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Mātali

The name given to the chariot driver (saṅgāhaka) of Sakka. The Mātali of the present age had a son, Sikhandhi, with whom Bhaddā Suriyavaccasā, daughter of Timbarū, was in love; but later she transferred her affections to Pañcasikha (D.ii.268). Mātali is Sakka’s constant companion and accompanies him everywhere, more as a confidant than as a servant. See, e.g., the conversation reported at S.i.221, 224, 234 ff; and Vv.iv. 9.

Thus, he was by Sakka’s side in the war against the Asurā and drove his chariot when he fled with his bride Sujātā. The chariot is called Vejayanta ratha and is drawn by one thousand Sindh horses (DhA.i.279 f; J.i.202 f). Mātali often accompanied Sakka on his journeys to the world of men, changing his form e.g., to that of a fish in the Cūḷadhanuggaha Jātaka, a brahmin in the Bilārakosiya Jātaka and in the Sudhābhojana Jātaka, and a big black dog in the Mahākaṇha Jātaka. On several occasions he was sent by Sakka to fetch human beings to Tāvatiṃsae.g., Guttila, Nimi, Makhādeva and Sādhīna — and he proved an excellent guide, pointing out to the visitors the places of interest passed on the way.

When the Buddha descended from Tāvatiṃsa, after teaching the Abhidhamma there, he was accompanied, on the left, by Mātali, offering celestial scents, garlands and flowers (DhA.iii.226). In both the Bilārakosiya and the Sudhābhojana Jātaka (q.v.) Mātali is spoken of as the son of Suriya. Ānanda is said to have been Mātali during several lives (J.i.206; iv.180; v. 412; vi.129); so also Mahā-Kassapa (J.iv.69). In the Mahāsamaya Sutta (D.ii.258), Mātali is described as a Gandhabba chief, while in the Āṭānāṭiya Sutta (D.iii.204) he is mentioned among the chief yakkhas to be invoked by followers of the Buddha in time of need.

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