Kātyāyana or Mahākātyāyana (Sanskrit; Pali: Kaccāna, Mahākaccāna, or Mahākaccāyana) was a disciple of Gautama Buddha.
He is listed among one of the ten principal disciples and was foremost in expounding the Dharma.
In Thai Buddhism, he is also known as Phra Sangkajai and often portrayed as extremely portly.
Kātyāyana was born of a Brahmin family in the city of Ujjayini (Ujjain) and received a classical Brahminical education, which included study of the Vedas. He studied assiduously under Asita, who had predicted that Prince Siddharta would become either a chakravartin, a great worldly ruler, or a Buddha. Kātyāyana was a religious advisor to the King Candappajjota, ruler of the state of Avanti.
At the king's request, Kātyāyana left with a group of seven friends to visit the Buddha in Śrāvastī, and gained enlightenment while listening to him preach. He was ordained, and made numerous converts in Avanti.
In the Madhura Sutta, King Avantiputta of Madhurā approached Kātyāyana some time after the Buddha's parinirvana with a question regarding the brahmin's claims to superiority due to their caste. Kātyāyana points out that wealth confers power to people regardless of caste and that brahmins experience the same results of good or evil conduct in the same way those of other castes do.
In the lifetime of Padmottara Buddha, Kātyāyana made the resolve to attain greatness after hearing the praise of another monk that shared his name. In this life, he was a vidyādhara and offered the Buddha three kanikāra flowers. After building a hut in the shape of a lotus and naming it Paduma (Pali; lit. "lotus"), he became a king named Pabhassara after thirty kalpas.
It is also mentioned that he was a vidyādhara in the time of Sumedha Buddha.
In the time of Kāśyapa Buddha he was a householder of Benares. He offered a golden brick to a caitiya that housed the Buddha's remains, and made a vow that in the future his body would have a golden complexion.
There is a famous incident given in Verse 43 of the Dhammapada commentary in which a man named Soreyya was traveling with a friend and happened to see Kātyāyana adjusting his robes. Upon seeing his golden complexion, Soreyya began to fantasize that Kātyāyana should become his wife or that his wife's complexion should be like that of Kātyāyana. Due to the nature of this thought, he transformed into a woman. He married a wealthy man from Taxila and bore him two sons.
Soreyya later approached Kātyāyana and explained the situation, apologizing for his misconduct in thought. Kātyāyana accepted his apology, upon which Soreyya regained his male form.
Another story relates the incident of a man named Vassakāra, minister of King Ajātaśatru. Upon seeing Kātyāyana descend from Mount Gridhrakūta, Vassakāra stated that he looked like a monkey. The Buddha warned him that due to his statement, he would be reborn as a monkey in Veṇuvana. As a precaution, Vassakāra supplied that area with fruit trees and after death was reborn as the Buddha had predicted.
Tradition attributes to Katyāyana the authorship of two late Pāli canonical texts:
- The Nettipakarana, a commentary on Buddhist doctrine
- The Peṭakopadesa, a treatise on exegetical methodology.
However, it is possible that these texts were composed by a school that descended from him. Tradition associates his name with a Buddhist community in Avanti, the region believed to have been the origin of the Pāli Canon.
Tradition also holds that Mahākātyāyana was the author of verse 494-501 of the Theragāthā, where he gives advice to meditators.
In the Lotus Sutra
In Chapter 3 of the Lotus Sutra entitled "Simile and Parable", Mahākātyāyana is one of four disciples to understand the Buddha's intention to his sermon.
In Chapter 6 entitled "Bestowal of Prophecy", the Buddha bestows prophecies of enlightenment on the disciples Mahākāśyapa, Subhūti, Mahākātyāyana, and Maudgalyāyana. It is predicted that Mahākātyāyana will become a Buddha named Jāmbūnadābhāsa.
Nāgārjuna cites a text which he calls the Kātyāyanavavāda ("Advice to Kātyāyana") in his Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (15.7). This text appears to have been a Sanskrit parallel of the Pāli Kaccānagotta Sutta.