Ananda (Venerable)

One of the ten great disciples of the Buddha Shakyamuni.

“Ananda was the Buddha’s first cousin and his attendant. He also compiled and edited the sutras. His name means rejoicing, because he was born on the day the Buddha realized Buddhahood. His father also rejoiced and gave him that name. The entire country celebrated the Buddha’s enlightenment on that day. With his flawless memory, Ananda was able to remember all the Sutras the Buddha spoke and was foremost among the Buddha’s disciples in erudition.” (DFS II 124)

“The Shurangama Sutra was spoken for Ananda’s sake, precisely because he didn’t have sufficient samadhi-power. He had not done the work of meditation required to develop it. When others were sitting investigating dhyana, Ananda would go read a book or write instead . . . . Put another way, Ananda hadn’t cultivated real mark prajna; he thought he could realize Buddhahood through literary prajna alone. He thought that since he was the Buddha’s cousin, the Buddha, who had realized Buddhahood, would certainly help him realize Buddhahood too, and so it didn’t really matter whether he cultivated or not. He ended up wasting a lot of time.

“One day, as the Shurangama Sutra relates, Ananda went out begging for food by himself. He took his bowl and went from house to house, and while alone on the road he encountered the daughter of Matangi . . . . Ananda was particularly handsome, and when Matangi’s daughter saw him she was immediately attracted to him. But she didn’t know how to snare him. And so she went back and told her mother, ‘You absolutely must get Ananda to marry me. If you don’t, I’ll die.’

“The mother, Matangi, belonged to the religion of the Kapilas, the ‘tawny haired’, and she cultivated that religion’s mantras and dharma-devices, which were extremely effective. Since Matangi truly loved her daughter, she used a mantra of her sect-it was a mantra formerly of the Brahma heaven-to confuse Ananda. Ananda didn’t have any samadhi-power, and so he couldn’t control himself. He followed the mantra and went to Matangi’s daughter’s house, where he was on the verge of breaking the precepts.

“The first five precepts prohibit killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and the taking of intoxicants. Ananda was about to break the precept against sexual misconduct. The Buddha knew about it as it was happening. Realizing his cousin was in trouble, he quickly spoke the Shurangama Mantra to break up the mantra formerly of the Brahma Heaven of the Kapila religion. Ananda’s confusion had made him as if drunk or as if he had taken drugs-he was totally oblivious to everything. But when the Buddha recited the Shurangama Mantra, its power woke Ananda up from his confusion, and there he was wondering how he had gotten himself into such a situation.

“He returned, knelt before the Buddha, and cried out in distress. ‘I have relied exclusively on erudition and have not perfected any strength in the Way. I have no samadhi-power. Please tell me how the Buddhas of the ten directions have cultivated so that they were able to obtain samadhi-power.’ In reply the Buddha spoke the Shurangama Sutra.” (SS I 25-26)

The Dharma Flower Sutra records the Buddha bestowing the prediction of future Buddhahood upon Ananda:

At that time the Buddha told Ananda, ‘You in a future age shall become a Buddha by the name of King of Self Control and Penetrations with Wisdom like the Mountains and Seas Thus Come One. One Worthy of Offerings, One of Proper and Universal Knowledge, One Perfect in Clarity and Practice, Well-Gone One, Unsurpassed One Who Understands the World, Hero Who Subdues and Tames, Teacher of Gods and Humans, Buddha, World-Honored One. You shall make offerings to sixty-two million Buddhas, protecting and upholding their storehouses of Dharma. After that you shall obtain anuttarasamyaksambodhi. You shall teach and transform twenty-thousand myriads of millions of Ganges’ sands of Bodhisattvas, causing them to accomplish anuttarasamyaksambodhi.Your country shall be called Banner of Victory Always Raised. That land will be pure, with lapis lazuli for soil. The kalpa shall be called All Pervasive Wonderful Sound. Your lifespan as a Buddha shall be countless thousands of myriads of millions of asankhyeyas of aeons. Were someone to attempt to reckon it through countless thousands of myriads of millions of asankhyeyas of aeons, they could not do so. The proper Dharma shall dwell in that world for twice that length of time. The Dharma Image Age shall dwell twice the length of Proper Dharma.

‘Ananda, the merit and virtue of the Buddha King of Self-Control and Penetrations with Wisdom Like the Mountains and Seas shall be praised by all the Buddhas of the ten directions equal in number to the sands of countless thousands of myriads of millions of Ganges rivers.’ (DFS VIII 1500-1501)

1) Ch. a nan ; 2) Skt. Ananda; 3) Pali Ananda.

See also: Arhat.

BTTS References: FAS-PI (door 7); AS 91-92; SS I 24-26; DFS II 124; DFS VIII 1500-1510.