SuttaCentral

Stories on Sariputta Psychic Abilities and Rebirth. Looking for its Original Source?

Two Amazing Stories about Sariputta, and one about the danger of transmigration. But are they from the Pali Canon? Can anyone help to cite where the original source came from? Thanks.

1. Sariputta Walking on Water ( mentioned in the book, “The Gospel of Buddha” By Paul Carus - http://sacred-texts.com/bud/btg/btg86.htm )

Sariputta felt a desire to see the Lord and to hear him preach. Coming to the river where the water was deep and the current strong, he said to himself: “This stream shall not prevent me. I shall go and see the Blessed One, and he stepped upon the water which was as firm under his feet as a slab of granite. When he arrived at a place in the middle of the stream where the waves were high, Sariputta’s heart gave way, and he began to sink. But rousing his faith and renewing his mental effort, he proceeded as before and reached the other bank… because I had faith. Faith. nothing else, enabled me to do so, and now I am here in the bliss of the Master’s presence.”…The World-honored One added: “Sariputta, thou hast spoken well. Faith like thine alone can save the world from the yawning gulf of migration and enable men to walk dryshod to the other shore.”

2. Sariputta’s Divine Eye, & His Student Self-Regeneration, Invulnerability, Divine Eye, and Levitation ( mentioned in the article, “The Power of Goodness” by Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo - The Power of Goodness: Wat Asokaram, October 4, 1960 )

…a student of Sariputta…didn’t get the results he had hoped for he disrobed and became a thief…the civil authorities decided to torture him for seven days as an example to the general public so as to discourage other people from breaking the law…Sariputta, through his great compassion…used the powers of his meditation to check up on his students who were still ordained, as well as those who had disrobed to return to the lay life…a light appeared to Sariputta in which he saw that his student was being tortured and was scheduled to be beheaded the next day…Sariputta went on his almsround in the early morning to the area where his student was being tortured…On seeing Sariputta the student felt overjoyed…So he started to practice mindfulness of breathing…the breath grew absolutely still and his blood stopped flowing from his wounds…his wounds closed up and healed…he felt a sense of rapture and joy over how much his meditation had been able to overcome the pain…On entering into the fourth jhana, his body became as light as a tuft of cotton and stronger than the wood and iron spears. The tips of the spears couldn’t penetrate his body any more…And in that light of mindfulness he was able to see his teacher…as he made this determination, his body levitated up into the air and went to where Sariputta was…he vowed he would never do anything evil ever again.

3. Those Herd of Cows were once Sakka, King of Gods in their Past Lives (Well sorry I have forgotten where I last saw it)
Not sure if it’s from the Dhammapada commentary or elsewhere, but I remember something like the Buddha and Ananda were sitting in a grass field, then the Buddha smiled, and Ananda as usual was curious and inquired the reason, then the Buddha pointed out that those herds of cows were once the lofty Sakka, King of Gods in their past lives but now reborn as animals chewing grass. So the Buddha draw a moral lesson about how unreliable and risky to reborn even as a deity in heaven, when descending to woeful realm is still possible, and urge it is better to put an end to the cycle of rebirth and suffering for good.

1 Like
2 Likes

Paul Carus’s story is adapted from one that accompanies one of the Chinese versions of the Dharmapada. In the original the man in the stream isn’t Sāriputta but a mind-made image the Buddha had created.

Samuel Beal’s translation.

I don’t recognize Ajahn Lee’s story. It may perhaps be a greatly modified telling of the Story of the novice Saṃkicca in the Dhammapada Atthakathā.

As for the third, if you replace Sakka with Brahmā and the cow with a sow, then it would be the commentarial story to Dhammapada 338-43.

The Young Sow

6 Likes

Thanks @Amatabhani and @Dhammanando for your answers.

Yeah, I was shocked too when I saw contradictory accounts that Sāriputta could “Walk on Water” and had “Divine Eye.” Which was why I wanted to clarify. But I guess you could still consider “Formless Attainments” (MN111) and “Invulnerability” ( Ud 4.4) as Sāriputta having some sort of psychic, paranormal, supernatural, or superhuman ability and mastery that most normal people wouldn’t be able to do so.

@Dhammanando

  1. Wow, thanks didn’t know it came from the Chinese versions of the Dharmapada. But I wonder why Paul Carus didn’t just quote it word-for-word, wouldn’t it be much less confusing, convoluted, and slanderous to claim it was Buddha’s mind-made image rather than Sāriputta?

  2. I found another much closer account for Ajahn Lee’s story, “The Renegade Monk” in the Dhammapada Atthakathā for Verse 344, except it is about Maha Kassapa and his pupil, the Buddha got involved, there was no Divine Eye (it was not specified if the pupil used Mindfulness of Breathing to get into Fourth Jhana, or if he had any injuries and got self-regenerated), and at the end the pupil did attain Arahantship. - Buddhist Legends, XXIV. 3. The Renegade Monk

  3. Yes, I have heard about story of “the Young Sow” before as well. Either there was really another version on Sakka and cows grazing the pasture (could be official, could be a Chinese/Tibetan version, or some modern modification), or probably misinformation effect where my memory is just playing tricks on my mind.

I have to point out a different but relevant issue: similarities and differences is insufficient to determine authenticity…
Some stories could be similar but may be of different origin, place, and context. For example, the recent story of Anathapindika and his friend ‘Curse,’ happened to Buddha and Ananda as well in one of their past lives ( Kalakanni Jātaka, 83). Or the cult worship of Sun and Moon around different world civilisations, don’t necessarily need to be influenced by each other, or begotten by some universal God, but they might simply find planetary bodies to be fascinating, magnificent, and otherworldly, can bestow some kind of miracle, therefore deserved to be worshipped. Some stories could differ but may be of similar origin, place, and context. For example, MN 31 and MN 128 differ slightly in details on the success of their meditation by Anuruddha and friends, maybe because of different perspectives? Or not to say between Abrahamic Faiths, even within the same parent religion, different sects and branches could have vastly different stories and interpretations of the same event. (Though don’t take my word for it, but someone like Bhante Sujato, Bhikkhu Bodhi, and Bhikkhu Anālayo probably has more credibility on this topic.)

Therefore, if anyone else knows any other sources of the three stories, please feel free to comment, as I’m still open to more answers, before marking Dhammanando answer as the solution.

1 Like