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Relevance of Vinaya in modern circumstances

Relevance of Vinaya in modern circumstances

Venerable Chodron with Venerable Tsedroen and other nuns.
The Vinaya Piṭaka contains mainly instructions that regulate the daily life of monks and nuns. (Photo by Sravasti Abbey)

A talk given at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand, on October 29, 1991.

First I would like to pay my thanks to Thammasat University and the various committees that have made this conference possible. My special thanks go to Dr. Kabilsingh, without whose untiring efforts this gathering would not have taken place.

Please do not expect a lecture by a Buddhist scholar. I have not studied the Vinaya in detail and can therefore only share with you what I have learnt so far. Since 1980 I have been studying and working under the spiritual guidance of my honourable master, Geshe Thubten Ngawang, in the Tibetan Centre, Hamburg, Germany. In 1979 he was requested by his master, Ven. Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, as well as His Holiness the Dalai Lama to accept the invitation of the Tibetan Centre as their resident teacher and to give guidance to German Buddhists and those interested in Buddhism. I am therefore only passing on what my master has taught me. Whatever I have understood of Buddhism is all due to his kindness and wisdom.

As I have been studying mainly Tibetan Buddhism, I am relying for the most part on the sources of that tradition.

Buddha Śākyamuni, our teacher, taught us the Three Baskets or Collections of Scriptures (Tib. sDe snod gsum; Skt. Tripiṭaka) as the means to tame our body, speech and mind. They are the Collection of Discipline (Vinaya-Piṭaka), the Collection of Sūtras (Sūtra Piṭaka) and the Collection of Higher Knowledge (Abhidharma-Piṭaka).

All three Collections serve as antidotes to all deluded states of mind. In addition they can be roughly divided up as antidotes to the three poisons, the Collection of Discipline being taught mainly to counteract desire, the Collection of Sūtras to counteract hatred and the Collection of Higher Knowledge to counteract ignorance.

Let me start with a short description of the Vinaya in general for those of you who are not ordained or not so familiar with the topic.

The Vinaya Piṭaka (Tib. ‘Dul ba’i sde snod) has an important position within the Three Collections. Lord Buddha said: “When I have entered Nirvāṇa the Prātimokṣa (So-sor thar-pa) will be your teacher. Remembering those words you should, O communities of monks and nuns,1 assemble together to recite it with reverence due to Buddha himself.2 We find this statement in the introduction (Tib. gLeng-gzhi; Skt. Nidāna) of the Bhikṣu and the Bhikṣuṇī Prātimokṣa sūtras according to the Tibetan Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition. The Blessed One thus announced the Vinaya to be his representative or successor after his Nirvāṇa. In the introduction of the Prātimokṣa sūtra of the Chinese Dharmagupta Tradition it is said: “Just as if a man destroyed his feet, so that he could no longer walk, so it is to destroy these Precepts, without which can be no birth in Heaven.”3 And further: “As a king is supreme among men, as the ocean is chief of all flowing waters, as the moon is chief among the stars, as Buddha is pre-eminent among Sages, (this) Book of Precepts is the best.”

The Vinaya Piṭaka contains mainly instructions that regulate the daily life of monks and nuns. It is clearly and explicitly laid down which actions are forbidden (because harmful), which actions should be followed (because useful or beneficial) and which actions are harmless or neutral and are therefore neither forbidden nor specifically to be practiced. Thus there are three kinds of rules: prohibitions, prescripts and permissions.

Although many monastic rules have developed over the time, the rules that the Blessed One explicitly set down himself are not so many. They were collected in the Prātimokṣa sūtra, according to which in the Tibetan tradition the monks have 253 rules and the nuns 364, or if we add the Seven Dharmas by which offenses may be resolved (Skt. Adhikaraṇa-śamatha-dharma; Tib. rTsod pa’i zhi bar bya ba’i chos bdun) the monks have 262 and the nuns 371. In addition the monks have two rules, called the Undetermined Dharmas (Skt. Aniyata-dharmas Tib./ Ma nges pa’i chos gnyis). In the Sthaviravāda tradition, in Pāli called the Theravāda tradition, the monks have 227 and the nuns 311 rules; in the Dharmagupta tradition, as practiced nowadays mainly in Taiwan, Vietnam and Korea, the monks have 250 and the nuns 348 rules. There are only slight differences in the number of rules within the various traditions, which developed after the Nirvāṇa of the Buddha. As we can see from the Comparative Study of the Bhikkhunī Pāṭimokkha by Dr. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh the varying number of rules mainly come about because some rules contain several objects, which, in other traditions, are separate rules. As the Blessed One laid them down, he divided the rules into groups according to their degree of gravity. Within these groups the order in which they are set down sometimes varies in the different traditions.

If we consider the rules explicitly set down by Lord Buddha and the reasons behind them, we can conclude that if he made certain decisions in such and such a case, he would have regulated certain other matters in such and such a way, even if he did not explicitly say so. Thus we can see that extensions of rules are possible if we use logical reasoning and examine whether a certain action would be useful or harmful.

Before our Honored Teacher entered Nirvāṇa in Kuśinagara, he gave the following condensed instruction: “If (the teaching you intend to follow) is contained in the Sūtras, is to be found in the Vinaya and is not in conflict with the true state of things, you are to accept it as (my) Doctrine. If this is not the case, then (a teaching of some other kind) is not to be accepted.”4

This means that the prohibitions, prescripts and permissions explicitly laid down by Lord Buddha are to be followed; but if questions arise that were not regulated by him then the rule can be extended after carefully considering the harmfulness of not extending it and the benefit of extending it. In the Tibetan Vinaya the condensed instruction is to be found in the Vinaya kṣudraka vastu. From this viewpoint one can say that the words of the Buddha are infinite, because for all difficult situations in daily life a regulation in accord with the Buddha’s principles can be found, thanks to the condensed instruction. For example, apart from the 348 rules of a nun there are many things a nun is or is not allowed to do and in order to know what is and what is not allowed, it is important to know the condensed instruction and how to apply it. The Vinaya regulates the whole lifestyle of monks and nuns and is thus very comprehensive and important. For this reason it is said to represent the Buddha.

Furthermore in the Vinaya it is said that a spiritual master should have certain qualifications. He or she should have three qualities at least: being worthy of respect, stable and learned. Being worthy of respect means that one keeps one’s bhikṣu or bhikṣuṇī vow purely; stable means that one has spent ten years or at least five years near one’s teacher; being learned means that one has gained profound knowledge of the Three Collections of Scriptures during this time.

In the Vinaya stotra (‘Dul-ba la bstod-pa) by Dharmaśreṣṭhin (Chos kyi tshong-dpon) it is said that the Vinaya is to be regarded both as the teaching and as the teacher, as opposed to the Sūtra and Abhidharma Piṭaka, which are only to be regarded as the teaching. Therefore, says Dharmaśreṣṭhin, one should bow down to the Vinaya two times.5

Now I would like to come to the actual theme of my talk. Dr. Kabilsingh asked me to speak about the relevance of the Vinaya in modern circumstances, that means to me, whether it is important and at all possible for us to live in a modern society according to a discipline that was taught more than two and a half thousand years ago?

People have always had particular dispositions and wishes, but now in the 20th century—almost the 21st—and in a world that is becoming smaller and smaller as modern means of transport make it easier for people to meet, we hear and see much more than before. By seeing so many different possibilities of ways of living, people’s wishes are rapidly growing. In general material wishes are overwhelmingly prevalent and not only accepted by society as being normal but supported by politicians and the business world who look at them as being necessary for material progress. The preachers of materialism still seem to be convinced that material wealth leads to happiness, that one only has one life and not much time to get one’s share of happiness.

Religious people think in a different way and especially those following the teachings of the Blessed One know or learn that the nature of everlasting happiness cannot be secured by material means and during this lifetime. They know that the obstacles to everlasting happiness are to be found in our mind and that this has not changed since the Buddha taught the rules of the discipline as an effective tool to tame our wishful thinking.

To many it may appear difficult to live according to the rules of the Vinaya, because we have to manage with few material things and work on decreasing our desires. I think that whether we can do so depends largely on the individual’s wishes. On the one hand there are many rules that limit us but on the other hand we should also remember that the many wishes we have can never be fulfilled, whether we live with or without restrictions.

In my opinion, therefore, the question of whether one can live by the Vinaya today or not is a personal one, depending on one’s own attitude. When we see that what Lord Buddha prohibited is not really so important, that is, we see that we can manage without the objects of prohibition, then it is possible to live by the Vinaya. I see no reason why this should not be the case.

Over and above living as an ordained monk or nun, as explained in the Śrāvakayāna, one can live according to the Bodhisattva Piṭaka, thus combining both paths in one life.

Here also one’s personal attitude is important. Whether one can generate an altruistic attitude, loving kindness and compassion as Lord Buddha taught, depends on oneself. When a person has developed a loving attitude and, motivated by this, tries to act for the common good, then light transgressions against the minor rules are relatively small and permissions can be given, as for example in case of the prohibition to eat again and again, except at the right time or in the case of the prohibition to destroy or to cause to destroy an accumulation of seeds and residence of living beings, e.g. by cutting grass or cooking grain.

In the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, by the Indian Pandit Śāntideva (7th century) we read:

Those who strive by all means for concentration
Should not wander off even a moment;
By thinking, “How is my mind behaving?”—
They should closely analyze their mind.

But if I am unable to do this
When afraid or involved in celebrations,
then I should relax.
Likewise it has been taught that at times of giving
One may be indifferent to (certain aspects of) moral discipline.6

However permission cannot be granted for actions that are by nature wrong or sinful. But for actions that are only wrong because they go against the rules of discipline, such as cutting grass, cooking or heating grain, it is different. They are not wrong by nature as, for example, killing is.

Monks and nuns have to eat, so rice and vegetables have to be cooked. In the West we do not have the custom of collecting alms and it would be too expensive to eat in a restaurant every day. Therefore we have no choice but to buy food in a supermarket and to cook it ourselves. When such social conditions prevail or the common good demands it, I think that permission should be granted. If one incorporates the Bodhisattva Piṭaka into one’s life in this way, it is not so difficult to lead the life of an ordained monk or nun.

Furthermore it is said that the teachings of Lord Buddha will last for ten 500-year periods.7 After 5,000 years the duration of the teachings will cease. Although in general the Buddhadharma is in the process of degenerating, it is said that an individual’s personal practice will be increasingly beneficial to society. The more the Buddhadharma degenerates, the more benefit individual practice will bring. This is stated many times in the Bodhisattva Piṭaka.

It is similar to a material object. The older it gets, the rarer and more precious it becomes. Therefore it is especially beneficial in our present period (the 6th period, that of ethics), to lead the pure life, that is, the life of a celibate.

In the sūtra The King of Meditative Concentration (Ting nge ‘dzin gyi rgyal po’i mdo) it is said: “A person with a pure mind may pay homage to infinite Buddhas for ten million eras by offering foodstuffs and drinks, umbrellas, banners, lights and garlands as numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges—yet if, at a time when the holy Dharma is degenerating and the teachings of the Sugata are coming to an end, someone does a single practice day and night, that person’s merits are far higher.”8

In the Vinaya commentary The Ocean of Scripture and Logic9 by Kun-mkhyen mTsho-na-pa Shes-rab bZang-po (12th-13th century) there is a statement about the “condensed instruction” on the Vinaya:

From the Vinaya kṣudraka vastu: Lord Buddha went to Kuśinagara and there, in the neighborhood of the dwellings of the Mallas, he dwelt in a grove of Śāla trees. Then at the time when he was about to pass away into Nirvāṇa he spoke to the bhikṣus: ‘Bhikṣus, I have taught the Vinaya in detail, but not in brief. This I will now do. Listen well and precisely and keep these words in mind. If (an action) that I previously neither (explicitly) allowed nor forbade was taught as being inappropriate and does not conform to what is appropriate, then you should not carry it out, as it is not appropriate (extension of prohibitions); however, if it was taught as appropriate and does not conform to what is inappropriate, you should perform it, as it is appropriate (extension of prescripts). You do not need to regret this.’

In the Vinaya sūtra this is expressed as follows: “Whatever is in accord with inappropriate (behavior) and conflicts with appropriate (behavior) belongs to the category of inappropriate (behavior). Whatever is in accord with the latter and conflicts with the former is appropriate.”10

Thus, for example, Lord Buddha forbade monks and nuns to dig the earth when it is firm and damp and there are likely to be small animals in it, which would then be killed. This is one of the rules regarding Sins which Require Expiation (Skt. Prāyaścittiya dharmā; Tib. lTung-byed kyi chos). But the Buddha did not expressly forbid digging sand. Sand is not earth, but fine stone. However, there may be small animals in firm and damp sand too. So if we apply the condensed instruction of the Buddha to this case, we will realize that it is also forbidden to dig sand if it contains small animals, even though not explicitly forbidden in the Prātimokṣa sūtra.

A further example is the prescript he gave fully ordained monks and nuns for the upkeep and purification of their vows (Skt. Poṣadha; Tib. Sgo sbyong), which they are to do every 14 or 15 days. The purpose of this ceremony is to purify or rectify any faults made in the practice of ethical discipline and in the practice of the Dharma. Practicing ethics here means for example keeping one’s vows, and practicing meditative concentration and wisdom, which is based on the practice of ethical discipline, is probably what is meant by Dharma here. The ceremony for the upkeep and purification is one means of purifying these faults.

In the case of novice monks (Tib. dGe tshul; Skt. śrāmaṇera) and novice nuns (Tib. dGe tshul ma; Skt. śrāmaṇerikā) there is no rule in this respect so we have to apply reasoning as in the case of digging the sand. Lord Buddha did not expressly say that novices have to do a ceremony for the upkeep and purification of their novice vows. I do not know how this is dealt with in other traditions, but in the Tibetan tradition it is customary for novices to do this ceremony, because not only fully ordained monks and nuns but also novices commit faults in their practice of ethical discipline and the Dharma and therefore need to purify them. This is an example of an extended prescript.

In practice this ceremony takes place as follows: the fully ordained monks first perform a confession ceremony—this is to prepare them for the recitation of the Prātimokṣa sūtra. Then the novice monks enter and recite verses of confession, up to three novices in front of one bhikṣu. After that some verses are recited by all the bhikṣus and novices together. The novices recite the actual Poṣadha Rite for Novices and then leave the assembly of monks. Now follows the actual Poṣadha Rite for Bhikṣus, during which the eldest bhikṣu recites the Bhikṣu Prātimokṣa sūtra whilst the others listen. Only fully ordained monks can attend this ceremony. If the eldest bhikṣu cannot recite the Prātimokṣa sūtra by heart, another bhikṣu can do it instead of him. According to the Tibetan Vinaya bhikṣuṇīs and novice nuns should perform a similar ritual separately from the bhikṣus, but instead of the Bhikṣu Prātimokṣa sūtra the Bhikṣuṇī Prātimokṣa sūtra is to be recited.

Thus we see that there are extended prohibitions and extended prescripts and now we come to the extended permissions. I mention these three categories to show the far-reaching significance of Lord Buddha’s condensed instruction.

Permission can be given in situations when the object of the action is neither harmful nor beneficial, that is, it is free of faults or neutral. For example, one could ask whether the ordained are allowed to use plastic containers. In Tibetan or Western monasteries and nunneries they are allowed. There is neither a special reason for eating out of them nor for not eating out of them. Actually one should eat out of one’s alms-bowl, but in Tibet they were also allowed to eat out of simple clay or wooden bowls. What reason, therefore, is there for eating or not eating out of plastic bowls? Nowadays plastic is very common and used by everybody. On the other hand there are many problems resulting in the use of too much plastic. The environment and the sentient beings living in it are harmed. So we have to be flexible. If scientists find a way to use plastic without any harmful effects it can be used, but if they come to the conclusion that it is better to stop using plastic completely then we should also stop using it.

In the Ocean of Scripture and Logic there is a quotation from the original text by Śākya-od: “That which is neither permitted nor prohibited is to be added to the rules that have been taught, if it is in accord with them.”11 By weighing up the benefit or harm of an action and seeing whether it is in accord with what was explicitly taught, the rules must be extended or completed in order to be able to really live one’s life according to the Vinaya.

In general the whole meaning of the Vinaya Piṭaka can be summarized under three headings: First, how the Prātimokṣa vow arises where it has not yet arisen. This is concerned mainly with ordination rituals. Each of the three Vinaya traditions that have survived until today—the Sthaviravāda, the Dharmagupta and the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition—has its own complete set of rituals and explanations as found in the first chapter of the Vinaya vastu, the so-called Ordination vastu. Until now, however, there has been little exchange between the traditions about what they have in common and where they differ. Happily this is gradually changing.

The second heading is how to protect the vow from degenerating, once it has arisen and the third how to remedy degenerated vows. The first phase, the actual Ordination, is quickly over. The other two phases are more important as they last for the rest of our lives as monks or nuns.

In order to protect the vow from degenerating, in other words how to keep one’s vow, five factors (sDom pa bsrung thabs lnga) are necessary:

  • First: how to keep the vow by relying on the spiritual master—this is the outer condition. As mentioned earlier, the qualifications of such a master are explained in the Vinaya. He or she must have kept the bhikṣu or bhikṣuṇī vow purely, have lived near the master for ten years and have attained profound knowledge of the Three Collections of Scriptures during this time as well as be able to explain them to others. In addition the disciple has to fulfill certain conditions. This is all explained in the above-mentioned Ordination vastu.
  • Second: how to keep the vow by relying on the correct attitude of mind—this is the inner condition.
  • Third: having found a spiritual master, monks and nuns can learn how to keep the vow by knowing what is not in accord with it as explained in the Vinaya vibhaṅga, a kind of commentary on the infractions of the prohibitions set down by the Buddha in the Prātimokṣa sūtra.
  • Fourth: how to keep the vow by relying on conditions for fortunate dwelling. Here it is taught which conditions are suitable for proper practice. Such things as eating, sleeping, clothes etc are meant, as found in the vastus on Hides and skins, Medicine, Garments, Kaṭhina and House and bed.
  • Fifth: how to keep one’s vow by keeping the discipline absolutely pure. This refers to the Ceremony for the upkeep and purification of one’s vow, the Summer retreat (Skt. Varṣa, Tib. dbYar gnas), which lasts for three months, and the Conclusion of the summer retreat (Skt. Pravāraṇā; Tib. dGag dbye).

These are the five necessary factors that are needed in order to protect the vow from degenerating, once it has arisen. The third heading, how to remedy degenerated vows, refers to the rest of the 17 chapters of the Vinaya vastu (or 20 chapters according to the Sthaviravāda tradition), with the exception of the Karma vastu. These are for example the vastus on Disputes, on Splitting the Saṃgha, on Changing location and on the Exclusion from the Poṣadha ceremony.

Now I will come back to the fourth factor, how to keep the vow by relying on conditions for fortunate dwelling. According to the Vinaya one is allowed to find a sponsor for one’s livelihood, as one cannot live the life of an ascetic simply by becoming a Buddhist monk or nun. One still needs to eat and have a place to sleep. That is why we find the following thought in the Dhammapada in Pāli as well as in its Sanskrit-equivalent, the Udānavarga, which has been translated into Tibetan and is part of the Kangyur:

Just as the bee extracts the flower’s nectar and quickly passes on without disturbing the flower’s color or scent, so the Sage moves through the town.12

It is one’s own personal choice whether one becomes a Buddhist or not and joins the order or not. However, if one takes this step, one is convinced that the teachings of Lord Buddha are 100% true. He taught that just as a bee drinks the nectar of a flower without disturbing its petals or colour, so monks and nuns should not cause any discomfort to the families from whom they receive alms. They should simply eat their meal and then quickly continue on their way. This means they should not crave other things whilst there and only eat as much as they need for one day, then go.

In order to gain realizations of Buddha’s teachings it is essential to develop compassion and loving kindness. The Tibetan word for alms is “bSod-snyom,” which means “equal merit.” The sponsors collect good imprints on their mindstream, or so-called merit, by giving a meal, as the one receiving the meal is then in a better position to practice the Buddhadharma intensively. If the monks and nuns take their meals in the way prescribed by Lord Buddha, they also collect merit. Thus there is a beneficial relationship on both sides. Both collect merit, which serves to bring them closer to liberation from the wheel of existence. Since everybody needs merit, it is important that monks and nuns do not just go to the houses where the best alms are served, but see to it that all the families have an equal chance to collect merit. This is achieved by going to a different family each day and being satisfied with what they are given.

We need food so that we are in a position to practice the Dharma, to keep our vows, to practice concentration, to meditate on the Four Noble Truths and so on. No matter whether we live in the 20th century or not, every being that has attained a human body has at his or her disposal a special kind of physical and mental energy. This differentiates us from sentient beings in other realms. How we use this energy is up to each of us. We can use it to achieve liberation or not. In any case human beings can reduce their daily needs to a minimum and use the rest of the time to work for enlightenment. All three vehicles, the Śrāvakayāna, Mahāyāna and Tantrayāna, agree on this and teach an appropriate and complete path. Our mind should be directed towards this one goal and not towards the many wishes that continually surface. It is a question of leading a simple life without too many distractions.

If we give our mind too much free rein and permanently try to obtain everything we want, we will never be satisfied. Even on the last day of our life our wishes will be unfulfilled. In reality our life is very short and therefore it is more meaningful to concentrate completely on the goal of liberation. We should put our temporal wishes aside in favor of this great and worthwhile goal, otherwise there is not much time left to keep our vows, contemplate and meditate. We have the chance to practice now. What a pity it would be to waste such a good opportunity.

For this reason it is understandable that in those countries where the bhikṣuṇī order has died out or never arisen, women are sad that they cannot spend their precious human rebirth as nuns, even though Lord Buddha had made this possible. Shortly after his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree and before his first sermon he had already decided to establish an order of nuns. This was also before the establishment of the bhikṣu order and years before Buddha’s stepmother Mahāprajāpatī (sKye dgu’i bdag mo chen mo) and his monk-attendant Ānanda (Kun dga’ bo) officially requested him to start an order of nuns. It was at the time that Lord Buddha was sick and Māra wanted to persuade him to pass away, when he said: “Blessed One (Bhagavat), the time to die has come!”

But the Blessed One answered him: “Māra, as long as my disciples have not become wise and of quick understanding, as long as the bhikṣus, the bhikṣuṇīs, and the lay disciples of either sex are not able to refute their adversaries according to the Dharma, as long as my moral teaching has not been spread far and wide among gods and men, so long will I not pass away.”13

The establishment of the order of nuns is described in the Vinaya kṣudraka vastu in the Tibetan canon. Five years after Buddha’s enlightenment Mahāprajāpatī requests him at Kapilavastu (Ser skya) to establish an order of nuns. “When the Blessed One had finished preaching to the five hundred Śākya women in the hollow of a Nyagrodha tree, Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī said to the Buddha, ‘If women could have the four fruits of the Śramana, they would enter the order and strive for perfection. I beseech the Blessed One to let women become bhikṣuṇīs, and to live in purity near the Blessed One.’ But he answered her, ‘Gautamī, wear the pure white dress of lay-women; seek to attain perfection; be pure, chaste, and live virtuously, and you will find a lasting reward, blessings, and happiness.’ A second and yet a third time she renewed her request in the same terms, but she only elicited the same answer; so bowing down, she left his presence.”

“Once when the Blessed One went to the Nadika country in Vrji and stopped at a place called Nadikaikujika, Gautamī having heard this, she and five hundred Śākya women shaved their heads, put on bhikṣuṇīs’ clothing, and followed after him and came to where he was, wearied, ragged, wayworn, and covered with dust. When the Buddha had finished preaching to her and her companions, she renewed her request to be admitted into the order, but she received the same answer as previously. So she went and sat down outside the entrance of the house and wept, and there Ānanda saw her and asked her what was the matter. She told him, and Ānanda went to where the Buddha was and renewed Gautamī’s request. ‘Ānanda’, replied the Buddha, ‘ask not that women be admitted into the order, that they be ordained and become bhikṣuṇīs, for if women enter the order the rules of the order will not last long. Ānanda, if in a house there are many women and but few men, thieves and robbers may break in and steal; so will it be, Ānanda, if women enter the order, the rules of the order will not long be safe. Or yet again, Ānanda, if a field of sugar-cane is blighted, it is worthless, good for nothing; so will it be, Ānanda, if women enter the order, the rules of the order will not last long. However, Ānanda, if Gautamī accepts the eight following rules (Skt. Gurudharma; Tib. bLa ma’i chos brgyad / lCi chos brgyad14 ; Pāli: Garudhammā15 ), she may enter the order.’ Gautamī accepted all these rules, and so she and the other women were received into the order.”16

The relevant passage in the Pāli canon, which differs somewhat from the explanation in the Tibetan Vinaya, can be found in the Bhikkhuṇīkkhandhaka of the Cullavagga. In the Chinese Vinaya of the Dharmagupta tradition we find it (according to Frauwallner) in the 17th. Skandhaka (Pi-chíu-ni chien tu).

As far as I know the establishment of the order of nuns was criticized by the monks only after the Buddha’s Nirvāṇa. Ānanda is severely reproached by Kāśyapa (‘Od srung) for his conduct on this occasion. He said: “Thou hast summoned women to embrace the religious life, heedless of the Teacher’s having said to thee: ‘Ānanda, do not cause women to embrace the religious life and do not tell them that they ought to take orders and become nuns. Why that? Because, if women take orders according to the discipline of this Doctrine, the latter will have no long duration. As, for instance, if hail descends on a field full of wild rice, the latter will be destroyed, similarly if women take orders, the Discipline of this Doctrine is not to abide for long.’ Has he not said that?” Ānanda replied: “I cannot be accused of want of shame and the like. But (mind thou this): Mahāprajāpatī was the foster-mother who fed the Teacher with her breast. It would be suitable (to admit women to take orders) out of mere gratitude toward her, and in order that (the Buddha) should become possesed of the 4 kinds of adherents (including the nuns) as the fully awakened Buddhas in former times had.” “Thy gratitude,” said Kāśyapa, “has caused harm to the spiritual Body of the Buddha. The hail has fallen on the abundant field of Buddhaic activity; therefore remains only the short period of 1000 years (for the Doctrine) to abide. In former times, when the wishes, faults, desires, hatred and delusions of the living beings were fewer, the Congregation of four kinds was suitable, but at present it was not the wish of the Teacher that this should be. It is thou who hast prayed him (to allow women to take orders), and this is thy first transgression.”17

Let us summarize the event according to the Tibetan Vinaya: First the Blessed One attained enlightenment and along with it omniscience. Then Lord Buddha decided not to pass away until his four kinds of disciples, including bhikṣuṇīs, had understood his teachings well. Five years later, he at first rejected Mahāprajāpatī’s request to be ordained and advised her to lead the life of a lay-woman. Yet after Ānanda’s third attempt and after some hesitation, he agreed.

Why did he hesitate, when after his enlightenment he knew that he would not die until nuns were also amongst his disciples? Does someone who is omniscient have to change his mind after five years, even though he can foresee all developments? We also have the problem that Lord Buddha said the teachings would not last so long, if he allowed women to enter the order. And yet through Ānanda’s help he gave them permission, under the condition that Mahāprajāpatī accepted the eight Gurudharmas. Why did he agree, if he knew that it would harm the duration of the teachings? Did he not care whether the teachings lasted long or not? Or were these consequences avoided through Mahāprajāpatī accepting the eight Gurudharmas?

Unfortunately we have no answer to these questions. Or did the Blessed One and Mahākāśyapa answer indirectly? For Mahākāśyapa did say that the wishes, faults, desires, hatred and delusions of living beings were stronger than during the times of earlier Buddhas. Therefore Lord Buddha may have seen potential danger in establishing an order of nuns alongside an order of monks. It meant men and women—whose passions had never been stronger than at that time—living near each other. It could endanger their ethical discipline and the duration of the order and the teachings. To me this reason seems very plausible.

In many publications in the West these events are interpreted as proving that the Buddha looked down on women. But I cannot agree with this view. We know that the Buddha was against the caste system, so how could he establish two new castes: that of men and women?

Supposing that the Buddha, on account of being omniscient, knew that he would establish an order of nuns, but hesitated when he was officially requested to do so, because he wanted to show there was a potential danger. He did not really hesitate, but he simply wanted to point out that the passions of sentient beings were very strong at that time and therefore it was dangerous to have two orders of different sexes living close to each other. In this case one could even logically conclude that under different social conditions things could have happened exactly the other way round: If Buddha had lived at a time when women enjoyed the best social standing and had important positions in society, Buddha may have established the order of nuns first. Then Buddha’s father may have come and requested him to establish an order of monks. Maybe the Blessed One would have rejected this request for fear of placing nuns and monks under too great a temptation by having them so close to each other. This is just a hypothesis—I do not know.

Other theories are possible. Perhaps there were social reasons that caused Buddha to hesitate. Maybe he was afraid that people would not take Buddhism seriously if women were given an equal status.

Or maybe he was worried that more women than men would choose the homeless life and thus make the order vulnerable. For the Blessed One gave the example that “if women enter the order, the rules of the order will not last long, because, if in a house there are many women and but few men, thieves and robbers may break in and steal.”

A completely different version of how the order was established recently came to my attention. Jens Peter Laut from the German University of Marburg translated an Old Turkish text about the establishment of the order of nuns:

“Near the monastery Nyagrodhārāma, Paṭṭiṇī, one of Gautamī’s maidservants, is telling one of Buddha’s female layfollowers (Skt. Upāsikā; Tib. dGe bsnyen ma) that Gautamī wants to present the Blessed One with a home-made robe. This is out of gratitude for establishing an order of nuns. Paṭṭiṇī then goes on to tell how the order was established. This is quite unusual, as it is a report from the female side. According to her, some time ago Lord Buddha wanted to preach the Dharma to women. But at that time the Śākya princes passed a law forbidding women to attend the Dharma sermon. The angry women met and asked Gautamī to go to her husband Śuddhodana, Buddha’s father, and intervene on their behalf. He finally gives them permission to attend and Gautamī and ten thousand women go to the monastery Nyagrodhārāma. On the way they are stopped by Śākya youths, who, as expressly stated, ‘have not yet attained the state of holiness and are dominated by kleœas’. They tell them that they are not allowed to attend Dharma teachings. In addition, they argue, ‘our (caste) brother, Siddhārta, speaks of your hundred-fold sins!’ When asked which sins these are, the monks mention ‘five sins of women’. ‘Each woman has five sins: 1. (Women) are hot-tempered and (at the same time) anxious, 2. they are jealous, 3. they are unreliable, 4. they are ungrateful and 5. they are possessed of a strong sexuality.’ The women defend themselves with considerable arguments: ‘It was a woman who carried Siddhārta in her womb for 9 months and 10 days! Likewise it was a woman who bore him with great pains! It was a woman who took great pains to bring him up!’ Finally the women managed to get to the monastery, where Buddha gave them and the monks a teaching on the ‘five virtues of women’: ‘The virtues of women, O monks, are fivefold: 1. They neglect neither (simple) houses nor palaces, 2. they are steadfast in keeping together earned wealth (?), 3. in the case of sickness they take care of both their master (i.e. husband) (?) and an unrelated person (?), 4. they can enjoy pleasures together with men and 5. Buddhas, Pratyekabuddhas, Arhats and the lucky beings—all are born of women!’

As mentioned, the women then accuse the youths of misrepresenting Buddha in his attitude towards women. At the end of the episode Buddha gives a discourse to the women, whereupon all 180,000 Śākya women attain the state of a Śrotāpanna (Stream Enterer), that is, they gain the first stage in the Buddhist monastic path to salvation. The order of nuns is established.”

What I find so interesting in this account, is that a worldly power—the Śākya princes—forbade women to listen to the Dharma. In the light of social conditions in India at that time this version makes sense and it also gives a reason why the Buddha possibly hesitated. It would have meant contravening the laws of the land.

But on the other hand this version is not satisfactory in all aspects. A Western woman today is less likely to admire the five virtues of women as mentioned above. These surely do not correspond to the ideal of women today. Women in the Vedic-Brahman society seemed to have had a very low social status. Therefore they possibly felt encouraged and more confident when they heard of these virtues.

Whatever the case may be, Lord Buddha decided to establish an order of nuns, despite his doubts and in full knowledge of any possible disadvantages that might ensue. Who could have foreseen all the consequences of such a step, if not the Buddha? If the Blessed One had preferred not to establish an order of nuns, he could easily, as the founder, have thought of a skilful way of avoiding it. And even if he had established the order only because—out of compassion—he gave in to Ānanda’s urging, it would not be correct that we, as his disciples 2500 years later, question his decision and decide not to have an order of nuns. But I find this difficult to accept, for a Buddha’s compassion always goes hand in hand with wisdom. And I cannot imagine a wise man giving in to something that he considers unwise. Surely a Buddha cannot act against his own better judgement or even do something that would harm living beings only because one of his disciples in his ignorance urged him to it?

In the first conference of Buddhist nuns in Bodhgaya 1987 Dr. Kabilsingh pointed out another occasion when the Buddha hesitated. This was after his enlightenment when he doubted whether he should preach or not. She reasoned that even though he hesitated to preach, we never question that the Dharma he preached was faulty. Just as we cannot use the fact that the Buddha hesitated to preach as a reason to invalidate the teachings, we cannot use the fact that he hesitated to admit women into the order as a reason to reject the order of bhikṣuṇīs.

Now I would like to come to the last point of my talk. In I.B. Horner’s translation of the Vinaya of the Sthaviravāda tradition, the establishment of the order of nuns is described somewhat differently from the Tibetan version. In the English translation of the Pāli version it is said that Mahāprajāpatī approached the Lord and asked him, what line of conduct she should follow in regard to the five hundred Śākyan women. The Lord gave her a talk on the Dharma and after she had departed he addressed the monks saying: “I allow, monks, nuns to be ordained by monks.”18

At the beginning of my talk I mentioned three categories of rules: prohibitions, prescripts and permissions. If I.B. Horner’s translation is correct this seems to be the case of a permission.

A little later another permission was granted. It seems that the Śākyan women were ordained by the monks and that during this ordination some problems arose. The reason for this was as follows: in order to check whether all the necessary preconditions for an ordination were present, the nuns-to-be had to be asked certain questions—the so-called things which are stumbling blocks, eg. whether they have certain diseases, whether they are definitely of the female sex etc. When the monks questioned them on these points, “those wishing for ordination were at a loss, they were abashed, they were unable to answer. They told this matter to the Lord. he said: ‘I allow, monks, ordination in the Order of monks after she has been ordained on the one side, and has cleared herself in the Order of nuns.'”19

The nuns still could not answer, so the Buddha said: “‘I allow them, monks, having been instructed first, afterwards to ask about the things which are stumbling blocks.'”20

They were instructed just there in the midst of the order and again they were unable to answer. Then the Lord said: “I allow them monks, having been instructed aside, to ask about the things which are stumbling blocks in the midst of the Order. And thus, monks should she be instructed: First she should be invited to choose a woman preceptor; having invited her to choose a woman preceptor, a bowl and robes should be pointed out to her (with the words): ‘This is a bowl for you, this is an outer cloak, this is an upper robe, this is an inner robe, this is a vest, this is a bathing cloth, go and stand in such and such a place.'”

Then a new problem arose: “Ignorant, inexperienced (nuns) instructed them.” And again those wishing for ordination were unable to answer. The Lord said: “Monks, they should not be instructed by ignorant, inexperienced (nuns). Whoever (such) should instruct them, there is an offense of wrong-doing. I allow them, monks to instruct by means of an experienced, competent (nun).”

Again some who were not agreed upon by the nuns’ community instructed them and the Lord said: “Monks, they should not be instructed by one who is not agreed upon.”

Finally the Blessed One explained how a competent nun should be agreed upon, how she should then approach the one who wishes for ordination, how the order should be informed by the competent nun, how the candidate should ask the order for ordination, and how the order has to carry out the formal act. After the candidate has been ordained by the order of nuns through the woman proposer she is immediately taken to the order of monks by her, where the candidate again has to ask for ordination. The order of monks should be informed by an experienced, competent monk and again a formal rite takes place. After the candidate has been ordained by the order of monks through the woman proposer the shadow should be measured at once, the length of the season should be explained, the portion of the day should be explained, the formula should be explained, the nuns should be told: “Explain the three resources to her and the eight things which are not to be done.”

The ordination rituals for a laywoman, for a novice nun, for a probationer nun (Skt. Śikṣamāṇā; Tib. dGe slob ma) and for a fully ordained nun are explained in the Tibetan Vinaya in a very similar way to that in the Pāli. However, the explanation of the eight Gurudharmas and the ordination procedure of the five hundred Śākya women differ considerably:

Although both the Tibetan Vinaya and the Pāli Vinaya state that a fully ordained nun should take her vow in front of both Saṃghas—the bhikṣu and bhikṣuṇī Saṃgha—this rule is not yet contained in the eight Gurudharmas as found in the Tibetan version. One of the Gurudharmas according to the Tibetan tradition states: “Women are expected to request ordination from the monks and after they have received full ordination, they should thoroughly understand the nature of being a bhikṣuṇī.”21 It makes sense that the dual ordination is not yet mentioned, because there was no order of nuns at the time when these rules were set up. Only after Mahāprajāpatī and the five hundred Śākya women have become bhikṣuṇīs by accepting the eight rules does the question arise of how candidates should receive their vow in future. After this first ordination the rule was made that the nuns’ community should play an important part in the ordination of nuns.

Even though the other seven Gurudharmas are almost the same in the Tibetan and Pāli version, differing mainly in the order in which they occur, we do come upon a big difference in this particular rule. In the English translation of the Pāli Vinaya we find the corresponding Gurudharma: “When, as a probationer, she has trained in the six rules for two years, she should seek ordination from both Orders.” This presentation is difficult to understand from the chronological point of view. The Buddha gave clear instructions in this 6th Garudhamma on how an ordination is to be carried out. Why then does it say, when the question arises as to how the five hundred Śākya women are to be ordained: “I allow, monks, nuns to be ordained by monks.” And why do problems arise during the ordination that have been clarified before and why do these need to be regulated anew?

Whatever the answer may be, both the Tibetan and the Pāli Vinaya contain a statement of the Buddha at a time when there was no Bhikṣuṇī Saṃgha—comparable to the situation in some countries today—which says that nuns may be ordained by monks. What should be clarified is whether Buddha himself ever explicitly revoked this rule. Are there any statements that say something like: “From now on, monks, I forbid you at all times and in all countries of the world to ordain nuns.” I have not heard of such a rule so far and would be very interested in ano exchange of views on this point and other questions, which I have unfortunately not had time to discuss today.

If the sentence “I allow, monks, nuns to be ordained by monks” is not a mistranslation of the Pāli Vinaya, it may be possible for the Theravāda Bhikkhu Sangha—as long as there are not ten fully ordained and competent nuns—to decide to perform the bhikṣuṇī ordination alone, without nuns. One should examine whether the benefit of such an action would outweigh the harm, if there is any. Surely it is in the interest of all practicing Buddhists that the rituals taught by our Teacher, Lord Buddha, be kept alive and not die out.

There is of course the possibility of taking the full ordination—as over thirty nuns in the Tibetan tradition have done—in the Dharmagupta tradition, which is still flourishing today. This tradition was taken to China in AD 433 by the Singhalese Bhikṣuṇī Devasara and her ordained sisters. According to the Tibetan tradition nuns must be ordained for at least twelve years, not ten, and possess other qualifications as well, for example, having good knowledge of the Vinaya and the ordination ritual. Thus after twelve years nuns in the Tibetan tradition could perform an ordination together with the Tibetan bhikṣus of the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition, if these are willing to do so.

With this I would like to show why I think it is so important for monks and nuns all over the world to attend seminars, to discuss these matters and other questions. The first seminar could last for one week, for instance. Monks, nuns and perhaps interested and learned lay disciples could discuss certain questions in separate groups and then come together for the last one or two days to compare their views or findings. Since the women of many countries have no access to full ordination, I think it would be better to discuss this question on an international level and look for a solution that is satisfactory for all.

In today’s times we cannot simply overlook this question. In the West it is said that a progressive society can be recognized by the status that women have in it. They play such an important role in the spiritual, political, economic, artistic and scientific life of the West, that one cannot imagine society without them. Despite this the aims of the women’s movements for equal rights in politics, education, work and equal pay have not yet been fully realized. Assuming that the women’s movement in the West began in 1789 during the French Revolution, when Olympe de Gouges led a group of women with a declaration of women’s rights—as opposed to the declaration of human rights—it is not surprising that the women of Europe and America nowadays can study at any university, in any faculty. Not all professions, however, are open to them, for example, that of a priest. In the Protestant Church in Germany women have been allowed to study theology since 1919 and since 1967 they have been able to be ordained as pastors. In the Catholic Church they can also study theology at university, but they still cannot be priests.

If we look at Africa and Asia we find that women also play important roles in public life, although not to such a large extent as in the West. In some countries women play a very large part in the religious life. In Taiwan, for example, there are more nuns than monks and without them religious and social activity would come to a standstill.

Against this background it seems to me that 2,500 years ago Lord Buddha was ahead, not only of his times but even of modern times in his establishing the full ordination for women. Therefore we should take special care to keep this tradition alive and not let it die out.

But during this process there is one thing we as women should be very careful about. When we speak of the status of women, religious and worldly thinking can easily get mixed up. The word “status” in the sense of “which rights one has or does not have” does probably belong more to the world of politics and society than to that of religion. In a religious context we do not speak of a person’s status as being a certain degree of liberation from the wheel of existence. Rather we speak of someone’s potential for liberation or for enlightenment and what is allowed or not allowed in order to reach this goal, according to the religious rules of conduct. Of course there is much more to be said about this.

Thank you for your attention.

  1. Here I translate “dGe slong” as “monks and nuns,” since it is used in both Sūtras and since according to my master Geshe Thubten Ngawang it is correct to do so in this case. He says (oral statement):
    “bslab gzhi yongs rdzogs kyi so thar sdom ldan la dge slong zhes pa ‘am/ bsnyen par rdzogs pa zhes zer ba red/ bsnyen par rdzogs stangs la rten gyi cha nas/ pha bsnyen par rdzogs stangs dang/ ma bsnyen par rdzogs stangs mi ‘dra ba’i cho ga mi ‘dra ba zo zo nas yod/”
    “If a person is called “dGe slong” and hst the full Prātimokṣa vow as the basis of training, then that person is understood to have taken full ordination (bsNyen par rdzogs pa; Upasampadā), according to gender: There are two kinds of full ordination, according to gender: the ritual for the full ordination of men and the ritual for the full ordination of women.” 

  2. Lhasa Kangyur, volume ca, ‘dul ba, page 2b (Bhikṣu Prātimokṣa sūtra); volume ta, ‘dul ba, page 2b (Bhikṣuṇī Prātimokṣa sūtra): nga ni mya ngan ‘das gyur na/ ‘di ni khyed kyi ston pa zhes/ rang byung nyid kyis gus bcas par/ nan tan dge slong tshogs mdun bstod// 

  3. A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese by Samuel Beal, London 1871, page 207. 

  4. Dr. E. Obermiller: Translation of The History of Buddhism in India and Tibet by Bu-ston” page 57; Vin.-ksudr. Kg. ÇDUL. XI. 247a. 5-6.
    Waldschmidt, Ernst: Die Legende des Buddha, page 237.
    Rockhill, W. Woodville: The Life of the Buddha, page 135.
    Panglung, Jampa Losang: Die Erzählstoffe des Mūlasarvāstivāda-Vinaya, page 199.

  5. Derge Tangyur, No. 4136, vol. su, page 133b,2: rgyal ba bston pa de yi bstan bcos dag/ mdo dang chos mngon yin gsungs ‘dul ba ni/ ston dang bstan bcos dngos yin de yi phyir/ gnyis gyur phyag byas sangs rgyas chos gcig bzhin// 

  6. Byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ‘jug pa, page 51, Shesrig Parkhang 1978: ci nas ting ‘dzin brtsan pa ni/ skad chig gcig kyang mi ‘chor bar/ bdag gi yid ‘di gar spyod ces/ de ltar yid la so sor brtag//
    jigs dang dga’ ston sogs ‘brel bar/ gal te mi nus ci bder bya/ ‘di ltar sbyin pa’i dus dag tu/ tshul khrims btang snyoms bzhag par gsungs//
    A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, translated into English by Stephen Batchelor, chapter 5, verses 41, 42, page 44.

  7. dgra bcom pa’i le’u/ phyir mi ‘ong gi le’u/ rgyun du zhugs pa’i le’u/ shes rab kyi le’u/ ting nge ‘dzin gyi le’u/ tshul khrims kyi le’u/ mngon pa’i le’u/ mdo sde’i le’u/ ‘dul ba’i le’u/ rtags tsam ‘dzin pa’i le’u// 

  8. bskal ba bye bar gang ga’i bye snyed rdul/ dang ba’i sems kyis zas dang skom rnams dang/ gdugs dang ba dan mar me’i phreng ba yis/ sangs rgyas bye ba phrag khrigs rim ‘gro byas/ gang gi dam chos rab tu ‘jig pa dang/ bde gshegs bstan pa ‘gag par ‘gyur ba’i tshe/ nyin mtshan du ni bslab pa gcig spyod pa/ bsod nams ‘di ni de bas bye khyad ‘phags/ zhes 

  9. ‘Dul ba mtsho ttik (myi ma’i od zer), ka, page 20, line 6: lung phran tshegs las/ sangs rgyas bcom ldan ‘das ku sha’i grong khyer na gyad kyi nye lkhor shing sa’ la zung gi tshal na bzhugs so/ de nas bcom ldan bdas yongs su mya ngan las ‘da’ ba’i dus kyi tshe na dge slong rnams la bka’ stsal pa/ dge slong dag ngas ‘dul ba brgyas par bstan na/ mdor bsdus te ma bstan pas legs par rab tu nyon la yid la zungs shig dang ngas bshad do/ dge slong dag khyed kyis ngas sngon gnang ba yang med bkag pa yang med pa gang yin pa de/ gal te mi rung ba bstan cing rung ba dang mi mthun na/ rung ba ma yin pa’i phyir spyad par mi bya’o (bkag pa’i mdor bsdus)/ gal te rung ba bstan cing mi rung ba dang mi mthun na/ rung ba yin pa’i phyir spyad par bya ste (grub pa’i mdor bsdus) ‘di la ‘gyod par mi bya’o zhes gsungs so// 

  10. Yon tan od (Gu¶a¬prabha): ‘Dul ba’i mdo (rtsa ba) (Vinaya sutra), Derge Tangyur, ‘Dul ba, vol. wu, gNas mal gyi gzhi (Œayanåsana¬vastu), page 100a, 3: mi rung ba dang mthün la rung ba dang ‘gal ba ni rung ba ma yin par bsdu’o/ phyi ma dang mthün la snga ma dang ‘gal ba ni rung bar bya’o//  

  11. ‘Dul ba mtsho ttik (nyi ma’i od zer), page 22b, line 2: ‘od ldan rtsa ba las/ gang zhig gnang med de bzhin bkag med pa/ de ni gsungs pa’i rjes mthun brtags te sbyar//  

  12. Ched du brjod pa’i tshoms: Lhasa Kangyur, No. 330, volume la, page 344b,7: chapter 18: verse 8: ji ltar bung ba me tog gi/ kha dog dri la mi gnod par// khu ba bzhibs nas ‘phur ba ltar// bde bzhin thub pa grong du rgyu/ 

  13. W. Woodville Rockhill: The Life of the Buddha and the Early History of his Order, page 34. 

  14. The eight rules are: 1. Women are expected to request ordination from the monks and after having received full ordination they should thoroughly understand the nature of being a bhikṣuṇī; 2. a bhikṣuṇī should seek instruction by the bhikṣus every half-month; 3. a bhikṣuṇī should not pass the summer retreat in a place where there are no bhikṣus; 4. after the summer retreat a bhikṣuṇī should ‘invite’ before both orders in respect of three matters: what was seen, what was heard, what was suspected; 5. a nun is not allowed to teach or remind a monk about his morality, views, conduct or livelihood, but a monk is not forbidden to teach or remind a nun about her morality, views, conduct or livelihood; 6. a bhikṣuṇī should not say bad words to a bhikṣu, be angry with him or do anything sinful to him; 7. if a bhikṣuṇī transgresses (one of) the eight Gurudharmas she has to undergo mānatta up to half a month in front of both Saṃghas; 8. a bhikṣuṇī though she has been ordained for a hundred years, should always speak kindly to a bhikṣu, even if he be recently ordained, she shall honor him, rise before him, pay reverence to him and bow to him.” 

  15. Book of the Discipline. Translation from Pāli into English by I.B. Horner, vol. 5, page 354: “1st, A nun who has been ordained (even) for a century must greet respectfully, rise up from her seat, salute with joined palms, do proper homage to a monk ordained but that day. And this rule is to be honored, respected, revered, venerated, never to be transgressed during her life; 2nd, A nun must not spend the rains in a residence where there is no monk. This rule too is to be honored … during her life; 3rd, Every half month a nun should desire two things from the Order of monks: the asking (as to the date) of the Observance day, and the coming for the exhortation. This rule is to be honored … during her life; 4th, After the rains a nun must ‘invite’ before both orders in respect of three matters: what was seen, what was heard, what was suspected. This rule …; 5th, A nun, offending against an important rule, must undergo mānatta (discipline) for half a month before both Orders. This rule …; 6th, When, as a probationer, she has trained in the six rules for two years, she should seek ordination from both Orders. This rule …; 7th, A monk must not be abused or reviled in any way by a nun. This rule …; 8th, From to-day admonition of monks by nuns is forbidden, admonition of nuns by monks is not forbidden. This rule ….” 

  16. W. Woodville Rockhill: The Life of the Buddha and the Early History of his Order, page 60, 61.
    Lhasa Kangyur, vol. da, bam po so drug pa, page 150b, 5.
    Peking Kangyur, vol. ne, bam po so drug pa, page 97a, 7.  

  17. Lhasa Kangyur, ‘Dul ba, vol. da, page 468a,1 – 469b,1.
    Bu-ston: The History of Buddhism in India and Tibet, translated from Tibetan by Dr. E. Obermiller, page 78. 

  18. The Book of Discipline, translated from Pāli into English by I.B. Horner, vol. 5, page 357. 

  19. The Book of Discipline, translated from Pāli into English by I.B. Horner, vol. 5, page 375. 

  20. The Book of Discipline, translated from Pāli into English by I.B. Horner, vol. 5, page 376. 

  21. Lhasa Kangyur, bam po so drug pa, vol. da, page 154a,5: dge slong rnams las bud med rnams kyis rab tu ‘byung ba dang/ bsnyen par rdzogs nas/ dge slong ma’i dngos por ‘gyur ba rab tu rtogs par bya’o/ 

Venerable Jampa Tsedroen

Jampa Tsedroen (born 1959 in Holzminden, Germany) is a German Bhiksuni. An active teacher, translator, author, and speaker, she is instrumental in campaigning for equal rights for Buddhist nuns. (Bio by Wikipedia)