from the German by
at the Time of The Buddha
Publication No. 292/293
© 1982 Buddhist Publication Society
Buddhist Publication Society
P.O. Box 61
54, Sangharaja Mawatha
Kandy, Sri Lanka
stories, written by Hellmuth Hecker, have been translated from
the German Buddhist magazine, "Wissen and Wandel," XVIII 3 (1972),
XXLI 1/2 (1976). They are published here with their kind permission.
effort has been made by the translator to conform to the original
writing, some changes had to be made for the sake of clarity.
of Bhadda Kundalakesa and Patacara have been enlarged and filled
acknowledgment is made to Ven. Khantipalo for his assistance
in improving the style and content of this narrative. His new
translations of verses of the Therigatha and the Dhammapada
from the original Pali have helped to make these stories come
It is hoped
that this booklet will serve as an inspiration to all those
who are endeavoring to tread in the Buddha's footsteps.
Wat Buddha Dhamma
Wisemans Ferry, N.S.W.2255
A ..... Anguttara Nikaya
D ..... Digha Nikaya
Dhp ..... Dhammapada
M ..... Majjhima Nikaya
S ..... Samyutta Nikaya
Sn ..... Sutta Nipata
Thag ..... Theragatha
Thig ..... Therigatha
Pac. ..... Pacittiya (Vinaya)
J. ..... Jataka
Ud. ..... Udana
Mil. ..... Milindapañha
Jtm. ..... Jatakamala
Bu. ..... Buddhavamsa
Ap. ..... Apadana
Verses of Final Knowledge of Bhikkhuni Sujata [^]
With subtle veils adorned,
Garlands and sandal-wood bedecked,
Covered all over with ornaments,
Surrounded by my servants,
Taking with us food and drink,
Eatables of many kinds,
Setting off from the house,
To the forest grove we took it all.
enjoyed and sported there,
We turned our feet to home
But on the way I saw and entered
Near Saketa, a monastery.
Seeing the Light of the World
I drew near, bowed down to Him;
Out of compassion the Seeing One
Then taught me Dhamma there.
the words of the Great Sage,
I penetrated Truth:
The Dhamma passionless,
I touched the Dhamma of Deathlessness.
When the True Dhamma had been known,
I went forth to the homeless life;
The three True Knowledges are attained,
Not empty the Buddha's Teaching!
(Therigatha 145-150) Verses of the Elder nuns.
At the time
of the Buddha, a daughter was born to the foreman of the guild
of garland-makers in Savatthi. She was beautiful, clever and well
behaved and a source of joy to her father.
when she had just turned sixteen, she went to the public flower
gardens with her girl-friends and took three portions of fermented
rice along in her basket as the day's sustenance.
was just leaving by the city gate, a group of monks came along,
who had come down from the monastery on the hill to obtain almsfood
in town. The leader among them stood out; one whose grandeur
and sublime beauty impressed her so much, that she impulsively
offered him all the food in her basket.
the Awakened One. He let her put her offering into his alms
bowl. After Mallika -- without knowing to whom she had given
the food -- had prostrated at his feet, she walked on full of
joy. The Buddha smiled. Ananda, his attendant, who knew that
the fully Enlightened One does not smile without a reason, asked
therefore why he was smiling. The Buddha replied that this girl
would reap the benefits of her gift this very same day by becoming
the Queen of Kosala.
unbelievable, because how could the Maharaja of Benares and
Kosala elevate a woman of low caste to the rank of Queen? Especially
in the India of those days with its very strict caste system,
this seemed quite improbable.
over the United Kingdoms of Benares and Kosala in the Ganges
Valley was King Pasenadi, the mightiest Maharaja of his day.
At that time he was at war with his neighbor, the King of Magadha.
had won a battle and King Pasenadi had been forced to retreat.
He was returning to his capital on the horse that had been his
battle companion. Before entering the city, he heard a girl
sing in the flower gardens. It was Mallika, who was singing
melodiously because of her joy in meeting the Illustrious Sage.
The King was attracted by the song and rode into the gardens;
Mallika did not run away from the strange warrior, but came
nearer, took the horse by its reins and looked straight into
the King's eyes. He asked her whether she was already married
and she replied in the negative. Thereupon he dismounted, lay
down with his head in her lap and let her console him about
his ill-luck in battle.
had recovered, he let her mount his horse behind him and took
her back to the house of her parents. In the evening he sent
an entourage with much pomp to fetch her and made her his principal
wife and Queen.
on she was dearly beloved by the King. She was given many loyal
servants and in her beauty she resembled a goddess. It became
known throughout the whole kingdom that because of her simple
gift she had been elevated to the highest position in the State
and this induced her subjects to be kind and generous towards
their fellow men. Wherever she went, people would joyously proclaim:
"That is Queen Mallika, who gave alms to the Buddha." (J 415E)
had become Queen, she soon went to visit the Enlightened One
to ask him something which was puzzling her. Namely, how it
came about that one woman could be beautiful, wealthy and of
great ability, another be beautiful but poor and not very able,
yet another although ugly, be rich and very able, and finally
another be ugly, poor and possess no skills at all.
can constantly be observed in daily life. But while the ordinary
person is satisfied with such common place terms as fate, heredity,
coincidence and so on, Queen Mallika wanted to probe deeper
as she was convinced that nothing happens without a cause.
explained to her in great detail that all attributes and living
conditions of people everywhere were solely dependent on the
extent of their moral purity. Beauty was caused by forgiveness
and gentleness, prosperity due to generous giving, and skillfulness
was caused by never envying others, but rather being joyful
and supporting their abilities.
of these three virtues a person had cultivated, that would show
up as their "destiny," usually in some mixture of all of them.
The coming together of all three attributes would be a rarity.
After Mallika had listened to this discourse of the Buddha,
she resolved in her heart to be always gentle towards her subjects
and never to scold them, to give alms to all monks, brahmans
and the poor, and never to envy anyone who was happy.
end of the Enlightened One's discourse she took refuge in the
Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha and remained a faithful disciple for
the rest of her life. (A IV, 197)
her great generosity not only giving regular alms, but also
by building a large, ebony-lined hall for the Sangha, which
was used for religious discussions. (M 78, D 9)
her gentleness by serving her husband with the five qualities
of a perfect wife, namely: always rising before him, and going
to bed after him, by always obeying his commands, always being
polite, and using only kind words. Even the monks praised her
gentleness in their discussions about virtue.
was to prove that she was also free of jealousy. The King had
made up his mind to marry a second chief wife and brought a
cousin of the Buddha home as his betrothed. Although it is said
that it is in the nature of women not to allow a rival into
her home, Mallika related to the other wife without the slightest
malice. (A VI, 52) Both women lived in peace and harmony at
the second wife gave birth to a son, the crown prince, and Mallika
had only a daughter, she was not envious. When the King voiced
disappointment about the birth of a daughter, the Buddha said
to him that a woman was superior to a man if she was clever,
virtuous, well-behaved and faithful. Then she could become the
wife of a great King and give birth to an almighty Ruler. (S
3,16) When the daughter, Princess Vajira, had grown up, she
became Queen of Magadha and thereby the ancestress of the greatest
Indian Emperor, Asoka, who ruled Magadha 250 years later.
had become a faithful lay devotee of the Buddha, she also won
her husband over to the teaching. And that happened in this
way: One night the King had a succession of sixteen perturbing
dreams during which he heard gruesome, unfathomable sounds from
four voices, which uttered: "Du, Sa, Na, So." When the
King woke up from these dreams, great fear seized him, and sitting
upright and trembling, he awaited the sunrise.
Brahman priests asked him whether he had slept well, he related
the terror of the night and asked them what one could do to
counteract such a menace. The Brahmans declared that one would
have to offer great sacrifices and thereby pacify the evil spirits.
In his fear the King agreed to that. The Brahmans rejoiced because
of the gifts they would surely reap and busily began to make
preparations for the great sacrifice. They scurried about, building
a sacrificial altar and tied many animals to posts, so they
could be killed.
efficacy, they demanded the sacrifice of four human beings and
these also awaited their death, tied to posts. When Mallika
became aware of all this activity, she went to the King and
asked him why the Brahmans were so busily running about full
of joyous expectation. The King replied that she did not pay
enough attention to him and did not know his sorrows.
he told her of his dreams. Mallika asked the King whether he
had also consulted the first and foremost of Brahmans about
the meaning and interpretation. He replied that she first had
to tell him who was the first and foremost of Brahmans. She
explained that the Awakened One was foremost in the world of
Gods and men, the first of all Brahmans. King Pasenadi decided
to ask the Awakened One's advice and went to Prince Jeta's Grove,
to the Buddha what had taken place in his dreams and asked him
what would happen to him. "Nothing," the Awakened One replied
and explained the meaning to him. The sixteen dreams which he
had were prophecies, showing that the living conditions on earth
would deteriorate steadily, due to the increasing moral laxity
of the kings. In a meditative moment, King Pasenadi had been
able to see future occurrences within his sphere of interest
because he was a monarch concerned with the well-being of his
voices which he had heard belonged to four men who had lived
in Savatthi and had been seducers of married women. Because
of that they were reborn in hell and for 30,000 years they drowned
in red-hot cauldrons, coming nearer and nearer to the fire,
which intensified their unbearable suffering. During another
30,000 years they slowly rose up in those iron cauldrons and
had now come to the rim, where they could once again at least
breathe the air of the human realm.
wanted the speak a verse, but because of the gravity of the
deed, could not get past the first syllable. Not even in sights
could they voice their suffering, because they had long lost
the gift of speech. The four verses, which start in Pali with
"du," "sa," "na," "so," were recognized by the Awakened
One as follows:
Dung-like life we lived,
After the King
had heard these explanations, he became responsive to the request
of the compassionate Queen and granted freedom to the imprisoned
men and animals. He ordered the sacrificial altar to be destroyed.
(J 77 & 314)
No willingness to give,
Although we could have given much,
We did not make our refuge thus.
Say, the end is near?
Already 60,000 years have gone
Without respite the torture is
In this hell realm.
Naught, no end near, Oh, would it end!
No end in sight for us.
Who once did misdeeds here
For me, for you, for both of us.
So, could I only leave this place
And raise myself to human realm,
I would be kind and moral too,
And do good deeds abundantly.
who had become a devoted lay disciple of the Buddha, visited
him one day again and met a wise and well-learned layman there.
The King asked him whether he could give some daily Dhamma teaching
to his two Queens. The layman replied that the teaching came
from the Enlightened One and only one of his immediate disciples
could pass it on to the Queens. The King understood this and
requested the Buddha to give permission to one of his monks
to teach. The Buddha appointed Ananda for this task. Queen Mallika
learned easily in spite of her uneducated background, but Queen
Vasabhakhattiya, cousin of the Buddha and mother of the crown-prince,
was unconcentrated and learned with difficulty. (Pac 3)
the royal couple looked down upon the river from the palace
and saw a group of the Buddha's monks playing about in the water.
The king said to Queen Mallika reproachfully: "Those playing
about in the water are supposed to be Saints?" Such was namely
the reputation of this group of the so-called seventeen monks,
who were quite young and of good moral conduct. Mallika replied
that she could only explain it thus, that either the Buddha
had not made any rules with regard to bathing or that the monks
were not acquainted with them, because they were not amongst
the rules which were recited regularly.
that it would not make a good impression on lay people and on
those monks not yet secure, if those in higher training played
about in the water and enjoyed themselves in the way of untrained
worldly people. But King Pasenadi wanted to avoid blackening
those monks' characters and just wanted to give the Buddha a
hint, so that he could lay down a firm rule. He conceived the
idea to send a special gift to the Buddha to be taken by those
monks. They brought the gift and the Buddha asked them on what
occasion they had met the King. Then they told him what they
had done and the Buddha laid down a corresponding rule. (Pac.
when the King was standing on the parapet of the palace with
the Queen and was looking down upon the land, he asked her whether
there was anyone in the world she loved more than herself. He
expected her to name him, since he flattered himself to have
been the one who had raised her to fame and fortune. But although
she loved him, she remained truthful and replied that she know
of no one dearer to herself than herself. Then she wanted to
know how it was with him: Did he love anyone -- possibly her
-- more than himself? Thereupon the King also had to admit that
self-love was always predominant. But he went to the Buddha
and recounted the conversation to find out how a Saint would
confirmed his and Mallika's statements:
I visited all quarters with my mind
One day the
Buddha said to a man whose child had died: "Dear ones, those who
are dear, bring sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair"
-- the suffering that results from a clinging love. In spite of
the clearly visible proof, the man could not understand this.
The conversation was reported to the King and he asked his wife
whether it was really true that sorrow would result from love.
"If the Awakened One has said so, O King, then it is so," she
Nor found I any dearer than myself;
Self is likewise to every other dear;
Who loves himself may never harm another.
(Ud 47, translated by Ven. Ñanamoli)
demurred that she accepted every word of the Buddha like a disciple
from a guru. Thereupon she sent a messenger to the Buddha to
ask for more details and then passed the explicit answer on
to her husband.
him whether he loved his daughter, his second wife, the crown-prince,
herself and his kingdom? Naturally he confirmed this, these
five things were dear to him. But if something happened to these
five, Mallika responded, would he not feel sorrow, lamentation,
pain, grief or despair, which comes from loving? Then the King
understood and realized how wisely the Buddha could penetrate
all existence: "Very well, then Mallika, continue to venerate
him." And the King rose, uncovered his shoulder, prostrated
deferentially in the direction where the Blessed One was wont
to stay and greeted him three times with: "Homage to the Blessed
One, the Holy One, the fully Awakened One."
lives also did not remain quite without conflict. One day an
argument arose between the couple about the duties of the Queen.
For some reason the King was angry at her and treated her from
then on as if she had disappeared into thin air. When the Buddha
arrived at the palace the next day for his meal, he asked about
the Queen, who had always been present at other times. Pasenadi
scowled and said: "What about her? She has gone mad because
of her fame." The Buddha replied that he, himself, had raised
her up to that position quite unexpectedly and should become
reconciled with her. Somewhat reluctantly the King had her called.
Thereupon the Buddha praised the blessing of amity and the anger
was forgotten, as if it had never happened. (J 306)
on a new tension arose between the couple. Again the King would
not look at the Queen and pretended she did not exist. When
the Buddha became aware of this, he asked about her. Pasenadi
said that her good fortune had gone to her head. Immediately
the Awakened One told an incident from a former life:
then heavenly beings, a deva couple, who loved each other dearly.
One night they were separated from each other because of the
flooding of a stream. They both regretted this irretrievable
night, which could never be replaced during their life-span
of a thousand years. And during the rest of their lives they
never let go of each other's company and always remembered to
use this separation as a warning so that their happiness would
endure during that whole existence. The King was moved by this
story, and became reconciled to the Queen. Mallika then spoke
this verse to the Buddha:
With joy I heard your varied words,
A third time
the Buddha told of an occurrence during one of the former lives
of the royal couple. At that time Pasenadi was a crown-prince
and Mallika his wife. When the crown-prince became afflicted with
leprosy and could not become King because of that, he resolved
to withdraw into the forest by himself, so as not to become a
burden to anyone. But his wife did not desert him, and looked
after him with touching attention. She resisted the temptation
to lead a care-free life in pomp and splendor and remained faithful
to her ugly and ill-smelling husband. Through the power of her
virtue she was able to effect his recovery. When he ascended to
the throne and she became his Queen, he promptly forgot her and
enjoyed himself with various dancing girls. It is almost as difficult
to find a grateful person, the Buddha said, as it is difficult
to find a Holy One. (A III, 122)
Which spoken were for my well-being;
With your talk you took away my sorrow
Verily, you are the joy-bringer amongst the ascetics
May you live long!
the King was reminded of the good deeds of his Queen, did he
change his ways, asked her forgiveness and lived together with
her in harmony and virtue. (J 519)
committed only one deed in this life which had evil results
and which led her to the worst rebirth. Immediately after her
death, she was reborn in hell, though this lasted only a few
died, the King was just listening to a Dhamma exhortation by
the Buddha. When the news reached him there, he was deeply shaken
and even the Buddha's reminder that there was nothing in the
world that could escape old age, disease, death, decay and destruction
could not immediately assuage his grief. (A V,49)
-- "from love comes sorrow" -- was so strong, that he went to
the Buddha every day to find out about the future destiny of
his wife. If he had to get along without her on earth, at least
he wanted to know about her rebirth. But for seven days the
Buddha distracted him from his question through fascinating
and moving Dhamma discourses, so that he only remembered his
question when he arrived home again. Only on the seventh day
would the Buddha answer his question and said that Mallika had
been reborn in the "Heaven of the Blissful Devas." He did not
mention the seven days she had spent in hell, so as not to add
to the King's sorrow. Even though it was a very short-termed
sojourn in the lower realms, one can see that Mallika had not
yet attained stream-entry [*] during her life on earth, since
it is one of the signs of a Stream-enterer that there is no
rebirth below the human state. However, this experience of hellish
suffering together with her knowledge of Dhamma, could have
quickened Mallika's last ripening for the attainment of stream-entry.
* [Stream-entry: the first stage of Enlightenment, where the
first glimpse of Nibbana is gained and the first three fetters
Sources: M 87; A V,49, IV, 197, VIII, 91; S 3,8 = Ud V,I; S
3, 16; J 77, 306, 314, 415, 504, 519; Pac. 53,83; Mil. 115,
291; Jtm. 3; Divy, p.88
Cannot Be Got:
At one time
the Lord was staying near Savatthi at Jeta Grove, Anathapindika's
Monastery. Then King Pasenadi of Kosala approached the Lord and
having done so, paid his respects and sat down nearby. Now at
that time Queen Mallika died. A certain man then approached the
King and whispered in his ear: "Your Majesty, Queen Mallika has
died." At those words king Pasenadi was filled with grief and
depression, and with shoulders drooping, head down, he sat glum,
and with nothing to say. The Lord saw the king sitting there like
that and spoke to him in this way:
The Buddha's Words to King Pasenadi on Queen Mallika's Death
king, there are these five circumstances not-to-be-got by monk,
brahman, deva, Mara, Brahma, or by anyone in the world. What
are the five?
is of the nature to decay may not decay, is a circumstance not-to-be-got
by a monk... or by anyone in the world. That what is of the
nature to be diseased may not be diseased, is a circumstance
not-to-be-got by a monk... or by anyone in the world.
is of the nature to die may not die, is a circumstance not-to-be-got
by a monk... or by anyone in the world.
is of the nature to be exhausted may not be exhausted, is a
circumstance not-to-be-got by a monk... or by anyone in the
is of the nature to be destroyed may not be destroyed, is a
circumstance, not-to-be-got by a monk... or by anyone in the
king, for an uninstructed ordinary person what is of the nature
to decay does decay, what is of the nature to be diseased does
become diseased, what is of the nature to die does die, what
is of the nature to be exhausted is exhausted and what is of
the nature to be destroyed is destroyed -- and when these things
happen to him he does not reflect, "It's not only for me that
what is of the nature to decay decays... that what is of the
nature to be destroyed is destroyed, but wherever there are
beings, coming and going, dying and being born, for all those
beings what is of the nature to decay decays... what is of the
nature to be destroyed is destroyed, and if I, when there is
decay in what is of the nature to decay... when there is destruction
in what is of the nature to be destroyed, should grieve, pine,
and lament, and crying beat the breast and so fall into delusion,
food would not be enjoyed, my body would become haggard, work
would not be done and enemies would be pleased, while friends
would be depressed. Then, when there is decay in what is of
the nature to decay, disease in what is of the nature to be
diseased, death in what is of the nature to die, exhaustion
in what is of the nature to be exhausted, destruction in what
is of the nature to be destroyed, he grieves, pines and laments,
and crying beats his breast and so falls into delusion.
called an uninstructed ordinary person; pierced by the poisoned
dart of grief, he just torments himself. Great king, for the
instructed Noble Disciple what is of the nature to decay does
decay... and what is of the nature to be destroyed is destroyed...
and when these things happen to him he does reflect, "It's not
only for me that what is of the nature to decay decays... that
what is of the nature to be destroyed, is destroyed, but wherever
there are beings, coming and going, dying and being born, for
all those beings what is of the nature to decay decays... what
is of the nature to be destroyed is destroyed, and if I, when
there is decay in what is of the nature to decay... when there
is destruction in what is of the nature to be destroyed, should
grieve, pine and lament, and crying beat the breast and so fall
into delusion, food would not be enjoyed, my body would become
haggard, work would not be done and enemies would be pleased
while friends would be depressed. Then when there is decay in
what is of the nature to decay, disease in what is of the nature
to be diseased, death in what is of the nature to die, exhaustion
in what is of the nature to be exhausted, destruction in what
is of the nature to be destroyed, he does not grieve or pine
or lament, he does not beat his breast and fall into delusion.
called an instructed Noble Disciple. Drawn out is the poisoned
dart of grief with which the uninstructed ordinary person torments
himself. Free of grief, free from the dart, the Noble Disciple
has quenched [*] himself completely."
* [Or "become cool" literally "nibban-ered."]
these are the five circumstances not-to-be-got by monk, brahman,
deva, Mara, Brahma, or by anyone in the world.
Do not grieve, nor should you lament.
Here, what good is gained? -- none at all indeed,
and enemies rejoice to see that grief and pain.
But when misfortunes do not shake the wise --
that one who knows well how to seek the good,
then enemies because of that are pained
seeing his face as formerly, not strained.
Where and whatever good may gotten, be
there and just there he should try for that
by study, wisdom and well-spoken words,
unpracticed so far, and tradition, too.
But if he knows: "This good can be got
Neither by me nor any other too"
then ungrieving he should bear it all (and think),
"Now how to use my strength for present work?"
Anguttara Nikaya, (Fives, 49)
Just as there
were two foremost disciples in the order of monks, namely Sariputta
and Moggallana, likewise the Buddha named two women as foremost
amongst nuns, namely Uppalavanna and Khema.
Khema means well-settled or composed or security and
is a synonym for Nibbana. The nun Khema belonged to a royal
family from the land of Magadha. When she was of marriageable
age, she became one of the chief consorts of King Bimbisara.
As beautiful as her appearance was, equally beautiful was her
life as the wife of an Indian Maharaja.
heard about the Buddha from her husband, she became interested,
but she had a certain reluctance to become involved with his
teaching. She felt that the teaching would run counter to her
life of sense-pleasures and indulgences. The king, however,
knew how he could influence her to listen to the teaching. He
described at length the harmony, the peace and beauty of the
monastery in the Bamboo Grove, where the Buddha stayed frequently.
Because she loved beauty, harmony and peace, she was persuaded
to visit there.
out in royal splendor with silk and sandalwood, she went to
the monastery. The Exalted One spoke to her and explained the
law of impermanence of all conditioned beauty to her. She penetrated
this sermon fully and still dressed in royal garments, she attained
to enlightenment. Just like the monk, Mahakappina -- a former
king -- she likewise became liberated through the power of the
Buddha's words while still dressed in the garments of the laity.
With her husband's permission she joined the Order of Nuns.
Such an attainment, almost like lightning, is only possible
however where the seed of wisdom has long been ripening and
virtue is fully matured.
person, hearing Khema's story, only sees the wonder of the present
happening. A Buddha can see beyond this and knows that this
woman did not come to full liberation accidentally. It came
about like this: In former times when a Buddha appeared in the
world, then Khema in those past lives also appeared near him,
or so it has been recounted. Due to her inner attraction towards
the highest Truth, she always came to birth wherever the bearer
and proclaimer of such Truth lived. It is said that already
innumerable ages ago she had sold her beautiful hair to give
alms to the Buddha Padumuttara. During the time of the Buddha
Vipassi, ninety-one eons ago, she had been a teacher of Dhamma.
Further it is told, that during the three Buddhas of our happy
eon, which were previous to our Buddha Gautama, she was a lay
disciple and gained happiness through building monasteries for
beings mill around heaven or hell realms during the life-time
of a Buddha, Khema always tried to be near the source of wisdom.
When there was no Buddha appearing in the world, she would be
reborn at the time of Pacceka-Buddhas or Bodhisattas. In one
birth she was the wife of the Bodhisatta, who always exhorted
his peaceful family like this:
According to what you have got, give alms;
One day Khema's
only son in this life was suddenly killed by the bite of a poisonous
snake, yet she was able to keep total equanimity:
Observe the Uposatha days, keep the precepts pure;
Dwell upon the thought of death and be mindful of your mortal
For in the case of beings like ourselves, death is certain,
life is uncertain;
All existing things are transitory and subject to decay.
Therefore be heedful of your ways day and night.
Uncalled he hither came, without leave departed, too;
-- so it is told -- she was she daughter-in-law of the Bodhisatta
(J 397), many times a great Empress who dreamt about receiving
teaching from the Bodhisatta and then actually was taught by him
(J 501,502,534). It is further recounted that as a Queen she was
always the wife of he who was later Sariputta, who said about
Even as he came, he went. What cause is here for woe?
No friend's lament can touch the ashes of the dead:
Why should I grieve? He fares the way he had to tread.
Though I should fast and weep, how would it profit me?
My kith and kin, alas! would more unhappy be.
No friend's lament can touch the ashes of the dead:
Why should I grieve? He fares the way he had to tread.
Of equal status is the wife,
in former lives was a righteous king, who upheld the ten royal
virtues: Generosity, morality, renunciation, truthfulness, gentleness,
patience, amity, harmlessness, humility, justice. Because of these
virtues the king lived in happiness and bliss. Khema, too, lived
in accordance with these precepts. (J 534)
Obedient, speaking only loving words,
With children, beauty, fame, garlanded,
She always listens to my words.
Khema had already purified her heart and perfected it in these
virtues, in many past lives she was now mature enough and had
such pure and tranquil emotions, that she could accept the ultimate
Truth in the twinkling of an eye.
praised her as the nun foremost in wisdom. A story goes with
that: King Pasenadi was traveling through his country, and one
evening he arrived at a small township. He felt like having
a conversation about Dhamma and ordered a servant to find out
whether there was a wise ascetic or priest in the town. The
servant sounded everyone out, but could not find anyone whom
his master could converse with. He reported this to the King
and added that a nun of the Buddha lived in the town.
the saintly Khema, who was famed everywhere for her wisdom and
known to be clever, possessing deep insight, had heard much
Dhamma, and was a speaker of renown, knowing always the right
retort. Thereupon the king went to the former Queen, greeted
her with respect and had the following conversation with her:
P.: Does an Awakened One exist after death?
King wanted to know why the Buddha had rejected these four questions.
First we must try to understand what these questions imply. The
first question corresponds with the view of all those beings whose
highest goal is to continue on after death, spurred on by craving
for existence. The answer that an Awakened One continues to exist
after death, is the one given by all other religions, including
later interpretations of Buddhism.
K.: The Exalted One has not declared that an Awakened One exists
P.: Then an Awakened One does not exist after death?
K.: That too, the Exalted One has not declared.
P.: Then the Awakened One exists after death and does not exist?
K.: Even that, the Exalted One has not declared.
P.: Then one must say, the Awakened One neither exists nor not
exists after death?
K.: That too, the Exalted One has not declared.
answer that the Enlightened One does not exist after death would
be in keeping with craving for non-existence, i.e., annihilation.
of an urge for definite knowledge and certainly, a definition
is sought which could claim that the five aggregates (khandha)
of form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness
-- which make up the sum total of all existence -- are completely
dissolved and disappear upon the shedding of an Awakened One's
body; and that deliverance consisted in that mere fact of dissolution.
answer seeks a compromise: everything impermanent in an Awakened
One would be annihilated, but the permanent aspect, the essence,
his actual person, would remain.
answer tries to get out of the predicament by formulating a
"neither-nor" situation, which is meant to be satisfying. [*]
All four formulas have been rejected by the Buddha as wrong
view. They all presuppose that there is an "I" distinct from
the world, while in reality "I" and "world" are part of the
experience which arises because of consciousness.
* [This "solution" is formulated with the idea that it is something
that words/concepts cannot describe, but it still uses "exist"
"not exist" and so was not accepted by the Buddha.]
Only the Enlightened
Ones can actually see this or those who have been their disciples,
and unless this understanding is awakened, the assumption is made
that an "I," and essentially permanent "self," is wandering through
samsara, [*] gradually ascending higher and higher until it is
dissolved, which is liberation; this is a belief held by some.
Others conclude from this, that the Buddha teaches the destruction
of the "self." But the Buddha teaches that there is no "I" or
"self," which can be destroyed, that it has never existed and
has never wandered through samsara.
* [Samsara: The rounds of birth and death, continually recurring.]
What we call
"I" and what we call "world" are in reality a constantly changing
process, always in flux, which always throws up the illusion of
"I" and "world" born in the present and speculated upon in the
past and future. The way to liberation is to stop speculating
about the "I," to become free from habitual views and formulas,
and come to the end of the mind's illusory conjuring.
increasing the thought processes about phenomena, but through
mindfulness of the arising of phenomena, which leads to reducing
the chatter in the mind, can liberation be attained. Everything
we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think, anything that can
be contained in consciousness, no matter how wide-ranging and
pure it is, has arisen due to causes; therefore it is impermanent
and subject to decay and dissolution.
which is subject to decay and change is not-self. Because the
five clung-to aggregates are subject to destruction, they are
not "my" self, are not "mine." "I" cannot prevent their decay,
their becoming sick, damaged, faulty and their passing away.
The conclusion that the self must then be outside of the five
aggregates does not follow either, because it, too, is a thought
and therefore belongs to one of the five clung-to aggregates
(i.e., mental formations).
of the Enlightened One after death is therefore an illusion,
born out of compulsion for naming, and cannot be appropriate.
Whoever has followed the teaching of the Awakened One, as Khema
did, is greatly relieved to see that the Buddha did not teach
the destruction of an existing entity, nor the annihilation
of a self. But, on the contrary, those not instructed by the
Exalted One live without exception in a world of perpetual destruction,
of uncontrollable transiency in the realm of death. Whatever
they look upon as "I" and "mine" is constantly vanishing and
only upon renouncing these things which are unsatisfactory because
of their impermanence, can they reach a refuge of peace and
security. Just as the lion's roar of the Exalted One proclaimed:
"Open are the doors to the deathless, who has ears to hear,
come and listen."
to explain this to the King with a simile. She asked him whether
he had a clever mathematician or statistician, who could calculate
for him how many hundred, thousand or hundred-thousand grains
of sand are contained in the river Ganges. The King replied
that that is not possible. The nun then asked him whether he
knew of anyone who could figure out how many gallons of water
are contained in the great ocean. That, too, the King considered
impossible. Khema asked him why it is not possible. The King
replied that the ocean is mighty, deep, unfathomable.
said Khema, is the Exalted One. Whoever wished to define the
Awakened One, could only do so through the five clung-to aggregates
and the Buddha no longer clung-to them. "Released from clinging
to form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness
is the Enlightened One, mighty, deep unfathomable as the great
it was not appropriate to say he existed or did not exist, or
existed and did not exist, nor did he neither exist nor not
exist. All these designations could not define what was undefinable.
Just that was liberation: liberation from the compulsion to
stabilize as "self" the constant flux of the five aggregates,
which are never the same in any given moment, but only appear
as a discharge of tensions arising from mental formations.
rejoiced in the penetrating explanation of the nun Khema. Later
on he met the Enlightened One and asked him the same four questions.
The Buddha explained it exactly as Khema had done, even using
the same words. The King was amazed and recounted his conversation
with the wise nun Khema, the Arahant. (S 44,1)
Sources: S 17,23; S 44,1; A I,24; II,62; IV,176; VIII,91. Thag.
139-144; J 354;397;501;502;534;539; Ap II No.18 (verse 96);
the capital of the kingdom of Magadha, lived a girl of good family
named Bhadda. Her parents protected her very carefully, because
she had a passionate nature and they were afraid that she would
be hurt due to her attraction to men. One day from her window
Bhadda saw how a thief was being led to the place of execution.
He was the son of a Brahman (priest-caste) but had a strong tendency
in love with him at first sight. She convinced her father that
she could not live without him, and so he bribed the guards
who let the condemned man escape.
the wedding the bridegroom became obsessed with the desire to
get his wife's jewelry. He told her he had made a vow that he
would make an offering to a certain mountain deity if he could
escape execution. Through this ruse he managed to get Bhadda
away from his home. He wanted to throw her down from a high
cliff to gain possession of her valuable ornaments. When they
came to the cliff, he brusquely told her about his intention.
Bhadda, in her distress, likewise resolved to a ruse that enabled
her to give him a push so that it was he who fell to his death.
by the enormity of her deed, she did not want to return to lay
life. Sensual pleasures and possessions were no longer tempting
for her. She became a wandering ascetic. First she entered the
order of Jains and as a special penance, her hair was torn out
by the roots, when she ordained. But it grew again and was very
curly. Therefore she was called "Curly-hair" (Kundalakesa).
of the Jain sect did not satisfy her, so she became a solitary
wanderer. For fifty years she traveled through India and visited
many spiritual teachers, thereby obtaining an excellent knowledge
of religious scriptures and philosophies. She became one of
the most famous debaters. When she entered a town, she would
make a sand-pile and stick a rose-apple branch into it and would
announce that whoever would engage in discussion with her should
trample upon the sand-pile.
she came to Savatthi and again erected her little monument.
At that time, Sariputta -- the disciple of the Buddha with the
greatest power of analysis -- was staying at the Jeta Grove.
He heard of the arrival of Bhadda and as a sign of his willingness
for debate, he had several children go and trample on the sand-pile.
Thereupon Bhadda went to the Jeta Grove, to Anathapindika's
Monastery, accompanied by a large number of people. She was
certain of victory, since she had become used to being the winner
in all debates.
a number of questions to Sariputta. He answered all of them
until she found nothing more to ask. Then Sariputta questioned
her. Already the first question affected Bhadda profoundly,
namely, "What is the One?" She remained silent, unable to discern
what the Elder could have been inquiring about. Surely he did
not mean "God," or "Brahman" or "the Infinite," she pondered.
But what was it then? The answer should have been "nutriment"
because all beings are sustained by food.
she was unable to find an answer and thereby lost the debate,
she knew that here was someone who had found what she had been
looking; for during her pilgrimage of half a century. She chose
Sariputta as her teacher, but he referred her to the Buddha.
The Awakened One preached Dhamma to her at Mount Vulture Peak
and concluded with the following verses:
Though a thousand verses
Just as the
wanderer Bahiya was foremost amongst monks who attained Arahantship
faster than anyone else, she was foremost amongst nuns with the
same quality. Both grasped the highest Truth so quickly and so
deeply that admittance to the Order followed after attainment
of Arahantship. Mind and emotions of both of them had long been
trained and prepared, so that they could reach the highest attainment
are made of meaningless lines,
better the single meaningful line
by hearing which one is at peace.
verses have been handed down to us in the collection of the
"Verses of the Elder Nuns," as she summarizes her life:
I traveled before in a single cloth,
With shaven head, covered in dust,
Thinking of faults in the faultless,
While in the faulty seeing no faults. [*]
When done was the day's abiding, [**]
I went to Mount Vulture Peak
And saw the stainless Buddha
By the Order of Bhikkhus revered.
Then before Him my hands in anjali [***]
Humbly, I bowed down on my knees.
"Come, Bhadda," He said to me:
And thus was I ordained.
Debt-free, I traveled for fifty years
In Anga, Magadha and Vajji,
In Kasi and Kosala, too,
Living on the alms of the land.
That lay-supporter -- wise man indeed --
May many merits accrue to him!
Who gave a robe to Bhadda for
Free of all ties is she.
* [Vajja: fault, can also mean "what is obstructive
to spiritual progress."]
[The daytime spent in seclusion for meditation.]
[anjali: hands placed palms to palm respectfully.]
Sources: A I,24; Thig 107-111; J 509; Ap 11 No.21 (p.560).
in Savatthi a girl called Gotami, in poor circumstances, belonging
to the lowest caste. Because she was very thin and haggard, a
real bean-pole, everyone called her the haggard (kisa)
Gotami. When one saw her walking around, tall and thin, one could
not fathom her inner riches. One could truly say about her:
The Mother With The Dead Child [^]
Her beauty was an inner one
She was despondent
because due to her poverty and lack of attractiveness, she was
unable to find a husband. But one day it suddenly happened that
a rich merchant who appreciated her inner wealth and considered
that more important than her outer appearance, married her. However,
the husband's family despised her because of her caste, her poverty
and her looks. This animosity caused her great unhappiness, especially
because of her beloved husband, who found himself in conflict
between love for his parents and love for his wife.
One could not see its spark outside.
Kisagotami gave birth to a baby boy, the husband's whole clan
finally accepted her as the mother of the son and heir. Her
relief about this changed attitude was immense and a great burden
was taken from her. Now she was totally happy and contented.
The boy grew up and soon started playing outside, full of energy
and joy. However, one day her happiness showed itself to be
based on an illusion. Her little son died suddenly. She did
not know how to bear this tragedy. Beyond the usual love of
a mother for her child, she had been especially attached to
this child, because he was the guarantee for her marital bliss
and her peace of mind.
made her fear that her husband's family would despise her again
and that they would blame her, saying she was karmically unable
to have a son. "Kisagotami must have done some very despicable
deeds, to have this happen to her," people would say. And even
her husband might reject her now. All such ideas and imaginings
revolved in her mind and a dark cloud descended upon her. She
simply refused to accept the fact that the child was dead, and
became obsessed with the fantasy that her child was only sick
and that she had to get medicine for him.
dead child in her arms, she ran away from her home and went
from house to house asking for medicine for her little son.
At every door she begged: "Please give me some medicine for
my child," but the people replied that medicine would not help
any more, the child was dead. But she did not understand what
they were saying to her, because in her mind she had resolved
that the child was not dead. Others laughed at her without compassion.
But amongst the many selfish and unsympathetic people, she also
met a wise and kind person who recognized that her mind was
deranged because of grief. He advised her to visit the best
physician, namely the Buddha of the ten powers, who would know
the right remedy.
followed this advice and ran to Prince Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's
Monastery, where the Buddha was staying. She arrived in the
middle of a discourse being given by the Buddha to a large congregation.
Totally despairing and in tears, with the corpse of the child
in her arms, she begged the Buddha, "Master, give me medicine
for my son." The Awakened One interrupted his teaching and replied
kindly that he knew of a medicine. Hopefully she inquired what
that could be.
seeds," the Enlightened One replied, astounding everyone present.
Kisagotami inquired where she should go to obtain them and what
kind to get. The Buddha replied that she need only bring a very
small quantity from any house where no one had died. She trusted
the Blessed One's words and went to the town. At the first house,
she asked whether any mustard seeds were available. "Certainly,"
was the reply. "Could I have a few seeds?" she inquired. "Of
course," she was told, and some seeds were brought to her. But
then she asked the second question, which she had not deemed
quite as important: whether anyone had died in this house. "But
of course," the people told her. And so it went everywhere.
In one house someone; had died recently, in another house some
time ago. She could not find any house where no one had died.
The dead ones are more numerous than the living ones, she was
evening she finally realized that not only she was stricken
by the death of a loved one, but this was the common human fate.
What no words had been able to convey to her, her own experience
-- going from door to door -- made clear to her. She understood
the law of existence, the being fettered to the always re-occurring
deaths. In this way, the Buddha was able to heal her obsession
and bring her to an acceptance of reality. Kisagotami no longer
refused to believe that her child was dead, but understood that
death is the destiny of all beings.
the means by which the Buddha could heal grief-stricken people
and bring them out of their overpowering delusion, in which
the whole world was perceived only in the perspective of their
loss. Once, when someone was lamenting the death of his father,
the Buddha asked him which father he meant: the father of this
life, or the last life, or the one before that. Because if one
wanted to grieve, then it would be just as well not only to
feel sorrow for the one father. (Pv 8, J 352).
time a grief-stricken person was able to see reality when the
Buddha pointed out to him that his son would be reborn and that
he was only lamenting for an empty shell. (Pv 12, J 354).
had come to her senses, she took the child's lifeless body to
the cemetery and returned to the Enlightened One. He asked her
whether she had brought any mustard seed. She gratefully explained
how she had been cured by the Blessed One. Thereupon the Master
spoke the following verse to her:
In flocks and children finding delight,
mind had matured and she had won insight into reality, it was
possible for her to become a stream-winner after hearing the Buddha
proclaim just that one verse. She asked for admittance into the
Order of Nuns.
with a mind clinging -- just such a man
death seizes and carries away,
as a great flood, a sleeping village.
spent some time as a nun, practicing and studying Dhamma, she
watched her lamp one evening and compared the restlessly hissing
flames with the ups and downs of life and death. Thereupon the
Blessed One came to her and again spoke a short verse:
Though one should live a hundred years
When she heard
these lines, she was able to shed all fetters and became one of
the Arahants, the fully Enlightened Ones.
not seeing the Deathless State,
yet better is life for a single day,
seeing the Deathless State.
eons ago, in one of her former lives, she had been the wife
of a Buddha-to-be, at the time of the Buddha Phussa. During
the time of the last Buddha before the Sage of the Sakyas, namely
Buddha Kassapa, she had been a King's daughter who became a
nun. (J 409)
collection of "Verses of the Elder Nuns" her stanzas can be
found, in which she describes the great joy the Buddha imparted
to her. Therefore she praises friendship with the Noble and
The Sage has emphasized and praised
of the Buddha, the most noble friend of all, had saved her from
all suffering experienced in this and former lives. She used as
her model, the heartrending example of the nun Patacara who had
also been afflicted with temporary insanity after the death of
not only husband and two sons, but also parents and brothers.
Because women's longing for men is so deeply ingrained, the Buddha
said, "For a man does the woman strive." (A VI.52) From this attachment
is born the torture of jealousy, the lack of self-reliance, and
the despair of loneliness.
Noble friendship for the world.
If one stays with a Noble Friend,
even a fool will become a wise person.
Stay with them of good heart
for the wisdom of those who stay with them grows.
And while one is staying with them,
from every kind of dukkha one is freed.
Dukkha one should know well,
and how dukkha arises and ceases,
and the Eightfold Path,
and the Four Noble Truths.
one penetrates a woman's suffering in this way can one realize
the full impact of Kisagotami's gratitude towards the Buddha
who showed her the way. So she says:
state is painful,"
After she attained
to Arahantship, she was able to see her past lives and could now
declares the Trainer of tamable men.
"A wife with others is painful
and once having borne a child,
some even cut their throats;
others of delicate constitution
poison take, then pain again;
and then there's the baby obstructing the birth,
killing the mother too."
Miserable woman, your kin all dead
The third part
of her verses finalizes her joy in finding liberation and release
from all suffering:
and limitless dukkha you've known.
So many tears have you shed
in these many thousands of births.
Wholly developed by me is
as he had done so often before with other nuns, came to tempt
her, to distract her from meditation and asked her whether she
was lusting for man now that her child was dead, she immediately
replied, discerning the ruse:
the Eightfold Noble Path going to Deathlessness,
I looked into the Mirror of the Dhamma.
With dart removed am I,
the burden laid down, done what was to be done,
The elder nun Kisagotami,
freed in mind and heart, has chanted this.
* [Mara is traditionally depicted as the "tempter" or "temptation."
While here it is made to appear as if "he" were an outer force,
the Buddha taught that temptation arises in one's own heart
and mind because of one's own defilements.]
Passed is the time of my child's death
Mara as "friend," she shows her lack of fear and her equanimity.
Grumbling sullenly, Mara disappeared just as before when he had
tried in vain to fetter other nuns to the realm of birth and death.
and I have fully done with men;
I do not grieve, nor do I weep,
and I'm not afraid of you, friend.
Sensual delight in every way is dead,
for the mass of darkness is destroyed.
Defeating the soldiery of death,
I live free from every taint.
Kisagotami, rising to holiness from lowliest birth, was praised
by the Buddha as amongst the seventy-five greatest nuns.[*]
* [She was pre-eminent in ascetic habits and was wont to wear
garments of rough fibers. (A I, 24).]
Sources: A I,24; S 5,3; Thig 213-223, J 438; Ap 11 No.22
There was a
housewife in Savatthi who had ten children. She was always occupied
with giving birth, nursing, upbringing, educating and arranging
marriages for her children. Her children were her whole life.
She was therefore known as "Sona with many children."
With Many Children [^]
rather like Migara's mother of the same city, though the latter
had twenty children. We may find such an abundance of offspring
in one family somewhat strange today. However, this was not
uncommon in Asia and even in some parts of the West.
husband was a lay follower of the Buddha. After having practiced
moral conduct according to the precepts for several years while
living the household life, he decided that the time had come
to enter into the holy life, and so he became a monk. It was
not easy for Sona to accept this decision, yet she did not waste
her time with regrets and sorrow, but decided to live a more
religiously dedicated life. She called her ten children and
their husbands and wives together, turned her considerable wealth
over to them, and asked them only for support for her necessities.
For a while all went well. She had sufficient support and could
spend her time in religious activities.
it happened that the old woman became a burden to her children
and children-in-law. They had not been in agreement with their
father's decision, and even less did they agree with their mother's
devout attitude and religious speech. Indeed, they thought of
their parents as foolish because they would not indulge in the
pleasures their wealth could purchase. They considered their
parents mentally unstable, religious fanatics; this attitude
made them despise their mother.
forgot that they owed all their riches to their mother, that
she had lavished many years of care and attention on them. Looking
only at the present moment, they considered the old woman a
nuisance. The words of the Buddha, that a grateful person is
as rare in the world as one who becomes a Noble One, proved
true again in this case. (A III, 122; V, 143; V, 195).
disdain by her children was an even greater pain for Sona than
the separation from her husband. She became aware that waves
of bitterness arose in her, that reproaches and accusations
intermingled. She realized that what she had taken to be selfless
love, pure mother's love, was in reality self love, coupled
with expectations. She had been relying on her children completely
and had been convinced that she would be supported by them in
her old age as a tribute to her long years of solicitude for
them, that gratitude, appreciation and participation in their
affairs would be her reward. Had she not looked at her children
as an investment then, as an insurance against the fear and
loneliness of old age? In this manner, she investigated her
motives and found the truth of the Enlightened One's words in
herself. Namely, that it was a woman's way not to rely on possessions,
power and abilities, but solely on her children, while it was
the way of the ascetic to rely on virtue alone. (A VI, 53).
brought her to the decision to enter the Order of Nuns so that
she could develop the qualities of selfless love and virtue.
Why should she remain in her home where she was only reluctantly
accepted? She looked upon the household life as a gray existence
and pictured that of a nun as brilliant, and so was ready to
follow here husband's path. She became a nun, a Bhikkhuni in
the order of the Buddha's followers.
a while she realized that she had taken her self-love along.
The other nuns criticized her behavior in many small matters.
She had entered the Sangha as an old woman and had dozens of
habits and peculiarities which were obstacles in this new environment.
She was used to doing things in a certain way, and the other
nuns did them differently.
realized that it was not easy to reach noble attainments, and
that the Order of Nuns was not the paradise she had envisioned
-- just as she had not found security with her children. She
also understood that she was still held fast by her womanly
limitations. It was not enough that her weaknesses were abhorrent
to her, and that she was longing for more masculine traits.
She also had to know what to do to effect the change. She accepted
the fact that she had to make tremendous efforts, not only because
she was already advanced in years, but also because until now
she had only cultivated female virtues. The masculine characteristics
which she was lacking were energy and circumspection. Sona did
not become discouraged, nor thought of the Path as too difficult.
She had the same sincerity and steadfastness as her sister-nun-Soma,
What's it to do with a woman's state
It became clear
to Sona that she had to develop courage and strength to win victory
over her willfulness and her credulity. She realized that it was
necessary to practice mindfulness and self-observation, and to
implant into her memory those teachings which could be at her
disposal when needed to counteract her emotions.
When the mind, well-composed
with knowledge after knowledge born,
sees into Perfect Dhamma clear?
For who, indeed, conceives it thus:
A woman am I, a man am I,
or what, then indeed, am I?
Such a one can Mara still address.
would be all knowledge and vows if she were carried away by
her emotions, and her memory fail her when it was most needed?
These were the reasons which strengthened Sona's determination
and will-power to learn the Buddha's discourses. Through many
a night thereby she attained the ability to memorize them. Furthermore,
she took pains to serve her sister-nuns in a loving way and
to apply the teachings constantly. After having practiced in
this way for some time, she attained not only the assurance
of Non-returner, but became an Arahant, fully-enlightened, a
state she had hardly dared to hope for in this lifetime.
without any special circumstances to herald it. After she had
made a whole-hearted commitment to perfect those abilities which
she lacked, no matter what the cost, she drew nearer to her
goal day by day. One day she was liberated from the very last
fetter. The Buddha said about her that she was foremost of the
nuns who had energetic courage. (A I, 24)
"Verses of the Elder Nuns" she describes her life in five verses:
Ten children having borne
who had formerly been her severe critics, and who had thought
that because of her age she would not be able to change, now apologized
to her sincerely and endeavored to follow her good example.
from this bodily congeries,
so I, now weak and old,
approached a Bhikkhuni.
she taught me --
groups, sense-spheres and elements, [*]
I heard the Dhamma,
and having shaved my hair, went forth.
still a probationer
I purified the eye divine;
Former lives I knew,
and where I lived before.
the Signless [**] I developed,
unclinging now and quenched!
Knowing the five groups well,
they still exist; but with their roots removed.
Unmovable am I,
on a stable basis sure,
now rebirth is no more.
* [The five groups (or aggregates), the twelve sense spheres
and the eighteen elements -- see Buddhist Dictionary, B.P.S.
Kandy, for definition.]
[One of the three gates to freedom the other two being the
Desireless and Emptiness.]
Sources: A I, 24; Thig 102-106; AP. 11, No.26
When she was
born, Nanda was lovingly welcomed by her parents -- the father
of the Buddha and his second wife. Her name means joy, contentment,
pleasure, and was given when parents were especially joyful about
the arrival of a baby.
The Half-Sister Of the Awakened One[^]
extremely well-bred, graceful and beautiful. To distinguish
her from others by the same name, she was later called "Rupa-Nanda,"
"one of delightful form," or sometimes "Sundari-Nanda," "beautiful
course many members of her family -- the royal house of the
Sakyans -- left the household for the homeless life, influenced
by the amazing fact that one of their clan had become the fully-enlightened
Buddha. Amongst them was her brother Nanda, her cousins, and
finally her mother, together with many other Sakyan ladies.
Thereupon Nanda also took this step, but it is recorded that
she did not do it out of confidence in the teacher and the teachings,
but out of love for her relatives and a feeling of belonging
easily imagine the love and respect accorded the graceful half-sister
of the Buddha and how touched the people were by the sight of
the lovely royal daughter, so near in family ties to the Blessed
One, wandering amongst them in the garb of a nun.
soon became obvious that this was not a good basis for a nun's
life. Nanda's thoughts were mainly directed towards her own
beauty and her popularity with the people, traits which were
resultants of former good actions. These resultants now became
dangers to her, since she forgot to reinforce them with new
actions. She felt that she was not living up to the high ideals
the people envisioned for her, and that she was far from the
goal for which so many noble-born clansmen had gone into the
homeless life. She was sure that the Blessed One would censure
her on account of this. Therefore she managed to evade him for
a long time.
the Buddha requested all the nuns to come to him, one by one,
to receive his teaching, but Nanda did not comply. The Master
let her be called specially, and then she appeared before him,
ashamed and anxious by her demeanor. The Buddha addressed her
and appealed to all her positive qualities so that she listened
to him willingly and delighted in his words. When the Blessed
One knew that the talk had uplifted her, had made her joyful
and ready to accept his teaching, he did not immediately explain
absolute reality to her, as is often mentioned in other accounts,
frequently resulting in noble attainment to his listener.
Nanda was so taken up with her physical beauty, the Buddha used
his psychic powers to conjure up the vision of an even more
beautiful woman, who then aged visibly and relentlessly before
her very eyes. Thereby Nanda could see, compressed within a
few moments, what otherwise one can only notice in people through
decades -- and often because of proximity and habit one does
not even fully comprehend: the fading away of youth and beauty,
the decay, the appearance of wrinkles and gray hair. The vision
affected Nanda deeply; she was shaken to the center of her being.
shown her this graphic picture, the Buddha could explain the
law of impermanence to her in such a way that she penetrated
the truth of its completely, and thereby attained the knowledge
of future liberation -- Stream-entry. As a meditation subject
the Buddha gave her the contemplation of the impermanence and
foulness of the body. She persevered for a long time with this
practice "faithful and courageous day and night"; (Thig 84)
as she described in her verses:
Sick, impure and foul as well,
had been so infatuated with her physical appearance, it had been
necessary for her to apply the extreme of meditations on bodily
unattractiveness as a counter-measure to find equanimity as balance
between the two opposites. For beauty and ugliness are just two
kinds of impermanence. Nothing can disturb the cool, peaceful
heart ever again.
Nanda, see this congeries
With the unlovely, [*] develop mind
Well-composed to singleness.
that, thus will this likewise be.
Exhaling foulness, evil smells,
A thing it is enjoyed [**] by fools.
By day and night thus seeing it,
With my own wisdom having seen,
I turned away, dispassionate.
my diligence, carefully
I examined the body
And saw this as it really is --
Both within and without.
Within this body then was I:
By diligence from fetters freed,
Peaceful was I and quite cool.
* [The meditations on seeing the body as unattractive, either
as parts, or in death. See "Bag of Bones," Wheel 271/272.]
[Play on her own name, Nanda or Joy and "abhinanditam."]
Buddha raised his half-sister as being the foremost amongst
nuns who practiced Jhana.[*] This meant that she not only followed
the analytical way of insight, but put emphasis on the experience
of tranquillity. Enjoying this pure well-being, she no longer
needed any lower enjoyments and soon found indestructible peace.
Although she had gone into homelessness because of attachment
to her relatives, she became totally free and equal to the One
* [Jhana: Total meditative absorption.]
Sources: A I, 24; Thig 82-86; AP II, No.25 (54 verses).
In the days
when India was the fortunate home of an Awakened One, a husband
and wife lived within its borders with an only daughter, who was
exceedingly beautiful. Their family life was a happy and harmonious
one. Then one day pestilence broke out in their hometown. Amongst
those fleeing from the disaster area was also this family with
their grown-up daughter.
to Kosambi, the capital of the kingdom of Vamsa in the valley
of the Ganges. The municipality had erected a public eating-hall
for the refugees. There the daughter, Samavati, went to obtain
food. The first day she took three portions, the second day
two portions and on the third day only one portion.
the man who was distributing the food, could not resist from
asking her somewhat ironically, whether she had finally realized
the capacity of her stomach. Samavati replied quite calmly:
On the first day her father had died and so she only needed
food for two people; on the second day her mother had succumbed
to the dreaded disease, and so she only needed food for herself.
The official felt ashamed about his sarcastic remark and wholeheartedly
begged her forgiveness. A long conversation ensued. When he
found out that she was all alone in the world, he proposed to
adopt her as his foster-child. She was happy to accept and was
now relieved of all worries about her livelihood.
immediately began helping her foster father with the distribution
of the food and the care of the refugees.
to her efficiency and circumspection, the former chaos became
channeled into orderly activity. Nobody tried to get ahead of
others any more, nobody quarreled, and everyone was content.
Finance Minister of the king, Ghosaka, became aware that the
public food distribution was taking place without noise and
tumult. When he expressed his praise and appreciation to the
food-distributor, the official replied modestly that his foster-daughter
was mainly responsible for this. In this way Ghosaka met Samavati
and was so impressed with her noble bearing, that he decided
to adopt her as his own daughter. His manager consented, even
if somewhat woefully, because he did not want to be in the way
of Samavati's fortune. So Ghosaka took her into his house and
thereby she became heiress of a vast fortune and became part
of the most exalted circles of the land.
who was living in Kosambi at that time, was Udena. He had two
chief consorts. One was Vasuladatta, whom he had married both
for political reasons and because she was very beautiful, but
these were her only assets. The second one, Magandiya, was not
only very beautiful, but also very clever though without heart.
So the King was not emotionally contented with his two wives.
king Udena met the charming, adopted daughter of his Finance
Minister and fell in love with her at first sight. He felt magically
attracted by her loving and generous nature. Samavati had exactly
what was missing in both his other wives. King Udena sent a
messenger to Ghosaka and asked him to give Samavati to him in
marriage. Ghosaka was thrown into an emotional upheaval. He
loved Samavati above all else, and she had become indispensable
to him. She was the delight of his life. On the other hand,
he knew his king's temperament and was afraid to deny him his
request. But in the end his attachment to Samavati won and he
thought: "Better to die than to live without her."
King Udena lost his temper. In his fury he dismissed Ghosaka
from his post as Finance Minister and banned him from his kingdom
and did not allow Samavati to accompany him. He took over his
minister's property and locked up his magnificent mansion. Samavati
was desolate that Ghosaka had to suffer so much on her account
and had lost not only her, but also his home and belongings.
Out of compassion for her adopted father, to whom she was devoted
with great gratitude, she decided to make an end to this dispute
by voluntarily becoming the king's wife. She went to the Palace
and informed the King of her decision. The king was immediately
appeased and restored Ghosaka to his former position, as well
as rescinding all other measures against him.
Samavati had great love for everyone, she had so much inner
strength that this decision was not a difficult one for her.
It was not important to her where she lived: whether in the
house of the Finance Minister as his favorite daughter, or in
the palace as the favorite wife of the king, or in obscurity
as when she was in the house of her parents, or as a poor refugee
-- she always found peace in her own heart and was happy regardless
of outer circumstances.
life at the court of one of the Maharajas of that time fell
into a harmonious pattern. Amongst her servants, there was one,
named Khujjuttara the "hunch-backed." Outwardly she was ill-formed,
but otherwise very capable. Everyday the Queen gave her eight
gold coins to buy flowers for the women's quarters of the palace.
But Khujjuttara always bought only four coins worth and used
the rest for herself. One day when she was buying flowers again
for her mistress from the gardener, a monk was taking his meal
there. He was of majestic appearance. When he gave a discourse
to the gardener after the meal, Khujjuttara listened. The monk
was the Buddha. He directed his discourse in such a way that
he spoke directly to Khujjuttara's heart. And his teaching penetrated
into her inner being. Just from hearing this one discourse,
so well expounded, she attained Stream-entry. Without quite
knowing what had happened to her, she was a totally changed
person. The whole world, which had seemed so obvious and real
to her until now, appeared as a dream, apart from reality. The
first thing she did that day was to buy flowers for all of the
eight coins. She regretted her former dishonesty deeply.
Queen asked her why there were suddenly so many flowers Khujjuttara
fell at the Queen's feet and confessed her theft. When Samavati
forgave her magnanimously, Khujjuttara told her what was closest
to her heart, namely, that she had heard a discourse by the
Buddha, which had changed her life. She could not be specific
about the contents of the teaching, but Samavati could see for
herself what a wholesome and healing influence the teaching
had had on her servant. She made Khujjuttara her personal attendant
and told her to visit the Monastery every day to listen to the
Dhamma and then repeat it to her.
had an outstanding memory and what she had heard once, she could
repeat verbatim. Later on she made a collection of discourses
she had heard from the Buddha or one of his enlightened disciples
during these days at Kosambi, and from it developed the book
now called Itivuttaka ("It-was-said-thus"), composed
of 112 small discourses.
Udena once again told his beloved Samavati that she could wish
for anything and he would fulfill it, she wished that the Buddha
would come to the palace daily to have his food there and propound
his teaching. The king's courier took the message of this perpetual
invitation to the Buddha, but he declined and instead sent his
on Ananda went to the palace daily for his meal and afterward
gave a Dhamma discourse. The Queen had already been well prepared
by Khujjuttara's reports, and within a short time she understood
the meaning and attained to Stream-entry, just as her maid-servant
their common understanding of the Dhamma, the Queen and the
maid became equal. Within a short time, the teaching spread
through the whole of the women's quarters and there was hardly
anyone who did not become a disciple of the Awakened One. Even
Samavati's step-father, the Finance Minister Ghosaka, was deeply
touched by the teaching. Similarly to Anathapindika, he donated
a large monastery in Kosambi to the Sangha, so that the monks
would have a secure and satisfying shelter. Every time the Buddha
visited Kosambi he stayed in this Monastery named Ghositarama,
and other monks and holy people also would find shelter there.
the influence of the Dhamma, Samavati became determined to develop
her abilities more intensively. Her most important asset was
the way she could feel sympathy for all beings and could penetrate
everyone with loving-kindness and compassion. She was able to
develop this faculty so strongly that the Buddha called her
the woman lay-disciple most skilled in metta ("loving-kindness").
love was soon to be tested severely. It happened like this:
The second main consort of the king, Magandiya, was imbued with
virulent hatred against everything "Buddhist." Once her father
had heard the Buddha preach about unconditional love to all
beings, and it had seemed to him that the Buddha was the most
worthy one to marry his daughter. In his naive ignorance of
the rules of the monks, he offered his daughter to the Buddha
as his wife. Magandiya was very beautiful and had been desired
by many suitors already.
declined the offer but by speaking a single verse about the
unattractiveness of the body caused her father and mother to
attain the fruit of Non-returning. This was the Buddha's verse,
as recorded in the Sutta Nipata (v.835):
Having seen craving with Discontent and Lust,[*]
thought that the Buddha's rejection of her was an insult and therefore
hatred against him and his disciples arose in her. She became
the wife of King Udena and when he took a third wife, she could
willingly accept that, as it was the custom in her day. But that
Samavati had become a disciple of the Buddha and had converted
the other women in the palace to his teaching, she could not tolerate.
Her hatred against everything connected with the Buddha now turned
against Samavati as his representative. She thought up one meanness
after another, and her sharp intelligence served only to conjure
up new misdeeds.
There was not in me any wish for sex;
How then for this, dung-and-urine filled, that
I should not be willing to touch with my foot.
* [The three beautiful daughters of Mara (the tempter).]
told the King that Samavati was trying to take his life. But
the King was well aware of Samavati's great love for all beings,
so that he did not even take this accusation seriously, barely
listened to it, and forgot it almost immediately.
Magandiya ordered one of her maid-servants to spread rumors
about the Buddha and his monks in Kosambi, so that Samavati
would also be maligned. With this she was more successful. A
wave of aversion struck the whole order to such an extent that
Ananda suggested to the Buddha that they leave town. The Buddha
smiled and said that the purity of the monks would silence all
rumors within a week. Hardly had King Udena heard the gossip
leveled against the Order, than it had already subsided. Magandiya's
second attempt against Samavati had failed.
later Magandiya had eight specially selected chickens sent to
the King and suggested that Samavati should kill them and prepare
them for a meal. Samavati refused to do this, as she would not
kill any living beings. Since the King knew of her all-embracing
love, he did not lose his temper, but accepted her decision.
then tried for a fourth time to harm Samavati. Just prior to
the week which King Udena was to spend with Samavati, Magandiya
hid a poisonous snake in Samavati's chambers, but the poison
sacs had been removed. When King Udena discovered the snake,
all evidence pointed towards Samavati. His passionate fury made
him lose all control. He reached for his bow and arrow and aimed
at Samavati. But the arrow rebounded from her without doing
any harm. His hatred could not influence her loving concern
for him, which continued to emanate from her.
Udena regained his equilibrium and saw the miracle -- that his
arrow could not harm Samavati, he was deeply moved. He asked
her forgiveness and was even more convinced of her nobility
and faithfulness. He became interested in the teaching which
had given such strength to his wife.
famous monk, named Pindola Bharadvaja stayed at the Ghosita
Monastery, the King visited him and discussed the teaching with
him. He learned that the young monks, according to the Buddha's
advice, instead of having contact with women tried to attain
the feelings as towards a mother, sister, or daughter thereby
they overcame their dependence on the opposite sex and could
live joyously as celibates in spite of their youth. At the end
of the discourse, the King was so impressed that he took refuge
in the Buddha and became a lay disciple. (S 35,127)
had been thinking about the wonders of the Dhamma and the intricacies
of karmic influences. One thing had led to another: she had
come to Kosambi as a poor refugee; then the food-distributor
had given her shelter; the Finance Minister had taken her on
as his daughter; then she became the King's wife; her maid-servant
had brought the teaching to her; and she became a disciple and
Stream-winner. Subsequently she spread the teaching to all the
women in the palace, then to Ghosaka and now lastly also to
the King. How convincing Truth was! She often thought in this
way and then permeated all beings with loving-kindness, wishing
now tried more determinedly to control his passionate nature
and to subdue greed and hate. His talks with Samavati were very
helpful to him in this respect. Slowly this development culminated
in his losing all sexual craving when he was in Samavati's company
as he was trying to attain the feelings towards women of mother,
sister and daughter in himself. While he was not free of sexual
desire towards his other wives, he was willing to let Samavati
continue on her Path to emancipation unhindered. Soon she attained
to the state of Once-returner and drew nearer and nearer to
Non-returner, an attainment which many men and women could achieve
in lay-life in those days.
had suspended her attacks for some time, but continued to ponder
how to harm the Buddha through Samavati. After much brooding,
she initiated a plan. She brought some of her relatives to her
point of view and uttered slander against Samavati to them.
Then she proposed to kill her. So that it would not attract
attention, but would appear to be an accident, the whole women's
palace was to be set on fire. The plan was worked out in all
details. Magandiya left town some time beforehand, so that no
suspicion could fall on her.
of arson resulted in sky-high flames which demolished the wooden
palace totally and the 500 women [*] residing in it were all
killed, including Samavati. The news of this disaster spread
around town very quickly. No other topic of conversation could
be heard there. Several monks, who had not been ordained very
long, were also affected by the agitation and after their almsround
they went to the Buddha and inquired what would be the future
rebirth of these women lay disciples with Samavati as their
* [Five hundred just means 'a great many' in Pali.]
One calmed their excited hearts and diverted their curiosity about
this most interesting question of rebirth, by answering very briefly:
"Amongst these women, O monks, there are some disciples who are
Stream-enterers, some who are Once-returners and some who are
Non-returners. None of these lay disciples failed to receive the
fruits of their past deeds." (Ud VII, 10)
mentioned here the first three fruits of the Dhamma: Stream-entry,
Once-returner and Non-returner. All these disciples were safe
from rebirth below the human realm, and each one was securely
going towards the final goal of total liberation. This was the
most important aspect of their lives and deaths and the Buddha
would not elucidate any further details. Once he mentioned to
Ananda that it was a vexation for the Enlightened One to explain
the future births of all disciples who died. (D 16 11)
later explained to some monks who were discussing how "unjust"
it was that these faithful disciples should die such a terrible
death, that the women experienced this because of a joint deed
they had committed many life-times ago. Once Samavati had been
Queen of Benares. She had gone with her ladies-in-waiting to
bathe and feeling cold, she asked that a bush be burned to give
some warmth. She saw only too late that a monk -- a Pacceka
Buddha -- was sitting immobile within the bush; he was not harmed,
however, because one cannot kill Awakened Ones. The women did
not know this and feared that they would be blamed for having
made a fire without due caution. Thereupon Samavati had the
deluded idea to pour oil over this monk who was sitting in total
absorption, so that burning him would obliterate their mistake.
This plan could not succeed however, but the bad intention and
attempt had to carry karmic resultants. In this lifetime the
ripening of the result had taken place.
has declared that one of the favorable results of the practice
of Metta (loving-kindness) is the fact that fire, poison
and weapons do no harm to the practitioner. This has to be understood
in such a way: during the actual emanation of loving-kindness
the one who manifests this radiance cannot be hurt, just as
Samavati proved when the king's arrow did not penetrate her.
other times fire could incinerate her body. Samavati had become
a Non-returner, and was therefore free of all sensual desire
and hate and no longer identified with her body. Her radiant,
soft heart was imbued with the four divine abidings [*] and
was unassailable and untouched by the fire. Her inner being
could not be burned and that which was burned was the body only.
It is a rare happening that one of the Holy Ones is murdered
(see Mahamoggallana, Kaludayi) or that one of the Buddhas is
threatened with murder (see Devadatta's attempt on the Buddha
Gautama) and equally rare is it to find that one perfected in
metta and attained to Non-returner should die a violent
death. All three types of persons, however, have in common that
their hearts can no longer be swayed by this violence.
* [Four divine abidings: Loving-kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic
last words were: "It would not be an easy matter, even with the
knowledge of a Buddha, to determine exactly the number of times
our bodies have thus been burned with fire as we have passed from
birth to birth in the round of existences which has no conceivable
beginning. Therefore, be heedful!" Those ladies meditated on painful
feeling and so gained the Noble Paths and Fruits.
years after the Parinibbana of the Buddha, in 1582, soldiers
burned a Buddhist Monastery in Japan and all the monks inside
were burned to death. The last thing the soldiers beard before
everything burned down were the words of the Abbot:
Who has liberated heart and mind,
the tragedy of the fire at Kosambi, the Buddha spoke the following
verse to the monks:
For him fire is only a cool wind.
The world is in delusion's grip,
Its form is seen as real;
The fool is in the "assets" [*] grip,
Wrapped about with gloom,
Both seem to last forever
But nothing is there for one who Sees.
* [Assets: Upadhi. The basis for life and continued birth
was overwhelmed with grief at Samavati's death and kept brooding
about who could be the perpetrator of this ghastly deed. He came
to the conclusion that it must have been Magandiya. He did not
want to question her directly because she would deny it. So he
thought of a ruse. He said to his Ministers: "Until now I have
always been apprehensive, because Samavati was forever seeking
an occasion to slay me. But now I shall be able to sleep in peace."
The Ministers asked the king who it could have been that had done
this deed, "Only someone who really loves me," the king replied.
Magandiya had been standing near and when she heard that, she
came forward and proudly admitted that she alone was responsible
for the fire and the death of the women and Samavati. The King
said that he would grant her and all her relatives a boon for
the relatives were assembled, the King had them burned publicly
and then had the earth plowed under so that all traces of the
ashes were destroyed. He had Magandiya executed as a mass-murderess,
which was his duty and responsibility, but his fury knew no
bounds and he still looked for revenge. He had her killed with
utmost cruelty. She died an excruciating death, which was only
a fore-taste of the tortures awaiting her in the nether world,
after which she would have to roam in samsara [*] for
a long, long time to come.
* [Samsara: rounds of existence.]
Soon King Udena
regretted his revengeful and cruel deed. Again and again he saw
Samavati's face in front of him, full of love for all beings,
even for her enemies. He felt he had removed himself from her
even further than her death had done, because of his violent fury.
He began to control his temper more and more and to follow the
Buddha's teachings ardently.
who had been friends of Samavati, were so moved by this tragedy
and saw the impermanence of all earthly things so clearly, that
they entered the Order of Nuns. One of them soon became an Arahant,
fully enlightened, and the other one after twenty-five years
of practice. (Thig 37 and 39).
however, was reborn in the realm of the Pure Abodes, where she
would be able to reach Nibbana. The different results of love
and hate could be seen with exemplary clarity in the lives and
deaths of these two Queens. When one day the monks were discussing
who was alive and who dead, the Buddha said that Magandiya while
living, was dead already; while Samavati, though dead, was truly
alive, and he spoke these verses:
Heedfulness -- the path to the Deathless,
declared Samavati to be foremost among those female lay disciples
who dwell in loving-kindness (metta).
heedlessness -- the path to death,
the heedful ones do not die;
the heedless are likened to the dead.
then, recognizing this
as the distinction of heedfulness,
in heedfulness rejoice, delighting
in the realm of Noble Ones.
constantly; they firmly strive
the steadfast to reach Nibbana,
the Unexcelled Secure from bonds.
Dhammapada Commentary to vv. 21-23; Commentary to Anguttara
Nikaya Vol. I (on those Foremost); "Path of Purification" p.
the beautiful daughter of a very wealthy merchant of Savatthi.
When she was sixteen years old, her parents put her in a seven-story
high tower on the top floor surrounded by guards to prevent her
from keeping company with any young man. In spite of this precaution,
she became involved in a love affair with a servant in her parents'
Preserver of the Vinaya [^]
parents arranged a marriage for her with a young man of equal
social standing, she decided to elope with her lover. She escaped
from the tower by disguising herself, and the young couple went
to live in a village far away from Savatthi. The husband farmed,
and the young wife had to do all the menial chores which formerly
had been performed by her parents' servants. Thus she reaped
the results of her deed.
became pregnant, she begged her husband to take her to her parents'
house to give birth there, saying to him that father and mother
always have a soft spot in their hearts for their child, no
matter what has happened. However, her husband refused on the
grounds that her parents would surely subject him to torture
or imprisonment. When she realized that he would not give in
to her pleas, she decided to make her way to her parents by
herself. When the husband found her gone and was told by the
neighbors of her decision, he followed her and tried to persuade
her to return. However she would not listen to him.
they could reach Savatthi, the birth-pains started, and soon
a baby son was born. As there was no more reason to go to her
parents' house, they turned back and resumed their family life
in the village.
later she became pregnant again. And again she requested her
husband to take her home to her parents. Again he refused and
she took matters in her own hands and started off, carrying
the older child. When her husband followed her and pleaded with
her to return with him, she would not listen, but continued
on her way. A fearful storm arose, quite out of season, with
thunder and lightning and incessant rain. Just then her birth-pains
started, and she asked her husband to find her some shelter.
went searching for material for a shelter and set about to chop
down some saplings. A poisonous snake bit him at that moment
and he fell dead instantly. Patacara waited for him in vain
and after having suffered birth pains, a second son was born
to her. Both children screamed at the top of their lungs because
of the buffeting of the storm, so the mother protected them
with her own body all night long. In the morning she placed
the new-born baby on her hip, gave a finger to the older child
and set out upon the path her husband had taken with the words:
"Come, dear child, your father has left us." After a few steps
she found her husband lying dead, his body rigid. She wailed
and lamented and blamed herself for his death.
on her journey to her parents' house but when she came to the
river Aciravati, it was swollen waist-deep on account of the
rain. She was too weak to wade across with both children, so
she left the older child on the near bank and carried the baby
across to the other side. Then she returned to take the first-born
across. When she was mid-stream, an eagle saw the new born baby
and mistook it for a piece of meat. It came swooping down and
in spite of Patacara's cries and screams, flew off with the
baby in its talons.
boy saw his mother stop in the middle of the river and heard
her loud yells. He thought she was calling him and started out
after her. Immediately, he was swept off by the strong current.
and lamenting Patacara went on her way, half-crazed by the triple
tragedy that had befallen her, losing husband and both sons
within one day. As she came nearer to Savatthi, she met a traveler
who was just coming from the city. She inquired about her family
from him but at first he refused to answer her. When she insisted,
he finally bad to tell her that her parents, house had collapsed
in the storm, killing both of them as well as her brother, and
that the cremation was just taking place.
heard that, her reason left her, because her grief was too much
to bear. She tore off her clothes, wandered around weeping and
wailing, not knowing what she was doing or where she was going.
People pelted her with stones and rubbish and chased her out
of the way.
time the Buddha was staying at the Jeta Grove, Anathapindika's
Monastery. He saw Patacara approaching from afar and recognized
that in a past life she had made an earnest resolve to become
a nun well versed in the Law. Therefore, he instructed his disciples
not to obstruct her, but to let her enter and come near him.
As soon as she was close to the Buddha, through his supernatural
powers, she regained her right mind. Then she also became aware
of being naked and in her shame she crouched upon the ground.
the lay-followers threw her a cloak and after she had wrapped
herself in it, she prostrated at the feet of the Buddha. Then
she recounted to him the tragedy that had befallen her.
listened to her with compassion and then made it clear to her
that these painful experiences she had gone through were only
tiny drops in the ocean of impermanence in which all beings
drown if they are attached to that which rises and ceases. He
told her that all through many existences, she had wept more
tears over the loss of dear ones than could be contained in
the waters of the four oceans. He said:
But little water do the oceans four contain,
of the Awakened One penetrated her mind so deeply that at that
moment she could completely grasp the impermanence of all conditioned
Compared with all the tears that man hath shed,
By sorrow smitten and by suffering distraught.
Woman, why heedless dost thou still remain?
Enlightened One had finished his teaching she had attained the
certainty of future liberation by becoming a Stream-winner.
She practiced diligently and soon realized final deliverance.
With plows the fields are plowed;
It had been
enough for her to see the water trickle down the slope, to recognize
the whole of existence, each life a longer or shorter trickle
in the flood of craving. There were those that lived a short time
like her children, those -- like her husband -- who lived a little
longer, or her parents who lived longer yet. But all passed by
a constant change, in a never-ending rising and ceasing. This
thought-process gave her so much detachment, that she attained
to total emancipation the following night.
With seed the earth is sown;
Thus wives and children feed;
So young men win their wealth.
why do I, of virtue pure,
Doing the Master's Teaching,
Not lazy nor proud,
Nibbana not attain?
washed my feet,
Then I watched that water,
Noticing the foot-water
Flowing from high to low.
With that the mind was calmed
Just as a noble, thoroughbred horse.
taken my lamp,
I went into my hut,
Inspected the sleeping-place,
Then sat upon the couch.
taken a pin,
I pushed the wick right down, and
Just as the lamp went out,
So all delusion of the heart went too.
said about Patacara, that she was the foremost "Keeper of the
Vinaya" amongst the Nuns. Patacara was thereby the female counterpart
of the monk Upali. That she had chosen the "Rules of Conduct"
as her central discipline is easy to understand, because the
results of her former indulgences had become bitterly obvious
in the Sangha, that an intensive study of the rules was necessary
and purifying, and brought with it the security and safety of
self-discipline; she learned not to become complacent through
well-being or anxious and confused through suffering. Because
of her own experiences she had gained a deep understanding for
the human predicament and could be of great assistance to her
a great comfort to those who came to her in difficulties. The
nun Canda said that Patacara showed her the right path out of
compassion and helped her to achieve emancipation. (Thag. 125)
nun, Uttara II, reported how Patacara spoke to the group of
nuns about conduct and discipline:
Having established mind,
Patacara's words to heart and said:
As other, not as self.
When I heard these words, --
nun, too, was able to attain to the three "True Knowledges" (vijja)
and final liberation. In the "Verses of the Elder Nuns" we have
a record of Patacara's instructions to the nuns and their resultant
After washing my feet --
I sat down alone.
Having taken flails,
able to effect the change from a frivolous young girl to a Sangha
Elder so quickly, because from previous births she had already
possessed this faculty. During the previous Buddha's existence,
it is said that she had been a nun and had lived the holy life
for many, many years. The insights gained thereby had been hidden
through her actions in subsequent lives. But when the next Buddha
appeared in the world, she quickly found her way to him, the reason
unbeknown to herself, spurred on by her suffering. Relentlessly
attracted to the Awakened One and his doctrine, she entered into
the homeless life and soon attained to eternal freedom.
Young men thresh the corn.
Thus wives and children feed;
So young men win their wealth.
So likewise as to Buddha's Teachings,
From doing which there's no remorse.
Quickly cleanse your feet
And sit you down alone.
Devote yourselves to calm of mind,
And thus do Buddha's Teachings.
When they heard these words --
Having washed their feet,
They sat down, each one alone,
Devoted themselves to calm of mind.
And thus followed the Buddha's Teachings.
In the night's first watch [*]
Past births were remembered;
In the middle watch of the night
The eye divine was purified;
In the night's last watch
They rent asunder the mass of gloom.
Having risen, they bowed at her feet,
Her instructions having done;
We shall live revering you
Like the thirty gods to Indra,
Undefeated in war.
We are with triple knowledge true
And gone are all the taints.
watch of the night: 6-10 p.m; Middle watch: 10 p.m.-2 a.m.;
Last watch: 2-6 a.m.]
Sources: A1,24; Thig 112-121,125,175,178; Ap. 11 No.20; J 547
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