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The Eighteen Arhats (14)

The Banana Arhat
(Bājiāo Luóhàn 芭蕉罗汉)


When the Arhat Fánà-bōsī was born, we are told, a heavy rain was falling on the banana trees around the house, and making a tremendous noise, which sounded a bit like "vanavassa vanvassa," at least to somebody. And so they named him Vanavassa, which is Pali or Sanskrit for "rain" or "banana" or perhaps both. (People in China don't speak Sanskrit or Pali, and so Indian words in Chinese stories sometimes mean whatever the story teller wants them to mean, just as Chinese words do in English stories.)

Whatever the origins of his Indian name, the Arhat Fánà-bōsī 伐那波斯 liked to meditate beneath the shade of a banana tree, so for this reason he is called Bājiāo luóhàn 芭蕉罗汉, "The Banana Arhat." He probably also did lots of other things, some of them wonderful, but no one seems to talk much about him. It is his attachment to the banana tree that has been especially remembered for all these centuries.

Indian Names: Vanavāsin or Vanavasa
Fánà-bōsī 伐那波斯 (commonest)
also written as Fánà-pósī 伐那婆斯
Chinese Names:
Bājiāo Luóhàn 芭蕉罗汉, the Banana Arhat

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