An Asura chieftain, who was present with Namuci (Māra) at
the preaching of the Mahāsamaya Sutta (D.20). It is said that among the Asuras, Vepacitti,
Rāhu and Pahārada were the chiefs. E.g., AA.ii.758, Vepacitti
being the highest (sabbajetthaka, SA.i.263).
Vepacitti was the friend of Rāhu, and when Rāhu seized
Candimā and Suriya and these invoked the power of the Buddha, it was to
Vepacitti that Rāhu fled for comfort (S.i.50, 51). The Asuras being once
defeated in a fight with the Devas, the latter took Vepacitti prisoner, and
brought him, bound hand and foot, to Sakka in the Sudhammā hall. There Vepacitti
reviled and railed at Sakka with scurrilous words, both on entering and on
leaving the hall, but Sakka remained silent, and, when questioned by
said it was not proper for him to bandy words with a fool. S. i.221f.; cf.
S.iv.201, according to which his bondage caused him no inconvenience so long as
he remained with the devas, but the moment he experienced the wish to rejoin the
Asuras, he felt himself bound. Vepacitti's capture is referred to in
On another occasion Vepacitti suggested that victory
should be given to him or to Sakka, according to their excellence in speech.
Sakka agreed to this, and Vepacitti, as the older god, was asked to speak a
verse. Sakka spoke another, the Devas applauding. Several verses were spoken by
each, and both Devas and Asuras decided in favour of Sakka, because Vepacitti's
verses belonged, they said, to the sphere of violence, while those of Sakka
belonged to one of concord and harmony (S.i.222f). Once, when Sakka was
revolving in his mind the thought that he should not betray even his enemy,
Vepacitti read his thoughts and came up to him. "Stop," said Sakka, "thou art my
prisoner"; but Vepacitti reminded him of his thought, and was allowed to go free
Buddhaghosa says (SA.i.266) that Vepacitti's original name
was Sambara (q.v.). When Sambara refused to give to the seers, who visited him,
a pledge that the Asuras would not harm them, the seers cursed him, and from
that time onwards he slept badly and was plagued by nightmares. This so deranged
his mind (cittam vepati) that he came to be called Vepacitti ("Crazy nerve").
When Vepacitti lay ill of this disease, Sakka visited him and offered to cure
him if he would teach him Sambara's magic art. Vepacitti consulted the Asuras,
and, as they were unwilling, he refused Sakka's offer, warning him that Sambara,
having practised magic, was suffering in purgatory and that he should avoid a
similar fate (S.i.238f).
Buddhaghosa explains that, if Vepacitti had taught him the
art, it was Sakka's intention to take Vepacitti to the seers and persuade them
to forgive him (SA.i.272). This episode seems to contradict Buddhaghosa’s
previous statement that Sambara and Vepacitti were identical. Perhaps, as Mrs.
Rhys Davids suggests (KS.i.305, n.4), Sambara was the name of an office rather
than that of a person.
Mention is made (S.i.226) of a visit once paid by Sakka
and Vepacitti to a company of seers dwelling in a forest hut. Vepacitti, in his
buskins, his sword hanging at his side and his state canopy borne over his head,
entered by the main gate, while Sakka, in all humility, used the side gate.
Buddhaghosa explains (SA.i.265) the strange relations of Sakka and Vepacitti by
saying that they were father and son in law, and that they were sometimes
at war with each other; sometimes, however, they lived in concord. The
Dhammapada Commentary (DhA.i.278 L; cf. J. i.205f ) gives the story of the
romantic marriage of Sakka to Vepacitti's daughter, Sujā.
According to the Kathā vatthu, other members of
Vepacitti's family appear to have intermarried with the devas, and the Kathā
vatthu Commentary says that a troop of Asuras, belonging to the retinue of
Vepacitti, was once freed from the fourfold plane of misery and was taken up
among the devas. See Points of Controversy, p. 211.
The Sanskrit texts call him Vemacitra or Vemacitrī. E.g.,
Dvy., pp. 126, 148; Mtu.iii.138,254.