[i]‘Thus have I heard.
At one time the Buddha was staying in Rājagṛha, at Karaņḍa’s Bamboo Grove,[ii] together with a great number of bhikṣus, five hundred persons in all. In order of seniority,[iii] by turns [they] were expounding the Teaching.
At the same time, Devadatta was heading five hundred bhikṣus, passing by in the proximity of the Tathāgata. On seeing Devadatta at some distance heading his apprentices,[iv] the Exalted One uttered these verses:
One should not keep close company with a bad friend;
One should not be so stupid (bāla) as to deal with [such
A person]. One should keep company with a spiritual
Friend who is pre-eminent (viśiṣṭa) among men who are
Without blemish to the core. Cultivating the friendship of
A bad friend will necessarily [bring about] the roots (mūla)
Of [all] sorts of what is karmically unwholesome (akuśala),
[Plunging one] into darkness (tamas) for an eternity.
When Devadatta’s five hundred disciples had heard the Exalted One utter these verses, they went to where the Exalted One was, bowed down… and sat down at one side. They [felt] under compulsion to get up [again] and confess to the Exalted One their offences (aparādha): We have been confused and foolish enough not to [rely on a spiritual] friend. If only the Exalted One would acknowledge our remorse (kaukṛtya) and forgive us (kṣam).
Then the Exalted One accepted the confession of those five hundred bhikṣus and forgave them. Furthermore, [he] expounded [to them] the Teaching so that they regained their fundamental trust (śraddhāmūla).
Afterwards the five hundred bhikṣus stayed at a secluded, quiet place, wisely reflecting (manasi-√kṛ) on the profundities of the Teaching. Consequently, the five hundred bhikṣus attained [what is striven after by] sons of good family[v] who go forth into homelessness in order to follow the way [leading to Nirvāṇa] and who led the unsurpassed holy life out of faith and resolution, namely arhatship. Now they knew in accordance with fact:
Birth and death have come to an end, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, and there will be no more entering a womb (garbha).
After the five hundred persons’ realisation of arhatship and after listening to the Buddha’s words, the bhikṣus were pleased and respectfully applied themselves to practice.’[vi]
[i] CBETA, T02, no. 125, p. 597, a2-21. This translation originally published as Ekottarāgama XXV, Buddhist Studies Review 16.1, 1999, p 77-78. Translated from the Chinese version by Thích Huyên-Vi and Bhikkhu Pāsādika in collaboration with Sara Boin-Webb.
[ii] Cf. BSR 11, 2 (1994), p.167, n.18, 19.
[iii] Lit. # #, ‘in front and behind, earlier and later’.
[iv] I.e. # #; here notably, not the characters for ‘pupil, disciple’ (# #, śiṣya, śrāvaka) are given as below.
[v] # #, lit. kulagotraputra; cf. Karashima, p.619: ‘a son of a great clan (a translation skt. kula-putra)’.
[vi] As for this story in which the Buddha, on seeing Devadatta being followed by 500 monks, just alludes to him as pāpamitra and himself – instead of Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana according to other sources – wins back the 500 monks as his disciples and later arhats, cf. BSR 14, 1 (1997), pp.3-18 (É. Lamotte, ‘Did the Buddha Insult Devadatta?’) and pp.19-37 (A. Bareau, ‘Devadatta and the First Buddhist Schism’). For further EĀ material on Devadatta cf. also BSR 11, 2 (1994), pp.167-71; BSR 12, 2 (1995), pp.162-8. In the light of this latter EĀ material, Bareau’s observations regarding the Mahāsāṃghikas on Devadatta (cf. in particular ibid., pp.27, 31) would need revision if the school affiliatin of EĀ as belonging to the Mahāsāṃghika canon – as often suggested – could be demonstrated.
Concerning the material in BSR 12, 2, pp.162-8, mention has yet to be made of Lamotte’s summary at Traité, pp.1771-2. Cf. also Monika Zin, ‘Der Elefant mit dem Schwert’ in F. Wilhelm (ed.), Festschrift Dieter Schlingloff, Reinbek 1996, pp.331-44 (the elephant Dhanapāla/Nālāgiri with a sword as a subject of Buddhist art of EĀ provenance).