Thursday, March 8, 2018

What happened to the Buddha's WIFE? (video)

G.P. Malalasekera, Dictionary of Pali Proper Names; Samsara film; Dhr. Seven, Crystal Quintero, Amber Larson, Ananda M. (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

Cool scene in the Tibetan movie Samsara where a wife chews out her husband for leaving home to become enlightened and wrongly cites the plight of Yasodhara and now nobody considers her story or what she went through. It is very beautiful, fierce, and feminist -- but it is just not true, not a historically accurate condemnation.

Of course, the Buddha was not married. Wandering ascetics (recluses, munis, sannyasins) are not married.

But Prince Siddhartha was. His wife's name was Bimba Devi, popularly known as Princess Yasodhara.

Like the words buddha and rahula, yasodhara is not a name but a title. It means "Bearer of Glory" [from yaśas "glory, splendor" + dhara "bearing" from the verbal root dhri "to bear, support"]. 

She has been obscured from history -- her greatness hidden by diffusion -- through all of the different names she is given in the texts [possibly due to Indian sexism that later glorified men and all but erased females and the Order of Buddhist Nuns].

Central Asians blend East and West
The name generally given to her in the texts is "Rāhula's Mother" (Rāhula-mātā, e.g., Vin.i.82) and Siddhartha Gautama's wife.
She is also spoken of as Bhaddakaccā* and, in later texts, Yasodharā (BuA., p.245; Dvy.253), Bimbā Devī (J.ii.392f.; DA.ii.422) and, probably, Bimbā Sundarī ( [12]).
  • *For example, Bu.xxvi.15; Mhv.ii.24 calls her Bhaddakaccānā. But see Thomas, op. cit., 49; she is also called Subhaddakā, this being probably a variant of Bhaddakaccānā.
  • [The Buddha had a sister and brother, or at least half-sister and half-brother, Sundari Nanda and Nanda, who also became enlightened monastics and lost in the shuffle of names. The Buddha got them to ordain on his return to his Scythian homeland, "Shakya Land," seven years after his enlightenment around the time his son, Rahula, was ordained as a Buddhist monk.]
The northern texts [of the Mahayana movement] seem to favor the name Yasodharā, but they also call her the "Daughter of Dandapānī." (See also Rockhill, op. cit., where various other names are given as well).

It is probable that the name of Prince Siddhartha Gautama's wife was actually Bimbā and that Bhaddakaccā, Subhaddakā, Yosadhāri, and all the other names [see below] were descriptive epithets applied to her, which later became regarded as additional names.

It is also possible that in Siddhartha Gautama's court there was also a Yasodharā, a daughter of Dandapānī, and that there was a later confusion of names.

A new monastic name
The captivating Scythian/Central Asian beauty
The Commentarial explanation (AA.i.204) that she was called Bhaddakaccānā because her body was the color of burnished gold is probably correct.

To suggest (e.g., Thomas, op. cit., 49) that the name bears any reference to the Kaccāna gotra ["lineage, clan"] seems to be wrong because that was a Brahmin lineage, and the Sākiyans [Scythians, Sakas] were not Brahmins
  • [The Shakyians/Scythians, who were actually outside of the Vedic/Brahminical "Indian" caste system were considered kshatriyas, i.e., fierce warrior princes/princesses, nobles, nomads, soldiers, wanderers from the northwest frontier lands of Central Asia in what is now the Stans west of modern India].
Yasodhara/Bimba was born on the same day as Prince Siddhartha, the Bodhisattva or "Buddha-to-be" (J.i.54; BuA. 106, 228).

They were cousins (or members of the same clan) who married, as nobles/royals tend to do, when they were both 16. The following account is taken chiefly from J.i.58ff:

She was placed at the head of 40,000 females given to Prince Siddhartha by the Sākiyans/Scythians after he proved his manly prowess to their satisfaction.
Prince Siddhartha renounced the household life on the day of the birth of his son, Rāhula or "Bond, Fetter." (According to one account, referred to in the Rebirth Tales/Jātaka Commentary, i.62, Rāhula was seven days old at that time).

If I don't go now, I'll never be able to go.
It is said that just before he left the royal palace to become a wandering ascetic on his quest for enlightenment to save all beings (at least all of his Shakyian/Scythian subjects) from suffering, he took one last look at his wife and child from the door of her room, not daring to go nearer lest he should wake them.

After his enlightenment, when the Buddha paid his first visit to Kapilavastu [one of three seasonal capitals of the Shakyians/Scythians], he went about the streets for alms on the second day of that visit.

The news of this spread, and Princess Yasodhara/Bimba Devi looked out of her window to see if it was true.

She saw the Buddha and was so struck by the glory of his personal beauty that she uttered eight verses in its praise. These verses have been handed down under the name of Narasīhagāthā.

On that day, after the Buddha finished his meal in the royal palace of his father, King Suddhodana, who had invited him, all of the ladies of the Shakyian court, with the exception of his former wife went to pay him obeisance as their former prince and future king.

The royals were once in love from the age of 16 on.
Yasodhara refused to go, saying that if she had any virtue in her the Buddha would come to visit her.
The Buddha went to her with his two chief male monastic disciples and gave instructions that she should be allowed to greet him as she wished.

Yasodhara fell at his feet and, clasping them with her hands, put her head on them.

King Suddhodana related to the Buddha how, from the time he had left home, Princess Yasodhara/Bimba had herself abandoned all luxury and had lived in the same manner as she had heard that he, her former husband the wandering ascetic, was living:

She had taken to wearing saffron robes of a spiritual wayfarer/wanderer rather than royal raiment, eating only once a day, sleeping on the ground rather than using a high and luxurious bed, and so on [things such as the 13 sane ascetic practices] as the ascetic Siddhartha took on additional austerities, some sane, some severe.
  • [This should pause to those who believe that Prince Siddhartha abandoned his family, left them behind, and had no consideration about their feelings. They knew where he was, why he left, and what he was doing. This means his former wife and the mother of his child knew. His father and mother, King Suddhodana and Queen Prajapati, the sister and co-wife of the Buddha's biological mother, Maya Devi, Queen Maya, who passed away seven days after his birth.]
[Though she was free to, she had also, it is said, rejected every offer and proposal to remarry, which came from the richest and most handsome royals around.]
  • [It may be that Prince Rahula was not his one and only child. Ananda may have been a son not a cousin, as the Mahavastu states" Ananda's mother's name was Mrigi ("little deer"), who is named in the Kanjur and Sanghabedavastu as one of Gautama's royal harem wives (prior to his renunciation). This points to the strong possibility that Ananda was in fact the Buddha's son (Wendy Garling, Stars at Dawn: Forgotten Stories of Women in the Buddha's Life, Shambhala Publications, 2016, pp. 94-106). In the 20th year of (20 being the minimum age when a male can take full ordination in the Buddhist Monastic Order) of the Buddha's ministry, Ananda became the Buddha's personal attendant, accompanying him on most of his wanderings and taking the part of Socratic interlocutor in many of the recorded dialogues or sutras/discourses.]
Life in one of the three palaces of the Shakyians' three royal palaces for the couple
The Buddha then related the Candakinnara Jātaka to show how, in the past, too, Bimba/Yasodhara's loyalty had been supreme.
On the seventh day of the Buddha's visit, when he left the palace at the end of his meal, she sent Prince Rāhula -- their son and heir apparent -- to him saying: "That is your father, so go and ask him for your inheritance."

Prince Rāhula followed the Buddha and asked for his inheritance. The Buddha took great pity realizing all of the suffering inherent in ruling and living in the world. So he, with the highest welfare of Prince Rahula in mind, requested his chief male disciple foremost in wisdom, Ven. Sāriputra, to ordain him.

Royal family as monks: Rahula, the Buddha, Ananda
The account of this event is given in Vin.i.82 (the Vinaya or Monastic Disciplinary Code, which contains origin stories for each of monastic rule established by the Buddha).

This is probably the only passage in the Three Collections of Buddhist texts (Tri-pitaka) where Bimba/Yasodhara/Rāhulamātā is mentioned by name.

This child-ordination caused an uproar. The prince's mother, Yasodhara, was probably hoping for an inheritance of riches and title, passing down the right to rule the Shakyians/Scythians for her 7-year-old son.

King Suddhodana, moreover, was upset because he intended little Prince Rahula to eventually rule. Now the king, or local ruler of the Shakya clan (this particular band of Scythians), had no proper heir.

Cool! I get to go be with my dad and relatives!
They complained to the Buddha (who is, after all, Rahula's father returned to Shakya Land after a seven year absence), who instituted a new monastic rule on who could ordain.

Prince Siddhartha had gone away to find the way to the end of suffering for everyone, not least his own family and people. He was now called the muni ("sage") of the Scythians/Shakyas or Shakyamuni. They treated the Buddha, the Light of Asia and the World, as if he had returned to rule and lead a home life.

The new rule was that anyone who is not yet an adult (i.e., who is under 20, the age of majority at that time, which is equivalent to our 21 because in Asia people are born 1-year-old for the 10 lunar months they have spent on earth in the womb) should not be ordained by the monastics without parental consent.
The Buddha established that rule for all future Buddhist ordinations. But Prince Rahula, with the consent of his father, had already become the world's youngest novice Buddhist monk or little shraman trainee.
Princess Bimba (like mother Maya shown as a salabhanjika) giving birth to Rahula.

Together at home and wandering
Later, when the Buddha accepted females into the Buddhist Monastic Order, Yasodhara/Bimba became a  Buddhist nun under the tutelage of the world's first Buddhist nun:

Who was the first Buddhist nun ordained by the Buddha? That would be his adoptive mother, who raised him from the time he was 7 days old, Queen Mahā Prajāpatī Gautamī, the sister of the Buddha's biological mother Queen Maya (AA.i.198) King Suddhodana's primary wife.
Ven. Buddhaghosa, the greatest Buddhist commentator, identifies (AA.i.204f) Yasodhara/Bimba (Rāhulamātā) with Ven. Bhaddakaccānā who, in the Collection of Numerical Discourses (Anguttara Nikāya, A.i.25) is mentioned as "chief among female monastic disciples in the possession of supernormal powers" (mahābhiññappattānam).

She was one of the four disciples of the Buddha who possessed such an attainment. The others were the chief male disciples Ven. Sāriputra and Ven. Maha Moggallāna, and Ven. Bakkula. She expressed her wish for this achievement in the time of Padumuttara Buddha.

Merit (wholesome and profitable karma) makes one wise and attractive life after life.
In this account Bhaddakaccānā is mentioned as the daughter of the Shākyian  [Scythian] Suppabuddha and his wife Amitā.*
*Cf. Mhv.ii.21f. It is said (DhA.iii.44f) that Yasodhara's father, Suppabuddha, did not forgive Prince Siddhartha (now the Buddha) for leaving his daughter; Devadatta [the Buddhist "Judas"] was Bhaddakaccanā's [brother], and it has been suggested that Devadatta's enmity against the Buddha was for reasons similar to her father's.
Yasodhara/Bimba joined the Buddhist Female Monastic Order under Ven. Pajāpatī Gautamī in the company of Janapada Kalyānī (Nandā). And it also states that in the Order of Nuns she was known as Ven. Bhaddakaccānā Therī.

Later, she developed insight [vipassana] and became an arhat. She could, with one effort, recall one aeon of indeterminate length (asankheyya kalpa) and 100,000 [ordinary] kalpas (AA.i.205).
  • [The significance of this is that a kalpa (Pali kappa) may in this case refer to "an ordinary human lifespan" rather than a "great aeon." If that is the case then the time between the arising of buddhas is not enormous epochs, ages, and aeons but rather just many lives.]
In the "Stories of Nuns' Lives" or Therī Apadāna (Ap.ii.584ff ) an account is found of a therī [Buddhist "elder," a senior nun, meaning having been a nun for at least ten rains], Yasodharā by name, who is evidently to be identified with Yasodhara/Bimba because she speaks of herself (vvs. 10, 11) as the Buddha's pajāpatī before he left the household (agāra) and says that she was the chief (pāmokkhā sabbaissarā) of 90,000 women.
In the time of Dīpankara Buddha, when the Bodhisattva (future Buddha) was born as Sumedha, she was a Brahmin maiden named Sumittā who gave eight handfuls of lotuses to Sumedha, which he, in turn, offered to the Buddha.

Dīpankara Buddha, in declaring that Sumedha would ultimately become a buddha in the distant future, added that Sumittā [Yasodhara/Bimba] would be his companion in several lives/rebirths.

The Apadāna account (vvs. 1ff ) mentions how, just before her passing into final nirvana, at the age of 78, took leave of the Buddha and performed various miracles. It also states (Ap.ii.592f ) that 18,000 fully enlightened (arhat) nuns, companions of Ven. Bhaddakaccana (Yasodharā/Bimba), also passed into final nirvana on the same day.
The Abbhantara Jātaka* mentions that Ven. Bimbā (who was called the chief wife of Prince Siddhartha Gautama and is therefore evidently identical with Rāhula's mother/Rāhulamātā) was once, after becoming a nun, ill with indigestion.
The kind and swift witted Princess Bimba
When Ven. Rāhula came to visit his mother the nun Ven. Bhaddakaccana, as was his custom, he was told that he could not see her.

When she had suffered from the same trouble at home, she had been cured using fresh mango juice with raw sugar. Ven. Rāhula reported this matter to his monastic preceptor, Ven. Sāriputra [in charge of getting monks to stream entry, the first stage of enlightenment], who obtained mango juice from their royal supporter King Pasenadi.

When King Pasenadi learned why the mango juice had been needed, he arranged that from that day forward that it should be regularly supplied. The rebirth tale (jātaka) relates how in a past rebirth Sāriputra had also come to her rescue.
*J.ii.392f.; cf. the Supatta Jātaka, where Sāriputra, at Rāhula's request, obtained for her from Pasenadi rice with ghee flavored with [presumably savory/umami/fermented digestive aid] red fish. This was for abdominal pain (J.ii.433).
The great Yasodhara by other names
"Was I in the past? Who was I? Will I be in the future? Who will I be?" These four questions are foolish and lead not to liberation from rebirth. "What is suffering? What is the cause of suffering? What is the end of suffering? What is the way to the end of suffering?" These four questions are wise, for reflected on, they lead one out to enlightenment and liberation.

Buddha as a Central Asian king
Numerous stories are found in the Commentary to the Jātaka [Birth Tales or Rebirth Fables of the Buddha] in which Yasodhara/Bimba is identified with one or other of the characters.

[This shows how she was connected to the Bodhisattva, the Buddha-to-be, from the distant past because we are all often reborn in cohorts due to our karma].

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