With 1,200 arhats he dwells on Mt. Vipulaparshva. Nagasena holds a monk’s staff in his right hand and a vase which removes poverty and spiritual deficiencies in his left. Visualizing his staff and listening for the sound of its bells frees the mind from confusion and awakens confidence in the Three Jewels.
- Crystal Mirror, volume VI, Dharma Publishing 1984.
Nāgasena was a Buddhist sage from Kashmir and lived around 150 BCE. His answers to questions about Buddhism posed by Menander I (Pali: Milinda), the Indo-Greek king of northwestern India (now Pakistan), are recorded in the Milinda Pañha.
Sanskrit in origin, Nāga means cobra, snake, serpent, or dragon, and also can refer to snake-human hybrids, an ancient super-race who were the mythological founders of many Asian countries. Sena means army. Therefore the name can be translated as "Army of Nāga" or "Host of Dragons", signifying a very powerful supernatural presence.
There is almost universal agreement that this text was later expanded by numerous other authors, following the "Question and Answer" pattern established in the early books. The version extant today is very long, and has signs of inconsistent authorship in the later volumes. There is no agreed-upon point at which Nagasena's authorship may be said to end (and the work of other hands begins), nor has this been perceived as an inherently important distinction by monastic scholars.
There is a tradition that Nagasena brought to Thailand the first representation of the Buddha, the Emerald Buddha. According to this legend, the Emerald Buddha would have been created in India in 43 BCE by Nagasena in the city of Pataliputra (today Patna).
Nagasena is one of the 18 Lohans or Arhats. Statues show a bald, elderly monk scratching his ear with a stick to symbolize purification of the sense of hearing. An adherent of Buddhism should avoid listening to gossip and other nonsense so that they are always prepared to hear the truth.