Great Disciples of the Buddha


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IN MANY TEMPLES OF SRI LANKA you will find, on either side of the Buddha image, the statues of two monks. Their robes are draped over one shoulder and they stand in the attitude of reverence, with joined palms. Quite often there are a few flowers at their feet, laid there by some pious devotee.

If you ask who they are, you will be told that they are the Enlightened One’s two chief disciples, the arahants Sāriputta and Mahāmoggallāna. They stand in the positions they occupied in life, Sāriputta on the Buddha’s right, Mahāmoggallāna on his left. When the great stūpa at Sāñchi was opened up in the middle of the last century, the relic chamber was found to contain two stone receptacles; the one to the north held the bodily relics of Mahāmoggallāna, while that on the south enclosed those of Sāriputta. Thus they had lain while the centuries rolled past and the history of two thousand years and more played out the drama of impermanence in human life. The Roman Empire rose and fell, the glories of ancient Greece became a distant memory; new religions wrote their names, often with blood and fire, on the changing face of the earth, only to mingle at last with legends of Thebes and Babylon; and gradually the tides of commerce shifted the great centers of civilization from East to West, while generations that had never heard the Teaching of the Buddha arose and passed away. But all the time that the ashes of the holy disciples lay undisturbed, forgotten in the land that gave them birth, their memory was held dear wherever the Buddha’s message spread, and the record of their lives was passed down from one generation to another, first by word of mouth, then in the written pages of the Buddhist Tipitaka, the most voluminous and detailed scripture of any religion. Next to the Enlightened One himself, it is these two disciples of his who stand highest in the veneration of Buddhists in the Theravāda lands. Their names are as inseparable from the annals of Buddhism as that of the Buddha himself. If it has come about that in the course of time many legends have been woven into the tradition of their lives, this is but the natural outcome of the devotion that has always been felt for them.

And that high esteem was fully justified. Few religious teachers have been so well served by their immediate disciples as was the Buddha. This you will see as you read these pages, for they tell the story of one of the 4two greatest of them, the Venerable Sāriputta, who was second only to the Buddha in the depth and range of his understanding and in his ability to teach the doctrine of deliverance. In the Tipiaka there is no connected account of his life, but it can be pieced together from the various incidents, scattered throughout the canonical texts and commentaries, in which he figures. Some of them are more than incidents, for his life is so closely interwoven with the life and ministry of the Buddha that he plays an essential part in it, and on a number of occasions it is Sāriputta himself who takes the leading role—as skilled preceptor and exemplar, as kind and considerate friend, as guardian of the welfare of the bhikkhus under his charge, as faithful repository of his Master’s doctrine, the function which earned him the title of Dhammasenāpati, Marshal of the Dhamma. And always as himself, a man unique in his patience and steadfastness, modest and upright in thought, word, and deed, a man to whom one act of kindness was a thing to be remembered with gratitude so long as life endured. Even among the arahants, those freed from all defilements of passion and delusion, he shone like the full moon in a starry sky.

This then is the man, of profound intellect and sublime nature, a true disciple of the Great Teacher, whose story we have set down, to the best of our ability, in the pages that follow. If you, the reader, can gather from this imperfect record something of the qualities of a perfected human being, fully liberated and raised to the highest level of realization, and of how such a person acts and speaks and comports himself toward his fellows, and if the reading of it gives you strength and faith in the assurance of what a human being may become, then our work has been worthwhile and is fully rewarded.



The story begins at two brahmanical villages in India, called Upatissa and Kolita, which lay not far from the city of Rājagaha.1 Before our Buddha had appeared in the world, a brahmin woman named Rūpasārī, living in Upatissa village,2 conceived; and so too, on the same day at Kolita village, did another brahmin woman whose name was Moggallī. The two families were closely connected, having been friends with one another for seven generations. From the first day of their pregnancy the families gave due care to the mothers-to-be, and after ten months both women gave birth to boys, on the same day. On the name-giving day Rūpasārī’s child received 5the name Upatissa, as he was a son of the foremost family of that village; and for the same reason Moggallī’s son was named Kolita.

When the boys grew up they were educated and acquired mastery of all the sciences. Each of them had a following of five hundred brahmin youths, and when they went to the river or park for sport and recreation, Upatissa used to go with five hundred palanquins, and Kolita with five hundred horse carriages.

Now at Rājagaha there was an annual event called the Hilltop Festival. Seats were arranged for both youths and they sat together to witness the celebrations. When there was an occasion for laughter, they laughed; when the spectacle was exciting, they became excited; and they paid their fees for the extra shows. In this manner they enjoyed the festival for a second day. On the third day, however, strange thoughts cast their shadows across their hearts, and they could no longer laugh or share in the excitement. As they sat there, watching the plays and dances, for just a moment the specter of human mortality revealed itself to their inner vision, and once they had caught a glimpse of it their attitude could never again be the same. For each, this somber mood gradually crystallized into a compelling question: “What is there to look at here? Before these people have reached a hundred years they will all be dead. Shouldn’t we go seek a teaching of deliverance?”

It was with such thoughts in mind that on this third day they sat through the festival. Kolita noticed that his friend seemed pensive and withdrawn and asked him: “What is the matter, my dear Upatissa? Today you are not happy and joyous as you were on the other days, but you seem to be troubled about something. Tell me, what is on your mind?”

“My dear Kolita, I have been thinking that there is no benefit at all for us in enjoying these hollow shows. Instead of wasting my time on such festivals, what I really ought to do is to seek a path to deliverance from the entire round of rebirths. But you too, Kolita, seem to be discontented.”

And Kolita replied: “My thoughts are exactly the same as yours.” When he knew that his friend shared his inclination, Upatissa said: “That was a good thought of ours. However, for those who seek a teaching of deliverance there is only one thing to do: to leave home and become ascetics. But under whom shall we live the ascetic life?”

At that time, there lived at Rājagaha a wandering ascetic (paribbājaka) named Sañjaya, who had a great following of pupils. Deciding to take ordination under him, Upatissa and Kolita approached him, each with his own following of five hundred brahmin youths, and all of them received ordination from Sañjaya. And from the time of their ordination under 6him, Sañjaya’s reputation and support increased abundantly.

Within a short time the two friends had learned Sañjaya’s entire doctrine. They then went to him and asked: “Master, does your doctrine go so far only, or is there something beyond?”

Sañjaya replied: “So far only does it go. You know it completely.”

Hearing this, they thought to themselves: “If that is the case, it is useless to continue the holy life under him. We have gone forth from home to seek a teaching of deliverance, but under him we cannot find it. India is vast, and if we wander through villages, towns, and cities we shall certainly find a master who can show us the path we are seeking.” And from then on, whenever they heard that there were wise ascetics or brahmins in this place or that, they went to meet them and learn their doctrines. There was none, however, who could answer all their questions, while they were able to reply to those who questioned them.

Having thus traveled through the whole of India, they returned to Rājagaha. There they made an agreement that whichever of them should find the Deathless first would inform the other. It was a pact of brotherhood, born of the deep friendship between the two young men.

Sometime after they had made that agreement, the Blessed One, the Buddha, set out for Rājagaha. He had, shortly before, completed the first rainy season retreat following his Enlightenment, and now the time had arrived for wandering and preaching. Before his Enlightenment he had promised King Bimbisāra that he would return to Rājagaha after attaining his goal, and now he set forth to fulfill that promise. So in stages the Blessed One journeyed from Gayā to Rājagaha, and having received from King Bimbisāra the Bamboo Grove Monastery (Veuvana), he took up residence there.

Among the first sixty-one arahants whom the Master had sent forth to proclaim the message of deliverance to the world was an elder named Assaji. Assaji had belonged to the group of five ascetics who had attended upon the Bodhisattva while he was engaged in his ascetic practices, and he was also one of the first five disciples. One morning when Assaji was walking on alms round in Rājagaha, Upatissa saw him calmly wending his way from door to door with his bowl in hand.3 Struck by Assaji’s dignified and serene appearance, Upatissa thought: “Never before have I seen such a monk. He must be one of those who are arahants, or who are on the way to arahantship. Should I not approach him and question him?” But then he considered: “It is not the proper time now for putting questions to this monk, as he is going for alms through the streets. I had better follow behind him after the manner of supplicants.” And he did so.


Then, when the elder had finished his alms round and was seeking a quiet place to eat his meal, Upatissa spread out his own sitting cloth and offered the seat to the elder. The Elder Assaji sat down and took his meal, after which Upatissa served him with water from his own water-container, and in this way performed toward Assaji the duties of a pupil to a teacher.

After they had exchanged the usual courteous greetings, Upatissa said: “Serene are your features, friend. Pure and bright is your complexion. Under whom have you gone forth as an ascetic? Who is your teacher and whose doctrine do you profess?”

Assaji replied: “There is, friend, a great recluse, a scion of the Sākyas, who has gone forth from the Sākya clan. I have gone forth under him, the Blessed One. That Blessed One is my teacher and it is his Dhamma that I profess.”

“What does the venerable one’s master teach, what does he proclaim?”

Questioned thus, the Elder Assaji thought to himself: “These wandering ascetics are opposed to the Buddha’s teaching. I shall show him how profound this teaching is.” So he said: “I am but new to the training, friend. It is not long since I went forth from home, and I came but recently to this doctrine and discipline. I cannot explain the Dhamma in detail to you.”

The wanderer replied: “I am called Upatissa, friend. Please tell me according to your ability, be it much or little. It will be my task to penetrate its meaning by way of a hundred or a thousand methods.” And he added:

Be it little or much that you can tell,
The meaning only, please proclaim to me!
To know the meaning is my sole desire;
Of no use to me are many words.

In response, the Elder Assaji uttered this stanza:

Of those things that arise from a cause,
The Tathāgata has told the cause,
And also what their cessation is:
This is the doctrine of the Great Recluse.4

Upon hearing the first two lines, there arose in the wanderer Upatissa the dust-free, stainless vision of the Dhamma—the first glimpse of the Deathless, the path of stream-entry—and to the ending of the last two lines he already listened as a stream-enterer.


At once he knew: “Here the means of deliverance is to be found!” And he said to the elder: “Do not enlarge upon this exposition of the Dhamma, venerable sir. This much will suffice. But where does our Master live?”

“In the Bamboo Grove, wanderer.”

“Then please go ahead, venerable sir. I have a friend with whom I have made an agreement to share the Dhamma. I shall inform him, and together we shall follow you and come into the Master’s presence.” Upatissa then prostrated himself at the elder’s feet and went back to the park of the wanderers.

Kolita saw him approaching and immediately knew: “Today my friend’s appearance is quite changed. Surely, he must have found the Deathless.” And when he inquired, Upatissa replied: “Yes, friend, the Deathless has been found!” He told him all about his meeting with the Elder Assaji, and when he recited the stanza he had heard, Kolita too was established in the fruit of stream-entry.

“Where, my dear, does the Master live?” he asked.

“I learned from our teacher, the Elder Assaji, that he lives at the Bamboo Grove.”

“Then let us go, Upatissa, and see the Master,” said Kolita.

But Sāriputta was one who always respected his teacher, and therefore he said to his friend: “First, my dear, we should go to our teacher, the wanderer Sañjaya, and tell him that we have found the Deathless. If he can grasp it, he will penetrate to the truth. And even if he does not, he may, out of confidence in us, come with us to see the Master; and hearing the Buddha’s teaching, he will attain to the penetration of the path and fruition.”

So both of them went to Sañjaya and said: “O teacher! A Buddha has appeared in the world! His doctrine is well proclaimed and his community of monks is following the right path. Let us go and see the Master.”

“What are you saying, my dear?” Sañjaya exclaimed. And refusing to go with them, he offered to appoint them as co-leaders of his community, speaking of the gain and fame such a position would bring them. But the two wanderers refused to be deflected from their decision, saying: “Oh, we would not mind always remaining pupils. But you, teacher, must know for yourself whether to go or not.”

Then Sañjaya thought: “If they know so much, they will not listen to what I say.” And realizing this, he replied: “You may go, then, but I cannot.”

“Why not, teacher?”

“I am a teacher of many. If I were to revert to the state of a disciple, it 9would be as if a huge water tank were to change into a small pitcher. I cannot live the life of a pupil now.”

“Do not think like that, teacher!” they urged.

“Let it be, my dear. You may go, but I cannot.”

“O teacher! When a Buddha has appeared in the world, people flock to him in large crowds and pay homage to him, carrying incense and flowers. We too shall go there. And then what will happen to you?”

To which Sañjaya replied: “What do you think, my pupils: are there more fools in this world, or more wise people?”

“Fools there are many, O teacher, and the wise are few.”

“If that is so, my friends, then the wise ones will go to the wise recluse Gotama, and the fools will come to me, the fool. You may go now, but I shall not.”

So the two friends left, saying: “You will come to understand your mistake, teacher!” And after they had gone there was a split among Sañjaya’s pupils, and his monastery became almost empty. Seeing his place deserted, Sañjaya vomited hot blood. Five hundred of his disciples had left along with Upatissa and Kolita, out of whom 250 returned to Sañjaya. With the remaining 250, and their own following, the two friends arrived at the Bamboo Grove Monastery.

There the Master, seated among the fourfold assembly,5 was preaching the Dhamma, and when he saw the two wanderers coming he addressed the monks: “These two friends, Upatissa and Kolita, who are now approaching, will be my two chief disciples, an excellent pair.”

Having arrived, the friends bowed low in homage to the Blessed One and sat down at one side. When they were seated they said to the Master: “May we obtain, Lord, the going forth under the Blessed One, may we obtain the higher ordination.”

And the Blessed One said: “Come, bhikkhus! Well proclaimed is the Dhamma. Now live the life of purity to make an end of suffering.” This alone served as the ordination of these venerable ones.

Then the Master continued his discourse, taking the individual temperaments of the listeners into consideration; and with the exception of Upatissa and Kolita all of them attained to arahantship. But on that occasion the two friends did not attain the higher paths and fruits. For them a longer period of preparatory training was needed in order that they could fulfill their personal destiny, that of serving as the Blessed One’s chief disciples.

After their entry into the Buddhist Order, the texts always refer to Upatissa by the name Sāriputta, while Kolita is always called Mahāmoggallāna. For his intensive training Moggallāna went to live at a 10village near Magadha named Kallavālaputta, on which he depended for alms. On the seventh day after his ordination, when he was engaged in intense meditation, he was troubled by fatigue and torpor. But spurred on by the Master, he dispelled his fatigue, and while listening to the Master expound the meditation subject of the elements (dhātukammahāna), he won the three higher paths and reached the acme of a chief disciple’s perfection.

But the Venerable Sāriputta continued to stay near the Master at a cave called the Boar’s Shelter (sūkarakhata-lea), depending on Rājagaha for his alms. Half a month after his ordination the Blessed One gave a discourse to Sāriputta’s nephew, the wandering ascetic Dīghanakha.6 Sāriputta was standing behind the Master, fanning him. While listening to the discourse and following it attentively with his mind, as though sharing the food prepared for another, Sāriputta reached the acme of “knowledge pertaining to a disciple’s perfection” and attained to arahantship together with the four analytical knowledges (paisambhidā-ñāa).7 His nephew, at the end of the sermon, was established in the fruit of stream-entry.

Now it may be asked: “Did not Sāriputta possess great wisdom? And if so, why did he attain arahantship later than Moggallāna?” The answer, according to the commentaries, is because of the greatness of the preparations required. When poor people want to go anywhere they take to the road at once; but in the case of kings, extensive preparations must be made, and these require time. And so too is it in order to become the first chief disciple of a Buddha.

On that same day, when the evening shadows had lengthened, the Master called his disciples to assembly and bestowed upon the two elders the rank of chief disciples. At this, some monks were displeased and murmured among themselves: “The Master should have given the rank of chief disciples to those who were ordained first, that is, the group of five disciples; or if not to them, then either to the group of fifty-five bhikkhus headed by Yasa, or to the thirty of the auspicious group (bhaddavaggiya), or else to the three Kassapa brothers.8 But passing over all these great elders, he has given it to those whose ordination was the very last of all.”

The Master inquired about the subject of their talk. When they told him, he said: “I do not show preference, but give to each what he has aspired to. When, for instance, Aññā Koañña in a previous life gave alms nine times during a single harvest, he did not aspire to chief discipleship; his aspiration was to be the very first to penetrate to the highest state, arahantship. And so it came about. But many aeons ago, at the time of the Buddha Anomadassī, Sāriputta and Moggallāna made the aspiration 11for chief discipleship, and now the conditions for the fulfillment of that aspiration have ripened. Hence I have given them just what they aspired to, and did not do so out of preference.”


The Buddha’s statement underscores a fundamental tenet of Buddhist thought: that who we are, and what we reap as our life’s destiny, is not the product simply of our intentions and activities within the brief span of time that began with our physical birth, but reflects a deep wellspring of past experience accumulated in the beginningless round of rebirths, sasāra. Thus the story of Sāriputta, the great disciple, properly begins in the distant past, with events that have been preserved for us in the form of legend. Such legends, however, are not mere fictions spun by an excessively vibrant imagination. They are, rather, narrative representations of principles that are too profound and universal to be reduced to mere matters of historical fact, principles that can be adequately conveyed only by turning facts into sacred archetypes and archetypes into spiritual ideals.

This particular legend unfolds one incalculable period (asakheyya) and one hundred thousand aeons in the past.9 At that time the being who was to become the Venerable Sāriputta was born into a rich brahmin family and was given the name Sarada. At the same time the future Moggallāna was born into a wealthy householder family and was named Sirivaddhana. The two families were acquainted, and the boys became playmates and close friends.

On the death of his father, Sarada inherited the vast family fortune. But before long, reflecting in solitude on his own inevitable mortality, he decided to abandon all his property and go forth seeking a path to deliverance. Sarada approached his friend Sirivaddhana and invited him to join him on this quest, but Sirivaddhana, still too strongly attached to the world, refused. Sarada, however, was firm in his decision. He gave away all his wealth, left the household, and took up the life of a matted-hair ascetic. Quickly, and without difficulty, he mastered the mundane meditative attainments and supernormal powers and attracted to himself a band of disciples. Thus his hermitage gradually became home to a large community of ascetics.

At this time the Buddha Anomadassī—the eighteenth Buddha, counting back from the present Buddha Gotama—had arisen in the world. One day, on emerging from meditative absorption, the Buddha Anomadassī cast his “net of knowledge” out upon the world and beheld the ascetic 12Sarada and his retinue. Realizing that a visit to this community would bring great benefits to many beings, he left behind his monks and journeyed to their hermitage alone. Sarada noticed the marks of physical excellence on the body of his visitor and at once understood that his guest was a Fully Enlightened One. He humbly offered him a seat of honor and provided him with a meal from the food gathered by his disciples.

Meanwhile the Buddha’s monks had come to join him at the hermitage—one hundred thousand arahants free from all defilements, led by the two chief disciples, Nisabha and Anoma. To honor the Buddha the ascetic Sarada took a large canopy of flowers and, standing behind the Blessed One, held it over his head. The Master entered the attainment of cessation (nirodhasamāpatti)—the meditative state wherein perception, feeling, and other mental processes utterly cease. He remained absorbed in this state for a full week, while throughout that entire week Sarada stood behind him holding aloft the canopy of flowers.

At the end of the week the Buddha emerged from the attainment of cessation and requested his two chief disciples to give talks to the community of ascetics. When they had finished speaking he himself spoke, and at the end of his discourse all the ascetic pupils of Sarada attained arahantship and asked to be admitted to the Buddha’s order of monks. Sarada, however, did not attain arahantship, nor any other stage of sanctity. For as he listened to the discourse of the chief disciple Nisabha, and observed his pleasing deportment, the aspiration arose in his mind to become the first chief disciple of a Buddha in the future. Thus, when the proceedings were finished, he approached the Buddha Anomadassī, prostrated himself at his feet, and declared: “Lord, as the fruit of the act of homage I performed toward you by holding the canopy of flowers over you for a week, I do not aspire for rulership over the gods, nor for the status of Mahābrahmā, nor for any other fruit but this: that in the future I might become the chief disciple of a Fully Enlightened One.”

The Master thought, “Will his aspiration succeed?” And sending out his knowledge into the future, he saw that it would. Then he spoke to Sarada thus: “This aspiration of yours will not be barren. In the future, after an incalculable age and one hundred thousand aeons, a Buddha by the name of Gotama will arise in the world, and you will be his first chief disciple, the Marshal of the Dhamma, named Sāriputta.”

After the Buddha left, Sarada went to his friend Sirivaddhana and urged him to make an aspiration to become the second chief disciple of the Buddha Gotama. Sirivaddhana had a lavish alms hall built and, after all the preparations were complete, invited the Master and his monks to come for 13an alms meal. For a full week Sirivaddhana provided the Buddha and the monks with their daily meal. At the end of the festivities, having offered costly robes to all the monks, he approached the Buddha and announced: “By the power of this merit, may I become the second chief disciple of the same Buddha under whom my friend Sarada will become the first chief disciple!” The Master looked into the future, and seeing that the aspiration would be fulfilled, he gave Sirivaddhana the prediction: he would become the second chief disciple of the Buddha Gotama, a monk of great power and might known by the name Moggallāna.

After the two friends had received their respective predictions, each devoted himself to good deeds in his own proper sphere. Sirivaddhana, as a lay devotee, looked after the needs of the Sangha and performed various works of charity. Sarada, as an ascetic, continued with his meditative life. On their deaths Sirivaddhana was reborn in a sense-sphere heavenly world, while Sarada, having mastered the meditative attainments and the divine abodes (brahmavihāra), was reborn in the Brahma-world.


From this point on there is no continuous narrative of their activities, but at a certain point in their wandering through the cycle of birth and death the two friends must have crossed paths with another being who much earlier, at the feet of the twenty-fourth Buddha of antiquity, had vowed to win supreme Buddhahood. This was the Bodhisatta, the being who was to become the Buddha Gotama, the Enlightened One of our own historical era. The Jātaka stories record the deeds of the Bodhisatta in some five hundred and fifty of his former births, and in these stories Sāriputta plays a prominent role, appearing more often than any other disciple of the Buddha with the possible exception of Ānanda. Only a representative sampling of these stories can be considered here. Since the process of rebirth does not respect divisions between realms of existence but flows up from the animal realm to the human and celestial realms, and down from the heavens to the human and animal realms, we find that the specific forms of relationship between Sāriputta and the Bodhisatta vary from life to life. We may take these diverse relationships as the outline for our survey.

In several of their past births both the Bodhisatta and Sāriputta were animals. Once the Bodhisatta was a chief stag who had two sons, both of whom he instructed in the art of leadership. One son (Sāriputta) followed his father’s advice and led his herd to prosperity; the other, who 14was to become the Buddha’s jealous cousin Devadatta, spurned his father’s advice in favor of his own ideas and thereby brought his herd to disaster (Jāt. 11). When the Bodhisatta was a royal goose his two young sons (Sāriputta and Moggallāna) tried to outrace the sun; when they grew weary and were about to collapse in midflight, the Bodhisatta came to their rescue (476). In a birth as a partridge the Bodhisatta was senior to his two friends, a monkey (Sāriputta) and an elephant (Moggallāna); thus he became their teacher and preceptor, a foretoken of their relationship in their final existence (37). The Bodhisatta again figures as a preceptor in the Sasa Jātaka (316), where he is a wise hare who teaches a monkey (Sāriputta), a jackal (Moggallāna), and an otter (Ānanda) the value of morality and generosity. When Sakka, king of the devas, comes to him in the guise of a hungry brahmin to test his resolve, the hare is ready to throw himself into a fire to provide the brahmin with a meal.

On several occasions the two future disciples rendered vital help to the Bodhisatta. When the Great Being, as a deer, was caught in a snare, his companions—a woodpecker (Sāriputta) and a tortoise (Moggallāna)—saved him by breaking the trap. Although the hunter (Devadatta) caught the tortoise, the other two animals came to his rescue and succeeded in freeing him (206). The Bodhisatta was not, however, always so fortunate, and the Jātakas record their share of tragedies. Thus in one birth story (438), when the Bodhisatta was a partridge who taught the Vedas to young brahmins, a wicked ascetic (Devadatta) killed him and made a meal of him. His friends, a lion (Sāriputta) and a tiger (Moggallāna), came to visit him, and on seeing a feather in the ascetic’s beard, they understood the enormity of his deed. The lion wanted to show mercy, but the tiger slew the ascetic and threw his body in a pit. This incident already discloses a difference in temperament between the two disciples: Sāriputta, though mighty as a lion, is gentle and soft, while Moggallāna, though harmless in his last life as an enlightened monk, can still exhibit the fierceness of a tiger.

In other Jātakas one of the two—the Bodhisatta and Sāriputta—is human and the other an animal, and their roles as benefactor and beneficiary also undergo reversals. Thus we encounter the Bodhisatta as a war steed and Sāriputta as his warrior (23); the Bodhisatta as a peerless white elephant who enters the service of the king of Benares (Sāriputta) (122); the Bodhisatta as a partridge and Sāriputta as a wise ascetic who instructs him (277). But in other births the Bodhisatta is human and Sāriputta an animal. In one story, for example, the Bodhisatta is a hermit who rescues an evil prince (Devadatta) and three animals from a flood. The animals—a 15snake (Sāriputta), a rat (Moggallāna), and a parrot (Ānanda)—show their gratitude by offering the hermit hidden treasures, but the envious prince tries to have him executed (73).

Sometimes the future spiritual heroes were reborn in celestial form. Once, when the Bodhisatta was Sakka, Sāriputta and Moggallāna were respectively Canda the moon god and Suriya the sun god. Together with several other deities they visited a notorious miser and converted him to a life of generosity (450). Often it is the Bodhisatta who benefits the future disciples, but sometimes we see Sāriputta come to the Bodhisatta’s aid. When they were both reborn as princes of the nāgas, semidivine serpents, the Bodhisatta was captured by a cruel brahmin who made him perform tricks in public. His elder brother, Sāriputta, set out in search of him and delivered him from this humiliating fate (543). When the Bodhisatta was the virtuous Prince Mahāpaduma, maligned by his stepmother for refusing her seductive advances, his father the king tried to have him hurled from a precipice; but Sāriputta, as a spirit of the mountain, caught him before he hit the ground and led him to safety (472).

Most often in the Jātakas the Bodhisatta and Sāriputta appear in human births. In such stories the Bodhisatta is invariably the hero, the supreme exemplar of virtue and wisdom, while Sāriputta appears as his friend, pupil, son, or brother, and often serves as his benefactor. In one life the Bodhisatta was a king and Sāriputta his charioteer (151). When they crossed paths with a chariot carrying a rival king (Ānanda), Sāriputta and the rival charioteer (Moggallāna) compared their respective kings’ merits. The rival had to admit the superiority of Sāriputta’s master, who ruled by bestowing benefits on both the good and the wicked while his own master rewarded the good and punished the wicked. In the influential Khantivādī Jātaka (313) the Bodhisatta, as the saintly “preacher of patience,” is reviled and tortured by the wicked King Kālabu (Devadatta). After the king has severed the Bodhisatta’s limbs to test his patience, the king’s general (Sāriputta) bandages the Bodhisatta’s wounds and begs him not to take revenge.

Often in the longer Jātakas the Bodhisatta enters upon the ascetic life, and Sāriputta usually joins him in this quest. Such an inclination would have been deeply implanted in the temperaments of both men, who in their last existence would consummate their spiritual careers only after going forth into homelessness. When the Bodhisatta was the chaplain’s son Hatthipāla he was named the heir to the throne by the childless king. Recognizing the danger in worldly life, he decided to become an ascetic and was soon joined by his three brothers, the eldest of whom was the future Sāriputta (509). In the Indriya Jātaka (423) the Bodhisatta is an 16ascetic with seven chief disciples, six of whom, including the eldest (Sāriputta), eventually leave him to establish their own hermitages, but Anusissa (Ānanda) remains behind as his attendant; this presages the relationship between the Buddha and Ānanda in their last existence. Sāriputta did not always concur with the Bodhisatta’s decision to renounce the world. When the Bodhisatta, as a king, decided to enter the ascetic life, his eldest son (Sāriputta) and youngest son (Rāhula) pleaded with him to give up this idea, and he had to struggle inwardly to overcome his attachment to his sons (525). In still another birth, however, the Bodhisatta wavered in his decision to go forth, and this time Sāriputta, as an ascetic named Nārada, appeared to him by mystic power and encouraged him to remain firm in his decision (539).

Thus, buffeted by the winds of kamma, the two noble beings migrated from life to life and from realm to realm through the round of re-becoming. Unlike blind worldlings, however, their wandering was not purposeless and devoid of direction but was guided by aspirations they had formed in the far distant past. After countl

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