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Personalities of the Buddhist Suttas


[219] At the top, Beggars, of those of my Beggars who has heard much [bahussutanam] is Ananda.

[220] At the top, Beggars, of those of my Beggars with total recall [satimantanam] is Ananda.

[221] At the top, Beggars, of those of my Beggars who acts in accordance with mind [gatimantanam] is Ananda.

[222] At the top, Beggars, of those of my Beggars who is mentally courageous [dhitimantanam] is Ananda.

[223] At the top, Beggars, of those of my Beggars who is one who watches over [upatthakanam] is Ananda.



(DPPN: He was a first cousin of the Buddha and was deeply attached to him.

... was born on the same day as the Bodhisatta, his father being Amitodna ...

Ananda entered the Order in the second year of the Buddha's ministry, together with other Sakyan princes, such as Bhaddiya, Anuruddha, Bhagu, Kimbila and Devadatta, and was ordained by the Buddha himself ... During the first twenty years after the Enlightenment, the Buddha did not have the same personal attendants all the time. From time to time various monks looked after him, among them being Nagasamala, Nagita, Upavana, Sunakkhatta, the novice Cunda, Sagata, Radha and Meghiya. We are told that the Buddha was not particularly pleased with any of them. At the end of twenty years, at an assembly of the monks, the Buddha declared that he was advanced in years and desired to have somebody as his permanent body-servant, one who would respect his wishes in every way.

All the great disciples offered their services, but were rejected by the Buddha. Ananda alone was left; he sat in silence. When asked why he did not offer himself, his reply was that the Buddha knew best whom to choose. When the Buddha signified that he desired to have Ananda, the latter agreed to accept the post on certain conditions. The Buddha was never to give him any choice food or garment gotten by him, nor appoint for him a separate "fragrant cell" (residence), nor include him in the invitations accepted by the Buddha. For, he said, if the Buddha did any of these things, some would say that Ananda's services to the Buddha were done in order to get clothes, good fare and lodging and be included in the invitations. Further he was to be allowed to accept invitations on behalf of the Buddha; to bring to the Buddha those who came to see him from afar; to place before the Buddha all his perplexities, and the Buddha was to repeat to him any doctrine taught in his absence. If these concessions were not granted, he said, some would ask where was the advantage of such service. Only if these privileges were allowed him would people trust him and realize that the Buddha had real regard for him. The Buddha agreed to the conditions.

Thenceforth, for twenty-five years, Ananda waited upon the Buddha, following him like a shadow, bringing him water and toothpick, washing his feet, accompanying him everywhere, sweeping his cell and so forth. By day he was always at hand, forestalling the Master's slightest wish; at night, stout staff and large torch in hand, he would go nine times round the Buddha'' Gandha-kuti in order to keep awake, in case he were needed, and also to prevent the Buddha's sleep from being disturbed.

[One of the most well known events in Ananda's life was] ... his championship of the women's cause ... When Pajapati Gotami [the Buddha's aunt, who took the place of his mother who died in childbirth], with a number of Sakyan women, undaunted by the Buddha's refusal of their request at Kapilavatthu [to join the Order], followed him into Vesali and there beseeched his consent for women to enter the Order, the Buddha would not change his mind.

Ananda found the women dejected and weeping, with swollen feet, standing outside the Kutagarasala. Having learnt what had happened he asked the Buddha to grant their request. Three times he asked and three times the Buddha refused. Then he changed his tactics. He inquired of the Buddha if women were at all capable of attaining the Fruits of the Path. The answer was in the affirmative, and Ananda pushed home the advantage thus gained. In the end the Buddha allowed women to enter the Order subject to certain conditions ... In this connection, the Buddha is reported as having said that had Ananda not persuaded him to give his consent to the admission of women to the Order, the Sasana would have lasted a thousand years, but now it would last only five hundred.

Once in Jetavana, in an assembly of monks, the Buddha spoke the praises of Ananda, and ranked him the foremost bhikkhu in five respects: erudition, retentive memory, good behavior (gatimantanam, power of walking, according to Dhammapala), resoluteness and personal attention.

In spite of Ananda having been the constant companion of the Buddha — probably because of that very fact — it was not until after the Buddha's parinibbana that Ananda was able to realize Arahantship ... When it was decided by Maha Kassapa and others that a Convocation should be held to systematize the Buddha's teachings, five hundred monks were chosen as delegates, among them, Ananda. He was, however, the only non-arahant among them, and he had been enjoined by his colleagues to put forth great effort and repair this disqualification. At length, when the convocation assembled, a vacant seat had to be left for him. It had not been until late the previous night that, after a final supreme effort, he had attained the goal.

... In the convocation, Ananda was appointed to answer Maha Kassapa's questions, and to co-operate with him in rehearsing the Dhamma.

Ananda came to be known as Dhammabhandagarika, owing to his skill in remembering the word of the Buddha; it is said that he could remember everything spoken by the Buddha, from one to sixty thousand words in the right order, and without missing one single syllable.

In the first four Nikays of the Sutta Pitaka, every sutta begins with the words "Thus have I heard," the "I" referring to Ananda. It is not stated that Ananda was present at the preaching by the Buddha of every sutta, though he was present at most; others, the Buddha repeated to him afterwards, in accordance with the conditions under which he had become the Buddha's attendant.

We are told that Ananda had learnt eighty-two thousand Dhamma from the Buddha himself and two thousand from his colleagues. He had also a reputation for fast talking; where an ordinary man could speak one word Ananda could speak eight [I have seen this power with my own eyes, fascinating]; the Buddha could speak sixteen words for each one word of Ananda. Ananda could remember anything he had once heard up to fifteen thousand stanzas of sixty thousand lines.

Ananda lived to be very old.

... At the end of the First Council, the duty of handing down unimpaired the Digha Nikaya through his disciples was entrusted to Ananda.

The Pāḷi Canon makes no mention of Ananda's death. Fa Hsien, however, relates what was probably an old tradition. When Ananda was on his way from Magadha to Vesali, there to die, Ajatasattu [the patricidal son of King Bimbasara--mo: who can see here the terrible consequences of patricide? The man is known in this world, to this day, for that one deed!] heard that he was coming, and, with his retinue, followed him up to the Rohini River. The chiefs of Vesali also heard the news and went out to meet him, and both parties reached the river banks. Ananda, not wishing to incur the displeasure of either party, entered into the state of tejokasina [The Firelight concentration — mo] in the middle of the river and his body went up in flames.




See also Kuddhaka Nikaya, Thera-Gāthā: Psalms of the Brethren: Ananda.