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Tipitaka » Sutta Pitaka » Khuddaka Nikaya » 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.

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

  • 2. Uttama. Seven days of continuous meditation. On the eighth: Victory!
  • 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 death.

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter XII

  • 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!

Chapter XIII

  • 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.

Chapter XIV

  • 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 story.


Updated: 1-7-2000

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