Bhikkhuni Training Center

 

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Background

During the 2007 Pali Tipitaka Chanting Ceremony, extensive discussions were held on many levels among the participants at the ceremony as well as others who happened to be at Bodhgaya. One of the issues which was brought up was the need for providing a training for bhikkhunis as well as bhikkhus. All agreed that this was a necessary and wonderful thing. A meeting was organized very quickly to crystallize this idea into a practical format. The first official meeting was held at 7.30pm-9.30pm on 24-2-2007 at the Maha Bodhi Society, Bodhgaya.


Members


All those in attendance at the meeting agreed to join the Steering Committee for the BuddhaVision Bhikkhuni Training Center.

Bhikkhu Prajnadeep (All India Bhikkhu Sangha)
Bhikkhu Kiribathgoda Gnanananda (abbot of Mahamevna, Sri Lanka)
Bhikkhu Seewali (Sri Lanka, bhikkhu-in-charge, Maha Bodhi Society, Bodhgaya)
Bhikkhuni Santini (Indonesia)
Bhikkhuni Silavati (Indonesia)
Sister Thitamedha (Chithurst, England)
Richard Wolf (USA)
Surjani Lee (Indonesia)
Bhikkhuni TN Hang Lien (Vietnam)
Bhikkhu Sujato (abbot of Santi Forest Monastery, Australia)

Points raised

 

1. The difficulty for women to obtain ordination and training is noted, as well as the ongoing problems for bhikkhunis to gain acceptance in many Theravadin countries. The number of Indian bhikkhunis is currently small, but may be expected to grow, and facilities will be needed.


2. The bhikkhunis must be careful to use this as a genuine opportunity to grow and develop their spiritual qualities. In Sri Lanka the bhikkhuni movement has tended to become politicized, which distracts from the main purpose of the holy life. If the bhikkhunis are humble and intent on training, it is likely that initial suspicions and oppositions among the monks will gradually fade away.


3. Under the Vinaya, it is the obligation of the bhikkhus to assist the bhikkhunis with their education and training. In India in the Buddha's day, as it is today, it was often the case that the women were denied equal opportunity to education.


4. It was felt that Bodhgaya is a good place to start, because of the centrality of the place for Buddhism, the closeness of Bhantes Seevali and Gnanananda, and the availability of good teachers.


5. Unfortunately it was not possible for any Indian bhikkhunis to be present. However it was felt that there were suitable candidates for the center. Bhikkhu Prajnadeep of the All India Bhikkhu Sangha offered to approach them and inform them of our project. 


6. A sketch of a possible design for the center, based on the ancient design seen at Nalanda, was submitted by Sujato. The aim was to make a center that would be highly secure, quiet, and secluded, without being expensive. He agreed to redraw this and post for discussion and feedback. Cost for the building should be in the region of $100 000-$200 000.


7. Several pieces of land around Bodhgaya were discussed as possible sites. It was felt that there was a reasonable chance of obtaining use of land for free, either from the government or from Buddhist groups, several of whom have bought large parcels of land that lie unused. In particular, there is a plot of over an acre on the banks of the Neranjara directly opposite the Maha Bodhi temple, with a mature mango grove. This is unassigned government land. Wangmo and Richard Dixie, directors of the Light of Buddhadharma Foundation, have been in discussions with the Bihar government regarding long term infrastructure development of Bodhgaya. The government have indicated that they would look favorably on applications for land for BuddhaVision and similar purposes, and invited submissions. 


8. Our initial meeting was organized and held within a couple of days, and many of those who wished to support could not be there. In particular, Wangmo and Richard Dixie of the Light of Buddhadharma Foundation International were away in Patna on the night of the meeting. But in discussion afterwards they expressed their full support.



Resolutions


1. The aim is to train and educate Indian nuns, especially bhikkhunis, with the main focus on the original Buddha's teachings found especially in the Pali Suttas and Vinaya.


2. Teaching should be in Hindi and English. Language training should be offered.


3. Ordination should follow the procedures outlined in the Pali Vinaya. In particular, nuns must practice the two years sikkhamana training before taking full ordination before bhikkhu and bhikkhuni Sanghas.


4. The bhikkhunis should follow the Pali Vinaya, including the eight garudhammas. It was noted that many scholars belive on textual grounds that the garudhammas were a later addition to the canon. However it was felt that an allegiance to these principles of respect would help create a positive attitude among the Indian bhikkhus.


5. The center is for committed trainees only. There will be no casual or guest accommodation. Nuns who wish to stay must commit to a specified period of training.


6. Graduates should have minimum 5 years experience as a bhikkhuni before teaching.


7. It was felt important to maintain close contacts with bhikkhuni communities in other countries, so that the new bhikkhuni communities can support each other.


Conclusion


There was full agreement in all the fundamentals as outlined above. The first priority is to look for land and begin discussions with the bhikkhunis.

Following the meeting, the entire group entered the main shrine at the Maha Bodhi Society. Bhikkhu Seevali opened the vault containing the relics of the Buddha, Sariputta, and Moggallana, which had been interred a couple of weeks previously by HH Dalai Lama. We were all able to hold these most holy relics for the group photos.