Devadatta

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.

Devadatta

Postby Dharmakara » Mon Sep 06, 2010 3:51 pm

A series of tragic events occurred when the Buddha was 72 years old and in the 37th year of his teaching mission. This was the year when his cousin Devadatta initiated a schism in the ranks of the Sangha, then instigated a palace coup in the city of Rajagriha, the capital of the kingdom of Magadha, and finally made four attempts to assassinate the Buddha. These events were a great test of the Buddha’s wisdom, compassion, patience, equanimity, and ability to skillfully lead the Sangha in the face of external and internal threats to its survival and integrity.

It should be noted that doubts have been cast on the veracity of the legend of Devadatta as told in the canonical literature and commentaries of the various schools of Buddhism. Reginald Ray, basing himself on the work of earlier scholars, sums up the various accounts in his book Buddhist Saints in India: A Study of Buddhist Values & Orientation (link below).

According to Reginald Ray, it is possible that Devadatta was no relation nor even a contemporary of the Buddha, but may have been a strict proponent of the life of the forest renunciant who opposed the softer life of monastic Buddhism over a century after the Buddha’s passing. This Devadatta apparently created a Sangha that considered itself a separate and purer stream of Buddhism than the Sangha founded by Shakyamuni Buddha. Devadatta’s rival order still existed in India as late as the seventh century C.E. according to the testimony of the Chinese monk Hsuan-tsang (602-664).

A Condemned Saint: Devadata (pp. 162-173)
Buddhist Saints in India: A Study of Buddhist Values & Orientation
http://www.mahabodhi.net/devadatta.pdf
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Re: Devadatta

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Sep 06, 2010 9:04 pm

The author seems to have a rather different understanding of awakening than the Theravada:
Devadatta is also a realized master and, through his awakening, is in possession of magical power.

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Re: Devadatta

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Sep 06, 2010 11:13 pm

Ven. Dhammika is also of the opinion that some of the accounts of Devadatta may be exaggerated:

http://buddhismatoz.com/d/Devadatta.html

There doesn't seem to be too much information about him in the Tipitaka, other than the schism and efforts to create an all-ascetic Order, similar to the Jains.
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Re: Devadatta

Postby Dharmakara » Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:52 am

mikenz66 wrote:The author seems to have a rather different understanding of awakening than the Theravada:
Devadatta is also a realized master and, through his awakening, is in possession of magical power.

Mike


Don't know how you came to such a conclusion, as Ray wasn't claiming that Devadatta was a realized master, but was recounting folklore and stories in regard to him. The only "understanding" the author espoused was that in many ways Devadatta conforms to the paradigm (the model or pattern) of the saintly forest monk, something not easily denied.
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Re: Devadatta

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:54 am

I found Ray's study on the Devadatta story very informative and thought provoking.
There are several canons that all need to be examined to uncover "early Buddhism".
Looking into the Pali alone is insufficient.
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Re: Devadatta

Postby Dharmakara » Tue Sep 07, 2010 3:39 am

Pannasikhara, are you familiar with the Early Buddhist Manuscripts Project?

It's a joint project between the University of Washington and the British Museum, examining and reconstructing the ealy developement of Buddhism. You might find this article of interest:

http://www.neh.gov/news/humanities/2004 ... tpath.html
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Re: Devadatta

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 07, 2010 4:45 am

Hi Dharmakara,
Dharmakara wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:The author seems to have a rather different understanding of awakening than the Theravada:
Devadatta is also a realized master and, through his awakening, is in possession of magical power.

Mike


Don't know how you came to such a conclusion, as Ray wasn't claiming that Devadatta was a realized master, but was recounting folklore and stories in regard to him. The only "understanding" the author espoused was that in many ways Devadatta conforms to the paradigm (the model or pattern) of the saintly forest monk, something not easily denied.

Being a model forest monk isn't the same as having one of the stages of awakening, if one of the stages of awakening is what he means by "saintliness". And Ray says: "Through his awakening is in possession of magical powers", which is contradictory to Theravada understanding, where such powers are said to be a byproduct of the development of concentration, not a result or an indication of awakening.

May be just a terminology problem...

I do, of course, agree that there are probably various interesting sectarian conflicts that are hidden in the Cannons of the various schools.

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Re: Devadatta

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Sep 07, 2010 5:40 am

Dharmakara wrote:Pannasikhara, are you familiar with the Early Buddhist Manuscripts Project?

It's a joint project between the University of Washington and the British Museum, examining and reconstructing the ealy developement of Buddhism. You might find this article of interest:

http://www.neh.gov/news/humanities/2004 ... tpath.html


Yes, in general. I find that some of their information on the Kharosthi script quite helpful, to pull apart some early Chinese translations. And Salomon's work is always top quality, especially on Gandhari stuff. Interesting to see so many comments from Collette Cox there, I didn't know that she was working so closely with them.
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Re: Devadatta

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Sep 07, 2010 5:45 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Dharmakara,
...
Being a model forest monk isn't the same as having one of the stages of awakening, if one of the stages of awakening is what he means by "saintliness". And Ray says: "Through his awakening is in possession of magical powers", which is contradictory to Theravada understanding, where such powers are said to be a byproduct of the development of concentration, not a result or an indication of awakening.

May be just a terminology problem...

I do, of course, agree that there are probably various interesting sectarian conflicts that are hidden in the Cannons of the various schools.

Mike


I think that one may really have to read Ray, rather than hanging onto a couple of words posted in this thread. Don't read too much into the word "awakening". There is clearly a whole other interpretation of Devadatta which differs from that presented in the various schools of the Sthaviras (inc. Theravada, Sarvastivada, etc.) Even the Sthavira traditions present Devadatta as having various psychic powers.

Many sectarian cannons are to be found in the sectarian canons. :tongue:
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Re: Devadatta

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 07, 2010 6:18 am

Hi Venerable,

I did read Ray's extract. That's where I got the quotation from... I suspect he's using various words in a different way from the sources that I'm used to. Yes, the Theravada texts attribute powers to Devadatta, but not any levels of awakening. [Perhaps such bickering is not unlike discussions here about definition of an arahant... :)]

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Re: Devadatta

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Sep 07, 2010 7:48 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Venerable,

I did read Ray's extract. That's where I got the quotation from... I suspect he's using various words in a different way from the sources that I'm used to. Yes, the Theravada texts attribute powers to Devadatta, but not any levels of awakening. [Perhaps such bickering is not unlike discussions here about definition of an arahant... :)]

Mike


Yeah, it's not really about being 'awakened' or not. It's more about whether or not Devadatta fits the standard description of an ascetic meditating renunciant, with psychic powers (play mystical music). Unfortunately, the whole book isn't available on Google Books.
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Re: Devadatta

Postby Dharmakara » Tue Sep 07, 2010 12:07 pm

Well, it goes go without saying that one person's enlightenment is another person's delusion :jumping:

Wikipedia has a good description of the paradigm:

Scholar monks undertake the path of studying and preserving the Pali literature of the Theravada. They may devote little time to the practice of meditation, but may attain great respect and renown by becoming masters of a particular section of the Pali Canon or its commentaries. Masters of the Abhidhamma, called Abhidhammika, are particularly respected in the scholastic tradition.

Meditation monks, often called forest monks because of their association with certain wilderness-dwelling traditions, are considered to be specialists in meditation. While some forest monks may undertake significant study of the Pali Canon, in general meditation monks are expected to learn primarily from their meditation experiences and personal teachers, and may not know more of the Tipitaka than is necessary to participate in liturgical life and to provide a foundation for fundamental Buddhist teachings. More so than the scholastic tradition, the meditation tradition is associated with the attainment of certain supernatural powers described in both Pali sources and folk tradition. These powers include the attainment of Nirvana, mind-reading, supernatural power over material objects and their own material bodies, seeing and conversing with gods and beings living in hell, and remembering their past lives. These powers are called abhiñña. Sometimes the remain of the cremated bone fragment of an accomplished forest monk is believed able to transfom itself into crystal-like relics (sārira-dhātu).
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Re: Devadatta

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 07, 2010 8:34 pm

Sure, but I was merely commenting on the point that is very clear from the suttas that iddhis are not the same as ariyan attainments, and are not special to the Buddha-Dhamma.

E.g. see:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... #drawbacks

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Re: Devadatta

Postby suanck » Thu Sep 09, 2010 5:57 am

Dharmakara wrote:...
It should be noted that doubts have been cast on the veracity of the legend of Devadatta as told in the canonical literature and commentaries of the various schools of Buddhism. Reginald Ray, basing himself on the work of earlier scholars, sums up the various accounts in his book Buddhist Saints in India: A Study of Buddhist Values & Orientation (link below)....


Another view on Devadatta:

"Dissent & Protest in the Ancient Indian Buddhism", PhD Thesis, Ven Thich Nghiem Quang (2005), University of Delhi"
http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/dis/dis00.htm

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Re: Devadatta

Postby fig tree » Thu Sep 09, 2010 7:30 am

mikenz66 wrote:The author seems to have a rather different understanding of awakening than the Theravada:
Devadatta is also a realized master and, through his awakening, is in possession of magical power.

Mike

But aren't there cases where someone is supposed to have acquired paranormal abilities as a byproduct of awakening? I thought that Ananda for example picked up some ability when he became an arahant, peripheral as it might be to awakening itself.

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Re: Devadatta

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Sep 09, 2010 10:10 am

Sure, there are plenty of suttas where a monk attains such powers and then awakens. But it's clear that the powers are not the awakening.

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