Buddhist Ordination as Initiation Ritual and Legal Procedure

Ute Hüsken and Petra Kieffer-Pülz

in Negotiating Rites

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199812295
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919390 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ritual Studies Series

Buddhist Ordination as Initiation Ritual and Legal Procedure

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Currently the Chinese Dharmaguptaka tradition is the only living Buddhist tradition in which women can undergo full ordination. Yet, within the two other two surviving monastic Buddhist traditions (Theravāda for South‐East Asia and Mūlasarvastivāda for Tibet) attempts are being made to (re‐)establish a nuns’ order. This chapter deals with the actual process in the Tibetan tradition. After several years of discussions between traditional Tibetan monks, the Buddhist women’s association “Sakyadhita”, proponents of the recent movement called “Engaged Buddhism”, and others, in July 2008 not only Buddhist practitioners but also scholars of diverse Buddhist traditions were invited to a conference in Hamburg, to formulate and publicly express their perspectives on the question of whether, and if so how, a tradition of Tibetan Buddhist nuns can be established. While the main question to be negotiated was the actual procedure of the ordination ceremonies, “behind the screen” there were many more issues at stake. The chapter describes and analyzes the process of public negotiations and negotiations behind the screen between the diverse individuals and interest groups, all with their own agenda, with respect to the roles attributed to “authority” and “authenticity”, and to ritual practice. One main focus of the chapter is the question of how interpreting Buddhist monastic rules either as “ritual” or as “law” affects the scope of interpretation of the procedures.

Keywords: Buddhist nuns’ ordination; Tibetan tradition; monastic rules; law

Chapter.  11258 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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