Articles by alphabetic order
 Ā Ī Ñ Ś Ū Ö Ō
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

Why Devadatta Was No Saint

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Bhikkhu sujato.jpg

By Bhikkhu Sujato

Devad­atta is depic­ted as the archetypal vil­lain in all Buddhist tra­di­tions. Regin­ald Ray has argued for a rad­ical reas­sess­ment of Devad­atta as a forest saint who was unfairly maligned in later mon­astic Buddhism. His work has been influ­en­tial, but it relies on omis­sions and mis­taken read­ings of the sources. Ray’s claim that ‘there is no over­lap between the Mahāsaṅghika treat­ment of [[[Devad­atta]]]] and that of the five Sthavira schools’ is untrue. On the con­trary, the man­ner in which Devad­atta is depic­ted in the Mahāsaṅghika is broadly sim­ilar to the Sthavira accounts. Such dif­fer­ences as do exist are lit­er­ary rather than doc­trinal. The stor­ies of Devadatta’s deprav­ity became increas­ingly lurid in later Buddhism, but this is a nor­mal fea­ture of the myth­o­lo­giz­ing pro­cess, and has noth­ing to do with any ant­ag­on­ism against forest ascet­ics. In any case, the early sources are unan­im­ous in con­demning Devad­atta as the instig­ator of the first schism in the Buddhist community.

In 1994 Regin­ald Ray pub­lished Buddhist Saints in India, a lengthy book on the ‘forest saint’ of Buddhist lit­er­at­ure. It told of how the wild, unpre­dict­able sage of the forest was the ori­ginal Buddhist ideal of saint­hood, or ara­hant­ship, but was sup­planted by the sed­ate, rule-bound mon­ast­ics of later years. This romantic tale was sup­por­ted by an extens­ive frame­work of scholarship.


There is some­thing to this idea, and Ray was right to emphas­ize the import­ance of the forest sage. The ten­sion between the life of med­it­at­ive seclu­sion in the forest and settled mon­ast­i­cism in the city is still felt in Buddhist cul­tures today, and Ray does much to bring the some­times obscure forest life back into focus.

Nev­er­the­less, Ray fell into the all-too-common trap of over-dramatizing his thesis. It wasn’t enough to simply high­light the role of the forest sages; he had to recon­struct Buddhist his­tory as a vast move­ment ded­ic­ated to sup­press­ing these icon­o­clastic, cha­ris­matic her­oes. Given the anti-establishment roots of West­ern Buddhism, such rad­ical notions will always find eager ears, des­pite his flawed hand­ling of history.

These flaws are nowhere more appar­ent than in his aston­ish­ing rehab­il­it­a­tion of the so-called ‘con­demned saint’, Devad­atta. This meme has had a sur­pris­ing tenacity. It is repeated as if it were author­it­at­ive, and is used as a basis for fur­ther argu­ments on any­thing from veget­ari­an­ism to the authen­ti­city of mon­astic life.1 But it is wrong, and I would like to show why.

Ray’s argu­ment relies on two stud­ies, by Mukher­jee and Bar­eau. I do not have access to these, so my cri­ti­cisms are not of them, but rather of the way they have been used by Ray.
Devad­atta wasn’t all bad

Ray starts by recount­ing the tra­di­tional ver­sion of Devadatta’s story, say­ing he is depic­ted as an ‘invet­er­ate evil­doer’. He argues that the tra­di­tions’ bias against Devad­atta as an ascetic forest saint influ­enced them to cre­ate ever more lurid accounts of Devadatta’s evil deeds. He goes on to acknow­ledge that Devadatta’s pos­i­tion as an evil­doer is not entirely con­sist­ent, giv­ing a few examples where he appears in a more pos­it­ive light.


Ray seems to think that these two per­spect­ives are con­tra­dict­ory. But they are noth­ing of the sort. The story of Devad­atta is not that of an ‘invet­er­ate evil­doer’, but of a fall from grace: a tal­en­ted med­it­ator with psychic powers, who became cor­rup­ted by jeal­ousy and greed, and com­mit­ted many bad deeds, before finally seek­ing redemption.

Devadatta’s good qual­it­ies are required by the doc­trine of kamma. Power in this life can only come from good kamma in past lives. The Buddha could not have been threatened by a nobody. His adversary must have been someone whose birth was as exal­ted as the Buddha’s, who was tal­en­ted in the mundane achieve­ments of con­cen­tra­tion and psychic powers—but not in the stages of Awakening—someone so cha­ris­matic he could sway a power­ful king to his will. In other words, it had to be someone like Devadatta.

If early ver­sions of Devadatta’s life con­tained no good qual­it­ies, the tra­di­tions would have had to invent them. So along­side the increas­ingly implaus­ible list of crimes attrib­uted to Devad­atta, we also find implaus­ible strengths. Lit­er­ally: the Pali com­ment­ar­ies say Devad­atta had the strength of five ele­phants.2

The real doc­trinal prob­lem is, why are there not more texts that show how Devad­atta became so power­ful? This is a ser­i­ous prob­lem for the doc­trine of kamma, given that Devadatta’s mis­deeds are recor­ded at such length in so many past lives. The prob­lem is addressed at length in the Milindapañha, where King Milinda lists a mul­ti­tude of Devadatta’s for­tu­nate births, and asks Nāgasena how to explain this. Nāgasena says that when Devad­atta had been a ruler he had pro­tec­ted the land, built bridges and halls, and had been gen­er­ous to ascet­ics and those in need.3 The tra­di­tions were well aware that Devad­atta had some good in him.

How­ever, even though most ref­er­ences to a ‘good’ Devad­atta are unprob­lem­atic, indeed essen­tial to the story, one of Ray’s examples of the good Devad­atta (1624 ) can­not be explained in this way. Ray refers to a pas­sage in the Pali Udāna, which lists Devad­atta along­side sev­eral great monks, call­ing them ‘brah­mans’ and, in the verse that fol­lows, claim­ing that they are ara­hants. If Devad­atta was an ara­hant it would be impossible for him to com­mit the crimes that are attrib­uted to him.


Ray’s source is Woodward’s out­dated trans­la­tion, based on the Pali Text Soci­ety edi­tion of the Udāna. The PTS edi­tion is, how­ever, the only mod­ern edi­tion I have found that men­tions Devad­atta in this list. The Royal Thai, [[Sin­hala Buddha Jay­anthi, and Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana (Burmese) edi­tions all omit Devad­atta.5 Curi­ously, the PTS edi­tion does not even men­tion any vari­ant read­ings. Obvi­ously this is a mis­take. More recent trans­la­tions by Ire­land6 and Than­is­saro7 note this, and omit the ref­er­ence to Devadatta.

This is typ­ical of Ray’s sloppy use of primary texts. He seems to have not read the texts he refers to, and his third-hand descrip­tions often bear little resemb­lance to what they actu­ally say. For example, he claims, rather portent­ously, that in the Aṅguttara Nikāya Devad­atta ‘reveals him­self as one who has the right view and can preach the cor­rect doc­trine’. Ray gives no ref­er­ence for this start­ling rev­el­a­tion; and in fact no such text exists. Devad­atta does not even speak in the Aṅguttara Nikāya.8

Even when Ray gets the text right, he mis­rep­res­ents the mean­ing. He says that Sāri­putta praised Devadatta’s saint­li­ness, a praise that is con­firmed by the Buddha him­self. What he omits is the con­text.9 When Devadatta’s beha­vior got out of con­trol, the Buddha asked Sāri­putta to inform the lay folk what was going on.10 Sāri­putta says that he had formerly praised Devad­atta for his great abil­it­ies; the Buddha said that that was true then, and it is true now that Devad­atta has changed. This is typ­ical of the way Ray picks and chooses from his sources, in the pro­cess twist­ing their mean­ing so they become unrecognizable.

Ray fur­ther argues (163) that Devad­atta appears with the char­ac­ter­ist­ics of a saint ‘even when the texts are openly hos­tile to him. For example, he is depic­ted as one who med­it­ates in solitude.’ But the pas­sage he refers to does not depict Devad­atta as med­it­at­ing in solitude, although some trans­la­tions might be taken to imply so.11 The rel­ev­ant term rahoga­tassa paṭisallīnassa simply means ‘in private, alone’, and has noth­ing to do with being on a secluded med­it­a­tion retreat. Under this stand­ard, any­one who spends time think­ing alone in their bed­room would qual­ify as a ‘forest saint’!


In the same para­graph, Ray says that ‘Devad­atta is also a real­ized mas­ter and, through his awaken­ing, is in pos­ses­sion of magical power.’ This dir­ectly con­tra­dicts the Pali text, which says that Devad­atta attained the ‘unen­lightened person’s psychic powers’.12 Ray mis­un­der­stands the ele­ment­ary Buddhist doc­trine that psychic abil­it­ies are not con­nec­ted with Awaken­ing. This is a basic moral of the Devad­atta story as under­stood by any Buddhist med­it­ator: don’t be sat­is­fied with cheap tricks like psychic powers and stop ‘half-way’ like Devadatta!

Ray sums up the open­ing sec­tion of his essay by say­ing that: ‘This raises the ques­tion of why Devad­atta is on the one hand vil­i­fied as the very embod­i­ment of evil and on the other depic­ted as a real­ized saint.’ (163) As I have just shown, this ques­tion is mis­placed. The bulk of these texts offer a coher­ent account of a spir­itual fall from grace. There is only one pas­sage cited by Ray where this explan­a­tion doesn’t apply, and in that case Ray relies on a faulty text.
The six Vinayas

The next sev­eral pages of Ray’s book are devoted to sum­mar­iz­ing the ana­lysis of Devadatta’s story as presen­ted by Mukher­jee and Bar­eau. Most of this is a dis­cus­sion of Devadatta’s legend as passed down in the five Vinayas of the Sthavira group of schools. Essen­tially he shows that the texts of the five Sthavira schools are pretty sim­ilar, con­sist­ing of fif­teen basic epis­odes with a few vari­ations in struc­ture and detail. This is unprob­lem­atic, but also not par­tic­u­larly ger­mane to his thesis, so I will pass over it.

Ray then con­trasts the treat­ment of Devad­atta (169) in the Sthavira Vinayas with that in the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya. To appre­ci­ate this part of the argu­ment, a little back­ground on the Vinaya texts is in order.

The early Buddhist texts are broadly divided into doc­trine (Sut­tas) and mon­astic dis­cip­line (Vinaya). While both these col­lec­tions con­tain early and later mater­ial, the Vinaya is, on the whole, some­what later than the Sut­tas. The story of Devad­atta is primar­ily the account of the earli­est threat of schism to the Buddhist mon­astic com­munity, and is there­fore told at length in the Vinaya (although epis­odes from his life are also found in the Suttas).


We are for­tu­nate to pos­sess com­plete Vinaya can­ons of six schools.13 These fall into two groups, based on the first his­tor­ical schism of Buddhism.14 This schism was between the Sthavira and the Mahāsaṅghika.15 We pos­sess five com­plete Vinayas of the Sthavira group of schools, and only one from the Mahāsaṅghika. While all of these texts have many dif­fer­ences, schol­ars are agreed that the bulk of the import­ant mater­ial is shared by all the schools.

One of the prin­ciples used in text-critical stud­ies is that when two related texts share com­mon mater­ial, that mater­ial is most likely to derive from a com­mon ancestor. Of course, this is not neces­sar­ily the case, as com­mon mater­ial may stem from later bor­row­ing or from par­al­lel but inde­pend­ent devel­op­ments. Nev­er­the­less, in most cases the thesis of a shared ancestor is the simplest and most power­ful explanation.

All being equal, then, if we find mater­ial in the five Sthavira Vinayas but not in the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya, it is likely that the mater­ial in ques­tion was added by the Sthavira tra­di­tion fol­low­ing the first schism. And this is exactly the line of reas­on­ing that Ray relies on. Later we shall see, how­ever, that mat­ters are not so clear-cut, and that unshared mater­ial might point to some­thing quite different.

All the Vinayas include a sec­tion on schism. In the Sthavira group of schools, this sec­tion con­sists of a lengthy chapter in the part of the Vinaya called the Skand­haka.16 The Skand­haka con­sists of roughly twenty chapters that deal with vari­ous mat­ters ran­ging from ordin­a­tion and dis­cip­lin­ary pro­ced­ures to build­ing stand­ards and deport­ment. This is one of the main two divi­sions of the Sthavira Vinayas, the other being the Vibhaṅga, which con­tains the rules for monks and nuns (pāṭimokkha), together with back­ground and explan­a­tions. This divi­sion into two sec­tions, and the rough con­tent of the two sec­tions, is com­mon to all Vinayas. How­ever, the Mahāsaṅghika sec­tion that Ray calls the Skand­haka is not really com­par­able to the Skand­hakas found in the Sthavira Vinayas, des­pite the fact that they dis­cuss many of the same top­ics. More on this later.
The ques­tions of Upāli


The schism chapter of the Sthavira Skand­hakas begins with a lengthy account of Devadatta’s attempts to cause a schism in the Buddhist mon­astic com­munity. After this is a briefer exchange between the Buddha and Upāli, the fore­most Vinaya expert, on the topic of schism.

Ray points out that the schism sec­tion in the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya omits the story of Devad­atta and con­sists only of a con­ver­sa­tion between the Buddha and Upāli. He argues that this must rep­res­ent an early ver­sion of the text, and that it was only later that the Sthavira schools con­nec­ted Devad­atta with schism. How­ever, Ray’s dis­cus­sion is severely lack­ing. It would seem to be a mat­ter of some import that we have found the earli­est Vinaya account of schism; yet he does not seem to have read the pas­sages in ques­tion; he does not con­sider the con­tent of them at all; he does not con­sider the genre of Vinaya lit­er­at­ure they belong to; and he does not seek any grounds to inde­pend­ently con­firm that this is, in fact, an early text. When these omis­sions are rec­ti­fied, we shall see that Ray’s con­clu­sion is unfounded.

The dis­cus­sion between the Buddha and Upāli on schism is an example of a genre com­mon in all the Vinayas, known as the upāli­paripucchā. It depicts Ven­er­able Upāli, the fore­most expert on Vinaya, approach­ing the Buddha with vari­ous detailed and sys­tem­atic ques­tions on Vinaya. Such pas­sages are often found towards the end of chapters in the Skand­haka; and in some schools, they were exten­ded to become com­plete Vinaya texts in them­selves. The exchanges have a mech­an­ical, arti­fi­cial qual­ity, far from the nat­ural dis­cus­sions of spir­itual life found in early Buddhism. They are never, as Ray says, the ‘core’ of the mat­ter (170); they are rather the Vinaya equi­val­ent of the end­less cross-questions of the Abhid­hamma, con­cerned with legal defin­i­tions and cat­egor­ical niceties. The upāli­paripucchā class of lit­er­at­ure, there­fore, belongs to the later strata of canon­ical, and even post-canonical, text.

Given the ubi­quity of these dis­cus­sions, we can­not assume, as Ray does, that the upāli­paripucchās on schism in the Sthavira and Mahāsaṅghika Vinayas stem from a com­mon ancestor. Unless they share signs of a com­mon deriv­a­tion, they may just as eas­ily have arisen as inde­pend­ent par­al­lel devel­op­ments. Let us, then, com­pare the rel­ev­ant pas­sages in the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya with the Pali as an example of a Sthavira Vinaya.

24history of buddhism.jpg

In the Pali, the dis­cus­sion begins with Upāli ask­ing about the dis­tinc­tion between a ‘split in the Sangha’ (saṅgharāji) and a ‘schism in the Sangha’ (saṅghabheda), as well as the one who brings har­mony to the Sangha.17 As usual in an upāli­paripucchā, this is not an intro­duc­tion to the topic, but a cla­ri­fic­a­tion of legal defin­i­tions that only makes sense to an expert. The dis­cus­sion offers some verses,18 then pro­ceeds to exam­ine the exact con­di­tions whereby a schis­matic may or may not be destined to rebirth in hell. This only befalls a monk who, with mali­cious intent to dis­tort the Dhamma and Vinaya, com­pletes a formal Act to divide the Sangha. While Devad­atta is not men­tioned, this pas­sage obvi­ously derives from the fact that Devad­atta was said to fall into hell fol­low­ing his attacks on the Buddha and his Sangha.19

Rather than the single extens­ive dis­cus­sion found in the Pali, the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya con­tains two short sec­tions sep­ar­ated by sev­eral pages. In the first of these sec­tions, the Buddha tells Upāli that one who causes schism may do so based on either malice for the Dhamma or malice for the per­son, and goes on to dis­cuss the num­ber of monks who make up a quorum for caus­ing a schism. It then dis­cusses the situ­ation if a ‘power­ful lay fol­lower’ is involved.20 In the second sec­tion there is a brief dis­cus­sion of one who either breaks or brings har­mony to the Sangha, leav­ing out most of the details of the Pali account, such as the dis­tinc­tion between the ‘split in the Sangha’ and the ‘schism in the Sangha’.21 Neither of these pas­sages fea­ture any verses.

Unfor­tu­nately for Ray’s thesis, the Mahāsaṅghika upāli­paripucchā shares little in com­mon with the Pali pas­sages. A more detailed study, tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the other Sthavira Vinayas, might reveal some points in com­mon between these texts. More likely the texts arose inde­pend­ently, with sim­il­ar­it­ies due to the simple fact that they adopt sim­ilar lit­er­ary styles to explain related basic texts. The men­tion of the ‘power­ful lay fol­lower’ has been taken to refer to King Ashoka; if this is cor­rect, it con­firms the late­ness of the Mahāsaṅghika ver­sion. In any case, it is clear that the upāli­paripucchā is not a com­mon core in the Vinaya treat­ment of schism.
Devad­atta as schis­matic in the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya


Con­trary to Ray’s claim that ‘there is no over­lap between the Mahāsaṅghika treat­ment [of Devad­atta] and that of the five Sthavira schools’ (170), the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya depicts Devad­atta as the archetypal schis­matic, in much the same way as the Sthavira Vinayas. This pas­sage is found in the dis­cus­sion of the pāṭimokkha rule on schism.22 Devad­atta appears as a scoun­drel try­ing to divide the Sangha, just as in all other Vinayas.

The only rel­ev­ant dif­fer­ence is the grounds he is said to base his attempt on. Whereas the Sthavira Vinayas say he pro­mul­gated a set of ‘five points’, by which he tried to enforce an excess­ively ascetic life­style on the monks, the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya omits the five points and attrib­utes a much more com­pre­hens­ive agenda to him. He cor­rup­ted the entire cor­pus of Buddhist lit­er­at­ure, includ­ing the twelve sut­ras,23 the vari­ous cat­egor­ies of Vinaya offences, and the nine class of scrip­ture (aṅgas). Not only did he change the texts, he taught the monks to use a dif­fer­ent script and diverse dialects.

This account of Devadatta’s evil deeds is obvi­ously later than that found in the Sthavira Vinayas. Not only does the sheer length of the details sug­gest this, but the whole tenor of the prob­lem has shif­ted from ascetic life­style to tex­tual redac­tion. The diversity of dia­lects is an issue that became a grow­ing prob­lem for Buddhism in the later period, as the Sangha moved across a wide range of the Indian sub­con­tin­ent. And, of course, the men­tion of writ­ing con­firms that this pas­sage is late. As usual, the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya, far from being an early text, is later than the Pali and per­haps other Sthavira Vinayas.

Ray is aware of this pas­sage (171–172), and acknow­ledges that it is much the same as the account found in the Sthavira Vinayas, say­ing, ‘All the ver­sions accord major respons­ib­il­ity for the divi­sion in the com­munity to Devad­atta.’ (171) One would ima­gine that, since this is a cent­ral text that dir­ectly con­tra­dicts Ray’s basic thesis, he would have a solid argu­ment for why this pas­sage is to be dis­reg­arded. Sur­pris­ingly, there is no such argu­ment. All he says is this:


    … [[[Bar­eau]]] does not assume—as does Mukherjee—that the Vibhaṅga ver­sion is the earlier. Unlike Mukher­jee, Bar­eau begins his ana­lysis with the legend of the schism as it appears in the Skand­haka, as the more authen­tic earlier ver­sion. Bareau’s argu­ment makes good sense, among other reas­ons because the Vibhaṅga ver­sion clearly leaves the story of the schism incom­plete and dangling—in order to inter­ject the rule that this story is sup­posed to have provoked—whereas the Skand­haka account gives the story in a dra­mat­ic­ally com­plete form.

So, of the two stud­ies on which Ray relies, Mukher­jee takes the Vibhaṅga account to be the earlier, while Bar­eau takes the Skand­haka to be earlier. This dis­agree­ment is hardly reas­sur­ing. Leav­ing aside what Ray unhelp­fully refers to as ‘other reas­ons’, the only actual argu­ment he gives for pre­fer­ring Bareau’s pos­i­tion over Mukher­jee is that the Skand­haka account gives a more com­plete nar­rat­ive, while the Vibhaṅga only includes a trun­cated account as neces­sary back­ground for the rule.

This, how­ever, is no reason at all. It is far more likely that the nar­rat­ive of the Buddha’s life was ori­gin­ally told as isol­ated incid­ents, anec­dotes shared among the com­munity, which were gradu­ally gathered and arranged into a com­plete legend, one chapter of which con­cerned Devad­atta. This is how all stor­ies are told; they don’t start out as fully-formed bio­graph­ies, such as that found in the Skand­haka. They evolve from bits and pieces.

In the early period, the Sangha would have been famil­iar with the story of Devad­atta. It would have been hot gos­sip in the com­munity, so there’d be no need to spell the whole story out in every con­text. After the Buddha’s death, how­ever, as the com­munity moved on and memor­ies grew dim, the need for a com­pre­hens­ive account as found in the Skand­haka would become press­ing. There is, there­fore, no reason to believe that the Skand­haka account is earlier simply on the basis that it is fuller. On the con­trary, this very fact sug­gests that it can­not be early.


The Vibhaṅga treats schism under a pāṭimokkha rule (saṅghādisesa 10) for one agit­at­ing for a schism. This is a ser­i­ous offence that’s meant to deter any­one from try­ing to cause a schism, or to sup­port one who is caus­ing a schism. The Vibhaṅga account, how­ever, is incom­plete. It does not describe what to do if the deterrent doesn’t work and a group of Sangha go ahead to cause a schism any­way. This topic is taken up in the Skand­haka, which describes the exact legal defin­i­tion of a schism in detail, how it may be healed, and so on. This is why the Vibhaṅga account does not include the full nar­rat­ive of Devad­atta. It has noth­ing to do with a gen­er­al­ized assump­tion of the rel­at­ive age or authen­ti­city of the Vibhaṅga over the Skand­hakas or vice verse. Rather, it fol­lows dir­ectly from the pur­pose and func­tion of the two texts, which are organ­ized as an inter­de­pend­ent whole.24

This mis­take is dev­ast­at­ing to Ray’s argu­ment. His whole case rests on the argu­ment that the absence of Devad­atta from the Mahāsaṅghika Skand­haka indic­ates that it was a later addi­tion. This argu­ment is false.

But Ray’s prob­lems do not end there, for Devad­atta does in fact appear as a schis­matic in the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya in the por­tions that are par­al­lel to the Sthavira Skand­hakas. There is a short para­graph depict­ing an epis­ode of the Devad­atta story, sim­ilar to that found in the Sthavira Vinayas. It describes how, intent on caus­ing a schism, he took 500 monks away with him, and the dis­cus­sion between the Buddha and Ānanda on this prob­lem.25 Ray over­looks this pas­sage, which under­mines his entire thesis.

There are, in con­clu­sion, two pas­sages in the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya that depict Devad­atta as the archetypal schis­matic. These epis­odes are sub­stan­tially sim­ilar to the depic­tions found in the Sthavira Vinayas, and where they dif­fer, the Mahāsaṅghika is later. These two pas­sages cor­res­pond with the sec­tions that Mukher­jee iden­ti­fied as epis­odes 13 and 14 of Devadatta’s story—the grounds for the schism and the schism itself. Ray ignores one of these pas­sages, and dis­misses the other on grounds that are both flimsy and false. Ray’s mis­take is far from incid­ental; it is the core of his thesis.


    The fact that the Devad­atta legend, includ­ing its core (epis­odes 13 and 14) and its elab­or­a­tion (epis­odes 1 to 12 and 15), is com­mon to the vinayas of the five schools deriv­ing from the Sthavira but not found in the Mahāsāṅghika vinaya sug­gests that the legend arose among the Sthaviras, after they split from the Mahāsāṅghika in the fourth cen­tury BCE.26

When Ray’s errors are cor­rec­ted, the same logic leads to the oppos­ite con­clu­sion. The fact that the Devad­atta legend, at least the core epis­odes 13 and 14, is com­mon to all six Vinayas includ­ing the Mahāsaṅghika sug­gests the legend arose among the pre­sec­tarian com­munity, and in all like­li­hood harks back to the time of the Buddha himself.
Nar­rat­ive in the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya

This leaves open the ques­tion of the remain­ing epis­odes of Devadatta’s legend, which are indeed absent from the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya. Per­haps these elab­or­a­tions are the product of the Sthavira schools fol­low­ing the schism. Indeed, the inher­ent implaus­ib­il­ity of many of these epis­odes, as well as the vari­ations in the tra­di­tions, make it cer­tain that they were sub­ject to a degree of elaboration.

How­ever, even this weakened ver­sion of Ray’s thesis fails. The absence of elab­or­ated nar­rat­ive does not indic­ate that the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya is early. It is merely a lit­er­ary fea­ture of the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya, which reg­u­larly removes nar­rat­ive material.

While all the Vinayas con­tain some nar­rat­ives which serve to illu­min­ate the dis­cip­lin­ary code, there was a marked tend­ency to add more and more, until the dis­cip­lin­ary mat­ter was almost bur­ied under lay­ers of increas­ingly elab­or­ate storytelling. The most extreme example of this tend­ency is the Mūlas­ar­vāstivāda Vinaya. The redact­ors of the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya took the oppos­ite road, remov­ing most lengthy nar­rat­ives and focus­sing on the legal aspects. Pre­sum­ably the nar­rat­ives were col­lec­ted else­where, per­haps in a quasi-Vinaya col­lec­tion of legends such as the Mahāsaṅghika’s own Mahāvastu.


There are many examples of this. Sev­eral of the Vinayas include part or whole of the Mahā­par­in­ib­bāna Sutta. In the Mahāsaṅghika, this novel-length text is sum­mar­ized in a few lines, begin­ning with King Ajātasattu’s hatred for the Vajji­ans, and indic­at­ing that the entire text be filled in up to the time the Buddha lay down between the twin sal trees.27 Clearly the text is abbre­vi­at­ing an earlier ver­sion that con­tained the full story.

Some­times we actu­ally have the full ver­sion of the text that is abbre­vi­ated in the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya. This is because there exists a par­tial Vinaya of the Lok­ut­tara­vāda school, who are a branch of the Mahāsaṅghikas. This Vinaya is very sim­ilar to the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya, except that it expands nar­rat­ives that are abbre­vi­ated in the Chinese Mahāsaṅghika text. So, for example, when the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya says, ‘All should be told as in the Seven Women Sutra’,28 the Lok­ut­tara­vāda Vinaya includes the whole text.29

In some cases, the redac­tion of nar­rat­ive from the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya has led schol­ars down mis­taken byways. So, for example, Jan Nat­tier argued that the Mahāsaṅghikas did not have a ver­sion of the request of the Buddha’s step­mother Mahāpa­jāpatī for ordin­a­tion.30 She con­cluded, using par­al­lel logic to Ray, that this implied that the story was inven­ted by the Sthaviras after the first schism. She neg­lected, how­ever, to take into account the Lok­ut­tara­vāda Vinaya, which does include the story.31 Indeed, when examined closely, the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya indic­ates that the story has been elided, instruct­ing that it should be told in full.32

In all these cases we are wit­ness­ing, not a genu­ine sec­tarian diver­gence, but a mere lit­er­ary fea­ture of the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya: it omits most nar­rat­ive. Such is the case, also, with the story of Devad­atta. It requires no fur­ther explanation.
Does the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya even have a Skandhaka?

The prob­lems with Ray’s ana­lysis go even deeper than this. It seems that the sec­tion of the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya that Ray treats as the Skand­haka is not a Skand­haka at all. To under­stand this, we have to review some of the mod­ern schol­arly work on the Vinaya.


The most detailed com­par­at­ive ana­lysis of the Skand­hakas is that of Frauwall­ner. He argued that all the Skand­hakas stemmed from a com­mon ancestor, and were char­ac­ter­ized by a struc­tured approach to Vinaya top­ics, embed­ded within the earli­est large-scale bio­graphy of the Buddha. His ana­lysis was a power­ful insight into the shared struc­ture of the Sthavira Vinayas, but he struggled to recon­cile these with the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya, con­clud­ing that it had been sub­ject to a major later restruc­tur­ing.33

More recently Shayne Clarke has argued per­suas­ively that what Frauwall­ner had iden­ti­fied as the Mahāsaṅghika Skand­haka bears a much closer rela­tion to an entirely sep­ar­ate class of Vinaya lit­er­at­ure, known as the mātikā. Thus while all the Sthavira Vinayas con­sist of the Vibhaṅga plus the Skand­haka (and some sup­ple­ment­ary mater­ial), the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya con­sists of the Vibhaṅga plus the mātikā.

If we accept Clarke’s argu­ment, as it seems we must, Ray’s point becomes even less per­tin­ent. There is noth­ing sur­pris­ing in the fact that the story of Devad­atta is absent from the Mahāsaṅghika Skand­haka, because it isn’t a Skand­haka at all. He is com­par­ing apples with oranges. We could take up just about any fea­ture of the Sthavira Skand­hakas, espe­cially the nar­rat­ive por­tions, and show that they are absent or very dif­fer­ent in the Mahāsaṅghika. This proves noth­ing except that these texts are not all that closely related.

We should instead com­pare the rel­ev­ant sec­tion of the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya with the other texts iden­ti­fied as Vinaya mātikā (of which there are four, accord­ing to Clarke).34 A curs­ory sur­vey of the rel­ev­ant Sar­vāstivāda and Haimavata texts in Chinese reveals that the Haimavata Vinaya mātikā has a para­graph deal­ing with Devadatta’s five points,35 but noth­ing more than this. This is no sur­prise, since they are a strictly leg­al­istic type of text. It is the Skand­haka that uni­fied jur­is­pru­dence and nar­rat­ive, and there is no reason for the mātikās to include any such material.

49007 n.jpg

While it seems clear enough that the Mahāsaṅghika mātikā is closely related to other Vinaya mātikā texts, the implic­a­tions of this are less clear, and are left open by Clarke. It is pos­sible that they com­prise an earlier type of text than the Skand­haka, clas­si­fy­ing much of the same kind of mater­ial in a more bare-bones way. It is equally pos­sible that they are a par­al­lel devel­op­ment, or a later reshuff­ling of material.

Even if the Vinaya mātikās (includ­ing the Mahāsaṅghika) are an earlier form of Vinaya lit­er­at­ure, this does not imply that the Devad­atta story in the Sthavira Vinayas is late. It just means that the Devad­atta story was added to the Skand­haka at this later date.36 There is noth­ing excep­tional about this, since all the nar­rat­ive mater­ial was added at this time. This tells us noth­ing about when the mater­ial was created.

Be that as it may, I find no reason to think that the mātikās are earlier than the canon­ical Vinayas. They are an Abhiv­inaya style of sys­tem­atic sum­mary, and I sus­pect that more sober ana­lysis will con­clude that they are, on the whole, deriv­at­ive of other canon­ical mater­ial.37
Devad­atta in other Mahāsaṅghika texts

If Ray is to be believed, Devad­atta was a forest ascetic, who was vil­i­fied in the Sthavira group of schools as part of the dec­ad­ent tend­ency of mon­astic Buddhism. If this were the case, one might expect that the Mahāsaṅghikas would proudly pre­serve the authen­tic, saintly Devad­atta as part of their tra­di­tion. But this is not what we find at all.

As we have seen, the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya itself includes an account of Devadatta’s schis­matic efforts that is even later than the ver­sion in the Sthavira Vinayas. In addi­tion, the epis­ode where he leads 500 monks astray is recoun­ted. But these are not the only dis­par­aging men­tions of Devad­atta in the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya. The vibhaṅga to bhikkhuni pācit­tiya 87 gives a num­ber of examples of oaths that a bhikkhuni should not make. These include an oath to the effect that she be charged with a crime like that of Devad­atta.38 This assumes that we know who Devad­atta is, and that he is a villain.


We also find Devad­atta in his nefar­i­ous role in the Ekot­tara Āgama, which is usu­ally attrib­uted to the Mahāsaṅghikas.39 While this attri­bu­tion is uncer­tain, it at least sug­gests that the Mahāsaṅghikas, fol­low­ing the example found in their Vinaya, dis­paraged Devad­atta no less than other schools.

We are on firmer ground in the Mahāvastu, a Mahāsaṅghika ver­sion of the life of the Buddha. Here, as in all other ver­sions of the Buddha’s life, Devad­atta appears as the vil­lain, and is mocked and humi­li­ated in his vari­ous evil endeav­ours in past lives as well as this life.40

So it’s clear that Devad­atta was the bad guy for the Mahāsaṅghikas just as in the Sthavira schools. This is the case from the early canon­ical texts (Vinaya, Ekot­tara) through to the later legends (Mahāvastu). Ray offers no explan­a­tion for why the Mahāsaṅghikas would so lightly dis­card one of their early saints.
The his­tor­ical sur­vival of Devadatta’s community

Ray con­tin­ues his argu­ment by stat­ing (174): ‘There can be no doubt that Devadatta’s schism is not an event ima­gined by Buddhist authors, but is a his­toric fact, as shown by the evid­ence provided by the two Chinese pil­grims, Fa-hsien and Hsuan-tsen.’

Such cer­tainty is always a red flag in a his­tor­ical recon­struc­tion. Descrip­tions of things that happened 2500 years ago are rarely, if ever, so bor­ingly devoid of ambi­gu­ity, and cer­ti­tude reveals only the pres­ence of dogma. There are any num­ber of reas­ons why the accounts of the Fa-xian and Xuan-zang need not imply that Devad­atta suc­cess­fully estab­lished a long-term spir­itual movement.


But what do these accounts actu­ally say? Xuan-zang, as well as record­ing many of the usual neg­at­ive stor­ies of Devad­atta, men­tions that in the Aṅga region of India ‘there are three mon­as­ter­ies in which they do not use thickened milk, fol­low­ing the dir­ec­tions of Devad­atta.’41 This doesn’t show that there was a com­munity with any his­tor­ical link with Devad­atta, merely that some mon­ast­ics were fol­low­ing one of the rules Devad­atta had pro­mul­gated.42 To this day, if a reform group in Theravāda advoc­ates veget­ari­an­ism, they will be dis­par­agingly dis­missed as ‘dis­ciples of Devad­atta’. Most likely the groups Xuan-zang referred to were some­thing of the sort.

Fa-xian is more def­in­ite, say­ing that: ‘There are also com­pan­ies of the fol­low­ers of Devad­atta still exist­ing. They reg­u­larly make offer­ings to the three pre­vi­ous Buddhas, but not to Sakyamuni Buddha.’43 Without con­text, it is hard to know what this implies. A few lines fur­ther on, the text men­tions that stu­pas for the birth­places of three pre­vi­ous Buddhas were found in the vicin­ity. This explains why they were wor­shipped there, but not why this was con­nec­ted with Devadatta.

It is, of course, quite pos­sible that Fa-xian simply made a mis­take. It does seem rather odd that none of the Indian Buddhist texts men­tion a sect of Devadatta’s fol­low­ers. There are hun­dreds of pages in Buddhist texts devoted to refut­ing both Buddhist and non-Buddhist her­es­ies; so why did no-one so much as refer in passing to the Devad­atta group? It’s hard to set up a spir­itual order, and extremely unusual for one to last after the founder’s death. In all the sprawl­ing com­plex­ity of Indian reli­gion, there are only three or four nat­ive reli­gious orders that have man­aged to last. How is it that a major devel­op­ment passed down for a thou­sand years with only a couple of passing ref­er­ences in the journ­als of for­eign travellers?


I could go on with other prob­lems, but this is suf­fi­cient to show that Ray’s claim that the sur­vival of Devadatta’s schis­matic group is ‘no doubt’ a ‘his­toric fact’ is unten­able. The cas­ual, passing ref­er­ences by the Chinese pil­grims are indeed intriguing, and invite sev­eral inter­est­ing inter­pret­a­tions. No inter­pret­a­tion, how­ever, can offer the cer­tainty that Ray asserts.

Ray makes a basic mis­take here. He starts out by con­tra­dict­ing the entire cor­pus of early lit­er­at­ure, includ­ing the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya, which depicts Devad­atta as a mali­cious schis­matic who ended in fail­ure. He then takes a couple of lines writ­ten a thou­sand years later as abso­lute evid­ence for a his­tor­ical real­ity in the time of the Buddha. This is not his­tory, it’s fantasy.
Devadatta’s redemp­tion

Ray’s final argu­ment brings us to the appear­ance of Devad­atta in the Māhāy­ana Saddharmapuṇḍarīka Sūtra, bet­ter known as the Lotus Sutra (175–6). There, the Buddha is depic­ted as telling a past life story of Devad­atta as a forest sage, prais­ing Devad­atta, who is part of the assembly of monks, and then pre­dict­ing that he would become a Buddha in the far dis­tant future. There is no men­tion of Devadatta’s fall from grace.

Ray, while acknow­ledging the late­ness of this text, won­ders whether this account might ‘retain a tra­di­tion relat­ing to this saint that ante­dates or is con­tem­por­an­eous with his vili­fic­a­tion in the vari­ous vinayas?’ The sec­tion of the Lotus Sutra that includes this story (Chapter 11) is dated circa 200 CE, that is, 600 years or so after the Buddha. The text as a whole is one of the most fant­ast­ic­ally ima­gin­at­ive of all the Buddhist scrip­tures. To regard this kind of story as in any way con­nec­ted with a genu­ine his­tory of the Buddha’s time is preposterous.


This depic­tion of Devad­atta, moreover, con­tains little that is not found in the early schools. We already know that Devad­atta, while he was still a monk of good stand­ing, was praised for his med­it­at­ive prowess and psychic powers. There are Jātaka stor­ies in Pali that depict Devad­atta as an ascetic in past lives, albeit a cor­rupt one.44 As I explained at the start of this essay, it is essen­tial that he developed good qual­it­ies in the past in order to have the power he pos­sesses in the present.

And the notion that Devad­atta will be redeemed and attain Awaken­ing in the future is com­mon, and was prob­ably a uni­ver­sally held belief among Buddhists then, as today. Ray notes that of the canon­ical Vinayas only the Mūlas­ar­vāstivāda Vinaya includes a legend that Devad­atta will become Awakened. But this is to be expec­ted. Just as the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya leaves out most legend, the Mūlas­ar­vāstivāda Vinaya puts it in. Stor­ies and legends con­tained in the Mūlas­ar­vāstivāda Vinaya are often found in the other tra­di­tions, but in their com­ment­arial or other lit­er­at­ure, not in the can­ons. And that is pre­cisely the case here, for the post-canonical Theravāda texts proph­esy that Devad­atta will in the far dis­tant future become the Pac­ceka­buddha Aṭṭhissara.45

This, too, is an essen­tial part of his story, required by the fun­da­ment­als of Buddhist doc­trine. No bad kamma lasts forever, and even the most evil per­son is cap­able of redemption.

Ray’s thesis that Devad­atta was a forest saint who was unfairly vil­i­fied by later mon­astic Buddhists is base­less. The read­ings on which he relies are either mis­taken or wrongly inter­preted. This is not a mat­ter of sub­ject­ive judge­ment; he just gets his texts wrong. When his mis­takes are cor­rec­ted it all falls apart.

82 z.jpg

Devad­atta was a prom­ising young monk, a tal­en­ted rel­at­ive of the Buddha, who fell prey to the all-too-human weak­nesses of jeal­ousy and con­ceit. His fall from grace was dra­matic, but there was still the hope of redemp­tion. This story is told con­sist­ently through all the Buddhist tra­di­tions. Like all the pop­u­lar epis­odes in the Buddha’s life, it has been sub­ject to all man­ner of exag­ger­a­tion. In this pro­cess, the his­tor­ical fig­ure of Devad­atta has become obscured as if by a deep fog. The meth­ods of tex­tual cri­ti­cism offer some hope in dis­tin­guish­ing the more or less plaus­ible aspects of his legend, and giv­ing a glimpse of the man behind the legend.

In Ray’s hands, how­ever, this glimpse is lost and we are left with just another cari­ca­ture. In place of the car­toon­ish vil­lain of the tra­di­tions, so hope­lessly fool­ish and doomed, we have an equally car­toon­ish hero, a flaw­less real­ized saint, tra­gic­ally mis­un­der­stood, whose every fail­ing is arbit­rar­ily attrib­uted to the crooked motiv­a­tions of mon­astic pro­pa­gand­ists. The life of Devadatta―his com­plex, nuanced, elu­sive, fra­gile, tor­men­ted soul―is still hidden.

BAREAU, A. Étude du bouddhisme. Annuaire du Collège de France, 1988–89.

―――. ‘Devad­atta and the first Buddhist Schism.’ Buddhist Stud­ies Review 14, 1997, pp. 19–37.

BEAL, Samuel. Si-yu-ki. Buddhist Records of the West­ern World―Translated from the Chinese of Hiuen Tsang (AD 629). Digital Edi­tion by Mar­cus BINGENHEIMER (Ver­sion 2.0).​t​o​o​l​s​/​b​e​a​l​/​i​n​d​e​x​B​e​a​l​.​h​tml


CLARKE, Shayne. ‘Vinaya Matṛkā​—​Mother of the Mon­astic Codes or Just Another Set of Lists?’ Indo-Iranian Journal, 2004, pp. 77–120.

HIRAKAWA, Akira. Mon­astic Dis­cip­line for Buddhist Nuns (An Eng­lish trans­la­tion of the Chinese text of the Mahāsāṁghika Bhikṣuṇi-Vinaya). K. P. Jay­aswal Research Insti­tute, 1999.

IRELAND, John. The Udāna and the Itivut­taka. Buddhist Pub­lic­a­tion Soci­ety, 1997.

LEGGE, James. A Record of Buddhistic King­doms. The Clar­en­don Press, Oxford, 1886.

MUKHERJEE, Biswadeb. Die Über­liefer­ung von Devad­atta, dem Wider­sacher des Buddha, in den kan­on­is­chen Schriften. Munich, 1966.

NATTIER, Jan. Once Upon a Future Time: Stud­ies in a Buddhist Proph­ecy of Decline. Asian Human­it­ies Press, 1991.

RAY, Regin­ald. Buddhist Saints in India. Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press, 1994.

Ajaan Geoff Almsround.jpg

―――. ‘A Con­demned Saint: Devad­atta.’ Pages 162–178 of the above, avail­able at: www​.leighb​.com/​D​e​v​a​d​a​t​t​a​.​pdf.

ROTH, Gustav. Bhikṣuṇī Vinaya. K. P. Jay­aswal Research Insti­tute, 1970.

WALSER, Joseph. Nāgār­juna in Con­text. Columbia Uni­ver­sity Press, 2005.

1 For uncrit­ical cita­tions of Ray’s argu­ment about Devad­atta see​w​i​k​i​/​D​e​v​a​d​a​tta,​R​y​u​e​i​/​D​e​v​a​d​a​t​t​a​_​S​t​o​r​y​.​h​tml, and’s-ambition/. Sev­eral reviews of Buddhist Saints are lis­ted on Ray’s own Wiki­pe­dia page (​w​i​k​i​/​R​e​g​i​n​a​l​d​_​Ray).

2 Saṁyutta Nikāya Com­ment­ary 1.62.

3 Milindapañha 4.4.7 (PTS pp. 200ff.): devad­at­topi, mahārāja, issar­iye ṭhito janapadesu ārakkhaṁ deti, setuṁ sabhaṁ puññasālaṁ kāreti, samaṇabrāhmaṇānaṁ kapaṇaddhikavaṇibbakānaṁ nāthānāthānaṁ yathāpaṇihitaṁ dānaṁ deti.

Ajahn Sumedho.jpg

4 In this essay, brack­eted num­bers in the text refer to page num­bers in the digital edi­tion of Ray’s essay on Devad­atta. This dif­fers slightly from the print edition.

5 The list occurs at Udāna 1.5 Brahmaṇa. Thanks to Bhikkhu Ānanda­joti for help with the vari­ous Pali editions.

6 IRELAND, p. 15, note 8.


8 Pos­sibly the ori­gin of this notion was Aṅguttara Nikāya 9.26, which, how­ever, con­cerns a dis­cus­sion between Sāri­putta and a monk called Can­dikāputta regard­ing what Devad­atta taught, and makes no claim by or about Devad­atta himself.

9 Ray does tell the fuller story later on, p. 167.

10 Pali Vinaya 2.189.


11 Pali Vinaya 2.184.

12 Pali Vinaya 2.183: devad­atto pothuj­janikaṁ iddhiṁ abhinipphādesi.

13 Mahāvi­hāravāsin in Pali (the school known today as Theravāda); Mahāsaṅghika, Sar­vāstivāda, Mahīśā­saka, and Dharmagup­taka in Chinese trans­la­tion; and the Mūlas­ar­vāstivāda in com­plete Tibetan, and par­tial Chinese and Sanskrit ver­sions. In addi­tion to these com­plete Vinayas there are a vari­ety of smal­ler or par­tial texts.

14 This was prob­ably about 200 years after the death of the Buddha.

15 The term sthavira (mean­ing ‘elder’) is the Sanskrit ver­sion of the term bet­ter known today in its Pali ver­sion thera, as in Theravāda, the ‘Teach­ing of the Eld­ers’. The ori­ginal Sthaviras, how­ever, are by no means identical with the mod­ern school called Theravāda. Rather, the Sthaviras are the ancestor of a group of related schools, one of which is the Theravāda.

16 This is the Sanskrit spelling; it is khand­haka in Pali.

17 Pali Vinaya 2.203–2.212.


18 Cf. Itivut­taka 18 and Aṅguttara Nikāya 10.39.

19 Hell is, of course, tem­por­ary. He gets out even­tu­ally, and will, accord­ing to the tra­di­tions, become Awakened in the future.

20 T № 1425, pp. 440 c19–441 a26. For the pas­sage on the ‘power­ful lay fol­lower’, see my Sects & Sec­tari­an­ism, 1.52–59.

21 T № 1425, p. 489 c9–25.

22 Mahāsaṅghika saṅghādisesa 10 at T № 1425, pp. 281 c12–283 b14. The rel­ev­ant pas­sage is trans­lated in WALSER, pp. 102–3. It can be read online on Google Books.

23 It is unclear what this refers to. It may be the twelve-fold aṅgas, but the text just below refers to the nine aṅgas. Per­haps the text is merely inconsistent.

24 This also explains why Mukherjee’s epis­odes 13 and 14 (the five points and the split­ting of the Sangha) are shared in com­mon between the Skand­haka and the Vibhaṅga. There is no reason to con­clude on this ground alone that these are the earli­est parts of Devadatta’s legend.


25 T № 1425, pp. 442 c29–443 a26.

26 RAY, p. 170.

27 T № 1425, pp. 489 c26–490 a1: 爾時阿闍世王韋提希子。與毘舍離有怨。 如大泥洹經中廣說。乃至世尊在毘舍離於放弓杖塔邊捨壽。向拘尸那城熙連禪河側力士生地堅固林中雙樹間般泥洹.

28 T № 1425, p. 519 a6: 如七女經中廣說.

29 ROTH, pp. 111 §145ff.

30 NATTIER, pp. 30–32.

31 ROTH, pp. 4 §2ff.

32 T № 1425, p. 471 a26–27: 如線經中廣說.

33 FRAUWALLNER, pp. 206–7.

34 These are the Haimavata Vinaya mātikā (毘尼母經) at T № 1463; Sar­vāstivāda ver­sions as part of their Vinaya the 十誦律 at T № 1435 and a closely related text in the 薩婆多部毘尼摩得勒伽 at T № 1441; and part of the uttara­grantha sec­tion of the Mūlas­ar­vāstivāda Vinaya in Tibetan.

35 T № 1463, pp. 823 a17–26.

36 In my opin­ion, the Skand­hakas were in the main com­posed fol­low­ing the Second Coun­cil, a hun­dred years after the Buddha.

37 One of the reas­ons for this is the fact, noted above, that in sev­eral cases the nar­rat­ive mater­ial has been removed from the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya. More detailed study is neces­sary before any con­clu­sion can be reached.

38 T № 1425, p. 532 a18. Eng­lish trans­la­tion in HIRAKAWA, p. 279.

39 For example, he incites Ajātasattu to murder the Buddha at T2, № 125, p. 590 a8–p. 591 a7 (trans­la­tion at–5/).

40 For example, Devad­atta is called a ‘bad man’ at Mahāvastu 1.128 (kalipuruṣo devad­attaḥ), 1.131 (kupuruṣadevadatto), and 1.132 (asatpuruṣeṇa devad­at­tena).

41 BEAL’s trans­la­tion from BINGENHEIMER’S edition.

42 Refrain­ing from milk is one of Devadatta’s five points accord­ing to the (Mūla)sarvāstivāda.

43 LEGGE, chapter 20.

44 Eg. Tit­tira Jātaka (№ 438).

45 Dhammapada Com­ment­ary 1.125, Milindapañha 4.1.3 (PTS p. 111).
October 24, 2012 – 9:53 pm By Bhikkhu Sujato Posted in Essays, Study Tagged Buddhism, councils, early Buddhism, history, myth, Nikāyas, Pali, scholarship, text, text criticism Comments (0)
Bojjhangas in EA: A brief study
Saṅghabheda and Nikāyabheda →