1. Vakkali Thera. He belonged to a brahmin family of Sāvatthi and became proficient in the three Vedas. After he once saw the Buddha he could never tire of looking at him, and followed him about. In order to be closer to him he became a monk, and spent all his time, apart from meals and bathing, in contemplating the Buddha's person. One day the Buddha said to him, "The sight of my foul body is useless; he who sees the Dhamma, he it is that seeth me" (yo kho dhammam passati so mam passati; yo mam passati so dhammam passati) (Cp. Itv. sec. 92). But even then Vakkali would not leave the Buddha till, on the last day of the rains, the Buddha commanded him to depart. Greatly grieved, Vakkali sought the precipices of Gijjhakūta. The Buddha, aware of this, appeared before him and uttered a stanza; then stretching out his hand, he said: "Come, monk." Filled with joy, Vakkali rose in the air pondering on the Buddha's words and realized arahantship. AA.i.140f.; the Apadāna account (Ap.ii.465f.) is similar. It says that the Buddha spoke to him from the foot of the rock. Vakkali jumped down to meet the Buddha, a depth of many cubits, but he alighted unhurt. It was on this occasion that the Buddha declared his eminence among those of implicit faith; also DhA.iv.118f. The DhA. reports three verses uttered by the Buddha in which he assures Vakkali that he will help him and look after him.
According to the Theragāthā, Commentary (ThagA.i.420), when Vakkali was dismissed by the Buddha he lived on Gijjhakūta, practising meditation, but could not attain insight because of his emotional nature (saddhā). The Buddha then gave him a special exercise, but neither could he achieve this, and, from lack of food, he suffered from cramp. The Buddha visited him and uttered a verse to encourage him. Vakkali spoke four verses (Thag.350 4) in reply, and, conjuring up insight, won arahantship. Later, in the assembly of the monks, the Buddha declared him foremost among those of implicit faith (saddhādhimuttānam) (cp. A.i.25; also Dvy.49 and VibhA.276; Vsm.i.129). In the Pārāyanavagga (SN. vs. 1146) the Buddha is represented as holding Vakkali up to Pingiya as an example of one who won emancipation through faith.
The Samyutta account (S.iii.119ff.; SA.ii.229) gives more details and differs in some respects from the above. There, Vakkali fell ill while on his way to visit the Buddha at Rājagaha, and was carried in a litter to a potter's shed in Rājagaha. There, at his request, the Buddha visited him and comforted him. He questioned Vakkali, who assured him that he had no cause to reprove himself with regard to morals (sīlato); his only worry was that he had not been able to see the Buddha earlier. The Buddha told him that seeing the Dhamma was equivalent to seeing him, and because Vakkali had realized the Dhamma, there would be no hereafter for him. After the Buddha had left, Vakkali asked his attendants to take him to Kālasilā on Isigili. The Buddha was on Gijjhakūta and was told by two devas that Vakkali was about to "obtain release." The Buddha sent word to him: "Fear not, Vakkali, your dying will not be evil." Vakkali rose from his bed to receive the Buddha's message, and sending word to the Buddha that he had no desire or love for the body or the other khandhas, he drew a knife and killed himself. The Buddha went to see his body, and declared that he had obtained Nibbāna and that Māra's attempt to find the consciousness of Vakkali would prove useless.
The Commentary adds that Vakkali was conceited and blind to his remaining faults. He thought he was a khīnāsava, and that he might rid himself of bodily pains by death. However, the stab with the knife caused him such pain that at the moment of dying he realized his puthujjana state, and, putting forth great effort, attained arahantship.
His resolve to become chief among the saddhādhimuttas had been made in the time of Padumuttara Buddha, when he saw a monk also named Vakkali similarly honoured by the Buddha. Ap.ii.465f.; AA.i.140.
2. Vakkali. A monk in the time of Padumuttara Buddha, declared chief of those having implicit faith. ThagA.i.422; Ap.ii.466.
Vakkali Sutta. The account, given in the Samyutta Nikāya (S.iii.119ff ) of the attainment of arahantship and death of Vakkali (1) (q.v.).