Conversion of Shariputra’s Mother to the Triple Gem
At the time of this last visit in the last year of the Buddha’s life, the Buddha’s son Rahula and the Buddha’s first disciple Ajnata Kaundinya had already passed away. The Buddha’s foster-mother and aunt, Mahaprajapati, and his wife, Yashodhara, had also passed away by that time. All had become arhats in the course of their practice.
Shariputra, reflecting on this, realized that it was the way of things for a Buddha’s chief disciples to pass away before the Buddha, and that in fact his own life was drawing to a close. Thus, he decided that he would return to his mother’s home in the village of Nalaka where he had grown up.
He wished to do this because his three brothers and three sisters had all become monastics and then in the course of their practice arhats. But his mother, Rupashari, had not yet taken refuge in the three treasures. He hoped that in dying peacefully in accord with the Dharma he could inspire his mother to do so and at least attain stream-entry and escape the lower paths of rebirth. In this he hoped to repay his mother for all she had done for him in giving birth to him and raising him.
Shariputra then took his final leave fro the Buddha, first apologizing for anything he had done to displease him. The Buddha told him that never had he done anything displeasing, but granted his forgiveness anyway. Then, with a company of 500 monks who were his own students, Shariputra returned to his home.
On his deathbed he was visited in turn by the four heavenly kings, Indra, and Brahma. His mother witnessed this, and as a worshipper of Brahma was quite awed and amazed that Brahma himself was paying his respects to her son. She realized that if Shariputra commanded that kind of respect, then how much more respect worthy was his teacher the Buddha. Rupashari at last took refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and her faith in the Buddha was such that she attained stream-entry.
With his mother’s spiritual liberation secured, Shariputra then called in his companions and apologized to them for anything he had done to displease. The monks protested that he had not done anything to displease them and that in fact it was Shariputra who should forgive them for anything they had done to displease him.
Shariputra then entered into all the deep states of dhyana or meditative absorption, moving on from there into the four attainments of space, consciousness, nothingness, and the realm of neither perception nor yet non-perception. He then moved shifted his consciousness back down to the first dhyana and then back up to the fourth and from that point entered into parinirvana, going beyond all suffering and pain forever.
Source: Fraught with Peril