The topic of full ordination for Buddhist women in the oldest living Buddhist tradition (Theravada) remains controversial. Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) never had such a tradition, although the Dalai Lama supports it. Chinese Buddhism (Mahayana) has nuns who have been able to offer ordination to Theravada and Vajrayana women. On one side is the Sangha's traditional view that it can no longer be allowed. On the other side, Buddhist women and Western monks look more deeply at the issue. Many traditional monks, including foreign elders, now support it. But they do so quietly. Background and Buddhist Nuns
(Harvard Divinity School/Rebecca Esterson)
Interpreting monastic discipline (Vinaya)
He was sent a copy of the transaction statements used at the recent nuns' ordination ceremony in Australia and asked for his opinion as to their validity.
"After looking them over and rereading the relevant passages in the Canon and commentaries, I would like to focus on one aspect of the statements: the use of a form in which two candidates are mentioned in a single proclamation. This is a detailed technical point, and the discussion will have to be long, so please bear with me.
"First, to establish context: A striking feature of the Canon’s rules for the bhikkhunīs [nuns], when compared with its rules for the bhikkhus [monks], is how sketchy they are. Many procedures are mentioned without a detailed explanation of how they should be done; the Vibhaṅgas, or explanations of the Bhikkhunī Pāṭimokkha rules, omit many discussions that would be par for the course in the Vibhaṅgas for the Bhikkhu Pāṭimokkha rules; the Pāṭimokkha rules that the bhikkhunīs have in common with the bhikkhus are not listed in the Canon; and the narratives surrounding the stage-by- stage development of specific procedures contain large gaps. Thus the traditional approach in filling in these blanks has been to apply the Great Standards (mahāpadesa) given in Mahāvagga VI:
“Bhikkhus, whatever I have not objected to, saying, ‘This is not allowable,’ if it conforms with what is not allowable, if it goes against what is allowable, that is not allowable for you.
“Whatever I have not objected to, saying, ‘This is not allowable,’ if it conforms with what is allowable, if it goes against what is not allowable, that is allowable for you.
“And whatever I have not permitted, saying, ‘This is allowable,’ if it conforms with what is not allowable, if it goes against what is allowable, that is not allowable for you.
“And whatever I have not permitted, saying, ‘This is allowable,’ if it conforms with what is allowable, if it goes against what is not allowable, that is allowable for you.” — Mv.VI.40.1 More
Ten-precept Buddhist novices live as monastics but are not allowed full ordination in Burma and other Theravada Buddhist countries (Roulette404)
Nuns, Invisibility, and the Question of Buddhist Activism
Natalie Wendt (Tikkun.org)
Bhikshuni [full Buddhist nun] ordination is practiced frequently in Taiwan and some other parts of East Asia, but is unavailable in the Tibetan tradition and to most Theravada women.
Though the Tibetan tradition has novice nuns, bhikshuni ordination never reached Tibet, and a movement to introduce it has met with strong resistance from some Tibetan teachers.
[The 14th] Dalai Lama and some other prominent teachers support bhikshuni ordination, but they are a minority. Nuns who want to fully ordain are forced to go outside of the tradition, sometimes without support of their teachers. More
Nuns (center) at Santi Forest Monastery, Buddhist Meditation in Bundanoon, Australia
The nuns of Australia
Santi Forest Monastery is a Buddhist education and meditation residence for monks, nuns, and laypeople. Established by Bhante Sujato in 2003, it is set in the rugged bush ravines of the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia. Santi offers accommodation, teaching, and support for study and practice in the Forest Tradition, with a special emphasis on the earliest teachings of the Buddha that are shared by all Buddhist traditions. Since 2005, the Sangha of Santi has performed ordinations each year and has become internationally recognized for its advocacy of full ordination for Buddhist nuns (bhikkhunis). Information
Where does Bhikkhu Bodhi stand?
The American monk (Sri Lankan-Theravada tradition), super scholar, author, and abbot of Bodhi Monastery (named prior to his arrival) also weighs in. Bhikkhu Bodhi is now in residence at BAUS in Upstate New York.
Letters on the ordination of nuns
The Buddhist Channel, Nov 11, 2009
He wrote to Ajahn Sujato regarding the full ordination of Buddhist "nuns" in Perth, Australia in September 2009. The first letter dated Nov. 3 was a letter of support, but on Nov. 6, Bhikkhu Bodhi issued a retraction. First published at sujato.wordpress.com
(Nov. 3 2009) Dear Ven. Sujato, Thank you for informing me of this event, a report of which I had already stumbled upon quite by accident on the internet last week... Please convey my congratulations to Ajahn Brahm for his courageous decision, and also accept for yourself my appreciation for spearheading this development. Also, if you can do so, please convey my congratulations to the new bhikkhunis, especially Ajahn Vayama, an old Dhamma friend from my Sri Lankan days. MoreThe Revival of Bhikkhuni Ordination in the Theravada Tradition (Bhikkhu Bodhi, 2007)
Full Buddhist nuns in California
Wisdom Quarterly 2010
Fortunately, through the bravery of elder Theravada Buddhist monks living in America (such as Bhante Gunaratana of West Virginia and Ven. Piyananda of Los Angeles, and Bhikkhu Bodhi of New York), it is possible for a woman to gain full admission into the Buddhist Monastic Order as a bhikkhuni (Theravada nun), not simply a novice.
- Women in Buddhism (Buddhanet.net)
- American, European nuns ordained in Taiwan
- Tibetan nun's ordination at Tushita Meditation Centre
- Thubten Chodron: Nuns in Tibetan Buddhism
- Buddhist Society of Western Australia (BSWA) had sent a letter of support to the recently ordained nuns of Dhammasara Monastery. On Dec. 22nd an article about the controversy around this matter appeared in The West and on Dec. 30th 2009 a sector of the Thai clergy in Bangkok made an audacious claim on the sovereignty, property, and affairs of the BSWA. Back in October 2009 the
- Ajahn Brahm expelled for ordaining nuns in Australia
- [Ajahn Chah's] Wat Pah Pong Temple official expulsion
- First bhikkhuni ordination in Australia (Facebook)
- Sakyadhita 2011 Int'l Conference on Women (Ven. Sujato)
Tibetan nuns and monks surrounding the 14th Dalai Lama (tushita.info)