1. Mahānāma Thera. He was born in a brahmin family of Sāvatthi, and, after hearing the Buddha preach, entered the Order. Taking a formula of meditation, he dwelt on the hill called Nesādaka. Unable to prevent the rising of evil thoughts, he was disgusted with himself, and climbing a steep crag, made as if to throw himself down, and evoking insight became an arahant.
In the time of Sumedhā Buddha he was a brahmin teacher skilled in the Vedas, and the Buddha visited him in his hermitage on the banks of the Sindhū and was given honey by him (ThagA.vs.115; ThagA.i.227ff). Mahānāma is probably identical with Madhudāyaka Thera of the Apadāna. Ap.ii.325f.
2. Mahānāma Thera. One of the Pañcavaggiyā (J.i.82). He became a sotāpanna on the third day after the preaching of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. He became an arahant on the day of the preaching of the Anattalakkhana Sutta, together with the other Pañcavaggiyā (AA.i.84; MA.i.390).
Mahānāma once visited Macchikāsanda, and there Cittagahapati, seeing him beg for alms and pleased with his bearing, invited him to his house, gave him a meal, and listened to a sermon by him. Citta was greatly pleased, and offered his pleasure garden of Ambātakavana to Mahānāma as a gift to the Order and built there a great monastery. DhA.ii.74.
3. Mahānāma. A Sākiyan rājā, son of Amitodana; he was elder brother of Anuruddha and cousin of the Buddha. When the Sākiyan families of Kapilavatthu sent their representatives to join the Order of their distinguished kinsman, Mahānāma allowed Anuruddha to leave the household, he knowing nothing of household affairs. Vin.ii.180f.; DhA.i.133; iv.124, etc.; but according to Northern sources (Rockhill, p. 13) he was son of Dronodana; according to ThagA. (ii.123) Ananda was a brother (or, at least, a step brother) of Mahānāma, for there Ananda's father is given as Amitodana. But see MA.i.289, where Mahānāma's father is called Sukkodana and Ananda's Amitodana.
Mahānāma showed great generosity to the Sangha, and was proclaimed best of those who gave choice alms to the monks (A.i.26). Once, with the Buddha's permission, he supplied the Order with medicaments for three periods of four months each. The Chabbaggiyā, always intent on mischief, tried in vain to discourage him. Vin.iv.101; AA. (i.213) adds that this was during the period of want experienced by the Buddha and his monks at Verañjā. At the end of the year, Mahānāma wished to continue the supply of good food to the Buddha and his monks, but the Buddha refused his permission.
Mahānāma was a devoted follower of the Buddha and wished to understand the Doctrine. The books record several conversations between him and the Buddha, and Ananda, Godha, and Lomasavangīsa (see Mahānāma Sutta and Lomasavangisa). Once when the Buddha arrived at Kapilavatthu he asked Mahānāma to find him lodging for the night. Mahānāma tried everywhere without success, and finally suggested that the Buddha should spend the night in the hermitage of Bharandu Kālāma (S.v.327f). This he did, and was joined there the next morning by Mahānāma; as a result of the discussion between the Buddha, Mahānāma and Bharandu, the last-named left Kapilavatthu never to return. On another occasion, Mahānāma visited the Buddha at Nigrodhārāma where the Buddha was convalescing after a severe illness, and at once Mahānāma asked a question as to whether concentration followed or preceded knowledge. Ananda, who was present, not wishing the Buddha to be troubled, took Mahānāma aside and explained to him the Buddha's teachings on the subject. See Sakka Sutta (S.i.219f.).
Mahānāma had a daughter Vāsābhakhattiyā, born to him by a slave-girl named Nāgamundā, and when Pasenadi asked the Sākiyans to give him in marriage a Sākiyan maiden they met in the Mote Hall, and, following the advice of Mahānāma, sent Vāsabhakhattiyā to him. In order to allay any suspicions, Mahānāma sat down to a meal with her, taking one mouthful from the same dish; but before he could swallow it a messenger arrived, as secretly arranged, and summoned him away. He left, asking Vāsabhakhattiyā to continue her meal (DhA.i.345f.; J.i.133; iv. 145f).
See also the Cūla Dukkhakkhandha Sutta and Sekha Sutta, both preached to Mahānāma.
His resolve to attain to eminence as the best distributor of pleasant food to the monks was made in the time of Padumuttara Buddha. He was then a householder of Hamsavatī and heard the Buddha confer a similar rank on a monk (AA.i.213).
Mahānāma is included in a list of exemplary lay devotees (A.iii.451). The Samantapāsādikā (Sp.iv.857) adds that Mahānāma was one month older than the Buddha and that he was a sakadāgāmī.
4. Mahānāma. A Licchavi. One day while walking about in the Mahāvana in Vesāli he saw some young Licchavis paying homage to the Buddha and accused them of inconsistency. For details see the Kumāra Sutta (A.iii.75ff.).
5. Mahānāma. King of Ceylon. He was the younger brother of Upatissa II. and was for some time a monk, but he carried on an intrigue with Upatissa's wife, and she killed her husband. Then Mahānāma became a layman, assumed the sovereignty, and married Upatissa's queen. He built refuges for the sick, enlarged the Mahāpāli Hall, and erected the Lohadvāra , Ralaggāma, and Kotipassāvana vihāras, which he gave to the monks of Abhayagiri. A vihāra which he built on the Dhūmarakkha mountain, he gave, at the instigation of his queen, to the monks of Mahāvihāra. He ruled for twenty two years (409 31 A.C.). It was during his reign that Buddhaghosa arrived in Ceylon and wrote his Commentaries, dwelling in a vihāra given by the king. Cv.xxxvii.209ff.; see also P.L.C. 96. The king seems to have also been called Sirinivāsa and Sirikudda.
6. Mahānāma Thera. Incumbent of Dīghasanda (or Dīghāsana) Vihāra (Cv.xxxix.42). He is generally identified with the uncle of Dhātusena mentioned elsewhere (Cv.xxxviii.16). Moggallāna I. built for him the Pabbata vihāra (Cv.xxxix.42). Mahānāma is generally regarded as the author of the older part of the Mahāvamsa. MT. 687; e.g., in Gv.61, 66; Svd.1266; for a discussion on this see P.L.C.139ff.
7. Mahānāma Thera. Author of the Saddhammappakāsanī Commentary on the Patisambhidāmagga (Gv.61; Svd.1196). The colophon to the book (PSA.526) states that he lived in the Uttaramanti parivena in the Mahāvihāra and finished his work in the third year after the death of Moggallāna (probably Moggallāna I.). The Gandhavamsa (Gv.70) says that the work was written at the request of an upāsaka, also named Mahānāma.
8. Mahānāma. See Mahānanda.
9. Mahānāma. A lake in Nāgadīpa. Near it was the Mucalinda-vana. Ras.ii.18; see also Naga.