Monday, July 21, 2014

Historic female novice ordinations (nuns)

Dhr. Seven and Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly; Ven. Bhikkhuni Sudhamma (Carolina Buddhist Vihara); via Danie B. (The Awakening Buddhist Women Blog)
Who's this guy, dad? I want to be like him! - That's the Buddha, pumpkin. You can't be like him, silly; you're a girl! - You watch me, dad. - Okay, honey, time to go! Hey, princess, how about some ice cream and three new Barbie palaces, one for each season? - No thanks, dad. (Eighteen for Life/
“Sharing our Life Stories as Buddhists” is the theme of the 43rd national conference of the Federation of Buddhist Women’s Associations (FBWA). This conference is presented biannually to bring together members from across the country to promote the Buddha Dharma. For the first time ever, the FBWA is joining with the Buddhist Churches of America Southern District temples to study, share, and network with Buddhists of many traditions. The selected theme binds all of us and touches us regardless of gender, age, or other...
Cambodian women take novice ordination
Bhikkhuni Sudhamma via Danie B., May 12, 2011
Ayya Tathaloka (Alliance for Bhikkhunis) Vibhanga translation project (
The following wonderful news was sent by Ven. Bhikkhuni Sudhamma of the Carolina Buddhist Vihara.

Good news! The historic temporary ordination of Khmer (Cambodian) females happened at the Khmer Wat (temple) yesterday morning, along with two little kids joining the Sangha (Monastic Community) permanently. It was very moving.

The ceremony was historic because we know of no previous temporary ordination ceremony for Khmer females. (Being locked out of this role, especially while honoring their male relatives who do "go forth," has hurt female’s esteem). Khmer males often take temporary ordination on special occasions, as 170 men and boys did at the temple for a celebration last summer, but never the females...until yesterday morning.

Three Cambodian females reverently put on beautiful saffron robes to wear until after Vesak (the day commemorating the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and final nirvana), paying homage to the Buddha by renouncing household duties of to solely embrace religious duties for the short time that they can. Clearly their gratitude overflowed at the prospect of having this opportunity.

Buddha Girl
Buddha Girl (art by Tharakorn Arunothai/flickr)
Moreover, the ceremony touched emotions due to the heroic going forth of two children, our friend [Asoka] Sokha and Chom’s little 9-year-old daughter Sri Lakh (now Samaneri Ratanayani whom Wisdom Quarterly has dubbed "Buddha Girl") and their 10-year-old son Jedtha (now a samanera or "little samana" -- wandering ascetic, shaman, monastic).
[Interestingly, the two most famous Buddhists in Sri Lanka are the foreign Indian Buddhist missionaries who brought the Dharma to the island: Asoka's young enlightened daughter and son, Sanghanmitta and Mahinda. Nepal's "Buddha Boy," Ram Bahadur Bomjon, gained credibility because of the similarities between his life story, such as his mother's name, and that of the Buddha -- interesting biographical tidbits suggesting the chosen destiny of these incredible children.]

My description last December of two especially generous children, who eagerly used their savings to buy gifts for kids in need -- a boy who gave up his favorite game, handing it to a less fortunate child? These are the same kid!

Ordination was the children’s idea, not their parents’. (The boy did not even tell his parents until after asking the monks!) Thinking of the painful sacrifice by Sokha and her husband, Chom, giving up both of their precious children made it a solemn occasion. Sokha and Chom are admirable for their fortitude, refusing to focus on their private loss, wisely seeing, instead, the world’s great gain.

This mother and father earned extraordinary merit and should be admired for respecting their children’s urgent wish to go forth into the supreme life -- and for having raised their children so skillfully that they wished to embody the Sangha’s future. Make merit: rejoice with them!

All six of these new monastics earned greater merit, as did the people who assisted in the day’s program. Ven. Sim Bo, the Wat's resident monk, gave the going forth for male novices; Ven. Sudarshana Bhikkhuni of Sri Lanka (who flew in from Florida for the ceremony) gave the going forth for the female novices.

Witnessing monastics were Ven. Singh Hom of Charlotte (Lao); an elder monk (Khmer or Lao) from Lexington; Ven. Bhikkhu Joe of Spartanburg; me; Ven. Chitta Bhiksuni of LA (Tibetan tradition); Ven. Pannavati Bhikkhuni of Hendersonville; and Ven. Poonsirivara of Thailand.

Several women in monastic-robes at the Wat for Vesak this weekend will be an amazing and uplifting sight for the Khmer people. When Khmer females first met me at a big celebration last summer, many of them burst into tears, never having seen a female in robes before.

Q: Aren't children too young to be ordaining?
A: Ven. Sujato answers: Novices often ordain quite young [as young as 7-years-old] -- that is what the samanera/samaneri ordination is for.

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