The Two Pilgrims

From the “Arahant stories” collection:

Once, it is said,  two Brahmins sat together in the north Indian city of Patna in a hall and listened to the praise of the virtues of Nāga the elder, a monk from Kālavallimaṇḍapa*.

When they had heard the stories of Venerable Mahānāga**, they thought, “Surely such a monk deserves a visit”. So they left their people and set off on the long journey through India to Sri Lanka.

The first of those two Brahmins died on the way through the desert. The other one finally arrived on the Southern coast of India and mounting a ship in a large port city sailed to Sri Lanka. Arriving on the island, he traveled to the royal city of Anuradhapura. There, he asked how he could get to the village of Kalavallimandapa.

He was told that that particular village was found in the southeast of the country in a Kingdom named Rohana. So he continued his journey through mountains and jungles towards the Southern part of Sri Lanka. When arriving at Kalavallimandapa, he took residence in the neighboring village of Nakulanagara and preparing food and drink he asked for the whereabouts  of Venerable Nāga. Then he went close to that monk’s quarters and just waited there with the meal he had prepared as an offering.

From a distance he saw the arriving Mahānāga and admiring him already from a distance he ran towards him, bowed down before him and again and again seized the monk elder’s feet shouting: “So high are you, venerable Sir, so high are you.” –

“Not too high, not too small, just moderate in size” replied the humble monk.

Then the Brahmin said again: “Not are you, sir, very tall in bodily nature, but your virtues, Lord, are extremely high. Now that I had heard of you at Patna’s city gate, I crossed the entire Indian continent and the sparkling sea, only to meet you! ”

Then he offered to the monk his donation, provided him with three new robes and finally ordained under him. After he had heard of the venerable’s exhortation, he achieved, within a few days, holiness himself.

Source: “Manorathapūraṇī” – The Commentary on the Anguttara-Nikāya.

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*Kālavallimandapa.-A vihāra in Ceylon, the residence of the Elder Mahānāga (DA.i.190, 191; SnA.i.56; VbhA.352, 353; J.iv.490; MT.606). It was near the village Nakulanagara (DhsA.339) and was situated in Rohana (AA.i.384).

**Mahānāga Thera. Resident of Kālavallimaṇḍapa. He was among those who accepted the meal given by Sāliya in his previous birth (MT. 606). He was one of the last to attain arahantship among those who left the world with the Bodhisatta in various births (J.iv.490). He did not sleep for seven years, after which he practised continual meditation for sixteen years, becoming an arahant at the end of that time. SNA.i.56; MA.i.209; SA.iii.155.
His fame was great, and there is a story of a brahmin who came all the way from Pátaliputta to Kálavallimandapa in Rohana to visit him. The brahmin entered the Order under him and became an arahant (AA.i.384). Once, while Mahánága was begging alms at Nakulanagara, he saw a nun and offered her a meal. As she had no bowl, he gave her his, with the food ready in it. After she had eaten and washed the bowl, she gave it back to him saying, “Henceforth there will be no fatigue for you when begging for alms.” Thereafter the Elder was never given alms worth less than a kahápana. The nun was an arahant. DhSA.399.

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