by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Sariputta and Moggallana Mahatheras 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 forty-one Arahat-Mahatheras and their Respective Etadagga titles. 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).
In this dispensation, the Venerables Sāriputta and Moggallāna are known as the two Chief Disciples of the Buddha. These two Venerables had mostly worked together for: their Perfection during the period of their performance of meritorious deeds for that goal. In their last existence too, they renounced the world together and became monks together. Hence their accounts are given together in the Aṭṭhakathās and Ṭikās. Following these treatises, in this book too, their accounts will be given together.
(a) Aspirations expressed in The Past
From this present kappa, one asaṅkhyeyya and a hundred thousand aeons ago, the future Sāriputta, a virtuous person, was born in a wealthy brahmin family and was named Sarada the youth. The future Moggallāna, another virtuous man, was also born in a another family and was named Sirivaḍḍhana the householder. They became intimate friends, having played together in their childhood.
One day, while Sarada the youth was examining and managing the wealth of his household (which was inherited from his forebears), as his father had died, a thought arose in him thus: “I know only about this existence. I do not know about hereafter. It is absolutely certain that beings born are subject to death. It will be proper, therefore, if I shall become a kind of recluse and seek the doctrine for liberation from saṃsāra.”
Sarada went to his friend Sirivaddhana and asked: “Friend Sirivaḍḍhana, I shall become a recluse and seek the doctrine for liberation from saṃsāra. Will you be able to become one, together with me?” “No, friend, I am not,” answered Sirivaḍḍhana. “You, friend, go ahead.” Then it occurred to Sarada: “Among those who pass into hereafter, there is none who is able to take his friends and relatives with him. It is indeed true that only his good or bad deeds are his own property [as they follow him].”
Thereupon, he opened his treasure houses and performed a great dāna to the destitutes, poor people, travellers and beggars. Thereafter, he made his way to the foot of a mountain and became an ascetic. Those who became matted-hair ascetics in the wake of Sarada numbered seventy-four thousand. The ascetic Sarada himself acquired the fivefold mundane psychic power and the eightfold jhāna attainment. He also taught his followers how to make preparations for kasiṇa meditation and practise that meditation and they too gained the same power and attainment.
At that time, Buddha Anomadassī appeared in the world. (The city and other particulars have been given in the Chapter 9.) One day, when Buddha Anomadassī surveyed the world of sentient beings after emerging from His jhāna of karuṇā-samāpatti at daybreak, He saw the ascetic Sarada and decided, thinking: “When I visit Sarada, a grand Dhamma-talk will take place. The ascetic will express his aspiration for Chief Discipleship, flanking on the right-hand side of some Buddha in future. His friend, Sirivaddhana, will do similarly for the other Discipleship, flanking on the left. By the end of the talk, Sarada’s seventy-four thousand followers, those ascetics who accompanied Sarada, will attain arahatship. I should, therefore, pay a visit to Sarada’s dwelling at the foot of the mountain.” Taking His bowl and robe and He set forth alone, without informing anybody else, like a lion-king. While Sarada’s pupils were away gathering fruit, Buddha Anomadassī made a resolution that Sarada should come to know Him as an Omniscient Buddha, and while Sarada was looking at Him, the Buddha descended from the sky and stood on the ground.
As he had seen the magnificence and the physical splendour of Buddha Anomadassī, Sarada studied them in accordance with physiognomical treatises and unwaveringly believed: “One, who is possessed of these marks, would become a Universal Monarch if he were to live a household life, but, if he were to put on the robe, he would become an Omniscient Buddha.” He, therefore, welcomed the Buddha, paid homage with five kinds of touching and gave the prepared seat to Him. The Buddha sat down in that seat and the hermit also took an appropriate seat for himself.
At that time, the seventy-four thousand pupil hermits returned, carrying with them fruit of various sizes with immensely rich flavour and nutrition. Seeing the seating arrangement of the Buddha and that of their teacher, they remarked to him: “Master, we wonder, believing that there was no person higher than you in the world. But now it seems that this noble man is far superior to you.” The master reprovingly replied: “How dare you say so, pupils! You wish to compare a mustard seed with the great Mount Meru which is one hundred and sixty-eight thousand yojanas high. Do not weigh me against the Buddha.” Then the pupils said among themselves: “If this were an unworthy one, our master would not have given such a simile. Indeed He must be supreme!” So saying, they all prostrated at the feet of the Buddha and venerated Him with their heads.
Thereafter, the hermit told his pupils: “Dear sons, we have no gift that is proper to the Buddha. It was during His hour for collecting alms-food that He came to our residence at the foot of the mountain. Let us give alms to the best of our ability. Bring, pupils, big and small fruits that appear nice and wholesome.” Thus, he had the fruit brought and, having washed his hands, he himself offered the fruit by putting them in the bowl. No sooner had the Buddha accepted the fruit than devas put ambrosia in the bowl. Sarada offered water that had been duly filtered by himself Having eaten the fruit, the Buddha washed His hand and sat calm and quiet. While the Buddha was sitting thus, Sarada summoned all his pupils and remained speaking to the Buddha, words that ought to be remembered for long. Then the Buddha resolved that His two Chief Disciples should visit Him in the company of monks at this mountain foot. The two Chief Disciples (Venerables Nisabha and Anoma), knowing the Buddha’s desire, immediately appeared, accompanied by a hundred thousand arahats and, after paying homage to the Buddha, stood at suitable places.
Thereupon, the hermit Sarada called his hermit-pupils and ordered: “Dear sons, the seat made for the Buddha is still low. The hundred thousand monks are also without seats. You, dear sons, should today do highly appreciable honour to the Buddha. Bring beautiful and fragrant flowers from the foot of the mountain.” The time spent on giving the order seemed even longer. The power of the mighty ones is wonderful beyond imagination. Instantly, therefore the the hermit pupils miraculously brought flowers of beauty and fragrance and made them into the Buddha seat, measuring a yojana. The floral seat made for the two Chief Disciples measured three gāvutas each and that for the rest of monks measured half a yojana or two gāvutas. Even for the youngest monk, the seat was one usabha in measurement.
After making the seats in this manner, Sarada stood before the Buddha and addressed Him with his joined hands raised: “Exalted Buddha, please take this seat of flowers for my long welfare and happiness.” Buddha Anomadassī surmounted on the sent and sat down and remained there, engaging in nirodha-samāpatti for seven days. Knowing what the Buddha was doing, the two Chief Disciples and the rest of monks, while remaining in their respective seats, in the wake of the Master, engaged themselves in jhānas.
Sarada the hermit, stood, holding a floral umbrella over the Buddha. While the Buddha was being absorbed in nirodha-samāpatti, the hermit pupils sought various roots and fruit during the food gathering hour and ate them. For the rest of the time, they stood, raising their joined hands in the direction of the Buddha. Sarada, however, did not move even for searching for fruit but held the umbrella over the Buddha and spent the time by means of the food of rapture.
Emerging from nirodha-samāpatti, the Buddha asked the Chief Disciple, Venerable Nisabha, who was sitting near Him on His right side: “Preach, dear son, a sermon in appreciation of the flowers, to the honouring hermits.” With his mind immensely gladdened, as a heroic warrior who had received a great reward from the Universal Monarch, the Venerable Nisabha preached by virtue of his perfect intelligence as a Disciple. At the end of the Venerable Nisabha’s preaching, the Buddha asked the other Chief Disciple, Venerable Anoma, who was flanking on the left side: “You too preach a sermon, dear son.” Reflecting on the Buddha’s words contained in the Three Piṭakas, the Venerable Anoma gave a sermon.
The realization of the Truths and the attainment of release did not affect yet a single hermits despite the preaching of the two Chief Disciples. Thereafter, Buddha Anomadasī, having remained in His incomparable state of a Buddha, preached. By the end of His preaching all seventy-four thousand matted-hair hermits attained arahatta-phala. Sarada alone remained unaffected. Then the Buddha stretching His right arm and pronounced: “Come, monks.” At that very moment the hair and beard of all these ascetics disappeared and they became monks already equipped with the eight items of requisites.
Sarada’s Aspiration for Chief Discipleship
It may be asked: Why did he fail to attain arahatship though he was a great teacher? The answer is: Because he was then distracted. Expanded answer: Since the time when Nisabha the Chief Disciple, the Right Flanker, started preaching, Sarada had been repeatedly distracted by the thought: “It would be well if I should gain the same position as this Chief Disciple’s in the dispensation of the Buddha to come.” Because of this distraction, Sarada failed to penetrated and gain the knowledge of the Path and Fruition. (He was left behind with no acquisition of the magga and phala.)
After his pupils had become ehi-bhikkhus, Sarada the hermit paid homage to the Buddha and asked, while standing before Him: “What is the name of the monk who is sitting just next to you?” When the Buddha replied: “His name is Nisabha, my Right Chief Disciple, who, in my dispensation, can turn the Wheel-Treasure of the Dhamma after Me, who had reached the apex of the perfect wisdom of a Disciple and who had penetrated the fifteen forms of paññā.” Sarada the hermit said: “As a result of my act of merit by honouring You with a floral umbrella held over You for seven days, I do not long for the state of a Sakka nor that of a Brahmā but I wish to become a real Chief Disciple, the Right Flanker, like this noble Venerable Nisabha during the dispensation of some Buddhas in the future.”
When Buddha Anomadassī tried to foresee through His anāgataṃsa-ñāṇa whether Sarada’s wish would be fulfilled, He foresaw that it would be fulfilled after one asaṅkhyeyya and a hundred thousand kappas. So He said to the hermit: “Your wish would not go unfulfilled. In fact, when an asaṅkhyeyya and a hundred thousand kappas have elapsed, the Buddha Gotama will appear in the three worlds. His mother will be Queen Mahāmāyā; His father, Suddhodāna; His son, Rāhula and His left-flanking Chief Disciple, Moggallāna. But you will become Buddha Gotama’s right-flanking Chief Disciple by the name of Sāriputta.” Having prophesied thus, He gave a Dhamma-talk and after which He rose into the air in the company of monks.
Sarada the hermit then approached the Venerables who had been his old pupils and said: “Venerable Sirs, please tell my friend Sirivaddhana the householder thus: ‘Your friend Sarada the hermit has wished, at the foot of the Buddha Anomadassī, for the rank of the Right-flanking Disciple. For that of the Left-flanking Disciple of Gotama, a coming Buddha, you, householder, may decide.” After giving the message thus, Sarada went hurriedly ahead of them by another road and stood at the door of the house of Sirivaddhana.
Thinking: “Oh, my master has come after a long time. He has long been absent?” Sirivaddhana gave a seat to Sarada and he himself sat down in a lower seat and asked: “Venerable Sir, but your retinue of residential pupils does not show up.” “Well, they do not, friend. Buddha Anomadassī visited our hermits; we honoured the Sangha headed by Him to the best of our ability. The Buddha preached to us. By the end of the preaching, all the seventy-four thousand hermits attained arahatship and became monk, except myself.” “Why you did not become likewise?” asked Sirivaddhana. “Having seen Venerable Nisabha, the Buddha’s Right-flanking Chief Disciple,” replied Sarada, “I wished for a similar position during the dispensation of the coming Buddha Gotama. You too can wish for the (second) Chief Discipleship occupying the Buddha’s left hand seat.” When the hermit urged him thus, his friend replied: “I have no experience of talking with the Buddha.” Then Sarada said encouraging him: “Let the talking with the Buddha be my responsibility. On your part, make an arrangement for your great act of merit (adhikāra).”
Having listened to Sarada’s advice, Sirivaddhana levelled the ground measuring eight pai in front of the doorway of his house and covered it with white sand, scattered over it confetti of flowers of five kinds with parched rice as the fifth. He also built a shed roofed with blue lotus flowers, prepared the seat for the Buddha and arranged things dedicated in honour of the Buddha. Then only did he give a signal to Sarada to bring the Sangha headed by the Buddha. Taking his cue from Sirivaddhana, Sarada brought the Sangha, with the Buddha at its head, to Sirivaḍḍhana’s house.
Sirivaḍḍhana welcomed the Buddha and took His bowl and robe and respectfully brought
Him into the shed and offered water to Him and His Sangha and then with excellent food. When the meal was over, he gave highly valued robes to the Buddha and His Sangha. Thereafter, he said: “Exalted Buddha, this act of merit performed by me is not intended for a small reward. Therefore, kindly do me a favour in this way for seven days.” The Buddha kept silent in agreement. Sirivaddhana then performed a great alms-giving (mahā-dāna) in the same manner for a week. On the last day of the alms-giving, while standing with his joined hands raised respectfully in the direction of the Buddha, he said thus: “Exalted Buddha, my friend Sarada has aspired for the position of a Chief Disciple and the right- flanker to the Buddha Gotama. I too aspire for the position of the left-flanker Chief Disciple to that very Buddha Gotama.”
When the Buddha surveyed the future, He saw that the aspiration of Sirivaddhana would be fulfilled. So He prophesied: “An asaṅkhyeyya and a hundred thousand aeons from now, you will become a second Chief Disciple, the Left-flanker.” Hearing the Buddha’s prophecy, Sirivaḍḍhana was overjoyed. After giving a talk in appreciation of the dāna, the Buddha returned to the monastery in the company of monks. From then onwards, till his death, Sirivaḍḍhana made efforts to perform acts of merit. On his passing away from that existence, he was reborn in the Kāmāvacara deva-world. Sarada the hermit developed the four sublime practices (Brahmā-vihāra) and was reborn in the Brahmā realm.
(b) Ascetic Life adopted in The Final Existence
The Commentary says nothing elaborately about their good works done during the existences after their lives as the hermit Sarada and the Householder Sirivaḍḍhana, but it gives an account of their lives in the last existence.
Just before the appearance of our Buddha Gotama, a virtuous man, the future Venerable Sāriputta, who had formerly been hermit Sarada, was conceived in the womb of a brahmin woman, a merchant’s wife, Rūpasārī by name, in the village of Upatissa, near the city of Rājagaha. On that very day, another virtuous man, formerly Sarada’s friend, Sirivaḍḍhana, the future Moggallāna, took conception in the womb of Moggalī (wife of another merchant) in the village of Kolita, also near Rājagaha. These two great families had been very friendly households since seven generations ago.
When they were born, after ten months had elapsed, each boy was looked after by sixtysix nurses. On the naming day, the son born of Rūpasārī was named Upatissa because he was the scion of the head of Upatissa village. The son born of Moggalī was named Kolita as his family was chief in Kolita village When the two boys grew up, they became accomplished in all kinds of crafts.
The ceremonial paraphernalia of the youth Upatissa included five hundred golden palanquins to accompany him constantly whenever he paid a visit to the river, to the garden or to the hill for sport and pleasure As for the youth Kolita, it was five hundred chariots drawn by the best breed of horses that usually went along with him. In Rājagaha, there was an annual festival held on the hilltop. For the two friends, the couches were fixed and prepared at the same place. Both took their seats together, and while watching the show, they laughed when humour was effected and shocked when horror was; they also gave awards when they were supposed to do.
After enjoying the show in this manner many times, one day they became more sober at the show and were no longer amused by funny scenes nor frightened by horrible ones. Also, there were absolutely no more awards given where they were expected. Both of them thought thus: “Where are those things attractive to the eyes on this festive occasion? Those who participate in the show and those who come to see it will all disappear before the end of a hundred years. We should therefore search for some form of spirituality for our escape from saṃsāra.” They remained reflecting on the miseries of life.
Thereafter, Kolita said to his friend Upatissa: “Friend Upatissa, you show no satisfaction as on the other days. What are you thinking about, friend?” Upatissa replied: “Friend Kolita, I found nothing worthy in watching the show. Enjoyment of the festivity is useless; it is empty. I was, therefore, sitting with the thought that I ought to seek something for myself that would lead to liberation from saṃsāra.” Having said this, he asked: “Friend Kolita, why are you also wearing a long face and looking displeased?” Kolita’s answer was the same as Upatissa’s. Knowing that his friend was contemplating the same thing, Upatissa consulted, saying: “Our common idea, dear Kolita, is something well conceived. Those who seek release from saṃsāra should adopt an ascetic life. Under whom shall we become ascetics?”
At that time, the great wandering ascetic, Sanjaya, the leader of a religious sect, was staying in Rājagaha with a large gathering of pupils. The two friends agreed to become ascetics in the presence of Sañjaya, each with his five hundred attendants. Since the time of the two friends' association with him, Sañjaya had attained the height of his possession of retinue and fame.
Within two or three days, the two wanderers, Upatissa and Kolita, became well-educated in all the doctrines of the teacher Sañjaya and they asked: “Teacher, is that all that you have mastered? Or, is there still some more that we have to learn?” “That is all I have mastered,” replied Sañjaya, “you have learned all the doctrines of mine.”
The two friends then discussed between them:
“In that case, it is useless to remain observing celibacy (brahmā-cariya) under this teacher, Sañjaya. We have come from the life of householders in quest of release from saṃsāra. Never shall we be able to achieve that release in his presence. Vast is the Jambudipa. If we wonder about villages, towns and royal cities and search, certainly we shall find some teacher who will give us the means leading to liberation.”
From that time onwards, they visited the places, which they learned were the resort of learned monks and brahmins and had doctrinal dialogues and discussions. There were, however, no monks and brahmins who were really learned and able to answer the questions raised by the two wandering friends. In fact, it was the two friends who had to solve the problems put forth by the so-called learned sages. Having failed to find someone whom they should regard as their teacher, though they had roamed about all over the Jambudīpa and making inquiries, they returned to their ascetic dwellings and made an agreement between themselves that whosoever received the doctrine concerning immortality earlier, should inform the other.
The time was the first waxing moon of Māgha, about half a month after the arrival of the Buddha in the city of Rājagaha. (Readers are referred to Chapter 25. This Chapter contains such episodes as (b) Conversion of the two friends and their pupils from the state of wandering ascetics to that of ehi-bhikkhus in the presence of the Buddha and (c) their attainment of the height of wisdom as Disciples. These episodes will therefore be omitted here.)
(c) Etadagga Title achieved
In the year He became enlightened, the Buddha passed His vassa in the Deer Park; thence He went to the Uruvelā forest and converted a thousand hermits headed by the three Kassapa brothers and established them in arahatship by means of the Āditta-pariyāya Sutta. On the full moon day of Phussa, He arrived at Rājagaha in the company of a thousand monks. After a fortnight, on the first waxing moon of Māgha, Upatissa met the arahat, Assaji, a member of the Band of Five, in Rājagaha. Having listened to the verse beginning with “Ye dhamma hetuppabhavā,” from the Venerable Assaji, Upatissa became a sotāpanna ariya. So did Kolita, after having heard the verse through Upatissa. Thereafter, both noble sotāpanna friends and their followers became ehi-bhikkhus. Before they became such monks, the followers attained arahatship the moment they heard the discourse from the Buddha. As the wisdom of Discipleship was too great to achieve, the future Chief Disciples were still away from that state, and it was on the seventh day of his bhikkhuhood that Mahā Moggallāna became arahat and it was on the fifteenth day, that is, on the full-moon day of Māgha, that Sāriputta did. (Vide Chapter 25.)
In this manner, the two Venerables reached the apex of their perfections and wisdom in Chief Discipleship while the Buddha was staying in Rājagaha.
“Monks, among my disciples who are of great wisdom, Sāriputta is the foremost.”
“Etadaggaṃ bhikkhave mama sāvakānaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ iddhimantānaṃ yadidaṃ Mahā Moggallāno.”
“Monks, among my disciples who are of great supernatural powers, Mahā Moggallāna is the foremost.”
With these words, the Buddha placed the Venerable Sāriputta the foremost in great wisdom and the Venerable Moggallāna in the foremost in great supernatural powers.
These two Venerables had practised for the welfare of sentient beings for fortyfour years since they became bhikkhus. The discourses given by them are quite numerous in the five Nikāyas or the three Piṭakas. They are so numerous that it is almost impossible to reproduce them here, especially, the Paṭisambhidāmgga Pāli, the Mahāniddea Pāli and the Cūlaniddesa Pāli which embody the words of Venerable Sāriputta. His Thera-gāthā forms a potpourri of his doctrines. So does Moggallāna’s gāthā, his doctrinal miscellany. Those who desire them may read the translations of the texts concerned. Here in this work, however, the account of their attainment, after making efforts for the welfare of sentient beings for forty-four years will be given,
Soon after the parinibbāna of the two Chief Disciples, the Buddha went on a great circular (mahāmaṇḍala) tour in the company of monks and reached the town of Ukkacela where He made His alms-round, and delivered the Ukkacela Sutta on the sand banks of the Gaṅgā. (The full text of the Sutta may be read in the Mahāvagga Saṃyutta.