Aggatherīvatthu Home PageThe Elder Nun Soṇā’s Story
6. The Story about the Elder Nun Nandā
This is one of the slighter stories regarding the nuns in this section: having made her aspiration during Buddha Padumuttara’s time, and being reborn amongst god and men for a hundred thousand aeons, she was reborn through Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī some time before the Bodhisatta, and was the elder sister of Nanda and elder half-sister to the Buddha himself.
In the Aṅguttara commentary translated here, it is clear that she had several names: Nandā, Rūpānandā and Janapadakalyāṇī. In the Suttanipāta commentary (to Sn 1.11), however, Ven. Dhammapāla distinguishes three Elders having these names, and gives different stories for each. It seems that there was quite some confusion about this Elder in the tradition.
She went forth into the homeless life shortly after her Mother, Brother and half-Brother’s wife did, but not out of faith, it seems, and she did not like to meet with the Buddha, as she thought he would blame her for her great beauty. She therefore avoided contact even when the time for the fortnightly instruction came round. Qualified monks were and are required to give instruction to the nuns on the Full Moon and New Moon dates. 01
The Buddha then gave an order saying that everyone must come and see him personally for the instruction, and when she came he created a beautiful woman with his spiritual power who attended on Him, and this caused her regret for her reluctance to come before.
The Buddha then gave her two teachings on the impermanent and unsatisfactory nature of the body, a verse now recorded in the Dhammapada, and a discourse now in the Suttanipāta. Hearing these teachings she soon attained Liberation.
As she had gained deep insight through these teachings and took great delight in meditation thereafter, the Buddha appointed her as the foremost nun amongst those who meditate.
With her story compare Ven. Khemā’s above, which it resembles in many respects. Her male counterpart was Kaṅkhā Revata.
Etad-aggaṁ bhikkhave mama sāvikānaṁ bhikkhunīnaṁ
This is the foremost of my nun disciples, monastics,
jhāyīnaṁ, yad-idaṁ Nandā.
amongst those who meditate, that is to say, Nandā.
Chaṭṭhe, “Jhāyīnaṁ, yad-idaṁ Nandā,” ti
In the sixth (story), “Amongst those who meditate, that is to say, Nandā,”
jhānābhiratānaṁ Nandā Therī aggā ti dasseti.
it shows why the Elder Nun Nandā, amongst those who delighted in meditation, was said to be foremost.
Her Aspiration and Good Deeds
Sā kira Padumuttarabuddhakāle,
At the time of the Buddha Padumuttara, it seems,
Haṁsavatiyaṁ kulagehe paṭisandhiṁ gahetvā, ChS:
she was conceived in a good family home in Haṁsavatī,
aparabhāge, Satthu Dhammadesanaṁ SHB, PTS:
and later, while listening to the Teacher teach the Dhamma,
Satthāraṁ ekaṁ bhikkhuniṁ jhānābhiratānaṁ aggaṭṭhāne ṭhapentaṁ disvā,
seeing the Teacher place a certain nun as being foremost amongst those who meditate,
adhikārakammaṁ katvā taṁ ṭhānantaraṁ patthesi.
she did a great deed and aspired for that position herself.
Her Last Life
Sā PTS omits:
She was reborn amongst gods and humans (only) for one hundred thousand aeons,
amhākaṁ Satthu nibbattito RTE:
and was reborn (at a time) before our Teacher, The Traditions say she was the Buddha’s younger sister. Both here and in the Therīgāthā Commentary though, she is said to be the elder. 06
being conceived in the womb of Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī,
Nandā tissā nāmaṁ akaṁsu, Rūpanandā ti pi vuccati,
and was given the name Nandā, also Beautiful Nandā was said,
sā aparabhāge uttamarūpabhāvena Janapadakalyāṇī nāma jātā.
and later, because of her supreme beauty, the name Janapadakalyāṇī Lit: the Country Beauty.09 arose.
Sā amhākaṁ Dasabale sabbaññutaṁ patvā,
After our One of Ten Powers had attained omniscience,
anupubbena Kapilavatthuṁ āgantvā,
and gradually come to Kapilavatthu,
Nandañ-ca Rāhulañ-ca pabbājetvā,
given the going forth to Rāhula and Nanda,
pakkante Suddhodanamahārājassa parinibbutakāle:
and was leaving after the time of the Great King Suddhodana’s Final Nibbāna,
‘Mahāpajāpatiṁ Gotamiṁ Rāhulamātañ-ca RTE, PTS:
° she understood: ‘After Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī and Rāhula’s Mother had renounced,
Satthu santike pabbajitā,’ ti ñatvā:
they received the going forth in the presence of the Teacher,’
‘Imāsaṁ pabbajitakālato paṭṭhāya, mayhaṁ idha kiṁ kamman?”-ti
and she thought: ‘After their going forth, what work is there for me here?” In the Traditions she is persuaded to go forth by her Mother. 11
And she went into the presence of Mahāpajāpatī and (also) went forth.
Pabbajitadivasato paṭṭhāya: ‘Satthā rūpaṁ garahatī,’ ti RTE:
From the day of her going forth, thinking: ‘The Teacher finds fault with beauty,’
Satthu upaṭṭhānaṁ na gacchati,
she didn’t go to attend on the Teacher,
ovādavāre sampatte, aññaṁ pesetvā ovādaṁ āharāpeti. RTE:
and when an occasion for instruction arrived, This was given before the fortnightly recitation of the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha or Rules of Discipline.15 having sent another, she had her bring the instruction.
Satthā tassā rūpamadam-attabhāvaṁ RTE:
The Teacher, understanding that she was intoxicated with her own beauty,
“Attano ovādaṁ attanā va āgantvā gaṇhantu,
° said: “Let each one receive the instruction herself after coming,
na bhikkhunīhi aññā pesetabbā,” ti āha.
she should not send another from amongst the nuns.”
Tato Rūpanandā, aññaṁ maggaṁ apassantī, akāmā, ovādaṁ agamāsi.
Then Beautiful Nandā, not seeing another way, went unwillingly for her instruction.
Satthā tassā caritavasena iddhiyā ekaṁ itthirūpaṁ nimminitvā,
The Teacher, because of her conduct, created a beautiful woman with his spiritual power,
who held a palmyra fan, and seemed to be fanning him.
Rūpanandā taṁ disvā cintesi:
Seeing that Beautiful Nandā thought:
‘Ahaṁ akāraṇeneva pamattā hutvā nāgacchāmi,
‘Without reason I was heedless and I did not come,
evarūpā pi itthiyo Satthu santike vissatthā caranti. RTE:
yet such beautiful women go about confidently in the presence of the Teacher.
Mama rūpaṁ etāsaṁ rūpassa kalaṁ nāgghati soḷasiṁ,
My beauty is not worth even a sixteenth part of the beauty of their beauty,
ajānitvā va ettakaṁ kālaṁ na āgatamhī!’ ti
not knowing this for such a (long) time I did not come!’
Tam-eva itthinimittaṁ RTE:
She stood there gazing at the woman’s form.
Satthā tassā pubbahetusampannāya: RTE, ChS:
The Teacher, (knowing) she was endowed with (all) the former conditions,
“Aṭṭhīnaṁ nagaraṁ katan.”-ti Dhammapade gāthaṁ vatvā:
recited the verse found in the Dhammapada: Dhp 150, I have added it in here. In the Traditions the story is quite different: the Buddha makes a beautiful woman appear and Nandā entranced lies in her lap; just then the image is bitten by a poisonous spider and rots away from the inside, giving Nandā insight into the impermanent nature of the body. 21 “This citadel is made of bones.”
Aṭṭhīnaṁ nagaraṁ kataṁ, maṁsalohitalepanaṁ,
This citadel is made of bones, smeared over with flesh and blood,
yattha jarā ca maccu ca, māno makkho ca ohito.
where old age and death, conceit and anger are lying hidden.
“Caraṁ vā yadi vā tiṭṭhaṁ, nisinno uda vā sayan.”-ti Suttaṁ abhāsi.
and he spoke the Discourse: Sn 1.11 Vijayasuttaṁ, The Discourse on Success.22 “Whether going or standing, sitting or lying.”
Caraṁ vā yadi vā tiṭṭhaṁ, nisinno uda vā sayaṁ
Whether going or standing, whether sitting or lying,
it moves, it stretches, this is the movement of the body.
Bones and sinews conjoined, smeared with skin and flesh,
chaviyā kāyo paṭicchanno, yathābhūtaṁ na dissati.
the body is covered with skin, the reality is not seen.
Antapūro, udarapūro, BJT:
Full of intestines, full of undigested food, having a lumpy liver, a bladder,
hadayassa, papphāsassa, vakkassa, pihakassa ca;
heart, lungs, kidney and spleen; These are solid organs, a list of liquids follows. Cf. also the Dvattaṁsākāra, Khp 3. 27
siṅghāṇikāya, kheḷassa, PTS:
mucus, spit, sweat and fat,
lohitassa, lasikāya, pittassa ca vasāya ca.
blood, synovial fluid, bile and grease.
Athassa navahi sotehi asucī savati sabbadā,
Always there are impurities flowing from its nine orifices,
akkhimhā akkhigūthako, kaṇṇamhā kaṇṇagūthako,
eye-defecation from the eyes, ear-defecation from the ears,
siṅghāṇikā ca nāsato, PTS:
mucus from the nose, from the mouth vomit is
pittaṁ semhañ-ca vamati, kāyamhā sedajallikā,
vomited, also bile and phlegm, perspiration and dirt from the body,
athassa susiraṁ sīsaṁ matthaluṅgassa pūritaṁ.
and its hollow head is filled with the brain.
Subhato naṁ maññati bālo avijjāya purakkhato,
A fool, honouring ignorance, thinks of it as beautiful,
yadā ca so mato seti, uddhumāto vinīlako,
but when it lies dead, bloated and discoloured,
cast aside in the charnel ground, (even) his relatives have no further expectation (of it).
Khādanti naṁ suvānā BJT, RTE:
Dogs, hyenas, wolves and worms eat it,
kākā gijjhā ca khādanti, ye caññe santi pāṇino. PTS:
crows, vultures also eat, and whatever other breathing beings there are.
Sutvāna Buddhavacanaṁ, bhikkhu paññāṇavā idha,
Having heard the Word of the Buddha, the monastic endowed with wisdom here,
so kho naṁ parijānāti, yathābhūtaṁ hi passati.
the one who understands it, sees as it really is.
‘Yathā idaṁ tathā etaṁ, yathā etaṁ tathā idaṁ,’
(Thinking:) ‘As is this, so is that, as is that, so is this,’
ajjhattañ-ca bahiddhā ca, kāye chandaṁ virājaye.
inside and outside, he should remove delight for the body.
Chandarāgaviratto so, bhikkhu paññāṇavā idha
Having removed passion and delight, the monastic endowed with wisdom here
ajjhagā amataṁ santiṁ, Nibbānapadam-accutaṁ. ChS:
has passed over to the deathless peace, the immovable state of Nibbāna.
Dvipādakoyaṁ RTE, PTS:
He cares for this stinking, impure two legged (body),
nānākuṇapaparipūro vissavanto tato tato.
(but) it is full of various corpses flowing out from here and there.
Etādisena kāyena yo maññe uṇṇametave,
He who would think to be proud of such a body,
paraṁ vā avajāneyya, kim-aññatra adassanā? ti
or would despise another (because of theirs), what is this except a lack of insight?
Sā tasmiṁ yeva rūpe khayavayaṁ SHB:
With that she was established (in knowledge) about the dissolution and destruction of beauty and attained Liberation.
In this place the story below
Khemātheriyā vatthunā sadisam-evā ti RTE:
is the same as the Elder Nun Khemā’s story, and is not elaborated further. Again it is hard to see how this applies here, in Khemā’s case she attained while still in the lay life, and afterwards ordained, and the story is then brought to a conclusion, but here Nandā is already ordained, and there is no more story to be added in. 43
Tato paṭṭhāya Rūpanandā jhānābhiratānaṁ antare dhurappattā ahosi.
From thence onwards Beautiful Nandā was chief amongst those delighting in meditation.
Satthā aparabhāge Jetavane nisinno,
Later as the Teacher was sitting in Jeta’s Wood,
paṭipāṭiyā bhikkhuniyo ṭhānantaresu SHB, PTS, ChS:
as he was assigning the places of the nuns in order,
Nandātheriṁ jhāyīnaṁ aggaṭṭhāne ṭhapesī ti.
he placed the Elder Nun Nandā in the foremost position amongst those who meditate.
last updated: March 2015