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Vepacitti

An Asura chieftain, who was present with Namuci (Māra) at the teaching of the Mahāsamaya Sutta (D.ii.259). It is said that among the Asurā, Vepacitti, Rāhu and Pahārāda were the chiefs. e.g., AA.ii.758, Vepacitti being the highest (sabbajetthaka, SA.i.263).

Vepacitti was the friend of Rāhu, and when Rāhu seized Candimā and Suriya and these invoked the power of the Buddha, it was to Vepacitti that Rāhu fled for comfort (S.i.50, 51). The Asurā being once defeated in a fight with the Devā, the latter took Vepacitti prisoner, and brought him, bound hand and foot, to Sakka in the Sudhammā hall. There Vepacitti reviled and railed at Sakka with scurrilous words, both on entering and on leaving the hall, but Sakka remained silent, and, when questioned by Mātali, said it was not proper for him to bandy words with a fool. S.i.221 f; cf. S.iv.201, according to which his bondage caused him no inconvenience so long as he remained with the devas, but the moment he experienced the wish to rejoin the Asurā, he felt himself bound. Vepacitti’s capture is referred to in Thag.vs.749.

On another occasion Vepacitti suggested that victory should be given to him or to Sakka, according to their excellence in speech. Sakka agreed to this, and Vepacitti, as the older god, was asked to speak a verse. Sakka spoke another, the Devā applauding. Several verses were spoken by each, and both Devā and Asurā decided in favour of Sakka, because Vepacitti’s verses belonged, they said, to the sphere of violence, while those of Sakka belonged to one of concord and harmony (See Subhāsitajaya Sutta, S.i.222 f).

On another occasion, when Sakka was turning over in his mind the thought that he should not betray even his enemy, Vepacitti read his thoughts and came up to him. “Stop,” said Sakka, “thou art my prisoner”; but Vepacitti reminded him of his thought, and was allowed to go free (S.i.225).

Buddhaghosa says (SA.i.266) that Vepacitti’s original name was Sambara (q.v.) When Sambara refused to give to the seers, who visited him, a pledge that the Asurā would not harm them, the seers cursed him, and from that time onwards he slept badly and was plagued by nightmares. This so deranged his mind (cittaṃ vepati) that he came to be called Vepacitti (“Crazy nerve”). When Vepacitti lay ill of this disease, Sakka visited him and offered to cure him if he would teach him Sambara’s magic art. Vepacitti consulted the Asurā, and, as they were unwilling, he refused Sakka’s offer, warning him that Sambara, having practised magic, was suffering in purgatory and that he should avoid a similar fate (S.i.238 f).

Buddhaghosa explains that, if Vepacitti had taught him the art, it was Sakka’s intention to take Vepacitti to the seers and persuade them to forgive him (SA.i.272). This episode seems to contradict Buddhaghosa’s previous statement that Sambara and Vepacitti were identical. Perhaps, as Mrs. Rhys Davids suggests (KS.i.305, n.4), Sambara was the name of an office rather than that of a person.

Mention is made (S.i.226) of a visit once paid by Sakka and Vepacitti to a company of seers dwelling in a forest hut. Vepacitti, in his buskins, his sword hanging at his side and his state canopy borne over his head, entered by the main gate, while Sakka, in all humility, used the side gate. Buddhaghosa explains (SA.i.265) the strange relations of Sakka and Vepacitti by saying that they were father and son-in-law, and that they were sometimes at war with each other; sometimes, however, they lived in concord. The Dhammapada Commentary (DhA.i.278 f; cf. J.i.205 f) gives the story of the romantic marriage of Sakka to Vepacitti’s daughter, Sujā (q.v.)

According to the Kathāvatthu, other members of Vepacitti’s family appear to have intermarried with the devas, and the Kathāvatthu Commentary says that a troop of Asurā, belonging to the retinue of Vepacitti, was once freed from the fourfold plane of misery and was taken up among the devas. See Points of Controversy, p.211.

The Sanskrit texts call him Vemacitra or Vemacitrī. e.g., Dvy., pp.126, 148; Mtu.iii.138,254.

Vepacitti (or Khanti) Sutta.– Vepacitta is led in bonds to Sakka, whom he abuses. Sakka remains silent until the departure of Vepacitti. Then in reply to Mātali, Sakka says that the man who, when reviled, does revile in return, wins a twofold victory. S.i.221 f, cf. S.iv.201.

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