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Bhaddā-Kuṇḍalakesā

A Therī. She was foremost among nuns, of swift intuition, and was born in the family of a treasurer of Rājagaha. On the same day, a son was born to the king’s chaplain under a constellation favourable to highwaymen, and was therefore called Sattuka. One day, through her lattice, Bhaddā saw Sattuka being led by the city guard to execution on a charge of robbery. She fell at once in love with him and refused to live without him. Her father, out of his love for her, bribed the guard to release Sattuka, let him be bathed in perfumed water, and brought him home, where Bhaddā, decked in jewels, waited upon him. Very soon, Sattuka began to covet her jewels and told her that he had made a vow to the deity of the Robbers’ Cliff that, should he escape, he would bring him an offering. She trusted him and, making ready an offering, went with him arrayed in all her ornaments. On arriving at the top of the cliff, he told her of his purpose, and she, all undaunted, begged of him to let her embrace him on all sides. He agreed to this, and then, making as if to embrace him from the back, she pushed him over the cliff. The deity of the mountain praised her presence of mind saying that men were not in all cases wiser than women.

Unwilling to return home after what had happened; she joined the Order of the white robed Nigaṇṭhā. As she wished to practise extreme austerities, they dragged out her hair with a palmyra comb. Her hair grew again in close curls, and so they called her “Kuṇḍalakesā” (Curly-hair). Dissatisfied with the teaching of the Nigaṇṭhā, she left them, and going to various teachers, became very proficient in discussion and eager for debate. She would enter a village and, making a heap of sand at the gate, set up the branch of a rose apple saying, “Whoever wishes to enter into discussion with me, let him trample on this bough.” One day, Sāriputta, seeing the bough outside Sāvatthi, ordered some children to trample on it. Bhaddā then went to Jetavana accompanied by a large crowd whom she had invited to be present at the discussion. Sāriputta suggested that Bhaddā should first ask him questions; to all of these he replied until she fell silent. It was then his turn, and he asked, “One what is that?” (probably meaning: “state any one fact true for everyone”) She, unable to answer, asked him to be her teacher. However, Sāriputta sent her to the Buddha, who taught her that it were better to know one single stanza bringing calm and peace than one thousand verses bringing no profit. At the end of this discourse, Bhaddā attained Arahantship, and the Buddha himself ordained her.

In the time of Padumuttara Buddha, she had heard him teach and place as foremost among nuns one whose intuition was swift (khippābhiññā). She vowed that this rank should one day be hers. Later, when Kassapa was Buddha, she was one of the seven daughters of Kikī, king of Bārāṇasī, and was named Bhikkhadāyikā (v.l. Bhikkhudāsikā). For twenty thousand years she remained celibate and built a dwelling for the Order. A.i.25; AA.i.200 ff; ThigA.99 ff; Ap.ii.560 ff. The DhA. Account (ii. 217 ff.) differs in various details. There Bhaddā is shut up by her parents at the top of a seven storeyed building with only a single woman to wait on her, for “girls when young, burn for men!” It was thus that she saw the robber.

In the Therīgāthā (Thig.vss.107‑11) are included several verses spoken by her when she had been a nun for fifty years, wandering about in Aṅga, Magadha, Kāsi, and Kosala, living on the people’s alms.

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