Posts Tagged ‘Nun ordination’

Dignity and Discipline represents yet another urgent and energetic contribution to the global march toward gender equality. Presenting a watershed moment in Buddhist history, as the Dalai Lama together with scholars and monastics from around the world present powerful cases, grounded in both scripture and a profound appeal to human dignity, that the order of Buddhist nuns can and should be fully restored.

“The controversy surrounding full female ordination is one of the most pressing issues facing modern Buddhism. Dignity and Discipline is without a doubt the most valuable book on the subject to date, and should be required reading for anyone interested in contemporary Buddhism. As the book makes clear, the ordination of women as full-fledged monastics is not only a religious and political issue, it is an issue pertaining to a basic human right: gender equality. The seventeen papers included here are from a 2007 conference in Hamburg, the International Congress on Women’s Role in the Sangha, which was convened to fulfill a request by the Dalai Lama, and brought together religious leaders from across Asia as well as Europe and North America, including leading scholars such as Janet Gyatso, Karma Lekshe Tsomo, and Bhikku Bodhi. Intended to effect real progress, the book begins with the assumption that full ordination is inevitable and charts a course to bring it about, investigating history and the doctrinal issues that must be settled before the Tibetan and Theravadin sanghas embrace such change.” —Buddhadharma: The Buddhist Review

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A guest post by Wisdom editor David Kittelstrom.

The first Theravada bhikkhuni (nun) ordination in Australia, and the first in the Thai Forest Tradition anywhere in the world, was performed in Bodhinyana Monastery in Western Australia on October 22nd. Four nuns from the nearby Dhammasara Nuns Monastery took ordination: Vayama, Nirodha, Seri, and Hassapañña. The second half of the ordination ceremony was performed by  Ajahn Brahm—the abbot of Bodhinyana—along with other monks from the monastery.

Many feel reestablishing the full ordination of nuns, which was first established by the Buddha himself  is vital for ensuring the respect and vitality of the Buddhist Sangha in the modern world and accords with the essential message of the Buddha. As with monks, well-trained and observant nuns are a wonderful field of merit, wonderful exemplars, and a wonderful source of teachings for all who seek to live life according to the Dharma, and seeds of peace for the world as a whole.

While the Chinese tradition has preserved female ordination, the lineage died out in the Tibetan and Theravada traditions. In recent years, women within these traditions have been taking full ordination nonetheless, but the practice has not yet been endorsed by a consensus of senior lineage holders, the resistance coming primarily from older monks in Asia. The Dalai Lama has been vocal in his support and an important international conference to advance the issue was held in Hamburg, Germany in 2007. Proceedings from this conference will appear soon in Wisdom’s forthcoming book Dignity and Discipline: Reviving Full Ordination for Buddhist Nuns.

The  ordination drew a severe reaction from conservative lineage holders in Thailand. The monks of the Ajahn Chah tradition headed at Wat Pa Pong complained that they had not been consulted and called Ajahn Brahm to a meeting in Northeast Thailand this past Sunday, November 1st, where they voted to expel him from the Wat Pa Pong community.

Ajahn Sujato, another central figure in the ceremony, has been posting regular updates on his blog as events unfold. Ajahn Brahm’s comments from the time of the ordination can be heard here. There is also apparently a group on Facebook with lively discussion of the event and its ramifications.

Karma Lekshe Tsomo, a Buddhist nun and a professor of Religious Studies at the University of San Diego, says in Dignity and Discipline, “Just as countries who refuse women the right to vote are considered backward today, Buddhists will certainly go down on the wrong side of history if they deny fundamental rights and freedoms to women…Recognizing full ordination for women is not only a matter of social justice, it is also simply a matter of common sense.”

Dignity and Discipline goes into these issues in great detail. I would highly suggest reading it when it comes out. The analyses of scripture presented in that book would indicate that the means exist to pursue bhikkhuni ordination in keeping with the Vinaya,  but that what is missing is the will to do so.

For photo’s from the event click here.

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