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E-mail: bdea@buddhanet.net
Web site: www.buddhanet.net
Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc.
Chatsumarn Kabilsingh Ph.D.
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ISBN: 974–572–607–9
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bout the uthor:
Chatsumarn Kabilsingh Ph.Ð.
8orn in +o±±,
8angkok, Tailand.
Marricd with thrcc sons.
ducation:
8.A. (Hons.) Philosophy, \isva 8harati U, !ndia.
M.A. Rcligion, McMastcr U, Canada.
Ph.Ð. 8uddhism, Magadh U, !ndia.
Other books by the same author (in English):
: (omparati+e 'tudy of Jhikkhuni Jatimokkha.
Chaukhambha Òricntalia, !ndia, +o8+.
: (ry Trom the Torest. +o8·.
Jhikkhuni Jatimokkha of the 'ix 8xisting 'choo/s.
tr. 8angkok, +oo+.
Tai 7omen and Juddhism.
Parallax Prcss, U.S.A. +oo+.
Juddhism and 5ature (onser+ation.
8angkok, +oo·8.
Ven. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh Ph.D.
Samaneri
6 ·
reface
!
n +o8: ! was invitcd to attcnd an intcrnational conlcrcncc
on “Vomcn, Rcligions, and Social Changcs” at Harvard
Univcrsity, U.S.A. At this conlcrcncc ! was givcn a spccinc
task to writc a papcr on “Tc Futurc ol thc 8hikkhuni
Sangha in Tailand.” ¡vcn altcr ycars ol involvcmcnt and
commitmcnt on thc ordination issuc lor 8uddhist womcn,
still ! had not cnvisioncd that changcs and channcls would
bc opcn lor womcn this soon.
To cxprcss my apprcciation lor thc upcoming bhikkhuni
ordination in 8odh Gaya, !ndia, Fcbruary +¡–::, +oo8, ! am
honourcd to prcscnt to you this booklct. ! hopc it will providc
you with somc answcrs to qucstions oltcn askcd about womcn
and thc ordination issuc and othcrs.
! am gratclul to Fo Kuang Shan lor making this ordination
possiblc. Signincantly, thc ordination will bc givcn in 8odh
Gaya, a placc ol cnlightcnmcnt — cnlightcnmcnt lor both
mcn and womcn.
Prol. Martin Pcrcnchio oßcrcd valuablc assistancc to
providc ¡nglish improvcmcnt to thc original manuscript.
! am thanklul to him and to cvcryonc involvcd in thc
production ol this booklct.
(hatsumarn Kabi/singh
Homc ol Pcacc and Lovc
Ðcccmbcr ¡th, +oo·
6 ·
ontents
reface ........................................................................................................................................................... �
�estion � ................................................................................................................................................. ��
When Queen Maha Pajapati asked the Buddha to allow
her to join the Order, why did he hesitate but give
permission later on?
�estion � ................................................................................................................................................. ��
What are the requirements for Bhikkhuni ordination?
�estion � ................................................................................................................................................. ��
Why do men have only two levels of ordination while
women have to go through three levels of ordination?
�estion � ................................................................................................................................................. ��
Why do bhikkhunis follow more precepts (sikkhapada)
than monks?
�estion � ................................................................................................................................................. ��
What is the reason for the androcentric nature of the
Tripitaka?
�estion � ................................................................................................................................................. ��
Is it true that the Tripitaka suppresses women?
�estion � ................................................................................................................................................. ��
What do you think of the Eight Garudharmas?
�estion � ................................................................................................................................................. ��
The bhikkhus have three robes while the bhikkhunis have
fve robes. What are they?
8 o
�estion � ................................................................................................................................................. ��
Once the women joined the Sangha, how were they
treated by the bhikkhus?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
What was the a�itude of the bhikkhus towards the
Buddha’s acceptance of women?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
What was the status of the bhikkhunis during the
Buddha’s time?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Were there any enlightened bhikkhunis?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Why cannot a bhikkhu receive food ofered by bhikkhuni?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
In the Buddha’s time what role did women play in
Buddhism?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
What is the lineage of the bhikkhuni Sangha in the history
of Buddhism?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Are there bhikkhunis also in other countries?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Are there bhikkhunis in Theravada tradition?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Why is there no bhikkhuni Ordination in Thailand?
8 o
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Is it possible to introduce bhikkhuni Sangha in Thailand?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Is it true that monks are not to touch women because
women are impure?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
It is commonly believed that women are unclean. How
true is this belief?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Why are women seen as a commodity?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Why do some temples in the north not allow women to
circumambulate the stupas?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
It is o�en said that “women are enemy to the life of purity.”
How do you explain this saying?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Is it true that once women were admi�ed to the Order,
Buddhism will be shortened to ��� years?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Why cannot women become buddhas?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
What is Buddhist a�itude towards prostitution?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
What is an a�itude of a Buddhist towards abortion?
+o ++
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
What is the historical development of mae jis? And what is
their present status?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
How can a mae ji share in social and religious
development?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Why some families in the north sell their daughters so
that they can give ordination to their sons?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Generally why people prefer to make ofering to monks
rather than mae jis?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Why do women go to the temple and make merit more
than men?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
In the role of female followers, what should Buddhist
women do?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
Is it true that if a person is enlightened, she must be
ordained within � days?
�estion �� ............................................................................................................................................. ��
What is the unique characteristic in American Buddhism
which might interest a feminist?
©
+o ++
�estion �
When �een Maha Pajapati asked the Buddha to
allow her to join the Order, why did he hesitate but
give permission later on?
F
or thosc who arc intcrcstcd in thc ordination ol womcn,
this is onc ol thc most puzzling qucstions, which nccds
a grcat dcal ol contcxtual undcrstanding.
Vhcn King Suddhodana, thc 8uddha’s royal lathcr
passcd away, thc duty ol a wilc to hcr husband was complctcd.
!t was thc right timc lor Maha Pajapati to considcr lollowing
thc tcaching and thc practicc ol thc 8uddha scriously. 8ut
whcn shc approachcd and askcd lor pcrmission thc 8uddha
simply said, “Plcasc do not ask so.” Tc Tripitaka, which
is thc most important primary sourcc, did not providc any
rcason lor not allowing womcn to join thc Òrdcr.
Many intcrprctations wcrc givcn in latcr commcntarics
trying to cxplain thc situation. Tis lcd also to common
bclicl that thc 8uddha did not want to allow womcn to
lcad a rcligious lilc. Tis is not without basis. According to
!ndian social morcs, to lcad a rcligious lilc is not thc path
lor womcn.Manudharma Sastra was vcry clcar to spcll out
that salvation lor a woman is possiblc only through bhakti
(dcvotion) to hcr husband.
8ut Maha Pajapati was unshakcn in hcr dccision. Altcr
thc 8uddha had gonc, shc, along with ¡oo Sakiyanis (Sakyan
womcn) lrom thc royal court shavcd thcir hcads and donncd
+: +:
thc ycllow robcs. Tcy lollowcd him on loot until thcy arrivcd
at \csali whcrc thc 8uddha rcsidcd. Upon arriving at thc
arama (rcsidcncc) thcy did not ask to havc an audicncc with
thc 8uddha lor lcar ol bcing rcjcctcd again. Ananda, thc
8uddha’s cousin and pcrsonal attcndant, lound thcm at thc
cntrancc covcrcd with dust, with torn robcs and blccding lcct.
Many ol thcm wcrc miscrablc and in tcars ol dcspcration.
Hc lcarncd lrom thcm ol thcir rcqucst and on thcir bchall
approachcd thc 8uddha. Again, thc 8uddha lorbadc Ananda
in thc samc manncr, “Ananda, plcasc do not ask so.”
Tcrc arc various rcasons to bc takcn in considcration in
attcmpting to undcrstand thc possiblc dimcultics or obstaclcs
which prcscntcd thcmsclvcs in thc mind ol thc 8uddha.
First ol all Maha Pajapati was a quccn who, along with
¡oo ladics ol thc court, kncw only thc lilc ol comlort. To lcad
a rcclusivc lilc allowing thcm only to slccp undcr thc trcc, or
in thc cavc, would bc too hard lor thcm. Òut ol compassion
thc 8uddha wantcd thcm to think it ovcr.
Furthcrmorc, acccpting a largc group ol womcn to bc
ordaincd all at oncc would immcdiatcly involvc tcachcrs to
providc thcm both instruction and training. Tc 8uddha also
could not makc himscll constantly acccssiblc lor thcm. Tc
Sangha was not rcady with compctcnt tcachcrs to handlc a
largc crowd ol womcn. Tis provcd to bc a rcality latcr on
whcn womcn wcrc alrcady acccptcd to thc Sangha. Monks who
could tcach thc nuns must bc not only lcarncd but also rcquirc
an appropriatc attitudc to hclp uplilt womcn spiritually.
Tc 8uddha alrcady rcccivcd criticism lrom outsidcrs
+: +:
lor brcaking up lamilics by ordaining cithcr thc husbands
or wivcs. Vhcn Maha Pajapati approachcd him with ¡oo
Sakiyanis, dcnnitcly this would bc a major causc ol criticism.
Particularly Sakyas did not marry pcoplc lrom othcr clans.
8y allowing ¡oo Sakiyanis to bc ordaincd would dcnnitcly
aßcct thc social status quo. 8ut it was rcvcalcd that thcsc
womcn’s husbands had alrcady joincd thc Òrdcr. Tus, thc
criticism that acccpting thcsc womcn would brcak up thcir
lamilics bccamc groundlcss.
Tc lact that thcsc womcn lollowcd him on loot to \csali
is a prool ol thcir gcnuinc commitmcnt to lcad rcligious livcs
and rcmovcd thc doubt that thcir rcqucst might bc out ol
momcntary impulsc.
Tcsc could havc bccn somc ol thc rcasons bchind thc
8uddha’s hcsitation. Tc 8uddha nccdcd thc timc to cxaminc
both thc pros and cons to thcir rcqucst.
Ananda also tricd to undcrstand thc 8uddha’s rclusal.
!s it bccausc womcn arc not capablc ol achicving spiritual
cnlightcnmcnt: !l that is so, thcn ordination, a spiritual path
is opcn only to mcn. To this, thc 8uddha madc it clcar that
both mcn and womcn havc cqual potcntiality to achicvc
spiritual cnlightcnmcnt.
Vc havc to mark this statcmcnt, as this is thc nrst timc
in thc history ol rcligion that a rcligious lcadcr dcclarcd
opcnly that mcn and womcn arc cqual on spiritual grounds.
Prcviously in thc Hindu contcxt, thc \cdas, thc most sacrcd
rcligious tcxts, wcrc availablc only to mcn. 8uddhism has
transccndcd racc, nation, castc and gcndcr dißcrcnccs to
+± +¡
dcclarc that thc highcst spiritual achicvcmcnt transccnds
obstaclcs or discrimination ol gcndcr. Vith this important
rcason, thc 8uddha allowcd womcn to join his Òrdcr.
�estion �
What are the requirements for Bhikkhuni ordination?
8
hikkhuni ordination rcquircs a minimum ol ¡ bhikkhunis.
Òn thc samc day, altcr having bccn admittcd by thc
bhikkhuni Sangha, that woman must bc admittcd also by a
minimum ol ¡ monks. Tc pavattini or bhikkhuni prcccptor
must havc at lcast +: ycars standing as a bhikkhuni who is
wcll vcrscd both in dharma and vinaya, and also must bc
appointcd as prcccptor by both Sanghas.
Altcr having bccn admittcd womcn to thc Òrdcr, it
bccamc vcry popular lor womcn to join thc Òrdcr, rcsulting
in a lack ol rcsidcntial provision. ¡ach Pavattini, thcn was
allowcd to givc ordination only cvcry othcr ycar. Tc prcccptor
is to providc lor both tcaching and training lor nuns undcr
hcr guidancc, including taking carc ol thcm il thcy should
bccomc ill.
Tcrc arc thrcc lorms ol ordination lor monks. First ¡hi
bhikkhu Upasampada, an ordination givcn dircctly by thc
8uddha in thc carly pcriod with litcrally no lormal ritual.
Tc 8uddha simply allowcd “Ðo bccomc a monk,” which was
considcrcd a complctc ordination.
+± +¡
Ncxt camc ordination by acccpting thc Triplc Gcm,
namcly 8uddha, Ðharma and Sangha, as rclugc. Tis was
thc lorm ol ordination by which tcachcrs in thc carly pcriod
acccptcd thcir disciplcs to bccomc monks.
Latcr whcn thc numbcr ol applications bccamc much
highcr, a morc lormal typc ol ordination was givcn. !t is
callcd natticatuthakammavaca, with a prcccptor with two
traincrs and minimum chaptcr ol +o monks to witncss thc
ordination. Tis is an ordination givcn by a sangha, and is thc
prcvalcnt typc ol ordination availablc in thc prcscnt day.
Tcrc is yct anothcr typc ol ordination providcd lor
bhikkhunis. Tcrc was a casc ol a woman who had complctcd
thc ordination proccdurc by thc bhikkhuni sangha but could
not rcach thc bhikkhu sangha in anothcr villagc in thc samc
day as prcscribcd by thc ordination rcquircmcnt. !n this casc,
thcrc wcrc somc thicvcs waiting on thc way to abduct hcr.
Tc 8uddha allowcd Ðutcnasampada, ordination through
an appointcd ambassador. Tat is anothcr bhikkhuni was
assigncd by thc bhikkhuni sangha on bchall ol thc bhikkhuni
tobc. Tis is also considcrcd a rightlul ordination.
A woman who rcqucsts bhikkhuni ordination must hc
at lcast :o ycars ol agc, with pcrmission lrom hcr parcnts,
having no illncss that would bc an obstaclc to lcading an
ordaincd lilc. Shc must havc complctcd a :ycar training
pcriod as sikkhamana and bc ablc to obtain thc basic matcrial
rcquircmcnts c.g. robcs, bowl, ctc.
+6 +·
�estion �
Why do men have only two levels of ordination while
women have to go through three levels of ordination?
T
hcrc arc ¡ dißcrcnt typcs ol ordination, : lor mcn
and : lor womcn. Samancri (lcmalc novicc) is a lowcr
ordination (bappajja) with +o prcccpts. Ònc who is cntitlcd to
this ordination must bc old cnough to bc ablc to drivc away
crows oß thc paddy ncld. Latcr on it was nxcd at a minimal
agc ol scvcn. Òldcr mcn somctimcs also rcccivc only lowcr
ordination.
Ònc who can apply lor highcr ordination (upasampada)
must mcct thc minimum agc rcquircmcnt ol :o and havc
a normal physical condition. A marricd woman may bc
ordaincd at thc agc ol +: with pcrmission lrom hcr spousc.
For Sikkhamana, a training pcriod was institutcd latcr.
Tcrc was a particular casc ol a marricd woman who askcd
lor ordination without knowing that shc had conccivcd. Hcr
prcgnancy camc to light only altcr ordination. Hcncc a rulc
was laid down and womcn havc to go through Sikkhamana
training lor two ycars. Ðuring this timc a sikkhamana obscrvcs
6 anudharmas which arc thc nrst six prcccpts in thc +o prcccpts
lor noviccs. Howcvcr, a sikkhamana is considcrcd having
a training lcvcl highcr than novicc cvcn though thc lattcr
rcccivcd only six prcccpts. Tis implics that a sikkhamana is in
lact a pcrson in a prcparatory stagc to rcccivc highcr ordination,
and during thc two ycars training, should shc transgrcss any
+6 +·
onc ol thc prcccpts shc has to start all ovcr again. !t is rcquircd
that shc must mcct thc rcquircmcnt ol two continuous ycars ol
training without transgrcssion.
�estion �
Why do bhikkhunis follow more precepts
(sikkhapada) than monks?
!
n Tcravada, monks lollow ::· prcccpts and bhikkhunis
lollow :++ prcccpts. Tis dißcrcncc oltcn lcads to mis
undcrstanding that thc 8uddha in lact did not want womcn
to join thc Òrdcr, and so hc sct up rulcs as barricr to lcncc
oß womcn right at thc start.
From a comparativc study bctwccn thc monks and nuns
patimokkha (prcscntcd at an !ntcrnational Conlcrcncc on
Tai Studics, Chicngmai, Òct. +±–+·, +oo6) it is shown that
counting by scction, bhikkhus obscrvc cight scctions as
comparcd to scvcn scctions by nuns. Ònc scction cxclusivcly
lor monks is callcd “Aniyata.” !n this scction, thcrc arc two
rulcs introduccd by \isakha, thc lcading lcmalc lay supportcr
in carly 8uddhism. Ònc ol thcm lorbids thc monks lrom
staying alonc with a lcmalc in a covcrcd placc and anothcr
onc lorbids monks lrom staying alonc with a lcmalc in an
opcn placc bcyond hcaring ol othcrs.
!n Parajika, thc nrst scction ol thc patimokkha which is
conccrncd with thc most scvcrc oßcnccs, any monk or nun
+8 +o
who has transgrcsscd any onc ol thcsc rulcs is “dclcatcd” at
thc momcnt ol committing that act. Tcrc arc lour rulcs lor
monks and cight rulcs lor nuns. Tc cxtra rulcs that nuns havc
to obscrvc in this scction may bc lound lor monks also but arc
classincd undcr Sanghadiscsa, thc sccond scction which is lcss
scvcrc. Having transgrcsscd it a monk will havc to go through
‘manatta’ pcriod, a tcmporary scllcxpulsion lrom thc Sangha.
!t is worth noting that classincation ol thc rulcs can casily bc
thc work ol a latcr pcriod at thc hands ol thc monks.
!n Patidcsaniya scction, thcrc arc cight rulcs lor
bhikkhunis. 8hikkhus havc thc samc contcnt ol thc rulcs but
thcy arc countcd as onc and classincd undcr Sckhiya, anothcr
scction. Tis is onc ol thc rcasons rcsponsiblc lor thc bloatcd
numbcr ol rulcs lor bhikkhunis.
!n thc Pacittiya scction, bhikkhunis lollow +66 rulcs as
comparcd to o: lor bhikkhus. Tcrc arc ·o common rulcs
sharcd by both Sanghas. Tcn bhikkhus havc anothcr sct
ol :: cxclusivcly lor bhikkhus and bhikkhunis havc anothcr
sct ol ·6 rulcs cxclusivcly lor bhikkhunis. Vithin ·6 rulcs
cxclusivcly lor bhikkhunis, it is notablc that thcrc arc many
rulcs rcgarding ordination rcquircmcnts which thc bhikkhus
also havc to lollow, but lor bhikkhus thcy arc not countcd
in thc Patimokkha. Tis also rcsults in a sccmingly largcr
numbcr ol Patimokkha rulcs lor bhikkhunis.
Ðuc to thc abovc rcasons, thc bhikkhunis carry a highcr
numbcr ol rulcs in thc Patimokkha than thc monks, but in
rcality thcy lollow a similar sct ol rulcs.
+8 +o
�estion �
What is the reason for the androcentric nature of the
Tripitaka?
!
am locussing my answcr only within thc Tcravada contcxt
which prcscrvcd thc tcachings in Pali. Tcravadins bclicvc
that thcir tcaching is most authcntic lrom a historical point
ol vicw. Vc nccd to undcrstand that thc Tripitaka that
wc know ol was not a writtcn work lrom thc 8uddha’s
timc. Rcligious knowlcdgc was to bc practiscd and handcd
down lrom tcachcrs to choscn disciplcs. Hcncc no rcligious
tcaching was rccordcd. Tis applicd also to thc tcaching ol
thc 8uddha. Tc Tripitaka was nrst rccordcd in Sri Lanka
not bclorc ±¡o n.v. (about oo n.c.)
Vhat was rccordcd was according to thc undcrstanding
ol thc monk rccordcrs. Vhat thcy chosc to rccord was
subjcctivc, hcncc it is undcrstandablc why thc Tripitaka is
androccntric. Tc Tripitaka was rccordcd by mcn who wcrc
riddcn with !ndian social valucs. Tcy wcrc mcn who by
thc vinaya, wcrc cxpcctcd to lcad livcs ol purity. Tc most
immcdiatc obstaclc to thcir chastity was thc oppositc gcndcr.
Many tcachings as prcscrvcd by thcsc mcn thcrclorc projcctcd
womcn (cmbodimcnt ol thcir obstaclcs) as cvil, unclcan, ctc.
Tis is a ncccssary barricr to lcncc thcmsclvcs oß lrom lailing
into thc pit ol thc unchastc. Vhilc rcading thc Tripitaka onc
must rcmind oncscll ol this limitation in ordcr to silt thc
csscncc lrom its social contcxtual limitations.
:o :+
Looking at thc tcaching lrom thc Paramattha lcvcl,
onc sccs clcarly that 8uddhism is lrcc lrom gcndcr bias,
8uddhism is thc nrst rcligion in thc world to rccognisc thc
cqual spiritual potcntiality ol mcn and womcn. Tis providcs
a spccial placc lor 8uddhism which startcd in !ndia to lilt up
to thc world spiritual lcvcl without boundary in racc, castc,
or gcndcr.
�estion �
Is it true that the Tripitaka suppresses women?
T
hc Tripitaka, a largc body ol a 8uddhist canonical tcxts,
consists ol thrcc major parts. Tc tcaching was rccordcd
and put into thrcc baskcts callcd pitakas. Tc nrst part,
\inaya, dcals with monastic prohibitions and allowanccs lor
bhikkhus and bhikkhunis. Sutta, thc sccond part dcals with
thc tcachings both ol thc 8uddha and his major disciplcs.
Somc dcal with thc dcvclopmcnt ol thc mind lrcc lrom
social contcxt whilc othcrs arc still cloakcd with !ndian
social valucs. Somc arc ]atakas or thc storics ol thc 8uddha’s
prcvious births wovcn out ol popular storics lrom thc !ndian
soil. Tcsc two portions ol thc Tripitaka wcrc rccitcd at thc
nrst council which took placc thrcc months altcr thc Grcat
Passing Away ol thc 8uddha. Abhidharma, thc third part ol
thc Tripitaka, is philosophical cxposition ol thc mind and its
lunction composcd by latcr commcntators. All thrcc parts ol
:o :+
thc Tripitaka wcrc nrst rccordcd in writtcn lorm not carlicr
than ±¡o n.v. (about oo n.c.)
Tc matcrials lound in thc Tripitaka may bc dividcd into
two major portions : Lokuttara and Lokiya. Lokuttara dcals
with purc dharma aiming at mcntal lrccdom. 8y its naturc,
thc mind has no gcndcr dißcrcncc. Lokuttara dharma is
thcrclorc bcyond gcndcr dißcrcncc and bias.
Tc lattcr portion, namcly lokiya, is thc tcaching
within a social and historical contcxt. Tcrclorc its valuc is
subjcctcd to social and historical lactors. Tis portion may
lurthcr bc dividcd undcr two catcgorics. Tc nrst part is that
takcn lrom thc !ndian social contcxt, hcncc carricd on and
rcinlorccd by !ndian social valucs. Tis is rcsponsiblc lor thc
largc part ol matcrials lound in thc Tripitaka which appcar
to bc supprcssing womcn il wc rcad thc Tripitaka without
undcrstanding its lramcwork.
Tc othcr portion clcarly prcscnts an attitudc ol 8uddhism
trying to lrcc itscll lrom !ndian social valucs, c.g. thc castc
systcm. Tc 8uddha clcarly dcnicd thc castc systcm which
was a social mcasurc to dividc pcoplc into dißcrcnt castcs.
Hc, instcad, cmphasiscd that a brahmin is not onc who is
born lrom brahmin parcnts but bccomcs onc through his
rightcous action.
Tcn hc madc his standpoint vcry clcar to announcc that
mcn and womcn arc cqual in thcir potcntiality to achicvc
spiritual cnlightcnmcnt. A woman’s spiritual achicvcmcnt
camc lrom hcr own action, not through dcvotion to hcr
husband. Òncc womcn wcrc admittcd to thc Òrdcr, thcy
:: ::
cnjoycd cqual opportunity to practicc dharma. Many vinaya
rulcs wcrc laid down so that thc bhikkhus will not takc
advantagc ol thc bhikkhunis, c.g. monks arc not to ask thc
bhikkhunis to wash thcir robcs, rugs, ctc.
!n this portion ol matcrials wc nnd thc Tripitaka supports
and promotcs womcn. Vc should takc this as a truc spirit ol
8uddhism. !t is indccd social rclorm in an attcmpt to uplilt
womcn to sharc thc rcsponsibility as onc ol thc lour groups
ol 8uddhists cqually rcsponsiblc lor thc growth or dcclinc ol
8uddhism.
!n conclusion, wc can say that it is truc that thcrc arc
ccrtain passagcs in thc Tripitaka which arc supprcssing
to womcn but that thcy do not rcprcscnt thc truc spirit ol
8uddhism.
Tnv Tvivi)~x~
Loxi))~v~ Loxiy~
nvyoxb cvxbvv wi)nix soci~i cox)vx)
n~xbvb bowx )nvoicn Tviv 8ibbnis) svivi)
!xbi~x soci~i v~iivs iinvv~)ixc a iviiv)ixc wo:vx
:: ::
�estion �
What do you think of the Eight Garudharmas?
V
hcn thc 8uddha nnally allowcd womcn to join thc
Òrdcr, hc gavc thc ¡ight Garudharmas lor thcm to
lollow. Tc Òuccn Maha Pajapati took thcsc upon hcrscll
as a garland dccorating hcr hcad. Ncvcrthclcss thcsc ¡ight
Garudharmas havc bccn much criticiscd, assuming altcr all
thc 8uddha was not lrcc lrom !ndian social conditions.
Vc nccd to takc a closc look at thc ¡ight Garu
dharmas:
.. A nun who has bccn ordaincd (cvcn) lor a ccntury must
grcct rcspcctlully, risc up lrom hcr scat, salutc with joincd
palms, do propcr homagc to a monk ordaincd but that day.
:. A nun must not spcnd thc rains in a rcsidcncc whcrc
thcrc is no monk.
.. ¡vcry hall month a nun should dcsirc two things lrom thc
Òrdcr ol monks : thc asking (as to thc datc) ol thc Òbscrvancc
day, and thc coming lor thc cxhortation (ol a monk).
¡. Altcr thc rains a nun must invitc bclorc both thc Òrdcrs
in rcspcct ol thrcc mattcrs, what was sccn, what was
hcard and what was suspcctcd.
·. A nun, oßcnding against an important rulc, must undcrgo
manatta (disciplinc) lor hall a month bclorc both thc
Òrdcrs.
:± :¡
6. Vhcn, as a probationcrs, shc has bccn traincd in thc six
rulcs lor two ycars, shc should scck ordination lrom both
thc Òrdcrs.
·. A monk must not bc abuscd or rcvilcd in any way by a
nun.
·. From today admonition ol monks by nuns is lorbiddcn,
admonition by monks is not lorbiddcn. (Cv. X. S8¡. XX
p. .·¡)
Tc 8uddha actually prcscribcd thc ¡ight Garudharmas lor
thc bhikkhunis to lollow so that thcy lunction as a protcction
lor thcmsclvcs. Looking at thcm supcrncially onc may think
that thcy arc mcasurcs to control womcn. To undcrstand and
apprcciatc Garudharma onc nccds to look at thcm within thc
givcn social and historical contcxts. !ndian socicty has always
bccn patriarchal. Mcn arc always at thc ccntral points ol thoughts
and intcrcsts. Vomcn wcrc brought up within a cultural and
social sctting which placcd thcm as subordinatcs. Tcy arc
undcr thc carc ol thcir parcnts whcn young, undcr protcction
ol thcir husbands whcn marricd, and undcr protcction ol thcir
sons in thcir advanccd agc (Manudharmasastra). Vomcn arc
takcn as dcpcndcnt bcings.
Tcy cannot bc lclt alonc so much so that womcn arc not
accustomcd to making dccisions on thcir own. Tcir livcs
complctcly dcpcnd on thc guidancc ol malc mcmbcrs ol thc
lamilics. Rcligious lilc is not to bc mcntioncd. A woman can
cxpcct to havc spiritual salvation only through dcvotion and
:± :¡
scrvicc to hcr husband. Shc may makc oßcrings as thc othcr
hall ol hcr husband, but indcpcndcntly shc cannot pcrlorm
any ritual. Shc is ncithcr allowcd to rccitc nor to rcad thc
\cdas as shc is unclcan, and vicc vcrsa, shc is unclcan bccausc
shc cannot study thc \cdas.
Social and rcligious conditions pcrmit thc only salvation
lor hcr through dcvotion to hcr husband. !t also linkcd to hcr
obligation ol bcaring sons to hcr lamily. !t is bclicvcd that thc
son must pcrlorm thc nnal ritc to allow thc acccss to hcavcn
lor his parcnts. !n casc a woman cannot bring lorth a son
to hcr husband’s lamily, hcr prcscncc is indccd considcrcd
inauspicious.
8uddhism cmcrgcd lrom !ndian soil lull ol thcsc social
valucs. Ònc nccds to bc rcmindcd that 8uddhist monks in
thc carly pcriod wcrc altcr all !ndian mcn lrom dißcrcnt
castcs mouldcd with thcsc social norms and valucs.
Vomcn camc to join thc Òrdcr at lcast nvc ycars altcr
thc bhikkhu sangha was cstablishcd. !t is only natural and
undcrstandablc that thc 8uddha would placc thc bhikkhuni
Sangha in a subordinatc position to thc bhikkhu Sangha lor
thc harmonious cocxistcncc and lor a lunctional purposc in
ordcr to cstablish a balanccd loundation ol administration.
Tc bhikkhuni Sangha may bc sccn as a latcr arrival ol
youngcr sistcrs who must acccpt and pay rcspcct to thc
bhikkhu Sangha, comparativcly thcir cldcr brothcrs. Tc
8uddha was wcll awarc that with thc admission ol a largc
group ol lcmalc lollowcrs hc would nccd assistancc lrom thc
bhikkhus to hclp him in thc tcaching and training ol thc
:6 :·
ncwly ordaincd bhikkhunis. Tc casicst way to makc thcir
path smooth is to makc thcm subordinatc to thc bhikkhu
Sangha lor lunctional bcncnt.
8ut as thc story unlolds itscll, wc nnd that thc bhikkhus
still cxpcctcd thc bhikkhunis to pcrlorm houschold chorcs
lor thcm just thc way thcy wcrc lamiliar with whcn thcy wcrc
still in thcir houscholds. Tc dißcrcncc was that now instcad
ol scrving mcn at homc, thc nuns scrvc thcm in a monastic
sctting. !l wc look at thc ¡ight Garudharmas ncgativcly wc
will nnd that thcy bccomc mcasurcs to support and amrm
such valucs.
Again, lurthcr study shows that wc cannot takc thc
¡ight Garudharmas as nnal authority without ßcxibility. !
can quotc an cxamplc ol thc nrst Garudharma which says
that “a nun cvcn ordaincd lor +oo ycars must pay rcspcct to a
monk ordaincd that day.” Latcr thcrc was a casc ol six monks
who playlully liltcd up thcir robcs showing thcir thighs to
attract thc bhikkhunis’ attcntion. !n this casc, thc 8uddha
instructcd thc bhikkhunis not to pay rcspcct to thcsc monks.
Tis shows that any rulc laid down by thc 8uddha always has
a ccrtain rcquircmcnt to it. Ònc should not stick to thc rulc
without undcrstanding thc spirit ol it.
! should also mcntion that thc 6th Garudharma mcntions
that “a sikkhamana having complctcd thc :ycar training, is
to ask lor highcr ordination” is a latcr rcquircmcnt. Vhcn
thc 8uddha allowcd Òuccn Maha Pajapati to join thc Òrdcr,
Shc was ordaincd as a bhikkhuni. Sikkhamana was not in
cxistcncc at that timc. Vhat may bc drawn lrom this sccming
:6 :·
discrcpancy is that thc Garudharmas was introduccd in a
latcr pcriod but placcd at thc conccption ol thc bhikkhuni
ordination to givc cmphasis to its authority as thc rccordcr
might havc thought this to bc a good mcasurc lor thc bhikkhu
sangha to control thc bhikkhuni Sangha.
Morc ovcr thc ¡ight Garudharmas may bc lound alrcady
in thc Patimokkha itscll.
�estion �
�e bhikkhus have three robes while the bhikkhunis
have fve robes. What are they?
T
hc nvc robcs prcscribcd lor thc bhikkhunis arc as
lollows:
.. Sanghati, an cxtra robc oltcn sccn loldcd and placcd on
onc shouldcr. Tis robc has two main lunctions. Ònc is to
bc sprcad and uscd as scat or bcdding. Anothcr purposc
is to usc it as an cxtra covcr in wintcr.
:. Uttarasanga is thc normal robc. !t may bc worn to covcr
both shouldcrs, or covcr only onc shouldcr.
.. Antarasavaka is a lowcr robc to wrap around thc lowcr
part ol thc body and tic at thc waist with a cotton bclt
spccially madc lor monks and nuns. !n Tai this is callcd
“Rad pakot.” Tis is worn with loldcd plcats in lront, ncatly
tuggcd undcr thc bclt. Tc lowcr cdgc must bc cvcn.
:8 :o
¡. Udakasatika is a bath robc rcquircd lor both bhikkhus
and bhikkhunis. Tis robc is similar in shapc to no.. but
without thc cdgc. For bhikkhunis, whilc taking a bath,
this is worn highcr to covcr lrom hcr brcasts down to hcr
knccs.
Formcrly thc monks bathcd nakcd. \isakha, thc lay
lollowcr, suggcstcd to thc 8uddha that it was not ntting
lor thc monks to bathc nakcdly. Sincc thcn it bccamc a
monastic rcquircmcnt addcd to thc nrst thrcc robcs.
·. Samkacchika, a vcst, is rcquircd only lor thc bhikkhunis.
Formcrly thcy worc cxactly thc samc kind ol robcs as
thc monks but whcn thcy wcnt lor alms, thc wind blcw
thc robcs against thcir bodics and thcir brcasts wcrc sccn
promincntly undcr thc robcs. Tc local pcoplc madc lun
ol thcm, so thc 8uddha prcscribcd thc vcst lor thcm. !t
is to bc worn tight to ßattcn thcir brcasts.
Anothcr rcquircmcnt is thc ‘monthly robc.’ which, though not
includcd in thc abovc nvc robcs, is ncccssary lor thc bhikkhunis.
Tis is uscd during thc mcnstruation pcriod. !n thc 8uddha’s
timc matcrial was not casily availablc, this ‘monthly robcs’
bclongcd to thc Sangha. Any bhikkhuni may usc thcm whcn
nccdcd. Tcn must wash thcm clcan and rcturn thcm lor thc
common usc ol thc bhikkhuni Sangha.
Anothcr piccc ol clothing not allowablc lor a bhikkhuni
is ‘Sanghani.’ Tis is a dccoratcd piccc worn around thc hips
as commonly practiscd by thc laywomcn.
:8 :o
�estion �
Once the women joined the Sangha, how were they
treated by the bhikkhus?
T
hcrc is no dircct rccord on thc subjcct, but lrom thc study
ol thc \inaya onc may nnd that altcr all thc bhikkhus
wcrc mcn drawn lrom !ndian socicty. 8cing uscd to thc scrvicc
oßcrcd by womcn, thc bhikkhus trcatcd thc bhikkhunis likc
wivcs. Tc bhikkhunis had to spcnd timc washing rugs, robcs,
ctc. lor thc monks in a similar manncr that womcn havc to
takc carc ol thcir mcn lolk in thcir houschold livcs.
Tc bhikkhunis rcccivcd this kind ol trcatmcnt lrom
thc monks until thc lay pcoplc took noticc and brought it to
thc attcntion ol thc 8uddha. Tc 8uddha having listcncd
to thc complaint callcd thc two partics involvcd. 8oth
partics acccptcd that what was brought to thc attcntion ol
thc 8uddha was corrcct. Hc thcn laid down vinaya lor thc
monks not to ask thc bhikkhunis to pcrlorm such scrvicc.
Ònc may scc thc 8uddha’s intcntion clcarly that whcn hc
allowcd womcn to join thc Òrdcr, basically to allow thcm
to study and practicc his tcaching, thcy would no morc bc
houscholdcrs, and thus no longcr bound to houschold chorcs.
¡ach ordaincd pcrson is to takc carc ol his or hcr own basic
rcquircmcnt and spcnd timc to pursuc onc’s spiritual goal,
namcly to strivc lor cnlightcnmcnt.
8oth bhikkhus and bhikkhunis havc lclt thcir houschold
livcs bchind aiming to scck lor spiritual attainmcnt. To
:o :+
cxpcct thc bhikkhunis to scrvc thc bhikkhus contradicts thc
undcrlying principlc by which thc 8uddha allowcd womcn
to join thc Òrdcr.
�estion ��
What was the a�itude of the bhikkhus towards the
Buddha’s acceptance of women?
A
gain thcrc is no dircct rccord lrom thc 8uddha’s timc,
partly bccausc whcn thc 8uddha allowcd womcn to join
thc Òrdcr, it was thc Òuccn Maha Pajapati who approachcd
him. 8ccausc ol thcir closc rclationship cvcn il somc monks
may not havc approvcd ol thc dccision, no onc madc it known
to bc sumcicnt cvidcnt lor rccording.
8ut at thc First Council only thrcc months altcr thc
8uddha’s passing away, with Maha Kassapa prcsiding ovcr
thc council, discontcntmcnt was madc known lor admitting
womcn to thc Òrdcr by asking Ananda to conlcss that it was
his oßcncc lor bcing an important mcdiator to approach thc
8uddha on bchall ol womcn and nnally got thcm admittcd
to thc Òrdcr. \cncrablc Ananda clcarly madc his point that
hc did not scc his intcrvcntion as an oßcncc, but with rcspcct
to thc Sangha hc conlcsscd.
An intcrcsting incidcnt to bc mcntioncd in this conncction
is that Maha Kassapa who prcsidcd at this historic council, was
not on good tcrms with thc bhikkhunis. Vc lound an incidcnt
rccordcd whcn hc wcnt to givc tcaching to thc bhikkhuni
:o :+
Sangha, hc was ridiculcd by thcm as thc bhikkhunis cxprcsscd
thcir doubts as to how could hc know ol any dharma with his
brahministic background. Apart lrom that, thc bhikkhunis
also madc clcar thcir prclcrcncc lor Ananda’s tcaching. Tis
causcd Maha Kassapa to bc much displcascd and again
\cncrablc Ananda had to intcrvcnc asking lor lorgivcncss
lrom Maha Kassapa on thc bchall ol thc bhikkhunis. Tis
background incidcnt implics thc alrcady cxisting unplcasant
lccling bctwccn Maha Kassapa and thc bhikkhuni Sangha.
Vhat lollowcd at thc First Council is undcrstandablc.
�estion ��
What was the status of the bhikkhunis during the
Buddha’s time?
V
hcn thc 8uddha allowcd womcn to join thc Òrdcr, a
largc numbcr ol womcn wclcomcd thc opportunity givcn
to womcn lor thc nrst timc in !ndian history. Somc wantcd to
join thc Òrdcr to cscapc thc drcadlul lilc ol having to rcmain
in thc kitchcn lor most ol thcir timc, somc wantcd to cscapc
lrom a mcaninglcss lilc ol widowhood, somc wcrc doing it as
a lashion, or simply lollowcd thcir closc rclativcs. !n thc lattcr
casc, somc ol thcm provcd to bc troublc lor thc Sangha, but lor
most ol thc cascs, thcsc womcn wcrc sinccrc in thcir spiritual
scarch as it was thc nrst timc thcy cnjoycd such lrccdom.
Tcrc wcrc bhikkhunis who wcrc rccogniscd by thc
:: ::
8uddha as bcing lorcmost in thc \inaya, tcaching dharma,
ctc. Tcy wcrc activc in propagating thc tcaching ol thc
8uddha in thc samc manncr as thc bhikkhus.
Somc bhikkhunis wcrc wcll known in prcaching and
wcrc popular among ministcrs and noblc lamilics. Òncc a
king askcd a lcarncd nun to cxplain ccrtain dharma and latcr
askcd thc samc qucstion to thc 8uddha. Hc was surpriscd
to nnd that thc bhikkhuni cxpoundcd thc dharma topic thc
samc way as thc 8uddha. Hc was happy and convinccd that
in lact thc tcaching ol thc 8uddha had takcn root propcrly.
�estion ��
Were there any enlightened bhikkhunis?
T
hc Tripitaka mcntions ¡oo and morc. Tcrc wcrc +: who
wcrc singlcd out and rcccivcd praisc lrom thc 8uddha
with thcir dißcrcnt distinctions:
.. Maha Pajapati was praiscd lor hcr long standing as thc
nrst bhikkhuni
:. Khcma Tcri, lormcr quccn ol King 8imbisara was
praiscd lor hcr wisdom
.. Upalavanna Tcri was praiscd lor hcr achicvcmcnt in
pcrlorming miraclcs
¡. Patacara Tcri was praiscd lor hcr good mcmory on thc
\inaya
:: ::
·. Ðhammadinna Tcri was praiscd lor bcing capablc in
tcaching
6. Nanda Tcri was praiscd lor mcditation
·. Sona Tcri was praiscd lor hcr paticncc
·. Sakula Tcri was praiscd lor having divinc sights
o. Kundalakcsi Tcri was praiscd lor achicving suddcn
cnlightcnmcnt
.c. 8hadda Kapilani was praiscd lor rcmcmbcring past livcs
... 8hadda Kaccana (Princcss Yasodhara) was praiscd lor hcr
Grcat Abhinna
.:. Kisa Gotami was praiscd lor wcaring coarsc robcs
... Sigalamata was praiscd lor holding last to laith.
�estion ��
Why cannot a bhikkhu receive food ofered by
bhikkhuni?
!
n Patidcsaniya, onc scction in thc Patimokkha, wc nnd
such a prohibition. Chccking in thc \ibhanga, whcrc
wc lcarn thc historical contcxt ol thc rulc, wc lound an
intcrcsting story. An cldcr bhikkhuni ol +:o ycars old wcnt
:± :¡
lor aims in thc city at thc distancc ol ± to ¡ kms. Upon hcr
rcturn a young monk was waiting with his cmpty bowl. Òut
ol rcspcct lor monks as prcscribcd in thc Garudharma, shc
rcvcrcntly oßcrcd him hcr alms rcccivcd lor that day. Tc
young monk got an idca ol not having to go all thc way lor
alms himscll and rcccivcd alms lrom thc samc nun on thc
lollowing day also. Òn thc third day, thc bhikkhuni wcnt
lor alms in thc city. Vhilc roaming in thc city a chariot
passcd ncar hcr path. Shc took a stcp asidc, lcll down and
laintcd. Tc millionairc who was riding that chariot camc
out to makc inquiry and lcarncd lrom hcr that shc laintcd
out ol hungcr and tircdncss, as shc had not catcn lor thrcc
days. Upon lcarning thc rcason thc millionairc criticiscd thc
young monk and latcr brought this to thc attcntion ol thc
8uddha. From thcn on, to protcct thc nuns lrom bcing takcn
advantagc ol, thc 8uddha laid down thc rulc lor thc monks
not to rcccivc alms lrom bhikkhunis.
�estion ��
In the Buddha’s time what role did women play in
Buddhism?
!
havc alrcady givcn you thc picturc ol what thc bhikkhunis
did in thc prcvious pagcs. Hcrc ! would likc to mcntion thc
rolc ol \isakha as a casc study rcßccting on thc positivc rolc
ol womcn in 8uddhism during thc 8uddha’s timc.
:± :¡
\isakha was born in a 8uddhist lamily. As a child shc
uscd to lollow hcr grandparcnts to listcn to thc tcaching ol
thc 8uddha. Shc was marricd to an cqually wcalthy lamily.
Not only was shc hcrscll intcrcstcd in 8uddhism, shc was
also succcsslul to inßucncc Singala, thc millionairc who was
hcr lathcrinlaw to convcrt to 8uddhism as wcll. 8ccausc
ol this, somctimcs pcoplc addrcsscd hcr as “Singalamata” or
“mothcr ol Singala” to honour hcr.
Shc had bccn so involvcd in 8uddhist circlc lrom
childhood that shc was known both to thc 8uddha and
thc Sanghas. Hcr rolc was not limitcd only to lollowing thc
tcaching ol thc 8uddha but shc also playcd a signincant rolc
ol consultant as wcll as rcgular supportcr. Furthcrmorc, shc
was cqually wcll vcrscd both in thc Ðharma and \inaya.
Vhcn shc noticcd that somc monks wcrc not bchaving
wcll shc brought it to thc 8uddha’s attcntion and as a rcsult
rulcs wcrc laid down at hcr rcqucst. Two Aniyata rulcs camc
into cxistcncc bccausc ol hcr suggcstion. 8athrobcs lor thc
monks also bccamc a monastic rcquircmcnt as suggcstcd by
hcr.
!n thc rolc ol a consultant to thc Sangha, thcrc was a casc
ol prcgnant bhikkhuni who was cxpcllcd by \cn Ðcvadatta.
8ut this bhikkhuni appcalcd to thc 8uddha and insistcd upon
hcr purity. Tc 8uddha ordcrcd thc Sangha to rcinvcstigatc
and \isakha was invitcd to thc ncwly appointcd committcc
to givc advicc to thc Sangha. \isakha camc lrom a largc
lamily. Shc hcrscll had many childrcn and grand childrcn,
hcncc an cxpcricnccd houscholdcr. Upon hcr invcstigation
:6 :·
shc lound out that thc bhikkhuni was prcgnant bclorc bcing
ordaincd. Vhcn thc purity ol this bhikkhuni camc to light,
thc 8uddha allowcd hcr to rcmain without having to disrobc
and thc baby was latcr adoptcd by thc royal lamily.
\isakha playcd a vcry signincant rolc as a lay lcmalc
disciplc, shc indccd mct thc rcquircmcnt ol an cstablishcd
8uddhist who was rcsponsiblc lor propagating and cstablishing
8uddhism in thc carly pcriod.
�estion ��
What is the lineage of the bhikkhuni Sangha in the
history of Buddhism?
T
hc bhikkhuni Sangha prospcrcd alongsidc thc bhikkhu
Sangha in !ndia lor morc than +,ooo ycars. A passagc
lound in thc \inaya Pitaka saying that by acccpting womcn
to thc Òrdcr would shortcn 8uddhism only to ¡oo ycars
provcd to bc invalid.
Vhcn King Asoka thc Grcat camc to thc thronc around
:±8 n.v., (about :oo n.c.) hc madc it clcar his policy to support
and propagatc 8uddhism by scnding out missionarics at
ninc dißcrcnt dircctions. Ònc particular mission was lcd
by Mahinda Tcra, thc king’s son, to cstablish 8uddhism
in Sri Lanka. Latcr Princcss Anula, sistcrinlaw ol King
Ðcvanampiya Tissa ol Sri Lanka cxprcsscd hcr dcsirc to bc
ordaincd as bhikkhuni. \cn Mahinda Tcra suggcstcd that
:6 :·
thc King scnd an ambassador to King Asoka ol !ndia asking
pcrmission lrom him to invitc \cn 8hikkhuni Sanghamitta
Tcri, his sistcr, and thc bhikkhuni Sangha to comc to
cstablish thc bhikkhuni Sangha in Sri Lanka.
Tc 8hikkhuni Sanghamitta arrivcd in Sri Lanka along
with a group ol bhikkhunis and also brought with hcr a
sapling ol thc 8odhi trcc as a tokcn ol rcspcct to King
Ðcvanampiya Tissa. Princcss Anula and hcr largc rctinuc
rcccivcd ordination and bccamc thc nrst group ol Sri Lankan
bhikkhunis. Princcss Sanghamitta Tcri rcmaincd in Sri
Lanka until hcr last day.
!n China, Ching Chicn was thc nrst Chincsc woman
to rcqucst ordination, and rcccivcd ordination lrom only
thc bhikkhu Sangha. Latcr in o·: n.v., (about ±:o ~.b.) thc
8hikkhuni Ðcvasara lrom Sri Lanka was invitcd along with
a group ol +o bhikkhunis who arrivcd in Nanking and gavc
ordination to :oo Chincsc womcn.
Tc ordination ol thc bhikkhunis in China branchcd out
to cstablish thc bhikkhuni Sangha in Korca and ¡ast Asia,
which has survivcd until thc prcscnt day.
�estion ��
Are there bhikkhunis also in other countries?
A
part lrom bhikkhunis in Asian countrics, in thc past
: to : dccadcs 8uddhism has sprcad wcstward.
:8 :o
An important wavc ol 8uddhists going wcst is thc Tibctan
lincagc, sincc H.H. thc Ðalai Lama cscapcd lrom Tibct in
+o¡o. Many Tibctan monks and tcachcrs lollowcd suit. Tc
succcss ol 8uddhism in thc U.S.A. is mainly thc Tibctan
lincagc. Vomcn ordaincd in thc Tibctan lincagc arc mainly
lcmalc noviccs as is availablc in thc Tibctan lincagc.
Latcr whcn morc and morc wcstcrn womcn joincd thc
Tibctan lincagc, H.H. thc Ðalai Lama suggcstcd that thcy
could rcccivc highcr ordination lrom thc cxisting Chincsc
lincagc in Taiwan and Hong Kong. As a rcsult thcrc arc
somc lcading bhikkhunis in thc Tibctan lincagc now.
Hsi Lai Tcmplc, a branch lrom Fo Kuang Shan in Taiwan,
also plays an important rolc in oßcring ordination lor womcn
sincc +o88.
As thc numbcr ol Vcstcrn bhikkhunis in thc Tibctan
lincagc grcw, thcrc was a training coursc on vinaya oßcrcd lor
thcm in 8odh Gaya (+oo6) whcrc morc than +oo bhikkhunis
and lcmalc noviccs attcndcd.
!n Ðcccmbcr +oo6, an ordination lor +o Sri Lankan
womcn was oßcrcd and organisc by thc Korcan bhikkhu
Sangha in Sarnath, !ndia. Fo Kuang Shan is also planning
to host an ordination lor bhikkhunis in 8odh Gaya, !ndia
schcdulcd lor Fcbruary +¡–::, +oo8. Tc nccd lor womcn
to cnjoy and lcad a rcligious lilc is lclt worldwidc and wc
now scc hclping hands cxtcnding lrom thc Chincsc and
Korcan Sanghas to hclp support and cstablish thc bhikkhuni
Sangha in countrics whcrc ordination ol womcn is still not
availablc.
:8 :o
�estion ��
Are there bhikkhunis in �eravada tradition?
T
his qucstion cannot bc answcrcd in a simplc “ycs” or “no.”
Vc nccd to undcrstand that whcn thc 8uddha cstablishcd
lour groups ol 8uddhists, namcly bhikkhus, bhikkhunis,
laymcn and laywomcn, thcrc was no distinction bctwccn
Tcravada and Mahayana. !n lact thc dißcrcntiation camc
into cxistcncc many hundrcd ycars altcrwards.
Tc bhikkhunis who wcnt to plant thc sccd ol ordination
in China bclongcd to Tcravada, and cvcn thc vinaya which
thc Chincsc Sangha lollow is Ðhammagupta, subscct lrom
Tcravada.
Ðuring King Asoka’s pcriod in thc :rd ccntury n.v. thcrc
wcrc at lcast :: schools but with clcar rccord and scparatc
sct ol tcachings only +8 schools wcrc cstablishcd, twclvc
sprang lrom thc carly branch and cight cmcrgcd lrom
thc Mahasanghika which could bc roughly said to bc thc
lorcrunncr ol Mahayana.
Tc basic rcason lor Tcravada not to acccpt bhikkhuni
Sangha tracing thcir lincagc lrom Mahayana lincagc is
unloundcd. Tc ordination lincagc lollowcd by Mahayana
dcrivcd lrom carly 8uddhism.
Ncxt qucstion is how docs Mahayana dißcr lrom Tcravada:
Gcncrally spcaking Mahayana dißcrs lrom Tcravada in its
philosophical cxposition ol Ðharma. Howcvcr, thc highly
complcx way ol cxplaining dharma all took root lrom thc carly
±o ±+
tcaching ol 8uddhism which branchcd out and blossomcd in
Mahayana.
�estion ��
Why is there no bhikkhuni Ordination in �ailand?
8
hikkhuni Òrdination as mcntioncd carlicr rcquircs
dual ordinations, that is, a woman is nrst ordaincd by
thc bhikkhuni Sangha thcn bhikkhu Sangha. 8ccausc thc
bhikkhuni Sangha ncvcr camc to Tailand hcncc thcrc is
ncithcr bhikkhuni ordination nor bhikkhuni Sangha.
Tc Sukhothai pcriod, +:th to +:th ccntury, has bccn
considcrcd thc goldcn agc ol 8uddhism. 8oth mcn and
womcn wcrc sccn practising 8uddhism, obscrving prcccpts.
Tc king not only practiscd 8uddhism himscll but was
lcarncd cnough to givc prcaching on cvcry lull moon day.
Ðuring thc ±+· ycars ol Ayudhya, thc lollowing pcriod,
whcrc thc Tai capital shiltcd south to Ayudhya, Tailand
wcnt through dimcult timc. Tcrc was constant warlarc
both with invadcrs and among thc mighty powcrs within
thc country. Tc disturbing social contcxt was not an idcal
scat lor cithcr 8uddhist lcarning or practicc.
Tcrc wcrc lcwcr pcoplc intcrcstcd to study 8uddhism.
Tc immcdiatc conccrn ol lcading daytoday lilc took its
prcccdcncc. !t is unthinkablc that womcn would havc amplc
timc to think ol practising 8uddhism cnough to commit
thcmsclvcs to ordaincd lilc.
±o ±+
From a comparativc study wc nnd onc common lactor
rcsponsiblc lor thc ordination ol womcn: it is that womcn arc
committcd to 8uddhism dccply cnough to inspirc thcm to
think ol lcading an ordaincd lilc. Tis is truc in Sri Lanka,
China, Korca, and ]apan, but in Tailand, Tai womcn do
not yct havc that opportunity.
�estion ��
Is it possible to introduce bhikkhuni Sangha in
�ailand?
T
hc story ol a strugglc lor thc rcvival ol bhikkhuni
ordination datcs as lar back as +o:· whcn Narin Klucng
had his two daughtcrs, Sara and Chongdi, ordaincd as
bhikkhunis. Tcy wcrc dcnicd lrom both lcvcls — thc Sangha
and thc royal lamily. Howcvcr, thcrc is a complicatcd issuc
which nccds a critical look. Mr Narin 8hasit or commonly
callcd by local pcoplc as Narin Khlucng, was a politician
who was outspokcnly critical ol thc laxity ol thc Sangha.
Hc tricd to crcatc a group ol libcral mindcd pcoplc around
him.Apparcntly hc was quitc an advanccd social critic ol his
timc. Hc challcngcd both thc Sangha and absolutc Monarchy.
As a rcsult hc was an objcct ol suspicion both lrom thc Sangha
and Royal mcmbcrs.
Hc promotcd thc bhikkhuni Sangha so much so that
±: ±:
hc oßcrcd two ol his daughtcrs to bcgin by ordaining as
samancris (lcmalc noviccs) thcn latcr on as bhikkhunis. Tc
idca may bc right but it was shroudcd by his othcr political
motivcs rcsulting in both thc Sangha and thc royal lamily’s
dcnial ol his attcmpt to rcvivc thc bhikkhuni Sangha in
Tailand.
His two daughtcrs, along with somc othcr · to 8
bhikkhunis who staycd at Vat Nariwong, on a piccc ol land
donatcd lor rcligious activitics by Narin Klucng himscll,
wcrc ordcrcd to disrobc. His two daughtcrs rcsistcd and wcrc
arrcstcd, thcn put in jail and thc robcs wcrc litcrally rcmovcd
lrom thcm. From this incidcnt, thc committcc ol thc cldcrs
passcd an ordcr lorbidding any bhikkhus to givc bhikkhuni,
samancri, or sikkhamana ordination to womcn (+o:8) Tis
ordcr has not bccn liltcd.
Tcchnically both Sara and Chongdi rcccivcd ordination
only lrom bhikkhus, hcncc not acccptablc according to thc
Tai Sangha. 8ut undcr thc said circumstancc, had thcir
ordination bccn valid lrom dual ordination, thcy would still
havc bccn rcjcctcd undcr othcr prctcxts bccausc thcy wcrc
Narin Klucng’s daughtcrs.
Somc :o ycars latcr Mrs \oramai Kabilsingh, a lady
ol morc or lcss thc samc agc as Sara and Chongdi tricd
to look lor a mcans to bc ordaincd so as to lcad a propcr
rcligious lilcstylc. 8ut all thc Tai monks shc approachcd
connrmcd that it is not possiblc. Shc lound a Chincsc
monk (\cn YcnKiat) who translatcd lor hcr thc bhikkhuni
Patimokkha ol thc Ðharmagupta school and suggcstcd that
±: ±:
shc can still rcccivc bhikkhuni ordination lrom thc Chincsc
Sangha in Taiwan. !n +o·+ shc wcnt to rcccivc bhikkhuni
ordination lrom Tao An Fa Tzu at Sung San Tcmplc in
Taiwan. Hcncc, shc is thc nrst Tai bhikkhuni with lull
ordination. Upon hcr rcturn to Tailand shc continucd
hcr involvcmcnt both in propagating 8uddhism and social
commitmcnt c.g. printing prcss, orphanagc, publication ol
dharma magazincs, ctc.
Looking at this particular issuc globally, Tai 8uddhist
womcn cannot rcmain isolatcd any longcr but havc to opcn
thcmsclvcs up to thc dcvclopmcnt ol 8uddhist womcn around
thc world. !n thc past two to thrcc dccadcs 8uddhist womcn
intcrnationally havc bccn moving in unison towards sccking
bhikkhuni ordination, sccking a lilcstylc that would makc
thcmsclvcs morc bcncncial to socicty. Tailand also is aßcctcd
by this positivc movc ol 8uddhist womcn intcrnationally.
!n Tailand, thc rcvival ol thc bhikkhuni Sangha is an
idcal laying ahcad ol us, but thc morc immcdiatc conccrn
is to build a loundation ol 8uddhist cducation and training
both at an individual lcvcl as wcll as at thc govcrnmcnt lcvcl,
so that wc could gcnuincly look lorward to a timc whcn
8uddhists, both mcn and womcn, can work sidc by sidc to
support 8uddhism in thcir lull potcntial.
Tc bhikkhuni lilcstylc nccds vcry committcd pcoplc
which will bc small in numbcr, but thc opportunity should still
bc opcn lor thosc lcw who would likc to dcvotc thcmsclvcs to
study and practicc and to bc spiritual rolc modcls lor womcn
lolk.
±± ±¡
�estion ��
Is it true that monks are not to touch women because
women are impure?
Ò
nc ol thc practiccd customs is that womcn arc not to
comc into dircct contact with monks applics only in
Tailand. Tcrc is no such prohibition lound in thc \inaya.
!n thc Tripitaka whcn Ananda asks how a monk should
bchavc towards womcn, thc 8uddha was madc to say “Stay
away lrom thcm,” and il thcy should conlront womcn
“thcy arc not to look at thcm.” !l this instruction is truc wc
havc to takc it with a grain ol salt. !t is possiblc that this
instruction is mcant only lor Ananda. As wc know hc was
a good looking monk and had a charming pcrsonality. At
onc ccrtain instant hc almost lost himscll to a scductivc
woman but thc 8uddha intcrvcncd and savcd him. Tc
tcaching might also bc takcn, as gcncral instruction whcn
wc undcrstand that most monks arc still not cnlightcncd
bcings. Should thcy bc allowcd closc conncction with
womcn, thcy can casily bccomc conluscd. To avoid bcing
sidctrackcd, monks should kccp clcar lrom womcn. 8ut not
having dircct contact with womcn docs not imply impurity
an inhcrcnt ncgativc quality in womcn.
Tc 8uddha himscll ncvcr had to avoid womcn. Hc
rcccivcd thcm at cvcry appropriatc timc bccausc hc was
cnlightcncd having transccndcd any scxual inclination. Tcrc
is also morc positivc passagc in which hc rccommcndcd
±± ±¡
monks to trcat womcn thc samc agc as thcir mothcrs thc
way thcy would trcat thcir mothcrs, ctc.
How can thc lour groups ol 8uddhists work togcthcr
as loundation lor 8uddhism whcn womcn as hall ol thc
population arc always cxcludcd: !l womcn arc wcakcncd in
supporting thc Sanghas, 8uddhism also bccomcs mcaninglcss
as it is uscd as a tool lor libcrating only thc othcr hall ol thc
population. 8oth womcn and mcn must comc togcthcr as
cstablishcd by thc 8uddha in supporting and promoting
8uddhism.
�estion ��
It is commonly believed that women are unclean.
How true is this belief?
M
any tcmplcs do not allow womcn to circumambulatc
around thc stupas. Tcrc is clcar cvidcncc ol it
particularly in thc north ol Tailand. Tis practicc cannot
nnd any support in thc actual 8uddhist tcaching but is
commonly bclicvcd and handcd down as custom.
Tis bclicl in lact lound its root in Hinduism whcrc womcn
arc sccn as rcligiously unclcan bccausc ol thcir mcnstruation.
Taking an oppositc standpoint, onc could say that womcn
posscss natural powcr. Tcy arc capablc ol nullilying sacrcd
mantras long practiscd by Hindu mcn and pricsts. 8ccausc ol
this, 8rahmin pricsts had to kccp womcn outsidc thcir sacrcd
sanctuary. Mcn, with thcir supcrior position in socicty, must
±6 ±·
control womcn who posscss thc natural powcr and dcclarc
thcm unclcan during thc mcnstruation pcriod. Tis practicc
and bclicl is carricd into Tai custom unknowingly. ]ust to
givc an cxamplc, whilc lcrmcnting ricc, mcnstruating womcn
arc not allowcd ncar thc arca or thc ricc will bc spoilt. Tcy
bclicvc that mcnstruation holds sccrct powcr that can actually
ovcrcomc magical spcll. Tis is all Hindu bclicl and practicc
carricd ovcr into Tai culturc and most Tais would think
that prohibiting mcnstruating womcn is corrcct 8uddhist
practicc, but is lar lrom it.
From a 8uddhist point ol vicw, mcnstruation is a natural
physical cxcrction that womcn havc to go through on a
monthly basis, nothing morc or lcss. Ðuring this timc womcn
tcnd to havc wcakcr cmotional balancc. Tcy would nccd
rcligious support morc than any othcr timc. 8ut in practicc,
ironically, thcy arc kcpt out ol thc tcmplc and brandcd as
unclcan.
�estion ��
Why are women seen as a commodity?
V
omcn as ‘commodity’ is clcarly cxprcsscd in Manu
dharmasastra, a rcligious and social tcxt uphcld by thc
Hindus. Accordingly womcn arc sccn as a wcakcr scx, cannot
makc a dccision on thcir own, and thcy arc dcpcndcnt bcings.
As commodity, thcy must bc takcn carc ol by thcir parcnts
whcn young, by thcir husbands whcn marricd, by thcir sons
±6 ±·
whcn thcy arc old. Such a vicw ol womcn is dcnnitcly non
8uddhistic. 8uddhist tcaching providcs spacc lor both mcn
and womcn to grow spiritually, and thcy arc cqual lor thcir
spiritual potcntiality to achicvc cnlightcnmcnt.
�estion ��
Why do some temples in the north not allow women
to circumambulate the stupas?
M
any tcmplcs in Tailand, sccn particularly oltcn in
thc north, do not allow womcn to circumambulatc
thc stupas. Tc monks usually cxplain that thc rclics ol thc
8uddha arc placcd in thc ccntrc ol thc stupas at thc timc thcy
built it. !l womcn arc allowcd to circumambulatc thc stupa,
thcy would bc walking at thc lcvcl highcr than thc rclics and
hcncc might dcsacralisc thcm.
8y saying so, it logically implics that womcn arc so
powcrlul that thcy could actually dcsacralisc thc powcr ol
thc 8uddha’s rclics, which is, ol coursc, not thc casc.
Tc bclicl that womcn arc unclcan is not limitcd only
to !ndian socicty. Òldcr and primitivc socictics, particularly
tribal pcoplcs also hcld such bclicls. Tis rcsults lrom thcir
inability to cxplain thc myth ol mcnstruation.
All practiccs lollowing thc \cdas, particularly thc
Atharvavcda which arc lull ol black magic, somchow warn
thc practitioncrs to kccp away lrom coming in dircct contact
±8 ±o
with mcnstruating womcn as mcnstruation nullincs thc
magical powcr.As a rcsult all monks and mcn who havc
bccn lollowing thc \cdas sct rulcs prohibiting womcn lrom
cntcring sacrcd spacc. !n 8uddhist tcmplcs it is not practical
to limit only mcnstruating womcn, hcncc thc rulcs cxtcnd to
limit all womcn.
Ðuring thc Ayudhya pcriod, 8uddhist monks and
magic mastcrs wcrc lorccd out ol ncccssity to lcarn various
art ol magical powcr to hclp thcir disciplcs to go through
thc lrcqucnt warlarc ol thc pcriod. Tcy also lollowcd this
prohibition ol womcn in ordcr to strcngthcn thcir magical
practiccs. 8uddhist monks wcrc inscparablc lrom Hindu
bclicls and practiccs, rcsulting in a dcnial ol thc truc spirit ol
8uddhism and thc loss ol 8uddhist tcachings and practiccs.
!n this manncr, wc oltcn nnd many Hindu practiccs acccptcd
undcr thc namc ol 8uddhism.
!t may bc concludcd that thc bclicls and practiccs as
carricd out by 8uddhist monks arc not ncccssarily 8uddhist.
8uddhists must bc awarc ol this blcnd which took placc in
our historical contcxt and must bc ablc to distinguish what is
8uddhism and lollow its tcaching with a critical mind.
From thc abovc casc wc scc that local bclicls uncritically
handcd ovcr through tradition somctimcs could lorm into
ncgativc social valucs which bccomc cßcctivc tool to supprcss
womcn. Mcrcly cxtcrnal changcs in cstablishing lcgal rights
docs not always guarantcc a changc in attitudc and social
valucs. Vc nccd to bc nrm in our study ol 8uddhist tcxts as
thcy providc us a strong basis to bring about a ncw insight
±8 ±o
with spiritual strcngth that is ncccssary and important to
lcad us towards a morc positivc attitudc towards womcn and
in thc long run lor an improvcmcnt ol 8uddhist socicty.
�estion ��
It is o�en said that “women are enemy to the life of
purity.” How do you explain this saying?
T
his is thc 8uddha’s instruction to thc monks as lound in
thc Tripitaka. Tc 8uddha warncd thcm to bc carclul ol
womcn. As a rcsult, in Tailand, it is a custom whcn a woman
wants to makc oßcring to a monk, thc monk always has to lay
a piccc ol cloth to rcccivc it. Vomcn tcnd to lccl thcmsclvcs
lowly and not worthy, somc would cvcn scc thcmsclvcs as
obstaclcs to thc purity ol monks.
Vc havc to takc this tcaching in a ncw light. Tis is onc
ol thc cxamplcs showing how thc tcaching is androccntric by
naturc, giving thc tcaching lrom thc standpoint and intcrcst
ol monks.
Ncwly ordaincd monks with littlc mcntal training might
casily bc lcd by dcnlcmcnts through contact with womcn.
!t is not thc lault ol womcn, but rathcr thc wcakncss ol
thc monks, so thcy havc to bc mindlul whcn thcy comc in
contact with thc oppositc scx. ¡vcn without womcn in lront
ol thcm, somc monks still lacc problcms lrom “Vomcn” in
thcir own imagination and thoughts. Vomcn cannot bc hcld
¡o ¡+
rcsponsiblc lor any lailurc on thc monks’ sidc. Tc monks
thcmsclvcs havc to train and uplilt thcmsclvcs lrom scxual
dcsirc. Tosc who arc alrcady cnlightcncd havc transccndcd
gcndcr dißcrcnccs. Tc 8uddha ncvcr had to avoid womcn,
as thcy no morc appcarcd to him as scx objccts. Hc was wcll
balanccd and mastcr ol all dcsircs.
!n thc convcrsation with Ananda, thc 8uddha instructcd
him not to look at womcn, and not to lingcr whilc talking to
thcm. “Tcrc is no strongcr bonding lor mcn than womcn”.
At thc samc timc hc also warncd womcn “thcrc is no strongcr
bonding lor womcn than mcn,” and “mcn arc also cncmy to
thc purity ol womcn.” 8ut thc lattcr tcaching is not applicablc
to monks, and as wc havc only monks giving tcaching in
Tailand wc hcar only a onc sidcd tcaching lor mcn. As a
rcsult socicty tcnds to blamc womcn as il womcn arc thc only
sourcc ol impurity.
�estion ��
Is it true that once women were admi�ed to the Order,
Buddhism will be shortened to 500 years?
A
ltcr womcn wcrc acccptcd to join thc Òrdcr it is rccordcd
in thc \inaya that thc 8uddha prophcsicd that 8uddhism
would bc shortcncd to ¡oo ycars.
Luckily wc arc now somc :,ooo ycars lrom thc timc thc
tcaching ol thc 8uddha was rccordcd and wc arc in a position
¡o ¡+
to judgc clcarly that such a saying was purcly with bias against
womcn and not in conlormity with thc spirit ol 8uddhism.
Vc havc studicd thc historical contcxt to scc how both thc
bhikkhu and bhikkhuni Sanghas prospcrcd in !ndia alongsidc
cach othcr. Ðuring King Asoka’s rcign (c. :rd Ccntury n.c.)
Sanghamitta Tcri, thc King’s daughtcr was invitcd along with
a group ol bhikkhunis to cstablish thc bhikkhuni Sangha in
Sri Lanka and thcy rcccivcd lull royal support and prospcrcd
lor morc than a thousand ycars.
!n !ndia, both historical and archacological nndings
provcd that thc bhikkhuni Sangha cxistcd through +o++th
ccntury ~.b. c.g. a stonc inscription lound at 8odh Gaya
mcntioncd that Kuranji bhikkhuni, lormcr wilc ol King
!ndramitra bccamc cnlightcncd, an inscription lrom Kusana
mcntioncd thc 8uddhamitta bhikkhuni, disciplc ol thc monk
8ala was rccognizcd as “Tripitaka” onc who was wcll vcrscd
in thc Tripitaka. Tcsc cvidcnccs arc wcighty cnough to say
that both Sanghas cxistcd sidc by sidc until thc Turk Muslims
attackcd !ndia.
!n Sri Lanka altcr thc arrival ol Sanghamitta Tcri and
thc bhikkhunis lrom !ndia, thcy gavc ordination to Princcss
Anula, King Ðcvanampiya Tissa’s sistcrinlaw along with a
largc numbcr ol womcn lrom thc royal court. An inscription
lrom thc +6th Ccntury lound at Kukurumahandamana
mcntioncd Mahindarama Hospital situatcd in lront ol thc
bhikkhuni Arama in Anuradhapura. !t sccms that bhikkhunis
at that timc wcrc also involvcd in thc social wcllarc ol thc
pcoplc. 8oth thc Mahavamsa and Culavarnsa rclcrrcd to
¡: ¡:
activitics ol thc bhikkhuni Sangha. Ònly altcr +o¡o ~.b.,
altcr thc invasion ol a South !ndian King, both thc bhikkhu
and bhikkhuni Sanghas disappcarcd lrom Sri Lanka. Latcr
on Tai monks camc to Sri Lanka on royal invitation and rc
cstablishcd thc bhikkhu Sangha which continucs its cxistcncc
up to prcscnt day. Tcrc was no mcntion ol thc bhikkhuni
Sangha.
Ðuring thc timc thc bhikkhuni Sangha prospcrcd in Sri
Lanka, a group ol thcm wcnt to China on invitation and
cstablishcd thc bhikkhuni Sangha thcrc in ±:± ~.b. this lincagc
sprcad to thc ncighbouring countrics likc Korca and \ictnam.
Two points nccd to bc mcntioncd in this conncction.
First, it is to bc notcd that 8uddhism still prospcrs in thc
prcscnt cra (n.v. :¡±o/+oo· ~.b.) not only in thc ¡ast but it
also travcllcd to thc lar Vcst and bcgins to takc root thcrc.
Sccond, wc nccd to mcntion that thc disappcarancc ol
both thc Sanghas thcy wcrc always togcthcr. Tcsc historical
lacts and cvidcnccs disqualily thc common bclicl that by
acccpting womcn to thc Òrdcr 8uddhism will bc shortcncd
only to ¡oo ycars.
�estion ��
Why cannot women become buddhas?
8
uddhist acadcmics cxplain that in thc lormation ol thc
Tripitaka somc parts arc oldcr than thc othcrs. Tc oldcst
¡: ¡:
is thc Patimokkha, which is thc monastic codc lor both
monks and nuns. !n Tcravada thcrc arc ::· rulcs lor monks
and :++ lor bhikkhunis.
Vc lound that thc part ol thc Tripitaka whcrc wcrc thc
passagc rclcrring to womcn’s inability to bccomc buddhas
happcncd at lcast ¡oo ycars altcr thc 8uddha’s passing
away whcn Mahayana alrcady had comc into cxistcncc.
At that timc thcrc alrcady dcvclopcd thc idcal that thc
8uddha was not ordinary bcing but had a supcrnatural
cxistcncc. 8uddhists bcgan to prcscribc to thc 8uddha thc
:: Mahapurisa charactcristics as bclicvcd to bc thc qualitics
ol grcat monarch. Ònc ol thcsc charactcristics prcscribcd
that thc 8uddha must havc his pcnis in a shcath that is
covcrcd, mcaning that thc 8uddha has transccndcd scxual
dcsirc. Latcr on this rcquircmcnt is cmphasiscd only ‘having
thc pcnis,’ hcncc cnding up with thc undcrstanding that
womcn cannot bccomc buddhas. Tis bclicl continucd on
lor a thousand ycars.
Tcachcrs in thc latcr timc had dimculty cxplaining
this limitation on gcndcr and dcvclopcd thc tcachings to
accommodatc womcn by saying that il a woman achicvcd
a highcr standard ol spiritual dcvclopmcnt shc may bc
translormcd into a malc.
Somc ol thc Mahayana Sutras c.g. Sukhavati \yuha Sutra
mcntions Amitabha 8uddha who prcsidcs ovcr thc Vcstcrn
Paradisc. Vithin this rcalm (8uddhaksctra), womcn who havc
strong laith in him will bc born as mcn. Such bclicl is bascd,
not on thc dislikc ol womcn, or that womcn cannot practisc
¡± ¡¡
dharma, but out ol compassion that womcn havc to go through
thc physical sußcring ol child birth, ctc. Tis is truc as in thc
oldcn days mcdical carc was lar bchind. Hcncc somctimcs wc
hcar a comparison bctwccn a woman having to go through
child birth to a man going to war. Vith this undcrstanding
and out ol compassion, Amitabha 8uddha allows womcn with
laith in him to bc born in his rcalm as mcn.
Anothcr sutra not much known among thc Tais is that
ol Aksobhaya 8uddha who prcsidcs ovcr in thc ¡astcrn
Paradisc. Tis rcalm is dißcrcnt lrom that ol Amitabha
8uddha, a woman born in this rcalm rctains hcr womanhood,
and should shc dcsirc to havc a child, a child is born without
conccption, without having to go through thc sußcring ol
child birth, ctc, and climinatcs complctcly thc involvcmcnt
ol thc malc countcrpart. Tis may bc sccn as compassion
cxprcsscd by Aksobtaya 8uddha, onc stcp morc advanccd
than Sukhavati in thc scnsc that it rccogniscs womanhood
and mothcrhood.
Again thc Saddharmapundarika Sutra, a major tcxt lor
Mahayana ol all schools, mcntions in onc ol its chaptcrs, a
daughtcr ol a naga (divinc scrpcnt) who was as young as
8 ycars old but wcll vcrscd in dharma. Shc oßcrcd a jcwcl
to Sariputra. As Sariputra rcccivcd thc oßcring shc statcd
that shc can changc into malc lorm lastcr than thc timc
Sariputra rcccivcd thc oßcring lrom hcr. !n this contcxt, this
particular mcssagc mcans that onc bccomcs cnlightcncd, thcn
translorms thc gcndcr. !n othcr words onc has to transccnd
gcndcr in ordcr to bc cnlightcncd. To bc cnlightcncd is to
¡± ¡¡
bc lrcc lrom all bindings and limitations including gcndcr.
Òncc cnlightcncd, malc or lcmalc rctains no dißcrcncc.
Anothcr important Mahayana Sutra, thc \imalakirti
Nidcsa Sutra, mcntions an cncountcr bctwccn Sariputra
and a goddcss who rcsidcs in \imalakirti’s rcsidcncc. Altcr
having a long dharma talk with hcr, hc was imprcsscd at hcr
knowlcdgc ol dharma in spitc ol thc lact that shc was only a
lcmalc. As il rcalizing ighcr lcvcl ol dharma bclongs only to
malc, hc askcd hcr why shc still rctains lcmalc gcndcr. Tc
goddcss rcplicd that sincc shc had bccn thcrc lor +: ycars,
shc had cxamincd hcr mind and was not ablc to hold on to
anything lcmalc. As this was thc casc, shc was not ablc to
changc hcr gcndcr. Vhilc discussing, with hcr miraculous
powcr, shc translormcd hcrscll into Sariputra and vicc vcrsa.
Tc goddcss who was now in Sariputra’s lorm askcd Sariputra
who was now in thc goddcss’ lorm il hc could changc back to
his own lorm. Sariputra said that having cxamincd himscll
(which was thcn hcrscll) hc could not nnd thc csscncc ol
bcing lcmalc. Tc goddcss again rcvcrscd hcr miraculous
powcr and rcturncd Sariputra to his lormcr scll, and shc to
hcr lormcr scll. Tcn shc cxplaincd that in thc practicc ol
highcst dharma thcrc is no csscncc ol bcing malc or lcmalc.
Tus how can onc hold on to bcing malc or lcmalc:!n thc
practicc ol dharma onc should not hold on to any particular
lorm, ncithcr malc nor lcmalc. An cnlightcncd mind is
bcyond clinging c.g. clinging to malc or lcmalc, good or bad.
Lokuttara dharma is nonduality, cnlightcnmcnt is a statc ol
mind which is lrcc lrom thc rcalm ol thc convcntional.
¡6 ¡·
�estion ��
What is Buddhist a�itude towards prostitution?
¡
vcry timc whcn ! attcndcd an intcrnational conlcrcncc
abroad ! was askcd: why docs Tailand with its population
ol 6o millions and o±º ol which arc 8uddhists still havc
so many prostitutcs: ¡vcn womcn travclling outsidc thc
country oltcn arc mistrcatcd, bcing takcn to havc thc samc
prolcssion.
As 8uddhists, wc havc to undcrstand that 8uddhism docs
not blamc womcn who havc to work as prostitutcs lor thcir
living. 8ut prostitution promotcs unwholcsomc acts both on
thc parts ol thc mcn and prostitutcs thcmsclvcs. !n a rcscarch
by Ðr Tcpanom Muangmacn, hc rcportcd a girl who had
to providc scxual scrvicc to :o mcn a night during Chincsc
Ncw Ycar. !t is undcrstandablc lrom thc prostitutc’s point ol
vicw that shc was lorccd to do it out ol povcrty and nccd lor
survival, but what about thc :o mcn buying scrvicc lrom hcr:
Vhat ncccssity do thcy havc apart lrom thc answcr to thcir
lustlul dcsirc:
Tc 8uddha did not look down upon prostitutcs. Òn
thc contrary hc providcd opportunity lor thcm to cntcr thc
rightlul path in thc samc manncr as othcr. Òncc hc acccptcd
an invitation lrom Ambapali, a courtcsan, lor lunch on thc
ncxt day. Altcr that thc Licchavi princcs camc and oßcrcd
him an invitation again. Hc dcclincd as hc alrcady acccptcd
an invitation lorm Ambapali. Tis courtcsan was thc samc
¡6 ¡·
pcrson who latcr oßcrcd him and thc Sangha a mango grovc
lor thc monks’ rcsidcncc.
]ivaka, thc lamous physician who attcndcd pcrsonally to
thc 8uddha and thc Sangha was also born ol a prostitutc. Hc
was ncvcr lrowncd upon lor his birth.
8cing a prostitutc is not an obstaclc to cnlightcnmcnt
il shc is willing and diligcntly practiscs dharma. !n lact,
thc cxpcricncc ol a prostitutc could hclp hcr towards
cnlightcnmcnt sooncr than othcrwisc.
8uddhism docs not support prostitutcs. Òn thc contrary
it points out that prostitution is an unwholcsomc act.
8uddhists do not look down upon prostitutcs. !l thcy
choosc to practicc dharma, thcy havc an cqual, il not bcttcr
chancc to bccomc cnlightcncd.
�estion ��
What is an a�itude of a Buddhist towards abortion?
A
mong wcstcrn lcminists, abortion is onc ol thc most
discusscd social issucs. Ònc argucs that a woman
should havc right ovcr hcr body bccausc it is hcrs. 8uddhism
docs not arguc on this point but takcs a clcar stand that
abortion is killing.Ònc who chooscs abortion transgrcsscs
thc nrst prcccpt. 8ut whcthcr thc govcrnmcnt should
pass a bill to lcgalizc abortion or not is an issuc which
¡8 ¡o
nccds considcration lrom various rclatcd nclds c.g. social,
cconomic, cultural, ctc.
To thc argumcnt which raiscs a qucstion whcthcr
abortion is killing “lilc” or not, 8uddhism supplics a
dctailcd cxplanation ol conccption and its various stagc
ol lormation. Tis cxplains thc coming togcthcr ol spcrm
and cgg, thcn through +st, :nd, :rd and ±th wcck to a
stagc callcd ‘Pancasakha’ or “¡ branchcs” namcly hcad,
arms, lcgs, “Lilc” is prcscnt through all thcsc stagcs sincc
conccption.
To complctc killing thcrc arc at lcast ¡ lactors:
.. that it has lilc,
:. knowing that it has lilc,
.. willingncss to kill,
¡. try to kill,
·. that lilc is dcstroycd.
!l onc has complctcd thcsc nvc lactors, killing is complctcd
bcaring lruit ol action (\ipakkarma).
As a 8uddhist woman, onc may bc lorccd to choosc abortion
but must bc willing to rcccivc thc lruit ol hcr action without
trying to cxplain away thc tcaching to suits onc’s choicc.
Tat a man should bcar cqual rcsponsibility ol prcgnancy
is truc but cntircly a scparatc issuc to considcr.
¡8 ¡o
�estion ��
What is the historical development of mae jis? And
what is their present status?
T
hc oldcst historical cvidcncc on mac jis is lound in a rccord
writtcn by a Christian missionary who visitcd Tailand
during mid Ayudhya pcriod (arond +·th ccntury ~.b.) giving
an imagc ol an cldcrly woman wcaring whitc rcsiding in thc
monastcry compound.
Tc word ‘ ji’ is still arguablc. Somc mac jis think that
it dcrivcs lrom ‘]ina’, mcaning “a conqucror,” but this word
is usually uscd lor thc 8uddha, it is doubtlul thcn il mac ji
would usc thc word in thc samc scnsc. !n thc 8uddha’s timc,
thcrc was parivrajika, which mcans ascctics, but again thcy
bclong to a non8uddhistic scct. Tcrc is yct anothcr group
known as ‘Ajivika’ also non8uddhists. !n old Tai litcraturc,
thcrc is mcntioning ol ‘ ji plucy’ to dcnotc thc nakcd ascctics
bclonging to thc ]ain rcligion. Tc word ‘ ji’ mcans simply
‘ordaincd onc’ and could apply to both gcndcrs. Tc prcnx
‘mac’ litcrally mcans ‘mothcr’, but actually only dcnotcs lcmalc
gcndcr. Hcncc ‘mac ji’ should mcan ‘ordaincd woman’.
Lcgally thcrc is no rcgulation applicablc to mac jis.
Gcncrally it implics 8uddhist womcn with shavcd hcad,
wcaring whitc, obscrving ¡–8 prcccpts. Tcy could rcsidc
in thc tcmplc compound or at homc. Tc Ðcpartmcnt
ol Rcligious Aßairs docs not considcr thcm “ordaincd”
rcsulting in thc uncvcn trcatmcnt mac jis gct lrom various
6o 6+
rclatcd ministrics. Tc Ministry ol communication docs
not considcr thcm ‘ordaincd’ hcncc thcy cannot apply lor
spccial hall larc on train scrvicc. Tc Ministry ol !ntcrior
considcrs thcm ‘ordaincd’ hcncc thcy losc thcir right to votc
whcn it comcs to clcction timc. Tc monks gcncrally would
group thcm togcthcr with upasika, laywomcn. According to
classical 8uddhist grouping, thcrc arc monks, nuns, laymcn
and laywomcn. Mac jis rcally do not nt in any onc ol thcsc
catcgorics.
Grouping of Buddhist communities
8hikkhus (monks) 8hikkhunis (nuns)
Laymcn Laywomcn
Tcy arc not lay womcn as thcy obscrvc a morc committcd
rcligious lilcstylc, yct thcy arc not nuns (bhikkhuni) as thc
bhikkhunis obscrvc :++ prcccpts and go through ordination
proccdurc whcrc as mac jis havc only 8 prcccpts with no lormal
ordination.
Tc !nstitutc ol Mac jis undcr Hcr Majcsty’s Royal
Patronagc has madc a lrcqucnt attcmpt to dcal with bcgging
mac jis, considcring thcir action to dcstroy thc imagc ol mac
jis in gcncral but thc problcm still lingcrs on. As long as thcrc
is no dcnnitc policy lor action, as long as thc Ðcpartmcnt ol
Rcligious Aßairs has not takcn into considcration to clarily
thc status ol mac jis, organizing thc rcgistration and issuing
6o 6+
!.Ð. cards lor mac jis so that cach onc may bc chcckcd and
rightly placcd, parasitcs cannot bc wccdcd out.
Gcncrally mac jis arc poor and lack propcr cducation. Tc
gcncral public do not scc mac jis as a rcprcscntation ol womcn
trying to lcad a rcligious lilc. Socicty, thcrclorc, ncithcr
sharcs thc problcms that mac jis lacc nor havc any sympathy
lor thcm. Tcy bccomc a minority to wadc through obstaclcs
on thcir own without clcar dircction.
!n thc past dccadc, lcw womcn lrom uppcr strata ol socicty
with cducation, social and nnancial backup havc bccomc
mac jis. Tcy positivcly hclp to promotc social wcllarc and
improvc thc imagc ol mac jis. Mac jis thcmsclvcs bccomc
morc awarc that thcy nccd improvcmcnt in cducation cvcn
with cconomic limitations.
�estion ��
How can a mae ji share in social and religious
development?
T
hc condition which mac jis havc in rcality is dißcrcnt
lrom that which socicty cxpcct lrom thcm. Socicty
considcrs mac jis as human rcsourcc availablc lor social and
rcligious dcvclopmcnt. Tcrclorc socicty cxpccts to scc mac
jis commit thcmsclvcs in social wcllarc works, c.g. taking
carc ol orphans, agcd citizcn ctc.
!n rcality in thc wholc country thc numbcr ol mac jis
do not cxcccd +o,ooo. Òut ol this 8oº havc complctcd only
6: 6:
gradc ±– 6 ol lormal cducation. Tc samc pcrccntagc camc
lrom a larmcrs’ background, having no nnancial support,
no social rccognition. Tcy havc to lcnd lor thcmsclvcs in a
“hand to mouth” manncr, somc with minimal support lrom
thcir lamilics. Tc idca to hclp othcrs or bc involvcd in social
wcllarc is too larlctchcd lor thcm. As a rcsult somc ol thcm
havc to bcg on thc strcct to mcct thcir monthly cxpcnscs.
Again thcrc arc a numbcr ol mac jis who choosc to bccomc
mac jis altcr having bccn turncd oß lrom worldly lilc. As thcy
ßcd lrom socicty, to cxpcct thcm to rcturn to gct involvcd in
social dcvclopmcnt contradicts thcir original intcntion.
!t is truc that mac jis can bc an cßcctivc human rcsourcc to
bcncnt socicty but a stcp is nccdcd bclorc that is to improvc mac
jis thcmsclvcs by providing thcm cducation and training so that
thcy can nrst hclp thcmsclvcs and not posc as a social burdcn.
Tcn thcy can guidc othcrs both in words and action.
To hclp improvc mac jis in a morc concrctc manncr is
to start a collcgc to providc lor thcm 8uddhist and gcncral
cducation so that mac jis can movc with thc ßow ol socicty, to
undcrstand social problcms and at thc samc timc bc cquippcd
with dharma knowlcdgc to guidc socicty towards a bcttcr
8uddhist community.
Tc Ðcpartmcnt ol Rcligious Aßairs, Ministry ol
¡ducation, is a govcrnmcnt unit rcsponsiblc dircctly lor thc
wcll bcing ol thc mac jis. !t is proposcd that thcy should
urgcntly nnd a mcasurc to rcgistcr thc mac jis to lcsscn thc
opportunity lor outsidcrs to cxploit thc position ol mac jis.
At thc samc timc thcy should considcr promoting mac jis in
6: 6:
a proccss to lortily mac jis as anothcr cßcctivc rcligious unit
to hclp cstablish and propagatc 8uddhism.
�estion ��
Why some families in the north sell their daughters
so that they can give ordination to their sons?
T
hai pcoplc hold on to thc valuc that to havc thcir sons
ordaincd is thc highcst lorm ol mcrit making. !n thc
villagc, whcn a son is :o ycars ol agc, it is a popular practicc
to arrangc lor ordination with : days cclcbration prior to
thc actual ritual ol ordination. Tc ‘calling kwan’ ccrcmony
could last through thc night by hiring thc bcst vocalist to
narratc thc story ol how thc mothcr had to cndurc sußcring ol
childbirth. Tcrclorc, thc mcrit lor ordaining a son is bclicvcd
to go dircctly to thc mothcr. Tcn thc lamily has to pay lor
thc paradc, taking thc wouldbc monk to thc monastcry with
various kinds ol oßcrings handcd by pairs ol young girls.Tc
proccssion could bc so claboratc that it takcs up hall a
kilomctrc long. Tcn thcrc arc oßcrings lor thc prcccptor, and
a pair ol tcachcrs rcsponsiblc lor thc tcaching and training ol
thc wouldbc monk. A chaptcr ol a minimum ol +o monks is
rcquircd. ¡ach onc ol thcm is cxpcctcd to rcccivc an oßcring.
Tcsc arc thc cxpcnscs that wclltodo lamilics arc willing to
go through at an ordination.Òthcr lamilics with lcss incomc
always try to livc up to this standard ol having claboratc
6± 6¡
cclcbration. Òrdination, a simplc ritual ol a pcrson to lct go
ol dcnlcmcnt, turns into a social lunction lor a lamily to show
oß thcir wcalth. Vhcn thc original purposc shiltcd, somc
lamilics without thcir own mcans to mcct such cxpcnsc arc
willing to scll thcir daughtcrs, thc only valuablc propcrty, in
ordcr to providc an claboratc ordination lor thcir sons.
Tc cldcst daughtcrs ol thc lamily arc usually rcqucstcd
by thcir parcnts to ‘sacrincc’ lor thcir youngcr siblings and to
bc ‘gratclul’ to do this lavour lor thcir parcnts. Tc parcnts
rcccivc ‘advancc moncy’ lrom agcnts lrom 8angkok so that
thcir daughtcrs can go to ‘work in 8angkok’ which could
includc working as scxworkcrs.
Tc cmphasis on thc valuc ol ordaining a son is a vcry highly
rccogniscd social valuc particularly in thc villagc. Òrdination
is thc only timc that thc mothcr is givcn highcst honour as shc
actually is allowcd to lcad thc prcccssion, a placc ol honour to
walk in lront ol thc wouldbc monk holding thc robc in hcr
hands. Normally it is thc mcn who would takc thc lcad in all
rituals in conncction with thc monks and thc tcmplcs.
A rclatcd custom still practiscd is to ordain a son bclorc hc
gcts marricd, with thc bclicl that all thc mcrit would go dircctly
to thc parcnts. 8ut il thc son is alrcady marricd, thc mothcr
might havc to sharc thc mcrit with thc daughtcrinlaw.
Such bclicl, though common, is not thc rcal 8uddhist
undcrstanding. 8uddhism allows womcn to bc ordaincd
thcmsclvcs.
Spiritual salvation is complctcly hcr own achicvcmcnt, not
bascd on dcvotion through hcr husbands as hcld in Hinduism.
6± 6¡
Vomcn do not havc to wait lor thc sons to pcrlorm thc nnal
ritcs to allow hcr to cntcr hcavcn.
Tc lcar ol a daughtcrinlaw sharing thc mcrit with thc
mothcr is also bascd on insccurity. Mcrit may bc comparcd
to candlc light, by lighting othcr candlcs, thc light lrom
thc original candlc docs not minimisc in any way. Òn thc
contrary, thc morc onc lights othcr candlcs, thc morc onc
brings light into thc world.
An important point that Tai womcn put much cmphasis
on ordination ol thcir sons is bccausc thcy thcmsclvcs havc no
opportunity to bc ordaincd, so thcy dcpcnd totally on thcir
sons to bring thcm this highcst lorm ol mcrit. !l womcn havc
opportunity to bc ordaincd, daughtcrs can cqually bring thc
highcst lorm ol mcrit to thc parcnts. !nstcad ol bcing askcd to
‘sacrincc’ to havc youngcr brothcrs ordaincd, thcy thcmsclvcs
can bring about that highcst lorm ol mcrit by bcing ordaincd
thcmsclvcs. Tcn shc no longcr has to play thc ‘sccond nddlc’
and can cqually cxprcss hcr gratitudc towards hcr parcnts
dircctly through hcr own commitmcnt and action.
�estion ��
Generally why people prefer to make ofering to
monks rather than mae jis?
M
onks arc a “ncld ol mcrit” as thcy lcad a chastc lilc,
and arc propagators ol thc tcaching ol 8uddhism.
66 6·
Having lclt houschold lilc thcy study and lollow thc path ol
thc 8uddha. Hcncc thcy arc worthy rccipicnts ol thc oßcring.
Òßcring lood to monks in thc morning not only providcs
thcm lood lor thcir wcllbcing but also supports thcm as
propagators ol 8uddhism. Tus pcoplc bclicvc that oßcring
to monks will bring thcm multiplc mcrit.
Mac jis who obscrvc thc prcccpts wcll and lollow thc
path ol thc 8uddha should bc considcrcd cqual rccipicnts.
8ut bccausc thc imagc that thcy projcct to thc pcoplc is
rathcr ncgativc rcsulting in thc undcrstanding that making
oßcrings to mac jis docs not incur cqual mcrit as mac jis arc
not ‘ordaincd’, thcy arc not propagators ol 8uddhism. 8csidcs
thcrc arc laywomcn who cxploit thc lorm ol mac jis to makc
thcir living. Tcsc arc somc ol thc rcasons rcsponsiblc lor thc
lack ol laith lrom socicty.
�estion ��
Why do women go to the temple and make merit more
than men?
T
his is corrcctly obscrvcd, cvcn though thcrc has not yct
bccn any omcial statistic to provc thc claim. Òn thc strcct
wc obscrvc that 8¡º ol pcoplc who oßcr lood to thc monks
arc womcn. Òn Van Pra (8uddhist day) ooº ol pcoplc who
comc to attcnd thc scrvicc, obscrvc prcccpts and listcn to thc
tcaching arc womcn. 8ut this should not lcad to a conclusion
66 6·
that womcn havc morc laith than mcn. Tcrc arc many othcr
variant lactors to considcr.
!n Tai socicty most mcn go to work whilc womcn arc
houscwivcs or takc carc ol privatc busincss. Tis allows
womcn to attcnd thc tcmplc scrvicc on ‘Van Pra’ morc casily
than mcn.
Tai socicty has traincd womcn to bc good lollowcrs, to
go to thc tcmplc, to obscrvc prcccpts and to listcn to a scrmon
givcn by monks. Ònc may noticc that most cldcrly pcoplc
who listcn to scrmon do not primarily try to undcrstand
thc mcssagc in thc tcaching but ‘listcning to a scrmon” is a
mcrit making act. Vhcthcr onc undcrstands thc mcssagc is
sccondary, and to apply thc tcaching to thcir practicc is not
thc immcdiatc conccrn.
Anothcr social valuc prcvalcnt among thc Tais is thc
bclicl that to bc born a malc is bcttcr than a lcmalc, primarily
bccausc a man can rcccivc ordination, thc highcst lorm ol
mcrit making. As womcn (in Tailand) do not havc this
spiritual acccss, womcn havc to makc morc mcrit to makc
up lor thcir shortcoming.
Gcncrally, rcligious activitics arc complctcly thc domain
ol mcn. ¡vcn thosc who scrvc thc monks in thc tcmplc mostly
had bccn monks at ccrtain timc in lilc. Tc 8uddhist world
is thcn mcn’s world. Voman can do thcir bcst by providing
various lorms ol matcrial support and scrvicc to gain mcrit.
Vith this undcrstanding morc womcn arc lound visiting
tcmplcs to cnsurc thcmsclvcs ol a bcttcr luturc both in this
lilc and thc ncxt.
68 6o
�estion ��
In the role of female followers, what should Buddhist
women do?
8
uddhism will prospcr or dcclinc dcpcnding on thc
cstablishmcnt ol thc lour groups ol 8uddhists: monks,
nuns, laymcn and laywomcn. Howcvcr, whcn wc scc somc
shortcomings in our socicty, wc arc accustomcd to pointing
our nngcrs towards thc monks holding rcsponsibility lor thc
problcms. !n lact thc monks arc only onc ol thc lour groups
in 8uddhist community. All ol us, laymcn and laywomcn,
hold cqual rcsponsibility lor thc problcms.
Vhcn thc 8uddha cstablishcd thc lour groups ol
8uddhists, hc wantcd to makc surc that this cstablishmcnt
will bc solid loundation. ¡ach onc sharcs cqual rcsponsibility
towards thc dcvclopmcnt ol 8uddhism. Trcc important
lactors arc involvcd in this cstablishmcnt i.c. thcy havc
studicd and undcrstood thc tcaching, thcy put thc tcaching
into practicc and thcy arc ablc to dclcnd and cxplain thc
tcaching corrcctly. As lcmalc lollowcrs ol thc 8uddha,
8uddhist womcn must bc awarc to lulnl cach onc’s duty and
rcsponsibility towards this cstablishmcnt.
Gcncrally Tai 8uddhists tcnd to hold on to an attitudc
“!l it is bad, its up to thc nuns, il it is good, it is up to thc
monks,” that is il thc monks or nuns should do anything
bad, its thcir busincss, wc as laypcoplc should not intcrlcrc.
Tis attitudc is harmlul lor thc cstablishmcnt ol 8uddhism.
68 6o
!l wc scc onc ol thc lour mcmbcrs ol thc groups do wrong
yct wc rcmain silcnt, our silcncc, our nonintcrlcrcncc,
actually promotcs wrongdoing and lurthcr harms thc
growth ol 8uddhism. !t is thcrclorc important thc cach
onc ol thc 8uddhist groups must bcar cqual rcsponsibility
and scc thcmsclvcs as onc unitcd community. !l onc is
doing somcthing harmlul, its going to harm thc rcst ol thc
community and with thc agc ol globalisation thc ncgativc
acts rcsult in a domino cßcct.
�estion ��
Is it true that if a person is enlightened, she must be
ordained within 7 days?
!
n thc Pali Tripitaka thcrc was a casc ol a man who was
cnlightcncd but could not nnd thc robcs and thc bowl
as rcquircd lor ordination within · days. Hc dicd ol an
accidcnt.
!n Tailand, cvcn il wc havc no womcn ordaincd as
bhikkhunis, mac jis arc considcrcd lcading a cclibatc lilc and
hcncc should bc includcd. !t is cxplaincd that thc cnlightcncd
mind is too subtlc to rcmain in a coarsc physical body ol a
laypcrson, hcncc ordination is rcquircd to prcparc thc body
to hclp maintain thc subtlcty ol thc mind.
·o
�estion ��
What is the unique chara�eristic in American
Buddhism which might interest a feminist?
A
mcricans camc across 8uddhism during thc Sccond
Vorld Var through thc work ol \cn. Ð.T. Suzuki, a
]apancsc pricst. Tc uniquc charactcristic ol Zcn 8uddhism
nt in wcll with thc spiritual vacuum in thc USA at that timc
whilc many Amcricans wcrc critical ol thc conscrvativc
institutionaliscd church and lound satislactorily thc samc
matching spirit in Zcn 8uddhism.
Latcr thcrc wcrc many othcr lorms ol 8uddhism i.c.
Chincsc, Korcan, ]apancsc, Tibctan. Among thc Tcravadin
propagators, Sri Lankan and 8urmcsc monks gaincd thc
uppcrhand bcing cquippcd with bcttcr acccss to ¡nglish.
Amcrican 8uddhists bccamc awarc ol thc nccd to silt thc
csscntial tcaching lrom various cultural cloaks.
An !mportant lactor onc may nnd in 8uddhism is thc
!ndian cultural baggagc which tcnds to supprcss womcn.
Critical Amcrican 8uddhists bccamc morc awarc ol thc
nccd to do away with unncccssary cultural burdcns and by so
doing thcy havc, to a grcat cxtcnt lrccd 8uddhist womcn lrom
supprcssing clcmcnts. A uniquc charactcristic ol 8uddhism in
thc US is thc strong participation ol womcn in 8uddhism.
!n Asia, womcn havc limitcd opportunity both in thcir
rolc and rcsponsibility toward 8uddhism. Tis not only bars
womcn’s participation in 8uddhism but also prcvcnts thc
natural growth ol 8uddhism as a wholc.

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