Ayya (Pali Word) - Re-establishment of Bhikkhuni Lineage

Re-establishment of Bhikkhuni Lineage

There are very few fully ordained (bhikkhuni) Ayyas in the 21st century because the Theravadan nuns' lineage was lost in most of southeast Asia, over the last 1,000 years. The Theravadan bhikkhuni lineage was reinstated in 1996 at Sarnath, India, by a quorum of Theravada monks and Korean nuns. Eleven Sinhalese dasa sil mata nuns took full bhikkhuni ordaination in that ceremony, reviving the Theravada Bhikkhuni Order after 980 years of decline and dissipation. Theravadan ordination is available for women (as of 2006) in Sri Lanka, where many of the current bhikkhunis have been ordained. The ordination process has several stages, which can begin with anagarika (non-ordained) precepts and wearing white robes, but is as far as many women are allowed to take their practice. In Thailand, where it is illegal for women to take ordination, nearly all female monastics are known as mae chees (also spelled "Mae ji)," regardless of their level of attainment.

As awareness of the need for ordained women to study and practice grows, so does the support for female monks. There are very few places for an Ayya to reside, once she ordains. The number of monasteries and viharas for women is still very small but beginning to increase.

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