Story of the Nun, Khema
In the Dispensation
of Gautama Buddha Khema was born in a princely family at Sagala
by the name of Khema. The colour of her complexion was that
of gold. She was exceptionally beautiful. She married King Bimbisara
of Kosala who was an enthusiastic supporter of the Buddha. She
was reluctant however, to visit the Buddha for fear that the
Blessed One would moralise on the fleeing nature of beauty.
she visited the monastery she dodged meeting the Buddha. One
day the king got his men to take her to the Buddha without her
suspecting a meeting had been arranged. On her arrival, the
Buddha created a phantom of unsurpassing beauty to attend on
Him. The beauty of the phantom overwhelmed Khema. While she
was thus engaged she felt that beauty could only beguile. The
Buddha made the figure to go through youth, middle age, and
old age and thereafter to extreme old age devoid of everything
worthwhile. Beauty thus gave way to hideousness. It was a graphic
picture. Khema understood the meaning and felt what was in store
for her: Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta in other
words transiency, sorrow and not-self.
To a mind
thus prepared the Buddha taught. The seeds fell on good ground.
She entered the stream of sainthood (sotapanna). The Buddha
illustrated His teaching by bringing before her mind the lesson
of the spider and the web. As soon as a fly strikes a web, the
spider by the motion thus generated takes it as a signal and
attacks by devouring the fly. The spider became wedded to the
web. In like manner human beings are wedded to passion and lust.
Her mind 'insighted' into this and she became an Arahant. She
asked permission from the king for her ordination. The king,
himself an aspiring saint, readily consented. One day the god
Mara in the guise of a young man tempted Khema, and was rebuffed.
His discomfiture was complete and he fled. One night Khema thought
of visiting the Buddha. But the Buddha was with Sakka king of
the gods. Rather than disturb the Buddha, Khema wheeled round
in the air and disappeared.
seeing the vision was soon enlightened of the matter by the
addressing the monks and the laity, declared that Khema of his
female disciples was the most eminent for Wisdom.
maid lost in thy beauty;
Was rescued by the Great Sage.
Thy mind was keen as razor's edge;
Thou heard the call of Duty".