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Nāḷāgiri

An elephant of the royal stalls at Rājagaha. Devadatta, after several vain attempts to kill the Buddha, obtained Ajātasattu’s consent to use Nāḷāgiri as a means of encompassing the Buddha’s death. The elephant, he said, knows nothing of the Buddha’s virtues and will have no hesitation in destroying him. Nāḷāgiri was a fierce animal, and in order to increase his fierceness, Devadatta instructed his keeper to give him twice his usual amount of toddy. Proclamation was made, by the beating of drums, that the streets of the city should be cleared as Nāḷāgiri would be let loose upon them. When the Buddha was informed of this and warned against going into the city for alms, he ignored the warning, and went into Rājagaha with the monks of the eighteen monasteries of the city. At the sight of Nāḷāgiri all the people fled in terror. Ānanda, seeing the elephant advancing towards the Buddha, went, in spite of the Buddha’s orders to the contrary, and stood in front of the Buddha, who had to make use of his supernormal power to remove him from his place. Just then, a woman, carrying a child, saw the elephant coming and fled, in her terror dropping the child at the Buddha’s feet. As the elephant was about to attack the child, the Buddha spoke to him, suffusing him with all the love at his command, and, stretching out his right hand, he stroked the animal’s forehead. Thrilling with joy at the touch, Nāḷāgiri sank on his knees before the Buddha, and the Buddha taught him the Dhamma. It is said that had the elephant not been a wild beast he would have become a Stream-winner. Marvelling at the sight, the assembled populace threw all their ornaments on the elephant’s body, covering it entirely, and henceforth the elephant was known as Dhanapāla (Dhanapālaka). The Buddha returned to Veḷuvana, and that day, at eventide, taught the Cūḷahaṃsa Jātaka in praise of Ānanda’s loyalty to himself.¹ It is said (Mil. 349) that nine hundred million living beings, who saw the miracle, realised the Truth. The Bodhisatta, in a past life, was once riding an elephant when he saw a Pacceka Buddha. Intoxicated by his own glory, he made the elephant charge the Pacceka Buddha. It was as a result of this action that the Buddha, in this birth, was charged by Nāḷāgiri.² cp. Doṇamukha.

¹ Vin.ii.194 f.: J.v.333 ff; Avadānaśataka i. 177.

² UdA.265; Ap.i.300.

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