Bhikshuni Order

The following article is from the Winter, 1996 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

by Ven. Tenzin Yeshe

In the Summer edition of Snow Lion's Newsletter, I reported some details regarding the Bhikshuni ordination in which I participated along with thirteen other female Tibetan Buddhist monastics, which was given by Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh near Bordeaux, France, during the summer of 1994.

Over the past two decades many Western Tibetan Buddhist students have become increasingly interested in the possibility of establishing the Bhikshuni vows in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, as have some students in Eastern countries. Several years ago, certain monastic scholars in Dharamsala were given the job of researching whether or not the Bhikshuni order could be created in the Tibetan Buddhist lineage. No decision regarding this matter has yet been reached.

In order to further communications between the Western and Eastern sangha members, I have organized a meeting to take place from October 11 through October 15, 1996 in Dharamsala, India, in order for ordained female Tibetan Buddhists to discuss the so-called Bhikshuni issue with each other and to share questions and information with the Tibetan Buddhist monastic scholars in Dharamsala who are carrying out these investigations.

At first, we had considered inviting all interested female Tibetan Buddhist Sramanerikas and female Tibetan Buddhist monastics who have taken Bhikshuni vows in other lineages to attend this gathering. After much consideration, it was decided that a smaller group would be a better idea for several reasons: First, we did not want any of our friends in Dharamsala to feel invaded by a large group of female monastics. Second, it would be costly for many female monastics to arrange for funds for the international travel involved. Thus, it was decided that the members of the smaller group can act as representatives for other Sangha members who expressed interest in being there but who could not attend.

In all of our communications with the monastic scholars in Dharamsala, we have emphasized that we hope the scholars do not feel pressured to make any immediate decisions at our meeting. In fact, many of the female monastics think it may be better to leave the matter open if the interdependent conditions do not appear to exist currently which would allow the Bhikshuni order to be founded. If we wait, then future conditions may change in ways that will allow the establishing of the Bhikshuni ordination in the Tibetan Buddhist community. On the other hand, if it were found that conditions seem to exist which would allow the institution of the Bhikshuni order, then of course we would hope that this would be done. We hope that the sharing of information and the clarifying of questions at our meeting will be constructive processes yielding deeper understanding of the issue.

Ven. Tenzin Yeshe is currently living near Charlottesville, VA where she administrates Dharma Institute and is going to graduate school. Her book, Monastic: An Ordained Tibetan Buddhist Speaks On Behalf Of Full Ordination For Women, is available from Snow Lion. ä_æ

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