An eminent Arahant, declared chief among monks skilled in creating forms by mind-
When Mahāpanthaka discovered his brother’s stupidity, he asked him to leave the Order (see DhA.iv.190 f), but Cūḷapanthaka so loved the Buddha’s teaching that he did not wish to return to the lay-
Tradition has it that Cūḷapanthaka was once a king and that while going in procession round his city he wiped the sweat from his brow with a spotless garment which he wore and noticed how the cloth was stained. His mind then grasped the idea of impermanence, hence the ease with which he did so in his last birth.
Meanwhile, the Buddha and the monks were seated in Jīvaka’s house, but when the meal was about to be served the Buddha ordered it to be stopped, saying that there were other monks left in the monastery. A servant was sent to find them, and Cūḷapanthaka, aware of this, contrived that the whole grove appeared full of monks engaged in various activities. When the messenger reported this, he was told to discover which of the monks was Cūḷapanthaka and to bring him. However, all the monks answered to this name, and the messenger was forced to return without him. “Take by the hand the first who says that he is Cūḷapanthaka,” ordered the Buddha; and when this was done the other figures vanished. At the conclusion of the meal, Cūḷapanthaka was asked to return thanks, and “like a young lion roaring defiance” the elder ranged over the whole of the Piṭakas in his discourse. Thenceforth his fame spread, and the Buddha, in order to prove how in previous births also Cūḷapanthaka had profited by advice received, related to the monks the Cūḷaseṭṭhi Jātaka (Thag.557‑66; AA.i.119 ﬀ; J.i.114 ﬀ; DhA.i.239 ﬀ; ThagA.i.515 ﬀ; Vism.388 f).
The Dhammapada Commentary (DhA.i.250 ﬀ) gives another story of Cūḷapanthaka’s past. He went to Takkasilā to learn under a teacher, but though he did everything for his teacher he could learn nothing. The teacher, feeling sorry for him, taught him a charm: “Ghattesi ghattesi, kiṃ kāraṇā ghattesi? Āhaṃ pi taṃ jānāmi” (“You try and try; what are you trying for? I know it too”). When he had returned home thieves entered his house, but he woke up from his sleep and repeated the charm, whereupon the thieves fled, leaving behind them even their clothes. The king of Bārāṇasī, wandering about the city in disguise, seeing what had happened, sent for Cūḷapanthaka the next day and learnt from him the charm after paying him one thousand. Soon afterwards the king’s commander-
Cūḷapanthaka was a householder in the time of Padumuttara Buddha, and having seen a monk exalted by the Buddha to the rank of chief among those skilled in creating mind-
Cūḷapanthaka was expert in rūpajjhāna and in samādhi, while his brother was skilled in arūpajjhāna and in vipassanā. When creating forms, other monks could produce only two or three, while Cūḷapanthaka could bring into being as many as one thousand at the same time, no two being alike in appearance or action (ThagA.i.490; PsA.276).
According to the Apadāna (i.58 f), Cūḷapanthaka joined the Order at the age of eighteen. It is said (Vin.iv.54 f) that when it was his turn to teach the nuns at Sāvatthi they expected no effective teaching, since he always repeated the same stanza. One day, at the end of the lesson, he overheard their remarks, and forthwith gave an exhibition of his magical powers and of his wide knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings. The nuns listened with great admiration until after sunset, when they were unable to gain entrance to the city. The Buddha heard of this and warned Cūḷapanthaka not to keep the nuns so late.
The Udāna (v.10; UdA.319 f) contains a verse sung by the Buddha in praise of Cūḷapanthaka, and the Milinda (p.368) quotes a stanza attributed to Cūḷapanthaka, which has so far not been traced elsewhere.