Devadatta ［提婆達多］ (, Pali; Daibadatta): A cousin of Shakyamuni who, after Shakyamuni’s enlightenment, first followed him as a disciple but later became his enemy. Devadatta was a younger brother of Ānanda (an elder brother according to another account). His father was Dronodana (or Amritodana). In Buddhist scriptures, he is described as a man of utmost evil who tried to kill Shakyamuni Buddha and disrupt his Order. When both were young, before Shakyamuni embarked on a religious life, Devadatta is said to have beaten to death a white elephant that had been given to him by Shakyamuni. Devadatta was also a rival for the hand of Yashodharā, whom Shakyamuni eventually married. Later Devadatta renounced secular life and became one of Shakyamuni’s disciples.
In his arrogance, however, he grew jealous of Shakyamuni and sought to usurp the Buddha’s position. He fomented a schism in the Buddhist Order, luring away a number of monks. He also goaded Ajātashatru, prince of Magadha, into overthrowing his father, Bimbisāra, a patron of Shakyamuni, and ascending the throne in his stead. With the new king supporting him, Devadatta made several attempts on Shakyamuni’s life and caused a schism in his Order. As a result of his misdeeds, Devadatta is said to have fallen into hell alive. In the “Devadatta” (twelfth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, however, Shakyamuni reveals that in some past existence he himself had learned the Lotus Sutra from a seer named Asita, and that this seer was Devadatta. He also predicts that Devadatta will attain enlightenment in the future as a Buddha named Heavenly King. Nichiren (1222–1282) takes this prediction to illustrate the principle that even evil persons have the potential for enlightenment.