New Translation of the Thematic Discourses about Nuns

Thematic Discourses about Nuns

I have just published a text and translation of the Bhikhhunīsaṁyuttaṁ, which is one of the shortest of the Thematic collections. Despite its size – just 10 short discourses – it contains some very profound teachings.

The discourses are each framed in a similar way, with only minor variations: the Gracious One is at Sāvatthī, and a nun goes into town for alms and afterwards heads for the Blind Man’s Wood to spend the day.

There Māra approaches and tries to frighten and otherwise disturb their meditation with temptations and doubts.

The nuns, after cognising the fact that this is only Māra up to his tricks, all manage to give him a good rebuke, and he, realising that the nun had recognised him, vanishes on the spot.

Psychologically I find it interesting that as soon as Māra is recognised he is no longer able to sustain his presence, or cause any further disturbance.

It is indeed only when the origin of disturbing thoughts is unrecognised that we act on them, when we realise their unwholesome origin they loose their power.

The discourses contains some of the most famous verbal exchanges like this one in which Māra questions a woman’s ability to realise the highest attainments:

“Yaṁ taṁ isīhi pattabbaṁ ṭhānaṁ durabhisambhavaṁ,
“That place which has been attained by the seers is hard to obtain,

Na taṁ dvaṅgulapaññāya, sakkā pappotum-itthiyā.” ti
No woman, with her two-finger wisdom, is able to attain it.”

to which the Bhikkhunī Somā replies:

“Itthibhāvo kiṁ kayirā, cittamhi susamāhite?
“What is to be made of womenhood when my mind is well-composed?

Ñāṇamhi vattamānamhi, Sammā Dhammaṁ vipassato.
When knowledges exist, and Right Dhamma has been seen with insight.

Yassa nūna siyā evaṁ: Itthāhaṁ puriso ti vā,
For whomever thinks thus: I am a woman or a man,

Kiñci vā pana aññasmiṁ, taṁ Māro vattum-arahatī.” ti
Or I am something other, deserves to have Māra speak to her.”

The collection is available in various formats: the Text and Translation (as above); an English Only version; and the established Text. The three versions come in html and pdf, and the English Only version is also available in epub and mobi format for the eReader.

I have also recorded both the English and Pāḷi, and the recordings are available either from their respective pages, where they are embedded, or separately from the Audio Page, where there are also many other recordings available.

If anyone has any feedback on this work, please leave a comment either here, or on the page it concerns.


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