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1. Mahānāma Thera.– He was born in a brahmin family of Sāvatthi, and, after hearing the Buddha teach, entered the Order. Taking a formula of meditation, he dwelt on the hill called Nesādaka. Unable to prevent the rising of evil thoughts, he was disgusted with himself, and climbing a steep crag, made as if to throw himself down, and evoking insight became an Arahant.

In the time of Sumedha Buddha he was a brahmin teacher skilled in the Vedas, and the Buddha visited him in his hermitage on the banks of the Sindhū and was given honey by him (ThagA.vs.115; ThagA.i.227 ff). Mahānāma is probably identical with Madhudāyaka Thera of the Apadāna. Ap.ii.325 f.

2. Mahānāma Thera.– One of the group of five ascetics (Pañcavaggiyā) (J.i.82). He became a Stream-winner on the third day after the teaching of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. He became an Arahant on the day of the teaching of the Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta, together with the other four ascetics (AA.i.84; MA.i.390).

Mahānāma once visited Macchikāsaṇḍa, and there Cittagahapati, seeing him beg for alms and pleased with his bearing, invited him to his house, gave him a meal, and listened to a discourse by him. Citta was greatly pleased, and offered his pleasure garden of Ambāṭakavana to Mahānāma as a gift to the Order and built there a great monastery. DhA.ii.74.

3. Mahānāma.– A Sakyan prince, son of Amitodana; he was elder brother of Anuruddha and cousin of the Buddha. When the Sakyan families of Kapilavatthu sent their representatives to join the Order of their distinguished kinsman, Mahānāma allowed Anuruddha to leave the household, he knowing nothing of household affairs.¹ Mahānāma showed great generosity to the Saṅgha, and was proclaimed best of those who gave choice alms to the monks (A.i.26). Once, with the Buddha’s permission, he supplied the Order with medicaments for three periods of four months each. The group of six monks (Chabbaggiyā) — always intent on mischief — tried in vain to discourage him.² Mahānāma was a devoted follower of the Buddha and wished to understand the Doctrine. The books record several conversations between him and the Buddha, and with Ānanda, Godha, and Lomasavaṅgīsa.³ Once when the Buddha arrived at Kapilavatthu he asked Mahānāma to find him lodging for the night. Mahānāma tried everywhere without success, and finally suggested that the Buddha should spend the night in the hermitage of Bharaṇḍu Kālāma (S.v.327 f). This he did, and was joined there the next morning by Mahānāma; as a result of the discussion between the Buddha, Mahānāma and Bharaṇḍu, the last-named left Kapilavatthu never to return. On another occasion, Mahānāma visited the Buddha at Nigrodhārāma where the Buddha was convalescing after a severe illness, and at once Mahānāma asked a question as to whether concentration followed or preceded knowledge. Ānanda, who was present, not wishing the Buddha to be troubled, took Mahānāma aside and explained to him the Buddha’s teachings on the subject. See the Mahānāma Sakka Sutta (A.i.219 f ).

Mahānāma had a daughter Vāsabhakhattiyā, by a slave-girl named Nāgamuṇḍā, and when Pasenadi asked the Sākyā to give him in marriage a Sakyan maiden they met in the Mote Hall, and, following the advice of Mahānāma, sent Vāsabhakhattiyā to him. In order to allay any suspicions, Mahānāma sat down to a meal with her, taking one mouthful from the same dish; but before he could swallow it a messenger arrived, as secretly arranged, and summoned him away. He left, asking Vāsabhakhattiyā to continue her meal (DhA.i.345 f; J.i.133; iv. 145 f).

See also the Cūḷadukkhakkhandha Sutta and Sekha Sutta, both taught to Mahānāma.

His resolve to attain to eminence as the best distributor of pleasant food to the monks was made in the time of Padumuttara Buddha. He was then a householder of Haṃsavatī and heard the Buddha confer a similar rank on a monk (AA.i.213).

Mahānāma is included in a list of exemplary lay devotees (A.iii.451). The Samantapāsādikā (Sp.iv.857) adds that Mahānāma was one month older than the Buddha and that he was a Once-returner.

¹ Vin.ii.180 f; DhA.i.133; iv.124, etc; but according to Northern sources (Rockhill, p.13) he was son of Dronodana; according to ThagA. (ii.123) Ānanda was a brother (or, at least, a step-brother) of Mahānāma, for there Ānanda’s father is given as Amitodana. However, see MA.i.289, where Mahānāma’s father is called Sukkodana and Ānanda’s Amitodana.

² Vin.iv.101; AA. (i.213) adds that this was during the period of famine experienced by the Buddha and his monks at Verañjā. At the end of the year, Mahānāma wished to continue the supply of good food to the Buddha and his monks, but the Buddha declined his offer.

³ See Mahānāma Sutta and Lomasavaṅgīsa.

4. Mahānāma.– A Licchavi. One day while walking about in the Mahāvana in Vesāli he saw some young Licchavī paying homage to the Buddha and accused them of inconsistency. For details see the Kumāra Sutta (A.iii.75 ff.).

5. Mahānāma.– King of Sri Lanka. He was the younger brother of Upatissa II and was for some time a monk, but he carried on an intrigue with Upatissa’s wife, and she killed her husband. Then Mahānāma became a layman, assumed the sovereignty, and married Upatissa’s queen. He built refuges for the sick, enlarged the Mahāpāli Hall, and erected the Lohadvāra, Ralaggāma, and Koṭipassāvana-vihāras, which he gave to the monks of Abhayagiri. A vihāra that he built on the Dhūmarakkha mountain, he gave, at the instigation of his queen, to the monks of Mahāvihāra. He ruled for twenty-two years (409‑31 A.C.). It was during his reign that Buddhaghosa arrived in Sri Lanka and wrote his Commentaries, dwelling in a vihāra given by the king. Cv.xxxvii.209 ff; see also P.L.C. 96. The king seems to have also been called Sirinivāsa and Sirikuḍḍa.

6. Mahānāma Thera.– Incumbent of Dīghasaṇḍa (or Dīghāsana)-vihāra (Cv.xxxix.42). He is generally identified with the uncle of Dhātusena mentioned elsewhere (Cv.xxxviii.16). Moggallāna I built for him the Pabbata-vihāra (Cv.xxxix.42). Mahānāma is generally regarded as the author of the older part of the Mahāvaṃsa. MT. 687; e.g., in Gv.61, 66; Svd.1266; for a discussion on this see P.L.C.139 ff.

7. Mahānāma Thera.– Author of the Saddhammappakāsaṇī Commentary on the Paṭisambhidāmagga (Gv.61; Svd.1196). The colophon to the book (PSA.526) states that he lived in the Uttaramanti pariveṇa in the Mahāvihāra and finished his work in the third year after the death of Moggallāna (probably Moggallāna I). The Gandhavaṃsa (Gv.70) says that the work was written at the request of a lay disciple, also named Mahānāma.

8. Mahānāma.– See Mahānanda.

9. Mahānāma.– A lake in Nāgadīpa. Near it was the Mucalinda-vana. Ras.ii.18; see also Nāgā.