Inspired by a peom from Elder Nun Canda

Canda: The Beggar
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Before, I had fallen on evil times:
no husband, no children, no relatives, friends,
no way to obtain clothing & food.
So, taking a staff & bowl in hand, begging for alms from house to house, feverish from the cold & heat, I wandered for seven full years.
Then seeing a nun obtaining food & drink, I approached her & said: “Let me go forth into homelessness.”
She, Patacara, from sympathy, let me go forth;
then, exhorting me, urged me on to the highest goal.
Hearing her words, I did her bidding. Her exhortation was not in vain.
I’m a three-knowledge woman, fermentation-free


In Canda’s poem, I felt her loneliness and displacement in society. Much of what we cherish in life consist of relationships. To love and be loved. We wish to be cherished as a person; to be recognized as someone’s precious one.

We also hope to have someone in life whom we cherish and love, someone whom we see and experience daily. That kind of environment is “Home”.

For Canda, she was without shelter and lived each day as it is. Her purpose seems to be just survival. Without any meaningful relations, she wandered the streets, begging from place to place.

Then she saw another “beggar”, same way of livelihood. Both Canda and the nun Patacara begged for food.

What did Canda saw in Patacara; that made Canda wish to follow the footstep of the nun, Patacara?

When Canda ask for permission to enter the Homelessness, what did she really want? Isn’t she already homeless?

I guess when Canda, first saw Patacara, she would be awed by the presence of the nun, Patacara. Perhaps Patacara exuded an aura of noble dignity. Although both of them are female beggar, begging for sustenance. Patacara would be very dignified in deportment.

Imagine Patacara begging from house to house. She might be treated with respect at a Buddhist household and be turned away at a non-Buddhist one. However, Patacara would have a sense of purpose in her activities. Patacara is not just begging for survival.

I guess Canda wanted to live with a new “purpose” in live too. Therefore when Canda asked for the “homelessness”, she was still desirous to find a “Home”. In that sense, the monastic order would become her new “Home”

That is of course a wrong motivation.

Which is why Canda reflected in this poem (after her enlightenment) that Patacara accepted her out of compassion and sympathy.

Patacara would have known it, but nevertheless still accepted Canda into the order and exhorted Canda in Buddha’s teachings. In that manner, Canda also gained insight and enlightenment subsequently.

As seen from this poem, life can have a bigger purpose.

That purpose can enrich our life so much that it becomes “rich” even though one lives with the barest of basic necessity in life.

Life is therefore more than just daily survival.


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