Women in Buddhism
, the legitimacy of ordaining women as bhikkhuni
(nuns) has become a significant topic of discussion in some areas in recent years. It is widely accepted that the Buddha created an order of bhikkhuni, but the tradition of ordaining women has died out in some Buddhist traditions, such as Theravada Buddhism
, while remaining strong in others, such as Chinese Buddhism
The ordination of women is currently and historically practiced in some Buddhist regions, such East Asia and Taiwan, and not in others, such as India and Sri Lanka.
The tradition of the ordained monastic community (sangha
) began with Buddha, who established orders of Bhikkhu
(monks) and later, after an initial reluctance, of Bhikkuni (nuns). The stories, sayings and deeds of some of the distinguished Bhikkhuni of early Buddhism are recorded in many places in the Pali Canon
, most notably in the Therigatha
However, not only did the Buddha lay down more rules of discipline for the bhikkhuni (311 compared to the bhikkhu's 227), he also made it more difficult for them to be ordained.
The tradition flourished for centuries throughout South and East Asia, but appears to have died out in the Theravada
traditions of India and Sri Lanka in the 11th century C.E. However, the Mahayana
tradition, particularly in Taiwan and Hong Kong, has retained the practice, where nuns are called 'Bhikṣuṇī' (the Sanskrit equivalent of the Pali
'Bhikkhuni'). Nuns are also found in Korea and Vietnam.
There have been some attempts in recent years to revive the tradition of women in the sangha within Theravada Buddhism in Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka, with many women ordained in Sri Lanka since the late 1990s.
The International Congress on Buddhist Women's Role in the Sangha
: Bhikshuni Vinaya and Ordination Lineages, took place in Germany, on July 18–20, 2007,
is a turning point in reviving the Bhikkhuni lineage.' Thailand
In 1928, the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand
, responding to the attempted ordination of two women, issued an edict that monks must not ordain women. The two women were reportedly arrested and jailed briefly. In a more recent challenge to the Thai sangha's ban on women, Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, previously a professor of Buddhist philosophy known as Dr Chatsumarn Kabilsingh, was controversially ordained as a nun in Sri Lanka in 2003. Despite some support inside the religious hierarchy, the sangha remains fiercely opposed to the ordination of women. Tibetan Tradition
The 2007 International Congress on Buddhist Women's Role in the Sangha, with the support of H. H. XIVth Dalai Lama, is expected to reinstate the Gelongma
(skt. Bikshuni, tib. Gelongma) lineage, having been lost, in India and Tibet, for centuries. It is currently only possible for women to take Rabjungma
('entering') and Getshülma
('novice') ordinations in Tibetan tradition. Gelongma ordination requires the presence of ten fully ordained people keeping the exact same vows (men's and women's vows differ slightly). Because 10 Gelongmas are required in order to ordain a new Gelongma, the effort to reinstate the Gelongma tradition has taken a long time.
It is permissible for a Tibetan nun to receive Bikshuni ordination from another living tradition, e.g., in Vietnam. Based on this, Western nuns ordained in Tibetan tradition, like Venerable Thubten Chodron
, took full ordination in another tradition, in order to revive 'Gelongma' ordination.
The same socio-cultural reasons that make it difficult for women to be nuns will still present challenges to the first Tibetan Gelongmas. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordination_of_women#Buddhism
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