1. Uppalavaṇṇā Therī.– One of the two chief women disciples of the Buddha. She was born in Sāvatthi as the daughter of a banker, and she received the name of Uppalavaṇṇā because her skin was the colour of the heart of the blue lotus. When she was come of age, kings and commoners from the whole of India sent messengers to her father, asking for her hand. He, not wishing to offend any of them, suggested that Uppalavaṇṇā should leave the world. Because of her spiritual potential (upanissaya), she very willingly agreed and was ordained a nun. Soon it came to her turn to perform certain services in the uposatha-
Three of them had been uttered in anguish by a mother who had been unwittingly living as her daughter’s rival with the man who later became the monk Gaṅgātīriya (q.v.) Uppalavaṇṇā repeated them to help her to reflect on the harm and vileness of sensual desires. Two others are utterances of joy on the distinctions she had won and another records a miracle she performed before the Buddha, with his consent. The rest contain a conversation between Uppalavaṇṇā and Māra,⁴ wherein she tells him that she has passed completely beyond his power.
The books give several episodes connected with Uppalavaṇṇā. Once a young man named Nanda, who was her cousin and had been in love with her during her lay-
According to the Dhammapada Commentary,⁷ the miracle that Uppalavaṇṇā volunteered to perform at the Gandamba-
Mention is made of a pupil of Uppalavaṇṇā, who followed the Buddha for seven years, learning the Vinaya.⁸
The Buddha declares that Khemā and Uppalavaṇṇā are the measure of his women disciples, and that the believing nun, if she would aspire perfectly, should aspire to be like them.⁹
In the time of Padumuttara Buddha Uppalavaṇṇā saw a woman disciple who was declared to be the best of those possessed of supernormal power, and wished for herself a similar rank in the dispensation of a future Buddha. In the time of Kassapa, she was one of the seven daughters of Kikī, king of Bārāṇasī, and having done many good deeds, was born in heaven. Later, she was born in the world of men and had to work for her own living. One day she gave to a Pacceka Buddha, who had just risen from samādhi, a meal of fried rice in his bowl and covered it with a beautiful lotus; the meal had been prepared for herself. The lotus she afterwards took back but again replaced it, asking the Pacceka Buddha’s forgiveness. She expressed a wish that she should beget as many sons as there were grains of rice in her gift, and that lotuses should spring up under her feet as she walked. In her next birth she was born in a lotus. An ascetic adopted her as his daughter, but when she grew up, the king of Bārāṇasī, hearing of her beauty, asked the ascetic for her hand and made her his chief queen, under the name of Padumavatī. The king’s other wives were jealous of her beauty, and when the king was away, quelling a rising of the border tribes, they concealed in caskets the five hundred sons, chief of whom was the prince Mahāpaduma (q.v.), that were born to Padumavatī, and told the king that Padumavatī was a non-
The Apadāna account of the past lives of Uppalavaṇṇa differs from the above in several details.¹² According to this account, in Padumuttara’s time she was a Nāga maiden named Vimalā and was impressed by the psychic powers displayed by a nun, hence her wish for similar powers. The Apadāna also mentions Uppalavaṇṇā’s birth as the daughter of a banker of Bārāṇasī, in the time of Vipassī. She gave great alms to the Buddha and the monks and made offerings of lotuses. She was the second daughter of Kikī and her name was Samaṇā. In her next birth she became the ravishing daughter of Tirīṭavaccha of Ariṭṭhapura. In her last birth she became an Arahant within a fortnight of her ordination.
Uppalavaṇṇā’s name occurs several times in the Jātaka stories. In the Kharādiya Jātaka ¹³ she was a deer, the sister of the Bodhisatta; in the Tipallatthamiga Jātaka ¹⁴ she was the mother of Rāhula, then born as a stag. She is identified with the old woman, the foster-
It was Uppalavaṇṇā who ordained Anojā and her companions, by the express wish of the Buddha.⁴⁰
⁴ A conversation, more or less identical with the foregoing, is recorded in S.i.131 f.
⁵ DhA.ii.49 f; the incident is referred to in Vin.iii.35. It is said (e.g., DhA.iv.166 f) that this incident gave rise to the question whether even Arahants enjoyed the pleasures of love and wished to gratify their passions. Why should they not? For they are not trees nor ant-
¹⁰ Her temporary downfall was due to her having withdrawn her gift of a lotus to the Pacceka Buddha.
¹¹ This account is a summary of the Therīgāthā Commentary, pp.182 ﬀ; AA.i.188 ﬀ; but see also DhA.ii.48 f.
2. Uppalavaṇṇā.– One of the two daughters of Kassapa I of Sri Lanka, the other being Bodhī.
The king built a vihāra and called it by his own name together with those of his daughters.⁴¹
⁴¹ Cv.xxxix.11; see also Cv.Trs.i.43, n.7.