The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes Biography (6) Nanda Theri contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as life Histories of Bhikkhunī Arahats. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

(Nandā Therī’s full name was Janapadakalyāṇī Rūpanandā Therī. Her story has been told in detail in Chapter 34 on Vijaya sutta. In the present Chapter, only a short account will be given, as described in the commentary on the Aṅguttara Nikāya.)

(a) Her Past Aspiration

The future Nandā Therī was reborn into a rich man’s family in the city of Haṃsāvatī, during the time of Buddha Padumattara. On a certain occasion when she was attending to a sermon by the Buddha, she witnessed the Buddha naming a bhikkhunī as the foremost among bhikkhunīs who enjoyed themselves in abiding in jhāna. She aspired to that distinction and after making an extraordinary offering she wished that she be designated as the foremost bhikkhunī in jhānic ecstasy, some time in the future. The Buddha prophesied that her wish would be fulfilled.

(b) Becoming A Bhikkhunī in Her Last Existence

After passing away from that memorable existence, she was reborn in the fortunate existences for a hundred thousand world-cycles. In her last existence, she was reborn as a Sakyan Princess who later was intended to be betrothed to Prince Nanda. She was named Princess Abhirūpanandā, and her extreme attractiveness also earned her the endearing name of Princess Janapadakalyāṇī. She was born of Queen Mahāpajāpati Gotamī

Prince Nanda, Prince Rāhula and some of the closest kith and kin of the Buddha were admitted into the Order of Bhikkhus during the Buddha’s visit to Kapilavatthu. Later, after the death of King Suddhodāna, her own mother, Queen Mahāpajāpati Gotamī and Queen Yasodaya, her sister, mother of Prince Rāhula, also joined the Order of Bhikkhunīs. As Princess Janapadakalyāṇī saw no point in her remaining at the royal palace, she joined her mother, Bhikkhunī Mahāpajāpati Gotamī, as a bhikkhunī.

After becoming bhikkhunī, she did not go to see the Buddha on the days scheduled for her to receive the Buddha’s admonition, as other bhikkhunīs did. This was because the Buddha was reputed as being derogatory to personal attractiveness. So, she would send some other bhikkhunīs to receive the Buddha’s admonition on her behalf. The Buddha knew that she was conceited about her personal beauty and ordered that bhikkhunīs must go personally to Him to receive admonition and not depute another. Bhikkhunī Rūpanandā had to abide by the rule and reluctantly she went to see the Buddha.

The Buddha had, by His powers, created a most attractive girl by His side, respectfully fanning Him with a palm-leaf fan. When Bhikkhunī Rūpanandā saw her, her vanity about her own personal beauty vanished. “Why,” she thought to herself, “I had been so conceited about my beauty! Shame on me! Here is a girl whose beauty I could not match, for I am not even 256th part of her beauty. How foolish of me to stay away from the Bhagavā.” She stood there awestruck by the beauty of the mind made girl near the Buddha.

Rūpanandā Therī had sufficing condition (of accumulated merit in the past), so that after hearing one stanza beginning with:

aṭṭhīnaṃ nagaraṃ kataṃ...” (On the loathsomeness of the body; Dhammapada V. 150) and one sutta entitled Vijaya Sutta beginning with:

caraṃyadi vā tiṭṭham nisinno uda vā sayaṃ....” (“While walking, or standing, or sitting, or lying down...?” describing the constitution of the body which is basically no different from a corpse.——Sutta Nipāta, Vijaya Sutta), she meditated diligently on the emptiness of this sentient existence and in two or three days, she attained arahatship.

(c) Being designated as The Foremost Bhikkhunī

From the time of attaining arahatship, Rūpanandā Therī was unequalled by any other bhikkhunī in abiding in jhāna.

Accordingly, when on the occasion of naming foremost bhikkhunīs during His residence at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha declared:

Bhikkhus, among My bhikkhunī-disciples who derive pleasure from jhānic absorption, Bhikkhunī Nandā is the foremost (etadagga).”

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