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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.
Unless otherwise indicated, the suttas below were translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. An anthology of selected suttas from the Khuddaka Nikaya (including the Therigatha), translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, is also available in Microsoft Word 6 (Macintosh/Windows) format. See the Theravada Text Archives page for more information.
Selected suttas from the Therigatha
Search for a sutta by name.
Download the complete set of suttas listed below.
- Punnika & the Brahman. Punnika convinces a brahman 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.
- 2. Rohini. Before her ordination, Rohini answers her father's accusation that monks are lazy. In fact, she points out, "They do the best work."
- 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: Wed 23 May 2001