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Mallikādevī Suttaṃ

(A.ii.203)

To Queen Mallikā

At one time the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthi in Prince Jeta’s grove at Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Then Queen Mallikā approached the Blessed One, and having approached, paid homage to the Blessed One and sat down at once side. Sitting at one side Queen Mallikā said to the Blessed One:–

“Venerable sir, what is the cause, what is the reason that some women are ugly (dubaṇṇā), unshapely (durūpā), of evil appearance (supāpikā),¹ poor (daliddā), with little property (appassakā), little wealth (appabhogā), and little influence (appesakkhā)? Venerable sir, what is the cause, what is the reason that some women are ugly, unshapely, of evil appearance, but rich, with much property, great wealth, and great influence? Venerable sir, what is the cause, what is the reason that some women are beautiful (abhirūpa), extremely (paramāya) pleasing to behold (dassanīyā pāsādikā), endowed with lotus-like complexion (vaṇṇapokkharatāya samannāgatā), but poor, with little property, little wealth, and little influence? Venerable sir, what is the cause, what is the reason that some women are beautiful, extremely pleasing to behold, endowed with lotus-like complexion, and rich, with much property, great wealth, and great influence?”

“Herein, Mallikā, a certain woman is angry (kodhanā), given to irascibility (upāyāsabahulā). Even if a little is said to scold her she becomes ill-tempered (kuppati), antagonistic (byāpajjati), and obdurate (patitthīyati), manifesting ill-temper (kopa), anger (dosa), and sulkiness (appaccaya). She does not give food, water, clothing, vehicles, garlands, perfumes, cosmetics, beds and chairs, dwelling-places, or lights to recluses and priests. She is envious, resentful, and grudging, envying the gains (lābha), honour (sakkāra), respect (garukāra),  reverence (mānana), homage (vandana) and offerings (pūjanā) to others. After death, if she comes back to this state, wherever she is reborn she is ugly, unshapely, of evil appearance, poor, with little property, little wealth, and little influence.

“Herein, Mallikā, a certain woman is angry, given to irascibility. Even if a little is said to scold her she becomes ill-tempered, antagonistic, and obdurate, manifesting ill-temper, anger, and sulkiness. However, she gives food, water, clothing, vehicles, garlands, perfumes, cosmetics, beds and chairs, dwelling-places, or lights to recluses and priests. She is not envious, resentful, and grudging, envying the gains, honour, respect, reverence, homage, and offerings to others. After death, if she comes back to this state, wherever she is reborn, she is ugly, unshapely, of evil appearance, but she is rich, with much property, great wealth, and great influence.

“Herein, Mallikā, a certain woman is not angry, not given to irascibility. Even if much is said to scold her she does not become ill-tempered, antagonistic, and obdurate, she does not manifest ill-temper, anger, and sulkiness. She does not give food, water, clothing, vehicles, garlands, perfumes, cosmetics, beds and chairs, dwelling-places, or lights to recluses and priests. She is envious, resentful, and grudging, envying the gains, honour, respect, reverence, homage, and offerings to others. After death, if she comes back to this state, wherever she is reborn, she is beautiful, extremely pleasing to behold, endowed with lotus-like complexion, but poor, with little property, little wealth, and little influence.

“Here, Mallikā, a certain woman is not angry, not given to irascibility. Even if much is said to scold her she does not become ill-tempered, antagonistic, and obdurate, she does not manifest ill-temper, anger, and sulkiness. She gives food, water, clothing, vehicles, garlands, perfumes, cosmetics, beds and chairs, dwelling-places, or lights to recluses and priests. She is not envious, resentful, and grudging, envying the gains, honour, respect, reverence, homage, and offerings to others. After death, if she comes back to this state, wherever she is reborn, she is beautiful, extremely pleasing to behold, endowed with lotus-like complexion, she is rich, with much property, great wealth, and great influence.

“This is the cause, Mallikā, this is the reason why some women are ugly, unshapely, of evil appearance, and poor, with little property, little wealth, and little influence. This is the cause, Mallikā, this is the reason why some women are ugly, unshapely, of evil appearance, but rich with much property, great wealth, and great influence. This is the cause, Mallikā, this is the reason why some women are beautiful, extremely pleasing to behold, endowed with lotus-like complexion, but poor, with little property, little wealth, and little influence. This is the cause, Mallikā, this is the reason why some women are beautiful, extremely pleasing to behold, endowed with lotus-like complexion, and rich, with much property, great wealth, and great influence.” ²

When this was said, Queen Mallikā said to the Blessed One: “I assume, venerable sir, that in another birth I was angry, given to irascibility, even if a little was said to scold me I became ill-tempered, antagonistic, and obdurate, manifesting ill-temper, anger, and sulkiness because, venerable sir, now I am ugly, unshapely, of evil appearance.³ I assume, venerable sir, that in another birth I gave food, water, clothing, vehicles, garlands, perfumes, cosmetics, beds and chairs, dwelling-places, and lights, because, venerable sir, I am now rich, of great wealth. I assume, venerable sir, that in another birth I was not envious, resentful, and grudging, not envying the gains, honour, respect, reverence, homage, and offerings to others, because, venerable sir, now I have great influence.⁴ There are, venerable sir, in the king’s household girls of nobles, brahmins, and householders over whom I exercise authority. From today onwards, venerable sir, I will not be angry, not given to irascibility, even if much is said to scold me I will not become ill-tempered, antagonistic, and obdurate, I will not manifest ill-temper, anger, and sulkiness. I will give food, water, clothing, vehicles, garlands, perfumes, cosmetics, bedding, dwelling-places, and lights. I will not be envious, resentful, and grudging, not envying the gains, honour, respect, reverence, homage, and offerings to others.

“It is wonderful, venerable sir! It is marvellous, venerable sir!  It is as if, venerable sir, someone had set upright what had been overturned, revealed what was hidden, pointed out the path to one who was lost, brought a light into the darkness so that those with eyes can see. Thus, venerable sir, the Blessed One has explained the Dhamma in various ways. I go for refuge to the Blessed One, to the Dhamma, and to the Saṅgha. May the Blessed One regard me as a disciple who has taken refuge from today for as long as I shall live.”

Notes:

1. The Commentary glosses:Dubbaṇṇāti bībhacchavaṇṇā = disgusting, dreadful. Durūpāti dussaṇṭhitā = badly formed. Supāpikāti suṭṭhu pāpikā suṭṭhu lāmikā = evil, inferior.

2. These three causes of beauty, wealth, and influence are also given in the Lesser Discourse on the Analysis of Kamma.

3. The DPPN says that Mallikā was beautiful, but this is contradicted here by her own words.

4. King Pasenadi’s first wife was Vāsabhakhattiyā, the daughter of the Buddha’s cousin, Mahānāma, from a relationship with a slave-woman. Mallikā was just sixteen when she cared for the king after he had been defeated in battle by King Ajātasattu, and was promoted to his chief queen on the very same day that she had offered rice gruel to the Buddha. Thereafter, she became the king’s favourite and confidante.