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Devadatta turns the most persistent Buddha's enemy

“For a virtuous person, it is easy to do good deeds, but for an evil one, it is easy to do evil and difficult to do good deeds. For example in life, it is always easy to do certain things which are not beneficial, but it is very difficult to do beneficial deeds”.

These sentiments were expressed by the Blessed One, relating to the schism in the Sangha, caused by Devadatta Thera.

The Buddha, while sojourning at the Veluvana Monastery uttered the verse given below, with reference to Devadatta who committed the grave offence of causing a rift or schism in the Order of the Bhikkhus.

Sukarahi Asadhumi
Attano Ahitani Ca
Yain Ve Hitain Ca-Sadhuin Ca
Tain Ve Paramadukkaram

- Atta Vagga – the self – Dhammapada Verse (163)

(Easy it is to do things which are bad and harmful to oneself. That which is beneficial and good to oneself. It is indeed hard to perform.)

Close relation

One day, when the Buddha was addressing the Bhikkhus at the Veluwana Monastery, Devadatta suggested that since the Buddha was getting old, the duties of the Sangha should be entrusted to him. Although, Devadatta was a close relation of the Buddha, his request was turned down.

Devadatta disliked the Buddha not only in the present, but also in his entire Samsaric journey. He was so vicious, that he planned to kill the Buddha, hurling a big stone from Gijjakuta Pabbata and sending an intoxicated elephant Nalagiri. No one could hurt the Samma Sambuddha. He tried to kill Him thrice and failed miserably.

Devadatta tried his latest tactics to disintegrate the Sasana. To be a hero for the Sangha, he proposed “Five rules of discipline” among the Bhikkhus to observe throughout their lives. Devadatta's proposals were:

1. Bhikkhus should live in forests.
2. They should live only on food received from alms-rounds or “Pindapatha”
3. They should wear robes made only from pieces of cloth collected from cemeteries.
4. They should reside under trees.
5. They should not eat fish or meat.

No objections

The Enlightened One, did not have any objections to the rules and also made no objection to those who were willing to observe them. However, the Buddha never agreed to impose them as a rules of discipline on Sangha.

Thus, the rift began. With some new Bhikkhus, the “Breakaway Group” began to support Devadatta. They left the Veluvana Monastery and created a schism in a religious organisation over the doctrine in which one group refusing to recognise the authority of the other.

The Buddha warned him stating that it was a grave sin. Devadatta paid no heed to the Buddha's warning. When Devadatta met Ven. Ananda, “Attendant of the Buddha”, he informed Ananda that he would observe “Uposatha” - a day to perform duties.

Similar to the “Sabbath” - a word in the Christian religion, a day of the week intended for rest and worship of God, Saturday for Jews and Sunday for Christians. Ven. Ananda told the Buddha about Devadatta's mission. The Buddha said, “Ananda, he is committing a very grave and serious sin. It will send him to Avichi Niraya, the worst hell as far as suffering is concerned.

Devadatta, a cousin of the Buddha was His most persistent enemy. According to Mahamaya canon, particularly the “Lotus Sutra’, Devadatta was considered a Bodhisatva in a disguise who through his constant “Needling” of the Buddha helped the latter perfect His Enlightenment. Thus, Devadatta was known as a good spiritual advisor.

Compassion

The Buddha was full of compassion, absolutely pure in motive perfectly selflessness in His service to humanity. Yet, in preaching and spreading His teaching, the Buddha faced many opposition. He was severely criticised, abused and insulted. His chief opponents were the teachers of rival sects and followers of heretical schools and sects, whose traditional teachings and superstitious rites and ceremonies were criticised. The Buddha's greatest enemy was his own brother-in-law and erstwhile disciple Devadatta. Even in the Jataka tales, the character of Devadatta was depicted as a ruthless person.

Devadatta, hailed from a royal family like the Buddha. He was the son of King Suppabuddha and Pamita, an aunt of the Buddha. Yasodhara was his sister. According to the Buddhist literature he was thus a cousin and brother-in-law of the Blessed One. He entered the Sasana, in the early part of the Buddha's Order with Ananda and other Sakyan Princes. Although, he was a close relation of the Buddha, he never had any favour. The Buddha treated all of them equally.

Devadatta was a shrewd person. He was very close to King Ajasatta. On his advice, Ajasatta killed his father Bimbisara. Ajasatta became one of the chief supporters of Devadatta and he built a monastery for him.

Although, he lived in the same monastery with the Blessed One, Devadatta could not attain any stages of Sainthood or attain the bliss of Nibbana. However, Devadatta was distinguished for worldly psychic powers.

 

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