First Buddhist Women
Poems and Stories of Awakening
First Buddhist Women is a readable, contemporary translation of and commentary on the enlightenment verses of the first female disciples of the Buddha. The book explores Buddhism’s relatively liberal attitude towards women since its founding nearly 2,600 years ago, through the study of the Therigatham, the earliest know collection of women’s religious poetry. Through commentary and storytelling, author Susan Murcott traces the journey of the wives, mothers, teachers, courtesan, prostitutes, and wanderers who became leaders in the Buddhist community, roles that even today are rarely filled by women in other patriarchal religions. Their poetry beautifully expresses their search for spiritual attainment and their struggles in society.
Susan Murcott was draw to Buddhism as a peace activist in Boston in the late 1960’s. She traveled to Japan, Australia, and Hawaii to study Zen and Buddhist philosophy, and spent more than 10 years researching and translating this text. She was a co-founder and editor of Kahawai: Journal of Women and Zen for many years, and taught meditation at Wellesley College while completing her graduate studies in environmental engineering at M.I.T. Today, Susan Murcott is a world expert in safe drinking water technologies for developing countries.