Posted by myanmarpedia on September 27, 2007
I. Immediate family of the Buddha
2.Queen Maha Maya(mother)
3.Maha Pajapati Gotami(aunt and foster mother)
4.Yasodhara(cousin and wife)
II. Male Disciples
III. Female Disciples
V. Lay Disciples
Devadatta, who was the son of King Suppabuddha and Queen Pamita, was the cousin of Prince Siddhattha and brother of Princess Yasodhara. He was a playmate of Prince Siddhattha but from a young age displayed signs of cruelty towards animals and jealousy towards the Prince.
As a young prince, Siddhattha had always been everyone’s favourite. He was obedient, kind and considerate. He also excelled in every skill and sport. Devadatta looked on, his heart filled with envy. Why was it that everyone obeyed Siddhattha and listened to Him? Why was He always singled out as the best? Could they not see how great he, Devadatta, was? His mean spirit could not understand that it was his own arrogance, cruel nature, and lack of consideration that turned people away from him.
When Siddhattha became the Buddha, Devadatta watched as Sakyan princes and princesses embraced His Doctrine. He, too, decided to give up his life as a prince and follow the Buddha’s teaching. He entered the order together with his cousins, Ananda and Anuruddha. For a brief period his jealousy and envy were buried as he explored the new teachings with interest. Before long, he reached the first stage of Jhana by developing his keen mind through meditation. Sariputta, seeing his effort and progress, praised him for his diligence.
However, it was only a temporary reprieve. His old anger and envy poured back into his dark heart. Gripped with hatred and jealousy upon seeing the popularity and veneration the Buddha received, he began to form a plot. Seeking the help of King Ajatasattu, a cruel and greedy king, he planned the murder of the Buddha.
At the first attempt to kill the Buddha, Devadatta’s plan was foiled. The large rock he rolled down the mountain at Gijjhakuta bounced off another rock. A sliver detached and struck the sacred foot of the Buddha. The wound was deep and painful but not fatal. Devadatta plotted again. Feeding alcohol to the enraged king elephant Nalagiri, he let it loose on the path towards the Buddha. But the Buddha with His grace calmed the enraged elephant. Unable to bear his defeat, Devadatta sought to cause disharmony among the monks. He requested that the Buddha change the rules for the monks to include the following:
1. Monks should only live in the forest (as opposed to living in monasteries)
2. Monks should only eat food that they received through begging (as opposed to food eaten on invitation by laymen)
3. Monks should only wear robes that were made from cloths that were used to wrap dead bodies – pansukula (as opposed to robes given as gifts by laymen)
4. Monks should live at the foot of trees (as opposed to living in caves in forests)
5. Monks should not eat fish or meat
The compassionate Buddha, who saw that the above rules would cause unnecessary hardship to His monks while not adding any value to their reaching of enlightenment, refused. Instead, He said that any monk who wished to do so could adopt the above practice of austerities. This caused disharmony among the Sangha as some inexperienced monks, thinking that the only way to enlightenment was by the practice of austerities, left the Buddha and joined an order founded by Devadatta. With the start of these evil actions Devadatta lost the psychic powers and Jhana that he had developed.
To understand fully the deep envy and hatred that Devadatta had towards the Buddha, we must look back in history to their first encounter. In the Seri Vanija Jataka, the Buddha revealed that many lifetimes before, Devadatta and He were both born as travelling merchants. Devadatta, who was an unscrupulous merchant, was travelling selling his wares when he was accosted by a poor peasant woman who did not have any money but needed merchandise. However, she had in her kitchen a large pot which was old and discoloured. Asking her granddaughter to bring forth the pot, she handed it to Devadatta and asked him to value it and give them merchandise in exchange for its value. On receiving the heavy pot, Devadatta realized that this was no ordinary vessel. It was a pot of gold, the value of which was greater than all the merchandise he carried in his cart. He also realized that neither the old lady nor her grand-daughter was aware of its value. Pretending that it was a valueless old pot he handed it back and ridiculed them for suggesting such a trade. His plan was to come back later and offer them a small amount of money, far less than the true value of the pot, and make it out to be an act of compassion that he had performed to help them.
Shortly after, our Bodhisatta visited the same hut to sell His merchandise. The old woman once again brought out the discoloured old pot and requested a trade for the merchandise that she needed. The Bodhisatta, realizing the value of the pot, informed the old woman that this was a golden vessel, the value of which exceeded all his merchandise. He then offered all his wares in exchange for the pot. The grateful old woman thanked the Bodhisatta for His honesty and informed Him of the ridicule to which they had been subject by the former merchant. She then handed the pot over to him.
Devadatta, however, was not finished with the poor woman. He came back hoping to trick her into giving him the pot for almost nothing. When he found out that the Bodhisatta had traded for the pot, his anger and envy were all-consuming. Raging after the Bodhisatta, he vowed enmity and revenge. Such deep anger and hatred is extremely dangerous. Devadatta carried his jealousy and anger towards the Buddha through many births. Many Jataka stories that the Buddha dispensed illustrate Devadatta’s hatred and schemes to hurt the Bodhisatta. Unable to accomplish his goal, Devadatta’s envy and hatred grew with each succeeding encounter with the Bodhisatta. This extreme hatred and past conditioning that had begun many years ago were carried through samsara and manifested in Devadatta’s evil actions towards the Buddha.
As he approached the time of his death, Devadatta repented and regretted his actions. He reflected on the impermanence of life and his oncoming death. A pang of fear gripped his heart. Why had he not heeded the teachings when he had the opportunity? How had he veered so far from the Truth? Stumbling to his feet, he walked toward Jetavana to beg forgiveness of the Buddha for the grave wrongs he had committed. But it was not to be. Red-hot flames engulfed his mind and body. Gasping for breath, Devadatta died in torment before he reached the Buddha, and was reborn in the Avichi hell.
Despite the evil acts performed by Devadatta, the Buddha predicted that his good kamma performed in the early years as a monk would eventually bear fruit. He said that in the distant future Devadatta would be a Pacceka Buddha by the name of Satthissara.
Even though Devadatta was not one of the great disciples of the Buddha his story is worthy of note. It clearly illustrates that you are your own saviour. Even the Buddha, who must have had great compassion for his cousin, could not save him. That was something that Devadatta himself had to do. His story also illustrates the fact that there is hope for all. Even the extremely long lifespans in the lower worlds come to an end. Devadatta will one day reap the benefits of his good actions by becoming a Pacceka Buddha.