|The Buddha said the Dharma would not be established until there were both female and male monastics as well as female and male lay practitioners. He ordained his mother as the first nun (without additional rules, the American nun Ayya Tathaloka's scholarship has discovered) and many females. In his day there were many enlightened nuns and females (arhats), such as his two chief disciples, Khema and Uppalavanna. But a nun's order was not established in Thailand when Buddhism arrived.|
"As a millennial, mixed-race Asian American Buddhist, I often feel like a party of one. When I am feeling lonely or unique, I imagine that I can see myself as if I am looking from a telephoto lens on the moon: I can see the insignificance of my challenges, that being a follower of Buddha's wisdom doesn't mean I am separated into a neat little category..." - Gabrielle Nomura Gainor (Tsuki Nomura-Henley/lionsroar.com)
|Ven. Dhammananda (right) with Thai supporters (ThaiBhikkhunis.org/PRI)|
She’s never been able to chase her giggling grandchildren around the room. Both acts are forbidden by the strict Buddhist precepts that [fully ordained nuns and] monks must follow.
- The Basket of the Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka) is the first division of the Three Collections (Tipitaka), the other two being the discourses (sutras) and the Higher Doctrince (Abhidharma). It is the textual framework upon which the monastic community (Sangha) is built. It includes not only the monastic guidelines but their origin stories, that is, the reason they were laid down in ancient times in the first place.
- Bhikkhu Pāṭimokkha: The Monastics' Code of Discipline [the "way to liberation" for intensive practitioners who ordain, wishing for themselves the most direct route to enlightenment and nirvana]
- The Monastics' Rules: A Guide for Laypeople For the monk and nun the Vinaya helps to guide actions and speech....They were set down by the Buddha...
- The Buddhist Monastic Code
|Ven. Tathaloka (left) with Theravada Buddhist nuns of Aloka Vihara (Alliance for Bhikkhunis)|
|Ven. Tathaloka in California forest (BN)|
|Lion's Roar & Buddhafest Online Film Fest|
Prohibited from ordination in Thailand, she hacked the system in 2001 by flying to Sri Lanka, which started ordaining women in the mid-1990s [thanks to the efforts of the great female German meditator, Ayya Khema, who organized efforts to revive the Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha].
|The Buddha's wife became enlightened nun|
Thailand’s Monastic Order, however, rests its case against female monastics on a technicality. The Sangha insists that female monastics can only be brought into the fold by other women [according to ordination procedures of the Bhikkhuni Sangha set down by the Buddha as interpreted and remembered by the monks, who asserted themselves as representing the Sangha, a subsidiary of which was the Bhikkhuni Sangha or separate Nuns' Order. But, of course, their order is the Monks' Order, and the two combined make up the Monastic Order. The men do not have supremacy, but for millennia some in the Sangha have asserted they do, with many dutiful women agreeing and going along.]
Like any Buddhist monastic, female monastics such as Ven. Dhammananda are sworn to a dry [free, sober] life [of few worldly concerns] that forsakes romance, luxury, and excess of any kind.
Holding hands? Devouring an entire carton of Häagen-Dazs in one sitting? Pop music or even gossiping? All are [actually allowed and engaged in but are said to be] forbidden [in accord with the spirit of the Monastic Code and the guidelines or lesser rules on etiquette and living together harmoniously with few wants and not disturbing other practitioners or inconveniencing supporters].
More than 300 monastic rules (called precepts or vows, which are for fully ordained practitioners only) dictate their conduct to ensure they do not grow attached to sensual pleasures [become angry, annoyed, or discouraged, succumb to wrong views or delusions, bring disrepute to the Buddha's monastic disciples, shorten the duration the Dharma continues on earth, disturb fellow practitioners/meditators, unduly inconvenience lay and royal supporters, turn the monastic community from a "great field of merit in the world" into something else, etc.]
Nor can they work [but many do -- as teachers, authors, scholars, public speakers, and so on, though they should give up personal gain and support the vihara though, again, many do keep some or all of their earnings through a steward if they wish and are allowed by their abbot]. They acquire food and other requisites by an ancient system of generosity toward spiritual practitioners who leave the homebound life to seek enlightenment.
This can mean walking on "alms round" like the Buddha did in ancient India so that lay people can donate support, or by purchasing it in markets from donated funds, or by people bringing food to the temple and to the nunnery. Sometimes this involves walking on pindabata [the third of the 13 "sane ascetic practices" recommended by the Buddha to overcome bad habits] through urban streets and collecting donated food called alms -- of every variety eaten by lay Buddhists themselves -- from everyday people who support the mission of the Buddha's most dedicated disciples.
Do you think of yourself as a rebel?
Would you call yourself a feminist?
When your sons come to visit, are you allowed to hug them?
Are there special rules for men speaking to female monastics?
You have very young grandkids. What are the rules regarding grandchildren? Can you pick them up and play with them?
As I understand it, monks aren't even allowed to tickle?
So no tickling your grandchildren?
How do regular people treat female monastics out in public?
Tell me about your first day collecting alms.
To go back to the Buddha’s time, it’s said that if you make an offering to monastics, that’s well and good. But if you make offerings to both monks and nuns [the whole Monastic Order or Sangha]? It’s even better. This is in the texts.
The ordination process for female monastics involves embarrassing questions, even sexual questions. Does that create more resistance to ordaining women?
[The same is asked of men because "eunuchs" (a common but misleading translation of the word pandakas, which might better be translated as perverts or deviants) are not permitted to ordain by tradition, though many are as rules are interpreted differently in different monasteries and schools.]
What do you miss about regular life?
Can't you just eat cheesecake in the morning?
Some people who've been through challenges in life end up being pretty funny. Do you have a sense of humor?
People see monks and wonder: Does it really make you happy to give up everything like that?
But you have to let go of pizza. And high tea, as you mentioned. Or your boyfriend or girlfriend. It seems hard.
What sorts of backgrounds do the female monastics here have?
If there were a vote, do you think Thai society would allow women to be fully ordained?
As a monastic you have to subdue your anger. But doesn't it make you irritated that people think you shouldn't be a monastic?