The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Moggallana, popularly known as Maha Moggallana in the Pali tradition, was one of the two chief disciples of the Buddha. He was ordained along with Sariputta; and on the same day the Buddha, too, had declared that they were the Chief Disciples. As Sariputta was best known for his wisdom, Moggallana was best known for the possession of the supernatural powers. For example, he was capable of creating manifold living shapes; and assuming any form. Further, he shook the monastery called Migaramatupasada by the touch of his great toe to warn some monks who were gossiping on the ground floor despite the knowledge that the Buddha was upstairs.
Moggallana was born on the same day when Sariputta was born. He derived his name from his mother who was called Moggali (or Moggallani). He was also called Kolita, which was the name of his village. The friendship between the families of Moggallana and Sariputta existed for seven generations; and the two were the friends since their childhood. Once, the two friends went to see a mime-play (giraggasamajja) and realised through the play that the “world itself is a drama” as “all the worldly things are impermanent”. This realisation made them renounce the world. First, they became the disciples of Sanjaya; and when dissatisfied with his teachings they wandered all over the Indian subcontinent to discuss with the scholars of the time. Eventually, not being satisfied by them they separated with the understanding that each would inform the other of any worthy discovery.
So, when Sariputta heard a discourse of Assaji, a disciple of the Buddha, he was impressed with his doctrine and became a Sotapanna. He then went to Moggallana to inform him of his discovery; who in turn also became a Sotapanna, soon after hearing the teaching of the Buddha. The two then marched to the Buddha along with five hundred disciples of Sanjaya. They all met the Buddha and heard his discourse and became the arahatas but for the two, Moggallana and Sariputta. Moggallana then went to the hamlet of Kallavala in Magadha and a week after his ordination he, too, attained a high stage of trance, where he received the exhortation of the Buddha and finally achieved the arahatahood. Moggallana’s demonstration of the great supernatural power was best exemplified in the subjugation of the great serpent called the Naga Nandopananda, as he could enter the fourth stage of the trance most quickly.
When there was a schism in the Order engendered by Devadatta, the Buddha sent the two chief disciples to Gayasisa to bring back the misguided monks. Both the monks accomplished their task by bringing back all the five hundred monks to the order. If Sariputta was the preceptor of Rahula (the son of the Buddha); Moggallana was his teacher. Both Sariputta and Moggallana had a mutual request for each other. Moggallana died a fortnight after Sariputta on a new moon night.
Moggallana’s end was pathetic as he was beaten and killed by the brigands in his cell in Kalasila. He then crawled and dragged his body with several crushed bones to the Buddha and sought his leave to depart from the world. According to the tradition the cause of his pathetic end was due to his gross misconduct against his old, senile and blind parents in one of his births, as he had undertaken the ill-advice of his wife to carry them to a forest and to beat them to death. He had followed that advice out of his infatuation during that birth. As no one can escape the fruits of the karma, he too had his death in the similar way in his current birth.
Moggallana is identified with numerous characters in the Jataka tales, e.g., Kisavaccha in the Indriya Jataka, the tortoise in the Kurungamiga Jataka, the tiger in the Tittira Jataka, the Garuda king in the Vidhurapandita Jataka and so on.
Moggallana, who was the second (left) chief disciple of the Buddha, was instrumental in preserving, cultivating and enriching the Dhamma for future generations. He was also foremost in supernormal powers. Before long he came to be known as Maha Moggallana or "Moggallana the great", so as to distinguish him from other contemporaries with the same name.
There were many monks who were highly skilled in various supernormal powers. But they each mastered only one or two of the powers. Anuruddha and the nun Sakula possessed super-normal vision or the divine eye. The monk Sobhita and the nun Bhadda Kapilani could recollect many past births. Cula Panthaka was skilled in astral travel, while the monk Sagala mastered the element of fire and Pilindi Vaccha excelled in communications with divine beings. Maha Moggallana, however, mastered all of these supernormal powers in a comprehensive manner and as such surpassed in excellence these other monks and nuns. His powers were also stronger than those possessed by the nun Uppalavanna, who was foremost among the nuns in supernormal powers.
In general we limit our knowledge to that which we can experience with the five senses. Since we are limited by the capabilities of our sense organs, we tend to perceive our limited experiences as absolute. Therefore, with confidence we look into an empty room and say that there is nothing in the room though in fact the room is teeming with life forms so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. Similarly, there are many sounds that we cannot hear and smells we cannot detect. In fact, it is proven that the hearing and olfactory senses of a dog are far superior to those of a human being. Despite this fact, we restrict our experience and view the truth that is perceived as absolute due to the limitations of our sense organs. The universe as experienced by the wise is much larger, as they can tap into other sources of energy with their developed mind.
Through development of the four ways of power (iddhipada), Maha Moggallana was capable of a much wider experience in space and time. His knowledge transcended the limitations and boundaries of the normal mind. By developing his mind over an infinite period of time, Moggallana achieved supernormal powers that may seem like make-believe to modern man. Some of his powers and feats have been carefully documented and preserved to help future generations understand the full potential of the mind. There were six types of supernormal powers that Maha Moggallana had developed. They have been outlined briefly with some examples as documented in the texts.
(1). Penetration of others’ minds and thought reading.
Moggallana, like the Buddha, had the ability to penetrate and read the minds of others and often helped the Buddha by using this trait. One night the Buddha sat in silence in front of an assembly of monks, observing each of the monks gathered in turn, without uttering a word. When morning dawned the Buddha addressed the assembly and said that this assembly was impure, as there was among them a monk who was corrupt.
Moggallana surveyed the minds of each of the monks gathered and saw that one of the monks was corrupt. Approaching him he asked the monk to leave. The monk refused. Three times Moggallana requested that the monk leave the assembly. Each time the monk refused. Moggallana then led him out of the assembly and closed the door. Moggalana then asked the Buddha to recite the rules of monastic discipline (Patimokkha) as the assembly was now pure. The Buddha, observing that the assembly was pure, addressed the monks with a sermon on the Monastic Discipline.
The text also refers to an incident where Moggallana had penetrated the minds of 500 of his disciples and determined that they were all Arahanths. The monk Vangisa, who was well-known for his poetic language, had immediately realized what had happened and praised Moggallana’s ability to the Buddha as follows:
"While the sage is seated on the mountain slope,
Gone beyond to the far shore of suffering,
His disciples sit in attendance on him,
Triple knowledge men who have left death behind.
Moggallana, great in spiritual powers,
Encompassed their minds with his own
And searching (he came to see) their minds.
Fully released, without attachment."
(2). Ability to hear sounds that cannot be heard by persons - Divine Ear
One evening when Sariputta came to visit Moggallana, he observed such a serene and calm expression on his friend’s face that he questioned Moggallana if he had dwelt in one of the peaceful abodes of mind. Moggallana informed Sariputta that this was not the case, that he had been engaged in a deep talk with the Exalted One. Sariputta then remarked that the Buddha was living in Savatthi while they themselves were many miles away in Rajagaha. He then asked if Moggallana had gone to the Buddha or if the Buddha had come to him. Moggallana said that neither had happened. They had, by using the divine eye and ear, engaged in a Dhamma talk on the mental faculty of energy. Sariputta, observing the supernatural powers of his friend, then proclaimed that so powerful were Moggallana’s supernatural powers that if he so wished, like the Buddha, he might be able to live through an entire aeon.
Moggallana also had the ability to hear the voices of divine beings and spirits. For example, a spirit had warned him of the impending danger to the Buddha by Devadatta, who was plotting to kill him. Moggallana also often visited the heavens and lower worlds and asked the beings that dwelt there about the actions that they had performed to obtain such birth. He then conveyed this information to his disciples to encourage them to perform wholesome deeds and refrain from unwholesome deeds.
(3). Ability to see things that cannot usually be seen by persons - Divine Eye
Moggallana often used his divine eye to perceive the whereabouts of the Buddha. He also used it to observe other beings. Once when Sariputta was seated deep in meditation Moggallana observed a demon pound his head. He then questioned his friend on how he was feeling. Sariputta replied that he had a slight headache resulting from the blow. Moggallana then praised his friend on his powers of concentration while Sariputta praised his friend on his ability to view the demon which he had not seen.
One such recorded incident occurred when Moggallana and the monk Lakkhana were descending Vulture’s Peak. Moggallana, who had observed a peta (unhappy spirit) had smiled. Lakkhana, realizing that Moggallana had viewed something that he had not, questioned him. Moggallana agreed to give his answer when they were in the presence of the Buddha.
As they approached the Buddha, Lakkhana again questioned Moggallana as to why he had smiled. Moggallana replied that he had seen a spirit shaped like a huge snake engulfed in flames, screaming whilst being chased and pecked at by vultures. Moggallana had felt compassion for the suffering being and then relief in the knowledge that he himself would never in the future have such a birth, as this was his last birth. This relief had caused him to smile. Moggallana did not think that anyone would believe what he saw unless it was confirmed by the Buddha. He then went on to explain the kammic cause for such a birth. He said that in a former birth this spirit had been a farmer. He had a field, which he was ploughing close to where a Pacceka (silent) Buddha was residing. The townsfolk often crossed his field to visit the Pacceka Buddha. This upset the farmer and he tried all kinds of methods to dissuade the people from crossing his field. The multitude of devotees, however, ignored his instructions and continued to walk over his field.
The farmer had then watched for an opportunity to observe the Pacceka Buddha leaving his residence, whereupon he had destroyed his belongings and burnt his shelter. The devotees were furious when they found out that the farmer had destroyed the Pacceka Buddha’s shelter and belongings. They vented their anger on him by battering him to death. The farmer was reborn in the Avichi hell and after many thousands of years was reborn in Vulture’s Peak as the snake ghost (peta) engulfed in flames.
The Buddha confirmed Moggallana’s sighting and story by saying that He Himself had viewed the same spirit on the day He attained enlightenment.
Like the Buddha, Moggallana could also view the law of kamma in operation. He could see persons with unwholesome deeds being reborn in peta and asura realms and those with meritorious deeds being reborn in heavenly realms. The Petavatthu documents 51 incidents and the Vimanavatthu 85 incidents that Moggallana had observed and used to help teach his disciples the effects of one’s wholesome and unwholesome intentional actions. In fact, with this ability, Moggallana drew many disciples of other teachers into the Noble Path. This resulted in many jealousies among other teachers who lost disciples.
(4). Ability to travel through space - Astral Travel
During the seventh rainy season the Buddha recited the Abhidhamma, the higher teachings, to the Devas in the Tavatimsa Heaven, for three months. Using astral travel, Moggallana visited the Buddha from time to time to inform Him of the progress of the Noble Order.
On another occasion when Moggallana was seeking the Buddha, he saw that the Buddha had visited a Brahma realm to shake the arrogance of a Brahma. A certain Brahma was under the false view that as Brahma he was above the Buddha and the Noble Order. The Buddha, seeing this and realizing the potential of this Brahma, appeared on his throne. Moggallana, seeing and realizing the Buddha’s intention, joined Him and thus subdued the pride and arrogance of the Brahma. The subdued Brahma was ready to accept the supremacy of the Buddha and His Teachings.
Moggallana also used his ability of astral travel to help Sariputta when he was sick. The doctor had recommended a medicine made of lotus stalks, which were only available in the Himalayan mountains. Moggallana immediately traveled to the mountains and obtained the medicine required to cure his friend.
It was also Moggallana who brought the Ananda Bhodi to Savatthi from Buddha Gaya. Ananda asked the Buddha what could be done to help the many disappointed devotees who traveled to Savatthi to see the Buddha, only to find that He was away attending to another in distress. The Buddha asked for a sapling from the great Bodhi tree under which He had attained enlightenment to be planted in Savatthi. He then proclaimed that the Bodhi Tree would be a symbol of the Buddha that devotees could venerate in His absence. Moggallana, using his supernormal powers, traveled to Buddha Gaya and brought the sapling.
(5). Mastery of matter- Supernormal Locomotion
The text indicates many instances where, at the request of the Buddha, Moggallana used his supernormal powers to shake people out of their inaction and non diligence in the Dhamma. On one occasion the monks residing in the mansion of Migara’s mother were negligent and slothful. The Buddha instructed Moggallana to instil confidence in them by performing a miracle. Moggallana shook the mansion by pushing it with his big toe. The monks, seeing the supernormal feat and recognizing the powers of Moggallana, went back to diligent practice and attained higher levels of spiritual development.
In another instance Moggallana observed that the King of the Heavens, Sakka, was being negligent and embroiled in sense pleasures. Traveling to Sakka’s heavenly abode, Moggallana used his big toe to shake Sakka’s mansion and thus reminded him of his mortality and the impermanence of all phenomenon. Sakka then went back to a more righteous way of life.
Once the Buddha and His retinue were going through great hardship as the rains were delayed and famine had set in. Moggallana offered to turn the earth so that the rich soil underneath would be brought up and crops harvested. The Buddha declined Moggallana’s offer saying that many innocent creatures would be killed if such an act was performed as there were many small creatures that lived in the soil. Moggallana then offered to build a road by using his supernormal powers, between the city in which they were residing and another which was lush with vegetation. The Buddha again declined, saying that they would instead weather out this famine, which would soon be over. These are the only documented instances where the Buddha declined a request made by Moggallana. In general, the Buddha, who had great confidence and respect for Moggallana, supported his decisions and requests.
(6). Transformation of form
The most famous and spectacular of Moggallana’s powers was his ability to transform himself into other beings. The power struggle and ultimate defeat of the King Cobra NandopAnanda are well-known. The Visuddhimagga describes this battle as follows. On one occasion the Buddha, with a retinue of 500 Arahanths, visited the Tavatimsa Heaven. In so doing they passed above and disturbed the divine royal snake, NandopAnanda. In anger he surrounded Mount Sineru with his massive coils and spread his huge hood so that the world below was enveloped in darkness. Several of the monks offered to subdue the enraged snake but the Buddha, realizing the powers of the divine serpent, chose Moggallana for the task. Moggallana then transformed himself into a huge snake and engaged NandopAnanda in a terrible battle. Drawing upon one power after another, appearing in various shapes, he overcame his opponent. In the last phase of the battle he assumed the form of Supanna, a celestial eagle, arch-enemy of the snake. At this point NandopAnanda retreated in defeat and Moggallana, resuming his form as a monk, brought the subdued NandopAnanda to the Buddha for an apology.
In the Jataka there are many references to Moggallana’s past births. In many birth stories the Bodhisatta, Moggallana and Sariputta had been together as brothers, friends, ministers or disciples . There are also recorded instances of other past associations. The Jataka also brings to light the strong bond between Moggallana and Sariputta. For in many instances they were associated and close friends. In general, however, Sariputta was of a higher station than Moggallana though this is more apparent when they were both in animal births. In all, more than 30 instances of their past associations are recorded in the Jataka.
Moggallana has left a legacy of his experiences in sixty-three verses, which are recorded in the Theragatha. The following emphasize his inwardly-directed efforts, his powers of meditation, his happiness at his friends’ emancipation, His experience of the truth of no soul and of the supernormal, and his final deliverance.
"Living in the forest, subsisting on alms food,
Delighting in the scraps that came into our bowl,
Let us tear apart the army of Death
Firmly concentrated within ourselves.
Living in the forest, subsisting of alms food,
Delighting in the scraps that came into our bowl,
Let us shatter the army of Death
As an elephant does a hut of reeds.
Then there was terror, then there was excitement,
When Sariputta, possessed of many qualities,
Had been quenched.
Truly the constituent elements are impermanent,
Subject to arising and passing away.
Having arisen, they cease,
Their quiescence is happiness.
Those who see the five elements of existence as other
And not as self,
Have pierced a subtle thing as a tip of hair
With an arrow.
Flashes of lightning fall upon the cleft
Of the mountains Vebhara and Pandava
But gone within the cleft he meditates,
The son of the peerless, Stable One.
Tranquil, still the sage resorts
To remote places for his lodgings,
A true heir of the supreme Buddha
He is venerated even by Brahma.
In but a moment I can create
Ten times a million bodies,
I am skilled in transformation,
I am the master of psychic powers.
A master of concentration and knowledge,
Moggallana, gone to perfection
A sage in the dispensation of the Detached One,
With concentrated faculties has cut off his bonds
As an elephant bursts a rotten creeper.
The Teacher has been served by me,
The Buddha’s Teaching has been done,
The heavy burden has been dropped,
The conduit to becoming has been uprooted.
The goal has been attained by me,
For the sake of which I have gone forth,
From the home life into the homeless,
The destruction of all fetters."
-- (Theragatha 1146, 1147, 1158, 1160, 1167, 1168, 1182-1186)
Moggallana’s Last Days
Even though Moggallana had supernormal powers and was an Arahanth he did not, unlike his friend Sariputta, have a peaceful death. Moggallana’s ability to see into other realms and explain the operation of the law of kamma, together with his extraordinary teaching skills, made him very popular. Many disciples of other teachers were placed in the Buddha’s Noble Path by Moggallana.
Ascetics of other sects, seeing their numbers dwindle, decided to kill Moggallana. Unwilling to perform the evil deed themselves for fear of exposure, they hired assassins to kill Moggallana. Moggallana was meditating in his hut in Black Rock on Mount Isigili on the outskirts of Rajagaha when they made the first attempt. Moggallana used his supernormal powers to escape unseen. The second time too the assassins found an empty hut. On the third attempt Moggallana’s supernormal powers momentarily deserted him. The assassins battered and crushed his bones and left him for dead.
Moggallana, however, was the second chief disciple of the Buddha. He was not going to pass away without first paying homage to the Buddha and obtaining permission for his Parinibbana. Gathering his battered body with supreme effort, using astral travel, Moggallana went to where the Buddha was residing and asked permission to die. Then, as was the custom for the chief disciple, he dispensed the Dhamma to those in attendance, performed many miracles to give confidence to the multitude gathered, and passed away to Parinibbana. Moggallana passed away two weeks after his friend Sariputta, in the month of Kattika (October/November).
The monks and disciples were outraged at the untimely death of their beloved teacher. The king ordered an investigation into the murder and caught the assassins, who informed him that they had been hired by Niganthanatha ascetics. The king then had the ascetics tortured and killed, in keeping with the laws at that time for murderers.
The devotees also asked the Buddha why Maha Moggallana had come to such a painful death. The Buddha explained the law of kamma that even an Arahanth could not avoid, and spoke of a grave crime that Moggallana had performed in a previous birth.
At the instigation of his wife, Moggallana had murdered both his parents, who were blind, by pounding them to death. His aged parents, who thought that they were being attacked by a band of robbers, implored their son, whom they loved, to save himself. Little did they know that it was their own son, who, in the guise of robbers, had committed this evil act. Moggallana suffered in hell for many thousands of years and had to die a violent death even as an Arahanth, for killing one’s parents is a grave (garuka) crime, the effects of which are not easily extinguished.
Moggallana’s ability to teach and his supernormal powers assisted him in his role of training the Sangha and the multitude. It was also Moggallana who, together with his friend Sariputta, brought the errant monks back to the Buddha when Devadatta caused a schism in the Sangha. He also assisted in the consolidation of the Dhamma and the administration of the Sangha.
Ananda was one of Prince Siddhattha’s cousins. His father was Amitodana, a younger brother of King Suddhodana. As his birth brought a lot of happiness to his family he was named Ananda. He was born on the same day as Prince Siddhattha.
Ananda was ordained as a monk in the second year of the Buddha’s ministry, when he was thirty-seven years old. Shortly after, hearing a sermon by the Ven. Punna Mantaniputta, he attained the first stage of sainthood, Sotapanna. When the Buddha was fifty-five years old, Ananda became His personal attendant.
The Buddha addressed the assembled monks and informed them that He had many attendants who had assisted him periodically but none of them had been able to fulfil their duties perfectly. "It is time" he said, "to have a reliable, trustworthy attendant." He then asked if any of the assembled monks would like to be His personal attendant. All the noble ones gathered immediately responded to His request by offering their services. Ananda, however, who dearly wished to be His attendant, modestly held back, thinking, "The Buddha would surely appoint me if I were the most suitable person." The Buddha, with His divine eye, observed that many eons ago Ananda had aspired to be a personal attendant of a Buddha, the fulfilment of which was to occur during His reign. Refusing the offers of the other monks, He turned to Ananda and offered the post to him.
Ananda agreed to accept the post if the Buddha would agree to eight conditions. Four of them related to the non-acceptance of gifts and favours from the Buddha. Ananda wanted to ensure that there would be no doubts cast that he had accepted this position in order to obtain material gain. The other four related to the performance of his duties while being mindful of his own advancement in the Noble Path. The Buddha agreed to Ananda’s requests.
The fact that Ananda felt comfortable in asking the Buddha, whom he loved and respected and to whom he was loyal, for a conditional acceptance, illustrates the relationship between the Buddha and His monks and the manner in which the Buddha ran His ministry. The Buddha was the undisputed leader. But there was no fear under His reign. Monks felt free to voice their opinion and to question the Buddha at will.
In truth, the term personal attendant does not convey all the duties and responsibilities carried out by Ananda. In addition to taking care of all the Buddha’s personal needs Ananda was an executive assistant to the Buddha and helped in the management of His large retinue of monks, nuns and devotees. He also had the unique advantage of hearing most of the Buddha’s discourses and because of his unusually retentive memory, was declared the Guardian of the Dhamma.
To attain the position of personal attendant of a Buddha, one needs to aspire to the position and perform many meritorious deeds over a period of 100,000 world cycles. Ananda made this aspiration 100,000 world cycles ago, at the time of the Buddha Padumuttara. At that time he was born as Sumana, the younger half-brother of the Bodhisatta Gotama (known at that time by the name Jatila). He provided the requisites during the three months of the rainy season to the Padumuttara Buddha and His retinue of 100,000 monks. He then aspired to be the personal attendant of a future Buddha. The Buddha Padumuttara looked into the future and saw that this aspiration would be fulfilled. He informed Ananda that in 100,000 world cycles he would be the personal attendant of the Buddha Gotama. From this time onwards Ananda continued to perform meritorious deeds to fulfill his aspiration.
In addition to being the Guardian of the Dhamma, Ananda was well-known for two other important events that he initiated. They were the planting of the Ananda Bodhi and the founding of the order of the nuns.
Many persons came to Jetavana to pay homage to the Buddha and to learn His teachings. Sometimes when they came, the Buddha was away helping a person in distress. As many had traveled long distances to see Him and were disappointed, Ananda asked the Buddha what could be done to help these disappointed devotees.
The Buddha then asked Ananda to bring a sapling from the Bodhi Tree in Buddha Gaya and plant it in Jetavana. He then said: "In my absence, let my devotees pay homage to the great Bodhi Tree that gave me protection during enlightenment. Let the Bodhi Tree be a symbol of my presence. Those who honor the Bodhi Tree would in essence be honoring and paying homage to me."
Ever since that time, Buddhists from all over the world have venerated the Bodhi Tree as they would the Buddha, with scented water, flowers and incense. Many uninformed persons have misunderstood this symbolic action by saying that Buddhists worship trees. The Buddha statue, the Bodhi Tree, the relics of the Buddha, are but symbols of the Buddha that people use to focus the mind on the compassionate and serene qualities of the Buddha. The veneration of the Buddha provides the tranquillity and peace of mind that many people cannot readily acquire to meditate, study, and listen to His teachings.
It was at Ananda’s request, on behalf of Maha Pajapati, that the Buddha instituted the order of the nuns. The Buddha had initially refused Maha Pajapati Gotami’s request to be ordained. It was after Ananda’s question as to whether women were incapable of reaching spiritual heights and the Buddha’s reply that women were as capable as men of reaching spiritual heights, that the Buddha had agreed to the formation of the order of the nuns. As such, women had a special regard and respect for Ananda. This, together with his pleasing nature, made Ananda very popular. It is said that there were none who spoke ill of Ananda or were envious of him despite his honoured position and proximity to the Buddha.
The documented past life stories of Ananda reflect that he was seldom a god (unlike his stepbrother Anuruddha) and seldom an animal (unlike his cousin Devadatta). Ananda was often a human and in many births was the brother of the Bodhisatta.
Even though Ananda was very learned and knowledgeable, he only reached the first stage of sainthood, Sotapanna, during the lifetime of the Buddha. His deep attachment to the Buddha prevented him from attaining Arahanthship. As a result, he was not aware of the exact moment when the Buddha passed away. Thinking that the Buddha had attained Parinibbana, he informed his stepbrother Anuruddha. Anuruddha, who was an Arahanth, observing with his divine eye that this was not the case, clarified to Ananda that the Blessed One had not yet passed away. He had reached a meditative stage known as Cessation of Perception and Feeling.
Shortly after the Buddha’s Parinibbana, on the day of the First Council of the Dhamma, (Sangayana) Ananda attained Arahanthship. Ananda was designated by the Buddha as the leader in five categories. They were:
Ministering of care
Thirty of Ananda’s verses have been preserved in the Theragatha. The following illustrate his encouragement to associate with good friends and those well-versed in the Dhamma.
"A clever man should not make friends
With a malicious man, or an angry man, or an envious man,
One delighting in (others’) misfortune;
Contact with a bad man is evil.
A clever man should make friends
With a man of faith, a pleasant man,
With wisdom and great learning;
Contact with a good man is fortunate.
See the painted puppet
A heap of sores, a compounded body, diseased,
With many bad intentions,
For which there is no permanent stability.
Desiring understanding of the doctrine,
One should associate with that disciple of the Buddha,
Who has great learning, is expert in the doctrine,
Possesses wisdom, is of such a kind.
-- (Theragatha 1018-1020, 1030)
Ananda declared the following verses to inspire others to follow his example as the Guardian of the Dhamma. He also encouraged others to carefully examine and understand the teachings prior to their practice.
"82,000 teachings from the Buddha
I have received,
2,000 more from his disciples;
Now 84,000 are familiar to me.
Who nothing has heard and nothing understood (those void of Dhamma)
He ages only oxen-like
His stomach (body) only, grows and grows
But his insight deepens not.
Thou follow him who has heard much
Then what is heard shall not decline.
This is the tap-root of the holy life;
Hence a Dhamma Guardian you should be!
Knowing what comes first and what last
Knowing well the meaning too,
Skilful in grammar (analytical knowledge) and in other terms
The well-grasped meaning he examines.
Keen in his patient application
He strives to weigh the meaning well.
At the right time he makes the effort
And inwardly collects his mind."
-- (Theragatha 1024,1025,1027-1029)
Ananda passed away at the age of one hundred and twenty. The Dhammapada states that as people on both sides of the River Rohini wanted his relics, Ananda preached the Dhamma to the people while seated in the air in the middle of the river and wished that his body would split in two with one part falling on one bank of the river and the other part on the other bank of the river. He then entered the ecstatic meditation on fire. Flames instantly issued from his body and, as willed, one portion of his relics fell on one side of the river while the other portion fell on the other side. The people then enshrined his relics in stupas so that they could honour him.
Ananda’s greatest contribution to the Dhamma occurred three months after the Parinibbana of the Lord Buddha. The Buddha had declared Ananda as the guardian of the Dhamma because of his retentive memory. At the First Sangha Council, Ananda, under the direction of Maha Kassapa, led the five hundred Arahanths in the recitation of the Teachings and helped in the codification of the Dhamma. This method of preservation of the Dhamma was used again in later years. The second Sangha Council was led by one of Ananda’s pupils.