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Nuns get full ordination in Tibetan Buddhism for the first time in Bhutan

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(TibetanReview.net, Jun28’22) – Nuns have been given full ordination in Tibetan Buddhism for the first time in Bhutan this month, with the ceremony being preside over by the Je Khenpo, the spiritual head of Bhutan’s largest Buddhist school, the Drugpa Kagyu. The initiative took place at the request of the King of Bhutan, reported the lionsroar.com Jun 26.

The issue of giving full ordination to Buddhist nuns has long been discussed, with His Holiness the Dalai Lama having frequently spoken about it and being positively inclined towards it.

“The Buddha allowed both men and women to take full ordination, and yet for a variety of reasons the Bhikshuni Sangha was not established in Tibet. Changing that is not something I can decide by myself. It requires a consensus of the Sangha,” said the Dalai Lama on Dec 15, 2017 while inaugurating a new debating yard at the Jangchub Choeling nunnery in the Mundgod Tibetan settlement in Karnataka state, India.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama reportedly feels that it is important to know that nuns and monks ordained in the Tibetan tradition follow the vows set forth in the Mulasarvastivadin school of monastic codes.

In this context, while addressing nuns from eight nunneries who had been taking part in the Jang-Gun-Chö, the Great Winter Debate, held at the Dolma Ling Nunnery, Dharamsala, over the part one month, the Dalai Lama said on Nov 3, 2013, “In Tibet we follow the Mulasarvastivadin tradition of Vinaya established by Shantarakshita, a tradition that comes down from Rahula, the Buddha’s own son. This is the tradition we have carefully preserved that differs only superficially from the Theravada Vinaya observed in the Pali Tradition. When Atisha came to Tibet, out of respect for the already established Mulasarvastivadin tradition, he said there was no point in his trying to propagate the Lokattaravada tradition that he followed himself.”

In the case of the recent ceremony in Bhutan for the full ordination of 144 women, which concluded on Jun 23, the Je Khenpo was reported to have said in a lengthy statement, describing the decision to offer full ordination, that the event was aimed at “serving sentient beings through the buddhadharma, engendering religious freedom and helping human rights.”

And he was reported to have added, “… whenever I look at images of Buddha Shakyamuni these days, every one of them appears to be radiantly smiling at me, which I think is an early indication that what I am doing is not wrong. I have a strong conviction that they would announce, ‘this is excellent!’ and never say ‘this is not right’.”

The ceremony, which followed the Mulasarvastivadin tradition, was reported to have taken place pursuant to a formal request made by His Majesty the 5th King of Bhutan, Drukgyal Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, to the Je Khenpo to hold the bhikshuni ordination.

It was reported to have taken place within view of Taktsang, one of Bhutan’s most important pilgrimage sites.

Most of the candidates were stated to be from nunneries across Bhutan, with some women joining from nunneries in neighboring countries and one English nun residing in Bhutan, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, a long-term advocate of full ordination for women.


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