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The Book of the Sixes

6.3 Khemā Therī

A pick-up line is wasted on this beautiful young woman, a bhikkhuni who has thoroughly seen the truth.

“Daharā tvaṃ rūpavatī,
ahampi daharo yuvā;
Pañcaṅgikena turiyena,
ehi kheme ramāmase”.

139. “You’re young and so beautiful,
and I’m a young man
Come, Kemā, let’s enjoy music –
our five senses the instruments!”

“Iminā pūtikāyena,
āturena pabhaṅgunā;
Aṭṭiyāmi harāyāmi,
kāmataṇhā samūhatā.

140. This putrid body!
Miserable, flimsy! 
I’m done with it, I’m irritated by it! 
Desire for sense pleasure is eliminated.

Sattisūlūpamā kāmā,
khandhāsaṃ adhikuṭṭanā;
Yaṃ ‘tvaṃ kāmaratiṃ’ brūsi,
‘aratī’ dāni sā mama.

141. Sensual pleasures are like swords and spears,
The mind and body* [receive the blows] like a chopping block;
Though called delightful,
sensual pleasures no longer delight me.

Sabbattha vihatā nandī,
tamokhandho padālito;
Evaṃ jānāhi pāpima,
nihato tvamasi antaka.

142. Enjoyment killed at every level,
the mass of darkness destroyed;
You see, evil doer,
you’re defeated, death-maker.

Nakkhattāni namassantā,
aggiṃ paricaraṃ vane;
Yathābhuccamajānantā,
bālā suddhimamaññatha.

143. Revering the constellations,
tending the [brahmanical ritual] fire in the woods,
Missing ultimate truth;
this is “purification” to fools.1

Ahañca kho namassantī,
sambuddhaṃ purisuttamaṃ;
Pamuttā sabbadukkhehi,
satthusāsanakārikā”ti.”

144. Now I revere the best of beings,
the Awakened One;
Having done what he taught,
I am free from all suffering.”

Link to translation for teenagers

Suttas

In the Khemā Sutta, SN 44.1, King Pasenadi seeks out a suitable teacher while on a journey and visits Arahant Khemā. He receives a deep teaching on the nature of the Buddha.

In the Ekadhītu Sutta, SN 17.24, and the Āyācana Sutta, AN 4.176, she is held up, along with Uppalavaṇṇā Therī as what an ideal bhikkhunī should be.

Legends

In her present life, Arahant Khemā was appointed by the Buddha as one of his two chief bhikkhunī disciples. Formerly she was the wife of King Bimbisara. In the commentary to the Dhammapada, we learn how the king conspired to get her to visit the Buddha in the Bamboo Monastery. While there, the Buddha created an illusion of a beautiful woman who progressed from youth to old age and death. Upon seeing this, and hearing the words of the Buddha, she became an arahant on the spot and requested ordination.

Elsewhere in the Dhammapada commentary, the Buddha spoke a verse praising her wisdom.

In the commentary to the Buddha’s declaration of Mahāpajāpatī as the foremost Therī in terms of great wisdom, we learn of the actions she did in here previous life that lead to having this position in the Saṅgha. In the Therī Appadāna we can learn more about her.

Listen to the Pāli:

Recited by Ven. Ayya Sudhammā Therī
December 8th, 2020

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