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Academic Sutta Name Notes PSA Plae Vagga Nikaya PTS Keywords
DhA.

XXVI:8 Maha Pajapati Gotami asks for ordination

Maha Pajapati Gotami was the stepmother of Gotama Buddha. On the death of Queen Maya, seven days after the birth of Prince Siddhattha, she became the chief queen of King Suddhodana. At the time, her own son Nanda was only five days old. She let her own son be raised by a nurse, and she herself brought up Prince Siddhattha, the future Buddha. Thus she was a great benefactress to Prince Siddhattha.

When Prince Siddhattha returned to Kapilavatthu after his attainment of Buddhahood, Maha Pajapati went to see him and requested that women should be allowed to enter the Order as bhikkhunis; but the Buddha refused permission. Later King Suddhodana died after attaining Arahanthood. Then, while the Buddha was sojourning at the Mahavana forest near Vesali, Maha Pajapati, accompanied by five hundred ladies, came on foot from Kapilavatthu to Vesali. They had already shaven their heads and had put on the dyed robes. For the second time, she requested the Buddha to accept women into the Order. The Venerable Ananda also interceded on her behalf. Finally the Buddha complied, with the proviso that she abide by eight special conditions (garu dhammas). She undertook to observe the garu dhammas as required and the Buddha admitted her into the Order. Thus Maha Pajapati was the first to be admitted to the Order of the bhikkhunis. The other women were also admitted to the Order.

In course of time, it came to the minds of some bhikkhunis that Maha Pajapati had not been properly admitted as a bhikkhuni because she did not have a preceptor. Therefore, she was not a true bhikkhuni. With this thought in their minds, they stopped conducting religious ceremonies with her. When the matter was reported to the Buddha, he replied, 'Why do you say so? I myself gave the eight garu dhammas to Maha Pajapati and she had learnt and practised the garu dhammas as required by me. I myself am her preceptor. You should harbour no doubt whatsoever about an Arahant.'

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


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Last modified on: Sunday, 13 August 2000.