There was a courtesan in Mathura named Vasavadatta. She happened
to see Upagutta, one of Buddha's disciples, a tall and beautiful
youth, and fell desperately in love with him. Vasavadatta sent an
invitation to the young man, but he replied: "The time has not
yet arrived when Upagutta will visit Vasavadatta."
The courtesan was astonished at the reply, and she sent again for
him, saying: "Vasavadatta desires love, not gold, from Upagutta."
But Upagutta made the same enigmatic reply and did not come.
A few months later Vasavadatta had a love-intrigue with the chief
of the artisans, and at that time a wealthy merchant came to
Mathura, who fell in love with Vasavadatta. Seeing his wealth,
and fearing the jealousy of her other lover, she contrived the
death of the chief of the artisans, and concealed his body under
When the chief of the artisans had disappeared, his relatives and
friends searched for him and found his body. Vasavadatta,
however, was tried by a judge, and condemned to have her ears and
nose, her hands and feet cut off, and flung into a graveyard.
Vasavadatta had been a passionate girl, but kind to her servants,
and one of her maids followed her, and out of love for her former
mistress ministered unto her in her agonies, and chased away the
Now the time had arrived when Upagutta decided to visit
When he came, the poor woman ordered her maid to collect and hide
under a cloth her severed limbs; and he greeted her kindly, but
she said with petulance: "Once this body was fragrant like the
lotus, and I offered thee my love. In those days I was covered
with pearls and fine muslin. Now I am mangled by the executioner
and covered with filth and blood."
"Sister," said the young man, "it is not for my pleasure that I
approach thee. It is to restore to thee a nobler beauty than the
charms which thou hast lost.
"I have seen with mine eyes the Tathagata walking upon earth and
teaching men his wonderful doctrine. But thou wouldst not have
listened to the words of righteousness while surrounded with
temptations, while under the spell of passion and yearning for
worldly pleasures. Thou wouldst nor have listened to the
teachings of the Tathagata, for thy heart was wayward, and thou
didst set thy trust on the sham of thy transient charms.
"The charms of a lovely form are treacherous, and quickly lead
into temptations, which have proved too strong for thee. But
there is a beauty which will not fade, and if thou wilt but
listen to the doctrine of our Lord, the Buddha, thou wilt find
that peace which thou wouldst have found in the restless world of
Vasavadatta became calm and a spiritual happiness soothed the
tortures of her bodily pain; for where there is much suffering
there is also great bliss.
Having taken refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha,
she died in pious submission to the punishment of her crime.
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