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Selected Poems of the First Buddhist Women

Translated by Charles Hallisey

ISBN 9780674427730

Publication date: 01/06/2015

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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, composed more than two millennia ago, is an anthology of poems in the Pali language by and about the first Buddhist women. These women were therīs, the senior ones, among ordained Buddhist women, and they bore that epithet because of their religious achievements. The poems they left behind are arguably among the most ancient examples of women’s writing in the world and they are unmatched for their quality of personal expression and the extraordinary insight they offer into the lives of women in the ancient Indian past—and indeed, into the lives of women as such.

This new version of the Therīgāthā, based on a careful reassessment of the major editions of the work and printed in the Roman script common for modern editions of Pali texts, offers the most powerful and the most readable translation ever achieved in English.


  • 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 While the poems embody the world-view and morality of early Indian Buddhism, making them invaluable historical documents, they repay the reader’s attention generously.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

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