Once the Blessed One was dwelling in the Vajji country, at Ukkacela on the bank of the river Ganges, not long after Sariputta and Maha Moggallana had passed away. And at that time the Blessed One was seated in the open, surrounded by company of monks.
The Blessed One surveyed the silent gathering of monks, and then spoke to them, saying:
"This assembly, O bhikkhus, appears indeed empty to me, now that Sariputta and Maha Moggallana have passed away. Not empty, for me, is an assembly, nor need I have concern for a place where Sariputta and Maha Moggallana dwell."
"Those who in the past have been Holy Ones. Fully enlightened Ones, those Blessed Ones, too, had such excellent pairs of disciples as I had in Sariputta and Maha Moggallana. Those who in the future will be Holy Ones, fully Enlightened Ones, those Blessed Ones too will have such excellent pairs of disciples as I had in Sariputta and Maha Moggallana."
"Marvelous it is, most wonderful it is, bhikkhus, concerning those disciples, that they will act in accordance with the Master's Dispensation, will act in according to his advice; that they will be dear to the four Assemblies, will be loved, respected and honored by them. Marvelous it is, most wonderful it is, bhikkhus, concerning the Perfect Ones, that when such a pair of disciples has passed away there is no grief, no lamentation on the part of the Perfect One. For of that which is born, come to being, put together, and so is subject to dissolution, how should it be said that it should not depart? That indeed, is not possible."
"Therefore, bhikkhus, be ye an island unto yourselves, a refuge unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Teaching as your island, the Teaching your refuge, seeking no other refuge."
And with that profound and deeply moving exhortation, which echoes again and again through the Buddha's Teaching up to the time of his own final passing away, ends the story of the youth Upatissa who became the master's Chief Disciple, the beloved "Marshal of the Law." The Venerable Sariputta died on the full moon of the month Kattika, which begins in October and ends in November of the solar calendar. The death of Maha Moggallana followed a half-month later, on the Uposatha of the New Moon. Half a year later, according to tradition, came the Parinibbana of the Buddha himself.
Could such an auspicious combination of three great personages, so fruitful in blessings to gods and men, have been brought about purely by chance? We find the answer to that question in the Milinda-pañha1 where Nagasena says:
"In many hundred thousands of births, too, sire, the Elder Sariputta was the Bodhisatta's father, grandfather, uncle, brother, son, nephew or friend."2
So the weary round of becoming, which linked them together in time, came at last to its end; time which is but the succession of fleeting events became for them the Timeless, and round of birth and death gave place to the Deathless. And in their final lives they kindled a glory that has illumined the world. Long may it continue to do so.