Date of Award
MA - Master of Arts
Dr. Melissa Jean
Dr. Andrew Olendzki
A literary work provides a window into the world of a writer, revealing her most intimate and forthright perspectives, beliefs, and emotions – this within a scope of a certain time and place that shapes the milieu of her life. The Therīgāthā, an anthology of 73 poems found in the Pali canon, is an example of such an asseveration, composed by theris (women elders or senior disciples), some of the first Buddhist nuns who lived in the time of the Buddha 2500 years ago. The gathas (songs or poems) impart significant details concerning early Buddhism and some of its integral elements of mental and spiritual development. However, equally significant is how the information illuminates these enlightened women, not only as Buddhists, but as women whose life circumstances and longings lead them onto a path away from the secular world toward freedom and enlightenment. The socioeconomic backgrounds of the theris, as well as their societal roles prior to ordination, and the poetic revelations of their enlightenment experiences silhouette this particular group of first Buddhists through the lens of diversity. The biographies of these women are braided together with their poetic perspectives on attachment, suffering, death, kamma, and happiness. Threads of shared experiences, such as those of grief, friendship, and kinship from former lives weave through this anthology as do the similar demographic traits of its creators. The pattern that emerges from this swatch of ancient fabric is that of a group of extraordinary women who are also typical of a culture of paideia within a small minority of the privileged classes.
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Meill, Kyung Peggy, "Diversity in the Women of the Therīgāthā" (2020). Mindfulness Studies Theses. 29.