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Academic Sutta Name Notes PSA Plae Vagga Nikaya PTS Keywords

XII:4 The son of a bhikkhuni (Kumara Kassapa)

Once, a young married woman having received permission from her husband, became a bhikkhuni. She joined the bhikkhunis who were the pupils of Devadatta. This young woman was already pregnant when she became a bhikkhuni but she was not aware of that. But in due course, the pregnancy became obvious and the other bhikkhunis took her to their teacher, Devadatta, who told her to go back to the household life. She then said to the other bhikkhunis, 'I had not intended to become a bhikkhuni under your teacher Devadatta. I have come here by mistake. Please take me to the Jetavana monastery where the Buddha lives.' Thus she came to the Buddha. The Master knew that she was pregnant before she became a bhikkhuni and was therefore innocent, but he did not want to handle the case. The Buddha sent for King Pasenadi of Kosala, Anatha Pindika and Visakha, the famous lay devotees of the Buddha.Then he told Venerable Upali (master of Vinaya - rules of conduct) to settle the case in public.

Lady Visakha examined the young bhikkhuni and reported to Upali that she had already been pregnant when she became a bhikkhuni. Upali then declared to the audience that the nun had not violated her morality (sila). In due course, she gave birth to a son. King Pasenadi adopted the boy who was named Kumara Kassapa. When the boy was seven years old, and on learning that his mother was a bhikkhuni, he also became a novice monk. When he came of age he was admitted to the Order as a bhikkhu. One day, he took a subject of meditation from the Buddha and went to the forest. There, he practised meditation ardently and diligently, and within a short time attained Arahanthood. However, he continued to live in the forest for twelve more years.

Thus, his mother had not seen him for twelve years and she longed to see her son very much. One day, on seeing him, the mother bhikkhuni ran after her son weeping and calling out his name. Seeing his mother, Kumara Kassapa thought that if he were to speak pleasantly to his mother she would still be attached to him. So for the sake of her spiritual progress he deliberately addressed her in an indifferent way: 'How is it that you, a member of the Order, cannot even cut off this affection for a son?' The mother thought that her son was very ungrateful to her, and she asked him what he meant. Kumara Kassapa repeated what he had said before. On hearing his answer, she reflected: 'O yes, for twelve years, I have shed tears for this son of mine. Yet, he has spoken harshly to me. What is the use of my affection for him?' Then, the futility of her emotional attachment to her son dawned upon her, and uprooting affection for her son, on that very day she attained Arahanthood.

At the monastery, some bhikkhus told the Buddha, 'Venerable Sir! You are a refuge to them. If the mother of Kumara Kassapa had listened to Devadatta, she and her son would not have become Arahants. Surely Devadatta had judged her wrongly.' The Buddha answered, 'Bhikkhus! In trying to reach the deva world, or in trying to attain Arahanthood, you cannot depend on others, you must strive on your own.'

55/170 Dhammapada & Commentary Khuddhaka J.i.106ff. despair

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Last modified on: Sunday, 13 August 2000.