Uppalavanna, Uppalavaṇṇā: 1 definition


Uppalavanna means something in Buddhism, Pali. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

[«previous next»] — Uppalavanna in Theravada glossary
Source: Pali Kanon: Pali Proper Names

The god to whom Sakka entrusted the guardianship of Lanka and its people. He met Vijaya and his followers when they landed in Ceylon and sprinkled water on them and wound a sacred thread about their hands for protection (Mhv.vii.5). The god is generally identified with Visnu, though there is evidence to show that, at least in later mythology, the two gods were distinct. Somewhere about A.D. 790, a shrine was erected to Uppalavanna in Devanagara (modern Dondra) in South Ceylon. This shrine was later plundered by the Portuguese. King Virabahu offered there a sacrifice of victory (Cv.lxxxiii.49; see also Cv.Trs.ii.152, n.3) and Parakkamabahu II. rebuilt the shrine.

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1. Uppalavanna Theri - One of the two chief women disciples of the Buddha. She was born in Savatthi as the daughter of a banker, and she received the name of Uppalavanna because her skin was the colour of the heart of the blue lotus. When she was come of age, kings and commoners from the whole of India sent messengers to her father, asking for her hand. He, not wishing to offend any of them, suggested that Uppalavanna should leave the world. Because of her upanissaya, she very willingly agreed and was ordained a nun. Soon it came to her turn to perform certain services in the uposatha hall. Lighting the lamp, she swept the room. Taking the flame of the lamp as her visible object, she developed tejokasina and, attaining to jhana, became an arahant possessed of the four special attainments (patisambhida). She became particularly versed in the mystic potency of transformation (iddhivikubbana). When the Buddha arrived at the Gandamba tree to perform the Twin Miracle, Uppalavanna offered to perform certain miracles herself, if the Buddha would give his consent, but this he refused (ThigA.190, 195). Later, at Jetavana, in the assembly of the Sangha, he declared her to be the chief of the women possessed of iddhi power (A.i.25). The Therigatha (vv.234-5) contains several verses attributed to her.

Three of them had been uttered in anguish by a mother who had been unwittingly living as her daughters rival with the man who later became the monk Gangatiriya (q.v.). Uppalavanna repeated them to help her to reflect on the harm and vileness of sensual desires. Two others are utterances of joy on the distinctions she had won and another records a miracle she performed before the Buddha, with his consent. The rest contain a conversation between Uppalavanna and Mara (a conversation, more or less identical with the foregoing, is recorded in S.i.131f), wherein she tells him that she has passed completely beyond his power.

The books give several episodes connected with Uppalavanna. Once a young man named Ananda, who was her cousin and had been in love with her during her lay life, hid himself in her hut in Andhavana and, in spite of her protestations, deprived her of her chastity.

context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

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