Devadatta, the Buddha's Enemy
was the son of King Suppabuddha and his wife Pamita, who was
an aunt of the Buddha. Devadatta's sister was Yasodhara, making
him both a cousin and brother-in-law of the Buddha. Together
with Ananda and other Sakyan princes, he entered the order
of monks in the early part of the Buddha's ministry, but was
unable to attain any stage of sainthood and so worked hard
for the worldly psychic powers.
his early days, he was a good monk known for his grace and
psychic powers. Later he became conceited with worldly gain
and fame. As his ill-will and jealousy towards the Buddha
increased, he became the greatest personal enemy of the Buddha.
day in a large assembly, which included kings and princes,
Devadatta approached the Buddha and asked him to make him
the leader of the Sangha. Since he was not capable and worthy
enough, the Buddha turned down this request. Devadatta became
very angry as a result and vowed to take revenge on the Buddha.
Devadatta was an evil monk, he had many admirers and followers.
One of his chief supporters was King Ajatasattu, with whom
he discussed his anger and plots for revenge. Together they
planned to kill King Ajatasattu's father and rival, King Bimbisara
and Devadatta's enemy, the Buddha. Ajatasattu succeeded in
killing his father, but Devadatta failed to kill the Buddha.
first attempt to kill the Buddha was to hire a man to kill
the Blessed One. The plan was that the man be killed by two
other men who would in turn be killed by four other men. Finally
the four men would be killed by eight other men. But when
the first man came close to the Buddha, he became frightened.
He put aside his weapons and took refuge in the Buddha. Eventually
all the men who were hired to kill one another became disciples
of the Buddha and the cunning plan failed.
Devadatta himself tried to kill the Buddha. When the Buddha
was walking on the Vultures' Rock, Devadatta climbed to the
peak and hurled a huge stone at the Buddha. On its way down,
the rock struck another rock and a splinter flew and wounded
the Buddha's foot, causing blood to flow. The Buddha looked
up and seeing Devadatta, he remarked with pity, "Foolish
man, you have done many unwholesome deeds for harming the
third attempt to kill the Blessed One was to make the fierce
man-killer elephant, Nalagiri, drunk with liquor. When Nalagiri
saw the Buddha coming at a distance, it raised its ears, tail
and trunk and charged at him. As the elephant came close,
the Buddha radiated his loving-kindness (metta) towards the
elephant. So vast and deep was the Buddha's love that as the
elephant reached the Buddha, it stopped, became quiet and
stood before the Master. The Buddha then stroked Nalagiri
on the trunk and spoke softly. Respectfully, the elephant
removed the dust at the master's feet with its trunk, and
scattered the dust over its own head. Then it retreated, with
its head facing the Buddha, as far as the stable, and remained
fully tamed. Usually elephants are tamed with whips and weapons,
but the Blessed One tamed the elephant with the power of his
trying to be the leader of the Sangha, Devadatta tried yet
another plan a deceitful one. With the help of five
hundred misled monks, he planned to split the Sangha community.
requested the Buddha to make it compulsory for monks to follow
five extra rules:
made this request, knowing full well that the Buddha would
refuse it. Devadatta was happy that the Buddha did not approve
of the five rules, and he used these issues to gain supporters
and followers. Newly ordained monks who did not know the Dharma
well left the Buddha and accepted Devadatta as their leader.
Eventually, after Venerable Sariputta and Venerable Moggallana
had explained the Dharma to them, they went back to the Buddha.
this, evil days fell on Devadatta. He fell very ill at the
failure of his plans, and before his death he sincerely regretted
his actions, and wanted to see the Buddha before he died.
But the fruits of his evil karma had begun to ripen and prevented
him from doing so. He grew desperately ill on the way to see
the Buddha, near the gate of Jetavana monastery. But before
he died he took refuge in the Buddha.
he has to suffer in a woeful state because of his crimes,
the holy life he led in the early part of his career ensured
that Devadatta would become a Pacceka Buddha named Atthissara
in the distant future. As a Pacceka Buddha he would be able
to achieve Enlightenment by his own efforts.