13. The Story about the Elder Nun Sigālakamātā
The last of these stories concerns Sigālakamātā, who heard the Buddha Padumuttara According to the Traditions he was her half-brother. 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 (
Her male counterpart was Ven. Vakkali.
Etad-aggaṁ bhikkhave mama sāvikānaṁ bhikkhunīnaṁ
This is the foremost of my nun disciples, monastics,
saddhādhimuttānaṁ, yad-idaṁ Sigālakamātā.
amongst those who are inclined to faith, that is to say, Sigālakamātā.
In the thirteenth (story), “Amongst those who are inclined to faith,”
saddhālakkhaṇe abhiniviṭṭhānaṁ, Sigālakamātā ChS:
it shows why Sigālakamātā, amongst those who adhered to the characteristic of faith, was said to be foremost.
Ayaṁ kira Padumuttarabuddhakāle,
At the time of the Buddha Padumuttara, it seems,
Haṁsavatiyaṁ kulaghare nibbattā,
she was reborn in a good family home in Haṁsavatī,
Satthu Dhammakathaṁ RTE:
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. (saying):
Yassa saddhā Tathāgate, acalā suppatiṭṭhitā, RTE:
Whoever has faith in the Realised One, From her Apadāna, verses 7-9. unshaken and firmly established,
sīlañ-ca yassa kalyāṇaṁ, ariyakantaṁ pasaṁsitaṁ,
whoever is virtuous and good, pleasing to the Noble Ones and praised,
Saṅghe pasādo yassatthi, ujubhūtañ-ca dassanaṁ,
whoever has confidence in the Community, having insight that is upright,
adaliddo ti taṁ āhu, amoghaṁ tassa jīvitaṁ.
they say that one is not poor, his life is not in vain.
Tasmā saddhañ-ca sīlañ-ca, pasādaṁ Dhammadassanaṁ,
Therefore faith, virtue, confidence and insight into Dhamma,
anuyuñjetha medhāvī, saraṁ Buddhāna’ RTE:
should be engaged in by the intelligent, remembering the Buddhas’ Dispensation.
Satthāraṁ ekaṁ bhikkhuniṁ saddhādhimuttānaṁ
Seeing the Teacher place a certain nun
aggaṭṭhāne ṭhapentaṁ disvā,
as being foremost amongst those who were inclined to faith,
she did a great deed and aspired for that position herself.
Her Last Life
Sā kappasatasahassaṁ devamanussesu saṁsaritvā,
After being reborn amongst gods and humans (only) for one hundred thousand aeons,
when this (Gotama) Buddha arose,
Rājagahanagare seṭṭhikule nibbattā,
she was reborn in a merchant’s family in Rājagaha,
samānajātikaṁ kulaṁ gantvā,
and after going to a family of similar birth,
ekaṁ puttaṁ vijāyi, tassa Sigālakakumāro ti nāmaṁ akaṁsu.
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.
Sā pi teneva kāraṇena Sigālakamātā nāma jātā.
Through that reason the name Sigālakamātā It means: Sigālaka’s Mother. arose.
Sā ekadivasaṁ Satthu Dhammakathaṁ sutvā,
One day, after hearing the Teacher talk about Dhamma, This was the famous and influential Discourse to Sigāla, her son, DN 31.
paṭiladdhasaddhā Satthu santikaṁ PTS:
she gained faith, In the Traditions it says she attained Stream-Entry at this point. and after going into the presence of the Teacher, went forth.
Pabbajitakālato paṭṭhāya saddhindriyaṁ adhimattaṁ paṭilabhi.
Since the time of going forth she gained a preponderance of the faculty of faith.
Sā Dhammasavanatthāya RTE, ChS:
Having gone to the monastery for the purpose of listening to Dhamma,
Dasabalassa sarīrasampattiṁ SHB, PTS:
she stood looking at the One of Ten Power’s bodily splendour.
Satthā tassā saddhālakkhaṇe abhiniviṭṭhabhāvaṁ ñatvā,
The Teacher, knowing that she adhered to the mark of faith,
sappāyaṁ katvā, pasādanīyam-eva Dhammaṁ desesi. SHB, PTS:
and knowing the suitability, taught confidence-inspiring Dhamma.
Sā pi Therī saddhālakkhaṇam-eva dhuraṁ katvā, Arahattaṁ pāpuṇi.
So this Elder Nun, bearing the characteristic of faith, attained Liberation.
Atha naṁ Satthā aparabhāge Jetavane nisīditvā,
Later, after the Teacher had sat down in Jeta’s Wood,
bhikkhuniyo paṭipāṭiyā ṭhānantaresu ChS:
as he was assigning the places of the nuns in order,
imaṁ Theriṁ saddhādhimuttānaṁ aggaṭṭhāne ṭhapesī ti.
he placed this Elder Nun in the foremost position amongst those who were inclined to faith.
Theripāḷivaṇṇanā Niṭṭhitā RTE:
The Commentary on the Text about the Elder Nuns is Finished
last updated: March 2015