The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Biography (8) Sakula 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).

(Sakulā Therī is mentioned by the name of Bākula in the Commentary on the Aṅguttara Nikāya in the recorded version of the Sixth Council, whereas in the Sri Laṅkā version, the name is mentioned as Sakulā. In the Commentary on Therīgāthā of the Sixth Council version, the name also appeared as Sakulā. Hence we have opted for the name Sakulā, and based our narration on the Commentary on Therī- get he which gives a more extensive coverage.)

(a) Her Past Aspiration

The future Sakulā Therī was reborn into the family of King Ānanda of Haṃsāvatī, during the time of Buddha Padumuttara. She was the half sister of Buddha Padumuttara and was named Princess Nandā. When she had come of age, she attended the Buddha’s sermon. She saw a bhikkhunī being named by the Buddha as the foremost bhikkhunī in the endowment of supernormal power of Deva Eye (characterized by a knowledge of past existences). She then had a strong desire to become one like that bhikkhunī with supernormal power of Deva Eye and accordingly she made an extra-ordinary offering and made her aspiration before Buddha Padumuttara. Buddha Padumuttara prophesied that her aspiration would be fulfilled during the time of Buddha Gotama. (For details of this part of the story, read Sakulā Therī Apādāna.)

Her Past Existence as A Female Wandering Ascetic

Princess Nandā engaged herself in doing many great deeds of merit throughout her life, and, after passing away from that existence, she was reborn in the deva realm. Subsequently, she was reborn in the human or deva realm only. During Buddha Kassapa time, she was reborn into a brahmin family. She became a recluse and led a life of a secluded ascetic. After the passing away of Buddha Kassapa, His relics were enshrined in a great stupa. The ascetic, who was future Sakulā Therī, one day obtained some oil on her round for alms-oil. With that amount of oil she made an offering of lights throughout the night at the shrine where Buddha Kassapa’s relics were enshrined.

(b) Becoming A Bhikkhunī in Her Last Existence

The wandering ascetic passed away and was reborn in Tāvatiṃsa Deva realm, as a deva endowed with special deva faculty of vision. For the whole period of the interval between the two Buddhas, she fared in the deva realm only. During the time of Buddha Gotama, she was reborn into brahmin family in Sāvatthi, by the name of Sakulā. When she became of age, she attended a ceremony which celebrated the donations of the Jetavana monastery (by Anāthapiṇḍika) to the Buddha where she listened to the Buddha’s discourse and she became a lay disciple of His. Later, she received a discourse from an arahat which kindled her emotional religious awakening and resulted in her becoming a bhikkhunī. She strove diligently in the Noble Practice of Purity and soon attained arahatship.

(c) Sakulā Therī as The Foremost Bhikkhunī

After attaining arahatta-phala, Sakulā Therī, as the result of her past aspiration, was specially devoted to the exercise of the supernormal power of the Deva Eye, and was an adept at it.

On one occasion, when the Buddha was naming outstanding bhikkhunīs at the Jetavana monastery, He declared:

Bhikkhus, among My bhikkhunī-disciples who are proficient in the supernormal power of the Deva Eye, Sakulā Therī is the foremost (etadagga).”

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