Problems with Bhikkhunīs in the Pāli Vinaya

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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