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Personalities of the Buddhist Suttas


Sīha, Senāpati (Sīha the General)


Dictionary of Pāḷi Proper Names: Sīha. — A Licchavi general of Vesāli. He was a follower of the Nigaṇṭhas. When the Buddha visited Vesālī, Sīha, having heard reports of his greatness, wished to see him, but Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta dissuaded him, saying that Gotama denied the result of actions and was not worth a visit. But in the end Sīha, accompanied by five hundred chariots, went to the Buddha. Having discovered in conversation with the Buddha that he was falsely accused of preaching wrong doctrines, Sīha declared himself the Buddha's follower. The Buddha accepted his adherence on condition that whe would continue to give alms to any Nigaṇṭhas who sought them at his house. This generosity made Sīha honour the Buddha even more highly, and he invited him and the monks to a meal on the next day. Meat formed one of the dishes, and the Nigaṇṭhas went about Vesālī crying that Sīha had killed a large ox to provide meat for the Buddha and his monks and that the food had been accepted. This was the occasion for the fomulatin of the rule that no monk should eat flesh where he has reason to believe that the animal had been specially killed for him. [Vin. i. 233]

Most of this information can be found in Hare's translation and footnotes to AN 8.12 According to this sutta Gotama is not accused of denying the result of actions, but of teaching a doctrine of inaction. [akiriyāvādo: non-performance, abstension from; when linked to 'kamma' this term becomes the doctrine of ineffective action spoken of. This is the doctrine of Makkhali. Nātaputta has probably chosen his words carefully so as to fool Sīha and slander Gotama with a doctrine Gotama holds as the worst of all theories.] Bhk. Bodhi remarks on Nātaputta's slander as strange in that Gotama's doctrine would have been known by him. However if it had been clearly understood by him he would have become a desciple of Gotama. However as Gotama points out in the above mentioned sutta there is in fact a way in which his doctrine is a doctrine of inaction, that is that by inaction with regard to unskillful things kamma is brought to an end. So again Nātaputta has been clever and has actually told the truth, but his intent was to deceive.

Sīha was, at one time, one of the most famous patrons of the Nigaṇṭhas, the others being Upāligahapati of Nālandā, and Vappa, the Sākyan of Kapilavatthu.

The Aṅguttara Nikāya contains two discussions, in more or less identical terms, in which Sīha asks the Buddha if it is possible to show the visible results of giving. The Buddha, by means of a counter question, elicits from Sīha that the giver has his reward in this world itself, and in the end Sīha acknowledges that he has experienced the benefits which the Buddha set forth.

See AN 7.54 Again here this is not quite correct. Gotama's list of benefits concludes with benefits in the beyond. General Siha admits to experience of those benefits which are worldly, but as to those benefits that belong to the other world he states he is going by faith in Gotama.




Dictionary of Pāḷi Proper Names, by G. P. Malalasekera, D.Litt., Ph.D., M.A. (Lond.), O.B.E., Pāḷi Text Society, 1974
Vin. i. 233
AN 7.54
AN 8.12
Telovāda Jātaka #246 Where the insident of the meat eating is the precipitating subject.
AN 5.34 Sīha the General asks the Buddha if there is any visible result of giving. He is given five examples.