Poems from the Therigatha by Shi Faxun – 3

Shi Faxun

Shi Faxun

Ambapālī

252.
My hair was black, like the colour of bees, with curly ends; because of old age it is like bark fibres of hemp; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

253.
Covered with flowers my head was fragrant like a perfumed box; now because of old age it smells like a dog’s fur; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

254.
Thick as well-planted grove, made beautiful, having the ends parted by comb and pin; because of old age it is thin here and there; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

255.
Possessing fine pins, decorated with gold, adorned with plaits, it looked beautiful; because of old age that head has been made bald; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

256.
Formerly my eyebrows looked beautiful, like crescents well-painted by artists; because of old age they drop down with wrinkles; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

257.
My eyes were shining, very brilliant like jewels, very black and long; overwhelmed by old age they do not look beautiful; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

258.
In the bloom of my youth my nose looked beautiful like a delicate peak; because of old age it is like a flower-spike of long pepper; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

259.
My ear-lobes looked beautiful, like well-fashioned and well-finished bracelets; because of old age they droop down with wrinkles; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

260.
Formerly my teeth looked beautiful, like the colour of the bud of the plantain; because of old age they are broken indeed and yellow; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

261.
Sweet was my warbling, like a cuckoo wandering in the grove in a jungle-thicket; because of old age it has faltered here and there; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

262.
Formerly my neck looked beautiful like well-rubbed delicate conch-shell; because of old age it is broken and bowed-down; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

263.
Formerly both my arms looked beautiful, like round cross-bars; because of old age they are weak as the Pāṭalī tree; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

264.
Formerly my hands looked beautiful, with delicate signet rings, decorated with gold; because of old age they are like onions and radishes; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

265.
Formerly my breasts looked beautiful, swelling, round, close together, lofty; now they hang down like empty water-bags; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

266.
Formerly my body looked beautiful, like a well-polished sheet of gold; now it is covered with very fine wrinkles; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

267.
Formerly both my thighs looked beautiful like an elephant’s trunk; because of old age they are like stalks of bamboo; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

268.
Formerly my calves looked beautiful, possessing delicate anklets, decorated with gold; because of old age they are like sticks of sesame; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

269.
Formerly both my feet looked beautiful, like shoes full of cotton-wool; because of old age they are cracked, and wrinkled; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.

270.
Such was this body; now it is decrepit, the abode of many pains; an old house, with its plaster fallen off; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.


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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