Front Page Titles (by Subject) LXXX.: VĀSAVADATTĀ. - The Gospel of Buddha
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
LXXX.: VĀSAVADATTĀ. - Buddha, The Gospel of Buddha 
The Gospel of Buddha. Compiled from Ancient Records by Paul Carus. Illustrated by O. Kopetzky (Chicago and London: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1915).
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
There was a courtesan in Mathurā named Vāsavadattā. She happened to see Upagutta, one of Buddha’s disciples, a tall and beautiful youth, and fell desperately in love with him. Vāsavadattā sent an invitation to the young man, but he replied: “The time has not yet arrived when Upagutta will visit Vāsavadattā.” 1
The courtesan was astonished at the reply, and she sent again for him, saying: “Vāsavadattā desires love, not gold, from Upagutta.” But Upagutta made the same enigmatic reply and did not come. 2
A few months later Vāsavadattā had a love-intrigue with the chief of the artisans, and at that time a wealthy merchant came to Mathurā, who fell in love with Vāsavadattā. Seeing his wealth, and fearing the jealousy of her other lover, she contrived the death of the chief of the artisans, and concealed his body under a dunghill. 3
When the chief of the artisans had disappeared, his relatives and friends searched for him and found his body. Vāsavadattā, however, was tried by a judge, and condemned to have her ears and nose, her hands and feet cut off, and flung into a graveyard. 4
Vāsavadattā had been a passionate girl, but kind to her servants, and one of her maids followed her, and out of love for her former mistress ministered unto her in her agonies, and chased away the crows. 5
Now the time had arrived when Upagutta decided to visit Vāsavadattā. 6
When he came, the poor woman ordered her maid to collect and hide under a cloth her severed limbs; and he greeted her kindly, but she said with petulance: “Once this body was fragrant like the lotus, and I offered thee my love. In those days I was covered with pearls and fine muslin. Now I am mangled by the executioner and covered with filth and blood.” 7
“Sister,” said the young man, “it is not for my pleasure that I approach thee. It is to restore to thee a nobler beauty than the charms which thou hast lost. 8
“I have seen with mine eyes the Tathāgata walking upon earth and teaching men his wonderful doctrine. But thou wouldst not have listened to the words of righteousness while surrounded with temptations, while under the spell of passion and yearning for worldly pleasures. Thou wouldst not have listened to the teachings of the Tathāgata, for thy heart was wayward, and thou didst set thy trust on the sham of thy transient charms. 9
“The charms of a lovely form are treacherous, and quickly lead into temptations, which have proved too strong for thee. But there is a beauty which will not fade, and if thou wilt but listen to the doctrine of our Lord, the Buddha, thou wilt find that peace which thou wouldst have found in the restless world of sinful pleasures.” 10
Vāsavadattā became calm and a spiritual happiness soothed the tortures of her bodily pain; for where there is much suffering there is also great bliss. 11
Having taken refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, she died in pious submission to the punishment of her crime. 12