1. Sāriputta Thera.– The chief disciple (aggasāvaka) of Gotama Buddha. He is also called Upatissa, which was evidently his personal name.¹ The commentators say that Upatissa was the name of his village and that he was the eldest son of the chief family in the village, but other accounts give his village as Nālaka. His father was the brahmin, Vaṅganta,² and his mother, Rūpasārī. It was because of his mother’s name that he came to be called Sāriputta.³
The name Upatissa is hardly ever mentioned in the books. He had three younger brothers — Cunda, Upasena, and Revata (afterwards called Khadiravaniya) — and three sisters — Cālā, Upacālā, and Sīsūpacālā; all of whom joined the Order.⁴
The story of Sāriputta’s conversion and the account of his past lives, which prepared him for his eminent position as the Buddha’s Chief Disciple, have been given under Mahā-
In the assembly of monks and nuns, Sāriputta was declared by the Buddha foremost among those who possessed wisdom (etadaggaṃ mahāpaññānaṃ).⁶ He was considered by the Buddha as inferior only to himself in wisdom.⁷ The Buddha would frequently merely suggest a topic, and Sāriputta would teach it in detail, and thereby win the Buddha’s approval.⁸ The Buddha is recorded ⁹ as speaking high praise of him: “Wise art thou, Sāriputta, comprehensive and manifold thy wisdom, joyous and swift, sharp and fastidious. Even as the eldest son of a Cakkavatti king turns the Wheel as his father hath turned it, so dost thou rightly turn the Wheel Supreme of the Dhamma, even as I have turned it.” He thus came to be called Dhammasenāpati, just as Ānanda was called Dhammabhaṇḍāgārika. The Anupada Sutta is one long eulogy of Sāriputta by the Buddha. He is there held up as the supreme example of the perfect disciple, risen to mastery and perfection in noble virtue, noble concentration, noble perception, noble deliverance.¹⁰ In the Saccavibhaṅga Sutta ¹¹ he is compared to a mother teacher, while Moggallāna is like a child’s wet nurse; Sāriputta trains in the fruits of conversion, Moggallāna trains in the highest good. In the Piṇḍapātapārisuddha Sutta ¹² the Buddha commends Sāriputta for the aloofness of his life and instructs him in the value of reflection. Other instances are given of the Buddha instructing and examining him on various topics, e.g., on “what has come to be” (bhūtaṃ),¹³ on the five controlling faculties (indriya),¹⁴ and on Stream-
We also find instances of Sāriputta questioning his colleagues, or being questioned by them, on various topics. Thus he is questioned by Mahā-
Among laymen who had discussions with Sāriputta are Atula,⁴⁰ Nakulapitā ⁴¹ and Dhānañjāni;⁴² Sīvalī,⁴³ also the wanderers Jambukhādaka,⁴⁴ Sāmaṇḍaka,⁴⁵ and Pasūra,⁴⁶ and the female wanderers Saccā, Lolā, Avavādakā and Paṭācārā,⁴⁷ and Bhaddā-
The care of the Saṅgha and the protection of its members’ integrity was Sāriputta’s especial concern by virtue of his position as the Buddha’s Chief Disciple. Thus we find him being sent with Moggallāna to bring back the monks who had seceded with Devadatta. His admonitions to the monks sometimes made him unpopular — e.g., in the case of the Assaji Punabbasukā, the Chabbaggiyā (who singled him out for special venom), and Kokālika.⁵⁰ When Channa declared his intention of committing suicide, Sāriputta attempted to dissuade him, but without success.⁵¹ Monks sought his advice in their difficulties.⁵² He was greatly perturbed by the dissensions of the monks of Kosambī, and consulted the Buddha, at length, as to what he could do about it.⁵³ He was meticulous about rules laid down by the Buddha. Thus a rule had been laid down that one monk could ordain only one novice (samaṇera), and when a boy was sent to him for ordination from a family which had been of great service to him, Sāriputta refused the request of the parents until the Buddha had rescinded the rule.⁵⁴ Another rule forbade monks to eat garlic (lasuna), and when Sāriputta lay ill and knew he could be cured by garlic, even then he refused to eat them until permission was given by the Buddha for him to do so.⁵⁵ The Dhammapada Commentary ⁵⁶ describes how, at the monastery in which Sāriputta lived, when the other monks had gone for alms, he made the round of the entire building, sweeping the unswept places, filling empty vessels with water, arranging furniture, etc., lest heretics, coming to the monastery, should say: “Behold the residences of Gotama’s pupils.” However, even then he did not escape censure from his critics. A story is told ⁵⁷ of how he was once charged with greed, and the Buddha himself had to explain to the monks that Sāriputta was blameless. While Sāriputta was severe in the case of those who failed to follow the Buddha’s discipline, he did not hesitate to rejoice with his fellow monks in their successes. Thus we find him congratulating Moggallāna on the joy he obtained from his psychic powers, and praising his great attainments (praise which evoked equally generous counter-
Several instances are given ⁶² of Sāriputta instructing the monks and teaching them of his own accord on various topics — apart from the teaching of the well-
Sāriputta was also specially attached to Rāhula, the Buddha’s son, who was entrusted to Sāriputta for ordination. Mention is made of a special sutta in the Majjhimanikāya,⁶⁶ in which he urges Rāhula to practise mindfulness of breathing. The special regard that Sāriputta had for the Buddha and Rāhula extended also to Rāhulamātā, for we find that when she was suffering from flatulence. Rāhula consulted Sāriputta, who obtained for her some mango juice, a known remedy for the disease.⁶⁷ On another occasion ⁶⁸ he obtained from Pasenadi rice mixed with ghee and with red fish for flavouring when Rāhulamātā suffered from some stomach trouble. Among laymen Sāriputta had special regard for Anāthapiṇḍika; when the latter lay ill he sent for Sāriputta, who visited him with Ānanda and taught him the Anāthapiṇḍikovāda Sutta. At the end of the discourse Anāthapiṇḍika said he had never before heard such a homily. Sāriputta said they were reserved for monks only, but Anāthapiṇḍika asked that they could be given to the laity and to young men of undimmed vision. Anāthapiṇḍika died soon after and was reborn in Tusita.⁶⁹
Several incidents are related in the books showing the exemplary qualities possessed by Sāriputta — e.g., the stories of Tambadāṭhika, Puṇṇa and his wife, the poor woman in the Kuṇḍakakucchisindhava Jātaka and Losaka Tissa (q.v.) These show his great compassion for the poor and his eagerness to help them. Reference has already been made to his first teacher, Sañcaya, whom he tried, but failed, to convert to the Buddha’s faith. His second teacher was Assaji. It is said that every night on going to bed he would do obeisance to the quarter in which he knew Assaji to be and would sleep with his head in that direction.⁷¹ If Assaji were in the same vihāra, Sāriputta would visit him immediately after visiting the Buddha. It was in connection with this that the Nāvā Sutta (q.v.) was taught. The stories of the novices (sāmaṇera) Sukha and Paṇḍita, and of the monk Rādha, also show his gratitude towards any who had shown him favour.⁷² His extreme affection for and gratitude to the Buddha are shown in the Sampasādanīya Sutta (q.v.) That Sāriputta possessed great patience is shown by the story ⁷³ of the brahmin who, to test his patience, struck him as he entered the city for alms. However, when he was wrongly accused and found it necessary to vindicate his good name, he did not hesitate to proclaim his innocence at great length and to declare his pre-
Mention is made of two occasions on which Sāriputta fell ill. Once he had fever and was cured by lotus stalks which Moggallāna obtained for him from the Maṇḍākinī Lake.⁷⁷ On the other occasion he had stomach trouble, which was again cured by Moggallāna giving him garlic (lasuna), to eat which the rule regarding the use of garlic had to be rescinded by the Buddha.⁷⁸
Sāriputta was fond of meal cakes (piṭṭhakhajjaka), but finding that they tended to make him greedy he made a vow never to eat them.⁷⁹
Sāriputta died some months before the Buddha. It is true that the account of the Buddha’s death in the Mahā Parinibbāna Sutta ignores all reference to Sāriputta, though it does introduce him ⁸⁰ shortly before as uttering his “lion’s roar” (sīhanāda), his great confession of faith in the Buddha, which, in the commentarial account, he made when he took leave of the Buddha to die. The Saṃyuttanikāya ⁸¹ records that he died at Nālagāmaka (the place of his birth), and gives a eulogy of him pronounced by the Buddha after his death.⁸² There is no need to doubt the authenticity of this account. It merely states that when Sāriputta was at Nālagāmaka he was afflicted with a sore disease. His brother, Cunda Samaṇuddesa, was attending on him when he died. His body was cremated, and Cunda took the relics to Sāvatthi with Sāriputta’s begging bowl and outer robe. The relics were wrapped in his water-
The Commentaries give more details. The Buddha returned to Sāvatthi after his last Rains Retreat (vassa) in Beḷuvagāma. Sāriputta sought him there, and, realising that his death would come in seven days, he decided to visit his mother, for she, though the mother of seven Arahants, had no faith in the Saṅgha.⁸⁴ He therefore asked his brother, Cunda, to prepare for the journey to Nālagāmaka with five hundred others, and then took leave of the Buddha after performing various miracles and declaring his faith in the Buddha and uttering his “lion’s roar.” A large concourse followed him to the gates of Sāvatthi, and there he addressed them and bade them stay behind. In seven days he reached Nālaka, where he wais met by his nephew, Uparevata, outside the gates. Him he sent on to warn his mother of his arrival with a large number of people. She, thinking that he had once more returned to the lay life, made all preparations to welcome him and his companions. Sāriputta took up his abode in the room in which he was born (jātovaraka). There he was afflicted with dysentery. His mother, unaware of this and sulking because she found he was still a monk, remained in her room. The Four Regent Gods and Sakka and Mahā Brahmā waited upon him. She saw them, and having found out who they were, went to her son’s room. There she asked him if he were really greater than all these deities, and, when he replied that it was so, she reflected on the greatness of her son and her whole body was suffused with joy. Sāriputta then taught her, and she became a Stream-
His mother made all arrangements for the funeral, and Vissakamma assisted in the ceremony. When the cremation was over, Anuruddha extinguished the flames with perfumed water, and Cunda gathered together the relics.⁸⁵ Among those who came to pay honour to the pyre was the goddess Revatī (q.v.) Sāriputta died on the full-
Sāriputta had many pupils, some of whom have already been mentioned. Among others were Kosiya, Kandhadinna, Cūḷasārī, Vanavāsika Tissa, Saṅkicca (q.v.), and Sarabhū, who brought to Sri Lanka the Buddha’s collar bone, which he deposited in the Mahiyaṅgana-
Sāriputta’s special proficiency was in the Abhidhamma. It is said ⁸⁹ that when teaching the Abhidhamma to the gods of Tāvatiṃsa, the Buddha would visit Anotatta every day, leaving a nimitta Buddha, on Sakka’s throne to continue teaching. After having bathed in the lake he would take his midday rest. During this time Sāriputta would visit him and learn from the Buddha all that had been taught of the Abhidhamma during the previous day. Having thus learnt the Abhidhamma, Sāriputta taught it to his five hundred pupils. Their acquirement of the seven books of the Abhidhamma coincided with the conclusion of the Buddha’s discourse in Tāvatiṃsa. Thus the textual order of the Abhidhamma originated with Sāriputta, and the numerical series was determined by him.
Sāriputta is identified with various characters in numerous Jātaka stories. Thus he was
⁴ DhA.ii.188; cf. Mtu.iii.50; for details of them see s.v. Mention is also made of an uncle of Sāriputta and of a nephew, both of whom he took to the Buddha, thereby rescuing them from false views (DhA.ii.230‑2); Uparevata was his nephew (SA.iii.175).
⁵ This account is summarized from DhA.i.73 ﬀ; AA.i.88 ﬀ; ThagA.ii.93 ﬀ. Ap.i.15 ﬀ; the story of their conversion is given at Vin.i.38 ﬀ.
⁶ A.i.23. ⁷ SA.ii.45; his greatest exhibition of wisdom followed the Buddha’s descent from Tāvatiṃsa to the gates of Saṅkassa, when the Buddha asked questions of the assembled multitude, which none but Sāriputta could answer. However, some questions were outside the range of any but a Buddha (DhA.iii.228 f; cf. SNA.ii.570 f). Similarly knowledge of the thoughts and inclinations of people were beyond Sāriputta; only a Buddha possesses such knowledge (DhA.iii.426; J.i.182). Further, only a Buddha could find suitable subjects for meditation for everybody without error (SNA.i.18), and read their past births without limitation (SNA, ii.571).
⁸ See, e.g., M.i.13; M.iii.46, 55, 249.
⁹ S.i.191; cf. SN.vs.556 f., where the Buddha is asked by Sela, who is his general, and the Buddha replies that it is Sāriputta who turns the Wheel of the Dhamma; also M.iii.29.
¹⁰ M.iii.25 ﬀ. In the Mahāgosiṅga Sutta Sāriputta expresses his view that that monk is beat who is master of his heart and is not mastered by it. The Buddha explains that Sāriputta was stating his own nature (M.i.215 f ). The Buddha did not, however, hesitate to blame Sāriputta when necessary, e.g., the occasion when some novices, becoming noisy, were sent away by the Buddha, whose motive Sāriputta misunderstood (M.i.459). And again, when Sāriputta did not look after Rāhula properly, making it necessary for Rāhula to spend the whole night in the Buddha’s jakes (J.i.161 f).
¹⁵ S.v.347; we find the Buddha also instructing him on the cultivation of tranquillity (A.i.65); on the destruction of “I” and “mine” (A.i.133); the reasons for failure and success in enterprises (A.ii.81 f ); the four ways of acquiring personality (attabhāva) (A.ii.159); the methods of exhortation (A.iii.198); the acquisition of joy that comes through seclusion (A.iii.207); the noble training for the layman (A.iii.211 f ); six things that bring spiritual progress to a monk (A.iii.424 f ); seven similar things (A.iv.30); the seven grounds for praising a monk (A.iv.35); the things and persons a monk should revere (A.iv.120 f); the eight attributes of a monk free from the cankers (A.iv.223 f); the nine persons who, although they die with an attached remainder for rebirth, are yet free from birth in hell among animals and among hungry ghosts (A.iv.379 f); and the ten powers of a monk who has destroyed the corruptions (A.v.174 f).
⁵⁰ Who reviled both Sāriputta and Moggallāna, DhA.ii.110 f.
⁵² See, e.g., S.iv.103, where a monk reports to him that a colleague has returned to the household life, and asks what he is to do about it.
⁶² E.g., S.ii.274; S.v.70; A.i.63; A.ii.160; A.iii.186, 190, 196, 200, 292, 340; A.iv.325, 328, 365; A.v.94, 102, 123, 315, 356 f.
⁶³ E.g., M.i.13, 24, 184, 469.
⁶⁹ M.iii.258 ﬀ; cf. S.v.380, which probably refers to an earlier illness of Anāthapiṇḍika. He recovered immediately after Sāriputta’s discourse, and served Sāriputta with rice from his own cooking pot.
⁸³ Cf. Thag.vs.1034; see also the eulogy of Sāriputta by Vaṅgīsa during his lifetime (Thag.1231‑3). Hiouen Thsang saw the stūpa erected over the relics of Sāriputta in the town of Kālapināka (Beal, op.cit., ii.177).
⁸⁴ This was because all her children joined the Order and left her desolate in spite of the four hundred million of wealth that lay in the house. It is said (DhA.iv.164 f ) that when Sāriputta had gone home on a previous occasion, she abused both him and his companions roundly. Rāhula was also in the company.
⁸⁵ This account is summarised from SA.iii.172 ﬀ; similar accounts are found at DA.ii.549 f, etc. Sāriputta’s death is also referred to at J.i.391.
⁸⁶ SA.iii.181; J.i.391; both Sāriputta and Moggallāna were older than the Buddha because they were born “anuppanne yeva hi Buddhe” (DhA.i.73).
⁸⁹ DhSA.16 f, DA.i.15, where it is said that at the end of the First Recital the Abhidhamma was given in charge of five hundred Arahants, Sāriputta being already dead.
2. Sāriputta Thera.– A monk of Sri Lanka. He lived in the reign of Parakkamabāhu I, and was called Sāgaramatī (SadS.63) on account of his erudition. The king built for him a special residence attached to the Jetavana-
Among his works are the Vinayasaṅgaha or the Vinaya-
Sāriputta had several well-
Sāriputta was also a Sanskrit scholar, and wrote the Pañjikālankāra or Ratnamatipañjikātīkā to Ratnasrījñāna’s Pañjikā to the Candragomivyākarana.
3. Sāriputta.– A monk of Dala in the Rāmañña country. He was born in Padīpajeyya in the reign of Narapatisithu, and was ordained by Ānanda of the Sīhalasangha. He became one of the leaders of this group in Rāmañña. Narapati conferred on him the title of “Dhammavilāsa,” and he was the author of one of the earliest law codes (dhammasaṭṭha) of Burma. Sās.41 f; Bode, op.cit., 31.
5. Sāriputta.– One of the sons of King Buddhadāsa. Cv.xxxvii.177.