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Verse 150: The Story of Theri Rūpanandā (Janapadakalyani)

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (150) of this book,
with reference to Janapadakalyani.

Princess Janapadakalyani was the daughter of Gotami, the step-mother of Gotama the
Buddha; because she was very beautiful, she was also known as Rūpanandā. She was to be
married to Nanda, a cousin of the Buddha. One day she pondered, "My elder brother who
could have become a Universal Monarch has renounced the world to become a Bhikkhu;
he is now a Buddha. Rahula, the son of my elder brother, and my own husband Prince Nanda
have also become Bhikkhus. My mother Gotami has also become a Bhikkhuni, and I am all
alone here!" So saying, she went to the monastery of some Bhikkhunis and became a Bhikkhuni
herself. Thus, she had become a Bhikkhuni not out of faith but only in imitation of others and
because she felt lonely.

Rūpanandā had heard from others that the Buddha often taught about the impermanence,
unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality of the khandhas. So she thought he would talk
deprecatingly about her good looks if he should see her; and thus thinking, she kept away
from the Buddha. But other Bhikkhunis coming back from the monastery, kept talking in
praise of the Buddha; so, one day, she decided to accompany other Bhikkhunis to the
monastery.

The Buddha saw her and reflected, "A thorn can only be taken out with a thorn; Rūpanandā
is very attached to her body and is very proud of her beauty, therefore I must take the pride
and attachment out of her through beauty." So, with his supernormal power, he caused an
image of a very beautiful lady of about sixteen years of age to be seated near him, fanning
him. This young girl was visible only to Janapadakalyani and the Buddha. When Janapadakalyani
saw the girl, she realized that compared to that girl, she herself was just like an old, ugly crow
compared to a beautiful white swan. Janapadakalyani had a good look at the girl & she felt that
she liked her very much. Then, she looked again and was surprised to find that the girl had
grown to the age of about twenty. Again and again, she looked at the figure beside the
Buddha and every time she noticed that the girl had grown older and older. Thus, the girl
turned into a grown-up lady, then into a middle-aged lady, an old lady, a decrepit and a very
old lady successively. Janapadakalyani also noticed that with the arising of a new image, the old
image disappeared, and she came to realize that there was a continuous process of change
and decay in the body. With the coming of this realization, her attachment to the body
diminished. Meanwhile, the figure near the Buddha had turned into an old, decrepit lady, who
could no longer control her bodily functions, and was rolling in her own excreta. Finally, she
died, her body got bloated, pus and maggots came out of the nine openings and crows and
vultures were trying to snatch at the dead body.

Having seen all these, Janapadakalyani pondered, "This young girl has grown old and decrepit and
died in this very place under my own eyes. In the same way, my body will also grow old and
wear out; it will be subject to disease and I will also die." Thus, she came to perceive the true
nature of the khandhas. At this point, the Buddha talked about the impermanence, the
unsatisfactoriness and the insubstantiality of the khandhas, and Janapadakalyani attained
Sotapatti Fruition.

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 150: This body is made of bones which are covered with flesh and blood;
within this dwell decay and death, pride, deceit and arrogance.

At the end of the discourse, Janapadakalyani attained Arahatship.

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


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