151. I was born in an exalted family, which had much property and much wealth. I possessed a good complexion and figure, being Majjha’s own daughter.
152. I was sought after by kings’ sons, longed for by merchants’ sons; one sent my father a messenger, saying, “Give me Anopama.
153. “However much that daughter of yours Anopama weighs, I will give you eight times that amount of gold and jewels.”
154. I saw the awakened one, who was supreme in the world, unsurpassed. I paid homage to his feet and sat down on one side.
155. In pity Gotama taught me the doctrine. Seated on that seat I attained the third fruit.
156. Then I cut off my hair and went forth into the houseless state. Today is the seventh night since my craving was dried up.
Growing up, my sisters and I had gold coins for toys.
When there’s that much money around,
being beautiful isn’t such a big deal.
Somehow we all were.
All my suitors started off talking about beauty—
and ended up talking about money.
One prince told my father,
Give me your daughter.
And I will give you eight times her weight in gold.
That night my father kept passing me the mashed potatoes
and ordered extra dessert for the entire table.
For some reason I was remembering those gold coins
and how we sometimes put them in our mouths.
The taste of gold is something you never forget.
When my thoughts drifted back to the table,
my father was staring at my half-eaten pudding.
I could see in his eyes that he was doing the math.
That night I cut off my hair,
climbed out the window,
and walked away.
I knew it would be a long journey.
At least I was starting on a full stomach.
That was many years ago.
Looking now at these old hands,
I can’t help thinking
the prince’s offer was a little silly.
Any day now,
the crows and dogs
will get all this—
Know your price, my sisters.
Don’t accept less.
It should be noted the astounding achievement of this Bhikkhuni: She attained the third stage of enlightenement while still a lay person.
While the attempt to create a concrete scene of the suitor offering to pay for Anopamā with her weight in gold isn’t bad in itself, I can’t help but find the image of ancient Indians passing mashed potatoes and contemplating pudding a bit absurd. I mean, yes, it casts the scene in modern terms.
But, in doing so, Weingast has omitted Anopamā encountering the Buddha and being taught by Gotama, which are the reasons that she cut off her hair, not because her father was counting her weight in gold.