Mahapajapati

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Maha Pajapati Gotami was one of the most important female figures in the early days of Buddhism. The Buddha's maternal aunt as well as his foster mother, she cemented her place in the history of Buddhism by becoming the founder of the Order of Nuns.

After Prince Siddhartha, Rahula, his...

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Maha Pajapati Gotami was one of the most important female figures in the early days of Buddhism. The Buddha's maternal aunt as well as his foster mother, she cemented her place in the history of Buddhism by becoming the founder of the Order of Nuns.

After Prince Siddhartha, Rahula, his son, and her own son Nanda renounced the worldly life in favor of the enlightened path of Buddhism, Maha Pajapati Gotami felt miserable and lonely. And once King Suddhodana passed away on attaining Arahatship, the Buddha's foster mother became ever more determined to seeking ordination.

However, this life-changing transformation was far from automatic. On no fewer than three occasions Buddha turned down his aunt's request to establish an Order of Nuns. Nonetheless, she was undeterred and soon gathered about her 500 maidens, who also sought ordination. Maha Pajapati Gotami shaved her head, donned the yellow robe of the Buddhist monk, and with the 500 maidens in tow, walked the 357 miles to the Jetavana monastery, where Buddha gave the majority of his teachings and discourses.

Once his aunt and the maidens had finally arrived at Jetavana, Buddha proclaimed that it was possible for a woman to attain the bliss of sainthood. He went on to consent to the establishment of an order of Buddhist nuns, with Maha Pajapati Gotami as its head. From then on, she would play a vital role in the development of Buddhism.

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