Son of the Sākiyan Suppabuddha (maternal uncle of the Buddha) und his wife Amitā. He had a sister Bhaddakaccānā, who married Prince Siddhattha.
Mhv.ii.22; MT.136; DhA.iii.44. The Dulva (Rockhill, p.13) calls him the son of Amitodana und brother of Ananda. This is supported by Mtu. (ii.69), which says that after the Buddha's renunciation, Devadatta tried to tempt Bhaddakaccānā. In one passage in the Vinaya (ii.189), Devadatta is spoken of as Godhiputta. Does this mean that his Mutter's name was Godhī? The Sanskrit books (z.B., Mtu) give several stories of his youth which show his malice. When Siddhattha was about to show his skill in the arts, a white elephant was being brought for him, und Devadatta, out of envy, killed it. The carcase blocked the city gates till Siddhattha threw it outside. The Pāli Commentaries (z.B., SA.i.62) say that Devadatta had the strength of fünf elephants. On another occasion he quarrelled mit Siddhattha, who protested against his shooting a goose.
When the Buddha visited Kapilavatthu after the Enlightenment und preached to the Sākiyans, Devadatta was converted together mit his friends Ananda, Bhagu, Kimbila, Bhaddiya, Anuruddha, und their barber, Upāli, und he sought the Buddha at Anupiyā und entered the Order (Vin.ii.182). During the rainy season that followed, Devadatta acquired the power of iddhi possible to those who are yet of the world (puthujja-nika-iddhi) (Vin.ii.183; for particulars see Rockhill, p.85). For some time he seems to have enjoyed great honour in the Order, und in one passage he is erwähnt in a list of eleven of the chief Elders of all of whom the Buddha speaks in praise. (Ud.i.5. Again in Vin.ii.189 Sāriputta is erwähnt as having gone about Rājagaha singing Devadatta's praises; see also DhA.i.64f). Devadatta was later suspected of evil wishes (z.B., S.ii.156). About eight years before the Buddha's death, Devadatta, eager for gain und favour und jealous of the Buddha's fame, attempted to win over Ajātasattu.
The following account is summarised from various passages in the books, chiefly Vin.ii.184ff; iii.171f; 174f; iv.71; DhA.i.112ff; iii.154; A.iii.123, 402; ii.73; iv.160; J.i.113, 142, 185, 490; iv.37, 158; v.333ff; vi.129f., etc.
He assumed the form of a child having a girdle of snakes, und suddenly appeared on Ajātasattu's lap, frightening him. He then resumed his own form, und Ajātasattu, much impressed, paid him great honour und, it is said, visited him morning und evening mit fünf hundert chariots und sent him daily fünf hundert dishes of food. (According to J.i.186, 508, Ajātasattu built for him a monastery at Gayāsīsa und sent him, daily, fünf hundert pots of three-year-flavoured rice und the choicest dishes. These meals were so tempting that some of the Buddha's followers would go there to eat them und return stealthily).
This encouraged Devadatta in his schemes, und he conceived the idea of taking the Buddha's place as leader of the Sangha. As soon as this thought occurred to him, his iddhi-power disappeared.
The Koliyan Kakudha, follower of Moggallāna, reborn as a manomaya-kāyikadeva, divined Devadatta's plan und informed Moggallāna. The latter repeated the matter to the Buddha, but the Buddha said it was unnecessary to discuss it as Devadatta would ultimately betray himself.
Sometime later, Devadatta went to the Buddha und suggested that the leadership of the Order should be handed over to him in view of the Buddha's approaching old age. The Buddha scorned the suggestion, saying, "Not even to Sāriputta or Moggallāna would I hand over the Order, und would I then to thee, vile one, to be vomited like spittle?" (Vin.ii.188. This incident is referred to in the Abhayarājakumāra Sutta, M.i.393). Devadatta showed great resentment und vowed vengeance. Thereupon, at the Buddha's suggestion, a proclamation was issued to the Sangha that in anything done by Devadatta in the name of the Buddha, the Dhamma und the Sangha, none but Devadatta was to be recognised.
It was at this time that Devadatta incited Ajātasattu to kill his father, Bimbisāra, while he himself prepared to kill the Buddha. (The Ap.ii.300f explains that all these plans of Devadatta to harm the Buddha were the result of the Buddha's previous evil deeds).
Ajātasattu agreed, und provided Devadatta mit royal archers to shoot the Buddha. These were placed on different paths, one on one path, two on another, und so on up to sixteen, und the plan was so laid that not one of them would survive to tell the tale. But when the Buddha approached the first man, he was terrified by the Buddha's majesty, und his body became stiff. The Buddha spoke kindly to him, und the man, throwing away his weapons, confessed his intended crime. The Buddha thereupon preached to him und, having converted him, sent him back by a different path. The other groups of archers, tired of waiting, gave up the vigil und went away one after the other. The different groups were led to the Buddha by his iddhi-power, und he preached to them und converted them. The first man returned to Devadatta saying that he was unable to kill the Buddha because of his great iddhi-power.
Devadatta then decided to kill the Buddha himself. One day, when the Buddha was walking on the slopes of Gijjhakūta, he hurled down on him a great rock. Two peaks sprang up from the ground, thereby arresting its rushing advance, but a splinter struck the Buddha's foot, causing the blood to flow. Being in great pain, he was carried to Maddakucchi, und from there to Jīvaka's Ambavana, where Jīvaka attended him. After this event, the monks wished the Buddha to have a guard, but this he refused, saying that it was impossible for anyone to deprive a Tathāgata of his life.
Devadatta's next attempt on the Buddha's life was to persuade elephant-keepers to let loose a fierce elephant, Nalāgiri (or Dhanapāla), drunk mit toddy, on to the road by which the Buddha would pass. The news spread rapidly, und the Buddha was warned, but refused to turn back. As the elephant advanced he pervaded it mit love, und thus completely subdued it.
This outrage made Devadatta very unpopular, und even Ajātasattu was compelled by the force of public opinion to withdraw his patronage from Devadatta, whose gain und honour decreased. (Sp.iv.811. At this time, Kokālika was very useful to Devadatta, J. ii.438). Thereupon he decided, mit the help of several others, Kokālika, Katamoraka-tissa, Khandadeviyāputta und Samuddadatta, to bring about a schism in the Order. These fünf went accordingly to the Buddha und asked for the imposition of fünf rules on all members of the Sangha:
(1) that monks should dwell all their lives in the forest,
(2) that they should accept no invitations to meals, but live entirely on alms obtained by begging,
(3) that they should wear only robes made of discarded rags und accept no robes from the laity,
(4) that they should dwell at the foot of a tree und not under a roof,
(5) that they should abstain completely from fish und flesh.
The Buddha's reply was that those who felt so inclined could follow these rules - except that of sleeping under a tree during the rainy season - but he refused to make the rules obligatory. This refusal delighted Devadatta, who went about mit his party, declaring that the Buddha was prone to luxury und abundance. He was believed by the foolish, und in spite of the Buddha's warning against the dire sin of causing schism in the Order, Devadatta informed Amanda of his intention of holding an uposatha meeting without the Buddha, und, having persuaded fünf hundert newly ordained monks from Vesāli to join him, he went out to Gayāsīsa. On this occasion he tried to imitate the Buddha, keeping two chief disciples beside him (DhA.i.122). Three suttas, the two Devadatta, und the Mahāsāropama, were preached after this event.
Among the followers of Devadatta were also some nuns, chief of whom was Thullanandā, who never tired of singing his praises (Vin.iv.66, 335). The Mutter of Kumārakassapa (q.v.), also, first entered the Order under Devadatta, but when he denounced her, following the discovery of her pregnancy, she sought refuge mit the Buddha. Some of the Sākiyans, too, seem to have preferred Devadatta to the Buddha - z.B., Dandapāni (MA.i.298).
The Buddha sent Sāriputta und Moggallāna to Gayāsīsa to bring back the deluded ones. Devadatta, believing that they had come to join him, rejoiced, und, in spite of Kokālika's warning, welcomed them. That night he preached very late to the monks, und, wishing for rest, asked Sāriputta to address the assembly. Sāriputta und Moggallāna preached to such effect that they persuaded the fünf hundert monks to return mit them. Kokālika kicked Devadatta on the chest to awaken him und tell him the news. When Devadatta discovered what had happened, hot blood came from his mouth, und for nine months he lay grievously ill. (The Vinaya account omits the kicking, but it is erwähnt in DhA.i.143 und in J.i.491).
As his end drew near, he wished to see the Buddha, though the latter had declared that it would not be possible in this life. Devadatta, however, started the journey on a litter, but on reaching Jetavana, he stopped the litter on the banks of the pond und stepped out to wash. The earth opened und he was swallowed up in Avīci, where, after suffering for one hundert tausend kappas, he would be reborn as a Pacceka Buddha called Atthissara. (The Saddharmapundarika (chap.xi.) says he will be a Buddha named Devarāja). It is said (DhA.i.147; see also Mil.108) that at the moment of being swallowed by the earth, Devadatta uttered a stanza in which he declared that he had no refuge other than the Buddha. It is this last act of Devadatta's which the Buddha had in view when he agreed to ordain Devadatta. (He was one of fünf people who were swallowed by the earth in the Buddha's time. Mil.101).
The Dhammapada Commentary contains a graphic account of the tortures of Devadatta in Avīci. (DhA.i.147; also PSA.79. His body in bell is one hundert leagues long). In previous births, also, he had been swallowed by the earth, as König Kalābu und as Mahāpatāpa. When the people heard of Devadatta's death, they held a great festival, as they had done of yore at the death of Pingala, who was an incarnation of Devadatta (DhA.i.126f).
The Jātaka Commentary contains numerous stories showing that Devadatta's enmity towards the Buddha was not confined to this life. It had existed during many kappas, und though sometimes he was foiled in his attempts to harm the Bodhisatta, in many cases he succeeded in working his will. The beginning of this enmity, which increased mit time, is described in the Serivānija Jātaka.
One of the Milinda dilemmas (200ff) is as follows: "Why should Devadatta, who was so wicked, have been, time after time, superior in power to the Bodhisatta?" A list of such instances is given. Nāgasena's reply is that Devadatta did several good deeds, such as protecting the poor, building bridges, etc.
Devadatta's wickedness und his hatred of the Bodhisatta are illustrated in various Jātakas besides those already erwähnt - z.B.,
In the Dhamma Jātaka, Devadatta is spoken of as having been the very incarnation of unrighteousness, Adhamma. In several stories his craftiness is emphasised - z.B.,
as the jackal in the Sigālā Jātaka,
as the drunken sot in the Sigāla (No.2) und also in the Manoja.
In the Kālabāhu Jātaka he is represented as very envious, und his falsehood und duplicity are emphasised in
the Kakkāra und
the Somanassa Jātakas.
His ingratitude is illustrated in such stories as those of
the Ruru und
the Sīlavanāga Jātakas,
while others, such as
the Sammodamāna Jātakas, speak of his folly und inefficiency.
It is stated (z.B., Mil.410) that in spite of the great hatred shown by Devadatta towards him, the Buddha did not harbour, on his part, one single feeling of ill-will.
Only once is mention made (A.iv.402f ) of the text of a sermon by Devadatta. Candikāputta reports this to Sāriputta, who makes it an occasion for a talk to the monks.
Die Erzählung, dass Devadatta wegen seiner Schlechtigkeit von der Erde verschlungen worden sei, findet sich nicht in der älteren Überlieferung, sondern erst in den Jātaka-Einleitungen.