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III:9 A mother of two and a father of two (Soreyya)
On one occasion, Soreyya, a rich man accompanied by a friend and some attendants, went out in a luxurious carriage for a bath. At that moment, Venerable Maha Kaccayana was adjusting his robes outside the city, before going into the city for alms. Soreyya, seeing the golden complexion of the monk thought, 'How I wish the monk were my wife, or else that the complexion of my wife were like this.' Later he realised that his sex had mysteriously begun to change. He was very much ashamed of what had happened and so he decided to leave the country. Soreyya, now a woman, offered her signet ring to some people going to Taxila, to allow her to go along with them in their carriage. Meanwhile his friends and relatives looked for Soreyya everywhere, but could not find him.
On arrival at Taxila, her companions told a young rich man of Taxila about the lady who came along with them. The young rich man, finding her to be very beautiful and of a suitable age for him, married her. As a result of this marriage two sons were born; There were also two sons from the previous marriage of Soreyya as a man.
One day, a rich man's son from the city where Soreyya had lived previously came to Taxila. Lady Soreyya, recognising him to be an old friend, sent for him. The man was surprised that he was invited, because he did not know her, and asked her whether she knew him. She answered that she knew him and also enquired after the health of her family and other people in the city she had left behind. The man next told her about the rich young man who had disappeared mysteriously. Then the lady Soreyya revealed her identity and related all that had happened about the wrongful thoughts, the change of sex, and her marriage to the young rich man of Taxila. The man then advised the lady Soreyya to ask the pardon of Venerable Maha Kaccayana. The monk was accordingly invited to the home of Soreyya and almsfood was offered to him. After the meal, the lady Soreyya was brought to the presence of the monk and he was told that the lady was at one time a man. It was explained to the monk how Soreyya was turned into a female on account of his wrongful thoughts towards a holy man. Lady Soreyya then respectfully asked for the pardon of Kaccayana.
As soon as Venerable Maha Kaccayana uttered the words, 'Soreyya, get up, I forgive you,' she changed to a male again. Thereupon, her husband said to Soreyya, 'Good friend, since you are the mother of these two boys and I am their father, they are truly sons of us both. Therefore, you can continue to live here. Don't be depressed.'
Soreyya replied, 'Good friend, first I was a man, then I was a woman, and now I have again become a man. First I became the father of two sons, and recently, I became the mother of two sons. After having gone through two transformations in one existence, I have no more desires for the household life. I will become a bhikkhu and lead the holy life under my noble Elder. Now it is your duty to care for these two boys. Don't neglect them.'
So saying, Soreyya kissed the two boys and embraced them, and handing them over to their father, departed from the house. Soreyya also expressed his heartfelt gratitude to his friend for helping him to meet and seek the pardon of Kaccayana and the opportunity to work for his ultimate goal in life ñ to put an end to all sufferings.
Accordingly, Kaccayana ordained Soreyya as a bhikkhu. Soreyya strove diligently for his spiritual development. In the course of time, he accompanied Kaccayana to pay his respects to the Buddha at Jetavana monastery.
After that, he was often asked, 'Whom do you love more, the two sons you had as a father or the other two you had as a mother?' To them, he would answer that his love for those born of the womb was greater. This question was put to him so often that he felt very much annoyed and ashamed. So he stayed by himself and with diligence, contemplated on the decay and dissolution of the body. He soon attained Arahanthood together with extraordinary knowledge and mental powers. When the old question was next put to him, he replied that he had no personal attachment for anybody. The bhikkhus who heard his reply were doubtful and consulted the Buddha. Upon being told about Soreyya's different answers, the Buddha said, 'His answer now is different because he has now realised Arahanthood and so has no more attachment. His well-directed mind has brought about in himself a well-being which neither father nor mother can bestow on him.'
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