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But little water do the oceans four contain,
Compared with all the tears that man hath shed,
By sorrow smitten and by suffering distraught.
Woman, why heedless dost thou still remain?

– The Buddha to Patacara

Patacara, a lady from a well-to-do family in Savatthi, married a servant of the family and lived in a remote village. Later under tragic circumstances, one of her sons was taken away by an eagle, another by the current of the river Aciravati, her husband died on the way to Savatthi being bitten by a cobra. Her brother and the parents were killed under the debris of their house that collapsed due to heavy rain the previous night. All disasters fell upon her one after the other within a very short period of two days and tormented her intolerably.

Her depression was so severe that she lost her sanity and began to roam the streets even without wearing any clothes. She inquired from the people about her children, husband, brother and parents. People taking her to be a mad woman ridiculed and greeted her by throwing filth at her. While she was roaming here and there, she tried to enter Jetavana monastery where the Buddha was giving a sermon.

When the people tried to stop her from entering, taking her to be a mad woman, the Buddha prevented them and said to her: ‘Sister, be mindful.’ As soon as she heard the Buddha’s kind address, she regained mindfulness and was aware that she was naked amidst the audience. Feeling embarrassed, she quickly sat on the floor. A person in the crowd gave her his upper garment to cover her body. The Buddha listened to her tale of woe compassionately and helped her realise the nature of life, after which she was determined to enter the order of nuns.

The Buddha’s Technique and Practice of Counselling as Depicted in the Pali Canon
Jenny Quek

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