Poems from the Therigatha by Shi Faxun – 1

Shi Faxun

Shi Faxun


I am well-released, properly released by my release by means of the three crooked things, [from] the mortar, pestle, and my crooked husband. I am released from birth and death; everything which leads to renewed existence has been rooted out.

Giving up my house, gone forth, giving up son, cattle, and whatever was dear to me, giving up desire and hatred, and discarding ignorance, plucking out craving root and all, I have become stilled, quenched.


60. [this verse is spoken by Māra (= devil) to discourage Soma]
That place, hard to gain, which is to be attained by the seers, cannot be attained by a woman with two-finger-intelligence (= very little intelligence)

What harm could the woman’s state do to us, when the mind is well-concentrated, when knowledge exists for someone rightly having insight into the doctrine?

Everywhere enjoyment of pleasure is defeated; the mass of darkness (of ignorance) is torn asunder; in this way know, evil one, you are defeated, death.


Young, intoxicated by my own lovely skin, my figure, my gorgeous looks, and famous too, I despised other women.

Dressed to kill at the whorehouse door, I was a hunter and spread my snare for fools.

And when I stripped for them, I was the woman of their dreams; I laughed as I teased them.

Today, head shaved, robed, alms-wanderer,

I, my same self, sit at the tree’s foot; no thought, all ties untied, I have cut men and gods out of my life, I have quenched the fires.
(Therīgāthā, trans. Murcott 1991, pp. 126-127)


139. [this verse is spoken by Māra (= devil)]
“You are young and beautiful; I also am young and in my prime. Come, Khemā, let us delight ourselves with the 5-fold music.”

I am afflicted by and ashamed of this foul body, diseased, perishable. Craving for sensual pleasures has been rooted out.

Sensual pleasures are like swords and stakes; the elements of existence are a chopping block for them; what you call “delight in sensual pleasures” is now “non-delight” for me.

Everywhere love of pleasure is defeated; the mass of darkness (of ignorance) is torn asunder; in this way know, evil one, you are defeated, death.

Revering the lunar mansion, tending the fire in the wood, not knowing it as it really is, fools, you thought it was purity.

But revering the enlightened one, best of men, I am indeed completely released from all pains, doing the teacher’s teaching.

Selected and adapted (except where othersie stated) from Poems of Early Buddhist Nuns (Therīgāthā), translated by K.R. Norman (Elders’ Verses II, revised version), The Pali Text Society, Oxford, by Shi Faxun.

The exceprt is from her thesis The “Other” Path: The Bhikkhuni Quest for Liberation, which is available on the eBooks page.


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