Conversion of Sariputra

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Conversion of Sariputra

Postby Aemilius » Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:29 am

In Vinayavastu there is the story of Sariputra's conversion to Buddhism, it says that he was searching for a teacher, and went to see all the famous teachers: Puranakasyapa, Maskari-gosaliputra, Sanjaya-vairatiputra, Ajita-kesakambala, Kakuda-katyayana, & Nirgrantha-jñatiputra. He asked them all two questions, and finally he became a disciple of Sanjaya-vairatiputra, who is designated as agnostic.

What immediately comes to mind is that Buddha Shakyamuni was at that time quite unknown! In Buddha's own words He was immensely famous during his six years of ascetism. But maybe wasn't famous at all during the next period of His life? Because Sariputra had never taught of visiting Him. And maybe not even heard of Him (after His enlightenment).

When seeing one of the first five disciples of Buddha, Sariputra asks: "Who is your teacher?" In outward appearance the Buddha's disciples were at that point similar to other Sramanas, thus it is taught normally, the patched robe was developed later. But even that may have been characteristic of Sramanas in general.

Before his conversion to the Dharma Sariputra was known as Upatisya, his Dharma name is Sariputra.



There is a book ( havent't read it): The Sutra on the foundation of the Buddhist Order (Catusparisatsutra): Relating the events from the Bodhisattva's enlightenment up to the conversion of Upatisya (Sariputra) and Kolita (Maudgalyayana), translated by Ria Kloppenborg
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Re: Conversion of Sariputra

Postby Huifeng » Fri Apr 20, 2012 12:39 pm

I think it's more likely that Gautama was not so famous at all during his early asceticism. However, it was fairly early on that Sariputra and Maudgalyana became his disciples. One may wish to check out the location where the latter two came from, however, because it may be some distance from the Sakyan area.

"Sariputra" is not his "Dharma name" at all. In fact, there was no such thing at the time. "Sari" + "putra" is simply "Sari's son", which is actually a kind of nick name and very personal, stemming from before his conversion, I'd say. (His mother, Sari, is herself named after a kind of bird.) Cf. Purna Maitrayaniputra, etc., though IIRC, "Maitrayani" is a clan name, not a personal name.

Another interesting element of his conversion and later realization is the story of his cousin / uncle (depending on what source you read), the sramana Dirghanakha ("Long nails"), who himself later became a disciple of the Blessed One.

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Re: Conversion of Sariputra

Postby Aemilius » Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:12 am

Huifeng wrote:I think it's more likely that Gautama was not so famous at all during his early asceticism. However, it was fairly early on that Sariputra and Maudgalyana became his disciples. One may wish to check out the location where the latter two came from, however, because it may be some distance from the Sakyan area.

"Sariputra" is not his "Dharma name" at all. In fact, there was no such thing at the time. "Sari" + "putra" is simply "Sari's son", which is actually a kind of nick name and very personal, stemming from before his conversion, I'd say. (His mother, Sari, is herself named after a kind of bird.) Cf. Purna Maitrayaniputra, etc., though IIRC, "Maitrayani" is a clan name, not a personal name.

Another interesting element of his conversion and later realization is the story of his cousin / uncle (depending on what source you read), the sramana Dirghanakha ("Long nails"), who himself later became a disciple of the Blessed One.

~~ Huifeng


Thank you! I wasn't sure if remember the name thing right. Now it turns out that also the name Upatisya is a name deriving from his native village. It is thus similar to tibetan names like Tsongkhapa, Gampopa, etc... that derive from there birth places. I think there is something in the Tipitaka about the name giving. Buddha talks about aryan birth, when one becomes tranformed, through stream entry or through ordination, this is mentioned in the story of Angulimala.
It is true that often the new names do not stick. But there is a good reason for it that Angulimala got a new name !

That the Dharma names have not been preserved means a lot, it tells about the power of the outside society.
It says in the Uposatha sutta ( Ud 5.5.), verse 4: "...those of the four castes -nobles, brahmans, merchants, and workers- having gone forth from home to the homeless state in the Dhamma and Discipline made known by the Tathagata, abandon their former names and identities and are called just as 'recluses, the followers of the Sakyan son.'"

There is somewhere a sutta in the Tipitaka where Buddha recalls his years of extreme ascetism and says that his fame spread far and wide, just like there was a great bell hung in the vault of the sky and it was sounded!
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Re: Conversion of Sariputra

Postby Aemilius » Mon Apr 23, 2012 1:55 pm

Hellmuth Hecker says in his Life Story of Moggallana that Sariputra and Mogallana became ascetics on the day when Siddhartha got married. They were slightly older than Buddha Gautama, and they had spent a long while as ascetics before meeting the Buddha. Hecker says that they were both about forty years of age when they joined the order of buddhist monks. So it took place in the early period of Sangha, something like three or four years after the first turning of the Wheel of Dharma. The book translated by Ria Kloppenborg tells about the incidents that took place before their conversion, with that it should be possible to determine the date of their ordination into the Sangha fairly accurately.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/hecker/wheel263.html#ch2

Sariputra had three younger brothers: Cunda, Upasena and Revata, who joined the order of the buddhist Sangha. And three sisters: Cala, Upacala and Sisupacala, all of whom joined the order. His nephew Uparevata also joined the order.
http://www.palikanon.com/english/pali_names/sa/saariputta.htm
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Re: Conversion of Sariputra

Postby Aemilius » Tue Apr 24, 2012 8:35 am

I have come to the conclusion that Sariputra and Maudgalyayana are their Dharma names or their ordination names.
And that most of the names of other disciples are also their actual ordination names. Buddha gave names that were fitting.
The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhist Terms says that Mahakasyapa's family name was Pippalayana, and that Mahakasyapa is his Dharma name. Mahakasyapa was a tall person, equal in height to Buddha himself, ( Maha means 'Great').
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