“Devadatta” chapter ［提婆達多品］ ( Daibadatta-hon): The twelfth chapter of the Lotus Sutra. It teaches that both women and evil persons are capable of attaining Buddhahood in their present forms, something generally denied in the provisional, or pre-Lotus Sutra, teachings, as well as the principle of attaining enlightenment 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, was 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 one disposed to evil has the potential to become a Buddha.
Next Bodhisattva Manjushrī relates how he has preached the Lotus Sutra in the palace of a dragon king and converted innumerable beings, and Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated asks him if there is anyone there who by practicing the sutra has attained Buddhahood quickly. Manjushrī replies that the eight-year-old daughter of the dragon king has fully attained the supreme Buddha wisdom. Wisdom Accumulated and Shāriputra both challenge this; Wisdom Accumulated on the grounds that Buddhahood requires the practice of austerities spanning many kalpas, Shāriputra for the same reason and because he believes women to be incapable of attaining enlightenment due to the five obstacles. But 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 perfects the bodhisattva practice. Acquiring the thirty-two features and eighty characteristics of a Buddha, he appears in a land to the south called Spotless World, where he preaches the Lotus Sutra to all beings in the ten directions.
Nichiren (1222–1282) explains the significance of the dragon king’s daughter’s enlightenment in The Opening of the Eyes: “When she attained Buddhahood, this does not mean simply that one person did so. It reveals the fact that all women will attain Buddhahood. In the various Hinayana sutras that were preached before the Lotus Sutra, it is denied that women can ever attain Buddhahood. In the Mahayana sutras other than the Lotus Sutra, it would appear that women can attain Buddhahood or be reborn in the pure land. But they may do so only after they have changed into some other form. It is not the kind of immediate attainment of Buddhahood that is based on the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life. . . . The dragon king’s daughter represents ‘one example that stands for all the rest.’ When the dragon king’s daughter attained Buddhahood, it opened up the way to attaining Buddhahood for all women of later ages” (269).
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 taught for the first time in the Lotus Sutra. See also dragon king’s daughter.