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''Devadatta'' chapter

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"Devadatta" chapter
提婆達多品 ( Jpn Daibadatta-hon )

    The twelfth chapter of the Lotus Sutra. It teaches that both women and evil persons are capable of attaining Buddhahood, something generally denied in the provisional, or pre-Lotus Sutra, teachings, as well as the principle of attaining enlightenment in one's present form without completing many kalpas of practice. In the first half of the chapter, Shakyamuni discloses that in a past life he was a king who renounced his throne to seek the truth. For one thousand years, he served a seer named Asita, who in turn taught him the Lotus Sutra. This seer, he explains, is none other than Devadatta. He then prophesies that, in the distant future, Devadatta will attain enlightenment as a Buddha called Heavenly King. Devadatta had tried on several occasions to kill Shakyamuni and foment disunity within the Buddhist Order and is said to have fallen into hell alive.

The prediction of his future enlightenment indicates that even the most depraved person has the potential to become a Buddha.At this point in the "Devadatta" chapter, a bodhisattva named Wisdom Accumulated is about to return to his original land when Shakyamuni urges him to stay a while and listen to the discourse of Bodhisattva Manjushri. Manjushri relates how he has preached the Lotus Sutra in the palace of a dragon king and converted innumerable beings, and Wisdom Accumulated asks him if there is anyone there who applies the sutra in practice and gains Buddhahood quickly. Manjushri replies that the eight-year-old daughter of the dragon king has attained the stage of non-regression and is capable of readily achieving the supreme Buddha wisdom . Wisdom Accumulated and Shariputra both challenge this; Wisdom Accumulated on the grounds that Buddhahood requires the practice of austerities spanning many kalpas, and Shariputra for the same reason and also because women are said to possess the five obstacles and to be incapable of attaining enlightenment.

By now the dragon king's daughter has appeared in front of them. After presenting a jewel to Shakyamuni Buddha, she at once transforms herself into a male and instantaneously perfects the bodhisattva practice. Acquiring the thirty-two features and eighty characteristics of a Buddha, she appears in a land to the south called Spotless World, where she preaches the Lotus Sutra to all beings in the ten directions.

Her attainment of Buddhahood shows not only that women can reach enlightenment but also—because she attained enlightenment while remaining a dragon—that one can become a Buddha in one's present form.The enlightenment of evil people, represented by Devadatta, and that of women, represented by the dragon king's daughter, illustrate the universal possibility of Buddhahood that the sutra teaches. In Kumarajiva's translation of the Lotus Sutra, the "Devadatta" chapter is an independent chapter, but in both the Lotus Sutra of the Correct Law by Dharmaraksha and the Supplemented Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law by Jnanagupta and Dharmagupta, it is included as part of the preceding chapter, "Treasure Tower." Thus these two versions of the Lotus Sutra each consist of only twenty-seven chapters.

See also dragon king's daughter.