Bhaddā Kundalakesā and Sāriputta’s Question

Bhaddā was also known as ‘Kundalakesā’ (or curly-hair) because after her hair was ripped out at the roots as part of her ordination into the Jains it grew back curly.  She became a Jain because she had no desire for lay life.  Sensual pleasures and possessions meant nothing to her anymore.  But Bhaddā was not satisfied with the Jain teachings.  She left the order and became a solitary wanderer.

Wandering through India, she visited many spiritual teachers and learned a variety of religious doctrines.  Not only did her knowledge grow, but she quickly excelled in the art of debate.  In a short time she became one of the most famous debaters in India.  When she entered a town, she would make a sand pile and stick a rose-apple branch into it.  In this way she announced to anyone who would debate her that they could let her know by trampling on her sand pile.

One day Bhaddā came to Sāvatthī and erected her sand pile.  The Venerable Sāriputta was staying at the Jetavana monastery at the time.  He heard of Bhaddā’s arrival and, ready for a debate, sent some children to trample her sand pile.  Bhaddā headed to the Jetavana monastery ready to meet her challenger.

She put a number of questions to the Venerable Sāriputta, but he answered them all.  She did this until she had nothing more to say.  Then Sāriputta put a question to Bhaddā, “What is the one?”  She remained silent, unable to determine what the question meant.

She asked the Venerable Sāriputta for the answer, but he said he would tell her only if she entered the Buddhist order.  She went to the bhikkhuni’s for ordination and within a few days attained arahantship.

(Note: This story about Bhaddā and Sāriputta, which relates only a part of the rich life Bhaddā led, can be found in Great Disciples of the Buddha: Their Lives, Their Works, Their Legacy, pp. 270 – 71.)

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