Mahakaccana or Mahakatyana


Maha Kaccana (Pali) or Maha Katyayana (Sanskrit) was one of Buddha’s foremost disciples who was also referred to as Kaccana the Great due to his knowledge and wisdom. It is said that the Buddha would explain complex meanings in the Dhamma which were often not easy for the younger monks to follow. Being reluctant to trouble the Great Master for further explanations, they would approach the senior monks who advised and guided them. This was the position of the disciple Maha Kaccana to the younger monks.

Birth and Early Life

Kaccana was born in a Brahmin family at Ujjain the capital of Avanti. He was named so as his body always had a golden hue complexion. His father’s name was Tiritivaccha and his mother’s name was Candima. They belonged to the Kaccayana clan one of the oldest and most respected families of Brahmins. Being learned in the Vedas he succeeded his father as the court Brahmin to the King of Avanti. Having heard of the Buddha the King wished to invite him and decided that Kaccana was the only one who could bring him. Kaccana agreed with the condition that he be allowed to become a Monk after the success of his mission. The King being impatient to meet the Buddha agreed to his request. Kaccana along with seven courtiers met the Buddha and he taught them the Dhamma at the end of which all of them attained Arahantship. He came to be known as Maha Kaccana. He now requested the Buddha to visit Ujjeni but the Buddha said that since he was a Arahant it was enough for Maha Kaccana to travel and explain the teachings of the Dhamma as he was qualified enough to do so. Maha Kaccana preached the Dhamma and a large number of people became monks. The King built him a dwelling in the Golden Grove Park.

His accomplishments

As Maha Kaccana dwelt here in his home town most of the time he did not spend as much time as the other disciples like Sariputta, Moggallana, Ananda etc in the Buddha’s presence. Hence his name is not mentioned extensively in the day to affairs, discourses etc of the Sangha. But whenever he joined the Buddha for extended periods the other monks frequently turned to him for help due to the astuteness of his intellect, his skill as a speaker and the profundity of his insight into the Dhamma. Thus several brief statements of the Buddha have been explained in some of the texts in the Pali Canon by Maha Kaccana in a methodically refined and analytically precise manner so as to make it easy to understand and simple to follow. Since he would come to visit the Buddha travelling long distances the other monks would always reserve a seat for him in case he should unexpectedly turn up. Maha Kaccana devoted much attention to the mastery of the sense faculties often emphasizing the need for guarding the ‘doors of the senses’.

In The Suttas(Sutras)

The eight Suttas found in the Nikayas-three in the Majjhima, three in the Samyutta and two in the Anguttara give detailed expositions of Maha Kaccana to the Buddha’s brief statements. Several other discourses in the Nikayas reveal his balanced , meticulous and well conceived thoughts formulated in his mind which though dry and unsentimental lead straight to the heart of the Dhamma. They have no literary embellishments, no parables or similies, only a razor sharp reasoning and systematic analysis of the various doctrines of the Dhamma. Besides this, he resolved doubts of inquirers and fellow monks with his own original insights into the Dhamma.


Maha Kaccana’s role was generally that of elucidator and expositor of the Dhamma to others. He was rarely in the company of the other close disciples of the Buddha as he lived far away and sometimes accompanied the Buddha on some of his tours. But he assisted many novice monks and lay devotees in understanding the complex teachings of the Dhamma. He was an intellectual yet his love and devotion to his Master and the teachings exemplified perfection.