Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Shocking life of Devadatta

Women and Enlightenment

Great Mandala Study Group (

Devadatta [swallowed by the earth] (Gohonzon #19, Devil King of the Sixth Heaven).

[NOTE: This article deals with how one Buddhist group has come to terms with Devadatta's alarming and unbelievable behavior as a Judas-figure in Buddhism. Soka Gakkai, a Japanese movement, has turned a negative character into a representative of our shadow side. Devadatta is dealt with not as a satanic figure so much as a transformative and redemptive one. This is done alongside the young, semi-human Dragon King's Daughter, a yin symbol of feminine enlightenment. Thus, the approach and information are more magical and archetypal than literal].

Devadatta’s life is so very low that even the earth cannot hold him. In the picture above, his foot begins to sink into the earth [as soon as he climbs off his death cot. He suddenly grew very ill after repeatedly betraying the Buddha and had to be carried around on a cot due to the severity of his symptoms. Realizing that he was going to die, he wanted to get to the Buddha to apologize.]

He represents:
  • the "evil" [greedy, hateful, deluded, and fearful] nature in all of us
  • the inseparability of past present and future
  • opposition as fuel to Buddhist practice
He is on the Gohonzon because, in this form of Buddhism [Soka Gakkai], instead of burying our negative internal nature, we embrace our own internal fears and delusions as a part of life.

We work constantly on enlightening this part of our life. We realize that when we call forth Buddhahood from our lives -- through chanting Nam Myoho-Renge-Kyo -- these fears and delusions dissipate like dew in the morning sun.

Dragon King’s Daughter (Gohonzon #22, Eight Great Dragon Kings)

Of all Shakyamuni’s teachings, only in the Lotus Sutra do women attain enlightenment.

[Of course, in the Theravada tradition -- the oldest authentic teachings of the historical Buddha -- women, both nuns and laywomen, frequently attain enlightenment. The Therigatha is a collection of their accounts of becoming enlightened. Furthermore, although almost forgotten, the Buddha had two chief female disciples, one foremost in "wisdom," the other in "supernatural powers," Khema and Uppalavanna respectively. His stepmother, Maha Pajapati Gotami, is responsible for founding the bhikkhuni Sangha, or "Order of Buddhist Nuns," based on the argument that women are equally able to attain enlightenment in this very life.]

Shakyamuni challenges our misconception that time is needed to attain enlightenment. He also challenges us to realize that enlightened life exists not just in old learned men, but in the very young as well. That’s why there is no distinction among believers. The Dragon [Naga] King’s Daughter is:
  • not fully human [but half naga, or hybrid reptilian]
  • female
  • she attained enlightenment in an instant
Two different pictures of the Dragon King's Daughter [above and right]. In one, she is offering a jewel to the Buddha.

Enlightenment is a state of life that is even difficult for Buddhas to fully comprehend. Yet, this state of life is available to us at every moment. The Dragon King’s Daughter represents attaining that enlightenment at this moment and then perceiving our life from this state. We use this wisdom available to us to constantly move our lives in a positive and happy direction.

Devadatta and the Dragon King’s Daughter Together
(From "Persecution by Sword and Staff")

"The fifth scroll contains the heart of the Lotus Sutra, for it reveals that the dragon king’s daughter attained Buddhahood in her present form. Devadatta represents the spiritual aspect of enlightenment, and the dragon king’s daughter, the physical aspect. The principle of attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form can be found nowhere else in the Buddha’s entire lifetime of teachings."

The key point is that no matter what your spiritual state of life and no matter what your physical condition, the joy and wisdom of Buddhahood is always available to you at this moment.

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