Volume 15, 2008
Eight Revered Conditions: Ideological Complicity, Contemporary Reflections and Practical Realities
Nirmala S. Salgado
Scholarly debates focusing on the “Eight Revered Conditions,” a list of conditions suggestive of the dependence of nuns on monks in early Buddhism, have long been the focus of scholarly debates. These debates, centering on the legitimation of a patriarchal Buddhism, have reached an impasse. Here I argue that this impasse logically flows from questionable reconstructions of the imperative and authoritative nature of these eight conditions in early Buddhism, perceived as Buddhavacana, or the word of the Buddha. In contemporary Sri Lanka, practitioners’ reflections on the eight conditions suggest that they function less as imperative injunctions than as markers defining social and moral boundaries, in terms of which monastics conceptualize their world. I demonstrate that scholarly presuppositions of the hierarchical nature of the controversial conditions are contested by perspectives of current praxis, and may also possibly be questioned, at least theoretically, by the process of reconstructing earlier Buddhist realities.