Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A Queen and Harem gain Enlightenment

Dhammapada; Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson (trans.), Wisdom Quarterly, A Queen and Harem...

The king, his queen, and the ladies of his harem (skyscrapercity.com/showthread)
While residing in Ghosita Monastery near Kosambi, the Buddha uttered Verses 21, 22, and 23 of the Dhammapada in reference to Samavati, one of the chief queens of King Udena of Kosambi.

Queen Samavati had many "maids of honor" [likely the king's harem] residing with her in the palace. She also had a servant maid named Khujjuttara, who had the daily task of buying flowers for Samavati from Sumana, the town florist. But Khujjutara would pocket half the coins Queen Samavati gave her and buy flowers with the others.

On one occasion, when out shopping for flowers, Khujjuttara had the rare and fortunate opportunity to listen to the Buddha deliver a Dharma discourse in Sumana's home. It so struck her that she penetrated the liberating Truth, and she attained the fruit of stream entry (the first stage of enlightenment).

She immediately felt remorse for what she had been doing in stealing. She confessed to Queen Samavati, who was confused since there were always flowers in the house. Khujjuttara explained that she only took half the money. When asked what had come over her and caused her to confess, she explained the strange experience she had undergone on hearing the Dharma at Sumana's house.

She could hardly explain what had happened to her. Instead, she repeated the Buddha's discourse to Samavati and the other harem ladies. They all attained stream-entry as a result.
From that day forward Khujjuttara did not have to do any menial work. She assumed the position of mother and teacher to Queen Samavati. She would listen to the sutras of the Buddha and repeat them to Samavati and her maids of honor.

In due course, Khujjuttara mastered the contents of the Three Sections of the Dharma (Tipitaka), that is, the conventional discourses (sutras), the monastic disciplinary code, and the Abhidharma or "Higher Teachings."

Samavati and her maids wished very much to see the Buddha to show their respect and gratitude. But they were afraid the king might be displeased with them. So making holes in the walls of the palace, they looked through them and bowed in the direction of the Buddha every day as he visited on alms round the houses of the three rich men, namely, Ghosaka, Kukkuta, and Pavariya.

The harem peered at the Buddha through holes in the walls of their living quarters.
At that time, King Udena also had another "chief queen" by the name of Magandiya. She was the daughter of a Brahmin. That Brahmin, seeing the Buddha -- who was exceedingly handsome, noble, and bore the marks of a royal (kshatriya from Scythia/Shakya Land) -- one day, came to believe that the Buddha was the only person worthy of his extremely beautiful daughter.

He hurriedly ran off to fetch his wife and daughter and offered to give his daughter in marriage to the Buddha [not understanding that the Buddha was a wandering ascetic who had gone forth from the life of a married householder].

The Buddha of course was a recluse, a renunciate, and fully enlightened -- with no interest in sensual attachments or the household life whatsoever. He turned down the Brahmin's offer by saying, "Even after seeing Tanha, Arati, and Raga, the three alluring daughters of Mara, I felt no desire in me for sensual pleasures. After all, what is this that is full of urine and filth, which if walking down the road I would avoid touching even with my foot?"

On hearing those powerful words regarding the body and sensuality, both the Brahmin and his wife attained to the third stage of enlightenment ("non-returning," anagami). They entrusted their daughter to the care of her uncle and themselves joined the Sangha, the Buddha's Monastic Order. Eventually, they reached full enlightenment (arhatship).

The Buddha knew the Brahmin and his wife were capable of becoming non-returners that very day. Therefore, he replied in the manner he did.

The spiteful daughter
However their beautiful daughter, Magandiya, became so bitter and sore by the perceived insult that she vowed to take revenge if and when the opportunity arose.

Later, her uncle presented Magandiya to King Udena, and she became one of his chief queens [concubines or co-wives].

Queen Magandiya came to learn about the arrival of the Buddha in Kosambi and about how Queen Samavati and her maids bowed to him through holes in the walls of their living quarters.

So she planned her revenge on the Buddha and her rivals for the king's affection, whom she knew to be his ardent devotees.

Queen Magandiya told the king that Queen Samavati and the harem-ladies had made holes in the walls of their living quarters to communicate with outside contacts disloyal to the king. King Udena was shown the holes in the walls, but when the ladies explained why they had made them, he did not get angry.

Nevertheless, Queen Magandiya kept trying to convince the king that Queen Samavati was disloyal to him and was even plotting to kill him.

On one occasion, knowing that the king would be visiting Queen Samavati and would be taking along his lute, Queen Magandiya placed a snake in the lute and closed the hole with a bunch of flowers.

Queen Magandiya followed King Udena to Queen Samavati's quarters after trying to stop him on the pretext that she had some presentiment and felt worried about his safety.

Queen Magandiya removed the flowers from the hole of his lute when he arrived at Queen Samavati's quarters. The snake leaped out hissing and recoiling itself onto the bed. When the king saw the snake, he suddenly believed Queen Magandiya: Queen Samavati was trying to kill him after all!

The king was furious. He decided to execute the harem traitors. He commanded [partially enlightened] Queen Samavati to stand with all the ladies lined up behind her. He then fitted his bow with an arrow dipped in poison and shot her point blank.

But Samavati and the ladies entered a meditative absorption (jhana) during which one is immune to injury. They bore no ill-will towards the king even as he was about to execute them through the power of their loving-kindness (metta) practice, which is the means by which they entered that meditative absorption.

The arrow deviated, which astonished the king because he could not have missed; his shots hit their target and usually went even through rock.

The king realized their innocence and gave Queen Samavati permission to invite the Buddha and his enlightened monastic disciples to the palace for almsfood and to deliver sutras directly to them.

Queen Magandiya was stunned. Since none of her schemes had worked, she concocted a final, infallible plan: She sent a message to her uncle with full instructions to burn down Queen Samavati's dwelling with all the women inside. She herself would be visiting her family at the time to avoid becoming a suspect in this murderous act of arson.

Engulfed in flames
While the house was consumed in flames, Queen Samavati and the ladies kept meditating as stream-enterers. As they meditated through the flames, some of them attained the second stage of enlightenment (and became once-returners, sakadagamis), and some of them the third stage (non-returners, anagamis).
  • *The question may arise, Why didn't the women simply enter the protective meditative absorption they had used before and thereby avoid harm? This very question was put to the Buddha, who explained the karma that prevented this option, an act the women had performed in the distant past: Long, long ago these women were friends living together as royals who were once bathing in a river. Emerging, they felt cold, so they set a bush on fire. When the fire burned out, they were horrified to find that there had been a Nonteaching Buddha (pacceka-buddha) in deep meditation in the bush. They assumed the ascetic had been burned to death since he was not moving. After all, who could survive such a fire? (They didn't know it, but he unhurt because of the profound depths of his protective meditation). Fearing the punishment that might befall them for "killing" him by their negligent lighting of a fire, they decided to destroy the evidence. They immediately doused that buddha in oil, piled on brush, and attempted to incinerate the remains. This bad intention (karma) performed against a buddha bore a heavy result that could not be averted as they themselves were burned alive in the conflagration.
As news of the fire quickly spread, the king rushed to the scene. But it was too late. He loved Queen Samavati dearly. And he remembered that she had often counseled and advised him to control his outrageous temper. But now it knew no bounds: He would avenge this loss if only he could find out who had taken away his beautiful queen and harem.

The king suspected that Queen Magandiya had instigated this calamity, but he had no proof. So he made sure not reveal that he suspected her. Instead, he asked his ministers for help. One advised him on an excellent plan to induce Queen Magandiya into bragging about her guilt in this plot.

Following this wise advice, King Udena said the following within earshot of Magandiya: "While Samavati was alive I was fearful and always alert thinking I might be harmed by her! Only now is my mind at peace! O, if only I could thank my protector who has done me the favor of doing away with those traitors! But who could have done this? Surely, it was someone who loves me dearly!"

Overhearing this, Queen Magandiya promptly bragged about her involvement and explained that she had instigated her uncle to do it. The king pretended to be pleased and overjoyed. He said to her that he would love to repay the favor by honoring all of her relatives. He asked Queen Magandiya to invite them all to the palace.

Fight fire with fire and everyone burns
When she sent for her relatives, they gladly came to be honored. As soon as they arrived at the palace, however, all of them including Queen Magandiya were seized. They were taken to the courtyard and burned alive by the order of the king.

When the Buddha was told about these two incidents, he said that those who are heedful [ever-mindful] do not die. But those who are negligent are as good as dead even as they live. Then the Buddha uttered these verses preserved in the Dhammapada:

Heedfulness is the way to the deathless [nirvana];
Heedlessness is the way to death [samsara].
Those who are heedful do not die;
Those who are heedless are as if dead already.
(Dhammapada 21)

Fully comprehending this, the wise, who are ever heedful,
Rejoice in being conscientious and find delight in the
domain of the noble ones [arya].
(Dhp. 22)

The wise, constantly cultivating serenity-and-insight practice,
Being ever-mindful and steadfastly striving, realize nirvana --
nirvana, which is free from the bonds of yoga,*
nirvana, the incomparable! (Dhp. 23)
  • *The "bonds of yoga" [union, bondage, being "yoked" like oxen to the mental defilements] are four in number: craving for sense-pleasures (kama), craving for continued becoming (bhava), wrong views (ditthi), and ignorance (avijja) of the Four Noble Truths.
In the Fire Sermon, the Buddha explains that ALL is burning then explains the "all."

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