An elephant of the royal stalls at Rājagaha.
Devadatta, after several vain attempts to kill
the Buddha, obtained
Ajātasattu's consent to use Nālagiri as a
means of encompassing the Buddha's death. The elephant, he said, knows nothing
of the Buddha's virtues and will have no hesitation in destroying him. Nālagiri
was a fierce animal, and in order to increase his fierceness, Devadatta
instructed his keeper to give him twice his usual amount of toddy. Proclamation
was made, by the beating of drums, that the streets of the city should be
cleared as Nālāgiri would be let loose upon them. When the Buddha was informed
of this and warned against going into the city for alms, he ignored the warning,
and went into Rājagaha with the monks of the eighteen monasteries of the city.
At the sight of Nālāgiri all the people fled in terror.
Ananda, seeing the elephant advancing towards
the Buddha, went, in spite of the Buddha's orders to the contrary, and stood in
front of the Buddha, who had to make use of his supernatural power to remove him
from his place. Just then, a woman, carrying a child, saw the elephant coming
and fled, in her terror dropping the child at the Buddha's feet. As the elephant
was about to attack the child, the Buddha spoke to him, suffusing him with all
the love at his command, and, stretching out his right hand, he stroked the
animal's forehead. Thrilling with joy at the touch, Nālāgiri sank on his knees
before the Buddha, and the Buddha taught him the Dhamma.
It is said that had the elephant not been a wild beast he would have become a
sotāpanna. Marvelling at the sight,
the assembled populace threw all their ornaments on the elephant's body,
covering it entirely, and henceforth the elephant was known as Dhanapāla (Dhanapālaka).
The Buddha returned to Veluvana, and that day,
at eventide, preached the Cullahamsa
Jātaka in praise of Ananda's loyalty to himself (Vin.ii.194f.: J. v.333ff.;
Avedānas i. 177).
It is said (Mil.. 349) that nine hundred million living beings, who saw the
miracle, realized the Truth.
The Bodhisatta, in a past life, was once riding an elephant when he saw a
Pacceka Buddha. Intoxicated by his own glory, he made the elephant charge the
Pacceka Buddha. It was as a result of this action that the Buddha, in this
birth, was charged by Nālāgiri (UdA.265; Ap.i.300). cp.