Author Topic: How did Ananda remember all of Buddha's teachings when he was not there ?  (Read 11012 times)


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Ananda is the closest personal attendant of Buddha. He is well known as the disciple who possesses the most excellent memory and could remember the entire teachings of the Buddha 
spoken during his forty-nine years of turning the wheel without getting them confused or mixed up in any way. Ananda was born on the day of the Buddha’s enlightenment. He heard everything the Buddha taught during the last twenty-nine years of his life and remembered every single word of it.
Some may question or wonder  how could he remember what the Buddha taught during the first twenty years?” “He wasn’t even there to hear the teachings.” Anyone?
I had some contemplations on  this . In the process I realized the thoughts I  had  correlated to how my Guru  teaches us and quide us in his infinite kindness and compassion. Would be interesting  to know if some of you share the same thoughts I have.


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If you read the Nikayas of the Pali Cannon, in one of texts within them there is a part where it says that Ananda did ask the Buddha about the sermons that he gave when Ananda was not around and the Buddha would repeat the entire sermon from beginning to end to Ananda. This would happen each and ever single time the Buddha gave a sermon where Ananda was not present.

For example if the Buddha was giving a sermon during the daytime and Ananda was not around, the Buddha will repeat the entire sermon to Ananda during the night when he was attending to the Buddha. This will happen each and every time between Ananda and the Buddha. Ananda was famous for having perfect memory as some people during this time would so it is no surprise.

If you read the Nikayas, you can find many interesting information regarding the historical Buddha, as well as some of his close disciples. For example, in many Dharma communities and monasteries, if an ordained person misbehaves or talks in a manner not befitting of an ordained person, he or she will be placed in a silent retreat to allow the person to reflect and think.

This tradition was started by the Buddha himself. Apparently Chandra/Channa (Trijang Rinpoche's first incarnation) was very proud and vain that he himself snuck Prince Siddharta out of the palace and was very boastful and rude to the other monks. The Buddha told everyone to isolate Channa and not to talk or share food with him. Right before the Buddha passed away, one of his last instructions was for the monks to not talk to Channa. It is said that he actually fainted when he heard it.

One can learn a lot about the history of Shakyamuni and disciples from these texts that can serve to enhance our knowledge and faith.

hope rainbow

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Thank you Ensapa for the clarifications.
I did not know this story about Chandra/Channa (Trijang Rinpoche's first incarnation).

Great skills of memories are achieved by bodhisattvas, and I was also explained that the entire set of teachings of the Buddha was passed on orally from generation to generation for a very long time until the need arose for these teachings to be written down because there were buddhist teachers that knew some teachings very well, but not all of them and a transcription was needed to preserve the teachings in their totality.

On what KG mentioned, I can very well imagine indeed that from realisation, teachings becomes easier to remember and re-cognize. This makes the memory work much easier, just like a logic that simply translate into words. Then anything becomes Dharma, anything is a basis for a Dharma teachings, and all teachings become one.


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The five qualities belong to the vast complex of virtues which give mindfulness it's strength and power.The quality of mindfulness is the power of the mind,power of memory,mastery over recollections and ideas.It is the faculty to the tool of the mind at any time at will and not be use driven by it.In short,mindfulness is circumspection and orderliness,self restraint,control,self discipline.Ananda had these qualities to a phenomenal degree.The Buddha said that the only reason why one forget anything is the presence of one of the five hindrances.
To me,I think Ananda is no ordinary being.What do you think?


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I think it will be good for all of us to know about Ananda biography so that we understand how he can remember all of Buddha's teachings.


?nanda was one of the principal disciples and a devout attendant of the Buddha. Amongst the Buddha's many disciples, ?nanda had the most retentive memory and most of the suttas in the Sutta Pitaka are attributed to his recollection of the Buddha's teachings during the First Buddhist Council. For that, he was known as the Guardian of the Dharma.

According to the Buddha every Buddha in the past and to come will have two chief disciples and one attendant during his ministry. In the case of Gautama Buddha the pair of disciples were Sariputta and Mahamoggallana and the attendant ?nanda.

The word '?nanda' means 'bliss' in Pali, Sanskrit as well as other Indian languages. It is a popular Buddhist and Hindu name, but popular also among Muslims in Indonesia.
In the Kannakatthala Sutta, Ananda is identified with the meaning of his name:
Then King Pasenadi Kosala said to the Blessed One, "Lord, what is the name of this monk?"
"His name is Ananda, great king."
"What a joy he is! What a true joy!..."

?nanda was the first cousin of the Buddha by their fathers, and was devoted to him. In the twentieth year of the Buddha's ministry, he became the Buddha's personal attendant, accompanying him on most of his wanderings and taking the part of interlocutor in many of the recorded dialogues. He is the subject of a special panegyric delivered by the Buddha just before the Buddha's Parinibbana (the Mahaparinibbana Sutta); it is a panegyric for a man who is kindly, unselfish, popular, and thoughtful toward others.

In the long list of the disciples given in the Anguttara Nikaya where each of them is declared to be the chief in some quality, ?nanda is mentioned five times (more often than any other). He was named chief in conduct, in service to others, and in power of memory. The Buddha sometimes asked him to substitute for him as teacher and then later stated that he himself would not have presented the teachings in any other way.

The First Council

Because he attended the Buddha personally and often traveled with him, ?nanda overheard and memorized many of the discourses the Buddha delivered to various audiences. Therefore, he is often called the disciple of the Buddha who "heard much". At the First Buddhist Council, convened shortly after the Buddha died, Ananda was called upon to recite many of the discourses that later became the Sutta Pitaka of the P?li Canon.

Despite his long association with and close proximity to the Buddha, Ananda was only a stream-winner prior to the Buddha’s death. However, Buddha said that the purity of his heart was so great that, "Should Ananda die without being fully liberated; he would be king of the gods seven times because of the purity of his heart, or be king of the Indian subcontinent seven times. But ... Ananda will experience final liberation in this very life."

Prior to the First Buddhist Council, it was proposed that Ananda not be permitted to attend on the grounds that he was not yet an arahant. According to legend, this prompted Ananda to focus his efforts on the attainment of nibbana and he was able to reach the specified level of attainment before the calling of the conclave.

In contrast to most of the figures depicted in the P?li Canon, Ananda is presented as an imperfect, if sympathetic, figure. He mourns the deaths of both Sariputta, with whom he enjoyed a close friendship, and the Buddha. A verse of the Theragatha reveals his loneliness and isolation following the parinirvana of the Buddha.

In the Zen tradition, Ananda is considered to be the second Indian patriarch. He is often depicted with the Buddha alongside Mahakashyapa, the first Indian patriarch.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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Here's an explanation on how Ananda could remember everything. I wish I could remember my Guru's teachings and instructions the way he does and serve my Guru is this way!

4. Ananda as the Guardian of the Dhamma   

Amongst the distinctions which gave Ananda a special place amongst the Buddha's disciples, one of the most noteworthy was that he was the only monk who was not yet an arahant amongst those whom the Buddha called pre-eminent in specific abilities. This means that he had qualities which equaled those of the arahants. While others were mentioned only because of one superior quality, (except two monks who possessed two such qualities) Ananda was the one amongst the seventy-five pre-eminent disciples who excelled in five abilities.

He was pre-eminent among those who had heard much (of the Buddha's words), who had a good retentive memory, who mastered the sequential order (or what was remembered), who were energetic and among those who attended (on the Master) (AN 1.19).

Upon close examination, one can see that these five qualities belong to the vast complex of virtues which give sati (Pali for mindfulness) its strength and power. The quality of mindfulness is power of the mind, power of memory, mastery over recollections and ideas. It is the faculty to use the tool of the mind at any time at will and not be driven by it. In short, mindfulness is circumspection and orderliness, self-restraint, control, self-discipline. In a narrower sense, sati or mindfulness is the ability to remember. Ananda had this ability to a phenomenal degree. He could immediately remember everything, even if he had heard it only once. He could repeat discourses of the Buddha flawlessly up to 60,000 words, without leaving out a single syllable. He was able to recite 15,000 four-line stanzas of the Buddha. It may sound like a miracle to us to be able to accomplish such a feat. But the miracle is solely that we encumber our minds with a hundred-thousand useless things, which hinder us from becoming master over our memory. The Buddha said once that the only reason why one forgets anything is the presence of one of the five hindrances[25] (AN 5.193). Because Ananda was one in the higher training, he was able to let go of these hindrances at will (if any were still present in him at all) and so could concentrate completely on what he heard.[26]

Because he did not want anything for himself, he absorbed the discourses without resistance or distortion, arranged them properly, knew what belonged together, recognized within different expressions the common denominator, and like a faithful and skilled registrar, could find his way around in his own mind.

This is the quality of "having heard much." He who has heard much in this sense, has discarded willfulness from his own mind and has become a vessel of truth. He has heard much truth and that means that he has erased all untruth in himself. Such a one is "born from the mouth" of the teacher, is truly trained, because he let himself be shaped by the teaching of the Exalted One.

Hence he who has heard much is the one who is most humble and a most sincere champion of truth. Everything good which he carries in his mind and upon which he acts, he does not ascribe to his own ability, but to the Dhamma, which he has heard from his teacher. Such a person is truly humble.

His grow this to be
The vanquished one of ever greater things.
— Rainer Maria Rilke

This could rightly be said of Ananda. When he came to the Buddha he was still ignorant, thinking in a wrong way. Each teaching of the Awakened One forced him to correct his outlook. Constantly losing his old concepts, he totally yielded to the truth.

This quality of listening well and training the mind is named as the first of the five specific abilities of Ananda and it is recorded that all of his disciples, too, were well versed in this respect (SN 14.5). But the Buddha said it would not be easy to find one who equaled Ananda in this (AN 3.78). The question as to which monk lent radiance to the Gosinga Forest[27], was answered by Ananda in this way:

The monk who has heard much, is guardian of the word, treasurer of the teaching, and of what is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good at the end, and transmits word by word and in the right way the completely purified life of the homeless ones: all this he knows, remembers, ably explains, keeps in his heart and understands completely. He discourses on Dhamma to the four kinds of listeners,[28] in completeness, in part and in the right context to bring them to final eradication of desires.

— MN 32

The second quality is the retention in mind and making use of the discourses heard, and their application to one's own self-inquiry.

For the third quality (in Pali gatimanta) widely differing renderings have been given by translators. According to the ancient commentary, it refers to Ananda's capacity to perceive in his mind the internal connection and coherence of a discourse. This he was able to do by understanding well the meaning and significance of the teaching concerned, with all its implications. Hence, even when his recitation was interrupted by a question, he was able to resume the recital where he had left off.

The fourth quality was his energy, his unflagging dedication to his task in studying, memorizing and reciting the Buddha's words and in personally attending on the Master.

The fifth and last quality was that of a perfect attendant, which was described earlier.

If one looks at these five qualities, one receives a vivid picture of Ananda. The central quality, however, is that of a guardian of the Dhamma, which can also be seen in the following chapters.

Because of his key position among the Buddha's entourage of monks, Ananda was naturally the focus of much attention, and he had to deal with a very large number of people. To all those who came into contact with him, he was a model in his blameless conduct, in his untiring solicitude for the Master and for the community of monks, in his unperturbable friendliness, his patience and his readiness to help. Some potential conflicts did not even arise in his presence, and those which did arise became mitigated and resolved through his influence. Ananda, as a man without enemies, had a strong and deep impact upon others through his exemplary conduct as well as through his instructions. His image, as the Buddha's faithful companion, left particularly strong traces in the minds of his contemporaries.

Ananda was always master of a situation, and like a king, he had a sovereign comprehension of affairs. Therefore, thanks to his circumspection, he could handle and organize whatever occurred in the daily life of the Buddha and the community. Through the extraordinary power of his memory, he was able to learn from his experiences and never repeat the same mistakes, as most people are liable to do again and again, due to their weak memory. Hence, he could remember people well, though he may have met them only once, and he could, therefore, deal with them suitably, without leaving the impression that he "manipulated" them. His circumspection accorded with the facts of a situation so naturally that all reasonable people could only agree with him.

Wow! Now here's the secret to good memory!


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I read it from somewhere that Lord Buddha will repeat His teaching to Ananda in the night time if Ananda was not available during His teaching earlier since Ananda have to organised and taking care of day to day matters. And i also found a article in regards of him have had an influence of setting up of the Order of Nuns.

"Helping in the Setting up of the Order of Nuns

Growing up in the Sangha, Ananda had a gentle and compassionate disposition. He was most respected by women because he was caring towards the bhikkhunis and women followers of the Buddha.

It was due to the effort of Ananda that Buddha allowed female to become bhikkhunis.

When Buddha's foster mother Mahaprajapati saw that the Buddha had attained enlightenment, that some of the princes had taken refuge in Buddha and the king was dead, she wanted to leave home to be a bhikkhuni or nun.

Mahaprajapati begged the Buddha to permit her to stay in the Buddha's community or Sangha but the Buddha refused. To avoid the frequent begging from his foster mother, the Buddha went to preach in Namantini monastery which was not far from Vaisali.

Mahaprajapati was not deterred. She gathered five hundred women of the Sakyan clan who had similar thoughts as her, shaved their hair and walked bare-footed to catch up with the Buddha. They walked for over two thousand miles and finally reached the monastery where the Buddha stayed. Having stayed in the palace for so long and not used to walking such long distances, the women looked tired and haggard. They paced outside the monastery and dared not enter. Ananda happened to come out and when he saw Mahaprajapati and the other women wearing the robes of bhikkunis, with dust and tears on their faces, he had a shock. He asked them, "What is going on?"

Mahaprajapati replied, "We leave our loved ones and relatives and walked all the way here to become bhikkunis. If Buddha refuse us again, we shall die here and never return!"

Ananda was so touched by the words that he could not control his tears. He related the message to Buddha and begged the Buddha to grant the women their wish.

The Buddha, however, refused, "Ananda, I sympathise with them but it is not appropriate to let women enter our community."

"Lord Buddha! Are men and women different in the Buddha Dharma?" Ananda picked up the courage to ask.

"Ananda! the Dharma is the same in heaven or in the world. I do not discriminate against women, that is to say that I treat all sentient beings as equal. Women can do as the men did, follow my Dharma and practice but they need not become bhikkunis. This is the question of our system and not whether men and women are equal. Women leaving home are like wild grass in the field which will affect the harvest."

This speech of the Buddha had profound meaning. On the aspect of humanity, women should be allowed to leave home however on the aspect of Dharma logic, it s not good to allow the two sexes to practice together. Wisdom and love move opposite ways, some people might give up practice for love so Buddha refused to let women to join the Sangha. Or perhaps the Buddha felt that as compared to men, women are more vain, delicate and slower than men so he disallowed women from entering to teach them a lesson.

Although the Buddha refused, nevertheless Ananda said in tears, "Lord Buddha! Can you bear to see them die, shouldn't you show them compassion and give them a helping hand?"

The Buddha felt that at times, it was impossible to care for both Dharma and feelings at the same time, he also understood that there was no pure and unchanging Dharma. Buddha was quiet for a while and finally agreed to Ananda's request to allow women to leave home. Happily, Ananda rushed outside to announce the good news. Mahaprajapti and the other women were overjoyed with tears. The Buddha met the five hundred women and wanted them to obey eight extra rules towards the monks."

Dondrup Shugden

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It is always inspiring to read stories of Buddhas but to read about one of the greatest disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha really blows my mind.

How I wish I had the qualities to remember all of my Guru's Dharma teachings and with the purity of mind to retain them to fullest value. Alas it had not been the case and it is really shameful to realise such.

May the monastic order grow by leaps and bounds to preserve the Dharma.  May we who are less able to retain the Dharma support the sangha to do so. Namo Sangha ya!


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It is amazing that Ananda has such abilities so that we have the Dharma that we have today.

The Buddha Dharma taught that mindfulness can be attained with tight concentration and in the Lamrim the chapter of Mental Quiescence states that when one achieved that state of concentration on can discern every single atoms on the wall. That means one has full meditative or mindfulness abilities.

I think this is what Ananda has achieved.