Dhammapada Verse 391
Yassa kayena vacaya
manasa natthi dukkatam
samvutam tihi thanehi
tamaham brumi brahmanam.
Verse 391: Him I call a brahmana who does no
evil in deed or word or thought, who is restrained in these three respects.
The Story of Theri Mahapajapati Gotami
While residing at the Jetavana
monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (391) of this book, with reference to Theri
Mahapajapati Gotami was the
stepmother of Gotama Buddha. On the death of Queen, seven days after the birth
of Prince Siddhattha, Mahapajapati Gotami became the chief queen of King
Suddhodana. At that time, her own son Nanda was only five days old. She let her
own son be fed by a wet-nurse, and herself fed Prince Siddhattha, the future
Buddha. Thus, Mahapajapati Gotami was a great benefactor to Prince Siddhattha.
When Prince Siddhattha returned
to Kapilavatthu after the attainment of Buddhahood, Mahapajapati Gotami went to
see the Buddha and requested that women should also be allowed to enter the
Buddhist Order as bhikkhunis; but the Buddha refused permission. Later, King
Suddhodana died after attaining arahatship. Then, while the Buddha was
sojourning at the Mahavana forest near Vesali, Mahapajapati, accompanied by five
hundred ladies, came on foot from Kapilavatthu to Vasali. They had already
shaven their heads and had put on the dyed robes. There, for a second time,
Mahapajapati requested the Buddha to accept women in the Buddhist Order. The
Venerable Ananda also interceded on her behalf. So, the Buddha complied, with
the proviso that Mahapajapati abides by eight special conditions (garudhammas).
Mahapajapati undertook to observe the garudhammas as required, and the Buddha
admitted her into the Order. Thus, Mahapajapati was the first to be admitted to
the Order of the Bhikkhunis. The other women were admitted to the Order after
her by the bhikkhus as instructed by the Buddha.
In course of time, it came to the
minds of some bhikkhunis that Mahapajapati Gotami had not been properly admitted
as a bhikkhuni because she did not have a preceptor; therefore, Mahapajapati
Gotami was not a true bhikkhuni. With this thought in their mind, they stopped
doing sabbath (uposatha) ceremonies and vassa (pavarana) ceremonies with her.
They went to the Buddha and posed the problem of Mahapajapati Gotami not having
been properly admitted to the Order of bhikkhunis as she had no preceptor. To
them the Buddha replied, "Why do you say so? I myself gave the eight
garudhammas to Mahapajapati and she had learnt and practised the garudhammas as
required by me. I myself am her preceptor and it is quite wrong for you to say
that she has no preceptor. You should harbour no doubt whatsoever about an
Then the Buddha spoke in verse as
|Verse 391: Him I call
a brahmana who does no evil in deed or word or thought, who is
restrained in these three respects.