Introduction to the Story about the Elder Nun Sakulā

Elder Nun Sakulā’s Story
at Wat Pho, Bangkok

This is the shortest of the stories, and the least informative too, which is strange, as a section of her story which is very relevant to her placement here has been omitted, even though it is found in the Traditions (Apadāna) about her. As it is crucial for an understanding of the story I have included the relevant section below.

At the time of the Buddha Padumuttara In the Traditions she is stated to be that Buddha’s half-sister. 01 she made her aspiration to gain foremost position amongst those with the divine eye, and during the Buddha Kassapa’s time, having received some oil, with a faithful heart, she lighted up the Buddha’s shrine with it for the whole night.

Because of that her body also shone forth, and she was famous and had penetrating vision in her next life in the Tāvatiṁsa Heaven. Later, when she was reborn in Buddha Gotama’s time she gained faith, went forth, and finally attained Liberation, and because of her past good deeds became adept in the divine eye, and attained the position as foremost in that skill in accordance with her aspiration.

The male disciple with this same quality was Ven. Anuruddha.

8. The Story about the Elder Nun Sakulā

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AN 1.5.8

Etad-aggaṁ bhikkhave mama sāvikānaṁ bhikkhunīnaṁ
dibbacakkhukānaṁ, yad-idaṁ Sakulā.

This is the foremost of my nun disciples, monastics, amongst those
who have the divine eye, that is to say, Sakulā.

AA 1.5.8
The Commentarial Story:

In the eighth story, “Amongst those who have the divine eye, that is to say, Sakulā,” it shows why the Elder Nun Sakulā, amongst those who had the divine eye, was said to be foremost.

Her Aspiration and Good Deeds

At the time of the Buddha Padumuttara, it seems, she was reborn in a good family home in Haṁsavatī. Later, when she was mature, while listening to the Teacher talk about Dhamma and seeing the Teacher place a certain nun as being foremost amongst those who have the divine eye, she did a great deed and aspired for that position herself.

(Sakulā speaks:)

In this auspicious aeon, These verses are from the Traditions about her (Therī-Apadāna, 3.4.17-23). 02 a very famous brāhmaṇa arose in the noble and well-known Kassapa clan. I.e. the Buddha Kassapa.03

I was a female wanderer at that time, solitary, and after wandering for alms I received a little oil.

Having lighted a lamp with that oil, I attended all night with a confident mind at the Foremost Human’s shrine.

Through performing that good deed with excellent intentions, after throwing off the human body I went to the Realm of the Thirty Three.

On account of that deed I shone forth in whatever place I was, like a great light blazing, wherever I went.

Beyond the walls, beyond the rocks, rising above the mountain, whatever I wanted to see I saw, as the result of that gift of light,

I had a purified eye, I shone forth with fame, I was endowed with faith and wisdom, as the result of that gift of light.

Her Last Life

She was reborn amongst gods and humans only for one hundred thousand aeons.

When this Gotama Buddha arose she was reborn in a good family home in Sāvatthī, and later, while listening to the Teacher teach the Dhamma, she gained faith and went forth, and in no long time she attained Liberation.

From then on she became well-practiced in the divine eye. Later, while the Teacher was sitting in Jeta’s Wood, as he was assigning the places of the nuns in order, he placed this Elder Nun in the foremost position amongst those who had the divine eye.