Khema - Foremost in Wisdom

The name Khema means well-settled or composed or security and is a synonym for Nibbana. The nun Khema belonged to a royal family from the land of Magadha. When she was of marriageable age, she became one of the chief consorts of King Bimbisara. As beautiful as her appearance was, equally beautiful was her life as the wife of an Indian Maharaja.

When she heard about the Buddha from her husband, she became interested, but she had a certain reluctance to become involved with his teaching. She felt that the teaching would run counter to her life of sense-pleasures and indulgences. The king, however, knew how he could influence her to listen to the teaching. He described at length the harmony, the peace and beauty of the monastery in the Bamboo Grove, where the Buddha stayed frequently. Because she loved beauty, harmony and peace, she was persuaded to visit there.

Decked out in royal splendor with silk and sandalwood, she went to the monastery and was gradually drawn to the hall where the Buddha was teaching. The Buddha, who knew her mind, created by his psych powers a beautiful young woman standing beside him fanning him. Khema thought to herself, "Never before have I seen such a woman. I myself do not come within a fraction of her beauty. Surely those who say the ascetic Gotmama disparages beauty of form must be misrepresenting him." Then the Buddha made the image gradually change from youth to middle age and then to old age

(movie from the excellent Exploring Time web site)

until it finally fell to the ground lifeless. Only then did Khema realize the vanity of external beauty and the fleeting nature of life. She thought, "has such a body as that come to be wrecked? Then my body too must share this fate." And she was established in the fruit of stream-entry, the first level of enlightenment.

The Buddha then taught her the Dhamma, concluding with:

She penetrated this sermon fully and attained to total enlightenment, becaming liberated through the power of the Buddha's words while still dressed in her royal garments. With her husband's permission she joined the Order of Nuns.

The Buddha later praised her as foremost among all the nuns in wisdom.

Exploring Time the source of the movie on this page - very excellent interactive exploration of change over time
Great Disciples of the Buddha by Nyanaponika Thera and Hellmuth Hecker (primary source of the information)
Khema - Access to Insight (an additional source of information)
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