Praise Him, the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the Fully Complete Buddha1

The Legends of the Therīs

Now listen to the legends of the Therīs:2

Sumedhā Chapter, the First

[1. Sumedhā3]

When Koṇāgamana, Blessed One,
was in his new dwelling, monastic ashram,4
[we] who were three female friends, [then]
donated a monastery.5 (1) [1]

Ten times [and then] a hundred times,
and then a hundred hundred times,6
we were reborn among the gods;
who could tell the human rebirths? (2) [2]

Among gods we had vast power;
who could tell the human [power]?
Chief queen of a seven-gemmer,7
I was8 the gem of a woman. (3) [3]

Here with wholesome [karma] heaped up,9
[we’re] people from successful clans:
Dhanañjānī and Khemā too,
along with me, the women three. (4) [4]

Making that hermitage well-made,
with every part [of it] adorned,
delighted we donated [it]
to the Buddha-led Assembly.10 (5) [5]

In whichever place I’m reborn,
in accordance with11 that karma,
among the gods and humans too,
I attain the foremost station. (6) [6]

In this [present] lucky aeon
Brahma’s Kinsman, Greatly Famed One,
[the Buddha] known as Kassapa12
was born, the Best of Debaters. (7) [7]

The attendant of the Great Sage
was the ruler of men back then,
the king of Kāsi, named Kiki,
in Benares, greatest city. (8) [8]

That [ruler] had seven daughters,
royal maidens raised in comfort.
Fond of waiting on the Buddha,
they practiced the religious life.13 (9) [9]

Being the ally of those [girls],
steadfast in the moral precepts,
giving gifts [very] carefully,
I practiced vows while in the house.(10) [10]

Due to that karma done very well,
with intention and [firm] resolve,
discarding [my] human body,
I went to Tāvatiṃsa [then]. (11) [11]

Fallen thence, I went to Yāma,14
[and] then I went to Tusitā,
and then to Nimmānarati,
and then Vāsavatti City. (12) [12]

In whichever place I’m reborn,
steadfast in [doing] good karma,15
I was fixed in the chief queen’s place
of the kings in all those [heavens]. (13) [13]

Fallen then into humanness,
I was fixed in the chief queen’s place
of kings who turned the wheel [of law]
and kings [commanding] large regions.16 (14) [14]

Having experienced happiness
among gods and also humans,
being comfortable everywhere,
I traveled on17 through several births. (15) [15]

That [gift’s]18 the reason, that’s the cause,
root, patience for the dispensation,
the first identification,19
nirvana of this Dhamma-lover. (16) [16]20

My defilements are [now] burnt up;
all [new] existence is destroyed.
Like elephants with broken chains,
I am living without constraint. (17) [17]

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! (18) [18]

The four analytical modes,
and these eight deliverances,
six special knowledges mastered,
[I have] done what the Buddha taught! (19) [19]

Thus indeed Venerable21 Bhikkhunī Sumedhā spoke these verses.

[The legend of Sumedhā Therī is finished.]22

  1. BJTS places the namaskāra after the title Therī-apadāna.

  2. this command (in the second person imperative plural) is omitted by BJTS even though it gives the parallel commands in verse (1) [5] of Buddha-apadāna and at the beginning of Paccchchekabuddha-apadāna and Thera-apadāna. The cty omits the Therīs altogether, despite having defined Apadāna, in its nidāna, as constituted by Buddha, Paccchchekabuddha, Thera and Therī sections.

  3. “Very Wise Woman”

  4. lit., “a hermitage for the Assembly,” “a monastic hermitage”. These two feet are oddly out of meter with the rest of this text (and nearly the whole Apadāna); rather than eight syllables, the first foot contains nine, and the second foot contains eleven syllables, as though the author decided half-way through the first verse to refrain from adopting a more elegant meter in favor of matching the meter in what had come before, with very few exceptions, in the parallel Thera-apadāna. But cf notes to Therāpadāna verses such as[288], [359] and [362] for exceptions to this statement (though not an exact meter-match).

  5. lit., “gave a vihāra-dāna [=monastery-gift]”.

  6. BJTS reads a 14-syllable first foot and an 8-syllable second one, lit., “ten times, hundred times, thousand times, hundred times hundred times”. It also reads mānusake for mānuse (PTS) to produce a nine-syllable fourth foot. Both texts provide nine-syllable first, third and fourth feet in the following verse (3), before finally settling in to the standard 8-8-8-8. See n. 4 above. Are these problems with the transmission, or experiments with (or heedlessness about) meter?

  7. here the possession of “seven gems” (sattaratana) by a wheel-turning (cchakkavatti) monarch has become a free-standing designation of the latter (perhaps better translated as “chief queen of a possessor of the seven gems” [or, metrically, “a seven-gem-holder’s chief queen”]). Note that she herself is one of those seven gems, as stated in the next foot.

  8. reading āsiṃ (BJTS) for bhaviŋ (PTS).

  9. reading sañcchitakusalā (BJTS) for sañcchitā kusalaŋ (PTS), though they amount to the same thing.

  10. lit., “to the Assembly (saṅgha, the monks’ Assembly) headed up by the Buddha.

  11. reading vāhasā (BJTS) for vahasā (PTS).

  12. BJTS reads “Named Kassapa according to his Lineage (gottena)”

  13. lit., “they fared according to the Brahma-faring,” i.e., they led a celibate (brahmacchariya) existence.

  14. Yāma, Tusita, Nimmānarati and Vāsavatti are all classes of deities = heavens in the Buddhist cosmology.

  15. lit., “meritorious (puñña) karma”.

  16. maṇḍalīnañ ccha rājūnaṃ, lit., “of kings who [ruled] circles [of kings]”

  17. or “I transmigrated,” saṃsāriṃ.

  18. this follows the lead of the BJTS SInhala gloss, which understands the string of “that” pronouns to refer to the foundational gift of a vihāra that led to the aforementioned bliss in heavenly and human states.

  19. samodhānaṃ, the term used in the Jātaka for the “identifications” the Buddha makes there between characters in the story and characters in his own present-day. Here, then, the claim seems to be that the gift of the vihāra is the first/earliest act of merit that Sumedhā is identified with/by. But I find this verse quite difficult, and this translation is at best provisional.

  20. this verse has nine syllables in the second and fourth foot, rather than the expected eight, so I have translated accordingly.

  21. BJTS omits āyasmā.

  22. PTS omits this concluding line from the present apadāna but includes it in the subsequent ones. BJTS reading of the concluding line numbers each apadāna according to its place in the ten-poem “chapter,” hence this one reads, “The legend of Sumedhā Therī, the first”. I follow the PTS style.