Buddha was staying in Vaishali, where Amrapali lived. Amrapali was a prostitute. In Buddha’s time, in this country, it was a convention that the most beautiful woman of any city will not be allowed to get married to any one person, because that will create unnecessary jealousy, conflict, fighting. So the most beautiful woman had to become nagarvadhu – the wife of the whole town.
It was not disrespectable at all; on the contrary, just as in the contemporary world we declare beautiful women as “the woman of the year”, they were very much respected. They were not ordinary prostitutes. Their function was that of a prostitute, but they were only visited by the very rich, or the kings, or the princes, generals — the highest strata of society.
Amrapali was very beautiful. One day she was standing on her terrace and she saw a young Buddhist monk. She had never fallen in love with anybody, although every day she had to pretend to be a great lover to this king, to that king, to this rich man, to that general. But she fell suddenly in love with the man, a Buddhist monk who had nothing, just a begging bowl —a young man, but of a tremendous presence, awareness, grace. The way he was walking …She rushed down, she asked the monk, “Please — today accept my food.”
Other monks were also coming behind him, because whenever Buddha was moving anywhere, ten thousand monks were always moving with him. The other monks could not believe this. They were jealous and angry and feeling all human qualities and frailties as they saw the young man enter the palace of Amrapali.
Amrapali told him, “After three days the rainy season is going to start …” Buddhist monks don’t move for four months when it is the rainy season. Those are the four months they stay in one place; for eight months they continuously move, they can’t stay more than three days in one place.
It is a strange psychology, if you have watched yourself … You can watch it: to be attached to some place it takes you at least four days. For example, for the first day in a new house you may not be able to sleep, the second day it will be little easier, the third day it will be even easier, and the fourth day you will be able to sleep perfectly at home. So before that, if you are a Buddhist monk, you have to leave.
Amrapali said, “After just three days the rainy season is to begin, and I invite you to stay in my house for the four months”. The young monk said, “I will ask my master. If he allows me, I will come.” As he went out there was a crowd of monks standing, asking him what had happened. He said, “I have taken my meal, and the woman has asked me to stay the four months of the rainy season in her palace. I told her that I will ask my master.”
People were really angry — one day was already too much; but four months continuously …! They rushed towards Gautam Buddha. Before the young man could reach the assembly, there were hundreds standing up and telling Gautam Buddha, “This man has to be stopped. That woman is a prostitute, and a monk staying four months in a prostitute’s house …”
Buddha said, “You keep quiet! Let him come. He has not agreed to stay; he has agreed only if I allow him. Let him come.” The young monk came, touched the feet of Buddha and told the whole story, “The woman is a prostitute, a famous prostitute, Amrapali. She has asked me to stay for four months in her house. Every monk will be staying somewhere, in somebody’s house, for the four months. I have told her that I will ask my master, so I am here … whatever you say.”
Buddha looked into his eyes and said, “You can stay.” It was a shock. Ten thousand monks … There was great silence, but great anger, great jealousy. They could not believe that Buddha has allowed a monk to stay in a prostitute’s house. After three days the young man left to stay with Amrapali, and the monks every day started bringing gossips, “The whole city is agog. There is only one talk — that a Buddhist monk is staying with Amrapali for four months continuously.”
Buddha said, “You should keep silent. Four months will pass and I trust my monk. I have looked into his eyes — there was no desire. If I had said no, he would not have felt anything. I said yes … he simply went. And I trust in my monk, in his awareness, in his meditation. “Why are you getting so agitated and worried? If my monk’s meditation is deep then he will change Amrapali, and if his meditation is not deep then Amrapali may change him. It is now a question between meditation and a biological attraction. Just wait for four months. I trust my young man. He has been doing perfectly well and I have every certainty he will come out of this fire test absolutely victorious.”
Nobody believed Gautam Buddha. His own disciples thought, “He is trusting too much. The man is too young; he is too fresh and Amrapali is much too beautiful. He is taking an unnecessary risk.” But there was nothing else to do.
After four months the young man came, touched Buddha’s feet — and following him was Amrapali, dressed as a Buddhist nun. She touched Buddha’s feet and she said, “I tried my best to seduce your monk, but he seduced me. He convinced me by his presence and awareness that the real life is at your feet. I want to give all my possessions to the commune of your monks.”
She had a very beautiful garden and a beautiful palace. She said, “You can make it a place where ten thousand monks can stay in any rainy season.” And Buddha said to the assembly, “Now, are you satisfied or not?”
If meditation is deep, if awareness is clear, nothing can disturb it. Then everything is ephemeral. Amrapali became one of the enlightened women among Buddha’s disciples.
“If meditation is deep, if awareness is clear, nothing can disturb it. Then everything is ephemeral.”