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Dhammapada Verses 21, 22 and 23  The Story of Samavati

While residing at the Ghosita monastery near Kasambi, the Buddha uttered Verses (21), (22) and
(23) of this book, with reference to Samavati, one of the chief queens of Udena, king of Kosambi.

Samavati had five hundred maids-of-honour staying with her at the palace; she also had a maid
servant called Khujjuttara. The maid had to buy flowers for Samavati from the florist Sumana
everyday. On one occasion, Khujjuttara had the opportunity to listen to a religious discourse
delivered by the Buddha at the home of Sumana and she attained Sotapatti Fruition. She repeated
the discourse of the Buddha to Samavati and the five hundred maids-of-honour, and they also
attained Sotapatti Fruition. From that day, Khujjuttara did not have to do any menial work, but
took the place of mother and teacher to Samavati. She listened to the discourses of the Buddha
and repeated them to Samavati and her maids. In course of time, Khujjuttara mastered the
Tipitaka.

Samavati and her maids wished very much to see the Buddha and pay obeisance to him; but they
were afraid the king might be displeased with them. So, making holes in the walls of their palace,
they looked through them and paid obeisance to the Buddha everyday as he was going to the houses
of the three rich men, namely, Ghosaka, Kukkuta and Pavariya.

At that time, King Udena had also another chief queen by the name of Magandiya. She was the
daughter of Magandiya, a brahmin. The brahmin seeing the Buddha one day thought the Buddha was
the only person who was worthy of his very beautiful daughter. So, he hurriedly went off to fetch
his wife and daughter and offered to give his daughter in marriage to the Buddha. Turning down his
offer, the Buddha said, "Even after seeing Tanha, Arati and Raga, the daughters of Mara, I felt no
desire in me for sensual pleasures; after all, what is this which is full of urine and filth and which I
don't like to touch even with my foot."

On hearing those words of the Buddha, both the brahmin and his wife attained Anagami Magga and
Phala. They entrusted their daughter to the care of her uncle and themselves joined the Order.
Eventually, they attained Arahatship. The Buddha knew from the beginning that the brahmin and his
wife were destined to attain Anagami Fruition that very day, hence his reply to the brahmin in the
above manner. However, the daughter Magandiya became very bitter and sore and she vowed to
take revenge if and when an opportunity arose.

Later, her uncle presented Magandiya to King Udena and she became one of his chief queens.
Magandiya came to learn about the arrival of the Buddha in Kosambi and about how Samavati and
her maids paid obeisance to him through holes in the walls of their living quarters. So, she planned
to take her revenge on the Buddha and to harm Samavati and her maids who were ardent devotees
of the Buddha. Magandiya told the king that Samavati and her maids had made holes in the walls of
their living quarters and that they had outside contacts and were disloyal to the king. King Udena
saw the holes in the walls, but when the truth was told he did not get angry.

But Magandiya kept on trying to make the king believe Samavati was not loyal to him and was
trying to kill him. On one occasion, knowing that the king would be visiting Samavati within the next
few days and that he would be taking along his lute with him, Magandiya inserted a snake into the
lute and closed the hole with a bunch of flowers. Magandiya followed King Udena to Samavati's
quarters after trying to stop him on the pretext that she had some presentiment and felt worried
about his safety. At Samavati's place Magandiya removed the bunch of flowers from the hole of
the lute. The snake came out hissing and coiled itself on the bed. When the king saw the snake he
believed Magandiya's words that Samavati was trying to kill him. The king was furious. He
commanded Samavati to stand and all her ladies to line up behind her. Then he fitted his bow with
an arrow dipped in poison and shot the arrow. But Samavati and her ladies bore no ill wills towards
the king and through the power of goodwill (metta), the arrow turned back, although an arrow shot
by the king usually went even through a rock. Then, the king realized the innocence of Samavati
and he gave her permission to invite the Buddha and his disciples to the palace for alms-food and
for delivering discourses.

Magandiya realizing that none of her plans had materialized, made a final, infallible plan. She sent a
message to her uncle with full instructions to go to Samavati's place and burn down the building
with all the women inside. As the house was burning, Samavati and her maids-of-honour, numbering
five hundred, kept on meditating. Thus, some of them attained Sakadagami Fruition, and the rest
attained Anagami Fruition.

As the news of the fire spread, the king rushed to the scene, but it was too late. He suspected
that it was done at the instigation of Magandiya but he did not show that he was suspicious.
Instead, he said, "While Samavati was alive I had been fearful and alert thinking I might be
harmed by her; only now, my mind is at peace. Who could have done this? It must have been done
only by someone who loves me very dearly." Hearing this, Magandiya promptly admitted that it was
she who had instructed her uncle to do it. Whereupon. the king pretended to be very pleased with
her and said that he would do her a great favour, and honour all her relatives. So, the relatives
were sent for and they came gladly. On arrival at the palace, all of them, including Magandiya, were
seized and burnt in the palace court yard, by the order of the king.

When the Buddha was told about these two incidents, he said that those who are mindful do not
die; but those who are negligent are as good as dead even while living.

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 21. Mindfulness is the way to the Deathless (Nibbana); unmindfulness is the way to Death.
Those who are mindful do not die; those who are not mindful are as if already dead.

Verse 22. Fully comprehending this, the wise, who are mindful, rejoice in being mindful and find
delight in the domain of the Noble Ones (Ariyas).

Verse 23. The wise, constantly cultivating Tranquillity and Insight Development Practice, being
ever mindful and steadfastly striving, realize Nibbana: Nibbana, which is free from the bonds of
yoga*; Nibbana, the Incomparable!

*. The bonds (yoga) are four in number, viz.,
1: Sense-pleasures (kama),
2: Existence (bhava),
3: Wrong view (ditthi) and
4: Ignorance of the Four Noble Truths (i.e., avijja).

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


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