He was born in a brahmin family of Sávatthi, and, after hearing the Buddha preach, entered the Order. Taking a formula of meditation, he dwelt on the hill called Nesádaka. 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 Sumedhá Buddha he was a brahmin teacher skilled in the Vedas, and the Buddha visited him in his hermitage on the banks of the Sindhú and was given honey by him (ThagA.vs.115; ThagA.i.227ff). Mahánáma is probably identical with Madhudáyaka Thera of the Apadána. Ap.ii.325f.
One of the Pańcavaggiyá (J.i.82). He became a sotápanna on the third day after the preaching of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. He became an arahant on the day of the preaching of the Anattalakkhana Sutta, together with the other Pańcavaggiyá (AA.i.84; MA.i.390).
Mahánáma once visited Macchikásanda, 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 sermon by him. Citta was greatly pleased, and offered his pleasure garden of Ambátakavana to Mahánáma as a gift to the Order and built there a great monastery. DhA.ii.74.
A Sákiyan rájá, son of Amitodana; he was elder brother of Anuruddha and cousin of the Buddha. When the Sákiyan families of Kapilavatthu sent their representatives to join the Order of their distinguished kinsman, Mahánáma allowed Anuruddha to leave the household, he knowing nothing of household affairs. Vin.ii.180f.; DhA.i.133; iv.124, etc.; but according to Northern sources (Rockhill, p. 13) he was son of Dronodana; according to ThagA. (ii.123) Ananda was a brother (or, at least, a step brother) of Mahánáma, for there Ananda's father is given as Amitodana. But see MA.i.289, where Mahánáma's father is called Sukkodana and Ananda's Amitodana.
Mahánáma showed great generosity to the Sangha, 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 Chabbaggiyá, always intent on mischief, tried in vain to discourage him. Vin.iv.101; AA. (i.213) adds that this was during the period of want experienced by the Buddha and his monks at Verańjá. At the end of the year, Mahánáma wished to continue the supply of good food to the Buddha and his monks, but the Buddha refused his permission.
Mahánáma was a devoted follower of the Buddha and wished to understand the Doctrine. The books record several conversations between him and the Buddha, and Ananda, Godha, and Lomasavangísa (see Mahánáma Sutta and Lomasavangisa). Once when the Buddha arrived at Kapilavatthu he asked Mahánáma to find him lodging for the night. Mahánáma tried everywhere without success, and finally suggested that the Buddha should spend the night in the hermitage of Bharandu Káláma (S.v.327f). This he did, and was joined there the next morning by Mahánáma; as a result of the discussion between the Buddha, Mahánáma and Bharandu, the last-named left Kapilavatthu never to return. On another occasion, Mahánáma visited the Buddha at Nigrodháráma where the Buddha was convalescing after a severe illness, and at once Mahánáma asked a question as to whether concentration followed or preceded knowledge. Ananda, who was present, not wishing the Buddha to be troubled, took Mahánáma aside and explained to him the Buddha's teachings on the subject. See Sakka Sutta (S.i.219f.).
Mahánáma had a daughter Vásábhakhattiyá, born to him by a slave-girl named Nágamundá, and when Pasenadi asked the Sákiyans to give him in marriage a Sákiyan maiden they met in the Mote Hall, and, following the advice of Mahánáma, sent Vásabhakhattiyá to him. In order to allay any suspicions, Mahánáma 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 Vásabhakhattiyá to continue her meal (DhA.i.345f.; J.i.133; iv. 145f).
See also the Cúla Dukkhakkhandha Sutta and Sekha Sutta, both preached to Mahánáma.
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 Hamsavatí and heard the Buddha confer a similar rank on a monk (AA.i.213).
Mahánáma is included in a list of exemplary lay devotees (A.iii.451). The Samantapásádiká (Sp.iv.857) adds that Mahánáma was one month older than the Buddha and that he was a sakadágámí.
A Licchavi. One day while walking about in the Mahávana in Vesáli he saw some young Licchavis paying homage to the Buddha and accused them of inconsistency. For details see the Kumára Sutta (A.iii.75ff.).
King of Ceylon. 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 Mahánáma became a layman, assumed the sovereignty, and married Upatissa's queen. He built refuges for the sick, enlarged the Mahápáli Hall, and erected the Lohadvára , Ralaggáma, and Kotipassávana viháras, which he gave to the monks of Abhayagiri. A vihára which he built on the Dhúmarakkha mountain, he gave, at the instigation of his queen, to the monks of Mahávihára. He ruled for twenty two years (409 31 A.C.). It was during his reign that Buddhaghosa arrived in Ceylon and wrote his Commentaries, dwelling in a vihára given by the king. Cv.xxxvii.209ff.; see also P.L.C. 96. The king seems to have also been called Sirinivása and Sirikudda.
Incumbent of Díghasanda (or Díghásana) Vihára (Cv.xxxix.42). He is generally identified with the uncle of Dhátusena mentioned elsewhere (Cv.xxxviii.16). Moggallána I. built for him the Pabbata vihára (Cv.xxxix.42). Mahánáma is generally regarded as the author of the older part of the Mahávamsa. MT. 687; e.g., in Gv.61, 66; Svd.1266; for a discussion on this see P.L.C.139ff.
Author of the Saddhammappakásaní Commentary on the Patisambhidámagga (Gv.61; Svd.1196). The colophon to the book (PSA.526) states that he lived in the Uttaramanti parivena in the Mahávihára and finished his work in the third year after the death of Moggallána (probably Moggallána I.). The Gandhavamsa (Gv.70) says that the work was written at the request of an upásaka, also named Mahánáma.
A lake in Nágadípa. Near it was the Mucalinda-vana. Ras.ii.18; see also Naga.