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Therigatha

Therīgāthā 15.1
The Verses of Arahant Nun Isidāsī (399-446)

The Arahant Nun Isidāsī tells the story of her previous lives.

399. The city of Pāṭaliputta, which is known as the Kusuma kingdom, is like an ornament for the entire earth. Two nuns who were born into the Sākyan clan possessed good qualities and they were living in that city.

400. One of those nuns was named Isidāsī; the second one was named Bodhī. Both were very virtuous. Both delighted in meditation and had memorized the Buddha’s teaching well. They had shaken off their defilements.

401. One day, they went on their alms round and had their meal. After washing their bowls, they sat happily in a secluded place. On that occasion, this conversation took place:

402. [Bodhī:] Noble Isidāsī, you are gorgeous and you are still in the prime of your youth. What fault did you see in the household life that made you become a nun?

403. Asked in this way in a secluded place, Isidāsī, who was skilful in the teaching of the Dhamma, replied: “Then, Bodhī, listen to how I became a nun.”

404. [Isidāsī:] My father was a wealthy merchant in the city Ujjenī. He was restrained by virtue. I was his only daughter, dear, charming and beloved.

405. Once, from the city of Sāketa, a marriage was proposed to me from a high-caste family. That man was also a wealthy merchant. My father gave me away to that family as their new daughter in-law.

406. From then on, every morning and evening, approaching my mother-in-low and father-in-law, I worshiped their feet. I obeyed every rule they commanded.

407. Every time I saw my husband’s sisters, brothers, and his other family members, I would immediately stand up and give them my seat.

408. I satisfied them with food, drink, sweets, and anything they desired. I served them as best as I could.

409. I attended to their every need. When my husband arrived, I would wash his feet. When I approached him, I always worshiped him with joined palms.

410. Taking a comb, perfumes, jewelry and a mirror, I myself adorned my husband as though I was a servant-girl.

411. I prepared the rice myself. I washed the dishes myself. I looked after my husband as a mother looks after her only son.

412. Though I lived attending to every need of my husband and worked hard like a servant, organizing everything humbly, not being lazy, and being virtuous, my husband would scold me angrily.

413. He said to his mother and father, “I will leave this house and go. I won’t have anything to do with this family life together with Isidāsī.”

414. [Parents:] Do not speak in this way son. Isidāsī is undoubtedly a smart and lucky wife. She has always been energetic and never lazy. This being the case, why are you so displeased with Isidāsī?

415. [Husband:] Yes, she has done no harm to me but I will not live with Isidasī. She is extremely boring. I have had enough of her. I will leave this house without telling any of you.

416. Hearing his words, my father-in-law and mother-in-law asked me, “What offense have you committed? Tell us truthfully what you have done.”

417. [Isidāsī:] I haven’t offended him at all. I have not harmed him, or said any harsh words to him. What can I do when my husband hates me?

418. Overcome by grief and pain, his parents led me back to my father’s house, saying, “We have lost the goddess of fortune, who kept our son safe.”

419. This time, my father gave me in marriage to a wealthy family who earned half of what my father did.

420. Just like before, I only lived in their house for a month, then he too rejected me, although I served him like a slave-girl, not harming him, and possessed of virtue.

421. Finally my father brought home a man who lived by begging food from others, and told him, “Throw away your rags and plate. Be my son-in-law.”

422. He also lived with me for only a short time, and then said to my father, “Give back my rags, pot, and cup. I am going to live by begging again.”

423. Then my father, mother, and all of my relatives told him: “What have we not done for you here in this house? Tell us what you want and we can arrange that for you in a minute.”

424. Spoken to in this way, he said: “I am very well strong enough to live on my own. I have had enough with Isidāsī. I don’t want to live together with her under the same roof.”

425. I allowed him to go and he departed. All alone, I thought to myself, “Without taking leave from anyone I must go and commit suicide or become a nun.”

426. In my city, there lived a noble nun named Jinadattā, who was an expert in the discipline, was well learned in the Dhamma, and possessed virtue. She came to my father’s house on her alms round.

427. Seeing her in our house, I rose up from my seat and offered it to her. She sat down and I worshipped her feet and I offered her food.

428. I served her with food, drink, sweets and whatever was prepared at my house. Then I said to her: “Noble nun, I too wish to become a nun.”

429. Then my father said to me: “My dear daughter, practice the Dhamma while living at home. Serve recluses with food and drinks.”

430. I fell down crying at my father’s feet. Worshipping, I said to him: “No, I am experiencing the result of my own bad actions done by me alone. Let me destroy this evil.”

431. Then my father said to me, “The best of humans, the Buddha, attained the greatest goal, Nibbāna. May you also attain the greatest goal, enlightenment, Nibbāna.”

432. I worshiped my father, mother, and the community of my relatives. I became a nun. Seven days after becoming a nun, I attained the Triple Knowledge.

433. I can recollect my last seven births; the pain I have been experiencing was a result of an evil action done by me in those past lives. I will explain it to you, please listen attentively.

434. Seven lives ago, in the city of Erakaccha, I was a wealthy gold-smith. Intoxicated by pride in my youth, I engaged in sexual misconduct with the wives of others.

435. When I passed away from that life, I immediately fell into hell. I was boiled in hell for a long time. Once I escaped from the life in hell, I was reborn in the womb of a female monkey.

436. Seven days after my birth an elder monkey, the leader of the herd, castrated me. This was the result of that evil action of seducing the wives of others.

437. I passed away from that life and I was reborn in the womb of a one-eyed, lame female goat in the Sindhava forest.

438. There too I was castrated. I walked for twelve years carrying kids on my back. My wound was worm infested and the disease worsened. This was the result of that evil action of seducing the wives of others.

439. I passed away from that life and was reborn in the womb of a cow belonging to a cattle dealer. I was a reddish calf. In the twelfth month after my birth, I was castrated.

440. I ploughed the earth dragging a heavy plow and pulling a heavy cart. I became blind and diseased. This was the result of that evil action of seducing the wives of others.

441. I passed away from that life and I was reborn as a homeless street child. I was neither a woman nor a man. This was the result of that evil action of seducing the wives of others.

442. I died in my thirtieth year. I suffered a lot. I was reborn as a little girl into a poor carter’s family that had little wealth and was greatly oppressed by creditors.

443. Then, because of their large unpaid debt, a caravan leader took me forcefully from my family and dragged me away screaming.

444. Then in my sixteenth year, the marriageable age, the caravan leader’s son name Giridāsa took me as his wife.

445. He had another wife who was virtuous and possessed of good qualities. She was very loyal towards her husband. I became jealous of her and made our husband angry towards her.

446. It was my own sexual misconduct and jealousy that resulted in my husbands rejecting me, although I served them like a servant-girl. But now I have destroyed entirely all the results of all those evil actions.

These verses were said by Arahant Nun Isidāsī.

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Therīgāthā 15.1: The Verses of Arahant Nun Isidāsī (399-446)

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