[Maid Puṇṇā:] I am a maid who carries water. Fearing punishment and the insults of my house owner, I have always gone down to the river to get water, even in the coldest of weather. I didn’t want to get blamed for any error.
But, Brāhmin, who do you fear that makes you go down to the river every morning and evening? It’s so cold that your body shivers.
[Brāhmin:] Puṇṇā, why do you ask me this when you already know the answer? When I’m at the river, I am washing away evil and performing wholesome deeds.
Whoever young or old has committed any evil action is able to be freed from evil by bathing in water.
[Maid Puṇṇā:] Brāhmin, you have no idea about the results of kamma. Who is the ignorant person who taught that you can be freed from evil by bathing in water? He doesn’t know and doesn’t see the results of kamma.
Now listen. If your opinion is true, then all frogs, turtles, alligators, crocodiles and all water creatures will absolutely go to heaven.
If your opinion is true, then all sheep butchers, pig butchers, fishermen, animal abusers, thieves, executioners, and other evil doers are all able to be freed from their evil actions by bathing in water.
If these rivers wash away the evil you previously did, then won’t it wash away your merit too? In that case you would be without merit too!
Brāhmin, every day you go down to the river fearing evil, don’t you? In that case, just don’t do bad things. Don’t let the cold strike your skin!
[Brāhmin:] Oh wise girl! I had entered upon the wrong path, but you have guided me onto the noble path by rescuing me from this pointless bathing. I will give you this piece of cloth as a gift.
[Puṇṇā:] Keep the piece of cloth for yourself. I don’t want it. If you are afraid of suffering, if suffering is unpleasant to you, do not commit evil actions either openly or in secret. But if you commit or will commit evil actions, then there is no escape from suffering, even if you try to run away and hide from the result. If you are afraid of suffering, if suffering is unpleasant for you, then go for refuge to the Buddha who has an unshaken mind, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha. Observe the precepts. These will definitely lead to your well-being.
[Brāhmin:] I will go for refuge to the Buddha who has an unshaken mind, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha. I will observe the precepts. These will definitely lead to my well-being.
Previously, I was called Brahmabandhu because I was born into the clan of Brāhmins. But now I am truly a Brāhmin. I attained the Triple Knowledge. I achieved Nibbāna. I entered wholesomeness and I am washed clean.
These verses were said by Arahant nun Puṇṇā.
Read this translation of Therīgāthā 12.1: The Verses of Arahant Nun Puṇṇā (236-251) by Ven. Kiribathgoda Gnananda Thero on SuttaFriends.org. Or read a different translation on SuttaCentral.net by Bhikkhu Sujato or Bhikkhuni Soma. Or listen on Voice.SuttaCentral.net.
You can find the entire translation of the Therīgāthā: Verses of Arahant Nuns available on SuttaFriends.org.