Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The full ordination of monks and nuns

Buddhanet.net (edited and expanded by Wisdom Quarterly)
Ten precept Buddhist nuns are actually novices not (fully ordained bhikkhunis) "nuns" (overseasspice.com).

During the time of the Buddha, monastic ordination gradually went from a simple invitation by him (Aham, Bhante or "Come, Venerable"), to the consent of other full monastics in good standing, to a more complex public ceremony.

The first few hundred students were personally ordained by the Buddha. They simply asked him for permission to join the order, and if he accepted them, he invited them with two simple words.

Later as the Monastic Order (Sangha) grew, it was not possible for all students to see the Buddha. So he instructed his best students to ordain some of them. The newcomers shaved their heads and beards (in the case of men) and put on saffron patchwork robes. Then they formally sought guidance from the Buddha, Dharma, and [Noble] Sangha by reciting the Three Guides (often mislabeled "Refuges").

Later, when some less suitable people wanted to join the Order, ten precepts were added to the Three Guides.

Later still, after people complained of the behavior of some monastics, novices, and probationers [in the case of those who had converted from a non-Buddhist monastic tradition], more detailed rules of conduct and etiquette were introduced for monks and nuns who completed their novitiate training. The total number of rules increased from ten to more than 227.

Western Buddhist monks and nuns and visiting tourists in the Dalai Lama's teaching audience (dalailama.com)

Eventually the monks seem to have edged out nuns. This was hastened by eight special rules (the eight garudhammas) that seem to have no purpose but to subordinate nuns to monks.

They were not likely instituted by the Buddha, as is generally believed, but seem to have been inserted by monks.

One rule in particular required monks and fully ordained nuns be present for the full ordination of women, with no such rule for men whose Sangha was independent. Eventually, there were not enough nuns to conduct ordinations, and before long there were no nuns at all in the earliest surviving form of Buddhism (Theravada).

Whereas monks and nuns look the same -- same saffron robes, alms bowls, shaved heads -- female novices in different countries use many colors. And over time even monastics in various Buddhist countries adopted different colored robes.

Monks and nuns from different countries learn the Dharma (Buddha's Teaching) in their own language often also learning Pali and Sanskrit. Their robes may look different, particularly between the two major schools, Theravada and Mahayana.

Monastics from the Theravada tradition come from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. Those in the much larger Mahayana tradition are from China, Korea, and Vietnam, while Tibet calls its special brand of Mahayana "Vajrayana" and Japan calls its brand "Zen." More

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