Patacara was reborn at Savatthi in the house of a merchant. Later on, when she had grown to womanhood, she formed an intimacy with a certain laborer. Later on, about to marry a man of birth equal to her own, she hinted to that man with whom she had been intimate: "From to-morrow on you will not succeed in seeing me even with the help of a hundred doorkeepers. If you mean business, take me right now and go."
"So be it!" said he. Taking such proper and necessary things as could be carried in the hand, and taking her with him, he retired three or four leagues from the city, and took up his residence in a certain hamlet. Later on she conceived a child in her womb. When her unborn child reached maturity, she said: "This is a forlorn place for us, husband; let's go home." "We'll go to-day; we'll go to-morrow," said he. Not daring to go, he let the time slip by. She knew his object. Thought she: "This simpleton does not intend to take me home." When he had gone out, she made up her mind: "I'll go home all by myself;" and started out on the road.
When he returned and saw her nowhere in the house, he asked the neighbors. Hearing, "She has gone home," he reflected, "Because of me the daughter of a respectable family is without a protector," and following in her footsteps, came up with her. Right there on the road she gave birth to her child. Then she said: "What we would have gone home for, has happened right on the road. If we go now, what shall we do?" They turned back.
Again she conceived a child in her womb. (All is to be related in detail precisely as before.) Only,--the very moment she gave birth to her child on the road, great clouds arose in the four quarters. She said to her husband: "Husband, clouds have arisen in the four quarters out of due season. Try to make me a place of shelter from the rain." "So will I do," said he. Having made a hut of sticks, he resolved, "I will fetch grass for a thatch," and started to cut grass at the base of an ant-hill. A black snake lurking in the ant-hill bit him on the leg. In that very spot he fell.
She spent the whole night thinking: "Now he will come! now he will come!" Finally she concluded: "He must certainly have abandoned me on the road, thinking, 'She is without a protector,' and made off." When it was light, she followed his footsteps, looking about, and saw him fallen at the base of the ant-hill. "On account of me my husband perished," thought she, and wept.
Taking the younger boy on her hip, and giving the older boy her fingers to hold, she proceeded along the road. On the way seeing a certain shallow riverlet, she reflected: "If now I take both boys at the same time, I shall not be able to cross." Causing the older boy to stand on the near bank, she carried the younger boy to the far bank and laid him in a cloth head-coil. Then, thinking, "I will get the other and cross," she turned back again and descended into the river.
Now when she reached the middle of the river, a certain hawk, thinking, "There's a tiny lump of meat!" approached to strike the boy with his beak. Stretching out her arm, she drove the hawk away. The older boy, seeing that movement of her arm, concluded, "She's calling me!" descended into the river, fell into the stream, and was swept downstream. That hawk, before ever she could reach him, seized that boy and made off. Overcome with profound sorrow, she made her way along the road, singing this little song of lamentation:
"Both my sons are dead;
Even as she thus lamented, she reached Savatthi. Though she went to the quarter of the better class, solely because of her sorrow she was unable to fix the site of her own house. She asked people by turns: "In this place there is such-and-such a family. Which is their house?" "What can you mean by asking for that family? The house where they lived was blown down by the wind, and in it they all met destruction. Indeed, the young and old of that family they are burning at this very moment. Look! don't you see the smoke roll up yonder?"
At the mere hearing of those words, she could no longer endure the cloak she wore, but naked as ever at birth she went to the spot where stood the pyre of her kinsfolk, stretching out her arms and lamenting. And completing that song of lamentation, she wailed:
"Both my sons are dead;
Although some one gave her a cloth, she tore it and tore it and threw it away. And wherever she was seen, a crowd flocked about her and followed her. And because they said: "This woman goes about neglecting cloth-practice, cloth-usage (patacara)," therefore they gave her the name Patacara.
One day, while the Teacher was preaching the Doctrine to the multitude, she entered the monastery and stood in the outer circle of the congregation. The Teacher suffused her with a suffusion of loving-kindness: "Return to your right mind, sister! return to your right mind, sister!" On hearing these words of the Teacher, deep shame and fear of sin came to her. She sat down right there on the ground. A man who stood not far off tossed her his outer cloak. She put it on as an undergarment and hearkened to the Doctrine. The Teacher, by reason of her conduct, recited the following stanzas found in the Dhammapada:
"Sons are no refuge, nor a father, nor relatives;
"Knowing this power of circumstances, the wise man, restrained by the
At the conclusion of the stanzas, even as she stood there, she became established in the Fruit of Conversion.