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Story of Sariputta
The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C.B. Varma
|089 - Sariputta|
The two most prominent
disciples of the Buddha were Moggallana and Sariputta. They are called the
Dhamma-Senapati-s (Commander-in-Chief of the Buddhist dharma).
Sariputta is also called the “chief disciple (aggasavaka) of the Buddha.” His
real name was Upatissa, yet he was called Sariputta in the Buddhist
tradition because he was the son (putta)
of Rupasari, a Brahmin woman of the Nalaka village. He is particularly
known for the firmity of his vow; and strong determination. He was also
entrusted with the ordination of Rahula, the son of Gotama.
was the first on the earth to have received the teachings of Abhidhamma
– the kernel or the essentials of the Buddhist doctrine - on this earth;
and the only one among the human beings to have learnt the same directly
from the Buddha. He was, therefore, the first acharya
to have carried forward the lamp of Abhidhamma on the
planet; and thus to initiate the acharya-disciple
tradition, which in turn was perpetuated in the like manner through
Bhaddaji, Sobhita, Piyajali, Piyapala, Piyadassi, Kosiyaputta, Siggava,
Sandeha, Moggalliputta, Sudatta, Dhammiya, Dasaka, Sonaka and Revata; and
then through Mahinda, Ittiya, Sambala, Pandita, and Bhaddanama it reached
Sri Lanka. Interestingly, this tradition is still alive in Sri Lanka,
Myanmar, and Thailand; though withered away in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh
When the Buddha taught
the Abhidhamma to his mother in Tavatimsa loka by sitting on the Sakka’s
throne under the Paricchataka tree; he would then descend to the lake
Anottapa every day to teach the same to Sariputta for three months by
creating his own form (the Nimmitta Buddha) there. So, Sariputta became
the first among the monks to have learnt Abhidhamma - “the doctrine of
all-that-is-within-and-without”. Sariputta, in turn, then taught it to
his five hundred disciples every day. Thus, when the Buddha concluded his
sermons in Tavatimsa the seven books of the Abhidhamma Pitaka, too, were
compiled by the following day.
An interesting story
is related to Sariputta and a yakkha
(Sanskrit: yaksa; spirit). Once at night when Sariputta was deeply engrossed in
meditation with his shaven head a yakkha,
flying in the sky saw the shining head of Sariputta in the moonlit night.
Tempted at the sight, he dealt a powerful blow on the monk’s head. The
blow was powerful enough to crumble a mountain. Yet, that did not inflict
any damaging effect on the monk except to that he felt a mild headache
after the completion of his meditation.
According to the Pali
Jatakas Sariputta was born as Krishna (Kanha) in one of his births.
Furthermore, his characters in the Jatakas are numerous. He died a
fortnight before Moggallana’s death.
Note: It is noteworthy
that in the Pali tradition Sariputta was born as Kanha (Krishna) in one of
his births (contrary to the belief that the Bodhisatta was born as
Krishna). The Bodhisatta was, however, born as a great sage Kanha Dipayana
during those days, and it was due to his curse that the lineage of the
Vasudeva was eventually destroyed. See Ghata Jataka No.454. As a second
Kanha he was born as a great ascetic with the name Kanha Tapassa (Kanha
Further, it is interesting to note that the Pali tradition, too, admits that the Buddha was once born as a great monarch with the name Rama Pandita in one of his births and had lived for twenty-thousand years.
See Dasaratha Jataka No.461.
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