Venerable Karuna Dharma discusses gender equality in Buddhism and her pioneering role in the rebirth of of female ordination.
Buddhism's Glass Ceiling
The eight controversial vows that women traditionally must take to be a fully ordained member of the Buddhist community:
1. A bhikkhuni, even if she enjoys a seniority of a hundred years in the Order, must worship, welcome with raised clasped hands, and pay respect to a bhikkhu though he may have been a bhikkhu only for a day. This rule is strictly to be adhered to for life.
2. A bhikkhuni must not keep her rains-residence at a place that is not close to the one occupied by bhikkhus. This rule is also to be strictly adhered to for life.
3. Every fortnight a bhikkhuni must do two things: To ask the bhikkhu sangha the day of Uposatha and to approach the bhikkhu sangha for instruction and admonition. This rule is also to be strictly adhered to for life.
4. When the rains-residence period is over, a bhikkhuni must attend the Pavarana ceremony at both the assemblies of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, in each of which she must invite criticism on what has been seen, what has been heard, or what has been suspected of her. This rule is also to be strictly adhered to for life.
5. A bhikkhuni who has committed a Sanghadisesa offense must undergo penance for a half-month, pakkha manatta, in each assembly of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis. This rule is also to be strictly adhered to for life.
6. A bhikkhuni must arrange for ordination by both the assemblies of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis for a woman novice only after two year’s probationary training under her in the observance of six training practices. This rule is also to be strictly adhered to for life.
7. A bhikkhuni should not revile a bhikkhu for any reason whatsoever. This rule is also to be strictly adhered to for life.
8. Bhikkhunis are prohibited from exhorting or admonishing bhikkhus with effect from today. Bhikkhus should exhort bhikkhunis when and where necessary. This rule is also to be strictly adhered to for life.
Image 1: ©Ron Batzdorff
Image 2: Ven. Karuna Dharma with ordained students, including the interviewer, Mira Tweti (on right) ©Ron Batzdorff
Image 3: Ven. Karuna orchestrating a ceremony for the recently deceased, ©Ron Batzdorff