Nandopananda was the king of celestial dragons. By his supernatural power he could assume a very huge form. He could kill other animals by emitting strong fumes blazing fire and violent hot nasal breath. Being a holder of wrong view, he had no respect for the Triple Gems.
One day, in order to enjoy a feast of drinks, he was seated with great pomp and formality on his celestial throne. A white umbrella was placed over him, and his retinue of dragons including female dancers of various ages attended on him.
That morning, when the Buddha looked at the world with his knowledge of Great Compassion, he found Nandopananda who should be liberated from the round of rebirths. So he went to Tavatimsa celestial realm together with five-hundred bhikkhus, passing over Nandopananda and his retinue.
On seeing the Buddha and the bhikkhus, Nandopananda said angrily: “These ascetics used to pass over our heads on going to Tavatimsa. Now, they drop dust from their feet on us as they go up to Tavatimsa. I shall not allow them to go now”. He got up from his throne and went to Mount Meru. He assumed the form of a huge dragon and wound Mt. Meru with his body in seven coils. He covered the Tavatimsa abode with his big hood, creating darkness all over Tavatimsa.
When Mount Meru, the seven surrounding mountains, Tavatimsa celestial abode, Vejayanta mansion with tiered roof and the Sakka’s flag were not visible, the Venerable Ratthapala asked the Buddha for the reason. When the Buddha revealed the true cause to them, Venerable Ratthapala, Venerable Bhaddiya, Venerable Rahula, etc., asked for permission to subdue the dragon. The Buddha turned down their request. However, when the Venerable Moggallana asked for permission, the Buddha assented.
Venerable Moggallana transformed himself into a dragon much larger than Nandopananda. Then he wound himself around Mount Meru in fourteen coils. He placed his huge hood over the dragon’s hood and pressed it against Mt.Meru. When Nandopananda emitted strong fumes and a blaze of fire, Moggallana emitted stronger fumes and a blaze of fire. The fumes and the blaze of fire emitted by Nandopananda did not harm the Venerable Moggallana whereas the former was burnt and hurt by the latter’s.
When Nandopananda knew who his enemy really was, he asked Moggallana to assume his original bhikkhu form. So Venerable Moggallana changed himself into the bhikkhu form. Then he went into the dragon’s left ear and went out of the right ear, and again he went into the right ear and came out of the left ear. Similarly, he entered the head through the nostril and came out of the ears of the dragon king. Besides he entered the dragon’s belly through his mouth and walked up and down in it.
While he was demonstrating thus, the Buddha warned him: “Be careful Moggallana, that dragon is very powerful”. Venerable Moggallana replied: “Venerable Sir, I have proficiently practised the four bases of psychic powers in five skillful ways. Hence I can subdue thousands of dragon kings like Nandopananda”.
While Venerable Moggallana was walking inside the dragon’s belly, Nandopananda thought of chewing him up when he came out. So he asked Venerable Moggallana to come out of his belly. No sooner did the bhikkhu come out than the dragon blew out very hot nasal breath to the bhikkhu. However, Moggallana protected himself by being absorbed in the fourth jhana.
Although other bhikkhus could exercise many miraculous powers, only the Buddha and Venerable Moggallana could protect themselves against such violent hot nasal breath. Thus the Buddha permitted Moggallana to subdue Nandopananda.
Then Venerable Moggallana, assuming a garula-form, made a storm break out. When the dragon fled in fear, he chased the dragon closely. As the dragon knew that he could not escape, he assumed the form of a young man and said: “Venerable Sir, I take refuge in you”. Then he paid homage to the thera respectfully. Venerable Moggallana took him to the Buddha. Nandopananda took refuge in the Three Gems in the presence of the Buddha. In this way Nandopananda became a devotee of Three Gems.