Of all the Buddha’s great disciples, male or female, Mahapajapati Gotami, the Buddha’s maternal aunt and stepmother, is the only one whom legend describes as a counterpart to the Tathagatha himself. As an elderly woman she became a zealous follower, attained enlightenment after hearing just a brief discourse on dharma and the Vinaya (the code of monastic discipline), and founded the first order of Buddhist nuns.

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