Admission of bhikkhunīs into the Order

After spending four vassas (residence period during the rains) after his Enlightenment, the Buddha visited Kapilavatthu, his native royal city, at the request of his ailing father, King Suddhodana. At that time, Māhāpajāpati, Buddha’s foster mother requested him to admit her into the Order. Mahāpajāpati was not.alone in desiring to join the Order. Five hundred Sakyan ladies whose husbands had left the household life were also eager to be admitted into the Order.



After his father’s death, the Buddha went back to Vesāli, refusing the repeated request of Māhāpajāpati for admission into the Order. The determined foster mother of the Buddha and widow of the re­cently deceased King Suddhodana, having cut off her hair and put on bark-dyed clothes, accompanied by five hundred Sakyan ladies, made her way to Vesāli where the Buddha was staying in the Mahāvana, in the Kūtāgāra Hall.



The Venerable Ānanda saw them outside the gateway of the Kūtāgara Hall, dust-laden with swollen feet, dejected, tẹarful, standing and weeping. Out of great compassion for the ladies, the Venerable Ānanda interceded with the Buddha on their behalf and entreated him to accept them into the Order. The Buddha continued to stand firm. But when the Venerable Ananda asked the Buddha whether women were not capable of attaining Magga and Phala Insight, the Buddha replied that women were indeed capable of doing so, provided they left the household life like their menfolks.




Thereupon Ānanda made his entreaties again saying that Māhāpajāpati had been of great service to the Buddha waiting on him as his guardian and nurse, suckling him when his mother died. And as women were capable of attaining the Magga and Phala Insight, she should be permitted to join the Order and become a bhikkhunī.




The Buddha finally acceded to Ānanda’s entreaties: “Ānanda, if Māhāpajāpati accepts eight special rules, garu-dhammā, let such acceptance means her admission to the Order.”



A bhikkhunī, even if she enjoys a seniority of a hundred years
in the Order, must pay respect to a bhikkhu though he may have been a bhikkhu only for a day.The eight special rules’ are:



  • A bhikkhunī must not keep her rains-residence in a place where there are no bhikkhus.
  • Every fortnight a bhikkhunī must do two things: To ask the bhikkhu Sarṅgha the day of uposatha, and to approach the bhikkhu Sarṅgha for instruction and admonition.
  • When the rains-residence period is over, a bhikkhunī must attend the pavāranā ceremony conducted at both the assem­blies of bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs, in each of which she must invite criticism on what has been seen, what has been heard or what has been suspected of her.
  • A bhikkhunī who has committed a Saṁghādisesa offence must undergo penance for a half-month, pakkha m ānatta, in each as­sembly of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis.
  • Admission to the Order must be sought, from both assemblies, by a woman novice only after two year’s probationary training as a candidate.
  • A bhikkhunī should not revile a bhikkhu in any way, not even
  • A bhikkhunī must abide by instructions given her by bhikkhus, but must not give instructions or advice to bhikkhus.



Mahāpajāpati accepted unhesitatingly these eight conditions im­posed by the Buddha and was consequently admitted into the order.







Source: Guide to Tipitaka by Sayagyi U Ko Lay




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