She was the daughter of a good and
wealthy merchant of Ujjenī. Having come of age, she was given in marriage to the
son of a merchant in Sāketa.
For one month she lived with him as a
devoted wife; then because of her past kamma, her husband became estranged from
her, and turned her out of the house. She was married again with the same
result, and a third time to a friar. Isidāsī's father persuaded him to give up
the pilgrim's life; he dwelt with his wife only for a fortnight and refused to
stay with her any more. Isidāsī then met the therī
Jinadattā, whom she
entertained to a meal at her house. Under Jinadattā, Isidāsī joined the Order
and became an arahant.
The Therīgāthā (vv.400-47), which
contains forty-seven verses ascribed to her, describes not only her present
life, but also her past lives. She had been a worker in gold in Erakaccha and
had committed adultery in that life. As a result she was born in hell for a long
time, and, in subsequent births became an ape, a goat, an ox, a hermaphrodite
slave and a carter's daughter. In this last birth she was sold to a merchant in
payment of her father's debts. When she was sixteen, the merchant's son,
Giridāsa, fell in love with her and married her. He had already one wife, and
the new one caused dissension between her and her husband. Therefore it was that
in this life she was hated by her husbands. This account of her sojourn in
samsāra was related by Isidāsī in response to a request by one of her
fellow-nuns, Bodhī (ThigA.260ff).
Mrs. Rhys Davids thinks (Sisters, Introd.
pp.xxii f) that Isidāsī's verses in the Therīgāthā suggest late literary craft
and bear the impress of late literary creation. The scene is Pātaliputta, and
not any of the usual towns mentioned in the Canon, and the name of Isidāsī's
sponsor – Jindattā - is, she says, significant. Perhaps there are traces here of
In the Dīpavamsa (xviii.9) Isidāsī (Isidāsikā)
is mentioned in a list of eminent therīs who were leaders of the Order of