|Ideal altar: chief disciples Khema and Uppalavanna (nuns), Sariputta and Mahamoggallana (monks), Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, Ayutthaya, Thailand (Rainer Lott, Steffi Esch/flickr).|
|Kwan Yin (metafisicamiami.com)|
|Kwan Yin (Great-wall-hikers/flickr)|
But during the Buddha's lifetime, there were five overarching women, five females of great importance, five who are rarely spoken of in spite of the fact that four became enlightened nuns with his help.
Maya Devi, his biological mother. She passed away seven days later (having completed her pre-birth "mission," descending from a celestial world to the human plane to give birth to the Bodhisat then being reborn in the space-realm known as the The World of the Thirty-Three). Siddhartha, after he became the Buddha, would travel there to teach her, Sakka, and other beings there the "Higher Teachings" (Abhidharma).
Siddhartha's wife, Yasodhara (aka Bimba, Bimba-devi, Bimba-sundari, Bhaddakacca, "Rahula's mother" Rahula-mata, and the great disputant Bhaddhakaccana), was left cared for even when Siddhartha set off to find enlightenment and the end of suffering.
She stayed in the palace to raise their son with the protection of Siddhartha's parents, the title of "princess," the riches of the kingdom as the mother of the future king, and news of her husband's whereabouts and activities. Many imagine she was left heartbroken and in the dark.
|Setaketu to be reborn a human|
They had been together in many past lives, and they enjoyed a special connection few understood, even after his return from his successful spiritual quest. For she became a prominent nun under the Buddha. She was no longer called Bimba or Yasodhara but rather Bhaddakaccana, an enlightened disciple.
|Avalokiteshvara with a thousand arms (tibet-photo.com)|
|(Rainer Lott, Steffi Esch/flickr.com)|
Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was staying at Vesali, at the Great Forest, in Peaked-Roof Hall.
Then [the woman who raised him as her own son, sister of his biological mother] Mahapajapati Gotami went to him, bowed, and stood respectfully to one side.
|The first Buddhist nun, Maha Pajapati Gotami|