Some Orthodox Saints in Buddhism
This chapter contains discussion of three "orthodox saints" of Indian Buddhism: Mahākāśyapa, Upagupta, and Śāriputra. These saints may be termed orthodox because they are paradigmatic, creative figures at the center of the history of the major Indian Nikāya schools, including those connected with the Mahāsāṃghika, the Sthavira/Theravāda, and the Sarvāstivāda. Also, in the texts of the established monastic traditions, they are cast in a consistently positive light as embodiments of the schools' highest ideals. The first saint to be treated, Mahākāśyapa, is an important saint throughout the Northwestern and Southern sources, with a character that is variously described. The second, Upagupta, is celebrated chiefly, though not exclusively, in the Northwestern sources. The third, Śāriputra, has particular importance for Southern Buddhism of the Sthavira/Theravāda.
In the An + ̄guttaranikāya, in a well-known list of the Buddha's foremost disciples that includes the characteristic by which each is renowned, Mahākāśyapa is called "foremost among those who follow the dhutas [dhūtavāda]," 1 the code setting forth a lifestyle of forest renunciation and meditation (1:23 [WH., 1:16]). 2 In the Mahāvastu, Mahākāśyapa is similarly called dhutarāja, "king of the dhutaguṇas" ( Mv 1:77.2 [Jns., 3:55]). 3 In the Divyāvadāna, Mahākāśyapa is again known as foremost in the practice of the dhutaguṇas (61 and 395). The special character of Mahṇkaāśyapa as forest renunciant, follower of the dhutaguṇas, and meditator of great accomplishment is celebrated in a variety of other texts, including the Divyāvadāna, the vinaya of the Mūlasarvāstivādins, 4 the Pāli vinaya, suttas, and commentaries, and the Pāli jātakas. Although these texts reflect different times, places, and traditions, they contain certain consistent hagiographical themes, the more important of which are examined in this section. 5
According to the Mahāvastu, 6 Mahākāśyapa, born to a very wealthy family, 7 finds his wealth "cramped and full of defilements" (3:66-67 [Jns., 3:49]). He longs for "the open air" of the renunciant life and, abandoning his wealth, takes up a patched cotton cloak (paṭapilotika) 8 and sets out in quest of "whatever arhans