by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Ananda Mahathera 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).
(a) Aspiration expressed in The Past
Over a hundred thousand world-cycles ago, from the present world-cycle, there appeared in the world, Buddha Padumuttara, who was born in the city of Haṃsavati as the son of King Ānanda and Queen Sujātā. The two Chief Disciples of the Buddha were Venerable
Devala and Venerable Sujātā. His two female Disciples were Therī Amitā and Therī Asamā. The personal attendant to the Buddha was Venerable Sumana. The Buddha had a hundred thousand bhikkhu-disciples and the privilege of attending to His needs was extended to His royal father. He and the Order of Bhikkhus stayed near the city, from which they collected their daily alms-food.
Before renouncing the world, Buddha Padumuttara had a younger half-brother by the name of Prince Sumana (who was the future Venerable Ānanda). King Ānanda appointed Prince Sumana, Lord of a district, which was a hundred and twenty yojanas from the capital. The Prince visited his father and his elder brother Buddha Padumuttara occasionally.
Once, there broke out a rebellion in the border region. The Prince reported the matter to the King, who said: “Were you not placed there to keep law and order?” The Prince, on receiving the King’s reply, took upon himself in quelling the uprising and restored peace. The King was pleased and summoned his son to his presence.
Prince Sumana left for the capital accompanied by a thousand officers. On the way, he discussed with them what reward he should ask, if his royal father were to grant him a boon.
Some of the officers suggested elephants, horses, towns, gems, etc. but a few wise ones among them said:
“O Prince, you are the King’s son. Material prizes are of no consequence to you. You may get them but you must leave them behind at death. You should ask for a boon that is meritorious. Your deed of merit alone will be your real possession when you leave this existence. So, if the King were to grant you a boon, ask for the privilege of attending on the Buddha (your own elder brother) for one vassa.”
The Prince was pleased with the idea. “You are friends indeed to me. I had never thought about such a noble ideal. I accept your advice.” Once in the capital, he was received with great love and esteem by his royal father who embraced him, kissed him on the forehead, and said: “Dear son, name any boon and I will grant it.” The son replied: “Great King, I wish to make my present life highly productive in the future, instead of going barren. To that end, I wish to attend on my elder brother, the Buddha, for one vassa. May dear father grant this privilege to me!” The King replied: “Dear son, I cannot grant this wish. Name any other.” “Dear father,” Prince Sumana said, “a sovereign’s word is steadfast as a rock. I do not want any other thing. I stand to my wish.”
The King then said: “Dear son, no one can know what the Buddha has in mind. If the Buddha does not accept your invitation what good is my concession to you?” “In that case, dear father, I will go and ask the Buddha myself and find out what he thinks of my request,” replied Prince Sumana. Having thus made the King committed to his obligation, Prince Sumana went to the Buddha’s monastery.
When he arrived there, the Buddha had just gone into His Private Chamber after having had His meal. Prince Sumana went to the congregation hall and met the bhikkhus who asked him the purpose of his visit. “I have come, Venerable Sirs,” he said, “to see the Bhagavā. Would anyone of you show me where the Buddha is now.” “Prince,” the bhikkhus said, “we have no right to see the Buddha as and when we want to see Him.” “Who, then, has that right?” the Prince inquired. “Bhikkhu Sumana has, Prince,” they said. “Where is the Venerable Sumana now?” And having been directed to where the bhikkhu was, the Prince went to him, made obeisance, and said: “Venerable Sir, I would like to see the Bhagavā. Would you present me to the Bhagavā?”
Bhikkhu Sumana then entered upon āpo-kasiṇa-jhāna in front of the Prince, and making his wish that the earth turn into water, he dived into the (mind-made) water and appeared inside the Buddha’s Perfumed Chamber. The Buddha asked the bhikkhu for his purpose. Bhikkhu Sumana answered: “Venerable Sir, Prince Sumana is here to see the Bhagavā.” “If so, prepare a seat for me,” said the Buddha. Bhikkhu Sumana then disappeared into the water from the Buddha’s Chamber and emerged from the water right in front of the Prince, in the monastery compound, and prepared the seat for the Buddha. Prince Sumana was very much impressed by the supernormal powers of the bhikkhu.
Buddha Padumuttara came out of His Perfumed Chamber and sat on the seat prepared for Him. Prince Sumana made obeisance to the Buddha and exchanged cordial greetings with Him. “When did you come, Prince?” asked the Buddha. “Venerable Sir, I arrived here just when the Bhagavā retired into the Perfumed Chamber,” replied the Prince, “The bhikkhus told me that they had no right to see the Bhagavā as and when they wished, and directed me to the Venerable Sumana. As for the Venerable Sumana, by saying just one word, he announced my presence to the Bhagavā and also arranged for mine seeing the Bhagavā. I presume, Venerable Sir, that the Venerable Sumana is intimate to the Bhagavā in this Teaching.”
“Prince, what you say is true. This Bhikkhu Sumana is intimate to the Tathāgata in this Teaching.” “Venerable Sir, what kind of meritorious action leads one to become an intimate bhikkhu-disciple to the Buddha?” “Prince, by giving in charity, by keeping morality and by observing the precepts, one may aspire to become an intimate bhikkhudisciple to the Buddha.” Prince Sumana now had the right opportunity to invite the Buddha to his place to receive offering. He said: “Venerable Sir, I wish to become an intimate bhikkhu-disciple to some future Buddhas, just like the Venerable Sumana. May the Bhagavā accept my offering of food tomorrow.” The Buddha signified the acceptance of the invitation by remaining silent. The Prince returned to his temporary quarters in the city and made preparations for a great offering which lasted for seven days at his temporary quarters.
On the seventh day, Prince Sumana paid homage to the Buddha and said: “Venerable Sir, I have obtained consent from my father, the King, to have the privilege of attending to the Bhagavā during the three-month vassa period. May the Bhagavā accept my attendance on Him for the vassa period.” The Buddha reviewed the benefit that would accrue to the Prince if the request be allowed, and seeing that it was going to be beneficial for him, said: “Prince, the Exalted One likes to stay in a quiet place.”
“Exalted Buddha, I understand! Speaker of good language, I understand!” said the Prince. “I shall now build a monastery for the Bhagavā. When completed, I shall send messengers to the Bhagava, Then may the Bhagavā and a hundred thousand bhikkhus come to our monastery.” The Prince left after obtaining consent from the Buddha. He then went to see his royal father and said: “Dear father, the Buddha has agreed to come to my town. When I send messengers to inform the time for the Buddha to come, may you see to the escorting of the Buddha on the journey.” He made obeisance to his father and left the city. Then he built a resting place for the Buddha and his company at intervals of one yojana along the 120 yojanas stretch of the road from the city to his town. Back at his own town, he chose a suitable site to build a monastery for the Buddha. He bought the site, a garden owned by a rich householder Sobhaṇa, for a hundred thousand. And he spent another hundred thousand for the building.
He built a Perfumed Chamber for the Buddha, sleeping places for (a hundred thousand) bhikkhus, latrines, huts, small caves and sheds, some for use by day and other by night and the enclosure to the monastic compound with gates. When everything was completed, he sent messengers to the King to escort the Buddha to start the journey.
King Ānanda made food offerings to the Buddha and a hundred thousand bhikkhus. Then he said to the Buddha: “My Son, Exalted Buddha, the Venerable One’s younger brother, has made all the necessary preparations to receive the Bhagavā, and is eagerly expecting your arrival.” The Buddha then made the journey accompanied by a hundred thousand bhikkhus, and resting for the nights at the rest-houses put up along the route at intervals of one yojana. The 120 yojanas distance was made without hardship.
Prince Sumana welcomed the Buddha from a yojana’s distance along the way from his residence. Giving a ceremonial welcoming with flowers and scents, he escorted the Buddha and the company of bhikkhus to the monastery.
Then he offered the monastery to the Buddha, saying this stanza:
O Great Sage of sages, I, Sumana, have bought the Sobhaṇa Park for a hundred thousand, and built this monastery at the cost of a hundred thousand. May the Great Sage accept my gift of this monastery.
Prince Sumana donated the monastery on the day of the beginning of the vassa. After the offering was completed, he called his family and followers and said: “The Bhagavā has come from a distance of one hundred and twenty yojanas. Buddhas attach importance to the Dhamma and not to material gifts. That being so, I will stay, during these three months, in this monastery, using only two sets of clothing and observe the ten precepts. You will attend to the Buddha and a hundred thousand bhikkhus for the three months as you have done today.” And so he spent the retreat at the monastery.
Prince Sumana ensured that the Buddha stayed not far away from his personal attendant, the Venerable Sumana, who attended to all His needs. He emulated the bhikkhu and set his mind on becoming such an intimate bhikkhu-disciple some time in future. So, about a week before the end of the retreat, he gave a great offering to the Buddha and the Sangha. On the seventh day of this great offering, he placed a set of three robes before every one of the hundred thousand bhikkhus and making obeisance said to the Buddha: “All my meritorious deeds that began in the city of Haṃsāvatī, at my temporary quarters, are not aimed at future worldly glory as Sakka or deva or māra. My aspiration in doing these deeds is to become the personal attendant to a Buddha of some future period.”
The Buddha reviewed and seeing that the Prince’s aspiration would be fulfilled, made the prognostication and then departed. On hearing the prognostication of Buddha Padumuttara, the Prince was so convinced of the certainty of the Buddha’s pronouncement as if he were to become the personal attendant of Buddha Gotama immediately (as predicted by Buddha Padumuttara), carrying the Buddha’s alms-bowl and robe.
Further Deeds of Merit in The Interim Period
Prince Sumana spent a hundred thousand years during the time of Buddha Padumuttara doing deeds of merit. At his death, he was reborn in the deva-world. During Buddha Kassapa’s time, he donated his cloak to a bhikkhu, who was on alms-round, to be used as the base for the alms-bowl to nest on.
Upon his death in that existence, he was reborn in the deva-world. After his deva existence, he was reborn in the human world in Bārāṇasī as its King. When he saw, from the upper storey of his palace, eight Paccekabuddhas travelling in the air coming from the Gandhamādāna Mountain, he invited them to his palace and offered food. He also built eight monastic dwellings in the royal gardens as residence of these eight Paccekabuddhas. Moreover, he made eight bejewelled seats for them, to be used on their visits to the palace as well as the same number of ruby stands for placing their alms-bowls. He attended upon the eight Paccekabuddhas for ten thousand years. These are some outstanding deeds of merit during the intervening period of a hundred thousand world-cycles; many other meritorious deeds also were done by him in that period.
(b) Ascetic Life adopted in His Final Existence
After performing various good deeds and thereby sowing seeds of merit during the intervening period of a hundred thousand world-cycles, the future Venerable Ānanda was reborn in Tusitā Deva realm along with the future Buddha Gotama. After passing away from that existence, he was reborn as the son of Prince Amitodāna of Kapilavatthu. He was named Ānanda, signifying the pleasure he caused by his birth to the family. On the first visit of Buddha Gotama to Kapilavatthu, a number of Sakyan princes headed by Prince Bhaddiya renounced worldly life and became bhikkhus as the Buddha’s disciples when the Buddha was sojourning at Anupiya Grove near the town of the same name. (Read Chapter 16-27).
Ānanda established in Sotāpatti-phala
Not long after becoming a bhikkhu, the Venerable Ānanda listened to a discourse by the Venerable Mantāṇiputta Puṇṇa and attained sotāpatti-phala. This is on record in the Saṃyutta Nikāya, Khandhavagga Saṃyutta, 4. Thera Vagga, 1. Ānanda Sutta. The gist of that Sutta is as follows:
The Venerable Ānanda then said:
“Friends, the Venerable Mantāniputta Puṇṇa was very helpful to us when we were new bhikkhus. He admonished us with this instruction: ‘Friend Ānanda, it is through having a cause that the conceit ‘I am’ arises through craving and wrong view (thus the papañca trio of craving, conceit and wrong view perpetuating the round of rebirth). It does not arise without a cause. Through what cause does the conceit ‘I am’ arise? Because of corporeality (rūpa), the conceit ‘I am’, along with its associates craving and wrong view arises; without such cause, the conceit ‘I am’ does not arise. Because of sensation (vedanā)... perception (saññā)... volitional activities (saṅkhāra)... Because of consciousness (viññāṇa), the conceit ‘I am’, along with its associates craving and wrong view arises;without such cause the conceit ‘I am’ does not arise.
“Friend Ānanda, let me give an example. If a young woman or man, who is fond of adorning herself or himself, looks at the image of her or his face in a clean and bright mirror or a bowl of clear water, she or he will see it depending on a cause (i.e. her or his own image and the reflecting surface of the mirror or the water), and not otherwise. Friend Ānanda, even so, because of corporeality, the conceit (mānā), ‘I am’, along with its associates craving (taṇhā) and wrong view (micchādiṭṭhi) arises; without such cause, it does not arise. Because of sensation... perception... volitional activities... Because of consciousness, the conceit, ‘I am’, along with its associates, craving and wrong view, arises; without such cause, it does not arise.
“Friend Ānanda, what do you think of what I am going to ask you: ‘Is corporeality permanent or impermanent?’ ‘Impermanent, friend.’
“Friends, the Venerable Mantāṇiputta Puṇṇa was very helpful to us when we were new bhikkhus. He admonished us with the above instruction. By hearing the exposition of the Venerable Mantāṇiputta Puṇṇa, I gained knowledge of the Four Ariya Truths (i.e., attained sotāpatti-phala).”
With reference to the above discourse, it is clear that the Venerable Ānanda became sotāpanna after listening to the Venerable Mantāṇiputta Puṇṇa’s discourse on the simile of mirror.
Appointment of Ānanda as Personal Attendant to The Buddha.
There was no permanent personal attendant to the Buddha during His first twenty years of Buddhahood, called the First Bodhi Period. During that period, a number of bhikkhus acted as personal attendant, carrying the Buddha’s alms-bowl and robe; they were: the Venerables Nāgasamāla, Nāgita, Upavāna, Sunakkhatta (formerly a Licchavi prince), Cunda (a younger brother of the Venerable Sāriputta), Sāgata, Rādha, and Meghiya.
On a certain occasion, the Buddha, attended by the Venerable Nāgasamāla, was making a long journey when they reached a forked road. The Venerable Nāgasamāla, departing from the main route, said to the Buddha: “Venerable Sir, I am taking this road (out of the forked road).” The Buddha said: “Bhikkhu, come, let us take the other road.” The Venerable Nāgasamāla then, saying impatiently: “Venerable Sir, take these, I am going that way,” made a move to put the Buddha’s alms bowl and robe on the ground. Thereupon, the Buddha said to him: “Bhikkhu, bring them to me,” and had to carry them Himself, and then went by the way He chose while the Venerable Nāgasamāla took the other way, leaving the Buddha. When he had gone a short distance, the Venerable Nāgasamāla was robbed by a gang of robbers who took away his alms-bowl and robe and also hit him on the head. With blood streaming down from his head, he remembered the Buddha as his only refuge and went back to Him. The Buddha asked him: “Bhikkhu, what has befallen you?” The Venerable Nāgasamāla related his story to the Buddha and He said to him: “Bhikkhu, take heart. Foreseeing this danger, I had asked you not to take that road.” (This is one of the incidents that led to the appointment of a permanent personal attendant.)
On another occasion (during the 13th vassa when the Buddha was staying on the mountain abode at Cālika hill), after the alms-round in Jantu village, the Buddha, with the temporary attendant Venerable Meghiya, was going by the side of the river Timikāḷā when, on seeing a mango grove, the Venerable Meghiya said to the Buddha: “Venerable Sir, take the alms-bowl and the great robe yourself, I want to meditate in that mango grove.” The Buddha dissuaded him thrice not to do so, but he would not listen. Then, no sooner had the Venerable Meghiya sat on a rocky platform to start meditating, three demeritorious thoughts oppressed him. He returned to the Buddha and related what had occurred in his mind when he tried to meditate. The Buddha solaced him saying: “Seeing that was to happen to you, I had told you not to resort to that place.” (For details about this event, read Chapter 32) (This is another instance that led to the appointment of a permanent attendant.)
On account of such mishaps, the Buddha, on another occasion, sitting on the Buddha’s seat at the congregation hall in the precincts of His Private Chamber at the Jetavana monastery, said to the bhikkhus:
“Bhikkhus, I have grown old now (He was then past fifty-five). Some of the bhikkhus attending upon Me would take a different route from what I chose (tacitly referring to the Venerable Meghiya); some bhikkhu would even think of putting down my alms-bowl and robe on the ground (tacitly referring to the Venerable Nāgasamāla). Now think of a bhikkhu who will attend upon me on a permanent basis.”
On hearing these words, much emotional awakening occurred to the bhikkhus.
Then the Venerable Sāriputta rose from his seat, paid homage to the Buddha, and said: “Venerable Sir, for one incalculable and a hundred thousand world-cycles, I had fulfilled the perfections simply to become a disciple of the Bhagavā. A person of great knowledge like myself must be deemed as one fit to be the permanent personal attendant to the Bhagavā. May I be allowed to attend on the Bhagavā.” The Buddha said: “That will not do, Sāriputta, wherever you are, there is the Doctrine. For you, expound the Doctrine in the same way as the Tathāgata does. Therefore you ought not to attend upon the Tathāgata.” After the Buddha had extolled the virtues of the Venerable Sāriputta, He repeated the offer to attend on Him. The Venerable Moggallāna offered himself for the post but was likewise rejected. Then the eighty great bhikkhu-disciples offered themselves, all sharing the same result.
Ānanda’s Eightfold Boon
The Venerable Ānanda remained silent without offering himself for the post. The bhikkhus then urged him: “Friend Ānanda, each member of the Sangha is offering himself for the privilege of attending on the Bhagavā, you should also offer yourself.” The Venerable Ānanda said to them: “Friends, a position (relating to the Bhagavā) is not something to be asked for. Does the Bhagavā not notice me? If the Bhagavā so wishes, He will say: ‘Ānanda, be my personal attendant.’”
Then the Buddha said to the bhikkhus: “Bhikkhus, Ānanda does not need anybody’s advice to attend upon the Tathāgata. He will do so on his free will.” Thereupon the bhikkhus pleaded with the Venerable Ānanda, saying: “Friend Ānanda, now rise up, and offer yourself to be the personal attendant.”
Then the Venerable Ānanda rose from his seat and asked the Buddha to grant him these eight boons:
“Venerable Sir, if the Bhagavā would agree to these four refraining conditions, I would become personal attendant to the Bhagavā:
(1) That the Bhagavā refrain from giving me fine robes that He has received.
(2) That the Bhagavā refrain from giving me fine food.
(3) That the Bhagavā refrain from letting me stay in the same dwelling place reserved for him.
That the Bhagavā refrain from taking me to lay supporters’ houses when they invite him.”
The Buddha said to the Venerable Ānanda: “Ānanda, what disadvantages do you see in these four matters?” And the Venerable Ānanda explained thus: “Venerable Sir, if I were given the four requisites enjoyed by the Buddha, then there is bound to arise the criticism that Ānanda has the privilege of (1) receiving the fine robes received by the Bhagavā, (2) receiving the fine food received by the Bhagavā, (3) having to stay together in the Buddha’s Perfumed Chamber, and (4) having the privilege of accompanying the Buddha who visits to the houses of lay supporters. I see those criticisms as disadvantages.”
Further, the Venerable Ānanda requested from the Buddha these four special privileges:
“Venerable Sir, if the Bhagavā would grant me these four special privileges, I would become personal attendant to the Bhagavā:
(1) That the Bhagavā would agree to go to the places I would invite.
(2) That the Bhagavā would give audience to alien visitors immediately on their arrival.
(3) That the Bhagavā explain to me any points on the Doctrine that need elucidation for me.
(4) That the Bhagavā recount to me all the discourses He makes not in my presence.”
The Buddha asked the Venerable Ānanda again: “Ānanda, what benefits do you see in these four favours?” The Venerable Ānanda explained thus: “Venerable Sir, in this Teaching which has eight marvellous quantities, (1) certain lay supporters, who have great devotion to the Buddha, do not have direct access to invite Him personally to their houses. They would ask me, as the Buddha’s personal attendant, to make their invitations and if I will accept their invitations on Your behalf; (2) those devotees, who come from afar to pay homage to the Bhagavā, should be allowed to see Him without much waiting; (3) whenever I am not satisfied with a certain saying of the Bhagavā, I, as his personal attendant, ought to be allowed to ask the Bhagavā to have those unclear points of the Doctrine elucidated. Venerable Sir, if the Bhagavā were (i) not to comply with my requests to accept the invitations that are made by lay supporters through me;or (ii) not to comply with my request on behalf of alien pilgrims to give early audience; (iii) not to comply with my request to have the right to ask for elucidation on doctrinal problems, then people would say: ‘What is the purpose of Ānanda’s personal attendance to the Bhagava, if he is devoid of even these things?’ These are the reasons in my asking for the first three boons. (4) As regards the fourth one, if other bhikkhus were to ask me: ‘Friend Ānanda, where was this stanza, or this discourse or this Birth-Story given by the Bhagavā?’ and if I should be unable to answer their query, they would say: ‘Friend, you have been so close to the Bhagavā as his very shadow, and yet you do not know even this much.’ Venerable Sir, to avoid such criticism, I am asking the Bhagavā this fourth favour, i.e. to relate to me all the discourses made by the Bhagavā not in my presence.
“Venerable Sir, these are the advantages I see in four boons I am asking.” The Buddha granted Venerable Ānanda all these eight which comprised the four refrainments and the four favours.
Ānanda’s Duties towards The Buddha
Thus Ānanda, after being granted the eight boons by the Buddha, became His permanent attendant. Hence the realization of his aspiration, for which he had fulfilled the perfections over a hundred thousand world-cycles.
His daily routine consisted of getting cold and hot water for the Buddha, making ready the three sizes of woodbine tooth-brushes to suit the occasion, massaging the arms and legs of the Buddha, scrubbing the Buddha’s back when He took a bath, cleaning up the precincts of the Buddha’s Perfumed Chamber, etc. Moreover, he was always by the Buddha’s side, seeing to the Buddha’s needs at all times and charting out an appropriate activity to be performed by the Buddha.
Not only did he keep a close loving supervision on the Buddha’s activities by day, at night, he also would keep himself awake by holding up a lamp and going round the precincts of the Buddha’s Chamber. Every night, he made nine rounds with the lamp in hand, his intention being to be ever ready when called by the Buddha at any hour. These are the reasons that lay behind his being designated as a foremost bhikkhu.
(c) Etadagga Titles achieved
In one occasion, when the Buddha was staying at the Jetavana monastery, he extolled the virtues of Ānanda, the Custodian of the Doctrine, in many ways:
“Bhikkhus, among My bhikkhu-disciples who have wide learning, (Ānanda is the foremost).”
(2) “Etadaggaṃ bhikkhave mama sāvakānam bhikkhūnaṃ satimantānaṃ.”
“Bhikkhus, among My bhikkhu-disciples who have mindfulness in retaining (remembering) My discourses.”
(3) “Etadaggaṃ bhikkhave mama sāvakānam bhikkhūnaṃ gatimantānaṃ.”
“Bhikkhus, among My bhikkhu-disciples who comprehend My Teaching.”
(4) “Etadaggaṃ bhikkhave mama sāvakānam bhikkhūnaṃ dhitimantānaṃ.”
“Bhikkhus, among My bhikkhu-disciples who are diligent (in learning, remembering and reciting My Teaching as well as in attending on Me).”
(5) “Etadaggaṃ bhikkhave mama sāvakānaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ upaṭṭhākānaṃ yadidaṃ Anando.”
“Bhikkhus, among My bhikkhu-disciples who render personal service to Me, Ānanda is the foremost (etadagga).”
Thus in Buddha Gotama’s Teaching, the Venerable Ānanda was named by the Buddha as the foremost (etadagga) bhikkhu-disciple in five areas, namely, wide learning, mindfulness in retaining the Doctrine, comprehending the Teaching, diligence in bearing the Teaching and in caring the teacher, by giving personal service to the Buddha.
Ānanda Mahāthera’s Parinibbāna
At the time of the First Council, in 148 Great Era, the Venerable Ānanda being born on the same day as the Buddha, was already eighty years of age. On the fortieth year after the First Council, when he was 120 years old then, he reviewed his life-maintaining faculty and saw that he had only seven more days to live. He told this to his pupils.
When people learned this news, those living on one side of the River Rohiṇī (the bone of contention between the Sakyans and the Koliyans concerning distribution of its waters that led to the Buddha’s discourse known as Mahāsamaya Sutta) said that the Venerable Ānanda had benefited much from them and so he would pass away on their side of the river. And those living on the other side of the river also said so’
On hearing these words from both sides, Venerable Ānanda thought: “Both groups have done much benefit to me. None can dispute this fact. If I were to pass away on one side of the river, those living on the other side would fight for possession of my relics. Then I would become the cause of strife between them. If there be peace I would have to be the cause of peace. It now depends on how I handle the matter.”
After reflecting thus, he said to both the groups:
“O male and female supporters, those of you who live on this side of the river have done me much benefit. Likewise, those of you who live on the other side of the river have done me much benefit. There is none among you who have not benefited me. Let those who live on this side gather together on this side, and let those who live on the other side gather together on that side.”
Then on the seventh day, he remained aloft in the sky at about seven palm trees’ height, sitting cross-legged above the middle of the river Rohinī and delivered a sermon to the people.
At the end of the discourse, he made the will that his body should split into two, with each portion falling onto each side of the river. He then entered into the jhāna of tejo-dhātu which is the basis of attaining supernormal powers. On emerging from that jhāna, the thought process pertaining to supernormal power arose in him. At the impulsion moment of that thought process, his body became ablaze and immediately after the end of that thought process, the death-consciousness arose and he passed away, realizing Nibbāna and making an end of all traces of existence.
His body split into two, as he had wished, one portion falling on one side of the river and the other portion falling on the other side. People on both sides wailed wildly. The outburst of their emotion sounded as if the earth itself were crumbling. The lamentation on this occasion would seem even more pitiable and desperate than it was on the death of the Buddha. They wailed for four whole months, muttering: “So long as we see the Buddha’s personal assistant who went about holding the Buddha’s alms-bowl and robe, we got some solace about the absence of the Buddha, but now that holder himself is dead and no more, we have no means to solace ourselves. The Buddha’s passing away is now complete for us.”
Hā saṃyogā viyogantā,
Dreadful indeed—being waited upon by grief, lamentation, etc. are all forms of association between spouses, kinsmen, friends, teacher and pupil, etc. because there inevitably comes the parting between those dear ones either through death or through severance.
Hā aniccā'va sankhatā;
Hā uppaññā ca bhaṅgantā
Dreadful indeed—being waited upon by grief, lamentation, etc. are all conditioned phenomena that have the nature of arising because they are subject to decay and dissolution.
Hā hā saṅkhāradhammatā
Dreadful indeed—being liable to sink in the turbulent ocean of woes—is the unalterable course of mind and matter, were conditioned phenomena, which have the characteristic of impermanence, the characteristic of woefulness and the characteristic of insubstantiality.