During the Buddha’s sojourn at the Śākya capital of Kapilavastu after his enlightenment, he visited Nanda on the day his half-brother was to be married to a beautiful maiden named Janapadakalyāṇī Nandā (also called Sundarī Nandā).
Nanda was entranced with their loveliness, which far exceeded the beauty of Janapadakalyāṇī, saying that, compared to the celestial maidens, the beauty of his bride to- be was like that of the monkey.
In another version of the story, Nanda only overcomes his lust after a second journey: after going to heaven, the Buddha takes Nanda on a journey to hell, where he shows him the empty cauldron that awaits him after his lifetime in heaven.
The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism by Robert E. Buswell Jr. and Donald S. Lopez Jr.
Nanda (Skt. Nanda; Tib. དགའ་བོ་, Wyl. dga' bo) — a cousin of the Buddha who was at first strongly attached to his beautiful wife, but later became a monk and attained the level of an arhat. Ananda's younger brother.
- Patrul Rinpoche, The Words of My Perfect Teacher (Boston: Shambhala, Revised edition, 1998), pages 95-96.
There were three disciples with the name “Nanda:” Ananda, Sundarananda, and Nanda.
Nanda, whose name means “wholesome bliss”45 was a cow-herd before he heard the Buddha speak and decided to leave the home life.
He is to be distinguished from Ananda, the Buddha’s first cousin, and Sundarananda, the Buddha’s little brother.
Before leaving the home-life, Nanda was a cow-herd.
When he listened to the Buddha preach the Eleven Matters of Tending Cows, using the tending of cows as an analogy for cultivation of the Way,
Nanda knew that the Buddha was possessed of All-Knowledge and he resolved to leave home and soon attained the fruit of Arhatship.
On one occasion the Buddha instructed Nanda to preach to a group of five hundred Bhikshunis.
Hearing him speak, they all attained Arhatship. In the past, the five hundred Bhikshunis had been the concubines of a king.
The king was a great Dharma protector and he built a large pagoda in honor of a Buddha.
The concubines believed in the Buddha and made daily offerings at the pagoda, vowing that they would in the future all obtain liberation with the king.
The king was a former incarnation of Nanda. Sundarananda Sundarananda was the Buddha’s little brother.
He loved his wife, Sundara, more than anything.
The two of them were as if glued together; walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, they were never apart.
One day as the Buddha returned from the palace where he had gone to collect alms, he passed Sundara and Nanda who were having lunch.
When he saw the Buddha, he went out to fill his bowl.
As he left, Sundara spit on the floor and said, “You may give the Buddha food, but if you don’t return before that dries, you’re in trouble.”
“Okay,” said Sundarananda, and off he went. What do you think the Buddha did?
Every time Sundarananda took a step forward to hand the Buddha his bowl, the Buddha moved away with his spiritual powers so that,
in what seemed like just a few steps, Sundarananda suddenly found himself in the Jeta Grove, five miles from home.
As soon as they arrived, the Buddha shaved Sundarananda’s head. Sundarananda had no desire to leave the home-life because he did not want to give up his wife. But the Buddha was his older brother and so he complied.
“You can cut off my hair,” he thought, “but the first chance I get, I’m going to run away.”
As day after day went by, Sundarananda got more and more nervous. The Buddha and the Arhats were staying in the Jeta Grove, and Sundarananda had no chance to escape.
One day the Buddha and his Arhats went out for lunch and left Sundarananda to watch the door. “Today is the day.” thought Sundarananda. “I’m definitely going home.”
Before the Buddha left, however, he had instructed Sundarananda to sweep the floor.
Eager to be on his way, he went right to work, but every time he got the dust together, a gust of wind blew it all over the room. He tried closing the window, but when he closed one, the other blew open.
Strange. This went on for two or three hours. “The Buddha will be back any minute,” he thought.
“Dust or no dust, I’m leaving!” He threw the broom down and ran.
“The Buddha uses the main road,” he thought, “so I’ll take to the side road.” He ran for a couple of miles when suddenly he saw the Buddha walking toward him.
He hid behind a tree to wait for him to pass, moving slowly around in back of the tree so that he would not be seen.
Who would have guessed that the Buddha would follow him around the tree, step by step? Sundarananda walked in one direction and the Buddha followed him.
Sundarananda reversed his steps and so did the Buddha.
A collision was inevitable; there was no place to hide. “What are you doing?” asked the Buddha. “I thought you were watching the door?”
“I waited and waited,” said the embarrassed Sundarananda, “but you didn’t return so I came to welcome you. I thought that your bowl might be too heavy…I..I came to help you carry your bowl!”
“Wonderful,” said the Buddha. “What a good little brother.
Now, let’s go back to the Jeta Grove.”
The Buddha knew that Sundarananda wasn’t happy, and one day he said, “Sundarananda, come with me for a hike in the mountains.”
“All right,” said Sundarananda thinking, “If I get the chance, I’ll surely run away.”
The mountains were full of monkeys, five or six hundred of them. “Sundarananda,” said the Buddha, “compare these monkeys with your wife. Are they more beautiful than she?” Sundarananda said, “Why Buddha, of course Sundara is more beautiful.
Monkeys are ugly; how can you compare them with Sundara?”
“You’re quite intelligent,” said the Buddha. “You know that your wife is prettier than the monkeys.”
When they had returned to the Jeta Grove, the Buddha said, “Sundarananda, you have never been to the heavens.
Want to go?” “First the mountains, now the heavens.
I wonder what they’re like?”
Sundarananda and the Buddha sat in meditation and the Buddha used his spiritual powers to take him to the heavens where they visited a palace where five hundred goddesses and many servants were working.
The heavens were a million times more beautiful than the world of men, and Sundarananda had never seen such beautiful women. Naturally, he fell in love.
“Don’t you have a leader?” he asked. “Who is your master?” “Our master hasn’t arrived,” they said.
“He’s Shakyamuni Buddha’s little brother, Sundarananda.
He’s left home to cultivate the Way and in the future he will be reborn with these five hundred goddesses as his wives.”
Sundarananda was delighted. “I don’t think I’ll run away after all,” he thought. “I’ll cultivate diligently and get reborn in heaven instead.”
“Sundarananda,” said the Buddha, “are the goddesses more beautiful than Sundara, or is she more beautiful than they?” “Compared to the goddesses, Sundara is as ugly as a monkey,” said Sundarananda.
“Which would you prefer?” said the Buddha. “The goddesses!” said Sundarananda. “Sundara is beautiful, but the goddesses are out of this world.”
“In the future you’ll be born here,” said the Buddha. “Now let’s go back and cultivate.”
Sundarananda meditated day and night, cultivating to be a heavenly lord.
The Buddha knew that heavenly blessings have outflows, are not ultimate, and that those who enjoy them can still fall to lower realms.
Wishing to wake Sundarananda up, he said, “There’s nothing going on today.
Would you like to visit the hells?” “I’ve heard that they aren’t very scenic,” said Sundarananda,
“but if you want to take me there, I’ll go.” They visited the hells of the mountain of knives, the sword-tree hell, the fire-sea hell, the ice hell, and many others.
Finally, they came to a hell where two ghosts were boiling a pot of oil.
The lazy ghosts had let the fire go out and the oil wasn’t even simmering. “What are you two doing,” said Sundarananda, “fooling around and going to sleep?”