Moggallana, who is popularly known as Maha Moggallana in the Pali tradition, was one of the two chief disciples of the Buddha. He was meant along with Sariputta; and on the same day the Buddha, too, had declared that they both were the Chief Disciples. As Sariputta was known for his wisdom, Moggallana was then best known for the ownership of the supernatural powers. For example, he was capable of creating multiple living shapes; and assuming any form. Moreover, he shook the monastery called Migaramatupasada by the touch of his great toe to warn some priests who were gossiping on the ground floor in spite of the knowledge that the Buddha was giving upstairs.
Moggallana and Sariputta was born on the same day. He was given his name by his mother who was called Moggali. He was also called Kolita, which was the name of his village. The friendship between the families of Moggallana and Sariputta continued for seven generations; and the two were the friends from their childhood itself. Once, the two friends went to see a mime-play and realized through the play that the “world itself is a drama” as “all the worldly things are temporary”. This realization made them refuse the world. First, they became the devotee of Sanjaya; and when unhappy with his teachings they roamed all over the Indian subcontinent to discuss with the scholars of the time. Ultimately, not being happy by them they separated with the understanding that each would inform the other of any admirable invention.
So, when Sariputta heard a conversation of Assaji, a devotee of the Buddha, he was impressed with his policy and became a Sotapanna. He then went to Moggallana to inform him of his invention; who also became a Sotapanna, soon after hearing the teaching of the Buddha. The two then went to the Buddha along with five hundred devotee of Sanjaya. They all met the Buddha and heard his conversation and became the arahatas but for the two, Moggallana and Sariputta. Moggallana then went to the settlement of Kallavala in Magadha and a week after his ordination he, too, achieved a high stage of trance, where he received the refrain of the Buddha and finally achieved the arahatahood.
Moggallana’s revelation of the great supernatural power was best represented in the defeat of the great serpent called the Naga Nandopananda, as he could enter the fourth stage of the trance most quickly.
When there was a break in the Order provoked by Devadatta, the Buddha sent the two chief devotees to Gayasisa to bring back the foolish priest. Both the priests talented their task by bringing back all the five hundred priests to the order. If Sariputta was the principle of Rahula; Moggallana was his teacher. Both Sariputta and Moggallana had a mutual request for each other. Moggallana died a fortnight after Sariputta had died on a new moon night.
Moggallana’s end was dismal as he was beaten and killed by the thief in his cell in Kalasila. He then moved slowly and pull his body with several crushed bones to the Buddha and sought his leave to go away from the world. According to the tradition the cause of his dismal end was due to his coarse misbehavior against his old, senile and blind parents in one of his births, as he had undertaken the ill-advice of his wife to carry them to a forest and to led them to death. He had followed that advice out of his passion during that birth. As no one can escape the fruits of the karma, he too had his death in the similar way in his up to date birth.
Moggallana is well-known with numerous characters in the Jataka tales, e.g., Kisavaccha in the Indriya Jataka, the tortoise in the Kurungamiga Jataka, the tiger in the Tittira Jataka, the Garuda king in the Vidhurapandita Jataka and so on and on.