long after Buddha attained enlightenment, Sariputra and
Mogallana entered the Sangha and became His disciples.
Sariputra attained liberation from rebirth in two week'
time while Mogallana did it in seven days and was already
an Arhat with supernatural powers.
Past Life - Vow to Attain Supernatural Powers
we want to know how Mogallana achieved his supernatural
powers, we have to trace back to his past life.
was actually a fisherman in his previous life. Later he
realised that earning his livelihood by catching fish
was a karma of great suffering. He also felt that one
must cultivate merits for a better future life; therefore,
he decided to change his line. Then one day, he met a
Pratyeka-buddha and was impressed with His dignified manner.
With reverence, he invited the Pratyeka-buddha to his
house to receive offerings. As the Pratyeka-buddha was
not good in preaching, he could only use his divine powers
to save the world. After his meal, he jumped into the
air and moved freely in all directions. Mogallana was
so impressed that he vowed to attain supernatural powers
in his next life.
Mogallana finally achieved pre-eminence in supernatural
powers during his next life when he was Buddha's disciple.
Supernatural Powers - Transformation into a Bridge
had the divine powers to hear any sounds, whether near
or far, and to see things through obstructions. He could
also travel to any place he liked in an instant.
the people of Sravasti gave a banquet to make offering
to the monks and nuns of many religions. Mogallana was
the first guest to arrive at the banquet which was held
at a big square opposite a river.
many heretics also came for the offerings and they hoped
to get the best seat first. Unexpectedly, the river suddenly
rose and they had difficulty in crossing it. Just then,
Mogallana saw the Buddha and His disciples approaching
from far. He therefore transformed into a bridge decorated
with gems across the river and awaited the Buddha's arrival.
seeing the bridge, the heretics were delighted and they
rushed across the bridge. However, before they could reach
the other side of the river, the bridge collapsed suddenly.
As a result, they fell into the river, all yelling for
bridge reappeared across the river when the Buddha arrived.
Walking across the bridge with His disciples, the Buddha
saw the heretics struggling in the river. The compassionate
Buddha immediately saved the heretics through His supernatural
power and then allowed them to follow Him. Once they reached
the other side of the river, safe and sound, the bridge
vanished in the air.
incident led the heretics to the conclusion that they
could not stand comparison with the Buddha and His disciples.
How Far the Buddha's Voice Could Reach
day, when Mogallana was in the meditation room, he could
actually hear the voice of Buddha who was preaching in
the hall. He was very surprised because Buddha was quite
far from him. To find out how far the Buddha's voice could
reach, he decided to go to a far Buddhaksetra, or land
of a Buddha.
his divine feet, he came to a Buddhaksetra and saw Lokesvararaja
Buddha preaching there. The delighted Mogallana sat down
and listened to the preaching.
he could hear the preaching of the Buddha on the earth
and that of the Lokesvararaja Buddha at the same time.
Mogallana's presence was later discovered by one of the
bodhisattvas. Knowing that he was the great disciple of
the Buddha on the earth, Lokesvararaja Buddha asked him,
" Venerable, you are here to find out how far the
voice of the Buddha can reach. Am I right?"
you should not have this intention. The power of all Buddhas
is quite beyond us and the preaching of all Buddhas is
everywhere in the immaterial universe."
felt quite ashamed after hearing that. From then on, he
never dared do the same again.
was noted not only for his great supernatural powers but
also for his filial piety!
day, while looking at the realm of hungry ghosts with
his divine vision, Mogallana saw his mother suffering
there. He was very sad. So, with the help of his supernatural
power, the filial Mogallana provided a bowl of rice for
his mother. However, when the rice reached his mother's
hands, it turned into burning charcoal and could not be
eaten. Upon seeing that, Mogallana could not help but
cried sadly. Though he could tell what caused the ghosts
to receive their retribution, he could not explain his
mother's suffering. So he immediately went to ask the
said compassionately, "Mogallana, your mother had
in her previous life, slandered the Buddha and the Sangha.
Moreover, she did not believe in retribution and had been
greedy and hot-tempered. That is why she is receiving
such a retribution. The reason why you do not know your
mother's karma is that your supernatural power has been
hindered by the love between mother and son!"
Buddha, is there any way to help my mother get out of
the realm of hungry ghosts?" Mogallana asked earnestly.
you cannot save you mother on your own because her bad
karma is very serious. The only way is to depend on the
supernatural powers of the holy monks to help free her
from the suffering in the realm of hungry ghosts."
fifteenth of the seventh lunar month every year is the
last day of summer retreat for all monks and many of them
will have attained enlightenment by then. If one makes
offerings to all holy monks on this day, he can rely on
their united efforts to release his parents and relatives
from the realms of suffering. If his parents are alive,
they will live a longer and happier life."
delighted Mogallana carried out Buddha's instructions
and made offerings to all monks on the last day of the
summer retreat. True enough, his mother was immediately
freed from the realm of hungry ghosts. He was very grateful
to Buddha and praised the beneficence of the Triple Gem.
He also urged people to make offerings to Buddha and Sangha
on the fifteenth of the seventh lunar month to repay the
kindness of their parents. This is the origin of the Ullambana
when the disciples gathered and discussed what they had
gained from learning the Buddha Dharma, Mogallana recited
a gatha, or metrical hymn, which was as follows:
simple gatha helps beginners to grasp the objective of
the Buddha Dharma. Like Venerable Mogallana, it is always
on our mind.
Limitations of Supernatural Powers
always thought that nothing was impossible with his supernatural
power. However, little did he realise that supernatural
power could not help one escape the law of cause and effect.
Neither did he know that it could not defeat karma and
free one from the cycle of life and death.
Buddha's homeland Kapilavastu was invaded by King Vidudabha
of Kosala. Being a patriot, Buddha had succeeded in blocking
the enemy for three times. But King Vidudabha did not
want to give up. Knowing that this was due to the karma
of Sakya clan, the Buddha had no choice but to let it
was deeply agitated when he heard that Kapilavastu was
surrounded by enemy troops. Though Buddha told him this
was the karma of Sakya clan, he insisted on saving the
clan people with his miraculous power.
flew into Kapilavastu which was already encircled by enemy
troops ring upon ring. He selected the five hundred outstanding
Sakyas and put them in a bowl. When he had safely flown
out of the country, he opened the bowl and found that
the five hundred people in it had already turned into
then realised one could not violate the law of cause and
effect taught by the Buddha. Even supernatural power could
not outmatch karmic effect.
was still enthusiastic in propagating the Buddha Dharma
even when he was getting older. That invited the jealousy
of the heretics. They could not harm the Buddha but they
awaited a chance to assassinate Mogallana.
while Mogallana was on a mission of propagating the Dharma,
the heretics saw him passing by the foot of a hill. They
pushed some heavy rocks down the hill and Mogallana was
crushed to death!
death of Mogallana caused much sorrow to the other monks.
They wondered why Mogallana did not use his great supernatural
powers to resist the heretics, or at least to avoid their
plot. So they went to consult the Buddha.
aware of the future happenings on earth. Buddha was not
as emotional as His disciples. Instead, He said calmly
to them, "Mogallana could have resisted the heretics
with his supernatural power. However, when he was a fisherman
in his previous life, he had killed many lives. He knew
that no one could escape the karmic result due to cause
Lord Buddha, we still feel that his death is really a
tragic one!" said the bhikkhus.
Death is nothing to those who have attained enlightenment.
Birth and death are facts of life and we should not be
afraid of death. The more important thing is whether we
have the confidence in facing death. Mogallana had died
with a clear mind and entered Nirvana. He had vowed to
devote his life to the Truth. Furthermore, he sacrificed
his life for the Dharma. Therefore, his death is commendable