The Buddha himself had gone to Rājagaha, where the king of Magadha soon became his follower and donated to him the Bamboo Grove Monastery. He was living at that monastery when Kolita and Upatissa returned to Rājagaha, where they were offered accommodations at Sañjaya’s place.

One day Upatissa had gone to the town while Kolita had stayed at their dwelling. When Kolita saw his friend returning in the afternoon, he was struck with awe at the change in his friend’s manner. Never before had he seen him so beatific; his entire being seemed to have been transformed, and his face shone with a sublime radiance. Eagerly Kolita asked him:

“Your features are so serene, dear friend, and your complexion is so bright and clear. Have you found the way to the Deathless?”

Upatissa then replied:

“It is so, dear friend, the Deathless has been found.”

He then reported what had happened. In town, he had seen a monk whose behaviour impressed him so deeply that he was immediately convinced he was an arahant, or at least one well advanced on the path to arahantship. He approached him and started a conversation.

The monk, whose name was Assaji, replied that he was a disciple of the ascetic Gotama of the Sakyan clan, whom he referred to as “the Enlightened One.”

When Upatissa begged him to explain his teacher’s doctrine, Assaji modestly said that he was only a beginner and could not explain it in detail, but he could briefly tell him the gist of the teaching. When Upatissa assured him that he would be satisfied with that, Assaji recited a short stanza that summed up the main points—a stanza that in the centuries and millennia to follow was to become famous wherever the Buddha’s Teaching spread:

 ‘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.’

When Assaji spoke this stanza, right on the spot there arose in Upatissa the dust-free, stainless vision of the Dhamma: ‘All that has the nature of arising has the nature of cessation.’ And the very same thing happened to Kolita when Upatissa repeated the stanza to him. Such sudden experiences of enlightenment may fascinate us and baffle us, particularly when they are triggered by sayings that to us seem so opaque and enigmatic. But the power of the Dhamma to ignite realization of ultimate truth is proportional to the receptivity and earnestness of the disciple. For those who have long trained themselves in the disciplines of contemplation and renunciation, who have reflected deeply upon the impermanent and the Deathless, and who are ready to relinquish everything for the sake of final deliverance, even a concise four-line stanza can reveal more truth than volumes of systematic exposition.

The two friends Upatissa and Kolita were amply endowed with these qualifications. Single-minded in their quest for final freedom, they had learned to investigate things solely in terms of the conditioned and the unconditioned, and their faculties were ripe to the bursting point. All they lacked was the key to direct insight. Assaji’s stanza was that key. Having swiftly cut through the subtle screens of ignorance that covered their mental eyes, in a flash it bestowed on them the first vision of the Deathless. They had penetrated the Four Noble Truths and seen the Uncreated, Nibbāna, beyond the transience of phenomenal existence where death ever reigns.

They now stood securely in the stream of the Dhamma (sotāpatti), assured that the goal was within their grasp.

After Kolita had listened to that potent stanza, he asked at once where the Great Ascetic, the Tathāgata, was staying. Hearing that he was staying not far away at the Bamboo Grove Monastery, he wished to go there immediately, but Upatissa asked him to wait, saying,

“Let us first go to Sañjaya and tell him that we have found the Deathless. If he can understand, he is sure to make progress toward the truth. But if he cannot comprehend at once, he may perhaps have confidence enough to join us when we go to see the Master. Then, on listening to the Buddha himself, he will certainly understand.”

Thus the friends went to their former Master and said:

“Listen, teacher, listen! A Fully Enlightened One has appeared in the world. Well proclaimed is his teaching, and his monks live the fully purified life. Come with us to see him!”

Sañjaya, however, declined their invitation, but instead offered to share with them the leadership of his community.

“If you will accept my offer,” he said, “you will enjoy abundant gain and fame and you will be held in the highest respect.”

But the two friends would not swerve from their course and firmly replied,

“We would not mind remaining pupils for life, but you should make up your mind now, as our own decision is final.”

Sañjaya, however, torn by indecision, lamented:

“I cannot go! For so many years I have been a teacher and have had a large following of disciples. If I were to become a pupil again, it would be as if a mighty lake were to change into a pitcher!”

Thus conflicting motives contended within his heart: on one side, his longing for truth, on the other the desire to preserve his superior status. But the latter prevailed, and he stayed behind.

At that time, Sañjaya had about five hundred disciples. When they learned that the two friends had decided to follow the Buddha, spontaneously all of them wanted to join. But when they noticed that Sañjaya would not go, half of them wavered and returned to their teacher. Sañjaya, seeing that he had lost so many of his disciples, was so stricken by grief and despair that, as the texts tell us, ‘hot blood spurted from his mouth.’


Now the two friends, at the head of 250 fellow ascetics, approached the Bamboo Grove. There the Buddha was teaching the Dhamma to his monks, and when he saw the two friends approaching, he announced:

“Here, monks, they are coming, the two friends, Kolita and Upatissa. They will be my chief disciples, a blessed pair!”

Having arrived, the whole company respectfully saluted the Buddha, raised their joined palms to the forehead, and bowed at his feet. Then the two friends spoke:

“May we be permitted, Lord, to obtain under the Blessed One the going forth and the full admission?”

Then the Blessed One responded:

“Come, monks, well proclaimed is the Dhamma. Live now the holy life for making an end of suffering!”

These brief words served to bestow ordination on the two friends and their following.

From that point on the texts refer to Upatissa by the name Sāriputta, ‘the son of Sāri,’ after the name of his mother, and to Kolita as Mahāmoggallāna, ‘Moggallāna the Great,’ to distinguish him from others of the same brahmanic clan, such as Gaṇaka Moggallāna and Gopaka Moggallāna.

After all of them had obtained ordination, the Buddha addressed the 250 disciples and explained to them the Teaching in such a way that before long they attained to the first stage of emancipation, stream-entry, and in due course all became arahants except Sāriputta and Moggallāna. These two went into solitude, in separate places, to continue their striving for the highest goal.

Sāriputta remained in the vicinity of Rājagaha and went to meditate in a cave called the Boar’s Den. From there he walked to the city for his alms, which often gave him the opportunity to listen to the Buddha’s discourses. What he heard from the Master he independently worked over in his own mind and he methodically penetrated to clear understanding of the fundamental nature of phenomena. He needed fourteen days to reach arahantship, the utter destruction of all cankers (āsavakkhaya).

Moggallāna, however, for reasons not specified in the texts, resorted to a forest near the village of Kallavālaputta in Magadha. With great zeal, he meditated there while sitting or walking up and down, but despite his determination he was often overcome by sleepiness. Though he struggled to keep his body erect and his head upright, he kept on drooping and nodding. There were times when he could keep his eyes open only by sheer force of will. The tropical heat, the strain of his long years of a wandering life, and the inner tensions he had gone through all bore down on him at once, and thus, at the very end of his quest, his body reacted by fatigue.

But the Awakened One, with a great teacher’s solicitude for his disciples, did not lose sight of him. With his supernormal vision he perceived the difficulties of the new monk, and by psychic power he appeared before him. When Moggallāna saw the Master standing before him, a good part of his fatigue had already vanished. Now the Awakened One asked him:

“Are you nodding, Moggallāna, are you nodding?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Well then, Moggallāna, at whatever thought drowsiness descends upon you, you should not give attention to that thought or dwell on it. Then, by doing so, it is possible that your drowsiness will vanish. But if, by doing so, drowsiness does not vanish, then you should reflect upon the Teaching as you have heard it and learned it, you should ponder over it and examine it closely in your mind.

Then, by doing so, it is possible that your drowsiness will vanish. But if, by doing so, drowsiness does not vanish, then you should repeat in full detail the Teaching as you have heard it and learned it…you should pull both ear-lobes and rub your limbs with your hands…you should get up from your seat and, after washing your eyes with water, you should look around in all directions and upwards to the stars and constellations…you should give attention to the perception of light, to the perception of day: as by day so by night, as by night so by day; thus, with your mind clear and unclouded, you should cultivate a mind that is full of brightness…with your senses turned inward and your mind not straying outward, you should walk up and down, being aware of going to and fro.

Then, by doing so, it is possible that your drowsiness will vanish.

But if, by doing so, drowsiness does not vanish, you may, mindfully and clearly aware, lie down lion-like on your right side, placing foot on foot, keeping in mind the thought of rising; and on awakening, you should quickly get up, thinking, ‘I must not indulge in the comfort of resting and reclining, in the pleasure of sleep.’

“Thus, Moggallāna, should you train yourself.”

Here the Buddha gives Moggallāna a graded sequence of advice on how to overcome drowsiness. The first and best device is not to pay attention to the thought causing or preceding the state of drowsiness. This, however, is the most difficult method. If one does not succeed with it, one may summon some energizing thoughts or one may reflect upon the excellence of the Teaching, or recite parts of it by heart. If these mental remedies do not help, one should turn to bodily activity such as, for instance, pulling one’s ears, shaking the body, activating the circulation by rubbing one’s limbs, refreshing one’s eyes with cold water, and, at night, looking at the grandeur of the starry sky. This may make one forget one’s petty drowsiness.

If these measures are of no avail, then one may try to arouse an inner vision of light, suffusing the entire mind with luminosity.

With this self-radiant mind, one will then be able to leave behind, like a Brahmā deity, the whole realm of days and nights as perceived by the senses. This line of advice suggests that Moggallāna had experienced such states before, so that the Buddha could refer to them as something known to Moggallāna. This ‘perception of light’ (ālokasaññā) is mentioned in the texts as one of four ways of developing samādhi and as leading to ‘knowledge and vision’.

If this method, too, does not help, one should walk up and down mindfully, and thus, by resorting to bodily movement, try to get rid of fatigue. If, however, none of these seven devices proves helpful, one may just lie down and rest for a short while. But as soon as one feels refreshed, one should quickly get up, without allowing drowsiness to return.

The Buddha’s instruction on that occasion, however, did not stop here, but continued as follows:

“Further, Moggallāna, you should train yourself in this way. You should think, ‘When calling at families (on the alms round), I shall not be given to pride.

Thus should you train yourself. For in families it may happen that people are busy with work and may not notice that a monk has come. Then a monk (if given to pride) may think,

“Who, I wonder, has estranged me from this family? These people seem to be displeased with me.”

Thus, by not receiving an offering from them, he is perturbed; being perturbed he becomes excited; being excited he loses self-control; and if he is uncontrolled, his mind will be far from finding concentration.

Further, Moggallāna, you should train yourself in this way:

 “I shall not speak contentious talk.”

 Thus should you train yourself. If there is contentious talk, there is sure to be much wordiness; with much wordiness, there will be excitement; one who is excited will lose self-control; and if he is uncontrolled, his mind will be far from finding concentration.

Here the Buddha points out two kinds of behaviour that lead to excitement and restlessness. In the first case, the monk is proud of his status and counts on respect from the laity, but if the laypeople pay more attention to their own business than to him, he becomes perturbed and falls away from concentration. In the other case, he takes intellectual delight in discussions, becomes aroused by differences of opinion, and finds pleasure in defeating others in debate. By all this, his mental energy is diverted into futile and unprofitable channels. If one cannot keep one’s senses under control, or easily allows one’s mind to become excited or diverted, one grows slack and careless in the practice and thus cannot find the unification of mind and inner peace to be obtained in meditation.

After the Buddha had given him these instructions on the over- coming of drowsiness and the avoidance of excitement, Moggallāna asked the following question:

“In what way, Lord, can it be briefly explained how a monk becomes liberated by the elimination of craving; how he becomes one who has reached the final end, the final security from bondage, the final holy life, the final consummation, and is foremost among devas and humans?”

“Here, Moggallāna, a monk has learned this: ‘Nothing is fit to be clung to!’ When a monk has learnt that nothing is fit to be clung to, he directly knows everything; by directly knowing everything, he fully comprehends everything; when he fully comprehends everything, whatever feeling he experiences, be it pleasant, painful, or neutral, he abides contemplating impermanence in these feelings, contemplating dispassion, contemplating cessation, contemplating relinquishment. When thus abiding, he does not cling to anything in the world; without clinging he is not agitated; and without agitation he personally attains the complete extinction of defilements. He knows: ‘Rebirth has ceased, the holy life has been lived, the task has been done, there is no more of this or that state.’

After Moggallāna had received all these personal instructions of the Master, he resumed his training with great ardour, fighting vigorously against the inner hindrances of the mind. During his many years of ascetic life he already had, to a great extent, suppressed sensual desire and ill will, the first and the second of the five hindrances.

Now, with the help given by the Buddha, he fought against sloth-and-torpor and restlessness-and-worry, the third and fourth hindrances. By overcoming these hindrances he was able to attain meditative states transcending the world of material form, which prepared the way for the penetrative knowledge of reality.

He first attained and enjoyed the overwhelming bliss of the first jhāna, a state of profound absorption and concentration. Yet, gradually, some worldly thoughts arose and claimed his attention, dragging him down to the level of sensory consciousness. The Buddha came to his aid, this time, however, not with detailed instructions as before, but with a brief indication that helped him to break through the impasse. The Exalted One warned him that he should not light-heartedly believe himself to be secure in the attainment of the first jhāna, but should strive to master it and bring it fully under his control. When Moggallāna followed this advice he became proficient in the first jhāna and could no longer be disturbed by mundane thoughts.

Having thus gained a firm footing in the first jhāna, he next gained the second jhāna, which is called ‘the noble silence’ because within this absorption all discursive thought is silenced. Thus, in stages, he advanced to the fourth jhāna. From there he proceeded still further in the scale of concentration to the four formless or immaterial absorptions (arūpajjhāna) and the cessation of perception and feeling (saññāvedayita-nirodha). Then he gained the ‘singles concentration of mind,’ which is free from all that ‘marks’ or signifies conditioned Existence.

But this attainment, too, was not final. For even here he developed a subtle attachment to his refined experience—an attachment which is still a delusive ‘sign’ or ‘mark’ superimposed on a high spiritual attainment of greatest purity. But aided by the Master’s instructions, he broke through these last, most subtle fetters and attained to the final fruit, perfect liberation of mind and liberation by wisdom in all their fullness and depth. The Venerable Mahāmoggallāna had become an arahant.

Like Sāriputta, Moggallāna was an arahant of the type called ‘liberated in both ways’ (ubhatobhāgavimutta). Although all arahants are identical in their perfect liberation from ignorance and suffering, they are distinguished into two types on the basis of their proficiency in concentration. Those who can attain the eight deliverances (aṭṭha vimokkhā), which include the four formless attainments and the attainment of cessation, are called ‘liberated in both ways’—liberated from the material body by means of the formless absorptions, and from all defilements by the path of arahantship. Those who lack this mastery over the eight deliverances but have destroyed all defilements through wisdom are called ‘liberated by wisdom’(paññāvimutta).

Even more, Moggallāna had not only mastered the successive planes of meditative concentration but had also explored the ‘roads of psychic power’ (iddhipāda), and thus had achieved facility in the modes of supernormal knowledge (abhiññā). In his own words, he was one of whom it could be declared,

“Supported by the Master the disciple attained to greatness of the super knowledges.”

This entire development took place within a single week. These were, indeed, seven days of tremendous internal transformation, packed with dramatic ordeals, struggles, and triumphs. The intensity and depth of Moggallāna’s determination during this short period must have been staggering. A person like him, endowed with such an active mind and such a wide range of natural gifts, would have had to make a truly valiant effort to cut through all the fetters binding him to this world of vast potentialities. For such an immensity of inner experience to have been compressed into one short week, the dimensions of space and time must have virtually contracted and dissolved. It is reported that on the occasion of his own Enlightenment the Buddha had recollected ninety- one aeons in the first watch of the night.

Moggallāna too, in perfecting his super knowledges, would have called up before his mind’s eye many past aeons of world contraction and expansion. Here notions of the measurable duration of time fail entirely. For an ordinary person, immured in the prison of the senses, one week is no more that seven days, but for one who has pierced the veil of manifest phenomena and reached the subliminal depths of reality, infinities can burst through the very boundaries of finitude.

Moggallāna later said that he attained arahantship by quick penetration (khippābhiññā), that is, in one week, but his progress was difficult (dukkha-paṭipadā), requiring the helpful assistance of the Master. Sāriputta, too, attained arahantship by quick penetration, in two weeks, but his progress was smooth (sukha-paṭipadā). Moggallāna had advanced to the goal more speedily than Sāriputta because the Buddha directed and inspired him personally and intensively, and also because he had a lesser range to comprehend. Sāriputta was superior to him in regard to the independence of his progress and also in the detailed scope of his knowledge.

To be Continued……