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Ananda Guardian of Dharma

By Gaurav Manandhar at
Ananda Guardian of Dharma
"The term Ananda literally means great delight"

Ananda was one of the 10 principal disciples of Lord Buddha and regarded as the devout attendant of Lord Buddha in the order of the Sangha. The term “Ananda” literally means great delight. According to the Buddhist tradition, Ananda is used to have the most retentive memory of most of the Suttas in the Sutta Pitaka related to Wheel of Dharma. During the First Buddhist Council, his recollection of Buddha’s teachings is mostly attributed that are related to Sutta Pitaka. Ananda was the cousin of Lord Buddha and was the son of Amitodana. Amitodana was the brother of King Suddhodana and he became Buddhist monk along with his brother Anuradha and his cousin and greatest enemy of Lord Buddha, Devadatta. Among the disciple of Lord Buddha, Ananda was foremost in hearing the teachings of Lord Buddha.

Ananda as Buddhist Monk

Ananda was born in the royal family of Shakya Empire in Kapilvastu, Lumbini. He was the son of Amitodana. He was the brother of Anuradha, another principal disciple of Lord Buddha. After Gautama Buddha achieved Nirvana in Bodh Gaya, he travelled many places and started preaching about the Wheel of Dharma with senior monks and his chief disciples, Sariputra and Moggallana. After leaving Kapilvastu to find the truth of life, he made his first trip in Kapilvastu, Lumbini. When Lord Buddha visited his birthplace, Ananda along with his brother and his cousin became a monk. After a year of joining the order of Sangha, Ananda became Stream-winner, one of the four stages of Nirvana and was considered as the diligent and willing student of Buddha.

Ananda as attendant of Lord Buddha

Before Ananda became the personal attendant of Lord Buddha, he was accompanied by many monks such as Nagasamala, Upavana, Cunda and others. But none of them really proved as the best personal attendants of Buddha. So one day, Buddha decided to replace his personal attendants. When he asked all the monks who would want to be Lord Buddha attendants. Except Ananda, all other monks offered their services. When Lord Buddha asked Ananda why he hadn’t volunteered to be Buddha’s attendant, Ananda replied comfortably that Buddha would know best that he needs to pick to be his personal attendant. Ananda gave Buddha some conditions so he would become Lord Buddha personal attendants. These conditions were

Buddha would never give any food or robes that he received
Ananda would not be given any special accommodation
Ananda would not have to accompany Lord Buddha, when he get invited to someone’s home
Ananda could transfer the invitation to Buddha if he were invited to a meal
Ananda would have the privilege to introduce to people who came to visit Buddha from far places.
Ananda would be able to inquire about the doubts he has, that are related to Dharma
Buddha would repeat a discourse if Buddha were to preach in absence of Ananda

These conditions were given to Lord Buddha because Ananda didn’t want people to think that he became Buddha personal attendant for material desire. Buddha gladly accepted these conditions and thus Ananda became the long lasting personal attendant of Lord Buddha. He took care of Lord Buddha for more than 25 years.

The First Buddhist Council

Ananda was often called as the disciple of Buddha who “heard much”. Since he was the personal attendant of Lord Buddha, he attended Buddha in most of his preaching and travelled with Lord Buddha. It is said that Ananda heard and with his strong memory, he memorized many of the discourse Lord Buddha preached. After the departure of Lord Buddha, he was called to recite many of Lord Buddha’s teachings in the First Buddhist Council and thus his teachings became Sutta Pitaka of Pali Canon. But before the event of Buddhist Coucil, Ananda hadn't attained buddhahood so before the night of the event, he sit down and started to meditate whole heartedly. Later that night, he became Arahant while he was in reclining Mudra. According to Pali Canon, Buddha said that every future Buddha after him will have to chief disciples and one personal attendant. Since Ananda didn’t need to look after Lord Buddha, he fully devoted himself to meditation so he could attainEnlightenment.

Ananda was regarded as a sympathetic figure since he mourns after the departure of Lord Buddha and this chief disciple of Buddha, Sariputra. He had the close relationship with Sariputra and that’s why some verse shows that he was lonely and isolated after departure of Lord Buddha and Sariputra. Ananda was a selfless and hard working monk. He always had the time to help other monks although his job was to provide service to Lord Buddha. When Mahaprajapati, stepmother of Lord Buddha requested to became the part of Sangha, Lord Buddha denied. It was Ananda who asked to acknowledge the existence of nuns in the order. Before the First Buddhist Council was convened, he was able to reach a certain level of Nirvana. It is also said that before Lord Buddha attained Parinirvana, he was quite confused whether he could attained Buddhahood or not. So Lord Buddha pointed to Bodhisattva Manjushri and tell Ananda to talk about his worries. So Bodhisattva Manjushri enlightened him by saying not to worry that Lord Buddha is becoming one with space and universe and is being free from this limited human body. And said that don't devote to Lord Buddha but to Dharma itself and only then Ananda can attained Nirvana through Dharma.