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XVII:3 Metta protects Lady Uttara from boiling oil
Uttara was the daughter of a farm labourer named Punna who worked for a rich man named Sumana. One day Punna and his wife offered almsfood to Venerable Sariputta soon after his arising from sustained mental absorption (nirodha samapatti), and as a result of that good deed, they became very rich. Punna found gold in the field he was ploughing, and the king officially declared him the royal banker. On one occasion, Punna offered almsfood to the Buddha and the bhikkhus for seven days, and on the seventh day, after hearing the Buddha's discourse, all the three members of the family realised the Dhamma.
Later, Punna married Uttara off to the son of the rich man Sumana. Uttara was unhappy in her husband's home because she could not offer almsfood to the Buddha or listen to the Dhamma. So, she told her father, 'Why have you put me in this cage? Here I cannot see any bhikkhus and I have no opportunity to perform any meritorious deed.' Her father felt sorry for her and sent her a large sum of money. And with the permission of her husband, Uttara engaged a lady named Sirima to look to the needs of her husband for a number of days.
During that time, Uttara offered almsfood to the Buddha and the bhikkhus. On the fifteenth day, her husband smiled when he saw her busy preparing food in the kitchen. He commented, 'How foolish she is! She does not know how to enjoy herself. She is tiring herself out with this almsgiving ceremony!' Sirima saw him smile and forgetting that she was only a paid woman felt very jealous of Uttara. Being unable to control herself, Sirima went into the kitchen and got some boiling oil with the intention of pouring it over the head of Uttara. The lady saw Sirima coming but bore no ill-will. She reflected that because Sirima had stood in for her, she had been able to listen to the Dhamma, fulfill her religious duties and perform other acts of charity. Thus she was quite thankful and grateful to Sirima. Suddenly, she realised that Sirima was going to pour boiling oil over her, so she made this firm resolution: 'If I bear any ill-will towards Sirima, may this boiling oil scald me. If I have no ill-will towards her, may it not scald me.'
As Uttara had no ill-will towards Sirima, the boiling oil proved as harmless as if it was just like cold water. Then Sirima thought the oil must have gone cold and went to get another pot of boiling oil. The attendants of Uttara caught her and beat her. Uttara stopped her attendants and instructed them to rub Sirima with medicinal ointment.
Then, Sirima remembered her true position and she regretted that she had done wrong to Uttara and asked her mistress to forgive her. Uttara then told her, 'I have my father, I shall ask him whether I should accept your apology.' Sirima agreed to go and apologise to Punna but Uttara explained, 'When I said 'my father', I did not refer to the father who had brought me into this round of rebirth. I was referring to my father the Buddha, who has helped me break the chain of rebirths, who has taught me the Dhamma, the Noble Truths.' Sirima then expressed her wish to see the Buddha. So it was arranged that Sirima would offer almsfood to the Buddha and the bhikkhus on the following day at the house of Uttara.
After the meal, the Buddha was told about what had happened between Sirima and Uttara. Sirima admitted her mistakes and begged the Buddha to advise Uttara to forgive her. He then asked Uttara how she felt when Sirima poured boiling oil on her head, and Uttara answered, 'Venerable Sir, because I am grateful to Sirima I bear no hatred or ill-will towards her. I only radiate my loving kindness towards her.' The Buddha then applauded her, 'Well done, well done, Uttara! By not bearing any ill-will you have been able to conquer one who abuses you; by being generous, you should conquer one who is stingy; by speaking the truth you should conquer one who tells lies.' On the advice of the Buddha, Uttara forgave Sirima.
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