Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part IV by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw

(57) The Story of Simavati

During the lifetime of Lord Buddha, King Utena was the ruling monarch of the State of Kosambi (rather, a City). He had three Queens; one of them called Vasuladatta. She was the daughter of King Candapajjota, the Ruler of Ujjeni State. The other queen’s name was Samavati. She originally belonged to Baddavati town and was the daughter of a millionaire named Baddavati. Sometime, after the death of her parents, having been adopted by Ghosaka, the rich, she was generally recognised as the daughter of Ghosaka. The next queen bore the name of Magandi. She was the daughter of a Brahmin by the name of Magandhi from the country of Kuru.

Magandi, the Brahmin’s daughter had a very fair complexion and was said to be extremely attractive. Hence, a number of wealthy persons were stated to have made proposals asking for her hands in marriage for their sons. However, these proposals were turned down by Magandi’s father on the grounds that they were unworthy of acceptance for his beautiful daughter. One day, this Brahmin Magandhi came across the Exalted One. Having noticed the majestic features and lineaments of the Buddha, he considered Buddha as being a worthy suitor for his daughter, and then asked the Buddha not knowing who he was as: “0, Reverend Bhikkhu! I have a charming daughter. I have been searching for a man deserving of giving marriage to my daughter all throughout in the past, but to no avail. 0, Bhikkhu! You have the manly qualities really worthy of my daughter’s hands. I wish I could offer my daughter to you. Could you please wait for a while at this place?”, said the Brahmin. He then immediately left the place in a hurry and soon came back bringing his wife and daughter.

Buddha, after leaving his footprint at that place where he met the Brahmin, proceeded to another place not too far away from the place of their meeting and stayed on. On their return to the site where they first met, the Brahmin could only find the footprint of the Buddha. When he told his wife that this was the footprint of the Bhikkhu he had met, the wife, with her knowledge of the science of astrology remarked that the owner of this footprint was a person who had already discarded the sensual pleasures (kamaguna), or in other words, it was the footprint of ‘ a man totally devoid of sensual pleasures and human passionate desires. The Brahmin after telling his wife to keep her mouth shut, followed the direction of the footprints implanted on the surface of the earth, and eventually found the Enlightened One. He then addressed the Buddha, “0 Ashin Bhikkhu I offer you my daughter to be your wife and to be looked after by you.”

Buddha before replying to him as to whether he would accept the offer of the Brahmin’s daughter Magandi or not, recounted his life story beginning from His Great Renunciation up to the time he settled down at the foot of Ajapala Bo (Bodhi) tree after His Enlightenment, and as to how Mara, the Evil One, had been shadowing him, or rather, investigating and keeping, constant vigilance on him, When Mara, knew about Buddha’s total emancipation from lusts of the flesh and sensuality, he was put to mental distress with full of anxiety. Mara’s three daughters with a view to giving help to their father, disguised themselves as beautiful divine maidens (female Devas) and tried to allure and entice the Buddha. This was related to him, by the Buddha. After that the Lord went on to explain how he had withstood and eliminated raga, the worldly pleasures or desires, though these very charming and fascinating daughters of Mara had tried to invoke his passion, in the following words:

Disvana tanham aratim raginca,
nahosi chando api methunasamam.
Kimevidam mutta karisapunnam,
padapi nam samphusitum na icche.

Brahmana – O, Magandi, the Brahmin! tanham aratim raginca – the three daughters of Mara by the name of ‘tanha’ ‘arati’ and ‘raga’, disvanaapi – even though seen methunasamam – in the matter of sexual connection (intercourse), chando – desirable passionate attachment or inclination, me – in me, the Buddha, ahosi – has not occurred. Muttakarisapunnam – Being full of or brimful with urine and excrements (faeces), idam : imam – this Magandi, disva- though seen, chando na hoti – reason for desirable passionate feeling not being arisen in me, kimeva – needs no mention, or rather, is not at all surprising. Nam – In regard to this girl Magandi, padapi – even with my foot, samphusitum – to touch (her), na icche – is undesirable or loathsome, that is to say “I cannot bear it.”

In brief, it means: “No clinging sensual desire has occurred in me even at the sight of the three daughters of Mara. Accordingly, there is hardly anything to say in the case of your so-called beautiful daughter Magandi, a worthless body full of loathsome filth, such as faeces and urine. I’m not even inclined to touch her with my foot.” After having heard the Buddha’s words both the parents of Magandi becoming mindful and aware of the truth of the Dhamma, reached the stage of anagami-phala and became Anagamis. These words, however, made Magandi, the daughter, intolerable. She felt so bad and indignant that she bore a grudge against the Exalted One from that time onwards. Bearing in mind that she was purposely put to disgrace, she plotted with iniquity to take vengeance upon Buddha at one time or the other when she got married to a person of her own choice.

Relating to this incident, it seems reasonable t o raise a question as: “Doesn’t Buddha know that Magandi would bear a grudge out of resentment?” Yes, indeed, Buddha was well aware of it. It has been explained in Dhammapada Commentary that the Exalted One uttered these words of truth purposely knowing fully well that only by teaching in that manner her parents would attain anagami-phala and that the speech was delivered after due consideration of the benefits which would be derived by them as against the vengeance which was sure to be hatched against him by Magandi.

Having been liberated from kamaraga after becoming Anajamis, Magandi’s parents put their daughter under the care and guardianship of her uncle and then, entered the monkhood in the Buddha’s Sasana. Later, after continuous exercise of intense meditation, they became Arahats. Sometime afterwards, Magandi’s uncle offered his niece’s hand to King Utena. The King made her his Chief Queen.

At that time, Ghosaka, the rich, had donated a monastery, named Ghositarama, to the Buddha and Disciple-Sanghas in Kosambhi State. Kukkuta, the millionaire had also erected a monastery and offered it in donation to the Exalted One, while another millionaire Pavarika offered a monastery called Pavarikarama. Buddha, in response to the invitation of these three millionaires, proceeded to Kosambhi State and resided in the three monasteries by turns. The Buddha also accepted and took the offer of meals generously given by these three donors and honoured them with His presence at their respective homes.

One day, Sumana, a flower seller offered food to the Sanghas led by the Buddha after she had obtained permission from the said three millionaires. On that very day, a maid, servant of the Queen Samavati by the name of Khujjuttara went out to buy flowers as usual. Sumana, the flower seller told Khujjuttara: “Today I’ve fervently requested the Enlightened One to accept and take the offer of food at my residence. I invite you also to join me to hear the Buddha’s teaching after the meal is over. You may buy the flowers and take them away only after listening to the Buddha’s sermon.” Khujjttara accepted the invitation and then listened to the Anumodana Dhamma attentively along with Sumana. In the course of the sermon. Khujjuttara through contemplation and noting on what had been heard, achieved sotapatti-magga-phala, and became a Sotapanna.

It was stated that usually Khujjuttara bought only four kyats worth of flowers out of eight kyats given for her from the King’s coffers, keeping four kyats for her own personal use. On that particular day since she had become a Sotapanna,’ she had absolutely no intention to steal other people’s property. She therefore bought eight kyats worth of flowers. Seeing the flowers much more than that had been usually found, Samavatl inquired, “O, Sister! Did the King give you double the amount of money that was ordinarily given to purchase the flowers particularly today?” To this query, Khujjuttara replied, “No, Madam, certainly not.” “Why then there are flowers about twice as many as were usually the Case?” asked the Queen. Khujjuttara admitted: “Usually on previous occasions, I pocketed four kyats, and only bought four kyats worth of flowers. Today, I had bought flowers to the full value of all eight kyats.” This was a candid reply by abstaining herself from telling lies or falsehood. This manner of reply deserves paying attention. Simply because, in those ancient times, a Queen had full and absolute powers to the extent of imposing a capital punishment on any person whom she disliked or considered guilty. The Queen could possibly give orders to execute Khujjuttara for having committed theft of the money paid to buy flowers, or rather, for the offence of is appropriation. However, Khujjuttara had spoken the truth and nothing but the truth without fear of the consequences that might befall her. This noble and honest attitude in telling the truth is the courageous attribute of sotapattimagga, the Special Dhamma. Further interrogations made as to why she did not slice off half the amount of money given to her on that day, Khujjuttara replied that it as because she had gained the Special Dhamma, the wakening of the higher consciousness of the Dhamma after listening to the sermon delivered by the Buddha.

Samavati then reflected with her right devotion of mind that to become purified in mind without any intention to steal was indeed marvellous. She imagined that this Dhamma must be really noble. This kind of thought could only occur in the mind of a virtuous person. If the person vicious and wicked and not virtuous, anger would have risen in him or her, particularly in such a case like this en it was known that the other had stolen or misappropriated the money given for the purpose of buying flowers. Samavati, however, being a person with a virtuous mind with her background perfection, was elated to find her aid-servant cleansed of vice, and equipped with the noble Special Dhamma. A keen desire with a feeling of enthusiasm having pervaded Samavati, she entreated Khujjuttara, “O, my elder sister! We also wish to hear and share the Special Dhamma which you said you have achieved. Please explain to us.” Khujjuttara in reply requested to let her take a bath to keep her body clean before she preached the spotlessly purified Dhamma. Khujjuttara was therefore permitted to bathe with scented water and wear a complete outfit of dress made of a very fine texture. Khujjuttara then put on a piece of garment round her waist and wrapped herself up with another piece of cloth in the upper portion of her body above the waist letting a part of the garment rest upon one shoulder while leaving the other shoulder bare – (ekamsam paru pitva). Later, she took her seat on the allotted place. With a peculiar kind of glittering fan called ‘citrabijani.’ held in her hands, she beckoned the five hundred maids-of-honour batch by batch and gave them her teaching. While listening to the Dhamma taught by Khujjuttara with utmost concentration, they devotedly contemplated and noted with diligence. For having immersed themselves in Vipassana Dhamma, higher awakening consciousness had arisen in them that led to their attainment of sotapatti-phala. Samavati and all her maids-of-honour totalling two hundred and fifty in number became Sotapannas.

Thence, all of them after paying homage to Khujjuttara requested, “0, Sister! Effective from today please relinquish this lowly and mean duties of a maidservant and assume the role of our mother and teacher. Then, please be kind enough to visit the Buddha daily and listen to the sermon delivered by the Enlightened One. Thereafter, please impart to us the Dhamma you have heard.” Therefore, Khujjuttara went to pay obeisance to the Lord Buddha everyday and listened to His noble teaching. On her return, she recounted the Dhamma with wonderful precision as had been heard and remembered by her. Having had her Special Perfection (paramitas), she remembered all what had been taught by the Buddha and could impart the teachings exactly in the same, manner, as were delivered by the Enlightened One both in modulation of the voice, accent and tone. Even nowadays, some people could imitate the style of teaching done by the teachers in demeanour, mode of delivery, pitch and rhythm. This appears possible because of their piramitas. On the part of Khujjuttara, she had prayed for attainment of this Special attribute in the past hundred thousand kappas. That is why she later became an outstanding intellectual well versed and fully accomplished in the Three Baskets of the Buddhist-Scriptures (tipitakadhara). Some time later, she was conferred upon by the Buddha the pre-eminent title of Etadagga, the foremost rank among the learned female disciples (Bhikkhunis) unrivalled in the knowledge of the Scriptures and in possessing the ability to expound them.

Five hundred maids-of-honour led by Samavati then requested Khujjuttara to find ways and means to enable them to worship the Buddha and the Sanghas. It is pretty difficult for those residing in the King’s Palace to meet outsiders. As such, Khujjuttara gave them advice to make small holes in the walls of the upper storey of the palace building to enable them to see through these holes when Buddha and his sanghas came walking along the road on their way to the residential mansions of the millionaires (benefactors) living in the pity to take meals on invitation. This advice which was accepted and implemented, enabled the Queen and her maids to peep through the small holes at the time when Buddha and his company of disciples, walked past.

One day, when Magandi saw by chance the small holes in the wall of the King’s Palace, she inquired as to why the wall had been so perforated with small holes. Samavati and her maids not knowing that Magandi had her grievance and grudge against the Buddha, told her that the Exalted One was presently residing in the City, and that these were the holes through which they looked furtively to revere and worship the Buddha when He wended his way along the road down below. When she got that information, it occurred to Magandi, “Oh! the monk Gotama has come over to this City to stay. I will have to do what should be done. These womenfolk are those who revere the monk Gotama. I’ll also have to deal with them as may be considered proper.” Imagining as such, she made a slanderous talk to let the King know that Simavati and her followers were trying to win the love of outsiders and were bent upon coaxing them and would therefore sooner or later conspire to assassinate His Majesty the King. The King however, did not believe her malicious gossip though she had repeated as first stated, three times in succession.

She, therefore, told the King, “If Your Majesty doesn’t believe what I have said, you may please visit the main building of the palace and see for yourself as to what is actually happening.” The King then made his way to the said building and had a look round inside the palace. He found the small holes in the wall and in making his enquiry as to why these were so perforated, came to know that these holes were meant to be peeped through to see the Lord Buddha and to revere the Lord. He was unperturbed. Although the King caused these holes to be patched up and closed, he let new fanlights be fixed up. The fanlights being much better than the tiny holes, it gave delight to Samavati and her retinue. Failing in her attempt to disparage Samavati and her maids-of-honour, Magandi put a cobra, after its fangs had been extracted, inside the hollow space of the King’s royal harp, and covered up that opening with a wreath of flowers, when time was due for the King to make his rounds to the Chamber where Samavati resided.

After carrying out her plan as stated, Magandi coaxed the King saying that it was not advisable for His Majesty to visit Samavati on the grounds that she had had her bad dreams which portended ill-omen. Nevertheless, King Utena did not fail to call on Samavati at her private chamber according to the program he had mapped out. On that occasion, Magandi accompanied the King as if she was worried about his safety. After his arrival there, the King had his ‘ meals served by Samavati-1 and the chamber maids, and later, placing his harp at the top of the golden couch, he lay down on it to take a rest. Meanwhile, Magandi loitered about the couch and surreptitiously removed the wreath of flowers which served as a cover to the hollow space in the harp. Then came the cobra sliding out from inside the harp and remained on the sleeping couch raising its venomous hood. Seeing the snake, Magandi raised an alarm seemingly in terror as: “Tut! Tut! Your Majesty! Snake! Snake!”, uttering at the same time obscene words against the King and Samavati and then, continued to talk rudely as: “This stupid King is inglorious, ignoble and a dullard as well. He refused to believe my words. These stupid and wicked bunch of maids also have no morality and are simply rascals. Is there anything that has so far been denied to you all by the King? I have had a horrible dream last night. Despite my warnings not to visit the Chamber of Samavati, Your Majesty had, refused to listen to my sincere advice, etc.”

The King when faced with an imminent danger of death that could be brought about by the venomous snake, believed what Magandi had spoken ill of Samavati. Vehement anger had arisen in him too. Hence, orders were immediately given to shoot Samavati and her five hundred maids with poisonous arrows and kill them on the spot. Samavati and her followers were then directed to sit in a row to take the punishment. Samavati advised her maids, “0, Sisters! At this critical moment we have nothing to rely upon except metta. You all may shower upon the King and Magandi your feeling of metta wholeheartedly, spreading your loving kindness evenly balanced on them. You may also prevent your anger from arising.” So saying, Samavati sat in the forefront of all her maids-of-honour and started developing and radiating metta to the best of their ability. King Utena personally picked up the bow and arrow and shot directly at Samavati.

It was stated that the arrow which was shot from the bow instead of going straight to the target rebounded towards King Utena as if it were about to pierce through his breast and then dropped short in front of him on the surface. When it so happened, repentance immediately came upon the King. Then uttering, “Alas! the arrow which I had shot sould have pierced even through a thick marble slab, and yet this arrow recoiled and came back directly to me as if it were about to hit me. Even a lifeless thing like an arrow knows the gratitude and noble attributes of. the queen, Samavati. How regretful it is that a, human being like me has failed to appreciate her noble qualities…”, he threw away his bow. The King then kneeled down before Samavati and respectfully begged of her to pardon him, saying:

sammuyahami pamuyhami,
sabba muyhanti me disa.
Samavati mam tayassu,
tvanca me saranam bhava.

Samavatl – O, my beloved Samavati, aham – I am, sammuyahami – very much bewildered, pamuyhami – (and) extremely perplexed, me – to me, sabba disa – regions in all directions, muyhanti – are all in confusion with my thoughts meandering not knowing which is which. Tvam -You may, math – to me, tayassu – lend your help. Tvam -You are my, saranam – only refuge, bhava – and may so become, i.e. a person on whom I can rely upon and take refuge.

Samavati therefore gave her reply in the following words:

Ma mam tvam saranam giccha,
yamaham saranam gata.

Esa buddho maharaja,
esa buddho anuttaro.

Saranam giccha tam buddham
tvanca me saranam bhava.

Maharaja – O, my beloved Lord, the great King, tvam – you, mam ma saranam giccha – shall not revere me as your refuge, aham – I do, yam – regard the Buddha, saranam gata – (and) revere (the Buddha) as my refuge. Esa – This Buddha, buddho – is fully Enlightened and Omniscient. Esa buddho – This Buddha, anuttaro – is Supreme. Tam buddham – That Buddha, saranam giccha – may be sought as a refuge and worshipped. Tvanca – May Your Majesty also (be), me – my, saranam bhava – refuge, or rather, become my only refuge or Protector.

On hearing this reply, His Majesty the King Utena admitted, “Very well, Oh my beloved! I pay my homage and deep respect to you and also have great reverence for the Buddha. I offer you anything you may wish to have.” Afterwards, the King made his way to the Enlightened One and took refuge in the three Jewels of Buddhism, viz: Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. He invited the Sanghas led by the Buddha to his grand Palace, and for seven days continuously, he resorted to alms-giving or charity on an immense scale. He also asked Samavati to mention her wish so as to enable him to fulfil her desire according to the promise already given. Thereupon, Samavati besought the King to permit her to offer alms to the Buddha and Sanghas everyday. King Utena then personally went to the Enlightened One and requested the Buddha as desired by his queen. The Buddha in response to the King’s invitation, sent the Venerable Ashin Ananda together with five hundred of his monk disciples. From that time onwards, Samavati and her maids-of-honour, five hundred in number, had had an opportunity to do charity, offer meals; pay homage to the Sangha and then listen to the Teachings, daily.

In the story of Samavati now cited, the recoil of the arrow, which King Utena had shot through anger, was the beneficial result or the influence of the virtue of metta bhavana This is one of the eleven advantages which signifies invulnerability from fire, poison, and sword. In the event of any untoward incident taking place, or rather, at any time of emergency, this metta should be fully developed with deep concentration. If it is so developed, no danger can befall a person. Even if there is no chance of escape from, the danger, special merits can be gained. No loss is incurred. It is sure that benefits will be derived,