Friday, March 6, 2015

When the Courtesan met the Buddha

G.P. Malalasekera (Buddhist Dictionary of Pali Proper Names courtesy of the German site edited by Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Crystal Quintero, Wisdom Quarterly
You, too, will succumb to the power of beauty if you do not practice mindfulness (vigilant "bare awareness," sati) and exercise the mindful contemplations/recollections (four foundations, satipatthanas). Craving is the weak link in Dependent Origination for escape.
Who'll be Miss World in a pageant when everyone's in traditional Indonesian dress? (AP)
The Buddha (Kingstone_13)
Ambapālī (Ambapālikā): a courtesan of Vesāli. She is said to have come spontaneously into being at Vesāli in the gardens of the king (a familiar trope indicative of the woodland devis and fairies of far surpassing beauty, e.g., the life story of the Buddha's chief female disciple the nun Uppalavanna Theri once born of a blue lotus or the recent Japanese "Tale of Princess Kagyuga").

The gardener found her at the foot of a mango tree -- hence her name (amba = mango) -- and brought her to the city. She grew up so full of beauty and of grace that many young princes vied with each other for the honor of her hand. (This sounds exactly like the Shinto/Buddhist folktale of the Moon goddess avatar Princess Kagyuga!)

Tadolf Swiftler vs. Jen Law (
Finally, in order to end their strife, they appointed her courtesan (a female courtier). Later she became a devout follower of the Buddha, and building a monastic complex (vihāra) in her own garden grove, gave it to him and the Buddha's Monastic Order (Sangha). This was during the Buddha's last visit to Vesāli shortly before his final nirvana.
It is said that when Ambapālī heard of the Buddha's visit to Koti village near Vesāli she and her retinue drove out of the city in magnificent chariots to meet him and, after hearing a discourse, invited him and the monastics to a meal the next day. The Buddha accepted this invitation and had, as a result, to decline one from the Licchavi princes of Vesāli.
Some devis (divine-human hybrids, demigoddesses, fairies), like this one from Scotland in Tartan-Scottish, might default to their beauty to succeed and overcome a sexist planet like Earth (costumed dolls by Martha Boers/a-faerietale-of-inspiration).
Who's that bad girl? Michelle Trachtenberg
While returning from her visit to the Buddha, Ambapālī was so elated at the idea of having the Buddha to a meal the next day, she refused to make way for the Licchavi princes who were on their way to invite the Buddha. She told them she had invited them and they attempted to purchase her invitation. She refused to give up her invitation for anything in the world.

The DA. says that just before beautiful Ambapālī's visit, the Buddha admonished the monastics to be vigilant and mindful (contemplating reality rather than being neglectful and taken in by appearances), lest they should lose their heads about her (DA.ii.545).
It was after this meal that Ambapālī gave over her park, the Ambapāli-vana, often thought of as a mango grove, to the Buddha and the Monastic Order. The Buddha accepted the gift and stayed there some time before going on to Beluva (Vin.i.231-3; D.ii.95-8); the two accounts vary in details. For example, in the Long Discourses (Digha Nikaya) version, the Buddha was already in Ambapālivana, and not in Kotigāma, when the courtesan visited him.
I want to be a courtesan. - No, honey, you mean "princess"! You want to be a princess or a nun! - No, dad, I think I'd rather be a courtesan or business woman or rock star. - Okay, be a rock star but not like your role models Britney Spears or Selena Gomez. No more Disney!
I'm a warrior princess, li'l girl, not a wh*re.
Ambapālī had a son, Vimala-Kondañña, who was an eminent Elder (an enlightened monastic or thera/theri of many years standing). Having heard him preach one day, she renounced the world and -- working for insight by studying the working of the law of radical impermanence as crudely illustrated in her own aging body -- she attained full enlightenment (Therīgāthā 206-7).
Nineteen verses ascribed to her are found in the Psalms of the Sisters or Therīgāthā (ThigA.252-70).
Black Beauty Barbie (
In the time of Sikhī Buddha she had entered the Monastic Order. While yet a novice, she took part in a procession of Buddhist nuns (bhikkhunīs) and was doing homage at a shrine when an enlightened elder nun (arhat therī) in front of her hastily spat in the court of the shrine. Seeing the spittle and not knowing who had committed the fault, she said in reproof: "What prostitute has been spitting here?"

It was owing to this remark that she was born as a courtesan in her last rebirth (ThigA.206-7).
The Apadāna (also quoted in the Therīgāthā) gives some more details about her. She had been a daughter of a noble warrior caste (kshatriya/khattiya) family in the time of Phussa Buddha and had done many meritorious deeds in order to be beautiful in later rebirths.

In a future life as a deva in Heaven #2, I'm going to marry Sakka, King of the Devas. - Hah, you wish! He's already married to an asura princess (Martha Boers/a-faerietale...).
Fruit beauty is deva beauty.
As a result of the abuse of the nun (referred to above) she had been born in hell and later had, for ten thousand lives, been a courtesan. In Kassapa Buddha's time she had practiced celibacy (Ap.ii.613ff.; ThigA.213f).
It is said that she charged 50 kahāpanas a night from her patrons and that Vesāli became very prosperous through her. It was this that prompted King Bimbisāra to get a courtesan for his own city of Rājagaha (Vin.i.268), modern Rajgir, where the Buddha often resided atop the poorly named Vultures Peak, which has no vultures and is merely a beautiful hill overlooking Rajgir that was a good retreat, a tiny hermitage the Buddha used to be close to the city, Bamboo Grove monastery, and one of his many royal patrons, King Bimbisara, his wife, and their bad son the subsequent King Ajatasattu.

The devas (space nymphs) as depicted in Thai cultural art (Ammar Crazzy/
Among Ambapālī's patrons was King Bimbisāra, and he was the father of her son Vimala-Kondañña (ThagA.i.146). [This would seem to make Ambapali a kind of Queen of Rajagaha except not technically as happens in royal matters of polyamory and polygamy, multiple partners and wives, ladies in waiting, etc. King Bimbisara, who had reached the first stage of enlightenment and therefore loved and had an unshakeable faith in the Buddha, Dharma, and noble Sangha, was not so different from Ambapali, who also loved the Three Gems.]
In the Psalms of the Sisters (vv.1020-21; Psalms of the Brethren.ii.129) there are two verses which, according to tradition, were spoken by Ananda in admonition of monks who lost their heads at the sight of beautiful Ambapālī. Whether this was before or after she joined the Monastic Order we are not told.

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