Samyukta Āgama (2) 3

Bhikkhu Saṃyutta

Devadatta and Ajātasattu

Thus have I heard, once, the Buddha was staying in Rājagaha in the Bamboo Grove of Kalanda.

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, assumed the form of an elephant treasure, entered through the door and left without using the door. Next he assumed the form of 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 and he sat on Ajātasattu’s knee. 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 changing his form surpassed that of the World-honored One. He began to venerate Devadatta deeply. Every day he sent 500 chariots of food as a gift to him and Devadatta and his 500 followers all partook of these offerings.

A number of monks, having put on their robes and taken 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, as Devadatta has done. Why not? This Devadatta will harm himself for the sake of gain and profit. He is just like the banana plant which dies after bearing fruit, like the reed and the bamboo after flowering, and the mule after getting pregnant. He is just like these. 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. Therefore, seeing how Devadatta harms himself for the sake of gain, you should give up all greed and craving and reflect carefully. You should understand this: do not crave for gains.”

Then he spoke this verse:

“The banana plant dies after bringing forth fruit /
it is the same with bamboo and with reeds.
Likewise, those craving for gain /
are bound to harm themselves.

Those who have attained gain /
will find decrease and decline.
Childishly busying themselves about gain /
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 this discourse, the monks, having listened to what he had said, were happy and remembered it well.