About 2500 years ago, at the time of the Buddha a girl was born into the family of untachables. Her name was Miganda. The family was very poor and had many children to support, sometimes they were starving. As soon as the children could they too had to do some work to increase the income of the family.
Miganda happened to be extremely beautiful. Her hair was almost black but had a red shimmer and when it was not bound into a knot and she stood in the sun, it fell in large red sparkeling waves over her shoulers. Her eyes were uncommonly green, drak green as some of the soft moss in the wonderful cool shade by the pond. Her laughter was like a small stream in a creek, gurgling and chuckling cheerfully.
When she was 5 years old, she was given to a small temple to learn temple dance and serve as templedancer. In old times that had been a holy duty but at Migandas time, it already had been perverted and so the job included having sex with the men of the village who come to the temple. But still it was not the worst business for a girl from the outcast class, commonly they were quite good supported and Miganda’s beauty would grant that she would have a good income.
She learned to dance and to serve and already she was shown how to please men, although she didn’t have to have intercourse yet, not before she was seven years old.
In beauty and grace she surpassed all other girls. One brahmin had seen her and he was immideately infatuated with her beauty, with the way she moved when dancing and with her voice when she sang. He had no family on his own so he decided to take Miganda, care for her and marry her when she would come into age.
He loved her deeply and dearly. She continued to dance, she loved dancing and singing but now she would only do it for him or for his guests. He used to prayse her in front of the guests after each performance. ‘She has fallen out of the skies just for me. She is like a heavenly nymph. See her face, see her eyes. Watch her simle! Isn’t her song even more beautiful than the song of a nightingale? Oh what a grace, every move is just wonderful. Things like this he often said. With every day he becamemore infatuated. She too liked him and was grateful, he was her benefactor and her hero. He had everything a poor girl would want, and more than that. He did not only give her what she needed, soon she found that he would also give her what she wanted. She learned to get what she liked by just one glance of her eyes. He was proud of her like a father and observed her jealously like a husband. When people saw them together they would wonder how this brahmin could have such a beautiful child, since he was not looking particularly good.
One day the Buddha had come to town. The brahmin decided to go and see him, to pay respects, he had met him on an earlier occasionand had been deeply moved and impressed.Of course he would take Miganda and he was shure that even the Buddha would notice her beauty and would possibly comment on it. He was shure the Buddha too would love her, every body did.
When he approached the Buddha, he introduced himself and then Miganda, mentioning that she must have fallen out of the skies just for him. He observed the Buddha’s face when he introduced Miganda and there was, to his surprise, no sign of any liking or any emotion towrds her rather than total impartiallity, total peace and calm.
He sat with her to one side, other people had been there before and more were coming. The Buddha did not look around into his audience but still, the brahmin had the feeling, the Buddha waslooking right into his heart. Miganda had been fairly uninterested while she was introduced, She hummed a bit and danced a bit, absentmindely. But once she had seen the Buddha, once he had looked at her, she dropped dead silent and did not turn her eyes away from him during the entire visit. She just stared at the exalted one as if she was hypnotised.
The Buddha started speaking. The girl moved her face forward and her mouth stood a bit open, she was absolutely entranced by the voice. To the brahmin’s displeasure nobody of the monks and visiting lay people took notice of Miganda. And although it seemed that the Buddha was speaking directly too him, he didn’t like much what he said. The Buddha was speaking about impermanence. How everything is impermanent, the body, the feelings, the mind, that even beauty vanishes through old age sickness and death. He said that what is impermanent is bound to suffering and thatone should not regard anything as I or mine or ashaving a self.
The brahim was disturbed, although he understood to some extendwhat the Buddha ment – this wasnot what he wanted to hear. Miganda also understood something about what the Buddha had said, she had lived in poverty the first 5 years of her life. She knew suffering, she loved impermanence because it had brought an end to her suffering of poverty and now she wanted that this new life would never end. She had seen the Buddha and loved him.
At home Miganda told the brahmin, that she would like to marry the Buddha when she was older. This and the Buddha’s speech about impermanence cause that the brahmin got depressed and even Miganda’s dancing and singing could not cheer him up for some days. Miganda was troubled, only seven years old she understood the situation was delicate and that she needs to do something to establish the former happyness and generosity in her benefactor. She cared for him, massaged him as she had learned from the temple dancers and told hm that she would, of course marry him, the brahmin and never anyone else. This relaxed the situation and they agreed to wait until Mignda’s eleventh birthday and then get married.
The 3 and a half years until her eleventh birthday passed quickly. She received male and female teacher to learn to run a household, to handle servants, to calculate, to please her future husband and she learned everything eagerly quickly. To everyones amazement she needed to hear a text or song only once or twice and could already repeat it almost without errors. Her mind was brilliant and redy to receive everything that would ensure her a comfortable life.
She had seen enough sickness and death in her family, she understood it would come to her too but until then she was determened to live happy and healthy in comfort. The brahmin had made several journeys and had gathered and increased wealth and also was determened to make this love, this beauty, this harmony, the wealth, all in his life with Miganda last forever and if possible even beyond this lifetime. Nothing should part them, nothing should harm or displease her. He still had the greatest respect for the Buddha’s teaching and would always give when one of his disciples came to his house for alms. But he denied impermanence, shall it do what it wants but not with him and Miganda. So the two had the same aim although for different reasons.
Not long after Miganda’s eleveth birthday a big wedding ceremony was celebrated. Miganda was a gordious looking young lady, she charmed everyone and walked through the cereminies and her life garcefully, delightfully.
Their wealth increased and their loving relationship was stable, they were beloved by friends and respected by most people. But even in such a wonderful relationship suffering sneaked in and impermanence made it clear that it cannot be denied.
They had had 8 children, of which only 3 survived, 2 sons and a daughter. Although the daughter looked more than her father than the mother, she was lovely and charming and later was married to a wealthy brahmin. Of the two sons, one was quite slow in learning but he was soft and goodhearted, always content and a cheerful companion, the other was endowed with a sharp analytical mind and the beauty of his mother but sometimes he could be short tempered with his less intelligent and less beautiful siblings. Although 5 children of the couple died and the 3 remaining were difficult to handle at times, Miganda and the brahmin perceived their life as happy.
The daughter was the first to leave the parental home to live in the family of her husband. The sons both went forth under the Buddha. Life went on. Miganda often thought of the Buddha and she always thought of him with love, a love stained by lust though. She learned a lot about the Buddha’s teaching through teachings she received of her sons. She knew there never was a single thought of love for her in the Buddha’s mind. She had great respect for his teachings and enough restrained to not think of him in a lustful way. But she also knew he was the only man she ever loved and would love in future. There was no hope for this love and her husband the life that he gave her, the love and devotion he showed her even now when she was older and her beauty was declining – she would not want to lose all this. On the other hand, holding on to all this had a flavourless taste, it was vapid and her formerly smiling mouth had a slight linement of bitterness.
When Miganda was 46 years old, her husband died at the age of 83. He was happy that one of his sons was with him when he died and again he heard speaking of impermanence, of old age sickness and death. His heart would not let go of this life easy, too much attached was he with his belongings of which one was Miganda whom he still observed with jealousy. Even in his eighties on his deathbed he was deeply attached to his wife. She promised him not to take any other husband after his death and to take care of the wealth. Then he died.
She knew how to run a household, how to deal with the servants, she could keep the family shrine, she could even do all the chants and perform the duties at the shrine, she was not wastfull with the money that her husband left behind for her. She made donations to the Buddha and often invited recluses in hopes her sons would be among them. Her life had become quite lonely and boring. She felt ages old but still to young to die. After the death of her husband she had started to eat more and had put on some weight. She tried to find any meaning in life but could not think of anything but comfort and wealth that would give her what she was looking for. Life just went on.
At her 50th birthday she had invited some neighbours and friends and expected her daughter to come for a few days. She had her servants prepare large amounts of rice and curry to offer it to the monastery and to serve for any ascetic who would stop at the house to ask for alms. She hoped her sons would come but she hadn’t seen them for a while and did not know whether they were in town.
Early in the morning she had put on a golden dress which she had obtained just a few weeks ago especially for this day. It had fitted perfectly when the tailor made it, now it was almost too small and could burst at hasty or large movements. She sat in this dress in the entrance hall of her house which had a semi floor through half of the hall. She sat at a desk and was counting money that she would donate to the Buddhist monastery and pay to the servants as a special bonus. She tried to prentend she was happy, that she would anticipate with joy the visit of her daughter but in fact, she was miserable. Her common charm that she even had now on good days, was gone.
Through a window she could see a recluse approaching from far, the food wason a golden plate and though she did not shine anymore, at least her golden dress would spread some glory and splendour when the morning sun fell on it. She decended and went to the door of the hall to await the recluse, It had not been possible to see who it was but her motherly intuition told her it would not be her son, which diminished the joy of giving slightly.
A servant opened the door so that she could step out, a ray of morning sun fell on her dress and it glittered when she breathed in and her chest moved up. The servant stood next to her with the tray full of fine foods. It had been raining in the early morning hours so the ground was wet and muddy. If she had to go out tothe approaching recluse a single step more, she would ruin her delicate slippers in the mud.
Miganda was occupied with trying to hold the breath so that she would not look fat and the dress would not burst and with finding the correct position for her to stand and wait for the ascetic to come, – she would not go down on her knees into the mud – when she looked up and he had silently already arrived. She felt his presence, the peace. She did not dare to look into his eyes but she knew it was the Buddha standing there in front of her. He had been a young man when she saw him last. Now he must be in his late seventies. She felt a flash of heat shooting up, her face reddened and her heart beat faster.
Pictures of her in her youth, her seeing the Buddha, feelings of her love for him which was tainted by desire, the wanting of comfort more than anything else, the try to deny of impermanence although it was so obvious, all this passed quickly through her mind. She ws abashed, ashame, without thinking she went down on her knees in the mud. Tears rolled down her cheeks, they were tears of embaressment as much a tears of joy. She looked at the Buddha now from below, through the tears she could see his old calm face, watching her without any judgment. She did not know how much time passedshe could not think clearly a massive storm of thoughts about her attachment, desire, lust, about her life and its meaninglessness, the gratitude for the Buddha to appear at her door on her birthday, embaressment and somewhat anguish devastated her ability to think or act.
The servant lowered the tray with the foods and she took one package after the other and put it into the Buddha’s alms bowl until it was full and he pulled the bowl away. He seemed to say ‘It is enough, young sister.’ but she was not shure whether he really had spoken. He didn’t mean the food, this was clear. The state of her mind changed, it was blank now and somehow refreshed. Now the tears that flow were tears of rapture. She felt blessed beyond words. The Buddha walked away.
After this surprising meeting with the Buddha, she went back inside the house, telling the servant do offer the remaining food to the recluses to come. She went into her rooms, took off her golden dress, alone, without calling a maid. She went to the room where she stored all her clothes and searched for the simplest clothing she could find, it was a white cloth that commonly would be used to cover things when guests and recluses came to visit. She kept wearing these simple kind of clothes for the rest of her life, stopped praying to the devas and instead venerated the Buddha in the shrine room. Her son taught her to sit and quieten the mind, he spoke to her about impermanence suffering and nonself and she opened her mind to accept it little by little.
Before she died she gave half of the wealth and the business to her daughter, and the other half of the wealth plus some gardens to the recluses of the Buddha’s disciplin.