Theravada Buddhist monks, generally speaking, are very conservative. They often claim that they are the guardians of “Original Buddhism” from the time of the Lord Buddha Himself. They consider that one of their most important duties is to preserve these precious and authentic early teachings. In this context, what was the tradition in the time of The Lord Buddha with regard to women in the Sangha?
All monks of all traditions in all countries, and all Buddhist lay scholars as well, fully accept that there were fully ordained women, called Bhikkhuni, in the lifetime of the Buddha. Moreover, it is clearly stated in these early teachings that one of the goals of the Lord Buddha’s mission was to give the full ordination to women:
Ananda, once I was staying at Uruvela on the bank of the river Neranjara (present day Bodh Gaya) under the Goatherd’s Banyan tree, when I had just attained supreme enlightenment. And Mara the Evil One had come to me, stood to one side and said “May the Blessed One now attain final Nibbana, may the Sugata now attain final Nibbana. Now is the time for the Blessed Lord’s final Nibbana.”
At this, I said to Mara: “Evil One, I will not take final Nibbana until I have bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, lay men and lay women followers, who are accomplished, trained, skilled, learned, knowers of the Dhamma, trained in conformity with the Dhamma, correctly trained and walking in the path of the Dhamma, who will pass on what they have gained from their Teacher, teach it, declare it, establish it, expound it, analyse it, make it clear, until they shall be able by means of the Dhamma to refute false teachings that have arisen, and teach the Dhamma of wondrous effect (MahaparinibbanaSutta 3. 34-35)
Theravada Buddhists should have an advantage over other major world religions because their tradition explicitly gives such equity to women. Christianity has no tradition of gender equality in their priesthood. Nor does Islam, Judaism or the various schools of Hinduism. Buddhism stands apart and ahead of its time in granting such status to women from “when I (the Lord Buddha) had just attained supreme enlightenment” at Bodh Gaya.
Therefore, full ordination of women is part of the earliest tradition. It is also the declared wish of the Lord Buddha.
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- United Nations Day of Vesak (UNDV): Invite Ajahn Brahm to present his gender equality paper @ the 2015 UNDV conference
More about Full Ordination for Women in Theravada tradition
- The Legality of Bhikkhunī Ordination (PDF) – Bhikkhu Anālayo
- The Revival of the Bhikkhunī Order and the Decline of the Sāsana (PDF) – Bhikkhu Anālayo
- Bhikkhuni Vinaya Studies. Research and reflections on monastic discipline for Buddhist nuns by Ven. Bhikkhu Sujato
- The Revival of Bhikkhuni Ordination in the Theravada Tradition (PDF) by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
- The bhikkhuni question – Re-examining conventional wisdom on the issue of bhikkhunis in the Theravada Buddhist tradition – Interview with Ajahn Brahm by Bangkok Post
- Open Letter To All From Ajahn Brahm On His Exclusion by Wat Pah Pong by Ven. Ajahn Brahm
- Bhikkhu Bodhi’s letters on the nun ordination in Perth by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
- Where We Are Now by Forest Sangha
More about Full Ordination for Women in Tibetan Buddhism
- Interview with the Dalai Lama about the Full Ordination of Women (see tab “More: Full Ordination for Women” for more links)
- Women monastics are indispensible 2014/03/02
- The Buddha’s Forgotten Nuns – A New Documentary 2013/07/31
- Full Ordination for Women: Thailand’s Buddhist nuns cautiously lobby for legal recognition 2013/02/18
- First female Geshe: Geshe Kelsang Wangmo 2012/10/06