Bhikkhunī Saṅgha | Bhikkhunī Order
Bhikkhunī is a fully ordained female Buddhist nun. Male monk is called bhikkhu. Both are disciples of Buddha and both genders of monastic are equal in the Buddhist philosophy. The literal meaning of the word bhikkhuis „one who begs“. However Buddhist monks and nuns do not beg in usual manner. They walk home to home in their area, humbly, patiently and silently stand at the door and wait to be given food. They live and survive only on what is given to them. Both bhikkhunīs and bhikkhus, Buddhist nuns and monks, live by a set of rules called vinaya. To join the vinaya, bhikkhunī must vow to follow 311 monastic set of rules. These rules were passed by Buddha to earlier disciples who collected and preserved them. The vinaya provide for the equal treatment of male and female monks. They protect the bhikkhunīs. For example nuns cannot be relegated to just traditional women’s role (as cooking and cleaning). The vinaya make it possible for nuns to live the same spiritual life as do monks.
Buddhist nuns and monks freely accept to live in poverty and celibacy. There are four phases to becoming a nun. In the phase one the lay woman (upāsikā) takes five precepts (pañca sīla). As a next step she goes forth and abandons her home (pabbajjā) and then there is a formal step of a novice (sāmaṅerī) reception and admission into the full fellowship in the monastic order in monastic community (bhikkhunī saṅgha). Wearing the monastic robe is connected with the previously described step. The next third phase requires a year of intensive training in becoming bhikkhunī (sikkhamānā), study and strict adherence to the set of rules. The fourth and final phase is taking the bhikkhunī vows.
The monastic community, in pāli language saṅgha, is so called the live carrier and continuator of the tradition. Monastic live in monasteries that provide ideal setting to live as a community in seclusion and to have the best conditions for the practice.
They live very modestly and simply in firmly set daily routine to assure that their lives are pure and that they maintain silence. Wearing robes is not an old recipe, but an expression of the ancient continuity of the monastic order and the newly adopted identity. Their noble silence is not taken as a ban on communication or a petty rule. Instead they consider silence as a means to help them concentrate and achieve improvements and obligations in their practice. Monastic do not see living the bhikkhu and bhikkhunī life in seclusion from the outside world as a disadvantage to them. They see their lives as a way to ensure they are not influenced by lay issues or human sensations and relations outside the realm of what is needed in the monastery community. Such unnecessary lay men issues would take away their concentration
on the spiritual path.
Traditionally the story is told that the bhikkhunī order was established by Buddha five years after the first order bhikkhu was established. It is said that Buddha’s aunt and stepmother asked that a way be created for females to become nuns. Her name was Mahāpajāpati Gotamī. In fact, she became the first ordained bhikkhunī. Buddhist nuns have always been free to practice and obtain the highest and final spiritual level in Buddhism, nibbāna. Therīgāthā is a preserved set of poems about enlightenment. This was preserved as a part of the Pāli Canon composed of the Early Buddhist Texts. Poems were composed and written by bhikkhunīs.
The bhikkhunīs, nuns, had the same rights as the bhikkhus, male monks, in the Buddha’s time and were entitled to share equally in what is donated.
A story is remembered from the Buddha’s time when a gift of eight robes was offered to both saṅghas. Buddha divided the robes
evenly between the saṅghas even that the women saṅgha housed only one woman whereas the men saṅgha housed four men. Four
of the robes were given to the bhikkhunīs monastic community and four of them to the bhikkhu monastic community. As it happened bhikkhunīs became less amount of invitations into the households of lay people. For this reason Buddha would divide the food and all the gifts for the monastery very evenly to both of the saṅghas. Buddha protected bhikkhunīs and was equitable, fair-minded to both
of the saṅghas. The bhikkhunīs are subordinated to bhikkhus in the sense of the younger sisters towards the older brothers, not in the nature of superior and subordinated.
Some of the theravāda tradition scholars believe that the bhikkhunī line was vanished during the eleventh through thirteenth centuries. For that reason they argue that no female monastic should have been ordained bhikkhunī since then. The issue is treated differently in various geographical areas around the world. The front representatives of the theravāda bhikkhu saṅghas in Burma and Thailand are united as one party on the issue and do not recognise any of the new bhikkhunī ordination as legitimate. The second party of the world scholars on the other side based on given facts see no reason to agree with the first party and reject such opinion. They fully support the theravāda bhikkhunī ordination as supported by Buddha in person. As the bhikkhunīs lineage has recently spread to countries as China, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Japan and Sri Lanka and in accordance with common sense and human rights, the second group
of the worlds professional public on the basis of facts fundamentally disproves this view and supports the ordination of theravāda bhikkhunīs.
In 1996 the International Association of Women in Buddhism Sakyadhita formally reestablished the ordination of nuns, theravāda bhikkhunīs. Eleven women from Sri Lanka received full ordinations in Indian State of Sarnath during the ceremony led by Dodangoda Revata Mahāthera and later on Mapalagama Vipulasāra Mahāthera from the Mahā Bodhi society in India together with bhikkhu monks and bhikkhunī nuns from Jogye Order from the Korean Seonu.
In July 2007, an international congress title "Women role in Buddhist saṅgha" was held in Hamburg. International scholars met together from various traditions to mutually find a world consensus on the re-establishment and reintroduction of the bhikkhunī ordination. Sixty-five delegates of bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs, scholars and experts in vinaya and seniors and Nestors from the traditional Buddhist countries and western educated experts in the sphere of Buddha´s Teaching have claimed in the summary notification from the congress that „all of the delegates have unanimously agreed on that Mūlasārvastivāda bhikkhunī ordination can be reintroduced“. Together with this proclamation they recited Dalai Lama's full support and endorsement for the bhikkhunī ordination. Already in 1987 the 14th Dalai Lama requested the reintroduction of the full nuns ordination in Tibet.
„Buddha gave the same basic rights to both of the saṅgha. The question is not whether to reintroduce or not to reintroduce
the bhikkhunī ordination, the question is only how to do so in the full and best respect towards the vinaya.““ (Alexander Berzin:
Summary from the foundation meeting of Sakyadhita Association in 1987 in Bodhgaya in India.)
The contact to support projects and activities of the Association Karuṇā Sevena: 6855804001/5500, IBAN: CZ6755000000006855804001, SWIFT: RZBCCZPP - The funds are used to cover the basic monastic needs of the Venerable bhikkhunī Visuddhi, such as - robe, food, medicine and abode (this also covers transportation, accommodation, air tickets, etc.). Distribution of books, construction of the meditation room, the furnishing of the monastery KS, insurance, utility bills, etc. Tax deductible in the Czech Republic. Please state the reason for the donation with the following note" For the Association KS."
The contact for the project Suriya Lamai: 6855679001/5500, IBAN: CZ4955000000006855679001, SWIFT: RZBCCZPP
- The intention of the project Suriya Lamai “The Children of the Sun” is to enable children from poor families to develop and educate themselves and to provide them with basic needs. The donation is tax deductible in the Czech Republic.
Neither of the above is a public collection, and therefore we ask all donors to add their contact information to their gift, so that we can issue a donation agreement contract or a donation receipt. We thank to all the donors.
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