His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama
Full Ordination of Women in Tibetan Buddhism
The Foundation for Buddhist Studies in Germany enabled the University of Hamburg to host leading monastic specialists and senior members of the international Buddhist community from more than 19 countries to discuss full ordination of women in Tibetan Buddhism from July 18-20, 2007. His Holiness offered invaluable suggestions and in his last speech urged that steps should be taken right away to accomplish this aim. He said:
The Buddha taught a path to enlightenment and liberation from suffering for all sentient beings and people in every walk of life, to women as well as men, without discriminating class, race, nationality, or social background. For those individuals who wished to dedicate themselves fully to the practice of his teachings, he established a monastic order that included both a Bhikshu Sangha (an order of monks) and a Bhikshuni Sangha (an order of nuns). The Buddhist monastic order has thrived throughout Asia ever since and has been essential for the development of Buddhism in all its various dimensions – in the fields of philosophy, meditation, ethics, religious ritual, education, culture, and social transformation.
The Bhikshu ordination lineage exists in almost all Buddhist countries today, whereas the Bhikshuni ordination lineage only exists in a few countries. For this reason, the fourfold Buddhist community is incomplete in the Tibetan traditions. It would be excellent to have the fourfold Buddhist community complete by offering full Bhikshuni ordination in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, too. 1
In today’s world, women are taking on major responsibilities in all walks of secular life – in government, science, medicine, law, arts, humanities, education, and business. They are just as keen about participating in the spiritual activities available to men by receiving a spiritual education and training, by serving as role-models, and contributing to the well-being of society. Therefore nuns and lay followers of Tibetan Buddhism wish to receive full ordination in their tradition. Seeing that women are endowed with the ability to achieve the ultimate goal of the Buddha’s teachings, in harmony with the spirit of modernity, the means and opportunities to achieve this goal should be totally accessible to them. The best way to live up to their most positive wishes is by receiving full ordination and being supported by a Bhikshuni community. Full ordination will enable nuns to pursue their aims wholeheartedly by learning, contemplating, and meditating. It will enhance their opportunities to benefit society in research, teaching, counselling, and other activities that help disseminate the Buddhadharma. With these thoughts in mind and having carried out extensive research and consulted leading Vinaya and Tibetan scholars around the world - backed by all members of the Tibetan traditions since the 1960s - I express my full support for the establishment of the Bhikshuni Sangha in Tibetan Buddhism.
As to modalities, we have to adhere to the Vinaya, otherwise we would have introduced Bhikshuni vows in Tibet a very long time ago.
There are nuns in our traditions who have received full Bhikshuni ordination according to the Dharmagupta lineage - we acknowledge and respect them as fully ordained. We could translate the three main monastic codes (the Posadha, Varsa, and Pravarana) from the Dharmagupta lineage into the Tibetan language and encourage our nuns to practice them in a community of nuns right away.
I hope that these combined efforts of all Buddhist traditions bear fruit.
The Buddhist Bhikshu Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama
1 The Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasakis (ordained lay followers) comprise the fourfold Buddhist community.