1. Upasena Thera. Maternal
uncle of Vijitasena Thera and brother of Sena. He was an elephant-trainer, and
having heard the Buddha preach, he entered the Order and, in due course, became
an arahant. He ordained Vijitasena (ThagA.ii.424). According to the Mahāvastu
(iii.60ff), Sāriputta was converted to Buddhism not by Assaji, as recorded in
the Pitakas, but by an Elder named Upasena, who is, perhaps, to be identified
with the Upasena. The Mahāvastu (iii.431f) also mentions an Upasena who was
nephew to the Tebhātika Jatilas. When the Tebhātikas accepted the Buddha as
their teacher, they cast the garments, etc., which they had used as ascetics,
into the Nerañjarā, on the banks of which was Upasena's hermitage. When Upasena
saw the robes, etc., he knew that something must have happened to his uncles. He
went at once to see them and, having heard the good tidings of their new-found
bliss became a monk himself. It is not stated whether this Upasena is identical
with the Elder of the same name mentioned above as the teacher of Sāriputta.
2. Upasena Vangantaputta. He was born
in. Nālaka as the son of Rūpasārī, the brahminee, his father being Vanganta. He
was the younger brother of Sāriputta (UdA.266; DhA.ii.188). When he came of age,
he learnt the three Vedas, and, having heard the Buddha preach, entered the
Order. When his ordination was but one year old, he ordained another bhikkhu, to
increase the number of holy ones, and went with him to wait upon the Buddha. The
Buddha roundly rebuked him for this hasty procedure (Vin.i.59; Sp.i.194;
J.ii.449), and Upasena, wishing to earn the Master's praise on account of the
very cause of this rebuke, practised insight and became an arahant. Thereafter
he adopted various dhutangas and persuaded others to do likewise. In a short
time he had a large retinue, each member of which was charming in his way, and
the Buddha declared Upasena to be the best of those who were altogether charming
(samantapāsādikānam) (A.i.24). Buddhaghosa says that Upasena was famed as a very
clever preacher (pathavighutthadhammakathika), and many joined him because of
his eloquence. AA.i.152; alsoMil.360, where more details are given of how
Upasena admitted monks into the Order and of the conditions imposed on them; for
a slightly different version see Vin.iii.230ff; it is said there that after
Upasena's visit, the Buddha allowed monks who practised dhutangas, to visit him
even during his periods of retreat. See also Sp.iii.685f.
He visited the Buddha when the Buddha
had enjoined on himself a period of solitude for a fortnight; the monks had
agreed that anyone who went to see the Buddha would be guilty of a pācittiya
offence, but the Buddha, desiring to talk to him, asked one of Upasena's
followers if he liked rag-robes. "No, Sir, but I wear them out of regard for my
teacher," was the reply.
In the Theragāthā are found several
verses ascribed to Upasena as having been spoken by him in answer to a question
by his saddhivihdrika, regarding what was to be done during the dissensions of
the Kosambī monks (vv. 577-86; the first verse is quoted in the Milinda 371 and
also the fifth 395). The Milinda-pañha (pp.393, 394) contains several other
verses attributed to Upasena similar in their trend of ideas and admonitions.
The Udāna states (p.45f; UdA.266ff) that once when he was taking his siesta he
reviewed the happiness he enjoyed and the glories of the life he led under the
guidance of the Buddha. The Buddha, noticing this, proclaimed his approval.
One day, while Upasena was sitting after
his meal in the shadow of the Sappasondika-pabbhāra, fanned by the gentle
breeze, mending his outer robe, two young snakes were sporting in the tendrils
overhanging the cave. One fell on his shoulder and bit him, and the venom spread
rapidly throughout his body; he called to Sāriputta and other monks who were
near, and requested that he might be taken outside on a couch, there to die.
This was done, and his body "was scattered there and then like a handful of
chaff." (S.iv.40f; SA.iii.10).
Upasena had been, in Padumuttara's day,
a householder of Hamsavatī. One day he heard the Buddha declare one of his monks
to be the best of those who were altogether charming, and wished for a similar
declaration regarding himself by some future Buddha. Towards this end he did
many deeds of piety (ThagA.ii.525). The Apadāna mentions that he gave a meal to
Padumuttara and eight monks, and at the meal placed over the Buddha's head a
parasol made of kanikdra-flowers. As a result, he was thirty times king of the
devas and twenty-one times cakkavatti. (Ap.i.62). The verses quoted from the
Apadāna in the ThagA. are slightly different.
Upasena is given, together with Yasa
Kākandakaputta, as an example of one who observed the Vinaya precepts
thoroughly, without imposing any new rules or agreements. DA.ii.525.
See also Vaka Jātaka.
3. Upasena Thera. Mentioned in the
Gandhavamsa (61, 66; also Svd.1197) as the author of the Saddhammappajjotikā,
the commentary on the Mahā Niddesa. But see Upatissa (13).
4. Upasena. Son of Sujāta Buddha.