Survival of female monasteries in the Theravada tradition

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.

Survival of female monasteries in the Theravada tradition

Postby starter » Tue Jun 18, 2013 5:45 pm

I learned from some female monastics about the difficulty of running female monasteries and being female monastics, mainly because of the following reasons:

1) it's difficult to find and maintain female lay stewards;
2) "there are many chauvinist male monastics and yes this can be very discouraging";
3) "also discouraging can be the women both lay and ordained who denigrate females and mainly support men."

I can imagine the first difficulty is probably also related to the third difficulty. While I was visiting a famous man's monastery in Thailand, I heard comments from the female supporters such as "the nuns talk too much ..." (and hence were not considered to be worthy of their support). So it's not very surprising to me that Theravada female monasteries/bhikkuni linage died out. By the way, being a woman myself I don't think female practitioners are worse than male practitioners (if not better :tongue: ).

Thanks to the efforts of the courageous pioneers and compassionate supporters, now the female monasteries reemerge, where dedicated female practitioners can follow the Buddha's teaching, and "dwell possessed of virtue, possessed of the Patimokkha, restrained with the restraint of the Patimokkha, perfect in conduct and resort and seeing fear in the slightest fault, train by undertaking the training precepts".

But how can we help them survive and develop? I'm wondering if some income of those gone forth such as their pensions, social security payments, retirement funds and so on can be received and managed (and invested?) by some trustworthy organization/foundation on their behalf, and donate to the monasteries that they designate. These funds could be used to pay the lay stewards some monthly income, so that the monasteries could have stable stewards working there. This could apply to man's monasteries as well. I wonder if it's possible to do so.

Just some food for thought. Your input will be welcome and appreciated. Metta to all!
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Re: Survival of female monasteries in the Theravada traditio

Postby starter » Thu Jun 20, 2013 3:12 pm

I checked Patimokkha. As I understand it doesn't seem to violate the Patimokkha to have the monastics' pensions, retirement funds, life insurance and etc. received and managed by an organization/foundation and donate the money to some monasteries to pay the cost such as the stewards' monthly subsidies. But the Buddha might want the monastics to live completely dependent on the lay supporters, instead of the monastics themselves. However, when there isn't sufficient support and the women's monasteries have to survive in a new culture, I suppose it's OK to do so at the pioneering stage. I'd like to know your opinion about it. And any other ideas to help the women's monasteries to survive and develop?

Metta to all!
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Re: Survival of female monasteries in the Theravada traditio

Postby starter » Tue Jun 25, 2013 1:11 am

One more thought is to build the monasteries in the quiet, safe communities with a group of local supporters, where the monastics can go for alms round in the neighborhood (I know it's not possible now in the west but hopefully in not too far future it'll become possible), or the local supporters can easily come to the monasteries to support the monastics with food and so on.

Metta to all!
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Re: Survival of female monasteries in the Theravada traditio

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Jun 25, 2013 2:45 am

starter wrote:I can imagine the first difficulty is probably also related to the third difficulty. While I was visiting a famous man's monastery in Thailand, I heard comments from the female supporters such as "the nuns talk too much ..." (and hence were not considered to be worthy of their support). So it's not very surprising to me that Theravada female monasteries/bhikkuni linage died out.


It died out in Sri Lanka in the year 1017 from foreign invaders killing them off. The bhikkhu (male) line also died off in Sri Lanka, but there were monks in Burma and Thailand who continued the line and brought back the bhikkhu ordination lineage to Sri Lanka.

starter wrote:One more thought is to build the monasteries in the quiet, safe communities with a group of local supporters, where the monastics can go for alms round in the neighborhood (I know it's not possible now in the west but hopefully in not too far future it'll become possible), or the local supporters can easily come to the monasteries to support the monastics with food and so on.

Metta to all!


:thumbsup:
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Survival of female monasteries in the Theravada traditio

Postby starter » Tue Jun 25, 2013 10:29 pm

It died out in Sri Lanka in the year 1017 from foreign invaders killing them off. The bhikkhu (male) line also died off in Sri Lanka, but there were monks in Burma and Thailand who continued the line and brought back the bhikkhu ordination lineage to Sri Lanka.



Hello David,

Thanks for explaining. How did the bhikkuni line died off in Thailand and Burma, and eventually in the Theravada tradition?

Metta,

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Re: Survival of female monasteries in the Theravada traditio

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:23 am

starter wrote:Hello David,
Thanks for explaining. How did the bhikkuni line died off in Thailand and Burma, and eventually in the Theravada tradition?
Metta,
Starter


Hi starter,

There were no nuns in Thailand or Burma. The Theravada nuns were all in Sri Lanka (where they were killed off from invaders). However, a Dharmagupta nun lineage survived and so the bhikkhuni lineage was reinstated using Dharmagupta nuns for the double-ordination (monks and nuns as preceptors) and in some cases using Mahayana nuns. Today there are plenty of Theravada nuns so women today can ordain with a double-ordination ceremony of monks and nuns all from Theravada. (Although some do not recognize the ordinations of the Theravada nuns since the lineage is traced back through Dharmagupta and/or Mahayana on the nuns side.)
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Re: Survival of female monasteries in the Theravada traditio

Postby Sylvester » Wed Jun 26, 2013 8:24 am

Hi David

I've seen statements online to suggest that there is textual evidence for the existence of a bhikkhuni Sangha during the Sukhothai era (apparently one ordained by monks alone, not a dual ordination). There's also Wat Phra Singh's ubosoth which is apparently built for use by monks and nuns in the early 19th C.

I-Tsing, who visited the "Southern Seas" in the late 7th C, described bhikkhunis in the SE Asian territories he visited, although these seemed to have been of the Mula-Sarva ordination lineage at that time.
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Re: Survival of female monasteries in the Theravada traditio

Postby sekha silapada » Tue Jul 09, 2013 1:33 pm

I'm wondering if some income of those gone forth such as their pensions, social security payments, retirement funds and so on can be received and managed (and invested?) by some trustworthy organization/foundation on their behalf, and donate to the monasteries that they designate.


I don't know about managing pensions and the like, but the Alliance for Bhikkhunis works to provide financial assistance to Bhikkhunis while educating the public about their existence.

http://bhikkhuni.net/
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Re: Survival of female monasteries in the Theravada traditio

Postby starter » Tue Jul 09, 2013 8:47 pm

Hello Sekha, Sylvester, and David,

Thanks for your input. In addition to the Alliance for Bhikkunis, is there any similar organization to support the 10-precept (and 8-precept) nuns in North America? I guess not, since there aren't many such nuns in North America.

I'm thinking it's much easier for a nuns monastery (for 10-precept nuns) to survive than a bhikkuni's monastery, because such a monastery can do without lay stewards, and can get more support from the Theravada community. It's probably also necessary to establish such a nuns monastery in a new land as a transition step.

Metta to all!

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Re: Survival of female monasteries in the Theravada traditio

Postby starter » Fri Jul 19, 2013 9:45 pm

starter wrote:I'm wondering if some income of those gone forth such as their pensions, social security payments, retirement funds and so on can be received and managed (and invested?) by some trustworthy organization/foundation on their behalf, and donate to the monasteries that they designate. These funds could be used to pay the lay stewards some monthly income, so that the monasteries could have stable stewards working there. This could apply to man's monasteries as well. I wonder if it's possible to do so.


Just to share that it's possible to do so by financial power of attorney, which is a simple, inexpensive, and reliable way to arrange for someone (or some people) as the agent to manage all finances, and can be arranged before going forth. Such an agent can not only collect pensions, Social Security, Medicare, ... and manage retirement funds, but also make donations and even pay the expenses of family members and etc. As I understand no signature or action is needed from the donor (who makes such an arrangement) once it's in effect.

But I'm not sure if it's possible to have a foundation/organization to act as the agent in North America.

Tanks for all your input and metta to all!
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Re: Survival of female monasteries in the Theravada traditio

Postby perkele » Fri Jul 19, 2013 10:54 pm

Than you, starter, for sharing wholesome awareness.

Internet is going off here in 5 minutes. Time to sleep. No time to really look at it. I am sure it can be valuable, and maybe people can take it.

Continue sharing wholesome awareness with proper acknowledgement and patience. :)

:anjali:

Sadhu!
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Re: Survival of female monasteries in the Theravada traditio

Postby pilgrim » Sat Jul 20, 2013 2:33 am

starter wrote:One more thought is to build the monasteries in the quiet, safe communities with a group of local supporters, where the monastics can go for alms round in the neighborhood (I know it's not possible now in the west but hopefully in not too far future it'll become possible), or the local supporters can easily come to the monasteries to support the monastics with food and so on.

Metta to all!

Why is that not possible? I thought if the monastery is located in a rural or suburban setting, it would be entirely possible for such an arrangement. Not every monastery needs to be in the forest.
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