Posted by myanmarpedia on September 27, 2007
I. Immediate family of the Buddha
2.Queen Maha Maya(mother)
3.Maha Pajapati Gotami(aunt and foster mother)
4.Yasodhara(cousin and wife)
II. Male Disciples
III. Female Disciples
V. Lay Disciples
Patacara was the beautiful daughter of a wealthy Savatthi merchant. When she came of age her parents arranged a marriage for her to a man of similar status and wealth. Patacara, however, was in love with one of the servants in her parents’ household. She decided to elope with her lover as she felt that it would be impossible for her to obtain the consent of her parents to marry a servant.
Dressing as a servant and carrying a pot of water on her head, Patacara fled with her lover. They set up house in a village at some distance from Savatthi. Her husband tilled the land and earned a meagre living. Patacara worked at pounding the rice, cooking and cleaning – duties that had formerly been performed by the servants in her parents’ home. Thus she led a difficult life, paying in this birth itself for the suffering she had caused her parents through her elopement.
After some time Patacara became pregnant with their first child. As was the custom she wanted to go back to her parents’ home for the delivery. At the appropriate time she requested her husband to take her back to her parents. He refused, as he was sure that they would have him tortured and killed for taking her away from them. Patacara then decided to go on her own. Telling her neighbours that she had gone to visit her parents, Patacara started walking towards Savatthi.
When her husband returned from work and found that Patacara had left to see her parents he was distraught. Running after her he caught up with her and pleaded for her to return. At that time the birth pains started. Taking shelter under some bushes Patacara gave birth to a baby boy. At her husband’s insistence she turned back and returned to their home.
Some years later Patacara became pregnant with their second child. When the time for the child’s birth drew near, determined to have the baby with the support of her parents, she took her older son and walked towards Savatthi. She had walked half the distance when her husband caught up with her. Again he dissuaded her from going. But this time Patacara was determined to be with her parents.
They were travelling thus when they were overcome by a fierce rainstorm. Strong winds tore across the path, swaying the branches hither and thither, and torrents of rain poured down. In the midst of the storm Patacara’s birth pains started. She asked her husband to build a temporary shelter to shield them from the torrential rains and wind. He left to cut down some suitable branches to build a shelter. Patacara waited in vain for her husband’s return. Then, shielding her first-born as best she could, she gave birth to a second son. Patacara slept the night huddled under a bush, her body arched to shield her two sons from the storm.
The next morning she traced the steps of her husband to find his stiffened body. When cutting branches for a shelter he had disturbed a poisonous snake. Death had been painful but quick. Lamenting in sorrow, Patacara gathered her sons and continued to her parents’ home in Savatthi.
On the way they had to cross the swollen river Aciravati. The water was waist-high and the current strong. Patacara, exhausted by the storm and her recent ordeal of childbirth, knew that she could not carry both children. Leaving her older son on the bank she carried the newborn babe to the other side. Then she started back to fetch her first-born. She was half-way across when she saw a hawk swoop down to carry away the newborn who resembled a piece of red meat. Patacara screamed and waved her hands, hoping the hawk would drop her baby. The hawk ignored her cries, but her first-born, thinking that his mother was calling him, ran into the river only to be swept away by the swirling waters.
Patacara was broken with grief. She had lost her husband and two sons within one day. Numb with grief, her hair streaming, her clothes wet, a tear-stained Patacara approached Savatthi. There she met a city dweller and inquired as to the whereabouts of her parents. The stranger begged her not to ask about that family. “Inquire about any other but not that family,” he said. But Patacara insisted. He then informed her that the previous night’s strong winds had blown over their house, killing both her parents and her brother. Then, pointing towards blue smoke that rose into the air, he said, “Look, that is the smoke from the funeral pyre of the three that died. They were cremated together.”
Her grief too great to bear, Patacara lost her mind. Screaming in pain she ran about the town, her clothes torn, hair streaming, half-naked. The locals abused her and called her names for they were sure that she was mentally deranged. A grief-stricken, half-crazy Patacara approached the Jetavana monastery where the Buddha was residing. The townsfolk tried to stop her. But the Buddha, perceiving with his compassionate eye her inner wisdom, bade her enter. He then brought her back to mindfulness by His compassion and words. The Buddha said, “Regain your mindfulness, sister”. It was as if a bucket of cold water had been thrown over her body. The words shook her very being and calmed her grief-stricken mind. Wrapping a cloak that someone had thrown to her around her person, Patacara told her tragic story to the Buddha.
The Buddha listened with compassion and patience, then told her not to be troubled any longer. “You have come to One who can help relieve your suffering. It is not only today that you have lost sons, husbands and parents, but throughout this infinite round of samsara you have lost sons and others dear to you.” “You have, He said, shed more tears than the waters in the four oceans.” As He went on speaking Patacara’s grief subsided. The Buddha then concluded with the following verse:
“The four oceans contain but a little water
Compared to all the tears we have shed
Smitten by sorrow, bewildered by pain
Why, O woman, are you still heedless?”
No sons are there for shelter
No father or related folk
For one seized by death
Kinsmen provide no shelter.
Having well understood this fact
The wise men well restrained by virtue
Quickly indeed should clear
The path going to Nibbana.”
— (Dhammapada 268, 288, 289)
By the time the Buddha had finished His discourse Patacara was no longer the raving madwoman who had entered the monastery. She had penetrated the Truth of the impermanence of all conditioned things and attained the first stage of sainthood, Sotapanna. She then requested ordination as a nun. After entering the Noble Order of nuns, Patacara practised the Dhamma diligently. Her diligence soon bore fruit, as before long Patachara attained Arahanthship. She explains her experiences and her attainment as follows in the Therigatha:
“Ploughing the field with their ploughs
Sowing seeds upon the ground,
Maintaining their wives and children,
Young men acquire wealth.
Then why, when I am pure in virtue,
Practising the Master’s Teaching
Have I not attained Nibbana
For I am neither lazy nor arrogant?
Having washed my feet
I reflected upon the waters.
When I saw the foot water flow
From the high ground down the slope.
My mind became concentrated
Like an excellent thoroughbred steed.
Having taken a lamp I entered my hut
I inspected the bed and sat on the couch.
Then, having taken a needle
I pulled down the wick
The liberation of the mind
Was like the quenching of the lamp.”
— (Therigatha 112-116)
Patacara had achieved her goal. With the quenching of the lamp, her mind, which was one pointed, attained liberation. Patacara was designated by the Buddha as the nun who was foremost in Vinaya (discipline rules for the monks and nuns). As a young girl Patacara had been undisciplined and frivolous. She had rebelled against the authority of her parents and reaped the misfortune of her rebellion. Thus it is not surprising that she valued the importance of discipline and became the nun foremost in the Vinaya.
Patacara was able to move from a frivolous girl to a saint so quickly because of her past life aspirations and training. At the time of the Padumuttara Buddha one hundred thousand world cycles ago, she had observed the Teacher assign to a nun the title of foremost in the discipline. She had been inspired by that nun and aspired to be the nun foremost in discipline under a future Buddha. The Buddha Padumuttara, seeing that Patacara had the merit and ability to fulfil her aspiration, had prophesied that she would be the nun foremost in discipline at the time of the Buddha Gotama. Patacara had been a nun under many subsequent Buddhas and the insight and wisdom she had acquired came to fruition under the Gotama Buddha.
Many nuns benefitted from Patacara’s instruction and training. The following are the grateful words of the nun Cunda, formerly a beggar, who obtained instruction from her.
“Because she had compassion for me
Patacara gave me the going forth (ordination)
Then she gave me an exhortation,
And enjoined me in the ultimate goal.
Having heard her word,
I followed her instruction;
The lady’s exhortation was not in vain,
I am now canker-free, with the triple knowledge.”
— (Therigatha 125-126)
The text also contained the unidentified writings of one who described the experiences of a group of 30 nuns who obtained instruction from Patacara.
Having heard her advice, Patacara’s instruction,
They cleaned their feet and sat down on one side.
Then, devoted to serenity of mind,
They practised the Buddha’s teaching.
In the first watch of the night,
They recollected their former births.
In the night’s middle watch,
They purified the divine eye.
In the last watch of the night,
They sundered the mass of darkness.
Having risen they worshipped her feet,
“Your instruction has been taken to heart.
As the thirty gods honour Indra,
The one unconquered in battle,
So shall we dwell honouring you.
We are cankerless, bearers of triple knowledge.”
— (Therigatha 119-121)
The writing clearly illustrates the gratitude of the nuns to the teacher whose instruction helped them to attain the unconditioned (Nibbana). In addition to honouring the Buddha they were exceedingly grateful to the one who taught them the Dhamma, and worshipped and honoured their instructor. Just as the Buddha showed gratitude to the Bodhi Tree that gave Him shade and shelter, thus providing the environment He needed for mental concentration and enlightenment, His nuns and monks honoured the teachers who helped them reach Nibbana.
Patacara, who had suffered greatly because of her undisciplined and inconsiderate behaviour, devoted her life to teaching other young women monastic discipline and the benefits of a disciplined mind. She was respected as a great teacher and a compassionate nun who helped many women attain emancipation