Theragāthā | Poems of the Elder Monks

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
  • Thag 1:1  Subhūti  —  My hut is well-thatched, so go ahead and rain.
  • Thag 1:2  Mahā Koṭṭhita  —  Shaking off evil qualities, as a breeze a leaf from a tree.
  • Thag 1:3  Kaṅkhā (Doubting) Revata  —  The discernment of the Tathāgatas gives light, gives eyes.
  • Thag 1:6  Dabba (“Capable”)  —  The rewards of allowing yourself to be tamed.
  • Thag 1:7  Bhalliya  —  Scattering the troops a death, as a flood, a bridge made of reeds.
  • Thag 1:10  Puṇṇamāsa  —  Unsmeared with regard to all dhammas.
  • Thag 1:13  Vanavaccha  —  Refreshed by the rocky crags of the wilderness.
  • Thag 1:14  Vanavaccha’s pupil  —  My body stays in the village; my mind has gone to the wilds.
  • Thag 1:16  Belaṭṭhasīsa  —  Gaining a pleasure not of the flesh.
  • Thag 1:18  Siṅgālapitar  —  Suffusing the whole earth with the perception of “bones.”
  • Thag 1:21  Nigrodha  —  Where danger and fear don’t remain.
  • Thag 1:22  Cittaka  —  Thrilled by the cold wind, peacocks awaken the sleeper to meditate.
  • Thag 1:23  Gosāla  —  Gaining insight while eating.
  • Thag 1:25  Nandiya (to Māra)  —  A warning to Māra.
  • Thag 1:26  Abhaya  —  Piercing what is subtle.
  • Thag 1:29  Hārita  —  Get up and straighten your mind.
  • Thag 1:31  Gahuratīriya  —  Acquiescing to discomfort like an elephant in battle.
  • Thag 1:32  Suppiya  —  I’ll make a trade: burning for the unbound.
  • Thag 1:33  Sopāka  —  Be good to all creatures.
  • Thag 1:39  Tissa  —  Be mindful as if struck with a sword.
  • Thag 1:41  Sirivaḍḍha  —  A mind firm even when lightning strikes the mountains.
  • Thag 1:43  Sumaṅgala  —  Freed from three crooked things.
  • Thag 1:49  Rāmaṇeyyaka  —  Undisturbed by the whistling of birds.
  • Thag 1:50  Vimala  —  Undisturbed even though lightning wanders the sky.
  • Thag 1:56  Kuṭivihārin (1)  —  Who’s in the hut? A monk’s in the hut.
  • Thag 1:57  Kuṭivihārin (2)  —  Discard your hope for a new hut—i.e., a new birth.
  • Thag 1:61  Vappa  —  One who sees.
  • Thag 1:73  Māṇava  —  Going forth after seeing an old person, a sick person, and a dead person.
  • Thag 1:75  Susārada  —  The company of the true is good.
  • Thag 1:84  Nīta  —  The fool: asleep the whole night, delighting in company by day.
  • Thag 1:85  Sunāga  —  Attaining a pleasure not of the flesh.
  • Thag 1:86  Nāgita  —  The Buddha teaches openly the only path to unbinding.
  • Thag 1:88  Ajjuna  —  Raising myself from the flood.
  • Thag 1:93  Eraka  —  Whoever loves sensual pleasures loves stress.
  • Thag 1:95  Cakkhupāla  —  Even if I must crawl, I’ll go on, but not with an evil companion.
  • Thag 1:100  Devasabha  —  Blanketed with the flowers of release.
  • Thag 1:101  Belaṭṭhkāni  —  A lazy monk is like a hog fattened on fodder.
  • Thag 1:104  Khitaka  —  How light my body when touched by rapture!
  • Thag 1:109  Saṅgharakkhita  —  With your faculties exposed, you’re prey to danger.
  • Thag 1:110  Usabha  —  The perception of “wilderness.”
  • Thag 1:111  Jenta  —  Going forth is hard, so is living at home. What’s the way out?
  • Thag 1:113  Vanavaccha  —  Those rocky crags refresh me.
  • Thag 1:114  Adhimutta  —  If you’re greedy for carcass pleasures, where will you gain excellence?
  • Thag 1:118  Kimbila  —  As if sent by a curse, it drops on us—aging.
  • Thag 1:119  Vajjiputta  —  Leave chitter-chatter. Do jhāna.
  • Thag 1:120  Isidatta  —  Like a tree, the aggregates stand with their root cut through.
  • Thag 2:3  Valliya  —  Monkey mind.
  • Thag 2:9  Gotama  —  Sensuality has been executed.
  • Thag 2:11  Mahā Cunda  —  Listening well leads to the goal.
  • Thag 2:13  Heraññakāni  —  The span of mortals runs out, like a small stream.
  • Thag 2:16  Mahākāla  —  Watching a woman prepare a corpse for cremation.
  • Thag 2:24  Valliya  —  What needs to be done, I will do.
  • Thag 2:26  Puṇṇamāsa  —  Taking the Dhamma as a mirror, I reflected on the body.
  • Thag 2:27  Nandaka  —  Like a steed that, after stumbling, regains its stance.
  • Thag 2:30  Kaṇhadinna  —  Killing passion for becoming.
  • Thag 2:32  Sivaka  —  Inconstant little houses.
  • Thag 2:36  Khitaka  —  My mind, standing like rock, doesn’t shake.
  • Thag 2:37  Soṇa Poṭiriyaputta  —  The night is for staying awake.
  • Thag 2:47  Anūpama  —  You, mind, I call a mind-traitor!
  • Thag 3:5  Mātaṅgaputta  —  Whoever regards cold and heat as no more than grass won’t fall away.
  • Thag 3:8  Yasoja  —  The man of undaunted heart.
  • Thag 3:12  Abhibhūta  —  A message to kinsmen.
  • Thag 3:14  Gotama  —  Ways of taking birth are born from my self.
  • Thag 3:15  Hārita  —  Speak as you would act.
  • Thag 4:8  Rāhula  —  The son of the Buddha, unbound.
  • Thag 4:10  Dhammika  —  The Dhamma protects those who live by the Dhamma.
  • Thag 5:1  Rājadatta  —  Coming to one’s senses after feeling lust for a corpse.
  • Thag 5:8  Vakkali  —  Ill when living in the wilderness: What will you do?
  • Thag 5:10  Yasadatta  —  Intent on quibbling, you’re far from the Dhamma.
  • Thag 6:2  Tekicchakāni  —  Not getting alms, how will I get by?
  • Thag 6:6  Sappadāsa  —  Coming to one’s sense after contemplating suicide.
  • Thag 6:9  Jenta, the Royal Chaplain’s Son  —  A young man, intoxicated with his good looks, comes to his senses.
  • Thag 6:10  Sumana the Novice  —  A novice with great psychic powers wants no one to know.
  • Thag 6:12  Brahmadatta  —  How to deal wisely with angry fools—and with your own defilements.
  • Thag 6:13  Sirimaṇḍa  —  They encroach like masses of flame, these three: death, aging, and illness.
  • Thag 7:1  Sundara Samudda & the Courtesan  —  A courtesan invites a monk to disrobe.
  • Thag 10:1  Kāludāyin  —  The Buddha’s former barber invites him to return home to teach his relatives after his awakening.
  • Thag 10:2  Ekavihāriya—“Dwelling Alone”  —  King Asoka’s younger brother leaves the palace for the forest.
  • Thag 10:5  Kappa  —  Contemplation of the body.
  • Thag 11  Saṅkicca  —  A monk who gained awakening as a novice reflects on his life in the wilderness.
  • Thag 12:1  Sīlavat  —  The rewards of virtue.
  • Thag 12:2  Sunīta the Outcaste  —  An outcaste becomes an arahant and is worshiped by devas.
  • Thag 14:1  Revata’s Farewell  —  An arahant, about to die, reflects on his practice and advises his listeners to be in constant quest of what’s pure.
  • Thag 14:2  Godatta  —  Reflections on true nobility.
  • Thag 15:2  Udāyin  —  Celebrating the arahant as the true nāga.
  • Thag 16:1  Adhimutta & the Bandits  —  Captured by bandits intent on killing him, Ven. Adhimutta shows no fear.
  • Thag 16:4  Raṭṭhapāla  —  The verses of the monk whom the Buddha praised as foremost among his monk disciples in going forth through conviction.
  • Thag 16:7  Bhaddiya Kāligodhāyaputta  —  After abandoning his wealth and royal position, Ven. Bhaddiya follows the ascetic practices.
  • Thag 16:8  Aṅgulimāla  —  The Buddha converts a great bandit.
  • Thag 18  Mahā Kassapa  —  Celebrating the joys of practicing jhāna in the wilderness and what it means to be a “man of the four directions.”