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Verse 113: The Story of Theri Patacara

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (113) of this book, with
reference to Patacara.

Patacara was the daughter of a rich man from Savatthi. She was very beautiful and was
guarded very strictly by her parents. But one day, she eloped with a young male attendant of
the family and went to live in a village, as a poor man's wife. In due course she became
pregnant and as the time for confinement drew near, she asked permission from her husband
to return to her parents in Savatthi. but her husband discouraged her. So, one day, while her
husband was away, she set out for the home of her parents. Her husband followed her and
caught up with her on the way and pleaded with her to return with him; but she refused. It so
happened that as her time was drawing so near, she had to give birth to a son in one of the
bushes. After the birth of her son she returned home with her husband.

Then, she was again with child and as the time for confinement drew nears taking her son
with her, she again set out for the home of her parents in Savatthi. Her husband followed her
and caught up with her on the way; but her time for delivery was coming on very fast and it
was also raining hard. The husband looked for a suitable place for confinement and while he
was clearing a little patch of land, he was bitten by a poisonous snake, and died
instantaneously. Patacara waited for her husband, and while waiting for his return she gave
birth to her second son. In the morning, she searched for her husband, but only found his
dead body. Saying to herself that her husband died on account of her, she continued on her
way to her parents.

Because it had rained incessantly the whole night, the river Aciravati was in spate; so it was
not possible for her to cross the river carrying both her sons. Leaving the elder boy on this
side of the river, she crossed the stream with her day-old son and left him on the other bank.
She then came back for the elder boy. While she was still in the middle of the river, a large
hawk hovered over the younger child taking it for a piece of meat. She shouted to frighten
away the bird, but it was all in vain; the child was carried away by the hawk. Meanwhile, the
elder boy heard his mother shouting from the middle of the stream and thought she was
calling out to him to come to her. So he entered the stream to go to his mother, and was
carried away by the strong current. Thus, Patacara lost her two sons as well as her husband.

So she wept and lamented loudly, "A son is carried away by a hawk, another son is carried
away by the current, my husband is also dead, bitten by a poisonous snake!" Then, she saw a
man from Savatthi and she tearfully asked after her parents. The man replied that due to a
violent storm in Savatthi the previous night, the house of her parents had fallen down and
that both her parents together with her three brothers, had died, and had been cremated on
one funeral pyre. On hearing this tragic news, Patacara went stark mad. She did not even
notice that her clothes had fallen off from her and that she was half-naked. She went about
the streets, shouting out her woes.

While the Buddha was giving a discourse at the Jetavana monastery, he saw Patacara at a
distance; so he willed that she should come to the congregation. The crowd seeing her coming
tried to stop her, saying "Don't let the mad woman come in." But the Buddha told them not to
prevent her coming in. When Patacara was close enough to hear him, he told her to be careful
and to keep calm. Then, she realized that she did not have her skirt on and shamefacedly sat
down. Some one gave her a piece of cloth and she wrapped herself up in it. She then told the
Buddha how she had lost her sons, her husband, her brothers and her parents.

The Buddha said to her, "Patacara, have no fear; you have now come to one who can protect
you and guide you. Throughout this round of existences (samsara), the amount of tears you
have shed on account of the death of your sons, husbands, parents and brothers is
voluminous; it is even more than the waters of the four oceans." Thus the Buddha expounded
to her the Anamatagga Sutta, which dealt with countless existences, and she felt relieved.
Then, the Buddha added that one should not think too much about those who were gone, but
that one should purify oneself and strive to realize Nibbana. On hearing this exhortation
from the Buddha, Patacara attained Sotapatti Fruition.

Then, Patacara became a Bhikkhuni. One day, she was cleaning her feet with water from a
water-pot. As she poured the water for the first time, it flowed only a short distance and
disappeared; then she poured for the second time and the water went a little farther, but
the water she poured for the third time went the farthest. As she looked at the flow and the
disappearance of water poured cut successively for three times, she came to perceive clearly
the three stages in the life of beings. The Buddha seeing her through supernormal power from
the Jetavana monastery sent forth his radiance and appeared to her in person. He then said
to her, "Patacara, you are now on the right track, and you now have the true perception of
the clusters of clinging (khandhas). One who does not perceive the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness
and insubstantiality of the clusters of clinging is useless, even if he were to live for a hundred years.

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 113. Better than a hundred years of life of a person, who does not perceive the arising
and the dissolving of the five clusters of clinging (khandhas), is a day of life of one who perceives
the continuous arising and dissolving of the five clusters of clinging.

At the end of the discourse, Patacara attained Arahatship.

Translated by Daw Mya Tin, M.A.,
Burma Pitaka Association, Rangoon, Burma 1986.

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