Peerless Ananda Thera:
Great disciple of the Buddha
Ven Ananda was one of the ten great disciples of the Buddha. He
accompanied the Buddha, as an attendant, for more than two decades. He
was the Buddha's favourite disciple. He attained Enlightenment, the
highest state of Samadhi in which the mind is awakened and illuminated
after the demise of the Buddha. Ven. Ananda attained Arahatship
immediately before the first Buddhist Council held at Rajagaha, India.
Thousands of scriptures were recited by Arahat Ananda Thera.
He was leading with the doctrine (Sutras) and Upali with the rules of
the order (Precepts). Ven. Ananda was known as the Dharmabandagarika -
treasurer of the doctrine.
For the first 20 years of His ministry, the Buddha had several
attendants. Some of them were Nagasamala, Upavana, Nagita, Lunda and
Radha. None of them proved to be suitable for the post. Therefore, the
Buddha addressed the bhikkhus who would like to be his attendant.
All the bhikkhus enthusiastically offered their services, except Ven.
Ananda who sat at the back silently.
The other bhikkhus inquired from Ven. Ananda about it. He replied
that the Buddha knows who He should pick.
When Ananda was offered the prestigious position he agreed to accept
it on four conditions. One condition was that the Buddha should never
give him any of the food He received, nor any robes.
He should not be given any special accommodation and then he would
not have to accompany the Enlightened One.
The main reason for the four conditions was that Ananda Thera did not
want any criticism against him for the people to think that he was
attending to the Buddha to gain any personal gains.
Ven. Ananda acted as the mediator between Prajapathi Gothami, (the
foster - mother of Prince Siddhartha) and the Blessed One in
establishing the Bhikkhuni Sasanaya (Order of the bhikkhunis). Ananda
Thera on behalf of Prajapathi Gothami appealed thrice and ultimately the
Buddha gave the green light for womenfolk to enter the order.
Born in Kapilavastu, Ananda Thera was the son of Amitodana, brother
of Prince Siddhartha's father King Suddhodana. In his first visit to
Kapilavastu, after the Buddha attained Enlightenment, Ven. Ananda, with
his brother Anuruddha and cousin Devadatta entered the order. Through
sheer commitment within a year Ananda Thera became a stream - winner -
the first of the four stages towards the realisation of liberation,
leading to Arahatship.
He was kind to his fellow disciples, both monastic and lay.
He played a key role for the preservation and transmission of Dhamma.
He was also a key player in the first council held after the passing
away of the Buddha.
Ven. Ananda washed and mended the robes, cleaned the Buddha's living
quarters (Gandhakutiya), washed His feet and accompanied the Buddha when
He visited the monastries. Probably he maintained a diary. All the
appointments to meet the Blessed One were mostly channelled through Ven.
Ananda. His main job was to take care of the Buddha's needs.
Ven. Ananda possessed a charming and pleasant personality and he was
also a skilful teacher. At times, he represented the Buddha. He visited
the sick and cheered them and at times provided medicines.
Ven. Ananda was popularly known the “Keeper of Dhamma –
(Dharmabandagarika”. After the extinction of sufferings, elimination of
egoism, eradication of lust, hatred and ignorance Ven. Ananda became an
He recited thousands of discourses, he had heard from the Blessed
The Enlightened One passed away at Kusinara, in Malla kingdom at the
age of 80. Before the Buddha passed away Ven. Ananda wept. The Buddha
consoled him and advised him to strive hard to attain Arahatship. In his
final exhortation, the Buddha uttered “Vayadhamma Sankara - Appamadena
Sampadetha” (Transient are all compounded things. With mindfulness work
out your deliverance).
The cousin of the Buddha, Ven. Ananda was also born on the Full Moon
Day of Vesak. His kinsfolk believed that he was born bringing joy and
happiness to the world. Therefore, he was named ‘Ananda'. Ven. Ananda
Thera possessed a majestic personality.
After listening to the elder Punna Thera, he attained the first stage
of sanctity - Sotapatti - first of the four stages towards the
realisation of liberation. He looked after the Buddha with genuine love
and unfaltering dedication. He was the Buddha's attendant, close
associate for twenty five years. Ven. Ananda followed the Great Teacher,
the Blessed One, like His shadow.
The members of the fair sex mostly admired Ven. Ananda. He possessed
peerless beauty, charm, sweet dulcet voice and he was full of
compassion. The Great Upasika Maha Prajapati Gotami, a relation of Ven.
Ananda, treated him like her own son.
The great lay Upasika Visakha too was very fond of him and always
looked after Ven. Ananda like one of her own children. Both laymen, the
bhikkhus and bhikkhunis loved Ven. Ananda Thera.
He passed away at the age of 120 years. Buddhists still appreciate
and venerate the services rendered by him.In later years, in memory of
Ven. Ananda, some Buddhist parents named their sons “Ananda.” Even the
“crest jewel of Buddhist education of Sri Lanka” - Ananda College was
named in memory of Dharmabandagarika of Buddhism - Arahat Ananda Maha