A city, capital of the Licchavis. It is not possible to know how many visits were paid by the Buddha to Vesāli, but the books would lead us to infer that they were several. Various Vinaya rules are mentioned as having been laid down at Vesāli. Vin.i.238 Vin.i.287f. Vin.ii.118 Vin.ii.119–127
It was during a stay in Vesāli, whither he had gone from Kapilavatthu, that Mahā Pajāpatī Gotamī followed the Buddha with five hundred other Sākyan women, and, with the help of Ānanda’s intervention, obtained permission for women to enter the Order. Vin.ii.253ff.
The books describe DN.ii.95ff. at some length the Buddha’s last visit to Vesāli on his way to Kusinārā. On the last day of this visit, after his meal, he went with Ānanda to Cāpāla cetiya for his siesta, and, in the course of their conversation, he spoke to Ānanda of the beauties of Vesāli: of the Udena cetiya, the Gotamaka cetiya, the Sattambaka cetiya, the Bahuputta cetiya, and the Sārandada cetiya. Other monasteries are also mentioned, in or near Vesāli e.g., Pātikārāma, Vālikārāma.
The Buddha generally stayed at the Kūṭāgārasālā during his visits to Vesāli, but it appears that he sometimes lived at these different shrines. DN.ii.118 During his last visit to the Cāpāla cetiya he decided to die within three months, and informed Māra and, later, Ānanda, of his decision. The next day he left Vesāli for Bhaṇḍagāma, after taking one last look at the city, “turning his whole body round, like an elephant”. DN.ii.122 The rainy season which preceded this, the Buddha spent at Beluvagāma, a suburb of Vesāli, while the monks stayed in and around Vesāli. On the day before he entered into the vassa, Ambapāli invited the Buddha and the monks to a meal, at the conclusion of which she gave her Ambavana for the use of the Order. DN.ii.98
Among eminent followers of the Buddha who lived in Vesāli, special mention is made of Ugga, Piṅgiyāni, Kāraṇapālī, Sīha, Vāseṭṭha, AN.iv.258 and the various Licchavis.
Vesāli was a stronghold of the Nigaṇṭhas. The Buddha’s presence in Vesāli was a source of discomfort to the Nigaṇṭhas, and we find mention of various devices resorted to by them to prevent their followers from coming under the influence of the Buddha.
At the time of the Buddha, Vesāli was a very large city, rich and prosperous, crowded with people and with abundant food. Its courtesan, Ambapālī, was famous for her beauty, and helped in large measure in making the city prosperous. Vin.i.268
Outside the town was the Mahāvana, a large, natural forest. Near by were other forests, such as Gosiṅgalasāla. AN.v.134
Among important suttas preached at Vesāli are the Mahāli, Mahāsīhanāda, Cūḷa Saccaka, Mahā Saccaka, Tevijja, Vacchagotta, Sunakkhatta and Ratana.
One hundred years after the Buddha’s death Vesāli was again the scene of interest for Buddhists, on account of the “Ten Points” raised by the Vajjiputtaka, and the second Council held in connection with this dispute at the Vālikārāma.
There were Nāgas living in Vesāli; these were called Vesālā. DN.ii.258