Most Venerable Nanda Maha Thera
|Parents||Shakya King Suddhodhana (father), Queen Maha Pajapati Gotami (mother)|
Prince Nanda, also known as Sundarananda (handsome Nanda), was the younger half-brother of the Buddha. He shared the same father as the Buddha, King Śuddhodana, and his mother, Mahapajapati Gotami, was the Buddha's mother's younger sister. The Buddha's biological mother died 7 days after Prince Siddhartha, the person who would become the Buddha, was born.
It was seven years after his Enlightenment that the Buddha, at the request of his father, who missed him dearly, returned to his home city of Kapilavatthu.
On the third day of his return, the Buddha, after partaking of his meal, silently handed his bowl to Nanda, rose and exited. Thinking that the Buddha would take his bowl back, Nanda followed him until he reached the Park of Nigrodha, where the Buddha was staying. This was the Buddha's silent demonstration of the Dhamma to his younger brother: a scene which is often represented in Greco-Buddhist art.
When they arrived at the Park, the Buddha questioned Nanda regarding whether he might become a monk. Although Nanda had just wedded the beautiful Janapada Kalyāni, that same day, he took ordination and joined the community of Monks.
However, Nanda enjoyed no spiritual happiness. His thoughts were constantly directed towards to Janapada Kalyāni and his heart pined for her.
Learning of this, the Buddha took Nanda on a journey to Tavatimsa Heaven or Trāyastriṃśa. On the way Nanda saw a she-monkey that had lost her ears, nose and tail in a fire, clinging to a charred stump. When they reached the heaven abode, Nanda saw beautiful celestial nymphs and the Buddha asked Nanda: "Which do you consider more beautiful? Those nymphs or Janapada Kalyāni?"
Nanda replied: "Venerable Sir, Janapada Kalyāni looks like the scalded she-monkey, compared to those nymphs."
The Buddha said: "Nanda, can you see that what you thought to be exceedingly beautiful now pales in comparison to greater beauty?"
Upon hearing this, Nanda practiced diligently with the object of winning the celestial nymphs. However, when the other monks learned of Nanda's wish they ridiculed him and he eventually saw his motive as base, and renouncing desire, attained Arhatship.
There is a poem in Theragatha collection of verses believed to have been authored by Nanda praising the Buddha for having become an arahant.
Abeysekera writes: "On realizing the exquisite happiness of Nibbana, Nanda approached the Buddha and thanked Him respectfully by saying, "Lord I release you from your promise of celestial bliss." The Buddha then informed Nanda that He had been released from the promise the moment he had reached the supreme bliss of Nibbana, because the bliss of Nibbana was greater and transcended any celestial bliss."