On June 21, His Holiness Je Khenpo, the head monk of the Buddhist Sangha of Bhutan, performed the ordination ceremony of bhikkhunis for 142 nuns at the Ramthangkha monastery of the “happy” country located this side of the Himalayas.
The ceremony “is an important historical milestone for the nuns in traditional Tibetan Buddhism. For nuns, it is a great opportunity to show their abilities to contribute to Buddhism,” said German-born bhikkhuni Jampa Tsedroen.
In this historic ordination ceremony according to the Tibetan Buddhist lineage, many new bhikkhunis were Bhutanese, some of them from other countries in Asia. The Central Sangha of Bhutan posted this news on its Facebook page and was confirmed by Damcho Diana Finnegan, an ordained nun and currently co-founder of the Dharmadatta Community for Nuns in Virginia, USA. . When interviewed at the ceremony, Finnegan said it was “an important step towards ending the gender inequality that has been institutionalized in Buddhism in the Tibetan tradition”.
The ceremony was the culmination of a decades-long campaign for full ordination of women in the Tibetan lineage; This issue has previously been met with heavy opposition and criticism from elders, scholars and political leaders across Asia.
Recently, around the world, bhikkhuni ordination in restricted traditions has been continuously carried out with the aim of restoring the female ordination tradition. They claim that this is something that has been done since the time of the Buddha but has gradually disappeared from most Buddhist communities to this day.
After the Buddha entered Nirvana, the nuns were considered as one of the four groups, and at the same time an important factor in Buddhism, contributing to the building of an ideal Buddhist community, including bhikkhus, bhikkhus, and bhikkhus. bhikkhunis, male and female lay people. Over time, however, war, famine, and disease have claimed many lives of bhikkhunis in many parts of Southeast Asia and Tibet.
After that, many women continued to live their ascetic lives as nuns, but were unable to take another step to the threshold of full precepts. From here on, their position was officially restricted by the Buddhist precepts, which stipulate that bhikkhunis can only be transmitted from other bhikkhunis. But the number of nuns left was not enough to conduct a proper ordination ceremony.
To overcome these barriers, some women have found another way to get full ordination. In 1996, some nuns from Sri Lanka relied on the help of Korean bhikkhunis of the Northern tradition to receive bhikkhuni ordination. Since then, hundreds of nuns have been fully ordained in Sri Lanka; this was described by Tsedroen as an “ecumenical ceremony” aimed at restoring the number of the bhikkhuni tradition.
In Bhutan, however, some monks have directly ordained nuns without the participation of other bhikkhunis. In particular, the ceremony was recently conducted by monks, Je Khenpo as the ordination master.
Because there are many precepts and only three people each turn, the ritual is extremely meticulous, so the ceremony lasted for 3 days. On the first day, King Jigme Singye Wangchuk of Bhutan, along with the Queen and other members of the Royal Family, visited the ceremony site and delivered a speech to encourage and inspire the members. mortal world.
Normally, the ceremony is performed for only a small number of women, and has never been held on the scale of this past Tuesday. According to Damcho Diana Finnegan, a solemn ordination ceremony like this ensures that the Sangha in general and the bhikkhuni community in particular will survive and thrive in the future.
“All other traditions of Buddhism have women ordained and ordained as bhikkhunis. But this is the first time that women of Tibetan Buddhism have been given such an opportunity,” said Bhikkhuni Damcho Diana Finnegan.
The 14th Dalai Lama has long encouraged the ordination of bhikkhunis, and Bhikkhu Bodhi, a prominent monk in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, has appealed to countless supporters and advocates. movement for the Bhikkhuni ordination movement.
In addition, in 2007, Geshe Lharampa Rinchen Ngudrup, an influential monk in the Tibetan tradition and also a Buddhist scholar, boldly put forward a proposal on the issue of Bhikkhu ordination. -stilt-ni in a talk at the first International Congress on the Role of Buddhist Women in the Sangha after years of research and investigation. Furthermore, lay people across Asia have called attention to the outstanding performances of the nuns throughout the years.
Sanitsuda Ekachai, a Thai journalist expressed his wish and urged people to pay attention to this issue through his book Keeping the Faith: Thai Buddhism at the Crossroads (Keeping the Faith: Thai) Buddhism at the Crossroads), encourages lay people to consider the future of the Buddhist Sangha and how nuns can improve their position.
Despite strong voice and a well-documented basis in Buddhist history behind this movement, the issue of complete ordination for women in the Tibetan lineage remains unrealized. on the same scale and breadth as in present-day Bhutan.
“This historic ordination ceremony may put even more pressure on some Buddhist communities in various countries to organize and facilitate nuns of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition to be admitted. Fully ordained,” said Susanne Mrozik, Associate Professor of Religion at Mount Holyoke University.
In the Buddhist country of Bhutan, Je Khenpo is the title of the head of the National Buddhist Sangha Zhung Dratshang. He is also the Chairman of the Dratshang Lhentshog Religious Committee, in charge of the administration of Zhung Dratshang and supports five other high-ranking Buddhist dignitaries.