She was born in Kapilavatthu as the daughter of the chief of the Sākyan Khemaka and was named Nandā. Owing to her great beauty and charm she became known as Abhirūpā-
On the day appointed for her to select her husband, the Sākyan youth, on whom her choice was to have fallen, died, and her parents made her leave the world against her will.
The Apadāna account ¹ does not mention the suitor’s death, but states that many sought her hand and caused great trouble, to avoid which her parents made her join the Order.
Even after she had entered the Order she avoided going into the Buddha’s presence, being infatuated with her own beauty and fearing the Master’s rebuke. In order to induce her to come to him, the Buddha directed Mahā Pajāpatī to see that all the nuns came for instruction. When Nandā’s turn came she sent another in her place. The Buddha refused to recognise the substitute, and Nandā was compelled to go herself. As she listened to the Buddha teaching, he, by his magic power, conjured up a beautiful woman and showed her becoming aged and fading, causing anguish to arise in Nandā’s heart. At the opportune moment, the Buddha drove home the truth of the impermanence of beauty. Meditating on this topic, she later became an Arahant.²
The two verses taught her by the Buddha, which she made the subject of her meditations, are given in the Therīgāthā.³
In the time of Vipassī Buddha, Nandā had been the daughter of a wealthy burgess in the Buddha’s native town of Bandhumatī. Having heard the Buddha teach she became his pious follower, and, at his death, made an offering of a golden umbrella decked with jewels to the shrine built over his ashes.⁴
The verses quoted in the Therīgāthā Commentary, as having been taken from the Apadāna, really belong to Mettā, and are found in the Apadāna ⁵ ascribed to Ekapiṇḍadāyikā. The correct verses are found in the Apadāna under the name of Abhirūpa Nandā, and agree with the story given in the text of the Therīgāthā Commentary.
¹ Ap.ii. 609. ² ThigA.81 f; SnA.i.241‑2. ³ vv.19, 20. ⁴ Ap.ii.608. ⁵ Ap.ii. 515.