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Vacchagotta

1. Vacchagotta.– A wanderer (paribbājaka), who later became a bhikkhu and an Arahant. Several conversations he had with the Buddha are mentioned in the books. For details see the Tevijjavaccha Sutta, Aggi­vaccha°, Mahāvaccha°, Vaccha° and Vacchagotta Sutta. Some of these suttas are quoted in the Kathāvatthu (e.g., p.267, 505). The Saṃyuttanikāya contains a whole section on Vacchagotta; his discussions were chiefly concerned with such mythical questions as to whether the world is eternal, the nature of life, the existence or otherwise of the Tathāgata after death, etc. S.iii.257 ff; see also S.iv.391 ff., for several discussions of Vacchagotta with Mahā-Moggallāna, Ānanda, and Sabhiya Kaccāna on similar topics. The three Vacchagotta Suttas of the Majjhimanikāya seem to contain the story of Vacchagotta’s conversion, in due order: at the conclusion of the Tevijja Vacchagotta (No.72) it is merely stated that “the Paribbājaka Vacchagotta rejoiced in what the Blessed One has said.” At the end of the next, the Aggi Vacchagotta Sutta, he is mentioned as having accepted the Buddha as his teacher. In the third, the Mahā Vacchagotta Sutta, he seeks ordination from the Buddha at Rājagaha, and receives it after the requisite probationary period of four months. He returns to the Buddha after two weeks and tells him that he has attained all that is to be attained by a non Arahant’s understanding and asks for a further exposition of the Doctrine. The Buddha tells him to proceed to the study of calm and insight, whereby sixfold abhiññā may be acquired. Vacchagotta profits by the lesson and soon after becomes an Arahant. He thereupon sends news of his attainment to the Buddha through some monks, and the Buddha says he has already heard the news from the devas (M.i.493‑97).

This story definitely identifies the Paribbājaka with the Thera of the same name, whose verse of ecstasy is included in the Theragāthā (vs. 112). According to the Commentary (ThagA.i.221), he belonged to a rich brahmin family of the Vaccha clan (Vacchagotta). His personal name is not given. He became an expert in brahmin learning, but failing to find therein what he sought, he became a wanderer (paribbājaka), joining the Buddha’s Order later.

In the time of Vipassī Buddha he was a householder of Bandhumatī, and one day, when the Buddha and his monks were invited to the king’s palace, he swept the street along which the Buddha passed and set up a Rag as decoration. As a result he was born, four world-cycles ago, as a rājā, Sudhaja by name. He is probably identical with Vīthisammajjaka Thera of the Apadāna. Ap.i.177.

2. Vacchagotta.– A wanderer (paribbājaka). He is mentioned in the Aṅguttaranikāya (A.i.180 f ) as visiting the Buddha at Venāgapura, where he was at the head of the brahmins. He is possibly to be identified with Vacchagotta (1). In this context, however, he is called Venāgapurikā. Vacchagotta (1) was a native of Rājagaha, but seems to have travelled widely, for we find him visiting the Buddha at Vesāli (M.i.481), at Sāvatthi (M.i.483; S.iii.257), and at Ñātika (S.iv. 401), in addition to his visits to Rājagaha (M.i.489). The Commentary (AA.i.410), moreover, explains Venāgapura ka by “Venāgapuravāsī,” which may mean that he merely lived at Venāgapura and was not necessarily a native of that place. Vacchagotta’s question was as to how the Buddha looked so shining and his colour so clear? Was it because he slept on a luxurious bed? The Buddha answered that his bed was luxurious and comfortable, but from quite a different point of view. At the end of the discourse, Vacchagotta declares himself a follower of the Buddha.

3. Vacchagotta.– A brahmin of Kapilavatthu, father of Vanavaccha Thera (q.v.) ThagA.i.58.

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