Passatha no tumhe, bhikkhave, devadattaṃ sambahulehi bhikkhūhi saddhiṃ caṅkamantan”ti? “Evaṃ, bhante”. “Sabbe kho ete, bhikkhave, bhikkhū pāpicchā”. …… Hīnādhimuttikā hīnādhimuttikehi saddhiṃ saṃsandanti samenti.
Devadatta was the famous antagonist of the Buddha and a brother or half-brother of Ānanda. They both had entered the order along with four friends under their barber Upāli. Devadatta had tried to kill the Buddha three times by the help of his friend King Ajātasattu but never could succeed in this. The king was finally forced to withdraw his patronage from Devadatta, because an outrage broke out amongst the folks of Rājagaha after his last attempt to have the Buddha killed in public by the king’s intoxicated powerful elephant Nālāgiri. When it approached the Buddha gently touched Nālāgiri with all suffusing mettā and it kneeled down, paying its respect to the Buddha. (Jayamaṅgalagāthā: Nālāgiriṃ gajavaraṃ atimattabhūtaṃ ; Dāvaggicakkamasanīva, sudāruṇantaṃ; Mettambusekavidhinā jitavā munindo; Taṃ tejasā bhavatu te jayamaṅgalāni — Like a circle of jungle-fire, pitiless like a thunderbolt, The noble elephant Nālāgiri, being exceedingly intoxicated, Sprinkling Mettā like extinguishing water the sage of the Munis conquered him, Through the power of this may joyous victory be yours.)
Later on Devadatta decided to create a schism in the order and to start his own Saṅghā by requesting the Buddha to follow stricter rules than laid down in the Vinaya, i.e. never to sleep anywhere else except at the root of the tree, wear only robes of discarded garments etc. After the Buddha refused to make these rules obligatory Devadatta found a group of followers of about 500 bhikkhus and then told Ānanda that from that day onward he would create his own Bhikkhusaṅghā as related in this sutta.
The animosity of Devadatta towards the Buddha had increased over many lives, starting from their first encounter when both of them had been merchants. At that time Devadatta was the first to come across an extremely poor grandmother with her granddaughter, whose only possession of value was an heirloom, a golden bowl from which they ate. Although the gold was covered, its true value was immediately understood by the hawker Devadatta but unknown to its owners. Instead of giving it its true value, he threw it away in order to express its worthlessness, planning to come back later and get it for nothing. In the meantime the Bodhisatta, being a hawker himself, came to the same place and exchanged the bowl for its true value and left. When Devadatta returned and found out what had happened, he ran after the Bodhisatta who had in the meantime crossed the nearby river. Realizing that he had played off his chance by pure greed, Devadatta got so upset that his heart burst and he fell down dead. Many Jātakas (birth stories of previous existences of the Buddha) relate further occurrences and how each time the hatred of Devadatta towards the Bodhisatta increased.