The Moral Thoughts Of A Nun

translated from a popular Chinese drama by Lin Yutang

A young nun am I, sixteen years of age;
My head was shaven in my young maidenhood.

For my father, he loves the Buddhist sutras,
And my mother, she loves the Buddhist priests.

Morning and night, morning and night,
I burn incense and I pray, for I
Was born a sickly child, full of ills.
So they sent me here into this monastery.

Amitabha! Amitabha!
Unceasingly I pray.
Oh, tired am I of the humming of the drums and the tinkling of the bells;
Tired am I of the droning of the prayers and the crooning of the priors,
The chatter and the clatter of unintelligible charms,
The clamour and the clangour of interminable chants,
The mumbling and the murmuring of monotonous psalms.
Prajnaparamita, Mayura-sutra,
       Saddharmapundarika –
               Oh, how I hate them all!

While I say Mitabha,
        I sigh for my beau.
While I chant saparah,
        My heart cries, “Oh!”
While I sing tarata,
        My heart palpitates so!

Ah, let me take a stroll,
Let me take a stroll!

(She comes to the Hall of the Five Hundred Lohans, or Arahats, Buddhist saints, who are known for their distinctive facial expressions.)

         Ah, here are the Lohan,
What a bunch of silly, amorous souls!
         Every one a bearded man!
How each his eyes at me rolls!

Look at the one hugging his knees!
         His lips are mumbling my name so!
And the one with his cheek in his hand,
         As though thinking of me so!
That one has a pair of dreamy eyes,
         Dreaming dreams of me so!

         But the Lohan in sackcloth!
What is he after
         With his hellish, heathenish laughter?
With his roaring, rollicking laughter,
         Laughing at me so!
                                                – Laughing at me, for
When beauty is past and youth is lost,
         Who will marry an old crone?
When beauty is faded and youth is jaded,
         Who will marry an old, shrivelled cocoon?

The one holding a dragon,
         He is cynical;
The one riding a tiger,
         He is quizzical;
And that long-browed handsome giant,
         He seems pitiful,
For what will become of me when my beauty is gone?

These candles of the altar,
         They are not for my bridal chamber,
These long incense-containers,
         They are not for my bridal parlour.
And the straw prayer-cushions,
         They cannot serve as quilt or cover.

         Oh, God!
Whence comes this burning, suffocating ardour?
         Whence comes this strange, infernal, unearthly ardour?
I’ll tear these monkish robes!
         I’ll bury all the Buddhist sutras;
I’ll drown the wooden fish,
         And leave all the monastic putras!

I’ll leave the drums,
         I’ll leave the bells,
               And the chants,
                     And the yells,
And all the interminable, exasperating, religious chatter!
I’ll go downhill, and find me a young and handsome lover –
Let him scold me, beat me!
         Kick or ill-treat me!
I will not become a Buddha!
I will not mumble mita, prajna, para!


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