Ordained Nuns and Their History: The Karmapa Reports
Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
the second half of his teachings this morning, the Karmapa shared his research
into the history of nuns and their status. He began by explaining the
background of the name “Arya Kshema,” given to the Winter Dharma Gathering. He
noted that among the disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, there were his eight
greatest male monastic disciples, known for their prajna (supreme wisdom) or
miracles and so forth. Likewise, there were female master disciples who were
greatest at miracles or known for their prajna and other outstanding qualities.
Arya Kshema is one of these and she is described in theSutra of the Wise and
greatest in wisdom and confidence, so the Winter Dharma Gathering is named
giving this name,” the Karmapa explained, “we are also following the saying,
‘Later disciples should practice the example of past masters.’ Previously,
during the time of the Buddha Shakyamuni, there were woman arhats, bhikshunis,
and woman with the eightfold purity. My thought was that we could look to them
as examples, train properly in Buddhist teachings just as they did, and achieve
the result of liberation. I thought they would provide inspiration and a role
we had originally planned to have a conference during this nun’s Winter Dharma
Gathering. The main topic was to be the lives of great individuals who achieved
liberation in a female body, in particular those bhikshunis who were important
disciples of the Buddha Shakyamuni. But we didn’t have enough time and it
didn’t happen, so we will look into it again later.
any case, in Tibetan history—and this is something that historians have not
paid much attention to—Karma Chakme wroteMountain
Dharma for Nuns.This
is from the genre of texts called “mountain dharma” that compile the
instructions necessary for meditating in mountain retreats, and this is a
mountain dharma text that Karma Chakme compiled particularly for nuns. In it,
he says that at that time (of the 10th Karmapa), there were more nunneries than
monasteries in Central Tibet, and all the nuns in these nunneries had a good
basis of discipline. He wrote that they kept their precepts extremely well. For
this reason, historically the nuns’ teachings spread widely in Tibet.
those who wrote the histories did not pay much attention to this, and later
only a very few took interest in how the nuns’ Dharma spread in Tibet or in the
great beings who appeared in a female body. However, in history and in fact,
there have been many individuals in Tibet who gained siddhis in a female body,
and there must have been many female learned individuals as well. Nuns’
communities must have flourished greatly.
when the monastic community was first established in Tibet, which is said to be
during the time of King Trisong Deutsen (742-800), there were the Seven Men for
Testing. Some say “Seven Men” and some say “Six Men.” But whether it was six or
seven, when they first established the monastic community, there were not only
men who went forth, but women as well. Among the queens, those who had not
given birth to children went forth. When they did so and were ordained, I don’t
think that they were just called nuns and dressed in monastic robes. When we
say the Seven Men for Testing went forth, we clearly understand that they
received the entire ordination. Likewise when women went forth at that time, I
do not think it means that they merely held the intermediate vows of going
forth. So when Buddhism first spread to Tibet, it seems that a community of
ordained women was established from that very time.
there are important Sakya histories calledDocuments
of the Kingsandthe Sakya Familial Lineage.
These say that many daughters born into the Sakya family line became bhikshunis
and give many stories about them. Later there were people who say these are not
true, but that is a little hard to accept. For one thing,Documents of the Kingsand theSakya Familial Lineageare considered reliable historical
documents. Also, it is a bit difficult to say that only the stories of women going
forth or becoming bhikshunis are false but everything else is true.
Furthermore, among the scholars from Minyak, there was one named Kashiwa Rikpe.
It states in his biography that there was a community of bhikshunis at Minyak
Rapgang and that there were three to four hundred nunneries. Therefore, there
was a time in Tibet when there were quite a few nuns’ communities.
the time of Lha Lama Yeshe Ö and his successor, there was a royal proclamation
that stated no one was allowed to prevent women who wanted to go forth or
become bhikshunis from doing so; one must let them go forth and become
bhikshunis. So at that time there must have been female aspirants; otherwise,
it would have been unnecessary to say that they should be allowed to go forth and
become bhikshunis. Similarly, there are several biographies of Lotsawa Rinchen
Sangpo that are of varying length. One of these tells how a younger sister of
his was ordained as a bhikshuni. There are many such stories.
don’t know, however, what the situations or circumstances were that led the
nunneries and nuns’ communities to decline later. This should be researched, as
there must have been some conditions for it. Later, nunneries in Tibet were
quite poor and badly off. Many of you probably don’t know this, but those of
you who have stayed in nunneries in Tibet probably do. The living facilities
are poor, and the opportunities for study are weak. This is very clear. We
don’t know whether the reason for this situation is related to politics, the
dominance of any dharma lineage, or something else. This needs to be examined.
any case, when we say nowadays that nuns should be educated, that they should
develop their qualities, and that a community of bhikshunis should be
established, this is not something that has only now become important. It is
not saying that what was previously insignificant has become important.
Instead, it was crucial in the past, and we need to explain how that was and
also dispel any doubts or misconceptions about it.
is a text called theGreat
Exposition of the Abhidharma. When we speak of the four
philosophical schools, the reason the Great Exposition school was given that
name is because they explain their tenets based upon this text. When it
discusses how long the teachings would remain, it mentions that the Vinaya said
that Buddhism would endure for one thousand years. But when theGreat
one thousand years had probably gone by since the Buddha passed away, yet the
teachings still endured, even though the thousand years were over. So the
arhats discussed why it was that the Buddha’s teachings remained even though a
thousand years had gone by.
the Vinaya states that the Buddha’s teachings would only remain a thousand
years, but because women were ordained, that was shortened by five hundred
years. However theGreat
in the first or second century, when the Buddhism was supposed to have
disappeared. So they had a discussion about this to figure out what could have
been meant by saying the teachings would remain five hundred fewer years if
women were ordained. The arhats had two ways of explaining this. One was to say
that this meant the teachings of complete liberation, which refer to what we
usually call the ‘period of results’ when we describe the duration of Buddhism.
The other explanation says that if nuns had not accepted the eight heavy
dharmas, the teachings would have been shortened by five hundred years. But the
nuns did accept the eight heavy dharmas, so the duration of the teachings was
not decreased by five hundred years. That is the explanation they gave.
we received the text of theGreat
Exposition, Geshe Rinchen and I had discussed this point and
thought it could be explained like that. Our understanding is exactly what we
found in the text, so we gained some confidence. In any case, not knowing the
entire situation, people have explained a few aspects and made a lot of noise
while exaggerating things. This has led to many misapprehensions and misperceptions,
which should be dispelled.
train in validity and say ‘It follows that…’ or ‘Because ofx….’ We stomp
our feet and clap our hands, and train in debate for many years primarily to
dispel misapprehensions and misperceptions. We don’t do it only to become
facile. The point of studying validity and logic is to dispel misapprehensions
and misperceptions. If we say we study validity and follow logic but our
misapprehensions and misperceptions increase, it is a sign we have not studied
well. Since we study validity and use our logics, we must examine how they
accord with facts. This is what we should consider most important. Being
rigidly old-fashioned and holding to one’s own biases or views without proper
reasons is not the way logicians should do things. I think that this is another
reason why we need to consider this thoroughly.” With a look to the future and
on-going research, the Karmapa drew this special morning talk to a close.
December 28, 2016, in a historic letter sent to his Kagyu nunneries in India,
Nepal, and Bhutan, the Karmapa officially announced that the actual process of
establishing full ordination for nuns in the Karma Kamtsang tradition would
begin. He stated that at the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment in Bodh Gaya,
on the auspicious day of the full moon in the Month of Miracles, (the first
month in the Tibetan calendar, falling on March 12, 2107), the shramaneri (getsulma)
vows would be conferred on those nuns wishing to take full ordination. Following
much deliberation, a path to full ordination was established. It was decided
that the nuns would hold these shramaneri vows for a year, after which they
will take the shikshamana (gelopmaor training) vows from Dharmaguptaka
nuns and keep them for two winters or two summers. Finally, they will receive
the bhikshuni (gelongmaor full ordination) vows with the
participation of nuns from the Dharmaguptaka tra…
Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
many preparations are underway for the Getsulma (novice) ordination to be held
during this 4th Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering. The Karmapa plans to hold
the ordination on the auspicious full moon day of Chötrul Duchen, the historic
day that marks fifteen days after Losar and commemorates the time when the
Buddha performed a different miracle each day to instill devotion. As the
Karmapa mentioned during the first day of the Arya Kshema, this year initiates
the historic path to the process of full ordination, which will occur in stages
over several years. This is a well-thought process that grants nuns the
opportunity to practice the authentic vinaya path. They will take the Getsulma
vows in the tradition of a strictly observant tradition of Mahayana Vinaya
nuns, thus garnering respect for their sangha and demonstrating their life-long
commitment to their vows. Since there is no lineage for fully ordained nuns in
SE Report GANGTOK,
March 16: A delegation of monks from various monasteries
of Sikkim staged a sit-in protest outside the BJP national headquarters in New
Delhi today demanding the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje to be allowed to visit
and bless the people of Sikkim.
The delegation led by Denjong Lhadey chanted slogans
demanding and also submitted a memorandum with the demand to the Prime Minister’s
Office through senior officials.
The memorandum reiterates the Denjong Lhadey’s
demand to urgently send the Buddhist spiritual leader to Sikkim. The monks on
dharna outside the BJP office were also detained by Delhi police at Mandir Marg
police station and later released, informs a press release.
In November of 2015, during the 6th Khoryug Conference, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa set the aspiration that all Khoryug monasteries and nunneries should develop practical skills and knowledge for disaster preparedness and response. He later explained that “We were all affected greatly by the earthquake in Nepal and wanted to know how we could help so that in the future we are not just taken by fear but prepared to be useful and deal skillfully with the situation.…
His Holiness reflected on the part ofGeshe
Potowa’s Long Soliloquy, which had virtue in monasteries as its
focal point. He encouraged everyone to nurture enthusiasm and bodhicitta, the
essence of which is the union of emptiness and compassion, to guide our efforts
to benefit others. Following a short instruction, he concluded with a
meditation session. Though he had completed this year’s Monlam teaching, he had
not exhausted the content of the whole text and announced that the teaching on
the text would extend for one or two more Monlams.
Karmapa read Geshe Potowa’s accounts of visiting monasteries. When he inquired
after fine individuals, he was often told that these fine individuals, the
life-blood of the monastery, were the wealthy ones, with much gold, turquoise
and cattle. Equating wealth with virtue meant they were immersed solely in the
matters of this life. “You should leave that place” Geshe Potowa urges “just as
a bird leav…
the third year in succession, the Taiwan Health Corps has been working with
Kagyu nuns during the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering. Twenty-one
nuns from eight nunneries—Ralang, Tilokpur and Palpung Yeshe Rabgye Ling in
India, Karma Leksheyling, Tara Abbey, Osel Karma Thekchöling and Samten
Ling in Nepal, and Drubde Palmo Chökyi Dingkhang in Bhutan– have
successfully completed a nine-day training in basic health care. Dr
Jeffrey Chen, CEO of the Taiwanese based NGO Taiwan Health Corps, first
responded to a request from the Gyalwang Karmapa to develop initiatives to
improve the health and healthcare of nuns more than three years ago. This year
he has returned for a third time with a team of six health professionals to
provide basic training for a new batch of nuns. The team comprises Professor
Kuo Su Chen, a specialist in Women’s Health, Dr Chin Min Yi, a doctor of
traditional Chinese medicine, Dr Wei Cheng Chou, urologist and surgeon, Hsin-Yu
Awards for the 20th Kagyu Gunchoe A lively
demonstration by monks from the 20th Kagyu Gunchoe of their debating skills on
the topicTurning the Wheel of Dharma preceded the awards for the
Gunchoe debate competition. This was followed by a long dedication monologue
delivered by Lhagpa Yeshe, a monk from Benchen Shedra. This composition
containing sections in both verse and prose is the traditional way to finish a debate
and is known as the Noble Words [Tib.Tsig Zang].
Then came the
awards themselves. The winners received a trophy, a certificate and a cheque to
be spent by their shedra.
for Collected Topics (Dudra) was awarded to Lava Shedra. They received a trophy depicting
a pecha atop a lotus and stem, and a cheque for 100,000 Indian rupees.
for Collected Topics went to Benchen Shedra. They received a trophy of Manjushri’s Sword
of Wisdom and a check for 50,000 Indian rupees.
afternoon of the 34th Kagyu Mönlam started slightly earlier than usual with a
Medicine Buddha tsok practice according to the Concise Ritual of
Offering to the Seven Tathagatas, compiled by the 6th Sharmapa. Tsok, in
the form of small bags of fruit, was distributed to each and every participant,
sangha and lay followers alike, and money offerings traditionally known in
Tibet as 'kunki' were also given to the sangha.
At the end of
the afternoon break, His Holiness Karmapa came onto the stage and the session
on the Appreciation of the Sponsors opened with the procession for the mandala
offering, led by the sponsors who then sat on the stage for the blessings that
would follow. Appreciation of the Sponsors is an opportunity to share and
dedicate virtue, and His Holiness spoke at some length on the importance of
generosity as a means for generating virtue, and on the equal indispensability
of the dedication of the virtue generated.