Arahat Badra kundalakesi Theri - Quickness in Understanding
Composed of meaningless lines,
better the single Dhamma-line
one hears, then comes to calm.”
(Dhammapada Verse 102)
(Dhammapada Verse 102)
While residing in the Jatavana monastery, the Buddha spoke these verses with reference to Bhikkhuni Badra Kundalakesi.
A rich merchant of Rajagaha had an only daughter called Badra Kundalakesi (the woman with curls) who was about sixteen years of age, and she was exceedingly beautiful and fair. Her parents kept her on the highest floor of a seven storied mansion, thinking that her passionate nature would create her into a danger. She was only given one single woman to look after her.
One day Badra heard a commotion down below in the street, and when looked out of the window saw a criminal taken to the place of execution. He was a young man of station named Sattuka who had become a thief and was caught in the act of committing robbery. She fell in love with him and she lay down on her bed refusing to eat unless she could have him for her husband. Her father and mother not being able to pacify her, sent thousand pieces of money to the King's guard and asked him to bring the man to his mansion. The guard substituted a local man, put to death, and sent word to the King, that the robber has been executed.
The merchant gave the robber his daughter in marriage, thinking that his character might alter through his sudden change fortune. Soon after the wedding, Sattuka became obsessed with desire to steel her jewellery and made a plan to take them away from her. Then told her that while he was being led to the execution, he made a wish to a certain mountain deity who lives on Robbers' Cliff Mountain, to save his life and this god's super-normal powers helped him to have her for his wife. He begged her to wear all her jewellery and prepare Rich Rice Porridge flavored with honey and five kinds of flowers, including the Laga flower. She prepared according to the way he instructed.
When they came to the cliff, her husband demanded that Bhadra hand all her jewellery to him. Bhadra saw only one way to escape. She asked her husband's permission to pay final obeisance to him, and as she embraced him she threw him over the cliff. Santuka was dashed into pieces and they disappeared into the air. Baddra thought to her self about the wicked deed just look place. Then a tree deity seen her brave act uttered the following verse:
“ It is not always a man who is wise
A capable woman could be equally wise
depending on her mindful action.”
Badra, after hearing these words became very strong willed. She had no desire to return to lay life. Therefore she decided to become a wondering acetic. She came to a certain hermitage of nuns. They asked Badra how she wanted to be ordained as a nun. She said, the highest form. There she entered the order of Jains. As a special penance her hair was torn out by the roots when she ordained. But they grew a gain curly, for which, she was called Kundalakesa, (which means curly hair).
She inquired her teachers, about the highest teachings held in their tradition. They pointed out that Jana absorption through Kasina meditation and mastering thousand articles of faith are regarded high. She expressed that gaining Janas would be difficult, but to teach her the learning of articles. They taught her the skills of their doctrines and thereby gained an excellent knowledge of religious texts and philosophies. She became especially skilled in the art of debating and Bhadda gained a reputation as a formidable debater in India. As she traveled from town to town, she invited debate challenges by sticking a rose-apple branch into a pile of sand. Anyone who dared could challenge her by trampling on the sand, but none could get the better of her.
One day she was in Savatti, near Anathapindika's monastery in Jeta Grove, where Ven. Sariputta was residing. This day Ven. Sariputta was coming back from arms round, found some children gathered near her rose apple plant that she stuck near the city gate and wanted to know about it. He came to know that Baddra has arrived. Arahat Sariputra sent children to pick apart Bhadda Kundalakesi's sand pile, as a sign of his willingness for debate and soon she found her way to Ven. Sariputra with confident of victory with a large amount of people. The debate was on!
She asked question after question, and Ven. Sariputra answered her easily. Then it was his turn. What is the one? he asked. And she couldn't answer. She lost. “What is it Venerable?” She asked. “This is the Buddha's question sister” Said The Venerable. “If you will enter our sanga, I will tell you the answer.” “Very well admit me to sanga.”
Humbly, Bhadda asked Arahat Sariputra to become her teacher. But he told her to find the most noble teacher the Buddha, instead. So that evening Badra Kundalakesi went to see the Buddha who was living in the Jethawana Monastery. She saluted the Buddha and sat beside the Damsaba Mandapaya, (preaching stand) and listened to the Buddha's preaching. She felt as if the Buddha is preaching especially to her and so listened attentively to it. At the end of the sermon the great teacher said:
"Better than many volumes of knowledge is a single verse that brings peace."
“ through one hears a thousand verses
Made of lines devoid of meaning, (not words directed to Nirvana)
By hearing which one is set at peace.”
(Dhammapada Verses 102 & 103)
At the conclusion of the verse she attained arahatship together with analytical knowledges (patisambida – nana). She seeked permission from the Buddha to ordain as a Buddhist nun. The Theri Gatha presents a different story to Badra's receiving her ordination form the Buddha, directly inviting her to become a Bhikkhuni. Bhadda Kundalakesi was ordained a Buddhist nun where she received formal ordination. On a later date when the Buddha placed his foremost nun disciples, the Buddha declared Theri Baddha Kundalakesi, foremost of other nuns with respect to quickness of understanding. This was a quality possessed similar to Bahiya Daruchiriya (Monk Bahiya) who reached arahatship in an instant when the Buddha spoke to him. “The Buddha told him: the seen there should be for you only the seen, in the heard only the heard, in the sensed only sensed, in the cognised only he cognised” Ud 1:10). Both these disciples grasped the highest truth so quickly, and penetrated it so deeply, that in a split – second ascended from the stage of a world ling to arahatship” (Their Lives, Their Works, Their Legacy, Nyanaponika Thera and Hellmuth Hecker).
Her poetry is recorded in a section of the Pali Sutta-Pitaka called the Therigatha, or Verses of the Elder Nuns, in the Khuddaka Nikaya.
Arahat Theri Badra Kundalakesi's later life was spent traveling over the Northern Indian territory, preaching the Dhamma and guiding others to the same goal of deliverance, to end the cycle of suffering.
“Free from defilements, for fifty years
I traveled in Anga and Magadha.
Among the Vajjis, in Kasi and Kosala,
I ate the alms-food of the land.
That lay-supporter- wise man indeed
Who gave a robe to Badda,
Has generated abundant merit,
For she is one free of all ties.”
Former Life Stories of Badra
Many aeons ago during Padumuttara Buddha's time she was born in the city of Hansawathi to a wealthy family. Her devoted attitude to the Triple Gem, made her visit the monastery often and listen to Dhamma sermons. One of the day she visited the monastery, she saw a Bhikkhuni called Suba was placed as the foremost with other nuns with respect to quickness of understanding. She also wished to have a similar place in one of the future Buddha's dispensation. Then one day she expressed her wish under the feet of the Padumuttara Buddha. Fore seeing her wish through his super-normal powers, the Buddha gave affirmation to her confirming that her wish would come true in the Gauthama Buddha's time.
From then on she worked had to fulfill her perfections through various performances of meritorious deeds including offings to the Buddha and his disciples and practiced her virtues really well. She was again reborn in the Thavtisa heaven and enjoyed heavenly pleasures and thereafter she was born in the realms of Yama, Thuisitha, Nirmanarati, Paranimmitawasawarthi, in order. Each time she became the wife of these God Kings and lived well and happy with all kinds of heavenly happiness.
Next when she was born in the human realm, during the time of Kashyapa Buddha, in the city of Benaras, she was born as the forth daughter of King Kiki in the town of Kasi known as Bhikkshudayika. She had six sisters called, Samani, Samanagutta, Bhikshuni born elder to her and the younger sisters were, Damma, Sudhamma and Sangadasika. Together they built a dwelling house (Sangawasa) for the Sanga and offered it to the Buddha and the Sanga inviting them to observe the rains retreat. They also listened to Dhamma sermons, practised meditation and attended to many other meritorious deeds.
Bhkkshudayika became very interested and devoted to the Buddha's teachings and asked permission from her father to gain entry into the Bhikkhuni order. King Kiki was against her wish and as an account Bhikshudasika decided to live a virtuous life dedicated to her practice.
On account of these great meritorious deeds she performed there, she was born in Tavtisa heaven which gives greater happiness and pleasure and was born as Badra, during Gautama Buddha's time.
Bhadda Kundalakesi was ordained a Buddhist nun where she received formal ordination. On a later date when the Buddha placed his foremost nun disciples, the Buddha declared Theri Baddha Kundalakesi, foremost of other nuns with respect to quickness of understanding.