The last days of Moggallana | Daily News


The last days of Moggallana

Half a year before the Final Passing Away of the Awakened One, death separated the two friends for the last time. Sariputta died on the full-moon day of the month Kattika (October/November); it was at his birth place, in his parental home, far away from Moggallana. Just as their attainment of sainthood occurred at different places, they were also separated in death, though they had been so close to each other for a long time.

Soon after the death of Sariputta, Mara, the embodiment of evil and the Lord of Death, claimed Moggallana’s mortal frame, by entering his bowels. He could not make him possessed by entering his head, because he had access only to the lowest Chakra. Moggallana, however, told him calmly to get out and away as he had well recognized him. Mara was very surprised that he had been found out so soon, and in his delusion he thought that even the Buddha would not have recognized him so quickly.

But Moggallana read his thoughts and ordered him again to get away. Mara now escaped through Moggallana’s mouth and stood at the hut’s door post. Moggallana told him that he knew him not only from to-day but was aware of his karmic past and his descent. In that way, Moggallana manifested here three supernormal faculties: the Divine Eye, telepathy and recollection of past lives. It was only on this occasion, reported in Majjhima Nikaya No. 50, that Moggallana spoke of his recollection of his own distant past.

Vital energy

The following is the gist of what he told. The first Buddha appearing in our “fortunate aeon” (bhadda-kappa) with five Buddhas, was Kakusanda. He lived when the lifespan of man was 40,000 years and when the first darkening of the golden age became evident because of a king’s lack of concern and the occurrence of the first theft. Because of that, man’s vital energy became reduced to half. At that time, Moggallana was Mara, chief of demons, lord of the lower worlds, and his name was Mara Dusi.

He had a sister by name of Kali whose son was to become the Mara of our age. Hence Moggallana’s own nephew was now standing in front of him at the door post. While being the Mara of that distant time, Moggallana had attacked a chief disciple of the previous Buddha by taking possession of a boy and making him throw a potsherd at the holy disciple’s head so that blood was flowing.

When the Buddha Kakusandha saw this, he said: “Verily, Mara knew no moderation here” — because even in satanic actions there might be moderation. Under the glance of the Perfect One the astral body of Mara Dusi dissolved on the spot and reappeared in the deepest hell. Just a moment ago he had been the overlord of all the hellish worlds and now he himself was one of hell’s victims.

A moment ago he had been the greatest torturer and now he himself was undergoing one of those terrible torments. Such is the rapid change in samsaric situations. For many thousands of years Moggallana had to suffer in hell as a punishment for his frivolity towards a saint. Ten thousand years he had to spend alone in a hellish pool, having a human body and the head of a fish, just as Pieter Breughel had painted such beings in his pictures of the hells. Whenever two lances of his torturers crossed in his heart, he would know that a thousand years of his torment had passed. (Majjh. 50).

Lawful course

After this encounter with Mara which once more brought to his mind the terrors of Samsara from which he now was free forever, Moggallana felt that the time of his last existence was running out. Being a saint he saw no reason for making use of his ability to extend, by an act of will, his life span up to the end of this aeon, and he calmly allowed impermanence to take its lawful course.

As many great sages of the East and many saints of the Buddha did, he left behind a kind of autobiography in verses in which he summarized how he, as a liberated one, had passed through all the situations of his life, unperturbed and unshaken. Events that completely overwhelmed others left him calm. His verses in the Theragatha could be summed up by saying that none of Samsara’s upheavals appeared to him extraordinary, nor could anything disturb the equipoise of his sainthood. The Dukkha of the world no longer touched him as he lived in a peace that transcended all the pain and restlessness of existence.

The verses begin with events of his life in this world. Wherever others craved for possessions, he, as a forest hermit, was content in an austere life of few wants (Thag. 1146-1149). Once when a harlot tried to seduce him, he rejected her, just as the Buddha had rejected Mara’s daughters (1150-1157). When Sariputta, his best friend died, he was not agitated by sorrow as was Ananda who had not yet become an arahant, but remained unshaken in his serenity (1158-1163).

Then the verses turn to events of a supernormal nature as his shaking a monastery building with his toe (1164) and his undisturbed meditation in a mountain cleft, in the midst of thunder and lightning (1167). Living with mind pacified in remote places, he, a true heir of the Buddha, is venerated even by Brahma (1169). The following verses (1169-1173) are addressed to a superstitious Brahman of wrong views who, on seeing Maha Kassapa going for alms, had abused him.

Moggallana warns him against the dangers of such conduct and urges him to respect the saints. He then praises Sariputta (1176) and, it seems that the next verses (1177-1181) are Sariputta’s own praise of Moggallana. He now reviews his attainments and rejoices in the consummation of the goal of his monk life (1182-1186). The last verses (1187-1208) are identical with those concluding his encounter with Mara recorded in Majjhima Nikaya No. 50 and briefly related above.

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