Devadatta, the cousin brother of Buddha – Did he really joined the sangha to defame Buddha and kill him? Why Buddhism couldn’t change Devadatta?

Pali Tripitika or Pali Canon, the doctrine of Theravada Buddhism mentions the story of Devadatta, the evil cousin of Buddha who not only tried to defame him, but also planned to murder the Blessed One, at several occasions.

Always jealous of Buddha, Devadatta’s covetousness later made him cruel enough to follow the wrong path – gradually causing him immense suffering, and ultimately giving him a painful death.

While, the Devadatta of ZEE TV Buddha is very harsh, cheap, bad, nasty and shoddy, let’s have a look at the Devadatta mentioned in the doctrine: 

Devadatta, The Not So Good Cousin of Siddhartha

If you remember the Jataka tales we read during school times, it mentioned Siddhartha (later Buddha) and his cousin’s discussion/argument over a swan – Where, the cousin says the swan is his, since he has attacked the swan. However, Siddhartha maintains that the swan belongs to him since he took care of the injured swan. This cousin was none other than the man in question – “Devadatta”

devadatta buddha swan Analyzing Devadatta, the Cousin of Buddha!

Ok, let’s assume that not everybody is as passionate as Siddhartha when it comes to love towards animals. In addition, back then, hunting was a common thing by any kshatriya and so Devadatta’s behavior towards the swan can be ignored. However, the enviousness which Devadatta inhabited towards Siddhartha right from the beginning, is something which cannot be ignored.

In the serial, Devadatta is also shown having an eye on Yashodhra – Siddharth’s wife. However, going by many of the Pali, Sanskrit as well as Jataka tales, Yashodhra and Devadatta were brother and sister from the same parents.

Devadatta Joins the Sangha of Buddha

It is said that Devadatta joined the Sangha of Buddha along with his brother Ananda, but I still don’t understand why on earth did Devadatta felt like shedding all his princely powers and join the Buddha’s sangh? After all he desired to become the next king of the shakya clan, going by the serial version, wasn’t he?

devadatta sangha Analyzing Devadatta, the Cousin of Buddha!

Makes me wonder, whether, he was really changed to join the sangha, or was it again jealousy, that made him to do what the Buddha did? Also something in Devadatta really makes me think, because any prince who had the lust of power would have lived happily as a statesman in the palace rather than converting into a monk, and that too under a person who he is not at all fond of – Just imagine, Yudhisthira taking a sanyas and Duryodhana instead of rejoicing, joins Yudhisthira and expresses his desire to become a monk!

The Early Days in the Sangha

During the initial days it is said that Devadatta tried very hard to gain the psychic power. He remained a good monk who was also renowned for his grace but no matter how much he tried he couldn’t gain enlightenment and so he couldn’t become an arahant. This agitated him and he instead started practicing supernatural powers. Then again his jealousy started brewing and he started believing that he should be the leader of monks.

However, in the serial, you see he has not changed at all – He has come just so that he can take his revenge on Buddha and defame him.

Devadatta’s Strange Request

In an assembly with full of kings and princes, Devadatta asked the Buddha to make him the leader of the sangha. Had Devadatta attained the necessary qualification, Buddha would have made him the leader. However, Devadatta neither had the qualification, ability nor the capacity to become the leader.

At once, Buddha declined his request. Devadatta was not the one who could take this insult so easily and so he vowed to take a revenge on Buddha.

buddha devadatta Analyzing Devadatta, the Cousin of Buddha!

This is the beginning of Devadatta’s wicked plans for Buddha, so much that it even included plans of killing the Blessed One!

However, as far as I know the power of Buddhism was great, even shrewd kings like Bimbisara and Ajatashatru changed, but Devadatta even after practicing in the early days couldn’t – Does that mean, he wasn’t a monk at all, but just trying to be?

Image Source: Devadatta, Sangha

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