Relatives and Disciples of
King Bimbisara was the Buddha’s first Royal
Patron. He ruled the kingdom of Magadha, the capital of which was Rajagaha,
from the age of 15 when he ascended the throne until his death at the age
King Bimbisara saw the Buddha for the first
time prior to His enlightenment. The Ascetic Gotama was seeking alms in
Rajagaha when the king saw the Great Ascetic of royal carriage and great
bearing. Wishing to find out who this Great Ascetic was, the King with his
royal entourage followed the Ascetic Gotama to Pandavapabbata, where He
was resting after His meal. He then questioned the Ascetic Gotama on His
birthplace and ancestry. Ascetic Gotama replied :
"Just straight, O King, upon the Himalayas,
there is, in the district of Kosala of ancient families, a country endowed
with wealth and energy. I am sprung from that family, which by clan
belongs to the Solar Dynasty, by birth to the Sakyans. I crave not for
pleasures of the senses. Realizing the unwholesomeness of sensual
pleasures and seeing renunciation as safe, I proceeded to seek the
Highest, for in that my mind rejoices.?
The King then invited the Ascetic Gotama to
visit his City once He had attained enlightenment. In keeping with the
promise that He had made, the Buddha visited Rajagaha after His
enlightenment. Travelling from Gaya to Rajagaha, He stayed at the
Suppatittha Shrine in a palm grove.
The news of the Buddha’s arrival soon spread
across the city. His reputation as a great teacher and the reverence with
which His Teaching was heralded, had spread to Rajagaha. The King welcomed
the Buddha with a large retinue of attendants He then paid reverence to
Him and sat respectfully to the side. As both the Buddha and Maha Kassapa
were in attendance some of the people were not sure who was the teacher
and who the pupil. Reading their minds, the Buddha questioned Kassapa as
to why he had given up fire-sacrifice, a Brahmanic ritual. Recognizing the
doubts in the minds of the people, Kassapa said that he had given up fire
sacrifice because he preferred the passionless, peaceful state of Nibbana.
Then, falling at the feet of the Buddha, he paid reverence and said, ?My
Teacher, Lord, is the Exalted One – I am the disciple."
The people were inspired by Kassapa’s
devotion. The Buddha then dispensed the Maha Narada Kassapa Jataka, where
in a previous birth the Bodhisatta had helped Kassapa in a similar way. On
hearing the Dhamma, King Bimbisara attained the first stage of sainthood,
Sotapanna. After taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, the king
invited the Buddha and His retinue to the palace for their meal on the
After the meal, King Bimbisara asked the
Buddha what type of place would be suitable for His residence. The Buddha
said that a place which was secluded and quiet, not too far but not too
close to the city, would be pleasing to Him. Reflecting that his bamboo
grove would be a perfect residence, the king donated the park to the
Buddha and the Sangha. Even though the Buddha’s new residence was known as
Veluvanarama and arama is used to denote a monastery, there were no
buildings or monastery at the bamboo grove. The Buddha and His monks
resided under the shelter of the trees. The Buddha spent six years of the
rainy season at Veluvanarama.
After His conversion the King led the life
of an exemplary monarch. He had two consorts, Kosala Devi, who was the
sister of King Pasenadi Kosala, and Khema, who later became the chief
female disciple of the Buddha. His Queen, Kosala Devi, gave birth to a son
whom they named Ajatasattu.
Even though King Bimbisara led a righteous
life he had a sad, pathetic death. Ajatasattu, led by Devadatta, attempted
to kill his father to gain the throne. When King Bimbisara became aware of
his son’s plan, the compassionate king handed over the throne to his son
and stepped down from the monarchy. The ungrateful son, who was under
Devadatta’s wicked influence, threw his father in prison with the
instructions that he should be left without food, to starve to death. His
mother alone had free access to the prison.
The loyal queen carried food in her waist
pouch, but before long Ajatasattu became aware of his mother’s efforts.
When he forbade her to carry food in her waist pouch she carried food
concealed in her hair knot. When this too was discovered and forbidden she
applied a mixture of honey, butter, ghee, and molasses all over her body
and let the king lick her skin to sustain himself.
The cruel Ajatasattu then denied his mother
access to visit the King. King Bimbisara was without any means of
sustenance. But being a Sotapanna, he lived in meditative bliss and
spiritual happiness. Ruthlessly, Ajatasattu ordered his barber to slash
the old king’s feet and place a mixture of salt and oil on the wounds. He
then commanded him to walk on hot coals. Upon seeing the barber, King
Bimbisara thought that his son had realized the folly of his behaviour and
was sending the court barber to help cut his hair and beard so that he
could be cleaned up for release. But it was not to be. The barber started
the inhumane torture as instructed by the new king. The aged King
Bimbisara died in extreme agony as the result of an unwholesome action
performed in a past life.
On the same day that the old king died the
news was brought to Ajatasattu that his wife had given birth to a baby
son. Overcome by parental joy and happiness the king asked his mother if
his father too had loved him as he did this new-born babe. His mother,
Kosala Devi, then informed the cruel Ajatasattu of the great love that
Bimbisara had had for him.
Ajatasattu’s mother revealed that when she
was carrying him there had arisen in her an inhuman desire to drink the
blood from the hand of the king. She had concealed this desire but had
withered away as it was a craving that she could not control. On hearing
of her problem the king gladly cut open his palm to let her drink his
The sages who could foretell the future had
declared that this son would be an enemy of the king. The queen had then
wanted to abort the baby but King Bimbisara, full of love and pride for
the unborn child, had refused. Later, when the baby was born, the sages
had again foretold that he would be an enemy of the king. For the second
time the queen had wanted to kill the baby. For the second time the king
had prevented her from killing her son. The queen had named the baby
Ajatasattu, or unborn enemy.
The queen then added that on one occasion
when an infected boil on the baby’s foot had made him fretful and angry
she had taken him to the court to ask the king’s advice. On hearing of the
problem the king had placed the baby’s foot in his mouth and sucked at the
boil. The boil had then burst, spitting pus and blood into his mouth. The
king, full of love and compassion, had swallowed the pus and continued to
soothe the baby.
Ajatasattu was filled with shame and regret
upon hearing his mother’s words. He sent a message to release his father
but it was too late. King Bimbisara had closed his eyes forever, and was
immediately reborn in the Catumaharajika Heaven as a god named Janavasabha.
Influenced by the Dhamma, King Ajatasattu changed, and became one of the
lay followers of the Buddha and the patron of the First Sangha Council.
Mallika was the beautiful and talented
daughter of the foreman of garland-makers in Savatthi. Mallika, who was
sixteen, often went to the public flower gardens with her friends. One
beautiful, clear day she packed a lunch of special rice and set out for
the flower gardens to join her friends. As she was leaving the city, she
saw the Buddha with a group of monks seeking alms.
So inspired was Mallika by the serenity and
presence of the Buddha that she offered Him the lunch she had packed and
prostrated herself at His feet. She had no idea that she was offering her
food to the Buddha but was overjoyed and suffused with happiness by her
The Buddha accepted the gift and smiled.
ananda, the Buddha’s personal attendant, knowing that the Buddha would not
have smiled without a reason, asked Him why he had smiled. The Buddha
replied that this girl would reap the benefits of her gift the very same
day by becoming the Queen of Kosala.
This seemed an impossibility for Mallika was
of low caste. In India at that time the caste system flourished. It seemed
very unlikely that King Pasenadi Kosala would choose a girl of low caste
as his queen. King Kosala, who was one of the powerful kings of India, was
at that time in battle with King Ajatasattu, the king of Magadha. Defeated
in battle he was returning, downcast, when he heard sweet, melodious
singing in the flower garden. Enchanted by the singing he rode into the
flower garden to find the exceedingly beautiful Mallika. Mallika, who was
overjoyed by her gift to the Noble One, was dancing and singing in
happiness among the flowers.
For some time King Kosala observed Mallika,
who was a vision of beauty and grace. Then, dismounting from his horse, he
spoke to her and asked if she was married. When Mallika replied that she
was not married he talked to her about his misfortune in battle. Soothed
by her consoling words and enraptured by her beauty and gentleness, he
decided to make her his queen. Placing her carefully on his horse he took
her back to her parents’ home. In the evening he sent an entourage to
fetch her to the palace and made her his queen.
As the beloved of King Kosala, Mallika was
respected by all and surrounded by luxury and a multitude of servants, who
fulfilled her every wish. Soon it was known to all that Mallika the flower
girl was elevated to the position of Queen of Kosala resulting from the
effects of her heartfelt gift to the Buddha. Wherever she went people
would joyously honour her, saying, "There goes Mallika, our queen, who
gives generously to the Buddha."
Mallika in turn became a devoted follower of
the Buddha and a supporter of the Noble Order. She was also an intelligent
queen who questioned and analyzed her observations. Observing the
different status of people, her elevation from poverty to wealth and
power, and convinced that nothing happened without a cause, Mallika went
to the monastery where the Buddha was residing with the following
"Why is it that some women are beautiful,
wealthy and powerful,
While some are beautiful but without wealth and power,
And yet others ugly but wealthy and powerful,
And some ugly, poor and without power?"
The Buddha then explained to her that those
who are gentle and patient are born beautiful. Those who have given
generously are born wealthy. And those that who not envious and rejoice in
the success of others are born with power. Rare is the person who has
performed all three of these deeds and as such, depending on their
actions, one found a combination of these traits in persons. Mallika then
decided that she would practise generosity, compassion and patience, and
be happy at the success of others.
She provided alms and requisites to the
Buddha and His retinue and built an ebony hall for Dhamma discussion. She
practised gentleness to her husband and servants and all others with whom
she came into contact when performing her duties as queen. And when King
Pasenadi Kosala decided to take a second wife, Vasabha Khattiya, she
welcomed her and treated her as a younger sister without envy or jealousy.
Mallika also helped King Kosala, who was a
follower of the Brahmins, to have confidence in the teachings of the
Buddha. The king had had some disturbing dreams, which he felt represented
some misfortune. Summoning the Brahmin priests the king asked them to
interpret his dreams. Claiming that the Gods were displeased, they
requested a huge animal sacrifice to appease the Gods. Mallika, who
practised the Buddha’s teaching of compassion and loving-kindness to all
living beings, was horrified to find preparation for the slaughter of so
many animals. She advised the King to seek the Buddha’s counsel on the
meaning of his dreams.
The Buddha informed the king that these
dreams did not foretell any misfortune for him. As a result of his
practice of meditation, the king had dreamt of the future in the matter
that was closest to him, the royalty and the government. The Buddha said
that these dreams signified the downfall in society that would occur as a
result of moral deterioration of royalty and their governments. King
Pasenadi Kosala became a devoted follower of the Buddha and a royal patron
after this incident.
The king also requested the Buddha to send a
teacher to the palace to instruct his wives in the Dhamma. The Buddha
delegated ananda to teach Mallika and Vasaba Khattiya the Dhamma. Mallika,
with her keen mind, progressed rapidly, but Vasaba Khattiya (who was a
relative of the Buddha) was inattentive, slow to understand and had
difficulty in grasping the Dhamma. ananda approached the Buddha and
informed him of the progress of the two royal ladies by saying that Queen
Mallika grasped the concepts of the Dhamma and practised diligently what
he taught, but that the Buddha’s kinswoman had derived little benefit from
the Dhamma. The Buddha confirmed ananda’s assessment by saying that
well-spoken words were fruitless to those who did not study and practise
the Dhamma, just as a beautiful flower without scent, while the
well-spoken words were fruitful to those who studied and practised the
Dhamma, like a beautiful flower that was laden with scent.
Even though the king and queen were a
devoted couple they had their differences. In one instance the king had a
falling out with Mallika regarding the way she was carrying out her royal
duties. The Buddha then advised the king to reconcile their differences by
relating instances from their past lives.
The first instance was when they were born
as husband and wife in the Deva world. They had been very attached to each
other and one day had been separated due to a flash flood that prevented
the king’s return to their home. So worried and grief-stricken had they
both been in their separation that they had vowed never to be separated
again even for one day.
The other was when the king had been the
crown prince and Mallika his consort. The prince had contacted leprosy and
had decided to give up his kingdom and live in the jungle away from his
subjects. The queen had decided that she would join him and had taken care
of him and nursed him to health. When King Kosala heard these incidents
from the past he forgave Mallika and reconciled their differences. Mallika,
in gratitude to the Buddha for His counsel, said:
"With joy I heard your varied words,
Which were spoken for our welfare.
With your words you dispelled my sorrow.
May you live long, my Ascetic Bringer of Joy."
Though Mallika led a blameless life of
generosity and loving-kindness she transgressed and indulged in sexual
misconduct in one instance. When questioned by the king, without owning up
to her inappropriate behaviour, she lied to cover up her disgrace.
This one incident, which occurred shortly
before her death, must have worked on her mind because at death she was
reborn for seven days in hell.
King Kosala was grief-stricken at the death
of his chief queen and visited the Buddha to find out her place of
rebirth. Knowing that she was reborn in hell due to her misconduct and
deceit, and not wanting to add to the sorrows of the king, the Buddha
distracted the king by giving an inspiring discourse that took his mind
away from the question. For six days the Buddha prevented King Kosala from
asking the place of Mallika’s rebirth by distracting him with inspiring
teachings. On the seventh day he informed the King that Mallika had been
reborn in the Tusita Heaven among the Devas of delight.
King Pasenadi Kosala was the son of King
Maha Kosala who reigned in the kingdom of Kosala, the capital of which was
Savatthi. He had two consorts. His chief consort, Queen Mallika, was the
daughter of a garland maker. His second consort, Vasabha Khattiya, was the
daughter of Mahanama (one of prince Siddhatta’s cousins and Anuruddha’s
brother) and a slave girl. He and Vasabha Khattiya had a son named
Vidudhabha who, when he came of age, attempted to destroy the Sakyan race
King Kosala’s conversion from Brahmanism to
the teachings of the Buddha seems to have occurred very early in the
Buddha’s ministry. King Kosala had questioned the Buddha, and the Buddha
had dispensed a very interesting sutta on four objects that should not be
disregarded or overlooked: a warrior prince, a snake, a fire, and a
Bhikkhu. The Buddha had then gone on to explain that a warrior prince,
though young, may ruthlessly cause harm to others if enraged, just as
would a small, poisonous snake. A little fire may produce a conflagration
and even a young monk could be an Arahanth. The king had been inspired by
this sermon and had taken refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.
However, his Chief Queen, Mallika, a very devout follower of the Buddha,
was largely responsible for his religious enthusiasm.
In the Samyutta Nikaya there are many
discourses that the Buddha had dispensed for King Kosala. They have been
compiled and preserved as the Kosala Samyutta. Once when the king was in
the company of the Buddha, a group of ascetics with long hair, beards, and
long nails had passed. The king had got up, respectfully saluted them, and
introduced himself by saying that he was King Pasenadi Kosala. When they
had passed he had approached the Buddha and inquired as to whether they
were Arahanths or those who were striving for Arahanthship. The Buddha
explained that it was difficult for ordinary persons to ascertain if a
person is an Arahanth. He had then explained that it is by association
that one can judge a person’s conduct, and only after a long time of
association. He had then gone on to add that it is only a heedful and
intelligent person who would be able to make such a distinction. His
instruction is just as applicable today as there are among us many who
hide impure thoughts behind a mantle of outward purity.
The Buddha said:
"Not by his outward guise is man
In fleeting glance let none place confidence.
In garb of refined, well-conducted folk
The unrestrained live in the world at large.
As a clay earing made to counterfeit,
Or a bronze halfpenny coated with gold,
Some fare at large, hidden beneath disguise,
On the surface comely and fair; within impure."
-- (Kindred Sayings 104-106)
By necessity the king was often at war to
defend his kingdom. With wisdom, the Buddha consoled the defeated king and
reminded him of the futility of conquest. His wisdom applies just as much
today as it did over 2,500 years ago. The Buddha said:
"Victory breeds hatred,
The defeated lives in pain.
Happily the peaceful live,
Giving up victory and defeat."
-- (Dhammapada 121)
On another occasion the king was victorious
in battle and confiscated King Ajatasattu’s entire army, only sparing his
life. When the Buddha heard of the king’s victory He explained to him that
anger breeds anger and explained the law of cause and effect (kamma) by
"A man may spoil another,
Just so far as it may serve his ends,
But when he’s spoiled by others,
He, despoiled, spoils yet again.
So long as evil’s fruit is not matured,
The fool does fancy, now’s the hour, the chance!
But when the deed eventually bears fruit,
He fareth ill.
The slayer gets a slayer in his turn,
The conquered gets one who conquers him.
The abuser wins abuse,
The annoyer frets.
Thus by the evolution of the deed,
A man who spoils is spoiled again."
The Buddha’s advice to King Kosala on his
disappointment when Queen Mallika gave birth to a baby girl is history
making! The Buddha advised the king that a well brought-up girl could be
even better than a son and counselled him to take care of her and bring
her up with love and devotion. When she grew up, Queen Mallika’s daughter,
Princess Vajira, became the Queen of Magadha. No religious teacher had
made such a bold statement, especially in India at a time when women were
considered to be inferior to men and often treated with disrespect.
The Buddha also helped the king overcome his
grief at the death of his beloved grandmother by reminding him of the
impermanence of all things. King Kosala approached the Buddha and informed
Him that he would give anything within his means to save his grandmother,
who was like a mother to him. The Buddha consoled him by saying,
"All beings are mortal, they end with
They have death in prospect.
All vessels wrought by the potter,
Whether they are baked or unbaked,
Are breakable - they end broken;
They have breakage in prospect."
Reminded of the impermanence of all
phenomena King Kosala strengthened his mind and left.
Observing the generosity of the Buddha’s
chief benefactor, Anathapindika, King Kosala decided to follow his
example. He invited five hundred monks daily to the palace for their
noonday meal. At the start he was very enthusiastic and arranged for
everything with great fervour, but later, busy with state affairs, he left
it to his servants to entertain the monks. After some time he was
surprised to find that the monks were taking the food and giving it to
other lay devotees, who in turn offered it back to the same monks. The
king approached the Buddha and asked Him the reason for this strange
behaviour by the monks.
The Buddha then informed King Kosala that
his servants were offering the rich food in a careless manner. Often they
insulted the monks and called them parasites and asked them to work and
earn their own food. "The monks", He said, "were not comfortable in
accepting the food under these conditions." The lay devotees, however,
unable to afford such food to give to the monks themselves, were eager to
use this opportunity and offered the food back with fervour. The Buddha
then explained to the king that when persons like Anathapindika and
Visakha gave to the monks they gave with great devotion and fervour, and
the monks, who could sense their happiness in giving, were comfortable in
accepting. They welcomed the monks and treated them as spiritual friends
who lived for the welfare and benefit of all beings. He then said:
"A dish may be insipid or savoury,
The food may be meagre or abundant,
Yet if it is given by a friendly hand,
Then it becomes a delicious meal."
King Kosala was a strong supporter of the
Buddha and used every opportunity to listen to the Dhamma. However,
despite his benign and compassionate influence, his son, Vidudhabha, was a
rebel. King Kosala had an unfortunate death at the hands of his cruel and
The king often visited the Buddha to hear
the Dhamma. When he did, he was in the habit of removing his crown at the
monastery gate. The king then left some of his guards at the entrance to
ensure the security of his crown. Vidudhabha, who was familiar with his
father’s behaviour, used this opportunity to steal the crown. Seizing the
crown, he had his men kill the king’s guards. He then left a servant at
the entrance to inform King Kosala that he was now the ruler and that the
king was no longer welcome in the kingdom.
The king was dismayed to hear from the
servant about his son’s behaviour. Since it was late in the night and
starting to get cold, he walked to a neighbouring kingdom, but the city
gates were closed for the night. He then walked back to Savathi hoping
that his son would let him into the city, only to find the gates closed.
The old king lay down in a hut outside the city gates in the extreme cold
and wrapped his robe around him to keep warm. But his heart was weak. He
could not tolerate the cold or the sorrow of his son’s conduct. King
Kosala died in loneliness outside the city walls, in a hut, alone with one
Vidudhabha ruled the kingdom ruthlessly. On
finding out that his mother was the daughter of a Sakyan prince and a
slave girl and that his father had been tricked into marrying her,
Vidudhabha was furious. Vowing to wash his hands in the blood of the
Sakyans just as the chair which he had sat had been washed in milk to
cleanse it of his non-Sakyan bloodline by the blue-blooded, arrogant
Sakyans, Vidudhabha waged war. On his third attempt he killed the majority
of the Sakyan royalty in Kapilavatthu. The remainder fled to form a new
city. Vididhabha and his men in turn met their death on the banks of the
river during a flash flood.
At the time of the Buddha there lived a man
and woman who had a beautiful daughter named Samavati. They lived in
harmony and happiness until the plague broke out in their city. Fearing
for their lives, they decided to travel to Kosambi, the capital of Vamsa,
where they hoped to seek support from Ghosaka, the Finance Minister of
King Udena, who was a family friend.
The municipality had set up a public alms
hall to cope with the refugees left homeless as a result of the plague.
Samavati went there to obtain food for her parents and herself. On the
first day she asked for three portions of food, on the second day she
asked for two portions of food, and on the third day she asked for one
portion of food.
Mitta, the man who was distributing the
food, asked her sarcastically if she had finally realized the capacity of
her stomach. Samavati replied quite calmly that on the first day there
were three of them for whom she was taking food. Then her father succumbed
to the plague and died. On the second day she was bringing food for her
mother and herself. Then her mother succumbed to the plague and died. And
so, today, she only needed one portion of food.
Mitta felt badly about his sarcasm and
thoughtless remark. He offered to adopt Samavati as his foster child.
Samavati agreed. She then joined her foster father in helping in the
distribution of alms. Before long Samavati, who was very capable and
intelligent, had organized the chaotic and noisy alms hall into an
orderly, well-run operation. So much so that Ghosaka, the Finance
Minister, was surprised at the change and complimented Mitta on his
organization. Mitta modestly gave the credit to his adopted daughter and
introduced Ghosaka to Samavati.
When Ghosaka found out that Samavati was his
departed friend’s daughter he decided to adopt her and bring her up as his
own. Even though Mitta loved her dearly and did not want to lose his
foster daughter he realized that she would have many luxuries as the
Finance Minister’s daughter that he could not possibly afford. Not wanting
to stand in the way of Samavati’s good fortune, he agreed. As Ghosaka’s
daughter, Samavati became heiress to a large fortune and moved among the
The king of Kosambi, King Udena, had two
beautiful consorts. He had married the first, Queen Vasuladatta, for
political reasons, and his second queen, Magandiya, for her intelligence.
Neither of his consorts, however, provided him with the love, compassion
and gentleness that he wanted from a wife. In fact, if anything Magandiya
was rather cold, self-centred and harsh.
One day the King saw the beautiful, gentle
and compassionate Samavati. Captivated by her beauty and gentleness, he
decided to have her as his third consort. Ghosaka, who loved his adopted
daughter dearly and knew the temperament of the king, refused. King Udena
was furious. He dismissed Ghosaka from his position as Finance Minister
and confiscated his mansion.
Samavati was desolate at the misfortune that
her adopted father had to face on her behalf. Even though she did not want
to marry the king she agreed to his proposal providing that Ghosaka was
reinstated and given back his mansion. The King agreed. Samavati soon
became the King’s favourite consort.
In keeping with her position, Samavati had a
large retinue of servants who took care of her every wish. Among them was
a servant named Khujjuttara. Each day the queen gave Khujjuttara eight
gold coins to buy flowers. Each day Khujjuttara pocketed four of the gold
coins and bought flowers with the remainder. One day when she went to buy
flowers the florist informed her that he had invited the Buddha and His
monks for alms and asked her if she would like to stay and participate.
Khujjuttara agreed. She stayed on to help
and after the meal listened attentively to the Buddha’s discourse.
Khujjuttara was transformed by the Buddha’s teaching. She had a keen mind
developed over countless years. By the end of the discourse she attained
the first stage of sainthood, Sotapanna. Regretting her former deceit,
Khujjuttara bought eight gold coins’ worth of flowers for the queen.
The moment Queen Samavati saw Khujjuttara
she noticed a difference. Khujjuttara looked serene and exuded an inner
radiance. She was also perplexed as to why there was double the quantity
of flowers. The queen questioned Khujjuttara about her transformation and
the extra flowers. Khujjuttara confessed the truth and her previous deceit
and begged for forgiveness. She then informed the queen about the
discourse of the Buddha that had changed her life.
Impressed by Khujjuttara’s inner
transformation the queen decided to find out more about the Buddha and His
teachings. She appointed Khujjuttara as her personal attendant and
requested her to visit the monastery every day. She instructed her to
listen to the Dhamma and come back and teach what she had learned to the
queen and her court.
Khujjuttara, who had an outstanding memory,
repeated the Buddha’s teaching word for word. The queen and her ladies
were inspired by the Dhamma and Kujjuatara’s gift to them. Placing her on
a higher chair and themselves seated on lower seats, they listened to her
with respect and gratitude.
Queen Samavati, who was totally inspired by
the Dhamma, asked the king’s permission to invite the Buddha and His
disciples to the palace for their daily meals. Unable to attend Himself,
the Buddha sent ananda as His representative to the palace. Each day
(whilst the Buddha was in residence in Kosambi), ananda accepted his
noonday meal from Queen Samavati and taught her and the ladies of her
court the Dhamma. Before long Queen Samavati attained the first stage of
sainthood, Sotapanna. Many of the ladies of the court also attained higher
stages of sainthood. Her foster father, Ghosaka, embraced the doctrine and
built a large monastery in Kosambi named Ghositarama for the Buddha and
Queen Samavati continued to grow in the
Dhamma. Her most outstanding trait was her immense love and compassion for
all living beings. Samavati was the embodiment of compassion and
loving-kindness and radiated it to all with whom she came in contact.
However, the Queen’s popularity and the fact
that she was undoubtedly King Udaya’s favourite did not please Queen
Magandiya. She had accepted Samavati as it was common practice for the
King to have more than one consort. But she could not accept Samavati’s
veneration of the Buddha and the Dhamma.
As a young girl Magandiya had been
exceptionally beautiful. Her parents when looking for a suitable partner
for her had looked for an exceptionally handsome and cultured man. One day
the Buddha had visited their house in seek of alms. Not recognizing the
Buddha, but pleased with his deportment and countenance, they had offered
Magandiya in marriage to Him. The Buddha had refused the offer and
dispensed a sutta on impermanence and the loathsomeness of the body for
which He had no desire. Magandiya, however, who was vain and proud of her
beauty, took His discourse personally and felt slighted at being refused.
Seeing Samavati venerate the Buddha who she felt had slighted her made her
remember the old wounds. She decided to focus her anger and jealousy on
Samavati. She tried many times to break the faith and love that King Udena
had for Samavati by making false accusations. But Samavati remained calm
and full of compassion and loving-kindness. Nothing that Magandiya did
changed the strong love that the king had for his favourite queen.
In desperation Magandiya decided to kill the
queen. With the help of some greedy relatives she planned to set fire to
her quarters on a day when she herself was away from the city. Magandiya
was aware of the king’s wrath and wanted to ensure that no blame could
possibly be directed at her. Queen Samavati and the majority of her court
perished in the fire. The queen, however, remained to the end full of
compassion and loving-kindness. She encouraged her ladies, who were
engulfed by flames, to concentrate and abide in the Dhamma by saying:
"It would not be an easy matter,
Even with the knowledge of the Buddha,
To determine exactly the number of times
Our bodies have thus been burnt by fire
As we have passed from birth to birth
In the beginning-less round of existence.
Therefore be heedful."
Inspired by her words the ladies of the
court meditated and achieved mental development so that at death all among
them had entered the various stages of sainthood.
On hearing the sad news the monks questioned
the Buddha as to the place of rebirth of the queen and her ladies and the
cause of their tragic death. The Buddha then informed them that all of the
ladies had reached either the first, second or third stage of sainthood
and as such were reborn in the Deva and Brahma Realms from which they
would in due course attain Arahanthship.
He then went on to explain that in a
previous birth Samavati had been born as Queen of Benares and had gone to
the river to bathe with her ladies. Feeling cold, she had instructed her
maids to set the bushes that surrounded them on fire. Too late they had
realized that a Pacceka Buddha was meditating there, hidden from view
among the bushes. Afraid that she would be admonished for her careless act
if the Pacceka Buddha lived to tell His story, she had instructed her
maids to pour oil over Him in the hope of killing Him. They had not
succeeded in killing the Pacceka Buddha, but the premeditated murder had
resulted in Samavati’s and her ladies’ present demise.
Despite Magandiya’s devious plan the king
realized that she had instigated Samavati’s murder. Maddened by his grief
he instructed Magandiya and her relatives to be tortured and burned to
death as punishment. Later the king regretted his revenge. He kept seeing
the compassionate Samavati and felt that he was even more distanced from
her due to his act of revenge than resulted from her death. He embraced
the teachings of the Buddha that had transformed Samavati and became one
of his royal patrons. The Buddha declared Samavati to be foremost among
the female lay disciples who practised loving-kindness.
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Update : 01-05-2002