Women in Buddhism: Questions & Answers


What are the requirements for Bhikkhuni ordination?



Bhikkhuni ordination requires a minimum of 5 bhikkhunis. On the same day, after having been admitted by the bhikkhuni Sangha, that woman must be admitted also by a minimum of 5 monks. The pavattini or bhikkhuni preceptor must have at least 12 years standing as a bhikkhuni who is well versed both in dharma and vinaya, and also must be appointed as preceptor by both Sanghas.

After having been admitted women to the Order, it became very popular for women to join the Order, resulting in a lack of residential provision. Each Pavattini, then was allowed to give ordination only every other year. The preceptor is to provide for both teaching and training for nuns under her guidance, including taking care of them if they should become ill.

There are three forms of ordination for monks. First Ehi bhikkhu Upasampada, an ordination given directly by the Buddha in the early period with literally no formal ritual. The Buddha simply allowed “Do become a monk,” which was considered a complete ordination.

Next came ordination by accepting the Triple Gem, namely Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, as refuge. This was the form of ordination by which teachers in the early period accepted their disciples to become monks.

Later when the number of applications became much higher, a more formal type of ordination was given. It is called natticatuthakammavaca, with a preceptor with two trainers and minimum chapter of 10 monks to witness the ordination. This is an ordination given by a sangha, and is the prevalent type of ordination available in the present day.

There is yet another type of ordination provided for bhikkhunis. There was a case of a woman who had completed the ordination procedure by the bhikkhuni sangha but could not reach the bhikkhu sangha in another village in the same day as prescribed by the ordination requirement. In this case, there were some thieves waiting on the way to abduct her. The Buddha allowed Dutenasampada, ordination through an appointed ambassador. That is another bhikkhuni was assigned by the bhikkhuni sangha on behalf of the bhikkhuni-to-be. This is also considered a rightful ordination.

A woman who requests bhikkhuni ordination must he at least 20 years of age, with permission from her parents, having no illness that would be an obstacle to leading an ordained life. She must have completed a 2-year training period as sikkhamana and be able to obtain the basic material requirements e.g. robes, bowl, etc.