Maudgalyāyana ［目連・目犍連］ (; Pali Moggallāna; Mokuren or Mokkenren): Also known as Mahāmaudgalyāyana or Kolita. One of Shakyamuni Buddha’s ten major disciples, known as foremost in transcendental powers. Born to a Brahman family in the suburbs of Rājagriha in the kingdom of Magadha, India, he was a close friend of Shāriputra from childhood. Maudgalyāyana and Shāriputra were previously disciples of Sanjaya Belatthiputta, a skeptic and one of the so-called six non-Buddhist teachers. Later they became followers of Shakyamuni and entered the Buddhist Order, bringing all of Sanjaya’s 250 disciples with them. Maudgalyāyana and Shāriputra came to be revered as the Buddha’s two leading disciples.
When Devadatta fomented a schism in the Buddhist Order and lured away five hundred monks, these two persuaded the monks to leave Devadatta and return to Shakyamuni Buddha. Maudgalyāyana and Shāriputra died before Shakyamuni, the former killed by a hostile Brahman while begging for alms in Rājagriha and the latter dying of an illness. In the Lotus Sutra, Maudgalyāyana belongs to the second of the three groups of voice-hearers to understand the Buddha’s true intention as related in the parable in the “Simile and Parable” (third) chapter of the sutra. The “Bestowal of Prophecy” (sixth) chapter predicts that he will attain enlightenment in the future as a Buddha named Tamālapattra Sandalwood Fragrance. The Service for the Deceased Sutra details the story of how Maudgalyāyana saved his deceased mother from the world of hungry spirits. This story spread widely in China, where the service for deceased ancestors (Chin yü-lan-p’en; urabon) became a Buddhist observance based upon it. This tradition was adopted in Japan and Korea as well.