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|Most Venerable Mahā Moggallāna Maha Thero|
|Dharma names||Moggallāna, Mahā Maudgalyāyana|
|Born||c. 568 BCE
Kolitha village, Magadha (today in the Indian State of Bihar)
|Died||c. 484 BCE (aged 84)
Kālasilā cave, Magadha
|Parents||Moggalī Brahmin lady (mother)|
|Title||Vāmasāvaka (Left hand side chief disciple of Gautama Buddha) & Dutiyasāvaka (Second chief disciple of Gautama Buddha)|
|Students||Most Ven. Rahula Maha Thera, etc.|
(rōmaji: Mokuren or Mokkenren)
|Sinhala||මහා මොග්ගල්ලාන මහ රහතන් වහන්සේ|
|Glossary of Buddhism|
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Maudgalyāyana (Pali: Moggallāna), also known as Mahāmaudgalyāyana, was one of the Sakyamuni Buddha's closest disciples. A contemporary of disciples such as Subhuti, Sariputra, and Mahakasyapa, he is considered the second of the Buddha's two foremost disciples (foremost in psychic powers), together with Sariputra. He was born as in a Brahmin family of the village Kolita, after which he was named. His mother was a female Brahmin called Mogallani, and his father was the village chief. Kolita was born on the same day as Upatissa (later to be known as Sariputra), and the two were friends since childhood.
Finding the Buddha
According to the Pali scriptures and their commentaries, Kolita and Upatissa developed an interest in the spiritual life when they were young. One day they were watching a show and sitting there, a sense of disenchantment and spiritual urgency came to them: they wished to leave the worldly life behind and started their spiritual life under the wanderer (Pali: paribbājaka) Sañjaya in the Indian Sceptic tradition. After a while, the two left Sañjaya and continued their spiritual search. They made an agreement that the first who would find the "ambrosia" of the spiritual life would tell the other. One day Upatissa met a Buddhist monk named Asvajit (Pali: Assaji), whose deportment inspired Upatissa to approach Asvajit and learn more. Asvajit then told him the essence of the Buddha's teaching in a few words:
|“||Of all phenomena sprung from a cause
The Teacher the cause hath told;
And he tells, too, how each shall come to its end,
For such is the word of the Sage.
These words helped Upatissa to attain the first stage on the Buddhist spiritual path. After this, Upatissa told Kolita about his discovery and Kolita also attained the first stage. They attempted in vain to persuade Sanjaya to join them, but the latter's five hundred students did follow Upatissa and Kolita. They all went to ordain as monks under the Buddha in Veluvana, and all except Upatissa and Kolita attained arhat (last stage of enlightenment). Since Maudgalyayana had not attained enlightenment yet, he continued to strive for it. He attained enlightenment in Magadha, in a village called Kallavala, after he had a vision of the Buddha.
Asvajit's brief statement has traditionally been described as the essence of the Buddhist teaching, and according to the writer Thanissaro Bhikkhu, was later recommended in one of Emperor Asoka's edicts as subject of study and reflection. T.W. Rhys Davids believes the brief poem may have made a special impression on Maudgalyayana and Sariputta, because of the Buddhist emphasis on causation.[note 1]
Death: the arhat's karma
According to the Pali tradition, Maudgalyayana 's death came in November of the same year as the Buddha's passing, when Maudgalyayana was traveling in Magadha. He died at the age of eighty-four. Some accounts put forth that religious cultists stoned him to death, others say they were robbers. The Pali tradition states that a Jain monk persuaded the robber Samana-guttaka to kill Maudgalyayana, out of jealousy for his success. Whatever the case may be, the general consensus is that he was killed in a violent fashion at the Black Rock Cave, on the Isigili Hill near Rajagaha.
At that time, Maudgalyayana dwelled alone in a forest hut at Kalasila. After an encounter with Mara he foresaw that his days were numbered, and felt the body to be just an obstruction and burden. He had no wish to use psychic powers to keep his body alive for much longer. Despite this, when he saw the bandits approaching, he made himself vanish with these powers. The bandits found an empty hut, and although they searched everywhere, found nobody. They left and returned on the following day, for six consecutive days, with Maudgalyayana escaping from them in the same way. According to Buddhist teachings, he did so not to protect his own body, but to save the bandits from the frightening negative karma of such a deed as killing an arahant. On the seventh day Maudgalyayana suddenly lost the psychic powers he had long wielded. Maudgalyayana realized that he was now unable to escape. The bandits entered, beat him repeatedly and left him lying in his blood. Being keen on quickly getting their payment, they left at once.
Maudgalyayana's great physical and mental strength was such that he was able to regain consciousness and was able to journey to the Buddha. There, Maudgalyayana died. This is often cited in Buddhists teaching to show that the effects of karma have greater power than the psychic powers, and that nobody can escape their karma.
On the day of Maudgalyayana's ordination, the Buddha gave him and Sariputra the seats of chief disciples. As they were just ordained, some other monks felt offended. The Buddha responded by relating that both disciples had aspired many lifetimes ago to become the two chief disciples under him. They had made such a resolution since the time of previous Buddha Anomadassi, when Maudgalyayana was a layman called Sirivadha. Sirivaddha felt inspired to aspire to become a chief disciple under a future Buddha after his friend, Sariputra in a previous life, recommended him so. He then invited Anomadassi Buddha and his monastic community to have food at his house for seven days, during which he made his resolution for the first time. Afterwards, he and Sariputra continued to do good deeds for many lifetimes, until the present.
In a previous life, Maudgalyayana was the only son born to his family. He was dutiful, and took care of all the household duties. As his parents aged, this increased his workload. His parents urged him to find a wife to help him, but he persistently refused, insisting on doing the work himself. After persistent urging from his mother, he eventually married. His wife looked after his elderly parents, but after a short period became hostile to them. She complained to her husband, but he paid no attention to this. One day, when he was outside the house, she scattered rubbish around and when he returned, blamed it on his blind parents. After continual complaints, he capitulated and agreed to deal with his parents. Telling his parents that their relatives in another region wished to see them, he led his parents onto a carriage and began driving the oxen cart through the forest. While in the depths of the forest, he dismounted and walked along with the carriage, telling his parents that he had to watch out for robbers, who were common in the area. He then impersonated the sounds and cries of thieves, pretending to attack the carriage. His parents told him to fend for himself, as they were old and blind, and implored the "thieves" to leave their son. While they were crying out, he beat and killed his parents, and threw their bodies into the forest before returning home.
After Maudgalyayana's death, people asked why Maudgalyayana had not protected himself, and why a great arhat would suffer such a death. The Buddha said that because Maudgalyayana had contracted such karma in a previous life (he had murdered his parents in a previous life—one of the five heinous acts that reap the worst karma), so he had no escape from reaping the consequences. He therefore accepted the results. Further, the Buddha stated that even psychic powers will be of no use in avoiding karma, especially when it is serious karma.
Several teachings are traditionally ascribed to Maudgalyayana, including several verses in the Theragatha and many sutras in the Samyutta Nikaya. Besides these, there are many passages that describe his deeds or events in his life. He was seen as learned and wise in ethics, philosophy and meditation. When comparing Sariputra and Maudgalyayana, the Buddha used the metaphor of a woman giving birth to a child for Sariputra, in that he established new students in the first attainment on the spiritual path (Pali: sotāpanna). Maudgalyayana, however, was compared with the master who trains the child up, in that he develops his students further along the path to enlightenment.
In teaching, Maudgalyayana is described to rely much on his psychic powers. Varying accounts in the Pali Canon show Maudgalyayana travelling to and speaking with pretas (spirits in unhappy destinations) in order to explain to them their horrific conditions and give them an understanding of their own suffering, so that they may be released from it or come to terms with it. He then reported about this to the Buddha, who used these examples in his teachings. Similarly, Maudgalyayana is also depicted as teaching devas and brahmas (heavenly beings).
Maudgalyayana was able to use his powers of mind-reading in order to give good and fitting advice to his students, so they could attain results quickly.[examples needed] He is described as using his psychic powers to discipline not only monks, but also devas, nagas and other beings. One time some monks were making noise as they were sitting in the same building as the Buddha. Maudgalyayana then shook the building, to teach the monks to be more restrained.
Maudgalyayana has an important role in many Mahayana traditions. The Ullambana Sutra is the main Mahāyāna sūtra in which Maudgalyayana is mentioned. The sutra covers the topic of filial piety, and traditionally was a discourse given to Maudgalyayana by Sakyamuni Buddha, in which the Buddha recommended Maudgalyayana to transfer merit to his mother, who was reborn in an unhappy destination.
Of particular popularity in China and Japan, the discourse is the foundation for the Ullambana (China) or Obon (Japan) Festival. This festival, also popular among non-Buddhists, is celebrated on the full moon in August or September (China), or from 13 to 15 July (Japan). In this period it is believed that ancestors reborn as pretas or hungry ghosts wander around. People make merits and transfer merit through several ceremonies, so the ghosts may be reborn in a better rebirth. The festival's ideas have striking similarities to Confucian and Neo-Confucian ideals, in that it deals with ancestor worship. It is for this reason that the Ullambana Sutra is often subject to criticism in Chinese popular culture. It has often been called inauthentic, because its Confucian leanings that are often at odds with other Buddhist teachings, as shown in Chinese literature and operas, such as Mulian Rescues His Mother. Nevertheless, in South-East and East Asia Maudgalyayana is honored as a symbol of filial piety, and also psychic powers.
In the early Buddhist canon, Maudgalyayana is held up by the Buddha as an example who monks should follow. The Pali name Moggallana was now and then used as a monastic name by Buddhist monks, up until the twelfth century C.E.
In the 19th century, archaeologist Alexander Cunningham discovered bone fragments in boxes with Maudgalyayana's and Sariputra's names inscribed on it, both in the Sanchi memorial mound (stupa) and at the stupas at Satdhara.
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