Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Buddha on maintaining true love

Isaline B. Horner, Women in Early Buddhist Literature (a talk to the All-Ceylon Buddhist Women's Association) edited by Ashley Wells, Amber Larson, Crystal Quintero, Wisdom Quarterly
The ends of wars always make for good photo ops. If only they were in love. Here a woman is trying to find her "significant otter" and she seems to have alighted on a live one (AP).
Don't cry. We'll see each other again if...
šŸ’• For the sake of true love, we might want to be reborn together again and again with our loved one. But samsara (the cyclical process of rebirth that divides us, changes us, and reunites us as strangers) is such that it is unlikely. However, for those wishing to remain together, the Buddha did give a way as told in the story of his two most eminent lay disciples.

If all goes well then a spouse may be called a "supreme comrade" (S i 37). A number of devoted couples are mentioned in Buddhism's Pali language canon, such as the householders Queen Mallika and King Pasenadi, Nakulamata and Nakulapita, and Dhammadinna and Visakha.

Has Kamadeva taken over modern Hinduism to elevate Krishna and Radha's love and devotion to a religious virtue. Kamadeva, like Cupid, is not a hero but a sly troublemaker and potential menace.
  • Maybe we should break up already?
    The Nakulas (Nuh cool luhs) are Buddhist householders from Sumsumāragiri in the Bhagga-country. They went to see the Buddha when he visited the village and stayed at Bhesakalāvana.
    Your mother misses you, son. Visit us more.
    Strangely, the Nakulas fell at his feet and began calling him "son" and asking why he had been away for so long. (They had been the Buddha-to-be's parents for many previous lives and his close relatives for many more. The Buddha taught them and they reached the first stage of enlightenment, stream entry. The Buddha again visited their village when they were old. They entertained him, telling of their devotion to one another in this life and asking for a teaching about how they could stay together in the after-life and lives to come. The Buddha referred to this in the assembly, declaring them to be the most intimate companions (vissāsikā) among his disciples (A.I.26, A.II.61f, AA.i.216f, 246; ii.514; SA.ii.182). The Samayutta Nikaya (S.3.1, S.4.116; A.IV.268) contains records of conversations between Nakulapitā and the Buddha. Both husband and wife are mentioned in lists of eminent disciples (A.iii.465; A.iv.348).
Was the Buddha seeing other women?
The Buddha considered Nakulamata (Nakula-mother) and Nakulapita (Nakula-father) the most eminent among lay-disciples for their close relationship and companionship with one another (A i 26).

They were well matched in terms of their confidence (faith, conviction, saddha) in the Buddha's Teaching, their self-control, and the affectionate way in which they spoke to one another (A ii 62; AN 4.55).

Princess Bimba, "Yasodhara," was his wife
The Commentary (A i 400) asserts that for many past lives they had been parents or relatives of the Buddha-to-be, the Bodhisattva -- whom the Commentary calls "Him of the ten powers" to avoid confusion -- and so in this life they treated the Buddha like a son. 

Nakulamata, as was the custom for new brides, was taken to Nakulapita's home and, as they tell the Buddha, ever since that time, when he was still a mere boy and she only a girl, neither is aware of having transgressed against the other even in thought, much less in person, and each expresses the longing to be together not only here and now but in a future state also.
The Buddha reassures them on this point and gives as his reason that both of them are on the same level in regard to their belief, moral conduct, generosity, and wisdom (A ii 61f.; AN 4.55). 
Thanks, but I don't have daddy issues, sir.
In these respects therefore a woman may be the equal of a man.
Another record relates how Nakulamata once comforted her husband when he was dangerously ill and worrying about what would happen to her and the children should he die.

"Do not fret," she said. "I am deft at spinning cotton and carding wool and so would be able, were you to pass, to support the children and run the household. Nor would I go to another man.
Even greater than when you were alive would be my desire to see the Buddha and his Monastic Order.

This is not about sex, well, not just about sex.
As long as the Bhagavan (Teacher) has female disciples, clad in white [as disciples of the Buddha used to dress on lunar observance days], I shall be one of them, fulfilling the precepts of ethical behavior, and gaining inward tranquility of mind. I shall live confident, without pernicious doubt or questioning, following the Teacher's instruction. So do not die, householder, while you are fretting, for so to die is anguish" (A iii 295ff.).

Since restlessness-and-worry are one of the Five Hindrances to gaining mind-control, and since to die with an anxious heart works against happiness in the life to come [because the relinking karma of it leads to an unfortunate result], it is important to develop serenity of mind and impassibility of body.

A wife might help or harm a person.
Husbands might be prevented from crooked dealing if their wives were upholders of the Buddhist way of life. For example, the Brahmin DhanaƱjani was not being diligent. "Under the king's patronage he plundered Brahmin householders, and under their patronage he plundered the king.

His wife, who had had full confidence (faith) in the Buddha's Teachings and had come from a family having confidence (faith) had died, and he married another woman. But the new woman had no such confidence herself and came from a family lacking in faith" (M ii 185).

Here the first wife is clearly thought of as able to keep her husband on the straight and narrow, while the second one at all events seems to countenance his double dealings even if she does nothing herself to aid and abet him actively.
Equally with a man a woman might bring a family to prosperity. "All families that have attained great possessions have done so for one or other of the following reasons: they search for what is lost; repair what is dilapidated; eat and drink in moderation; and place in authority, issariya, a virtuous woman or man" (A ii 249; AN 4.255).
The Bodhisat loved Bimba many lives.
In pre-Buddhist days a woman had been looked down on if she did not marry. Growing old at home, she was called "one who sits with her father." But in early Buddhist times an unmarried girl might go unabused, contented, and adequately occupied in caring for her parents and younger brothers and sisters.

Hers would have been a domestic life. Or she might become the mistress (female master) of great possessions, of slave servants, villages, and rich fields, as did Subha, the goldsmith's daughter.

But once the Dharma had been taught to her by Maha Pajapati, the Buddha's foster-mother who went on to become the first Buddhist nun, she found that "all worldly pleasures irk me sore" and that "silver and gold lead neither to peace nor to enlightenment," so she entered the Order of Buddhist nuns. More

Love yourself. Against all odds and sexist social pressures, love yourself. Or who else will?
With Buddhist nuns and monks, female lay-followers and male lay-followers, it is impossible in speaking of women in early Buddhist literature to keep separate these four parts of the Buddhist community around the Buddha, because they were not separate in real life. The sexes were not segregated, and although nuns had their quarters apart from the monks, they had yet to carry out some of their official acts, such as ordaining others, together with an Order of Monks. They were not cloistered, not cut off from the world. On the contrary, there was much intermingling. Lay people gave alms food to Buddhist monks and nuns and often to monastics in other traditions (such as Jains and Brahmins) as well, for they abounded in what we now call India. Food was given either at the doors of homes or lay people invited monastics to provide their one major meal a day. In return, nuns and monks, both of whom could claim some great teachers, taught the Dharma to lay people, thus giving people the gift that excels all other gifts, Dharma-dana. This freedom of movement enjoyed by the nuns has a parallel with and is perhaps connected with the freedom of movement that was the happy lot of the lay women who knew not the cramping and enervating system of purdah, though their life might contain other disadvantages.

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