Thursday, September 9, 2010


Khema was a beautiful lady and was known for her remarkable looks. Being the queen she had the privilege to visit the Buddha but despite King Bimbisara’s frequent urges she refused to meet him. Knowing that she was attracted to all things beautiful, Bimbisara arranged for poets in his court to compose verses about the beauty and serenity of the Bamboo Grove where the Buddha was staying; and had performers in the court sing these compositions. Fascinated by the poetry, she decided to go to the Bamboo Grove and see it’s for herself. While admiring the scenery there, she caught sight of an exceptionally beautiful maiden, standing beside the Buddha and fanning Him. Khema observed that the maiden was more beautiful than her and was drawn to take a closer look, in turn moving nearer and nearer to the Buddha. The beautiful maiden was an illusion created by the Buddha with His supernatural powers to get the queens attention and teach her a fact of human life. While Khema was gazing at that illusion, the beautiful maiden was transformed into an old woman with broken teeth, grey hair and wrinkled skin. She appeared to grow weaker and weaker and finally collapsed and died. Khema was startled. Then, the Buddha said, "Khema, beauty is impermanent." Then and there, Khema realised this fact of life. The Buddha added, "Those who are slaves to desire are like spiders entangled in the webs they have made for themselves. Those who are free and have destroyed all attachments to desire do not delight in the pleasures of the senses." On hearing these words, Khema became an Arahant and with the king's consent, entered the Order of Nuns. Khema, who was one of the first female chief disciples of the Buddha, ranked foremost in wisdom and insight. She was respected by all for her wisdom and ability to explain the higher teachings. Her wisdom and lucid explanations of deep subjects made a lasting impression on King Pasendi Kosala, who had great respect and regard for her. Khema, with her sharp mind, wisdom, and analytical skills, helped the Buddha in teaching the Dhamma to larger congregation of nuns and in training the nuns, to whom she served as a role model. There are also many recorded instances where Khema, with compassion and understanding, taught the Dhamma to male and female lay devotees. (A.i.25; Dpv.xviii.9; see also MA.iv.168f; Bu.xxvi.19; J.i.15, 16).

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