Skip to main content

Ikeda Wisdom Academy

Highlights of the May 2024 Study Material

Chicago. Photo by Yeonhwa Choi.

Who is Devadatta?

Devadatta was said to be Shakyamuni’s cousin. After Shakyamuni attained enlightenment, Devadatta followed him as a disciple but later became his enemy.

Initially, Devadatta exerted himself earnestly in Buddhist practice. Because of his talent and ability, he gained distinction in the Buddhist Order. 

Later, however, in an attempt to replace Shakyanumi as head of the Order, he colluded with Ajatashatru, who took the throne from King Bimbisara.

Devadatta’s betrayal of Shakyamuni is well-known. Unlike persecutions from outside the Order, this incident arose from within. It was all the more severe because the traitor had conspired with King Ajatashatru, now the ruler of the land, to do away with Shakyamuni.

“Devadatta,” the Lotus Sutra’s 12th chapter, explains that even someone who committed the grave offense of betraying the Buddha can attain Buddhahood. 

Shakyamuni discloses that Devadatta was the one who led him to the Lotus Sutra in a past existence. In that existence, Shakyamuni was a king who renounced his throne to seek the truth. For one thousand years, he served a seer named Asita, who taught him the Lotus Sutra. This seer, he explains, was none other than Devadatta.

Further, Shakyamuni refers to Devadatta as a “good friend,” without whom he could not have attained enlightenment. He then prophesies that, in the distant future, Devadatta will attain enlightenment as a Buddha called Heavenly King Thus Come One.

The enlightenment of evil people, represented by Devadatta, helps to illustrate the universal possibility of Buddhahood taught for the first time in the Lotus Sutra.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Three Perspectives of Good and Evil

While there are varying perspectives on good and evil, the discussion of the “Devadatta” chapter in The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 3, pp. 87–88, highlights three perspectives, including the Nichiren Buddhist view of the oneness of good and evil.

Good and evil are seen as distinct forces fixed in opposition. According to this view, prevalent in pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, good appears only when evil is extinguished.

This view posits a static, unchanging reality in which good and evil are relative concepts decided merely by a person’s perspective. Through this lens, it is impossible to understand the dynamism and constant change that are the true aspects of life.

The Lotus Sutra teaches the oneness of good and evil, that good and evil always manifest in opposition and arise from the true aspect of all phenomena. Core to this principle is the ongoing effort to strive to create good and transform evil into good. 

Ikeda Sensei: “If evil functions to reveal good, then evil in its entirety becomes good. This is truly the oneness of good and evil. But if evil is simply allowed to run its course, then it does not become good. Only when evil is thoroughly challenged and conquered does it become an entity of the oneness of good and evil.

“In that sense, the enlightenment of evil people presented in the ‘Devadatta’ chapter is great proof of the victory won by Shakyamuni. It is his victory declaration. Only when he stands in this lofty state of life as a winner can he say that Devadatta had in a past life been a good friend and mentor and had in this life aided his efforts to instruct people.” (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 3, p. 83)

Wisdom Into Action

Bring on the Challenges!

Audrina Cortez
Las Vegas

Q: What personal goals are you challenging with study?

I’ve been working for the same company for nine years, since my freshman year in college. Last November, I was promoted to manager and moved to a new office. At the same time, I took on region leadership in the SGI. My co-leader and I set a time to chant after work from our respective homes, and I challenged myself to chant at that time even when I was tired from a long day. 

That’s when all the devilish functions started coming out. We’re short-staffed, and I’m responsible for getting everything done as the manager. Sometimes, I felt so overwhelmed that I wondered if I could do it or if I should just quit my job. 

When my life condition is low, I feel myself going through the lower worlds. What helps me is studying to understand those feelings. Recently, in the Ikeda Wisdom Academy, we studied the “fusion of reality and wisdom.” The way it was presented was so relatable and practical. I was able to reflect on how easily I can be swayed by external factors, especially when not chanting or studying. I started thinking about how it applies to everything—work, school, family. 

Even though I felt, How can I encourage anyone when I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I was encouraged to fight to support others as the cause to break through at work. 

I started using my only day off to do home visits. Surprisingly, afterward, I had so much energy. The next day, I even woke up before my alarm went off and got in extra daimoku. I also transformed my perspective about work: Because it is so difficult, that means I’m advancing. None of my efforts are going to waste. I still have problems, but now, when I chant, I feel like, “Bring it on!”

The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 3, pp. 93–126

Part Two: “Devadatta” Chapter
• The Dragon Girl’s Enlightenment Is a Grand Declaration of Equality

From the May 2024 Living Buddhism

Nichiren Daishonin—His Lifelong Vow and Great Compassion

Material for Discussion Meetings (May)