1. Upáli 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 Sákiyan princes. When Anuruddha and his cousins left the world and sought ordination from the Buddha at Anupiyá Grove, Upáli 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 Sákyans 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 Sákiyan youths, the Buddha ordained Upáli 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 Mahávastu iii.179, Upáli was the Buddha's barber, too).
Upáli's upajjháya was Kappitaka (Vin.iv.308). When Upáli 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 Upáli 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. Upáli accepted the Buddha's advice and, practising insight, in due course won arahantship. The Buddha himself taught Upáli the whole of the Vinaya Pitaka (ThagA.i.360f, 370; AA.i.172).
In the assembly of the Sangha, the Buddha declared him to be the most proficient of those who were learned in the Vinaya (vinayadharánam) (A.i.24; see also Vin.iv.142, where the Buddha is mentioned as speaking Upáli'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 Bhárukacchaka monk (Vin.iii.39) and Kumára-Kassapa (AA.i.158; MA.i.336; J.i.148; DhA.iii.145) - are frequently mentioned in this connection as instances where Upáli's decisions on Vinaya rules earned the special commendation of the Buddha. In the Rájagaha Council, Upáli 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 Upáli especial authority regarding the rules of the Order, various instances are given of Upáli 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? (Vin.ii.33f).
A whole list of questions asked by Upáli and answers given by the Buddha on matters pertaining to the Vinaya rules is found in the chapter called Upáli-Pañcaka in the Parivára (Vin.v.180-206; see also the Upálivagga of the Anguttara Nikáya v.70ff).
It is not possible to determine which of these and other questions were actually asked by Upáli, and which were ascribed to him on account of his traditional reputation.
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 Upáli. The monks seem to have regarded Upáli 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 Upáli's protection that they seek (Vin.iii.212; see also the story of Ramaníyavihárí, ThagA.i.116).
The canon contains but few records of any discourses connected with Upáli, apart from his questions on the Vinaya. In the Anguttara Nikáya (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, Upáli 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 Upáli 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 Upáli Sutta and Ubbáhika Sutta.
Three verses are ascribed to Upáli in the Theragáthá (vv. 249-51; but see Gotama the Man, p.215; another verse ascribed to Upáli, 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, Upáli was a very rich brahmin named Sujáta. When the Buddha came to his father's city in order to preach to him the Dhamma, Sujáta 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 Mantání-putta. Sujáta, too, wished to seethe future Buddha Gotama, and having heard Padumuttara praise the monk Pátika 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 thousand.
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 Upáli 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 Upáli 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 Upáli 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 Upáli as head of the Vinayadharas was Dásaka, whom Upáli had first met at the Valikáráma, where Upáli was staying (Mhv.v.10). Upáli taught him the whole of the Vinaya.
Upáli's death was in the sixth year of Udáyibhadda's reign. Dpv.v.7ff.
2. Upáli.-A lad of Rájagaha. 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 upasampadá ordination. Vin.i.77f.
3. Upáli Thera.-The Apadána (i.91f) contains the story of a thera named Upáli, who is to be distinguished from the eminent disciple of that name, though the Apadána verses obviously point to a confusion of the legends of the two. The Apadána Commentary distinguishes this monk as "Bhágineyya Upáli," and states that he was a nephew of the Venerable Upáli. He was born in Kapilavatthu and was ordained by his uncle, who later became an arahant.
Bhágineyya Upáli had been a householder in the time of Padumuttara. Later he left the world and became an ascetic in Himavá. 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. Upáli.-Distinguished as Upáli-Gahapati. He lived at Nálandá and was a follower of Nigantha Nátaputta.
He was present when Dígha-Tapassí reported to Nátaputta an account of his visit to the Buddha in the Pávárika Mango-grove. Upáli undertook to go himself to the Buddha and refute his views, in spite of the protestations of Dígha-Tapassí. At the end of his discussion with the Buddha, which is recorded in the Upáli Sutta, Upáli is converted and invites the Buddha to a meal. Although the Buddha enjoins upon Upáli that his benefactions to the Niganthas should not cease because of his conversion, Upáli 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 Tapassí, and later Nátaputta himself, go to Upáli's house, where they learn the truth. When Nátaputta is finally convinced that Upáli has become a follower of the Buddha, hot blood gushes from his mouth (M.i.371ff).
According to Buddhaghosa (MA.ii.621, 830), Nátaputta had to be carried on a litter to Pává, where he died shortly after.
Upáli became a Sotápanna (MA.ii.620).
He is mentioned, with Ananda, Citta-gahapati, Dhammika-upásaka and Khujjuttará, as one who had acquired the four Patisambhidá while being yet a learner (sekha). Vsm.ii.442; VibhA.388.
5. Upáli Thera.-Head of the chapter of monks sent from Siam, at the request of Kittisirirájasíha, to re-establish the Upasampadá ordination in Ceylon. He was held in great esteem by the king of Ceylon and often preached to him. Upáli 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.