Chapter VIII - SAHASSA VAGGA - Thousands

SELF CONQUEST IS THE BEST OF ALL CONQUESTS

SELF CONQUEST IS THE BEST OF ALL CONQUESTS

Yo sahassam sahassenasangame manuse jine
Ekan ca jeyya m'attanam sa ve sangamajuttamo.


Though one should conquer a million men in the battlefield, yet he, indeed, is the noblest victor who has conquered himself. [102]



VIII:03 The rich girl who married a thief (Kundala Kesi)

Kundala Kesi was the daughter of a rich man from Rajagaha. She had led a very secluded life; but one day, she happened to see a thief who was about to be executed for his crimes. She immediately fell in love with him; she refused to eat and preferred to die unless she could have him.


Her parents had to bribe the king's officer to secure his freedom and they married her off to him. Although she loved her husband very much, her husband being a thief, was only attracted to her wealth. One day, he persuaded her to put on all her jewellery and led her to the top of the mountain saying that he wanted to make some offerings to the guardian spirit of the mountain for saving his life when he was in danger. Kundala Kesi went along with her husband, but when they reached their destination, the thief revealed that he wanted to kill her and take her jewels. She pleaded with him to take her jewels, but to spare her life, but it was of no avail. She then realised that if she did not get rid of her husband, there would be no way of escape for her. She felt she must be cautious and crafty. So she told her husband that as they would be together only for a few moments more, she wanted to pay respects to him for the last time. So saying, while going round the man, she pushed him off the mountain from behind.


The deva dwelling at the top of the mountain who had witnessed the whole episode applauded the woman and commented, 'Wisdom is not always confined to men; a woman, too, is wise, and shows it now and then.'


After this, she had no desire to return home. She left all her jewellery hanging on a tree, and went on her way, without any idea where she was going. She happened to come to a place where Paribbajikas (female wandering ascetics) lived and she herself become a paribbajika. They taught her all their skills in sophistry and being intelligent, she mastered all of them within a short time. Then her teachers told her to go out and should she find somebody who could answer all her questions, she should become his pupil. Kundala Kesi went throughout the length and breadth of the country, openly challenging everyone else to compete with her. She met many famous men, but none could answer all her questions.


Finally, she came to Savatthi. Before entering the city for almsfood she made a mound of sand and stuck a branch of a tree on it, her usual sign of invitation to all others to take up her challenge. Venerable Sariputta took up her challenge. She asked him innumerable questions and Sariputta answered them all. When his turn came to question her, he asked her just this, 'What is the meaning of One?'She could not answer, so she asked Sariputta to teach her the answer to the question. Sariputta replied that she should first become a bhikkhuni; so she became a bhikkhuni. She practised diligently what Sariputta taught her and within a few days, she attained Arahanthood.


Soon after this, the bhikkhus asked the Buddha, 'Could it be possible for Bhikkuni Kundala Kesi to become an Arahant after listening to the Dhamma only a little?' The Buddha replied, 'Bhikkhus, don't judge the Dhamma as 'little' or 'much'. One sentence of the Dhamma is better than a hundred sentences that are meaningless.'

Notes:

  1. Sahassam sahassena, thousand multiplied by a thousand, that is,one million. (Commentary)

*There is only one thing in this world which living beings need to survive - that is food.