When the Buddha was at the
Ajapālanigrodha, hesitating as to whether or not he should preach the
Dhamma, Sahampati appeared before him and begged of him to open to the world the
doors of Immortality. The Buddha agreed to this urgent request
(Vin.i.5f.; S.i.137f), and accepted from Sahampati the assurance that all the
Buddhas of the past had also had no other teacher than the Dhamma discovered by
them. S. i.139; see also S. v.167f.,185, 232, where he gives the same assurance to
the Buddha regarding the four
satipatthānas and the five indriyas;
Buddhaghosa (E.g., SA.i.155) explains that
the Buddha was reluctant to preach, not on account of indolence, but because he
wished Sahampati to make him this request. For, thought the Buddha, the world
honours Brahmā greatly, and when people realized that Brahmā himself had begged
of the Buddha to spread his teaching, they would pay more attention to it.
Sahampati was, at this time, the most senior of the Brahmās (jettha-Mahābrahmā)
Sahampati once saw that the brahminee, mother of Brahmadeva Thera, habitually
made offerings to Brahmā. Out of compassion for her, Sahampati appeared before
her and exhorted her to give her offerings to Brahmadeva instead (S.i.140f). On
another occasion, when Kokāliya died and was
born in Padumaniraya, Sahampati appeared before
the Buddha and announced the fact to him (Sn. p.125; cp. S. i.151; A.v.172).
The Samyutta (S.i.154f) contains a series of verses spoken by Sahampati at
Andhakavinda, when the Buddha sat out in
the open during the night and rain fell drop by drop. The verses are in praise
of the life and practices of the monks and of the results thereof. Sahampati
again visited the Buddha, simultaneously with Sakka, and
as they stood leaning against a doorpost of the Buddha's cell, Sakka uttered a
verse in praise of the Buddha. Sahampati then added another verse, exhorting the
Buddha to preach the Doctrine, as there were those who would understand
(S.i.233). A verse spoken by him immediately after the Buddha's death is
included in the books (D.ii.157; S. i.158).
During the time of Kassapa Buddha, Sahampati was a monk, named Sahaka, who,
having practised the five indriyas (saddhā, etc.), was reborn in the Brahma
world. Thereafter he was called Sahampati (S.v.233). The Commentaries say
(SnA..ii.476; SA.i.155) that he was an Anāgāmī Brahmā born in the Suddhāvāsā,
there to pass a whole kappa, because he had developed the first Jhāna as a monk.
The Buddhavamsa Commentary (BuA.p.11; see also p.29) says that, strictly
speaking, his name should be "Sahakapati." When the Buddha attained
Enlightenment, Sahampati held over the Buddha's head a white parasol three
yojanas in diameter. BuA.239; this incident was sculptured in the Relic Chamber
of the Mahā Thūpa (Mhv.Xxx.74); cp. J. iv.266.
Once he offered to the Buddha a chain of jewels (ratanadāma) as large as
Sineru (KhpA.171; Sp.i.115; Vsm.201). On the day that Alindakavāsi Mahāphussadeva
attained arahantship, Sahampati came to wait upon him (VibhA.352).
It has been suggested (VT.i.86, n.1) that Brahmā Sahampati is very probably
connected with Brahmi Svayambhū of brahmanical literature.