Outer beauty is just a shell!


Verse 347: Khematheri Vatthu – The Dhammapada

Verse 347: Beings who are infatuated with lust, fall back into the stream of craving they have generated, just as a spider does in the web it has spun. The wise, cutting off the bond of craving, walk on resolutely, leaving, all ills (dukkha) behind.

It was a happening party at one of the upscale clubs in Mumbai, where a socialite was seen flipping through her iPhone. Being completely bored out with the mundane and illusionary display of materialism, she walked out of the club in hurry and collided with a young boy.

Although, it was her fault, the boy politely apologised to her and started walking away. His behaviour intrigued her greatly. After all, she was known for her beauty and people were always awestruck meeting her. But, this was for the first time, she did not get even a single compliment. She called after the boy, and asked him if he knew her. With a peaceful smile on his face, the boy asked her, “The question is not if I know you, but whether you know yourself.” That startled her even more. She was never spoken of in such a manner. Collecting herself, she finally said, “I am a known face in the page-3 circle, I was once a supermodel and my beauty is widely acclaimed.”

“Is that all you are?” asked the boy.

“What do you mean?” replied the socialite.

“Let me tell you a story, and then you may understand the question,” said the boy. The lady was curious. They sat on a bench in a nearby park, and the boy began the “Story of Theri Khema”, from the Dhammapada.

Queen Khema, the chief queen of King Bimbisara, was beautiful and proud. Bimbisara, who revered the Buddha, wanted his wife to go to the Veluvana monastery and pay homage to the Buddha.

However, the queen had heard that the Buddha was not attached to materialistic possessions and does not assign any importance to beauty. She knew that the Buddha would not praise her beauty and in her vanity, despised the Buddha.

The king was able to sense the queen’s attitude towards the Buddha, and was worried about Khema’s pride in her outer beauty. He thought of a plan. He ordered his ministers to sing great praise of the Veluvana monastery, and its pleasant and peaceful atmosphere. Hearing thus, the queen became interested and expressed her eagerness to visit the place.

When queen Khema arrived at the monastery, the Buddha was expounding the Dhamma to an audience. He had sensed her arrival and thought it was an opportune moment to make her understand the futility of her beauty. With his supernormal power, he made a beautiful young lady appear, sitting not far from him, and fanning him.

When queen Khema came to the audience hall, she alone saw the beautiful young lady. Comparing the exquisite beauty of the young lady to that of her own, Khema realised that her beauty was much inferior to that of the young lady.

However, as she looked again intently at the young lady, her beauty began to fade slowly and gradually. In the end, she saw an old decrepit being. Slowly, it changed into a corpse and then her stinking body was attacked by maggots.

At that instant, queen Khema realised the impermanence and worthlessness of beauty.

The Buddha knowing the state of her mind remarked, “O Khema! Look carefully at this decaying body which is built around a skeleton of bones and is subject to disease and decay. Look carefully at the body which is thought of so highly by the foolish. Look at the worthlessness of the beauty of this young girl.”

Upon hearing this, queen Khema attained Sotapatti fruition (the first of the four stages of enlightenment).

The Buddha then recited the following verse, “Beings who are infatuated with lust, fall back into the stream of craving they have generated, just as a spider does in the web it has spun. The wise, cutting off the bond of craving, walk on resolutely, leaving, all ills (dukkha) behind.”

At the end of the discourse, queen Khema was admitted to the Order and became the chief female disciple of the Buddha.

The lady remained quiet for a long time, while tears kept rolling down her cheeks. She finally understood how shallow her understanding of life was.

She had already decided in her heart that it was time to fix it.

Dawn was peaking at the horizon. The boy got up and turned away from her.

She asked him who he was, and he replied, “I am a seeker of truth,” and walked away towards the rising sun.