Dhammapada (Illustrated)

by Ven. Weagoda Sarada Maha Thero | 1993 | 341,201 words | ISBN-10: 9810049382 | ISBN-13: 9789810049386

This page describes The Story of Sirima which is verse 147 of the English translation of the Dhammapada which forms a part of the Sutta Pitaka of the Buddhist canon of literature. Presenting the fundamental basics of the Buddhist way of life, the Dhammapada is a collection of 423 stanzas. This verse 147 is part of the Jarā Vagga (Old Age) and the moral of the story is “See this decked out body, much thought of, but truly sore within. It’s never ever steady”.

Verse 147 - The Story of Sirimā

Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 147:

passa cittakataṃ bimbaṃ arukāyaṃ samussitaṃ |
āturaṃ bahusaṅkappaṃ yassa natthi dhuvaṃ ṭhiti || 147 ||

147. See this body beautiful a mass of sores, a congeries, much considered but miserable where nothing’s stable, nothing persists.

Behold The True Nature Of The Body‌‌
See this decked out body, much thought of, but truly sore within. It’s never ever steady.

The Story of Sirimā

While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse, with reference to Sirimā the courtesan.

Once, there lived in Rājagaha, a very beautiful courtesan by the name of Sirimā. Every day Sirimā offered alms-food to eight monks. One of these monks happened to mention to other monks how beautiful Sirimā was and also that she offered very delicious food to the monks every day. On hearing this, a young monk fell in love with Sirimā even without seeing her. The next day, the young monk went with the other monks to the house of Sirimā. Sirimā was not well on that day, but since she wanted to pay obeisance to the monks, she was carried to the presence of the monks. The young monk, seeing Sirimā, thought to himself, “Even though she is sick, she is very beautiful!” And he felt a strong desire for her.

That very night, Sirimā died. King Bimbisāra went to the Buddha and reported to him that “Sirimā, the sister of Jīvaka, had died. The Buddha told King Bimbisāra to take the dead body to the cemetery and keep it there for three days without burying it, but to have it protected from crows and vultures. The king did as he was told. On the fourth day, the dead body of the beautiful Sirimā was no longer beautiful or desirable; it got bloated and maggots came out of the nine orifices. On that day, the Buddha took his monks to the cemetery to observe the body of Sirimā. The king also came with his men. The young monk, who was so desperately in love with Sirimā, did not know that Sirimā had died. When he learnt that the Buddha and the monks were going to see Sirimā, he joined them. At the cemetery, the corpse of Sirimā was surrounded by the monks headed by the Buddha, and also by the king and his men.

The Buddha, surrounded by the congregation of monks, stood on one side of the corpse; the congregation of nuns and the king’s retinue and the company of lay disciples, both male and female, stood on the other side of the corpse, each company in its proper place. The Buddha then asked the king, “Great king, who is this woman?” “Venerable, it is Jīvaka’s sister Sirimā.” “Is this Sirimā?” “Yes, Venerable.” “Well! Send a drum through the town and make proclamation, ‘Those who will pay a thousand pieces of money for Sirimā may have her.’” Not a man said ‘hem’ or ‘hum’. The king brought down the price to a penny, then to a half-penny, then to a quarter of a penny, then to an eighth of a penny. At last he proclaimed to the beating of a drum, “They may have her for nothing.” Not a man said ‘hem’ or ‘hum’. Then said the king to the Buddha, “Venerable, no one will take her, even as a gift.” The Buddha replied, “Monks, you see the value of a woman in the eyes of the multitude. In this very city men used to pay a thousand pieces of money for the privilege of spending one night with this woman. Now there is no one who will take her as a gift. Such was her beauty which had perished and gone. Behold, monks, this body diseased and corrupt.”

Explanatory Translation (Verse 147)

yassa dhuvaṃ ṭhiti natthi. arukāyaṃ samussitaṃ
āturaṃ bahusaṅkappaṃ cittakataṃ bimbaṃ passa

yassa: for this body; dhuvaṃ ṭhiti: permanent existence; natthi: there is not; arukāyaṃ [arukāya]: (it is in fact) body of sores; samussitaṃ [samussita]: propped up by many bones; āturaṃ [ātura]: (it is) afflicted with sickness; bahusaṅkappaṃ [bahusaṅkappa]: by many well thought of; cittakataṃ [cittakata]: glamorously made up; bimbaṃ [bimba]: this body; passa: observe

This body has no permanent existence. It is in fact a body of sores. It is diseased. It is propped up by many kinds of bones. It is considered by many to be good. It is well thought of by many. It is glamorously made up. Observe this true nature of the body.

Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 147)

natthi dhuvaṃ ṭhiti: this body cannot last. It has no permanent existence–arukāyaṃ. This is, in fact, a body of sores.

āturaṃ: it is diseased; bahusaṅkappaṃ: well thought of by many; samussitaṃ: the body has many bones. These bones prop it up; cittakataṃ: glamorously made up. All these are categorized as illusory notions regarding body.

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