May 2, 2022
When Buddha was accused of sexual relations with a young, beautiful woman named Sundari, and his followers were accused of murdering her, Buddha remained unphased. Buddha merely used it as an opportunity to teach about karma. If only we could remain so calm amidst the storms of life! In this episode, we learn about a practice to help us let go of anger taught by Thich Nhat Hanh. This meditation involves a mindfulness of anger: breathing in, I recognize my own anger; breathing out, I smile at my anger.
The Story of Sundari the Wandering Female Ascetic
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (306) of this book, with reference to Sundari, a wandering female ascetic.
As the number of people revering the Buddha increased, the non-Buddhist ascetics found that the number of their following was dwindling. Therefore, they became very jealous of the Buddha; they were also afraid that things would get worse if they did not do something to damage the reputation of the Buddha. So, they sent for Sundari and said to her, "Sundari, you are a very beautiful and clever young lady. We want you to put Samana Gotama to shame, by making it appear to others that you are having sexual dealings with him. By so doing, his image will be impaired, his following will decrease and many would come to us. Make the best use of your looks and be crafty."
Sundari understood what was expected of her. Thus, late in the evening, she went in the direction of the Jetavana monastery. When she was asked where she was going, she answered, "I am going to visit Samana Gotama; I live with him in the Perfumed Chamber of the Jetavana monastery." After saying this, she proceeded to the place of the non-Buddhist ascetics. Early in the morning the next day, she returned home, if anyone asked her from where she had come she would reply, "I have come from the Perfumed Chamber after staying the night with Samana Gotama." She carried on like this for two more days. At the end of three days, those ascetics hired some drunkards to kill Sundari and put her body in a rubbish heap near the Jetavana monastery.
The next day, the ascetics spread the news about the disappearance of Paribbajika Sundari. They went to the king to report the matter and their suspicion. The king gave them permission to search where they wished. Finding the body near the Jetavana monastery, they carried it to the palace. Then they said to the king, "O king, the followers of Gotama have killed this Paribbajika and have thrown away her body in the rubbish heap near the Jetavana monastery to cover up the misdeed of their teacher." To them the king replied, "In that case, you may go round the town and proclaim the fact." So they went round the town carrying the dead body of Sundari, shouting, "Look! What the followers of Gotama have done; see how they have tried to cover up the misdeed of Gotama!" The procession then returned to the palace. The bhikkhus living in the Jetavana monastery told the Buddha what those ascetics were (doing to damage his reputation and impair his image. But the Buddha only said, "My sons, you just tell them this," and then spoke in verse as follows:
Verse 306: One who tells lies (about others) goes to niraya; one who has done evil and says "I did not do it" also goes to niraya. Both of them being evil-doers, suffer alike (in niraya) in their next existence.
The king next ordered his men to further investigate the murder of Sundari. On investigation, they found out that Sundari had died at the hands of some drunkards. So they were brought to the king. When questioned, the drunkards disclosed that they were hired by the ascetics to kill Sundari and put her body near the Jetavana monastery.
References and Links
Buddha.The Dhammapada. Translated by Gil Fronsdale. (Kindle). Shambala, Boston and London, 2011, pp. 77 (Link)
Buddha (1986).The Dhammapada: Verses and Stories. Translated by Daw Mya Tin, M.A. (Website). Edited by Editorial Committee, Burma Tipitaka Association Rangoon. Courtesy .of Nibbana.com. For free distribution only, as a gift of dhamma.
Hahn, T.N. Taking care of anger. (YouTube). https://youtu.be/9OvLOna5_1A