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Moggaliputta-Tissa (ca. 327 BC – 247 BC), (born in Pataliputra, Magadha (now Patna, India) was a Buddhist monk and scholar who lived in the 3rd century BC. David Kalupahana sees him as a predecessor of Nagarjuna in being a champion of the middle-way and a reviver of the original philosophical ideals of the Buddha.
He was the spiritual teacher of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, and his son Mahinda, who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Moggaliputta-Tissa also presided over the Third Buddhist Council. According to the Mahavamsa, he had consented himself to be reincarnated as a human in order to chair the council, on the request of the arahants who has presided over the second.
He was the son of Mogalli of Pataliputra, as a Hindu in the brahmin caste as Tissa. According to the Mahavamsa, Tissa, who was thoroughly proficient in the Vedas, at a young age was sought after by the Buddhist monks Siggava and Candavajji for conversion, as they went on their daily alms round. At the age of seven, Tissa was angered when Siggava, a Buddhist monk, occupied his seat in his house and berated him. Siggava responded by asking Tissa a question about the Cittayamaka which Tissa was not able to answer, and he expressed a desire to learn the dharma, converting to Buddhism. After obtaining the consent of his parents, he joined the Sangha as Siggava's disciple, who taught him the Vinaya and Candavajji the Abhidhamma Pitakas. He later attained arahantship and became an acknowledged leader of the monks at Pataliputra. He became known as Moggaliputta-Tissa.
At a festival for the dedication of the Asokārāma and the other viharas built by Ashoka, Moggaliputta-Tissa, in answer to a question, informed Ashoka that one becomes a kinsman of the Buddha's religion only by letting one's son or daughter enter the Sangha. Upon this suggestion, Ashoka had both his son Mahinda and daughter Sanghamitta ordained.
Moggaliputta acted as Mahinda's teacher until Mahinda was sent to propagate Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Later, due to the great gains which accrued to the Sangha through Ashoka's patronage of Buddhism, he perceived that the Order had become corrupt. He committed the monks to the leadership of Mahinda, and lived in self-imposed solitary retreat for seven years on the Ahoganga pabbata. Ashoka recalled him to Pataliputra after some monks had been murdered by royal officials. After some initial reluctance, he traveled by boat to Pataliputra, and was met at the landing place by Ashoka.
Ashoka had a dream on the previous night which royal soothsayers interpreted to mean that an eminent ascetic would touch him on the right hand. As the Moggaliputta touched Ashoka's hand the royal guards were about to carry out an instantaneous death penalty. Ashoka restrained his guards and Moggaliputta took his hand as a sign that he accepted him as a disciple.
On the advice of Moggaliputta, Ashoka convened the Third Buddhist Council in Pataliputra, in the Asokārāma, which was attended by some 1,000 monks in 253 BC. In his presence, Ashoka questioned the assembled monks on their views of various doctrines, and those who held views which were deemed to be contrary to Buddhism were disrobed. He compiled the Kathavatthu, in refutation of those views, and it was in this council that this text was approved and added to the Abhidhamma. Moggaliputta later made arrangements arising from the council to send monks outside of the Mauryan Empire to propagate Buddhism, and arranged for a bodhi tree sapling to be sent to Sri Lanka.
- David Kalupahana, Mulamadhyamakakarika of Nagarjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way. Motilal Banarsidass, 2005, pages 2,5.
- Ahir, Diwan Chand (1989). Heritage of Buddhism.