Making of a Bhikshuni
Twenty-five hundred years ago during travels across India to share his insight with the people, Gautam Buddha camped outside the city of Vidisha in a mango grove. (Vidisha still exists just north of Bhopal.) The grove was at some distance from the settlement and the Buddha and all the bhiksus went out every morning, bowls in hand, to beg food.
Buddha was walking along the street one day when a chariot stopped and a well dressed young lady came out of it. She walked toward him with a garland of jasmine flowers in hand. As she tried to put the garland around the Buddha’s neck, he said, “No, shubhe, (auspicious one), this is not the right time for it, for I am carrying my begging bowl. If you bring this garland to the grove tomorrow morning, I will gladly accept it.” The lady gracefully agreed and left.
A companion informed the Buddha that the lady was Vanamala, a wealthy and prominent citizen of Vidisha. She entertained the rich with her beautiful songs and dances in an auditorium in her own palatial house. She also taught the young men of the area’s prominent houses in etiquette and finesse in interpersonal relations. Fame of her skill and beauty had spread throughout the region.
The following morning Vanamala arrived at the camp with the jasmine garland in hand and gracefully offered it to the Buddha. He respectfully received it, but commented, “Shubhe, as you can see, the jasmines have withered and their fragrance is gone. They are not like they were yesterday when you first offered them to me.”
Vanamala was a bit puzzled. She asked, “Bhante Bhagawan, don’t you know how fast these flowers decay? They are fresh today and gone tomorrow. I am sorry.”
“Yes indeed,” answered the Buddha, “but so is the body; strong and beautiful today, weak and wilted tomorrow.”
The lesson was crystal clear and its delivery straight as an arrow. Vanamala was pierced to the core.
She began to attend Buddha’s daily discourses. Soon after, she began to spend more time with the bhikshunis at the camp.
Her professional dates began to get passed up. New appointments were sparingly given. Disappointed customers turned to her rival performers. Her house was soon locked up for she spent all her time at the Buddha’s camp serving together with the other disciples.
In a couple of months as the rainy season came to close The Buddha was ready to pack and move on. Or more truthfully, just move on, for there was nothing to pack. Vanamala too, had donned yellow robes and she too walked barefoot carrying her begging bowl.
A new bhikshuni had been made and put on the path to love, compassion and bliss.
January 14, 2006