Khuddaka Nikaya

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Canto XII. Psalms of Sixteen Verses



Puṇṇā or Puṇṇikā.[1]


SHE, too, having made her resolve under former Buddhas, and heaping up good of age-enduring efficacy in this and that rebirth, was, when Vipassi was Buddha, reborn in a clansman's family. Come to years of discretion, because of the promise that was in her, she waxed anxious at the prospect of rebirth, and, going to the Bhikkhunīs, heard the Norm, believed, and entered the Order. Perfect in virtue, and learning the Three Pitakas, she became very learned in the Norm, and a teacher of it. The same destiny befell her under the five succeeding Buddhas — Sikhi, Vessabhu, Kakusandha, Koṇāgamana, and Kassapa. But because of her tendency to pride, she was unable to root out the defilements.[2] So it came to pass, through the karma of her pride, that, in this Buddha-era, she was [117] reborn at Sāvatthī, in the household of Anāthapiṇḍika, the Treasurer, of a domestic slave. She became a Stream-entrant after hearing the discourse of the Lion's Roar.[3] Afterwards, when she had converted (lit. tamed) the baptist[4] brahmin, and so won her master's esteem that he made her a freed woman, she obtained his consent, as her guardian and head of her home, to enter the Order. And, practising insight, she in no long time won Arahantship, together with thorough grasp of the Norm in form and in meaning. Reflecting on her attainment, she uttered these verses in exultation:

[236] Drawer of water, I down to the stream,[5]
Even in winter, went in fear of blows,
Harassed by fear of blame from mistresses.

[237] 'What, brahmin, fearest thou that ever thus
Thou goest down into the river? Why
With shiv'ring limbs dost suffer bitter cold?'

[238] 'Well know'st thou, damsel Puṇṇikā, why ask
One who by righteous karma thus annuls
Effect of evil karma? Who in youth,

[239] Or age ill deeds hath wrought, by baptism
Of water from that karma is released.'

[240] 'Nay now, who, ignorant to the ignorant,
Hath told thee this: that water-baptism
From evil karma can avail to free?

[241] Why then the fishes[6] and the tortoises,
[118] The frogs, the watersnakes, the crocodiles
And all that haunt the water straight to heaven

[242] Will go. Yea, all who evil karma work —
Butchers of sheep and swine, hunters of game,
Thieves, murderers — so they but splash themselves
With water, are from evil karma free!

[243] And if these streams could bear away what erst
Of evil thou hast wrought, they'd bear away
Thy merit too, leaving thee stripped and bare.

[244] That, dreading which, thou, brahmin, comest e'er
To bathe and shiver here, that, even that
Leave thou undone, and save thy skin from frost.'

[245] 'Men who in error's ways had gone aside
Thou leadest now into the Ariyan Path.
Damsel, my bathing raiment give I thee.'

[246] 'Keep thou thy raiment! Raiment seek I none.
If ill thou fearest, if thou like it not,

[247] Do thou no open, nor no hidden wrong.
But if thou shalt do evil, or hast done,

[248] Then is there no escape for thee from ill,
E'en tho' thou see it come, and flee away.
If thou fear ill, if ill delight thee not,

[249] Go thou and seek the Buddha and the Norm
And Order for thy refuge; learn of them
To keep the Precepts. Thus shalt thou find good.'

[250] 'Lo! to the Buddha I for refuge go,
And to the Norm and Order. I will learn
[119] Of them to take upon myself and keep
The Precepts; so shall I indeed find good.

[251] Once but a son of brahmins born was I,
To-day I stand brahmin in very deed.
The nobler Threefold Wisdom have I won,
Won the true Veda-lore, and graduate
Am I, from better Sacrament returned,
Cleansed by the inward spiritual bath.'[8]

For the brahmin, established in the Refuges and the Precepts, when later he had heard the Master preach the Norm, became a believer and entered the Order. Using every effort, he not long after became Thrice-Wise,[7] and, reflecting on his state, exulted in those verses. And the Sister, repeating them of herself, they all became her Psalm.


[1] The Commentary gives her the latter name, of which the former is the diminutive. Possibly Puṇṇikā may have been used to distinguish her from the Therī Puṇṇā of Ps. iii. It is curious that in the Subhā-Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya, where young brahmins come to the Jeta Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika's gift, to interview the Buddha, a slave-girl Puṇṇikā is alluded to in the conversation. Subhā says: 'They [certain brahmin teachers] are not able to read the thoughts of slave-girl Puṇṇikā. How should they be able to know the minds of all recluses?' If this is our Puṇṇikā, she would not yet be a Therī, or she would be referred to as such.

[2] Kilesā. For the ten, see Buddh. Psy., pp. 327, ff.

[3] Majjhima Nikāya, i., Sutta xi. or xii.

[4] Udakasuddhika. Believer in purification through water (as a mystic rite), and not through sacrifice by fire.

[5] The Ac(h)iravatī (now Rapti), a tributary (with the Gogra) of the Ganges, flowing past Sāvatthī.

[6] Not specified in the text.

[7] These four last lines are expansions of four brahminical technical terms, each connoting more than we could express with equal terseness:|| ||

Tevijjo vedasampanno sotthiyo c'amhi nhātako.

The brahmin student performed, like a new knight, a bath-rite before returning home from his teacher's house.

[8] See Ps. xxii. 26 n.

Next: Canto XIII. Psalms of About Twenty Verses

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