Rediscovering the Buddha: Legends of the Buddha and Their Interpretation

By Hans H. Penner | Go to book overview

13
Devadatta Attempts to Kill
the Buddha

Devadatta, the Buddha’s cousin and brother-in-law, seemed to envy the Buddha from the time they were children at play. When he joined the ascetic community during the Buddha’s first visit home, he pledged to himself that he would acquire the special mental/ magical powers the Buddha perfected during his enlightenment and that some ascetics possessed as a part of their discipline in following the Eightfold Path. Over time he succeeded in acquiring these mental powers.

One day while at Rajagaha, the Buddha recognized certain exceptional qualities in some of the monks. He pointed out to his disciples, for example, that both Moggallana and Sariputta were models of great mental power and wisdom, that Kassapa was singular in strict observance of all rules, that Anuruddha was able to discern things beyond the senses, that Upali knew all of the ascetic rules by heart, and that Ananda had learned a great deal. He then pointed out Devadatta and said, “Do you see Devadatta walking back and forth with many of the brothers? Know that he has evil desires.”

The Buddha, of course, was quite right. What Devadatta wanted more than anything else was power and fame. He thought that the best way to achieve this would be to become close friends with Prince Ajatasattu, the son of King Bimbisara. So one day, he concentrated his mental powers and took on the form of a child with a belt of snakes and terrified Ajatasattu by appearing in his lap. When he quickly assumed his proper form again, Ajatasattu was overwhelmed

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