Reflections from the 14th Sakyadhita International Conference:
Nurturing the Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha
By Munissara Bhikkhuni
Fortunately, in contemporary times, there are still bhikkhus who are assisting bhikkhunis, even while senior monks at the top of the monastic administrative hierarchies—instituted in the modern era in countries like Sri Lanka and Thailand—remain opposed to Theravada bhikkhuni ordination. Among the handful of bhikkhus who attended the conference (in this case the minority at a Buddhist gathering!) was Ajahn Brahm, famous for supporting the first ordination of Theravada bhikkhunis in Australia in 2009, which led to his disenfranchisement from a Thailand-based network of forest monks. In his talk, he said, “I feel my life is not complete as a bhikkhu if I don’t help to realize the Buddha’s intention [to establish the four-fold Buddhist assembly.] The Buddha would have asked [us] to help get more bhikkhunis established in this world.
“It’s not just ordination. If you ordain someone you have to look after them. It’s like having a baby. You don’t just have a baby and that’s the end of it. You’ve got to nurture the baby, send it to school, train it, give it good facilities so it can grow. It’s like planting a tree. You’ve got to protect it, nurture it, water it, even fertilize it, and only when that tree is very, very strong and independent can you walk away and leave it alone. So it’s really important to nurture bhikkhunis. That’s one of my jobs. If there is something you can do, then please do it.” Hopefully more bhikkhus will resonate with this view and feel a sense of duty to actively help train bhikkhunis. If they wait for the top-most bhikkhu sangha elders to officially recognize bhikkhunis first before doing anything, it could well be too late.