Book Excerpts

Bhadda Kapilani and Mahakassapa: Going Forth Together

This story about Buddha’s dharma heir Mahakassapa and his consort Bhadda Kapilani is taken from the book, The Hidden Lamp, a compendium of stories of awakened women through the centuries. It tells of how two people navigated their practice and love for one another at the same time, and how in cooling their passions they found their freedom together.

 

When Bhadda Kapilani was a child, she witnessed the suffering of insects being eaten by crows and vowed never to marry, but to live as a spiritual renunciate.

On the same day, far away, a boy named Mahakassapa saw worms being eaten by birds in a freshly plowed field. He was overcome with pity and vowed to become a monk one day. He, too, vowed that he would never marry. This upset his parents, so he made an agreement with them. He made a golden statue of a beautiful woman and he promised his parents that if a woman could be found who was exactly like the statue, he would marry her. Messengers were sent far and wide, searching for a living match, and Bhadda was found.

Before the marriage, Bhadda and Mahakassapa agreed that they would live a celibate life and renounce the world together. After they were married, they cut off each other’s hair, put on robes, and set off into homelessness.

Mahakassapa encountered the Buddha and ordained, later becoming an arahant and leader in the sangha. Five years later, when Mahapajapati established the order of nuns, Bhadda ordained, also becoming an arahant.

Bhadda wrote a poem:

Seeing the world’s deep misery, we both went forth
and are now both free of mind’s obsessions.
Cooled of passions, we have found deliverance;
cooled of passions, we have found our freedom.

 

From: The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women