Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 1.4.1
Rohinītherīgāthā - That is Why They are so Dear to Me

Nānākulā pabbajitā, nānājanapadehi ca;

Aññamaññaṃ piyāyanti, tena me samaṇā piyā1

 

“From different families they have renounced the world,

And come from different places,

They love and respect each other in highest esteem:

That is why they are dear to me!”

 

The world is fortunate to encounter the second sāsana of the Buddha Gotama’s teaching, (or the second half of this very sāsana). It seems that while during the lifetime of Gotama his teaching spread more among the monks who had ripened pāramī2 and quickly could thus realise liberation, today under the current circumstances it is the householders that get attracted. Even so this rousing verse resonates with the experience that many meditators around the world have. As a meditator or especially a Dhamma server joining different courses in various centres around the world one is bound to meet some of the comrades on the path one has met in the past in one or the other courses. The deep feelings of empathy, friendship in Dhamma, mutual understanding and recollection of previous encounter that reverberate in these verses are a common thrilling and joyful experience to many. The Buddha at one time pointed this out to Ananda by calling it ‘beneficial friendship on the path’ kalyāṇamitta and pointing to its importance he stated:3

Sakalamevidaṃ, ānanda, brahmacariyaṃ, yadidaṃ– kalyāṇamittatā kalyāṇasahāyatā kalyāṇasampavaṅkatā4’.

‘Having virtuous people as friends, companions and colleagues is actually the whole of the holy life.’

 

The selection of verses chosen for this current lesson introduces one more book of the Pāli-Canon from the collection of the Khuddakanikāya, which is called Theragāthāpāḷi and Therīgāthāpāḷi. ‘Thera’ means senior monks and ‘Therī’ means senior nuns and the collection  reports about their respective aspirations, experiences (of enlightenment) and exclamations of joy that were mostly uttered in verses. Together with the Apadāna this compilation of texts gives some hint about the joy and delight expressed by those, who have reached the various stages of liberation, but also about the arduous and vigorous work undertaken to reach their goal. These current verses are exemplary taken from the Therīgāthā, a collection of jubilant exclamations uttered by the nuns.

The current selection refers to a lady named Rohinī, whose father, a rich Brahmin of Vesālī, was repeatedly displeased with her benevolence towards the Bhikkhus when she was a young girl. Filled with prejudices and quite biased with a common view about monks as lazy and living on others, he often articulated his disagreement and pointed out the faults of these ascetics. He did so in verses that are presented in this selection and kept on asking Rohinī: “Why are those Samaṇas so dear to you?” —‘Kena te samaṇā piyā?’—. Rohinī then herself took on this phrase, turning the interrogative pronoun: ‘kena’ into the demonstrative ‘tena’ and enlisted all the qualities of the monks that she felt inspiring and after each verse concluded: “That is why those Samaṇas are so dear to me!” —‘Tena me samaṇā piyā?’

Seeing thus a good opportunity to reveal and praise the good qualities of their noble conduct, she recited the stirring stanzas represented here. In addition to the inspiring description of the qualities of the monks a play of words: —‘akammakāmā alasā’ turns into ‘kammakāmā analasā shows the beauty of the Pāli language.

After Rohinī had extolled the qualities of the Bhikkhus to her father, he expressed his pride about such a daughter, called her a shining example for their family and finally himself took refuge with the following words:

Upehi saraṇaṃ buddhaṃ, dhammaṃ saṅghañca tādinaṃ; samādiyāhi sīlāni, taṃ me atthāya hehiti5!’

 ‘To the Buddha I go for refuge, to the Dhamma and to the Saṅgha. I undertake the rules of moral conduct, this will be to my gain!’


1. see the Pali lesson for the vocabulary

2. pāramī or pāramitā: perfection, completeness is an (post-canonical) expression describing the qualities of a person who walks the path. The necessary completeness refers to ten special qualities that need to be developed and perfected which are: sīla, nekkhamma, viriya, khanti, sacca, adhiṭṭhāna, paññā, upekhā, mettā, dāna.

3. see details at 3.1.8 Upaḍḍhasuttaṃ - The Importance of a Kalyāṇamitta

4. kalyāṇamittatā: kalyāṇa + mittatā: wholesome, beneficial + friendship, friendship with the virtuous; kalyāṇasahāyatā: companionship with the virtuous, kalyāṇasampavaṅkatā: being colleagues of the virtuous

5. hehiti: bhavati (fut.): it will be


Last modified: Wednesday, 21 December 2022, 12:10 PM