1. Upāli Thera.One of the most eminent of the Buddha's immediate
disciples. He belonged to a barber's family in Kapilavatthu and entered the
service of the Sākiyan princes. When Anuruddha and his cousins left the world
and sought ordination from the Buddha at Anupiyā Grove, Upāli accompanied them.
They gave him all their valuable ornaments, but, on further consideration, he
refused to accept them and wished to become a monk with them. The reason given
for his refusal is that he knew the Sākyans were hot-headed, and feared that the
kinsmen of the princes might suspect him of having murdered the young men for
the sake of their belongings.
At the request of the Sākiyan youths, the Buddha ordained Upāli before them
all, so that their pride might be humbled. (Vin.ii.182; DhA.i.116f; see also
Bu.i.61; but see BuA.44; the Tibetan sources give a slightly different version,
see Rockhill, op. cit., pp. 55-6; according to the Mahāvastu iii.179, Upāli was
the Buddha's barber, too).
Upāli's upajjhāya was Kappitaka (Vin.iv.308). When Upāli went to the Buddha
for an exercise for meditation, he asked that he might be allowed to dwell in
the forest. But the Buddha would not agree, for if Upāli went into the forest he
would learn only meditation, while, if he remained amongst men, he would have
knowledge both of meditation and of the word of the Dhamma. Upāli accepted the
Buddha's advice and, practising insight, in due course won arahantship. The
Buddha himself taught Upāli the whole of the Vinaya Pitaka (ThagA.ii.360f, 370;
In the assembly of the Sangha, the Buddha declared him to be the most
proficient of those who were learned in the Vinaya (vinayadharānam) (A.i.24; see
also Vin.iv.142, where the Buddha is mentioned as speaking Upāli's praises). He
is often spoken of as having reached the pinnacle of the Vinaya, or as being its
chief repository (Vinaye agganikkhitto), (E.g., Dpv. iv.3, 5; v.7, 9) and three
particular cases - those of Ajjuka (Vin.iii.66f), the Bhārukacchaka monk
(Vin.iii.39) and Kumāra-Kassapa (AA.i.158; MA.i.336; J. i.148; DhA.iii.145) - are
frequently mentioned in this connection as instances where Upāli's decisions on
Vinaya rules earned the special commendation of the Buddha. In the Rājagaha
Council, Upāli took a leading part, deciding all the questions relative to the
Vinaya, in the same way as Ananda decided questions regarding the Dhamma
(Vin.ii.286f; DA.i.11f; Mhv.iii.30).
In accordance with this tradition, ascribing to Upāli especial authority
regarding the rules of the Order, various instances are given of Upāli
questioning the Buddha about the Vinaya regulations. Thus we find him consulting
the Buddha as to the legality or otherwise of a complete congregation
performing, in the absence of an accused monk, an act at which his presence is
required (Vin.i.325f). Again, he wishes to know if, in a matter which has caused
altercations and schisms among members of the Order, the Sangha declares
re-establishment of concord without thorough investigation, could such a
declaration be lawful? (Vin.i.358f). When a monk intends to take upon himself
the conduct of any matter that has to be decided, under what conditions should
he do so? What qualities should a monk possess in himself before he takes upon
himself to warn others? (Vin.ii.248f). In what case can there be an interruption
of the probationary period of a monk who has been placed on probation?
A whole list of questions asked by Upāli and answers given by the Buddha on
matters pertaining to the Vinaya rules is found in the chapter called Upāli-Pañcaka
in the Parivāra (Vin.v.180-206; see also the Upālivagga of the Anguttara Nikāya
It is not possible to determine which of these and other questions were
actually asked by Upāli, and which were ascribed to him on account of his
It is said (E.g., Vin.iv.142; Sp.iv.876) that even in the Buddha's lifetime
monks considered it a great privilege to learn the Vinaya under Upāli. The monks
seem to have regarded Upāli as their particular friend, to whom they could go in
their difficulties. Thus, when certain monks had been deprived by thieves of
their clothes, it is Upāli's protection that they seek (Vin.iii.212; see also
the story of Ramanīyavihārī, ThagA.i.116).
The canon contains but few records of any discourses connected with Upāli,
apart from his questions on the Vinaya. In the Anguttara Nikāya (A.iv.143f) he
is mentioned as asking the Buddha for a brief sermon, the Buddha telling him
that if there were anything that did not conduce to revulsion and detachment,
Upāli could be sure that such things did not form part of the Buddha's teaching.
There is a record of another sermon (A.v.201ff) which the Buddha is stated to
have preached when Upāli expressed the desire to retire into the solitude of the
forest. The Buddha tells him that forest-life is not for the man who has not
mastered his mind or attained to tranquillity.
For other sermons see Upāli Sutta and Ubbāhika Sutta.
Three verses are ascribed to Upāli in the Theragāthā (vv. 249-51; but see
Gotama the Man, p.215; another verse ascribed to Upāli, but so far not traced
elsewhere, is found in the Milinda p.108) where he admonishes the brethren to
seek noble friends of unfaltering character, to learn the monks' code of
discipline and to dwell in solitude.
In the time of Padumuttara, Upāli was a very rich brahmin named Sujāta. When
the Buddha came to his father's city in order to preach to him the Dhamma,
Sujāta saw him, and in the assembly be noticed an ascetic named Sunanda, holding
over the Buddha for seven days a canopy of flowers. The Buddha declared that
Sunanda would, in the time of Gotama Buddha, become famous as the Elder Punna
Mantānī-putta. Sujāta, too, wished to seethe future Buddha Gotama, and having
heard Padumuttara praise the monk Pātika as chief of the Vinayadharas, he wished
to hear, regarding himself, a similar declaration from Gotama. With this end in
view he did many deeds of merit, chief of which was the erection of a monastery
named Sobhana, for the Buddha and his monks, at an expense of one hundred
As a result he was born in heaven for thirty thousand kappas and was one
thousand times king of the devas. One thousand times, too, he was cakkavatti.
Two kappas ago there was a Khattiya named Añjasa, and Upāli was born as his
son Sunanda. One day he went to the park riding an elephant named Sirika, and
met, on the way, the Pacceka Buddha Devala, whom he insulted in various ways.
Sunanda was, thereupon, seized with a sensation of great heat in his body, and
it was not till he went with a large following to the Pacceka Buddha and asked
his pardon that the sensation left him. It is said that if the Buddha had not
forgiven him, the whole country would have been destroyed. This insult paid to
the Pacceka Buddha was the cause of Upāli having been born as a barber in his
last birth (Ap.i.37ff).
Buddhaghosa says (Sp.i.272, 283) that while the Buddha was yet alive Upāli
drew up certain instructions according to which future Vinayadharas should
interpret Vinaya rules, and that, in conjunction with others, he compiled
explanatory notes on matters connected with the Vinaya.
In direct pupillary succession to Upāli as head of the Vinayadharas was
Dāsaka, whom Upāli had first met at the Valikārāma, where Upāli was staying
(Mhv.v.10). Upāli taught him the whole of the Vinaya.
Upāli's death was in the sixth year of Udāyibhadda's reign. Dpv. v.7ff.
2. Upāli. A lad of Rājagaha. His parents, wishing him to live a life
of ease, did not have him instructed in any of the usual means of livelihood,
lest he should be inconvenienced while learning them. After much consideration,
they decided to have him ordained. He joined the Order with sixteen other
companions equally young, and it is said that they rose at dawn and started
shouting for food. This was the reason for the rule that no one under twenty
years of age should receive the upasampadā ordination. Vin.i.77f.
3. Upāli Thera. The Apadāna (i.91f) contains the story of a thera
named Upāli, who is to be distinguished from the eminent disciple of that name,
though the Apadāna verses obviously point to a confusion of the legends of the
two. The Apadāna Commentary distinguishes this monk as "Bhāgineyya Upāli," and
states that he was a nephew of the Venerable Upāli. He was born in Kapilavatthu
and was ordained by his uncle, who later became an arahant.
Bhāgineyya Upāli had been a householder in the time of Padumuttara. Later he
left the world and became an ascetic in Himavā. There he met the Buddha and the
monks, and uttered their praises in song. As a result he was eighteen times king
of the devas and twenty-five times king of men.
4. Upāli.Distinguished as Upāli-Gahapati.
He lived at Nālandā and was a follower of
He was present when Dīgha-Tapassī
reported to Nātaputta an account of his visit to the
Buddha in the Pāvārika Mango-grove. Upāli
undertook to go himself to the Buddha and refute his views, in spite of the
protestations of Dīgha-Tapassī. At the end of his discussion with the Buddha,
which is recorded in the Upāli Sutta, Upāli is
converted and invites the Buddha to a meal. Although the Buddha enjoins upon
Upāli that his benefactions to the Niganthas should not cease because of his
conversion, Upāli gives instructions that no Nigantha be admitted to his
presence, but that if they need food it shall be given to them. Hearing a rumour
of his conversion, first Tapassī, and later Nātaputta himself, go to Upāli's
house, where they learn the truth. When Nātaputta is finally convinced that
Upāli has become a follower of the Buddha, hot blood gushes from his mouth
According to Buddhaghosa (MA.ii.621, 830),
Nātaputta had to be carried on a litter to Pāvā,
where he died shortly after.
Upāli became a Sotāpanna
He is mentioned, with Ananda,
Dhammika-upāsaka and Khujjuttarā, as
one who had acquired the four
Patisambhidā while being yet a learner (sekha). Vsm.ii.442; VibhA.388.
5. Upāli Thera.Head of the chapter of monks sent from Siam, at the
request of Kittisirirājasīha, to re-establish the Upasampadā ordination in
Ceylon. He was held in great esteem by the king of Ceylon and often preached to
him. Upāli died in Ceylon of an incurable disease of the nose, and his funeral
obsequies were held with great solemnity. Cv.c.71, 94, 117, 127, 142.