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Sujata and seven types of wives

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Sujata was the daughter in law of Anathapindika, a prominent lay-disciple of the Buddha. The Pali Suttas, in Anguttara Nikaya(7:59; IV 91-94), records that the Buddha was delivering a teaching near or at Anathapindika's home when he was disrupted by the sounds of Sujata scolding the servants. The Buddha called for Sujata to brought to him and delivered a famous Theravada teaching on the proper conduct of wives.

In the story of Sujata the Buddha speaks of seven types of wives. The first three kinds of wives are heading for unhappiness (in this world or the next). They are:

  1. The destructive-wife (vadhaka or vadhakabhariya: alternate translations include “troublesome-wife” and “slayer-wife”) – she is described as pitiless, fond of other men and neglectful, even contemptuous, of her husband;
  2. The thievish-wife (chorisama or corabhariya: an alternate translation is “robber-wife”) – she squanders the family wealth and is dishonest with her husband, especially as regards money;
  3. The mistress-wife (ayyasama or ayyabhariya: alternate translations include “lordly-wife”, “master-wife” and “tyrant-wife”) – she is shrewish, rude and coarsely spoken when it suits her, lazy and domineering.

The Buddha then states that the following four kinds of wives are heading for happiness – in this world or the next ( a common feature of each of these wives is that they are also imbued with “long term self-control”). They are:

  1. The motherly-wife (matusama or matubhariya) – she cares for her husband as a mother for her son and carefully guards the family wealth;
  2. The sisterly-wife (bhaginisama or bhaginibhariya) – she defers to her husband in the same affectionate way that a younger sister defers to her older brother;
  3. The friend-wife (sakhibhariya – note that sakha means “intimate friend”, as opposed to the ubiquitous “acquaintance friend”; an alternate translation for sakhibhariya is “companion-wife”) – she loves her husband as he is her best-friend; through friendship and love she is devoted to him;
  4. The slave-wife (dasisama or dasibhariya - note that dasi in Pali appears to mean “slave-woman” or “slave-servant”. Alternate translations include “slave-like wife”, “handmaid-wife” and “maid-wife”) – she is calm, patient and obeys her husband in all ways (although we can assume that this does not include breaking any of the five precepts?). She submits to harsh words from her husband, and even accepts any “punishment” that may be delivered by him. Unquestionably, this kind of wife is submissive to her husband.

References

  • Bhikkhu Bodhi, In the Buddha’s Words, Wisdom, Boston, 2005
  • Hammalawa Saddhatissa, Buddhist Ethics, Wisdom, Boston, 1997
  • Piyadassi Thera, The Buddha’s Ancient Path, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, 1996

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