Friday, June 15, 2018

Buddhist TRAGEDY: poor, sad Patty!

Hellmuth Hecker, Sr. Khema (German trans.), Buddhist Women at the Time of the Buddha (Wheel 292, BPS,; Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
Dedicated to the good Western nun Ven. Aloka who inspired this translation.
Preserver of the Discipline
I'm young, so I want to make out and elope!
Patacara was the beautiful daughter of a very wealthy merchant in Savatthi.

When she was 16 year old, her parents locked her up on the top floor of a seven-story high tower surrounded by guards to prevent her from keeping company with any young man.

In spite of this extreme precaution [or maybe because of it], she became involved in a sexual affair with a servant in her parents' house.
When her parents arranged a suitable marriage for her with a young man of equal social standing and means, she decided to elope with her lower class lover instead.

She escaped from the tower by disguising herself, and the young couple went to live in a village far away from Savatthi.

The new husband farmed, and the young wife had to do all of the menial chores that formerly had been performed by her parents' servants. So she reaped the results of her karma.
When she became pregnant, she begged her husband to take her to her parents' house to give birth [in accordance with ancient Indian custom], saying to him that father and mother always have a soft spot in their hearts for their child, no matter what she has done.
I'm marrying for love. Take that, parents!
However, her husband refused on the grounds that her parents would surely subject him to torture and/or imprisonment.

When she realized that he would not give in to her pleas, she decided to make her way to her parents' by herself. When the husband found her gone and was told by the neighbors of her decision, he followed her and tried to persuade her to return. However, she would not listen to him.
Before they could reach Savatthi, birth pains started, and soon a baby son was born. As there was no more reason to go to her parents' house, they turned back and resumed their family life in the village.
Sometime later she became pregnant again. And again she requested her husband to take her home to her parents. Again he refused and she took matters in her own hands and started off, carrying the older child. When her husband followed her and pleaded with her to return with him, she would not listen, but continued on her way.

A fearful storm arose out of season with thunder and lightning and incessant rain. Just then her birth pains started, and she asked her husband to find her some shelter.

The husband went searching for material for a shelter and set about to chop down some saplings.
No one need die from a venomous bite. Metta prevents it. Khandha Paritta is the antidote.
Dead, rigid from lack of cultivating metta
A venomous snake bit him just then, and he fell dead instantly. 

Patacara waited for him in vain. And after having suffered birth pains, a second son was born to her. Both children screamed at the top of their lungs because of the buffeting of the storm. So the mother protected them with her own body all night long.

In the morning she placed the newborn baby on her hip, gave a finger to the older child to suck on, and set out upon the path her husband had taken saying: "Come, dear child, your father has abandoned us." After a few steps she found her husband lying dead, his body rigid. She wailed and lamented and blamed herself for his death.
She continued on her journey to her parents' house, but when she came to the river Aciravati, it was swollen waist-deep on account of the rain. She was too weak to wade across with both children, so she left the older child on the near bank and carried the baby across to the other side.

What sort of tasty flesh is on the shore?
Then she returned to take the firstborn across. When she was midstream, an eagle saw the helpless newborn and flew in for its meat. It came swooping down, and in spite of Patacara's cries and screams, flew off with the baby in its talons.
The older boy saw his mother stop in the middle of the river and heard her loud yells. He thought she was calling him to come and started out after her. He was immediately swept off by the strong current.
Wailing and lamenting, Patacara went on her way, half crazed by the triple tragedy that had befallen her, losing husband and both sons in one day.

As she came nearer to Savatthi, she met a traveler who was just coming from the city. She inquired about her family from him, but at first he refused to answer her. When she insisted, he finally had to tell her that her parent's house had collapsed in the storm, killing both of them as well as her brother, and their cremation was just taking place.
When she heard that, her reason left her. Her grief was too much to bear. She tore off her clothes, wandered around weeping and wailing, not knowing what she was doing or where she was going. People pelted the naked woman with stones and rubbish and chased her out of the way.
Central Asian beauty, a Scythian, NE India
At that time the Buddha was staying at the Jeta Grove in Anathapindika's monastery. He saw Patacara approaching from afar and recognized that in a past life she had made an earnest resolve to become a nun well versed in the Dharma.

Therefore, he instructed his disciples not to obstruct her, but to let her enter and come near him. As soon as she was close to the Buddha, through his supernatural powers, she regained her right mind. Then she also became aware of being naked, and in her shame she crouched upon the ground.
One of the lay followers threw her a cloak, and after she had wrapped herself in it, she prostrated at the feet of the Buddha. Then she recounted to him the tragedy that had befallen her.
The Teacher listened to her with compassion then made it clear to her that these painful experiences she had gone through were only tiny drops in the ocean (samsara) of impermanence in which all beings drown if they are attached to that which rises and ceases.

He told her that all through many existences, she had wept more tears over the loss of dear ones than could be contained in the waters of the four oceans. He said:
But little water do the oceans four contain
compared with all the tears that humans have shed
by sorrow smitten and by suffering distraught.
Woman, why heedless do you yet remain?
This exposition of the Awakened One penetrated her mind/heart so deeply that at that moment she could completely grasp the impermanence of all conditioned things (dependently arisen phenomena, things that depend on constituents/factors for their existence).

When the Enlightened One had finished his teaching, she had attained the certainty of future liberation by becoming a stream-winner (the first stage of enlightenment). She practiced diligently and soon realized final deliverance through full enlightenment. She said:
With plows the fields are plowed;
With seed the earth is sown;
Thus wives and children feed;
So young men win their wealth.
Then why do I, of virtue pure,
doing the Master's Teaching,
neither lazy nor proud,
nirvana not attain?
Having washed my feet
I watched that water,
noticing the foot-water
flowing from high to low.
With that the heard/mind was calmed
just as a noble, thoroughbred horse.
Having taken my lamp,
I went into my hut,
inspected the sleeping place
then sat upon the couch.
Having taken a pin
I pushed the wick right down, and
just as the lamp went out,
so all delusion of the heart went, too.
Therigatha 112-116
It had been enough for her to see the water trickle down the slope to recognize the whole of existence, each life a longer or shorter trickle in the flood of craving.

There were those who lived a short time like her children, those who lived a little longer like her husband, and those who lived even longer like her parents. But all passed by a constant change, in a never-ending rising and falling. This thought-process gave her so much detachment that she attained to total emancipation of the heart the following night.
The Buddha said about Patacara that she was the foremost "Keeper of the Disciplinary Code" (bhikkhuni vinaya) among the nuns.

Patacara was thereby the female counterpart of the Buddhist monk Upali, formerly Prince Siddhartha's lowly royal barber.

That she had chosen the "Rules of Monastic Conduct" as her central discipline is easy to understand, because the results of her former indulgences had become bitterly obvious to her.
She learned in the Sangha that an intensive study of the monastic rules was necessary and purifying for monastics. It brought with it the security and safety of self-discipline. She learned not to become complacent or lazy when comfortable or anxious and confused when suffering.

Because of her own experiences she had gained a deep understanding of the human predicament and could be of great assistance to her fellow nuns.
She was a great comfort to those who came to her with difficulties. The nun Canda said that Patacara showed her the right path out of compassion and helped her to achieve liberation (Thag. 125).

Another nun, Uttara II, reported how Patacara spoke to the group of nuns about conduct and discipline:
Having established mind
One-pointed, well-developed
Investigate formations
As other, not as self.
— Thig 177
Uttara took Patacara's words to heart and said:
When I heard these words —
Patacara's advice,
After washing my feet —
I sat down alone.
— Thig 178
Thereby this nun, too, was able to attain to the three "True Knowledges" (vijja) and final liberation. In the "Verses of the Elder Nuns" we have a record of Patacara's instructions to the nuns and their resultant gains:
Having taken flails
Young men thresh the corn.
Thus wives and children feed.
So young men win their wealth.
So likewise as to the Buddha's Teachings,
From doing which there is no remorse.
Quickly cleanse your feet
And sit you down withdrawn.
Devote yourselves to calm of mind/heart
And thus practice the Buddha's Teachings.
When they heard these words —
Patacara's instructions,
Having washed their feet,
They sat down, each one secluded,
Devoted themselves to calm of heart/mind
And thus followed the Buddha's Teachings.
In the night's first watch*
Past births were remembered;
In the middle watch of the night,
The divine eye was purified.
In the night's last watch,
They tore asunder the mass of gloom.
Having risen, they bowed at her feet,
Her instructions having done.
We shall live revering you
Like the thirty-three devas do Indra,
Undefeated in [celestial] war.
We are with triple knowledge true
And gone are all the taints.
Therigatha 117-121
  • [*Night in the Buddha's time was divided into three "watches," the first from 6:00-10:00 pm, middle from 10:00 pm-2:00 am, last watch from 2:00-6:00 am.]
Patacara was able to effect the change from a frivolous young girl to a theri (revered female "elder") in the Sangha quickly because from previous births she had already possessed this faculty.

During the time of the previous buddha, Kassapa Buddha of 28 mentioned by Gautama Buddha, it is said that Patacara had been a nun and had lived the monastic life for many, many years. The insights gained thereby had been hidden through her actions in subsequent lives.

But when the next buddha appeared in the world, she quickly found her way to him, the reason unknown to her, spurred on by her suffering. Relentlessly attracted to the Awakened One and his Dharma, she entered into the left-home life and soon attained to complete freedom. More
Sources: A1,24; Thig 112-121,125,175,178; Ap. 11 No.20; J 547

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