The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990

This page describes Taming of Nandopananda contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as story of Māra. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

Part 4 - Taming of Nandopananda

Summary: Taming of Nandopananda, the Nāga King, by the Venerable Moggallāna.

Once, after hearing the Buddha’s Dhamma-talk, the merchant, Anāthapiṇḍika, invited the Buddha: “Exalted Buddha, please accept, together with five hundred monks, my alms food at my house tomorrow.” Having the Buddha’s acceptance, the merchant returned home.

The Buddha accepted Anāthapiṇḍika’s invitation and passed the rest of the remaining daytime and night-time. At dawn, when He surveyed the ten thousand universes, the divine Nāga King, Nandopananda, appeared within the view of His intellectual vision.

The Buddha reflected: “The Nāga King has appeared in my vision. Has he done any good works in the past?” and came to know that “the Nāga King, having no faith in the Triple

Gem, holds wrong views.” Again, when He continued to reflect as to who should free the

Nāga from the wrong views, He discerned the Venerable Mahā Moggallāna

At daybreak, the Buddha cleaned himself and addressed the Venerable Ānanda: “My dear

Ānanda, tell the five hundred monks that I shall make a celestial journey to Tāvatiṃsa Deva Abode.”

Particularly, on that day, the divine nāgas were preparing for the Nāga King’s feast and drunken orgy. Nandopananda was seated on a jewelled divine throne, and had the white divine umbrella held over his head. Surrounded by female dancers of three different categories of age, grown-up, young and those in between, and also by a host of nāgas, he was viewing divine food and drinks, etc., put in gold and silver vessels.

With the five hundred monks the Buddha travelled to Tāvatiṃsa, passing above the mansion of Nandopananda and thus making Himself visible to the latter.

Then an evil thought arose in the Nāga King: “These wicked shaven-headed monks go to Tāvatiṃsa and come out passing over our abode from one higher mansion to another. This time, however, we will not allow these monks to move on, who, while doing so scatter, dust over us.” With this evil intention, he rose from his jewelled seat, went to the foot of Mount Meru and after changing his original body, he coiled himself round the mountain in seven folds and concealed the celestial world of Tāvatiṃsa from sight by enveloping it with his hood that lay prone from above.

Then the Venerable Raṭṭhapāla asked the Buddha: “Glorious Buddha, formerly standing from here, we could see Mount Meru;we could see its surrounding seven mountains; we could see Tāvatiṃsa; we could see the Vejayanta palace; we could see Sakka’s flag hoisted on the Vejayanta Palace. Glorious Buddha, now we could not see Mount Meru, the seven surrounding mountains, Tāvatiṃsa, the Vejayanta palace, Sakka’s Flag, why?”

The Buddha replied: “My dear Raṭṭhapāla, this Nāga King Nandopananda is angry with you all, and so after coiling his body round Mount Meru in seven folds, he has covered it with his hood and created darkness.” Thera Raṭṭhapāla then said to the Buddha: “Glorious Buddha, let me tame the Nāga King” but the Buddha rejected his request. Thereafter, the Theras Bhaddiya, Rāhula and all others, rose one after another in the wake of Thera Raṭṭhapāla and made their offer to tame the Nāga King. But the Buddha did not give them His permission. (The reason for the Buddha’s rejection will soon be known.)

At last, the Venerable Mahā Moggallāna asked for the permission to tame the Nāga King and the Buddha granted it to him, saying; “Tame him, my dear Moggallāna.” Having obtained the Buddha’s permission, Venerable Moggallāna changed his body into that of a great nāga and coiled his body fourteen folds round Nandopananda and covering Nandopananda’s hood with his from above, he also pressed the latter against Mount Meru.

The Nāga King emitted powerful vapour. The Venerable emitted more powerful vapour, saying: “It is not that you alone have the vapour; I too have it.” The Nāga King’s vapour could not hurt the Venerable but the Venerable’s could hurt him.

Then the Nāga emitted blazing flames. Saying: “It is not that you alone have the flames, I too have them,” the Venerable emitted mightier flames. The flames emitted by the Nāga could not harm the Venerable but the Venerable’s could harm the Naga.

The Nāga King, Nandopananda, perceived: “This man is crushing and pressing me against Mount Meru. He is also emitting vapour and blazing flames.” Then he asked the Venerable: “Who are you, Sir?” The Venerable replied: “Nanda, I am the Venerable Moggallāna.” “In that case please wear your ascetic garb. Then the Venerable discarded his Nāga form (and assumed his original ascetic form) and entered the Nāga’s body by the right ear and came out by the left. Again he entered by the left ear and came out of the right.

Similarly, he entered the Nāga by the right nostril and came out by the left and entered by the left nostril and came out by the right.

Then Nandopananda opened his mouth for the Venerable who went inside him and walked from east to west and vice versa.

The Buddha warned the Venerable, saying:

“My dear son Moggallāna, be very careful. The Nāga King is of great power.”

The Venerable replied:

“I have successfully developed the four bases of psychic powers (iddhipāda) through the five kinds of mastery (vasībhāva). I can subjugate hundreds of thousands of divine nāgas of Nandopananda’s type, let alone his single self, Glorious Buddha.”

The Nāga King thought: “I have let the Venerable enter my body through my mouth. Be that as it may. When he comes out now I will keep him between my fangs, and eat him, biting him to pieces.” So he said: “Come out Sir, do not torment me by pacing in my belly.” The Venerable came out and stood outside. As soon as he saw the Venerable, the Nāga King, perceiving: “So this is Moggallāna,” snored fiercely. The Venerable entered upon the fourth jhāna and defended himself against the Nāga’s nasal wind, so the wind could not stir even his body-hair.

(Note. Other monks might have the power to perform miracles from the beginning but when the snoring took place, they would not be able to engage in jhāna as rapidly as those who were of instant consciousness concerning supernormal powers (khippa-nisanti) like the Venerable Moggallāna. That was why no permission was given by the Buddha to the other monks to tame the Nāga King.)

Then the Nāga King, Nandopananda, noted: “I was not able to stir even the body-hair in a pore of the monk’s skin by snorting. This monk is very powerful indeed.” and tried to escape. The Venerable, having changed his natural shape into that of a garuḷa, pursued the Nāga with the speed of that bird. Being unable to escape, the Nāga turned himself into a young man and fell in salutation at the feet of the Venerable, saying: “Venerable Sir, in you I take refuge.”

The Venerable Mahā Moggallāna said: “Nanda, the Exalted One is coming. Come, let us go [to him].” Having tamed the Nāga and freed him from the poison of conceit, the Venerable took him to the Master. The Nāga paid his respect to the Buddha and solemnly declared himself a follower. “Venerable Sir, I take refuge in you.” The Buddha gave His blessings, saying: “May you be happy both physically and mentally,” and then accompanied by the monks, the Buddha went to the house of the merchant Anāthapiṇḍika.

The merchant asked the Buddha: “Why did you come when the day was in far advanced?” The Buddha said: “There had been a terrible battle of life and death fought between Moggallāna and the Nāga King Nandopananda. (That was why I came late).” The wealthy merchant asked: “Who won the battle and who lost it, Exalted Buddha?” “The victory belonged to Moggallāna and the defeat to Nanda.”

Anāthapiṇḍika was so joyous and elated that he said: “Venerable Sir, may the Exalted Buddha and the monks receive my offering of meal every day for seven days. I will honour the Venerable for seven days.” Then the merchant celebrated the victory of the Venerable by honouring the five hundred monks, headed by the Buddha, for a week.

This account of Venerable Mahā Moggallāna’s taming of Nandopananda, the Nāga King, was taken from the Iddhi Niddesa of the Visuddhi Magga Vol. II and also from the exposition of the Mahā Moggallāna Thera Gāthā, Thera Gāthā Commentary, Vol II.

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