First cousin of the Buddha and one of his most eminent disciples. He was the son of the Sākyan Amitodana and brother of Mahānāma. When members of other Sākyan families had joined the Order of their distinguished kinsman, Mahānāma was grieved that none had gone forth from his own. He therefore suggested to his brother that one of them should leave household life. Anuruddha was at first reluctant to agree, for he had been reared most delicately and luxuriously, dwelling in a different house for each season, surrounded by dancers and mimes. But on hearing from Mahānāma of the endless round of household cares he agreed to go. He could not, however, get his mother’s consent until he persuaded his cousin Bhaddiya to go with him. Together they went with Ānanda, Bhagu, Kimbila, Devadatta and their barber Upāli, to the Blessed One at the Anupiya Mango Grove and were ordained. Before the rainy season was over Anuruddha acquired the divine eye. Vin.ii.180–183 He was later ranked foremost among those who had obtained this attainment. AN.i.23
He then received from Sāriputta, as topic of meditation, the eight thoughts of a great man. AN.iv.228ff. Another conversation he had with Sāriputta before becoming an arahant is reported. AN.i.281–282 He went into the Pācīnavaṃsadāya in the Ceti country to practise these. He mastered seven, but could not learn the eighth. The Buddha, being aware of this, visited him and taught it to him. Thereupon Anuruddha developed insight and realised arahantship in the highest grade. AN.iv.228ff. Thag.901
When the Buddha, disgusted with the quarrels of the Kosambī monks, went away to seek more congenial surroundings, it was to Pācīnavaṃsadāya that he repaired, where were Anuruddha, Nandiya and Kimbila. The Upakkilesa Sutta, MN.iii.153f. on the sweets of concord and freedom from blemish, seems to have been preached specially to Anuruddha on that occasion, for we are told at the end that he was pleased to have heard it, no mention being made of the other two. And again in the Naḷakapāna Sutta, MN.i.462ff. though a large number of distinguished monks are present, it is to Anuruddha that the Buddha directly addresses his questions, and it is Anuruddha who answers on behalf of them all. See also the Cūḷa—and the Mahā-Gosiṅga Suttas.
Anuruddha was present when the Buddha died at Kusinārā, and knew the exact moment of his death; the verse he uttered on that occasion is thoughtful and shows philosophic calm, in contrast, for example, with that of Ānanda. DN.ii.156–157
Anuruddha was foremost in consoling the monks and admonishing them as to their future course of action. It was Anuruddha again that the Mallas of Kusinārā consulted regarding the Buddha’s last obsequies. DN.ii.160f.
In one of the verses ascribed to Anuruddha in the Theragāthā Thag.904 it is said that for twenty-five years he did not sleep at all, and that for the last thirty years of his life he slept only during the last watch of the night.
The Anuruddha Saṃyutta SN.v.294 gives an account of a series of questions asked by Moggallāna on the satipaṭṭhāna, their extent, etc. Anuruddha evidently laid great emphasis on the cultivation of the satipaṭṭhāna, for we find mention of them occurring over and over again in his discourses. He attributes all his powers to their development, and admonishes his hearers to practise them. SN.v.299–306 He himself considered the divine eye as the highest attainment. Thus in the Mahāgosiṅga Sutta MN.i.213 he declares it to be more worthy than knowledge of the doctrine, meditation, forest-life, discourse on the abhidhamma or self-mastery.
Once he lay grievously ill in the Andhavana in Sāvatthī, but the pain made no impression on his mind, because, he says, his mind was well grounded in the satipaṭṭhāna. SN.v.302 Apart from his teaching of the satipaṭṭhāna, he does not seem to have found fame as a teacher. He was of a retiring disposition and never interfered in any of the monks’ quarrels.
Mention is often made of Anuruddha’s iddhi-powers. Thus, he was one of those who went to the Brahma-world to curb the pride of the Brahma who had thought that no ascetic could reach his world. SN.i.145 (The others being Moggallāna, Mahākassapa and Mahākappina.) The mother of the Yakkha Piyaṅkara, while wandering in search of food, heard him at night reciting some verses from the Dhammapada and stood spellbound listening. SN.i.209
His iddhi, however, does not seem to have enabled him to prevent his fellow-dweller Abhiñjika from talking too much, SN.ii.203–204 nor his other fellow-dweller Bāhiya from attempting to create dissension in the Order. AN.ii.239 Among the Vajjians he seems to have been held particularly in esteem, together with Nandiya and Kimbila. A yakkha named Dīgha tells the Buddha how the Vajjians are envied by the inhabitants of the deva and brahma worlds on account of the presence of these distinguished monks in their country. MN.i.210