Friday, July 2, 2010

Sirimā, Jivaka’s youngest sister

Sirimā was Jivaka’s youngest sister (SNA.i.244; DhA.iii.106). A monk in a monastery, three leagues away heard of the excellence of Sirimā’s alms and of her extraordinary beauty from a visiting monk and decided to go and see her. Having obtained a ticket for alms, he went to her house, but Sirimā was ill, and her attendants looked after the monks. When the meal had been served she was brought into the dining hall to pay her respects to the monks. The lustful monk fell in love with her at the first sight and was unable to eat.

That same day Sirimā died out of her illness. The Buddha gave instructions that her body should not be burnt, but laid in the charnel ground, protected from birds and beasts. The Buddha meant to educate the community about the transient nature of this world and hence collaborated with the king.

When putrefaction had set in, the king proclaimed that all citizens, should gaze at Sirimā’s beautiful body or pay penality. The Buddha, too, went with the monks and the lustful monk from the morning’s episode accompanied them. The Buddha made the king proclaim, with beating of the drum, that anyone who would pay a thousand coins could have Sirimā’s body. There was no response. The price was gradually lowered to one eighth of a penny. Yet no one came forward, even when the body was offered for nothing. The Buddha addressed the monks and the surrounding lay people at that time, pointing out that those who would have paid more one thousand coins to spend a single night with Sirimā would now not take her as a gift. Such was the passing nature of beauty and life. The lustful monk became a sotāpanna (DhA.iii.104f. VvA.74ff).

Next Post: Places around Griddhkuta

No comments: