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This is an amazing story of Arahant Theri Mahapajapati Gotami who gave such a grand inspiration for the ladies in search of spiritual solace and profound happiness.
***************Mahapajapatigotami: The First Arahant Bhikkhuni
[Edited by Yawares from: palikanon.com, wisdomlib.org and tipitaka.net]Mahapajapati Gotami was the stepmother of Gotama Buddha. On the death of Queen,
seven days after the birth of Prince Siddhattha, Mahapajapati Gotami became the
chief queen of King Suddhodana. At that time, her own son Nanda was only five
days old. She let her own son be fed by a wet-nurse, and herself fed Prince
Siddhattha, the future Buddha. Thus, Mahapajapati Gotami was a great benefactor
to Prince Siddhattha.
When Prince Siddhattha returned to Kapilavatthu after the attainment of
Buddhahood, Mahapajapati Gotami went to see the Buddha and requested that women
should also be allowed to enter the Buddhist Order as bhikkhunis; but the Buddha
refused permission. Later, King Suddhodana died after attaining arahatship.
Then, while the Buddha was sojourning at the Mahavana forest near Vesali,
Mahapajapati, accompanied by five hundred ladies, came on foot from Kapilavatthu
to Vasali. They had already shaven their heads and had put on the dyed robes.
There, for a second time, Mahapajapati requested the Buddha to accept women in
the Buddhist Order. The Venerable Ananda also interceded on her behalf. So, the
Buddha complied, with the provision that Mahapajapati abides by eight special
conditions (garudhammas). Mahapajapati undertook to observe the garudhammas as
required, and the Buddha admitted her into the Order. Thus, Mahapajapati was the
first to be admitted to the Order of the bhikkhunis. The other women were admitted
to the Order after her by the bhikkhus as instructed by the Buddha.
It is said that once Pajāpatī made a robe for the Buddha of wonderful material and marvellously elaborate. But when it came to be offered to the Buddha he refused it, and suggested it should be given to the Order as a whole. Pajāpatī was greatly disappointed, and Ananda intervened. But the Buddha explained that his suggestion was for the greater good of Pajāpatī, and also as an example to those who might wish to make similar gifts in the future.
In course of time, it came to the minds of some bhikkhunis that Mahapajapati
Gotami had not been properly admitted as a bhikkhuni because she did not have a
preceptor; therefore. Mahapajapati Gotami was not a true bhikkhuni. With this
thought in their mind, they stopped doing sabbath (uposatha) ceremonies and
vassa (pavarana) ceremonies with her. They went to the Buddha and posed the
problem of Mahapajapati Gotami not having been properly admitted to the Order of
bhikkhunis as she had no preceptor. To them the Buddha replied, "Why do you say
so? I myself gave the eight garudhammas to Mahapajapati and she had learnt and
practised the garudhammas as required by me. I myself am her preceptor and it is
quite wrong for you to say that she has no preceptor. You should harbour no
doubt whatsoever about an arahat."As a Bhikkhuni, she enjoyed the homeless life, living harmoniously with the other five hundred ariyan Sakyan ladies. The Buddha had a great love for Pajāpatī, and when she lay ill, as there were no monks to visit her and preach to her - that being against the rule - the Buddha amended the rule and went himself to preach to her and gave her a subject for meditation. Mahapajapati Gotami practised very earnestly and attained Arahantship with supernormal powers, while her five hundred companions attained to the same after listening to the Nandakovāda Sutta. Later, at an assembly of monks and nuns in Jetavana, the Buddha declared Pajāpatī chief of those who had experience (rattaññūnam).
Not long after, while at Vesali, she realized that her life had come to an end. She was one hundred and twenty years old. She then quickly sought the Buddha and His great disciples to obtain their permission to attain parinibbana (the final demise). The Buddha asked her to show her spiritual powers, which she deftly did to the awesome admiration of the audience consisting of the Sangha and the lay people. The five hundred Arahant Sakyan Theris also did their stunning feats of spiritual power as instructed by the Buddha who likewise gave them permission to attain parinibbana.
Mahapajapati Gotami went into meditation. Going through all the jhana stages and finally stopping at the fourth jhana; released herself by entering into parinibbana.
Her funeral, together with those of the five hundred Arahant Theris was very orderly and very dignified as well as grand because it was attended by the Buddha Himself Even the Gods and Deities attended the funeral procession showering down heavenly blooms, a spectacular miracle never seen before.
So ended the great life of the Arahant Theri Mahapajapati Gotami who gave such a grand inspiration for the ladies in search of spiritual solace and profound happiness.
**There is a story related of a wet-nurse employed by Pajāpatī. She renounced the world with Pajāpatī, but for twenty five years was harassed by thoughts of lust till, at last, she heard Dhammadinnā preach. She then practiced meditation and became an arahant.
NOTE**The inspirational story about Bhikkhuni Mahapajapati Gotami started long ago during the time of Buddha Padumuttara. On an occasion when she was listening to a discourse by the Buddha, she happened to witness a Bhikkhuni being honoured as the foremost among the Bhikkhunis, who was enlightened earliest. She aspired to the same distinction in a future existence. After making extraordinary offerings to the Buddha, she made the same wish before the Buddha, who predicted that her aspiration would be fulfilled during Gotama Buddha's time. For the rest of her life she spent her time doing many meritorious deeds. After her death, she enjoyed only human and divine life in between the appearance of Buddhas.
After many births she was born once more at Benares, forewoman among five hundred slave girls. When the rains drew near, five Pacceka Buddhas came from Nandamūlaka to Isipatana seeking lodgings. Pajāpatī saw them after the Treasurer had refused them any assistance, and, after consultation with her fellow slaves, they persuaded their several husbands to erect five huts for the Pacceka Buddhas during the rainy season and they provided them with all requisites. At the end of the rains they gave three robes to each Pacceka Buddha. After that she was born in a weaver's village near Benares, and again ministered, this time to five hundred Pacceka Buddhas, sons of Padumavatī.
Pajāpatī's name appears several times in the Jātakas.
Love Buddha's dhamma,
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Thank you very much for reading my story, especially for the on-line suttas.
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