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Paṭācārā

1. Paṭācārā Therī.– An Arahant. She was the daughter of a banker of Sāvatthi, and, when grown up, formed an intimacy with a servant. When her parents wished to marry her to a youth of her own rank, she ran away with her lover and lived in a hamlet. As the time for her confinement drew near, she wished to return to her parents, but the husband, on various pretexts, put off the visit. One day when he was out she left a message with the neighbours and started for Sāvatthi. Her husband followed her, but on the way she gave birth to a son, and they returned home. The same happened when her second child was born, but soon after its birth a great storm broke, and her husband went to cut some sticks and grass in the jungle with which to make a shelter. He was bitten by a snake and died.

The wife spent the night in misery, lying on the ground hugging her children. In the morning she discovered her husband’s body, and started off to go to her parents. On the way she had to cross a river, and, because it was in flood, she could not carry both her children across at the same time. She therefore left the younger on some leaves on the bank and started wading across with the other. In midstream she looked back and saw a hawk swoop down and carry away the babe. In her excitement she dropped the child she was carrying and it was swept away by the flood. Distracted, she went on towards Sāvatthi, but on the way she learnt that the house in which her parents and brother lived had fallen on them in the night and that they had been burnt on one pyre.

Mad with grief, she wandered about in circles, and because, as she circled round, her skirt cloth fell from her, she was called Paṭācārā (“cloak walker”). People drove her from their doors, until one day she arrived in Jetavana, where the Buddha was teaching. The people round him tried to stop her from approaching, but the Buddha called her to him and talked to her. By the potency of his gentleness, she regained presence of mind and crouched on the earth. A man threw her his outer robe, and she, wearing it, drew close to the Buddha, and worshipping at his feet, told him her story and begged for his help.

The Buddha spoke to her words of consolation, making her realise the inevitability of death; he then taught her the Truth. When he finished speaking, she became a Stream-winner and asked for ordination. Her request was granted, and one day, while washing her feet, she noticed how the water trickled, sometimes only to a short distance, sometimes further, and she pondered, “even so do mortals die, either in childhood, in middle age, or in old age.” The Buddha sent her a ray of glory and appeared before her, speaking and confirming her thoughts. When he had finished speaking, Paṭācārā won Arahantship. She later became a great teacher, and many women, stricken with grief, sought her guidance and her consolation (ThigA.47,117,122). She was declared by the Buddha to be the best among Therī’s who knew the Vinaya (A.i.25).

In the time of Padumuttara Buddha, she was born in a clansman’s family, and having heard the Buddha speak of a nun as first among those who knew the rules of the Order, she aspired to a similar rank for herself.

In the time of Kassapa Buddha, she became a Bhikkhuṇī, and was third of the seven daughters of Kikī, king of Bārāṇasī. She built a cell for the Order and lived a celibate life for twenty thousand years.

Thig.112‑16; ThigA.108 ff.. Ap.ii.557 f; AA.ii.194 ff; DhA.ii.260 ff; iii.434 f;J.vi.481.

Paṭācārā is given as an example of one whose grief was assuaged by listening to the Dhamma. DA.iii.746; MA.i.188; UdA.127.

2. Paṭācārā.– One of the five children of two Jain disputants, a man and a woman, of Vesāli; they married at the suggestion of the Licchavī in order that their children might inherit the skill of both. Paṭācārā and her three sisters and one brother were later converted by Sāriputta and became Arahants.

Paṭācārā is identified with one of the daughters of the Kaliṅga king in the Cūḷakāliṅga Jātaka (J.iii.1 ff). Her brother was the Nigaṇṭha Saccaka (MA.i.450).

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