This year we celebrate the 6th International Bhikkhuni Day, which falls on a major centenary, the 2600 Anniversary of the Bhikkhuni Sangha. As in previous years we invite you and your sangha to join us in celebrating this event. (More info below.)
It has been 2600 years since Mahapajapati Gotami requested that women enter the Buddhist monastic Sangha and became the founding mother of the Bhikkhuni Sangha, fulfilling the Buddha’s longtime intention to have a Fourfold Community, including bhikkhunis. Since that time, the Theravada bhikkhuni order first flourished and then waned. After having virtually disappeared, the order is experiencing a strong, vital resurgence in recent years.
These past few years have been most significant as we are beginning to see the rooting of the Bhikkhuni Sangha in North America, with the purchase of two bhikkhuni monasteries in California and the ordination of many women: both in the west, where numbers of bhikkhunis are slowly and steadily increasing as support grows, and in the east, where the resurgence is now gaining momentum in several traditionally Buddhist countries, especially Sri Lanka. The re-emergence of vital communities of bhikkhunis in Thailand, where challenging conditions have been especially strong in recent years, is particularly noteworthy. The first bhikkhuni from that country to be ordained in contemporary times, Venerable Dhammananda Theri, has now completed her 12th Vassa and been appointed a Bhikkhuni Preceptor. It is a truly significant milestone that we see senior Theravada bhikkhuni teachers now emerging, who are able to train and ordain the aspirants who will be the future generations of the renascent Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha.
Ayya Tathaaloka writes of this day:
This coming year, from the 2016 September full moon to the 2017 September full moon, is the 2600-year Anniversary of our worldwide Bhikkhunī Sangha. This is according to Theravāda/Pāli-text tradition counting, including three factors:
The yearlong period of observance/celebration is for two reasons:
Here in North American, in celebration, we hope to offer several commemorative events: commemorative articles, retreats and gatherings; two bhikkhunīs’ Dhamma Dana book publications; one or two commemorative bhikkhunī art series; and hopefully the establishment of the first two or three “permanent” bhikkhunī monasteries’ sīmās.
And, a second very important related matter: All those bhikkhunis who received the bhikkhunī upasampadā full ordination in 1996, 1997 and Feb 1998 will also have entered or completed their 20th Vassa during this time, and become Mahātherīs (including this letter writer).
Our Theravada bhikkhunīs’ tradition will no longer be bereft of therīs and mahātherīs (skilled and experienced senior bhikkhuni teachers, leaders and practitioners) anymore. This is a wonderful thing for us.
Celebrate International Bhikkhuni Day!
Join us in organizing a local celebration! Your event can take place in a center or temple, or just as easily in someone’s home, with as few as three people gathering to practice and talk. Please contact us at email@example.com if you would like suggestions or help.
While one of the main purposes of International Bhikkhuni Day is what Ayya Sobhana calls ‘friend-raising’, i.e. educating people about bhikkhunis, it can also be a good time to do some fund-raising to support bhikkhunis. In the past, many IBD event organizers have put out a ‘dana’ basket for participants to make donations if they wish. Funds may be sent to a specific bhikkhuni monastery/vihara or to organizations that support bhikkhunis such as Alliance for Bhikkhunis or Sakyadhita. One of the most essential ways that we can celebrate the resurgence of the bhikkhuni order is by helping them feel supported and appreciated by the lay community.
Send us the date, time and details of your IBD event and we will be happy to announce it on our website. We would also be most grateful for reports and photos of your local events to share. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below are links to a suggested agenda to help with organizing your event and a list of resources to inspire the celebration of this important year in bhikkhuni history.