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Shariputra

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Sāriputta
Religion Buddhism
Dharma names Sāriputta
Personal
Born Upatissa
c. 568 BCE
Nālaka Village, Rajgir, Magadha
Died c. 484 BCE (aged 84) full moon day of the Kartik month
Nālaka Village, Rajgir, Magadha
Parents Vaṇganta Brahmin (father), Śārī Brahmin lady (mother)
Senior posting
Title Dakkhinasāvaka (Right hand side chief disciple of Gautama Buddha) and Paṭhamasāvaka (First chief disciple of Gautama Buddha)
Religious career
Teacher Gautama Buddha
Students Most Ven. Rahula Maha Thera, etc.
Translations of
Sariputta
Pali Sāriputta
Sanskrit Śāriputra
Japanese 舎利弗
(Sharihotsu)
Khmer ព្រះសេរីបុត្រ
(Preah Sereibot)

Śāriputra (Sanskrit) or Sāriputta (Pali) was one of two chief disciples of Gautama Buddha, along with Maudgalyayana.

"The Buddha declared Śāriputra and Mahāmaudgalyāyana his chief disciples the day they were ordained, giving as his reason the fact that both had exerted themselves in religious practice for countless previous lives. Śāriputra was declared chief among the Buddha’s disciples in wisdom, while Mahāmaudgalyāyana was chief in mastery of supranormal powers (Ṛddhi)."[1]

The Buddha referred to Shariptra as his dharmasenāpati, “dharma general”, in recognition of Shariputra's knowledge of the dharma and his skill as a teacher.[2]

Shariputra was regarded as "second only to the Buddha in the depth and range of his understanding, and his ability to teach the Doctrine of Deliverance."[3]

Biography

Shariputra was born into a Brahmin family in the village of Upatissa, near Rajagaha. His mother's name was Sari, and he came to be called "Shariputra" ("son of Sari").

Shariputra was close friends Maudgalyayana since childhood, and together they both renounced the world on the same day, and became disciples of the sceptic Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta.

One day, Shariptura encountered a monk named Assaji (Sanskrit: Asvajita), and Shariputra was so struck by the Assaji's serene appearance that he sought him out and questioned him.

"Who is your teacher and whose doctrine do you profess?” Shariputra asked.
Assaji replied, “There is, O friend, the Great Recluse, the scion of the Sakyas, who has gone forth from the Sakya clan. Under that Blessed One I have gone forth. That Blessed One is my teacher and it is his Dhamma that I profess.”
Shariputra asked Assaji to share some teachings with him.
Assaji replied:
Of those dharmas which arise from a cause,
the Tathāgata has stated the cause, and also the cessation;
such is the teaching of the Great Ascetic.[4]

Shariputra was deeply moved by this statement. He immediately sought out his friend Maudgalyayana and together the sought out the Buddha and became his disciples. They become the Buddha's foremost disciples. Shariputra was recognized for his exceptional wisdom, and Maudgalyayana for his supernatural powers.

Sāriputta often preached with the Buddha's approval and was awarded the title "General of the Dharma" (Pāli: Dhammasenāpati) for his propagation of the teachings and is regarded as the founder of the Abhidharma tradition. However, the Buddha also lightly reprimanded Sāriputta on occasion when he did not fully explain the Dhamma to a prince,[5] or when he allowed a group of novice monks to become too loud.[6]

Nevertheless, Sāriputta was one of the most highly praised disciples and on at least one occasion the Buddha declared him to be a true spiritual son and his chief assistant in "turning the Wheel of the Dhamma":[7]

"If a person, rightly saying it of anyone, were to say, 'He is the Blessed One's son, his offspring — born of his mouth, born of the Dhamma, created by the Dhamma, his heir in the Dhamma, not his heir in material things,' he would be rightly saying it of Śāriputra if he were to say: 'He is the Blessed One's son, his offspring — born of his mouth, born of the Dhamma, created by the Dhamma, his heir in the Dhamma, not his heir in material things.' Sariputta, monks, takes the unexcelled wheel of Dhamma set rolling by the Tathagata, and keeps it rolling rightly."

Death

According to the Pāli Canon, Sāriputta died peacefully on the full moon day of Kartika a few months before the Buddha, having achieved Parinibbana, and when Sāriputta's assistant, Cunda, gave the news to Ananda, Ananda was very distressed. He passed the news along to the Buddha, who remained at peace, and chastised Ananda's reaction:[8]

But, Ananda, haven't I already taught you the state of growing indifferent with regard to all things dear & appealing, the state of becoming separate, the state of becoming otherwise? What else is there to expect? It's impossible that one could forbid anything born, existent, fabricated, & subject to disintegration from disintegrating.


Just as if the largest limb were to fall off a great tree composed of heartwood, standing firm; in the same way, Sariputta has attained total Unbinding from this great community of monks composed of heartwood, standing firm. What else is there to expect? It's impossible that one could forbid anything born, existent, fabricated, & subject to disintegration from disintegrating.

In Mahayana

In the Mahayana sutras, Shariputra is sometimes presented as a dignified arhat, and in other sutras he is presented as a representative for the limited views of the "Hinayana" path.[9][10]

For example, in the Vimalakīrti Sūtra, Sāriputra is depicted as being unable to readily grasp the Mahayana doctrines presented by Vimalakīrti and others, and is rebuked or defeated in debate by a number of interlocutors, including a female deity (deva) who refutes Shariputra's "Hinayana" assumptions regarding gender and form.

In this sutra, Sāriputta asks the female diety why, if she is so wise and capable, does she has a female body. The deva then proceeded to teach a lesson in nondualism by switching their sexes, and stating, "in all things, there is neither male nor female."[11]

In the Lotus Sutra,[12] Buddha predicts that Sāriputta will become a fully-awakened Buddha one day named "Flower Glow Tathāgata", at which Sāriputta's mind is said to "dance with joy".[13]

A dialogue between Sāriputta and Avalokiteśvara is also the context of the Heart Sutra, a brief but essential Prajñāpāramitā sūtra in Mahayana Buddhism.

Gallery

See also

References

  1. Princeton Dict icon 166px.png Buswell & Lopez 2014, Śāriputra
  2. Princeton Dict icon 166px.png Buswell & Lopez 2014, Śāriputra
  3. Access to insight icon 50px.png The Life of Sariputta, Prologue, Access to Insight
  4. Gethin & tbd, Chapter 6.
  5. Life of Sariputra, also see MN 97, Dhanañjani Sutta
  6. Life of Sariputra, also see MN 67, the Catuma Sutta
  7. MN 111, the Anupada Sutta
  8. SN 47.13, the Cunda Sutta
  9. Princeton Dict icon 166px.png Buswell & Lopez 2014, Śāriputra
  10. Watson, Burton, tr. (1993), The Lotus Sutra (Translators introduction), Columbia University Press, p.XVII. ISBN 023108160X
  11. "Shariputra and the Goddess". College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences, Central Michigan University. Archived from the original on June 13, 2010. 
  12. A Tiantai interpretation of Sāriputta's role in the Lotus Sutra is presented in Ziporyn, Brook (2000). How to Will Backwards. Time, Forgetting and Repetition in the Lotus Sutra, Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal 13 (2), 29-62
  13. Lotus Sutra, chapter 3


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