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Poems of the First Buddhist Women

Poems of the First Buddhist Women

A Translation of the Therigatha

Translated by Charles Hallisey

ISBN 9780674251359

Publication date: 02/23/2021

A stunning modern translation of a Buddhist classic that is also one of the oldest literary texts in the world written by women.

The Therīgāthā is one of the oldest surviving literatures by women, composed more than two millennia ago and originally collected as part of the Pali canon of Buddhist scripture. These poems were written by some of the first Buddhist women—therīs—honored for their religious achievements. Through imaginative verses about truth and freedom, the women recount their lives before ordination and their joy at attaining liberation from samsara. Poems of the First Buddhist Women offers startling insights into the experiences of women in ancient times that continue to resonate with modern readers. With a spare and elegant style, this powerful translation introduces us to a classic of world literature.


  • The Therigatha has a lot of claims on our attention. It is among the first poetry of India; among the first poems by women in India; the first collection of women’s literature in the world. But these claims should not obscure its status as poetry. While the poems embody the world-view and morality of early Indian Buddhism, making them invaluable historical documents, they repay the reader’s attention generously.

    —Neel Mukherjee, New Statesman


  • Charles Hallisey is Yehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures at Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 192 pages
  • 5-1/4 x 8 inches
  • Harvard University Press