Buddhist Nuns | Thubten Chodron http://thubtenchodron.org The Thubten Chodron Teaching Archive Sun, 23 Apr 2017 16:24:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bhikshunis propagate the Dharma http://thubtenchodron.org/2017/01/jingliang-speech/ Sun, 29 Jan 2017 22:27:05 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=76916

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Continuing with the awards ceremony, we now cordially invite the Honorary Chairperson of the Buddhist Association of the Republic of China, Venerable Master Jingliang, to address us. Since mainland China and Taiwan opened up relations, he has visited mainland China many times and has made many contributions to developing Buddhist ties between the two shores. Everyone, please welcome him with a warm round of applause!

Venerable Jingliang

To all the founding masters at this great assembly, Venerable Master Bhikshuni Pu Huei, all senior bhikshunis, Venerable […] from […] Temple [inaudible], and also my fellow senior bhikshus, Abbot of Fo Guang Shan Temple Venerable Xinbao, and all the great laypeople present who support the Buddhadharma, good evening.

Venerable Master Jingliang standing at a podium during the award ceremony.

Venerable Master Jingliang

Speaking from the heart, the reason I am attending the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Buddhist Bhikshuni Association today is to extend my congratulations with a heart that wishes to repay gratitude.

From the 38th year of the Republic of China (1949) when I came to Taiwan until today, I have spent 68 years in Taiwan. What I have seen and heard is very clear in my mind. I can say that in Taiwan, I am among those monastics who have considerable influence. In the decades since 1949, bhikshunis have been making great contributions to the flourishing of the Dharma in Taiwan.

In 1949, there weren’t many bhikshunis in Taiwan, only small groups. There were only two bhikshunis at Shandao Temple in Taipei, there was one at […] Temple in Yilan County, and other temples in Xinzhu County each had some. There weren’t many. At that time, bhikshunis did not engage in many activities.

Later in 1953, after we gave the going-forth and precepts here, bhikshunis became the majority of monastics. It can be said that today in Taiwan, compared to bhikshus, bhikshunis form two-thirds of the strength of the monastic population.

What I would like to express here is very simple, just a few words. Regarding bhikshunis I can only say one thing about their contributions: the fact that Buddhism in Taiwan has been able to progress and shine with boundless radiance is entirely due to bhikshunis who have been attending to their duties and offering their contribution. For instance, bhikshunis are contented, hardworking, and magnanimous. They cherish others, are dedicated, and sacrifice their own happiness for the Dharma. In organizational meetings, they are neither egotistical nor small-minded. I feel that in each and every group, they have quietly offered their contribution.

Let’s take a look at Buddhism in Taiwan: which temple does not have bhikshunis? The larger the temple, the more bhikshunis there are. Bhikshunis have laid the entire foundation of Buddhism in Taiwan. So regarding the spread of Buddhism in Taiwan, bhikshunis are the cornerstone of our progress. Buddhism in Taiwan has been able to shine with boundless radiance because in a short time bhikshunis have joined forces.

A few days ago, I was in Taipei to attend the World Buddhist Sangha Council’s executive committee meeting. It so happened that being very gracious, Venerable Master Liaozhong (the President), asked me to be the chairperson. As I was chairing the meeting, a German abbot, a bhikshu, said something that I found extremely moving. He said that when we look on the globe, we have no idea where Taiwan is. It’s just a small island that we can barely see it. Who would have expected that Buddhism in Taiwan could emanate boundless radiance and illuminate the world? I was very happy to hear this.

Of course, at the meeting it was not appropriate for me to say too much, as I was the chairperson not a speaker. As such, the meeting participants are still not aware that Buddhism in Taiwan has such great fortune today and shines with boundless radiance due to numerous bhikshunis personally stepping forward to quietly offer their contribution, allowing us scholarly bhikshus to expand upon their abilities. Now that I have visited mainland China, I likewise hope that bhikshunis in mainland China will follow the lead of our bhikshunis in Taiwan and also demonstrate their strength. In this way, both shores will share each other’s joy and follow the same course.

I pray that our efforts to propagate the Dharma will flourish, that mainland China and Taiwan can be harmonious and happy. I pray that each and every one of us will thrive, and that the world will be peaceful. Then wouldn’t our human world be a pure land? Whether such a pure land can continue in the future and be brought to greater heights depends on the bhikshunis who are present here before us, whether they can generate the aspiration to receive such an inheritance from the senior bhikshunis who have come before them. I pray they will take heed, further exemplify, and expand upon what the present bhikshunis have done. Then, we will have good fortune: Taiwan will have the greatest energy and enthusiasm, everyone will have peace and joy, and our Dharma propagation efforts will flourish. The merit of this will be inconceivable.

Finally, I would like to wish everyone good health in body and mind. May you be filled with the joy of the Dharma and have a long life. Amituofo!

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The World Buddhist Bhikshuni Association is established in Taiwan http://thubtenchodron.org/2017/01/the-world-buddhist-bhikshuni-association-is-established-in-taiwan/ Sun, 08 Jan 2017 00:42:46 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=75768

Source: 聯合報, udn.com
Date: Nov 23, 2016

Nearly 100 bhikshunis from all over the world signed a memorandum yesterday (November 22) to organize and later formally establish the world’s first international organization to be formed by bhikshunis–the World Buddhist Bhikshuni Association. This act is not only a major event in the Buddhist world, but also an unprecedented event in the Bhikshuni lineage.

Memorandum signed by nearly 100 nuns around the world
The first chairman is Venerable Master Bhikkshuni Pu Hui from Taiwan

During the meeting, the Dean of the Si Chuan Ni Zhong Fo Xue Yuan, Venerable Master Ru Yi, nominated Chairperson of the Chinese Buddhist Bhikshuni Association, Venerable Master Bhikshuni Pu Hui as the inaugural Chairperson of the World Buddhist Bhikshuni Association, citing her noble character and the high esteem she is held in as reasons for her recommendation. With the unanimous endorsement of the bhikshunis from the different countries, everyone applauded and the nomination was accepted. This is the honour of Taiwan.

Venerable Master Bhikshuni Pu Hui said that the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Buddhist Bhikshuni Association and the associated organization of the first Global Awards for Outstanding Contributions of Commended Bhikshunis has created the rare condition for bhikshunis from 12 different countries to gather in one place. All the awardees are outstanding bhikshunis who excel in their understanding and practice and have contributed selflessly to the Buddhist cause. The move to establish a global organization to unite bhikshunis from the world and harness their strengths is an important effort that has been brought about by causes and conditions and requires no hesitation.

Therefore, the focus of the World Buddhist Bhikshuni Association in future is to actively and widely invite from all the countries in the five continents, registered bhikshuni organizations and associations or monasteries with similar vision to work together to uphold the Buddhist lineage and propagate the wisdom of the Buddhadharma around the world.

The future mission of the World Buddhist Bhikshuni Association is to unite the world’s Buddhist nuns, propagate the Dharma, uphold the Three Jewels, purify the people’s minds through the teaching of Buddhadharma, and engage in charitable, Buddhist cultural and educational activities to benefit the world. The headquarters and main office will be setup in Taiwan.

In addition, the founder of The Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards in Thailand, Bhikshuni Rattanavali, towards the end of the Forum, personally presented Chairperson of the Chinese Buddhist Bhikshuni Association, Venerable Master Bhikshuni Pu Hui, the title of honorary Chairperson of The Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards, and Secretary-general Venerable Master Jian Yin as the honorary Vice Chairperson of The Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards.
http://iwmcf.net/awards

Post-event forum

The Importance of Sangha Education and the Practice of Social Responsibility

The day after holding the first Global Awards for Outstanding Contributions of Commended Bhikshunis at Kaohsiung Zhong Zheng Stadium, the Chinese Buddhist Bhikshuni Association hosted a forum on the theme “The Importance of Sangha Education and the Practice of Social Responsibility” at Ping Tung Wan Fa Temple yesterday. The forum was presided over by the President of the Los Angeles Buddhist Union, Venerable Master Zhao Chu. The participants expressed their views with much enthusiasm.

Venerable Master Zhao Chu said that as a monastic, one has to be able to shoulder heavy responsibilities and be highly dedicated. The Buddhadharma is like a glass of water that has flowed from the distant past to the present, flowing through the times to different places. Only by reinforcing the education of the Sangha will the Buddhist lineage continue to stream forth.

The Dharma spread through the times to different places, and therefore it is inevitable that the method of teaching needs to be adapted. The Buddhadharma is a human-centric religion. How the participants shape Buddhist education today will shape the future of Buddhism.

The Abbess of Taiwan Yuan Zhao Temple, Venerable Master Bhikshuni Jing Ding said that all the abbess bhikshunis in Taiwan are not just engaged in education, but lifelong education. Instructing from deportment to ordinance, monastics must understand the truth in order to be a master. The followers are students. Rituals and public teachings are efforts to spread the Dharma and benefit sentient beings. Every bhikshuni needs to have the loving kindness of the Goddess of Mercy, the compassion of Ksitigarbha, and serve as the light for the Dharma in this degenerate age.

American Bhikshuni Venerable Thubten Chodron said that Wan Fa Temple is a great temple. The collection available is very good for education on Buddhist culture. For practice, she advocated not just focusing on external but also to pay attention to the inner practice. They use chanting to train in meditative concentration.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron said that there is a great need for teachings on the Vinaya in western countries. She hoped that in the future more Vinaya scriptures can be translated into English, so that Western monastics could further their cultivation of ethical discipline. In addition to subduing their own minds, they can also serve as examples for their communities and countries, and in the process transform the people around the world, so that the people’s way of life becomes more and more simple and wholesome.

British Bhikshuni Venerable Anandabodhi said she thoroughly agreed with Venerable Thubten Chodron’s views. She mentioned that currently in the United States, a lot of attention is being placed on teaching students meditation. Although American schools cannot promote religion, many elementary schools and high schools are teaching meditation. Although only mindfulness meditation is taught, many previously hyperactive and mischievous students have shown improvement in their behavior after meditation. This has a positive influence in society as a whole.

South Korea Bhikshuni Venerable He Jing pointed out that the Chinese Buddhist Bhikshuni Association has only been established for 20 years, but yet has seen such great achievements, and therefore are worthy examples to be emulated by the Korean bhikshunis. A few days ago, she visited the Ci Ming High School, which was under the leadership of the Abbess of Tai Zhong Ci Long Temple, Venerable Master Chang Lu, and was very moved. Seeing the joy and happiness in the faces of students in the Chinese Buddhist world had made her very happy. She urged that with the establishment of the World Buddhist Bhikshuni Association, the bhikshunis must closely learn from each other and make the world a better place because of Buddhism.

American Bhikshuni Venerable Pannavati said that after arriving in Taiwan she had come to realise her misfortune, because the United States is still not a Buddhist land. She had visited many Buddhist temples in Taiwan and saw in each and every Buddha statue the respect and love of the Dharma. For over two thousand years, the Dharma has been preserved in Asia and has spread to the rest of the world. There are very few monastics in the United States and they have no one to learn from. However, the bhikshunis still persevere and strive to help Buddhism take roots in the west, and do not make compromises despite their lack of resources. At the same time, they also hope that the bhikshunis from the rest of the world can give them guidance, because although many Americans are interested in Buddhism, the Dharma is often misunderstood. Therefore, she hoped there will be more translations of the scriptures and buddha statues in the west, to promote interaction between East and West.

The Abbess of Taiwan’s Miao Chong Temple, Venerable Master Bhikshuni Hong An said that they are now aware of the challenges faced by overseas bhikshunis. She advised them to to continue to work together with bodhicitta motivation to spread the Dharma to benefit more sentient beings. Everyone is responsible to sustain the Buddhadharma. Each and every nun is a bodhisattva, and there is nothing that cannot be accomplished with sacrifices and dedication. Even though everyone is faced with a different set of conditions, everyone must continue to cultivate bodhicitta and support each other, so that all the bhikshunis around the world can grow together.

Abbess of Ci Long Temple cum Chairperson of the Board in Ci Ming High School, Venerable Master Chang Lu said that before classes start in Ci Ming High School, there is five minutes of meditation to allow the minds of students to settle down before they start their studies. For students who have made mistakes and are given demerits, they are given the opportunity to regret and confess their actions by spending 20 minutes in meditation each day in the temple, with the guidance of teachers, to allow their minds to settle and gradually become more aware and transform themselves.

Dean of Si Chuan Ni Zhong Buddhist College, Venerable Master Ru Yi, said that education is the foundation of great achievements. If there is no education today, there will be no Buddhism tomorrow. The Buddha laid down the rules for regulating the body, speech and mind, and monastic rules are observed in the education of Sangha in China. In this age of science and technology, Buddhism has developed to a stage where many Buddhist colleges were set up in Taiwan and mainland China.

In the future, mainland China will have a comprehensive Buddhist University, not only to teach but to contribute to society. As the four requisites of monastics comes from the 10 directions, the quality of Sangha’s education is very important so that they can engender respect for the Sangha in lay people. The Sangha can do so by learning the vinaya to improve their temperament, developing stability to enhance their internal strength and cultivating wisdom to be able to excel in debate.

Abbess of Wan Fa temple, Venerable Master Jian Yin said that while monastic education is very important, lay people’s education is also very important. In her meditation courses, she enables lay people to learn through meditation how to cultivate stability, tranquility and clarity of their minds, and train to maintain mindfulness in adverse situations. This is the “Chan” (zen meditation) that is actively promoted in Taiwan. The aim is to be able to cultivate one’s qualities while abiding in peace and strengthen them while engaged in society.

At the close of the forum, Venerable Master Bhikshuni Jing Ding delivered a thank you speech. She said that over the last few days, the participants had visited various temples, and increased their understanding of the development of Buddhism in Taiwan. She was pleased to have listened to the views of the award recipients from different countries. She congratulated the participants for selecting the right Chairperson for the World Buddhist Bhikshuni Association and suggested that if Venerable Master Jian Yin becomes the Secretary-general, even with just with the two of them, the Association will be able to operate. They will traverse the world to serve everyone. Bhikshunis around the world are always welcome to return to the fold of the World Buddhist Bhikshuni Association. She urged all bhikshunis to work together for Buddhism, so that Buddhism may flourish in the world.

Taiwan’s temples each have their own unique characteristics; international monastics were amazed

In addition to receiving the award, the Chinese Buddhist Bhikshuni Association also arranged for international monastics to visit the important temples in Taiwan. They were dazzled by exquisite, magnificent temples.

The temples which the international monastics visited, included the Kaohsiung Six Turtles Ching Liang Mountain Nation-Protecting Miao-Chiung Temple, Kaohsiung Six Turtle Di Yuan Temple, Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum, Zhong Tai Chan Monastery, Zhong Tai World Museum, Tai Zhong Ci Ming High School, Tai Zhong Shen Zhai Tang, Shen Zhai Elementary School and Pingtung Wan Fa Temple.

In addition, the Buddhist Association of Taichung and the Taichung City Buddhist Association, Kaohsiung City Buddhist Association, also hosted the award recipients.

The excellent arrangements and warm hospitality of the Chinese Buddhist Bhikshuni Association during the trip really warmed the hearts of all the award recipients. Not only were they wowed by the exquisite, magnificent and classical temples in Taiwan, all the guests also felt genuinely welcomed and truly enjoyed their rewarding trip to Taiwan.

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Presenting the first Global Awards for Outstanding Contributions of Commended Bhikshunis http://thubtenchodron.org/2017/01/awards-bhikshunis/ Sun, 08 Jan 2017 00:40:54 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=75764

Source: 自由時報, Liberty Times Net, Taiwan

Award Ceremony

November 19 was a historic day for all bhikshunis in the world. On this day, Taiwan’s Chinese Buddhist Bhikshuni Association, in order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Association, presented the first Global Awards for Outstanding Contributions of Commended Bhikshunis. The organizers recognized 50 highly respected bhikshunis in the world based on their outstanding contributions in spreading the Dharma, charity work, medicine, academia and other fields, and their important contributions to their local communities. This unprecedented large-scale event might be likened to a gathering of oceans and clouds of bodhisattvas from around the world, attracting more than 15,000 monastics and lay people. The venue was packed with a huge crowd of people each seeking a place so that they could cheer and applaud their role models.

It’s not an exaggeration to describe this event as the Academy Awards for global bhikshunis. The bhikshunis who received the award came from South Korea, the United States, Sri Lanka, China, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Austria and Taiwan, a total of 50 recipients. In order to select the 50 outstanding bhikshunis, the organizers made multiple overseas expeditions to inquire about the beneficial work of these nuns, and finally identified these 50 outstanding bhikshunis. It would not be an overstatement to say that this award ceremony is a pivotal occasion to give recognition to all Buddhist nuns in the world, more than 2000 years after the Buddha agreed to ordain Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati.

The opening ceremony started with a performance by the marching band of Tai Zhong’s Ci Ming High School, leading VIPs and awardees to take their seats on stage, adding a youthful atmosphere to a dignified ceremony. The Chairperson, Venerable Master Bhikshuni Pu Hui, Vice Chairpersons, Venerable Master Bhikshuni Da Ying and Hong An, the previous Chairpersons (2nd and 3rd) Venerable Master Bhikshuni Shao Hong, President of the World Chinese Buddhist Sangha Congress, Venerable Master Jing Xin, Chairman of the Buddhist Association of the Republic of China, Venerable Master Zong Zhang, President of the Los Angeles Buddhist Union , Venerable Master Zhao Chu, The Abbot of Nyingma Palyul Namdroling Monastery, South India, Gyang Khang Khentrul Rinpoche, jointly set in motion a rotating earth structure which symbolized the unity of the Buddhist community, following which colored ribbons were released in the air. The ceremony started off with a big bang.

Chairperson of the Chinese Buddhist Bhikshuni Association and Chairperson of the organizing committee, Venerable Master Bhikshuni Pu Hui said that on behalf of all the members of the Chinese Buddhist Bhikshuni Association, she expressed the most sincere welcome to the distinguished guests, the awardees and the audience. As a bhikshuni, she was grateful to Ananda for requesting the Buddha to kindly allow women to have the opportunity to ordain and practice the Buddhadharma. As a result, Buddhist history was marked with a new chapter of the bhikshuni lineage that continued to this day. The status of bhikshunis in Buddhism has always come under historical and circumstantial pressure, but many senior nuns with faith and conviction have worked quietly to spread the Dharma and uphold Buddhism with their minds set firmly in the right view, never turning back in discouragement.

There must be many bhikshunis around the world who are upholding the spirit of the Buddha, working for the benefit of Buddhism and sentient beings without seeking recognition. For the recipients, this award is well-deserved. For all bhikshunis around the world, the road to come is long and there is much to be done. Hopefully this award will inspire a sense of honor in your heart and turn this glory into the spirit and strength to continue spreading the Dharma, spreading the seeds of Buddhism globally, to develop future pillars of the Dharma who can continue to carry on the Buddhist tradition, and spread the wisdom of Buddha’s teachings.

President of the World Chinese Buddhist Sangha Congress, Venerable Master Jing Xin said that , this meaningful award is unprecedented in the Buddhist world. The accomplishment of this noble enterprise is due to the skillful leadership of the chairperson, and only made possible by the excellent planning and execution by secretary-general Venerable Jian Ying. To all the award recipients, the bhikshus, give praise with the utmost respect. He pointed out that the bhikshus are only one third or a quarter of the number of bhikshunis in Taiwan, so the contribution of bhikshunis to Buddhism in Taiwan is obvious to all. He hoped that this award ceremony that is based on compassion and wisdom will enhance the brilliance of Buddhism in Taiwan.

Chairman of the Chinese Buddhist Association of the Republic of China, Venerable Master Yuan Zhong said that the Chinese Buddhist Bhikshuni Association has existed since the 85th year of the Taiwan Republic of China (1996) and the first to the present sixth Chairperson have all been extraordinary bhikshunis. Over the years, these respected elders have made dedicated contributions to Buddhism, benefited countless sentient beings, loved their country, loved to teach and loved living beings. Both the chairperson and secretary-general have put in great effort for Buddhism throughout the years starting from within the country and extending to the international level. He offered them the highest respect, prayed for world peace and for all sentient beings to have good health.

The honorary president of the Buddhist Association of the Republic of China, Venerable Master Jing Liang, said that the bhikshunis in Taiwan account for two-thirds of the monastic community, and thus are vital contributors to the Buddhist world. The glorious flourishing of Buddhism in Taiwan today is due to the bhikshunis’ sacrifice and dedication in their various roles. Bhikshunis are the foundation of Taiwanese Buddhism through their diligence, hard work, ability to bear hardship without complaints and their quiet contributions in different countries. They have created the cause for Taiwanese Buddhism to shine brightly in the world. He hoped that bhikshunis around the world will emulate the Taiwanese bhikshunis, to bring to greater heights the bhikshuni lineage.

Abbot of Fo Guang Shan, Venerable Master Xin Bao said that the Buddha had proposed equality of the four castes and taught that there was no difference among sentient beings. He urged all those present – regardless of whether they were bhikhus, bhikunis or the four-fold sangha – to not only recognize the outstanding awardees, but also to use this platform in the future to work in global unity to spread the Dharma widely and make important contributions in every part of the world. Through this, he hoped that the world in the future would be free from conflicts, wars and suffering, and that many more sentient beings would accumulate the virtues and causes to be able to understand and accept the Dharma.

Vice-Abbot of the Zhong Tai Chan Temple, Venerable Master Jian Dong represented her Abbot, Venerable Master Bhikshu Jian Deng, to express the most sincere praise and congratulations. The Chinese Buddhist Bhikshuni Association, under the leadership of Venerable Master Bhikshuni Pu Hui , spared no effort to spread and protect the Dharma, making tremendous contributions to the country, society, and the world. They set an example for all bhikshunis around the world, illuminate the bhikshuni lineage and bring light to the world. This award ceremony and the 50 outstanding bhikshunis, can be described as being “like a lamp that ignites a hundred thousand lamps, illuminating all darkness with an illumination that is never exhausted.” She said that she felt fortunate to bear witness to the bodhi heart of the elders today, and wished the Association every success and everyone good health.

Former President of the Legislative Yuan, Wang Jin Ping said that the Dharma had been preserved to date due to the Sangha’s contribution. Through the Buddha’s compassion manifested in the actions of the Sangha, the physical and emotional suffering of sentient beings had been alleviated, obstacles had been overcome and the hearts of sentient beings had been illuminated. He prayed that all the bhikshuni elders along the bodhi path, achieve supreme bodhi, live a long life, and eventually became Buddhas.

Senior Secretary of the Department of Civil Affairs of the Ministry of the Interior, Huang Shu Guan, said that it was especially significant that the first Global Awards for Outstanding Contributions of Commended Bhukshunis was being held in Taiwan. The awards served to inspire kindness and bring the force of truth, goodness and beauty into society, not only within the country but even extending to the world. She thanked all the awardees for their past contributions to bring about social harmony and stability in the world.

Representative of the Mayor of Kaohsiung, Secretary-general Yang Ming Zhou, pointed out that the Chinese Buddhist Bhikshuni Association is widely praised within Taiwan, for responding spontaneously, just like the Bodhisattva Guan Yin, to the sufferings brought on by disasters, whether it is a storm, earthquake or gas explosion. The Association provides disaster relief, aids, and soothes the hearts of the victims through the power of religion as well as pray for the deceased. He hoped that this awards ceremony will let the world see the strength of Taiwanese bhikshunis and help to spread Taiwan’s positive energy afar.

This article is also posted on the Sravasti Abbey website: Taiwan Press Praises Buddhist Nuns

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Living in community as Dharma practice: A talk to Tibetan nuns http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/12/bhiksuni-experience/ Tue, 20 Dec 2016 17:40:11 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=77927

  • Working and living with others at the monastery is part of Dharma practice
  • Senior nuns as mentors for young nuns
  • Teaching lay people
  • Taking advantage of the precious opportunity to learn the Dharma
  • Questions
    • What do the Abbey nuns teach in the lay community?
    • Why did you become a nun?
    • What was your biggest personal challenge as a nun?
    • What is the difference between Buddhism and your former religion?
    • What is the relationship between you and your students?
    • How do you teach when you teach those of other religions?

Living in community as Dharma practice: A talk to Tibetan nuns (download)

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Congratulations to the first Geshemas! http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/09/female-geshe/ Fri, 23 Sep 2016 20:33:25 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=74533

Group of geshemas seated together.

Click image to enlarge. (Photo courtesy of Jangchub Choeling Nunnery)

Tibetan Buddhist nuns have made history. They have completed their courses of study and received their Geshema degrees, the equivalent to a Doctorate in Buddhist philosophy. Exam results were announced by the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration.

“The Geshema examination process is an extremely rigorous one that takes four years in total, with one round per year each May. During the 12-day exam period, the nuns must take both oral (debate) and written exams. They are examined on the entirety of their 17-year course of study of the Five Great Canonical Texts.” —TNP.org

Group of geshemas seated together.

Click image to enlarge. (Photo courtesy of Jangchub Choeling Nunnery)

His Holiness the Dalai Lama will present the degrees to the nuns in December at Drepung Monastery in Mundgod, South India, in conjunction with the celebration of the monastery’s 600th anniversary.

Wearing the yellow dongka (vest) and the yellows hats is a great honor—it indicates the nuns are now Geshemas. They are the first Tibetan nuns to wear these. The Geshemas in the photo are from Jangchub Choeling Nunnery in Mundgod, one amongst a number of nunneries that fielded candidates for the Geshema examination.

Geshemas at Jangchub Choeling Nunnery. Geshemas at Jangchub Choeling Nunnery. Geshemas at Jangchub Choeling Nunnery. Geshemas at Jangchub Choeling Nunnery. Geshemas at Jangchub Choeling Nunnery.

Learn more about the first Geshemas at TibetanNunsProject.org.

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Life as a Western Buddhist nun http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/04/monastic-life/ Tue, 05 Apr 2016 14:43:23 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=69147

  • How Buddhist monastics are different from other traditions
  • Precepts as trainings, undertaken voluntarily
  • About the Dalai Lama
  • Tibetan Buddhism and the West
  • The changing situation of Tibetan nuns
  • Becoming a Tibetan Buddhist nun
  • Transforming oneself and becoming of service to others
  • About bhikshuni ordination

Life as a Western Buddhist nun (download)

YouTube Video

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Geshe-mas and bhikṣuṇī ordination http://thubtenchodron.org/2014/12/dalai-lama-women-buddhism/ Tue, 30 Dec 2014 20:35:40 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=36762

During the Jangchup Lamrim teachings in Mundgod, India, in December 2014, His Holiness made the following comments about the geshe-ma degree (an educational degree in Buddhist philosophy for nuns) and bhikṣuṇī ordination.

Some people have asked if it is possible to have the geshe-ma degree. Bhikṣuṇī ordination (full ordination for women) is possible because the Buddha established it. Since this is so, why wouldn’t giving nuns the geshe-ma degree be possible?

To both monks and nuns, he counselled:

Don’t stop studying when you become a geshe (or geshe-ma). If you teach, your knowledge will increase. Remember that you studied not for sake of passing the geshe exam, but in order to attain full awakening.

Regarding full ordination for women (bhikṣuṇī ordination), he said:

Tibetan nuns, smiling.

Bhikṣuṇī ordination should be given because bhikṣuṇīs are part of the four-fold assembly. (Photo by Wonderlane)

We’ve made efforts to convene international conferences about this subject, but so far a clear conclusion has not been reached. I believe that bhikṣuṇī ordination should be given because bhikṣuṇīs are part of the four-fold assembly that the Buddha spoke about. Thus, it’s very important that we have the bhikṣuṇī ordination.

His Holiness visited Jangchub Choeling Nunnery during the Jangchup Lamrim teachings. The following summary (not quotation) of his comments was reported by Eva, an American graduate student staying at the nunnery who was present at the talk.

The question of whether gelong-mas (bhikṣuṇīs or fully ordained nuns) can be ordained is something that must be determined by the sangha, who is examining and looking into it thoroughly. It is not a decision that one person such as myself can make. However, regarding the opportunity for nuns to study—in India, nuns now have the opportunity to study the full curriculum leading to the geshe-ma degree. Some of the nuns here have been studying for 17 or 18 years now, and are making excellent progress. Jangchub Choeling is one of the best nunneries for getting a geshe-ma education.

The Buddha established full ordination for both men and women, as bhikṣus and bhikṣuṇīs. In your studies, I want you to consider yourselves as being totally equal to the men. In the lamrim (graduated stages of the path to awakening), one of the eight favorable qualities of an ideal human rebirth is being born male. But this is only in a physical sense, because men have stronger bodies than women. In terms of intellect, women and men are exactly the same. In fact, in terms of loving-kindness, women have a greater biological tendency to feel love and compassion. So in this regard, you may be able to develop love and compassion more easily than men. In the world today, the quality of loving-kindness is rare, so it is especially important for women to contribute to the well-being of the world.

Historically, there have been great women practitioners in Buddhism. In Tibet long ago, fully ordained nuns practiced the nyung-ne fasting retreats devoted to Chenrezig; there were also many great yoginis. So you should feel very proud to be women. The Buddha established bhiksus and bhikṣuṇīs with equal rights. Now in terms of education, you have exactly the same rights as men.

Some of the nuns were in tears at the end of His Holiness’ talk. His words of encouragement were deeply meaningful to them.

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Death under the bodhi tree http://thubtenchodron.org/2011/06/monastics-death-reality/ Sun, 19 Jun 2011 02:13:57 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=5693

Venerable Chopel Dronma from Spain had come to Bodhgaya with ten of her sister nuns from Samye Ling Buddhist Center in Scotland to attend the Bodhgaya International Full Ordination Program in February, 1998. I saw her in the classes and training sessions for monastics—a thin, medium-height nun in her 40s. There was nothing extraordinary looking about her; all of us monastics look alike with our robes and shaved heads. When I went down for breakfast on the fifth of the nine days of the program, I heard that she had suddenly died. The circumstances were certainly unique.

Although the aspiring monastics did morning prayers together in the main hall of the Chinese Temple on all the other days, that morning they went to the stupa instead, breaking into small groups to do their morning practice. As the day dawned, Venerable Chopel Dronma was sitting with the Samye Ling nuns meditating under the bodhi tree, the site of the Buddha’s awakening. They got up to move a few yards to join another group of nuns so they could chant the Praises to Tara together. As she was sitting down, she unexpectedly collapsed. The nuns gathered around her and her teacher, Lama Yeshe Losal, who was nearby, came over. Although attempts were made to revive her, within a half hour she was dead under the bodhi tree.

All of us were stunned by the suddenness of it, although some knew that she had had a pacemaker for her heart since she was in her 20s. As Buddhist practitioners, we contemplate impermanence and death to invigorate our Dharma practice. Yet whenever death happens we are still shocked. But to die under the bodhi tree while saying prayers, with nuns around her and her teacher at her side—this was not a usual death.

Her face was peaceful as the nuns placed her body in a box (this was not really a coffin, for such a thing is luxurious in India, and is re-used) at the Mahabodhi Society. The box was packed with ice to give time for her sister to arrive from Europe for the cremation, and the nuns did Chenrezig puja.

I had a strong sense of the unity and deep harmony of the sangha as everyone spontaneously joined in to help.

I had a strong sense of the unity and deep harmony of the sangha as everyone spontaneously joined in to help.

Two days later we gathered for the funeral. The nuns lifted her body, covered with her yellow monastic robe, out of the box and put it on a low platform at the Mahabodhi Society. Several Chinese monks and nuns, including the Karma Acharya from the ordination, a high monk from Hong Kong, beautifully chanted prayers in Chinese. Then those in the Tibetan tradition did Chenrezig puja, and finally the Theravada monks chanted in Pali. People who had never met Venerable Chopel but had heard about her unusual death came to offer flowers, incense, katas and candles. We put her body back in the box, sprinkled flowers over it and placed it in the back of a jeep. A procession began through the one-street town of Bodhgaya, across the bridge of the Neranjara River, which is dry this time of year, to the middle of a vast sandy area. A funeral pyre was built and again we nuns lifted her body out of the box and placed it there. By that time hundreds of people were there —Indians, Europeans, Tibetans, Chinese, Sri Lankans, etc.—seated on mats surrounding the pyre. The chanting resumed and the fire was lit. The Chinese monks and nuns, in flowing golden robes, led us in chanting "Namo Amitofo" while circumambulating the pyre. When they stopped, the Theravadan monks, in ochre, saffron and brown robes, chanted in Pali. All the while the maroon-robed Tibetan monastics sat and chanted in Tibetan. I was in awe: how incredible to have so many sangha members from various traditions participate in the funeral of a foreigner whom they didn’t even know! I had a strong sense of the unity and deep harmony of the sangha as everyone spontaneously joined in to help.

As the fire burned, we continued chanting. Black clouds of smoke lifted from the fire, and I contemplated the burning of our disturbing attitudes and karma, the causes of all our suffering. We couldn’t see Venerable Chopel Dronma’s body at all, which was unusual, for during an open cremation one or another limb often dangles out and has to be pushed back into the fire. After a while, as the fire was burning down, I looked westward, toward the stupa. Golden rays of the afternoon sun had broken through the clouds, casting a lovely light over the stupa.

As we walked away from the pyre, our feet slipping in the sand, her sister said to me, "This is like a dream. In the West, funerals are so awful. You have to deal with so many people to arrange it as well as with others’ difficult emotional reactions. But here it was effortless and so many people helped."

Something about Venerable Dronma’s death has changed me. Not only did she die peacefully under the bodhi tree with her teacher and Dharma sisters at her side, but her funeral left all who attended uplifted and inspired. No one was sobbing with grief. No one was arguing over funeral arrangements. No one felt drowned in misery. Instead everyone was inspired—by the Dharma and by this nun’s unassuming practice. She must have made strong prayers not only for her life to be meaningful, but also for her death to be beneficial for others. Almost everyone at her funeral was praying, "If only I could die like that!"

As I talked with the nuns who knew her, I learned that she had been a nun for many years and had done about 11 years of retreat. Yet, her roommate at the ordination program told me that Venerable Chopel had commented that she was not satisfied with her progress. Pushing herself hard and judging herself harshly, she felt that others practiced better and achieved greater results. At times she would fall into discouragement over this. It made me reflect how our own self-evaluation is often skewed by unnecessary self-deprecation, for look at the way she died and the inspiring effect it had on others! If we practice with kindness and without expectations, simply being content to create virtuous causes without seeking fantastic experiences, the results will come by themselves. Self-judgment is useless and painful, not to mention inaccurate. The seeds of virtue that she had sown in her mindstream and her strong aspiration to benefit others ripened naturally, bringing great benefit, even in her death.

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The life of Venerable Sek Fatt Kuan: compassion in action http://thubtenchodron.org/2011/06/engaged-buddhism/ Sat, 18 Jun 2011 20:46:46 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=5921

Photo of Venerable Sek Fatt Kuan, smiling.

Venerable Sek Fatt Kuan

“I had it in mind for a long time to build an old folks’ home,” said Ven. Fatt Kuan when I asked her about how Tai Pei Old Peoples’ Home in Singapore began. “I don’t know why, but I had a strong feeling to do something for old people, especially those who were poor and had no one to care for them.”

With strong determination and much patience, she actualized her wish to help others: Tai Pei Old Peoples’ Home now houses nearly 200 old women, who can live in a clean and comfortable environment with proper medical care. Twice a week they receive Buddhist teachings, given by Ven. Fatt Kuan, who also leads them in chanting. The majority of old women are welfare cases recommended by the state; the others are unmarried illiterate domestics who came decades ago from China to work in Singapore. While the home does receive some funds from the government, it is largely supported by funds raised by Ven. Fatt Kuan. Now many businesses and shops contribute food and household items.

Born in Canton, China, Ven. Fatt Kuan later came to Singapore. In l938, her mother bought land there and began a Taoist temple. After her mother passed away, Ven. Fatt Kuan was ordained as a Buddhist nun, and in 1965, she rebuilt the temple and converted it into a Buddhist temple, Tai Pei Yuen. Since her mother’s time, many old women had been living in the temple. Soon, there were more than 70 of them and space was tight, so in l975, Ven. Fatt Kuan purchased a plot next to the temple. It took her over four years to convince the squatters there to accept the compensation offered to them and vacate the land. In l980 construction was begun, and Tai Pei Old Folks’ Home was completed three years later. The initial years were very difficult, as funds were scarce, but by building a columbarium and doing funeral services, she raised money. “Whenever I accept offerings, I see myself as the head of all the beggars,” she humbly said.

“Some people look at Buddhism as a passive religion,” she continued. “At one Vesak Day celebration, a government minister commented on the lack of Buddhist social services and encouraged us to do more. When I looked around at what other religions were doing to help people, I saw that he was right. At that time, there was no Buddhist old folks’ home in the country. My master encouraged me, saying,

If you work for others, even if you fail in your endeavor to help them, it is still beneficial.

“I feel that the Buddhas and bodhisattvas are inspiring and helping me. Although it is sometimes difficult, when the right causes and conditions come together, the problems are solved. Some other temples have followed our example and have established old folks’ homes.”

Ven. Fatt Kuan was very active in the community as well. She is the Vice-chairperson of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Singapore, the Vice-chairperson of the Chinese Buddhist Association, and a committee member of Manjushri Secondary School, a Buddhist high school. Ven. Fatt Kuan also adopted at least three young girls who had been living in bad conditions. She raised them and gave them an education.

In 1985 she created Tai Pei Foundation, a charitable organization, which she chaired. With the idea to make Buddhism more accessible to young people, she purchased an old school in a central location and remodeled it to become Tai Pei Buddhist Center, a large religious and cultural center. Here there is a child care center, a library, a peaceful meditation hall, a large auditorium, and classrooms. In 1997 she was awarded the Public Service Star for her social work. She didn’t wear it on her robes, much to the disappointment of some of her followers. When asked why not, she replied, “The award is not for me personally, but for everyone who helps the aged and those in need.”

Ven. Fatt Kuan supported the work of young Buddhists, helping them not only financially but also by encouraging them. As an example, when I first came to Singapore in 1987, she offered me a room in the old folks’ home and arranged for our homeless, fledging Buddhist group to use a temple in Geylang for our gatherings. When I saw her last year, I told her of the challenges of establishing a Buddhist monastery in the USA. She then recounted to me, in her humble way, what she had gone through to establish the temple, the old folks’ home, and the Buddhist center. Her patience, foresight, and compassion were amazing. Fortified by the example of her courage, I felt more confident. She has touched so many people in that way. Yet, as a true Buddhist practitioner, she always remained humble, crediting others for successes.

Tai Pei Buddhist Center has been up and running for several years, but its final grand opening ceremony was scheduled for September 8. She had attended a rehearsal for the ceremony the day before. When she wasn’t at prayer services the following morning, people went to her room and found her unconscious. She died before the ambulance could reach the hospital.

Read more on Venerable Sek Fatt Kuan.

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The five points http://thubtenchodron.org/2010/05/ordination-agreement/ Tue, 18 May 2010 04:06:35 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=21662

The following five-point agreement was drafted by Ajahn Sumedho and his senior monks on August, 2010 and presented to the nuns at Amaravati and Cittaviveka monasteries in Britain. Agreement on the five points was a condition for future ordinations of women in the Forest Sangha community.

  1. The structural relationship, as indicated by the Vinaya, of the Bhikkhu Sangha to the Siladhara Sangha is one of seniority, such that the most junior bhikkhu is “senior” to the most senior siladhara. As this relationship of seniority is defined by the Vinaya, it is not considered something we can change.
  2. In line with this, leadership in ritual situations where there are both bhikkhus and siladhara—such as giving the anumodana [blessings to the lay community] or precepts, leading the chanting or giving a talk—is presumed to rest with the senior bhikkhu present. He may invite a siladhara to lead; if this becomes a regular invitation it does not imply a new standard of shared leadership.
  3. The Bhikkhu Sangha will be responsible for the siladhara pabbajja [ordination] the way Luang Por Sumedho [Ajahn Sumedho] was in the past. The siladhara should look to the Bhikkhu Sangha for ordination and guidance rather than exclusively to Luang Por. A candidate for siladhara pabbajja should receive acceptance from the Siladhara Sangha, and should then receive approval by the Bhikkhu Sangha as represented by those bhikkhus who sit on the Elders’ Council.
  4. The formal ritual of giving pavarana [invitation for feedback] by the Siladhara Sangha to the Bhikkhu Sangha should take place at the end of the Vassa as it has in our communities traditionally, in keeping with the structure of the Vinaya.
  5. The siladhara training is considered to be a vehicle fully suitable for the realization of liberation, and is respected as such within our tradition. It is offered as a complete training as it stands, and not as a step in the evolution towards a different form, such as bhikkhuni ordination.
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