Poems from the Therigatha by Shi Faxun – 4

Shi Faxun

Shi Faxun

Subhā Jīvakambavanikā

A rogue stopped the Bhikkhunī Subhā as she was going to the delightful Jīvakamba wood; Subhā said this to him:

“What wrong have I done you, that you should stand obstructing me? For it is not fitting, sir, that a man should touch a woman who has gone forth.

This training was taught by the well-farer, in my teacher’s severe teaching. Why do you stand obstructing me? I possess the purified state, without blemish.

Why do you, with disturbed mind and with passion, stand obstructing me? I am undisturbed, with passion departed, without blemish, with mind completely released in every respect.”

“You are young and not ugly; what will going-forth do for you? Throw away your yellow robe. Come, let us delight in the flowery wood.

The towering trees send forth a sweet smell in all directions with the pollen of flowers; the beginning of spring is a happy season; come, let us delight in the flowery wood.

At the same time the trees with blossoming crests cry out, as it were, when shaken by the wind. What delight will there be for you if you plunge alone into the wood?

You wish to go without companion to the lonely, frightening, great wood, frequented by herds of beasts of prey, disturbed by cow-elephants, who are excited by bull-elephants.

You will go about like a doll made of gold, like an accharā in Cittalata. O incomparable one, you will shine with beautiful garments of fine muslin, with excellent clothes.

I should be at your beck and call if we were to dwell in the grove; for there is no creature dearer to me than you, o nymph with pleasant eyes.

If you will do my bidding, being made happy, come, live in a house you will dwell in the calm of a palace; let women do attendance upon you.

Wear garments of fine muslin, put on garlands and unguents; I shall make such varied adornment for you, of gold, jewels, and pearls.

Climb on to bed with a coverlet well-washed of dirt, beautiful, spread with a woollen quilt, new, very costly, decorated with sandalwood, having an excellent smell.

Just as a blue lotus with beautiful blossoms rising up from the water is touched by non-human water-spirits, so you, liver of the holy life, will go to old age with your limbs untouched by any man.”

“What is it that you approve of as essential here in the body, which is full of corpses, filling the cemetery, destined to break up? What is it that you have seen when you look at me, being out of your mind?”

“Your eyes are indeed like those of Turiyā, like those of a nymph inside a mountain, seeing your eyes my delight in sensual pleasures increases all the more.

Seeing your eyes in your face, to be compared with the bud of a blue lotus, spotless, like gold, my sensual pleasure increases all the more.

Even though you have gone far away, I shall remember you; you with the long eyelashes, you with the pure gaze; for no eyes are dearer to me than yours, you nymph with pleasant eyes.”

“You wish to go by the wrong path; you seek the moon as a plaything; you wish to jump over Mt. Meru, you who have designs upon a child of the Buddha.

For I do not now have any object of desire anywhere in the world, including the deities, whatever sort it might be, it has been smitten root and all by the eight-fold way.

It has been scattered like sparks from a pit of burning coals; it is a valueless as a bowl of poison. Whatever sort it might be, it has been smitten root and all by the eight-fold way.

Try to seduce someone who has not observed this, or has not served the teacher; but if you seduce this one who knows, you will suffer distress.

For my mindfulness is established in the midst of both reviling and praise, happiness and pain, knowing that conditioned things are disgusting, my mind does not cling to anything at all.

I am a disciple of the well-farer, travelling in the eight-fold vehicle which is the way. With my dart drawn out, without āsavas, gone to a place of solitude, I rejoice.

For I have seen well-painted puppets, or dolls, fastened by strings and sticks, made to dance in various ways.

If these strings and sticks are removed, thrown away, mutilated, scattered, not to be found, broken into pieces, on what there would one fix the mind?

This little body, being of such a kind, does not exist without these phenomena; as it does not exist without phenomena, on what there would one fix one’s mind?

Just as you have seen a picture painted on a wall, smeared with yellow orpiment; on that your gaze has been confused; so the wisdom of men is useless.

You blind one, you ran after an empty thing, like an illusion place in front of you, like a golden tree at the end of a dream, like a puppet-show in the midst of the people.

An eye is like a little ball set in a hollow, having a bubble in the middle, with tears; there is eye secretion here too; various sorts of eyes are rolled into balls.”

Removing her eyes, the good-looking lady, with an unattached mind, was not attached to it. She said, “Come, take this eye for yourself.” Straightway she gave it to this man.

And straightway his passion ceased there, and he begged her pardon. “Become whole again, liver of the good life. Such a thing will not happen again.

In smiting such a person, in embracing a blazing fire, I have seized a poisonous snake, as it were. Become whole again. Forgive me.”

And then that Bhikkhunī, released, went to the presence of the excellent Buddha. When she saw the one with the marks of excellent merit, her eye was restored to its former condition.

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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