Thursday, May 13, 2010

a pillar is missing from our house

An upcoming issue of Buddhadharma Magazine tackles the issue of women's place in Buddhism, and the following article on our spiritual guide's position on these issues will be featured in an article in that issue. The following is the full version of that article, an abbreviated version of which will be published in Buddhadharma

Last winter, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa stunned an international audience in Bodhgaya by making an unprecedented declaration of commitment to ordaining women as bhikshunis in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Responding to a question as to when there would ever be bhikshuni ordination in the Tibetan tradition, His Holiness leaned forward and spoke directly in English. “I will do it,” he said. As enthusiastic applause broke out across the large assembly hall, Gyalwang Karmapa cautioned against expecting quick results. “Be patient,” he said. “Be patient.”

“As to when it will begin, and when there will be bhikshuni ordination,” His Holiness stated, during his annual winter teachings at Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya last December. “I cannot say when exactly the right time will be. But I am making every effort, with a sincere motivation, and I believe there is great hope. So please rest easy. The bhikshuni vows that lead to liberation and enlightenment are extremely important, and are in a sense the root of the Buddha’s Dharma. Therefore I do not believe it is wise to act hastily. So please relax, and please be patient.”

Despite the warning that full ordination was not imminent, Gyalwang Karmapa’s statement in Bodhgaya was nevertheless ground-breaking, for it constitutes the first time that any spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism has publicly committed to making bhikshuni ordination available. His Holiness’ declaration marks the culmination of intensive research into the feasibility of establishing full ordination for women according to the monastic code that regulates Tibetan Buddhism. More broadly, it reflects Gyalwang Karmapa’s intense commitment to women’s issue and to nuns in particular.


Article by Dharmadattā Nuns' Community member Lhundup Damcho, originally written for publication in German in Dharma-Nektar Magazine.

3 comments:

  1. thanks for sharing this Damcho-la, your article is excellent... inspiring :)

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  2. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, in July 18, 2007, determined full Bhikshuni Ordination in the Tibetan Buddhist Sangha, in accordance to the Vinaya:

    "July 18 - 20, 2007

    Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Bhikshuni Ordination in the Tibetan Tradition

    First International Congress on Buddhist Women's Role in the Sangha: Bhikshuni Vinaya and Ordination Lineages

    Hamburg University, Hamburg, Germany
    July 18 - 20, 2007

    On the basis of the above considerations, and after extensive research and consultation with leading Vinaya scholars and Sangha members of the Tibetan tradition and Buddhist traditions internationally, and with the backing of the Tibetan Buddhist community, since 1960s, I express my full support for the establishment of the Bhikshuni Sangha in the Tibetan tradition.

    Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Bhikshuni Ordination in the Tibetan Tradition

    First International Congress on Buddhist Women's Role in the Sangha: Bhikshuni Vinaya and Ordination Lineages

    Hamburg University, Hamburg, Germany
    July 18 - 20, 2007”

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  3. Dear Panchenlama

    Thanks for drawing attention to that comment, the full text of which can be read here http://www.congress-on-buddhist-women.org/index.php?id=142. The issue that we nuns face in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition is that although His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been saying he is in favor for years, so far we have not moved beyond statements of support. Actually he did not at all determine that it is permissible to hold such ordinations, although he has had someone researching this for many years. His Holiness just stated that he would like to. At the end of that conference, despite the overwhelming show of international support, the suggestion for the next step was to hold yet another conference, and for those women who already went to the Chinese lineage, where such ordination is possible, unlike the Tibetan tradition, to practice together as a bhiksuni sangha... But this would still not be a bhikshuni sangha in the vinaya lineage followed by Tibetan Buddhists, and for many reasons it is not feasible to expect Tibetan nuns (most of whom do not even have passports) to travel to Taiwan to receive full ordination. There is a great deal of resistance from more conservative thinkers, and as His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa commented, "There are some old views and old ways of thinking, and people who hold them are not prepared to accept bhikshuni ordination. But I do not think this is a big obstacle. The main need is for some leader to take a step, to move beyond conferences and discussions. What is needed is to take full steps.”
    Thanks for your commetn!

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