Thursday, December 9, 2010

Support American Buddhist Nuns (AfB)

Ayya Taathaloka is our choice for the voice of a new breed of Buddhist nuns, Westerners preserving the Dharma by restoring it in a historically accurate way for the benefit of all practitioners.

The Buddha said: This Dispensation (Sasana) was not complete until there were both male and female monastics and male and female lay practitioners. The Buddha had achieved his goal. No one can deny the systemic sexism that now mars even Buddhism. But who could stand for it and allow it to persist when there is a chance to rectify the situation? The West can be of great service to the Dharma.

Women in saffron Buddhist robes need our help. These are remarkable women we may not know and may never meet (although they can be visited in northern California). By monastic rules laid down by the Buddha, they are unable to ask for help. So we are asking for them.

Making Merit
The Buddha called the Sangha of monks and nuns "an incomparable field of merit for the world." They practice, are responsible for preserving the Dharma, and are the mostly to attain the fruits (explained in the Fruits of Recluseship sutra). Therefore, if one wishes to do good for the benefit of oneself and others, one would be wise to plant one's seeds here. Such productive and beneficial karma is called "merit" (punya).

Red, White, and Buddhist (Mahanakorn/Flickr)

Contrary to popular opinion, Buddhist monastics do not "beg" for alms or other support. The disciplinary rules prohibit them from begging, asking, or even hinting. They receive what is freely given (dana) and permitted by the monastic rules (four requisites).

We live in a historic time. Just 25 years ago there were no fully ordained Theravada nuns (bhikkhunis) in the world. Currently, there are over 1,000. And their numbers are growing monthly. Bhikkhuni abbeys are popping up in the United States, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Canada, Germany, Australia, and even in India where they originally flourished.

It is a mistake to assume that these nuns are receiving the same level of support as their monk brothers. They are not, not by a long shot.

In a recent interview, renowned Sri Lankan scholar-nun and activist Ven. Kusuma described the vulnerable circumstances many Sri Lankan nuns find themselves in: Most, she said, are "scattered throughout the country, two or three living together, eking out an existence."

The Alliance for Bhikkhunis
The Alliance for Bhikkhunis (AfB) is backing Ven. Kusuma's plan to develop a training nunnery in the capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo, on land she has been gifted. It is but one of the projects AfB has targeted for 2011.

In addition, the AfB continues to assist with travel expenses so that Buddhist nuns can spend the annual Rains Retreat together or attend monastic conferences. Funds also pay emergency medical and dental bills, as well as going towards the construction of meditation huts and other monastery costs in the US and abroad.

There is much AfB plans to do, depending on our assistance. AfB already maintains a digital library, an online magazine (Present) making available accurate information on bhikkhuni history and activities. Thousands visit the site to peruse articles, engage in research, learn about events, and even share information via Facebook.

Because students and monastics use these services, AfB always wants to keep these offerings free of charge. Be part of the emergency brigade that comes out in full force to protect the still fragile Bhikkhuni Sangha or Order of Nuns.

Partner with AfB to advocate for gender equality across Buddhist schools. This will shape how Buddhism is practiced in our times. For only with the wholehearted inclusion of women can Buddhism hope to flourish.

All donations are profoundly appreciated by bhikkhunis. Our generosity enables American Buddhist nuns to take and remain in robes. It inspires women longing to ordain to find the courage to do so, thereby providing more opportunities for women and men to learn the Dharma from females instead of always being limited to our male Sangha. There is a difference in tenor, emphasis, sensitivity, and experience. The world benefits from the inclusion of females in every field and endeavor.

Our actions let the Sangha know it can count on compassionate individuals to lend support when the need arises. Envision a world where there is equality, where there are as many Buddhist nuns as monks, where enlightenment is open to all. To realize this vision, donate today.

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