Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – September 27th, 2019

L uang Por Anan: Welcome to everyone. Today we learn Dhamma, we listen, and we memorize teachings. This increases the knowledge of Dhamma in our minds. Excellency in knowledge leads to wisdom. In one’s job or field of work, when one has skill, knowledge, and wisdom in that field, then one gains excellence in that field. Venerable Ananda was the monk foremost in memorizing Dhamma teachings in this Buddha’s dispensation. He had great mindfulness and wisdom, and he was the most learned. One of great learning like this has listened to a lot of teachings and memorized them. After memorization, when we then recite and focus on those teachings, that knowledge becomes deeply embedded in the mind. One has deep knowledge of the subject. Ven. Ananda memorized all the suttas and had deep and refined knowledge. The Buddha and Ven. Sariputta both praised Ven. Ananda, saying that Ven. Ananda knew the teachings and could also teach others in a deep and refined way. Learned individuals existed as both monastics and laity who undertook the 5 precepts. Let us now learn about the female lay disciple who was foremost in learning.


Welcome to all the monks and novices and to all the faithful lay people. Today we will learn about the story of Lady Khujjuttara, which is worth studying. Lady Khujjuttara was declared by the Buddha as being the foremost laywoman in terms of learning. This has 2 aspects:

Firstly, she was one who had great spiritual qualities. She had helped others to clearly understand the Dhamma. All the time while the Buddha was staying in Kosambi City, she would go to the monastery of the Buddha at the appropriate time to listen to his Dhamma. And after listening to the Dhamma, she would go back to the royal court of King Udena, and she would relay the Dhamma talk to Queen Samavati and her 500 ladies in waiting. Lady Khujjuttara memorised the Dhamma teachings and she understood the suttas very well.

And the second aspect was that she had made a determination to become foremost in learning for 100,000 kalpas (aeons) already. Some places say that she was one of 2 of the foremost lay female disciples of the Lord Buddha. The other lay woman was the mother of Ven. Nanda, named Velukandakiya. Here we will continue to look at the story of Lady Khujjuttara.

During the era of the Buddha Padumuttara, after he had turned the wheel of excellent Dhamma in the world, and was residing in the city of Hongsawadi, Lady Khujjuttara was born into a family of that era. One day she went to the monastery along with the other lay women to listen to the Buddha’s teachings. She saw that the Buddha had appointed a lay woman as being the foremost in being most learned. She also had the desire to be of that status. So she practiced great acts of goodness so that she could fulfill that aspiration. The Lord Buddha Padumuttara with his perfect knowledge of the future, saw that Lady Khujjuttara in a certain future era would become a lay woman, a noble disciple of the Lord Buddha Gautama. He therefore prophesied that “In the future, you will become the foremost of great learning out of all the lay women in the Buddha Gotama’s dispensation.” When she had received the prophecy from the Buddha, she continued to keep practicing goodness for that entire lifetime and then was born in a deva realm. In her future lives she was born only in the human and deva realms for the period of 100,000 aeons/kalpas.

And during the era of the Buddha Kassapa, she was born as the daughter of a wealthy family in the City of Varanasi. She continued having great faith in the Buddha’s dispensation. She had practiced a great many spiritual accumulations in this era of the Buddha Kassapa. And during those eras which was empty of the Buddha’s dispensation – that is, a Samma Sambuddha had not arisen in the world – there was a time when King Bhramadatta reigned in Varanasi City. He invited 8 Pacceka Buddhas to have the meal in the royal palace on a regular basis. There were 500 lay women who attended on the Pacceka Buddhas, one of whom was Lady Khujjuttara. And one of the 8 Pacceka Buddhas was one who had a hunchback.

Lady Khujjuttara had the idea to make fun of this Pacceka Buddha, so she covered herself in a red cloth and carried a golden bowl and pretended to be a hunch-backed monk, imitating how that Pacceka Buddha walked. She had already done the act of karma. And the result of that karma was that, in the present life, she was born as a woman who was hunchbacked. But also, we see that on the first day that King Brahmadatta invited the eight Pacceka Buddhas to have the meal in the Royal Palace, he had the royal princes hold the alms bowl of each Pacceka Buddha. And he then filled all the alms-bowls with milk-rice and offered them to each Pacceka Buddha. And when the Pacceka Buddhas were holding their alms bowl that was filled with rice-milk, their bowls were very hot. They had to move their hands often. When Lady Khujjuttara saw them doing this, she offered 8 of her bracelets and said, “Please put your alms-bowl on top of these bracelets.” The Pacceka Buddhas did so, and, as she knew their wishes, she said, “I don’t need these bracelets, and as I have donated these bracelets already, may you please receive them.” After receiving the bracelets, the Pacceka Buddhas named her because of this “Nanthamullaka”. The result of this good karma that she had done, made her knowledgeable in the Tripitaka and have great wisdom.

Now we look at her life in the era of our Buddha. Lady Khujjuttara came down from the deva realm and was reborn in the womb of a babysitter in the house of the wealthy family of Ghosaka. They called her Uttara, but, later on, because she was a hunchback, she got the name “Khujjuttara”. When the wealthy man Ghosaka offered Lady Samavati to King Udena, Lady Khujjuttara was made a maid-servant of Queen Samavati within the royal court of King Udena. During that period, the wealthy men, Ghosaka, Kukkuta, and Pāvārika offered three monasteries in the city of Kosambi to the Buddha. They invited the Buddha and community of monks to receive meals regularly. After about a month, the three wealthy men thought that “Ordinarily, Buddhas are ones who help the whole world, so we will give the opportunity to all the people in Kosambi City to make merit with the Buddha”. Since that day, the people of Kosambi had the opportunity to offer dana to the Lord Buddha and the community of monks. 

Then one day, a man called Sumana, who was one of the gardeners of these wealthy people and had faith in the Lord Buddha, requested permission from them to invite the Buddha along with the community of monks to come and have a meal at his house. At that time, Lady Khujjuttara would receive 8 coins (kalpanas) from Queen Samavati, and she would go to the gardener’s house to buy flowers everyday. But on that day, the gardener Sumana saw her and said, “Mother Uttara, today I don’t have time to give you flowers. I am offering a meal to the monks with the Buddha at the head. But since you have come already, you should help me in attending on the Buddha and the monks. If you do this, then you will be able to be free from being a servant of another person.”

Lady Khujjuttara was delighted and therefore attended to the Lord Buddha and the Sangha from the kitchen. And her mind had long been interested in Dhamma. She learned all the Dhamma that the Buddhas had taught in the past. And with this power of goodness and the latent traits from listening to the teachings of the Buddha in the past, she attained to becoming a sotapanna, or stream-enterer.

Before, she would receive the 8 coins from Queen Samavati and buy only 4 coins worth of flowers and keep 4 coins for herself. But, now that she had attained to stream-entry, she used all 8 coins to buy flowers. So, on this day, she brought back more flowers than usual to Queen Samavati. And this is quite normal in this world, that people go to buy things for their boss and they keep a small portion for themselves. This is small corruption. When people keep a lot this is called large corruption. This can be quite prevalent. Whether it is Thailand or other places, it is like this. Whether it is the Buddha’s time or the present day, it is still like this.

Queen Samavati was surprised at the abundance of flowers and therefore asked her, “Mother Uttara, on the other days usually you didn’t bring this many flowers, but why today are you bringing back so many flowers? Is it that King Udena has more faith?” Khujjuttara didn’t want to lie. She wanted to come clean and so she told Queen Samavati all about it. She couldn’t lie anymore, because she had virtue in her heart. This was the goodness from listening to the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha. Now Queen Samavati knew that Khujjuttara was someone with virtue within her heart and wanted to hear the Dhamma that the Buddha taught. So Queen Samavati said “May you share with us the nectar of the deathless (amrita) that you have drunk from.” Khujjuttara replied, “Then please let me take a bath first.” The Queen had her bathed with sixteen perfumed water vessels. She gave the highest respect to the Buddha and his teachings. Then she ordered two pieces of fine cloth. One piece was for Khujjuttara to be clothed in, and the other was used to cover a sitting mat. On the sitting mat, she held an exquisite fan, then she spoke the Dhamma that she had heard from the Lord Buddha to Queen Samavati and all her retinue. Queen Samavati along with all her retinue attained to becoming sotapannas.

At that time, all the women paid their respects to Khujjuttara and said, “From this day forth, please do not do these humble jobs anymore. May you take up the status as our mother and our teacher.” And they established her in a position of respect. Later, these women, with Queen Samavati as the head, asked Khujjuttara to go every day to listen to the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha then come back and repeat the teaching for them. They all had great joy in the Dhamma. She became carried on the Tripitaka. For this reason, the Lord Buddha appointed her as the foremost of all the lay women in great learning.

We have now listened to the story of Lady Khujjuttara, and we can see that she has some good aspects and some bad ones as well. The bad part was that she had made karma by mocking a Pacceka Buddha, which resulted in her being born with a hunchback. But she had faith and confidence in many Buddhas. She had faith in making merit, practicing generosity, keeping morality, and deeply learning the Dhamma. She set the determination to be the foremost of all the lay women in great learning, in which she succeeded. Therefore, when we study Dhamma, practice Dhamma, and investigate Dhamma – we build and grow our parami, or spiritual qualities, and one day, when our parami is full, we will understand and see the Dhamma of the Buddha. May you all grow in the Dhamma of the Buddha. May you all grow in blessings.

Questions and Answers:

1. Q: Was Khujjuttara’s offer of bracelets to the Pacceka Buddhas a karmic cause of her having wisdom and being able to understand Dhamma quickly? Or were there other causes for this?

Luang Por Anan: Khujjuttara had to be intelligent, quick witted, and brave to observe that the Pacceka Buddhas needed bracelets and then to offer them. She was also smart to see that she should specify that the bracelets were a gift for them to keep. She had wisdom and faith already at this point. She also already had the prophecy of becoming the foremost in learning, so the offering of bracelets was a way of building more parami and making it easier for her to succeed in her aspiration.

2. Q: Who was the layman who was the best attendant during the Buddha’s time? What about other foremost lay disciples?

Luang Por Anan: Anathapindika was the foremost attendant among male lay followers. He had determined to be the best attendant to five Buddhas, all said to be of the current aeon: Buddha Kakusandha, Buddha Konagamana, Buddha Kassapa, Buddha Gautama, and the future Buddha, Mettaya, who will be the last Buddha to whom he will attend.

Lady Visakha was the foremost female lay attendant. She attained to stream entry at the age of 7. At this age she was already skilled at organizing offerings to the Buddha and his monks.

Citta the householder attained to non-returning and was skilled at deep meditation. He was the foremost Dhamma speaker among male lay disciples.

There are many more foremost lay and monastic disciples of the Buddha.

All of us can determine to build parami in a specific areas that we ourselves have faith in, then we may be able to succeed in that aspiration.

Ven. Luang Pu Chah spoke of one monk from China. This monk cleaned many Buddha statues and made them beautiful. He was very intent to make them beautiful. Luang Pu Chah said that this monk was foremost in this area and advised the monks that they should each have a skill that they excel in, a skill that they would be better in than the others in the group.

3. Q: Is it difficult to have 8 Pacceka Buddhas arise all at once like in the story? Does this happen only at certain times or happen often?

Luang Por Anan: After this Buddha dispensation the lifespan decreases, then there will be a disaster, but those with sila can escape that disaster. Then sila and lifespan increases among humans, there is no Buddha dispensation, and during this time Pacceka Buddhas arise, sometimes many at the same time. They go for alms and those with faith offer them food. This can happen between periods of Buddha dispensations.

4. Q: After a Buddha dispensation, is there always a time of having no Buddha dispensation? Why is there always a gap?

Luang Por Anan: During this gap people are not interested in Dhamma and tend to have no sila. Then sila increases and Pacceka Buddhas come down and attain enlightenment.

5. Q: I read that the attendants to Queen Samavati and the Queen, herself, all died in a fire. At that time all of them attained to stream entry or higher attainments. Why was there a fire?

Luang Por Anan: Another queen of King Udena, Queen Magandiya, had a grudge against the Buddha and Queen Samavati and tried to kill or frame Queen Samavati many times. But Queen Magandiya failed in those past attempts. Then she and her relatives set Queen Samavati’s palace on fire, which killed those inside.

The cause of this was that, in a past life, Queen Samavati and those attendants were bathing in a river. It was cold, so Queen Samavati ordered a fire to be made. Later they saw that a Pacceka Buddha was sitting in nirodha samapatti, a deep state of meditation called the attainment of cessation, where they had lit the fire. The Pacceka Buddha was not harmed, but the Queen was worried that she would get in trouble with her father, the king. So she ordered the Pacceka Buddha to be burnt to death, thereby laying the causes for her future suffering. The Pacceka Buddha did not die but the Queen suffered greatly due to that action.

6. Q: I heard that one should not do metta for a deceased loved one, but that one should send them merit. Why is this?

Luang Por Anan: It is natural for one to suffer over the death of a loved friend or relative. If one does metta for them, then that attachment can arise again, bringing up suffering in the heart. But one should send the merit that has arisen already in our hearts to them so that they can gain happiness from that.

7. Q: We see that the mind is weak and wants to do bad, but we cannot stop ourselves from doing that bad action. How does one overcome this weak mind?

Luang Por Anan: Have mindfulness to know that one is doing bad and feeling weak minded. Be intent to make effort to cut off bad action. Luang Pu Chah once taught an alcoholic that he should decrease the amount that he drinks and to drink less often. One day he will stop. Luang Pu Chah taught him to see the drawbacks of drinking and the benefits of not drinking. One should keep trying to practice and keep trying to improve.

8. Q: Stream enterers cannot perform the 5 heinous crimes. Is there a sixth crime?

Luang Por Anan: The five heinous crimes in Buddhism are killing one’s mother, killing one’s father, killing an arahant, causing a Buddha to bleed, and creating a schism in the Sangha. There is no sixth heinous crime in the traditional list. However, wrong view has worse results that the 5 heinous crimes. Wrong view is more dangerous and has more grave results.

9. Q: Why is the right shoulder exposed for monks and not the left?

Luang Por Anan: Here is a contemplation for next week: Why is Sariputta, the foremost in wisdom, on the right of the Buddha, and MahaMogallana, the foremost in psychic powers, on the left?