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13 03 2012 LESSON 549 FREE ONLINE eNālāndā Research And Practice UNIVERSITY And BUDDHIST GOOD NEWS LETTER Through The Dhammapada Verses and Stories Dhammapada Verses 99 Annatara itthi Vatthu The Passionless Delight In Forests
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13 03 2012 LESSON 549 FREE ONLINE eNālāndā Research And  Practice UNIVERSITY And  BUDDHIST GOOD NEWS LETTER Through The Dhammapada Verses and Stories Dhammapada Verses 99
Annatara itthi Vatthu The Passionless Delight In



Practice a Sutta a Day Keeps
Dukkha Away

Verse 99. The Passionless Delight In
The Story of a Woman


Delightful are the forests
where folk do not delight,
there the Passionless delight,
they’re not pleasure-seekers.

Explanation: Those
fascinating forests that do not capture the mind of the worldly masses and in
which they do not take worldly delight are attractive to the passionless ones.
The Arahats take delight in the forests, because they are not pursuers of
sensual pleasures.

 Dhammapada Verse 99
Annatara itthi Vatthu

Ramaniyani arannani
yaittha na ramati jano
vitaraga ramissanti
na te kamagavesino.

Verse 99: Forests are delightful, but the
worldlings find no delight in them; only those who are free from passion will
find delight in them, for they do not seek sensual pleasures.

The Story of a Woman

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the
Buddha uttered Verse (99) of this book, with reference to a woman of doubtful

A bhikkhu, after taking a subject of
meditation from the Buddha, was practising meditation in an old garden. A woman
of doubtful character came into the garden and, seeing the bhikkhu, tried to
attract his attention and seduce him. The thera got frightened; at the same
time, his whole body was diffused with some kind of delightful satisfaction.
The Buddha saw him from his monastery, and with his supernormal power, sent
rays of light to him, and the bhikkhu received this message, which said, “My
son, where worldlings seek sensual pleasures is not the place for bhikkhus;
bhikkhus should take delight in forests where worldlings find no

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 99: Forests are delightful, but the worldlings find no
delight in them; only those who are free from passion will find delight in
them, for they do not seek sensual pleasures.

End of Chapter Seven: The Arahat



Dhammapada Verse 99
Annatara itthi Vatthu

Ramaniyani arannani
yaittha na ramati jano
vitaraga ramissanti
na te kamagavesino.

Verse 99: Forests are delightful, but the
worldlings find no delight in them; only those who are free from passion will
find delight in them, for they do not seek sensual pleasures.

The Story of a Woman

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the
Buddha uttered Verse (99) of this book, with reference to a woman of doubtful

A bhikkhu, after taking a subject of
meditation from the Buddha, was practising meditation in an old garden. A woman
of doubtful character came into the garden and, seeing the bhikkhu, tried to
attract his attention and seduce him. The thera got frightened; at the same
time, his whole body was diffused with some kind of delightful satisfaction.
The Buddha saw him from his monastery, and with his supernormal power, sent
rays of light to him, and the bhikkhu received this message, which said, “My
son, where worldlings seek sensual pleasures is not the place for bhikkhus;
bhikkhus should take delight in forests where worldlings find no

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 99: Forests are delightful, but the worldlings find no
delight in them; only those who are free from passion will find delight in
them, for they do not seek sensual pleasures.

End of Chapter Seven: The Arahat

A Happy Married Life - A Buddhist View

By Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda


From time immemorial,
man has been preoccupied with the pursuit of happiness in life, from the
cradle to the grave. He works and struggles very hard to attain happiness,
very often without knowing exactly what happiness means because of his
ignorance of the nature of life. Although all religions provide advice and
guidelines for their adherents to practice in order to attain happiness in
life, more often than not, these advices and guidelines are ignored owing
to man’s craving, hatred and illusion. Many people who experienced
frustrations and sufferings hope and pray to find happiness for present
life and here after; others, though enjoying a large measure of happiness
on earth, are still not contented and crave for eternal bliss in heaven
after leaving this world. For the ordinary man, as for the child, it is
difficult to make a distinction between happiness and pleasure. To him,
that which gives pleasure gives happiness, and to be happy is to experience

Very often, we consider
childhood days to be a period of happiness. In reality, as children we do
not understand what happiness is. Under the protection of our parents, we
pass our days in a perpetual round of enjoyment, which undoubtedly gives us
pleasure. As we enter adolescence, changes take place in the mind and
physical body causing us to become aware of the existence of the opposite
sex and we begin to experience a new kind of attraction giving rise to
disturbing emotions. At the same time, curiosity drives us to find out
about the fats of life, through peer discussion and book reading. Before
long, we find ourselves on the threshold of adulthood, the crucial time in
our life when we look for a suitable life-partner to begin a relationship
that will put to the test all the qualities that we have acquired earlier
in life. Love, sex, and marriage then become matters of great importance
that will determine the quality of the married life we will have. Young
people today are exposed to a large variety of “Western”
influences which are disseminated through the mass media such as books and
magazines, television, video cassettes and movies, resulting in the
acquisition of distorted ideas regarding love, sex, and marriage. The
age-old “Eastern” moral virtues and values are being gradually
eroded in the face of these influences. Practices unheard of and never
carried out by the older generation have become commonplace among young
people today. Are the “Western” influences really responsible for
this state of affairs or should the parents be blamed for the misdeeds of
their children for not exercising proper control and supervision over them?
In this book, it is explained that most television programs and movies do
not represent the way most decent people in the West think or behave and
that there is a vast “silent majority” of decent couples who are
as deeply religious and “conservative” about love, sex and
marriage as any “Eastern” couple. If young people want to ape the
West, they are advised to ape this “silent majority” who are no
different from their decent neighbor who lives next door to them. Modern
life is fraught with all kinds of tension and stress. Doubtless, very often
it is tension and stress that creates problems in many a marriage. If a
proper analysis is made into the root causes of such social problems as
pre-marital sex, teenage pregnancies, unhappy marriages and divorces,
child-abuse and wife-battering, we inevitably discover that it is due
mainly to selfishness and lack of patience, tolerance and mutual
understanding. In the “Sigalovada Sutta
,” the Buddha gives good advice on how to maintain peace
and harmony in the home between husband and wife in order to achieve a
happy married life. Parental responsibilities for children and the
children’s duties toward parents are also clearly mentioned in the Sutta as
useful guidelines for the attainment of a happy home. In this book, the
Ven. Author stresses the important point that marriage is a partnership of
two individuals and that this partnership is enriched and enhanced when it
allows the personalities involved to grow. In the Buddhist perspective,
marriage means understanding and respecting each other’s beliefs and
privacy. The present time is most opportune for a book of this nature to be
published to provide the followers of the Buddhist religion, in particular
the young, with a clear understanding of life’s important matters like
love, sex and marriage which will not only help them to live a happy
married life but also assist them to lead peaceful and contented lives. On
behalf of the Buddhist Missionary Society I wish to express our sincere
gratitude and appreciation to many of our devoted members for all the help
and services rendered in the preparation of this book.

Tan Teik Beng

Vice President,
Buddhist Missionary Society Former Director,
Department of Education, Selangor. 20 December 1986


From the Buddhist point
of view, marriage is neither holy nor unholy. Buddhism does not regard
marriage as a religious duty nor as a sacrament that is ordained in heaven.
A cynic has said that while some people believe that marriage is planned in
heaven, others say that it is recorded in hell also! Marriage is basically
a personal and social obligation, it is not compulsory. Man and woman must
have freedom either to get married or to remain single. This does not mean
that Buddhism is against marriage. Nobody in this world would say that
marriage is bad and there is no religion, which is against marriage.
Practically all-living things come into being as a result of sex life.

Among human beings, the
institution of marriage has come about so that society guarantees the
perpetuation of the human species and also ensures that the young would be
cared for. This is based on the argument that children born through the
pleasure of sex must be the responsibility of the partners involved, at
least until they have grown up. And marriage ensures that this
responsibility is upheld and carried out. A society grows through a network
of relationships, which are mutually inter-twined and inter-dependent.
Every relationship is a whole-hearted commitment to support and to protect
others in a group or community. Marriage plays a very important part in
this strong web of relationships of giving support and protection. A good
marriage should grow and develop gradually from understanding and not
impulse, from true loyalty and not just sheer indulgence. The institution
of marriage provides a fine basis for the development of culture, a
delightful association of two individuals to be nurtured and to be free
from loneliness, deprivation and fear. In marriage, each partner develops a
complementary role, giving strength and moral courage to one another, each
manifesting a supportive and appreciative recognition of the other’s skill
in caring and providing for a family. There must be no thought of either
man or woman being superior — each is complementary to the other; marriage
is a partnership of equality, gentleness, generosity, calm and dedication.

In Buddhism, one can
find all the necessary advice, which can help one to lead a happy married
life. One should not neglect the advice given by the Enlightened Teacher if
one really wants to lead a happy married life. In His discourses, the
Buddha gave various kinds of advice for married couples and for those who are
contemplating marriage. The Buddha has said, “If a man can find a
suitable and understanding wife and a woman can find a suitable and
understanding husband, both are fortunate indeed.”

Nature Of Love And Pleasure_


There are different
kinds of love, and these are variously expressed as motherly love,
brotherly love, sensual love, emotional love, sexual love, selfish love,
selfless love and universal love. If people develop only their carnal or
selfish love towards each other, that type of love cannot last long. In a
true love relationship, one should not ask how much one can get, but how
much one can give.

When beauty, complexion
and youth start to fade away, a husband who considers only the physical
aspects of love may think of acquiring another young one. That type of love
is animal love or lust. If a man really develops love as an expression of
human concern for another being, he will not lay emphasis only on the
external beauty and physical attractiveness of his partner. The beauty and
attractiveness of his partner should be in his heart and mind, not in what
he sees. Likewise, the wife who follows Buddhist teachings will never
neglect her husband even though he has become old, poor or sick.

“I have a fear
that the modern girl loves to be Juliet to have a dozen Romeos. She loves
adventure . . .The modern girl dresses not to protect herself from wind,
rain and sun, but to attract attention. She improves upon nature by
painting herself and looking extraordinary.”

– Gandhi


Sex by itself is not
“evil,” although the temptation and craving for it invariably
disturbs the peace of mind, and hence is not conducive to spiritual

In the ideal situation,
sex is the physical culmination of a deeply satisfying emotional
relationship, where both partners give and take equally.

The portrayal of love
by commercial groups through the mass media in what we call
“western” culture is not “real” love. When an animal
wants to have sex, it shows its “love,” but after having
experienced sex, it just forgets about love. For animals, sex is just an
instinctive drive necessary for procreation. But a human being has much
more to offer in the concept of love. Duties and responsibilities are
important ingredients to maintain unity, harmony and understanding in a
relationship between human beings. Sex is not the most important ingredient
for happiness in a married life. Those who have become slaves to sex would
only ruin love and humanity in marriage. Apart from that, a woman must
cease to consider herself as the object of a man’s lust. The remedy is more
in her hand than in a man’s. She must refuse to adorn herself simply to
please a man, even if he is her husband. If she wants to be an equal
partner with a man, she should dress so that her dignity is enhanced, and
she does not become a sex symbol. Marriage for the satisfaction of the
sexual appetite is no marriage. It is concupiscence. (Gandhi)

Love may indeed be a
product of sex, but the reverse is likewise true: sex is an expression of
love. In the ideally happy married life, both love and sex are inseparable.

Buddha’s Explanation

We can study the
Buddha’s teaching regarding the feelings that man and woman have for each
other. The Buddha says that he had never seen any object in this world,
which attracts man’s attention more than the figure of a woman. At the same
time the main attraction for the woman is the figure of a man. It means
that by nature, woman and man give each other worldly pleasure. They cannot
gain happiness of this kind from any other object. When we observe very
carefully, we notice that among all the things, which provide pleasure,
there is no other object that can please all the five senses at the same
time beside the male and female figures.

The ancient Greeks knew
this when they said that originally man and woman were one. They were
separated and the two parts that were divided are constantly seeking to be
re-united as man and woman.


Young people by nature
like to indulge in worldly pleasures, which can include both good and bad
things. Good things, like the enjoyment of music, poetry, dance, good food,
dress and similar pursuits do no harm to the body. They only distract us
from seeing the fleeting nature and uncertainty of existence and thereby
delay our being able to perceive the true nature of the self.

The faculties and
senses of young people are very fresh and alert; they are very keen to
satisfy all the five senses. Almost everyday, they plan and think out ways
and means to experience some form of pleasure. By the very nature of
existence, one will never be completely satisfied with whatever pleasure
one experiences and the resultant craving in turn only creates more
anxieties and worries.

When we think deeply
about it, we can understand that life is nothing but a dream. In the end,
what do we gain from attachment to this life? Only more worries,
disappointments and frustrations. We may have enjoyed brief moments of
pleasure, but in the final analysis, we must try to find out what the real
purpose of our lives is.

When one ceases to
crave for sensual pleasure and does not seek to find physical comfort in
the company of others, the need for marriage does not arise. Suffering and
worldly enjoyment are both the outcome of craving, attachment and emotion.
If we try to control and suppress our emotions by adopting unrealistic
tactics we create disturbances in our mind and in our physical body.
Therefore we must know how to handle and control our human passion. Without
abusing or misusing this passion, we can tame our desires through proper

Reality Of Married Life

John J. Robinson in his
book “Of Suchness” gives the following advice on love, sex and
married life. “Be careful and discreet; it is much easier to get
married than unmarried. If you have the right mate, it’s heavenly; but if
not, you live in a twenty-four-hour daily hell that clings constantly to
you, it can be one of the most bitter things in life. Life is indeed
strange. Somehow, when you find the right one, you know it in your heart.
It is not just an infatuation of the moment. But the powerful urges of sex
drive a young person headlong into blind acts and one cannot trust his
feelings too much. This is especially true if one drinks and get befuddled;
the most lousy slut in a dark bar can look like a Venus then, and her
charms become irresistible. Love is much more than sex though; it is the
biological foundation between a man and a woman; love and sex get all
inter-twined and mixed up.”


Almost everyday we hear
people complaining about their marriages. Very seldom do we hear stories
about a happy marriage. Young people reading romantic novels and seeing
romantic films often conclude that marriage is a bed of roses.
Unfortunately, marriage is not as sweet as one thinks. Marriage and problems
are interrelated and people must remember that when they are getting
married, they will have to face problems and responsibilities that they had
never expected or experienced hitherto. People often think that it is a
duty to get married and that marriage is a very important event in their
lives. However, in order to ensure a successful marriage, a couple has to
harmonize their lives by minimizing whatever differences they may have
between them. Marital problems prompted a cynic to say that there can only
be a peaceful married life if the marriage is between a blind wife and a
deaf husband, for the blind wife cannot see the faults of the husband and a
deaf husband cannot hear the nagging of his wife.

and Trust

One of the major causes
of marital problems is suspicion and mistrust. Marriage is a blessing but
many people make it a curse due to lack of understanding.

Both husband and wife
should show implicit trust for one another and try not to have secrets
between them. Secrets create suspicion, suspicion leads to jealously,
jealousy generates anger, anger causes enmity and enmity may result in
separation, suicide or even murder.

If a couple can share
pain and pleasure in their day-to-day life, they can console each other and
minimize their grievances. Thus, the wife or husband should not expect to
experience only pleasure. There will be a lot of painful, miserable
experiences that they will have to face. They must have the strong will
power to reduce their burdens and misunderstandings. Discussing mutual
problems will give them confidence to live together with better

Man and woman need the
comfort of each other when facing problems and difficulties. The feelings
of insecurity and unrest will disappear and life will be more meaningful,
happy and interesting if there is someone who is willing to share another’s

by Emotions

When two people are in
love, they tend to show only the best aspects of their nature and character
to each other in order to project a good impression of themselves. Love is
said to be blind and hence people in love tend to become completely
oblivious of the darker side of each other’s natures.

In practice, each will
try to highlight his or her sterling qualities to the other, and being so
engrossed in love, they tend to accept each other at “face value”
only. Each lover will not disclose the darker side of his or her nature for
fear of losing the other. Any personal shortcomings are discreetly swept
under the carpet, so to speak, so as not to jeopardize their chances of
winning each other. People in love also tend to ignore their partner’s
faults thinking that they will be able to correct them after marriage, or
that they can live with these faults, that “love will conquer
all.” However, after marriage, as the initial romantic mood wears off,
the true nature of each other’s character will be revealed. Then, much to
the disappointment of both parties, the proverbial veil that had so far
been concealing the innermost feelings of each partner is removed to expose
the true nature of both partners. It is then that disillusion sets in.


Love by itself does not
subsist on fresh air and sunshine alone. The present world is a
materialistic world and in order to meet your material needs, proper
financing and budgeting is essential. Without it, no family can live
comfortably. Such a situation aptly bears out the saying that “when
poverty knocks at the door, love flies through the window.” This does
not mean that one must be rich to make a marriage work. However, if one has
the basic necessities of life provided through a secure job and careful
planning, many unnecessary anxieties can be removed from a marriage. The
discomfort of poverty can be averted if there is complete understanding
between the couple. Both partners must understand the value of contentment.
Both must treat all problems as “our problems” and share all the
“ups” and “downs” in the true spirit of a long-standing
life partnership.


The Anguttara Nikáya
contains some valuable advice, which the Buddha gave to young girls prior
to their marriage. Realizing that there could be difficulties with the new
in-laws, the girls were enjoined to give every respect to their
mothers-in-law and fathers-in-law, serving them lovingly as their own
parents. They were expected to honor and respect their husband’s relatives
and friends, thus creating a congenial and happy atmosphere in their new

They were also advised
to study and understand their husbands’ natures, ascertain their activities,
characters and temperaments, and to be useful and cooperative at all times
in their new homes. They should be polite, kind and watchful of their
husbands’ earnings and see to it that all household expenditures were
properly administered. The advice given by the Buddha more than twenty-five
centuries ago is still valid even today.

Buddhist Concept Of Marriage

In view of what has
been said about “birth and suffering,” some people have
criticized Buddhism saying that is against married life. They are wrong.
The Buddha never spoke against married life. However, he pointed out all
the problems, difficulties and worries that people would have to face when
they take on the responsibility of marriage. Just because he warned one
against problems in marriage does not mean that the Buddha condemned

The act of marriage
itself implies that a person is still more attached to the physical world
and since our mental faculties are influenced by craving, attachment and
human emotions, it is but natural that problems would arise. This happens
when we have to consider the need of others and to give in to what others

of Religion

A deep analysis of the
nature of self is important to help us to understand the origin of our
problems, worries, miseries and how to overcome them. Here, religious
advice is important for maintaining a tranquil life. However, a man should
not become a slave to any religion. Man is not for religion–religion is
for man. That means man must know how to make use of religion for his betterment
and for his happiness in a respectable way. Simply by following certain
religious vows, precepts or commandments with blind faith or by force,
thinking that we are duty-bound to observe them will not develop proper

One important aspect of
Buddhism is that the Buddha did not impose any religious laws or
commandments. The Buddha was a unique teacher who had set out a number of
disciplinary codes for us to uphold according to our way of life. Those who
follow the precepts observe them voluntarily but not as obligatory
religious laws. It is up to us to follow the advice through our own
understanding and experience of what is good for us and for others. Through
trial and error, we will learn to follow the advice, which will give us just
peace and happiness.

One should try to
understand the nature of the worldly life. By knowing that you have to face
problems, you will be able to strengthen your mind and be more prepared to
face the problems that could arise if you get married. Religion is
important to help you overcome your problems. Whatever you learned about
religious principle when you were young can be adopted to avoid
misunderstanding, disappointment and frustration. At the same time, certain
good qualities such as patience and understanding, which we learned through
religion, are important assets to help us to lead a peaceful married life.

Normally, it is due to
a lack of mutual understanding that many married couples lead miserable
lives. The result of this is that their innocent children also have to
suffer. It is better to know how to handle your problems in order to lead a
happy married life. Religion can help you to do this.

Religious Dilemma_

Individual Rights

One of the causes of
greatest concern among those who do not belong to the non-Semitic religions
is the problem of conversion before marriage. While Buddhists and Hindus
never demand that a couple must belong to the same religion before a
marriage can be solemnized, many others tend to take advantage of this tolerance.
Marriage, contrary to what many romantic novels say, does not mean the
total and absolute merging of two people to the extent that each loses his
or her own identity. When a religion demands that both partners must have
the same religious label, it denies the basic human right of an individual
to believe what he or she wants. Societies throughout history have proved
that “Unity in Diversity” is not only possible but desirable. Out
of diversity comes greater respect and understanding. This should apply to
marriage also. There are many living examples all over the world where the
husband and wife maintain their own beliefs and yet are able to maintain
their happy married life without confronting each other.

Buddhists do not oppose
the existence of other religions even within the same household.
Unfortunately this generous attitude has been exploited by unscrupulous
religionists who are out to gain converts by all means.

Intelligent Buddhists
must be aware of this stratagem. No self- respecting intelligent human
being who really understands what he believes according to his own
conviction should give up his beliefs merely to satisfy the man-made
demands of another religion. Buddhists do not demand that their partners
embrace Buddhism. Neither should they surrender their own beliefs.


When young people are
in love, they are prepared to make many sacrifices so long as they can get
married. But after a few years, when the real task of building a successful
marriage begins, frustrations begin to set in. When a partner who had given
up his deep-seated religious beliefs for “love” begins to regret
having done so, unnecessary misunderstandings arise. These provide added
tensions at a period when there is boredom in a marriage. There will be
quarrels. And normally, one of the main causes of these quarrels will be
the question of which religion the children should belong to.

Therefore, it is most
important for one to know that if there is a process of conversion
involved, it must be based on true conviction and not mere convenience or
compulsion. Buddhists maintain the freedom of the individual to choose.
This principle should be respected by all.


There is no specific
Buddhist ritual or procedure to conduct a marriage. Buddhism recognizes the
traditions and cultures practiced by people in different countries. Hence,
Buddhist religious ceremonies differ from one country to another. In
general practice, a religious service for blessing and to give advice to
the couple is customarily performed either in the temple or at home to give
a greater significance to the marriage. Nowadays, in many countries,
besides the blessing service, religious organizations also have been given
the authority to solemnize and register marriages together with the issuance
of legal marriage certificates.

By and large, the most
important point is that the couple should be utterly sincere in their
intention to cooperate with and understand each other not only during times
of happiness but also whenever they face difficulties.

Respect And Responsibilities_

Sense of Insecurity

In the past, there was
no such thing as a legal registration of marriages. A man and woman
mutually decided to accept each other as husband and wife and thereafter
they lived together. Their marriage was carried out in the presence of the
community, and separation was rare. The most Important thing was that they
developed real love and respected their mutual responsibilities.

A legal registration of
marriage is important today to ensure security and to safeguard property
and children. Due to the sense of insecurity, a couple performs legal
marriages to ensure that they are legally bound not to neglect their duties
and not to ill-treat each other. Today, some couples even draw up a legal
contract on what would happen to their property if they are divorced!

and Wife

According to Buddhist
teaching, in a marriage, the husband can expect the following qualities
from his wife: love, attentiveness, family obligations, faithfulness, child-care,
thrift, the provision of meals, to calm him down when he is upset, and
sweetness in everything.

In return, the wife’s
expectation from husband is: tenderness, courtesy, sociability, security,
fairness, loyalty, honesty, good companionship, and moral support.

Apart from these
emotional and sensual aspects, the couple will have to take care of
day-to-day living conditions, family budget and social obligations. Thus,
mutual consultations between the husband and wife on all family problems
would help to create an atmosphere of trust and understanding in resolving
whatever issues that may arise.

Buddha’s Advice to a Couple_

The Wife

In advising women about
their role in married life, the Buddha appreciated that the peace and
harmony of a home rested largely on a woman. His advice was realistic and
practical when he explained a good number of day-to-day characteristics,
which a woman should or should not cultivate. On diverse occasions, the
Buddha counseled that a wife should: a) not harbor evil thoughts against
her husband; b) not be cruel, harsh or domineering; c) not be spendthrift
but should be economical and live within her means; d) guard and save her
husband’s hard-earned earnings and property; e) always be attentive and
chaste in mind and action; f) be faithful and harbor no thought of any
adulterous acts; g) be refined in speech and polite in action; h) be kind,
industrious and hardworking; i) be thoughtful and compassionate towards her
husband, and her attitude should equate that of a mother’s love and concern
for the protection of her only son; j) be modest and respectful; k) be
cool, calm and understanding–serving not only as a wife but also as a
friend and advisor when the need arises.

In the days of the
Buddha, other religious teachers also spoke on the duties and obligations
of a wife towards her husband — stressing particularly on the duty of a
wife bearing an offspring for the husband, rendering faithful service and
providing conjugal happiness.

Some communities are
very particular about having a son in the family. They believe that a son
is necessary to perform their funeral rites so that their after-life will
be a good one. The failure to get a son from the first wife, gives a man
the liberty to have another wife in order to get a son. Buddhism does not
support this belief. According to what the Buddha taught about the law of
Karma, one is responsible for one’s own action and its consequences.
Whether a son or a daughter is born is determined not by a father or mother
but the karma of the child. And the well being of a father or grandfather
does not depend upon the action of the son or grandson. Each is responsible
for his own actions. So, it is wrong for men to blame their wives or for a
man to feel inadequate when a son is not born. Such Enlightened Teachings
help to correct the views of many people and naturally reduce the anxiety
of women who are unable to produce sons to perform the “rites of the

Although the duties of
a wife towards the husband were laid down in the Confucian code of
discipline, it did not stress the duties and obligations of the husband
towards the wife. In the “Sigalovada Sutta,” however, the Buddha
clearly mentioned the duties of a husband towards the wife and vice versa.


The Buddha, in reply to
a householder as to how a husband should minister to his wife declared that
the husband should always honor and respect his wife, by being faithful to
her, by giving her the requisite authority to manage domestic affairs and
by giving her befitting ornaments. This advice, given over twenty-five
centuries ago, still stands good for today.

Knowing the psychology
of the man who tends to consider himself superior, the Buddha made a
remarkable change and uplifted the status of a woman by a simple suggestion
that a husband should honor and respect his wife. A husband should be
faithful to his wife, which means that a husband should fulfill and
maintain his marital obligations to his wife thus sustaining the confidence
in the marital relationship in every sense of the word. The husband, being
a breadwinner, would invariably stay away from home, hence he should
entrust the domestic or household duties to the wife who should be
considered as the keeper and the distributor of the property and the home
economic-administrator. The provision of befitting ornaments to the wife
should be symbolic of the husband’s love, care and attention showered on
the wife. This symbolic practice has been carried out from time immemorial
in Buddhist communities. Unfortunately it is in danger of dying out because
of the influence of modern civilization.


In the past, since the
social structure of most communities was different from that we find today,
a husband and wife were interdependent on each other. There was mutual understanding,
and the relationship was stable because each knew exactly what his or her
role was in the partnership. The “love” that some husbands and
wives try to show others by embracing each other in public does not
necessarily indicate true love or understanding. In the past, although
married couples did not express their love or inner feeling publicly, they
had a deep even unspoken understanding and mutual respect for each other.

The ancient customs,
which people had in certain countries that the wife must sacrifice her life
after her husband’s death and also the custom, which prevents a widow from
remarrying, is foreign to Buddhism. Buddhism does not regard a wife as
being inferior to a husband.


Some women feel that
for them to concentrate on the upbringing of the family is degrading and
conservative. It is true that in the past women had been treated very
badly, but this was due more to the ignorance on the part of men than the
inherent weakness in the concept of depending on women to bring up

Women have been
struggling for ages to gain equality with men in the field of education,
the professions, politics and other avenues. They are now at par with men
to a great extent. The male generally tends to be aggressive by nature and
the female more emotional. In the domestic scene, particularly in the East,
the male is more dominant as head of the family whilst the female tends to
remain as passive partner. Please remember, “passive” here does
not mean “weak.” Rather it is a positive quality of
“softness” and “gentleness.” If man and woman maintain
their masculine and feminine qualities inherited from nature and recognize
their respective strengths, then, that attitude can contribute towards a
congenial mutual understanding between the sexes.

Gandhi’s remarks:
“I believe in the proper education of woman. But I do believe that
woman will not make her contribution to the world by mimicking or running a
race with man. She can run the race, but she will not rise to the great
heights she is capable of by mimicking man. She has to be the complement of


The basis of all human
society is the intricate relationship between parent and child. A mother’s
duty is to love, care and protect the child, even at extreme cost. This is
the self-sacrificing love that the Buddha taught. It is practical, caring
and generous and it is selfless. Buddhists are taught that parents should
care for the child as the earth cares for all the plants and creatures.

Parents are responsible
for the well-being and up bringing of their children. If the child grows up
to be a strong, healthy and useful citizen, it is the result of parents’
efforts. If the child grows up to be a delinquent, parents must bear the
responsibility. One must not blame others or society if children go astray.
It is the duty of parent to guide children on the proper path.

A child, at its most
impressionable age, needs the tender love, care and attention of parents.
Without parental love and guidance, a child will be handicapped and will
find the world a bewildering place to live in. However, showering parental
love, care and attention does not mean pandering to all the demands of the
child, reasonable or otherwise. Too much pampering would spoil the child.
The mother, in bestowing her love and care, should also be strict and firm
in handling the tantrums of a child. Being strict and firm does not mean
being harsh to the child. Show your love, but temper it with a disciplined
hand — the child will understand.

Unfortunately, amongst
present-day parents, parental love is sadly lacking. The mad rush for
material advancement, the liberation movements and the aspiration for
equality have resulted in many mothers joining their husbands, spending
their working hours in offices and shops, rather than remaining at home
tending to their off-spring. The children, left to the care of relations or
paid servants, are bewildered on being denied tender motherly love and
care. The mother, feeling guilty about her lack of attention, tries to placate
the child by giving in to all sorts of demands from the child. Such an
action spoils the child. Providing the child with all sorts of modern toys
such as tanks, machine guns, pistols, swords and such like equipment, as an
appeasement is not psychologically good.

Loading a child with
such toys is no substitute for a mother’s tender love and affections.
Devoid of parental affection and guidance, it will not be surprising if the
child subsequently grows up to be a delinquent. Then, who is to be blamed
for bringing up a wayward child? The parents of course! The working mother,
especially after a hard day’s work in an office to be followed by household
chores, can hardly find time for the child that is yearning for her care
and attention.

Parents who have no
time for their children should not complain when these same children have
no time for them when they are old. Parents who claim that they spend a lot
of money on their children but are too busy should not complain when their
“busy” children in turn leave them in expensive Homes for the

Most women work today
so that the family can enjoy more material benefits. They should seriously
consider Gandhi’s advice for men to seek freedom from greed rather than
freedom from need. Of course, given today’s economic set-up we cannot deny
that some mothers are forced to work. In such a case, the father and mother
must make extra sacrifices of their time to compensate for what their
children miss when they are away. If both parents spend their non-working
hours at home with their children, there will be greater understanding
between parents and children.

In his discourses, the
Buddha has listed certain primary duties and functions as essential
guidelines for parents to observe. One of the primary guidelines is, by precept,
practice and action, to lead the children away from things that are evil
and through gentle persuasion, to guide them to do all that is good for the
family, for society and for the country. In this connection, parents would
have to exercise great care in dealing with their children. It is not what
the parents profess but what they really are and do, that the child absorbs
unconsciously and lovingly. The child’s entry to the world is molded by
emulating parental behavior. It follows that good begets good and evil
begets evil. Parents who spend much time with their children will subtly
transmit their characteristics to their offspring.

of Parents

It is the duty of
parents to see to the welfare of their children. In fact the dutiful and
loving parents shoulder the responsibilities with pleasure. To lead
children on the right path, parents should first set the example and lead
ideal lives. It is almost impossible to expect worthy children from
unworthy parents. Apart from the Karmic tendencies children inherit from
previous births, they invariably inherit the defects and virtues of parents
too. Responsible parents should take every precaution not to transmit
undesirable tendencies to their progeny.

According to the
“Sigalovada Sutta,” there are five duties that should be
performed by parents:

First Duty Is To Dissuade Children From Evil

Home is the first
school, and parents are the first teachers. Children usually take
elementary lessons in good and evil from their parents. Careless parents
directly or indirectly impart an elementary knowledge of lying, cheating,
dishonesty, slandering, revenge, shamelessness and fearlessness for evil
and immoral activities to their children during childhood days.

Parents should show
exemplary conduct and should not transmit such vices into their children’s
impressionable minds.

Second Duty Is To Persuade Them To Do Good

Parents are the
teachers at home; teachers are the parents in school. Both parents and
teachers are responsible for the future well being of the children, who
become what they are made into. They are, and they will be, what the adults
are. They sit at the feet of the adults during their impressionable age.
They imbibe what they impart. They follow in their footsteps. They are
influenced by their thoughts, words and deeds. As such it is the duty of
the parents to create the most congenial atmosphere both at home and in the

Simplicity, obedience,
co-operation, unity, courage, self-sacrifice, honesty, straightforwardness,
service, self-reliance, kindness, thrift, contentment, good manners,
religious zeal and other kindred virtues should be inculcated in their
juvenile minds by degrees. Seeds so planted will eventually grow into
fruit-laden trees.

Third Duty Is To Give The Children A Good Education

A decent education is
the best legacy that parents can bequeath to their children. A more
valuable treasure there is not. It is the best blessing that parents could
confer on their children.

Education should be
imparted to them, preferably from youth, in a religious atmosphere. This
has far-reaching effects on their lives.

Fourth Duty Is To See That They Are Married To Suitable Individuals

Marriage is a solemn
act that pertains to the whole lifetime; this union should be one that
cannot be dissolved easily. Hence, marriage has to be viewed from every
angle and in all its aspects to the satisfaction of all parties before the
wedding. According to Buddhist culture, duty supersedes rights. Let both
parties be not adamant, but use their wise discretion and come to an
amicable settlement. Otherwise, there will be mutual cursing and other repercussions.
More often than not the infection is transmitted to progeny as well.

Last Duty Is To Hand Over To Them, At The Proper Time, Their Inheritance

Parents not only love
and tend their children as long as they are still in their custody, but
also make preparations for their future comfort and happiness. They hoard
up treasures at personal discomfort and ungrudgingly give them as a legacy
to their children.

Religion of Compassion

Buddhism is the
religion of compassion, and the parents should never forget to present it
to the children as such. The Buddha taught the Dhamma out of compassion for
the world. Parents should practice the “Four Sublime States of
Mind” taught by the Buddha in raising their children. They are:
Metta– loving kindness or goodwill Karuna—compassion. Mudita– sympathetic
joy. Upekkha — equanimity or “even-mindedness” These four
states, well practiced will help parents remain calm throughout the
difficult period of child rearing.

This is the right or
ideal way of conduct towards living beings. These four attitudes of mind
provide the framework for all situations arising from social contact. They
are the great removers of tension, the great peacemakers in social
conflict, the great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle for
existence; levelers of social barriers, builders of harmonious communities,
awakeners of slumbering magnanimity long forgotten, revivers of joy and
hope long abandoned, promoters of human brotherhood against the forces of

Perhaps the greatest
challenge that a married couple has to face is the proper upbringing of a
child. This is another aspect, which distinguishes us from animals. While
an animal does care for its offspring with great devotion, a human parent
has a greater responsibility, which is the nurturing of the mind. The
Buddha has said that the greatest challenge a man faces is to tame the
mind. Ever since a child is born, from infancy through adolescence to
maturity, a parent is primarily responsible for the development of a
child’s mind. Whether a person becomes a useful citizen or not depends
mainly on the extent to which its mind has been developed. In Buddhism, a
good parent can practice four great virtues to sustain him or her and to
overcome the great frustrations, which are so closely related with

When a child is yet a
toddler, unable to express its needs, it is quite prone to indulge in
tantrums and crying. A parent who practices the first virtue of loving
kindness can maintain peace within herself or himself to continue to love
the child while it is being so difficult. A child who enjoys the effects of
this loving kindness will himself learn to radiate it spontaneously.

As the child becomes
more mature as an adolescent, parents should practice “karuna” or
Compassion towards him. Adolescence is a very difficult time for children.
They are coming to terms with adulthood and therefore are rebellious, with
a great deal of their anger and frustrations directed at their parents.
With the practice of Compassion, parents will understand that this
rebelliousness is a natural part of growing up and those children do not
mean to hurt their parents willfully. A child who has enjoyed loving
kindness and compassion will himself become a better person. Having not had
hate directed at him, he will only radiate love and compassion towards

Just before he becomes
an adult, a child will probably meet with some success in examinations and
other activities outside the home. This is the time for parents to practice
sympathetic joy. Too many parents in modern society use their children to
compete with their associates. They want their children to do well for
selfish reasons; it is all because they want others to think well of them.
By practicing sympathetic joy, a parent will rejoice in the success and
happiness of his or her child with no ulterior motive. He is happy simply
because his child is happy! A child who has been exposed to the effects of
sympathetic joy will himself become a person who does not envy others and
who is not overly competitive. Such a person will have no room in his heart
for selfishness, greed or hatred.

When a child has
reached adulthood and has a career and family of his own, his parents
should practice the last great virtue of equanimity (upekkha). This is one
of the most difficult things for Asian parents to practice. It is hard for
them to allow their children to become independent in their own right. When
parents practice equanimity, they will not interfere with the affairs of
their children and not be selfish in demanding more time and attention than
the children can give. Young adults in the modern society have many
problems. An understanding parent of a young couple should not impose extra
burdens by making unnecessary demands on them. Most importantly, elderly
parents should try not to make their married children feel guilty by making
them feel that they have neglected their filial obligations. If parents
practice equanimity they will remain serene in their old age and thereby
earn the respect of the younger generation.

When parents practice
these four virtues towards their children, the children will respond
favorably and a pleasant atmosphere will prevail at home. A home where
there is loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity will
be a happy home. Children who grow up under such an environment will grow
up to be understanding, compassionate, willing workers and considerate
employers. This is the greatest legacy any parent can give to his child.

in Modern Society

One of the saddest things
about modern society is the lack of parental love, which children in highly
industrialized countries suffer from. When a couple gets married, they
usually plan to have a number of children. And once the child is born,
parents are morally obliged to care for him to the best of their ability.
Parents are responsible to see that a child is not only satisfied
materially; the spiritual and psychological aspects are very important too.

The provision of
material comfort is of secondary importance when compared to the provision
of parental love and attention. We know of many parents from the
not-so-well-to-do families who have brought up their children well and with
plenty of love. On the other hand, many rich families have provided every
material comfort for their children but have deprived them of parental
love. Such children will just grow up devoid of any psychological and moral

A mother should
consider carefully whether she should continue to be a working mother of a
housewife giving all the affection and care for the well-being of her
child. (Strangely, some modern mothers are also being trained to handle
guns and other deadly equipments when they should be cuddling their
children and training them to be good and law-abiding citizens.)

The modern trend and
attitude of working mothers towards their children also tends to erode the
time-honored filial piety which children are expected to shower on their
parents. The replacement of breast-feeding by bottle-feeding could also be
another factor, which has contributed to the erosion of the affection
between mother and child. When mothers breast-feed and cuddle babies in
their arms, the tender affection between mother and child is much greater
and the influence the mother had on the child for its well-being, is much
more pronounced. Under such circumstances, filial piety, family cohesion
and obedience are invariably present. These traditional traits are for the
good and well-being of the child. It is up to the parents, especially the
mother, to provide them. The mother is responsible for the child’s being
good or wayward. Mothers can reduce delinquency!


Many parents try to
keep their married children under their control. They do not give due
freedom to them and tend to interfere with a young married couple’s life.
When parents try to control their married son or married daughter and want
them to follow their way of life strictly, this will create a lot of
misunderstanding between the two generations as well as unhappiness between
the couple. Parents may be doing it in good faith due to love and
attachment towards the children, but in so doing, they are inviting more
problems to themselves and to the children.

Parents must allow
their children to shoulder the responsibilities of their own lives and
families. For example: if some seeds are dropped under a tree, plants might
grow after sometime. But if you want those plants to grow healthy and
independent you must transplant them to open ground somewhere else to grow
separately, so that they are not hampered by the shade of the parent tree.

Parents should not
neglect the ancient wisdom based on advice given by religious teachers,
wise people and elders who have developed knowledge of the world through
their own trial and errors.


Divorce is a
controversial issue among the followers of different religions. Some people
believe that marriage is already recorded in heaven, thus it is not right
to grant a divorce. But, if a husband and wife really cannot live together,
instead of leading a miserable life and harboring more jealousy, anger and
hatred, they should have the liberty to separate and live peacefully

Towards the Children

However, the separation
of the couple must be done in an atmosphere of understanding by adopting reasonable
solutions and not by creating more hatred. If a couple has children, they
should try to make the divorce less traumatic for the children and help
them to adjust to the new situation. And it is most important to ensure
that their future and welfare will be taken care of. It is an inhuman
attitude if the couple deserts their children and allows them to lead a
miserable life.

Buddhist View

In Buddhism, there is
no law stating that a husband and wife should not be separated if they
cannot live together harmoniously. But, if people follow the advice given
by the Buddha to fulfill their duties towards each other, then, such
unfortunate occurrences like divorce or separation will never happen in the
first place.

In the past, where
religious values were highly respected, there were greater efforts on the
part of married couples — in the east as well as in west –to reach an
amicable understanding to develop happy relationships based on respect,
love, and regard for one another. Couples developed and made their
marriages an important feature, which they cherished in their hearts.
Divorce cases were very rare, and were considered a disgrace because they
indicated the selfishness of one party or the other. It is a fact that
until recently divorce cases were still rather rare in Buddhist countries.
This is mainly because couples considered their duties and obligations
towards each other, and also basically because divorce was not approved by
the community as a whole. In many cases, when married couples were in
trouble, the community elders usually rallied round and played an important
role to improve the situation.

Unfortunately, in the
modern society of today, divorce has become such a common practice. In
certain countries it has even become fashionable. Instead of regarding
divorce as shameful or a failure to order their lives, some young couples
seem to be proud of it. The main cause of the failure in marriage in modern
society is the abuse of freedom and too much independence and individualism
on the part of the partners. There must be a limit to their independent
lives, or else both husband and wife will go astray very easily.

Or Monogamy

To the question of
whether Buddhists can keep more than one wife, the direct answer is not
available in the Buddha’s teaching, because as mentioned earlier, the
Buddha did not lay down any religious laws with regard to married life
although he has given valuable advice on how to lead a respectable married

Tradition, culture and
the way of life as recognized by the majority of a particular country must
also be considered when we practice certain things pertaining to our lives.
Some religions say that a man can have only one wife whilst others say a
man can have more than one wife.

Although the Buddha did
not mention anything regarding the number of wives a man could have, he
explicitly mentioned in His discourses that should a married man go to
another woman out of wedlock, that could become the cause of his own
downfall and he would have to face numerous other problems and

The Buddha’s way of
teaching is just to explain the situation and the consequences. People can
think for themselves as to why certain things are good and certain things
are bad. The Buddha did not lay down rules about how many wives a man
should or should not have which people are forced to follow. However, if
the laws of a country stipulate that marriages must be monogamous, then
such laws must be complied with, because the Buddha was explicit about His
followers respecting the laws of a country, if those laws were beneficial
to all.


Family Planning

Some religions are not
in favor of family planning. They say it is against the will of God.
Buddhism does not interfere in this personal choice. Man is at liberty to follow
any method in order to prevent conception. According to Buddhism, certain
physical and mental conditions must be present for conception to take
place. When any one of these conditions is absent (as when family planning
is being practiced), no conception takes place; therefore a life does not
come into being. But after conception, abortion is NOT acceptable in
Buddhism because it means taking away a life that is already present in the
form of fetus.


Some people are
interested in the moral implication or religious attitude with regard to
test-tube babies. If a woman is unable to conceive a baby in the normal
way, and if she is anxious to have a baby by adopting modern medical
methods, there is no ground in Buddhism to say that it is either immoral or
irreligious. Religions must give due credit to man’s intelligence and to
accommodate new medical discoveries if they are harmless and beneficial to
mankind. As was mentioned earlier, so long as the conditions are right,
conception can be allowed to take place, naturally or artificially.


Premarital Sex

Premarital sex is a
problem, which is much discussed, in modern society. Many young people
would like to know the opinion regarding this sensitive issue. Some
religionists say it can be considered as committing adultery, while others
say it is immoral and unjustifiable.

In the past, young boys
and girls were not allowed by their parents to move around freely until
they were married. Their marriages were also arranged and organized by the
parents. Of course, this did cause unhappiness in some cases when parents
chose partners on the basis of money, social status, family obligations and
related issues. But generally, the majority of parents did try very hard to
choose partners who would be acceptable to their children.

Today, young people are
at the liberty to go out and find their own partners. They have a lot of
freedom and independence in their lives. This is not a bad thing in itself,
but some of these people are just too young and too immature to see the
difference between sexual attraction and true compatibility. That is why
the problem of pre- marital sex arises.

Too much laxity in
matters concerning sex has also given rise to social problems in modern
society. The sad part is that some societies do not express liberal
attitudes towards unmarried mothers, illegitimate children and the
divorcees while they are quite liberal about free sex. As a result, young
people are being punished by the same society, which encourages free mixing
of the sexes. They become social outcasts and suffer much shame and
humiliation. Many young girls have become victims of their own freedom and
have ruined their future by violating age-old traditions, which were valued
in the east as well as in the west.

Pre-marital sex is a
modern development, which has come about as a result of excessive social
freedom prevalent amongst present day young people. Whilst Buddhism holds
no strong views either for or against such action, it is thought that all
Buddhists, particularly people of both sexes in love and contemplating
marriage, should adhere to the age-old traditional concept that they
maintain chastity until the nuptial date. The human mind is unstable and
forever changing, with the result that any illicit action or indiscretion
may cause undue harm to either party if the legal marriage does not take
place as expected. It must be remembered that any form of sexual indulgence
before a proper marriage is solemnized will be looked down upon by the
elders who are the guardians of the young people.


Laymen are advised in
the Buddha’s Teaching to avoid sexual misconduct. That means, if one wants
to experience sex, he must do so without creating any violence or by using
any kind of force, threat or causing fear. A decent sex life, which
respects the other partner, is not against this religion; it accepts the
fact that it is a necessity for those who are not yet ready to renounce the
worldly life.

According to Buddhism,
those who are involved in extra-marital sex with someone who is already
married, who has been betrothed to someone else, and also with those who
are under the protection of their parents or guardians are said to be
guilty of sexual misconduct, because there is a rupture of social norms,
where a third party is being made to suffer as a result of the selfishness
of one or the other partner.

Sexual Behavior

The Buddha also
mentioned the consequences that an elderly man would have to face if he
married without considering the compatibility of age of the other party.
According to the Buddha, irresponsible sexual behavior can become the cause
of one’s downfall in many aspects of life.

All the nations of the
world have clearly defined laws concerning the abuse of sex. Here again,
Buddhism advocates that a person must respect and obey the law of the
country if the laws are made for the common good.

East And The West

The following are
extracts from a book by the celebrated Japanese author, Dr. Nikkyo Niwano.
In his book “The Richer Life,” Dr. Niwano deals with matters
relating to love and marriage, both from the Eastern and Western points of

“In the West,
marriage on the basis of romantic love has often been considered natural
and sometimes ideal. In Asia, in recent years, the number of young people
who abandon the traditional arranged marriage and select partners out of
romantic consideration has been growing. But in some cases, romantic
marriages lead to separation and unhappiness within a short time, whereas
the arranged marriage often produces a couple who live and work together in
contentment and happiness. In spite of its emotional appeal, all romantic
marriages cannot be called unqualified successes. Romantic love is like the
bright flame of a wood-fire that leaps up and burns clear, but lasts only a
short time. Love between man and wife burns quietly and slowly like the
warming fire of burning coal. Of course, bright flaming Love can — and
ideally ought to–eventually become the calm, enduring fire of mature
affection. But too often the flame of romantic love is quickly
extinguished, leaving nothing but ashes, which are a poor foundation for a
successful married life!”

“Young people in
love think of nothing but their emotions. They see themselves only in the
light of the feeling of the moment.

Everything they think
and do is romantic and has little bearing on the practical affairs of the
life they must lead after marriage. If the lovers are fortunate enough to
have compatible personalities, to have sound and similar ideas about life,
to share interests, to enjoy harmonious family relations on both sides and
to be financially secure even after the first passion has calmed down, they
will still have a basis for a good life together. If they are not so
blessed, they may face marital failure.”

“When the time of
dates, emotional pictures, dances, and parties has passed, the young
married couples will have to live together, share meals, and reveal to each
other their defects as well as their merits. They will have to spend more
than half of their life each day together; this kind of living makes
demands that are different from the less exacting needs of dating and first

“Family relations
become very important in married life. It is necessary to think about the
personalities of the mother and father of the prospective marriage partner.
Young people sometimes think that the strength of their love will enable
them to get along well with the most quarrelsome, difficult in-laws; but
this is not always true. In short, romance is a matter of a limited time
and does not become rooted in actualities and must be regulated to conform
to the needs of work and environment in order to bind the couple together
in lasting devotion. The two kinds of love are different. To mistake one
for the other invites grave trouble.”

“Giving serious,
dispassionate thought to the nature of the person one contemplates
marrying, lessens the likelihood of failure. To prevent romance from
vanishing after marriage, mutual understanding between the couple is
indispensable. But the percentage of successful marriages is higher among
young people whose choice of a partner agrees with the opinions of their
parents. To live peacefully, it is necessary to realize the difference
between romance and married love.”


What is Celibacy?

Celibacy is refraining
from the pleasure of sexual activity. Some critics of Buddhism say that The
Teaching goes against Nature and they claim that sex life is natural and
therefore necessary.

Buddhism is not against
sex; it is a natural sensual pleasure and very much a part of the worldly
life. One may ask, why then did the Buddha advocate celibacy as a precept?
Is it not unfair and against Nature? Well, the observance of celibacy for
spiritual development was not a new religious precept at the time of the
Buddha. All the other existing religions in India at that time also had
introduced this practice. Even today, some other religionists like the
Hindus and Catholics do observe this as a vow.

Buddhists who have
renounced the worldly life voluntarily observe this precept because they
are fully aware of the commitments and disturbances, which come along if
one commits oneself to the life of a family person. The married life can
affect or curtail spiritual development when craving for sex and attachment
occupies the mind and temptation eclipses the peace and purity of the mind.

of Celibacy

People tend to ask,
“If the Buddha did not preach against married life, why then did He
advocate celibacy as one of the important precepts to be observed and why
did He advise people to avoid sex and renounce the worldly life?”

One must remember that
renunciation is not compulsory in Buddhism. It is not obligatory to
renounce the worldly life totally in order to practice Buddhism. You can
adjust your way of life according to your understanding by practicing
certain religious principles and qualities. You can develop your religious
principles according to the needs of a lay life. However, when you have
progressed and attained greater wisdom and realize that the layman’s way of
life is not conducive for the ultimate development of spiritual values and
purification of the mind, you may choose to renounce the worldly life and
concentrate more on spiritual development.

The Buddha recommended
celibacy because sex and marriage are not conducive to ultimate peace and
purity of the mind, and renunciation is necessary if one wishes to gain
spiritual development and perfection at the highest level. But this
renunciation should come naturally, and must never be forced. Renunciation
should come through a complete understanding of the illusory nature of the
self, of the unsatisfactory nature of all sense pleasures.

versus Responsibility — The Buddha’s Experience

The Buddha experienced
his worldly life as a prince, husband and a father before his Renunciation
and he knew what married life entailed. People may question the Buddha’s
renunciation by saying that he was selfish and cruel and that it was not
fair for him to desert his wife and child. In actual fact, the Buddha did
not desert his family without a sense of responsibility.

He never had any
misunderstanding with his wife. He too had the same love and attachment
towards his wife and child as any normal man would have, perhaps even
greater. The difference was that his love was not mere physical and selfish
love; he had the courage and understanding to detach that emotional and
selfish love for a good cause. His sacrifice is considered all the more
noble because he set aside his personal needs and desires in order to serve
all of mankind for all time.

The main aim of his
renunciation was not only for his own happiness, peace or salvation but for
the sake of mankind. Had he remained in the royal palace, his service would
have been confined to only his own family or his kingdom. That was why he
decided to renounce everything m order to maintain peace and purity to gain
Enlightenment and then to enlighten others who were suffering in ignorance.
One of the Buddha’s earliest tasks after gaining his Enlightenment was to
return to his palace to enlighten the members of his family. In fact, when
his young son, Rahula asked the Buddha for his inheritance, the Buddha said
that Rahula was heir to the richest wealth, the treasure of the Dhamma. In
this way, the Buddha served his family, and he paved the way for their
salvation, peace and happiness. Therefore, no one can say that the Buddha
was a cruel or selfish father. He was in fact more compassionate and
self-sacrificing than anybody else. With his high degree of spiritual
development, the Buddha knew that marriage was a temporary phase while
Enlightenment was eternal and for the good of all mankind.

Another important fact
was that the Buddha knew that his wife and son would not starve in his
absence. During the time of the Buddha it was considered quite normal and
honorable for a young man to retire from the life of a householder. Other
members of the family would willingly look after his dependents. When he
gained his enlightenment, he was able to give them something no other
father could give — the freedom from slavery to attachment.


Marriage is a
partnership of two individuals and this partnership is enriched and
enhanced when it allows the personalities involved to grow. Many marriages
fail because one partner tries to “swallow” another or when one
demands total freedom. According to Buddhism, marriage means understanding
and respecting each other’s belief and privacy. A successful marriage is
always a two-way path: “humpy, bumpy” — it is difficult but it is
always a mutual path.

Young people in this
country and elsewhere sometimes think that “old fashioned ideas”
are not relevant to modern society. They should be reminded that there are
some eternal truths, which can never become out-of-date. What was true during
the time of Buddha still remains true today.

The so-called modern
ideas we receive through the highly glamorous television programs do not
represent the way most decent people in the west think or behave. There is
a vast “silent majority” of decent couples who are as deeply
religious and “conservative” about marriage as any Eastern
couple. They do not behave in the manner that the mass media has portrayed
them. Not all the people in the west run off to get a divorce or abortion
after their first quarrel or dispute.

Decent people all over
the world are the same; they are unselfish and care deeply about those whom
they love. They make enormous sacrifices and develop love and understanding
to ensure happy and stable marriages. So, if you want to ape the west ape
the “silent majority”: they are no different from your decent
neighbor who lives next door to you.

Young people must also
listen to their elders because their own understanding about married life
is not mature. They should not make hasty conclusions regarding, marriages
and divorces. They must have a lot of patience, tolerance and mutual
understanding. Otherwise, their life can become very miserable and
problematic. Patience, tolerance and understanding are important
disciplines to be observed and practiced by all people in marriage.

A feeling of security
and contentment comes from mutual understanding, which is the secret of a
happy married life.


The Affectionate Mother

In the Buddhist Jataka
story — Sonadanda, the Bodhisattva sings the virtues of a mother in the
following strain: Kind, Pitiful, our refuge she that fed us at her breast.
A mother is the way to heaven, and thee she loveth best.

She nursed and fostered
us with care; graced with good gifts is she,

A mother is the way to heaven,
and best she loveth thee.

Craving a child in
prayer she kneels each holy shrine before.

The changing season
closely scans and studies astral lore.

Pregnant in course of
time she feels her tender longings grow, and soon the unconscious babe
begins a loving friend to know.

Her treasure for a year
or less she guards with utmost care, Then brings it forth and from that day
a mother’s name will bear.

With milky breast and
lullaby she soothes the fretting child, Wrapped in his comforter’s warm
arms his woes are soon beguiled.

Watching o’er him, poor
innocent, lest wind or hear annoy, His fostering nurse she may be called,
to cherish thus her boy.

What gear his sire and
mother have she hoards for him “May be,” She thinks, “Some
day, my dearest child, it all may come to thee.”

“Do this or that,
my darling boy,” the worried mother cries, And when he is grown to
man’s estate, she still laments and sighs, He goes in reckless mood to see
a neighbor’s wife at night, She fumes and frets, “Why will he not
return while it is light?”

If one thus reared with
anxious pains his mother should neglect, playing her false, what doom, I
pray, but hell can he expect?

Those that love wealth
o’er much, ’tis said, their wealth will soon be lost.

One that neglects a
mother soon will rue it to his cost. Those that love wealth o’er much, ’tis
said, their wealth will soon be lost. One that neglects a father soon will
rue it to his cost.

Gifts, loving speech,
kind offices together with the grace of calm indifference of mind shown in
time and place –These virtues to the world are as linchpin to chariot
wheel. These lacking, still a mother’s name to children would appeal. A
mother like the sire should with reverent honor be crowned, Sages approve
the man in whom those virtues may be found.

Thus parents worthy of
all praise, a high position own, by ancient sages Brahma called. So great
was their renown.

Kind parents from their
children should receive all reverence due, He that is wise will honor them
with service good and true.

He should provide them
food and drink, bedding and raiment meet, Should bathe them and anoint with
oil and duly wash their feet. So filial services like these sages his
praises sound. Here in this world, and after death in heaven his joys

– Jataka translation Vol. V pp. 173, 174

Moral Code

and Moral Code

The most important
element of the Buddhist reform has always been its social and moral code.
That moral code taken by itself is one of the most perfect which the world
has ever known. On this point all testimonials from hostile and friendly
quarters agree; philosophers there may have been, religious preachers,
subtle metaphysicists, disputants there may have been, but where shall we
find such an incarnation of love, love that knows no distinction of caste
and creed or color, a love that overflowed even the bounds of humanity,
that embraced the whole of sentient beings in its sweep, a love that
embodied as the gospel of universal “Maitri” and
“Ahimsa.” — Prof. Max Muller, A German Buddhist Scholar

Is Based On Freedom

Buddhist morality is
based on freedom, i.e., on individual development. It is therefore
relative. In fact there cannot be any ethical principle if there is
compulsion or determination from an agent outside ourselves.

–Anagarika B. Govinda, A German Buddhist Scholar

and Morality

In Buddhism there can
be no real morality without knowledge, no real knowledge without morality;
both are bound up together like heat and light in a flame. What constitutes
“Bodhi” is not mere intellectual, enlightenment, but humanity.
The consciousness of moral excellence is of the very essence of

Buddhist Women at the Time of The Buddha



The following 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.

While every effort has been made by the
translator to conform to the original writing, some changes had to be made for
the sake of clarity.

The stories of Bhadda Kundalakesa and Patacara
have been enlarged and filled in.

Grateful 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 alive.

It is hoped that this booklet will serve as an
inspiration to all those who are endeavoring to tread in the Buddha’s

Sister Khema
Wat Buddha Dhamma
Wisemans Ferry, N.S.W.2255
January 1982

Abbreviations of Source References

…. 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
Divy….. Divyavadana
Ap. …. Apadana

The 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.

Having 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.

Hearing 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!

145-150) Verses of the Elder nuns.

Queen Mallika   

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.

One day, 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.

When she 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.

He was 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.

This sounded 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.

The ruler 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.

The latter 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.

After he 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.

From then 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)

After she 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.

These differences 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.

The Buddha 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

Whichever 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.

At the 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)

She showed 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)

She exhibited 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.

Soon she 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 Court.

Even when 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.

After Mallika 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.

When his 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.

For greater 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.

Thereupon 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, Anathapindika’s Monastery.

He related 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 subjects.

The four 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.

Each one 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:

Du: Dung-like life we lived,
No willingness to give,
Although we could have given much,
We did not make our refuge thus.

Sa: Say, the end is
Already 60,000 years have gone
Without respite the torture is
In this hell realm.

Na: 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: 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.

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)

The King, 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)

One day 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.

Both agreed 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. 53)

One day 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 consider this.

The Buddha confirmed his and Mallika’s

I visited all quarters with my mind
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

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 replied devotedly.

The King 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.

She asked 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.”

But their 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)

But later 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:

Both were 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

With joy I heard your varied words,
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!

— J504

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)

Only when 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)

Queen Mallika 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 days.

When she 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)

His attachment — “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 abandoned.]

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

What Cannot Be Got: The Buddha’s Words
to King Pasenadi on Queen Mallika’s Death   

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:

“Great 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?

“That what 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.

“That what is of the nature to die may
not die, is a circumstance not-to-be-got by a monk… or by anyone in the

“That what 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 world.

“That what 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 world.

“Great 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.

“This is 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.

“This is 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.”]

“Great king, 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?”

Nikaya, (Fives, 49)

Khema of Great Wisdom   

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.

The name 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

When she 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.

Decked 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

An ordinary 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 the Sangha.

While most 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:

to what you have got, give alms;
Observe the Uposatha days, keep the precepts pure;
Dwell upon the thought of death and be mindful of your mortal state.
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.

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:

Uncalled he hither came, without leave departed, too;
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.

— J 354

Another time — 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 her:

Of equal status is the wife,
Obedient, speaking only loving words,
With children, beauty, fame, garlanded,
She always listens to my words.

— J 502,534

This husband 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)

Only because 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.

The Buddha 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.

It was 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:

Does an Awakened One exist after death?
K.: The Exalted One has not declared that an Awakened One exists after death.
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
K.: That too, the Exalted One has not declared.

Thereupon the 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.

The second answer that the Enlightened One
does not exist after death would be in keeping with craving for non-existence,
i.e., annihilation.

Because 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.

The third answer seeks a compromise:
everything impermanent in an Awakened One would be annihilated, but the
permanent aspect, the essence, his actual person, would remain.

The fourth 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.

Not through 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

Everything 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

Any designation 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.”

Khema tried 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.

Just so, 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 ocean.”

Therefore 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.

The King 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)

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); Bu 26,19.

Bhadda Kundalakesa, the Former Jain

In Rajagaha, 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 towards stealing.

She fell 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.

Soon after 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.

Burdened 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).

The teaching 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.

One day 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.

She put 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.

Although 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

Though a thousand verses
are made of meaningless lines,
better the single meaningful line
by hearing which one is at peace.

— Dhp 101

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 very quickly.

Bhadda’s 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.

— Thig 107-111

* [Vajja: fault, can also mean “what is obstructive
to spiritual progress.”]

** [The daytime spent in seclusion for

*** [anjali: hands placed palms to palm

A I,24; Thig 107-111; J 509; Ap 11 No.21 (p.560).

Kisagotami, the Mother With the Dead

There lived 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:

beauty was an inner one
One could not see its spark outside.

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.

But when 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.

His death 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.

With the 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

She immediately 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.

“Mustard seeds,” the Enlightened One
replied, astounding everyone present.

Joyfully, 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 told.

Towards 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.

Such were 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).

Another 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).

After Kisagotami 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,
with a mind clinging — just such a man
death seizes and carries away,
as a great flood, a sleeping village.

— Dhp 287

Because her 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.

After having 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
not seeing the Deathless State,
yet better is life for a single day,
seeing the Deathless State.

— Dhp 114

When she heard these lines, she was able to
shed all fetters and became one of the arahants, the fully Enlightened Ones.

Ninety-two 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)

In the 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
Holy Ones:

The Sage has emphasized and praised
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.

— Thig 213-215

The compassion 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.

Only when 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:

“Woman’s state is painful,”
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.”

— Thig 216-217

After she attained to arahantship, she was
able to see her past lives and could now say:

Miserable woman, your kin all dead
and limitless dukkha you’ve known.
So many tears have you shed
in these many thousands of births.

— Thig 220

The third part of her verses finalizes her joy
in finding liberation and release from all suffering:

Wholly developed by me is
the Eightfold Noble Path going to Deathlessness,
Nibbana realized,
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.

— Thig 222-223

When Mara,[*] 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:

[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
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.

— S 5,3

Addressing 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.

The nun Kisagotami, rising to holiness from
lowliest birth, was praised by the Buddha as amongst the seventy-five greatest

[She was pre-eminent in ascetic habits and was wont to wear garments of rough
fibers. (A I, 24).]

A I,24; S 5,3; Thig 213-223, J 438; Ap 11 No.22

Sona With Many Children   

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.”

She was 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.

Sona’s 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.

But soon 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.

They quickly 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).

The increasing 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).

Her reflections 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

But after 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.

Sona soon 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, who said:

What’s it to do with a woman’s state
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.

— S 5,2

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.

What use 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.

It happened 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)

In the “Verses of the Elder Nuns”
she describes her life in five verses:

Ten children having borne
from this bodily congeries,
so I, now weak and old,
approached a Bhikkhuni.

The Dhamma she taught me —
groups, sense-spheres and elements, [*]
I heard the Dhamma,
and having shaved my hair, went forth.

While still a probationer
I purified the eye divine;
Former lives I knew,
and where I lived before.

One-pointed, well-composed,
the Signless [**] I developed,
immediately released,
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.

— Thig 102-106

* [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.]

Sona’s sister-nuns, 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.

A I, 24; Thig 102-106; AP. 11, No.26

Nanda, The Half-Sister Of the Awakened

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.

Nanda was 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 Nanda.”

In due 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 with them.

One can 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.

But it 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.

One day 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.

Because 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.

After having 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,
Nanda, see this congeries
With the unlovely, [*] develop mind
Well-composed to singleness.

As is that, thus will this likewise be.
Exhaling foulness, evil smells,
A thing it is enjoyed [**] by fools.

Diligently considering it,
By day and night thus seeing it,
With my own wisdom having seen,
I turned away, dispassionate.

With my diligence, carefully
I examined the body
And saw this as it really is —
Both within and without.

Unlusting and dispassionate
Within this body then was I:
By diligence from fetters freed,
Peaceful was I and quite cool.

— Thig 82-86

* [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.”]

Because Nanda 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.

Later the 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 she venerated.

[Jhana: Total meditative absorption.]

A I, 24; Thig 82-86; AP II, No.25 (54 verses).

Queen Samavati   

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

They went 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.

Mitta, 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.

Samavati immediately began helping her foster
father with the distribution of the food and the care of the refugees.

Thanks 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.

Soon the 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.

The king, 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.

One day 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.”

As usual, 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.

Because 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.

Samavati’s 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.

When the 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.

Khujjuttara 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.

When king 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 cousin Ananda.

From then 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 had done.

Now, through 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.

Through 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”). (A I.19)

This all-pervading 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.

The Buddha 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,[*]
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).]

But Magandiya 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.

First she 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.

Secondly, 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.

Some time 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.

Magandiya 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.

When King 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.

When a 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)

Samavati 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 them happiness.

The King 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.

Magandiya 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.

This deed 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 leader.

[Five hundred just means ‘a great many’ in Pali.]

The Awakened 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)

The Buddha 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

The Buddha 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.

The Buddha 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.

But at 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 Joy,

Samavati’s 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.

Two thousand 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 heard before
everything burned down were the words of the Abbot:

has liberated heart and mind,
For him fire is only a cool wind.

Referring to the tragedy of the fire at
Kosambi, the Buddha spoke the following verse to the monks:

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 and death.]

King Udena 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 this.

When all 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.

Two women, 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).

Samavati, 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

Heedfulness — the path to the Deathless,
heedlessness — the path to death,
the heedful ones do not die;
the heedless are likened to the dead.

The wise then, recognizing this
as the distinction of heedfulness,
in heedfulness rejoice, delighting
in the realm of Noble Ones.

They meditate persistently,
constantly; they firmly strive
the steadfast to reach Nibbana,
the Unexcelled Secure from bonds.

— Dhp 21-23

The Buddha declared Samavati to be foremost
among those female lay disciples who dwell in loving-kindness (metta).

Sources: Dhammapada Commentary to vv. 21-23;
Commentary to Anguttara Nikaya Vol. I (on those Foremost); “Path of
Purification” p. 417.

Patacara, Preserver of the Vinaya   

Patacara was 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’ house.

When her 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.

When she 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.

Before 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.

Sometime 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.

The husband 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.

She continued 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.

The older 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.

Wailing 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.

When she 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.

At that 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.

One of 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.

The Teacher 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:

little water do the oceans four contain,
Compared with all the tears that man hath shed,
By sorrow smitten and by suffering distraught.
Woman, why heedless dost thou still remain?

This exposition of the Awakened One penetrated
her mind so deeply that at that moment she could completely grasp the
impermanence of all conditioned things.

When the 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.
She said:

With plows the fields are plowed;
With seed the earth is sown;
Thus wives and children feed;
So young men win their wealth.

Then why do I, of virtue pure,
Doing the Master’s Teaching,
Not lazy nor proud,
Nibbana not attain?

Having 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.

Having taken my lamp,
I went into my hut,
Inspected the sleeping-place,
Then sat upon the couch.

Having taken a pin,
I pushed the wick right down, and
Just as the lamp went out,
So all delusion of the heart went too.

— Thig 112-116

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.

The Buddha 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 to her.

She learned 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 fellow nuns.

She was 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)

Another nun, Uttara II, reported how Patacara
spoke to the group of nuns about conduct and discipline:

Having established mind,
One-pointed, well-developed,
Investigate formations
As other, not as self.

— Thig 177

Uttara took Patacara’s words to heart and

When I heard these words —
Patacara’s advice,
After washing my feet —
I sat down alone.

— Thig 178

Thereby this 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 gains:

Having taken flails,
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 —
Patacara’s instructions,
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.

— Thig 117-121

* [First watch of the night: 6-10 p.m; Middle
watch: 10 p.m.-2 a.m.; Last watch: 2-6 a.m.]

Patacara was 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.

A1,24; Thig 112-121,125,175,178; Ap. 11 No.20; J 547

Publisher’s note

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which has a vital message for people of all creeds.

Founded in 1958, the BPS has published a wide
variety of books and booklets covering a great range of topics. Its
publications include accurate annotated translations of the Buddha’s
discourses, standard reference works, as well as original contemporary
expositions of Buddhist thought and practice. These works present Buddhism as
it truly is — a dynamic force which has influenced receptive minds for the past
2500 years and is still as relevant today as it was when it first arose.

Buddhist Publication Society
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Kandy, Sri Lanka


©1982 Buddhist Publication Society.

The Wheel Publication No. 292/293 (Kandy: Buddhist
Publication Society, 1982). Transcribed from the print edition in 1994 by Raj
Mendis under the auspices of the DharmaNet Dharma Book Transcription Project,
with the kind permission of the Buddhist Publication Society.

This Access to Insight edition is ©1994–2012.

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Mayawati expresses possibility of mid-term elections, asks party workers to be

Now, Mayawati expresses possibility of mid-term elections, asks party
workers to be ready

LUCKNOW: BSP chief Mayawati on Sunday asked party workers to be ready
for the mid-term Lok Sabha elections, possibilities of which have
increased in the wake of changed political scenario of the country
after recent elections in five states, including UP.

Apprehending large scale violence against BSP supporters in the SP
regime, she also announced that the BSP will not contest any elections
in UP, including forthcoming urban local bodies polls, which are
conducted by the state machinery. She said that her party will
participate in only those elections which are conducted by the
Election Commission of India under Central security forces because
past experience show that elections conducted by state machinery under
SP rule have never been free and fair.

BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal have already expressed possibilities of
mid-term poll. Similar possibilities were also expressed by the
Trinmool Congress leader and union railway minister Dinesh Trivedi but
he later took a U-turn and denied that his party wants early Lok Sabha

Addressing All India Workers Convention, Mayawati said that the BSP
has lost assembly polls in UP but has got impressive vote share and
with little ground work can score big in the parliamentary elections.
She said that the difference between BSP and SP in assembly elections
was of only 24.50 lakh votes but it made SP win 144 more seats than
BSP. She also dissolved all party units at the district and assembly
levels and brotherhood committees formed to bring other castes and
communities close to BSP and blamed party coordinators for not
providing correct feedback of the ground situation which led to
party’s defeat.

Mayawati said that she would now personally supervise the overhauling
of party organisation and preparation for the parliamentary elections.

Mayawati also criticised both SP and Congress.

“Under Congress led UPA government, the country has only seen the rise
in corruption and prices,” she said.

She also said that the law and order is bound to collapse under SP
rule, the glimpse of which has been seen in the form of spurt in cases
of violence in the state from the day SP won the assembly elections.

“The goonda raj is back and in most of the violent cases witnessed so
far, BSP voters and leaders have been were targeted by the SP goons,”
she alleged. Under such circumstances, she claimed, contesting local
bodies elections would put life and property of the BSP supporters
under threat because SP, which has never performed well in civic
polls, this time would go to any extent to show that its base has

Interestingly, the BSP has not been contesting local bodies poll in UP
since 2002 because it does not have base in urban areas. Another
reason was that the local bodies elections were held just before the
assembly polls. Hence, a defeat in the local bodies polls would have
put an adverse impact on the assembly elections.

This time also, the local bodies elections were due in November 2011
but the then BSP government created a situation leading to
postponement of elections till April. Though the state election
commission had announced that it was ready to hold elections on time,
the BSP government delayed the process by taking plea that reservation
and delimitation of wards under urban local bodies is not complete
because of absence of adequate population data.

On BSP’s defeat in the assembly elections, Mayawati said the Congress
communalised the elections on the issue of Muslim quota and added that
the BJP tried to take advantage of the situation by trying to polarise
votes of religious lines.

Apprehending that polarisation of upper castes and backward classes
among Hindus may bring the BJP to power, she said over 70% Muslims
voted for SP.

Mayawati sticks to sarvjan policy, may go to RS

Mayawati sticks to sarvjan policy, may go to RS

LUCKNOW: Mayawati will continue with her “sarvjan” policy, despite
assembly election drubbing. She seems to have decided to fight the
Rajya Sabha polls and focus on national politics, at least till the
next LS election. This emerged on Wednesday at a meeting of party
leaders in which the former UP CM distributed responsibilities of
leading the party in the state equally among Muslim, brahmin, SC/ST
and backward class leaders.

The election for the Upper House of Parliament will take place later this month.

Mayawati’s decision not to head the party’s legislative council has
indicated that she would move to RS, sources said on Saturday. In
2003, after losing power to the SP in the state, Mayawati had moved to
national politics by getting herself nominated to the RS.

The BSP won 80 seats in the just-concluded assembly elections, hence
the party can send only two members to the Upper House. The name of
Mayawati’s close aide and cabinet secretary in her government is also
doing the rounds for the RS nomination.

Mayawati decided to continue with her ‘Sarvjan’ policy and distributed
party responsibilities equally among Muslim, Brahmin, SC/ST and
backward class leaders at a BSP meeting here on Saturday.

BSP state president Swami Prasad Maurya, who won from Padrauna in
Kushinagar, was elected leader of the party’s legislature group.
Maurya will also be the leader of opposition in the assembly as BSP
emerged as the second largest party.

Naseemuddin Siddiqui was made leader of the party’s legislative
council. Gurucharan Dinkar, who won from Naraeni of Banda, was made
deputy leader of the BSP Legislature Group. Former energy minister in
the Mayawati government Ramveer Upadhaya will be party’s chief whip in
the assembly, while another former minister Vedram Bhati will take the
responsibility of the whip.

This time, Mishra’s close aide and lawyer Gopal Narayan
Mishra was made deputy leader in the Legislative Council. Sunil Kumar
Chittod will be chief whip while Vinay Shakya the whip. Former
minister Indrajeet Saroj, who won from Manjhanpur in Kaushambi, was
made treasurer of the state legislative party.

Mayawati told party leaders not to be disappointed with the assembly
election results and continue to work for BSP. She asked her MLAs to
raise their voices at a proper forum and maintain law and order

Maya in mellow avatar

Uttar Pradesh’s Iron Lady does, after all, have a softer side to her.
Ms Mayawati invited all the bureaucrats in her secretariat for tea.

Over tea and savouries, she thanked them for helping her run the state
smoothly for five years and appreciated how they had worked beyond
office hours and had carried out her instructions. For each one, she
had a word of praise or appreciation. Even the junior staff,
comprising clerks and peons, was called in and thanked for their
services. The gesture, we believe, has touched the staff greatly.

Three BSP MLAs give support to
Congress in Uttarakhand

To help Congress break the
impasse on the leadership issue, the three-MLA strong BSP on Sunday offered
“unconditional support” to it in Uttarakhand and expressed
desire to share power.

“On the direction of Mayawati, our party has decided
to give full support to Congress,” state BSP President Surajmal said.

Congress with 32 MLAs in the 70-member House enjoys
support of three Independents and a lone UKD member to reach the magic mark of

The party has already staked claimed to form government
and Governor Margaret Alva said she would invite Congress once it elects a new
CLP leader.

Surajmal said his party would like to join the new
government. “We will like to share power with Congress,” he said.

results 2012:: Don’t give, teach us how to fish

Don’t give, teach us how to fish

A review of the data reveals that BSP lost 10 seats by less than
1,000 votes, 11 seats by 1,000-2,000 votes and four by 2,000-3,000 votes; going
by the political thumb rule, less than 3,000 votes is considered a narrow

Capital Calculus | Anil Padmanabhan



In the euphoria of the dramatic
win of the Samajwadi Party (SP), the margin of which was unprecedented, in the
election to the Uttar Pradesh state assembly, it would be extremely contrarian
to suggest that it was not so one-sided. But then, that is what the facts tell

It is true that SP won a record 224 seats and so is the fact that
the incumbent Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ended up with 80 seats (compared with
206 in the 2007 assembly election). But, it is also true, and something that
has missed the headlines, that BSP ended up second in 211 seats. In contrast,
the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came second in 55 seats and the Congress party
in 31 seats—effectively third and fourth in the assembly election; both
national parties were in serious contention in less than 100 seats each.

In contrast, BSP clearly emerges
as the party to beat. Taking its second place standing, it is clear that BSP
was in contention in about 300 seats. A review of the data reveals that BSP
lost 10 seats by less than 1,000 votes, 11 seats by 1,000-2,000 votes and four
by 2,000-3,000 votes; going by the political thumb rule, less than 3,000 votes
is considered a narrow margin.

This nugget of information
reveals a lot. First, BSP was not, despite the strong anti-incumbency mood, a
pushover. Second, and more importantly, the core Dalit vote of BSP has largely,
despite a sustained effort by the Congress party, remained loyal to Mayawati.
Since the Dalit community is spread out across the state, it provides a very
enviable electoral foundation for BSP. What has probably happened is that BSP
lost out on the increment votes that had accrued to it in 2007 when it forged
the rainbow coalition of castes by roping in the upper castes and sections of
the Muslim community. Finally, the trend, which endured in the 2007 assembly
election too, indicates that UP has veered around to a two-party race, leaving
Congress and BJP as fringe players.

Clearly, identity politics has
worked for BSP.

However, what has also come
through in this election is that the other arm of identity politics—religion—has
weakened. The Muslims, who account for a little less than a fifth of the
population of the state, have tended to vote tactically to defeat the BJP. This
time, for a combination of reasons, this has not necessarily played out. It was
partly due to the aspiration factor taking root—anecdotally apparent in the
spurt in the number of first-generation Muslim students. Also, the BJP
conducted a very under-the-radar campaign (in fact, a colleague who mapped the
campaign observed that the party was almost invisible at the ground level).
With BJP not playing up its aggressive Hindutva card, the fear of militant
Hinduism has receded. As a result, the Muslim vote was most likely cast on
winnability—where they saw SP as a clear winner.

Congress clearly misread the mood. While SP chose to address aspirations
through the promise of laptops—seen as the next tool of empowerment, where
earlier it was through affirmative action in government jobs—the Congress, in
its wisdom, chose to dwell on identity defined through religion. The party
promised reservations for Muslims and made a big deal about tokenism—all of
this of course premised on the fact that the Muslims, going by tradition, would
vote en bloc. This is exactly where it erred. Not only did the Congress end up
not rallying the Muslim vote, but may have actually ended up alienating some
Muslims through this presumptuous view of the community.

To sum up then, it is clear that
BSP was not a walkover, unlike what the final outcome would suggest. At the
same time, the paradigm shift—don’t give us fish, teach us how to fish—in the
Muslim vote suggests that in Uttar Pradesh the business of identity politics
may have peaked. Will the glue of caste politics be able to resist aspirations?

• • •

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