Once the Buddha and his followers arrived at a place
called Arawi. It was a great honour to the Araweens and they
gave the Buddha a great welcome by offering him and his
disciples wonderful food and requisites. The exalted one
returned his gratitude by giving the people a sermon. It was the
most auspicious day for the Araweens and the congregation
was packed with a big crowd. Among them, there was a fifteenyear-
old girl called Kumarika. She was the only daughter of
a local weaver.
The Buddha chose to talk about the mindfulness of
death. He said:
“Listen to this, Araweens: life is impermanent but
death is certain. It is definite that every one of us must die one
day, sooner or later. Death is the end result of every life. Thus,
you should all have mindfulness of death. Those who have never
thought about death before, when death arrives, you will be
terrified and taken over by fear as if you were facing a fierce
and angry animal. On the other hand, people who always
practise mindfulness of death will not be startled and afraid
when death arrives.
“People’s lives are very short. We all have to move on to
the next life; quickly do your good deeds and lead a holy life.
There is absolutely no one on earth who can choose not to die.
Even people who live a long life may only reach a hundred
years old. There are very few who can live longer than that.
You must not be complacent and feel proud that you might
have a long life. You must quickly do good karma as if there
is fire is on your head and you must quickly put it out. You
should have mindfulness of death and be glad that you can live
until this very moment and that no danger has yet come to
harm you. That’s why you must listen to the words of all
“How often should you practise mindfulness of death?
One might think that it is often enough to be mindful of death
every day, every half a day or even every hour. You are wrong
if you think that is frequent enough. Ideally, mindfulness
of death should After the sermon, the Araweens paid their
respects to the sublime Buddha and went home to their work
and the struggle to make ends meat. They soon forgot about
the teaching, but not Kumarika. While she was walking home,
she thought to herself:
“Oh! The words of the Buddha were magical and
most inspiring. I have never heard such beautiful teachings
before in my whole life. I must do exactly what the great
teacher said. I will practise mindfulness of death.”
She then practised mindfulness of death both day and
night, at every breath as well as she could manage. She soon
found out that the mindfulness of death could really help her
to find inner peace and free her of binding fears. She gained
awareness and saw the sad truth of life, which revolved around
birth, ageing, illness and death. She kept the practise going for
three years, gradually developed her skill and gained good
One morning, the great teacher, the Lord Buddha
Gautama telepathically looked out for someone whom he could
help, which was the tradition practised by all the Buddhas in
the past. He then saw Kumarika, the daughter of the weaver of
Arawi, enter into his mind. When he carefully looked into it,
the Buddha knew that Kumarika had taken his advice on the
mindfulness of death and she had done it for three years now.
The Buddha could foresee that she also had the dhamma habit,
which meant that she deserved to become a Sotapanna (the
first level of holiness). Thus, the Buddha told himself that he
should go to Arawi and ask the four questions to Kumarika,
which would lead her to reach the fruit of Sotapanna.
So the exalted Buddha along with his hundreds of
followers set off on a journey for Aravi. The news of the arrival
of the Buddha spread rapidly. The Araweens quickly came to
pay respect to the Buddha and looked forward to listening to
his teaching. Kumarika too was thrilled when she heard of the
news. Her heart was pounding with great joy and excitement.
“My father as well as my teacher has arrived. It has
been three years since I last saw the Lord Buddha who has
the golden complexion. Today, I will have a chance to see him
again and listen to his most inspiring teaching. “
While she was getting herself ready to go out, her father
“Oh Kumarika, I am on my way to see one of my
customers now. He wants me to weave him a piece of fine
cloth for a special occasion. I have already started but I need to
find out a few more details about the pattern and I have also
run out of yarn. Can you spin more thread for me so that I
can carry on weaving when I come back?”
Kumarika did not expect her father to give her a job so
suddenly. She was very disappointed because her heart had
gone to be with her spiritual father, the Lord Buddha, but she
could hardly say no to her father for fear of getting herself into
trouble. She told herself that she had better stay and quickly
finish the work and then she could go to see the Buddha later.
She hurriedly spun the basketful of balls of cotton into yarn
to be ready for her father to use when he returned. Her mind
was, however, not with the work like it used to be. She was so
anxious to see the Buddha that she did not finish spinning all
the balls of cotton as she intended to do. She decided to leave
the last few balls of cotton behind.
“Father should have enough yarn to weave when
he returns. I will quickly come home to finish the rest of these
balls,” she said to herself. She then swiftly tidied and cleaned
herself up and headed for the Vihara.
Meanwhile, the Araweens came to the Vihara with all
the well-prepared foods for offering to the Buddha and all his
disciples. It was a Buddhist tradition that after the meal, the
Buddha would return the gratitude by chanting the holy
words of blessing to the congregation (anumodana). It is a way
to rejoice and approve the meritorious deeds of the people.
When it reached the time of anumodana, the leader of
the congregation approached the Buddha. He expected to see
the great Lord handing his alms bowl to him so that the Buddha
could do the anumodana. The worthy one looked into the
congregation well packed with people. He could not see
Kumarika in the crowd. The Buddha then thought to himself:
“I have travelled thirty yojana14 so that I could
teach the daughter of the weaver. She has not yet arrived. I will
wait until she comes and then I will do the anumodana.”
The Buddha did not hand over his alms bowl to the
Araween leader. He sat in his most serene manner, looked into
the crowd and remained silent. When the Buddha was quiet, no
one else would move or whisper a sound. The silence gradually
spread to the whole of the congregation. Suddenly,
it was as if no one was there. If the Buddha refused to speak,
no one in the three worlds could make him talk. The silent
14 Yojana is the measure of the length of distance in ancient India. One
yojana is equivalent to 10 miles or 16 kilometres
atmosphere went on for quite a long time until Kumarika
turned up and stood by the edge of the crowd near to the
entrance. She looked straight to the greatest teacher of the
world and was eager to admire his graceful appearance and
golden complexion. She could see that the Buddha stretched
his neck to look out for her and then everyone in the
congregation looked in the same direction as the Buddha.
Kumarika was an intelligent girl. For some reason, she
knew that the Buddha was waiting for her. She finally reached
the Buddha whom she had regarded as her spiritual father for
the past three years. She carefully paid great respect to the
Buddha and offered the basket with the reels of cotton to the
Buddha. The Buddha accepted the gift and put it down to one
side. He kindly looked at the girl and asked:
“Kumarika, where do you come from?”
“I don’t know, my lord,” she answered.
“Where are you going to?” the Buddha asked again.
“I don’t know, my lord,” she answered.
“Don’t you know?” the Buddha asked further.
“Yes, I do know,” Kumarika nodded her head.
“Do you know?” the Buddha asked again.
“No, I don’t know, my dear father.” Kumarika
slowly shook her head whilst she answered the last question.
No sooner than the conversation between the Buddha
and the girl had finished, the crowd showed their discontent
towards the daughter of the weaver. There were angry reactions
and whispers among the crowd:
“How dare she talk nonsense to the Lord Buddha?
Why couldn’t she answer the truth that she came from her
The Buddha knew about the angry reaction and the
harsh words towards the young girl. He then raised his hand
and the crowd went quiet again. The Buddha subsequently asked
“What did you mean by saying that you didn’t know
where you came from?”
“I knew that I came from my father’s house but
I don’t know where I was before I came to be born in this
world, my lordship,” Kumarika explained.
“What did you mean by saying that you didn’t know
where you were going?” the Buddha asked.
“I knew that after I leave here, I will return to my
father’s home again but I don’t know where I will be going to
after I die from this world, my lordship. I don’t know whether
I will come back to be born as a human, an animal, a hungry
ghost, a hellish being or a heavenly being in one of the upper
“And what did you mean by saying that you knew?
What exactly did you know?”
“I know that I must die one day, sooner or later sir.
That is what I know for sure.”
“Then, you answered my last question by saying
that you didn’t know. What did you mean, Kumarika?”
“I meant that I do not know on which day I will die.
I also do not know how and where I will die, my lordship.”
The Buddha rejoiced at every answer clarified by the
weaver’s daughter. He then talked to the crowd:
“Listen to this, everyone. You blamed this girl
because you did not know the profound meaning of the answers
she gave me. Now that she has explained her answers very clearly,
I fully approve and bless her. She answered all my questions
correctly. Those who have wisdom can understand easily.”
The Buddha paused for a short while and looked around
at his congregation. He then continued:
“This world is utterly dark. The majority of the
people are still blind. There are very few people who could be
enlightened. There are very few people too who could go to
heaven. Most beings are trapped in the darkness just like
birds trapped in the net of a hunter. There are very few who
can break free from it. This world is completely dark not
because of the lack of sunshine but because of the ignorance
and the misunderstanding that people have towards their own
lives. People have been living in the darkness of ignorance until
they have got used to it. Not until they have a chance to come
out of the dark and slowly experience the light will they reach
the point where they can compare the difference between
the light and the dark. Only then will they know that living in
the darkness of ignorance is full of danger, threat and hazard.
It is a very vulnerable and risky life. There is nothing pleasant
about it at all. On the contrary, living in the light of wisdom
can bring a great deal of joy, peace, true happiness and a chance
to witness the truth. It is a great shame that there is only
a handful of people who can see this.”
Immediately after the Buddha had finished his discourse,
Kumarika entered into the stream of holiness and become
a Sotapanna. Although the Buddha aimed to teach and helped
Kumarika to be enlightened, a great number of people in the
congregation also gained wisdom from his teaching. They were
very pleased and rejoiced in the worthy one.
When the crowd dispersed, Kumarika hurried to return
home and intended to finish the job that she had left undone.
When she entered the room, she saw her father sitting in front
of his hand loom. Apparently, he had dropped off to sleep
while his right hand was still holding the flying shuttle. Kumarika
did not want to disturb her weary father. She quietly sat down
by her basket with a few balls of cotton left in there and
was going to spin more yarn for her father. Suddenly she
dropped the wooden reel on the floor, the loud noise woke
her father up. Whilst the weaver was trying to gain full
consciousness, he automatically threw across the flying shuttle
in his right hand. Without full control of what he was doing,
the flying shuttle did not stop and flew straight out from the
other end of the loom. The sharp end of the needle went straight
into the chest of Kumarika who was sitting on the left hand
side of the loom. She screamed with a loud noise. The father
got up and rushed to his only daughter who by now was lying
flat on the floor. She was covered with blood. The father did
not know what to do and shouted out for help. The doctor
came but there was nothing he could do for her. She had died
The weaver cried out with immense guilt and pain at
losing his only daughter at such a tender age. He could not face
such a huge loss nor could he live with so great a shame. He
knew that the Buddha must still be at the Vihara. He quickly
left to search for him as he was certain that the Buddha was the
only one who could help to take away his immense suffering.
Sitting and sobbing uncontrollably in front of the
Buddha, the despairing father asked the Buddha for help. The
exalted one looked at the poor man with great kindness and
gently consoled him with the words of truth.
“Listen carefully Pesaka:
Please do not be so sad. The length of this samsara is so
long that no one can possibly know the beginning and the
end of it. We all have lost our loved ones before. This is not the
first time that you have lost your dearest daughter. The tears of
people who have suffered because they lost their loved ones
somewhere in this samsara are as much as the water in the
ocean, if not more. At this moment, your daughter has already
become a Sotapanna. She has known the way to get out of
samsara. She will not be born in any realm lower than that of
human-beings. The gateway to hell has completely shut down
for her. You must not worry.”
The weaver attentively listened to the Buddha’s
teaching, which was full of good reasons. Unlike three years
ago when he did not think much of the sermon, now he could
absorb all the profound meaning of the dhamma, which
penetrated his heart. Suddenly, the grief and deep sorrow were
lifted off his chest. He decided to follow the footsteps of the
Buddha and humbly asked the worthy one to ordain him.
Pesaka worked very hard with his practice and not long after
that he became an Arahant, a fully enlightened one who has
permanently left samsara behind.
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