The Eight Garudhammas - Effects On The Ordination of Women

Effects On The Ordination of Women

When giving the Eight Garudhammas to Mahapajapati Gotami, the Buddha supposedly said they would constitute her full ordination (Pali:upasampada): "If Mahapajapati Gotami accepts these eight vows of respect, that will be her full ordination." However, Bhikkunī Kusuma in her article "Inaccuracies in Buddhist Women's History" has pointed out a number of inaccuracies in the ways the Eight Garudhammas have been recorded in the Pali Canon and its commentaries. And others point out the plethora of textual problems with the position for garudhammas. Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni published evidence that the Eight Garundhammas are non-historical.

In Theravada Buddhism today the full Bhikkhuni ordination lineage has been restored in Sri Lanka, but Theravadin nuns in other countries find it extremely difficult to obtain full ordination. Although some expressed an interest in receiving the full ordination via the surviving Mahayana full Bhikkhuni ordination in the course of the 20th century, it was not simply the difficulties of ordination from a different school of Buddhism that deterred them. Ellison Banks Findly reports that mae chis in Thailand were also deterred by the prospect of full ordination requiring them keeping the Eight Garudhammas and therefore having a formal subordination to the monks in addition to existing cultural discrimination. In 2003 the first Thai woman to receive full Bhikkhuni ordination under the name of Dhammananda, was Dr. Chatumarn Kabilsingh, a former university professor. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni now heads a temple for Buddhist women, enjoying extremely narrow recognition in Thai society.

Although Tibetan Buddhism has not had a bhikshuni ordination lineage, until Ven. Thubten Chodron, ordained since 1977, http://www.thubtenchodron.org/ it had only a tradition of novice nuns, it has had a number of famous women practitioners who were yoginis. Many Buddhist scholars and laypeople all over the world want to help Tibetans to establish a full ordination. Bhikshuni Prof. Dr. Karma Lekshe Tsomo, University of San Diego, California, USA, President of Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women stated, while talking about Gender Equality and Human Rights: "It would be helpful if Tibetan nuns could study the bhikshuni vows before the ordination is established. The traditional custom is that one is only allowed to study the bhikshu or bhikshuni vows after having taken them. Moreover, at present, the Tibetan nuns are prevented from completing the Geshema degree, since Vinaya is one of the five subjects studied and they are not permitted to study it without already being bhikshunis."

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