Venerables Moggallana and Sariputta, the future "right and left hand disciples," ask to become bhikkhus

In this picture, Moggallana and Sariputta are receiving ordination from the Buddha at the Bamboo Grove in Rajagaha. Before being ordained as Buddhist monks, they had both been wanderers (paribbajaka), followers of the teacher Sanjaya.

Sanjaya was one of the famous sect founders in the area of Magadha. He had many disciples and was widely revered. Sariputta had gone to live with him in order to seek the way out of suffering, but having studied his teaching he found that it did not lead to the way out of suffering, so he took leave of his teacher and went in search of a new teaching. It was then that he met Venerable Assaji at Rajagaha.

Venerable Assaji was one of the Group of Five. The Buddha had sent them out to spread the Buddha's teaching. Assaji found out that the Buddha was staying at Rajagaha, and so he journeyed there in order to pay a visit to the Buddha. On the way he met Sariputta, who at that time was known as Upatissa the Wanderer. Sariputta noticed Venerable Assaji's inspiring bearing and was moved to approach him and ask him about his practice and his teacher. He was pleased at the answers he received from Assaji, and proceeded from there to his good friend , Moggallana, who was then known as Kolita the Wanderer, and together they and a following of 250 wanderers went to see the Buddha.

When the Buddha acknowledged the ordination of the two friends into the Order with the customary "Come, be a bhikkhu," bowls and robes, according to the compilers of the ancient Buddhist legends, appeared from out of thin air and wrapped themselves around the two wanderers, making them fully clothed bhikkhus instantly.

If this last episode were to be written in modern parlance, we would say that those who had already been ordained as ascetics, on taking and receiving ordination with the Buddha, did not have to spend a lot of time preparing their equisites, because they already had bowls and robes.

Not long after their ordination, these two bhikkhus attained Arahatship and became the staunchest helpers of the Buddha in the spreading of his teaching. The Buddha established them in the position of leading disciples, Venerable Sariputta being the right-hand-Leading Disciple, and Venerable Moggallana the left-hand-Leading Disciple. In other words they were like the Buddha's "right and left hands." Both of them passed away (parinibbana) not many months before the Buddha did, Sariputta from a chronic ailment he had, and Moggallana at the hand of killers hired by members of other sects.
 

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