What do some Buddhist monks do

Jampa Tsedroen (Carola Roloff): Challenges of nun life today from the perspective of Tibetan Buddhism. International Symposium: Women in Buddhism, February 7th - 9th, 1997, Frankfurt am Main. Journal of Religious Culture / Journal für Religionskultur No. 27-10 (1999)

Journal of Religious Culture
Journal for Religious Culture

Ed. by / ed. By Edmund Weber
Institute for Irenics / Institute for Scientific Irenics
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
ISSN 1434-5935- © E. Weber

No. 27-10 (1999)

Challenges of the nun's life today
from the perspective of Tibetan Buddhism
Bhikshuni Jampa Tsedroen
[Carola Roloff]
Tibetan Center Hamburg

Before I get to the actual topic of my talk, I would like to briefly explain what it means to lead the life of a Buddhist nun. Essentially, as in the life of a Buddhist monk, it is about an advanced training in Discipline (tshul khrims; œila)as they are found in one of the three scriptural sections of the Buddhist canon, the Vinaya (‘Dul ba) is explained.

Higher Discipline Training

Discipline cannot be found in external things, such as in the earth, stones or mountains, but only in the interior of sentient beings. As ordinary people - women as well as men - we are equal in having defects and qualities. Under the influence of passions - so-called klesas (nyon mongs) - like lust, anger or anger, pride and envy, we harm others through the ten unwholesome acts of body, language and mind: killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, slander, rude speech, nonsensical chatter, greed, ill will and wrong views . Every now and then we develop trust, loving affection or compassion and, motivated by this, carry out some healing actions, stand by others in a helpful way and even benefit society.

The actual meaning of the Sanskrit term Vinaya - in Tibetan Dülwa - is "taming": the "taming of passions" such as the three spiritual poisons desire, anger and ignorance, and also the taming of Misconduct (ltung ba, apatti) against the discipline that the Blessed One has established for his followers, lay men and women and ordained monks and nuns. If one develops a pure and stable discipline in physical and verbal actions, one will most certainly be able to tame one's passions and failures, which is considered to be the highest form of discipline. There will be great meaning in one's life, and the passions and failures will most certainly be fewer than at the beginning of the exercise.

What is the difference between the discipline of lay and ordained people: Pure discipline in the sense of the Vinaya means not to commit the four root failings of killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and lying. Sexual misconduct occurs in the case of a lay person when he or she harms an already existing relationship between a man and a woman through sexual intercourse with one of the partners; in the case of a monk, a nun or a "layman in the pure life" it refers to sexual behavior Traffic in every form. Sexual lust is the strongest form of lust, and since a Buddhist wants to give up lust completely, advanced discipline also involves controlling the strongest lust - sexual. A stable discipline is when monks or nuns have kept their vows pure for ten or at least five years, during which time they live in the vicinity of a qualified teacher.

In practice, discipline is exercised when you are using your own mind every minute Mindfulness (turn pa; smriti) and alertness (shes bzhin; sattipathana) observes, refrains from doing harmful things and does something helpful. Before going to bed, religious practitioners should first regret their unwholesome actions, enjoy the wholesome actions and dedicate them to the ultimate goal. Falling asleep with a wholesome motivation and mindset makes sleep wholesome. Maintaining a pure and stable discipline and living your life in a humble way is very good for your mind. On such a basis, it is naturally easy to benefit others and society. This is what an ordained life should be like.

in the Vinayastotra (‘Dul ba la bstod pa) of the Indian master Vinitadeva (Dulba’i lha) it says: Just as the roots of a tree are the most important thing and the basis for its growth and production (of fruits), so the Vinaya is the root and the cause of the collections of the sacred teachings. The term "sacred teachings" here refers to them Scripture Section of the Discourses of the Buddha (mdo sde'i sde snod; sutrapitaka) and the Scripture Department of Higher Knowledge (chos mngon pa'i sde snod; abhidharmapitaka). The trainings of Higher Concentration and Wisdom taught therein can only be practiced on the basis of the Higher Discipline training such as that in the Writing Department of the Discipline ('dul ba'i sde snod; vinayaptaka) is explained. Likewise it says in Santidevas Entry into life to enlightenment (byang chub sems dpa'i spyod pa la 'jug pa; bodhicaryavatara): The monks and nuns are the roots of the Buddha's teaching.

Traditionally it is said that it is best to take the vow of liberation (so sor thar pa; pratimoksa) of a fully ordained monk or a fully ordained nun. These vows are likened to a dam that can stem the flow of external misconduct. In their nature, it is said, the Pratimoksa vows are form - not a visible form, but so-called non-revealing form (rnam par rig byed ma yin pa’i gzüge, avijñaptirupa). This is because physical and linguistic misconduct - even when motivated by the mind - are form; and form, i.e. in this case external misconduct, can only be eliminated with the help of form, i.e. a pratimoksa vow. The most extensive discipline is the vow of a fully ordained monk or a fully ordained nun. If one cannot keep this discipline - which does not mean that one cannot attain liberation - it is possible to take another pratimoksa vow, such as that of a lay person. There is no difference between the discipline of a lay woman - in Sanskrit Upasika - and a lay man - in Sanskrit Upasaka. Both avoid five wrongdoings: killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and drinking alcohol or drugs

Challenges of monastic life in general

But now we come to the actual topic, the challenges of nun life today. On the one hand, these consist in the challenges of monastic life in general in an increasingly materialistically oriented world, which I will not go into in detail here. The question arises, for example, whether monks and nuns have the right to exist at all, and whether such a way of life is not outdated. This question arose mainly from three problems: 1. In general, monastic life is no longer recognized. 2. There is a gap between the literal meaning of the rules to be followed and the modern way of life, and 3. There is no Buddhist monastic tradition in the West.

Another challenge - not just monastic life, but also Buddhist life in the West today - is to filter out the essence of Buddhism, to separate it from Asian cultural influences, and to deliver only this core of the teaching to the West. In this process, however, we shouldn't make the mistake of just getting the cream off the cake. Asian Buddhist countries went through this process centuries ago. Therefore, today there are different types of Buddhism, Indian Buddhism, Japanese, Thai or Vietnamese Buddhism and so on. One day we may also talk about Western Buddhism, or American, or maybe even English and German Buddhism - who knows?

In fact, some German Buddhists are already talking about German Buddhism instead of Buddhism in Germany, but I think that's too early. How can one speak of a German Buddhism if the Buddhist canon or at least the most important comments have not yet been fully translated into German and if no German in Germany has completed a full training under a fully qualified teacher? According to Buddhist scriptures, Germany must still be viewed as a "remote land". What does that mean? In Buddhism, eight are called liberties and ten equipments. The second of the so-called Five Personal Configurations is birth in a Central Country as opposed to birth in a Remote Country. This can be understood geographically, for example in Bodhgaya, to be born in the place of Buddha Sakyamuni's enlightenment, or more in a religious sense - to be born in a place where there are the four kinds of disciples is a birth in one Central country. According to Tibetan tradition, there are two interpretations of these four types of disciples, followers or "disciples":

On the one hand there are (1) sramaneras (novice monks), (2) sramanerikas (novice nuns), (3) bhikhus (fully ordained monks) and (4) _Bhikshunis (fully ordained nuns), on the other hand (1) Upasakas (male lay people) Students), (2) Upasikas (female lay students), (3) Bhiksus, and (4) Bhiksunïs. In the west, the second category is mentioned more often.

Create equal opportunities for monks and nuns

When at least four bhikhus and four bhikhunïs practice the so-called three fundamentals, the fifteen-day vow maintenance and cleansing ceremony (gso sbyong;), the three-month summer exam (dbyar gnas;) and the dissolution of the restrictions at the end of the summer retreat (dgag dbye; pravarana), and the two kinds of lay disciples are also represented, we can speak of a central land where the Dharma is flourishing. Indeed, if there are no bhikhus and bhikshunis, one cannot speak of a central land. That is why His Holiness the Dalai Lama said at the opening of the 1st International Conference on Buddhist Nuns 1987 in Bodhgaya: »Tibet, for example, does not meet all the criteria of a central country because there are no bhikshunis there. Tibet has been regarded as a central country because of its bhikhus, but strictly speaking there should also be bhikshunis there. "And in a statement on the occasion of his first upcoming trip to Taiwan in 1997, the Dalai Lama said:" In the Tibetan tradition we do not have that Lineage of the bhikhsuni vows, which only seem to exist in the Chinese tradition. I am therefore very curious to learn more about the bhikhsuni vows with the intention of introducing them to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. "

Buddhist monastery life began during the lifetime of our teacher Buddha Sakyamuni. What was revolutionary for his time is that during his lifetime he founded an order of nuns that has survived to this day in countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Korea. Therefore, it is only natural that Western women of various traditions should take bhikhsuni ordination in these countries. The lineage practiced there is that of the Dharmagupta tradition, which was passed down to China in 433 AD by the Sinhala Bhikshuni Devasara and her religious sisters. According to the Mulasarvastivada tradition practiced by the monks and novice nuns in Tibet, in order to become an abbess, nuns must be fully ordained for at least twelve years and not ten years as in the Theravada or Dharmagupta tradition.

Other qualifications must also be fulfilled, such as a good understanding of the Vinaya and the ordination ritual. For example, Tibetan nuns or Western nuns who practice in the Tibetan tradition could possibly carry out a bhikhsuni ordination together with bhikhus of the Tibetan tradition after ten to twelve years. But such a move still requires further research. Many questions need to be clarified, such as whether monks of the Mulasarvastivada tradition and nuns of the Dharmagupta tradition can conduct a bhikhsuni ordination together. H. H. the Dalai Lama proposed as early as 1987 to hold an International Vinaya Seminar or an International Vinaya Conference with experts from all traditions on this subject. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened yet.

Challenges of nun life in particular

I see the greatest challenge of the nun's life in whether Buddhism in this age of degeneration is able to produce highly learned and at the same time deeply realized nuns, as there was demonstrably at the time of the Buddha and in earlier centuries. I am thinking, for example, of Gelongma Palmo, who protected the vow of a fully ordained nun like the apple of her eye, was well versed in the teachings of sutra and tantra and who counted great scholars among her students. Her realizations were so high that through a mystical encounter with Avalokitesvara she was able to completely cure herself of a leprosy disease.

I think that nuns must devote much more to their responsibility in the maintenance and dissemination of Buddhist teachings, whereby it is not enough to show abuses of equality for women, although one cannot do without it. I am thinking, for example, of the question of the authenticity of the eight Gurudharmas, which is being questioned by many scholars today. These eight Gurudharmas are explained to the nuns to this day after full ordination and accepted by them without being a rule of the vow. They imply that nuns have to submit to monks in some areas, although the nature of the vows is identical to the monk's vows. Its origins go back to the founding of the order of nuns, as it is in Vinayaksudrakavastu of the Tibetan Canon. Five years after the Buddha's enlightenment, Mahaprajapati asked the enlightened one at Kapalivastu to found the order of nuns. This episode is described as follows:

"After the Blessed One finished his teaching to the 500 Sakya women in a hollowed Nyagrodha tree, Mahaprajapati Gautami said to the Buddha, 'When the women have the four fruits of one sramana could achieve, they would enter the Order and strive for perfection. I plead with the Blessed One to enable women to become bhikhsuni and live in purity near the Blessed One. ' However, the Buddha replied, 'Gautami, wear the pure white clothes of a lay woman, strive for perfection, be pure, chaste and virtuous, and you will receive lasting merit, blessings and happiness.' Mahaprajapati repeated her request a second and third time in the same way, but received the same answer as before; and so she withdrew with bows. "

"Once the Blessed One was on his way to Nadika in Viji and stopped at a place called Nadikaikujika. Gautami, who had heard about it, and 500 women of the Sakya clan then shaved their hair, dressed in bhiksuni robes, followed the Buddha and came to the place where he was, tired, ragged, with the signs of the long journey and covered in dust. After the Buddha had finished his teaching to Gautami and her companions, she repeated her request to be in She got the same answer as before, so she went and sat down in front of the entrance of the house and wept, and there Ananda saw her and asked what had happened, she told him, and Ananda left to the Buddha and repeated Gautami's request. 'Ananda,' replied the Buddha, 'do not ask that women be accepted into the order, receive ordination and become bhiksunïs, for the rules of the order remained do not exist long, women would be accepted into the order. Ananda, if there are many women and few men in a house, thieves and robbers can break in and steal; so it will be, Ananda, when women enter the Order; the rules of the order will no longer be safe. Or, in other words, Ananda, if a sugarcane field is infested with powdery mildew, it is useless and of no value; so it will be, Ananda, when women enter the Order the rules will not last long. Ananda, however, if Gautami follows the following eight rules (bla ma'i chos brgyad; gurudharma) accepts, she may enter the order. ' Gautami accepted the rules, and so she and the other women were accepted into the order. "


A similar report can be found in Bhikkunikkhandhaka des Cullavagga (Pali Vinaya) and in the 17th Skandhaka (Chinese: pi-chíu-ni chien do) of the Chinese Dharmagupta-Vinaya.

As far as is known, the founding of the order of nuns was criticized by the monks only after the Buddha died; this incident is reported as follows:

"Ananda was strongly reprimanded by Kanyapa:" You have asked women to enter religious life regardless of our teacher telling you: 'Ananda, you should not induce women to enter religious life and give them nor say that they should take the vow and become nuns. Why this? If women accept the rules in accordance with the discipline of this teaching, the latter will not last long. For example, if a field of wild rice is hit by a shower of hail, the rice is destroyed; in the same way, the discipline of teaching will not last long if women take the rules upon themselves. ' Isn't it true that the Buddha said that? "

Ananda replied, 'I cannot be accused of a lack of shame. You should remember, however, that Mahaprajapati was the foster mother of our teacher, the Buddha, and that she nourished him with her own breast. Out of gratitude to Gautami, it would be appropriate (to accept women into the order), and with the aim that (the Buddha) have the four kinds of followers (including nuns) like the fully awakened Buddhas of earlier times. "" Your gratitude, "said Kanyapa," has harmed the Buddha's spiritual body. A shower of hail has fallen on the field of Buddha activity; therefore only the short period of 1000 years remains for the teaching to last. In earlier times, when living beings had less strong desires, faults, and desires, and were less afflicted with hatred and delusion, the four types of fellowship were appropriate, but it was not our Teacher's wish that it be so at this time should. It is you who pleaded with him (to allow women to obey the rules); this is your first transgression. "

The quotations mentioned raise many questions and contradictions, because shortly after the Buddha had attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya under the Bodhi tree and before his first discourse in Sarnath, he had decided to found the four types of community and thus also the order of nuns.

The enlightened One was sick at the time, and Mara tried to make him die by saying: "Blessed One (Bhagavat), the time has come to die!" But the Buddha replied, "Mara, as long as my disciples have not acquired wisdom and quick understanding, as long as the bhikhus, the bhiksunis, and the male and female lay disciples are unable to refute their opponents in accordance with the Dharma, and for so long my teachings on moral discipline are not widespread among gods and men, I will not perish. "

If the Buddha declared shortly after his enlightenment that he would not die until there were nuns among his followers, why was he hesitant five years later to accept women into the order? Since the Buddha was omniscient and could foresee all events, why should he reverse his decision five years later?

If the Awakened One prophesied the establishment of the four kinds of fellowship, why does Kanyapa say that while they were appropriate in earlier times, it was not the Buddha's wish that it should be so at this time.

Another problem is that the Buddha allegedly said that the teachings would not last long if he allowed women to enter the order. But because of Ananda's help and on condition that Mahaprajapati accept the eight Gurudharmas, he gave his permission. If he knew that this would be an obstacle to the long-term existence of the teaching, why did he give his approval? Didn't he care if the teaching continued? Or were such negative consequences averted by Mahāprajāpatï accepting the eight Gurudharmas? Is it possible that Mahakasyapa gave an indirect answer to these questions by saying that the desires, hatred and delusions of beings were stronger than in the lifetime of previous Buddhas, so that Buddha Sakyamuni saw a particular danger in being next to an order of nuns to found the monastic order? The beings' passions, which were stronger than in the past, posed a threat to discipline and the long-term existence of the teaching. Perhaps the Buddha in his omniscience foresaw that he would found an order of nuns, but hesitated when asked to do so to show the potential danger when the two religious communities live and work closely together.

If the Buddha had lived at a time when women enjoyed a higher social status than men, the situation might have been reversed. In such a hypothetical situation, the Buddha's father might have approached him with a request to establish an order of monks, and the Buddha might have refused the request, fearing that monks and nuns would live too close together.

A completely different version of how the order of nuns came about can be found in an old Turkish text that was translated by Jens Peter Laut from the University of Marburg. This portrayal takes place at the time of the historical Buddha:

"Pannini, a servant of the Gautami, tells a 'lay follower' (Skr. Upasika, atü. Upasanc) of the Buddha at the Nyagrodharama monastery that Gautami would like to give the Buddha a robe he made himself. This should be done out of gratitude that he would give the women the On this occasion Pannini tells how the founding of the order of nuns came about. So, interestingly, we are dealing with a report from a female point of view. According to her words, the Buddha wanted women to do so some time ago Preaching Doctrine At that time, the Sakya princes enacted a law that women were not allowed to be present at the preaching.

Let us be clear: It is not the Buddha as religious leader, but the male representatives of secular rule that deny women religious equality.

The outraged women gather and instruct Gautami to intervene with her husband Suddhodana, the Buddha's father. He finally gives his consent, whereupon Gautami goes with tens of thousands of women to the Nyagrodharama monastery.

On the way to the monastery, the wives of young Sakya men, who, as it is emphasized, 'have not yet achieved salvation and are still under arrest in the klesas', are stopped by pointing out that they are forbidden to hear the Dharma. In addition, the young men argue: 'Our (tribal) brother Siddhartha speaks about your hundredfold sins!' When the women asked what sins they were, the monks called the 'five sins of women': 'Each of the women has five sins: 1. (The women) are irascible and at the same time fearful, 2. They are jealous , 3. Unreliable, 4. They are ungrateful, and 5. They have strong sexuality. '

The women defended themselves with considerable arguments: "It was a woman who carried the Siddhartha in her womb for nine months and ten days! And it was also a woman who bore him in agony! It was also a woman who bore him with great difficulty and raised distress! "

Finally, the women arrive at the monastery, where the Buddha enumerates the 'five virtues of women' for them and the monks: "The virtues (skr guna, atü. Ädgü) of women count as fivefold, o monks: 1. They do not neglect either (simple) houses or palaces, 2. they constantly collect the wealth they have acquired, 3. they take care of their master (ie their husband) as well as a non-relative in the event of illness, 4. they can enjoy joys together with men, 5. the Buddhas, the Pratyekabuddhas, the Arhats the happy beings: all are born of women! "

The women then accuse the youths of not telling them the truth about the Buddha's opinion on women. At the end of the episode, the Buddha preaches the doctrine to the women, whereupon all 180,000 Sakya women attain Srotapanna dignity, i.e. the lower degree of Buddhist dignity. achieve a monastic healing career. The female order is established. "

What is interesting about this report is the fact that women have been forbidden by secular authorities from hearing Dharma teachings. If one looks at the social conditions in India at that time, the version just quoted seems plausible. It also provides a possible explanation for why the Buddha may have hesitated to accept women into the order: by doing so, he would have violated the laws of the country. At the same time, the report is not entirely satisfactory from a feminist point of view, because the five virtues mentioned certainly do not correspond to the ideal of women today. Perhaps, however, the women in early Indian society felt encouraged by this, because from today's perspective they had a very low social status.

In I.B. Horner's translation of the Pali-Vinaya as it is known in the Sthaviravada tradition, after the establishment of the order of nuns by the Mahaprajapatis ordination, an incident is described which differs somewhat from the representation in the Tibetan Vinaya:

"Mahapajapati approached the Lord and asked him what guideline of conduct she should follow in relation to the 500 Sakya women. The Lord gave a lecture on the Dharma to Mahapajapati and after she left he addressed the monks by saying: "I allow monks to ordain nuns by monks."

The ordination ritual includes answering a few intimate questions. Women were ashamed to have to answer these questions to the monks. This led to the fact that the enlightened one finally instructed that the candidate should be ordained by the order of nuns at the request of a female applicant and then immediately brought before the order of monks, where the candidate again asks for ordination. The monk order is to be informed by an experienced, competent monk and the formal act of the order is to be carried out again. After the candidate has been ordained by the monastic order at the request of a female applicant, the length of the shadow should be measured, the season should be stated, the part of the day should be stated, the regulations should be explained and the nuns should be told: "Explain the three aids and the eight things that shouldn't be done. "

The ordination rituals for the ordination as a lay student (dge bsnyen ma, upasika), to the novice nun (dge tshul ma; sramanerikas), to the learning nun (dge slob ma) and a fully ordained nun (dge slong ma; bhiksunis) are explained very similarly in Tibetan Vinaya as in Pali-Vinaya. But before the ordination of Mahāprajāpatï, in the explanation of the eight Gurudharmas, there is a noticeable difference: although in Tibetan Vinaya as in Pali-Vinaya it is declared that a fully ordained nun will take her vows before both sangha, the monk sangha and the nun sangha should, this regulation in the Tibetan Vinaya is not part of the eight Gurudharmas. In contrast to the Pali-Vinaya it says: "Women should seek ordination from the monks and after receiving full ordination they should carefully understand the things (i.e. the vow) of a bhiksunis." In the Pali-Vinaya, on the other hand, it says: "After having trained herself as a learner in the six rules for two years, she should request ordination from both orders."

The description in the Tibetan Vinaya seems plausible from a chronological point of view, because only after Mahaprajapati and the 500 Sakya women have received the bhiksuni consecration by accepting the eight rules, there is an order of nuns and only then does the question arise as to how other candidates will be in the future to receive their vows. Only then can the regulation be made that the now existing nun community has to take on an essential task in the ordination of nuns, because at the time of the establishment of the eight Gurudharmas there was no nun order. As a result, ordination could not be requested by either order at this point.

Even if all the other seven Gurudharmas are almost literally the same except for the order, we encounter a difference in this one. The chronological sequence of the description in the Pali-Vinaya is difficult to understand. If the Buddha has already established the procedure for the ordination of nuns by enumerating the eight Gurudhammas, why then does the question arise after the ordination of Mahaprajapati how the 500 Sakya women are to be ordained and why does the Buddha contradict himself by he says, "I allow monks to ordain nuns by monks" when he just said before that nuns should request ordination from both orders?

The comparison of the different Vinaya versions suggests that the editors of the Vinaya writings available today tried to adapt the descriptions to the current circumstances, whereby historical moments were not sufficiently taken into account. One might even assume that the Gurudharmas were added later and were not taught by the Buddha himself or that only some were taught by him and others were added later. However, this fact cannot be clarified without a detailed linguistic investigation.

A great challenge for nuns becomes very clear. The image of women from then cannot be transferred to today; the social role of women has changed a lot. It is therefore important that we test statements about women in Buddhism for their truthfulness as well as other statements about karma, rebirth and the ultimate mode of existence of all phenomena. With this in mind, I would like to begin, in the middle and at the end with a verse from Tsongkapa's objectives for the wholesome (Thog mtha 'bar du dge ba'i smon lam) end where it says:

May I understand the meaning of what I've absorbed through learning
Investigate day and night using the four kinds of logic,
and may I be with the wisdom that comes from thinking
arises about the facts to be examined,
remove all ambiguities and doubts in my mind.

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