An eminent Therī. She was born at Devadaha in the family
of Suppabuddha as the younger sister of
Ap.ii.538 says her father was Ańjana Sakka and her mother
Sulakkhanā. Mhv.ii.18 says her father was Ańjana and her mother
Dandapāni and Suppabuddha were her brothers; cp. Dpv. xviii.7f.
At the birth of each sister, interpreters of bodily marks
prophesied that their children would be cakkavattins. King
both the sisters, and when Mahāmāyā died, seven days after the birth of the
Buddha, Pajāpati looked after the Buddha and nursed him. She was the mother of
Nanda, but it is said that she gave her own son to nurses and herself nursed the
Buddha. The Buddha was at Vesāli when Suddhodana died, and Pajāpatī decided to
renounce the world, and waited for an opportunity to ask the permission of the
Pajāpatī was already a sotāpanna. She attained this
eminence when the Buddha first visited his father's palace and preached the
Mahādhammapāla Jātaka (DhA.i.97).
Her opportunity came when the Buddha visited Kapilavatthu
to settle the dispute between the Sākiyans and the
Koliyans as to the right to
take water from the river Rohinī. When the dispute had been settled, the Buddha
preached the Kalahavivāda Sutta, and five hundred young
Sākiyan men joined the
Order. Their wives, led by Pajāpatī, went to the Buddha and asked leave to be
ordained as nuns. This leave the Buddha refused, and he went on to
Pajāpatī and her companions, nothing daunted, had barbers to cut off their hair,
and donning yellow robes, followed the Buddha to Vesāli on foot. They arrived
with wounded feet at the Buddha's monastery and repeated their request. The
Buddha again refused, but Ananda interceded on their behalf and their request
was granted, subject to eight strict conditions.
For details see Vin.ii.253ff.; also A.iv.274ff. There was
some question, which arose later as to the procedure of Pajāpatī's ordination,
which was not formal. When the nuns discovered this some of them refused to hold
the uposatha with her. But the Buddha declared that he himself had ordained her
and that all was in order (DhA.iv.149). Her upasampadā consisted in acquiescing
in the eight conditions laid down for nuns (Sp.i.242).
After her ordination, Pajāpatī came to the Buddha and
worshipped him. The Buddha preached to her and gave her a subject for
meditation. With this topic she developed insight and soon after won
arahantship, while her five hundred companions attained to the same after
listening to the Nandakovāda Sutta. Later, at an assembly of monks and nuns in
Jetavana, the Buddha declared Pajāpatī chief of those who had experience (rattańńūnam)
(A.i.25). Not long after, while at Vesāli, she realized that her life had come
to an end. She was one hundred and twenty years old; she took leave of the
Buddha, performed various miracles, and then died, her five hundred companions
dying with her. It is said that the marvels which attended her cremation rites
were second only to those of the Buddha.
It was in the time of Padumuttara Buddha that Pajāpatī
made her resolve to gain eminence. She then belonged to a clansman's family in Hamsavatī, and, hearing the Buddha assign the foremost place in experience to a
certain nun, wished for similar recognition herself, doing many good deeds to
that end. After many births she was born once more at Benares, forewoman among
five hundred slave girls. When the rains drew near, five Pacceka Buddhas came
from Nandamūlaka to Isipatana seeking lodgings. Pajāpatī saw them after the
Treasurer had refused them any assistance, and, after consultation with her
fellow slaves, they persuaded their several husbands to erect five huts for the
Pacceka Buddhas during the rainy season and they provided them with all
requisites. At the end of the rains they gave three robes to each Pacceka
Buddha. After that she was born in a weaver's village near Benares, and again
ministered, this time to five hundred Pacceka Buddhas, sons of
(ThigA.140ff.; AA.i.185f.; Ap.ii.529 43).
It is said that once Pajāpatī made a robe for the Buddha
of wonderful material and marvellously elaborate. But when it came to be offered
to the Buddha he refused it, and suggested it should be given to the Order as a
whole. Pajāpatī was greatly disappointed, and Ananda intervened. But the Buddha
explained that his suggestion was for the greater good of Pajāpatī, and also as
an example to those who might wish to make similar gifts in the future. This was
the occasion for the preaching of the Dakkhināvibhanga Sutta (M.iii.253ff.;
MA.ii.1001ff.; this incident is referred to in the Milinda p.240). The Buddha
had a great love for Pajāpatī, and when she lay ill, as there were no monks to
visit her and preach to her - that being against
the rule - the Buddha amended the rule and went
himself to preach to her (Vin.iv.56).
Pajāpatī's name appears several times in the Jātakas. She
was the mother monkey in the Cūla Nandiya Jātaka (J.ii.202), Candā in the
Dhammapāla (J.iii.182), and Bhikkhudāyikā (or Bhikkhudāsikā) daughter of
king of Benares (J.vi.481).
Mahāpajāpatī was so called because, at her birth, augerers
prophesied that she would have a large following; Gotamī was her gotta name
(MA.i.1001; cp. AA.ii.774).
There is a story related of a nurse employed by Pajāpatī
and born in Devadaha. She renounced the world with Pajāpatī, but for twenty five
years was harassed by thoughts of lust till, at last, she heard
preach. She then practiced
meditation and became an arahant. ThigA.75f.