Sujata and seven types of wives
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 be brought to him and delivered a Theravada teaching, which became famous, on the proper conduct of wives.
In the story of Sujata the Buddha speaks of seven types of wife. The first three kinds are heading for unhappiness (in this world or the next). They are:
- 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;
- 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;
- The mistress-wife (ayyasama or ayyabhariya or "swamibhariya": 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 types 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:
- The motherly-wife (matusama or matubhariya) – she treats her husband like her son in every way, being compassionate and kind, as well as caring responsibly after his wealth;
- The sisterly-wife (bhaginisama or bhaginibhariya) – she defers to her husband as she would her older brother. She is modest and is obedient to her lord and master (her husband) and wishes to please him in every way;
- The friend-wife (sakhibhariya – sakha means “intimate friend”, as opposed to “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;
- The slave-wife (dasisama or dasibhariya -dasi in Pali appears to mean “slave-woman” or “slave-servant”. Alternate translations include “slave-like wife”, “handmaid-wife” and “maid-wife”) – she is patient, unangered, and submits to his will. She obediently receives physical punishment whenever her husband so desires to deliver it, and is unquestionably submissive to him.
After speaking these things, Sujata was deeply moved by Buddha's words. Upon being asked which wife she was to be, she answered: "I am to be the last of the wives, the slave-wife to my husband."
- 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