A brahmin, chief minister of Ajātasattu. He and Sunidha were in charge of the fortifications of Pāṭaligāma, built against the Vajjī. Vin.i.228 Ud.viii.6 DN.ii.72ff.
At Ajātasattu’s suggestion, Vassakāra visited the Buddha to discover, indirectly, whether, in the Buddha’s view, there were any chances of Ajātasattu conquering the Vajjians in battle. The Buddha said that as long as the Vajjians practised the seven conditions of prosperity which he had taught them at Sārandada cetiya, they would prosper rather than decline.
In the Gopaka Moggallāna Sutta, MN.iii.8ff. Vassakāra is represented as arriving in the middle of a conversation, which Gopaka Moggallāna was holding with Ānanda, having been sent to inspect the works at Rājagaha, which were in charge of Moggallāna. Having asked the subject of conversation, he inquired whether the Buddha himself or the Order had chosen a leader for the Saṅgha after the Buddha’s death. Ānanda explains that the Buddha did not do so, that no special leader has been appointed, but that there were monks to whom they showed honour and reverence because of their virtue and insight. Vassakāra admits this as good, as does also Upananda, the Senāpati, who is present. Vassakāra asks Ānanda where he lives, and is told, in Veḷuvana. Vassakāra thinks this a good place for the practice of jhāna, and tells Ānanda of a conversation he once had with the Buddha regarding jhāna. Ānanda, remarks that all jhānas are not equally praiseworthy, and Vassakāra takes his leave.
Three conversations between the Buddha and Vassakāra are recorded in the Aṅguttara Nikāya, all three taking place at Veḷuvana.
On discovering that a certain forest official had given tribute to Dhaniya without the king’s special leave, he reported the man to the king and had him punished. Vin.iii.42ff. In this context we find that Vassakāra was Mahāmatta to Bimbisāra as well.