Son of the Sākyan Suppabuddha (maternal uncle of the Buddha) and his wife Amitā. He had a sister Bhaddakaccānā, who married Prince Siddhattha.¹ When the Buddha visited Kapilavatthu after the Enlightenment and taught the Sākyā, Devadatta was converted together with his friends Ānanda, Bhagu, Kimbila, Bhaddiya, Anuruddha, and their barber, Upāli, and he sought the Buddha at Anupiyā and entered the Order.² During the rainy season that followed, Devadatta acquired the psychic-
The Koliyan Kakudha, a follower of Moggallāna, reborn as a manomaya-
Some time later, Devadatta went to the Buddha and suggested that the leadership of the Order should be handed over to him in view of the Buddha’s approaching old age. The Buddha scor ned the suggestion, saying, “Not even to Sāriputta or Mahā-
Ajātasattu agreed, and provided Devadatta with royal archers to shoot the Buddha. These were placed on different paths, one on one path, two on another, and so on up to sixteen, and the plan was so laid that not one of them would survive to tell the tale. However, when the Buddha approached the first man, he was terrified by the Buddha’s majesty, and his body became stiff. The Buddha spoke kindly to him, and the man, throwing away his weapons, confessed his intended crime. The Buddha thereupon taught him and, having converted him, sent him back by a different path. The other groups of archers, tired of waiting, gave up the vigil and went away one after the other. The different groups were led to the Buddha by his psychic-
Devadatta then decided to kill the Buddha himself. One day, when the Buddha was walking on the slopes of Vultures’ Peak (Gijjhakūṭa), 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, and 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-
This outrage made Devadatta very unpopular, and even Ajātasattu was compelled by the force of public opinion to withdraw his patronage from Devadatta, whose gain and honour decreased.¹⁰ Thereupon he decided, with the help of several others, Kokālika, Kaṭamorakatissa, Khaṇḍadeviyāputta, and Samuddadatta, to bring about a schism in the Order. These five went accordingly to the Buddha and asked for the imposition of five rules on all members of the Saṅgha:
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 with his party, declaring that the Buddha was prone to luxury and abundance. He was believed by the foolish, and in spite of the Buddha’s warning against the dire sin of causing schism in the Order, Devadatta informed Ānanda of his intention of holding an uposatha meeting without the Buddha, and, having persuaded five hundred newly ordained monks from Vesāli to join him, he went out to Gayāsīsa.¹¹
Among the followers of Devadatta were also some nuns, chief of whom was Thullanandā, who never tired of singing his praises.¹² The mother 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 with the Buddha. Some of the Sākyā, too, seem to have preferred Devadatta to the Buddha — e.g., Daṇḍapāni.¹³
The Buddha sent Sāriputta and Mahā-
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 and stepped out to wash. The earth opened and he was swallowed up in Avīci, where, after suffering for one hundred thousand world-
The Dhammapada Commentary ¹⁷ contains a graphic account of the tortures of Devadatta in Avīci. In previous births, also, he had been swallowed by the earth, as King Kalābu and 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 Piṅgala, who was an incarnation of Devadatta.¹⁸
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 world-
Devadatta’s wickedness and his hatred of the Bodhisatta are illustrated in various Jātaka stories besides those already mentioned — e.g., the Kakkāru, the Kapi, the Kukkura, the Kuruṅga-
In the Dhammadevaputta Jātaka, Devadatta is spoken of as having been the very incarnation of unrighteousness (adhamma). In several stories his craftiness is emphasised — e.g., as the jackal in the Siṅgālā Jātaka, as the drunken sot in the Siṅgālā (No.142) and also in the Manoja. In the Kālabāhu Jātaka he is represented as very envious, and his falsehood and duplicity are emphasised in the Cetiya, the Kakkāru and the Somanassa Jātakas.
His ingratitude is illustrated in such stories as those of the Anta, the Amba, the Asampadāna, the Upāhana, the Guttila, the Javasakuna, the Dubbhiyamakkaṭa Jātaka, the Nigrodhamiga, the Mahākapi, the Rurumigarāja and the Sīlavanāgarāja Jātakas, while others, such as the Apaṇṇaka, the Ubhatobhaṭṭha, the Kandagalaka, the Kāsāva, the Giridanta, the Jambuka, the Jambukhādaka, the Parantapa, the Lakkhaṇa, the Vinīla, the Virocana, the Vīraka, the Sabbadāṭha, the Sammuddavāṇija, the Sammodamāna Jātakas, speak of his folly and inefficiency.
It is stated ²⁰ 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-
Only once is mention made ²¹ of the text of a discourse by Devadatta. Candikāputta reports this to Sāriputta, who makes it an occasion for a talk to the monks.
¹ Mhv.ii.22; MT.136; DhA.iii.44. The Dulva (Rockhill, p.13) calls him the son of Amitodana and brother of Ānanda. 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 (Vin.ii.189), Devadatta is spoken of as Godhiputta. Does this mean that his mother’s name was Godhī? The Sanskrit books (e.g., 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, and Devadatta, out of envy, killed it. The carcase blocked the city gates until Siddhattha threw it outside. The Pāḷi Commentaries (e.g., SA.i.62) say that Devadatta had the strength of five elephants. On another occasion he quarrelled with Siddhattha, who protested against his shooting a goose.
⁴ Ud.i.5. Again in Vin.ii.189 Sāriputta is mentioned as having gone about Rājagaha singing Devadatta’s praises; see also DhA.i.64 f.
⁵ E.g., S.ii.156.
⁶ The following account is summarised from various passages in the books, chiefly Vin.ii.184 ﬀ; iii.171 f; 174 f; iv.71; DhA.i.112 ﬀ; iii.154; A.iii.123, 402; ii.73; iv.160; J.i.113, 142, 185, 490; iv.37, 158; v.333 ﬀ; vi.129 f., etc.
⁷ According to J.i.186, 508, Ajātasattu built for him a monastery at Gayāsīsa and sent him, daily, five hundred pots of three-
⁹ The Ap.ii.300 f explains that all these plans of Devadatta to harm the Buddha were the result of the Buddha’s previous evil deeds.
¹¹ On this occasion he tried to imitate the Buddha, keeping two chief disciples beside him (DhA.i.122). Three suttas, the two Devadatta Suttas, and the Mahāsāropama Sutta, were taught after this event.
¹⁴ The Vinaya account omits the kicking, but it is mentioned in DhA.i.143 and in J.i.491.
¹⁵ The Saddharmapuṇḍarika (chap.xi.) says he will be a Buddha named Devarāja.
¹⁶ DhA.i.147; see also Mil.108. He was one of five people who were swallowed by the earth in the Buddha’s time. Mil.101.
¹⁷ DhA.i.147; also PSA.79. His body in hell is one hundred leagues long.
¹⁸ DhA.i.126 f.
¹⁹ One of the dilemmas in the Milindapañha (200 ﬀ) 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.
References in the notes are to the Pāḷi texts of the PTS. In the translations, these are usually printed in the headers near the spine, or in square brackets thus  in the text. References to the Jātaka Commentary are given as J, not JA, which would normally be used, as that is reserved for the Journal Asiatic.