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Illustration of Mahākātyāyana

Kātyāyana was a disciple of Gautama Buddha. In Sanskrit his name is Kātyāyana (कात्यायन) or Mahākātyāyana (महाकात्यायन); in Pāli Kaccāna (or Kaccāyana), or Mahākaccāna; and in Japanese 迦旃延 Kasennen. Katyayana; 迦旃延 (Skt; Pali Kacchayana or Kacchana; Jpn Kasennen); Also known as Mahakatyayana (Pali Mahakacchayana or Mahakacchana).One of Shakyamuni Buddha's ten major disciples, respected as foremost in debate.He was a native of Ujjayini, the capital of Avanti in west-central India. A Brahman by birth, he held the position of religious adviser to the ruler of state.

The first native of Avanti to become a disciple of the Buddha, he converted at Shravasti, where the Buddha was preaching.The ruler of Avanti had heard reports of Shakyamuni's teachings and sent Katyayana there to investigate.After becoming Shakyamuni's disciple, he returned to Avanti, where he converted the king and many others.In the Lotus Sutra, Katyayana is one of the four great voice-hearers who understood the Buddha's true intention through the parable of the three carts and the burning house in the sutra's "Simile and Parable" (third) chapter.The "Bestowal of Prophecy" (sixth) chapter predicts that in the future he will become a Buddha named Jambunada Gold Light.


Kātyāyana was born in a Brahmin family at Ujjayini (Ujjain) and received a classical Brahminical education studying the Vedas. Katyayana studied assiduously under Asita on Mount Vindhya, who had predicted that Prince Siddharta would become either a cakravartin, a great worldly ruler, or a Buddha. With a group of seven friends he invited the Buddha to visit, and gained enlightenment (bodhi) while listening to him preach. He was ordained, and made numerous converts in the state of Avanti. He is known as Phra Sangkajai in Thai Buddhism and portrayed as extremely portly.

Kātyāyana is listed as one of the "Ten Disciples of the Buddha".

1) Mahākassapa
2) Ānanda
3) Sāriputta
4) Subhuti
5) Purna(Punna)
6) Mahāmoggallāna
7) Mahākātyāyana,
8) Anuruddha
9) Upali
10) Rāhula

He was foremost in explaining Dharma.

Attributed texts

Statue of Mahākātyāyana in Thai tradition

Tradition attributes to Katyāyana the authorship of two late Pāli canonical texts Nettipakarana, a commentary on Buddhist doctrine; and peṭakopadesa, a treatise on exegetical methodology. However it may be more accurate to think of these texts being composed by a school descended from him.

In the Lotus Sutra

In Lotus Sutra Chapter 6, "Bestowal of Prophecy", the Buddha bestows prophecies of enlightenment on the disciples Mahakashyapa, Subhuti, Mahākātyāyana, and Mahamaudgalyayana.

Kaccānagotta Sutta

Nāgārjuna cites the a text which he calls kātyāyanavavāda, or advice to Kātyāyana, in his Mūlamadhyamakakārika (15.7).

The text he cites appears to have been a Sanskrit version of the Pāli Kaccānagotta Sutta (Saṃyutta Nikāya ii.16-17). This has given rise to the idea that Nāgarjuna might not have been a Mahāyānist.



Katyayana (Skt. Kātyāyana) — one of the principle disciples of Buddha Shakyamuni who wrote down one section of the Abhidharma.


ཕ་ཤ་ཟ་ཞིང་མ་ལ་རྡེག །

ལས་ངན་དགྲ་བོ་པང་ན་བཟུང༌། །
ཆུང་མས་ཁྱོ་ཡི་རུས་པ་འཆའ། །

འཁོར་བའི་ཆོས་ལ་གད་མོ་བྲོ། །

He eats his father’s flesh while striking his own mother,
And cradles in his lap the enemy he killed,
The wife is gnawing at her husband’s bones.
Saṃsāra is enough to make you laugh out loud!


Further Reading

  • Nyanaponika Thera, The Great Disciples of the Buddha: Their Lives, Their Works, Their Legacy (Wisdom Publications, 2003).



Mahākātyāyana . (P. Mahākaccāna; T. Ka tya’i bu chen po; C. Mohejiazhanyan; J. Makakasen’en; K. Mahagajŏnyŏn 摩訶迦旃延).

Also known as Kātyāyana (P. Kaccāna, Kaccāyana); Sanskrit name of one of the Buddha’s chief disciples and an eminent Arhat deemed foremost among the Buddha’s disciples in his ability to elaborate on the Buddha’s brief discourses.

According to the Pāli accounts, where he is known as Mahākaccāna, he was the son of a brāhmaṇa priest who served King Caṇḍappajjota of Avanti.

He was learned in the Vedas and assumed his father’s position upon his death.

He was called Kaccāna because of the golden hue of his body and because it was the name of his clan.

Once, he and seven companions were sent by the king to invite the Buddha to Avanti, the capital city of Ujjenī (S. Ujjayinī).

The Buddha preached a sermon to them, whereupon they all attained arhatship and entered the order.

Mahākaccāna took up residence in a royal park in Ujjenī, where he was treated with great honor by the king.

He was such an able preacher and explicator of doctrine that many persons joined the order, until, it is said, the entire kingdom of Avanti sparkled with yellow robes.

He became most renowned for his discourses in the Madhupiṇḍikasutta, Kaccāyanasutta, and Parāyanasutta.

In a previous life, Mahākaccāna was a thaumaturge (vijjādhara; S.

Vidhyādhara) during the time of the buddha Padumuttara. It was then that he first made the vow to win the eminence he eventually did under Gotama (S. Gautama) Buddha.

Although living far away in Avanti, Mahākaccāna often went to hear the Buddha preach, and the assembled elders always left a place for him.

He is said to have requested the Buddha to allow for special dispensation to ordain new monks in outlying regions without the requisite number of monastic witnesses.

Mahākaccāna was noted for his ability to provide detailed exegeses of the Buddha’s sometimes laconic instructions and brief verses, and several suttas in the Pāli canon are ascribed to him.

According to tradition, he is the author of the Nettippakaraṇa and the Peṭakopadesa, which seek to provide the foundational principles that unify the sometimes variant teachings found in the suttas; these texts are some of the earliest antecedents of commentarial exegesis in the Pāli tradition and are the only commentaries included in the suttapiṭaka proper.

He is also said to be the author of the Pāli grammar, the Kaccāyanavyākaraṇa.

According to the Sanskrit tradition, Mahākātyāyana was the initiator of the Sthaviranikāya branch of the mainstream Buddhist schools and traditional compiler of the Abhidharma.

The Jñānaprasthāna of the Sarvāstivāda Abhidharmapiṭaka is attributed to him, but it was certainly composed several hundred years later by an author of the same name.

He is often depicted holding an alm’s bowl (Pātra) or with his fingers interlaced at his chest.

Like many of the great arhats, Mahākātyāyana appears frequently in the Mahāyāna sūtras, sometimes merely as a member of the audience, sometimes playing a more significant role.

In the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa, he is one of the Śrāvaka disciples who is reluctant to visit the lay Bodhisattva Vimalakīrti.

In the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra, he is one of four arhats who understand the parable of the burning house and who rejoices in the teaching of the one vehicle (Ekayāna); later in the sūtra, the Buddha prophesies his eventual attainment of buddhahood.


The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism by Robert E. Buswell Jr. and Donald S. Lopez Jr.}