Thursday, December 10, 2009

That We Need Bhikshunis, and Why

His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa has been an unwavering supporter of the proposal first put forward by His Holiness the Dalai Lama that nuns practicing in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition ought to be offered the opportunity to receive full ordination, just as men are. During the winter debate teachings now underway here in Bodhgaya, this extraordinary lama of ours offered a clear and eloquent declaration of the need for bhikshunis in Tibetan Buddhism. From the report that will appear on the Kagyu Monlam and Kagyu Office websites:

Just as a well-constructed house needs four pillars, the teachings of the Buddha are built around the four pillars of upasaka, upasika, (male and female holders of lay precepts) and bhikshus and bhikshunis, (in Tibetan, gelongs and gelongmas, or fully ordained monks and nuns). Among the monastics, the two communities that are considered senior or supreme are the bhikshus and bhikshunis. Among the lay followers, the highest are the male and female holders of lay precepts. When all four are present, the house becomes stable. For the Buddha’s teachings to remain long and flourish, the presence of all four is indispensable, His Holiness stressed. He added that such topics would be discussed further in the upcoming vinaya colloquium that also forms part of this year’s winter debate session.

That colloquium begins on December 13, is open only to monastics, and lasts for five days. We will of course be attending and you can look for a report here then. In the meantime, if your curiosity is already piqued and you'd like to read further now, here are some links that explore the topic of full ordination for nuns in Tibetan Buddhism:

Read what Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo said in a talk attended by His Holiness the Dalai Lama--and upon hearing which, His Holiness began to cry, and a second talk of hers.

Read Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron's article in Mandala Magazine on the topic.

Review the results of a conference on the topic called by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2007.

Preview an upcoming book, Dignity and Discipline, devoted to the topic.

Explore a range of material on the issue.

Or watch the following 18-minute video of His Holiness the Dalai Lama presenting his views on the matter at Smith College:

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