Devadatta

Devadatta

▪ Buddhist monk

flourished 6th century BC, , India

      Buddhist monk who sought to reform the saṅgha (the Buddhist monastic community) by imposing upon it a stricter code of life. He was a cousin of the Buddha.

      Devadatta is said to have joined the saṅgha along with Ānanda, who was possibly his brother, in the 20th year of Gautama's ministry. Fifteen years later, strengthened by his friendship with the Crown Prince of Magadha, Ajātaśatru, Devadatta proposed formally at a meeting of the saṅgha that the Buddha retire and hand over the leadership to him. This proposal was rejected, and Devadatta is said to have successfully instigated Ajātaśatru to execute Bimbisāra, his aged father, the King of Magadha, and to have made three abortive attempts to bring about the death of the Buddha—by hiring assassins, by rolling a rock off a mountainside at him, and by arranging for a mad elephant to be let loose in the road at the time of the collection of alms.

      Sensing popular approval, Devadatta proposed stricter ascetic rules for the saṅgha. When these were refused, he persuaded some 500 of the Buddha's followers to join in a secession. Nothing further is known about Devadatta's movement, but it may possibly be referred to under the name of the Gotamakas in the Aṅguttara Nikāya (a canonical text), for Devadatta's family name was Gotama (Gautama). The Chinese pilgrim Hsüan-tsang recorded that in the 7th century monks of a monastery in Bengal were following a certain regulation of Devadatta's.

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Universalium. 2010.

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