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Kisāgotamī

1. Kisāgotamī Therī.– An Arahant. She was declared chief among women disciples with respect to the wearing of coarse robes (lūkhacīvara-dharānaṃ) (A.i.25; the DhA.iv.156 contains a story of the Buddha speaking to Sakka the praises of Kisāgotamī). She came from a poor family in Sāvatthi (of a wealthy family (seṭṭhikula), which had fallen on evil days, says the Apadāna p.565, vs.19). Gotamī was her name — she was called Kisā because of her thinness. She was married into a rich family, by whom she was disdainfully treated; but as soon as she bore a son she was shown respect.

(Except by her husband says the Apadāna loc. cit. 20. The DhA.ii.270 ff account, however, makes no mention of her ill-treatment; on the contrary, it leads us to expect that she should have been greatly esteemed because, prior to her arrival, her father-in-law’s wealth, four hundred million in amount, had all turned into charcoal. When she touched the charcoal it once more became gold. This account is found also in SA.i.149).

The boy, however, died when just old enough to run about; his mother, distraught with grief, fearful lest the dead child should be taken from her, went about with him on her hip, seeking medicine to revive his life. People laughed at her, until one wise man, realising her condition, directed her to the Buddha. The Buddha asked her to bring him a mustard seed from a house where no one had yet died. In the course of her search for the impossible her frenzy left her, and having grasped the truth, she laid the child in the charnel field, and returning to the Master begged admission to the Order. She became a Stream-winner (sotāpanna), and soon after, when her insight was developed, the Buddha appeared before her in a blaze of radiance and, listening to his words, she became an Arahant. (ThigA.174 ff; Ap.ii.564 f; DhA.i.270 ff; AA.i.205).

In the verses ascribed to her in the Therīgāthā (vv.213‑23), she incorporates the story of Paṭācārā in her own psalm, as though to utter more fully the pageant and tragedy inherent in woman’s lot, whereof her own sorrow was but a phase.

In the time of Padumuttara Buddha she was a householder’s daughter in Hamsavatī, and having heard the Buddha assign to a bhikkhuṇī the foremost rank among wearers of coarse robes, she vowed that one day the same rank should be her’s.

In the time of Kassapa Buddha she was the fifth daughter of Kikī and her name was Dhammā. Then she entered the Order and lived a celibate life (Ap.ii.564 f; ThigA.190 f). She is identified with the lizard in the Tittira Jātaka (J.iii.543).

The Saṃyuttanikāya (i.129 f) records a visit paid to her by Māra as she sat resting in Andhavana. He was forced to retire discomfited.

2. Kisāgotamī.– A Khattiya-maiden of Kapilavatthu. She saw from her balcony Siddhattha Gotama returning in his chariot to his palace on receipt of the news that a son had been born to him. Gotamī was gladdened by the sight of him, and gave vent to her exultation in the famous “nibbutā-pada” (nibuttā nūna sā mātā … )

Gotama was pleased by the mention of the word nibbuta, which to him meant deliverance, and as a mark of his gratitude sent her the necklace of pearls which he wore, worth one hundred thousand. She accepted it gladly as a token of his love (J.i.60 f; BuA.232 f). She is sometimes spoken of as a cousin of Gotama, his father’s brother’s daughter (pitucchādhītā). (e.g., DhA.i.70; DhSA.34. A parallel has been drawn between this story and that of Luke xi.27).

3. Kisāgotamī.– Wife of Phussa Buddha in his last lay life. Their son was Ānanda. Bu.xix.16.

4. Kisāgotamī.– One of the chief women supporters of Tissa Buddha. Bu.xviii.23.

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