Ananda was sitting on his right side and he burst out like a small child, although he was older than Gautam Buddha. And Gautam Buddha said, “Why, Ananda, are you crying and weeping? I am not dying ignorant, I am dying absolutely fulfilled, enlightened – and not an ordinary enlightenment, an enlightenment which has never been excelled before. And I am also dying immensely fulfilled because never before have so many disciples of a single master become enlightened. I am going into ultimate rest, because there is no death for me.”
Ananda said, “I am not weeping for you. You misunderstood me. I am weeping for myself – that for forty-two years I have been following you like a shadow, day in, day out, and I have not become enlightened yet. I am still as unconscious as ever. What will happen to me when you are gone? And I don’t think that in ages to come I will ever meet anyone of your caliber, nor will I have such an opportunity to be so intimate and so close. You are leaving me in a darkness that seems to have no dawn.”
Gautam Buddha laughed again, and even with tears in his eyes, Ananda could not resist asking him, “Why are you laughing? You laugh at strange moments.”
Gautam Buddha said, “Within twenty-four hours you will know. Because once I am dead, within twenty-four hours you will become enlightened. Once I am dead, you are no more my elder brother. Once I am dead, your subtle ego will also disappear; it cannot disappear while I am alive.”
And actually it happened in the same way: within twenty-four hours, Ananda became enlightened. He did not leave the place, he did not eat or drink or go to sleep. He remained sitting there with his eyes closed, under those two saal trees where Gautam Buddha had lain down and entered into eternal sleep.
Ananda remained in the same place with closed eyes, with an absolute determination that he would open his eyes only if his eyes of the inner opened. If he becomes enlightened, only then will he see the outside world again with his eyes. Otherwise, he will remain within himself.
First he wants to see his own self-nature; then only will he move his eyes or move his body from this place. Otherwise he will die here. With such determination, with such absolute commitment…. The night that had been seen by him as without a dawn, ended quickly, within twenty-four hours. He was enlightened. But he remained an arhata. That was his uniqueness, to be an arhata.
The condemnation by Bodhidharma of Ananda on one point is right, on another point is wrong. He says:
Ananda was foremost in learning, but he did not know the buddha.
All he did was study and memorize.
Arhats don’t know the buddha.