Some people often ask themselves if Buddhists should be vegetarians. And the controversy is not new. At the time of the Buddha, Devadatta tried to force the Buddha to forbid the consumption of both meat and fish.
This is the story of Devadatta.
Devadatta was a monk and close relative of the Buddha, who divided the Sangha and tried to overthrow him and have him murdered. In a passage from the Vinaya, Vin.ii.189 speaks of Devadatta as Godhiputta, the son of Godhi.
When the Buddha visited Kapilavatthu after Enlightenment and preached to the Sakiyan, Devadatta became along with his friends Ānanda, Bhagu, Kimbila, Bhaddiya, Anuruddha and his barber, Upāli, and sought the Buddha in Anupiya and entered the Order. During the rainy season that followed, Devadatta acquired powers. Sāriputta is mentioned who has left for Rājagaha singing the praises of Devadatta.
Devadatta was later suspected of bad wishes. Approximately eight years before the death of the Buddha, Devadatta, eager to win and favor and jealous of the Buddha’s fame, tried to conquer King Ajātasattu
He assumed the form of a child with a band of snakes, and suddenly appeared in the lap of Ajātasattu, scaring him. Then he returned to his own form, and Ajātasattu, very impressed, gave him great honor and reportedly visited him in the morning and in the afternoon with five hundred chariots and sent him five hundred plates of food daily.
Some time later, Devadatta went to the Buddha and suggested that the leadership of the Order should be given to him in view of the old age approaching the Buddha. The Buddha disdained the suggestion, saying: «Not even Sāriputta or Moggallāna would give him the Order, and you, vile, would vomit you like saliva!»
Devadatta showed great resentment and swore revenge. Then, at the suggestion of the Buddha, a proclamation was issued to the Sangha that in whatever Devadatta did in the name of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha, no one but Devadatta should be recognized.
It was at this time that Devadatta prompted Ajātasattu to kill his father, King Bimbisāra, while he himself was preparing to kill the Buddha.Ajātasattu agreed, and provided Devadatta with the royal archers to shoot the Buddha. These were placed in different ways, one in one, two in another, and up to sixteen, and the plan was so established that none of them would survive to tell. But when the Buddha approached the first man, he was terrified by the Buddha’s majesty, and his body stiffened. The Buddha spoke kindly to him, and the man, throwing down his arms, confessed his intention to commit a crime. The Buddha then preached to him and, having converted him, sent him back on a different path. The other groups of archers, tired of waiting, abandoned the vigil and left one after the other. The different groups were guided to the Buddha, and he preached and converted them. The first man returned to Devadatta saying that he could not kill the Buddha because of his great power.
Devadatta then decided to kill the Buddha himself. One day, when the Buddha was walking on the slopes of Gijjhakūṭa, he threw a large rock over him. Two peaks sprang up from the ground, stopping their hurried progress, but a splinter hit the Buddha’s foot, causing the blood to flow.Feeling great pain, he was taken to Maddakucchi, and from there to Ambavana de Jīvaka, where Jīvaka attended him. After this event, the monks wished that Buddha had a guard, but he refused, saying that it was impossible for someone to deprive a Tathagata of his life.
Devadatta’s next attempt on the life of the Buddha was to persuade the guardians of the elephants to release a ferocious elephant, Nalāgiri (or Dhanapāla), drunk with alcohol on the way through which the Buddha would pass. The news spread quickly, and the Buddha was warned, but refused to back down. As the elephant advanced it impregnated him with love, and so he subjugated it completely.
This outrage made Devadatta very unpopular, and even Ajātasattu was forced by the force of public opinion to withdraw his patronage of Devadatta, whose gain and honor diminished. Then he decided, with the help of several others, Kokālika, Katamoraka-tissa, Khaṇḍadeviyāputta and Samuddadatta, to provoke a schism in the Order. These five were consequently to Buddha and asked for the imposition of five rules on all members of the Sangha. • that monks should live their entire lives in the forest, • not accept invitations to meals, but live entirely from alms obtained by begging, • that they should wear only tunics made of discarded rags and not accept robes of the laity, • that they must live at the foot of a tree and not under a roof, • that they should abstain completely from fish and meat. The Buddha’s response was that those who felt so inclined could follow these rules, except for sleeping under a tree during the rainy season, but refused to make the obligatory rules. This rejection delighted Devadatta, who left with his group, declaring that the Buddha was prone to luxury and abundance.
It was believed by fools, and despite Buddha’s warning against the terrible sin of causing schism in the Order, Devadatta informed Ānanda of his intention to hold an uposatha meeting without the Buddha, and, having persuaded five hundred newly ordained monks from Vesāli will join him, went to Gayāsīsa. Three suttas, the two Devadatta and the Mahāsāropama, were preached after this event.
The Buddha sent Sāriputta and Moggallāna to Gayāsīsa to bring the deceived. Devadatta, believing that they had come to join him, rejoiced and, despite Kokālika’s warning, welcomed them. That night he preached very late to the monks, and, wishing to rest, he asked Sāriputta to address the assembly. Sāriputta and Moggallāna preached to such an effect that they persuaded the five hundred monks to return with them. Kokālika kicked Devadatta into the chest to wake him up and tell him the news. When Devadatta discovered what had happened, hot blood came out of his mouth, and for nine months he lay gravely ill.
When his end drew near, he wished to see the Buddha, although the latter had declared that it would not be possible in this life. Devadatta, however, began the journey in a bunk, but upon reaching Jetavana, he stopped the litter on the banks of the pond and went out to wash. The earth opened and was devoured in Avīci.
Only once is the text of a Devadatta sermon mentioned. Candikāputta informs this to Sāriputta, who makes it an occasion to speak with the monks.
As you will see, there are many popular monks among the many fools who abound that what they keep in themselves is the very seed of hell.