Early Life of Mahamoggallana
Mahamoggallana was the only son of his family. He was born same day when Sariputta was born. He was named after his mother Moggali or moggallani. He was also called as Kalita, which was the name of his village. Mahamoggallana was very dutiful and took care of all the household duties. As his parents became old his workload increased. His parents asked him to marry so that he could share the responsibilities of the household jobs with his wife. Mahamoggallana constantly refused their proposal but after persistent urging from his parents he was eventually married.
His wife was also dutiful and looked after the elderly parents of her husband. But after some time she became hostile to them and started complaining to her husband but he paid no attention to it. One day, when Mahamoggallana was away from the house she scattered rubbish and put the blame on the blind parents. After listening to continuous complains from his wife Mahamoggallana decided to deal with his parents. He told his parents that their relatives wished to see them and put them on a carriage and started to drive the oxen cart through a forest. When the cart reached the depth of the forest he came down and walked along the carriage to ask his parents to watch out for the robbers, who were very common in that area. He then portrayed the cries and sounds of the thieves as if they have attacked the carriage. His blind parents asked him to defend himself and begged to the thieves to leave their son. While they were crying out Mahamoggallana beat and killed his old parents and threw away their bodies in the forest before returning home.
Mahamoggallana initiation to Buddhism
Mahamoggallana and Sariputta were friends from childhood. Their families also had close relationship for seven generations. Once the two friends went to see a mime-play (giraggasamajja) and realized through the play that 'the world itself is a drama' and 'all the worldly things are impermanent'. After they had realized this they renounced the material world. First, they became the disciple of Sanjaya but they were dissatisfied with his teachings. The two friends wondered all over the subcontinent to meet the scholars of the time. But they were not satisfied after the discussion with the scholars and they decide to separate from each other so that one could inform other if they found something worthy.
When Sariputta heard the preaching of Assaji, he was impressed with the doctrine and became Sotapanna. He went to Mahamoggallana to inform him about his discovery. Mahamoggallana also became Sotapanna after listening the teaching of Buddha. The two of them marched to Buddha along with five hundred disciples of Sanjaya. All of them met Buddha and heard his discourse and became his disciple. Mahamoggallana then went to the hamlet of Kallavala in Magadha and a week after his ordination, he attained a high stage of trance, where he received the exhortation of Buddha and finally could achieve the arhanthood.
Supernatural Powers of Mahamoggallana
Maudgalyayana could read a person's mind for the purpose of identifying lies from truths; transporting himself into the different realms of existence from his body; as well as communicating with spirits and deities. Maudgalyayana was also customarily accredited with the ability to walk through walls, flying through the air, walking on water, and moving almost at the speed of light. According the various accounts in the Pali Canon, he spoke with the spirits to explain their horrendous conditions to them and to make them understand their own suffering. Maudgalyayana communicated with the deceased with the purpose that they may be released from their suffering and come to terms with their condition. The Buddhist disciple possessed the ability to implement his abilities of mind reading to give good and appropriate advice to his students, so that his disciples could attain results quickly.
Mahamoggallana demonstrated his supernatural power with best example in the subjugation of the great serpent called the Naga Nandopananda since he could enter the fourth stage of trance most quickly. When there was a revolution among the monks by the conspiracy of Devadatta, Buddha sent Sariputta and Mahamoggallana to Gayasisa so that they can bring back the misguided monks. Both the chief disciples of Buddha accomplished their task by bringing back all the five hundred monks to the order. Sariputta was the preceptor of Rahula while Mahamoggallana was his teacher.
Death of Mahamoggallana
The demise of Maudgalyayana came while he was traveling to Magadha. According to various accounts it is believed that he was attacked by religious cultists and killed; while others believe that robbers in the region attacked him. When Lord Buddha was asked why the great arhat did not protected himself and suffered such a death, the Lord replied that Maudgalyayana had murdered his parents in a previous life, which is one of the 5 cardinal sins in Buddhism, and so he could not escape from his Karma and had to face the consequences. Thus Maudgalyayana accepted the outcome. Moreover, Lord Buddha also explained that supernatural powers won't be able to protect someone from accepting their karma.
Mahamoggallana in Buddhist Texts
Maudgalyayana is primarily mentioned in the Ullambana Sutra, which was the foremost Mahayana sutra. The sutra covered the theme of filial piety, which is a virtue of respect for a person's parents and ancestors. It was a discourse that was provided to Maudgalyayana by Siddhartha Gautama Buddha. In the Lotus Sutra Chapter 6 (Bestowal of Prophecy), Lord Buddha bestowed prophecies of enlightenment on the disciples Mahamaudgalyayana, Subhuti, Mahakasyapa and Mahakatyayana.
Mahamoggallana had great physical and mental strength. He was able to regain consciousness and was able to come back to Buddha and he breathed his last in front of him. Mahamoggallana's story is often cited as an example in Buddhist's teachings that nobody could escape the 'karma' and power of Karma is greater than supernormal power.