In many temples of Theravada countries, there are two statues on either side of the Buddha image. They stand in the attitude of reverence with joined hands. They are the two chief disciples of the Buddha. Ven. Sariputta and the Ven. Moggallana who always stand highest in the veneration of Buddhists in the Theravada countries.
The early friendship
Ven. Sariputta is known as the Marshal of the Dhamma while Ven. Moggollana is known as the Master of psychic power. Both of them were from the Brahmin clan.
According to the Buddhists litrtature, they both were conceived and born on the same day. In their lay life they were called Upatissa and Kolita respectively. In one day, a child was born to a Brahmin woman named Sari of the village Upatissa, also known as Nalaka and was named Sariputta (Son of Sari). Another was born also to a brahmin woman named Moggali of the village Kolita, and was named Moggolliputta (Son of Moggali). They spent luxury lives because their parents were wealthy. Reflecting on their native villages, they were also known as Upatissa (Sariputta) and Kolita (Moggollana). Through the Samsaric lourny, they were close friends from life to life. Though nurtured in Brahmanism, their broad outlook in life and matured wisdom, compelled them to renounce their ancestral religion, for the more profound, more tolerant and scientific teachings of Buddhism. therefore, it made them as the two chief disciple of the Buddha. Each of them had five hundred Brahmin youths as their assistants and followers.
Once at Rajagaha, there was an annual event called the Hilltop festival (Giraggasamajja). Both Upatissa and Kolita participated in this celebration. When there as an occasion for laughter, they laughed; when the spectacle was exciting, they became excites and they paid their fees for the extra shows. In this manner they enjoyed the festival for a second day too. However, on the third day, they felt strange thoughts across their hearts. As a result, they could no longer laugh or share in the excitement, as they sat there, watching the plays and dances, for just a moment the spectre of human morality revealed itself to their inner vision. And once they had caught a glimpse of it, their attitude could never again be the same.
After gradually they were compelled to ask these questions by themselves.
“What is there to look at here? Though these people reached to their 100 years old, in one day they will die. Should not we go seek a teaching of deliverance?” Thus they realized that there was no benefit at all in enjoying that type of hollow shows. Therefore, they both decided to seek a path to deliverance from the entire round of birth and death. They were fully discontented and disappointed of life. Finally, they determine to leave hone and become ascetics in order to seek the path to deliverance.
Sariputta and Moggallana as truth seekers
Now, about this time, there was a famous religious teacher staying near Rajagaha. He was Sanjaya whose disciples and pupils numbered about five hundred in all. These two friends went to him and decided to ordination under him. Within a very short period of time, the two friends, Upatissa and kolita learnt Sanjaya’s entire teaching and they asked,
“Master tell us that, does your doctrine go so far only or is there something beyond?”
“So far only does it go. Already you know it.” After hearing this saying, these two friends thought to that there is no poinr in staying with him. So they left him and wandered hither and thither in search of peace. They went to so many ascetics as well as famous Brahmins. But there were really disappointed because all teachers could not show them to proper path as they wanted. At last, they had to return Rajagaha itself without finding a proper teaching. There, they made an agreement that whichever of them should find the Deathless first, would inform the other, reality it was a pact of brotherhood, born of the deep friendship between the two young men.
The noble chance
By now, there was a famous religious teacher near Rajagaha. It now chanced that one early morning, as Upatissa was walking along the street of the city, he saw Ven. Assaji was going to door to door begging alms for food. As he looked at the ascetic, Upatissa examined Ven. Assaji. This unknown ascetic seemed modest in his demeanor and so calm and collected in his way of walking and standing. While people brought food and put in his bowl, “Never before have I seen an ascetic like this (he thought to himself)” Upatissa approached him and helped him to take his meal by offering water from his own water-container. After his meals, having exchanged the usual courteous greetings Upatissa asked,
“Serene are your features, friend. Pure and bright is your complexion. Whose doctrine do you follow to go forth as an ascetic?”
The unassuming Arahant Assaji modestly replied, as it is characteristics of all great men, “I am still young in the sangha, and therefore, O brother, I am unable to expound the Dhamma (doctrine) of my teacher to you at length. Who was this Ven. Assaji? He was no other person than the one who listened to the first discourse of the Buddha on Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta, which he delivered to the first five Brahmin ascetics, two months after the Enlightenment he met them at the Isipatanaramaya in Benares He was the youngest of the five to attain Arahanthood as taught in Buddhism.
Though Ven. Assaji replied to Upatissa, he wanted to know it even in a nutshell. So he said “I am called Upatissa. Friend, please tell me as your ability. It doesn’t matter whether it is much or little. It will be my task to penetrate its meaning by way of a hundred or a thousand methods.” Whereupon, Arahant Assaji said,
“Ye dhamma hetupabhava, tesam hetum tathagato aha, tesam ca yo nirodho, evam vadi mahasamano.”
“Of these things that arise from a cause,
The Tathagata has told the cause,
As well as what their cessation is,
This is the doctrine of the Great Recluse”
Upatissa was sable to realized insight such a lofty doctrine through this small expressed. He was only in need of a slight indication to discover the truth. So well and Ven. Assaji did guide him on hid upward path, that immediately on hearing the first lines, he attained ‘Sovan’ (the first stage of sainthood) also known as ‘Sotapatti’.
Upatissa could clear his whole heart and mind that, only whatever has not arisen. It never has come into existence. Then it can free from the law. If it exists, again it must die.” Then, Upatissa said Ven. Assaji,
“if this is the doctrine you have learnt from your teacher, indeed you have found the way of free from suffering, free from death and the way of free from sorrow. As well as the path to free from death, the state of the sorrow less, the deathless, which has not been made known to men for ages and ages and down the generations of the past.”
Gladdened and delighted heart, he went to share the Dhamma with his friends as they agreed earlier. There, when he recited the stanza, he and from Ven. Assaji, to Kolita he also established in the fruit of stream-entry. Thereupon, as they both were so delighted in the Dhamma wanted to see the Buddha. But before that Upatissa suggested to meet their teacher Sanjaya. They went to meet him and asked him also to go to see the Buddha. But he did not like to meet the Buddha. Refusing he said,
“I am a teacher of many. I was to revert to the state of a disciple it would be as if a huge water tank were to change into a small pitcher. I cannot leave my pupils now.”
Becoming of the two chief disciples of the Buddha
Then they went to the Bamboo Grove at Rajagaha where the Buddha was dwelling at that time to see the Buddha and pay their respect and follow his teaching. The Buddha was preaching the Dhamma to the four-fold assembly. He saw these two friends coming to him. Then the Budda addressed the monks. he said that, “These two friends Upatissa and Kolita who are now approaching will be my two chief disciples on excellent pair.” The Blessed one uttered this statement on a Full Moon Poya Day of Navam. These two disciples obtained going forth (Pabbajja) and higher ordination (Upasampada) in the order. Since then they completed their great mission which is undoubtedly unparalleled and passed away prior to the demise of the Master, the Buddha. They were the brightest stars in the firmament of the Sasana.
Refreshing to them, once the Buddha said, “O bhikkhus, associate and keep company with Sariputta and Moggallana, for they are wise and great supporters of their brothers in the holy life. Sariputta may be compared to a mother, and Moggallana to a nurse. For Sariputta educates you for entrance into the stream that leads to Nibbana, but Moggallana trains you for the highest goal of self-realization. Sariputta is well qualified to proclaim and teach and point out, established, reveal, analyze and make clear the four Noble Truths.”
Again, another occasion, addressing the monks he said.
“A monk of faith, O bhikkus, should cherish this right aspiration; Oh’ may I become such as Sariputta and Moggallana. I consider both Sariputta and Moggallana as the model and standard for my bhikkhu disciples.”
After half month, obtaining the Pabajja, Sariputta attained Arahanthood listening Vedana Pariggaha Sutta preached by the Buddha at Sukarakhata cave in Rajagaha for his nephew. Seven days after the Pabbajja, Moggollana attained Arahanthood at Kallawala village by developing meditation as advices of the Buddha.
The day which Sariputta attained Arahanthood, the Buddha offered the position of the two chief disciples to the Arahant Sariputta and Arahant Mogallana, gathering bhikkhus. Among all bhikkhus in Buddha Sasana, Ven. Sariputta was the wisest monk. He was second only to the Buddha in wisdom. In some occasions, the Buddha assigned him to preach only the topic of the sermons. According to the Buddha expected, Ven. Sariputta preached the Dhamma describing the topic. He fully tried to expand the Dhamma with his wisdom and power. That’s why he was appointed as the Marshal of the Dhamma.
As instructed by the Buddha, Ven. Sariputta came forward to solve various problems in Sasana. Devadatta divided bhikkhus and persuaded young bhikkhus to his party. He took about five hundred bhikkhus to the Gaya head. According to the Buddha’s advice, Ven. Sariputta went there with Ven. Moggallana and preached them the noble Dhamma and brought them back to the Buddha. Therefore, Devadatta party Bhikkhus were angry. They blamed to Ven. Sariputta. But he didn’t care them. Jhabbaggiya bhikkhus and Channa Thera also blamed to him. He was not at all shocked to be blamed when he was right. One day, people gathered in one place and praised him for his patience. A brahman, who has heard it, wanted to check that quality. He followed Ven. Sariputta when he went for alms and kicked out. When Ven. Sariputta went for alms, the Brahmin followed his. He raised his hand and struck hard. But Ven. Sariputta didn’t care that what was that and went house to house for alms. The Brahmin understood his fault and he apologized. The people who gathered, tried to beat the Brahmin. But Ven. Sariputta did not allow it.
One day he was meditating. A demon saw it, he struck on Ven. Sariputta’s head. It was strong enough to kill a man. But he endured the pain and meditated. So it emphasizes his patience. Though he was the Marshal of the Dhamma and the wisest monk among others, he was very humble. He admired other’s advices. One day Ven. Sariputta was ready to go for begging alms with a little monk. Then the little monk saw a corner of Ven. Sariputta’s robe hanging and showed it. Ven. Sariputta praised the little monk, made his robe and left to begging alms.
It is said that Ven. Sariputta had great respect for the teachers. Because of Arahant Assaji showed him to the Dhamma path, when he sleeps, every day he has worshiped towards the chamber of Arahant Assaji. It is said that he lays down with his head towards it.
Ven. Sariputta has tried to care for the sick ones. One occasion, Bhikkhuni Yoshadhara had a stomach ache. When little Rahula Thera came to meet her, she said about her pain. And she said it was cured by drinking jiggery mixed mango juice. Rahula Thera informed this to Ven. Sariputta. He went to the palace of King Kosol and brought the remedy to Bhikkhuni Yashodhara and healed her. As well as Samitigutta Thera, who suffered from severe leprosy, attained to the Arahanthood, because of attendance and preaching the Dhamma by Ven. Sariputta. The Buddha has admired him in many occasions.
He offered to be the chief attendant of the Buddda. At that time, the Buddha said,
“You do not have the permission required to position of the Chief attendant. Wherever you live, I feel it is complete because you are the chief Marshal of the Dhamma. Your advice is like my advice. So do not become my caretaker.”
Ven. Sariputta has three brothers named Cunda, Upasena and Revata. Further he has three sisters named Cala, Upacala and Sisupavala. They all entered to the Dhamma path with the guidance of Ven. Sariputta.
He attained Parinibbana a few months before the Buddha’s Maha Parinibbana. Ven. Sariputta had a severe stomach ache. He knew it was a deadly disease. So he came to the Buddha and took permission to attain Parinibbana and he went home.
At that time his mother had not converted to Buddhism. she warmly welcomed her son. She cleaned the room which he was born and treated him well. Many gods and brahmas came to worshiped and listened the Dhamma from Ven. Sariputta. His mother asked about that gods and brahma realms and she was very delightful. She attained to the Sovan. And she became a Buddhist. Though he was at the dead bed, he was very happy to be able to perform the necessary duties for his mother. Ven. Sariputta attained to Parinibbana at his home on the full moon Poya day of November with the consolation of having done his duty for his mother.
As Ven. Sariputta, Ven. Moggallana spent an exemplary life doing his Sasanic duties very well. Therefore, the Buddha informed the monks that Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Moggallana should be associated with the monks. He had a special talent to psychic power. the Buddha has admired Ven. Moggallana’s talents in many occasions. That’s why he was appointed as the Master of psychic power.
Some were impressed by his psychic power and some tried to get the psychic power like him. Bhikkhu Khikta was a monk who was so impresses and obtained the psychic power of ordination.
Ven. Moggallana also engaged in many Sasanic activities as the Buddha’s advice. In here Ven. Moggallana has used his psychic power to solve many problems.one day, King Ajasattu tried to kill one of his brother named Silawa. Prince Silawa was rod on a fierce elephant and made a tour. The Buddha saw this and he informed to Ven. Moggallana to bring the price to him. Ven. Moggallana used his psychic power and the elephant was called to the monastery. The prince got down safety and went to the Buddha, listened to the Dhamma and attained to the Arahanthood.
There was a miserly aristocrat named “Maccariya Kosiya”. As the Buddha’s advice Ven. Moggallana went to the palace of Kosiya. He was cooking oil cake with his wife in the 7th floor of his palace. He didn’t like to give oil cakes to his servants or any others. He wanted to eat alone and secretly. When he was cooking in 7th floor, the cooking smell was not spread around his palace. Ven. Moggallana came to 7th floor and he appeared from the window. Kosiya blamed him and he said that he didn’t give any Oil cake to him. He used several methods to tame Kosiya. At the end Kosiya decided to give whole Oil cake basket to the Ven. Moggallana with overcoming his miserly. They brought all Oil cakes to the Jetavanarama monastery and offered to the Buddha and monks. Finally, they became devotees of the Buddha.
Ven. Moggallana used his psychic power with his patience and loving kindness to help many ones. He was very wise monk. Ven. Sariputta was second only to Ven. Sariputta in wisdom. Therefore, in many occasions the Buddha has assigned to preach Sermons to him. When the Buddha went to Thavatimsa to preach the Abhidhamma to brahma realms, Ven. Moggallana preached the Dhamma to people who was waiting for the Buddha.
The Buddhist text describes Ven. Moggallana as having maintained contacts with the human world and other worlds such as the Devine and Brahma. At one occasion, Ven. Moggallana saw that the Sakka was overjoyed with his own glory. He ascended to the Thavatimsa heaven by miraculous power and shaken his divine Crystal mansion and explained him about impermanence of glory. Further he visited the heavens on various occasions, inquired about the merits of the gods and told the people of the world. Many of them were able to gather merits because of Ven. Moggallana.
And it is said that Ven. Moggallana also ascended to the world of Brahma. He went to Baka Brahma, who was subdued by the Buddha, and inquired about the idea held in that Brahma that his wealth of Brahma was eternal. Brahma told Ven. Moggallana that he had got rid of those misconceptions, under the guidance of the Buddha.
The tame of the cobra named Nandopananda by Ven. Moggallana is a very important incident. Only Ven. Moggallana had the power to tame the snake. Several Arahants sought permission to tame the snake. But it was Ven. Moggallana was got permission from the Buddha.
Devadatta’s supporters were strongly opposed to Ven. Sariputta as well as Ven. Moggallana. According to the story of Ven. Sariputta the main reason for this was that the Devadatta had been taken about 500 of young monks to the Gaya head as mentioned in previously. Ven. Moggallana had to face strong criticism from powerful Devadatta supporters such as Kokalika. But he was not shocked at all.
The pagans living in India at that time had a strong hatred for Ven. Moggallana. They believed that he was the reason that Buddhism was of interest to many in the country. At one occasion the theorists conspired like this.
“The Buddha was able to earn a lot of cheap hospitality because of monk named Moggallana. He goes to heaven and inquired about the meritorious deeds done by Gods of the past and informs the people. People hear that information from him and take great refuge of the monks, including the Buddha. If he is not killed, we cannot afford cheap hospitality.”
The pagans decided to kill Ven. Moggallana. They summoned several savage thieves to bribe and kill Ven. Moggallana in Kalasila. The thieves went to the monastery where he lived and surrounded it. Ven. Moggallana by his power and wisdom, escaped from the thieves that day. In that way the robbers raided the monastery where he was staying for the third day.
Ven. Moggallana was knew that a karma he had done in a previous life would come to fruition. He decided not to leave the monastery. The thieves entered to the monastery, caught Ven. Moggallana and beaten him badly. He approached to the Parinibbana moment. He thought of seeing the Buddha before attain to Parinibbana. Ven. Moggallana went to the Buddha by the psychic power and informed him that he was going to attain Parinibbana.
Then the Buddha said,
“Moggallana, where do you going to Parinibbana?”
“O lord, in the Kalasila.”
“Moggallana, this is the last time you to see a great disciple like you. I would like to hear your sermon. Give me a sermon and go to Kalasila, attain to Parinibbana.”
At that request of the Buddha, Ven. Moggallana performed a sermon on the great psychic miracle. He worshiped the Buddha to obtain permission and went to attain Parinibbana. Ven. Moggallan was a great disciple of the Buddha Sasana.
Thus let us all, as practicing Buddhist, strive to learn and understand the nature of these most virtuous beings and follow the path of these two chief disciples of the Buddha.
"Those disciples of Gotama Buddha, who day and night constantly practice mindfulness of the body, wake up happily every day"