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Context of the Therigatha
Verses of the Elder Nuns
See also the Theragatha (Verses of the Elder Monks).
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
Search for a sutta by name.
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. See the Theravada Text Archives page for more information.
- 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.
- 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 story.
See also: Inspiration from Enlightened Nuns (Susan Elbaum Jootla).
Revised: 10 November 1999