[Buddha-l] A Different Take on Devadatta--correction

Richard Hayes rhayes at unm.edu
Wed Aug 27 09:52:01 MDT 2008

On Wed, 2008-08-27 at 07:55 -0600, jkirk wrote:

> An inadvertent error--he was the Buddha's cousin-brother, not his
> cross-cousin!  

Thank God! I was worried about that detail. Now, if only I knew what the
difference is between a cross-cousin and a cousin-brother, my mind could
rest at complete ease.

I have a few cross cousins. One of them (actually a first cousin once
removed) is so cross that he wrote a book on Dick Cheney, a move which
has earned him a spot as a regular talking head on Fox "News". I reckon
a person has to very cross indeed to admire Dick Cheney.

According to legend, the fellow who cmae to be known as the Buddha had
two really famous cousins, Ananda and Devadatta. One is portrayed as
being very good-hearted but a little slow to comprehend, the other as an
exemplary and fully admirable monk and a brilliant teacher who went bad
owing to personal ambitions and a willingness to ally himself
politically with a treacherous and parricidal king. (Think of Devadatta
as someone who made it to full professor but would kill to become the
chair of the department.) 

The Ananda-Devadatta-Gotama is clearly a morality tale, and to treat it
as historical or as reflecting any social realities at the time of the
Buddha (whenever that may have been---truth to tell, we have no idea
when he lived) is probably to miss the point of a romping good story. A
pretty good clue that the story is not to be taken historically is the
detail that three cousins (Gotama, Ananda and Devadatta) were all born
on exactly the same day. How likely is that? (Perhaps there had been a
family orgy ten moons earlier?)

Richard Hayes
Department of Philosophy
University of New Mexico

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