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Ānanda was a close relative of the Buddha. The Buddha ordained Ānanda, and as the Buddha grew old, he chose Ānanda to serve as his attendant. Thus, Ānanda became the Buddha's constant companion for the twenty-five years preceding the Buddha's death. The canonical texts are replete with examples of Ānanda's dedicated care for the Buddha's comfort, health, and safety. In an extreme situation, Ānanda was even prepared to risk his life to save that of his master. Ānanda is depicted in the scriptures as extremely amicable toward both ordained or laypersons. He was known as a brilliant organizer who essentially served as the Buddha's personal secretary, as he would be called in present terms. Ānanda was instrumental in the creation of the Buddhist order of nuns, a move that the Buddha did not initially favor. Ānanda, however, asked the Buddha if women were capable of realizing supreme enlightenment like men, whereupon the Buddha answered in the affirmative.

Ānanda was the key figure in the transmission of the buddhavacana (Word of the Buddha). He served as an indispensable authority at the First Council, which was held to codify the Buddha's legacy soon after his death. Ānanda is reported to have recited the texts of the discourses (sūtras); in the line that opens all sūtras—"Thus have I heard"—the I refers to Ānanda. The Buddha's declaration that Ānanda was foremost among the erudite and upright is a monument to his talents, moral strength, and determination. Ānanda was said to have lived an extraordinarily long life. He later came to be revered as the second Indian patriarch of the Chan school.

See also:Councils, Buddhist; Disciples of the Buddha


Malalasekera, G. P. "1. Ānanda." Dictionary of Pāli Proper Names, Vol. 1. London: Indian Text Series, 1937–1938.

Wang, Bangwei. "The Indian Origin of the Chinese Chan School's Patriarch Tradition." In Dharmadūta: Mélanges offerts au Vénérable Thich Huyên-Vi, ed. Bhikkhu Tampalawela Dhammaratana and Bhikkhu Pāsādika. Paris: Éditions You-Feng, 1997.

Bhikkhu PĀsĀdika