by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Story of Devadatta contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Buddha’s Height Measured by a Brahmin. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).
(The following story of Devadatta, from the time of his ordination to his being swallowed by earth, is condensed as far as possible, although a lengthy account should be given based on many stories about Devadatta in Pāli literature).
An account of Devadatta, up to the time of his ordination, has already been given.
(Reference: “The ordination of six Sakyan princes and the barber Upāli”, Chapter 28.)
Of the six Sakyan princes and the barber Upāli after their ordination,
At another time while the Buddha was sojourning in Kosambī, He and His many disciples received abundant offerings. People came into the monastery with robes, medicines and other requisites in their hands and asked: “Where is the Exalted One? Where is the Venerable Sāriputta? Where is the Venerable Moggallāna? Where is the Venerable Mahā Kassapa? Where are the Venerables Bhiddiya, Anuruddha, Ānanda, Bhagu and Kimila?” They were always on the move, looking for the places where the eighty Great Disciples (Mahā Sāvaka) stayed. But there was nobody who bothered to ask Devadatta’s whereabouts.
Devadatta’s Attempt to gain Power
Then Devadatta thought: “I too became a monk along with Bhaddiya and others. They are monks of ruling (Khattiya) families; I too am a monk of such a family. But those who brought offerings with them asked for Bhaddiya and others. As for me, there was not a single person who cares to ask about me even by my name. Whom should I associate with and whom should I make devoted to me so that I have abundant offerings for my own?” He continued to ponder: “King Bimbisāra was established in the sotāpatti-phala together with one hundred and ten thousand wealthy brahmins the first time he saw the Buddha. It is not possible to be united with him. Nor is it possible to form an alliance with King Kosala. Prince Ajātasattu, son of King Bimbisāra, however, does not know a person’s virtues or vices as he is young. I will manage to be one with him.” So thinking he went to Rājagaha and transformed himself into a boy. He adorned himself with four snakes, two on his hands and two on his legs, he also placed a snake on his neck, another one on his head and still another one on his left shoulder; he had the tails of these seven snakes interlocked as a waist band (belt) and put it on to decorate himself. Finally he came down from the sky and sat on the lap of Prince Ajātasattu.
The Prince was so scared and asked him who he was. The apparent boy said that he was Devadatta and the Prince requested him to show himself as the real Devadatta. Devadatta removed the guise and stood before the Prince in his original physical form, dressed in the monk robe and with an alms-bowl in his hand. Very much impressed by this magic, Prince Ajātasattu became Devadatta’s devoted follower. He regularly went with five hundred chariots every morning and evening to see his teacher. He also sent five hundred pots of food, each pot containing food enough for ten monks.
Loss of Devadatta’s Jhānic Power
His ego having become inflated because of the abundant offerings that he received, Devadatta conceived the evil desire to make himself a Buddha and lead the Sangha. As soon as this desire arose in him, Devadatta lost his supernormal powers based on mundane jhāna.
Kakudha Brahmā’s report to Mahā Moggallāna
At that time, a lay disciple of the Venerable Mahā Moggallāna, a Koliya prince named Kakudha became a Brahmā after his death. Kakudha Brahmā came to Mahā Moggallāna with his body three gavutas (three-fourth of a yojana) long and reported how, being puffed up with self-conceit, Devadatta conceived the evil desire to make himself a Buddha and lead the Sangha and how he immediately lost his supernormal powers. After making this report, the Brahmā vanished on the spot.
The Venerable Mahā Moggallāna went to the Buddha and informed him of what Kakudha Brahmā had told him. The Buddha asked him whether he had verified the Brahmā’s report by means of his psychic powers of knowing another person’s mind.
When the Venerable replied that he had, the Buddha said:
“Moggallāna! Keep this matter to yourself! Now that man Devadatta who is empty of the Path and its Fruition will show himself in his true colours.”
Then the Buddha gave a talk on five kinds of bogus teachers: (1) the teacher who claims to have pure morality without having it, (2) the teacher who claims to have pure livelihood without having it, (3) the teacher who claims to have pure preaching without having it, (4) the teacher who claims to have pure speech without having it, and (5) the teacher who claims to have pure intellectual vision without having it. Their respective disciples know all about these five kinds of teachers. But they do not tell their lay followers about their respective teachers because if they do so, their teachers, who have been receiving the four requisites from the laity, will be displeased. So they say nothing and connive at the deception of their teachers, believing that by their deeds they will one day reveal their true colour by themselves. The disciples have to protect only such teachers and such teachers crave for the protection of their disciples. As for the Buddha, He really has pure morality and so He claims it. He really has pure livelihood, pure preaching, pure speech and pure intellectual vision and so He claims to have all these pure assets. For this reason, there is no need for His disciples to protect Him in respect of morality livelihood, preaching, speech and intellectual vision nor does He in the least want such protection. (For details see the Cūlavagga of the Vinaya Piṭaka.)
The Buddha’s Sermon with Regard to Devadatta’s Gains
Then the Buddha left Kosambī City and arrived at Rājagaha where He resided in the
Veḷuvana monastery. There, many monks reported to Him that Prince Ajātasattu went to Devadatta with five hundred chariots in the morning and in the evening, and that he sent five hundred pots of cooked food every day.
Then the Master said:
“Monks, do not set great store by the gains of Devadatta. As long as Prince Ajātasattu goes to Devadatta with five hundred chariots every morning and evening and send five hundred pots of food daily, it certainly means decline of his good deeds. But their increase is not to be expected. (It is not certain.)
“Monk, for example, if the bile of a bear is cut and put in the nose of a wild dog, the animal will become worse and more violent. Likewise, so long as Prince Ajātasattu goes to Devadatta with five hundred chariots every morning and send 500 pots of food everyday, it certainly means Devadatta’s decline in doing good deeds. His doing of more and more good deeds is not to be expected. (It is not certain.)
“Monks, Devadatta’s reputation for his gains will head to his self-destruction. For example, monks, (1) the banana plant bears fruit for its self-destruction, (2) the bamboo plant bears fruit for its self-destruction, (3) the reed-plant bears fruit for its self-destruction and (4) the Assatara mare bears the calf in her womb for her self-destruction. In the same way, Devadatta’s reputation for gains will lead to his self-destruction.
“Monks, just as the banana fruit kills the banana plant, the bamboo fruit kills the bamboo plant, the reed fruit kills the reed plant and the calf in the womb kills its mother, the assatara mare; so also gains kill a man of corrupt and evil disposition.”
Devadatta’s First Grudge against The Buddha
Then one day as the Buddha sat amidst a large assembly, preaching to the king and the people, caring Devadatta rose and covered the left shoulder with his upper robe (as a sign of respect), he raised up his joined hands in adoration towards the Buddha and said:
“Glorious Buddha, now you are old, far advanced in age and on the threshold of the last stage of life. Venerable Sir! Let the Exalted Buddha now live in peace without bothering about anything. Let him hand over the Sangha to me. I will lead and look after the Sangha.”
The Buddha said: “Devadatta! That is not proper. Do not wish to look after and lead the Sangha.” For the second time Devadatta made the same request and the Buddha rejected it.
When Devadatta made the request for the third time, the Master said: “Devadatta! I would not hand over charge of the Sangha even to Sāriputta and Moggallāna. Why should I hand it over to you, you evil one, eater of spittle?”
The words of the Buddha rankled Devadatta. “The Buddha rebuked me in the presence of the King and the people with the word ‘eater of spittle (kheḷāsaka)’, one who consumes the four impure, eater of spittle-like requisites! He exalts only Sāriputta and Moggallāna.”
So thinking, he was angry and displeased and after paying respect to the Buddha, he went away.
Pakāsaniya-kamma against Devadatta
Then the Buddha made the monks pass a resolution against Devadatta in Rājagaha city. It was an act called Pakāsaniya-kamma - called Ñatti-dutiya carried out by the assembly of monks after taking the proceeding kammavācā at which the motion is put but once and followed by the declaration of the Sangha’s decision. Then the Venerable Sāriputta was nominated by vote to be the person entrusted with the task of making the resolution public in Rājagaha. In accordance with the Buddha’s word of command, the Sangha nominated the Venerable Sāriputta, and he made the resolution against Devadatta well-known in the city.
On hearing this resolution, those who lacked faith and wisdom blamed the monks, saying: “These monks, these sons of the Sakyan prince, Buddha, are jealous. They are jealous of Devadatta’s gains!” But those who had faith and wisdom said: “It could not be an evil act on the part of the Master to have the facts about Devadatta made public in Rājagaha.” (Herein, a pakāsaniya-kamma is an ecclesiastical act to be performed by the Sangha according to Vinaya rules. It shows clearly that the acts and sayings of the monk, against whom the Sangha passed resolution, have nothing to do with the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha and that he acts and says only of his own free will.
(The resolution against Devadatta is somewhat like this: “Formerly Devadatta’s behaviour was of one kind but now it is quite different. What he does corporeally or says by word of mouth is not to be identified with the Buddha or the Dhamma or the Sangha. It is to be identified only with Devadatta.” The resolution containing words to this effect was passed by the Sangha after taking votes. Then in accordance with the instructions of the Buddha, the Sangha formally nominated the Venerable Sāriputta (again by votes) to be the persona who was to declare Devadatta a persona non grata publicly in Rājagaha. So accompanied by many monks, the Venerable Sāriputta went into the city and made public the dissociation of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha from Devadatta by saying: “Formerly Devadatta’s behaviour was of one kind, now it is quite different. What he does bodily or verbally should not be identified with the Buddha or the Dhamma or the Sangha. It should be identified only with Devadatta.” These in brief are the noteworthy points about pakāsaniya-kamma.)
After he has been thus fully declared to be a monk whose acts and words were disavowed by the Sangha, Devadatta thought: “Now the Monk Gotama has repudiated me. I will now do what is harmful to His welfare.”
So he went to Prince Ajātasattu and said:
“Prince, people in ancient times lived long but nowadays people are short-lived. There is the possibility of your death even as a prince. So kill your father and become a king. I will kill the Buddha and become a Buddha.”
Prince Ajātasattu thought: “The Venerable Devadatta is a powerful person. He says so perhaps because he has reasons for saying so.” So he tied a dagger to his thigh; shaking with fear, he hurried into the palace in broad daylight. The ministers who guarded the King seized and searched the Prince. When they found the dagger tied to his thigh, they asked him what he wanted to do. The Prince said that he wanted to kill his father. The ministers again asked him at whose instigation he tried to kill the King. The Prince admitted that Devadatta had incited him.
Then some ministers held the view that the Prince and Devadatta and all the monks should be killed. Some contended that the monks should not be killed as they did no wrong and that only the Prince and Devadatta should be killed. Still the rest of the ministers maintained that the Prince and Devadatta should not be killed nor should the monks be killed, that the matter should be reported to the King and action taken according to the King’s instructions.
Then the ministers took the Prince to the King and informed him of the Prince’s attempt to kill him. The King asked them about their views and the ministers stated their three different views.
The King said:
“How can the Exalted One or the Dhamma or the Sangha be guilty of any offence? They are certainly not guilty. Has not the Exalted One already declared that Devadatta’s present behaviour is quite different from his former behaviour and has not He publicly disavowed the acts and sayings of Devadatta?”
Then the King dismissed the ministers in the first group (that is, those who held the first view), demoted the second group of ministers and promoted those in the third group.
Then the King asked his son why he wished to kill him. The prince said that he wanted to become a king. King Bimbisāra then said: “Prince, if you want to be a king, then this kingdom is yours,” and he handed over his kingdom completely to Prince Ajātasattu.
Devadatta’s Cruel Advice
As his wish was now fulfilled, Prince Ajātasattu was delighted and he told Devadatta about it. But to incite enmity in the Prince Devadatta said: “Like a man who covers his drum with a fox inside it, you think that you have achieved your object. After two or three days, your father will have a second thought about your impudence and make himself King again.”
The Prince asked his teacher what he should do. Devadatta cruelly advised him to exterminate his father. The Prince said that he was not desirable to kill his father with any weapon since he was of royal blood. Then Devadatta again gave devilish advice that the Prince should starve his father to death.
Ajātasattu’s Act of Parricide
King Ajātasattu ordered his father King Bimbisāra to be imprisoned in a very hot and highly vaporous iron cage. He did not allow any one except his mother to see the King.
(1) Then Queen Vedehi put the food in a golden bowl and took it into the iron cage. The King ate the food and sustained his life. King Ajātasattu asked how his father managed to keep himself alive and when he heard what his mother was doing, he ordered the ministers not to allow her to enter the cage with food.
(2) Then the Queen hid the food in her knot of hair and entered the cage. The King ate the food and stayed alive. When King Ajātasattu heard this, he forbade the Queen to go into the cage with her hair knotted.
(3) Then the Queen put the food in her golden footwear and entered the cage putting on them. The King subsisted on the food brought by the Queen in her footwear. When Ajātasattu learnt how his father was staying alive, he forbade his mother to visit the King in her footwear.
(4) From that time on, Queen Vedehī bathed herself with fragrant water, coated her body with food (made of oil, honey, molasses and butter) and putting on her outer robe, she entered the iron cage. The King licked her body and in this way he kept himself alive. When the wicked Ajātasattu heard the news, he imperiously ordered the ministers. not to allow his mother to enter the cage.
Thus forbidden to get inside the cage, the Queen stood near the door of the cage and cried: “O Great King! You, yourself, did not allow this wicked son Ajātasattu to be killed when he was young. You, yourself, raised your own (potential) enemy. Now, this is the last time that I see you. From now on, I will not have the opportunity to see you. Forgive me if I have done anything wrong.” Thus muttering and weeping, she went back to her residence.
King Bimbisāra’s Death
From that time on, the King had no food to eat. Walking to and fro, he stayed alive only by means of the bliss of Sotāpatti-Fruition that he had attained. His mind being thus always absorbed in that Fruition, the King’s body became very splendid.
The wicked Ajātasattu asked his men how his father managed to survive. His men said that the King kept himself alive by walking to and fro and that he had become more splendid than before in his physical appearance. Then King Ajātasattu decided to put an end to the walking exercise of his father and told the barbers to gash the soles of his father’s feet, smear them with oil and salt and broil them before red-hot cutch-embers.
When he saw the barbers, King Bimbisāra thought that someone had certainly brought his son to his senses and that the barbers therefore had come to remove his beard.
The barbers approached the king and stood paying respect to him. The king asked them about the object of their visit, and they informed him of their purpose. Then the king told them to do according to the desire of their master. The barbers requested the king to sit and after making obeisance to him, they said: “O Great King! We will have to carry out the order of King Ajātasattu. Do not be angry with us. What we have to do is most inappropriate to a good king like you.” Then holding firmly the soles of his feet with their left hands and sharp razors with their right hands, they gashed the soles, smeared and rubbed them with oil and salt and then broiled them before the red-hot cutch-embers.
(In a previous life the King walked on the stupa platform with his footwear and trod on a mat with his uncleaned feet. The suffering that he now underwent was the lingering effect of that unwholesome act in the past, according to Commentaries.)
King Bimbisāra had to endure excruciating pain. Without harbouring any ill will, he contemplated the wonderful attributes of the Buddha, the. Dhamma and the Sangha. Then withering away like a flower dumped on the stupa-platform, he became an attendant of Vessavana Deva King in Catumahārāja deva-world, and the supreme commander of devaogres by the name of Janavasabha.
(Herein he was called Janavasabha because as King Bimbisāra he was a sotāpanna- ariya and the chief of one hundred and ten thousand brahmin merchants. “Jana” meaning “of 110,000 brahmin merchants”, and “vasabha” meaning “chief”.
(Why did he become a low-class in Catumahārāja deva-world although he was a great sotāpanna-ariya? The answer was given by Janavasabha Deva-yakkha himself.
(According to his answer, he passed through seven lifetimes as king on earth after his demise in Catumahārājā deva-world and seven lifetimes in Catumahārājā after his demise on earth. Now as a sotāpanna-ariya and by virtue of his many good deeds in respect of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, he could have attained a higher deva-world. But because he had spent seven lifetimes successively in Catumahārājā world, his attachment to life (bhava-nikanti) in that deva-world was powerful and because of that powerful attachment he landed in the Catumahārājā deva-world. This was the confessions of the Deva-yakkha Janavasabha in the Janavasabha Sutta in Dīgha Nikāya.
His confessions in verse read as follows:
Belated Remorse of The Fool
On the very day of King Bimbisāra’s death, the wife of the foolish King Ajātasattu gave birth to a son, later called Udayabhadda. So the two messages, one reporting the birth of a son from the chief of the palace and the other reporting the death of the King’s father, Bimbisāra, came to the palace at the same time.
The ministers considered it advisable to submit first the report of the birth of a son and they did so accordingly. As soon as he read the report there arose in him an intense love for his son that excited his whole body and made him ecstatic to the marrow. At the same time he became aware of his gratitude to his father, thinking that at the time of his birth his father might have also experienced intense love for his son.
King Ajātasattu then ordered his ministers to release his father at once. But the ministers said that was impossible and submitted the report of the death of King Bimbisāra. On hearing the news, King Ajātasattu wept bitterly, went to his mother and asked her whether there arose intense love in his father at the time of his birth.
Queen Vedehī replied: “You foolish son! What do you say? During your childhood you had a whitlow on your finger. The royal nurses were unable to coax and make you stop crying. In the end they took you to your father who was seated in the court of law. Your father kept in his mouth your finger that was afflicted with the whitlow and due to the warmth of the mouth, the tumour erupted there. Out of great love for you your father did not spit out the pus mixed with putrid blood lest you should wake up and he swallowed it instead. Your father loved you so much.”
The Queen thus told him at length how his father was attached to him. King Ajātasattu wept bitterly and performed the funeral of his father.
Assassins sent by Devadatta
Then Devadatta went to King Ajātasattu and asked him to despatch men who would kill the Buddha. The King sent the assassins to Devadatta telling them to follow the instructions of his teacher.
Devadatta told the first man: “Man, you go to the place where the Monk Gotama is now living. You kill Gotama and come back by this way.”
Then he told a couple of men to kill the first man and come back by another way.
Then the third batch of four men was instructed to kill the two men (of the second batch) and return by another way.
The fourth batch of eight men was instructed to kill the four men (of the third batch) and come back by another way.
Then still another sixteen men (as the fifth batch) were told to kill the eight men (of the fourth batch) and return by another way.
Assassins attained Sotāpatti
Armed with a sword and a shield and a bow and a quiver of arrows, the first man went to the Buddha and stood with his rigid body near Him, trembling with fear and agitation.
Seeing him, the Buddha said: “Man, come here. Have no fear.” Then the man got over his fear and put his sword and shield as well as his bow and arrows in a suitable place. Then having approached the Buddha, he bowed his head at the feet of the Buddha and confessed and apologized for his offence. The Buddha forgave him and gave the series of talks on generosity, morality and other good deeds that lead to the attainment of the Path and Fruition. As a result the assassin became a sotāpanna-ariya and at the same time sought supramundane refuge in the Triple Gem.
Then the Buddha dismissed the assassin telling him not to go by the way instructed by Devadatta but to go by another way.
The two assassins (of the second batch) waited for the first assassin for a long time. Then going in the opposite direction they saw the Buddha seated at the foot of a tree. They went near the Buddha, paid respect and sat at a proper place. The Buddha gave them the series of Dhamma talks and, explained the four Truths and established them in the Fruition of the Sotāpatti. Like the first assassin, they too became sotāpanna-ariyas and sought supramundane refuge in the Triple Gem.
Again, the Buddha dismissed these assassins, telling them to go by another way.
Then the four assassins (of the third batch)....
Then the eight assassins (of the fourth batch)....
The sixteen assassins (of the fifth batch) waited for the eight assassins for a long time and going in the opposite direction, they saw the Buddha as did those who went before them. They paid respect to the Buddha and sat at a proper place. The Buddha gave them the Dhamma talks on the Four Truths and established them in the Fruition of Sotāpatti. After they had sought supramundane refuge in the Triple Gem, the Buddha dismissed the men, telling them to go by another way.
Then the first assassin approached Devadatta and said: “Sir, I cannot kill the Exalted Buddha. He is so very powerful.” Devadatta said: “Enough men, do not kill the Monk Gotama. I will kill him by myself.”
Devadatta caused Blood to bleed in The Buddha
After having helped the assassins to gain the Fruition of Sotāpatti, the Buddha was one day walking to and fro in the shadow of the Gijjhakūṭa Hill. Then Devadatta climbed the hill and rolled down a large rock with the intention of killing Him. As it rolled down, two promontories appeared automatically and blocked the rock. A layer of the rock flew off and caused blood to bleed at the foot of the Buddha.
The Buddha looked up and said to Devadatta: “You foolish man, you who can make no spiritual progress! You have caused blood to bleed in Me with ill-will and murderous intention. So you have done much evil.”
Then the Buddha said to the monks: “Monks, Devadatta has done this first heinous act (anantariya-kamma) because he has spilled my blood with ill-will and murderous intention.”
The monks carried the Buddha to the monastery in Maddakucchi Park. There the Buddha expressed the desire to go to the monastery in Jīvaka’s mango grove and told the monks to take Him there. Accordingly, the monks took Him there.
On hearing the news, the great physician Jīvaka went to the Buddha and applied a highly potent medicine to the wound. Having bandaged the wound, he told the Buddha to keep the bandage intact until his return from his visit to a patient in the city. After calling on the patient and doing the needful for him, the physician came back but did not reach the city gate before it was closed.
Then the physician Jīvaka thought: “I have applied the powerful medicine to the foot of the Exalted Buddha and bandaged the wound treating Him like an ordinary patient. So I have made a grave mistake. This is the time to untie the bandage. If the bandage is not untied, He will suffer intense pain the whole night.” So thinking, Javaka was much worried. At that moment, the Buddha called Ānanda and said: “Ānanda, the physician Jīvaka came back after dark and could not reach the city gate before it was closed. He is worried because now is the time to untie the bandage. So you untie the bandage immediately.” Ānanda removed the bandage and the wound was gone, like the bark detached from the tree.
As soon as the city-gate was opened, Jīvaka hurried to the Buddha even before dawn and asked Him whether He suffered any pain. The Buddha said: “Jīvaka, I have overcome all pain since I gained supreme Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree” and then He preached the following verse:
Jīvaka! There is absolutely no sorrow, no suffering in the arahat who has been liberated from saṃsāra, who has gone to the other shore of saṃsāra, who is free from all grief, who has no attachment whatever to all things including the body, etc., who has removed all his fetters.
(Pariḷāho (suffering) is of two kinds, viz., physical (kāyika) and mental (cetasika) suffering. Physical suffering due to cold, heat, etc., occurs in the arahat and so he is not free from physical suffering. The physician Jīvaka had this in mind when he asked the question. But as Lord of the Dhamma, the Buddha, was supremely skilful in preaching, and He answered that the arahat who possessed the abovementioned attributes had no mental suffering. Jīvaka asked whether the Buddha had any mental suffering and the Buddha said that he had none.)
By the end of the sermon, many living beings gained the Fruition of Sotāpatti and so forth.
Security provided to The Buddha by Monks
Many monks, who heard the report about Devadatta’s attempt to kill the Buddha, surrounded the residence of the Buddha in one ring after another. They recited the scriptures loudly and walked up and down to guard, protect and ensure the security of the Buddha.
On hearing their recitation (and noise of their movement) the Buddha asked Ānanda (in spite of his knowledge), and when he told Him about the vigilant monks, He summoned the monks and said:
Monks, it is wholly impossible for anyone to put effort to kill the Buddha.
Then the Buddha said to them (as He did to Venerable Mahā Moggallāna on one occasion) that those are five kinds of teachers in the world, that only these kinds of teachers need the protection of their disciples, that, as for the Buddha, He truly claimed pure morality, pure livelihood, pure teaching, pure speech and pure intellectual vision as he had all these virtues and therefore, he did not need the protection of His disciples. He added that it was impossible for any one to kill a Buddha and that Buddhas attained Nibbāna not by any one’s attempt to kill them.
Finally the Buddha said to the monks.
“Monks, go back to your own abode. The Buddhas are not beings whose security of life depends only on other people’s protection.”
Sending Nāḷāgīri The Elephant
Due to the treatment given by the physician Jīvaka, the Buddha recovered His fitness and as before, He went about in the glory of a great Buddha, surrounded by monks. On seeing the Buddha, Devadatta thought: “It is impossible for any men to approach and kill the Monk Gotama when he sees Him in the glow of His physical body at its zenith. But King Ajātasattu’s elephant, Nāḷāgīri, is vicious, wild and homicidal. He does not know any good thing about the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. Only that wild Nāḷāgīri can kill the Monk Gotama.” So he went to the King and told him about his plan.
King Ajātasattu agreed to his plan. He summoned the mahout (elephant-driver) and ordered him to intoxicate Nāḷāgīri the elephant and send him the next morning along the same way by which the Buddha was taking. Devadatta also asked the mahout how much liquor the elephant consumed on other days and when he learnt that the animal drank eight pots of liquor, he told the mahout to give the animal sixteen pots of liquor the next morning and to send him towards the Monk Gotama. The mahout promised that he would.
King Ajātasattu had it announced by the beat of drum in the city that all citizens should do their business early the next morning and avoid going about in the streets as Nāḷāgīri would be made intoxicated and sent into the city.
Devadatta also left the palace, went to the elephant-shed and told the mahouts: “Men, we are the King’s teachers who can make the King’s servants promoted or demoted in their work. If you want to be promoted, then give the elephant sixteen pots of very potent liquor early in the morning and when the Monk Gotama comes into the city, you incite and enrage the animal with goads and spears. Let the elephant break open the shed, rush in the opposite direction of the Monk Gotama and kill Him.” The mahouts agreed to follow his instructions.
The news spread throughout the whole city. The Buddha’s lay devotees who adored the
Triple Gem approached the Buddha and said: “Exalted Buddha, in collaboration with the King, Devadatta will send the wild elephant, Nāḷāgīri, tomorrow along the same way by which You are coming. So do not come into the city for alms tomorrow but stay here in this Veḷuvana monastery. We will offer meals to You and the monks in the monastery.”
The Buddha did not say that He would not go into the city for alms. But He decided to teach the wild elephant the next day, perform the miracle (Pāṭihāriya) by teaching, subdue the heretics, and without going about for alms in Rājagaha, return to Veḷuvana with monks from the city. The Buddha knew that the lay followers in Rājagaha would bring many pots and bowls of food and that He would have His meal in the monastery. For this reason the Buddha accepted the invitation of the lay men.
Knowing very well the acceptance of their invitation by the Buddha, the lay men decided to bring and offer food at the monastery and went away.
The Buddha preached to the monks in the first watch of the night and answered the questions of devas and Brahmās in the second watch. The third watch was divided into three periods. In the first period, the Buddha lay down on the right side like a lion-king. In the second, He was absorbed in the Fruition of Arahatship. In the third, He was filled with infinite compassion and after arising from that state, He surveyed the worthy beings, and saw Nāḷāgīri. The Buddha saw clearly that when He preached to the elephant, eight hundred and forty thousand beings would realize the Four Truths and become liberated. So, after cleaning His body at dawn, He called Ānanda and said: “Ānanda, tell all the monks who live in the eighteen monasteries around Rājagaha to come along with Me into the city.”
Venerable Ānanda acted according to the instructions of the Buddha. All the monks assembled in the Veḷuvana monastery. The Buddha entered Rājagaha surrounded by many monks.
Then the mahouts carried out the instructions of King Ajātasattu and Devadatta. There was a very large gathering of people.
At the meeting those who had faith in the Buddha said:
“Today, there will be a battle between the two bull elephants, the Buddha and Nāḷāgīri. We will witness clearly the admonition of the animal bull, Nāḷāgīri, by the Buddha Bull.”
So saying they climbed the turreted and unturreted mansions, house roofs, etc., to wait and see the battle.
But as for the heretics, who had no faith in the Buddha, they said: “This Nāḷāgīri elephant is vicious, violent and homicidal. He does not know anything good about the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. Today he will destroy the bright, yellow and golden body of the Monk Gotama and terminate His life. Today we will clearly see the end of our enemy.” So saying, they climbed the turreted mansions, etc and waited there.
When Nāḷāgīri the elephant saw the Buddha coming, it rushed towards the Buddha like a moving mountain with its trunk raised, his ears and tails set upright, scaring the people, destroying the houses and crushing the carts to pieces.
When the monks saw the elephant rushing, they said to the Buddha: “Glorious Buddha, the wild, vicious and homicidal Nāḷāgīri is coming along this way. This animal does not know anything good about the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. We want the Glorious Buddha, the speaker by good words, to step aside (keep off the way along which the elephant is coming).” Then the Buddha said: “Monks! Have no fear! I can tame Nāḷāgīri.”
Then the Venerable Sāriputta said: “Glorious Buddha, it is the duty of the eldest son to attend to any matter that concerns his father. Let me tame the elephant.” But the Buddha turned down his request, saying: “Sāriputta, the power of the Buddha is one thing and the power of the disciples is a different matter. You need not take any trouble (for Me).” Most of the eighty great disciples made the same request but the Buddha did not give His consent.
Self-sacrificing Love of Venerable Ānanda
Then, because of his great love for the Buddha, the Venerable Ānanda could no longer restrain himself. He came forward and stood in front of the Master, bent on sacrificing his life for Him and allowing himself to be the first trampled to death by the elephant. The Buddha said: “Keep back, Ānanda. Do not come and stand in front of me.” Ānanda replied: “Glorious Buddha, this elephant is vicious, wild and homicidal. It is like the fire that destroys the world. Let it come to you after first trampling me to death.” The Buddha dissuaded Ānanda three times but the latter persisted in standing before Him. Finally, He had to remove him by His psychic power and put him among the monks.
Incident of A Child’s Mother
At that moment, a child’s mother saw the elephant and fearful of death, she fled, abandoning the child from her bosom onto the ground between the Buddha and the elephant.
Nāḷāgīri pursued the woman but being unable to overtake her, it turned back and went near the child.
The Buddha focussed His separately intended loving-kindness (odissakamettā) on the elephant and in a very sweet voice of the Brahmā-king, He said:
“O Nāḷāgīri, they served you sixteen pots of liquor and made you drunk not to catch any other being but verily to kill Me. So do not go about harassing the pedestrians. Come straight to where I am.” Thus the Master invited the elephant.
The Buddha’s Power
On hearing the sweet words of the Buddha, the wild Nāḷāgīri opened his both eyes and saw the glorious body of the Buddha. He was shocked and owing to the power of the Buddha, he became sober and dropping his trunk and flapping his ears, he went to Him and crouched at the feet.
Then the Buddha said: “Nāḷāgīri, you are an animal and I am a Buddha. From now on, do not be vicious, violent and homicidal. Try to cultivate loving-kindness towards all living beings.”
The Buddha stretched His right hand, and stroking the forehead of the elephant, He spoke the following two verses:
O! elephant Nāḷāgīri, do not approach with murderous intent, with the desire to kill the Buddha who has never done any evil. To approach the Buddha with murderous intent is an evil that will lead to suffering. There is absolutely no possibility of good rebirth in the deva or human worlds after the death of anyone who wants to hurt or kill the Buddha.
O! elephant Nāḷāgīri, do not be conceited. Do not be unmindful of the ten good deeds. Those, who are unmindful of the ten good deeds, do not have good rebirth in deva and human worlds. You will have to do such good deeds as will ensure good rebirth (In other words, you will attain good rebirth only on the basis of good deeds.)
Nāḷāgīri elephant was overwhelmed with ecstasy. If he had not been an elephant, he would have attained the Fruition of Sotāpatti on the spot.
On seeing this miracle, the people gave a resounding ovation. They clapped their hands and joyously threw various ornaments over the elephant as their rewards. The ornaments covered nearly the whole body of the elephant and from that time he came to be known as Dhanapāla. At the time when Dhanapāla elephant was tamed by the Buddha, eighty-four thousand beings had the opportunity to sample the Dhamma, the juice of Deathlessness.
The Buddha established the elephant in the Five Precepts. The elephant gently collected the dust at the Master’s feet, scattered it over his head and stepped back on its knees. He stepped at the last place within sight of the Buddha and after paying respect entered the elephant-shed. From that time he became a docile, good tempered and very tame elephant and did not harm any being for the rest of his life.
Having His wish fulfilled, the Buddha resolved that the ornaments that had accumulated be returned to their owners. He thought: “Today, I have performed a great miracle and so it is not advisable for Me to go about in the city for food.” Having thus subdued the heretics, He left Rājagaha City and returned to the Veḷuvana monastery, surrounded by monks like a triumphant king (back from the battlefield). The citizens went to the monastery with much food and offered alms lavishly.
They sang the following song joyously:
Daṇḍen'eke damayanti, aṅkusehi kasāhi ca.
Adaṇḍena asatthena, nāgo danto Mahesinā.
Some animal trainers train elephants, horses and cattle by beating violently with iron spikes, sticks, spears, goads, hooks and canes. As for the Buddha, He has tamed Nāḷāgīri the elephant without using any destructive weapon and has removed his violent temper through loving-kindness.
Decline of Devadatta’s Gains
Devadatta’s attempt on the life of the Buddha caused a big outcry among the people. They loudly blamed King Ajātasattu, saying: “It was Devadatta who caused the death of our King Bimbisāra. It was Devadatta who sent the assassins. It was he who rolled down the rock; and now he sent the elephant Nāḷāgīri to kill the Master. Yet such an evil man is made teacher by King Ajātasattu who goes about with him.”
When King Ajātasattu heard the people’s reproach, he ordered the withdrawal of his regular offer of five hundred pots of food to Devadatta and he stopped going to see his former teacher. The citizens, too, ceased to offer any food to Devadatta who visited their houses for alms.
Five Things demanded by Devadatta
His gains having dwindled day by day, Devadatta decided to do some thing dramatic and spectacular for his living.
He went to the Buddha and said:
“Glorious Buddha, I beg you to lay down the following rules for the monks:
(1) All monks should live in forest hermitage for life. A monk, who lives in a monastery near a village, should be guilty of an offence.
(2) All monks should always eat only the food that they obtain by going on the round for alms. A monk, who accepts the food which the lay men have offered after invitation, should be guilty of an offence.
(3) All monks should always wear only the robe made of rags. A monk, who accepts the robe offered by lay men, should be guilty of an offence.
(4) All monks should always dwell at the feet of trees. A monk, who goes to a monastery with a roof, should be guilty of an offence.
(5) All monks should always avoid eating meat and fish. A monk who eats meat or fish, should be guilty of an offence.”
Then the Buddha said:
“Devadatta, your demands are not proper (reasonable).
(1) Let the monk live in a forest hermitage or in the monastery near a village according to his desire.
(2) Let the monk eat the food that he gets by going round for alms or by accepting the food offered by lay men after invitation. Let him get the food in either way he likes.
(3) Let the monk wear the robe made of rags or the robe offered by lay men according to his desire.
(4) Devadatta, I have permitted the monks to dwell at the foot of trees for eight months.
(5) I have permitted the monks to eat meat or fish provided they do not see or hear or have any suspicion about any creature being killed for their food.”
(Herein when Devadatta made the five demands, the Buddha knew instantly that his object was to create a schism in the Sangha. As concessions to these demands would be a hindrance to spiritual progress, the Buddha considered them unreasonable and said that a monk might live in forest hermitage if he wanted to, and so on.
In this connection, a good monk should know the wish of the Buddha as well as what is proper for Him.
(According to the Buddha, there are four kinds of monks, viz. (a) the forest-dwelling monk who will gain the Path and the Fruition by virtue of his great physical and intellectual strength, (b) the monk who cannot live in the forest because of his physical weakness and who can make spiritual progress only if he practises the Dhamma in the village monastery, (c) the monk who will make spiritual progress either in the forest hermitage or in the village monastery by virtue of his physical strength and forbearance, and (d) the (padaparama) monk who will make no spiritual progress in spite of his effort either in the forest or the village monastery,
(a) The Buddha wants only the monk of the first kind to live in a forest hermitage. The hermitage is a proper abode for him and following his example, his disciples will want to live in the forests.
(b) The Buddha wants the second type to live in a village monastery.
(c) According to the Buddha, the monk of the third type should live only in a forest hermitage. The forest hermitage is good for him and following his example, his disciples will want to live there.
(d) As for the (padaparama) monk who will not make much spiritual progress in this life, the Buddha wants him to live in a forest hermitage. Practice of austerities (dhutaṅga) and meditation in the forest hermitage will contribute to his attainment of the Path and Fruition in the next life and he will be a living example for his disciples. (Thus when the Buddha says “(1) Let the monk live in a monastery near a village according to his desire”, He means “the monk (b) who cannot live in the forest because of his physical weakness and who will achieve his spiritual goal only if he practises the Dhamma in a village monastery.” This concession also enables other monks to live in the village monastery.
(If the Buddha accepted Devadatta’s demands, it would rule out the possibility of spiritual progress for two kinds of monks: (1) the monk (b) who is physically weak and (2) the monk who lived in the forest when he was young but who cannot live there in his old age owing to decline in health and so has to live in the village monastery to achieve his spiritual goal. For these reasons the Buddha rejected Devadatta’s demands.)
Devadatta’s Attempt to create Schism
Devadatta was delighted when the Buddha refused to comply with his five demands. Together with his followers, Kokālika, Katamodaka Tissaka, the son of Queen Khanda and Samuddadatta, he rose, and after paying respect to the Buddha, went away. (The monk Kokālika, Queen Khanda’s son Kadamodaka Tissaka and the monk Samuddadatta were Devadatta’s close and trusted disciples.)
Then Devadatta went to Rājagaha with his followers and propagated their doctrine. They told the people that the Buddha had rejected what they regarded as their reasonable demands for five rules that would contribute to non-attachment, etc. and that they, on their part, would live in accordance with those five rules.
People, who lacked faith and intelligence, extolled Devadatta and blamed the Buddha. Those, who had faith and intelligence, criticized Devadatta for trying to create schism in the Sangha and undermine the authority of the Buddha. The monks, who heard the people’s words, also criticized Devadatta and reported to the Buddha.
Then the Buddha called a meeting of the Sangha in connection with the matter reported by the monks and in the presence of all monks, He asked: “Devadatta, is it true that you are trying to create schism in the Sangha and destroy its authority?” Devadatta replied: “Yes, Venerable Sir!”
Then the Buddha said:
“Devadatta, what you are doing is not proper. Do not wish to see dissension in the Sangha. One who causes schism in the Sangha bears a very grave responsibility. One who causes schism in a united Sangha commits an evil that will lasts one whole kappa. He will suffer in hell for one whole kappa.
“Devadatta, one who restores unity to a disunited Sangha commits a good deed and enjoys life in the deva-world for one whole kappa. Devadatta, what you are doing is not proper. Do not wish to see dissension in the Sangha. One who causes schism in the Sangha bears a very grave responsibility.”
Although the Buddha thus admonished him seriously. Devadatta did not give up his attempt and carried out the preliminary plan for the schism. The next day, he decided to perform uposatha service and acts of the Sangha (Sangha-kamma) separately. In the morning, he approached the Thera Ānanda who came into Rājagaha for alms, and he said: “Dear Ānanda, from today I will perform the uposatha service and the acts of Sangha without the company of the Buddha and His monks.”
When Venerable Ānanda reported the matter to the Buddha, He breathed forth the following verse:
It is easy for a good man to do a good deed
It is hard for an evil man to do a good deed
It is easy for an evil man to do an evil deed
It is hard for a good man to do an evil deed.
Schism created by Devadatta
Then on that uposatha day, Devadatta rose from his seat in the assembly of monks and said that the Monk Gotama had rejected his demand for five rules that would lead to nonattachment, etc., that they would abide by the five rules and that those who liked the rules should vote for them. The votes were taken and the five hundred young monks of Vajji country who lived in Vesālī and who were ignorant of the Vinaya teaching voted for the rules as they thought that the rules represented the Dhamma, Vinaya and the sayings of the Buddha. Devadatta took the five hundred monks and went to Gayāsīsa.
Contribution of The Two Chief Disciples
Then the Venerable Sāriputta and the Venerable Mahā Moggallāna, the two Chief Disciples, went to the Buddha and the Venerable Sāriputta informed Him of Devadatta’s schismatic defection and his departure for Gayāsīsa with five hundred monks. The Buddha reproached them for having no compassion for the young monks and urged them to go and save the monks from spiritual ruin. The two Venerables promised to do so and after paying respect to the Buddha they left for Gayāsīsa.
A Young Monk’s Concern
Then a monk came and stood crying near the Buddha. The Buddha asked him why he was crying. The monk said that the two Chief Disciples of His, Venerables Sāriputta and Moggallāna had gone to Devadatta, probably because they preferred Devadatta’s teaching. Then the Buddha said: “Monk, there is absolutely no reason why Sāriputta and Moggallāna should like Devadatta’s teaching. In fact, they have gone there in order to enlighten the five hundred young monks who have become Devadatta’s followers.”
At that time, Devadatta was seated preaching in the midst of many of his followers. When he saw from afar the two Venerables coming, he said to the young monks: “Monks look over there! I have proclaimed my doctrine very well. Even the Monk Gotama’s Chief Disciples, Sāriputta and Moggallāna prefer my teaching and they are now coming over to join me.”
Then the monk Kokālika (one of the leaders of his sect) warned Devadatta: “Friend Devadatta, do not associate with Sāriputta and Moggallāna. They have evil desire and they follow their evil desires.” But Devadatta said: “Friend, you should not say like this. Their coming here is good because it is motivated by their appreciation of my teaching.”
When the two Venerables came near, Devadatta said, “Come, Sāriputta, sit here” and offered to share his seat with him. But the Venerable refused to accept his offer and took his seat in a suitable place. So did the Venerable Moggallāna.
Having preached to the monks the whole night, Devadatta said to the Venerable Sāriputta: “Friend Sāriputta, the monks are free from sloth and torpor. You carry on with your talk on the Dhamma. My neck is stiff and cramped. Let me stretch my back.” (Here he imitated the Buddha in the way He urged the Venerable Sāriputta.) Venerable Sāriputta agreed. After spreading his big fourfold outer robe, Devadatta lay down by the right side. As he was tired, unmindful and devoid of intelligence, he instantly fell asleep.
Then the Venerable Sāriputta taught the five hundred young monks first by making them aware of their own mental states (ādesanā-pāṭihāriya). This was followed by his pointing out the Dhammas that they should avoid and the Dhammas that they should practise (anusāsānī-pāṭihāriya). The Venerable Mahā Moggallāna taught them first by performing miracles (iddhi-pāṭihāriya) and then telling them what to avoid and what to follow. Therefore the five hundred young monks gained the Fruition of Sotāpatti on the spot and became sotāpanna-ariyas.
After the five hundred young monks had become ariyas on the Sotāpatti Path, the Venerable Sāriputta told them that he and Venerable Moggallāna would return to the Buddha and that those who liked His teaching might go along with them. All the monks followed them and travelling by air by their psychic power, they reached Veḷuvana.
Vomiting of Blood by Devadatta
After the two Chief Disciples had gone away with the five hundred young monks, Kokālika, a teacher of the sect, woke Devadatta up by hitting the breast with his knee and saying: “Get up, Devadatta! Sāriputta and Moggallāna have taken away the young monks. Have I not told you that you should not associate with Sāriputta and Moggallāna, that they have evil desires and that they follow their evil desires?” Then Devadatta vomited hot blood on the spot.
Jātakas concerning Devadatta
When the monks living in the Veḷuvana monastery saw Venerable Sāriputta returning with the five hundred monks, they said to the Buddha: “Glorious Buddha, when the Venerable Sāriputta left for Gayāsīsa, he had only the Venerable Mahā Moggallāna as his companion. Now his return from there with so many followers is indeed glorious.” The Buddha said: “Monks, it is not only now that Sāriputta is glorious. When he came back to me as an animal in a previous life he was also glorious.” and He recounted the Lakkhanamiga Jātaka in the Sīla-Vagga of the Ekaka Nipāta. Again, when the monks reported that Devadatta imitated the Buddha by trying to preach like a glorious Buddha with the two chief disciples on the right and left side, the Buddha said: “Monks, it is not only now; also a long time ago Devadatta tried to imitate Me but it was in vain.” Then the Buddha told them the Viraka Jātaka of the Nataṃdaḷha Vagga, Duka Nipāta.
The following days, too, the Buddha narrated the Kandagalaka Jātaka (Nataṃḍaḷha Vagga, Duka Nipāta), etc. in connection with Devadatta.
Then one day the monks were talking about Devadatta’s downfall in respect of the offerings he received from the laity and in respect of his spiritual life when the Buddha said: “Monks, it is not only now that Devadatta has his downfall. He had it too long ago,” and the He narrated Ubhatobhattha Jātaka (Asampadāna vagga, Ekaka Nipāta) etc.
Herein a short list of Jātakas which the Buddha recounted in connection with Devadatta is given below:
Ekaka Nipāta: Seriva Jātaka, Lakkhapa Jātaka, Kuruṅgamiga Jātaka, Vānarinda Jātaka, Tayodhamma Jātaka, Sīlava Jātaka, Saccamkira Jātaka, Siṅgala Jātaka, Dummedha Jātaka, Asampadāna Jātaka, Ubhatobhattha Jātaka, Siṅgāla Jātaka, Virocana Jātaka and Sanjīva Jātaka.
Duka Nipāta: Vinīlaka Jātaka, Dubbhiyamakkaṭa Jātaka, Manicora Jātaka, Vīraka Jātaka, Kuruṃgamiga Jātaka, Suṃsumāra Jātaka, Kaṇḍalaka Jātaka, Dhamma-dhaja Jātaka, Kāsāva Jātaka, Cūḷanandiya Jātaka, Kumbhila Jātaka, Upāhana Jātaka, Mahāpiṅgala Jātaka, Sabbadāṭhi Jātaka and Guttlia Jātaka.
Pañcaka Nipāta: Cuḷadhammapāla Jātaka and Sāḷiya Jātaka.
Aṭṭhaka Nipāta: Cetīya Jātaka.
Ekadasaka Nipāta: Dhammadevaputta Jātaka.
Dvadasaka Nipāta: Sanmudavāṇija Jātaka.
Terasaka Nipāta: Amba Jātaka and Rum Jātaka.
Pakiṇṇaka Nipāta: Candakinnarī Jātaka.
The Last Days of Devadatta
Having been ill for nine months, Devadatta had the desire to see the Buddha at the last moment. So he told his disciples to take him to the Buddha. But his disciples said: “You went about as the enemy of the Buddha when you were healthy. So, we dare not take you to Him now.”
Then Devadatta said: “My disciples, do not ruin me. As a matter of fact, it was only I who bore grudge against the Buddha. He did not have the slightest grudge against me.”
Vadhake Devadattamhi, core Aṅgulimālake.
Dhanapāle Rāhule ca, sabbattha samamānaso.
My (cousin) brother, the Buddha, has the good-will towards His brother-inlaw Devadatta who was bent on killing Him, towards Aṅgulimāla the robber who adorned himself with one thousand fingers, towards Nāḷāgīri the wild elephant, later called Dhanapāla, towards His own son, Rāhula and towards all living beings equally.
“Take me now to my brother, the Exalted Buddha.”
Thus Devadatta again and again entreated them to let him see the Buddha. Then his disciples laid him on a couch and carried him to Sāvatthi where the Buddha was staying.
When the monks heard the news that Devadatta was coming, they reported to the Buddha. The Buddha said: “Monks, Devadatta will have no opportunity to see Me in his present life.”
(It was natural that Devadatta had no opportunity to see the Buddha from the time he made the five demands.)
In the eyes of the ordinary monks, Devadatta was on the way to Sāvatthi to see the Buddha. The Buddha said: “Devadatta would not be able to see Me in the present existence, under any circumstances, though I may remain here.” The monks were nonplussed and they did not know what to make of the Buddha’s saying. Therefore, they again and again informed Him of Devadatta’s arrival at such and such a place. But He still insisted that whatever Devadatta did, “by no means would he see Me.”
But, from time to time, the monks reported the progress of Devadatta’s journey saying that he was now one yojana away from Sāvatthi. That he was now only a gavuta away that and that he had closed upon the pond near the Jetavana monastery. Finally the Buddha said:
“Devadatta will not see Me at all even though he may get into the Jetavana monastery.”
Devadatta swallowed by Earth
The disciples bearing Devadatta laid down the couch on the bank of the pond near the Jetavana monastery and stepped into the pond to bathe. Devadatta sat up on the couch putting his two feet on the ground. Then his feet sank into the earth irresistibly. Down he went, the parts of his body sinking one after another, the ankle, the kneecap, the waist, the chest, and the neck, and the earth had gorged him up to the jaw-bones when he uttered the following verse:
I, Devadatta, on my death-bed seek refuge in the Exalted One with these bones and this lingering life-force. With intelligent, noble, joyous mind motivated by the three noble root-conditions (I seek refuge in the Omniscient Buddha, the Supreme Being in the world, the All-seeing Teacher who can discipline all worthy beings and who possesses the thirty-two splendid marks of an extraordinary man by virtue of His countless good deeds.
(It was because of the Buddha’s fore-knowledge of Devadatta’s repentance that the Buddha ordained him. Even if he had not been a monk, he would certainly have committed the same heinous crime as a layman and later on he would not have been able to do the good deed that would contribute to his liberation from saṃsāra.
(The Buddha knew that after ordination Devadatta would do the two most evil deeds: causing the spilling of the Buddha’s blood and creating schism in the Sangha and that later on he would do the good deed for his release from saṃsāra. So the Buddha ordained him. Indeed, because of this good deed, Devadatta will be a Paccekabuddha by the name of Atthissara, after one hundred thousand kappas.)
Devadatta’s Suffering in Avīci Hell
After uttering the verse, Devadatta entered the earth and landed in the Avīci hell. It seemed as if he was to suffer unshaken in the hell because he had wronged the unshaken Buddha. In the great Avīci hell, one hundred yojanas in width, Devadatta’s body was one hundred yojanas in height. His head was inside the upper iron pan up to his two ears. The two legs were inside the red-hot iron bottom up to the ankles. He was roasted standing and facing east. An iron stake with the thickness of a palm-tree protruding from the west side of the hell-pot pierced right through the middle of Devadatta’s back, came out from the front breast and went into the east side of the hell-pot. Another iron stake came out of the south side of the hell-pot, passed through Devadatta’s right side, came out from the left side and went into the north side of the hell-pot. Still another iron stake came from the iron pan, pierced right through the top of the head, came out of the bottom and went into the iron floor under the hell-pot. In this way Devadatta was roasted unshaken in the great Avīci hell.
(About the Avīci hell: In this realm: (1) the denizens of hell are jammed without any space, (2) the hell fires are continuous and cover the whole realm, leaving no space, and (3) the inhabitants have no respite in their suffering. They have to suffer all the time. Thus, because there is no vacant space among the inhabitants, or no cessation as regards the hell fires or suffering, the hell is called the great Avīci hell.)
Narration of Jātakas after Devadatta’s Death
After Devadatta was thus swallowed up by the earth, the topic of conversation among the monks was Devadatta’s inability to see the Buddha although he had travelled laboriously forty-five yojanas for this purpose. The Buddha said that Devadatta was swallowed by the earth also in one of his former lives and told the story of the elephant Sīlava. When the Bodhisatta was the elephant Sīlava, he put a man who had lost his way on his back and took him to a safe place. Yet the man came back thrice to cut the trunk, and when he went back with the last portion of the trunk he was swallowed up by the earth as soon as he went out of sight of the Bodhisatta. This man, a hunter, named Mittadubbhi became Devadatta. (Sīlava Jātaka, Varuṇa Vagga, Ekaka Nipāta)
Then again the Buddha recounted Khantivādā Jātaka (Pucimanda vagga, Calukka Nipāta) to show how King Kalābu (Devadatta) was gorged by the earth when he wronged the Bodhisatta, Hermit Khantivādī. The Buddha also told the Cūladhammapāla Jātaka (Maṇikuṇḍala Vagga, Pañcaka Nipāta) in which as King Mahāpatāpa (Devadatta) was swallowed by the earth for having wronged his own son, Cūḷadhammapāla, who was the Bodhisatta.
After the death of Devadatta people were overjoyed. They set up all kinds of flags and banana plants, etc, placed the pots full of water and celebrated their riddance of Devadatta. When this was reported to the Buddha by the monks, He said that in ancient times, too, the death of Devadatta delighted many people. To illustrate His saying, the Buddha recited Mahā Piṅgala Jātaka (Upāhana vagga, Duka Nipāta) in which people rejoiced at the death of the evil King Piṅgala in Vārāṇasī.
The monks asked the Buddha about the afterlife of Devadatta. The Buddha said that he had landed in the Avīci hell. The monks said: “Glorious Buddha, Devadatta had to suffer much in the present life and now at the end of this life also he has landed in the world of much suffering.”
Then the Buddha said: “Yes, monks, that is true. All beings whether monks or lay men who are unmindful in respect of good deeds have to suffer in the present life and the afterlife.”
And the Buddha uttered the following verse.
Monks, the man who does evil has to suffer because of the effect of his evil act. He has to suffer both in the present life and the afterlife. Stricken by his conscience, ‘I have done an evil deed’, he has to grieve in the present life. When he lands in the lower, evil world (after his death), he has to grieve extremely because of the effect of his deed.
By the end of the sermon many beings became sotāpanna-ariyas, etc. The sermon was beneficial to many people.
Footnotes and references:
Pāṭihāriya means removal of opposing evil deeds. There are three ways of removal:
(1) removal by preaching (anusāsāni-pāṭihāriya),
(2) removal by performance of miracle such as creation of different forms (iddhi-pāṭihāriya),
(3) removal by knowing the listener’s mental state (ādesanāpāṭihāriya).
Of these three ways, the third one is meant here. The second way belonged to Mahāthera Moggallāna and the first to Mahāthera Sāriputta. Though the Buddha adopted the third method, it was usually preceded by either of the previous two in accordance with the mental inclinations of the listener.