Śāriputra (Pāli, Sāriputta), a disciple of Śākyamuni Buddha, attained the enlightened status of an arhat, or saint. Śāriputra is renowned for his wisdom and his expertise in abhidharma.
Because of his reputation for wisdom, Śāriputra frequently appears in Mahāyāna sūtras as a prime representative of the HĪnayĀna. The Buddha predicts Śāriputra's future buddhahood in the Lotus SŪtra (SaddharmapuṆḌarĪkasŪtra), a famous Mahāyāna scripture. Originally Śāriputra and his childhood friend MahĀmaudgalyĀyana were students of Sañjayin, a non-Buddhist teacher. Śāriputra and Mahāmaudgalyāyana promised each other that whoever attained knowledge of liberation first would inform the other. One day Śāriputra met a Buddhist monk named Aśvajit (or Upasena in some texts). Attracted by Aśvajit's serene countenance and flawless comportment, Śāriputra converted to Buddhism. Śāriputra attained the dharma-eye when Aśvajit recited a four-line verse summary of Buddhist teachings on anitya (impermanence). Mahāmaudgalyāyana converted to Buddhism upon seeing a physically transformed Śāriputra, exclaiming: "Venerable One, your senses are serene, your face is at peace, and the complexion of your skin utterly pure. Did you reach the deathless state?" (CatuṣpariṣatsṢtra, quoted in Strong, 2002, p. 50).
At Śāriputra's and Mahāmaudgalyāyana's ordination, the Buddha proclaimed that they would be his two chief disciples in accordance with a prediction made to that effect many eons ago by a previous buddha. Thus the two are sometimes depicted flanking the Buddha in Buddhist art. Śāriputra predeceased the Buddha. Like other arhats, Śāriputra was already the focus of worship in ancient and medieval India. In Burma (Myanmar) he is one of a set of eight arhats propitiated in protective rituals and he is also believed to grant his worshippers wisdom.
See also:Disciples of the Buddha
Malalasekera, G. P. "Sāriputta Thera." In Dictionary of Pāli Proper Names (1937–1938), 2 vols. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1995.
Strong, John S. The Legend and Cult of Upagupta. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.
Strong, John S. The Experience of Buddhism: Sources and Inter pretations, 2nd edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2002.