Devadatta=提婆達多; Bhaddakaccānā=耶輸陀羅; Suppabuddha=須波弗; Kokālika=俱迦利; Five austere practices=五種苦行
The attitude of Devadatta, his father Suppabuddha, uncle Da??apā?i and sister Bhaddakaccānā toward the Buddha appears unusual considering that they were the Buddha’s brother-in-law, father-in-law, uncle-in-law and wife respectively. In fact, the attitude of Devadatta and Suppabuddha toward the Buddha forms the basis of one of the most acrimonious relationships in the history of ancient India. Interestingly, while Devadatta is mentioned by the Pāli texts as wanting to kill his sister’s husband, Suppabuddha is said to have made a spectacle of himself in opposing his son-in-law in public. In this paper, which is based primarily on Pāli sources, an attempt has been made to analyse the extent and reasons behind the hostility that appears to have existed against the Buddha in the family of his in-laws.
Initially, the behaviour of Devadatta in the Saṃgha was impeccable. Then suddenly, we are told in the Pāli Sources, he changes into an evil-minded person and goes to the extent of making an attempt on the life of the Buddha. He creates the first effective historical schism in the Saṃgha. All his associates also come in for a severe criticism in Pāli Buddhism. But a look at the five ascetic practices proposed by him do not give the impression as if he was a ruthless and disgruntled character. But as one moves away from the time of the Buddha chronologically, the criticism of Devadatta becomes more and more scathing. The different stories of as many as 88 Jātakas portray him as an inveterate evildoer who was driven by ambitious and hateful intentions.
In this paper, an attempt has been made to show that relationship between the Buddha and Suppabuddha became strained because prince Siddhatha had abandoned Suppabuddha’s daughter. The differences between the Buddha and Devadatta appear to have arisen out of some serious issues relating to the functioning of the Saṃgha. The anger against Devadatta in Pāli Buddhism appears to have arisen out of the fact that he was a strong advocate of forest-sainthood which did not go well with settled monasticism. His unwavering advocacy of the five austere practices may also be seen in the issue of leadership whereby Devadatta may have shown interest in taking up leadership after the Buddha’s death considering that he believed and wanted to keep Buddhism austere against settled monasticism. The argument in the Dhammapada Commentary that the ill-feeling that Devadatta had towards the Buddha was because of the abandonment of Bhaddakaccānā by the latter does not appear to be the raison le plus décisif. The near absence of Bhaddhakaccānā’s name in the early Buddhist literature seems to indicate that she may not have found enough favour with the Buddhist Saṃgha.