The Most Dramatic Story in the Canon?

Yet another poem from the Theragatha. This is certainly one of the most dramatic stories in all of the canon. Subha was the beautiful daughter of a powerful brahmin. She studied with Ven. Pajāpatī, and reached the attainment of once-returner. In this poem she tells of her encounter with a young man in the Jīvaka Mango Grove.

Bikkhunī Subha was walking through the lovely Jīvaka’s mango grove. There a thug stood in her way.

She said: “Why do you stand in my way?
Don’t know you know it’s not proper to touch a nun?”

He replied: “You are young and innocent.
Why live as a celibate?
Toss aside your nun’s robe and let’s frolic in this flowering woods.
The scent of blossoms is everywhere.
Spring is at its most beautiful.
Let us find pleasure together.
The trees sigh in the wind.
How would you find pleasure all alone?
The jungle is full of wild animals
Elephants rutting and excited.
Why go there all alone?
You are like a golden figurine,
Like an angel from heaven,
If you would only come with me to this forest grove,
I would do anything for you.
You are my heart’s desire.
You with the languid eyes of a forest fairy.
Come live in my palace!
Handmaidens will serve you.
You will wear only Benares cloth.
You will have ornaments and lotions and jewelry!
A plush, expensive bed made of sandalwood,
And clean, lovely sheets.
Out here alone you are like a lotus
Blooming in a remote forest pool.
You will grow old, your beauty wasted.”

“You do not understand my essence.
This body is little more than a carcass,
ready to fill a cemetery plot.”

“You eyes are like a doe. Like a fairy.
Like lotuses on your pure golden face.
As I stare at you, my passion grows.
Even if you were far from here,
I could never forget your eyes,
With their long eyelashes,
You with the languid eyes of a forest fairy.”

“You want to leave the path.
You want to pluck the moon from the sky.
You want to leap over Mount Meru.
You want this child of the Buddha.
But I have no lust for anyone,
In heaven or earth.
My lust has been uprooted by the path.
Like the ashes of poison, burnt and scattered,
My lust has been uprooted by the path.
Lure a woman who hasn’t seen as I have seen,
Who does not follow the Teacher’s word.
But seducing me will bring you nothing but misery.
Among approval or scorn,
happiness or misery,
My mindfulness does not waver.
I know that conditioned things are not beautiful.
I do not become attached to them.

“It is like a painted puppet,
Craftily held up with strings,
And made to dance.
But when the strings and sticks are broken,
Where then is its cunning?
It is the same for this body.
Without a mind it simply does not work.

“It is like a painting.
What you see is not real.
It is an illusion,
a trick of the mind,
A dream of a golden forest,
A magician’s trick.

“In truth my my eye is nothing but a little sphere,
stuck in a cavity,
filled with goo,
covered in tears,
leaking ooze,
held together in a lump.”

And with a mind at peace, without remorse, she tore out her lovely eye.

“There,” she said, “ It is yours.”

Immediately she handed it to him,
And just as immediately his lust was gone.


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