Devadatta and Ajātasattu
Translation of BZA 003. First version published in Buddhist Studies Review vol. 23-1 (2006).
Thus have I heard, once, the Buddha was staying in Rājagaha in the Bamboo Grove of Jialantuo .
At that time Devadatta reached the fourth jhāna [stage of meditation. After his experience] he had this thought: ‘Who in this country of Magadha is the most powerful?’. And again he thought: ‘These days Ajātasattu has inherited the throne. How if I were to bring him under my influence - I could control everybody in the kingdom’. Devadatta having thought thus, went to Ajātasattu’s place, shape-changed to an elephant treasure, entered through the door and left without using the door. Next he shape-changed to a horse treasure and did likewise. Then he turned back into a monk, entered through the door and left flying through the air. Then he turned into a small child adorned with jewels, pearls and jade, his body beautiful he sat on Ajātasattu’s knees. There Ajātasattu fondled him, crooned to him and kissed him, and [it so happened that] some of his spittle drooled into Devadatta’s mouth.
Because Devadatta desired gain and profit, he swallowed the spittle. Then Devadatta changed from his child form back to his own body. When Ajātasattu saw all this, he developed the wrong view that Devadatta’s magical skill in shape-changing surpassed that of the World-honored One. He began to venerate Devadatta deeply, and to send 500 chariots of food as his daily offering. Devadatta and his 500 followers all partook in these offerings.
A number of monks, wearing robes and carrying their begging-bowls, entered the town to beg for food. Having eaten, they went to the Buddha and told him: ‘World-honored One! When we entered the town to beg for food, we saw Devadatta gathering people from far and near and receiving great offerings’. The Buddha said to the monks: ‘You should not develop a covetous mind, like Devadatta has done. Why not? This Devadatta will harm himself because of his gain and profit. Like the banana plant, when bearing fruit, kills itself, like the reed and the bamboo, like the mule, when pregnant, and others. This is likewise. Devadatta receiving gain is not different from these. Devadatta is ignorant, without knowledge, does not know this rule, and will suffer because of this in the long night [of rebirths in ignorance]. You now, seeing how Devadatta harms himself through his gains, you should give up all this greed and craving and reflect carefully. You should understand this: no more craving for gains’.
Then he spoke this verse:
The banana plant dies when bringing forth fruit / so does the reed and the bamboo.//
Those craving for profit likewise / are bound to hurt themselves. //
Those who have attained profit / will find decrease and decline.//
Childishly busying themselves about profits / they harm the pure and good,//
like the palm tree [when bearing too many fruits] / they break and become barren.//
When the Buddha had finished preaching this sutta, the monks, having listened to what he had said, were happy and practised accordingly.
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