A bhikkhuni (in Pali) or bhikshuni (in Sanskrit) is a Buddhist nun; the male version is bhikkhu (bhikshu in Sanskrit). Like bhikkhu, bhikkuni live according to the Vinaya, an exhaustive list of monastic rules, though the bhikkhuni's list of rules is longer. The extra rules subordinate bhikkhuni to bhikkhu, requiring, for example, senior bhikkhuni to pay homage to junior bhikkhu, a reversal of the standard hierarachy of seniority in the sangha. This in spite of the fact that the Buddha declared that men and women have equal spiritual potential.

Discriminatory or not, however, for many Buddhist women these rules can only be abstract, for many Buddhist traditions have not retained an order of bhikkhuni. Under the rather strict rules of ordination, a new order can only be founded when new bhikkhu or bhikkhuni are ordained by members of an existing order. As a Thai bhikkhuni lineage was never started from the original Indian order, there is no order of bhikkhuni in Thailand today.

When the Thai bhikkhu sangha has fallen into disarray - after periods of war and upheaval, for example - the bhikkhu have been "restored" by bringing bhikkhu from Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, to oversee ordination. The Thai sangha does the same when the Ceylonese lineage is destroyed. The Ceylonese bhikkhuni sangha, the first outside of India, did seed a bhikkhuni lineage in China, and though the Ceylonese line has died out, the Chinese one continues. Some rebel Thai women have been ordained in the Chinese lineage, though many Theravadins consider the Chinese lineage to be Mahayanist, not Theravadin. Still, for these women, it is their only way to lead a fully committed Buddhist life.

Travellers to Thailand may have seen women with white robes and shaven heads and thought them female counterparts to the bhikkhu with their orange robes and shaven heads. These women are not bhikkhuni, however; they are known in Thai as mae chi, and are lay Buddhist women who have chosen to leave the social world and pursue a path of heightened virtue, following five or eight precepts. They are not - indeed, cannot be - ordained as bhikkhuni in Thailand. Some mae chi live in wat (temples) with the bhikkhu, where they are apt to be treated as their servants and expected to spend their days cooking and cleaning for the bhikkhu instead of studying, and so some mae chi live in their own communities.

An excellent introduction to women and Buddhism - not just in Thailand - can be found in Chatsumarn Kabilsingh's little book, Thai Women in Buddhism, published by the Buddhist Parallax Press in California. Chatsumarn is a professor of religion and philosophy at the prestigious Thammasat University in Bangkok, and her mother is a rebel bhikkhuni who has received ordination from that lineage that in China by Ceylonese bhikkhuni.

As this node deals with the Pali term for a Buddhist nun, rather than the Sanskrit equivalent, I deal here only with the history and status of the Theravada women's renuncient order. Information about the Mahayana equivalent might be located at bhikshuni. And as anthropod's wu above deals quite well with the modern Thai Buddhist women's order, the Mae Ji, I'll deal with that here only by way of comparison, and one or two other germane points.

Founding of the Bhikkhuni Order

The stories of the founding of the men's and women's monastic orders are contained in the Vinaya Pitaka. The founding of the bhikkhuni order is recounted in the Cullavagga, the fifth book of the Theravada vinaya. The first bhikkhuni was Mahaprajapati, the step-mother of the Buddha. Several years after the founding of the monks order, Mahaprajapati approached the Buddha and asked to receive ordination as a female mendicant. Three times she asked, and three times the Buddha refused to grant the ordination (more on this later).

In despair, Mahaprajapati returned to her home, and decided to affect the role of a bhikkhuni, even without the support of the Buddha. She, as well as several other female members of her household, shaved their heads and donned the saffron robes of a Buddhist mendicant. This group of women departed their home, walking on foot a great distance to meet up with the Buddha and his entourage. Arriving at the vihara, Mahaprajapati and her fellow female renunciants stood at the gates and wept.

At this point, Ananda, the Buddha's cousin and personal attendant, and a relative of Mahaprajapati, saw the women standing at the gate, blistered and covered with the dust of the road. He asked her why she and her companions wept, and she replied that it was because the Buddha would not permit women to join the religious order. Ananda immediately volunteered to intercede with the Buddha on Mahaprajapati's behalf.

Initially, Ananda was refused as well. He then asked the Buddha if women were capable of attaining enlightenment. The Buddha replied that they were indeed capable of this greatest spiritual attainment. Ananda then reminded the Buddha, who had been raised by Mahaprajapati after the death of his mother, Queen Maya, of the many kindnesses that his step-mother had performed in raising and nurturing him. Ananda repeated his request, and this time the Buddha relented. He permitted women to be ordained into the order, provided that Mahaprajapati would accept 8 regulations governing the behavior of female renunciants. The rules were as follows:

  1. A bhikkhuni ordained for any length of time might rise, salute, and venerate a bhikkhu ordained even for a single day.
  2. A bhikkhuni must not spend the rainy season (vassa) in a place where there are no bhikkhu.
  3. Every half month, an assembly of bhikkhuni must send for a bhikkhu to instruct them in the vinaya, the eight rules, and to inform them of when to hold the Uposatha ceremony.
  4. At the end of the rainy season (vassa), bhikkhuni must confess their misdeeds before both the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis.
  5. A bhikkhuni who has broken a serious vinaya rule must submit for discipline before both the bhikkhu and bhikkhuni orders.
  6. After two years as a novice, a female renunciant must seek ordination from both the male and female orders.
  7. A bhikkhuni must not abuse or revile any bhikkhu
  8. A bhikkhu may admonish a bhikkhuni, but a bhikkhuni must not admonish a bhikkhu.
Mahaprajapati accepted these rules, and the bhikkhuni order was established. Her ordination was unique, as she was the first female mendicant to be ordained. All future bhikkhuni were required to be ordained before a quorum of both nuns and monks.

Some scholars question the historical accuracy of the traditional vinaya story of the founding of the bhikkhuni order. The manner in which the permanently subordinate relationship between the male and female orders is established seems a little too pat for some observers, and despite the generally male orientation of much of the teaching delivered in the Pali Canon, it seems to contradict the Buddha's remarks regarding the equality of men and women in spiritual matters. However, even if it is not historically accurate, it seems to be at least as old as most of the other scriptures in the Canon, and is generally accepted in the modern Sangha.

The Bhikkhuni Order in Sri Lanka

The Buddhist Sangha, male and female, was established in Sri Lanka in the 3rd century B.C, carried by missionaries from India (traditionally said to have been dispatched by King Asoka). The Queen of Sri Lanka requested that the bhikkhuni lineage be transmitted to the island kingdom, and herself became the first Sri Lankan woman to be ordained.

Several residences were built for bhikkhunis, and inscriptions indicate that the nuns order was a vital part of Sri Lankan religious life up until the 11th Century. At this point, Buddhism was almost eradicated in Sri Lanka following a series of disastrous wars, political instability, and finally conquest by a Southern Indian tribe. So few Sri Lankan monks remained that the 10-monk quorum required for ordination of new monks and nuns could not be achieved. However, earlier Sri Lankan missionary activities had already established a bhikkhu and bhikkhuni lineage in Burma, so monks were recalled from Burma to re-establish the monastic lineage in Sri Lanka. However, no attempt was made to re-establish the bhikkhuni lineage in Sri Lanka. Following the temporary decline of Buddhist institutions in the 111th Century, no mention is made of the fate of the bhikkhuni sangha, nor is any explanation given for why the nuns order was not re-invigorated as the monks order was. The order of female renunciants simply passes out of Sri Lankan history.

During the 19th Century, under a general revival of Buddhist faith and institutions, attempts were made at establishing a role for pious Buddhist women other than that of lay supporter. Since by this time, bhikkhuni orders had disappeared from all of the Theravada nations, it was not possible to re-establish the traditional bhikkhuni ordination. Seeking an alternative, some Sri Lankan women undertook the ten precepts and began to live in communal religious communities (called aramaya)). These women, called Dasa Sil Matavo, or "ten-precept women" had a status somewhere between that of lay follower and ordained renunciant. During the early days of the Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka, they enjoyed a status more similar to that of an ordained follower than a lay woman. With the Buddhist institutions of Sri Lanka in a state of transition, and enthusiasm for religious revival at a high point, these new female renunciants were supported by the lay community with enthusiasm.

In modern times, however, the dasa sil matavo have not faired quite as well. During the early days of the religious revival, support and sources of new renunciants were likely to come from the well-educated Sinhalese middle-class. In more recent days, the women who become dasa sil matavo are more likely to come from less affluent, less educated families. Formal institutions (most notably the bhikkhu sangha) are more well-established and stable. And since traditional Buddhist beliefs hold that there are great benefits for giving donations to ordained clerics, but say little or nothing about specific benefits of supporting particularly devout lay followers. As such, as ordained clerics grow in number, the reasons to give to devout laywomen are reduced for lay followers concerned about the merit created by their giving. Nevertheless, dasa sil matavo continue to be a respected part of Sinhala society.

Some dasa sil matavo, as well as some other Sri Lankan Buddhists, would like to see the bhikkhuni ordination return to Sri Lanka. Some Sri Lankan and Western dasa sil matavo have sought to accomplish this by receiving ordination in other linkages. In 1988, 6 dasa sil matavo were ordained in a Taiwanese Fo Guang Shanlineage at the Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda heights, California. At present, little has come of this effort. Opinions about the re-establishment of the bhikkhuni lineage varies among Sri Lankan monks; some, mostly younger monks, support the idea, but many older monks, including a number of the best-known and most respected monks, have raised opposition to the idea, sighting the absence of a true Theravada bhikkhuni quorum.

The Bhikkhuni Order in Burma

Of all the nations in Southeast Asia, only Burma (or Myanmar, if you like) received a bhikkhuni lineage. Sri Lankan missions during the 11th Century, prior to the collapse of the Sri Lankan Sangha, brought both the bhikkhu and bhikkhuni linkages. Records of Burmese bhikkhuni persist until the late 13th Century, but the line apparently failed sometime prior to the modern era. The Burmese bhikkhuni were the last Theravadin and Hinayana bhikkhuni in the world; their passing marks the end of a female renunciant lineage stretching back to the Buddha himself.

In modern Burma, as in other modern Theravadin nations, roles for women exist outside of the formal sangha. Eight- and ten-precept women, called thila-shin, observe either the eight uposatha precepts, or the full ten monastic precepts, much like their counterparts in Sri Lanka and Thailand. Unlike other non-ordained female lay devotees, however, the thila-shin enjoy a level of respect and support that approaches that of the ordained Sangha. Among their number are counted a number of highly respected teachers and scholars, including teachers of meditation techniques who have been recognized outside of their own country. Formal nunneries, called gyaung, exist throughout Burma, where thila-shin study and live communally, following a routine very similar to that observed by ordained monks. Some of these nunneries have become quite well known respected.

The legal and social status of the thila-shin is somewhere between that of a lay follower and an ordained monk. Most thila-shin communities are able to exist solely on donations of food and other material requisites, much like male monasteries and temples. Unlike monks, the thila-shin are permitted to own property, handle money for themselves, and can be employed in regular jobs (some work as menial laborers or support staff for Buddhist monasteries and temples, to both support themselves and make merit). However, like Burmese monks, thila-shin are not permitted to vote in elections or stand for office.

Due to the political and social upheaval that has taken place across Burma, the issue of the status of the thila-shin has become less important for most of these women. There is no present-day movement within Burma to try and re-establish the bhikkhuni lineage by any of the methods attempted by Thai or Sri Lankan female renunciants.

Re-establishing the Theravada Bhikkhuni Lineage

Why?

There are many people in the modern world who would like to see the Theravada Buddhist women's order formally re-established, with at least as much, if not more, parity with respect to the men's order as existed prior to the disappearance of the bhikkhuni lineage. Most of the advocates of this activity are female Buddhist devotees, though many males, particularly in the West and among Western converts, also support the move. Some members of modern-day women's orders, such as the Mae Ji, the Dasa Sila Matavo, and others, have gotten behind this cause. Some Dasa Sila Matavo have sought ordination from the Taiwanese lineage of the Fo Guang Shan temple (represented in the West by the Hsi Lai Temple). During the spring of 2002, a Thai woman advocating for the recreation of the bhikkhuni order caused a stir in Thailand by receiving such an ordination, which was quickly condemned by most civil and religious authorities in Thailand. The women who seek the recreation of the bhikkhuni order are usually among the most well-educated of the Buddhist female renunciants. Many are from middle or upper class families, and a large number are Westerners or Western educated, particularly in Sri Lanka.

There reasons for seeking the recreation of the bhikkhuni lineage vary. The most common thread is a desire to raise the status of women in Buddhist-dominated societies, and to provide an outlet for the religious impulses of devout women that does not mandate subservience to an all-male power structure (the formally recognized national Sangha). Many of these reformers envision a new women's order as an institutional compatible with the precepts of Engaged Buddhism, able to provide medical and social assistance to women in societies that often are seen as being neglectful of their needs.

Furthermore, some maintain that the absence of any formal women's role in Theravada Buddhist society has lead to a general discounting of the worth of women, particularly in a religious context. The establishment of a respected and independent women's organization, with pedigree stretching back to the Buddha would provide visible evidence of the Buddha's teaching that the spiritual and intellectual potential of an individual is not determined by gender, and that women have the same capabilities as men in this area.

Many who think along these lines would prefer to see the bhikkhuni lineage reconstructed in such a way as to avoid the eight rules mandating a certain level of submission of female renunciants to their male peers. They seek a more liberal and modern interpretation of the Vinaya and the monastic codes, one based primarily on the ten precepts as moral guidelines, and eschewing many of the minor training rules (it is often mentioned that before his death, the Buddha said that the minor training rules could be dispensed with. Unfortunately, no one knows for sure which ones are minor.).

So in addition to the obvious religious motivation for the recreation of the bhikkhuni order in the Theravada tradition, many see it as a vehicle for raising the status of women, and bringing institutional Buddhism more in line with what is seen as it egalitarian and enlightened (in the Western sense) core. The influence of Western feminism, and changing attitudes among the intelligentsia about the role and place of religion plays no small part in this conception of a new birth for the Theravada women's order.

Why Not?

The Buddha predicted when the bhikkhuni order was created that its creation would shorten the span of time when the true Dhamma would remain in the world. The memory of this statement in the Vinaya Pitaka is, to some, the single most important reason why the order should not be reinstated. But other reasons are prominent as well.

All too often, opposition to the creation of a new Theravada women's order to fill the role of the bhikkhuni Sangha is seen as solely a product of male chauvinism, both Eastern and Western. Many view this opposition, particularly from existing religious institutions and prominent Theravada monks, as an attempt by a male-dominated power structure to keep its monopoly on religious life. Certainly, the defense of a male-centered status quo in modern Theravada countries has played a part in opposition to the ordination of new Theravada nuns.

There are very obvious reasons why those members of the Sangha (largely in high places) who have their minds focused somewhere other than dhyana might object to or fear the creation of a women's order. The creation of such an order, if it were to become popular, would possibly threaten the material security of the male Sangha. If gifts to a women's order were seen as being every bit as beneficial to merit-minded upasikas as gifts to the monk's order, than the donations on which the Sangha survives could easily be split. As developing countries become more enamoured of the Western mode of living, a decline in religious giving could prove disastrous, particularly if paired with new outlets for donations.

Additionally, most members of the higher levels of institutional Sanghas are aware that their own houses aren't exactly in order. Recent scandals in the Thai clergy, and the potentially sullying effect of ongoing monastic involvement in the civil war in Sri Lanka have made the religious public more aware then ever before of the corruption and laxity that has developed in the modern Sangha. In the past, when awareness of corruption rises to a high enough level, reformist revival movements have arisen, sometimes without the approval of the official sanctifying bodies. These movements, though generally short lived, can quickly draw the attention, and thus material support, of lay followers. In several publicized cases in Sri Lanka, some institutional monks had their livelihoods cut off, and were nearly forced to choose between starvation and disrobing (not like that, silly) when the local laity decided that groups of self-ordained sanyasins were more moral and 'holy' than the village priests. A newly born women's order, populated by devout and sincere believers, and free of the taint of institutional graft and corruption, has the potential to repeat this phenomenon in areas where the leaders of the clergy may already feel that things are getting a bit out of control. While long-standing public perceptions of the relative merit of gifts to men as opposed to women might severely curtail this possibility, the early support for the Sri Lankan Dasa Sil Matavo shows that it is not entirely outside the realm of possibility.

In the end, however, while these material and social reasons for leaders of the Sangha to oppose the creations of a Theravada women's order may loom large in the minds of some, if not most monks and lay followers who oppose the charting of a new bhikkhuni lineage, they are not the only barriers to a viable, authentic bhikkhuni lineage. Indeed, there are prominent monks and scholars who oppose the creation of a new bhikkhuni order who could hardly be accused of being male chauvinists- themselves having worked to improve the status and perception of women in Buddhist countries.

One problem is that there simply may not be enough support, from men or women, to create such an order. While many monastic institutions are flourishing in Southeast Asia, the recent economic crisis and the growth of other things to spend money on means that there may not be a chance for a 'new product' like a women's order to make it in the merit economy. Keep in mind, no living Buddhist lay believer has ever seen a 'real' Theravada nun. Most likely, they would be dismissed as another lay order, like the Mae Ji, and subject to limited support. Worse yet, they could be perceived as imposters- a crime in many Theravada nations.

Furthermore, there is some question as to whether Buddhist women, particularly in Asia, are interested in the type of order that the reformers envision. Many current Mae Ji and Dasa Sil Matavo are from agricultural or working class families. They may have joined the lay order for tragic reasons- being widowed, unable to afford marriage, or unmarriageable (in middle and upper class Thai families, for instance, while it is still looked upon as an honor to have a monk in the family, having a daughter become a Mae Ji can be seen as an indication that the girl was in some way unfit to be married, and can be a dishonor). Many current Mae Ji and other women see their choice of lifestyle as a means of personal religious development, and are not interested in the agenda of social work and public service that many Western reformers present. To these women, serving monks means that are cultivating religious merit; to become as the reformers want is to be a bald, robed social worker- a nice thing to do, but with no special religious status.

The last and most troublesome question for many monks, and for students of the Pali Canon, is that of legitimacy. While the lineage of East Asian nuns, the often mentioned transplant candidate for the creation of a new bhikkhuni lineage, may stretch back to the Buddha, no one can deny that there are serious differences between the teachings and practices of these orders and the historical Theravada bhikkhunis, not to mention modern Theravada monks. Mahayana nuns subscribe to a monastic code quite different from the one employed by Theravada monks, and, in their day, Theravada nuns. In many cases, the Mahayana codes are, by Theravada standards, more lenient and liberal. Critics ask how any new order could claim equality with the Theravada monk's order when the standards of conduct between the two differ so greatly.

For any new order to be accepted as authentic by these critics, it would have to adopt for itself a monastic code as strict as that of the historic bhikkhunis, or at least one more closely comparable to the rule of modern Theravada monks. But, in the Theravada, the practice of a code of discipline is much more than simply knowing the rules, or being able to look them up on Access to Insight. To be a monk, by the standards held both today and in the past, one must be personally instructed and cautioned in each element of the code that one is to follow. There must be more senior monks present to observe, teach, and correct the new learner. While standing female monastic orders in Taiwan and elsewhere would be able to instruct new bhikkhuni candidates in the tenets of their own monastic regulations, there exists no way to provide adequate instruction in those areas of the bhikkhuni code where Theravada rules are more strict or otherwise differ from those of Mahayana orders.

While male members of the Theravada Sangha could potentially supplement learning in these areas, restrictions on interaction between male and female mendicants make this difficult. Because of standards of propriety in the monastic code, monks can not be left alone with female mendicants. Furthermore, without living examples to embody the Vinaya of the Theravada bhikkhunis, it may be impossible to pass down the manner in which these rules were actually lived by their practitioners.

Needless to say, any movement that purports to re-establish a Theravada bhikkhuni lineage has significant hurdles to overcome. Popular support, legal problems, and the standards of legitimacy established by the Pali Canon all must all be reconciled if any modern movement is to stand a chance.

Conclusion: What's With Them Funny Rules Anyway?

Of all of the issues that surround the Theravada bhikkhuni tradition, and the tradition of Buddhist female renunciants generally, among the most troublesome for Western observers are the statements and regulations purportedly made by the Buddha himself regarding the status of women. While seeming to maintain publicly the equality of males and females with regard to spiritual achievement and potential for enlightenment, the regulations of the monastic codes and certain statements made in the suttas seems to contradict this notion. In addition to the eight rules specified above, the detailed monastic code of the Theravada nuns is far more strict than that of the monks- with a number of additional rules and regulations not covered by the eight principles above. Several lines of thought attempt to explain this seeming contradiction:

  1. The Buddha didn't really say any of these things. There are some who chose to believe that statements and rules that seem to lower the status of women relative to men were not made by the Buddha, but rather were added by later Buddhists seeking to preserve or establish a justification for male supremacy within both the religious and secular world. This position is hard to either assail or defend from a scholastic point of view. Most scholars of the Tipitaka feel that the rules regarding women are of the same vintage as the remainder of similarly dateable entries in the Canon. While enough time elapsed between the death of the Buddha and the commitment of the suttas to writing that it is certainly possible that such elements were inserted later, there is little or no way for such a determination to be made.
  2. The Buddha's statements reflect his society. Those inclined to see the Buddha not as a supernatural or preternatural being, but rather as a human sage and teacher are often partial to the notion that elements of the Buddha's teaching must have reflected aspects of the society in which he lived and taught, just as our own teachings and philosophy reflect their culture of origin. Along these lines, subscribers to this notion reason that despite his obvious insight into human nature and psychology, the Buddha was not immune to the chauvinistic notions of his time. As such, he created a religious body which was, though certainly in many ways revolutionary with regard to its stand on caste and other issues, ultimately a product and reflection of the society of the Indian sub-continent during the 4th or 5th Century B.C.
  3. The rules were designed to protect women. With respect to certain rules of the bhikkhuni Vinaya, this theory seems to stand up. Because of their poverty and wandering lifestyles, monks and nuns were often exposed to the potential dangers of often unsettled regions of the world. While monks were often seen as being immune to all but natural dangers (as there was nothing to be gained from attacking a monk, who most likely carried little more than enough food to keep himself alive for a day or so, and few other possessions), nuns were perceived of as being at risk from the sexual predation of bandits and ruffians. Because bhikkhuni had no family to protect them, rules were established that restricted female renunciants relative to men, but ultimately reduced the likelihood that they would be the victims of such attacks. Thus, women were forbidden from traveling alone, and were required to live during vassa at a location that was relatively close to the residence of the monks.
  4. These rules were created not as a reflection of contemporary society, but rather for its benefit. Those who hold that enlightened beings are capable of rising above their societal origins may be inclined to believe that these seemingly unfair rules were created for the benefit of the surrounding society, rather than to restrict women. Buddhist teachings have long held that the gift of the Dhamma is the most precious in the world- but that the minds of most humans are incapable of grasping it. Therefore, all steps must be taken to ensure that people's minds are not turned away from the Dhamma. In the context of 5th Century India, as today, part of this process is ensuring that the Sangha maintains its level of respect among the people. To this end, there are a number of rules in the monks code that go much farther than necessary in enforcing discipline among the monks. Rules such as these- such as prohibiting a monk from being left alone with a woman- certainly reduce the chance for temptation. But in addition, they prohibit the possibility of a situation arising in which a monks respectability will be questioned- even if he has stuck strictly to his vows. So instead of merely prohibiting sexual contact between the genders, a monk or nun is prohibited from all physical contact with the opposite sex. Why have people wondering about the propriety of each and every touch when the issue can be put to rest decisively?

Just so, in the case of the Indian societies at the time of the Buddha, a Sangha that openly flouted sexual standards of the day might loose the support of the public- halting the Sangha's existence, and denying the people a chance to learn the dharma. So, the Sangha must- to greater and lesser degrees- reflect the sexual politics of the society around them. So female renunciants are required to make gestures that maintain the appearance of the sexual hierarchy of the greater society. Women can still study the dhamma, learn from any teacher, and be teachers of both men and women themselves. And for enlightened beings, it should be little matter who they do and don't bow to. The women of the Buddha's Sangha know the truth- that they have the same potential for learning and enlightenment as men. If, for the benefit of the greater society's regard for the Sangha, and so their receptiveness to the Dhamma, females must maintain the appearance that the sexual hierarchy of the outside world is maintained within the Sangha, then so be it.

This explanation alse gives some light to the Buddha's statement following the ordination of Mahaprajapati that the Dhamma would not last as long in the world since a woman's order had been established. While there is nothing about the ordination of women that is of itself irreligious, it is rather that social perceptions of the practical institution of the Sangha were altered by the establishment of the women's order.

Of course, none of this explains away completely the distinctions made between women and men within the records of the Buddhist Sangha in the Theravada world and elsewhere. Nor does it constitute a justification of the gender politics of Buddhist societies and nations. Issues of religion and gender, as seen in the life and death of the bhikkhuni order and the movements that have followed it, are here to stay for Buddhism, as they are for all of the world's religions.

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