First Buddhist Women is a readable, contemporary translation of and commentary on the enlightenment verses of the first female disciples of the Buddha. Through the study of the Therigatha, the earliest-known collection of women’s religious poetry, the book explores Buddhism's 2,600-year-long liberal attitude toward women. Utilizing commentary and storytelling, author Susan Murcott traces the journey of wives, mothers, teachers, courtesans, prostitutes, and wanderers who became leaders in the Buddhist community, acquiring roles that even today are rarely filled by women in other, patriarchal religions.
Preface to The First Buddhist Women
I am very moved by the 2015 translation of the First Buddhist Women into Vietnamese. It is received with gratitude. First, it is gratitude for the strength and courage of generations of women who have known suffering, and who have sought its cause, its end, and a path, beginning with the Therīgāthā founder-women, the first women Buddhists. Second, it is an expression of gratitude to our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and the lineage of women from whom we have emerged and without whom we wouldn’t have the opportunity for the miracle of our lives.
I also want to express my deepest appreciation to the translator of this book, Dr. Mai Van Tinh. Through his perseverance, he was able to locate me across oceans and continents, indeed half-way around the world from
Finally I would like to express my appreciation and respect for the people of
Thus the First Buddhist Women that I translated from Pāli to English followed my intention “to help” and led, in turn, to my encounter with Vietnamese Buddhism. Now, four decades later, we offer these accounts of the First Buddhist Women in Vietnamese for the first time.
In the words of Patācārā:
“I have seen the jackals eating the flesh of my sons in the cemetery. My family destroyed, my husband dead, despised by everyone, I found what does not die.”
In the words of Sundari to Buddha:
“I am your disciple Sundari and I have come from Kasi to pay homage.Buddha, teacher, I am your daughter, your true child, born of your mouth. My mind is free of all clinging. My task is done.
I pray that all who read these Therīgāthā poems afresh will embrace the miracle of mindfulness and peace that is being taught to us by these First Buddhism Women.
And, in the words of Thich Nhat Hanh: “Washing my hands in clear water, I pray that all people have pure hands to receive and care for the truth.”
Tết New Year’s Eve (Feb 18, 2015)