13 Feb
2020
Posted in: Books, Poems
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If You Really Want to Be Free…

I just received my copy of The First Free Women: Poems of the Early Buddhist Nuns, a translation/adaptation by Matty Wiengast of the Therigatha (“Verses of the Elder Nuns”), which I’ve been waiting for since hearing just a few of them read aloud while I was at the Forest Refuge last June.

Bhikkhuni Anandabodhi writes:

“These poems you hold in your hands are like jewels to me…

“I had been waiting a long time for a rendition of the Therigatha that would speak directly to my heart. There are several English translations, but most have been done by scholars who have remained in a formal relationship with these poems composed by enlightened women 2,600 years ago. While these academic translations of the Therigatha may be literally accurate, and with some effort the inspiring teaching can be found, for me they miss the quality of transmission and so remain as words spoken long ago, now dusty and dry.

“Reading through this new rendition, feeling the visceral response, and experiencing the sense of clarity and connection that came through, I realized that Matty had taken the poems far beyond what I had hoped for.”

I agree.

As Jack Kornfield writes, “These are fresh, powerful, poetic translations that bring our ancient wise women to life. Let their beautiful songs of freedom inspire you own heart.”

Here’s an excerpt from Tissa — The Third
(The title of each poem is the original author’s name — in Pali and in English.)

Why stay here
in your little
dungeon?

If you really want
to be free,
make
every
thought
a thought of freedom.

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