Khema was reborn in the kingdom of Madda, in the city of Sagala, in the household of the king. The hue of her body was the yellow of fine gold. But when she grew up, she married King Bimbisara and went to live in the royal household at Rajagaha. Near Rajagaha, at Veluvana, resided the Tathagata. Thought Khema: "The Teacher, they say, finds fault with beauty of form." And becoming intoxicated with the intoxication of her beauty of form, fearing, "In my own case also he may find fault with beauty of form," she refrained from going to see the Possessor of the Ten Forces.
Thought the king: "I am the principal supporter of the Teacher. Yet the principal consort of a Noble Disciple like me refrains from going to see the Possessor of the Ten Forces." Accordingly he had court-poets compose songs in praise of Veluvana Gardens, and said to them: "Sing them within hearing of Queen Khema." The queen, hearing the praises of the Gardens, became desirous of going, and asked permission of the king. Said the king: "Go to the Gardens. But unless you see the Teacher, you shall not have the privilege of returning." The queen, making no reply to the king, started out on the road. The king said to the men who acted as her escort: "If the queen, on her way back from the Gardens, sees the Possessor of the Ten Forces,--well and good! If, however, she does not see him, force her to see him by royal authority."
Now that queen, having spent the daytime walking about the Gardens, started to return without so much as having seen the Possessor of the Ten Forces. But the king's men, despite her unwillingness, conducted her to the Teacher. The Teacher, seeing her coming, put forth his magical power and created a single celestial nymph, causing the nymph, as it were, to take a palm-leaf fan and fan him.
Queen Khema, seeing her, thought: "Alas, my vanity has ruined me! To think that such women as these, the very counterparts of celestial nymphs, stand close beside the Possessor of the Ten Forces! I am not worthy so much as to wait upon these women. In my vanity, for no reason at all, I have permitted evil thoughts to ruin me." Spell-bound, she stood gazing only at that woman.
Now as she gazed, that woman, by command of the Tathagata, passed from youth to middle age, as it were; and from middle age to old age, as it were; standing there with wrinkled skin, faded hair, and teeth broken and loose. Finally, even as the queen gazed, that woman collapsed and fell to the ground, fan and all.
Then Khema, as that object, through the accumulation of causes in previous states of existence, came within range of her mental vision, thought thus: "Even a body like this,--so beautiful as this,--comes finally to destruction. My body also will of necessity come to just such an end." Now the instant her thoughts took this turn, the Teacher recited the following stanza found in the Dhammapada:
"They that are reddened with lust follow a stream,
At the conclusion of the stanza, standing just where she had planted her feet, she attained Sainthood together with the [Four] Analytical Powers.
Now a lay person who attains Sainthood must on that very day either pass into Nirvana or adopt the religious life. So Queen Khema, knowing the direction her own Aggregates of Life were taking, resolved: "I will ask for myself permission to adopt the religious life." Accordingly she bowed to the Teacher, went to the king's residence, and stood there without so much as saluting the king. The king, even by her manner of acting, knew: "She must have attained the Noble Estate of Sainthood." So he said to her: "O queen, did you go to see the Teacher?" "Great king, the seeing you have seen is the merest trifle. I, however, have seen the Possessor of the Ten Forces and have seen him well! Give me permission to adopt the religious life." "Very well," said the king in assent. He sent her to the Nuns' Convent and had her admitted to the Order. Now because Khema, even as a lay person, attained Sainthood, she became renowned for her great wisdom. So much for the story.
But subsequently the Teacher, sitting in Jetavana monastery, assigning to the nuns their respective ranks, assigned to the nun Khema. the rank of foremost of those who possess great wisdom.