1. Upāli Thera.– One of the most eminent of the Buddha’s immediate disciples. He belonged to a barber’s family in Kapilavatthu and entered the service of the Sākyan princes. When Anuruddha and his cousins left the world and sought ordination from the Buddha at Anupiyā Grove, Upāli accompanied them. They gave him all their valuable ornaments, but, on further consideration, he refused to accept them and wished to become a monk with them. The reason given for his refusal is that he knew the Sākyā were hot-
At the request of the Sākyan youths, the Buddha ordained Upāli before them all, so that their pride might be humbled.¹ Upāli’s preceptor (upajjhāya) was Kappitaka.² When Upāli went to the Buddha for an exercise for meditation, he asked that he might be allowed to dwell in the forest. However, the Buddha would not agree, for if Upāli went into the forest he would learn only meditation, while, if he remained amongst men, he would have knowledge both of meditation and of the word of the Dhamma. Upāli accepted the Buddha’s advice and, practising insight, in due course won Arahantship. The Buddha himself taught Upāli the whole of the Vinaya Piṭaka.³
In the assembly of the Saṅgha, the Buddha declared him to be the most proficient of those who were learned in the Vinaya (vinayadharānaṃ).⁴ He is often spoken of as having reached the pinnacle of the Vinaya, or as being its chief repository (Vinaye agganikkhitto),⁵ and three particular cases — those of Ajjuka.⁶ the Bhārukacchaka monk ⁷ and Kumāra-
In accordance with this tradition, ascribing to Upāli especial authority regarding the rules of the Order, various instances are given of Upāli questioning the Buddha about the Vinaya regulations. Thus we find him consulting the Buddha as to the legality or otherwise of a complete congregation performing, in the absence of an accused monk, an act at which his presence is required.¹⁰ Again, he wishes to know if, in a matter which has caused altercations and schisms among members of the Order, the Saṅgha declares re-
A whole list of questions asked by Upāli and answers given by the Buddha on matters pertaining to the Vinaya rules is found in the chapter called Upāli-
It is said ¹⁵ that even in the Buddha’s lifetime monks considered it a great privilege to learn the Vinaya under Upāli. The monks seem to have regarded Upāli as their particular friend, to whom they could go in their difficulties. Thus, when certain monks had been deprived by thieves of their clothes, it is Upāli’s protection that they seek.¹⁶
The Canon contains few records of any discourses connected with Upāli, apart from his questions on the Vinaya. In the Aṅguttaranikāya ¹⁷ he is mentioned as asking the Buddha for a brief discourse, the Buddha telling him that if there were anything that did not conduce to revulsion and detachment, Upāli could be sure that such things did not form part of the Buddha’s teaching. There is a record of another discourse,¹⁸ which the Buddha is stated to have taught when Upāli expressed the desire to retire into the solitude of the forest. The Buddha tells him that forest-
Three verses are ascribed to Upāli in the Theragāthā ¹⁹ where he admonishes the brethren to seek noble friends of unfaltering character, to learn the monks’ code of discipline and to dwell in solitude. In the time of Padumuttara, Upāli was a very rich brahmin named Sujāta. When the Buddha came to his father’s city in order to teach him the Dhamma, Sujāta saw him, and in the assembly be noticed an ascetic named Sunanda, holding over the Buddha for seven days a canopy of flowers. The Buddha declared that Sunanda would, in the time of Gotama Buddha, become famous as the elder Puṇṇa Mantāṇiputta. Sujāta, too, wished to see the future Buddha Gotama, and having heard Padumuttara Buddha praise the monk Pātika as chief of the Vinayadharā, he wished to hear, regarding himself, a similar declaration from Gotama. With this end in view he did many deeds of merit, chief of which was the erection of a monastery named Sobhana, for the Buddha and his monks, at an expense of one hundred thousand.
As a result he was born in heaven for thirty thousand world-
Buddhaghosa says ²¹ that while the Buddha was yet alive Upāli drew up certain instructions according to which future Vinayadharā should interpret Vinaya rules, and that, in conjunction with others, he compiled explanatory notes on matters connected with the Vinaya.
In direct pupillary succession to Upāli as head of the Vinayadharā was Dāsaka, whom Upāli had first met at the Vālikārāma, where Upāli was staying.²² Upāli taught him the whole of the Vinaya. Upāli’s death was in the sixth year of Udāyibhadda’s reign.²³
¹ Vin.ii.182; DhA.i.116 f; see also Bu.i.61; but see BuA.44; the Tibetan sources give a slightly different version, see Rockhill, op.cit., pp.55‑6; according to the Mahāvastu iii.179, Upāli was the Buddha’s barber, too.
⁴ A.i.24; see also Vin.iv.142, where the Buddha is mentioned as speaking Upāli’s praises.
⁸ AA.i.158; MA.i.336; J.i.148; DhA.iii.145.
¹⁵ E.g., Vin.iv.142; Sp.iv.876.
¹⁶ Vin.iii.212; see also the story of Ramanīyavihārī, ThagA.i.116.
2. Upāli.– A lad of Rājagaha. His parents, wishing him to live a life of ease, did not have him instructed in any of the usual means of livelihood, lest he should be inconvenienced while learning them. After much consideration, they decided to have him ordained. He joined the Order with sixteen other companions equally young, and it is said that they rose at dawn and started shouting for food. This was the reason for the rule that no one under twenty years of age should receive the higher ordination (upasampadā). Vin.i.77 f.
3. Upāli Thera.– The Apadāna (i.91 f) contains the story of a thera named Upāli, who is to be distinguished from the eminent disciple of that name, though the Apadāna verses obviously point to a confusion of the legends of the two. The Apadāna Commentary distinguishes this monk as “Bhāgineyya Upāli,” and states that he was a nephew of the Venerable Upāli. He was born in Kapilavatthu and was ordained by his uncle, who later became an Arahant.
Bhāgineyya Upāli had been a householder in the time of Padumuttara. Later he left the world and became an ascetic in Himavā. There he met the Buddha and the monks, and uttered their praises in song. As a result he was eighteen times king of the devas and twenty-
4. Upāli.– Distinguished as Upāli-
He was present when Dīghatapassī reported to Nāṭaputta an account of his visit to the Buddha in the Pāvārika Mango-
According to Buddhaghosa (MA.ii.621, 830), Nāṭaputta had to be carried on a litter to Pāvā, where he died shortly after.
Upāli became a Stream-
He is mentioned, with Ānanda, Citta-
5. Upāli Thera.– Head of the chapter of monks sent from Thailand, at the request of Kittisirirājasīha, to re-