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Arahant Maha Moggallana 1

Homage to the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the Highest Self Enlightened One!

Pali Kanon

Published: 2014-01-26


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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 Assaji (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 from Nalerupu-cimanda 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.; DhA.ii.153).

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.


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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).

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).


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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.

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!

From: http://palikanon.com/english/pali_names/maha/maha_moggallana_th.htm

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