site logo


When Devadatta, the son of Suprabuddha and a brother of

Yasodhara, became a disciple, he cherished the hope of attaining

the same distinctions and honors as Gotama Siddhattha. Being

disappointed in his ambitions, he conceived in his heart a

jealous hatred, and, attempting to excel the Perfect One in

virtue, he found fault with his regulations and reproved them as

too lenient.

Devadatta went to Rajagaha and gained the ear of Ajatasattu, the

son of King Bimbisara. And Ajatasattu built a new vihara for

Devadatta, and founded a sect whose disciples were pledged to

severe rules and self-mortification.

Soon afterwards the Blessed One himself came to Rajagaha and

stayed at the Veluvana vihara.

Devadatta called on the Blessed One, requesting him to sanction

his rules of greater stringency, by which a greater holiness

might be procured. "The body," he said, "consists of its

thirty-two parts and has no divine attributes. It is conceived in

sin and born in corruption. Its attributes are liability to pain

and dissolution, for it is impermanent. It is the receptacle of

karma which is the curse of our former existences; it is the

dwelling-place of sin and diseases and its organs constantly

discharge disgusting secretions. Its end is death and its goal

the charnel house. Such being the condition of the body it

behooves us to treat it as a carcass full of abomination and to

clothe it in such rags only as have been gathered in cemeteries

or upon dung-hills."

The Blessed One said: "Truly, the body is full of impurity and

its end is the charnel house, for it is impermanent and destined

to be dissolved into its elements. But being the receptacle of

karma, it lies in our power to make it a vessel of truth and not

of evil. It is not good to indulge in the pleasures of the body,

but neither is it good to neglect our bodily needs and to heap

filth upon impurities. The lamp that is not cleansed and not

filled with oil will be extinguished, and a body that is unkempt,

unwashed, and weakened by penance will not be a fit receptacle

for the light of truth. Attend to your body and its needs as you

would treat a wound which you care for without loving it. Severe

rules will not lead the disciples on the middle path which I have

taught. Certainly, no one can be prevented from keeping more

stringent rules, if he sees fit to do so, but they should not be

imposed upon any one, for they are unnecessary."

Thus the Tathagata refused Devadatta's proposal; and Devadatta

left the Buddha and went into the vihara speaking evil of the

Lord's path of salvation as too lenient and altogether


When the Blessed One heard of Devadatta's intrigues, he said:

"Among men there is no one who is not blamed. People blame him

who sits silent and him who speaks, they also blame the man who

preaches the middle path."

Devadatta instigated Ajatasattu to plot against his father

Bimbisara, the king, so that the prince would no longer be

subject to him; Bimbisara was imprisoned by his son in a tower

where he died leaving the kingdom of Magadha to his son


The new king listened to the evil advice of Devadatta, and he

gave orders to take the life of the Tathagata. However, the

murderers sent out to kill the Lord could not perform their

wicked deed, and became converted as soon as they saw him and

listened to his preaching. The rock hurled down from a precipice

upon the great Master split in twain, and the two pieces passed

by on either side without doing any harm. Nalagiri, the wild

elephant let loose to destroy the Lord, became gentle in his

presence; and Ajatasattu, suffering greatly from the pangs of

his conscience, went to the Blessed One and sought peace in his


The Blessed One received Ajatasattu kindly and taught him the way

of salvation; but Devadatta still tried to become the founder of

a religious school of his own.

Devadatta did not succeed in his plans and having been abandoned

by many of his disciples, he fell sick, and then repented. He

entreated those who had remained with him to carry his litter to

the Buddha, saying: "Take me, children, take me to him; though I

have done evil to him, I am his brother-in-law. For the sake of

our relationship the Buddha will save me." And they obeyed,

although reluctantly.

And Devadatta in his impatience to see the Blessed One rose from

his litter while his carriers were washing their hands. But his

feet burned under him; he sank to the ground; and, having chanted

a hymn on the Buddha, died.