The Pregnant Bhikkhuni



The Pregnant Bhikkhuni :



What Buddha said… : One indeed is one’s own refuge. What other refuge can there be? With oneself thoroughly controlled, one can attain a refuge which is difficult to attain.

ONCE THERE WAS A YOUNG WOMAN who had only been married for a short time when she realized that her true calling was to be a nun and not a wife. Her good husband’s heart broke to hear her ask permission to leave him, but because he loved her dearly, allowed her to go and fulfill her wish. She thus entered the nunhood and became a disciple of Devadatta, little knowing that she was already pregnant at the time. As the months rolled by, however, and her condition became quite obvious, the other bhikkhunis took her to see Devadatta who demanded that she disrobe. However, she refused to do so. “Why should I disrobe," she asked, “if I have not broken any monastic rule?" Instead, she went to the Buddha and became one of his disciples.

Now the Buddha knew that she had not violated any of the monastic precepts, but for the sake of her good name as well as that of the Order, the Buddha requested a public hearing of her case in the presence of the king. The aim of doing so was to prove the innocence of the bhikkhuni once and for all and to remove the last traces of doubt that anyone might still have concerning her condition.

The expectant mother was then thoroughly questioned by one of the Buddha’s female devotees who was able to establish that the bhikkhuni had indeed become pregnant while she was still a lay woman and not after having entered the nunhood. The monk appointed by the Buddha to oversee the case then made a public declaration of the bhikkhuni’s innocence. Everyone gathered there, including the king, returned home satisfied.

When the bhikkhuni finally gave birth to a baby boy, the good king adopted him as his very own son. However, at the age of seven, upon learning that his mother was a nun, the little boy left the palace and became a novice himself. Later, when he turned twenty, he became a bhikkhu. He then went into a forest and after diligent practice attained arahatship. Thereafter, he continued to live in the forest alone for more than twelve years.

When his mother finally got to see him again, she could not control her excitement. She ran up to him with tears of joy in her eyes. The son, however, remained indifferent and said to her, “You are acting like a worldly mother and not as one who has entered the Order. Haven’t you learned any restraint?" He then walked away, knowing full well that if he had greeted his mother otherwise, she would have remained emotionally attached to him and her own spiritual progress would have been hampered.

Unaware of her son’s purpose, the mother at first could not get over how harshly he had treated her and felt heartbroken. Later, however, she saw that her son was just trying to help her. With that in mind, she practised hard and one day got to realize the futility of all emotional attachment. Letting go of such attachment, she too became an arahat.

The monks who knew the story of the bhikkhuni and her son remarked that if the mother had been foolish enough to disrobe as Devadatta had bid her, she and her son would probably not have become arahats. “They were lucky, Lord," they added, “to have come to you for refuge." The Buddha replied, “Bhikkhus, in trying to attain arahatship, you must strive diligently and depend on yourself, and not on anyone else."

What Buddha said… : One indeed is one’s own refuge. What other refuge can there be? With oneself thoroughly controlled, one can attain a refuge which is difficult to attain.


The Pregnant Bhikkhuni


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