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Context of the Therigatha
- Verses of the Elder Nuns
The Therigatha, the ninth book of the Khuddaka Nikaya,
contains 73 stories in verse form in which the early nuns (bhikkhunis) recount
their struggles and accomplishments along the road to arahantship. These stories are told
with often heart-breaking honesty and beauty, revealing the human side of these
extraordinary women, and thus serve as inspiring reminders of our own potential to follow
in their footsteps.
The verses of the Therigatha also serve as a powerful curative to any mistaken notion
that the Buddha's teachings are somehow only applicable to -- and effective for -- men.
The outstanding heroism and nobility of these pioneering women has served for over two and
one-half millennia as an inspiration for all those who have endeavored to practice
the Buddha's teachings since -- whether monk, nun, layman, or laywoman. Arahantship is
open to all who -- like these exemplary women -- are willing to put forth the effort.
Selected suttas from the Therigatha
Note: Unless otherwise indicated, these suttas were translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu. An anthology of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's sutta translations is also
available in Microsoft Word 6 (Macintosh/Windows) format.
- 2. Uttama. Seven days of continuous meditation. On the
- 3. Dantika & the Elephant. Taming the mind: "Why I'd
gone to the woods in the first place."
- 5. Ubbiri. A mother conquers her grief over her daughter's
- Punnika & the Brahmin. Punnika convinces a brahmin to
abandon his purifying water-rites -- after all, if bathing were sacred, then frogs,
turtles, and fish would all be pure!
- 1. Ambapali. A former courtesan -- now an arahant -- reveals
how aging has eroded every trace of her youthful beauty. An exquisite portrait of the
effects of aging.
- Subha & the Libertine. Subha, an arahant nun living
alone in the forest, is hounded by a man who lusts after her. The "special gift"
that she finally hands to him instantly brings about a change in his heart. A magnificent