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After King Suddhodana died, his Queen and aunt of the Buddha, asked that she be permitted to renounce lay life and become a nun. Knowing the comfort and luxury of their life in the palace and the hardships and even dangers they would have to endure as homeless renunciates, the Buddha refused her request. The Buddha was well aware of the social climate of the day. The position of women was very low, and public opinion was not in favor of women taking to the uncertainty (and independence) of the mendicant life. Also, the founder of the Jain religion, Mahavira, a contemporary of the Buddha, had women renunciates in his community who did not meet with favor in the public's eye. Still the Queen would not be dissuaded. Assigning her duties to others, she gathered many women of the Sakyan clan who agreed to enter religious life under the Buddha's Dispensation. They cut off their hair, donned the saffron robe and walked about 150 miles to the monastery in Vesali hoping to gain permission from the Blessed One to become nuns. They stood at the entrance of His residence, exhausted, feet swollen, covered with dust, dejected, with tears in their eyes. The gentle Venerable Ananda, the Buddha's devoted personal attendant, on discovering the purpose of their visit, on behalf of the women, approached the Blessed One with their request. Several times the Buddha refused. The Venerable Ananda then directly asked Him if women, on entering the homeless state, could win Deliverance (arhatship). Upon being given an affirmative answer, Ananda reminded the Buddha that His aunt devotedly raised Him, nursing Him herself, and even giving her own son to another's care. The Buddha considered the Venerable Ananda's words and permitted ordination of women conditionally on their acceptance of eight special rules. Maha Pajapati accepted the rules and all were ordained as nuns. Present-day scholars now question whether these special rules were actually imposed by the Buddha or were later additions. Imposition of these rules may be viewed as deferring to public opinion and the social conditions of the day. In any event, the Buddha, as founder of a world religion, is considered to be the first spiritual teacher to give women the opportunity to relinquish household life and strive for Enlightenment. The Buddha, however, was criticized when He permitted women to ordain as it was a radical move. Many nuns in the two-fold Sangha reached high states of spiritual insight and realized Enlightenment. Some were prominent teachers, preachers and logicians. The Venerable Khema, the former queen of King Bimbasara, was known for her eloquence, wit and wisdom in spreading the teachings.

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