From Birth to the Attainment of Arahatship
The story begins at two brahmanical villages in India, called
Upatissa and Kolita, which lay not far from the city Rajagaha. Before
our Buddha had appeared in the world a brahman lady named Sari, living
in Upatissa village,1
conceived; and also, on the same day at Kolita village, did another
brahman lady whose name was Moggalli. 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 the child of the brahman lady
Sari received the name Upatissa, as he was a son of the foremost
family of that village; and for the same reason Moggalli's son was
When the boys grew up they were educated, and acquired mastery of
all the sciences. Each of them had a following of five hundred brahman
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 carriages.
Now at Rajagaha 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 occasion for laughter, they
laughed; when the spectacles were exciting, they became excited; and
they paid their fees for the extra shows. In this manner they enjoyed
the festival for a second day; but on the third day their
understanding was awakened and they could no longer laugh or get
excited, nor did they feel inclined to pay for extra shows as they had
done on the first days. Each of them had the same thought: "What
is there to look at here? Before these people have reached a hundred
years they will all have come to death. What we ought to do is to seek
for a teaching of deliverance."
It was with such thoughts in mind that they took their seats at the
festival. Then Kolita said to Upatissa: "How is this, my dear
Upatissa? You are not as happy and joyous as you were on the other
days. You seem now to be in a discontented mood, What is on your
"My dear Kolita, to look at these things here is of no benefit
at all. it is utterly worthless! I ought to seek a teaching of
deliverance for myself. That, my Kolita, is what I was thinking,
seated here. But you, Kolita, seem to be discontented, too."
And Kolita replied: "Just as you have said, I also feel."
When he knew that his friend had the same inclinations, Upatissa said:
"That was a good thought of ours. But 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
At that time, there lived at Rajagaha an ascetic of the sect of the
Wanderers (paribbajaka), called Sañjaya, who had a great
following of pupils. Deciding to get ordination under him, Upatissa
and Kolita went there, each with his own following of five hundred
Brahman youths and all of them received ordination from Sañjaya. And
from the time of their ordination under him, Sañjaya's reputation and
support increased abundantly.
Within a short time the two friends had learned Sañjaya's entire
doctrine and they asked him: "Master, does your doctrine go so
far only, or is there something beyond?"
Sañjaya replied: "So far only it goes. You know all."
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. Under him we cannot
find it. But India is vast; if we wander through villages, towns and
cities we shall certainly find a master who can show us the teaching
of deliverance." And after that, whenever they heard that there
were wise ascetics or brahmans at this or that place, they went and
discussed with them. But there was none who was able to answer their
questions, while they were able to reply to those who questioned them.
Having thus traveled through the whole of India they turned back,
and arriving at their old place they agreed between them that he who
should attain to the Deathless State first, should inform the other.
It was a pact of brotherhood, born of the deep friendship between the
two young men.
Some time after they had made that agreement, the Blessed One, the
Buddha, came to Rajagaha. It was when he had delivered the Fire Sermon
at Gaya Peak that he remembered his promise, given before his
Enlightenment to King Bimbisara, that he would come to Rajagaha again
when he had attained his goal. So in stages the Blessed One journeyed
from Gaya to Rajagaha, and having received from King Bimbisara the
Bamboo Grove Monastery (Veluvana) he resided there.
Among the sixty-one Arahats (Saints) whom the Master had sent forth
to proclaim to the world the virtues of the Triple Gem, there was the
Elder Assaji, who belonged to the group of five ascetics, the Buddha's
erstwhile companions before his Enlightenment, and afterwards his
first disciples. The Elder Assaji had returned to Rajagaha from his
wanderings, and when one morning he was going for alms in the city he
was seen by Upatissa, who was on his way to the Paribbajaka ascetic's
monastery. 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 Arahats, or on the way to Arahatship. Should I
not approach him and ask, 'Under whom have you been ordained? Who is
your teacher and whose teaching do you profess?'"
But then he thought: "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 gathered his almsfood, and Upatissa saw
him going to another place intending to sit down and take his meal, he
prepared for him his own ascetic's seat that he carried with him, and
offered it to the Elder. The Elder Assaji took his meal, after which
Upatissa served him with water from his own water-container, and in
that way performed towards 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, friend, have you gone forth as an ascetic? Who
is your teacher and whose doctrine do you profess?"
Assaji replied: "There is, O friend, the Great Recluse, the
scion of the Sakyas, who has gone forth from the Sakya clan. Under
that Blessed One I have gone forth. 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
Questioned thus, the Elder Assaji thought to himself: "These
wandering ascetics are opposed to the Buddha's dispensation. I shall
show him how profound this dispensation 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 teaching 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 avail to me are many words."
In response, the Elder Assaji uttered this stanza:
"Of all those things that from a cause arise,
Tathagata the cause thereof has told;
And how they cease to be, that too he tells,
This is the doctrine of the Great Recluse."2
Upon hearing the first two lines, Upatissa became established in
the Path of stream-entry, and to the ending of the last two lines he
already listened as a stream-winner.
When he become a stream-winner, and before he had achieved the
higher attainments, he thought: "Here will the means of
deliverance be found!" and he said to the Elder: "Do not
enlarge upon this exposition of the Dhamma, venerable sir. This will
suffice. But where does our Master live?"
"In the Bamboo Grove Monastery, wanderer."
"Then please go on ahead, venerable sir. I have a friend with
whom I agreed that he who should reach the Deathless State first,
should tell the other. I shall inform him, and together we shall
follow on the road you went and shall come into the Master's
presence." Upatissa then prostrated himself at the Elder's feet,
saluted him and, taking the Elder's leave, went back to the park of
the Wandering Ascetics.
Kolita saw him approaching and thought: "Today my friend's
appearance is quite changed. Surely, he must have found the Deathless
And when he asked him about it, Upatissa replied: "Yes,
friend, the Deathless State has been found!" and he recited to
him the stanza he had heard. At the end of the verse, Kolita was
established in the Fruition of stream-entry and he asked: "Where,
my dear, does the Master live?"
"I learned from our teacher, the Elder Assaji, that he lives
at the Bamboo Grove Monastery."
"Then let us go, Upatissa, and see the Master," said
But Sariputta was one who always respected his teacher, and
therefore he said to his friend: "First, my dear, we shall 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: "Oh, our teacher!
What are you doing? A Buddha has appeared in the world! Well
proclaimed is his Teaching and in right conduct lives his community of
monks. Let us go and see the Master of the Ten Powers!"
"What are you saying, my dear?" Sañjaya exclaimed. And
refusing to go with them he spoke to them of the gain and fame they
would enjoy if they would share his, the teacher's, place.
But they said: "Oh, we should not mind always remaining in the
state of pupils! But you, O teacher, you must know whether to go or
Then Sañjaya thought: "If they know so much, they will not
listen to what I say." And realizing that, he replied: "You
may go, then, but I cannot."
"Why not, O teacher?"
"I am a teacher of many. If I were 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 live the life of a pupil now."
"Do not think like that, O teacher!" they urged.
"Let it be, my dear. You may go, but I cannot."
"Oh 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
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, O teacher!" And after they had gone there was a
split among Sañjaya's pupils, and his monastery became almost empty.
Seeing his place empty, Sañjaya vomited hot blood. Five hundred of
his disciples had left along with Upatissa and Kolita, out of whom two
hundred and fifty returned to Sañjaya. With the remaining two hundred
and fifty, and their own following, the two friends arrived at the
Bamboo Grove Monastery.
There the Master, seated among the fourfold assembly3
was preaching the Dhamma, and when the Blessed One saw the two coming
he addressed the monks: "These two friends, Upatissa and Kolita,
who are now coming, will be two excellent disciples to me, a blessed
Having approached, the friends saluted the Blessed One
reverentially and sat down at one side. When they were seated they
spoke to the Blessed One, saying: "May we obtain, O Lord, the
ordination of the Going Forth under the Blessed One, may we obtain the
And the Blessed One said: "Come, O 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
Then the master continued his sermon, taking the individual
of the listeners into consideration; and with the exception of the two
chief disciples all of them attained to Arahatship. But the two chief
disciples had not yet completed the task of attaining to the three
higher paths of sanctity. The reason for this was the greatness of the
"knowledge pertaining to the perfection of a disciple" (savakaparami-ñana),
which they had still to reach.
Upatissa received the name of Sariputta on becoming a disciple of
the Buddha, while Kolita became known as Maha Moggallana.
Now the Venerable Maha Moggallana went to live at a village in
Magadha called Kallavala, on which he depended for almsfood. On the
seventh day after his ordination when he was doing the recluse's work
(of meditation), fatigue and torpor fell upon him. But spurred on by
he dispelled his fatigue, and while listening to the Master expounding
to him the meditation subject of the elements (dhatu-kammatthana),
he completed the task of winning to the three higher paths and reached
the acme of a disciple's perfections (savaka-parami).
But the Venerable Sariputta continued to
stay near the Master, at a cave called the Boar's Shelter (Sukarakhata-lena),
depending on Rajagaha for his almsfood. Half a month after his
ordination the Blessed One gave a discourse on the comprehension of
to the Venerable Sariputta's nephew, the wandering ascetic Dighanakha.
The Venerable Sariputta was standing behind the Master, fanning him.
While following with his thoughts the progress of the discourse, as
though sharing the food prepared for another, the Venerable Sariputta
on that occasion reached the acme of "knowledge pertaining to a
disciple's perfection and attained to Arahatship together with the
fourfold analytical knowledge (patisambhida-ñana)."7
And his nephew, at the end of the sermon, was established in the
Fruition of stream-entry.8
Now it may be asked: Did not the Venerable Sariputta possess great
wisdom; and if so, why did he attain to the disciple's perfections
later than the Venerable Maha Moggallana? The answer is, because of
the greatness of the preparations necessary for it. When poor people
want to go anywhere they take to the road at once; but in the case of
kings, larger preparations are required, as for instance to get ready
the elephants and chariots, and so on. Thus it was in this case.
On that same day, when the evening shadows had lengthened, the
Master caused his disciples to assemble and bestowed upon the two
Elders the rank of Chief Disciples. At this, some monks were
displeased and said 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. If not to them, then either to
the group of two hundred and fifty bhikkhus headed by Yasa, or to the
thirty of the Auspicious Group (Bhaddavaggiya), or else to the three
Kassapa brothers. 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 he was
told, he said: "I do not show preference, but give to each what
he has aspired to. When, for instance, Kondañña-the Knower in a
previous life gave almsfood 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, Arahatship. And so it came
about. But when Sariputta and Maha Moggallana many aeons ago, at the
time of the Buddha Anomadassi, were born as the brahman youth Sarada
and landowner Sirivaddhaka, they made the aspiration for Chief
Discipleship. This, O bhikkhus, was the aspiration for these my sons
at that time. Hence I have given them just what they aspired to, and
did not do it out of preference."
This account of the beginning of the Venerable Sariputta's career
is taken from the Commentary to the Anguttara Nikaya, Etad-agga
section, with some passages from the parallel version in the
Dhammapada Commentary. From it some of the principal traits of the
Venerable Sariputta's character are already discernible. His capacity
for deep and constant friendship showed itself while he was still a
worldling, a youth nurtured in luxury and pleasure, and it persisted
after he had abandoned the household life. On receiving his first
insight into the Dhamma, and before proceeding any further, his first
thought was for his friend Kolita and the vow they had sworn together.
His penetrating intellect is revealed in the promptness with which he
grasped the essence of the Buddha's teaching from a few simple words.
And, most rare of all, he combined that intellectual power with a
modesty and sweetness of nature that expressed itself in gratitude and
reverence for anyone, even the misguided Sañjaya, who had taught him
things of value. It was no wonder, therefore, that throughout his life
he continued to show respect for the Venerable Assaji, from whom he
had gained his introduction to the Buddha's Teaching. We are told in
the Commentary to the Nava Sutta (Sutta-Nipata), and also in
the Commentary to v. 392 of the Dhammapada, that whenever the
Venerable Sariputta lived in the same monastery as the Elder Assaji,
he always went to pay obeisance to him immediately after having done
so to the Blessed One. This he did out of reverence, thinking:
"This venerable one was my first teacher. It was through him that
I came to know the Buddha's Dispensation." And when the Elder
Assaji lived in another monastery, the Venerable Sariputta used to
face the direction in which the Elder Assaji was living, and to pay
homage to him by touching the ground at five places (with the head,
hands and feet), and saluting with joined palms.
But this led to misunderstanding, for when other monks saw it they
said: "After becoming a Chief Disciple, Sariputta still worships
the heavenly quarters! Even today he cannot give up his brahmanical
views!" Hearing these remarks, the Blessed One said: "It is
not so, bhikkhus. Sariputta does not worship the heavenly quarters. He
salutes him through whom he came to know the Dhamma. It is him he
salutes, worships and reveres as his teacher. Sariputta is one who
gives devout respect to his teacher." It was then that the Master
preached to the monks assembled there the Nava Sutta,9
which starts with the words:
"As gods their homage pay to Indra,
So should a man give reverence to him
From whom he learned the Dhamma."
Another example of the Venerable Sariputta's gratitude is given in
the story of Radha Thera. The Commentary to verse 76 of the Dhammapada
relates that there was living at Savatthi a poor brahman who stayed in
the monastery. There he performed little services such as weeding,
sweeping, and the like and the monks supported him with food. They did
not, however, want to ordain him. One day the Blessed One, in his
mental survey of the world, saw that this brahman was mature for
Arahatship. he inquired about him from the assembled monks, and asked
whether any one of them remembered to have received some help from the
poor brahman. The Venerable Sariputta said that he remembered that
once, when he was going for alms in Rajagaha, this poor brahman had
given him a ladle full of almsfood that he had begged for himself. The
Master asked Sariputta to ordain the man, and he was given the name
Radha. The Venerable Sariputta then advised him time and again as to
what things should be done, and always Radha received his admonitions
gladly, without resentment. And so, living according to the Elder's
advice, he attained Arahatship in a short time.
This time the bhikkhus remarked on Sariputta's sense of gratitude
and said that he who himself willingly accepts advice obtains pupils
who do the same. Commenting on this, the Buddha said that not only
then, but also formerly Sariputta had showed gratitude and remembered
any good deed done to him. And in that connection the Master told the Alinacitta
Jataka, the story of a grateful elephant.10
Maturity of Insight
If Sariputta was notable for his lasting
sense of gratitude, he was no less so for his capacity for friendship.
With Maha Moggallana, the friend and companion of his youth, he
maintained a close intimacy, and many were the conversations they held
on the Dhamma. One of these, which is of special interest as throwing
light on the process of Venerable Sariputta's attainment, is recorded
in the Anguttara Nikaya, Catukka-nipata, No. 167. It relates that once
the Venerable Maha Moggallana went to see the Elder and said to him:
"There are four ways of progress, brother Sariputta:
difficult progress, with sluggish direct-knowledge;
difficult progress, with swift direct-knowledge;
easy progress, with sluggish direct-knowledge;
easy progress, with swift direct-knowledge.
"By which of these four ways of progress, brother, was your
mind freed from the cankers without remnants of clinging?" To
which the Venerable Sariputta replied: "By that of those four
ways of progress, brother, which is easy and has swift
The explanation of this passage is that if the suppression of the
defilements preparatory to absorption or insight takes place without
great difficulty, progress is called "easy" (sukha-patipada);
in the reverse case it is "difficult" or "painful"
(dukkha-patipada). If, after the suppression of the
defilements, the manifestation of the Path, the goal of insight, is
quickly effected, the direct-knowledge (connected with the Path) is
called "swift" (khippabhiñña); in the reverse case
it is "sluggish" (dandabhiñña). In this discourse
the Venerable Sariputta's statement refers to his attainment of
arahantship. His attainment of the first three Paths, however, was,
according to the commentary to the above text, connected with
"easy progress and sluggish direct-knowledge."
In such ways as this did the two friends exchange information about
their experience and understanding of the Dhamma. They were also
frequently associated in attending to affairs of the Sangha. One such
occasion was when they combined in winning back certain monks who had
been led astray by Devadatta. There is an interesting passage11
in this connection which shows that the Venerable Sariputta's generous
praise of Devadatta's achievements before the latter brought about a
schism in the Sangha was the cause of a slight embarrassment. It
relates that when the Buddha asked Sariputta to proclaim in Rajagaha
that Devadatta's deeds and words should no longer be regarded as
connected with the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, the Venerable Sariputta
said: "Formerly I spoke at Rajagaha in praise of Devadatta's
magical powers?" "Yes, Lord," the elder replied.
"So you will now speak truthfully also, Sariputta, when you make
this proclamation about Devadatta." So, after receiving the
formal approval of the Sangha, the Venerable Sariputta, together with
many monks, went to Rajagaha and made the declaration about Devadatta.
When Devadatta had formally split the Sangha by declaring that he
would conduct Sangha-acts separately, he went to Vultures' Peak with
five hundred young monks who through ignorance had become his
followers. To win them back, the Buddha sent Sariputta and Maha
Moggallana to the Vultures' Peak, and while Devadatta was resting, the
two Chief Disciples preached to the monks, who attained to
stream-entry and went back to the Master.12
Another time when the Venerable Sariputta and the Venerable Maha
Moggallana worked together to restore order in the Sangha was when a
group of monks led by Assaji (not the Elder Assaji referred to
earlier) and Punnabbassu, living at Kitagiri, were misbehaving. In
spite of repeated admonitions, these monks would not mend their ways,
so the two Chief Disciples were sent to pronounce the penalty of pabbajaniya-kamma
(excommunication) on those who would not submit to the discipline.13
Venerable Sariputta's devotion to his friend was fully
reciprocated; we are told of two occasions when Sariputta was ill, and
Maha Moggallana attended to him and brought him medicine.
Yet there was nothing exclusive about the Venerable Sariputta's
friendships, for according to the commentary to the Maha-Gosinga
Sutta there was also a bond of mutual affection between him and
the Elder Ananda. On the part of Sariputta it was because he thought:
"He is attending on the Master — a duty which should have been
performed by me"; and Ananda's affection was due to the fact that
Sariputta had been declared by the Buddha as his foremost disciple.
When Ananda gave Novice Ordination to young pupils he used to take
them to Sariputta to obtain Higher ordination under him. The Venerable
Sariputta did the same in regard to Ananda, and in that way they had
five hundred pupils in common.
Whenever the Venerable Ananda received choice robes or other
requisites he would offer them to Sariputta, and in the same way,
Sariputta passed on to Ananda any special offerings that were made to
him. Once Ananda received from a certain brahman a very valuable robe,
and with the Master's permission he kept it for ten days awaiting
Sariputta's return. The sub-commentary says that later teachers
commented on this: "There may be those who say: 'We can well
understand that Ananda, who had not yet attained to Arahatship, felt
such affection. But how is it in the case of Sariputta, who was a
canker-free arahant?" To this we answer: 'Sariputta's affection
was not one of worldly attachment, but a love for Ananda's virtues (guna-bhatti).'"
The Buddha once asked the Venerable Ananda: "Do you, too,
approve of Sariputta?" And Ananda replied: "Who, O Lord,
would not approve of Sariputta, unless he were childish, corrupt,
stupid or of perverted mind! Learned, O Lord, is the Venerable
Sariputta; of great wisdom, O Lord, is the Venerable Sariputta; of
broad, bright, quick, keen and penetrative wisdom is the Venerable
Sariputta; of few wants and contented, inclined to seclusion, not fond
of company, energetic, eloquent, willing to listen, an exhorter who
censures what is evil."14
In the Theragatha (v. 1034f) we find the Venerable Ananda
describing his emotion at the time of Sariputta's death. "When
the Noble Friend (Sariputta) had gone," he declares, "the
world was plunged in darkness for me." But he adds that after the
companion had left him behind, and also the Master had passed away,
there was no other friend like mindfulness directed on the body.
Ananda's sorrow on learning of the Venerable Sariputta's death is also
described very movingly in the Cunda Sutta.15
Sariputta was a true friend in the fullest sense of the word. He
well understood how to bring out the best in others, and in doing so
did not hesitate sometimes to speak straightforwardly and critically,
like the ideal friend described by the Buddha, who points out his
friend's faults. It was in this way that he helped the venerable
Anuruddha in his final break-through to Arahatship, as recorded in the
Anguttara Nikaya (Tika-Nipata No. 128):
Once the Venerable Anuruddha went to see
the Venerable Sariputta. When they had exchanged courteous greetings
he sat down and said to the Venerable Sariputta: "Friend
Sariputta, with the divine eye that is purified, transcending human
ken, I can see the thousandfold world-system. Firm is my energy,
unremitting; my mindfulness is alert and unconfused; the body is
tranquil and unperturbed; my mind is concentrated and one-pointed.
And yet my mind is not freed from cankers, not freed from
"Friend Anuruddha," said the Venerable Sariputta,
"that you think thus of your divine eye, this is conceit in
you. That you think thus of your firm energy, your alert
mindfulness, your unperturbed body and your concentrated mind, this
is restlessness in you. That you think of your mind not being freed
from the cankers, this is worrying16
in you. It will be good, indeed, if the Venerable Anuruddha,
abandoning these three states of mind and paying no attention to
them, will direct the mind to the Deathless Element."
And the Venerable Anuruddha later on gave up these three states
of mind, paid no attention to them and directed his mind to the
Deathless Element. And the Venerable Anuruddha, living then alone,
secluded, heedful, ardent, with determined mind, before long reached
in this very life, understanding and experiencing it by himself,
that highest goal of the Holy Life, for the sake of which noble sons
go forth entirely from home into homelessness. And he knew:
"Exhausted is rebirth, lived is the holy life, the work is
done, nothing further remains after this." Thus the Venerable
Anuruddha became one of the Arahats.
Sariputta must have been stimulating company, and sought after by
many. What attracted men of quite different temperament to him and his
conversation can be well understood from the incident described in the
Maha-Gosinga Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya No. 32). One evening the
Elders Maha Moggallana, Maha Kassapa, Anuruddha, Revata and Ananda
went to Sariputta to listen to the Dhamma. The Venerable Sariputta
welcomed them, saying: "Delightful is this Gosinga Forest of Sala
trees; there is moonlight tonight, all the Sala trees are in full
bloom, and it seems that heavenly perfume drifts around. What kind of
monk, do you think, Ananda, will lend more luster to this Gosinga Sala
The same question was put to the others as well, and each answered
according to his individual nature. Finally, Sariputta gave his own
answer, which was as follows:
"There is a monk who has control over his mind, who is under
the control of his mind.17
In whatever (mental) abiding or attainment he wishes to dwell in the
forenoon, he can dwell in it at that time. In whatever (mental)
abiding or attainment he wishes to dwell at noon, he can dwell in it
at that time. In whatever (mental) abiding or attainment he wishes
to dwell in the evening, he can dwell in it at that time. It is as
though a king's or royal minister's cloth chest were full of
many-colored garments; so that whatever pair of garments he wishes
to wear in the morning, or at noon, or in the evening, he can wear
it at will at those times. Similarly it is with a monk who has
control over his mind, who is not under the control of his mind; in
whatever (mental) abiding or attainment he wishes to dwell in the
morning, or at noon, or in the evening, he can do so at will at
those times. Such a monk, friend Moggallana, may lend luster to this
Gosinga Sala Forest."
They then went to the Buddha, who approved of all their answers and
added his own.
We see from this episode that Sariputta, with all his powerful
intellect and his status in the Sangha, was far from being a
domineering type who tried to impose his views on others. How well did
he understand how to stimulate self-expression in his companions in a
natural and charming way, conveying to them the pensive mood evoked by
the enchanting scenery! His own sensitive nature responded to it, and
drew a similar response from his friends.
There are many such conversations recorded between Sariputta and
other monks, not only the Venerables Maha Moggallana, Ananda and
Anuruddha, but also Maha Kotthita, Upavana, Samiddhi, Savittha,
Bhumija and many more. It seems that the Buddha himself liked to talk
to Sariputta, for he often did so, and many of his discourses were
addressed to his "Marshal of the Law," to use the title he
Once, Sariputta repeated some words the Master had spoken to Ananda
on another occasion. "This is the whole of the Life of Purity (brahmacariya);
namely, noble friendship, noble companionship, noble
There could be no better exemplification of that teaching than the
life of the Chief Disciple himself.