Good News for Nuns
There has been some wonderful progress for nuns and bhikkhunis in the Tibetan tradition in recent months. I’ve been kept up to date by Ven Jampa Tsedroen. Here’s a summary.
In May there was a decision to allow Tibetan nuns of the Gelugpa tradition to receive a geshe title. This has been controversial in the past due mainly to the requirement for full Vinaya studies. The geshe degree is the highest title in Tibetan Buddhist studies, and it requires a thorough training in all areas of Buddhist texts in the Tibetan canon. This includes the Vinaya, traditionally the last section to be taught. According to the Tibetan tradition, however (shared also with the Chinese tradition), Vinaya may only be taught to those fully ordained. (This idea probably originated in a misunderstanding of some passages in the early Vinaya, but that’s beside the point here.) Since nuns cannot be fully ordained, they cannot complete the studies and therefore cannot become geshe. Now the full course of study has become available on a non-sectarian basis.
In addition, the Tibetan department of Religion and Culture has organized a high level committee to support the introduction of full ordination for women in the Mulasarvastivada tradition. The committee includes two members from each of the four main Tibetan sects, as well as two representatives from the nuns.
The committee has invited Ven Jampa and others to present research results in the last two weeks of October. They have received specific requests as to the texts that the committee is interested in, and these are being prepared. There seems to be a good chance that some genuine progress is at last at hand.