The Brighter of Bhikkhuni Sasana….
Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Dhammananda (Dr.Chatsumarn Kabilsingh)
The Chief Abbes – Songdhammakalyani Bhikkhuni Arama and The Medicine Buddha Vihara, Nakhonpathom, Thailand
For those who are interested in the ordination of women, this is one of the most puzzling questions, which needs a great deal of contextual understanding. When King Suddhodana, the Buddha’s royal father passed away, the duty of a wife to her husband was completed. It was the right time for Maha Pajapati to consider following the teaching and the practice of the Buddha seriously. But, when she approached and asked for permission the Buddha simply said, “Please do not ask so.” The Tripitaka, which is the most important primary source, did not provide any reason for not allowing women to join the Order. Many interpretations were given in later commentaries trying to explain the situation. This led also to common belief that the Buddha did not want to allow women to lead a religious life. This is not without basis. According to Indian social mores, to lead a religious life is not the path for women. Manudharma Sastra was very clear to spell out that salvation for a woman is possible only through bhakti (devotion) to her husband.
But Maha Pajapati was unshaken in her decision. After the Buddha had gone, she, along with 500 Sakiyanis (Sakyan women) from the royal court shaved their heads and donned the yellow robes. ey followed him on foot until they arrived at Vesali where the Buddha resided. Upon arriving at the arama (residence) they did not ask to have an audience with the Buddha for fear of being rejected again. Ananda, the Buddha’s cousin and personal attendant, found them at the entrance covered with dust, with torn robes and bleeding feet. Many of them were miserable and in tears of desperation. He learned from them of their request and on their behalf approached the Buddha. Again, the Buddha forbade Ananda in the same manner, “Ananda, please do not ask so. There are various reasons to be taken in consideration in attempting to understand the possible difficulties or obstacles which presented themselves in the mind of the Buddha. First of all Maha Pajapati was a queen who, along with 500 ladies of the court, knew only the life of comfort. To lead a reclusive life allowing them only to sleep under the tree, or in the cave, would be too hard for them. Out of compassion the Buddha wanted them to think it over. Furthermore, accepting a large group of women to be ordained all at once would immediately involve teachers to provide them both instruction and training.
Awakening Our Buddhist Heritage….
Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Ayya Tathaloka Mahatheri
Sanghatheri, Preceptor, The Chief Founding Abbes of Dhammadharini Monastery & Senior Teacher in Residence at Aranya Bodhi Hermitage, California, USA
ediscovering the Date of the Final Nirvāna of Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī – “Rattaññūnaṃ bhikkhunīnaṃ Gotamī jinamātuchā Ṭhapitā aggaṭṭhānamhi sadā sotthiṁ karotu no “Among bhikkhunis of long standing is Gotamī, maternal aunt of the Buddha. Attained to the supreme state, may the power of her qualities always be a blessing for us.” – Lanna-Thai chant for Blessings to the Nation based upon Anguttara Nikāya’s Book of Ones. Known as the “founding mother” of the global Buddhist Bhikkhunī Sangha, maternal aunt and foster mother of the Buddha, together with his senior-most leading bhikkhunī disciple, Mahā Pajāpatī Gotamī Therī, in Sanskrit: Mahā Prajāpatī Gautamī. Her name Mahā Pajāpatī means “a great leader with many followers,” “a wife with many children” or “a prolific creator god,” Gotamī “woman of the Gotama clan,” Therī “a female elder established in the Buddhist Path through her direct realization and awakening.” In the Chinese text Tripitaka her name is translated, likely from early Gāndhārī, as 大愛道 Priyapathī, “For Whom the Path is Most Dear,” as well as transliterated as 摩訶波闍波提·瞿曇彌 Mahā Pajāpatī Gotamī.
According to the Sri Lankan Theravāda traditions, at age 80, Mahā Pajāpatī Gotamī and a large cohort of her kinswomen left home and entered monastic life as the founding Bhikkhunī Sangha on the September full moon five years after the Buddha began teaching. Through practicing the Buddha’s teaching well, due to the fruition of her enormous merits and past life aspirations, she quickly became an etadaggā bhikkhunī savīkā buddhā arahantī: a fully awakened leading woman monastic disciple of the Buddha. According to the Early Buddhist teachings recorded in the Taisho Tripitaka parallel to the Pāli-text Gotamī Therī Apadana, at the age of 120, eight days after the February full moon, upon the Buddha’s announcement of his impending Mahāparinibbāna three months later, she herself decided to enter final Nibbāna at that time with a large number of her original cohort of bhikkhunī co-founders, after giving final Dhamma teachings for seven days and nights.
The directions of pure mind….
Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Shih Jian Yin
The Secretary General of Taiwan Buddhist Association, Secretary General of the World Buddhism Bhikkhuni Association & the Chinese Buddhism Bhikkhuni Association, Abbess of Miau Kuang Chan Monastery, Wan Fa Monastery, Zhi Cheng Monastery, Tai Ming Monastery & Zheng Jue Chan Monastery
A virtue is a trait or quality deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting individual and collective well-being. The opposite of “virtue” is “vice”. In Buddhist teachings, virtues that are cited include: Generosity, Morality, Renunciation, Transcendental Wisdom, Diligence, Forbearance, Honesty, Determination, Loving-Kindness, and Serenity. Other virtues associated with Buddhist traditions include: Compassion, Enlightenment, Right understanding, Truth, Responsibility, Simplicity, Non-violence, Preventing and Healing Suffering, Harmony, Co-operation. More specific, Buddhist practice as outlined in the Noble Eightfold Path can be regarded as a progressive list of virtues. The purpose of Buddhism is not to rise to a high status in worldly human society; but to develop one’s own virtues, to purify one’s heart and mind and to awaken through or by practicing sīla, samathi and paññā. The objectives are: fi rst to purify oneself, to gain wisdom, and then to help others escape suffering. Initially, Lord Buddha taught all His disciples – men, women, monks and novices – the same basic concepts: the same Four Noble Truths, the same Five Precepts, the same Three Trainings and the same Eightfold Path. He summarized these in the Ovatta Patimokkha as:
“Avoid evil, do good, and purify your heart and mind.” “Sabba papassa akaranam, avoid all evil, Kusalassupasampada, Cultivate the good, Sachitta pariyodapanam, And purify your heart. Etam Buddhanasasanam.” This is the teaching of the Buddhas Avoiding evil means following the Five Precepts: avoiding killing, stealing, adultery, lying, and intoxicants. Cultivating the good means: practicing dana or generosity; sila or morality; and bhavana or meditation. Meditation is the key to purifying the heart and mind, developing spiritual values and living happily by discarding defi lements (kilesa) and developing wisdom. Only after attracting a large group of disciples, did Lord Buddha begin to distinguish distinct rules with different precepts for various groups for living harmoniously in their diverse positions and circumstances.
Wisdom and Compassion….
Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Dharma Master Cheng Yen
The Founder of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation
In Tzu Chi, every day we walk the path of compassion. Motivated by love for others, we go to them to offer our aid and care. But, how can we help them in order to truly relieve them of suffering? Where do we begin and how should we proceed? All this requires wisdom. To help others, we need to bring forth not only compassion but also wisdom. Wisdom is like eyes that enable us to see. Wisdom, insight, and understanding enable us to determine whether we are going in the right direction. It is very easy to veer off the right path and with the slightest change in direction our route will change quite significantly so that we will end up far off course. We need the eyes of wisdom to keep us on track. Along the way, there are also likely to be pitfalls and obstacles. Only with the vision provided by wisdom, insight, and understanding can we successfully avoid these. While walking the path of compassion, we therefore need to be very alert.
To carry out the work of helping others, we need to balance wisdom and compassion. Both are important and they are like our feet—without one or the other, we would not be able to walk properly. Equipped with the ability to see clearly with the eyes of wisdom and to walk forward thanks to the legs of compassion and wisdom, we can surely reach our destination and accomplish what we set out to do. Previously, we spoke of repenting for our many unwholesome thoughts and afflictions. But repentance is not only about recognizing our errors and being sorry for them. It is also about beginning anew and doing things differently. This change begins with our heart, beginning with our five spiritual illnesses. So, after repenting, we should make new vows and aspirations:
Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Shih Chao Hwei
Professor – Hsuan Chuang University and Fu Jen University, Head of the Department of Religious Studies in Hsuan Chuang University, President of Hong Shi Buddhist Cultural and Educational Foundation, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Hsuan Chuang University in Taiwan
Greek, Roman and Judaic cultures are the origins of three major systems of Western ethical studies. Among them, the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC), is usually considered to be the first person to have set the foundation for the progress of Western philosophy. He started from experience and used analogies to establish his theory of knowledge. From his theory of knowledge, he developed his metaphysics, and revealed a noumenon (an original identity) that possessed the unique characteristics of truth, goodness and beauty. This is the basis, in his system, for the existence of our sensory-perception world. Thereafter, he applied his metaphysics theorem and principles to practical living. This became his study of ethics and the study of politics. This methodology has always influenced Western philosophical thinking, including the Christian Scholasticism of the middle Ages. Take for example, Thomas Aquinas, who was most representative in the study of ethics in theology, and had the greatest influence in later centuries. In his study of ethics, he used Aristotle’s philosophical methods and contents in supporting Christian belief. Based on the differences between rationality and faith, he divided ethics into natural ethics and supernatural ethics. In his opinion, the former may adopt Aristotle’s method of practical rationality, whilst the latter required faith, and yields kindness based on the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love.
Writing on normative ethics, I have benefited a lot from Western ethical studies regarding the establishment of ideological systems and structures. However, Buddhism is more than merely ontology or metaphysics. It is based on its fundamental principle that developed from experience – dependent origination (s. pratītya-samutpāda, p. paticca-samuppāda).
From Family Love to Universal Compassion….
Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Dr. Shi Zhiru
Popular Scholar, Author, Professor of Religious Studies, Pomona College, Claremont, California, USA, Awardee, 2016 Global Bhikkhuni Award and Outstanding Women in Buddhism Award 2010
From Family Love to Universal Compassion – “When Dizang Bodhisattva was a filial daughter”. The Sūtra on the Past Vows of Dizang Bodhisattva, a popular scripture in Chinese Buddhist circles for death and dying practices, offers important insights to the tension of familial love and kinship affections with the Buddhist ideal of renunciation, be it monasticism or the bodhisattva’s all-embracing compassion for living beings. The sūtra narrates two past lives of the bodhisattva Dizang (Skt., Kṣitigarbha) as a filial daughter who sorely missed her recently deceased mother. Given her beloved mother’s misdeeds, the daughter fretted over the plight of her deceased mother and assiduously sought to free her from rebirth in hells and other evil paths. Beyond gender implications for Buddhist filial piety, the stories offer practical insights into how familial affection and kinship relations like the love for one’s mother can impel and formatively shape the bodhisattva’s aspiration to behold and relieve the sufferings of all living beings in the spirit of universal compassion. In the first story, the Brahman daughter, grieving deeply at the loss of her mother, prayed earnestly to a Buddha image in the local temple. In a vision, she sojourned through different hells where she witnessed the gruesome tortures of the hell beings. Eventually, she learned that the merits of her earnest devotion and alms-giving had enabled her mother and her peer inmates to be delivered from their retributive sufferings and to be reborn in fortunate realms. Returning to the world of the living, she aspired to deploy expedient means to free living beings from their suffering of retributive punishments.