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Rāhulamātā

The name, generally given in the texts, of Rāhula’s mother  ¹ (e.g., and Gotama’s wife. She is also called Bhaddakaccā,² and, in later texts, YasodharāBimbādevī,⁴ and, probably, Bimbāsundarī.⁵

The Northern texts seem to favour the name of Yasodharā, but they call her the daughter of Daṇḍapāṇī.⁶ It is probable that the name of Gotama’s wife was Bimbā, and that Bhaddakaccā, Subhaddakā, Yosadhāri and the others, were descriptive epithets applied to her, which later became regarded as, additional names. It is also possible that in Gotama’s court there was also a Yasodharā, daughter of Daṇḍapāṇī, and that there was a later confusion of names. The Commentarial explanation, that she was called Bhaddakaccānā because her body was the colour of burnished gold, is probably correct. To suggest ⁸ that the name bears any reference to the Kaccānagotta seems to be wrong, because the Kaccāna was a brahmin clan and the Sākyā were not brahmins.

Rāhulamātā was born on the same day as the Bodhisatta.⁹ She married him (Gotama) at the age of sixteen,¹⁰ and was placed at the head of forty thousand women, given to Gotama by the Sākyā, after he had proved his manly prowess to their satisfaction. Gotama left the household life on the day of the birth of his son Rāhula.¹¹ It is said that just before he left home he took a last look at his wife from the door of her room, not daring to go nearer, lest he should awake her. When the Buddha paid his first visit to Kapilavatthu after the Enlightenment, and on the second day of that visit, he begged in the street for alms. This news spread, and Rāhulamātā looked out of her window to see if it were true. She saw the Buddha, and was so struck by the glory of his personality that she uttered eight verses in its praise. These verses have been handed down under the name of Narasīhagāthā; on that day, after the Buddha had finished his meal in the palace, which he took at the invitation of Suddhodana, all the ladies of the court, with the exception of Rāhulamātā, went to pay him obeisance. She refused to go, saying that if she had any virtue in her the Buddha would come to her. The Buddha went to her with his two chief Disciples and gave orders that she should be allowed to greet him as she wished. She fell at his feet, and clasping them with her hands, put her head on them. Suddhodana related to the Buddha how, from the time he had left home, Rāhulamātā had herself abandoned all luxury and had lived in the same manner as she had heard that the Buddha lived — wearing yellow robes, eating only once a day, etc. The Buddha then related the Candakinnara Jātaka, to show how, in the past, too, her loyalty had been supreme.

On the seventh day of the Buddha’s visit, when he left the palace at the end of his meal, Rāhulamātā sent Rāhula to him saying, “That is your father, go and ask him for your inheritance.” Rāhula followed the Buddha, and, at the Buddha’s request, was ordained by Sāriputta.¹²

Later, when the Buddha allowed women to join the Order, Rāhulamātā became a nun under Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī.¹³

Buddhaghosa identifies ¹⁴ Rāhulamātā with Bhaddakaccānā who, in the Aṅguttaranikāya,¹⁵ is mentioned as chief among nuns in the possession of supernormal powers (mahābhiññappattānaṃ). She was one of the four disciples of the Buddha who possessed such attainment, the others being Sāriputta, Moggallāna and Bākula. She expressed her desire for this achievement in the time of Padumuttara Buddha.

In this account Bhaddakaccānā is mentioned as the daughter of the Sākyan Suppabuddha ¹⁶ and his wife Amitā. She joined the Order under Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī in the company of Janapadakalyāṇī Nandā, and in the Order she was known as Bhaddakaccānā Therī. Later, she developed insight and became an Arahant. She could, with one effort, recall one immeasurable aeon (asaṅkheyya) and one hundred thousand world-cycles.¹⁷

In the Therī Apadāna ¹⁸ an account is found of a Therī, Yasodharā by name, who is evidently to be identified with Rāhulamātā, because she speaks of herself  ¹⁹ as the Buddha’s consort (pajāpatī) before he left the household-life (agāra), and says that she was the chief (pāmokkhā sabba-issarā) of ninety thousand women.

In the time of Dīpaṅkara Buddha, when the Bodhisatta was born as Sumedha, she was a brahmin maiden, Sumittā by name, and gave eight handfuls of lotuses to Sumedha, which he, in turn, offered to the Buddha. Dīpaṅkara, in declaring that Sumedha would ultimately become the Buddha, added that Sumittā would be his companion in several lives. The Apadāna account ²⁰ mentions how, just before her death, at the age of seventy-eight, she took leave of the Buddha and performed various miracles. It also states ²¹ that eighteen thousand Arahants nuns, companions of Yasodharā, also died on the same day.

The Abbhantara Jātaka ²² mentions that Bimbādevī (who is called the chief wife of Gotama and is therefore evidently identical with Rāhulamātā) was once, after becoming a nun, ill from flatulence. When Rāhula, as was his custom, came to visit her, he was told that he could not see her, but that, when she had suffered from the same trouble at home, she had been cured by mango juice with sugar. Rāhula reported the matter to his preceptor, Sāriputta, who obtained the mango juice from Pasenadi. When Pasenadi discovered why the mango juice had been needed, he arranged that from that day it should be regularly supplied. The Jātaka relates how, in a past birth too, Sāriputta had come to Rāhulamātā’s rescue.

Numerous stories are found in the Jātaka Commentary in which Rāhulamātā is identified with one or other of the characters:–

Footnotes

¹ Vin.i.82.

² E.g., Bu.xxvi.15; Mhv.ii.24 calls her Bhaddakaccānā; but see Thomas, op.cit., 49; she is also called Subhaddakā, this being probably a variant of Bhaddakaccānā.

³ BuA., p.245; Dvy.253. J.ii.392 f; DA.ii.422. J.vi.478.

See also Rockhill, op.cit., where various other names are given as well.

E.g., AA.i.204. E.g., Thomas, op.cit., 49. J.i.54; BuA. 106, 228.

¹⁰ The following account is taken chiefly from J.i.58 ff.

¹¹ According to one account, referred to in the Jātaka Commentary, i.62, Rāhula was seven days old.

¹² The account of this event is given in Vin.i.82; this is probably the only passage in the Tipiṭaka where Rāhulamātā, is mentioned by name.

¹³ AA.i.198. ¹⁴ AA.i.204 f. ¹⁵ A.i.25.

¹⁶ Cf. Mhv.ii.21 f. It is said (DhA.iii.44 f) that Suppabuddha did not forgive the Buddha for leaving his daughter; Devadatta was Bhaddakaccanā’s daughter, and it has been suggested that Devadatta’s enmity against the Buddha was for reasons similar to her father’s.

¹⁷ AA.i.205. ¹⁸ Ap.ii.584 ff. ¹⁹ Ap.ii. vs. 10, 11. ²⁰ vs.1 ff. ²¹ Ap.ii.592 f.

²² J.ii.392 f; cf. the Supatta Jātaka, where Sāriputta, at Rāhula’s request, obtained for her from Pasenadi rice with ghee, flavoured with red fish. This was for abdominal pain (J.ii.433).

Finding Footnote References

Dhammapada Commentary, Pāpa Vagga. v 129. DA.iii.44

References in the notes are to the Pāḷi texts of the PTS. In the translations, these are usually printed in the headers near the spine, or in square brackets in the body of the text, thus it would be iii 44 in the spine or [44] in the text. References to the Commentaries are usually suffixed with A for Aṭṭhakathā (DA, MA, SNA, etc.) but references to the Jātaka Commentary are given as J, not JA, which would normally be used, as that is reserved for the Journal Asiatic.

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