Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sisters in Buddhism: Women's Conference

Sanitsuda Ekachai (BangkokPost.com)
Female novices at the Sathira-Dhammasathan Buddhist Meditation Center in Bangkok. Novices keep ten major precepts rather than the hundreds of rules protecting fully ordained monastics (telegraph.co.uk).

Has the male Sangha's stern frown on female ordination stopped women's determination to pursue a monastic life [in Thailand]?

Everyone dropping by the Sathira Dhammasathan Nunnery and Dharma Center this week will realize how the male Sangha's attemptsto keep women down are ineffective and irrelevant.

For a whole week starting Sunday, June 12, the lush greenery of the Dharma center will be enlivened by different shades of the saffron robes of Buddhist nuns interspersed with the white robes of novices or ten precept nuns. The soothing sounds of their chants will fill the air with a message of peace and sisterhood.

They will be coming to Bangkok from around the world -- female monastics, scholars in Buddhism, social activists -- for the Sakyadhita International Conference. There they will discuss the practical application of Buddhism incontemporary society, review the barriers Buddhist women face in developing their full potential, and share recent studies of interest for Buddhist women.

The pursuit of knowledge is definitely not the sole reason why they are traveling across the globe to attend this biennial meeting.

Female ordination in the Theravada Buddhist tradition was unthinkable just three decades ago. But it is now a reality. There have always been white-clad ten precept novices. Yet, the bhikkhuni (fully-ordained female equivalent of a Buddhist "monk" or bhikkhu) may still face many obstacles. This is in addition to the institutionalized gender discrimination Buddhist women routinely face. But there has been progress.

Working against the odds in this male-dominated world requires lots of inner strength. The Sakyadhita conference is where women can come together to celebrate all that is possible and to fortify their determination through connecting with the positive energy of others in the same cause. More

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