Arahant Maha Moggallana 1
Homage to the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the Highest Self—Enlightened One!
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The second of the Chief Disciples of the Buddha. He was born in Kolitagama near Rajagaha, on the same day as Sariputta (they were both older than the Buddha), and was called Kolita after his village. His mother was a brahminee called Moggalī (Moggallani), and his father was the chief, householder of the village. Moggallana's and Sariputta's families had maintained an unbroken friendship for seven generations, and so the children were friends from their childhood. Sariputta had five hundred golden palanquins and Moggallana five hundred carriages drawn by thoroughbreds. One day the two friends went together to see a mime play (giraggasamajja), and there, realizing the impermanence of things, decided to renounce the world. They first lived as disciples of Sañjaya, and then wandered all over Jambudīpa, discussing with all learned men, but finding no satisfaction. Then they separated, after agreeing that whoever first succeeded in finding what they sought should inform the other.
After some time, Sariputta, wandering about in Rajagaha, met
Assaji, was converted by him to the faith of the
Buddha, and became a
sotapanna. He found Moggallana and
repeated the stanza he had heard from
(ye dhamma hetuppabhava, etc.), and Moggallana also became a sotapanna. The two
then resolved to visit the Buddha at Veluvana,
after an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Sañjaya to accompany them. Sañjaya's
disciples, however, five hundred in number, agreed to go, and they all arrived
at Veluvana. The Buddha preached to them, and ordained them by the “ehi bhikkhu
pabbajja.” All became arahants except Sariputta and Moggallana. Moggallana went
to the hamlet of Kallavala (for details see Pacala Sutta, A.iv.85f, where the
village is called Kallavalamutta) in Magadha, and there, on the seventh day
after his ordination, drowsiness overcame him as he sat meditating. The Buddha
knew this, and appearing before him, exhorted him to be zealous. That very day
he attained arahantship.
On the day that Sariputta and Moggallana were ordained, the Buddha announced
in the assembly of monks that he had assigned to them the place of Chief
Disciples and then recited the Patimokkha.
The monks were offended that newcomers should be shown such great honour. But
the Buddha told them how these two had for a whole asankheyya and one hundred
thousand years strenuously exerted themselves to win this great eminence under
him. They had made the first resolve in the time of
Anomadassī Buddha. Moggallana had been a householder, named Sirivaddha, and
Sariputta a householder, called Sarada. Sarada gave away his immense wealth and
became an ascetic. The Buddha visited him in his hermitage, where Sarada and his
seventy four thousand pupils showed him great honour. Anomadassī's chief
disciple, Nisabha, gave thanks, and Sarada made a vow that he would become the
chief disciple of some future Buddha. Anomadassī saw that his wish would be
fulfilled and told him so.
After the Buddha's departure, Sarada went to Sirivaddka, and, announcing the
Buddha's prophecy, advised Sirivaddha to wish for the place of second disciple.
Acting on this advice, Sirivaddha made elaborate preparations and entertained
the Buddha and his monks for seven days. At the end of that time, he announced
his wish to the Buddha, who declared that it would be fulfilled. From that time,
the two friends, in that and subsequent births, engaged in good deeds.
AA.i.84ff.; Ap.ii.31ff.; DhA.i.73f.; SNA.i.326ff.; the story of the present is
given in brief at Vin.i.39ff.
Sariputta and Moggallana are declared to be the ideal disciples, whose
example others should try to follow (E.g., S.ii.235; A.i.88). In the
Saccavibhanga Sutta (M.iii.248) the Buddha thus distinguishes these "twin
brethren" from the others: "Sariputta is as she who brings forth and Moggallana
is as the nurse of what is brought forth; Sariputta trains in the fruits of
conversion, Moggallana trains in the highest good. Sariputta is able to teach
and make plain the four Noble Truths; Moggallana, on the other hand, teaches by
his iddhi-patihariya." (BuA.31)
Moggallana's pre eminence lay in his possession of iddhi power (A.i.23). He
could create a living shape innumerable times and could transfer himself into
any shape at will. Thag.vs.1183; he is recorded as saying that he could crush
Sineru like a kidney bean (DhA.iii.212), and, rolling the earth like a mat
between his fingers, could make it rotate like a potter's wheel, or could place
the earth on Sineru like an umbrella on its stand. When the Buddha and his monks
failed to get alms in Verañja, Moggallana
offered to turn the earth upside down, so that the essence of the earth, which
lay on the under surface, might serve as food. He also offered to open a way
to Uttarakuru, that the monks might easily go
there for alms; but this offer was refused by the Buddha (Vin.iii.7; Sp.i.182f.;
Several instances are given of this special display of iddhi. Once, at the
Buddha's request, with his great toe he shook the
Migaramatupasada, and made it rattle
in order to terrify some monks who sat in the ground floor of the building,
talking loosely and frivolously, regardless even of the fact that the Buddha was
in the upper storey. See
Pasadakampana Sutta, S.v.269ff.; also the
Utthana Sutta, SNA.i.336f.
On another occasion, when Moggallana visited
Sakka to find out if he had profited by the
Buddha's teaching, he found him far too proud and obsessed by the thought of his
own splendour. He thereupon shook Sakka's palace, Vejayanta, till Sakka's hair
stood on end with fright and his pride was humbled (See
Cūlatanhasankhaya Sutta, M.i.251ff). Again, Moggallana is mentioned as
visiting the Brahma world in order to help the Buddha in quelling the arrogance
of Baka Brahma. He himself questioned Baka in solemn conclave in the
Sudhamma-Hall in the Brahma world and made him confess his conviction that his
earlier views were erroneous. Thag.vs.1198; ThagA.ii.185; S.i.144f. ; other
visits of his to the Brahma world are also recorded when he held converse with
Tissa Brahma (A.iii.331ff.; iv.75ff.; cp. Mtu.i.54ff.).
In the Maratajjaniya Sutta (M.i.332ff) we are told how Mara worried
Moggallana by entering into his belly, but Moggallana ordered him out and told
him how he himself had once been a Mara named Dūsī whose sister Kalī was the
mother of the present Mara. Dūsī incited the householders against Kakusandha
Buddha and was, as a result, born in purgatory.
But, according to the Commentaries (E.g., ThagA.ii.188ff), Moggallana's
greatest exhibition of iddhi power was the subjugation of the Naga Nandopananda.
No other monk could have survived the ordeal because no other was able to enter
so rapidly into the fourth jhana; which was the reason why the Buddha would give
permission to no other monk but Moggallana to quell the Naga's pride. Similar,
in many ways, was his subjection of the Naga who lived near the hermitage of
Aggidatta (DhA.iii.242) (q.v.). Moggallana could see, without entering into any
special state of mind, petas and other spirits invisible to the ordinary mortal
eye (See, e.g., DhA.ii.64; iii.60, 410f., 479; S.ii.254ff.; where he saw petas
while in the company of Lakkhana; cp. Avadanas i.246ff.). He would visit various
worlds and bring back to the Buddha reports of their inhabitants (see also
Mtu.i.4ff. regarding his visit to the Nirayas), which the Buddha used in
illustration of his sermons. The Vimanavatthu (see also DhA.iii.291, re Nandiya,
and iii.314) contains a collection of stories of such visits, and we are told
(S.v.366f) that Moggallana's visits to the deva worlds - e.g., that to
Tavatimsa were very welcome to the devas.
Though Moggallana's pre eminence was in iddhi power, yet in wisdom, too, he
was second only to Sariputta. These two could answer questions within the range
of no other disciple of the Buddha (DhA.iii.227). The Buddha paid a compliment
to Moggallana's powers of preaching, when, having preached himself to the
Sakyans in their new Mote Hall at Kapilavatthu, he asked Moggallana, after their
departure, to talk to the monks, as he himself was weary. And Moggallana spoke
to them of lusts and of the means of getting rid of them. At the end of the
sermon the Buddha praised him warmly (S.iv.183ff). Mention is made elsewhere
(S.iv.262-9) of eloquent sermons preached by him on the jhanas, on qualities
which lead to true emancipation (A.v.155ff), and of visits paid to him by Sakka
in company with numerous other gods in order to hear him preach. Other devas
also went to hear him - e.g., Candana, Suyama, Santusita, Sunimitta and
Vasavatti (S.iv. 269 80). He was also consulted by those, such as Vacchagotta
(E.g., S.iv.391ff), and Vappa (A.ii.196ff), eager to learn from him the
teachings of the Buddha. When the Buddha went to preach the Abhidhamma in
Tavatimsa, it was to Moggallana that he entrusted the task of preaching to the
people who were waiting for his return. Moggallana, therefore, provided for
these people spiritually, while Anathapindika looked after their bodily needs
(DhA.iii.219). When the time drew near for the Buddha's return, Moggallana, at
the request of the people, went to Tavatimsa, diving into the earth and climbing
Sineru, in full view of them all, in order to find out what the Buddha intended
doing, so that the people might be kept informed (DhA.224; J.iv.265; cp.
Dvy.375). No task, which he might be told by the Buddha to perform, seemed to
Moggallana too insignificant. Thus we find him employed by the Buddha as
messenger to the arahant Uggasena, telling him that the Buddha wished to see him
(Ibid., iv.62). He was also sent to Sakkhara, to Macchariya Kosiya, to check his
miserliness and bring him to Jetavana (Ibid., i.369f.; J.i.347); and to Sīlava,
whom Ajatasattu was plotting to kill (ThagA.i.536). When Visakha was building
the Migaramatupasada and the Buddha was away on one of his journeys, Moggallana,
because of his iddhi power, and five hundred monks were left to supervise the
work, which was carried through without difficulty (DhA.i.414f). The Buddha
placed great faith in his two chief disciples and looked to them to keep the
Order pure. There is one instance recorded of Moggallana seizing a wicked monk,
thrusting outside and bolting the door (A.iv.204ff.). Once, when a monk charged
Sariputta with having offended him as he was about to start on a journey,
Moggallana and Ananda went from lodging to lodging to summon the monks that they
might hear Sariputta vindicate himself (Vin.ii.236; A.iv.374).
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Their fame had reached even to the Brahma world, for we find Tudu Brahma
singing their praises, much to the annoyance of the Kokalika monk (Kokalika had
a great hatred of them - e.g., A.v.170ff.; SN., p. 231ff.; SNA.ii.473ff).
When Devadatta created a schism among the monks and took five hundred of them to
Gayasīsa, the Buddha sent Sariputta and Moggallana to bring them back. They were
successful in this mission (DhA.i.143ff.; see also DhA.ii.109f., where they were
sent to admonish the Assajipunabbasuka). Kakudha Koliyaputta, once servant of
Moggallana and later born in a huge manomayakaya, had warned Moggallana of
Devadatta's intrigues against the Buddha, but the Buddha ignored this
information carried to him by Moggallana (Vin.ii.185; A.iii.122ff). When Rahula,
the Buddha's son, was ordained, Sariputta was his preceptor and Moggallana his
teacher (J.i.161; see SNA.i.304f., where the account is slightly different.
There Moggallana is spoken of as Rahula's kammavacariya.). Moggallana seems to
have carried out diligently the charge laid on him by the Buddha of looking
after the monks’ welfare. Among the verses, attributed to him in the Theragatha,
are several containing exhortations to his colleagues (Thag.vss.1146-9, 1165f );
some of the colleagues are mentioned by name - e.g., Tissa, Vaddhamana and
Potthila (Ibid., 1162, 1163, 1174f). Elsewhere (S.i.194f) mention is made of his
living at Kalasila, with a company of five hundred monks, watching over them and
discovering that all were arahants. Vangīsa witnessed this and praised
Moggallana in verse before the Buddha.
The love existing between Moggallana and Sariputta was mutual, as was the
admiration. Sariputta's verses in praise of Moggallana (Thag.vss.1178 81) are
even more eloquent than those of Moggallana in praise of Sariputta
(Thag.vss.1176). Their strongest bond was the love of each for the Buddha; when
away from him, they would relate to each other how they had been conversing with
him by means of the divine ear and the divine eye. E.g., S.ii.275ff.; Moggallana
elsewhere also (S.ii.273f.) tells the monks of a conversation he held with the
Buddha by means of these divine powers. For another discussion between Sariputta
and Moggallana, see A.ii.154f.
In the Mahagosinga Sutta (M.i.212) we find them staying in the
Gosingasalavana in the company of Maha Kassapa, Ananda, Revata and Anuruddha,
engaged in friendly discussion, referring their conclusions to the Buddha for
his opinion. Sariputta, Moggallana, and Anuruddha are again mentioned
(S.v.174f., 299) as staying in the Ketakīvana in Saketa. Among discussions
between Anuruddha and Moggallana is recorded one in which Anuruddha speaks of
the value of cultivating the four satipatthanas (S.v.294f). It seems to have
been usual for Sariputta and Moggallana, in their journeys, to travel together
at the head of the monks, and lay disciples, who gave alms to the monks, were
anxious to include them in their invitations. Velukandaki in Dakkhinagiri
(A.iii.336; iv.63); and Cittagahapati in Macchikasanda (DhA.ii.74f.).
Moggallana died before the Buddha, Sariputta dying before either. The
Theragatha contains several verses attributed to Moggallana regarding
Sariputta's death (vs.1158 61). Sariputta died on the full moon day of Kattika
and Moggallana two weeks later, on the new moon day (SA.iii.181).
According to the Commentaries (J.v.125ff) his death resulted from a plot of
the Niganthas. Moggallana used to visit various worlds and return with his
report that he had discovered that those who followed the Buddha's teaching
reached happy worlds, while the followers of the heretics were reborn in woeful
conditions. These statements diminished the number of the heretics and they
bribed brigands to kill Moggallana. They surrounded the Elder's cell in
Kalasila, but he, aware of their intentions, escaped through the keyhole. On six
successive days this happened; on the seventh, they caught him and beat him,
crushing his bones and leaving him for dead. Having recovered consciousness,
with a great effort of will, he dragged himself to the Buddha in order to take
his leave, and there he died, to the sorrow of the deva worlds. This sad death
is said to have been the result of a sin committed by him in a previous birth.
Acting on the instigation of his wife, he had taken his blind parents into a
forest, where, pretending that they were attacked by thieves, he had beaten them
to death. For this deed he suffered in hell for innumerable years, and in his
last birth lost his life by violence.
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The account in DhA.iii.65ff. differs in several details. The thieves tried
for two months before succeeding in their plot and, in the story of the past,
when the blind parents were being beaten, they cried out to the supposed thieves
to spare their son. Moggallana, very touched by this, did not kill them. Before
passing into Nibbana, he preached to the Buddha, at his request, and performed
many miracles, returning to Kalasila to die. According to the Jataka account his
cremation was performed with much honour, and the Buddha had the relics
collected and a Thūpa erected in Veluvana.
Moggallana's body was of the colour of the blue lotus or the rain cloud
(Bu.i.58). There exists in Ceylon an oral tradition that this colour is due to
his having suffered in hell in the recent past!
Moggallana is connected with characters in several Jatakas: thus, he was
- Kisavaccha in the Indriya Jataka (J.iii.469),
- Sakka in the Illīsa (i. 354),
- one of the devas in the Kakkaru (iii.90),
- the tortoise in the Kurungamiga (ii.155),
- Candasena in the Khandahala (vi. 157),
- the senapati in the Cullasutasoma (v. 192),
- the youngest bird in the Javanahamsa (iv. 218),
- the elephant in the Tittira (i. 220),
- the tiger in the Tittira (iii.543),
- Ayura in the Dasannaka (iii.341),
- the jackal in the Pañcūposatha (iv. 332),
- Suriya in the Bilarikosiya (iv. 69),
- one of the brothers in the Bhisa (iv. 314),
- Subhaga in the Bhūridatta (vi. 219),
- the old tortoise in the Mahaukkusa (iv. 297),
- Migajina in the Mahajanaka (vi. 68),
- Bījaka in the Mahanaradakassapa (vi. 255),
- the king's charioteer in the Rajovada (ii.5),
- the tiger in the Vannaroha (iii.193),
- the Garula king in the Vidhurapandita (vi. 329),
- the tiger in the Vyaggha (ii.358),
- the rat in the Saccankara (i. 32),
- Bhadrakara in the Sambhava (v. 67),
- Kisavaccha in the Sambhanga (v. 151),
- the jackal in the Sasa (iii.56),
- Canda in the Sudhabhojana (v. 412), and
- Gopala in the Hatthipala (iv. 491).
May all be happy and well!