|How did Maha Pajapati look like?|
It is the same question as how did the Buddha look like? Well, during the Buddha’s time, 6th Century B.C. there was no way to copy his liking. More over the making of Buddha images and statues did not come into existence until 500 years (1st Century B.C.E.) after the great passing away of the Buddha after Milinda, the Greek king became Buddhist.
So when we make the statue of Maha Pajapati in 21st Century, we have to create her out of our own imagination hopefully inspired by her. It was Roshi Joan Halifax who came to visit our temple in 2002 and she initiated this project together with Ven.Dhammananda. It took one full year of frequent visits to the artist who first worked on wax model. Even.Ven.Dhammaloka (passed away in 2003) visited the workshop and suggested that Maha Pajapati should be wearing the long sleeves blouse (samkacchika).
First the artist made her look very young and beautiful, Ven.Dhammananda instructed the artist that Maha Pajapati cannot look like a beautiful young girl as when she joined the sangha she was at least in her 40s. She should be elderly and her face should look serene yet with determination and compassion. She should look approachable and not too other worldly. Her right hand mudra is that of “No fear” , symbolically the message she was giving to all the Buddhist women who chose to follow her footstep to have no fear. And if one looks closely enough, the line on her right palm has both the ordination line and success line! The message is that the ordination of women will be successfully carried out by her dughters….the present bhikkhuni sangha.
The path she led some 25 centuries ago had been long forsaken in Theravada tradition, where as Mulasarvastivada tradition it never arrived. So now we have to do lots of weeding, but we have discovered the track. Our immediate work is to convince our brothers in the bhikkhu sangha to take up their responsibility. After all the Buddha instructed them, “O Bhikkhus, I allow you to give ordination to the bhikkhunis”.(Cullavagga, Vinaya Pitaka).
During the Hamburg congress, most of the participants stayed together at Grand Elysee Hotel within walking distance from the congress venue. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Most Venerable Samdhong Rimpoche were also staying at the same hotel. (For those who do not know him, the Venerable is one of the most revered monk in Tibetan tradition, he is at present the prime minister of the Tibetans Government in exile).
One morning, while we were waiting for the restaurant to be open, Ven.Dhammananda had a chance to offer Maha Pajapati postcard to the Most Venerable Samdhong Rimpoche. He commented that he often thought how she would look like and the picture of the statue of Maha Pajapati on the postcard corresponded to what he thought that she should look like.