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(Part One) 26. The Two Chief Disciples
Near Rajagaha there were two villages called Upatissa and Kolita. The headmen of these two villages were also known as Upatissa and Kolita. Both families were very close friends.
One day Upatissa’s wife, Sari, gave birth to a son called Sariputta. On the same day Kolita’s wife, Moggali, also gave birth to a son called Moggallana. The sons became best friends.
When they grew up both of them liked to watch dramas. One day, while watching a drama called Giragga Samapujja (The Mountain Festival), the young boys decided to leave home in order to seek greater happiness and understanding of life than could be had by watching plays.
Now at this time there was a famous religious teacher called Sanjaya staying near Rajagaha. The two friends went to learn from him, but after a while they found his teachings unsatisfactory and left. They promised each other they would both continue searching, studying and meditating in an effort to find the truth about life, and that whoever found it first would let the other know.
One morning, in the main street of Rajagaha, Sariputta saw the ascetic Assaji begging for alms. He radiated modesty and calmness as he went from house to house. As Sariputta came closer he saw on Assaji’s face a look of perfect peace, like a smooth undisturbed lake under a calm clear sky. Sariputta went up to him and humbly said, “Your face, friend, is serene. Your eyes so clear and bright. Who is your teacher and what does he teach, Sir?”
“I can soon tell you that, brother,” replied Assaji. “There is a great ascetic of the Sakya race who has left his home and country behind in order to follow the homeless life. He is my teacher and it is his teaching that I follow and practise.”
“Please tell me more.”
“I am only a newcomer to the way of the Buddha,” replied the ascetic modestly. “I do not know very much yet. But I will give you a brief description.”
“That is all I want, brother,” said Sariputta quickly. “Tell me the meaning of the teachings. Why make a lot of words about it?”
“Very well then,” said the ascetic. “Listen! The Buddha teaches that there is a cause for everything, and also how things cease to be.”
After the Venerable Assaji spoke these lines, Sariputta was so clever that he understood their meaning. He realised the truth that everything that ever has come into existence, or will come into existence, must pass away. He said, “If this is what the Buddha teaches you have found the state that is free from sorrow and suffering and full of peace and happiness.” After thanking Assaji, Sariputta went to find his friend Moggallana to bring him the great news.
Before he spoke a word Moggallana cried, “Why brother, how clear and shining your face is. Can it be that at last you have found what we have been seeking?”
“It is so, brother, it is so,” was Sariputta’s glad reply, and he explained the Buddha’s teachings to him.
Thus, Sariputta and Moggallana joined the Buddha and in a short time became two of his chief disciples. Sariputta became known for his wisdom and Moggallana for his miraculous power.