Moggallana

Homage to him… to that bhikkhu who, Brahma-like, can see in a moment’s flash the thousandfold universe before his eyes; who, master of magic powers, can also see in the flow of time the gods’ arising and their death.

Theragatha (Verses of the Elders), verse 1181

Moggallana or Maudgalyāyana was the counterpart of Sariputta. Famous for his psychic ability, the above verse says it all. Moggallana and Sariputta were best friend with a common goal in life, to learn the Ultimate Truth. Both men were born into the priestly caste of ancient India. Both had religious upbringings and both were not satisfied with the traditional message of religion at that time.

As intelligent young man, the alternate message of Buddha struck a cord in their heart and they eagerly embraced the teachings of Buddha with great success. While Sariputta became known for his superb capability to help Buddha with preaching the doctrine, Moggallana became famous for his amazing feat of supernatural powers. He is credited with assisting Buddha to train monks in their meditation.


In one instance, Buddha was teaching a group of disillusioned young monks who did not believe the benefits of mind training and meditation. Buddha then instructed Moggallana to display a supernatural feat to demonstrate the result of mind training. Moggallana obliged by nudging the entire building using his big toe. This generated faith in the young monks since the supernatural feat was performed by someone other than Buddha.

Moggallana also made use of his psychic ability to assist the Buddha teach the monks. Due to his clairvoyance and telepathic ability, he is able to guide student along their mind development when they encounter a mental block in their meditation.

While Sariputra was credited for bringing many beginners into the 1st stage of enlightenment through preaching the noble truths. Moggallana was credited with furthering their realisation by guiding them throigh their meditation.

In Mahayana Buddhism, Moggallana is credited for the Ullambana festival. Utilising his supernatural ability, he discovered that his mother had been reborn as a hungry ghost. Moggallana then seek advice from Buddha, enquiring if there is anything that can be done to save his mother from suffering. Buddha told Moggallana to offer foods to monks and dedicate that merit to his mother. Consequently, his mother was saved.

That ritual became popular in Asia and eventually evolved into the hungry ghost festival.

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