Introduction to the Story about the Elder Nun Sigālakamātā

Elder Nun Sigālakamātā’s Story
at Wat Pho, Bangkok

The last of these stories concerns Sigālakamātā, who heard the Buddha Padumuttara According to the Traditions he was her half-brother. 01 praise the virtue of having faith in the Buddha, Dhamma and Saṅgha, saw him appoint a nun as being foremost in this virtue and aspired for the same position herself.

No other of her lives are recorded here, apart from her last one when she was born to a rich merchant in Rājagaha. She heard the Buddha give a discourse one day and gaining faith she decided to go forth, and had a great attraction to the physical splendour of the Buddha.

Understanding her inclination the Buddha taught her with appropriate teachings that tended to enhance her faith. These are unfortunately not identified in the commentary, but they were sufficient for her to attain Liberation, She was One who was Liberated through Faith (Saddhāvimuttī), which is one of the seven kinds of Noble Disciples (Ariyapuggala). 02 and she was later identified by the Buddha as the nun who was foremost amongst those with faith.

Her male counterpart was Ven. Vakkali.

13. The Story about the Elder Nun Sigālakamātā

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AN 1.5.13

Etad-aggaṁ bhikkhave mama sāvikānaṁ bhikkhunīnaṁ
saddhādhimuttānaṁ, yad-idaṁ Sigālakamātā.

This is the foremost of my nun disciples, monastics, amongst those
who are inclined to faith, that is to say, Sigālakamātā.

AA 1.5.13
The Commentarial Story:

In the thirteenth story, “Amongst those who are inclined to faith,” it shows why Sigālakamātā, amongst those who adhered to the characteristic of faith, was said to be foremost.

Her Aspiration

At the time of the Buddha Padumuttara, it seems, she was reborn in a good family home in Haṁsavatī, and listened to the Teacher talk about Dhamma, It appears from the Apadāna she was a Nun in that Lord Buddha’s Community at the time.03 saying:

Whoever has faith in the Realised One, From her Apadāna, verses 7-9. 04 unshaken and firmly established, whoever is virtuous and good, pleasing to the Noble Ones and praised, whoever has confidence in the Community, having insight that is upright, they say that one is not poor, his life is not in vain.

Therefore faith, virtue, confidence and insight into Dhamma, should be engaged in by the intelligent, remembering the Buddhas’ Dispensation.

Seeing the Teacher place a certain nun as being foremost amongst those who were inclined to faith, she did a great deed and aspired for that position herself.

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

Her Last Life

When this Gotama Buddha arose, she was reborn in a merchant’s family in Rājagaha, and after going to a family of similar birth, she gave birth to one son, and they made the name Sigālaka Kumāra for him. It is this Sigālaka Kumāra that the Buddha gives instruction to in Sigālasuttaṁ, DN 31, one of the most popular and influential discourses in the Canon.05

Through that reason the name Sigālakamātā, Sigālaka’s Mother, arose. One day, after hearing the Teacher talk about Dhamma, This was the famous and influential Discourse to Sigāla, her son, DN 31.06 she gained faith, In the Traditions it says she attained Stream-Entry at this point. 07 and after going into the presence of the Teacher, went forth.

Since the time of going forth she gained a preponderance of the faculty of faith.

Having gone to the monastery for the purpose of listening to Dhamma, she stood looking at the One of Ten Power’s bodily splendour.

The Teacher, knowing that she adhered to the mark of faith, and knowing the suitability, taught confidence-inspiring Dhamma.

So this Elder Nun, bearing the characteristic of faith, attained Liberation.

Later, after the Teacher had sat down 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 were inclined to faith.

The Commentary on the Text about the Elder Nuns is Finished