our inner lives
home about us features ask our team inspiration & practice women of vision resources
women of vision header

Mahapajapati Gotma (5th Century BC)

< back to Women of Vision

Mahapajapati was born to an eminent Indian family, and it was predicted that she would have a large following. Her sister, Mahamaya, was a Queen who died a week after giving birth to her son, Prince Siddhartha—the boy who would grow up to be the Buddha. Mahapajapati, stepped in to take care of Siddhartha, adopting him as her own, and marrying her sister’s husband.

Years after the Buddha left home and renounced lay life, his father died, leaving Mahapajapati free to travel in his footsteps and become a Buddhist herself. Some women had already asked the Buddha to be ordained as monks into his order, but he had refused them. But Pajāpatī and some of her female companions had cut off their hair, put on yellow monks’ robes, and followed the Buddha through India on foot. They arrived with wounded feet at the Buddha's monastery and repeated their request to ordain as monastics. The Buddha again refused, but Ananda, his main disciple, interceded on their behalf and Buddha granted their request, subject to eight strict special laws, which still stand today for many Buddhist nuns.

When Mahapajapati was one hundred and twenty years old, she took leave of the Buddha, performed various miracles, and then died. It is said that the marvels which occurred at her cremation were second only to those of the Buddha.


painting by Mn. Jody Hojin Kimmel






Home | About Us | Features | Ask Our Team | Inspiration & Practice | Women of Vision | Resources
Copyright 2010 Feminist.com. All rights reserved.