Buddhist Personality Analysis: Queen Mallika

As a part of my Masters in Ancient Indian Culture and Archaeology I ha presented this paper in “Antarvasikanam Pali Parisa”.

Queen Mallika:

Besides those who embraced homelessness and became Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis, there were large numbers of men and women who took to Buddha Dhamma in their lay-life. These people supported the Sangha in various ways; and more importantly, they tried putting into practice the teachings of the Buddha in their day-to-day lives. It was because of them that even after the monasteries disappeared from India, the teachings of Buddha are still deeply rooted in the Indian society.

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Many of such personalities are mentioned and discussed all through out in the Buddhist Literature. The Jataka tales which are contained in the Kuddaka Nikaya are helpful to analysis such personalities. Jataka stories can be considered as case studies of the Buddhist philosophy. These case studies converse about the dynamics of the human mind and human behavior in different circumstances by giving a variety of stories. These stories highlight how human mind perceives ideas. How mind reacts in extreme situations. The Buddhist doctrine emphasize that all things are preceded by the mind, led by the mind, created by the mind.

The extraordinary story of Mallika rising from the daughter of a gardener to become the principal queen of the kingdoms of Kasi and Kosala is truly fascinating. She held a position of honour and authority; and she was well respected. Her stories very beautifully depict her personality and bring out her nature.

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The story of Queen Mallika first appears in the Kummasapinda Jataka (415E), where the Buddha himself provides with the details of her life. The gardener’s young daughter who gave away her food, to a monk. This act shows that Mallika was of a generous heart and had genuine desire to help the poor and the weak. She was selfless and seeing her act of generosity Buddha said,

‘‘ānanda, ayaṃ kumārikā imesaṃ kummāsapiṇḍānaṃ phalena ajjeva kosalarañño aggamahesī bhavissatī’’

That, this girl will be to-day the chief queen of the Kosala king through the fruit of these portions of gruel.”

Sure enough on the same day Mallika meets the King Pasendi in a garden while she was singing. Remarkably she did not run away having met a stranger in the garden but she approached the king and physically held his horse’s noose. This shows that she was not a shy person but possessed a very brave and remarkable personality. She became the chief queen of the king Pasendi and was loved by all the people. Whenever she was seen in public people would praise her, saying,

‘‘āvuso, mallikā devī buddhānaṃ tayo kummāsapiṇḍe datvā tesaṃ phalena taṃ divasaññeva abhisekaṃ pattā, aho buddhānaṃ mahāguṇatā’’ti

“That is Queen Mallika, who gave alms to the Buddha”

What brings out her alluring personality is that she caught attention of Buddha and the King. Even as a lay devotee she held a privileged position among the close devotees of the Buddha. Queen Mallika had a sound common sense, and would always strive to bring into practice the teachings of her Master, the Buddha in whom she had enormous faith and reverence. She tried to bring love, understanding, kindness and amity into her domestic as well as public life. She exerted considerable influence in moulding the king’s attitude and his policies.

Her intellectual and curious personality is seen when she visits Buddha to ask questions that were puzzling her, questions about how one person can get everything be rich, famous and successful while the other remains poor with no skills and intellect, questions which common man would have passed off or ignored as fate or destiny. On hearing to the Buddha’s discourse that it all is dependent on their kammas, she takes refuse in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha and remained devoted to it all through out her life. This shows her devotion to the teachings of Buddha and her philosophical thinking. Mallika decided to be good with her subjects, she made generous donations to the brahmins and the sangha. She not only gave regular alms but she also donated money to build a large ebony lined hall for the sangha. She was a very kind, gentle and faithful person.

Queen Mallika occurs as a very important personality, as she, in her various lives, is dicussed by Buddha in many Jataka tales. Her strong minded personality is brought out in three different Jatakas ( Sujata, Bhallatiya and Sambula Jataka) were she is said to have gotten into heated arguments with her King, and in all three of them Buddha gives references from her earlier lives were she and her husband, who was none other than the king himself, had fought.

She was an exemplary devoted and faithful wife. In the frame story of the Sambhula jataka Buddha refers to her devotedness from her earlier life as Sambhula, the chief courtesan of the king Sottisena where he was sick with leprosy and left his palace to live in the forest. Sambhula followed him and took care of him. This shows that she was loving, caring and kind hearted even in the previous life. She practiced gentleness in her management of the royal household, in serving her husband; and in caring for the retinue of her staff and her subjects.

And when her husband Pasenadi took Vasabha Khattiya (a cousin of the Buddha) as his second wife, Mallika welcomed her and treated her as a younger sister, without envy or jealousy. It is said; both women lived in peace and harmony at the court. In due course, Vasabha Khattiya, her co-wife, gave birth to a son, the crown prince- to- be; and Mallika delivered to a daughter. However, even when king Pasenadi was disappointed that his principal queen did not present him with a son, Mallika was not envious of Vasabha but rejoiced in Vasabha’s good fortune. This shows that Mallika had a very practical understanding and did not believe in gender biases.

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Once the King Pasenadi asked a wise and well-learned layman whether he could give Dhamma lessons to his two Queens. The Buddha, at the request of the king, appointed his close disciple and cousin Ananda to impart teachings to the two queens. It is said; Queen Mallika understood and learnt easily, while Queen Vasabha Khattiya, cousin of the Buddha and mother of the crown prince could not concentrate and learned with difficulty. This shows that Queen Mallika was a dedicated, sincere, hardworking and an intelligent person.

Inspite of her excellent behavior all through her life, there are instances when her behavior was less than exemplary. The Dammapada story of the Queen Mallika and her indecent act with a dog and the lie told to cover it up from the scrutiny of the king stands out as one of the strangest incidents in the Buddhist literature. Even when the king forced her to confess her “indecent act” she actively refused it and later falsely accused the king himself of having involved in an indecent act with a goat. Privately of course she knew that she lied and hoped that through her offerings to the Buddha she could mitigate the consequences of her acts. However, these caused her to be born in the Avici hell for 7 days. The Buddha not wanting the king to know that his queen was reborn in the avici hell kept this information from him and after when she was born in the Tusita heaven, the Buddha told him so.

She was full of remorse and regret of having being involved in an indecent act and having lied to the king. And with the approaching death she could only think of being unfair to the king. This shows that she was a repentant and regretted her acts. When the King asked Buddha, what he was to do now that his wife is dead? Buddha uttered the following verse,

“Jiranti ve rajaratha sucitta atho sarinam pi jaram upeti 

Satam ca dhammo na jaram upeti santo have sabbhi pavedayanti.” [151]

The much ornate royal carriages do wear out, the body also grows old, but the
Dhamma of the wise does not decay. Thus, indeed, say the wise among themselves.

The name Mallika is embedded in the canonical list as a notable Upasika. Her name also appears in the list of the seven people, “famous even to the gods”, who performed extraordinary deeds which bore fruits in their lifetimes.

Queen Mallika was a very important personality in the Buddhist literature and it is her acts and stories that create a background for the Buddha to give discourses on various topics. All the stories depict her keen mind at work: she comes out to be a smart lady.

 

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