Khuddaka Nikaya

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Canto III. Psalms of Three Verses



Another Sāmā


SHE also, heaping up good like the foregoing, was born, in the time of Vipassi Buddha, as a fairy on the banks of the River Candabhaga.[1] Devoted to fairy pastimes, she saw one day the Master walking on the bank, that he might sow the good seed among creatures. And with great glee she worshipped, offering flowers.[2] For this she gained rebirth among gods and men, till, in this Buddha-dispensation, she took birth in a clansman's family at Kosambī. She too became the friend of Sāmāvati, and she too, out of grief at the death of the latter, entered the Order. She too could not gain self-mastery for twenty-five years, till in her old age she heard a timely sermon, through which her insight expanded and she won Arahantship, with thorough grasp of the Dhamma in form and meaning. Thereon reflecting, she broke forth:

[39] Full five-and-twenty years since I came forth!
But in my troubled heart in no way yet
Could I discern the calm of victory.

[40] The peace of mind, the governance of thoughts
[35] Long sought, I found not; and with anguish thrilled
I dwelt in memory on the Conqueror's word.[3]

[41] To free my path from all that breedeth Ill
I strove with passionate ardour, and I won!
Craving is dead, and the Lord's will is done.
To-day is now the seventh day since first
Was withered up within that ancient Thirst.







She, too, heaping up good under former Buddhas, was in the time of Vipassi Buddha, born at Bandhumatī, in the house of a certain wealthy landowner, and became a domestic servant. Grown up, she tended her master's household. Now, at that time, King Bandhuma (Vipassi's father), having restored Sabbath-keeping, gave gifts before dining and, after dining, attended a sermon; and the people, following his pious example, and keeping Sabbath, the slave thought: 'Why should not I, too, do as they all are doing?' And for the thoroughness of her observance of the feasts she was reborn among the Three-and-Thirty gods, and in other happy realms, and finally, in this Buddha-era, in the house of the Treasurer of Sāvatthī. Come to years of discretion, she heard Paṭācārā preach, and entered the Order; but she was unable to attain the climax of insight till Paṭācārā,[4] seeing the state of her mind, gave her admonition. [36] Thereby established, she won Arahantship, with thorough grasp of the Norm in form and in meaning. And reflecting thereon, she exulted thus:

[42] Four times, nay, five, I sallied from my cell,
And roamed afield to find the peace of mind
Long vainly sought, and governance of thoughts
I could not bring into captivity.

[43] To me she came, that noble Bhikkhunī,
Who was my foster-mother in the faith —
She taught to me the Norm, wherein I learnt
The nature of this transitory self.[5]

[44] And well I minded all, e'en as she taught.
For seven days I sat in Jhāna-joy
And ease, cross-legged; on the eighth day at last
I stretched my limbs, and went my way serene,
For I had burst asunder the surrounding gloom.

Now, this was the affirmation of her añña.





Another Uttamā


She, too, having made her resolve under former Buddhas, and heaping up good of age-enduring efficacy in this and that rebirth, was born, in the time of Vipassi Buddha, as a domestic servant, at Bandhumatī. One day, seeing an Arahant of the Master's Order seeking alms, she gladly offered him three sweet cakes. Through this reborn to happiness, she finally came to birth, in this Buddha-era, in the family of an eminent brahmin in the country of Kosala. Come to years of discretion, she heard the Master preach while touring in the country, and leaving the world, she soon won Arahantship, together with thorough grasp of the Norm in form and in meaning. And reflecting thereon, she exulted thus:

[45] The Seven Factors of the Awakened mind —[6]
Seven Ways whereby we may Nibbana win —
All, all have I developed and made ripe,
Even according to the Buddha's word.

[46] Fulfilled is heart's desire: I win the Void,
I win the Signless![7] Buddha's daughter I,
Born of his mouth, his blessed word, I stand,
Transported with Nibbana's bliss alway.

[47] And all the sense-desires that fetter gods,
That hinder men, are wholly riven off.
Abolished is the infinite round of births.
Becoming cometh ne'er again for me.







She, too, having made her resolve under former Buddhas, and in this and that rebirth heaping up good of age-enduring efficacy, was born, when the world was empty of a Buddha, as a fairy by the River Candabhaga.[8] Sporting one day with the fairies, and straying awhile, she saw a silent [38] Buddha seated at the foot of a tree, and adored him in faith with flower-offerings. For this she was reborn among gods and men, and, finally, in this Buddha-era, at Sāvatthī, in the house of the King's chaplain-brahmin. Come to years of discretion, she became a lay-believer in the Jeta Grove [College], and, later, entered the Order under Great Pajāpatī the Gotamid. And one day, while staying at Rājagaha, she ascended the Vulture's Peak, after her meal, and while resting, she saw that which she tells of in her verse, whereby she won Arahantship, with thorough grasp of the Norm in form and in meaning. And afterwards, thrilled with happiness at the thought of her attainment, she exulted thus:

[48] Coming from noonday-rest on Vulture's Peak,
I saw an elephant, his bathe performed,
Forth from the river issue. And a man,
[49] Taking his goad, bade the great creature[9] stretch
His foot: 'Give me thy foot!' The elephant
Obeyed, and to his neck the driver sprang.

[50] I saw the untamed tamed,[10] I saw him bent
To master's will; and marking inwardly,
I passed into the forest depths and there
I' faith I trained and ordered all my heart.







She too, having made her resolve in the time of former Buddhas, and heaping up, in this and that rebirth, good, valid for an æon of evolution, was born, in the time of [39] Padumuttara Buddha, at the town of Haŋsavatī in a clansman's house. Come to years of discretion, she was left alone one day, her parents being engaged with a party in the inner court of the house. And seeing an Arahant approaching the house-door, she bade him 'Come in hither, lord,' and did him homage, showing him to a seat; she then took his bowl and filled it with food. The Elder thanked her, and departed. But she, reborn therefore in the heaven of the Three-and-Thirty gods, enjoying there a heavenly time and many a happy life thereafter, was, in this Buddha-era, reborn at Sāvatthī in the family of a very eminent burgess. And she was beautiful to see, and was brought into the house of the King of Kosala himself.[11] After a few years a daughter was born to her, whom she named Jīvā.[12] The King saw the child, and was so pleased that he had Ubbirī anointed as Queen. But anon the little girl died, and the mother went daily mourning to the charnel-field. And one day she went and worshipped the Master, and sat down; but soon she left, and stood lamenting by the River Achiravati. Then the Master, seeing her from afar, revealed himself, and asked her: 'Why dost thou weep?' 'I weep because of my daughter, Exalted One.' 'Burnt in this cemetery are some 84,000[13] of thy daughters. For which of them dost thou weep?' And pointing out the place where this one and that one had been laid, he said half the psalm:

[51] O Ubbirī, who wailest in the wood,
Crying 'O Jīvā! O my daughter dear!'
Come to thyself! Lo, in this burying-ground
Are burnt full many a thousand daughters dear,
And all of them were named like unto her.
Now which of all those Jīvās dost thou mourn?

[40] And she pondered with intelligence on the Norm thus taught by the Master, and so stirred up insight that, by the charm of his teaching and her own attainment of the requisite conditions, she reached the topmost fruit, even Arahantship.[14] And showing forth the high distinction she had won, she spoke the second half of the psalm:

[52] Lo! from my heart the hidden shaft is gone!
The shaft that nestled there hath he removed.
And that consuming grief for my dead child
Which poisoned all the life of me is dead.

[53] To-day my heart is healed, my yearning stayed,
And all within is purity and peace.[15]
Lo! I for refuge to the Buddha go —
The only wise — the Order and the Norm.[16]







She, too, having fared in the past as the foregoing Sisters, was born in a clansman's house.[17] Come to years of discretion, she went with lay-women disciples to the Vihāra,[18] and heard the Master preach. Becoming a believer, she left the world and became learned, proficient in the doctrine, and a ready speaker. Leading for centuries a religious life,[19] she yet died a worldling at heart, and was reborn in the heaven of bliss.[20] Again, when Vipassi was Buddha, and again when Vessabhu was Buddha, she kept the precepts, and was learned and proficient in doctrine. Again, when Kakusandha was Buddha, and yet again when Konāgamana was Buddha, she took Orders, and was pure in conduct, learnèd, and a preacher. At length, she was, in this Buddha-era, reborn at Rājagaha, in the family of an eminent burgess, and called Sukkā (bright, lustrous, 'Lucy'). Come to years of discretion, she found faith in the Master at her own home, and became a lay-disciple. But later, when she heard Dhammadinnā preach,[21] she was thrilled with emotion, and renounced the world under her. And performing the exercises for insight, she not long after attained Arahantship, together with thorough grasp of the Norm in form and in meaning.

Thereupon, attended by 500 Bhikkhunīs, she became a great preacher. And one day, when they had been into Rājagaha for alms, and had returned and dined, they entered the Bhikkhunī's, settlement, and Sukkā, with a great company seated around her, taught the doctrine in such wise that she seemed to be giving them sweet mead to drink and sprinkling them with ambrosia. And they all listened to her rapt, motionless, intent. Thereupon the spirit[22] of the tree that stood at the end of the Sisters' terrace was inspired by her teaching, and went out to Rājagaha, walking about the ways and the squares proclaiming her excellence, and saying:

[54] What would ye men of Rājagahahave?
What have ye done? that mute and idle here
[42] Ye lie about, as if bemused with wine,
Nor wait upon Sukkā, while she reveals
The precious gospel by the Buddha taught.

[55] The wise in heart, methinks, were fain to quaff
That life's elixir, once won never lost,
That welleth ever up in her sweet words,
E'en as the wayfarer welcomes the rain.

And hearing what the tree-spirit said, the people were excited, and came to the Sister and listened attentively.

At a later period, when the Sister, at the end of her life, was completing her Nibbana, and wished to show how the system she had taught led to salvation, she declared her añña thus:

[56] O Child of light![23] by light of truth set free
From cravings dire, firm, self-possessed, serene,
Bear to this end thy last incarnate frame,
For thou hast conquered Māra and his host.


The sight of the 'new' Rajagha built by Bimbisara





She, too, having fared in the past as the foregoing Sisters, was born in a clansman's house at Haŋsavatī,[24] and was given in marriage by her parents to a clansman's son of equal birth. With him she lived happily till his death. Then, being herself advanced in years, and growing anxious as she sought to find Good,[25] she went about from park to park,[26] from vihāra to vihāra, with the intention of teaching religion (dhamma) to votaries of religion. Then one day she came up to the Bo-tree of the Master[27] and sat down, thinking: 'If a Buddha, an Exalted One, be unequalled and peerless among men, may this one show me the miracle of Buddhahood.' Scarce had the thought arisen when the Tree blazed forth, the branches appeared as if made of gold, the horizon shone all around. And she, inspired at that sight, fell down and worshipped, and for seven days sat there. On the seventh day she performed a grand feast of offering and worship to the Buddha.[28] By this meritorious karma she was reborn in this Buddha-era, in the kingdom of Āḷavī, as the King's daughter, and named Selā.[29] But she was also known as 'The Āḷavīkan.'[30] Come to years of discretion, the Master converted her father, ordained him, and went with him to the city of Āḷavī. Selā, being yet unmarried, went with the King and heard the Master preach. She became a believer and a lay-disciple. Afterwards, growing anxious, she took Orders, worked her way to insight, and because of the promise in her and the maturity of her knowledge, she, crushing the formations of thought, word and deed,[31] soon won Arahantship.

Thereafter, as an Elder, she lived at Sāvatthī. And one day she went forth from Sāvatthī to take siesta in the Dark Grove, and sat down beneath a tree. Then Māra, alone and wishing to interrupt her privacy, approached in the guise of a stranger, saying:

[44] [57] Ne'er shalt thou find escape while in the world!
What profiteth thee then thy loneliness?
Take the good things of life while yet thou mayst.
Repentance else too late awaiteth thee.

Then the Sister — thinking: 'Verily, 'tis that foolish Māra who would deny me the Nibbana that is revealed to me, and bids me choose the sensuous life. He knows not that I am an Arahant. Now will I tell him and confound him' — recited the following:[32]

[58] Like spears and javelins are the joys of sense
That pierce and rend the mortal frames of us.
These that thou callest 'the good things of life' —
Good of that ilk to me is nothing worth.

[59] On every hand the love of pleasure yields,
And the thick gloom of ignorance is rent
In twain. Know this, O Evil One, avaunt!
Here, O Destroyer, shalt thou not prevail.







She, too, having fared in the past as the foregoing Sisters, was, in the time of Sikhi Buddha,[34] reborn in the family of an eminent noble, and, when grown up, was made the chief [45] consort of the King Aruṇavā. The story of her past is similar to that of Sister Abhaya.[35] The story of her present is that, in this Buddha-era, she was reborn as the daughter of the chaplain of King Bimbisara[36] at Rājagaha, and named Somā. Come to years of discretion, she came to believe in the Master in her own home, and became a lay-disciple. And later on, growing anxious, she entered the Order of Bhikkhunīs, and, working her way to insight, she not long after won Arahantship, with thorough grasp of the Norm in letter and in spirit.

Then, dwelling at Sāvatthī in the bliss of emancipation, she went forth one day to take siesta in the Dark Grove, and sat down beneath a tree. And Māra, alone, and wishing to interrupt her privacy, approached her, invisible and in the air, saying:

[60] That vantage-ground the sages may attain is hard
To reach. With her two-finger consciousness
That is no woman competent to gain!

For women, from the age of seven or eight, boiling rice at all times, know not the moment when the rice is cooked, but must take some grains in a spoon and press it with two fingers; hence the expression 'two-finger' sense.[37] Then the Elder rebuked Māra:

[61] How should the woman's nature hinder us?
Whose hearts are firmly set, who ever move
With growing knowledge onward in the Path?
What can that signify to one in whom
Insight doth truly comprehend the Norm?[38] 183

[62] On every hand the love of pleasure yields,
And the thick gloom of ignorance is rent
In twain. Know this, O Evil One, avaunt!
Here, O Destroyer! shalt thou not prevail.


[1] Cf. Ps. iii. and xxiii.

[2] Salaḷa-pupphāni, possibly shoots of the Indian pine (sarala).

[3] The Commentary holds that, by 'word' or teaching (sāsana) here were meant passages of doctrine declaring how rare was the opportunity, and brief, of birth as a human, when Nibbana might be won, illustrated by similes like that of the blind tortoise (Majjh., ii. 169; infra, 500)

[4] See below, xlvii., li.

[5] Lit., the Khandhas, the nature of sense-perception and the elements of my being. Cf. Ps. xxxviii. for a more literal translation.

[6] See Ps. xx.

[7] 'Void,, i.e., I am empty of greed, ill-will, and dulness, the three springs of all evil. 'Signless,' i.e., I am free from all attachment to anything 'marked' as impermanent, evil, or having a soul. See Ps. xix., ver. 20, n. 1.

[8] See Pss. iii., xxiii.

[9] Nāga, a more poetic term for elephant.

[10] Dantikā = little tamed (woman).

[11] The King contemporary with Gotama Buddha was Pasenādi.

[12] Meaning Psyche, or, more literally, 'alive,' 'Viva.'

[13] A staple figure used when any great number is meant. Of course, the circumstances of infinitely numerous previous lives of Ubbirī are here implied.

These are 'Psalms of the Sisters'. Actually 'Therī' so not only a "Bhikkhunī but one of long standing. It is interesting enough that she attained Arahantship while still a lay-woman.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

[14] She not only reaches it as a lay-woman, but her subsequent entry into the Order is not even mentioned.

[15] A free rendering of the one word parinibbutā. Cf. ver. 132.

[16] 161 The orthodox sequence is Norm, Order, here inverted metri causâ. The inversion is actually met with in later Buddhism.

[17] Here it is not stated in which Buddha's ministry this took place.

[18] In earliest times simply the hut or chalet, in a cluster of such, reserved for the Buddha or leading teacher, consisting of open hall and sleeping chamber adjoining.

[19] The term of human life was believed to have been much longer in earlier ages. See Dīgha Nikāya, ii., p. 3. Cf. Gen. v.

[20] See p. 1.

[21] See Ps. xii.

[22] The word for spirit, -devatā, lit. deity, is feminine, as are all abstract nouns in -tā; but whether tree-spirits were more usually conceived of as male or female, or as sexless, is not clear. Cf. the plates in Cunningham's Bharhut, and, on tree-spirits generally, chaps. ii. and iii. in Mrs. Philpot's The Sacred Tree. See also Appendix.

[23] Sukkā.

[24] Under which Buddha is not stated.

[25] Kiŋ-kusalaŋ-gavesinī. Cf. D., ii. 151: Kiŋ-kusalānvesī.

[26] Members of religious orders frequented 'parks' (ārāmā) or 'pleasaunces' when dwelling near towns.

[27] Every Buddha had his specific kind of Bo-tree under which he attained Buddhahood (Dīgha N., ii., p. 4).

[28] Let it be noted that the heroine is an Indian widow!

[29] Meaning 'Alpina' (selo = rock, or crag).

[30] In the Bhikkhunī-Saŋyutta (translated in the Appendix) she is so called. Āḷavī is stated to have been thirty yojanas (c. 260 miles) from Sāvatthī and twelve from Benares (Spence Hardy, Manual of Budhism, 262; Legge's Fa Hien, chap. xxxiv.; Yuan Chwang (Watters), i. 61). The conversion of King Āḷavaka is deseribed in Sutta Nipāta, pp. 31. ff. (S.B.E., x. 29-31), and Sŋ. Nik., i. 213-215.

[31] Sankhārā, i.e., their potency to lead to rebirth.

[32] Cf. the reply of Āḷavīka in Appendix, commencing with a direct contradiction omitted in this psalm.

[33] Cf. her verses in Appendix.

[34] Second of the Seven (Pitaka) Buddhas, son of King Aruṇa (sic in Dīgha N., ii. 7) and Pabhāvatī.

[35] Ps. xxvii.

[36] Cf. Ps. lii.

[37] The daughter of a Neapolitan told me that the identical idiom exists in Italian: Una mente lunga di due dità.

[38] The It is regrettable that, in this work, Somā's dignified retort lacks the noteworthy extension given to it in the Saŋyutta version (see Appendix):

'To one for whom the question doth arise:
Am I a woman in these matters or
Am I a man? or what not am I, then? —
To such a one is Māra fit to talk!'

Next: Canto IV. Psalms of Four Verses

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