Challenges confronted by the Buddha
When the Buddha was preaching to a
gathering including kings and princes, Devadatta too was
listening and after a while he rose up.
He adjusted the robe on one shoulder and with folded
hands addressed the
Buddha, ‘Venerable Sir, you are advanced in years, quite
old and rather weak. You should not exert yourself now,
and must relax and enjoy the fruits of your labours in
this life and entrust the community of monks to me. I
will look after them.’
from 18.09.2009 Budusarana
Some wanted to encourage eating and sleeping and sexual
practices as a way to enlightenment. For example,
Sudinna, Udai, Sundari Nanda, epilepsy-monk and
Cabbaggiya monks (group of six) wanted to tighten up the
discipline, to enforce vegetarianism.
Quite early in his ministry, the Buddha was dwelling at
Anupiya, a suburban village of the Mallas. By now most
of the distinguished Sakya princes had renounced the
world and entered the order under the Buddha. Still,
there were others who had not joined the order. Thus
Bhaddiya, who was a ruling prince of the Sakyans,
Anuruddha, Ananda, Bhagu, Kimbila, Devdatta and Upali,
their attendant went together to see the Buddha and
asked for ordination. At the request of the Sakya
princes, Upali was ordained first so that the others
could honour him as a senior.
Ananda was the son of King Amitodana, a younger brother
of King Suddhodana. Devadatta was the son of the Sakya
ruler Suppabuddha and the brother of Yasodhara.
The venerable Bhaddiya, in the rainy season itself,
mastered the threefold learning. The venerable Anuruddha
realised the divine eye. The Venerable Ananda realised
the fruit of Sotapatti. Devadatta acquired worldly
After some time, the Buddha left the suburban village of
Anupiya and proceeded to Kosambi. There he began to
dwell at the monastery of the millionaire Ghoshita. (Ghoshitarama).
When Devadatta was in solitude, it occurred to him that
when a person has won the admiration of some person of
influence, he stands to gain material prosperity. So, he
wondered as to whose admiration should he win and
thought of Prince Ajatasattu, the son of King Bimbisara.
He forthwith proceeded to Rajagaha and assuming the
guise of a small boy dressed in a girdle of serpents,
appeared on the lap of Prince Ajatasattu. He rose up in
terrific fear and bewilderment.
‘Do you fear me, Prince?’ asked Devadatta.
‘Yes, indeed, who are you?’
‘I am Devadatta’.
‘If you are Venerable Devadatta, please appear in your
proper form,’ requested the Prince.
The Devadatta appeared in his proper form dressed in the
robes and holding the bowl. Prince Ajatasattu was highly
taken up by this show of psychic power of Devadatta, and
he began to go and see Devadatta every morning and
evening, in a fleet of hundred chariots. He also offered
him five hundred dishes of food every day.
At this time, the Buddha had left Kosambi and was
staying at the Squirrels’ Feeding Ground in the Bamboo
Grove in Rajagaha. The monks went to Him in large
numbers and told Him how Prince Ajatasattu goes to see
Devadatta twice a day and offers him five hundred dishes
of food every day. The Buddha said the monks should not
expect honour and offerings from the laity, and that in
the case of Devadatta such honour and offerings would
tend to lower his standard of religious life.
The Buddha also told the monks that the material gains
of Devadatta are like the fruition of bamboo tree and
plantain trees, and also the pregnancy of a mare, and
will end in his own destruction.
Loss of powers
As Devadatta was enjoying the material gains from
Ajatasattu, it occurred to him that he should also gain
control over the monks. But as this thought occurred to
him, he lost all the worldly psychic powers he had. But
he was by nature, a self-seeking, conceited and
When the Buddha was preaching to a large gathering
including kings and princes, Devadatta too was listening
and after a while he rose up. He adjusted the robe on
one shoulder and with folded hands addressed the Buddha,
‘Venerable Sir, you are advanced in years, quite old and
You should not exert yourself now, and must relax and
enjoy the fruits of your labours in this life and
entrust the community of monks to me. I will look after
‘No, Devadatta, it is not necessary to do so. Do not
think of taking charge of the community of monks’,
observed the Buddha.
Devedatta repeated his address and requested for the
third time. The Buddha said, ‘Devadatta, I will not
entrust the community of monks even to Sariputta and
Moggallana. How can I entrust them to a person like you,
whose conduct is so ignoble?’ It was on this occasion
that Devadatta began to nurse and enmity towards the
Buddha in this life.
After Devadatta left the gathering, the Buddha told the
monks that Devadatta was now a different person from
what he was earlier, and that he should now be
proclaimed and excommunicated by the monks. The Buddha
asked the Venerable Sariputta, in particular, to do so.
The Venerable Sariputta said earlier he had spoken
highly of Devadatta as a monk of grace and psychic
powers in Rajagaha, and it was difficult to proclaim him
The Buddha explained that when he spoke highly of
Devadatta earlier, he was right as his conduct and was
then commendable, and his conduct now was ignoble, and
that it was proper to proclaim him.
Accordingly, the Venerable Sariputta proclaimed
Devadatta in the city of Rajagaha. The faithless
ignorant people remarked that the Sakya monks were
jealous of the gains of Devadatta for them to proclaim
to him, whereas the faithful and intelligent people
remarked that the offence of Devadatta must be a very
serious one for him to be so proclaimed under the orders
of the Buddha.
Devadatta went to see Prince Ajatasath and told him that
the people of the earlier generations lived long,
whereas the people of the present generation may not
live so long, and that unless he kills his father, he
will have to die a prince without getting a chance to
rule. He also said he would kill the Buddha and take His
position, and that it is time for the prince to kill his
father and be the king of Magadha.
So, induced by Devadatta, Prince Ajatasatta tried to
kill his own father.
One day he stole into the inner chambers of the king,
with a double edged knife and tied to his thigh. The
guards of the Royal chamber suspected his conduct and
discovered him with the Kris-Knife tied to his thigh.
Some officers suggested that Ajasath and Devadatta and
all the monks should be killed. Some suggested that only
Ajatasatta should be killed. Still others suggested that
no one should be killed, but the Prince should be
produced before the king.
As the Prince was produced before the King, he
confessed. Hearing the confession the kingdom was handed
over to Ajatasattu as he desired.
Devadatta went to him and asked him to order his men to
kill the monk Gotama. So he ordered his men to do so.
But the man who went forth was frightened and bewildered
in front of the Buddha. Instead, he asked the Buddha to
Later Devadatta himself hurled a huge rock on the Buddha
while He was walking near the Vulture’s rock. The
rolling rock struck another rock and a splinter flew and
wounded the Buddha’s foot, and it caused some bleeding.
Knowing perfectly well that the Buddha would not give
consent, but in order to make it a pretext to disparage
the Buddha and thereby win the support of the ignorant
folk, he requested the Buddha to enforce the following
i. Monks should live all their lives in the forest.
ii. They should live only on begged food.
iii. They should wear robes made out of rags picked up
iv. They should live at the foot of trees.
v. They should refrain from eating fish and meat.
But this was rejected by the Buddha. Instead, He
declared that these rules can be followed by anyone, but
they were not compulsory. The Buddha thought about the
easy life of the disciples and solved problems then and
Maha-Kassapa had an unequalled reputation for holiness,
spent the most of his time in solitude. Venerable Anna
Kondanna also lived in a remote area. Some of the monks
accused the Buddha not giving the post of Senior
Disciple to Venerable Kondanna.
On one occasion Maha-Kassapa turned down the request of
the Buddha saying that the monks of the (etarahi) are
not compliant (dubbaca), inclined to be recalcitrant (dovacassakaranehi
dhammehi samannagata), intolerant (akkhama) and not keen
to take advice (appadakkhinaggahino anusasanim). It is
said that even the Buddha admitted saying ‘tatha hi pana
Kassapa’ (It is so, Kassapa).
Once Maha-Kassapa accused the Buddha’s attendant
Venerable Ananda for associating young monks (komaraka).
Young monks pose a danger to the spiritual life or
One of two pupils of Maha-Kassapa destroyed the elder’s
utensils and set fire to the temple near Rajagaha. The
reason was that Maha Kassapa thera advised the
ill-behaved pupil to mend his ways. The pupil harboured
a grudge against his own tutor monk. Later Venerable
Maha-Kassapa went to a cave called Pipphali guha and
lived in solitude.
The Buddha has ascetics coming to challenge and
criticise him, accusing him of distorted views and
incorrect teachings. Due to the rapid growth of the
Buddhist community, some ascetics became jealous. They
plotted against the Buddha.
In the 20th year when Buddha was in Savatthi, they hired
a young woman named Sundari, to discredit Him. She had a
bad character. The jealous ascetics hired her to attack
His character and reputation. She went to the Jeta Grove
daily in the evenings. Later, Sundari was killed and
buried under the heap of dried flower. The ascetics
complained that Sundari was missing. The king gave
orders to investigate. According to the information
given they searched the premises of Jeta Grove. The dead
body of Sundari was found, but they could not accuse the
Buddha or any of His disciples.
Forty-five years of ministry the Buddha faced with
‘Eightfold Worldly Conditions’, namely, gain and loss,
honour and dishonour, happiness and misery, praise and
blame. Even we should face the ‘worldly conditions’.
Hence we have to be patient and mindful.
Buddhists should learn how to confront the challenges in
They should have mindfulness, determination and