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The First Free Women: Poems of the Early Buddhist Nuns

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  199 ratings  ·  74 reviews
The Therigatha ("Verses of the Elder Nuns") is the oldest collection of known writings from Buddhist women and one of the earliest collections of women's literature in India. Composed during the life of the Buddha, the collection contains verses by early Buddhist nuns detailing everything from their disenchantment with their prescribed roles in society to their struggles o ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published February 11th 2020 by Shambhala Publications
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Bhante Sujato This analogy has a lot going for it, so long as we bear in mind that what has been changed is not just a revered work of poetry like Rumi, but canonic…moreThis analogy has a lot going for it, so long as we bear in mind that what has been changed is not just a revered work of poetry like Rumi, but canonical scripture. Imagine if someone threw out 95% of the content of the Koran and sold it as a "fresh re-imagining".(less)
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Bhante Sujato
Jan 12, 2021 rated it did not like it
Buddhist monk here. I have studied Pali for 25 years and have translated over a million words from Pali, including the Therigatha.

This book is not a translation, and it is not the "poems of early Buddhist nuns". It is a work of original poetry by Matty Weingast that bears no more than a passing resemblance to the Therigatha. Weingast and his publisher admit that they are not translations, but they nevertheless persist in marketing them as authentic.

This is a work of cultural and spiritual appr
...more
Bhikkhunī Ayyā Sudhammā Therī
DON'T BUY if you're looking for the ancient Therigatha scripture of poetry crafted by nuns of India 25 centuries ago. THIS book is nothing but modern poetry written in 2019 by an American man.

The author meditated on each original poem then wrote a new poem in its place, giving it the name of the nun. He titled the book of his poetry as the early nuns' poems, and presented it to the world as a translation.

Shame on him, and shame on Shambala; they've both been confronted over the misrepresentati
...more
Tira Avery
Jan 15, 2021 rated it did not like it
I'm sad and disappointed that people cannot be honest.

The author LIES, starting from the very front cover! Those poems 'originally written by himself' are not 'poems of the Early Buddhist Nuns'.

What he should have done was to say that they were HIS OWN poems about nuns in his fantasy who belonged in his fantasy religion.

He should be SUED for belittling highly respected monastics of a major religion in Asia.

I'm also disappointed at the publisher. As a publisher of many Buddhist teachings, could
...more
Terry
Jan 15, 2021 rated it did not like it
This book is wrong on so many levels; it is written by a white American male purporting to speak for Asian brown skinned women from 2,600 years ago and their experience. Many of the reviewers have mistakenly quoted Matty Weingast as being a translator when the publisher has admitted that they are original poems inspired in part by the the poems of the early Buddhist nuns. Also Matty Weingast has no qualifications as a translator as that would mean he had read the original Pali and translated it; ...more
Jakob Jakobson
Jan 18, 2021 rated it did not like it
This is NOT a translation of the Therigatha.

This is a collection of poems by Matty Weingast. These are not words of ancient Buddhist nuns. Most of the poems are loosely based on the Therigatha. But often, the meaning is completely lost. The poems are often so far removed from the originals, that this can not even be considered an adaptation or a revival of the ancient text.

The fact that many think it is a translation shows that the marketing of this book is not transparent. It is being presented
...more
Alexjn
Jan 15, 2021 rated it did not like it
I can see that many reviewers have been inspired and connected with this book. Undoubtedly, there is something to that, and credit goes to the writer.

But there also seems to be a common misunderstanding from reviewers that this is a translation of the verses of the Elder Nuns. It is not. Rather, it’s a work stemming from the imagination of the (male) writer, loosely based on the original verses. A huge amount has been modernized, secularised and, sorry to say, watered down.

In truth, I actually
...more
A Nun
Jan 16, 2021 is currently reading it
I picked this book up and flicked to one of my favourite nuns to read a new translation of her verses. I was absolutely horrified to discover that it was not a translation of her poem at all.

This book is NOT A TRANSLATION.

The verses might be very pretty, but they are not a true reflection of what the nuns were saying and distort the teachings of the Buddha.

So disappointed I can't give it a single star.
...more
John Kelly
Jan 21, 2021 rated it did not like it
This book is often touted as a translation, yet it is definitely not. As a Pali scholar and teacher, I can assure you that these poems by Mr Weingast, a white American male, barely reflect the original voices of these highly advanced Indian women practitioners frm 2,500 years ago at all. Much of what is true in Buddhism is left out of the author's renderings, which at best one could say are occasionally loosely inspired by the original poems. This book should be withdrawn, or at the least re-lab ...more
Leticia Funston
Jan 18, 2021 rated it did not like it
This is a terribly misleading publication. Most readers and reviewers believe that Matty Weingast has actually translated the Therigatha. I understand the confusion of other readers because the book is marketed in a way that strongly implies that Matty Weingast has produced a translation. However this book is NOT a translation. This work is a racist and sexist misappropriation, representing a significant and dangerous distortion of the original Therigatha. For these reasons many Buddhist scholar ...more
Alexander
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was ok
Some truth to these warm poems, but don't be confused: this isn't a translation. These are original poems inspired by the ancient collection. ...more
SuzanneF
To be clear. This is Not a translation of the poems of early Buddhist nuns. The author meditated on his reading of them and wrote his own poem from how he felt. For more information see Suttacentral. Which is a site of translations of the suttas/sutras. Or look up the critique by Bhante Sujato, When is a sutta not a sutta?
An Tran
Jan 22, 2021 rated it did not like it
This is not a translation, but a work of original poetry that is fraudulently being passed off as the voices of ancient women. There is not even any attempt to remain the least bit faithful to what it claims to be the source. In one instance, Weingast takes the poem of a MAN elsewhere in the canon of Pali scriptures, inserts it into this collection where it doesn't belong, and rewrites the poem in the voice of a woman.

The poem entitled, “Tissa the Third”, is actually not a poem of the Elder Nun
...more
Arya Karniawan
Jan 22, 2021 rated it did not like it
It's disrespectful ways to get money from bogus "translation" of "Early Bhikkhuni"... 😑 ...more
Tasfan Sadikin
Jan 22, 2021 rated it did not like it
This is NOT a translation of the Therigatha.

This is a collection of poems by Matty Weingast. These are not words of ancient Buddhist nuns. Most of the poems are loosely based on the Therigatha. But often, the meaning is completely lost. The poems are often so far removed from the originals, that this can not even be considered an adaptation or a revival of the ancient text.

The fact that many think it is a translation shows that the marketing of this book is not transparent. It is being presented
...more
Natalie
Jan 23, 2021 rated it did not like it
Nope. Just no. This is presented as a translation but it is NOT. Some of the "translations" are completely, 100%, not one bit a translation of the poem he is pretending to translate: they are totally fabricated. They bear no resemblance to the original. Some of the "translations" actually present a teaching that is AT ODDS with the original. Representation matters, and it's clear this guy thinks he knows better what Buddhism is and should be than the women who actually studied with the Buddha. H ...more
Neewern
This book is NOT a translation of the Therigatha. The title "Poems of the Early Buddhist Nuns" is misleading, implying that they were rendered by the Buddhist nuns themselves. The verses in the book written by the author bear little or no resemblance to the ancient Pali texts. This is an original work by the author, and he may have taken inspiration from the Therigatha, but in no way should this be represented or marketed as a translation. He should tell it as it is. His OWN poems, NOT poems of ...more
Michael Roe
Jan 22, 2021 rated it did not like it
The author Matty Weingast has been described as a very nice man, but what has happened with this book is not nice, at all. The Therīgāthā is a deeply treasured collection of poems of the earliest senior nuns of the Buddha's Sangha. It has been described this way: "Despite its small size, the Therigatha is a very significant document in the study of early Buddhism as well as the earliest-known collection of women's literature. The Therigatha contains a passages reaffirming the view that women are ...more
Annie Gore
Jan 26, 2021 rated it did not like it
This book is NOT a translation, it is a book of poems made up by the author, an American man. For anyone who respects Buddhism and its traditions this is a clearly a breach of Buddhist ethics, as both the author and the publisher Shambhala are passing it off as the authentic voices of Buddhist nuns. Please do not be taken in. If you want to authenticity, there are plenty of actual translations of Buddhist texts out there. This is not one of them.
Sonia Mattson
Jan 22, 2021 rated it did not like it
Really disappointed to discover these poems are not translations of the original poems by the early
Buddhist nuns at all. The writer has found his inspiration in the poems of the Therigatha, but in no way could they be considered a faithful renditions of them.
Rama
Psalms of the Sisters – A celebration of the writings of Buddhist nuns in ancient India

This is the English translation of the verses of Elder Nuns (bhikkhunis) also known as the Therigatha in Buddhist literature. Some of these writings of Buddhist women were composed during the life of Buddha in 6th century B.C.E. They detail everything from their disenchantment with their roles in society to their struggles for spiritual freedom. Numerous voices are heard from; a mother whose child has died (T
...more
Lana
Jan 27, 2021 rated it did not like it
I am a college student taking a Buddhism Class and we discussed the many issues with this book. Weingast, a white American man, is writing from the perspective of a brown-skinned Asian woman, giving advice to other women. Despite what the book's publication has stated, this book is only loosely based on the Therīgāthā. It is NOT a translation of the Therīgāthā, and it should not be treated as such. Weingast's collection of poetry is blatantly spiritual and cultural appropriation. It is racist, o ...more
Wayne Eaton
While this is sweet and maybe encouraging, it does a great disservice when presented as Buddhas teachings or even the reports of Buddhist disciples. Having studied the Suttas for many years and also having read this book, it is blatantly misleading in so many ways. It actually makes believe that by being a good mother one can fulfill the Buddhist path, an obvious wrong view. The incredible accomplishments of historical women of India, the authors of the Therigatha, are completely simplified by t ...more
Sabina
Jan 29, 2021 rated it did not like it
This book was so enthusiastically quoted at my online meditation group as the new translation of the Therigatha that I decided to find out more about this ancient text. Lo and behold, what I found was beautiful, awe-inspiring and radically different from the poems I had heard. I bought a copy of "The First Free Women", and I was astonished and disappointed by what I read. "The First Free Women" is NOT a translation, but rather a series of poems loosely inspired by the Therigatha. The author, a m ...more
Katy
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism, poetry
UPDATE. It seems that over the last few months a bunch of traditionalists have gotten bent out of shape over this book. Note that many of them have listed only one book, this one, in their libraries.

Here are three problems with their critique

1. Although I read the book a year ago,as I recall the author is clear about his project. These are not translations. They are interpretations. They are grounded in deep practice and contemplation. Anyone claiming the author thinks otherwise did not read th
...more
Amelia Strydom
Oct 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Therigatha is the world's oldest religious text credited to female authorship. It is a collection of poems attributed to the first Buddhist nuns. Although it has undoubtedly been changed by years of oral transmission and heavily edited by male Buddhists, one catches glimpses of authentic female experience like the sun breaking through the clouds.

It was originally written in Pali and has been translated into English several times. Previous translators strove to be as true to the original text
...more
Julie
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This translated collection proves to me that poetry is the universal language. I fully expected these poems to feel distant, to be dry and esoteric, or perhaps quirky with their Buddhist lens and historical distance, but instead I found myself in tears.

The truths in this work struck me hard. Weingast managed to preserve the piercing clarity of these nuns despite the poems being over 2000 years old. I felt seen. I felt as if each one of these poems were a tender hand reaching forward from the pas
...more
Q
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful is the awakened heart. This is a lovely translation of the poetry of the early Buddhist nuns.
Renée Roehl
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
A lovely translation of early buddhist nuns from all walks of life who are on the path. Some of these poems will knock you mind out of your head and others are adequate. Some are deep, some amusing, and others a combination of many emotions. Worth the read, whether you're secular or of any religion. One lovely example:

Another Mutta--Free

So this is what it feels like--
to be free.

Forever free
from playing the mortar
to my crooked husband's
crooked little pestle.

Enough.

For my mother.
For my daughter.
An
...more
Richard Shankman
Jan 29, 2021 rated it did not like it
The issue is simply that this work is not a translation at all, but a wholly original work of poetry, inspired by, but bearing little to no resemblance to the Therigatha.

Regardless of the intentions of Shambhala Pubs and the author, a work of fiction is being promoted as a translation. It's really that simple and hard to see how Shambhala Pubs or the author can justify this. It's fine if you create a piece of fiction that inspires people in their dhamma practice. What you should not be able to d
...more
Claralynn Nunamaker
Jan 30, 2021 rated it did not like it
Initially I was overjoyed to see this book, as I love the canonical texts. But when my Pāli teacher pointed out how greatly these poems in this book vary from the actual canonical texts, I was (and remain) aghast. It's one thing to create poems that are inspired by ancient Buddhist women. It's something else entirely to have them catalogued in the Library of Congress as a translation of a canonical text when it is no such thing.

My rating would be far higher if this were not mis-represented as th
...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Duplicate listnigs 3 10 Jan 16, 2021 05:45AM  
Have you actually read the Therigatha? 1 7 Jan 16, 2021 12:42AM  

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23 likes · 29 comments
“[written 2,600 years ago]

Another Sama

After twenty-five years on the Path,
I'd experienced almost everything--
except peace.

When I was young,
my mother told me
that I would find true happiness
only in marriage.

Remembering her words all those years
later,
something in me began to tremble.

I gave myself to the trembling--
and it showed me
all the pain
this little heart
had ever known.

And how countless lives of searching
had brought me
at last
to the present moment,
which I happily married.

Can you imagine?

We've been living together
ever since,
without
a single
argument.”
2 likes
“He said:
How could a woman,
who knows no more than how to cook,
clean, and make babies,
possibly reach the further shore—
on the way to which so many good men
have drowned or turned back?

I said:
The mind is neither male nor female.

When directed towards the arising
and passing away
of all things,
it easily penetrates
this mass of darkness.

Be serious.

What’s a few inches of meat
compared to the immeasurable reaches
of the liberated mind?”
0 likes
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