Fashion designer Maher Gillani recounts the tale of Buddhist nun Khema’s path to enlightenment
Just as there were two for most disciples in the order of monks, namely Shariputra and Moggallana, likewise Buddha named two women as foremost amongst nuns, Uppalavanna and Khema.
The name Khema means well-settled or composed or security and is synonymous for nirvana. The nun Khema belonged to a royal family from the land of Magadha. When she was of marriageable age, she became one of the chef 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 Buddha from her husband, she became interested, but she had a certain reluctance to become involved with his teaching. She felt the teaching would run counter to her life of sense-pleasure and indulgences. The King tried to influence her to listen to his 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. The Exalted One spoke to her and explained the law of impermanence of all conditioned beauty to her. She gave her full attention to the sermon and still dressed in royal garments, she attained enlightenment, just like the monk Mahakappina (a former king). She likewise became liberated through the power of the Buddha’s words while still dressed in the garment of the laity. With her husband’s permission, she joined the Order of Nuns as Khema.
Such an attainment, almost like lighting, is only possible where the seed of wisdom has long been ripening and virtue is fully matured.
An ordinary person hearing Khema’s story only sees the wonder of the present happening. A Buddha can see beyond this and knows that this woman did not come to full liberation accidentally, but the transformation was due to her inner attraction towards higher truth.
While most people were either milling around the realms of heaven or hell during Buddha’s lifetime, Khema always tried to be near the source of wisdom. Buddha even praised her as being the nun foremost in wisdom. Khema purified her heart and perfected her virtues now that she was mature enough. She had such pure tranquil emotions, that she could accept the ultimate Truth in the twinkling of an eye.
Brand: “BiBi” (summer 2017 ethnic kimono trends)
Designed by Maher Gillani
Make-up & styling by Bobby Jazavi
Photography by Suranjith Arachchi
Model: Maher Gillani
Location: Buddha temples (Srilanka)
Spacial thanks: Ahsan Hussain