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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