01.02 Muttā Therī (2)

Read aloud in New Book Network Podcast


2. Muttā, be freed from ties, as the moon is freed from the demon (“seizer”) Rahu; with mind completely freed, without debt, enjoy your alms-food.


One morning after begging for my food—

looking down at one more meal

I hadn’t worked for,

hadn’t paid for,

hadn’t earned.

A life of debts I could never repay

pushing in on all sides

like the weight of the sea.

I blinked,

and a


fell into

my bowl.

Would it always feel like this?

Just as the moon rises up

from the bottom of the sea,

a handful of rice lifted itself

from the bottom of my bowl.

And my heart rose with it.

I wish I could tell you

how it tasted—

that first bite of food

as a free woman.



  1. Obviously Weingast’s poem takes no more than a loose inspiration from the Therigatha. The culturally specific idea of the eclipse as the seizing of the moon by Rahu is removed. We can say little of the Muttā of the Therigatha, but the Muttā of Weingast’s imagination is a woman who is self-doubting and weepy.

  2. “Without debt” is a technical term referring to being enlightened. The idea is that as a monastic one eats alms food as a debtor until one attains enlightenment. So it is, in fact, possible to repay the debt.

Leave a comment