The Dhammapada: Verses and Stories

Dhammapada Verse 113
Patacaratheri Vatthu

Yo ca vassasatam jive
apassam udayabbayam
ekaham jivitam seyyo
passato udayabbayam.

Verse 113: Better than a hundred years in the life of a person who does not perceive the arising and the dissolving of the five aggregates (khandhas), is a day in the life of one who perceives the arising and dissolving of the five aggregates.

1. Udayabbayam: the arising and the dissolving of the five aggregates (khandhas). Udayabbayanana is the knowledge acquired through Insight Development Practice, indicating the impermanent characteristics of the five aggregates.

The Story of Theri Patacara

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (113) of this book, with reference to Patacara.

Patacara was the daughter of a rich man from Savatthi. She was very beautiful and was guarded very strictly by her parents. But one day, she eloped with a young male attendant of the family and went to live in a village, as a poor man's wife. In due course she became pregnant and as the time for confinement drew near, she asked permission from her husband to return to her parents in Savatthi, but her husband discouraged her. So, one day, while her husband was away, she set out for the home of her parents. Her husband followed her and caught up with her on the way and pleaded with her to return with him; but she refused. It so happened that as her time was drawing so near, she had to give birth to a son in one of the bushes. After the birth of her son she returned home with her husband.

Then, she was again with child and as the time for confinement drew nears taking her son with her, she again set out for the home of her parents in Savatthi. Her husband followed her and caught up with her on the way; but her time for delivery was coming on very fast and it was also raining hard. The husband looked for a suitable place for confinement and while he was clearing a little patch of land, he was bitten by a poisonous snake, and died instantaneously. Patacara waited for her husband, and while waiting for his return she gave birth to her second son. In the morning, she searched for her husband, but only found his dead body. Saying to herself that her husband died on account of her, she continued on her way to her parents.

Because it had rained incessantly the whole night, the river Aciravati was in spate; so it was not possible for her to cross the river carrying both her sons. Leaving the elder boy on this side of the river, she crossed the stream with her day-old son and left him on the other bank. She then came back for the elder boy. While she was still in the middle of the river, a large hawk hovered over the younger child taking it for a piece of meat. She shouted to frighten away the bird, but it was all in vain; the child was carried away by the hawk. Meanwhile, the elder boy heard his mother shouting from the middle of the stream and thought she was calling out to him to come to her. So he entered the stream to go to his mother, and was carried away by the strong current. Thus, Patacara lost her two sons as well as her husband.

So she wept and lamented loudly, "A son is carried away by a hawk, another son is carried away by the current, my husband is also dead, bitten by a poisonous snake!" Then, she saw a man from Savatthi and she tearfully asked after her parents. The man replied that due to a violent storm in Savatthi the previous night, the house of her parents had fallen down and that both her parents together with her three brothers, had died, and had been cremated on one funeral pyre. On hearing this tragic news, Patacara went stark mad. She did not even notice that her clothes had fallen off from her and that she was half-naked. She went about the streets, shouting out her woes.

While the Buddha was giving a discourse at the Jetavana monastery, he saw Patacara at a distance; so he willed that she should come to the congregation. The crowd seeing her coming tried to stop her, saying "Don't let the mad woman come in." But the Buddha told them not to prevent her coming in. When Patacara was close enough to hear him, he told her to be careful and to keep calm. Then, she realized that she did not have her skirt on and shamefacedly sat down. Someone gave her a piece of cloth and she wrapped herself up in it. She then told the Buddha how she had lost her sons, her husband, her brothers and her parents.

The Buddha said to her, "Patacara, have no fear; you have now come to one who can protect you and guide you. Throughout this round of existences (samsara), the amount of tears you have shed on account of the death of your sons, husbands, parents and brothers is voluminous; it is even more than the waters of the four oceans." Thus the Buddha expounded to her the Anamatagga Sutta, which dealt with countless existences, and she felt relieved. Then, the Buddha added that one should not think too much about those who were gone, but that one should purify oneself and strive to realize Nibbana. On hearing this exhortation from the Buddha, Patacara attained Sotapatti Fruition.

Then, Patacara became a bhikkhuni. One day, she was cleaning her feet with water from a water-pot. As she poured the water for the first time, it flowed only a short distance and disappeared; then she poured for the second time and the water went a little farther, but the water she poured for the third time went the farthest. As she looked at the flow and the disappearance of water poured cut successively for three times, she came to perceive clearly the three stages in the life of beings. The Buddha seeing her through supernormal power from the Jetavana monastery sent forth his radiance and appeared to her in person. He then said to her, "Patacara, you are now on the right track, and you now have the true perception of the aggregates (khandhas). One who does not perceive the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality of the aggregates is useless, even if he were to live for a hundred years.

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 113: Better than a hundred years in the life of a person who does not perceive the arising and the dissolving of the five aggregates (khandhas), is a day in the life of one who perceives the arising and dissolving of the five aggregates.

At the end of the discourse, Patacara attained arahatship.



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*Verse 416
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*These two stories have the same verse.