Concept

Devadatta

Summary
Devadatta was by tradition a Buddhist monk, cousin and brother-in-law of Gautama Siddhārtha. The accounts of his life vary greatly, but he is generally seen as an evil and divisive figure in Buddhism, who led a breakaway group in the earliest days of the religion. The name Devadatta means god-given in Palī and Sanskrit. It is composed from the stem form of deva ("god") and the past participle datta of the verb da ("to give"), composed as a tatpuruṣa compound. In the Bhagavad Gītā, the conch shell used by Arjuna on the battle-field of Kurukshetra was named Devadatta. The name Devadatta is still used today. According to Andrew Skilton, modern scholarship generally agrees that the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya is the oldest extant Buddhist Vinaya. According to Reginald Ray, the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya mentions the figure of Devadatta, but in a way that is different from the vinayas of the Sthaviravāda branch. According to this study, the earliest vinaya material common to all sects simply depicts Devadatta as a Buddhist saint who wishes for the monks to live a rigorous lifestyle. This has led Ray to regard the story of Devadatta as a legend produced by the Sthavira group. However, as Bhikkhu Sujato has noted, the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya does indeed contain material depicting Devadatta as a schismatic figure trying to split the sangha (monastic community). Sujato adds: "The only relevant difference is the grounds he is said to base his attempt on. Whereas the Sthavira Vinayas say he promulgated a set of ‘five points’, by which he tried to enforce an excessively ascetic lifestyle on the monks, the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya omits the five points and attributes a much more comprehensive agenda to him." Sujato further argues that "The fact that the Devadatta legend, at least the core episodes 13 and 14, is common to all six Vinayas including the Mahāsaṅghika suggests the legend arose among the presectarian community, and in all likelihood harks back to the time of the Buddha himself.
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