“Then go and announce our coming,” said the elder.

“And if she asks why I have come, tell her that I shall stay in the village for one day, and ask her to prepare my birth chamber and provide lodgings for five hundred bhikkhus.”


Uparevata went to his grand-aunt and said: “Grand-aunt, my uncle has come.”


“Where is he now?” she asked. “At the village gate.”


“Is he alone, or has someone else come with him?”


“He has come with five hundred bhikkhus.”


And when she asked him, “Why has he come?” he gave her the message the elder had entrusted to him. Then she thought: “Why does he ask me to provide lodgings for so many? After becoming a monk in his youth, does he want to be a layman again in his old age?” But she arranged the birth chamber for the elder and lodgings for the bhikkhus, had torches lit, and then sent for the elder.


Sāriputta, accompanied by the bhikkhus, then went up to the terrace of the house and entered his birth chamber. After sitting down, he asked the bhikkhus to go to their quarters. They had hardly left when a grave illness, dysentery, fell upon the elder, and he felt severe pains. When one pail was brought in, another was carried out. The brahmin woman thought: The news of my son is not good, and she stood leaning by the door of her own room.


And then it happened, the text tells us, that the Four Great Divine Kings asked themselves: “Where may he now be dwelling, the Marshal of the Dhamma?” And they perceived that he was at Nālaka, in his birth chamber, lying on the bed of his final passing away. Let us go for a last sight of him, they said.


When they reached the birth chamber, they saluted the elder and remained standing.


“Who are you?” asked the elder.


“We are the Great Divine Kings, venerable sir.”


 “Why have you come?”


“We want to attend on you during your illness.”


“Let it be!” said Sāriputta.


There is an attendant here. You may go.


When they had left, there came in the same manner Sakka, the king of the devas, and after him, Mahābrahmā, and all of them the elder dismissed in the same way.


The brahmin woman, seeing the coming and going of these deities, asked herself: “Who could they have been paid homage to my son and then left?”


And she went to the door of the elder’s room and asked the Venerable Cunda for news about the elder’s condition. Cunda conveyed the inquiry to the elder, telling him: “The great upāsikā (lay devotee) has come.


Sāriputta asked her: Why have you come at this unusual hour?


“To see you, dear,” she replied. “Tell me, who were those who came first?”


 “The Four Great Divine Kings, upāsikā.


Are you, then, greater than they? she asked.


They are like temple attendants,” said the elder.

“Ever since our Master took rebirth, they have stood guard over him with swords in hand.”


“After they had left, who was it that came then, dear?”


“It was Sakka, the king of the devas.”


“Are you, then, greater than the king of the devas, dear?”


“He is like a novice who carries a bhikkhu’s belongings,” answered Sāriputta. When our Master returned from the heaven of the Thirty- three, Sakka took his bowl and robe and descended to earth together with him.


“And when Sakka had gone, who was it that came after him, filling the room with his radiance?”


“Upāsikā, that was your own lord and master, Mahābrahmā. Then are you greater, my son, even than my lord, Mahābrahmā?


Yes, upāsikā. On the day when our master was born, it is said that four Mahābrahmās received the Great Being in a golden net.


Upon hearing this, the brahmin woman thought: “If my son’s power is such as this, what must be the majestic power of my son’s master and lord?”

And while she was thinking this, suddenly rapture and joy arose in her, suffusing her entire body.


The elder thought: ‘Rapture and joy have arisen in my mother. Now is the time to preach the Dhamma to her.’ And he said: “What was it you were thinking about, upāsikā?


“I was thinking,” she replied, “if my son has such virtue, what must be the virtue of his master?”


Sāriputta answered:

At the moment of my masters birth, at his great renunciation of worldly life, on his attaining Enlightenment, and at his first turning of the Dhamma Wheelon all these occasions the ten-thousandfold world-system quaked and shook. None is there who equals him in virtue, in concentration, in wisdom, in deliverance, and in the knowledge and vision of deliverance.”


And he then explained to her in detail the words of homage: “Such indeed is that Blessed One… (Iti pi so Bhagavā). And thus, he gave her an exposition of the Dhamma, basing it on the virtues of the Buddha.


When the Dhamma talk given by her beloved son had come to an end, the brahmin woman was firmly established in the fruit of stream- entry, and she said:

 “Oh, my dear Upatissa, why did you act like that? Why, during all these years, did you not bestow on me this ambrosial knowledge of the Deathless?”


 The elder thought: ‘Now I have given my mother, the brahmin woman Rūpasārī, the nursing-fee for bringing me up. This should suffice.’ And he dismissed her with the words: You may go now, upāsikā.


When she was gone, he asked: “What is the time now, Cunda?” “Venerable sir, it is early dawn.”


And the elder said: “Let the community of bhikkhus assemble.”


When the bhikkhus had assembled, he said to Cunda: “Lift me up to a sitting position, Cunda.” And Cunda did so.


Then the elder spoke to the bhikkhus, saying: “For forty-four years I have lived and travelled with you, my bhikkhus. If any deed or word of mine was unpleasant to you, forgive me, bhikkhus.”


And they replied: “Venerable sir, you have never given us the least displeasure, although we have followed you inseparably like your shadow. But may you, venerable sir, grant forgiveness to us.”


After that the elder gathered his large robe around him, covered his face, and lay down on his right side. Then, just as the Master was to do at his own Parinibbāna, he entered into the nine successive attainments of meditation, in forward and reverse order, & beginning again with the first absorption he led his meditation up to the fourth absorption. And at the moment after he had entered it, just as the crest of the rising sun appeared over the horizon, he utterly passed away into the Nibbāna-element without residue.


And it was the full-moon day of the month Kattika, which by the solar calendar corresponds to October/November.


The brahmin lady in her room thought: “How is my son? He does not say anything.” She rose, and going into the elder’s room she massaged his legs. Then, seeing that he had passed away, she fell at his feet, loudly lamenting; “O my dear son! Before this, we did not know of your virtue. Because of that, we did not gain the good fortune to have offered hospitality and alms to hundreds of bhikkhus! We did not gain the good fortune to have built many monasteries!” And she lamented thus up to sunrise.


As soon as the sun was up, she sent for goldsmiths and had the treasure room opened and had the pots full of gold weighed on a large scale. Then she gave the gold to the goldsmiths with the order to prepare funeral ornaments. Columns and arches were erected, and in the centre of the village the upāsikā had a pavilion of heartwood built. In the middle of the pavilion a large, gabled structure was raised, surrounded by a parapet of golden arches and columns. Then they began the sacred ceremony, in which human beings and deities mingled.


After the great assembly of people had celebrated the sacred rites for a full week, they made a pyre with many kinds of fragrant wood. They placed the body of the Venerable Sāriputta on the pyre and kindled the wood with bundles of fragrant roots. Throughout the night of the cremation the concourse listened to sermons on the Dhamma. After that the flames of the pyre were extinguished by the Elder Anuruddha with scented water. The Elder Cunda gathered together the relics and placed them in a filter cloth.


Then the Elder Cunda thought:

“I cannot delay here any longer. I must tell the Fully Enlightened One of the final passing away of my elder brother, the Venerable Sāriputta, the Marshal of the Dhamma.


So he took the filter cloth with the relics, and Sāriputta’s bowl and robes, and went to Sāvatthī, spending only one night at each stage of the journey.


These are the events related in the commentary to the Cunda Sutta of the Satipaṭṭhāna Saṃyutta, with additions from the parallel version in the commentary to the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta. The narrative is taken up in the Cunda Sutta.


Once the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī, in Jetavana, the monastery of Anāthapiṇḍika. At that time the Venerable Sāriputta was at Nālaka village in the Magadha country, and was sick, suffering, gravely ill. The novice Cunda was his attendant. And the Venerable Sāriputta passed away through that very illness. Then the novice Cunda took the alms-bowl and robes of the Venerable Sāriputta and went to Sāvatthī, to Jetavana, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. There he approached the Venerable Ānanda and, having saluted him, sat down at one side and said:

Venerable sir, the Venerable Sāriputta has passed away. These are his bowl and robes.


“On this matter, friend Cunda, we ought to see the Blessed One. Let us go, friend Cunda, and meet the Master. Having met him, we shall report this to the Blessed One.”


“Yes, venerable sir,” said the novice Cunda.


They went to see the Blessed One, and having arrived there and saluted the Master, they sat down at one side. Then the Venerable Ānanda addressed the Blessed One:

“Lord, the novice Cunda has told me this: ‘The Venerable Sāriputta has passed away. These are his bowl and robes. Then, Lord, my own body became weak as a creeper; everything around became dim and things were no longer clear to me, when I heard about the final passing away of the Venerable Sāriputta.


“How is this, Ānanda? When Sāriputta passed away, did he take from you your portion of virtue, or your portion of concentration, or your portion of wisdom, or your portion of deliverance, or your portion of the knowledge and vision of deliverance?


“Not so, Lord. When the Venerable Sāriputta passed away he did not take my portion of virtueof concentrationof wisdomof deliverance, or of the knowledge and vision of deliverance. But, Lord, the Venerable Sāriputta has been to me a mentor, a teacher, an instructor, one who rouses, inspires and gladdens, untiring in preaching the Dhamma, a helper of his fellow monks. And we remember how vitalizing, enjoyable, and helpful his Dhamma instruction was.”


“Have I not taught you already, Ānanda, that it is the nature of all things near and dear to us that we must suffer separation from them and be severed from them? Of that which is born, come into being, put together, and so is subject to dissolution, how should it be said that it should not depart? That, indeed, is not possible.


It is, Ānanda, as though from a mighty hardwood tree a large branch should break off, so has Sāriputta now passed away from this great and sound community of bhikkhus. Indeed, Ānanda, of that which is born, come into being, put together, and so is subject to dissolution, how should it be said that it should not depart? That, indeed, is not possible.


“Therefore, Ānanda, be an island unto yourself, a refuge unto yourself, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.”


The commentary takes up the narrative thus:

The Master stretched forth his hand, and taking the filter with the relics, placed it on his palm, and said to the monks:

These, O monks, are the shell-coloured relics of the bhikkhu who, not long ago, asked for permission to attain final Nibbāna. He who fulfilled the ten perfections for an incalculable period and a hundred thousand aeons—this was that bhikkhu.


He who helped me in turning the Wheel of the Dhamma that was first turned by me—this was that bhikkhu. He who obtained the seat next to me—this was that bhikkhu.


He who, apart from me, had none to equal him in wisdom throughout the whole ten-thousandfold universe—this was that bhikkhu.


Of great wisdom was this bhikkhu, of broad wisdom, of bright wisdom, of quick wisdom, of penetrative wisdom was this bhikkhu. Few wants had this bhikkhu; he was contented, bent on seclusion, not fond of company, full of energy, an exhorter of his fellow monks, censuring what is evil.


He who went forth into homelessness, abandoning the great fortune obtained through his merits in five hundred existences —this was that bhikkhu. He who, in my Dispensation, was patient like the earth—this was that bhikkhu.


Harmless like a bull whose horns have been cut—this was that bhikkhu. Of humble mind like an outcast boy—this was that bhikkhu.


See here, O monks, the relics of him who was of great wisdom, of broad, bright, quick, keen, and penetrative wisdom; who had few wants and was contented, bent on seclusion, not fond of company, energetic—see here the relics of him who was an exhorter of his fellow monks, who censured evil!


Then the Buddha spoke the following verses in praise of his great disciple:

To him who in five times a hundred lives

Went forth to homelessness, casting away

Pleasures the heart holds dear, from passion free,

With faculties controlled—now homage pay

To Sāriputta who has passed away!


To him who, strong in patience like the earth

Over his own mind had absolute sway,

Who was compassionate, kind, serenely cool,

And firm as the great earth—now homage pay To

Sāriputta who has passed away!


Who, like an outcast boy of humble mind,

Enters the town and slowly wends his way

From door to door with begging bowl in hand,

Such was this Sāriputta—now homage pay

To Sāriputta who has passed away!


One who in town or jungle, hurting none,

Lived like a bull whose horns are cut away,

Such was this Sāriputta, who had won

Mastery of himself—now homage pay

To Sāriputta who has passed away!


When the Blessed One had thus lauded the virtues of the Venerable Sāriputta, he asked for a stūpa to be built for the relics. After that, he indicated to the Elder Ānanda his wish to go to Rājagaha. Ānanda informed the monks, and the Blessed One, together with a large body of bhikkhus, journeyed to Rājagaha. At the time he arrived there, the Venerable Mahāmoggallāna had also passed away. The Blessed One took his relics likewise and had a stūpa raised for them.


Then he departed from Rājagaha, and going by stages toward the Ganges, he reached Ukkacelā. There he went to the bank of the Ganges, and seated with his following of monks, he preached the Ukkacelā Sutta, on the Parinibbāna of Sāriputta and Mahāmoggallāna.


Once the Blessed One was dwelling in the Vajji country, at Ukkacelā on the bank of the river Ganges, not long after Sāriputta and Moggallāna had passed away. And at that time the Blessed One was seated in the open, surrounded by the company of bhikkhus.


The Blessed One surveyed the silent gathering of bhikkhus, and then spoke to them, saying:

“This assembly, O bhikkhus, appears indeed empty to me, now that Sāriputta and Moggallāna have passed away. Not empty for me is an assembly, nor need I have concern for a place where Sāriputta and Moggallāna dwell.


“Those who in the past have been Holy Ones, Fully Enlightened Ones, those Blessed Ones, too, had such excellent pairs of disciples as I had in Sāriputta and Moggallāna.


Those who in the future will be Holy Ones, Fully Enlightened Ones, those Blessed Ones, too, will have such excellent pairs of disciples as I had in Sāriputta and Moggallāna.


“Marvellous it is, most wonderful it is, bhikkhus, concerning those disciples, that they will act in accordance with the Master’s teaching, will act in accordance with his advice; that they will be dear to the four assemblies, will be loved, respected, and honoured by them.


Marvellous it is, most wonderful it is, bhikkhus, concerning the Perfect One, that when such a pair of disciples has passed away there is no grief, no lamentation on the part of the Perfect One. For of that which is born, come into being, put together, and so is subject to dissolution, how should it be said that it should not depart? That, indeed, is not possible.


“Therefore, bhikkhus, be an island unto yourselves, a refuge unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.”


And with that profound and deeply moving exhortation, which echoes again and again through the Buddha’s Teaching up to the time of his own final passing away, ends the story of the youth Upatissa who became the Master’s chief disciple, the beloved Marshal of the Dhamma.


The Venerable Sāriputta died on the full-moon day of the month Kattika, which begins in October and ends in November of the solar calendar.


The death of Mahāmoggallāna followed a half-month later, on the day of the new moon.  Half a year later, according to tradition, came the Parinibbāna of the Buddha himself.


Could such an auspicious combination of three great personages, so fruitful in blessings to gods and humans, have been brought about purely by chance?


We find the answer to that question in the Milindapañhā where the Elder Nāgasena says:

“In many hundred thousands of births, too, sire, the Elder Sāriputta was the Bodhisatta’s father, grandfather, uncle, brother, son, nephew, or friend.”


So, the weary round of becoming, which linked them together in time, came at last to its end.


Time, which is but the succession of fleeting events, became for them the Timeless, and the round of birth and death gave place to the Deathless. And in their final lives they kindled a glory that has illumined the world.


Long may it continue to do so!