Once in our Blessed One’s Time, an elderly Theri named Bodhi and a much younger and beautiful Nun named Isidāsī Theri, were having a cup of tea. Both of the virtuous Nuns had attained Arahantship. Bodhi Theri renounced the world because she was having many difficulties. With a curious mind, she wondered why Isidāsī Theri had ordained when she was immensely beautiful, well-mannered and had every reason to live a lay life. So she decided to clear her doubts by asking Isidāsī Theri this. “Dear Isidāsī Theri, you are a very pleasant and well mannered young woman, but for what reason have you ordained? What evil have you seen to renounce the world?” inquired Bodhi Theri. Isidāsī Theri with a little smile replied “Venerable Bodhi Theri, I will tell you of the dreadful suffering and immense embarrassment I had to face during my lay life.”
The start of immense suffering
During my lay life, I lived in the city of Uchini, the capital of the kingdom, Avanti. My father was a wealthy merchant and we were a very high-status family where I was the only and most beloved child that my father adored and protected. When I came of age, my father met up with his merchant friend and told him to marry his son to me. The merchant and his son, seeing my beauty, immediately agreed. After the wedding took place, I moved into my husband’s house. I took care of my husband’s parents as if they were my own, they loved me with all their heart and even though there were servants, I prepared the meals for my husband, I never behaved inappropriately with him. But he, instead of being pleased with me, spited me with all his heart and was fed up with me. So, he went and complained to his parents and he didn’t want to even consider their marriage and have her out of his sight. His immensely shocked parents asked him what I had done to make him so absent and angry. He said “She has done nothing wrong to me. She has served me well. But now I cannot bear the sight of her! I despise her tremendously. If she doesn’t leave then I WILL!” My parents-in-law, surprised and worried about this, called me in after their son had left. They asked me kindly but with worry in their voices, “Dear sweet Isidāsī, our son is dreadfully upset. If you have done any wrong, may it be deliberate or accidental, we shall forgive you and protect you from any spite. That we promise. Please tell us if you have done any misdeed. We’ll help you correct it.” I was confused and shocked at this and I replied, “My dear mother, father, I have done nothing wrong to my husband, I treat him well and do all the work for him. I have never had any evil thoughts against him nor have I slandered him. I’ve worked for him as a slave would have.” My parents-in-law were surprised at this, then decided sadly that they couldn’t lose their son. And with a heavy heart, they sent me back to my father. I was greatly embarrassed and upset about this. My father took me back under his protection and care.
The second unfortunate marriage
Later on, my father found another suitor for me. Even though he knew I was married before he looked forward to marrying me. I saw that this was my second chance to bring pride instead of embarrassment to my family and agreed to marry him. So eventually, we were married. Then the same misfortune occurred again. I took care of all the necessities that my parents-in-law needed. And always took time to care for them and so they loved me dearly. But alas, the same cannot be said of my husband’s love. I treated my second husband with the utmost respect and with much care. I cooked and prepared the meals myself, not allowing the servants to help. I never acted inappropriately with him nor did I think of any evil thoughts against him. Despite my hard work, my respect, my good behaviour, my attention and love, my husband could never bear the sight of me and finally spoke against me to my parents-in-law who were deeply troubled by this. “This is the LAST STRAW mother, father! I CANNOT bear her any longer! She has done nothing wrong nor did she provoke me but I DO NOT want her in this house! Send her back IMMEDIATELY or you shall never hear from me or see me again!!!” He yelled. At the end of the grave and spiteful statement of his, he went out of the room. Soon my parents-in-law called me in to ask what wrong I’ve done, they promised that they would forgive me and correct me. They would protect me as well. But after I answered that I’ve done nothing wrong, they sent me back to my father with heavy hearts and tears in their eyes. I went back deeply hurt and embarrassed about my second unfortunate marriage. Then my father took me back under his care once again.
After a while, there came a ragged-clothed, limping beggar who came begging for food to the mansion where I lived during my lay life. Seeing the bent beggar with a stick for support, wearing ragged clothes and a small broken bowl for food my father called him into the mansion. And then the beggar asked, “Oh Great Sir, I have come to ask if I could have some food and drink.” My father then responded with a compassionate smile, “You shall not only have some food and drink from us, but I will also give your hand in marriage to my only and most beloved daughter, this entire mansion, all the money you want, all the clothes you desire, many varieties of delicious foods and drink to fulfil your heart’s desire.”. The wide-eyed beggar stared mouth-opened at my father trying to believe his luck. He readily accepted and married me. Despite his ugliness, I cared for him well, I did as he wanted and gave him all the facilities I could. I treated him respectfully and lovingly. Not a thought of regret about our marriage came into my mind. But in a few days, fate had taken him away as it took away my other husbands. The beggar, wearing his ragged clothes, carrying his old stick and chipped bowl, begged my father to let him go and that he didn’t want anything to do with me. My father tried in vain to stop him from leaving and asked what I had done to prevent him from staying at the mansion and living comfortably. The beggar then answered, “She has done me no wrong, she has taken care of me like a prince instead of an ugly, bent beggar. She was a virtuous, appropriate wife to have but for some reason, I cannot live with her any longer, I have no desire to look at her. I don’t want anything! I just want to leave!” with that, he left the mansion. My father was greatly devastated. I thought “I am a curse to my loving parents. It is because of my problems that they are suffering and that I am a burden to them. That was my third husband and as my previous two husbands, he had gone away to be apart from me. What have I done wrong? Haven’t I served them well? Is there NO SOLUTION?”
And then I had a grave thought of ending my life then and there.
Great Refuge At Last!
But before that dangerous and greatly wrong deed was accomplished, due to some merit I’ve collected in my previous lives, I saw a great and peaceful looking Nun on her alms round. She was a heart-warming sight for me then. I decided that I would also live a virtuous and peaceful life and I begged my parents for that very life with no sufferings. They declined my thought and when I said I would go into extremes to earn that great life they reluctantly gave me their permission to ordain. And so I went to that enlightened Nun who had overcome sufferings and ordained. During my seventh day after ordination, I overcame all sufferings and became a fully enlightened Arahant Nun. I also gained three supernormal powers, one of them being the ability to see past lives. Using that supernatural power I learnt the reasons for my unsuccessful and embarrassing marriages.
The Cruel Past Lives of Isidāsī Theri
Seven lives ago, I was born as a handsome young goldsmith. Many ladies were attracted by my handsomeness. But I used many young women to fulfil my sensual pleasures thus breaking their hearts. And after death, I was born in hell and suffered very much due to my cheating/inappropriate behaviour. After my extensive punishments in hell were over I was born in the Animal world as a monkey. Seven days after my birth in that life, my reproductive parts were bitten off by the leader of the monkeys to prevent future rivalries, hence no matter how badly I desired to engage in sexual activity, I couldn’t, and that also made me undesirable to the female monkeys. After that life ended I was born as a sheep in the animal world and was castrated which prevented me from any sexual urges I got and was forced to live in misery for twelve long years. After that life, I was born as an ox and was yet again castrated and my fate repeated itself. In that previous life as a goldsmith, I was able to avoid any hard labour but then as an ox, it was all I did. When that life came to an end I was born as a human but as a “hermaphrodite” and gained both male and female organs which led me to become an outcast in society. Later in my next life, I was born as a beautiful girl into a low-cast family with a father who was unable to pay his debts. I was sold to a rich family, to pay off the debt to them and worked as a servant girl. I ended up marrying a wealthy merchant’s son who already had a kind wife. So I did everything I could to make the first wife and my husband divorce and finally succeeded. After death, I was born into a wealthy family as a beautiful daughter but had to suffer three divorces.
I was fortunate to meet the Dhamma and now I am a fully enlightened Arahant Nun who realizes that no action whether good or bad is gone without payment. With that Isidāsī Theri concluded her Karmic Journey Story.
Any action we commit bears fruit and even if we forget, Karma never forgets and makes sure we get paid correctly according to our deeds. It is like when a person throws a bag of feces right above their head into the sky, and as a course of nature, the bag of feces will be certain to fall back down onto the person who threw it. It would’ve been better never to have thrown it at all.
Watch this beautiful short animated story of Isidasi Theri, A Journey of Kamma.