Posted by: lrrp | February 7, 2012

Arahath Kundadhana Thero – The monk and the phantom woman

Chapter X – DANDA VAGGA – The Rod of Punishment
M’avoca pharusam kanci vutta pativadeyyu tam

Dukkha hi sarambha katha patidanda phuseyyu tam. [133]

Don’t speak harshly to anyone; those who are thus spoken to will retort.
Malicious talk is indeed the cause of trouble (dukkha) and retribution will come to you. [133]
Sace neresi attanam kamso upahato yatha

Esa patto’si nibbanam sarambho te na vijjati. [134]

If you can keep yourself calm and quiet, like a broken gong which is no longer resonant,
you are sure to realise Nibbana;1 there will be no harshness in you. [134]

Since the day Kundadhana was admitted to the Order, the vision of a female was always following him. This vision was seen by others, but Kundadhana himself did not see it and so did not know about it.

When he was out on an almsround, people would offer two spoonfuls to him saying, ‘This is for you Venerable Sir, and this is for your female companion.’ Seeing the bhikkhu going about with a woman, people reported the matter to King Pasenadi of Kosala. They requested the king to investigate this happening. So the king went to the monastery where the bhikkhu was staying.

Hearing noises and voices, the bhikkhu came out and stood at the door, and the vision also appeared not far from the bhikkhu. Knowing that the king had come, the bhikkhu went into the room to wait for him. As the king entered the room, the vision disappeared. When questioned, the innocent bhikkhu replied that he saw no woman. The king wanted to make sure and asked the bhikkhu to leave the room for a while, but when the king looked out, again he saw the woman. But when the bhikkhu returned to the room the woman was nowhere to be found. The king concluded that the woman was not real and so the bhikkhu must be innocent. He therefore paid respects to him and invited the bhikkhu for almsfood.

When other bhikkhus heard about this, they were puzzled and said to him, ‘O bhikkhu with no morals! Now that the king, instead of accusing you has invited you for almsfood, you are doomed!’ Kundadhana retorted, ‘Only you are the ones without morals; only you are doomed because you are the ones who go about with women!`

When the matter was reported to the Buddha, he admonished Kundadhana, ‘My son, did you see any woman with the other bhikkhus that you have talked to them thus? You have not seen any woman with them in the way that they have seen one with you. I see that you don’t realise that you have been affected on account of a bad deed done by you in the past existence. Now I will explain why you have an image of a woman following you about.’

‘You were a deva in your past existence. During that time, there were two bhikkhus who were very much attached to each other. But you tried to create trouble between the two, by assuming the appearance of a woman and following one of the two bhikkhus. For that evil deed you are now being followed by the image of a woman. So, my son, in the future do not argue with other bhikkhus any more; keep silent and strive to realise Nibbana.


  1. One who follows this exemplary practice, even though not yet having attained Nibbana, is regarded as having attained Nibbana.


Arahath Kundadhana Thero

He was proclaimed the first among those who received food tickets (salaka). He came of a brahmin family of Savatthi and his name was Dhana. He knew the Vedas by heart, and when advanced in years, heard the Buddha preach and joined the Order. From that day, however, in all his movements the form of a young woman followed him wherever he went, though he himself could not see the figure. This caused great merriment and evoked many sarcastic remarks, which he could not understand. When he went for alms women would put into his bowl two portions of food, saying, One is for your Reverence and the other for your friend, the young lady, your companion. In the monastery the novices and young monks would point at him and say: Look, our venerable one has become a konda (gallant?). From this he became known as Konda- or Kundadhana. Driven to distraction by this teasing, he became abusive and was reported to the Buddha, who hade him be patient as he was only being pursued by the remnant of an evil kamma. Pasenadi, king of Kosala, hearing of Kundadhana, was interested, and being satisfied by personal investigation that the Elder was blameless, provided him with all necessaries, so that he need no longer go round for alms. This enabled him to concentrate his mind, and he became an arahant. Thereupon the figure of the woman disappeared.

Kundadhanas claim to be the first among receivers of salaka was due to the fact that he it was who received the first food ticket when the Buddha visited

Maha Subhadda at Ugganagara,

Culla Subhadda at Saketa, and also

the Sunaparanta janapada.

Only khinasavas were allowed to accompany the Buddha on these visits.

Kundadhanas determination to attain this special eminence was formed in the time of Padumuttara Buddha. Once he gave Padumuttara a well ripened comb of bananas when the Buddha arose from a long trance. As a result he became king of the devas eleven times and king of men twenty four times.

He was an earthbound sprite in the time of Kassapa Buddha. Seeing two monks, firm friends, on their way to the uposatha held by the Buddha, he had a mischievous desire to test their friendship, and when one of the monks retired into the forest leaving the other on the road, he followed the former, unseen by him, assuming the form of a woman arranging her hair, adjusting her garments, and so on. The second monk, seeing his friend return and shocked by his apparent misdemeanour, left him in disgust, refusing to perform the uposatha with him. Realising the effect of his practical joke, the sprite did all he could to make amends, but the friendship of the two monks was for ever spoilt. The sprite suffered the fears of hell for a whole Buddha era, and even in his last birth as Kundadhana his evil kamma pursued him, as seen above.

(Wisdom Library)


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