Challenging the Buddha’s Authority: How Buddhist Narrative Traditions Negotiate Religious Authority in Stories


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


I argue that narrative traditions around Sariputra and Devadatta build different models of interaction between the Buddha and those disciples, implicitly disclosing the challenge disciples mounted to the Buddha's authority. The thesis highlights the diversity of early Buddhist views on the central authority of Buddhism from the time of our earliest textual and epigraphic material to the 5th A.D, the date of the Sutra of the Wise and Foolish, a story collection from which I draw much of my central evidence. It reads those stories as different attempts to negotiate between the Buddha's authority and the disciples' legitimation. Behind these dynamic stories is a history of how key notions such as "buddha" and "arhat" evolve.