“Dhātusova, bhikkhave, sattā saṃsandanti samenti. Kalyāṇādhimuttikā kalyāṇādhimuttikehi saddhiṃ saṃsandanti samenti”
“It is their disposition that beings run together, meet together. Those disposed towards virtue run together, associate with those disposed towards virtue!”
Most of the meditators, having walked on the path for a longer period, meditating together, giving service, helping to support the spread of Dhamma will remember the immense joy one experiences when one meets people once again that one hasn’t met over many years. A unique empathy manifests like one has never been separated.
This kind of empathy is expressed in the Caṅkamasuttaṃ, which introduces various eminent Bhikkhus to whom the Buddha had attributed etadagga titles. All of these were foremost in certain disciplines and qualities. Most prominent amongst them were the two chief disciples, the Venerable Sāriputta. The Venerable Sāriputta was entitled foremost in great wisdom (Etadaggaṃ bhikkhave mama sāvakānaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ mahāpaññānaṃ yadidaṃ Sāriputto) and well known for his detailed analytical discourses and his care for everyone. The Venerable Mahā Moggallāna was entitled foremost in great supernormal power (Etadaggaṃ bhikkhave mama sāvakānaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ iddhimantānaṃ yadidaṃ Moggallāno) and his outstanding proofs of the chaḷabhiññā. The Venerable Mantāniputtaṃ was entitled foremost amongst those who preach the Dhamma. (Etadaggaṃ bhikkhave mama sāvakānaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ dhammakathikānaṃ yadidaṃ Mantāniputto). He had also aspired to become a disciple under a future Buddha during the same period of Buddha Padumuttara as the Venerable Ānanda and the Venerable Anuruddha had done. He was the nephew of the Venerable Aññāsikoṇḍañño’and got ordained by him.
The history of the other eminent disciples, the Venerable Mahā Kassapa, the Venerable Ānanda, and the Venerable Upāli will be introduced in the next chapter (2.1.1); for the Venerable Anuruddha refer to introduction under Maṅgala-āsiṃsanā. (4.3.9) A short account of Devadattaṃ is presented in the next sutta, the Saṅghabhedasuttaṃ (1.3.9).
The two chief disciples, the Venerable Sāriputta and the Venerable Mahā Moggallāna had been maintaining a close relation and intimate friendship over many lives from the period of the Buddha Anomadassi onwards. At that period the future Sāriputta was born in a Brahmin family of great wealth by the name of Sarada, his intimate friend from early childhood was the future Moggallāna by the name of Sirivaḍḍhana. While Sarada already left the householders’ life at an early age, Sirivaḍḍhana remained in the worldly life. When Sarada met the Buddha Anomadassi and listened to a talk held by the two chief disciples of that time, he got inspired by their illuminative speech and resolved to aspire to become chief disciple under a future Buddha himself. After he expressed his aspiration and had received confirmation by the Buddha Anomadassi, he decided to visit his friend Sirivaḍḍhana to report him and ask him to make the same resolve for the second chief disciple. Sirivaḍḍhana agreed, invited the Buddha and his disciples in his house for a great almsgiving, got inspiration himself and aspired to become the second chief disciple along with his friend.
In their last existence both had been born at the same day in Brahmin families of long standing close relation, both became well educated and used to have a large group of followers. Surprisingly they both, still being in their boyhood while watching activities and entertainments during a hilltop festival developed a kind of revulsion towards these kind of worldly amusements independently and then decided to leave the householders’ life in search of the truth together. After they had taken training under the ascetic Sañjaya they left him being not fully satisfied by his teaching and went to all parts of India together, till they finally split up having made a bond of friendship that whoever encountered liberation would immediately inform the other. It was the Venerable Sāriputta who, while dwelling at Rājagaha saw the Venerable Assaji and was deeply impressed by his serenity and mode of deportment. Eagerly waiting for the appropriate situation he enquired about the teaching that had helped Assaji to develop in this way and in insisting to hear about it—“Appaṃ vā bahuṃ vā bhāsassu, atthaṃyeva me brūhi; attheneva me attho, kiṃ kāhasi byañjanaṃ bahun”ti. –- “Whether it is little or much that you can tell, the meaning only, please tell me, my only quest is the meaning, what are those many words to me?”—received the famous stanzas in reply: “Ye dhammā hetuppabhavā, tesaṃ hetuṃ tathāgato āha; tesañca yo nirodho, evaṃvādī mahāsamaṇo”ti.—“Of those states that have arisen from a cause, their cause is explained by the Tathāgata, and the cessetion of those, this is what the great saint teaches.” The Venerable Sāriputta entered the stream of liberation already while listening to these lines by Assaji. (Atha kho sāriputtassa paribbājakassa imaṃ dhammapariyāyaṃ sutvā virajaṃ vītamalaṃ dhammacakkhuṃ udapādi– “kiñci samudayadhammaṃ, sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhamman”ti.). Remembering the agreement the two friends had made amongst themselves he immediately went to Moggallāna, reported to him and quoted the stanza, as a result of listening to it Moggallāna also entered the first stage of enlightenment. Both the great disciples passed away before the Parinibbāna of the Buddha, after they had accompanied him for 44 years.