Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

The Cullavagga on Bhikkhunī Ordination

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Cullavagga on Bhikkhunī Ordination

Bhikkhu Anālayo
University of Hamburg

With this paper I examine the narrative that in the Cullavagga of the Theravāda Vinaya forms the background to the different rules on bhikkhunī ordination, alternating between translations of the respective portions from the original Pāli and discussions of their implications. An appendix to the paper briefly discusses the term paṇḍaka.

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Bhikkhunī Academy: A Case of Cross-Tradition Exchange

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Bhikkhunī Academy at Manelwatta Temple: A Case of Cross-Tradition Exchange

Cheng Wei-yi
Hsuan Chuang University

This article is the result of an investigation continued from an earlier article on an exchange between Buddhists in Taiwan and Sri Lanka (“A Cross-Tradition Exchange Between Taiwan and Sri Lanka,” Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 18, 2011). In that article, I investigated the exchange between a Mahāyāna Taiwanese nunnery and a Theravāda Sri Lankan missionary monk. After the initial exchange, described in the 2011 article, a more permanent institute for the education of Sri Lankan Buddhist nuns has been established. This article describes the cross-tradition exchange behind the founding of the educational institute and its implication for exchanges across different Buddhist traditions in Asia.

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Affective Dimensions of the Sri Lankan Bhikkhunī Revival

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

“We Love Our Nuns”: Affective Dimensions of the Sri Lankan Bhikkhunī Revival

Susanne Mrozik
Mount Holyoke College

In this paper I examine lay responses to the Sri Lankan bhikkhunī revival of the late 1990s. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted between 2010 and 2012, I argue that laity have very different concerns than do the scholars, activists, government officials, and monastic authorities engaged in public debate over the scriptural validity of the controversial revival. The primary concern of laity is whether or not they can get their religious needs met at their local bhikkhunī temple, not whether or not the bhikkhunī revival conforms to Theravāda monastic regulations (Vinaya). Taking a rural farming village as a case study, I focus particular attention on the affective ties between laity and nuns, demonstrating that laity in this village express their support for the bhikkhunī revival in the language of love (Sinhala: ādayara, ādare). I analyze what laity mean by the word “love” in the context of lay-nun relationships, and what this can tell us about the larger dynamics of the Sri Lankan bhikkhunī revival.

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The Legality of Bhikkhunī Ordination

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Legality of Bhikkhunī Ordination

Bhikkhu Anālayo
Center for Buddhist Studies, University of Hamburg
Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taiwan

This paper examines the legal validity of the revival of the Theravāda bhikkhunī ordination that has had the 1998 Bodhgayā ordinations as its starting point.

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The Revival of the Bhikkhunī Order and the Decline of the Sāsana

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Revival of the Bhikkhunī Order and the Decline of the Sāsana

Bhikkhu Anālayo
Center for Buddhist Studies, University of Hamburg
Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taiwan

In this article I study the revival of the bhikkhunī order in the Theravāda traditions and its supposed relation to a decline of the Buddha’s dispensation.

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Problems with Bhikkhunīs in the Pāli Vinaya

ISSN:1076–9005
Volume 6, 1999

Damming the Dhamma: Problems with Bhikkhunīs in the Pali Vinaya

Kate Blackstone
University of Manitoba

Why should one of the contesting voices insist on the decline of saddhamma? How can women’s subordination help preserve the dhamma? This paper poses a possible answer. The Vinaya represents a very formalized statement of both the individual and communal dimensions of monastic life. It prescribes the activities, appearance, decorum, and lifestyle of individual bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs. It also specifies the procedures and protocol for the administration of the sangha. In so doing, the Vinaya authorizes and delimits the mandate of the monastic community over its members and in relation to its supporting community. In the terms of my analysis, it articulates a model of self-identity and a set of guidelines for the expression of that identity.

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Social Inequalities and the Promotion of Women in Buddhism in Thailand

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 25, 2018

Social Inequalities and the Promotion of Women in Buddhism in Thailand

Manuel Litalien
Nipissing University

Studies have shown that religion can support or hinder social development (Haynes 2007; Tomalin 2013). This article makes a case in favor of how, in Thailand, the demands for greater justice and gender equality have engaged groups of women to seek higher Buddhist ordination as a means to better promote human and social development. Equal religious philanthropic contribution between men and women is presented as a component to democratic participation in the struggling political Kingdom of Thailand. The study finds that the women’s Buddhist movement in Thailand capitalizes on the limited welfare resources offered by the government, along with the current institutionalized politics of religious diversity, as defined in the Thai constitution. To present the inequalities and challenges faced by Thai Buddhist women, the function of the Thai Buddhist monastic community (saṅgha) will be portrayed as an organization promoting an “inequality regime.” The governing structural configuration of the saṅgha will be presented as reinforcing social roles divided by oppressive gender conceptions. The Buddhist institution’s inequality regime will be depicted in light of its refusal to ordain bhikkhunīs. The exclusion of Thai Buddhist nuns is situated in eight different lenses: namely, biological, ritual, scriptural, cultural, political, institutional, historical, and legal contexts. Finally, the vital sustainable core to these women is introduced as both a global and a local network of Buddhist women. This is better known as a glocalization strategy for the promotion of gender equality in Theravāda Buddhism.
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Predictions of Women to Buddhahood in Middle-Period Literature

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Predictions of Women to Buddhahood in Middle-Period Literature

Bhikkhunī Dhammadinnā
Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts

This article studies narratives related to the topic of women receiving a prediction or declaration (vyākaraṇa) for Buddhahood. The texts in question—in their received form—have their place in the Indian Buddhist traditions of the Middle Period. The first episode taken up is the story of Princess Munī who receives the prediction of becoming the present Buddha Śākyamuni; this is found in the so-called “Scripture on the Wise and the Fool.” The second episode is the story of Yaśomatī who receives the prediction that she will become the Buddha Ratnamati; this is found in the Avadānaśataka. When evaluating these comparatively rare instances of predictions received by women, two aspects come up for special consideration: (a) the textual significance of variations regarding the presence or absence of a change of sex, and (b) the epistemological and soteriological consequences for female audiences of women’s narratives constructed by the third-person perspective of male monastic text transmitters. The variations document that the transmitters did not always perceive the transformation of sex into a male as a categorical necessity. This transformation may not have been integral to these narratives of the bodhisattva path as articulated by the textual communities in which these texts originated and circulated.

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Thailand’s Mae Chis and the Global Women’s Ordination Movement

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Becoming Bhikkhunī? Mae Chis and the Global Women’s Ordination Movement

Lisa J. Battaglia
Samford University

Women’s full ordination as Buddhist nuns (Pāli: bhikkhunī, Sanskrit: bhikṣuṇī) has been a contested issue across Buddhist traditions and historical periods. Today, there is a global movement to secure women’s full participation in Buddhist monastic institutions. The present study examines this “bhikkhunī movement” in Thailand from the perspective of mae chis, Thai Buddhist female renunciates who abide by eight precepts yet do not have full ordination or ordination lineage. Employing an anthropological approach informed by postcolonial critical theory, my research reveals that mae chis, women who lead a Buddhist monastic lifestyle characterized by celibate practice and spiritual discipline, are not, on the whole, eager to relinquish their present status, fight against the existing socio-religious order, or pursue bhikkhunī ordination. A critical-empathic consideration of mae chis’ apparent illiberal subjectivities regarding gender hierarchy, female renunciant identity, and women’s liberation brings to light goals and strategies of the global bhikkhunī movement that do not necessarily resonate with the motivations, aims or cultural sensibilities of the Thai white-robed female renunciates.

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Bad Nun

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Bad Nun: Thullanandā in Pāli Canonical and Commentarial Sources

Reiko Ohnuma
Dartmouth College

In Pāli literature, Thullanandā is well known for being a “bad nun”—a nun whose persistent bad behavior is directly responsible for the promulgation of more rules of the Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha than any other individually named nun. Yet these very same sources also describe Thullanandā in significantly more positive terms—as a highly learned nun, an excellent preacher, and one who enjoys significant support among the laity. In this article, I analyze the Pāli traditions surrounding Thullanandā. I argue that her portrayal is quite complex in nature and often extends beyond herself as an individual to suggest larger implications for the nature of monastic life and monastic discipline. In addition, once Thullanandā is labeled as a “bad nun,” she becomes a useful symbolic resource for giving voice to various issues that concerned the early sangha. In both ways, Thullanandā reveals herself to be far more than just a “bad nun.”

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A Cross-Tradition Exchange Between Taiwan and Sri Lanka

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

A Cross-Tradition Exchange Between Taiwan and Sri Lanka

Wei-Yi Cheng
Hsuan Chuang University

This paper uses as an example an alms-offering ceremony that took place on October 5, 2010 to illustrate cross-tradition exchanges between Asian Buddhists of different geographic locations. This ceremony had been intended to give alms to all of the bhikkhunīs in Sri Lanka and was thus itself noteworthy. However, the attention of this paper is on the two main players behind this ceremony. One is a Sri Lankan monk who has been a long term Theravāda missionary in Mahāyāna Taiwan, and the other is a Taiwanese nunnery which has not limited its works to Taiwan. This paper wishes to shed light on cross-tradition exchanges among Asian Buddhists.

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