“My wish is to become an awakened and most wisest bhikkhuni”. This was a wish made by a lay woman about hundred-thousand aeons ago. She was residing in the city of Hansavati, during the time of Padumuttara Lord Buddha. She was a poor woman who was the sole bread-winner of the family. She was keen on becoming a bhikkhuni during the time of Padumuttara Buddha. However, the circumstances did not allow her to be a bhikkhuni. One day, she saw Sujata, chief Female disciple of Padumuttara Buddha in her begging rounds in the city. She had some sweets and gladly offered them to the chief bhikkhuni Sujata. She was feeling extremely happy and thought that she must offer alms to the bhikkhuni again. Although she was a domestic, she was a beautiful woman who had long curly hair. As she did not have money to buy the stuff to prepare alms, she went to a hairdresser and sold her beautiful long hair. With the money, she prepared alms to the chief bhikkhuni Sujata. Due to the meritorious acts she performed during Padumuttara Buddha’s era, after her death, during Vipassi Buddha’s time, she was born as a princess. She entered the Order of the Bhikkhunis and was reputed as a fine preacher. Then, again during the time Buddha Konagama, she was born as a princess. Joining hands with her devoted friends, they built a monastery and donated it to the Buddha. In her Sansaric journey (Life flux), she was again born as the eldest daughter of Gamani, ruler of the Kingdom of Kasi. Her main ambition was to become the chief bhikkhuni to a future Buddha, and also the wisest in the order of the Bhikkhunis. This was her ambition. During the Gautama Buddha’s period, the bhikkhu order had its own chief disciples. They were Sariputta and Moggallana. With the dawn of Gautama Buddha era, Gamani’s daughter was born again as Princess Khema and became the chief consort of Magadha ruler Bimbisara. Bimbisara was one of the chief devotees of Gautama Buddha. He was the builder of the Bamboo Grove Monastery Veluwanaramaya. He was tortured and put to death by his own son Ajasatta. Bimbisara could not escape from a previous Karma or a sin he did in one of his past births. He was a king in his past life. One day, the king went on deer hunting to Vipula Mountains in India.
The king saw an ascetic and he chased and killed him. The ascetic before he died cursed him. Today, you killed me. In my next birth I will destroy you. It is said that the ascetic was born as Ajasatta who killed King Bimbisara in the Gautama Buddha era. Queen Khema was very conscious of her beauty and did not want to see the Lord Buddha because the blessed one preach loathsomeness and impermanence of forms (Rupa). When king Bimbisara heard about her reluctance, he thought of a plan to make her see the Lord Buddha.King used a ploy of making her hear the beauty of Veluwanaramaya via royal courtiers. One day when queen Khema visited the monestary, lord Budhha was preaching Dhamma at that time, mentioning that life was impermanent and it would decay. The Lord Buddha saw the possibility khema had in understanding the Dhamma and used his psychic power and created a lovey maiden fanning the blessed one. Khema saw a lovely maiden, close to The Buddha fanning Him. The divine maiden was prettier than her. With the Buddha’s power, only Queen Khema saw the maiden who fanned the Buddha. Gradually her beauty faded away and she became an old woman and fainted. Queen Khema then realised that life was impermanent and transient. After listening to the Buddha’s sermon Khema decided to join the Order of Bhikkhunis. It was Prince Siddhartha’s foster mother Maha Prajapati Gotami, who established the Bhikkhuni Order. The Buddha with His far-seeing wisdom saw the dangers in having two orders – bhikkhu and bhikkhuni Sasana at one and the same time. However, He later granted permission for the establishment of the Order of Bhikkhunis, under certain rules and regulations. It was known as the Eight Garudhamma and they are:
- A bhikkhuni, who is even 100 years old should salute and honour a Bhikkhu.
- A bhikkuni should not spend a retreat (Vas) in a place where there are no bhikkhus.
- A bhikkhuni should ask Bhikkhus the time of Uposatha which means, Full Moon and New Moon days when Bhikkhus assemble to recite the fundamental rules.
- The Pavarana (formal termination of the retreat or rainy season) should be held in the presence of both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis.
- A bhikkhuni who has committed a major offence should apologise (Manatta) in the presence of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis (Manatta means a form of disciplinary action).
- A novice bhikkhuni (Sikkamana) having trained in the six rules for two years, should receive the Higher Ordination, from both Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis.
- A Bhikkhuni should never abuse a Bhikkhu.
- Bhikkhnis should not give admonition to Bhikkhus, but Bhikkhus should admonish bhikkhunis.
Bhikkhuni Khema too agreed to follow the above rules and regulations – the set of disciplinary code to the letter Garudhamma.
She was very intelligent. Listening to a single sermon of the Enlightened One, she attained the Bliss of Arahatship. The red letter day dawned for Bhikkhuni Khema. It was a wish that she wanted to achieve in her Sansaric journey, beginning from Buddha Padumuttara period. Accomplishing her ambition, the Blessed One – Gautama Buddha elevated Khema to the rank of the First chief disciple of the Order of the Bhikkhunis at a large assembly. She was conferred the title Wisest bhikkhuni. Khema became one of the 13 great bhikkhuni’s in the Buddhist Order. One day when Khema was meditating seated in a beautiful, pleasant environment, deity Mara approached her in the guise of a handsome youth and requested her to enjoy life, as she is very pretty and charming. Arahant Khema recognized Mara. She explained that life was impermanent. She told Mara that the body was subject to decay, illness and death.
May all beings be happy and well and attain the fruits of Nibbana.