Monastic Comportment among Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Tradition, Power, and Community among Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka

Nirmala S. Salgado
Augustana College

This article focuses on the relationship between two aspects of monastic comportment among Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka. How nuns present themselves is embedded both in a discourse of power and in a discourse of morality. Their comportment is the subject of public debate insofar as it relates to disputes about tradition and the recognition of the higher ordination of Theravāda nuns. Yet that comportment also relates to the cultivation of moral dispositions (sῑla), such as restraint and discipline, which are intrinsic to tradition and the daily work of nuns in the communal life of a nunnery. The article argues that nuns live a communal form of life in which their cultivation of moral dispositions relates to questions about power and tradition that they cannot ignore, even though they may seek to do so.

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