The Gatha of Ubbiri

She too, having made her resolve in the time of former Buddhas, and heaping up, in this and that rebirth, Good valid for an æon of evolution, was born, in the time of Padumuttara Buddha, at the town of Haŋsavatī in a clansman’s house. Come to years of discretion, she was left alone one day, her parents being engaged with a party in the inner court of the house. And seeing an Arahant approaching the house-door, she bade him ‘Come in hither, lord,’ and did him homage, showing him to a seat; she then took his bowl and filled it with food. The Elder thanked her, and departed. But she, reborn therefore in the heaven of the Three-and-Thirty gods, enjoying there a heavenly time and many a happy life thereafter, was, in this Buddha-era, reborn at Sāvatthī in the family of a very eminent burgess. And she was beautiful to see, and was brought into the house of the King of Kosala himself.

After a few years a daughter was born to her, whom she named Jīvā. The King saw the child, and was so pleased that he had Ubbirī anointed as Queen. But anon the little girl died, and the mother went daily mourning to the charnel-field. And one day she went and worshipped the Master, and sat down; but soon she left, and stood lamenting by the River Achiravatī. Then the Master, seeing her from afar, revealed himself, and asked her: ‘Why dost thou weep?’ ‘I weep because of my daughter, Exalted One.’ ‘Burnt in this cemetery are some 84,000 of thy daughters. For which of them dost thou weep?’ And pointing out the place where this one and that one had been laid, he said half the psalm:

O Ubbirī, who wailest in the wood,
Crying 'O Jīvā! O my daughter dear!'
Come to thyself! Lo, in this burying-ground
Are burnt full many a thousand daughters dear,
And all of them were named like unto her.
Now which of all those Jīvās dost thou mourn?

And she pondered with intelligence on the Norm thus taught by the Master, and so stirred up insight that, by the charm of his teaching and her own attainment of the requisite conditions, she reached the topmost fruit, even Arahantship. And showing forth the high distinction she had won, she spoke the second half of the psalm:

Lo! from my heart the hidden shaft is gone!
The shaft that nestled there hath he removed.
And that consuming grief for my dead child
Which poisoned all the life of me is dead.
To-day my heart is healed, my yearning stayed,
And all within is purity and peace.
Lo! I for refuge to the Buddha go–
The only wise–the Order and the Norm.

trans. by Caroline Rhys Davids