"Bhikkhuni Khema: Daughter of Wisdom, Born from Buddha's Heart"

Arahantaka Bhikkhuni Khema, who attained the last position among the wise Bhikkhunis, was one of the two chief disciples of the Buddha, the other being Uppalavanna. She held the foremost position among the wise Bhikkhunis.

In her previous life, during the time of Lord Padumuttara Buddha, she was born as a pious daughter in a wealthy family in Hansavathi. At a young age, she sought the Dhamma from Lord Padumuttara Buddha, took refuge, and made a wish to attain wisdom among the wise nuns of the next Buddha.

Lord Padumuttara prophesied that in the future, she would attain the last position among the wise nuns in the Buddha Order of Lord Gautama. After performing numerous meritorious deeds, she ascended to divine worlds, including Tautisa, Thusita, Nimmanarathi, and Paranimmita. In the human realm, she became a local queen due to the strength of her merits.

During the time of Lord Vipassi Buddha, she was ordained as a nun, leading a celibate (Brahammachari) life and becoming a skilled Dharma speaker. In subsequent lives, she acquired great wealth, wisdom, and prominence. Born in Varanasi during Kassapa Buddha’s time and later in Magadha during Lord Gautama Buddha’s era, she was known as Queen Khema.

“Khema’s Final Odyssey: Illuminating the Story of Her Last Life”

Gautama Buddha’s time in the vibrant land of Magadha, there lived a woman named Khema, whose very name meant ‘very holy.’ But Khema was not just a woman; she was a radiant beauty, a lady of the royal Magadha family, and one of the main queens of the esteemed King Bimbisara.

In the heart of this captivating tale, Khema harbored a reluctance to visit the revered Lord Buddha. She was well aware that her beauty held no allure for the Buddha, who preached the profound truths of change and impermanence. Proud of her exquisite appearance, she hesitated to confront the sage, attempting to sidestep the encounter altogether.

However, King Bimbisara, clever and determined, devised a plan to lead Khema to the monastery. He summoned poets to serenade the royal pavilion with verses extolling the beauty of the monastery, cleverly convincing Khema to explore its wonders. Encouraged by her husband, she, adorned in resplendent royal robes, ventured to the monastery, longing to catch a glimpse of the revered Father.

As Khema approached, the Buddha, endowed with the wisdom of Parachitta Vijanana, glimpsed into her heart. Employing his miraculous abilities, he conjured a young woman of surpassing beauty to stand beside him. Mesmerized, Queen Khema marveled at the unexpected sight, questioning her preconceived notions.

Yet, the Buddha, in his infinite wisdom, gradually transformed the young woman into an old one before Khema’s eyes. The once flawless skin wrinkled, the lustrous hair turned white, and the youthful body succumbed to the inevitability of aging. In a final act, the illusory woman collapsed and died, leaving only a pile of bones behind. It was a poignant revelation, a stark reminder of the impermanence woven into the fabric of existence.

With newfound clarity, Khema recognized the transience of all things, realizing that the same fate awaited her. The Buddha, employing the three types of dharma – “Adeshana Pratihara (Reading Mind and Teaching ), Srudhi Pratihara (Showing Miracal Powers and teaching), and Anushasana Pratihara (Only guiding by teaching)” – skillfully dismantled the barriers that had kept Khema at bay.

Confronting the undeniable truth, Khema, having obtained her husband’s consent, humbly embraced the Bhikshuni order. Within a mere half-month, witnessing the impermanence of all rituals and the fleeting nature of a lamp flame, she attained the coveted status of arahant.

In this captivating journey from pride to enlightenment, Queen Khema’s story unfolds as a testament to the transformative power of truth and the impermanence that weaves through the tapestry of existence.

In a moment of proclamation, the Blessed One, surrounded by an aura of wisdom and compassion, declared, “Among the wise, Bhikkhuni Khema shall ascend to the foremost position.” The words echoed with a profound resonance, marking an acknowledgment of her unparalleled wisdom and spiritual prowess. The hallowed assembly absorbed the significance of this pronouncement, recognizing Bhikkhuni Khema as a beacon of enlightenment among the venerable monks and nuns. The celestial decree elevated her, casting a luminous glow upon the path she had traversed from reluctance to profound realization, solidifying her position as a guiding light in the tapestry of spiritual ascent.

“Khema’s Triumph over Temptation: Defying Mara’s Seductions with Spiritual Resilience”

In the serene hush of her meditation beneath the shade of a tree, venerable Khema found herself at an unexpected crossroads. Mara, the embodiment of temptation and malevolence, materialized in the guise of a charming young man. His seductive voice reached out to her, weaving promises of youthful pleasures and transient joys.

“Khema, you are still young. Very beautiful. I am also a handsome young man. Come, let us enjoy life,” Mara whispered, his words dripping with allure. Yet, Khema, ever astute and fortified by her spiritual fortitude, recognized the deceitful presence of Mara. With a resolute gaze, she declared her liberation from his insidious grasp.

“I am disgusted with this rotten body, which often causes diseases and breaks down quickly. I am cutting off even the root of lust,” Khema proclaimed, her words slicing through the illusion of desire that Mara sought to propagate.

As Mara persisted, Khema, like a wielder of a sacred meat cleaver, revealed the depth of her detachment. “Pancha Upadanaskandha is like a meat cleaver to me who has cut off all desires. I don’t have the kind of lust you are talking about,” she affirmed, severing the ties that bound her to the illusions of worldly enticements.

Khema, in her unwavering wisdom, cast a discerning eye upon the world’s follies. “Foolish people seek purity by worshiping the planets, worshiping the fire god of the forest and not knowing the truth,” she declared, exposing the futility of misguided pursuits.

In a final crescendo of spiritual triumph, Khema elevated her devotion to the highest realms. “But I worship those great Buddhas. Following the Lord Buddha’s words, I am freed from all sorrows,” she proclaimed, anchoring herself in the teachings that transcend the transient and lead to the eternal liberation of the soul. In the face of Mara’s temptations, Khema stood unwavering, a beacon of enlightenment in the unyielding pursuit of truth and liberation.

“Buddha’s Reverence for Khema: Unveiling the ‘Gambira Panjang’ Sermon”

In the celestial ambiance of Gijjaku, the Buddha bestowed profound appreciation upon Bhikkhuni Khema through his enlightening sermon known as “Gambira Panjang.” This auspicious occasion unfolded as Khema Bhikkhuni, perched on a rock, became the focal point of the Buddha’s discourse.

As the night enveloped the scene, a divine king named Sak, accompanied by his celestial entourage, graced the assembly near the Buddha. In a mystical display, Bhikkhuni Khema descended from the sky to meet the Buddha, offering a reverential bow in the presence of the divine King Sak. Intrigued, King Sak inquired of the Buddha, “Lord, who is she?”

To this, the Buddha, with paternal pride, responded, “Divine King, here stands my daughter Khema, adorned with great wisdom.” Khema was acclaimed for her proficiency in the profound knowledge of “Magga Magga,” and the Buddha further elevated her stature by reciting a poignant stanza.

"Vidarshana Gnana and Unveiling Past Lives by the Wisdom "

In the tapestry of enlightenment, the Buddha illuminated the profound concept of “Vidarshana Gnana” — the Wisdom of Vidarshana, bestowing upon the enlightened the ability to witness the intricacies of past lives. This extraordinary insight, akin to peering through the corridors of time, showcased the depth of spiritual awareness attained by those graced with this celestial wisdom.

“Arahantship in Depth: The Noble Brahmin and the Pathless Knowledge”

In the sacred realm of spiritual attainment, the Buddha adorned those who reached Arahantship with the title of “Noble Brahmin.” Arahantship, the pinnacle of wisdom and spiritual realization, was characterized by the profound understanding of the pathless knowledge — an understanding that transcended the limitations of conventional thought.

The Buddha declared, “Wise and profoundly wise. I call him a Brahmin who attains the knowledge of pathless knowledge.” In this proclamation, the term “Brahmin” took on a transcendental meaning, signifying not a mere lineage but an enlightened state of being.

“Profound Panjanti: Exploring the Depths of ‘Skhandha’ and ‘Dharmoja’”

Delving into the intricacies of profound wisdom, the Buddha highlighted the significance of “Panjanti” — the deep exploration of ‘Skhandha’ and ‘Dharmoja.’ This wisdom, akin to a meditative plunge into the ocean of existence, unveiled the profound nature of the aggregates and the essence of Dharma-born wisdom.

The Buddha spoke of “Dharmoja” as the offspring of profound contemplation — a wisdom that emanates from the core of understanding the intrinsic nature of existence. In the realm of Medhavin, the profoundly wise, this wisdom took root and flourished.

“The Brahmin of Ultimate Attainment: Recognizing the Path and Obstacle”

In the final crescendo of enlightenment, the Buddha articulated the essence of a true Brahmin. One who, having traversed the labyrinth of existence, recognized the intricacies of sorrow and happiness, the path to Nirvana, and the distinction between the worldly and the transcendent.

“I say that person who has attained arahantship is a Brahmin,” declared the Buddha, emphasizing that the ultimate attainment, the “Uttamatthan Anupapthathan,” was synonymous with the realization of a noble Brahmin — one who had transcended the mundane and attained the sublime.
Read More - Khema Sutta

Write By - Kaushal
Credit for Art work - Gayan Chanuka Vidanapathirana
Refrence - Dhammapada, Attakatha


Thanks @Metta_Kaushal for this beautiful and illuminating essay.


Thank you bhante for the comment :innocent:

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Perhaps tangential, but I’ve wondered for a while, is there any standard iconographic distinction for the principle disciples (female, male, monastic, and lay) of the Buddha? Something to look for in that image at the head of the essay, aside from the text, to say, “Ah, of course, Khema?”

Namo Buddhaya!

Sariputta and Mahamogallana were the two chief disciples (aggasāvaka) of the Buddha.

Buddhas have only two chief disciples

Vipassī had a fine pair of chief disciples named Khaṇḍa and Tissa. Sikhī had a fine pair of chief disciples named Abhibhū and Sambhava. Vessabhū had a fine pair of chief disciples named Soṇa and Uttara. Kakusandha had a fine pair of chief disciples named Vidhura and Sañjīva. Koṇāgamana had a fine pair of chief disciples named Bhiyyosa and Uttara. Kassapa had a fine pair of chief disciples named Tissa and Bhāradvāja. I have a fine pair of chief disciples named Sāriputta and Moggallāna. SuttaCentral