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© You may print any of these books for your own use. However, all rights are reserved. You may not use any of the site content on your own website, nor for commercial distribution. To publish the books, permission must be sought from the appropriate copyright owners. If you post an extract on a forum, post a link to the appropriate page. Please do not link directly to PDF, MP3, or ZIP files. (Updated on 19 January, 2019)




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Gotamī Suttaṃ

(A.iv.274)

A Discourse to Gotamī

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling among the Sakyans at Kapilavatthu in Nigrodha’s monastery. Then Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī approached the Blessed One, and having approached, paid homage and stood at one side.¹ Standing at one side, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī said to the Blessed One: “It would good, venerable sir, if women could obtain the going-forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata.”

“Enough, Gotamī! Do not aim for (rucci) the going-forth of women from household life (agārasmā) to homelessness (anagāriyaṃ) in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata!”

A second and a third time Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī said to the Blessed One: “It would good, venerable sir, if women could obtain the going-forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata.”

“Enough, Gotamī! Do not aim for the going-forth of women from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata!”

Then Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, thinking: “The Blessed One does not consent to the going-forth of women from household life to homeless in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata,” miserable (dukkhī), dejected (dummanā), with a tearful face (assumukhī), and crying (rudamānā), paid homage to the Blessed One and departed keeping her right side towards him.

Then the Blessed One, having stayed at Kapilavatthu for as long as he wished set out on tour for Vesāli. Travelling in stages he arrived at Vesāli. There the Blessed One stayed at the peaked-hall in the great forest. Then Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī having cut off her hair and having dressed in yellow robes together with many ² Sakyan women set out for Vesāli. [275] Travelling in stages they approached the peaked-hall (Kūṭāgārasālā) in the great forest. Then Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, with her feet swollen, and her limbs covered in dust, miserable, dejected, with a tearful face, and crying, stood outside the doorway.

Venerable Ānanda saw Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, with her feet swollen, and her limbs covered in dust, miserable, dejected, with a tearful face, and crying, stood outside the doorway. Having seen her he said to Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī: “Why are you, Gotamī, standing outside the doorway with your feet swollen, and limbs covered in dust, miserable, dejected, with a tearful face, and crying?”

“Because, Venerable Ānanda, the Blessed One does not allow women to go forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata.”

“Then, Gotamī, wait here for a moment, while I go and ask the Blessed One for the going forth of women from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata.”

Then the Venerable Ānanda approached the Blessed One, and having approached, he paid homage, and sat down at one side. Sitting at one side the Venerable Ānanda said to the Blessed One: “Here, venerable sir, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī with her feet swollen, and limbs covered in dust, miserable, dejected, with tearful face, and crying, is stood at the doorway saying: ‘The Blessed One does not allow women to go forth from household life into homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata.’ It would be good, venerable sir, if women could obtain the going-forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata.”

“Enough, Ānanda! Do not aim for the going-forth of women from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata!”

A second and a third time Ānanda said to the Blessed One: “It would be good, venerable sir, if women could obtain the going-forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata.”

“Enough, Ānanda! Do not aim for the going-forth of women from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata!” [276]

Then the Venerable Ānanda thought: “The Blessed One does not allow women to go forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata. Perhaps if I try a different approach ³ the Blessed One will allow women to go forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata.”

Then the Venerable Ānanda said to the Blessed One: “Is it possible, venerable sir, for women having gone-forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata, to realise the fruition of Stream-winning, the fruition of Once-returning, the fruition of Non-returning, the fruition of Arahantship?”

“It is possible, Ānanda, for women having gone-forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata, to realise the fruition of Stream-winning, the fruition of Once-returning, the fruition of Non-returning, the fruition of Arahantship”

“If it is possible, venerable sir, for women having gone-forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata, to realise the fruition of Stream-winning, the fruition of Once-returning, the fruition of Non-returning, the fruition of Arahantship, much has been done, venerable sir, by Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī was the Blessed One’s maternal aunt, wet-nurse, and foster mother who nursed him at her breast when his mother had died. It would good, venerable sir, if women could obtain the going-forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata.”

“If, Ānanda, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī accepts eight weighty rules,⁴ that itself will be her ordination (upasampadā):–

  1. A nun ordained for a hundred Rains should pay homage to a monk ordained that very day, stand up for him, greet him reverentially with joined palms, and pay due respect to him. This principle should be honoured, respected, esteemed, and venerated throughout life without being transgressed.
  2. A nun should not enter upon the Rains in a residence where there are no monks. This principle should be honoured, respected, esteemed, and venerated throughout life without being transgressed.
  3. Every fortnight the nuns should ask the community of monks about two things — the Uposatha day and the Exhortation (ovāda).⁵ [277] This principle should be honoured, respected, esteemed, and venerated throughout life without being transgressed.
  4. When a nun has completed the Rains Retreat she should invite both communities regarding any offence that they have seen, heard about, or suspected. This principle should be honoured, respected, esteemed, and venerated throughout life without being transgressed.
  5. A nun who has committed an offence against the weighty rules should undergo probation (mānattaṃ) for a fortnight (pakkha) in front of both communities. This principle should be honoured, respected, esteemed, and venerated throughout life without being transgressed.
  6. A probationer who has trained in the six rules for two years should seek ordination from both communities. This principle should be honoured, respected, esteemed, and venerated throughout life without being transgressed.
  7. A nun should not for any reason insult or revile a monk.⁶ This principle should be honoured, respected, esteemed, and venerated throughout life without being transgressed.
  8. From today onwards, Ānanda, nuns are forbidden from admonishing monks; monks are not forbidden from admonishing nuns. This principle should be honoured, respected, esteemed, and venerated throughout life without being transgressed.

“If, Ānanda, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī will accept these eight weighty rules, that will be her ordination.”

Then, Venerable Ānanda, having received the eight weighty rules in the presence of the Blessed One, he approached Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, and having approached her said to Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī:–

“If you, Gotamī, will accept these eight weighty rules, [here repeating the eight weighty rules as stated by the Blessed One] [278] that will be your ordination.”

“It is as if, Venerable Ānanda, a young woman, or a man, or a youth, who is fond of ornaments, and has bathed their head, would receive a garland of blue lotuses, jasmines, or vine flowers, having accepted it with both hands, would place it on top of his or her head; in the same way, Venerable Ānanda, having accepted these eight weighty rules I will not transgress them for the rest of my life.”

Then Venerable Ānanda approached the Blessed One, and having approached, paid homage and sat down at one side. Sitting at one side, the Venerable Ānanda said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī has accepted the eight weighty rules and will not transgress them for the rest of her life.”

“If, Ānanda, women had not obtained the going forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata the holy life (brahmacariyaṃ) would have lasted for a long time, the true Dhamma (saddhammo) would have lasted for a thousand years. Now, Ānanda, that women have obtained the going forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata, the true Dhamma will not last as long. Now, Ānanda, the true Dhamma will last only for five hundred years.⁷

“It is like, Ānanda, those families with many women and few men are easily destroyed by robbers. In the same way, Ānanda, because women have obtained the going forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata, the true Dhamma will not last as long.

“It is like, Ānanda, when hill paddy has ripened, [279] the disease called white bones infests it, thus the field of hill paddy does not last long. In the same way, Ānanda, because women have obtained the going forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata, the true Dhamma will not last as long.

“it is like, Ānanda, when a field of sugar-cane has ripened the disease called red bones infests it, thus the field of sugar-cane does not last long. In the same way, Ānanda, because women have obtained the going forth from household life to homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathāgata, the true Dhamma will not last as long.

“As if, Ānanda, a man might build an embankment around a great reservoir as a precaution so that the water would not overflow, in the same way, Ānanda, as a precaution I have established these eight weighty rules for nuns not to be transgressed as long as life lasts.”

Notes:

1. This entire passage is repeated in the Vinaya Cūḷavagga (V.ii.253ff), followed by the section on the ordination of nuns. The Buddha’s obvious reluctance to allow the ordination of women is explained by the final paragraphs of this discourse.

2. Many (sambahulā). The Commentary says five hundred.

3. Venerable Ānanda was then only a Stream-winner, so not free from desires. He was also very intelligent. At the First Buddhist Council, the elders asked him to confess an offence for his efforts in enabling the ordination of women. “This is an offence of wrong-doing for you, friend Ānanda, that you endeavoured for the ordination of women.” (Vin.ii.290)

4. Weighty rules (garudhamma). Bhikkhu Bodhi translates these as the “Eight principles of respect.” That is also a good translation. The word “garu” means both weighty or serious, as opposed to light (lahu), and worthy of respect. However, because rule five states that a nun who has transgressed any of these rules must undergo probation (mānatta) for a fortnight, which is longer than the probation required for an offence entailing a formal meeting of the Saṅgha (Saṅghādisesadhamma). They are thus more serious offences than those requiring a formal meeting if transgressed, but less serious than offences entailing defeat. The eight principles of respect, or eight weighty rules, are compared to an embankment that surrounds a large reservoir, preventing the water from overflowing.

5. Every fortnight a monk would be appointed to exhort the nuns with a teaching on the Dhamma.

6. If a nun is sexually harassed or assaulted by a monk, without insulting or reviling him, she should report it to the senior nuns, who would in turn report it to the senior monks. It should not be tolerated or concealed, but it should be dealt with by due legal process.

7. This dilemma on the duration of the true Dhamma is dealt with in the Milindapañha. It is obvious that there are now various corrupt forms of Buddhism, but if one seeks out a good teacher and practises correctly, one can still attain the various stages of insight and the path. “ The teaching of the Master, O king, has its root in practice, practice is its essence, and it stands as long as practice does not decline.” (Miln.133)


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