Maudgalyāyana (Pali: Moggallāna), also known as Mahāmaudgalyāyana, was one of the Sakyamuni Buddha’s closest disciples. A contemporary of disciples such as Subhuti, Śāriputra, and Mahākasyapa, he is considered the second of the Buddha’s two foremost disciples, together with Śāriputra. Maudgalyāyana became a spiritual wanderer in his youth, together with his friend Śāriputra. After heaving searched for a while, they came into contact with the Buddhist teaching and eventually the Buddha himself. Maudgalyāyana attained enlightenment shortly after that. As a teacher, he became known for his psychic or supernatural powers, which he used extensively in his teaching methods. He died at the age of eighty-four, being killed through the efforts of a rivaling sect. This violent death was a result of Maudgalyāyana’s karma of having killed his own blind parents in a previous life.

In Mahāyāna texts, Maudgalyāyana became known for his filial piety through a popular account of him transferring his merits to his mother. The account led to a tradition in China and Japan known as the ghost festival, during which people dedicate their merits to their ancestors. He is thought to have also manifested as Kshitagarbha Bodhisattva.

Ullambana Sutra