101) and that at the moment of death he took refuge in the Buddha (p. 111).

– The Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 146–147 continues this twofold tradition and develops it: Feeling sick, Devadatta wished to see the Buddha one last time and had himself brought by his disciples to Śrāvastī to the Jetavana. Forewarned of his arrival, the Buddha announced that, despite his efforts, Devadatta would not succeed in seeing him in the present lifetime. Actually, when the heresiarch got out of his litter, his feet sunk into the earth; before disappearing, he still had time to rake refuge in the Buddha.

The Pāli tradition does not mention the incident of the poisoned nails. This detail appears in the Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 47, p. 804a, which otherwise is quite close to the Pāli tradition. Here is an extract:

Being gravely ill, Devadatta said to his disciples: “I no longer have the strength to go to the śrāmaṇa Gautama: you must help me go to him.”

Then Devadatta dipped his ten fingernails in poison and said to his disciples: ‘Carry me to the śrāmaṇa.” His disciples brought him to the Buddha.

Then Ānanda, seeing Devadatta approaching from afar, said to the Bhagavat: “Here comes Devadatta; surely he feels remorse and has come to make amends.”

The Buddha said to Ānanda: “Devadatta never comes to me …; from today, his vital organ (jīvitendriya) is ripe (i.e., has reached its end).”

Then Devadatta came near the Bhagavat and said to his disciples: “It is not proper for me to stay lying down in front of the Buddha; put down my litter”, and he stepped out onto the ground. At this moment, a blazing wind arose from the center of the earth and enveloped Devadatta’s body. Burned by the fire, he felt a mind of remorse toward the Tathāgata and wanted to cry out Namo buddhasya. But he did not reach the end of this invocation; hardly had he pronounced Namo than he fell into hell.

According to this text, we see that Devadatta did not have a chance to scratch the Buddha with his poisoned nails; the Mppś also seems to indicate that he did not put his hand on the Buddha: “He had hardly arrived in Rājagṛha than the earth opened up.” According to the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya, T 1450, k. 10, p. 150a (cf. Rockhill, Life, p. 107), things went further and Devadatta effectively tried to wound the Buddha. Here are some extracts from this Vinaya:

[Having tried in vain to seduce Yaśodharā], full of shame, Devadatta left the palace. Seeing his anger and pain, the Śākyas said to him: “From today on you should go and find the Bhagavat and ask his pardon; if he pardons you, we will proclaim you king (devaputra).”

Then Devadatta filled his ten fingernails with poison and went to the Bhagavat.

He thought: “I could not stand it if the śrāmaṇa Gautama gives me his pardon and congratulates me; so, in the moment of bowing to him, I will scratch his feet with my poisoned nails and wound him.”

Having come to the Buddha, he bowed his head to the two feet of the teacher and speaking to the Bhagavat, he said: “Out of your compassion, please grant me your pardon.”

The Bhagavat looked at Devadatta, wondering with what intention he had come; divining the murderous intentions of Devadatta, he used his miraculous powers (ṛddhibala), transformed the bottom of his knees and changed them into rock crystal; then he remained silent. Devadatta became angry at this silence of the Buddha and, putting his evil intentions into execution, scratched the Bhagavat with his poisoned fingernails. But his ten fingers all broke off and, with a shock, the poison caused him severe pain.

This attempted poisoning is known to the Chinese pilgrims (cf. Fa hien, tr. Legge, p. 60; Hiuan tsang, tr. Watters, I, p. 390), as well as to the Tibetan tradition (cf. Schiefner, Tibetische Lebensbeschreibung, p. 278 seq.).

Footnotes and references:


On the forced vocation of 500 young Śākyas, see above, Traité, I, p. 176–177F and the notes. Śuddhodana’s intervention was unfortunate for, among these young men, “some of them, well disposed, tasted the joy of the path, others found no joy in it.” The Buddha did not approve of his father’s initiative; three times he advised Devadatta to remain in the world, but the latter “shaved his head and beard and put on the kāsāya of the monk”; then he studied with the bhikṣu Sieou lo t’o (Surādha) who taught him the precepts and the discipline (śīlasāṃvara) and the bases of miraculous power (ṛddhipāda): Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 47, p. 802b–c.


According to the Mppś (T 1509, k. 3, p. 83c1; k. 14, p. 164c7) and Hiuan tsang (T 2087, k. 6, p. 900a2), Devadatta was the son of Droṇodana. Other sources say that his father was Suprabuddha (Mahāvaṃsa, II, v. 21, p. 14; Dhammapadaṭṭha, III, p. 44), Amṛtodana (K’i che king, T 24, k. 10, p. 364b5–6; K’i che yin pen king, T 25, k. 10,p. 419b7–8; Che eul yeou king, T 195, p. 146c9–10; Ken pen chouo … p’o seng che; T 1450, k. 2, p. 105a18; Rockhill, Life, p. 13) or Śuklodana (Wou fen liu, T 1421, k. 14, p. 101b17).


Thus he knew three-quarters of the Dharma which consists of 80,000 items (see Kośa, I, p. 46). The Tch’ou yao king, T 212, k. 14, p. 687b11, also attributes 60,000 items to Devadatta, but Hiuan tsang (T 2087, k. 6, p. 900a3–4) says 80,000.


Devadatta’s efforts lasted twelve years. This detail is also found in Che song liu, T 1435, k. 36, p. 257a8, and Si yu ki, T 2087, k. 6, p. 900a2.


These have been defined above, Traité, I, p. 328–333F.


Ambrosia (amṛta) or soma, according to the previously cited sources.


The inhabitants of Uttarakuru had a marvelous rice, growing without the need of work or seed, without being husked, naturally perfumed and delicious in taste; To cook it, one placed it in a vessel which is set on ‘glowing stones’; these stones flame up at once and as soon as the rice is cooked, they become extinguished: cf. Dīgha, III, p. 199; Āṭānāṭikasūtra, ed. Hoffman, p. 46–47; Divyāvādana, p. 216; Dhammapadaṭṭha, IV, p. 209 (tr. Burlingame, Buddhist Legends, III, p. 321–322. – This marvelous rice is represented at Bharhut: cf. A. Foucher, Sur l’interpretation de quatre bas-reliefs de Barhut, RAA, XIII, 1939, p. 1–9.


This disgusting detail, unknown to the Pāli sources is mentioned in almost all the Chinese versions. Here is the explanation which the Mppś will give later

(T 1509, k. 20, p. 252b): The Buddha called Devadatta a fanatic, a corpse, a swallower of spit … A swallower of spit because Devadatta, greedy for gain (lābha) and honors (satkāra), changed into a little boy of celestial beauty and appeared in the arms of king Ajātaśatru. The king kissed his mouth and gave him some spit to swallow. This is why Devadatta is called the man who swallows spit.” The same explanation is found in Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 85, p. 442a:

First, Devadatta possessed the raptures (dhyāna); thanks to his abhijñā of magical power, he changed into a little boy, clothed in a garment sewn with gold thread, his head crowned with five flowers; he sat down on prince Ajātaśatru’s knee, caressed him and joked with him until the prince recognized that he was the venerable Devadatta. Then the prince took him in his arms with affection, kissed him and spat into his mouth. Very greedy for gain and honor, Devadatta swallowed this spit. This is why the Buddha reprimanded him, saying: “You are carrion, eating human spit.” When Devadatta had swallowed this spit, he came out of his rapture, but quickly resumed his body of metamorphosis.”


Many places are known with the name of Ambavana (cf. Malalasekera, I, p.160): actually, the monastery built for Devadatta was at Gayaśīrṣa (cf. Jātaka, I, p. 185, 508; II, p. 38). All the sources enviously describe the gifts that Ajātaśatru piled on Devadatta: Saṃyutta, II, p. 242; Vinaya, II, p 185, 187; Tsa a han, T 99, k. 38, no. 1064., k. 33, p. 276b–c; Che song liu, T 1435, k. 36, p. 257c; Ken pen chouo… p’o seng che, T 1450. k. 13, p. 168c; k. 14, p. 173b (cf. Rockhill, Life, p. 86).


For these thirty mahāpuruṣalakṣaṇa of Devadatta, see above, Traité, I, p. 286F, n. 2.


There are five ānantarya sins, so called because the person who commits them falls immediately into hell (samanantaraṃ narakeṣupapadyate): 1) mātṛghāta, 2) pitṛghāta, 3) arhadghāta, 4) saṃgahbheda, 5) tathāgatasyāntike duṣṭacittarudhirotpādanam. The sources do not always give the same order and they are sometimes given mixed in with other sins: cf. Vinaya, II, p. 193; Aṅguttara, I, p. 27; III, p. 436; Vinaya, I, p. 168, 321; Vibhaṅga, p. 378; Mahāvyutpatti, no. 2324–2328; Dharmasāmgraha, LX; Kośa,IV, p. 201. – Devadatta was guilty of no. 3–5; cf. Ken pen chouo… p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 10, p. 148b: “He has committed three ānantarya: i) He struck the Bhagavat from afar with a big rock and spilled the blood of the Tathāgata with a mind of hatred; ii) he broke up the community which was living in harmony; iii) he took the life of the bhikṣuṇī Utpalavarṇā.”

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: