Friday, June 10, 2016

The Buddha's enlightened sister, Part I

Dhr. Seven, Ashley Wells, Crystal Quintero, Wisdom Quarterly; G.P. Malalasekera (Pali Kanon)
It's a mystery how anyone looked including the Buddha. That was not preserved. But Greco-Buddhist art gave us the fist and best images we have Wisdom Quarterly/
I want to be like her, daddy. -  That's the Buddha, dear. - Oh yeah. (Eighteen for Life/flickr)
If Shakespeare had a sister we would never know it due to sexism in the West. How many "Shakespeare's sisters" have their been? We don't know. We've missed out. We've missed out on the artistic and scientific advances of more than half the people on the planet due to our sexism.

Sadly, sexism spread all over the planet, and humanity has been deprived of some of the greatest innovators that might have been. This is not limited to the secular world. Modern religion is much to blame. There was a time in the past when sexism was not rampant -- when "God" (Yahweh) had a wife (Asherah).
Her memory was stamped out when the Jews went sexist and monotheistic, neglecting the Lord's consort, whereas the Vedic gods and gods of other religions kept their female partners.

Females can be fully enlightened, too.
Sadly, Buddhism was not immune to the wave of sexism that has spread throughout the planet [at the behest of draconian visitors, sky "gods," or other off-planet entities?] As such, modern Mahayana Buddhism still goes on and on about "the Patriarchs," and Theravada Buddhist act as if there were never a tradition of enlightened nuns.

Because the Buddha was supremely enlightened (meaning he was not just enlightened but capable of effectively teaching others the path to enlightenment) and progressive, he taught, ordained, and raised females up, treating people as individuals in spite of gender, socioeconomic status, appearance, caste, or other superficial considerations.
But the current tradition suffers from male domination and a lapsed nuns' tradition that has only recently been revived, thanks in great part to Westerners and a groundswell of support in Buddhist countries.

Shakespeare's sister
Shakespeares Sister Irish singer, the beautiful Siobhan Fahey (Kate Booker/
The Buddha Shakyamuni, gilded alabaster, Sukhothai, Thailand (
"Shakespeare" is not William Shakespeare but another person or persons. We are partial to the theory that the Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere actually wrote that body of work and asked the egotistic bumpkin actor Shakespeare to take credit to conceal the fact that a noble was engaging in the lowly craft of drama, which is considered highbrow now but was rather base then.

He had no sister, no female counterpart that we know of. But rest assured that if she had written all that is credited to him, it would have been discounted, dismissed, stolen, and credited to someone else. Such is the power of sexism, the belief that people are better or worse due to their biological sex rather than their social conditioning.

Sacred feminine in Buddhism: Kwan Yin, Taras...
But the Buddha really did have a sister, technically called a half-sister, but she was biologically closer than that. Here's how: Prince Siddhartha Gautama of the Shakya clan had a father, King Suddhodana, who had multiple wives. Two of them were sisters.

The Buddha's mother, Queen Maya, passed away a week after Siddhartha's birth, and her sister (the king's wife and Maya's sister) stepped up to raise the prince, the future leader of the Shakyians (called "Scythians" from Central Asia by the ancient Greeks). The king and his new head wife (new chief consort) had a son and daughter, Nanda and Sundari Nanda, the Buddha's brother and sister.
Sexism is such that we rarely hear about the fact that Prince Siddhartha's wife, Princess Bimba -- popularly known by the epithet Yasodhara -- became an enlightened Buddhist nun and one of the if not the fiercest disputants in northern India and Shakya land (the geographical region between modern Afghanistan and Burma all along the Himalayan range, which is called the Hindu Kush on its western edge).
Her fame grew throughout the land so that no one, male or female, dared to take her up on the standing offer to debate spiritual matters.

Like everyone from the Buddha's time, she is not spoken of by her actual name, Bimba, but by various epithets, such as Yasodhara (and Bhaddakaccānā, Bhaddakaccā, Bhaddākaccā, Subhaddakaccānā, Kacchana, Subhaddakā, and Rahulamata, "mother of Rahula," her son and heir to the throne as the son of Siddhartha, who ordained at age 7 and became an enlightened disciple under his father the Buddha and his cousin, Ven. Ananda.
Prince Siddhartha's adoptive mother, Maha Prajapati (Queen Maya's sister), went on to become the world's first Buddhist nun, followed by many Scythian women, warrior princesses in the sense that they were kshatriya (noble or warrior caste) relatives of King Suddhodana.
The Buddha's sister
The beautiful Central Asian Shakyian Nanda
Sundarī-Nandā, "Beautiful Nanda," was the Buddha's father's daughter with the Buddha's adoptive mother, the sister of his biological mother. She is called his half-sister but she was biologically closer, and they grew up together. And she became a nun or therī (a respected nun who lived as a nun for a certain number of years, usually ten).
She was the daughter of King Suddhodana and Queen Mahā Pajāpatī, the sister of the Buddha and their brother Nanda Thera, who also became a monk and a respected elder (thera).
Seeing that most of her Shakya kin had joined the Buddha's Monastic Order (Sangha), she too became a nun.
She went forth not out of confidence (saddha, faith), but out of love and affection for her kin, the extended Shakya clan being very close. Unfortunately, she was intoxicated with her own beauty, so much so that she did not go to see the Buddha thinking that he would rebuke her for her vanity.
The rest of her story is very similar to that of Abhirūpa Nandā (and not unlike that of the Buddha's chief female disciple foremost in wisdom, Khema Theri).
Reborn in Kapilavast (Bamiyan, Afghanistan)
The Buddha preached to her and she became a stream enterer (sotāpanna), the first stage of enlightenment. He then gave her a subject of meditation. And by developing insight using this topic, she became fully enlightened (an arhat).
She was later declared foremost among nuns in power of "meditation" (jhana, bhavana, samadhi, kammatthana), an eminence which she had resolved to obtain in the time of Padumuttara Buddha (Thag.vs.82-6; ThigA.80f.; Ap.ii.572f; A.i.25; AA.i.198f.).

This likely means that Sundari Nanda was greatly skilled in her mastery of the meditative absorptions, entering them at will and without difficulty and emerging as predetermined by her own volition. TO BE CONTINUED

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