[17. Gotamī1]

One day the [Great] Lamp of the World,
the Caravan Leader for men,
dwelt in the Mahāvana Hall,
among Vesali’s gabled roofs. (1) [226]

The Victor’s mother’s sister then,
the Buddhist nun Great Gotamī,
was dwelling in a nuns’ refuge,
built in that delightful city.2 (2) [227]

This reasoning occurred to her,
thinking [when] she’d gone off alone
from liberated Buddhist nuns
numbering five times one hundred: (2e-f, 3a-b)3 [228]

“I will not be able to see4
the Buddha’s final nirvana,
[that] of the two chief followers,
nor Rāhul, Ānanda, Nanda. (3c-f) [229]

Destroying5 life’s constituents
[and] letting go, I shall go to
nirvana, permitted by [him,]
the Great Sage, the Lord of the World.” (4) [230]

[That] reasoning also occurred
to the five hundred Buddhist nuns;
that reasoning also [occurred]
to [nuns] beginning with Khema. (5) [231]

At that time there was an earthquake;
the thunder of the gods did roar.
Weighed down by grief, the goddesses
who lived in that refuge [for nuns,]
piteously weeping [at that,]
shed [their] tears there [in the refuge]. (6) [232]6

[And then] all of7 those Buddhist nuns,
after approaching Gotamī,
placing [their] heads upon [her] feet,
spoke these words [they addressed to her,]: (7) [233]

“Sister, gone off alone, there we
were sprinkled with drops of water.
The unshaking earth is shaking,
the thunder of the gods roaring,
lamentations8 are being heard:9
what then does this mean, Gotamī?” (8) [234]10

She then told everything [to them,]
just as [she had] reasoned it out.
All of them too told [Gotamī,]
just as [they had] reasoned it out. (9) [235]

“If [it’s] desired by you, sister —
nirvana, unsurpassed [and] pure —
we too will all reach nirvana,
with Buddha’s consent, Pious One.11 (10) [236]

Along with [you] we have gone forth
from home and from existence too;
along with [you] indeed we’ll go
to nirvana, supreme city.” (11) [237]

She said, “what is there to be said
to women who are going out?”12
[And] then along with all [of them]
she quitted [that] Buddhist nuns’ nest.13 (12) [238]

“May the goddesses forgive me,
who are dwelling in [this] refuge;
this will be my final vision
of [this] Buddhist nuns’ residence. (13) [239]

I’ll go to unconditionedness,
where [there’s neither] death nor decay,
one doesn’t meet the unpleasant,
nor get cut off from pleasant things.” (14) [240]

Hearing those words, not passionless,
[those] heirs of the Well-Gone [Buddha,]14
overcome with grief lamented:
“Alas, we have little merit. (15) [241]

Without those women this Buddhist
nuns’ nest [now] has become empty;
the Victor’s heirs [now] are not seen,
as stars [disappear] at daybreak. (16) [242]

Gotamī goes to nirvana
along with the five hundred [nuns],
like the Ganges [flows to] the sea,
with five hundred tributaries.”15 (17) [243]

The faithful laywomen,16 having
seen her17 going along the road,
coming out from [their] houses [then]
bowing down at [her] feet said this: (18) [244]

“Great-fortuned one,18 be satisfied.19
Nirvana’s not proper for you,
abandoning us, destitute” —
distraught like that those women wailed. (19) [245]

In order to dispel their grief,
[Gotamī] spoke [this] honeyed speech:
“Enough with [your] crying, children,
today, which is your time to laugh; (20) [246]

I have understood suffering,20
the cause of suffering’s allayed,
I’ve experienced cessation,
I have cultivated the path. (21) [247]

(The First Recitation Portion)21
The Teacher’s been worshipped by me,
[I have] done what the Buddha taught!
The heavy load has been laid down,
the ties to existence removed. (22) [248]

The reason for which I went forth
from [my] home into homelessness —
I have [now] achieved that purpose:
destruction of all the fetters. (23) [249]

While Buddha and his great Teaching
are still around, nothing lacking —
that’s the time for my nirvana;
do not grieve about me, children. (24) [250]

Koṇḍañña,22 Ānanda,23 Nanda,24
Rāhula,25 the Victor remain;
the Assembly’s cheerful and close,
the conceit of rivals is slain. (25) [251]

The Famed One in26 Okkāka’s clan
is Exalted,27 the Death-Crusher;28
children, isn’t it now the time
[for me] to achieve nirvana? (26) [252]

My wish [I’ve had] for very long
is [finally] fulfilled today.
This is the time for drums of joy.
What then with [all these] tears, children? (27) [253]

If [you feel] compassion for me,
and if you all appreciate
the great Teaching’s stability,
then strong and fervent you should be. (28) [254]

Beseeched by me, the Sambuddha
gave ordination to women.
Therefore as I have shown myself,
you all should follow after him.” (29) [255]

Having thus advised [those women,]
placed in front by the Buddhist nuns,
going up to [and] worshipping
the Buddha, [she] said this [to him:] (30) [256]

“Well-Gone-One, I am your mother,
and you are my father, Hero;
Lord,29 who Gives the Good Teaching’s Joy,30
O Gotama, I’m born from31 you. (31) [257]

Your body, made of flesh and bones,32
was reared up by me, Well-Gone-One;
my flawless body, made of Truth,33
was reared up by you, [Gotama.] (32) [258]

I suckled you with mother’s milk
which quenches thirst for a moment.
From you I drank the milk of Truth,34
peaceful without interruption. (33) [259]

Great Sage, you owe no debt to me
for protecting and rearing [you].
To obtain such a son is what
women desiring sons [desire].35 (34) [260]

Mothers of kings, like Mandhātā,
are sunk into existence sea.
O son, through you I’ve crossed over
[life,] this ocean of becoming. (35) [261]

Women can easily obtain
the name “King’s Mother” or “Chief Queen.”
The name, “Mother of the Buddha”
is the hardest [name] to obtain. (36) [262]

O Hero, I’ve obtained that name!
[I got] my wish because of you.
Whether little things or big things,
all of that is fulfilled by me. (37) [263]

Having abandoned this body,
I want to [reach] full nirvana.
Give me permission, O Hero,
O Dis-ease-Ender,36 O Leader. (38) [264]

Stretch forth your feet, like lilies soft,
which are marked with wheel, goad and flag.
I shall make obeisance to you,
with a [mother’s] love for [her] son.37 (39) [265]

Show [me your] physical body;
it resembles a heap of gold.
[One last] good look at your body,
[then] off I go to peace, Leader.” (40) [266]

Marked with the thirty-two great marks,
it was adorned in radiance:
the Victor showed her38 [his] body,
a pale sun39 through40 an evening cloud.41 (41) [267]

Then she laid [her] head down upon
the soles of [his] feet, marked with wheels,
which were like lotuses in bloom,
[as] brilliant as the dawning sun. (42) [268]

“I’m bowing to the Sun for Men,42
the Banner of the Solar Clan;43
when I have died for the last time,
I will never44 see you again. (43) [269]

Chief of the World, it is believed
that women make every error.45
If there’s any error in me,
forgive it, Mine of Compassion.46 (44) [270]

I begged [you,] over and again,
for ordination of women.
If I was in error in that,
forgive it, O Bull Among Men. (45) [271]

O Hero, with your permission,
I instructed the Buddhist nuns.
If [I gave] bad advice in that,
forgive it, Lord of Forgiveness.”47 (46) [272]

“What’s not forgiven to forgive
in [one who’s] adorned with virtue?48
What more am I to say to you
when you’re going to nirvana? (47) [273]

Those who are desiring escape from the world
in my pure [and] complete Assembly of monks,
are like the fading crescent moon at daybreak
after having seen the ruin of its grasps.”49 (48) [274]50

Like the stars and the moon around Mount Meru,
the other nuns circumambulated [him,]
Chief Victor, [and] after bowing at [his] feet,
they stood there gazing at the [Blessed One’s] face. (49) [275]

“Formerly [my] eyes and ears weren’t satisfied
by the vision of you nor hearing your speech.
[But now,] having obtained perfection, my mind
is satisfied by the taste of the Teaching. (50) [276]

When you roar forth amidst the crowd,
destroying the sophists’ conceit,
those [there] who are seeing your face,
are fortunate, O Bull of Men.51 (51) [277]

Battle-Ender,52 fortunate too,
are they who worship your fine feet,
which have broad heels, extended toes,
and nails [the color of] copper. (52) [278]

Fortunate too, O Best of Men,
are those who listen to your words,
imperfection-slaying, friendly,
honey[-sweet] and full of gladness. (53) [279]

Fortunate am I, Great Hero,
intent on worshipping53 your feet.
The existential desert crossed,
[I] shine due to the good Teaching.”54 (54) [280]

Then the pious one55 explained [her
thoughts]56 to the Assembly of monks,
and having worshipped Rāhula,
Ānanda [and] Nanda, she said:57 (55) [281]

“I am weary58 of [my] body,
similar to a serpent’s den,
a sickness-house, heap of dis-ease,59
pasturing in old age and death,
covered with varied flaws and drool,60
dependent on others, actionless.61
Therefore I desire nirvana;
give [me your] permission, children.” (56-57) [282-283]

Nanda and lucky Rāhula,
who were griefless, without constraint,
wise [and] unshakingly steadfast,
reflected on the way things are: (58) [284]

“Woe on greed for conditioned things:
as worthless as banana wood,
same as a deluded mirage,
fleeting and constantly changing. (59) [285]

In flux are all conditioned things,
in so far as the Victor’s aunt,
the one who suckled the Buddha,
Gotamī, goes without a trace.”62 (60) [286]

Ānanda was then [still] training,
fond of the Victor, [but still] sad.
[Beseeching her] there, shedding tears,
he was wailing piteously: (61) [287]

“Gotamī is going, smiling;63
surely then soon the Buddha too
will be going to nirvana,
like a fire whose fuel has run out.” (62) [288]

Gotamī said to Ānanda
who was lamenting in this way:
“O son, keen on serving Buddha,
your wisdom’s deep as is the sea,64 (63) [289]

[and so] you really should not mourn,
when the time for smiling has come!
Son, [through] your assistance to me,
I have realized nirvana.65 (64) [290]

Being requested by you, dear,
[Buddha] gave us ordination.
[Therefore] do not be distressed, son;
your effort is [now] bearing fruit. (65) [291]

That state unseen by the ancients,66
and likewise by rival teachers,
is known by [Buddhist] young maidens,
when they’re [only] seven years old. (66) [292]

[So take] your final look [at me,]
preserver of the Buddha’s word;67
Son, I am going to that place
where one who’s gone cannot be seen.” (67) [293]

Once when he was preaching Dhamma,
the Chief Leader of the World sneezed.
At that time, compassionately,
I spoke well-wishing words [to him:] (68) [294]

“Live for a long time, Great Hero!
Remain for an aeon, Great Sage!
For the sake of the entire world,
do not grow old [nor] pass away!” (69) [295]

The Buddha then said this to me
who had spoken to him like that:
“Buddhas are not to be worshipped,
as you’re worshipping, Gotamī.” (70) [296]

“How then, O One with Omniscience,
should the Thus-Gone-Ones be worshipped?
How should Buddhas not be worshipped?
Being asked, tell [all] that to me.” (71) [297]

“See [my] followers, united,
vigorously energetic,
constantly firm [in their] effort —
that is worship of the Buddhas.”68 (72) [298]

Then, going [back] to the refuge,
[gone off] alone, I reflected:
“the Lord, who Reached the Three Worlds’ Ends,69
likes a united retinue. (73) [299]

Well then, I’ll reach full nirvana;
let me see no hindrance to that!”
I, contemplating in that way,
after seeing the Seventh Sage, (74) [300]

announced to [the Buddha,] the Guide,
the time of my full nirvana.
And then he gave [me] his assent:
“you know the time, O Gotamī.” (75) [301]

My defilements are [now] burnt up;
all [new] existence is destroyed.
Like elephants with broken chains,
I am living without constraint. (76) [302]

Being in Best Buddha's presence
was a very good thing for me.
The three knowledges are attained;
[I have] done what the Buddha taught! (77) [303]

The four analytical modes,
and these eight deliverances,
six special knowledges mastered,
[I have] done what the Buddha taught! (78) [304]

“There are fools who doubt that women
[too] gain dhamma-penetration.70
To dispel that [wrong] view of theirs,
display miracles, Gotamī.” (79) [305]

Then bowing to the Sambuddha,
[and] rising up into the sky,
with Buddha’s assent, Gotamī
displayed various miracles. (80) [306]

Being alone, [then] she was cloned;
and being cloned, again71 alone.
Appearing [then] disappearing,
she walked through walls, walked through the sky. (81) [307]

She traveled unattached to earth;
she also sank down into it.
She walked72 on water as on land,
leaving its surface unbroken. (82) [308]

Cross-legged, she flew like a bird,
across the surface of the sky.
With her body she took control
of space right up to Brahma’s home. (83) [309]

Taking Mount Meru as handle,
she made great earth her umbrella.
Carrying, twirling root and all,
she walked back and forth in the sky. (84) [310]

And like the time when six suns rose,
she caused the entire world to fume.
As though it were the end of time,
she garlanded the earth in flames. (85) [311]

She took mounts Meru, Mandāra,
Daddara, great Muccchchalinda —
all of them, in a single fist,
like they were [tiny] mustard seeds. (86) [312]

She concealed with [her] fingertip
the makers of both day and night,
as though a thousand suns and moons
were a necklace she was wearing. (87) [313]

In a single hand she held the
waters of the four great oceans;
she rained forth a torrential rain,
like an apocalyptic cloud. (88) [314]

She made appear up in the sky
a wheel-turner with retinue.
She showed [Vishnu as the] boar and
roaring lion, and Garuḍa. (89) [315]

Being alone, she conjured up
a boundless group of Buddhist nuns.
Making them disappear again,
alone, she said [this] to the Sage: (90) [316]

“Your mother’s sister, Great Hero,
is one who’s done what you have taught.73
An attainer of [her]74 own goal,
she worships your feet, Eyeful One.” (91) [317]

Having shown varied miracles,
descending from up in75 the sky,
worshipping the Lamp of the World,
she sat down [there, off] to one side. (92) [318]

“O Great Sage, I’m an [old woman,]76
a hundred twenty years from birth.
That much is enough, O Hero;
I’m reaching nirvana, Leader.” (93) [319]

Astonished, all the multitudes,
with [their] hands pressed together then,
said, “sister, [you] have77 [great] prowess
at supernormal miracles.” (94) [320]

The Victor, Padumuttara,
the One with Eyes for everything,
the Leader [of the World,] arose
a hundred thousand aeons hence. (95) [321]

I was born in Haṃsavatī,
in a clan of ministers then,
furnished with all [kinds of] servants,
rich, prosperous, very wealthy. (96) [322]

Once, when tagging on with father —
attended by a group of slaves —
along with a large retinue,
[I] approached that Bull Among Men. (97) [323]

The Victor, like autumnal son,
surrounded by garlands of rays,
without constraints, that Dhamma-cloud
rained forth like the king of the gods. (98) [324]

Seeing [him], being pleased at heart,
and having heard his lovely voice,
the Leader of Men placed his aunt
in the foremost [place among] nuns. (99) [325]

Hearing [this,] for an entire day,
I gave the Neutral One large gifts
and lots of the requisites to
the Chief of Men with Assembly. (100) [326]

Having fallen down at [his] feet,
I aspired [to attain] that place.
And then the Greatly Mindful One,
the Seventh Sage, said [to the crowd:] (101) [327]

“This one who for a week has fed
the World’s Leader with Assembly,
I shall relate details of her:
[all of] you listen to my words: (102) [328]

In one hundred thousand aeons,
arising in Okkāka’s clan,
the one whose name is Gotama
will be the Teacher in the world. (103) [329]

Worthy heir to that one’s Dhamma,
Dhamma’s legitimate offspring,
the one whose name is Gotamī
will be the Teacher’s follower. (104) [330]

She will be his mother’s sister,
the Buddha’s wet-nurse his [whole] life.
She will attain the foremost place
among the senior Buddhist nuns.” (105) [331]

Hearing that I was overjoyed,
and then as long as life, I served
the Victor with the requisites.
After that, [having] passed away, (106) [332]

born among the Tāvatiṃsa
gods with all delights and riches,
in ten ways I was outshining
[all the] other [gods who lived there]: (107) [333]

through shapes [and] sounds [and] fragrances,
through tastes and the [things that I] touch,
in terms of lifespan, complexion,
happiness and famousness too (108) [334]

[and] likewise through supreme power
I shone, having attained [those ten].
There I became the beloved
chief queen of the king of the gods. (109) [335]

Transmigrating in the cycle,78
being blown on by karma-wind,
I was born in a slave-village,
in the realm of the Kāsi79 king. (110) [336]

Every day there were five hundred
slaves dwelling in that very place.
I was the wife of he who was
best of all [the slaves living] there. (111) [337]

Five hundred self-become [Buddhas]
entered our village seeking alms.
Along with all [my] female kin,
I was thrilled after seeing them. (112) [338]

All of us having formed a guild,80
we served those [Buddhas] for four months.
Having given [each] the three robes,
we transmigrated81 with husbands. (113) [339]

Fallen from there with our husbands,
we all went to Tāvatiṃsa.
And now, in [my] final rebirth,
born in Devadaha city, (114) [340]

my father, Añjana82 Śākya,83
my mother was Sulakhanā.84
We left for Suddhodana’s house,
in Kapilavastu [City]. (115) [341]

The other women born Śākyan85
[also] came to the Śākyans’ house.
Distinguished among all of them,
I was wet-nurse of the Victor. (116) [342]

After having gone forth, my son
became the Buddha, the [World’s] Guide.
Afterwards I renounced the world,86
together with the five hundred. (117) [343]

Along with the Śākyan heroes,
I witnessed the comfort of peace.
They were [the men] who formerly
had been born as our [own] husbands. (118) [344]

Makers of merit together,87
they’ve [now] seized the crucial moment.
Pitied by the Well-Gone-One, they
experienced arahantship. (119) [345]

The rest of the Buddhist nuns [there]
[then all] rose up into the air.
Come together like [bright] stars
those women with great powers shined. (120) [346]

They displayed [their] diverse powers
like [different]88 types of ornaments
[might be displayed] by a goldsmith,
who is well-trained in89 workmanship. (121) [347]

After displaying miracles,
variegated and many,
having pleased the Fine Debater,90
the Sage, and his retinue then,
having descended from the sky,
having worshipped the Seventh Sage,
permitted by the Chief of Men,
they sat down in that place [again]. (122-123) [348-349]

“Hey, Hero, it was Gotamī
who showed pity to all of us.
Perfumed by your good karma,91 [we]
reached destruction of our constraints.92 (124) [350]

Our defilements are [now] burnt up;
all [new] existence is destroyed.
Like elephants with broken chains,
we are living without constraint. (125) [351]

Being in Best Buddha's presence
was a very good thing for us.
The three knowledges are attained;
[We have] done what the Buddha taught! (126) [352]

The four analytical modes,
and these eight deliverances,
six special knowledges mastered,
[We have] done what the Buddha taught! (127) [353]

We are masters of miracles,
O Sage So Great, we are masters
of the “divine ear” faculty,
[and] knowing what’s in others’ hearts. (128) [354]

We know [all of] our former lives;
“divine eye” [now] is purified.
All the constraints have been destroyed;
there now will be no more rebirth. (129) [355]

It was in your presence, Great Sage,
that our [own] knowledge came to be,
knowing meaning and the Teaching,
etymology and preaching. (130) [356]

Leader, you’re surrounded by us,
[Buddhist nuns] with hearts full of love;
O Great Sage, give your permission
to [us] to all reach nirvana.” (131) [357]

The Victor said, “What [can] I say
to women who are telling [me],
‘we are going to reach nirvana’?
Know that now is your time for it.” (132) [358]

At that time [all] those Buddhist nuns,
starting with [the nun] Gotamī,
worshipping the Victor [then] rose
up from [their] seats and went [away].93 (133) [359]

The World’s Chief Leader, the Wise One,94
with a large body of people,
followed [his own] maternal aunt
until [she got up to] the gate. (134) [360]

Then Gotamī fell [to the ground]
at the feet of the World’s Kinsman,
and with all of the other [nuns]
performed a final foot-worship. (135) [361]

“This [will be] my final vision
of [you,] the Lord of the [Whole] World.
Never again will I see your
face, the fountain of ambrosia. (136) [362]

No more homage to your soft feet;
I won’t [ever] touch [them] again.
O Hero, Chief of the [Whole] World,
today I’ll go to nirvana! (137) [363]

What’s your physical form [or] face,
with things being such as they are?
All conditioned things are like that,
providing no comfort, trifling. (138) [364]

She, having gone along with them
back to [her] own refuge for nuns,
sat in half-lotus95 position
in her [own] superior seat. (139) [365]

At that time the laywomen there,
fond of Buddha’s dispensation,
hearing her proceeding ahead,
those foot-worshippers approached [her,] (140) [366]

pounding on [their] chests with [their] fists,
[loudly] howling piteous cries.
Grieving they fell down on the earth
like creepers cut off at the root. (141) [367]

“Refuge-Bestower, Lord, do not
leave us to go to nirvana.
Bowing down [our] heads, all of us
are begging [you, O Gotamī].” (142) [368]

One laywoman, faithful and wise,
was striving the most among them.
While gently stroking that one’s head,
[Gotamī] spoke these words [to her:]96 (143) [369]

“Enough with [this] depression, child,
twisted up in the snares of Death;97
impermanent is all that is,
ever-shaking, ending in loss.” (144) [370]

Then having sent them [all] away,
she entered the first98 altered state,
the second and also the third,
and then she attained the fourth one. (145) [371]

In order, moving [higher still:]
the plane of space-infinity,
the plane in which perception’s pure,
and that where nothingness is seen. (146) [372]

In reverse order, Gotamī
entered [all of] those altered states,
[from the last] back down to the first,
and then back up to the fourth one. (147) [373]

Rising up, she reached nirvana,
like the flame of a fuel-less lamp.
There was an enormous earthquake;
bolts of lightening fell from the sky. (148) [374]

The thunder was rumbling loudly;
the deities [gathered there] wailed.
A flower-shower from the sky
was raining down upon the earth. (149) [375]

Even regal Mount Meru shook,
just like a dancer on the stage;
the [great] ocean was greatly grieved,
and he was weeping in distress. (150) [376]

The gods, snake-gods and titans too,
even Brahmā, awed at that time,99
[said,] “this one has now been dissolved;
in flux indeed is all that is.” (151) [377]

The [other nuns] surrounding her,
who practiced the Buddha’s teachings,100
they too attained nirvana [then,]
like the flames of lamps without fuel. (152) [378]

“Alas! Attachments end up cut!
Alas! Conditioned things all change!
Alas! Life ends in destruction.”
In this way [people] were wailing. (153) [379]

Then Brahmā and the deities
went up to [him,] the Seventh Sage,
doing what is appropriate,
according to worldly custom. (154) [380]

Then the Teacher told Ānanda,
whose knowledge was [deep as] the sea,
“Go [now,] Ānanda, tell the monks,
[my] mother has reached nirvana.” (155) [381]

Then Ānanda, who’d lost his joy,101
whose eyes were filling up with tears,
announced, while choking on [his] words,102
“Come together, O Buddhist monks,
who are residing in the North,
[or] in the east [or] south [or] west.
Let them [all] listen to my words,
monks who are the Well-Gone-One’s heirs. (156-157) [382-383]

This Gotamī, who carefully
reared up the body of the Sage,
has gone to peace, [no longer seen,]
just like stars when the sun rises. (158) [384]

She’s gone home,103 leaving behind [her]
designation “Buddha’s Mother,”
where even [he,] the Five-Eyed One,
the Leader, cannot see one gone. (159) [385]

Each with faith in the Well-Gone-One,
and each of the Sage’s pupils,
ought [now] to come, that Buddha’s son,104
to honor the Buddha’s mother.” (160) [386]

Hearing that, the monks came with speed,
even those living far away.
Some [came] by Buddha’s majesty,
some were skilled in superpowers. (161) [387]

[Folks there] raised a funeral bier
where Gotamī was [now] laid out,105
in a good, lovely gabled hut,
excellent [and] made out of gold. (162) [388]

The four [gods called] “World-Protectors”
hoisted [the bier] on their shoulders;
other gods starting with Śakra,
gathered inside the gabled hut. (163) [389]

There were five hundred gabled huts,
the color of autumnal suns,
which were built by Vissakamma,
[for] all [of those great Buddhist nuns]. (164) [390]

All those [five hundred] Buddhist nuns
were laid out on funeral biers,
hoisted up on shoulders of gods,
lined up in the proper order. (165) [391]

A canopy up in the sky
was stretched out over everything.
The sun [and] moon [and all] the stars
were drawn on it in [liquid] gold. (166) [392]

Flags of various types were raised,
a floral covering stretched out;
flowers rose up out of the earth,
like incense106 rising in the sky. (167) [393]

[Both] the sun and the moon were seen,
and [all] the stars were twinkling;107
and even when it was high noon,
the sun did not burn, like the moon. (168) [394]

Gods made offerings108 of garlands,
perfumed with divine fragrances
and [honored Gotamī] with songs,
with dances and with discourses. (169) [395]

The snake-gods, titans and Brahmās
according to powers and strengths,
made offerings to the laid-out
mother who was in nirvana. (170) [396]

In front were led off all of the
Well-Gone-One’s heirs in nirvana,
Gotamī was led off after,
honored wet-nurse of the Buddha. (171) [397]

With the gods [and] people out front,
the snake-gods, titans and Brahmās,
[and] next, with followers, Buddha,
processed to worship [his] mother.109 (172) [398]

The Buddha’s final nirvana
was not of such a kind as this.
Gotamī’s final nirvana
was extremely miraculous. (173) [399]

The Buddha [and] monks won’t be seen
at Buddha’s [final] nirvana.
The Buddha is at Gotamī’s;110
so’s Sāriputta and so on. (174) [400]

[Then] they built the funeral pyres,
made with all [sorts of] fragrant [wood],
and sprinkled with perfumed powder.
Those [great nuns] were cremated there. (175) [401]

The remaining portions [and] bones111
were completely consumed by fire.
And at that time Ānanda spoke
this speech, [which was] very moving:112 (176) [402]

“Gotamī’s gone without a trace113
and her corpse has been cremated,
intimating that the Buddha’s
nirvana [too] will soon occur.” (177) [403]

Ānanda, urged by the Buddha,
[placed] Gotamī’s [sacred] relics
in her begging bowl at that time,
[and] presented them to the Lord. (178) [404]

Taking them up with [both his] hands,
the Seventh Sage, [the Buddha,] said:
“Just as the trunk of a standing,
gigantic timber-bearing tree,
impermanent, breaks into bits,
however massive it may be,
so Gotamī, who was a nun,114
has reached [her] final nirvana. (179-180) [405-406]

O! it is a marvelous thing!
My mother who’s reached nirvana,
leaving only relics behind115
did not grieve [and was not] wailing. (181) [407]

Grieving not for others [left,]
she’s crossed the sea of existence.
She’s cooled, she’s in nirvana.
[her] torment [is now] avoided. (182) [408]

Know this about her, O [you] monks,
she was a very wise woman,116
with wisdom which was vast and wide,117
distinguished among Buddhist nuns. (183) [409]

She’d mastered the superpower
[called] the “divine ear” element.
Gotamī was a master of
the knowledge stored in others’ hearts. (184) [410]

She remembered [her] former lives;
[her] “divine eye” was purified.
All the defilements were destroyed;
she will not be reborn again. (185) [411]

She had purified [her] knowledge
of meaning and of the Teaching,
etymology and preaching:
because of that she did not grieve. (186) [412]

A rod of iron that’s beaten
when it is glowing due to fire
slowly cools off, [leaving no ash:]
like that it’s not known [where she] went.118 (187) [413]

No rebirth place can be discerned
of the truly liberated,
who cross the flood of lustful bonds,
who’ve reached unshaking happiness.119 (188) [414]

Therefore be lamps unto yourselves;
graze in [the field of] mindfulness.
With wisdom’s seven parts attained,
you all should end [your] suffering.120 (189) [415]

Thus indeed Bhikkhunī Mahāpajāpatīgotamī spoke these verses.

The legend of Mahāpajāpatīgotamī Therī is finished.


  1. “Female Gotama,” “the Gotamid.” Her full name is given in the colophon as Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, as she is addressed throughout the canon. She was a historical nun, the sister of the Buddha’s natural mother (Mahāmāyā) who took over upon the latter’s death, both as the Buddha’s childhood wet-nurse and (surrogate) mother (actually his maternal aunt, Sinh. puñcchi ammā), and as his father’s wife (hence step-mother). She was the founder and leader of the nuns, who convinced Ānanda to beg the Buddha for their order to be established.

  2. there are numerous possibilities for translation of this string of locatives, because “delightful” (ramme) can modify either “city” (pure) or “nuns’ refuge” (bhikkhunupassaye), and the texts disagree on “built” (kate), which is the BJTS reading. PTS reads setapure (“white city”), which I followed in my previously-published translation of this apadāna. There is great disagreement in the manuscripts about this term: PTS offers petapūre (“filled with hungry ghosts” ?) and gate (“[to which she had] gone”); BJTS alt. has yeva (“indeed”).

  3. here the first two feet of the BJTS verse are affixed to the previous verse by PTS, causing shuffling in the subsequent verses as indicated in my numbering of them. I have followed BJTS in arranging the verses, which hinges in part on the translation of the third foot here, bhikhhunīhi vimuttāhi. PTS seems to take it as an instrumental, as did I in my previous translation, hence its inclusion in the previous verse makes grammatical sense: Gotamī dwells “with” the nuns, rather than (as this reading would have it), going off alone “with” them. I conversely take the terms as ablatives, she’s gone off alone from the nuns. BJTS gloss takes them as instrumentals as well. In either event, she lives with them but goes off from them; the meaning is really the same.

  4. or, as my earlier translation has it, “cannot bear”. The term (sakkomi) carries such connotations in vernacular usage and this is how I originally understood the text. However, in keeping with BJTS gloss here, I remain more literal and leave it open to varied interpretations: rather than an emotional reason for letting go of life’s constituents (or additionally an expression of maternal sentiment) it might be a simple statement of fact, i.e., she realizes it’s time to do and that means she’ll die before the Buddha and great followers.

  5. PTS reads paṭihaccchch’ āyusaṅkhāre, which I follow here, though BJTS paṭtigaccchch (alt. paṭikaccchch), = “previous,” in which case āyusaṅkhāre might be the object of ossajitvāna, hence: “letting go of the constituents of my previous life”.

  6. PTS and BJTS agree in presenting this as a six-footed verse.

  7. BJTS and PTS alt. read mittā (“friendly”) for PTS “all” (sabbā)

  8. lit., “and lamentations”

  9. sūyante, BJTS (and PTS alt.) reads sūyanti

  10. PTS and BJTS agree in presenting this as a six-footed verse.

  11. subbate, also “Compliant One” “Good Vow”

  12. lit., “who are going to nirvana”

  13. reading niggacchchi bhikkhunīnilayā with BJTS for PTS niggañcchhi bhikkhunīlayanā

  14. sugatorasā, “the [pl. fem.] legitimate descendants of the Well-Gone-One,” that is, the goddesses living in the nuns’ residence

  15. lit., “rivers”

  16. upāsikā. Grammatically, this could be plural (as I take it, following PTS plural verb abravuŋ) or singular (“a faithful laywoman”), which seems to be how BJTS takes it (reading the verb as singular, abraviṃ)

  17. reading vajantiṃ taṃ with BJTS for PTS vajantīnaŋ (“them…[their] feet”)

  18. I follow BJTS Sinh gloss in now taking this as a vocative. BJTS (and PTS alt) reads mahābhoge for mahābhāge, but glosses mahābhāgyavat uttamāvani

  19. or “pleased,” pasīdassu. BJTS Sinhala gloss (apa kerehi) pahadinu, “be satisfied [or pleased] (with us)”

  20. lit., “suffering [dukkhaŋ] is understood by me”. The following feet of this verse follow the same grammatical pattern, summarizing her full attainment of the Four Noble Truths.

  21. PTS omits this classification, found in BJTS

  22. see Therāpadāna above, #7

  23. see Therāpadāna above, #10.

  24. see Therāpadāna above, #13; 403 {406}; 542 {545}. lit., “…Nanda, etc.;” the point is not merely that these three monks remain, but that all the monks like them remain.

  25. see Therāpadāna above, #16. As the Buddha’s son, by the logic of this text in particular, he was Gotamī’s grandson.

  26. lit., “of”

  27. ussito

  28. Māramaddano

  29. nātha

  30. saddhammasukhado

  31. or “through”

  32. rūpakāyo…tava

  33. or “of the Teaching”: dhammakāya

  34. or “of the Teaching”: dhammakhīram

  35. PTS reads puttakāmā thiyo tāva labhantaŋ tādisaŋ sutaŋ! (lit., “women who desire sons, receiving of you as son” which I formerly translated, in retrospect overly loosely, “to get a son like you sates all desire for sons.” The present translation follows BJTS reading puttakāmā thiyo yā tā labhantu nādisaṃ sutaṃ (lit., “those women who are desiring sons, they [want] to obtain a son such as [you])

  36. dukkhantakara

  37. reading puttapemasā with BJTS for PTS putta pemasā (“with love, O son”)

  38. lit., “[his] maternal aunt”

  39. bālakkaŋ, lit., “young sun,” “a pale sun.” BJTS Sinh. gloss bālārka. lit., “like a pale sun…”

  40. lit., “from,” i.e., “emerging from” “coming out from behind”

  41. sañjhā-ghanā, lit., “from an evening cloud”

  42. narādiccchch

  43. ādiccchchakulaketunaŋ (BJTS reads °kaṃ)

  44. lit., “not”

  45. itthiyo nāma…sabbadosakarā matā

  46. karuṇākara

  47. khamādhipa

  48. here I diverge from my earlier translation, following BJTS in understanding this rather enigmatic verse, starting with taking it as the beginning of the Buddha’s speech rather than the end of Gotamī’s speech, and translating accordingly.

  49. vyasanaŋ gahānaŋ disvāna

  50. This, and the following two verses present in both BJTS and PTS in a different meter with 11-syllable feet. I translate accordingly.

  51. narapuṅgava

  52. raṇantaga, lit., “O one gone to the end of the battle” or “he by whom the battle reaches its end”. BJTS reads guṇandhara, “O Virtue-Bearer”

  53. lit., “doing pūjā to”

  54. BJTS reads suvākyena sirīmato, “due to the good teaching of the resplendent one”.

  55. subbata

  56. lit., “then she caused to hear” (PTS: tato sā anusāvetvā) or “then she caused to be admonished/advised/instructed” (BJTS: anusāsetvā); PTS also gives alts. anusāmetvā (“caused to be appeased/calmed”) and anubhāvetvā (“caused to experience”). Really any of these readings would be appropriate to what follows as Gotamī proceeds to tell, informs, advise and console while conveying an emotional message to her beloved kinsfolk/co-monastics/co-followers.

  57. lit., “she said this:”

  58. nibbiṇṇā. BJTS (nibbinnā) and PTS alts. (nibbandā, nibbindā) are all forms of the same verb, nibbindati), to be wearied of, which regularly (as here) takes the locative.

  59. reading dukkhasaṅghāta with BJTS for the metrically-questionable but evocative PTS dukkhapaṅke (“[smeared with] the mud of dis-ease”) and BJTS alt. dukkhasaṅghāṭe (which in addition to “mass” or “heap” [saṅghāta]) means “tangle” or “web”). “Dis-ease” translates dukkha, often “suffering,” following out one of the term’s literal meanings (physical illness) as well as its connotation of psychological unrest and in keeping with the other descriptions of the aged body in this verse. My earlier translation, following PTS, gives “suffering’s slime”

  60. reading nānākalimalākiṇṇe with BJTS (and PTS alt.) for PTS nānākalala-m-ākiṇṇe (“smeared with various mud” — but note that mala in the accepted reading can also mean “dirt” or “mud” or any impurity in addition to “flaw” or “fault”)

  61. nirīhake, in juxtaposition with the previous adjective parāyatte, lit., “activity of others,” hence “dependent on others”

  62. nidhanaŋ, lit., “without wealth [of karma],” or more literally, “possessionless”

  63. BJTS divides up the adverb taken as “similing” (hāsantiŋ) as hā santiṃ, “Alas! peacefully…” or “Alas! to peace…”

  64. lit., “O deep one, O ocean of wisdom”

  65. reading nibbānaṃ samupāgataṃ with BJTS for PTS nibbānattaŋ (“nirvana-ness”) and PTS alt (and BJTS alt.) nibbānantaŋ, “the goal of nirvana,” which I followed in my earlier translation.

  66. porāṇehi, or (as in my earlier translation) “elders”

  67. Ānanda is remembered to have remembered a huge quantity of the Buddhist canon, prior to its fixing and ultimate writing down.

  68. Thig 161

  69. tibhavantago

  70. thīnaŋ dhammābhisamaye

  71. tathā, lit., “thus” “in that way”

  72. or “went”

  73. tavasāsanakārikā, “a doer of your dispensation” “one who has performed your teachings”

  74. or “your”?

  75. lit., “from the surface of”

  76. sā…‘haŋ

  77. lit “make” “do”

  78. or “in existence”: saŋsāre saŋsārantī ‘haŋ

  79. that is, Benares

  80. BJTS reads katvā pañcchasatakuṭī (“having made [them] five hundred huts” for PTS pūgā bhavitvā sabbāyo

  81. BJTS reads pasannāmha sasāmikā, “we were pleased with our husbands”

  82. “Jet Black”

  83. i.e., Śākyan, of the Buddha’s clan

  84. “Well-Marked”

  85. lit., “the other women born in the Śākyan clan”

  86. lit., “having gone forth”

  87. saha. I follow the BJTS SInhala gloss (ek vä) in giving this sociokarmically more-determined translation.

  88. pronounce as two syllables when chanting, “diff’rent”

  89. lit., “of”

  90. vādipavaraŋ

  91. or “merit,” puññehi. “Good deeds” would preserve the plural.

  92. āsavakkhayaŋ

  93. reading agamaŋsu with BJTS (cf. PTS alt. agamiṃsu) for PTS agamīsu (“among non-villages” ?)

  94. BJTS here reads vīro, “the Hero” for PTS dhīro, “the Wise One”

  95. addhapallaṅkam ābhujya (BJTS read aḍḍhapallaṅkam ābhujja), with one leg crossed and one bent hookwise.

  96. reading the final verb abravi (“she spoke”) with BJTS (and PTS alt.) for PTS abraviŋ (“I spoke”).

  97. mārapāsānuvattinā

  98. lit., “ultimate first altered state”

  99. PTS reads tavade, BJTS (and PTS alt.) reads taṅkhaṇe (“in that moment”)

  100. lit., “dispensation”

  101. a play on the meaning of his name: tadā ‘nando nirānando

  102. lit., “with a gurgling sound”

  103. accepting PTS reading gatāsayaŋ. BJTS (and PTS alt.) reads gatāsamaṃ, “gone to the incomparable [state?]”

  104. lit., “well-Gone-One’s heir”

  105. PTS suttā ‘pi Gotamī, BJTS suttāsi Gotamī (suttā-āsi Gotamī)

  106. BJTS reads ogatākāsapadumā (“lotuses rising in the sky”)

  107. pronounce “twinkling” as full three syllables when chanting, to keep meter, or amend to “and [all of] the stars were twinkling” if contracting it to two syllables.

  108. lit., “did pūjā

  109. lit., “is going in order to worship [his] mother”

  110. lit., “at Gotamī’s [final] nirvana”

  111. lit., “the remaining portions, the remaining bones.” I formerly translated “only her bones remained,” but now believe that was incorrect; the fleshy parts (etc.) as well as the bones were thoroughly burned; the “relics” referred to below would be tiny gem-like fragments remaining in the crematory ash, not bones as such.

  112. saŋvegajanakaŋ vaco, lit., “emotion-producing word.” Saṃvega is a profoundly emotional insight into the nature of reality, often the spur to religious action, to be juxtaposed with ubbega, ordinary emotional responses to death, ordinary grief, sorrow, etc.

  113. nidhanaŋ, lit., “without wealth [of karma],” or more literally, “possessionless”

  114. lit., “of the nuns’ Assembly:” bhikkhunisaṅghassa

  115. sarīramattasesāya, lit., “with [only] a measure of relics remaining”

  116. paṇḍitā’ si

  117. lit., “with vast wisdom, with wide wisdom”

  118. lit., “[her] state of rebirth (gati) is not known”. The metaphor is that Gotamī, like the flame that used to be in the iron rod on the forge, has disappeared without a trace, “cooled off”.

  119. acchalaŋ sukhaŋ. BJTS reads, more consistently with Apadāna as a whole, acchalaŋ padaŋ (“unshaking state”)

  120. or “make an end of dis-ease:” dukkhass’ antaŋ karissathā ti.