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Bhikshuni Vimala: At the Foot of the Tree

My mother taught me how to sell my youth for money and some sense of power, just as her mother had taught her.

At our front door, I answered the calls of passing men with well-rehearsed lines, laughing and lightly running a finger along my neck and breasts —a hunter with a baited trap.

Now I spend my days sitting at the foot of this tree, wearing only a shaved head and double robe, the legs of this naked mind spread wide open, ready to welcome whatever comes.


This verse is from the Therigatha, a Buddhist text consisting of a collection of 73 short poems of women who were senior nuns. The poems date from a three hundred year period, starting in the late 6th century BCE. It is the companion text to the Theragatha, verses attributed to senior monks. It is the earliest known collection of women’s literature composed in India.

Source: Great Middle Way

4 comments on “Bhikshuni Vimala: At the Foot of the Tree

  1. smithdaniell
    September 28, 2021

    I first learned of the the Therigatha while taking a course at Harvard on Buddhist Scriptures. In 34 years of being Buddhist, of years of mentoring (by male monks and lay persons), of years more of reading and writing about Buddhism, I had not encountered the Therigatha. It is one of the most direct, moving, and insightful collections of Buddhist thought from a still discriminated against group. In Engaged Buddhism, in the Plum Village Tradition which I have followed, there has been no mention of the work but there is less second class remainderism, less emphasis on differences between genders. Still, though, nuns have more precepts to follow than monks, a hanger-on of older times perhaps still haunting the daily life of nuns and female lay persons. Thank you for posting this beautiful poem. Chan Truyen Sinh

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      September 29, 2021

      Yes, the Therigatha is a beautiful collection — one of my favorite books of poetry.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. johnlawsonpoet
    August 27, 2021

    Stunning.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Barbara Huntington
    August 27, 2021

    Wow. I had not seen this. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

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