Therīgāthā | Poems of the Elder Nuns

Because the poems are attributed to a wide variety of authors, it should come as no surprise that they differ widely in style, content, and artistic interest: Thus the choice to present an anthology of selected poems rather than a complete translation of either text. Some of the poems are autobiographical; some didactic. Some repeat verses attributed to the Buddha in other parts of the Canon, whereas others appear to be original compositions. Some are very simple and just barely poetic, whereas others are polished and artful, composed by people who obviously had a sophisticated literary background.

  • Introduction
  • Thig 1:1  An Anonymous Nun  —  Passion stilled, like a pot of pickled greens boiled dry.
  • Thig 1:3  Puṇṇā  —  Grow full (puṇṇā) with good qualities like the full moon.
  • Thig 1:11  Muttā  —  From three crooked things set free.
  • Thig 1:17  Dhammā  —  Set free after falling down on the ground.
  • Thig 2:3  Sumaṅgala’s Mother  —  From three crooked things set free, I do jhāna.
  • Thig 2:4  Aḍḍhkāsī  —  A high-priced courtesan becomes disgusted with her body.
  • Thig 3:2  Uttamā  —  After running amok, a nun learns the Dhamma and gains awakening.
  • Thig 3:4  Dantikā & the Elephant  —  Seeing an untamed elephant made tame (danta), a nun centers her mind.
  • Thig 3:5  Ubbiri  —  A nun recalls the Buddha’s words that freed her from grief over her dead daughter.
  • Thig 5:2  Vimalā, the Former Courtesan  —  Once adorned as a courtesan, now wrapped in a double cloak, a nun cuts through all ties, human and divine.
  • Thig 5:4  Nandā’s Vision  —  The Buddha’s half-sister contemplates a dead body and so grows enchanted with her own.
  • Thig 5:6  Mittakālī  —  Once greedy for tribute, a nun comes to her senses.
  • Thig 5:8  Soṇā, Mother of Ten  —  After giving birth to ten children, an old nun goes beyond birth and aging.
  • Thig 5:10  Paṭācārā  —  “And taking a pin, I pulled out the wick…”
  • Thig 5:11  Paṭācārā’s Thirty Students  —  Pāṭācārā’s students pay her homage after having followed her instructions.
  • Thig 5:12  Candā, the Beggar  —  Exhorted by Pāṭācārā, a former beggar gains awakening.
  • Thig 6:1  Paṭācārā’s 500 Students  —  Pāṭācārā tells her students of the Buddha’s words that freed her from grief over her dead son.
  • Thig 6:2  Vāsiṭṭhī the Madwoman  —  Once mad with grief over her dead son, a woman regains her mind and goes forth after meeting the Buddha.
  • Thig 6:4  Sujātā  —  Returning from a picnic, a woman penetrates the Dhamma on hearing the Buddha’s teachings.
  • Thig 6:5  Anopamā, the Millionaire’s Daughter  —  A woman sought after by many potential husbands seeks and finds the Dhamma instead.
  • Thig 6:6  Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī  —  The Buddha’s stepmother pays homage to him.
  • Thig 6:7  Guttā  —  A nun recalls the Buddha’s admonishment.
  • Thig 7:2  Cālā  —  Māra confronts a nun who, approving of the Dhamma, approves of no one’s philosophy.
  • Thig 7:3  Upacālā  —  A nun confronted by Māra explains why she doesn’t approve of birth.
  • Thig 8  Sīsūpacālā  —  Māra tries to tempt a nun to enjoy the pleasures of heaven.
  • Thig 9  Vaḍḍha’s Mother  —  A monk, roused by his mother, attains the highest peace.
  • Thig 10  Kīsā Gotamī  —  A nun achieves the deathless after her entire family suddenly dies.
  • Thig 12  Puṇṇikā & the Brahman  —  Puṇṇikā, a slave woman, teaches the Dhamma to a brahman who is trying to wash his sins away.
  • Thig 13:1  Ambapālī  —  A former courtesan surveys the ravages of time on her body.
  • Thig 13:2  Rohiṇī  —  Rohiṇī convinces her father that, instead of being lazy, monks actually do the best work.
  • Thig 13:5  Subhā the Goldsmith’s Daughter  —  When her relatives try to tempt her to marry, Subhā tells them of the dangers of sensuality, then ordains and gains awakening.
  • Thig 14  Subhā & the Libertine  —  A nun going through the forest is accosted by a man who invites her to be his wife. She gives him a lesson that he will never forget.