Title- Female Arahat Mahapajapati Gotami



She was a younger daughter of King Mahasuppabuddha of Devadaha and his Queen. She was named Gotami, a younger sister of Princess Mahamaya. Those who took birth from their wombs would become kings of the world, said the Brahmin astrologers. Both sisters were married to King Suddhodana of Kapilavatthu but Maya Devi became Chief Queen.



While our Bodhisatta (future Gotama, the Buddha) was conceived in Maya’s womb, a wonderful white elephant came into it, in her dream. In 68 Maha Sakka Era (644 BC) the child was born amidst great, holy miracles. Seven days later, the Holy Mother died and she was reborn in Tusita celestial realm as a deity. So, her younger sister, Pajapati Gotami, became Chief Queen who fed the young baby. She had her own son, Prince Nanda, but she put him in charge of female attendants who served as breast-feeders. So Mahapajapati Gotami became Foster Mother of Prince Siddhattha.



King Suddhodana won first stage of ariyaship as Sotapanna while hearing the noble and rare Dhamma from the Exalted One, who wandered around the royal city for alms-food. Nine days later, his son Prince Nanda became a bhikkhu: also Prince Rahula, the only son of Prince Siddhattha, entered the Holy Order as a samanera (a novice). While the Enlightened One was dwelling in Mahavana Forest, his father King Suddhodana won highest stage of holiness, which is the attainment of Arahatship; then and there he also won parinibbana state, the complete cessation of Khandha flux or suffering. Since Pajapatigotami saw these transiencies or impermanences of life, she made a firm determination or holy vow to become a bhikkhuni under the Buddha’s Dispensation: life is uncertain, death is certain. So she wanted to renounce her worldly life, to become a full-fledged bhikkhuni according to original Vinaya Rules, proclaimed by the Buddha himself.



With five hundred Sakyan Princesses, headed by Mahapajapati Gotami herself, approached the Enlightened One, asking permission to establish a Bhikkhuni Samgha Order. This female group was the first one to seek bhikkhuni true ordination during the lifetime of the Buddha. The Buddha, however, refused permission at first. Second time, they shaved their heads and wore tree-bark-colored yogi dress and went to Vesali where Venerable Ananda stayed, to seek help from him for the second attempt. The Venerable Thera helped them by asking the Buddha to grant permission for them in true bhikkhuni ordination. They received permission to become true bhikkhunis when they agreed to abide by the Eight Heavy Disciplinary Bhikkhuni Vinaya Rules known as Eight Guru Dhamma—Serious Disciplines. For the first time in original Sasana ordained bhikkhunis appeared under bhikkhuni vinaya rules.



After living as a bhikkhuni for a few days she became a Female Arahat when she heard “Samkhitta Sutta” taught by the Buddha himself. A few days later, too, the remaining five hundred bhikkhunis, after listening to the “Nandakovada Sutta”, became Arahats. But some won only the stages of Sotapanna, Sakadagami, Anagami at first.



As Arahat Their Gotami had been diligent in vigorous following of Bhikkhuni Vinaya, she won “Etadagga” (uniqueness) title among all other bhikkhunis of  knowing, obeying the time factor to do strict discipline-knowledge nightly discrimination for holy deed.



She lived up to the age of 120. In her old, infirm age, she went around the royal city for alms-food (Pindapata rounds). After Pindapata she took rest for a few minutes in a hut to take full, holy absorption called Phalasammapatti (Fruition Citta Absorption). Then and there she clearly knew her life-span had become fully spent: she was to leave world for good as the state of parinibbana occurred. She decided, therefore, to approach the Exalted One to grant parinibbana permission, to worship the Holy Disciples (Aggasavakas) and Ariya Bhikkhu Samghas. She returned to her bhikkhuni hut and decided to carry out her noble decision. As other five hundred bhikkhunis also had the same decision, the same thought, the great earth shook in their honour and glory. Thunder recognized their sacred decision from heavenly clouds.



Foster Mother Gotami proclaimed: “I am in full knowledge of Nibbana which is the supreme, sacred reality, which is free from birth, decay, illness and death, the end of existential suffering, the end of life-processes called “samsara”. All lives involve sankhara, the conditioned, the five elements khandhas in great, violent flux minute by minute. Impermanence is the law of life. Only Nibbana is eternal because no existential births or becomings take place in Supreme, Sacred Reality (the Element of Nibbana). Now is the holy time to enter this supreme truth of Nibbana without any remainder.” When she taught this nature of Nibbana and proclaimed her decision to discard all types of existence, deities and ordinary human beings (Puthujjanas) cried aloud on hearing her last farewell on this earth.



She now left her bhikkhuni monastery to approach Jetavana Monastery, walking along the main street of the royal city. Women cried as they had to worship bhikkhunis saints for the last time before parinibbana took place. So Pajapati Gotami Theri had to console the citizens by teaching the pure, correct Dhamma to abolish regret and despair and lamentation. When she met the Compassionate Buddha, she uttered sixteen holy verses, saying now was the time for complete cessation of five groups of life as all defilements had been eradicated in practical, natural way. Then and there the Exalted One allowed her to enter parinibbana. She paid respect to Venerable Rahula, Ananda deeply, devotedly to grant parinibbana and to forgive her faults, if any. Although hundreds of bhikkhus near the Enlightened One were perfect Arahats, Ananda, being a Sotapanna, cried aloud when he heard her words of last farewell before parinibbana. He cried loudly and profusely as he loved the Theri greatly. {Note: A sotapanna, a trainee (a sekkha person) saint does not eradicate anger and love by higher Magga holy cittas and holy Fruition cittas. Lamentation, crying, is a subtle form of anger}.



The Enlightened Buddha requested Gotami Theri to exhibit super-wonders for all to see as Arahats are perfect, powerful saints if they had jhanas and abbhinnas supernormal powers. So she transformed herself to a person to the many, from many to one, from appearance to disappearance, going through mountains and hills, take the earth on her head, walking on this wearing like an earth-umbrella. Creating six suns to shine violently with smoke and fog and other miracles too.



After miracles were shown before the Buddha, she finally requested Him to let her life to end for the sake of parinibbana dhatu, Full Peace and Complete Freedom, “Lord, I am 120 years old. My body is bad and shaky. Let me enter the element of full liberation”. Likewise other five hundred bhikkhunis, after showing such miracles for audience, asked permission for Final Release. At that time Gotami Theri, the Foster Mother, sat in the air above the heads of 500 bhikkhunis. Female lay followers, knowing the last departure from earthy existence, cried aloud: lamentation sounds rent the air: they felt sorrow and regret as they flung down on the ground, beating their breasts in sorrowful state. So Gotami Theri taught the last Dhamma to them: “O lay women! Sakhara the conditioned states and component things are impermanent. Life ends in departing death. Life is always changeful”. After teaching this Dhamma, she ordered them to return to their homes. Then she entered the eight mundane absorptions of jhanic attainments. After reaching the Fourth Jhanic State, ups and downs, she performed Parinibbana, the end of all sufferings or Khandha life. Peace reigns in the world.



Similarly, the 500 bhikkhunis entered the state of Parinibbana. Full Complete Peace known as Anupadisesa Nibbana, Nibbana without any elements of life-khandhas, Nibbana without residue. In token of this glorious event, nature showed earthquake, fallen okka stars, deva thunder and rain, lamentation of deities. So knowledgable devas had to say the profound Dhamma to overcome grief and crying: “Aniccavata Samkhara, Yathayamvilayam Gata” : conditioned states (all life-existences) are transient, in flux always. If there is coming, there is surely departure. Life means frequent dying, instant small deaths of mind and matter.



It is unique and remarkable that the Exalted Buddha, the Blessed One Himself, performed funeral rites for the fully departure saints. In front of Him, (1) humans, deities, dragons, half-deities, Brahmas; (2) after them, the hearse created by Visukamma Deva for the saints carried by devas; (3) after them, the herse of Foster Mother Pajapati Gotami Theri; and (4) after them, bhikkhus (monks) and the Buddha himself in the funeral procession on the main road. Soft music was offered in their honour. Flowers and garlands were thrown over the saintly corpses in the way of worship and homage.



The hot sun at midday became warm and bearable. Miracles occurred for saints and arahat bhikkhunis who had supernormal power. These wonders even surpassed the funeral ceremony of the Buddha himself as recorded in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta and its Commentary.



After cremation, her bones and ashes were collected by the Supremely Enlightened Buddha and He showed them to Brahmas, deities and human beings to always note and remember that “life is fragile, liable to disintegrate, impermanent, changeable. Just like a huge, strong teak tree has to shake and finally break in disintegration as permanent essence is lacking, so also these Ariya bhikkhunis, without eternal soul, died and discarded five elements of life by the power of parinibbana. In reality, bodies are always shaky, fragile, without essence” , He preached to the listeners. Gotami Theri, like a blown-out fire, had ceased to burn in existence as eleven great life’s fires were extinguished in a complete way ( Arahattamagga and Arahattaphala Cittas).





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