Ānanda, whose name means ‘bliss’ in Sanskrit, was the cousin and permanent attendant of the Buddha in Buddhist mythology. He was tireless in his efforts and compassionate in his spiritual services; as the story goes, it was at his urging that the Buddha permitted women to become bhikkhunis (monastics). For his exceptional memory and wisdom to process the Buddha’s words, he was known as the Guardian of the Dharma, and his enlightenment came just in time for a conference of monks after the Buddha’s passing.
Accounts of Ānanda’s past lives indicate that he had at one point been a paṇḍaka, a term that encompasses everything from intersex individuals to men who perform fellatio. One story tells of his romance with a cobra king (Nāga): Although their relationship was a happy one, Ānanda was forced to end it because their sexual entanglements were interfering with his spiritual development.