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Guide to Tipitaka

Canonical Pâli Buddhist Literature of the Theravâda School

Part 9 - The Theri Gatha Pali

These two treatises form a compilation of delightful verses utter- ed by some two hundred and sixty-four theras and seventy-three theris through sheer exultation and joy that arise out of their re- ligious devotion and inspiration. These inspinng verses gush forth from the hearts of bhikkhus and bbikkunis after their attainment of Arahatship as an announcement of their achievement and also as statement of their effort which has led to their final enlightenment

It may be learnt from these jubilant verses how a trifling inci- dent in life, a trivial circumstance can become the starting point of spiritual effort which culminates in supreme liberation. But for some of the theras, the call has come early to them to forsake the home life and take to the life of a homeless recluse. Their struggle has been hard because of the inner fight between the forces of good and evil. They have had a good fight and they have won by dint of resolution and ardent determination. The crippling bonds of greed, hatred and ignorance have been broken as under and they are freed. In sheer exultation, they utter forth those inspiring verses, proclaiming their freedom and victory. Some of these theras reach the sublime height of poetic beauty when they recount their solitary life in the quiet glades and groves of forest, the beauteous nature that form their surrounding, and the peace and calm that have facilitated their me- ditation

Although the verses in the Then Gatha lack the poetic excel- lence and impassioned expression of love of solitude that characterise the verses in the Thera Gatha, they nevertheless reflect the great piety and unflinching resolution with which the theris have struggled to reach the goal One distinguishing feature of the struggle of the theris is that many of them receive the final impetus to seek solace in holy life through emotional imbalance they have been subject to, for example, loss of the dear ones as in the case of Patacari, or through intense personal suffering over the death of a beloved son as suffered by Kisa Gotami

Both the Thera Gatha and the Then Gatha provide us with shining, inspiring models of excellence, so consoling and so uplift- ing, so human and true to life, leading us on to the path of the holy life, stimulating us when our spirit drops, our rnind flags, and guiding us through internal conflicts and set-backs

These gathas may be enjoyed simply as beautiful poems with exquisite imagery and pleasing words or they may be contemplated on as inspiring messages with deep meaning to uplift the mind to the highest levels of spiritual attainment.

"Rain god! My abode has a roofing now for my comfortable living, it will shield me from the onset of wind and storm. Rain god 1 Pour down to thy hearts content; my mind is calm and unshakeable, free from fetters I dwell striving strenuously with untinng zeal Rain god f Pour down to thy heart's content."

(Verse 325)

The bhikkhu has now his 'abode' of the five khandhas well protected by *the roofing and walls' of sense restraints and panna He lives thus comfortably, well shielded from the rain and storm of lust, craving and attachments. Undisturbed by the pouring rain, and whirling wind of conceit, ignorance, hatred, he remains calm and composed, unpolluted Although he lives thus in security and com- fort of liberation and calm, he keeps alert and mindful, ever ready to cope with any emergency that may arise through lack of mindfulness

 

 

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