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Mahā-Koṭṭhika Thera

v.l. Mahā Koṭṭhita.– One of the foremost disciples of the Buddha, ranked foremost among masters of logical analysis (paṭisambhidappattānaṃ) (A.i.24; Dpv.iv.5; v. 9). He was born into a very wealthy brahmin family of Sāvatthi, his father being Assalāyana and his mother Candavatī.

He gained great proficiency in the Vedas and, after hearing the Buddha teach (his father, says the Apadāna account), entered the Order and, engaging in meditation, soon became an Arahant.

He was extremely skilled in analytical knowledge (paṭisambhidā), on which were based all his questions to the Buddha and his own colleagues.

In the time of Padumuttara Buddha he was a rich householder, and, hearing the Buddha praise a monk as foremost among those skilled in analytical knowledge, he wished for similar eminence for himself in the future. To this end he visited the Buddha and his monks and entertained them for seven days, giving them three robes each at the conclusion of his almsgiving. Owing to the skill showed by him in the Mahāvedalla Sutta (q.v.), the Buddha declared him foremost among those skilled in the Paṭisambhidā (Thag.vs.2; ThagA.i.29 ff; AA.i.159; Ap.ii.479; also Avadānas ii.195).

Several instances are given of discussions between Koṭṭhika and other eminent elders — e.g., the Naḷakalāpī Sutta on kamma (S.ii.112 f), the Sīla Sutta on religious discipline (S.iii.165 ff), three suttas on the nature of arising (samudayadhamma), two on satisfaction (assāda) (S.iii.172‑7), two on arising (samudaya) (S.iii.173) and three on ignorance (avijjā) and knowledge (vijjā) (S.iii.17). Another similar sutta is on sense and sense objects (S.iv.162‑5), and there is a series of suttas on matters not revealed by the Buddha (avyākatāni). S.iv.384‑91; Mrs. Rhys Davids suggests (KS.i.79i n.1) that all these suttas were compiled rather as “lessons” to be learnt than as genuine inquiries by Koṭṭhika. The pre-eminent monks were “playing” at teacher and pupil in order to aid Koṭṭhika to win proficiency as a teacher. Another such “lesson” is given at A.iv.382 ff., as to the motives guiding those who live the holy life (brahmacariya).

All these suttas took the form of discussions with Sāriputta, in which Mahā-Koṭṭhika is the questioner and Sāriputta the instructor.

One sutta (S.iv.145‑7) records a “lesson” given by the Buddha to Koṭṭhika on conceptions of impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) and not-self (anattā). The Aṅguttaranikāya (see the Samiddhi Sutta, A.i.118 f) records a discussion at Jetavana between Samiddhi (or Paviṭṭha), Koṭṭhika and Sāriputta, as to who is best: one who has testified to the truth with body, one who has won view, or one released by faith. Another discussion (A.ii.161 f) takes place between Sāriputta and Koṭṭhika as to whether anything continues to exist after the ending of the six spheres of contact (nibbāna). Once there was a dispute between Koṭṭhika and Citta Hatthisāriputta; Citta was constantly interrupting the elder monks who were gathered at Isipatana for the discussion of the Abhidhamma, and was asked by Koṭṭhika to abide his time and not interrupt. Citta’s friends protested that Citta was well qualified to take part in the discussion; but Koṭṭhika declared that, far from being wise enough, Citta would, not long after, renounce the Order. And so it happened (A.iii.392 ff).

Sāriputta evidently had a great regard for Koṭṭhika; the Theragāthā (Thag.vss.1006‑8; ThagA.ii.117) contains three stanzas in which Sāriputta proclaims his excellence.