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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Devadatta

Reputed to be a cousin of the Buddha. His birth and death dates are unknown. It is thought that he and ANANDA may have joined the brotherhood of monks about the 20th year of the Buddha’s ministry. In the tradition Devadatta is shown to be a man who was ruthlessly ambitious. He is said to have brought about the execution of his own father and on three occasions attempted to bring about the death of the Buddha. Failing in this he set up an order of his own and induced about 500 of the Buddha’s followers to join it. Little is known about the success or otherwise of the new order, but remnants of it are said to have survived until the 7th century.

According to Helena P. BLAVATSKY, some Buddhists, particularly Burmese, regard Jesus as an incarnation of Devadatta (CW XIV:396). It is, however, difficult to understand the reasoning that gave rise to such a belief, since the essential elements of both the Buddha’s and Jesus’ teaching are in harmony. The possibility exists that the symbolic necessity that gave rise to stories about Satan being in active opposition to Jesus may have called into existence the traditional stories of the evil that Devadatta represents. Some credence for this theory is found in a commentary on the Jataka which was written in the 5th century CE. In it there is reference to Devadatta’s end. It is said that while on his way to ask the Buddha’s pardon for his behavior, the earth opened up and swallowed him. Thus we have the triumph of good over evil.

P.S.H.

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