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Problems in the Reestablishment of Orders of Nuns in Theravada Buddhism

by Sasaki, Shizuka, Hanazono University in Kyoto

In recent years Theravada Buddhists, mainly in Sri Lanka, have reestablished orders of nuns (in Pali: bhikkhuni). This is a very welcome occurrence because for about 1,000 years female practitioners of Theravada Buddhism have been prevented from becoming bhikkhunis by systematic restrictions in spite of the fact that the Buddha himself guaranteed women the right to attain formal membership in the order (sangha) as bhikkhuni.

Buddhists throughout the world must aid this movement so that it will not suffer a setback. At the same time, however, we must also recognize the existence of some points that should be corrected in this movement at its present stage. If this movement continues in its current form, it could cause a serious crisis within Theravada Buddhism. My presentation will identify some of the main problems in the recent movement to reestablish the Bhikkhuni order and discuss their implications for the future of Bhikkhuni sanghas.

Conference paper presented at Buddhism In (and Out of) Place Conference held 17-18 October 2004

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