Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C. B. Varma Introduction | Glossary | Bibliography

093 – Nanda

Nanda, though embraced monkhood still pines for Janapada Kalyani, Ajanta

N anda was the step-brother of the Buddha; and his mother was the younger sister of Maha Maya.

Once visiting Kapilavatthu he visited his half brother’s palace, who was getting married to the most gracious woman of the time, whose name was Janapadakalyani Nanda. (She was called so because her graceful appearance was to grace the whole of the janapada). Upon visiting Nanda Buddha asked him to carry his alms bowl to his vihara. So, Nanda left the palace and kept his prospective bride waiting.

In the vihara Buddha inspired Nanda to renounce the worldly life for the sake of eternal bliss. Though he was inspired by the words of the Buddha and accepted the renunciation, yet his resolve was infirm and half-hearted. Besides, he pined for his pretty bride with strong sensual desires, which gradually broke his health. The Buddha read his mind and knew the remedy.

One day, the Buddha asked him to accompany him to the Himalayas. On the way he showed him the charred body of a female monkey. To examine the intensity of his brother’s sensual passions he then asked him whether his bride was prettier than the charred body of the animal. Nanda answered in affirmative.

Buddha then took him to the Tavatimsa, where Sakka and his nymphets extended every hospitality to them. There, the Buddha again asked Nanda whether Janapadakalyani Nanda was prettier than those nymphets. Nanda then answered in negative. The Buddha then promised him to get him any of those nymphets as his espouse if he would lead a monastic life. Nanda in his eagerness agreed. But when he reached the monastery where the eighty monks questioned his pledge for monk-hood, he felt ashamed. Soon he mustered up his courage and strove for attainment of the arahatahood. And by and by he achieved his target.

He then came to the Buddha and absolved him of his Tavatimsa promise.

See Theragatha 157 f.; Theragatha Atthakatha i.276 ff.; Dhammapada Atthakatha i. 96-105, 1.103;