SARIPUTTA, one of the two principal disciples of Gotama the Buddha. He was born in the middle of the 6th century B.C. at Nala, a village in the kingdom of Magadha, the modern Behar, just south of the Ganges and a little east of where Patna now stands. His personal name was Upatissa; the name of his father, who was a brahmin, is unknown; his mother's name was Sari, and it was by the epithet or nickname of Sariputta (that is " Sari's son "), that he was best known. He had three sisters, all of whom subsequently entered the Buddhist Order. When still a young man he devoted himself to the religious life, and followed at first the system taught by Sanjaya of the Belattha clan. A summary of the philosophical position of this teacher has been preserved in the Dialogue called The Perfect Net.
According to this account his main tendency was to avoid committing himself to any decided conclusion on any one of the numerous points then discussed so eagerly among the clansmen in the valley of the Ganges. Early in the Buddhist movement Sariputta had a conversation with one of the men who had just joined it; and the Buddhist quoted to him the now famous stanza, " Of all the things that proceed from a cause, the Buddha the cause hath told; and he tells too how each shall come to an end such alone is the word of the Sage." The result was that Sariputta, with his friend Kolita and other disciples of Sanjaya, asked for admission, and were received into the Buddhist Order. He rapidly attained to mastery in the Buddhist system of self-training, and is declared to have been the chief of all the disciples in insight. He was present at a_ dialogue between the Buddha and a Wanderer named Aggivessana on the nature of sensations; and at the end of that discourse he attained to Arahatship. He is constantly represented as discussing points, usually of ethics or philosophy, either with the Buddha himself, or with one or other of the more prominent disciples. One whole book of the Sarpyutta is therefore called after his name. A number of stanzas inscribed to him are preserved in the Songs of the Elders (Thera-gatha), and one of the poems in the Sutta Nipata is based on a question he addressed to the Buddha. Asoka the Great, in his Bhabra Edict, enjoins on the Buddhists the study of seven passages in the Scriptures selected for their especial beauty. One of these is called The Question of Upatissa, and this poem may be the passage referred to. Feeling his end approaching, he went home, and died just six months before the death of the Buddha, that is, approximately in 480 B.C. He was cremated with great ceremony, and the ashes placed in a tope or burial-mound. An inscribed casket in such a mound at Sanchi opened by Cunningham in February 1851 contained a portion of these ashes which had been removed to that spot, in General Cunningham's opinion by Asoka.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. For the birth, death, cremation and relics, see Alex. Cunningham, Bhilsa Topes (London, 1854); Rhys Davids and S. W. Bushell, Walters on Yuan Chwang (London, 1904, 1905). For names of mother and sisters, Theri Gatha, ed. R. Pischel (London, 1883). For conversion Rhys Davids and H. Oldenberg, Vinaya Texts (Oxford, 1881), i. 144-151. For attainment of Arahatship, V. Trenckner, Maijhima Nikaya (London, 1888), i. 501.
(T. W. R. D.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)