Meditation

Lesson from a prostitute

Once, there was a Thai temple that offered a bathing ritual where people believed that bad karma would be washed away. The kind elderly abbot would welcome anybody and poured holy water over them as he chanted Buddhist verses.

After a while, a constant group of visitors caught the attention of people. Seductive women would arrive early in the morning with heavy make-up to be washed and soon enough, rumor of prostitutes visiting the abbot spread like wild fire. Other devotees either viewed them with curiosity or with disdain. As more ladies of the night participate, people began to object the ritual.

While the elderly abbot only knows compassion in his mind, his disciples were worried about temple reputation…..


During the Buddha’s time, there was a famous courtesan named Ambapali. She was so beautiful and captivating that her King decreed that she be titled a royal courtesan. With that status, she could never belong to a single man but would have the privilege to choose her lovers. Wealthy men paid handsomely just to spend a night with her and soon her wealth could rival those of minor kingdom.

Nonetheless, people would still scorn her as lowly because her body was paid and used by men. However, Buddha treated her equally and even accepted alms and meal at her house. She became a devoted Buddhist and also became enlightened.

Buddhism does not condemn anybody because Buddha is truly compassionate. All beings possess Buddha nature and we are equally deserving of enlightenment.

The following verse from Ambapali can be used as a meditative tool. The objective is to remind ourselves not to be infatuated with our youthful beauty but to understand its transient nature.

Spend less on being attached to our physical body and invest more in our practice. So, let us not be judgmental and here’s a lesson from a prostitute.

May all be well and happy.


Black was my hair — the color of bees — & curled at the tips; with age, it looked like coarse hemp. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Fragrant, like a perfumed basket filled with flowers: With age it smelled musty, like animal fur. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Thick & lush, like a well-tended grove, made splendid, the tips elaborate with comb & pin. With age, it grew thin & bare here & there. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Adorned with gold & delicate pins, it was splendid, ornamented with braids. Now, with age, that head has gone bald. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Curved, as if well-drawn by an artist, my brows were once splendid. With age, they droop down in folds. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Radiant, brilliant like jewels, my eyes: With age, they’re no longer splendid. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Like a delicate peak, my nose was splendid in the prime of my youth. With age, it’s like a long pepper. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Like bracelets — well-fashioned, well-finished — my ears were once splendid. With age, they droop down in folds. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Like plaintain buds in their color, my teeth were once splendid. With age, they’re broken & yellowed. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Like that of a cuckoo in the dense jungle, flitting through deep forest thickets: sweet was the tone of my voice. With age, it cracks here & there. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Smooth — like a conch shell well-polished — my neck was once splendid. With age, it’s broken down, bent. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Like rounded door-bars — both of them — my arms were once splendid. With age, they’re like dried up patali trees. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Adorned with gold & delicate rings, my hands were once splendid. With age, they’re like onions & tubers. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Swelling, round, firm, & high, both my breasts were once splendid. In the drought of old age, they dangle like empty old water bags. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Like a sheet of gold, well-burnished, my body was splendid. Now it’s covered with very fine wrinkles. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Smooth in their lines, like an elephant’s trunk, both my thighs were once splendid. With age, they’re like knotted bamboo. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Adorned with gold & delicate anklets, my calves were once splendid. With age, they’re like sesame sticks. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

As if they were stuffed with soft cotton, both my feet were once splendid. With age, they’re shriveled & cracked. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

Such was this physical heap, now: A house with its plaster all fallen off. The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words doesn’t change.

 “Ambapali” (Thig 13.1), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 4 August 2010,

Categories: Meditation

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