by Ven. Weagoda Sarada Maha Thero | 1993 | 341,201 words | ISBN-10: 9810049382 | ISBN-13: 9789810049386
This page describes The Story of Sundari the Wandering Female Ascetic which is verse 306 of the English translation of the Dhammapada which forms a part of the Sutta Pitaka of the Buddhist canon of literature. Presenting the fundamental basics of the Buddhist way of life, the Dhammapada is a collection of 423 stanzas. This verse 306 is part of the Niraya Vagga (Hell) and the moral of the story is “He who asserts what’s not true and he who denies what’s true, both suffer equally in hell”.
Verse 306 - The Story of Sundarī the Wandering Female Ascetic
Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 306:
abhūtavādī nirayaṃ upeti yo cāpi katvā na karomīti cāha |
ubho'pi te pecca samā bhavanti nihīnakammā manujā parattha || 306 ||
306. With one denying truth there goes to hell that one who having done says ‘I did not’. Both of them in making kammas base are equal after death.
He who asserts what’s not true and he who denies what’s true, both suffer equally in hell.
The Story of Sundarī the Wandering Female Ascetic
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse with reference to Sundarī, a wandering female ascetic.
As the number of people who revered the Buddha increased, the non-Buddhist ascetics found that the number of their followers was dwindling. Therefore, they became very jealous of the Buddha; they were also afraid that things would get worse if they did not do something to damage the reputation of the Buddha. So, they sent for Sundarī and said to her, “Sundarī, you are a very beautiful and clever young lady. We want you to put Samana Gotama to shame, by making it appear to others that you are having sexual dealings with him. By so doing, his image will be impaired, his following will decrease and many would come to us. Make the best use of your looks and be crafty.
Sundarī understood what was expected of her. Thus, late in the evening, she went in the direction of the Jetavana Monastery. When she was asked where she was going, she answered, “I am going to visit Samana Gotama; I live with him in the perfumed chamber of the Jetavana Monastery.” After saying this, she proceeded to the place of the non-Buddhist ascetics. Early in the morning the next day, she returned home. If anyone asked her from where she had come she would reply, “I have come from the perfumed chamber after staying the night with Samana Gotama.” She carried on like this for two more days. At the end of three days, those ascetics hired some drunkards to kill Sundarī and put her body in a rubbish heap near the Jetavana Monastery.
The next day, the ascetics spread the news about the disappearance of Paribbajikā Sundarī. They went to the king to report the matter and their suspicion. The king gave them permission to search where they wished. Finding the body near the Jetavana Monastery, they carried it to the palace. Then they said to the king, “O king, the followers of Gotama have killed this Paribbājikā and have thrown away her body in the rubbish heap near the Jetavana Monastery to cover up the misdeed of their teacher.” To them the king replied, “In that case, you may go round the town and proclaim the fact.” So they went round the town carrying the dead body of Sundarī, shouting, “Look what the followers of Gotama have done! See how they have tried to cover up the misdeed of Gotama!” The procession then returned to the palace. The monks living in the Jetavana Monastery told the Buddha what those ascetics were doing to damage his reputation and impair his image. But the Buddha only said, “My sons, you just tell them this,” and then spoke in verse as follows:
Explanatory Translation (Verse 306)
abhūtavādī nirayaṃ upeti pi ca yo katvā na karomi iti ca āha
nihīnakammā te ubho manujā āpi pecca parattha samā bhavanti
abhūtavādī: he who utters lies; api yo katvā: and he having committed sins; na karomīti: will say I did not commit; āha: if he says this; nirayaṃ upeti: (he) will go to hell; nihīnakammā: of depraved acts; te ubho āpi manujā: both these types of person; pecca: having departed this world; parattha: in the next world; samā bhavanti: become similar One who tells lies about others goes to hell (niraya); one who has done evil and says “I did not do it”, also goes to hell. Both of them being evil-doers, suffer alike (in hell) in their next existence.
The king next ordered his men to further investigate the murder of Sundarī. On investigation, they found out that Sundarī had died at the hands of some drunkards. So they were brought to the king. When questioned, the drunkards disclosed that they were hired by the ascetics to kill Sundarī and put her body near the Jetavana Monastery. The king then sent for the non-Buddhist ascetics, and they finally confessed their role in the murder of Sundarī. The king then ordered them to go round the town and confess their guilt to the people. So they went round the town saying, “We are the ones who killed Sundarī. We have falsely accused the disciples of Gotama just to bring disgrace on Gotama. The disciples of Gotama are innocent, only we are guilty of the crime.” As a result of this episode, the power, the glory and the fortune of the Buddha were very much enhanced.