One of the ten disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, Ananda became the final attendant to the Buddha. While there are various accounts of Ananda being an older cousin, or born on the same day as Siddhartha Gautama, most accounts agree that he served for the majority of Buddha’s teaching life. While earlier assistant’s had a limited role, Ananda because of his memory and social acumen became somewhat of a gatekeeper, scheduler, and confidant. In today’s terms he was a chief of staff. https://tricycle.org/magazine/life-ananda-guardian-dhamma/
Further he is identified as a major disciple of Buddha and possibly the only one of the ten who was not enlightened while Shakyamuni Buddha lived. This condition may have been as important as the legend of Ananda’s phenomenal memory. Seeing the well-being of Buddha would entail a wide-range of assignments. In one case he is said to have placed himself between the World Honored One and a rampaging elephant. On many occasions he spread the word (sutras) spoken by Buddha to those who were not present during the talk. Hence the phrase “So I have Heard,” has come to be the introductory words to those teachings/Dharma Talks, spoken directly by the Buddha.
It is also the story of heart-to-heart transmission and interconnectivity as an intimate feature of the Way of the Noble EightFold Path and precepts. Ananda was one of four family members, Mahapajapati stepmother, Yoasodhara wife, and Rahula son. In a way his leaving home was leaving his ego or sense of labeled expectations and becoming compassionate and then able to teach this to others.
The Sangha, robes, women disciples, and Sutra-Truth speaker were roles played by Ananda. I suggest he also personified sati, or mindfulness. As a truth-sayer he seemed to have been a good sounding board, ombudsman, confidant, and facilitator. Possible sangha denotes a group of Ananda’s who become the teachings. As Joseph Campbell might say this is a common motif in myths and legends, the devoted companion, trusted fiend who follows the founder and carries on after the hero’s story ends. He was the story teller! He told the stories that enabled Buddhism to flourish.
That is he was becoming a Bodhisattva and not becoming an arhat, until recognized by the disciple, Mahākāśyapa who received silent Dharma transmission through the events described in the FlowerSermon. Is part of the experience fostered in Zen. We have mentors, we have teachers and guiding teachers, and we have disciples who reach the Buddha Way through varied experiences.
So, let us discuss the role and scope of this central figure in the transmission of the Dharma this Tuesday night, August 8, 2023 at 7:00 PM/EDT on ZOOM ONLY: