The Book of the Sevens

7.3 Upacālā Therī

An evil guy tries to start a flirtatious debate to provoke this bhikkhuni out of her peaceful meditation, but she shuts down his argument.

Satimatī cakkhumatī,
bhikkhunī bhāvitindriyā;
Paṭivijjhi padaṁ santaṁ,

“Mindful, with vision
A bhikkhuni of developed faculties
I broke through to that peaceful state
Not embraced by immoral men.”  

[Māra interrupted this bhikkhuni’s reverie1Nothing in the poem identifies the speaker, other than the pejorative “pāpima” (vocative masculine s. or nt. s.) meaning evil one or evil-doer, which certainly could apply to some human men; tradition holds that it was Mara himself. In a similar poem in the Saṁyutta Nikaya, Māra approached to inquire, “What don’t you approve of?” When the bhikkhuni answered that she disapproves of birth, he responded with this challenge. SN5.6.]  

Kiṁ nu jātiṁ na rocesi,
jāto kāmāni bhuñjati;
Bhuñjāhi kāmaratiyo,
māhu pacchānutāpinī”.

“Why don’t you approve of birth?
One who’s born gets to enjoy sensual pleasures.
Enjoy the delights of the senses!
Don’t [miss out and] later regret it.” 2It seems that FOMO (fear of missing out) may have been as potent back then as it is today.

Jātassa maraṇaṁ hoti,
hatthapādāna chedanaṁ;
jāto dukkhaṁ nigacchati.

“For the born there is death!
Hand & foot severed
Execution, bondage, calamity
The born descends to suffering.

Atthi sakyakule jāto,
sambuddho aparājito;
So me dhammamadesesi,
jātiyā samatikkamaṁ.

[But] there exists, born to the Sakyans,
The rightly Awakened, incomparable;
He taught me the Dhamma
For overcoming birth:

Dukkhaṁ dukkhasamuppādaṁ,
dukkhassa ca atikkamaṁ;
Ariyaṁ caṭṭhaṅgikaṁ maggaṁ,

Suffering, suffering’s origin,
Suffering’s transcendence, and
The noble eightfold path
That leads to the stilling of suffering.3I.e. The four noble truths

Tassāhaṁ vacanaṁ sutvā,
vihariṁ sāsane ratā;
Tisso vijjā anuppattā,
kataṁ buddhassa sāsanaṁ.

On hearing his words
I lived delighting in his teaching
Attained is the Triple Knowledge
Done is the Buddha’s teaching

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

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

Sattakanipāto niṭṭhito.
The Book of the Sevens is finished.

Note: This and the adjacent poems loosely match some stanzas of the conversations with Māra at SN 5.6, 5.7, 5.8, but with the names switched around. According to tradition all three, Cālā, Upacālā and Sīsūpacālā, were sisters of the greatest monk, Ven. Sāriputta.

Please see the short essay Knowing Māra.