Sri Lanka Buddhist nuns long for equality
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (8 March 2013)– Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka by Emperor Ashoka’s daughter Sangamitta and her twin brother Mahinda in 288 BC. A nun herself, Sangamitta had ordained a number of Lankan women. Before long, most Lankans had embraced Buddhism and monasteries for monks and nuns sprouted across the island. But the Saivite Chola invasion in 1017 AD put the order of the nuns in total disarray. The Bhikkhuni Sasana collapsed, and sadly, never to be revived. The religious order came to be dominated by the male monks. Despite that, lay women continued to play a critical role in sustaining Buddhism. Many took to the religious life, shaving their heads and living in nunneries.Today, there are 427 nunneries with 1,200 novices and over 100 nuns with higher ordination. Yet, a nun is not recognised as a ‘Bhikkuni’. She is only a Dasa Sil Matha (a mother practising the Ten Precepts). Higher ordination is denied to them. So, they are not on par with the ‘Bhikkhus.’ Nunneries do not enjoy the patronage of the Buddha Sasana as represented by the Siam, Amarapura and Ramanna Orders. The Ministry of Buddhist Affairs does not recognise them or fund them. The monk’s identity card is denied to the nuns. In 1998, a progressive monk, Sri Sumangala Thero of Dambulla, ordained 22 women as ‘Bhikkunis’. But they are yet to get official recognition.