He was beavering away hours and days on meditation and now he achieved it, at last! He attained the goal of concentration to some extent, though it’s much lower than Sotapanna stage. He was drinking in the mental rapture. And then the celestial spirit appeared.
It was Mara, the Evil One. He was also known as the Death.
Mara took pains to introduce himself: “I’m Mara. At your beck and call, sir.”
Devadatta hardly fell for this kind of flattery. Even so he didn’t mind for the Death to carry on talking.
“We can do wonderful things together. I know your cousin disgraced you no end. First he left your sister to take the world for a ride. And later he took her son away. What kind of a father or brother-in-law he is. And all the same the world is after him, like there’s no other recluse. Time we had done something.”
Still seated in the meditative posture, Devadatta listened to the Death talk about his sister Yashodhara and her son Rahula. The monk could not be fooled by anyone - at least not completely.
That he knew as a sure thing. He could sense what Mara is up to. He was of course chosen to bell the cat. They say your enemy’s enemy is your friend - Devadatta took quite a liking to the truth as old as the hills.
Mara was using Devadatta as a cat’s paw certainly, and Devadatta wondered if he should actually mind that.
He too was hell-bent on getting the better of the Buddha. Even as a prince, Siddhartha was over the top. He was such a pain at times. Siddhartha posed every threat of outsmarting his peers. Now the opportunity waits, offered on a plate, to make things different.
Even so Devadatta was on tenterhooks.
* * *
Devadattha loved the sight of trees in rows. That always provided shelter to him, a child, to scheme against his snobbish cousin. He was thoughtful looking at Esathu tree at the monastery’s backyard, when the attendant’s voice interrupted him.
“Elder Sariputta is here to see you.”
This is a visit he did not look ahead to. So the elder had the wind of what occurred the previous evening.
Developed minds do not require espionage. The monk gave instructions to the attendant.
“Invite him in, and look into his needs. I’ll be right back.”
Devadatta reached for outer robes, dressed up arranging them properly and paced out to welcome the elder at the front.
“Good day Venerable.”
“Good day to you too Venerable. Hope you are doing fine. I’m here on an important mission.”
“I guess I can figure.” Devadattha said.
“As an elder, you got to have second thoughts about this. We are not supposed to give in to Mara, you know.”
“Precisely.” Devadatta nodded his head in agreement.
“I know your feelings about the Buddha. But you cannot do something aghast like this. You will have to suffer so much.”
“I understand Venerable. I’ll think over it.”
“I hope you will, then. Got to leave now - I’m on an alms round now.”
“As you wish fit, Venerable.”
Devadatta stood up and bowed in respect to Sariputta. Although Devadatta is older in ordination, Sariputta is considered officially senior for being an arahant.
Devadattha fell into silence. Then the Mara appeared, once again.
“Did you give it a thought sir?”
“I’ve been thinking of it, Mara.”
“We can do it together sir. Just think what the Buddha has done. He left your sister and child alone. And took the child too from her later, without even asking. Can you tolerate that kind of things?”
Why does Mara keep on telling the same thing over and over again? Devadatta knew it was one way of convincing people.
“So how are you going to help me?”
“It’s nothing sir. Get closer to the king as a first step.”
Devadatta shook his head.
“That’s not going to work.”
“How do you know?”
“I know that.” King Bimbisara was in a higher mental plane that cannot be easily shaken by external forces. Devadatta knew this anyway, though Mara shall not know.
“Ok. But every question has an answer. Only thing is you should not give in.”
Mara said, still pained by the humiliation he and daughters had on the day Siddhartha Gothama enlightened.
“Enough homilies, Mara. Get on with your suggestions.”
“Make friends with Ajasatta, his son, then.”
Devadatta was thinking over it. Mara sensed the issue.
“You are a saint now sir. You have psychic powers, which even the other religious leaders can’t claim. Why don’t you work one of them?”
How can this evil being know his powers and abilities? Amazing, but disgusting. He had to think fast, and then had to take a decision throwing caution to the winds.
Devadatta was on a roll with the course of time. Ajasatta became a follower. He could talk around the prince not only to grab the kingship from father, but to send him to gaol too.
Still and all things went on the downside as well. The large rock he threw with heavy effort caused only a little pain in the Buddha’s foot-thumb.
The tusker, though fed with 16 pots of alcohol, astonishingly went calm before the Buddha.
The royal archers never carried the royal order - they chose to be the Buddha’s followers. There were moments Devadatta felt a little discomfited, though he could hardly get himself to regret. Suddenly he would want to back down, and the next moment he would thrust the thought aside. The Death was there always making sure his prot‚g‚ does not walk back the path.
But seasons change and so do men. It should be no exception even in Devadatta’s case.
* * *
“I know I’ve wronged you. I have an apology to make.” Devadatta said.
The Buddha remained silent. The monk took it for assent.
“I was a misguided man. I would have had time to amend things. But now it’s too late, now that I’m going to die soon.” It sounded all but a monologue. It was soothing in a way having to confess all thoughts that way.
“No Devadatta,” astonished, the monk looked at the Buddha, “you have never been too late. Take refuge in the Triple Gem, Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. You will have to suffer for what you have done: trying to kill, physically hurt a Buddha and driving a wedge among the monk order. But remember this. You are not a loser.
You have strong virtues that will make you a Pacceka Buddha (private Buddha) in the future.”
Devadatta’s mind became clear.
He officially took refuge in the Triple Gems. He was ready, and took leave of the Buddha. The next moment turned out to be crucial. Devadatta could smell a whiff of smoke and waited for earth to split open.
Trying to gain back concentration, he saw the Death, putting on a helpless look, amid the burning hellfire. The monk smiled.
When it was finally time, Devadatta once again tried to read into the Buddha’s words: “You are not a loser.”