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Two-day International Conference on BUDDHISM IN EAST ASIA: TRADITIONS, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES Sub Theme:- 1.


of Buddhism in China, Korea and Japan


Lineal Interrelationship of the Order of Buddhist Nuns (Bhiku/Bhikku Sagha) between Sri Lanka and East Asia : Past and Present
Bakamoone Indaratana Research Scholar, Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 110067. indaratanab@yahoo.com Sri Lanka being considered to be the seat of Theravada Buddhism after its collapsed in India. Monks and nuns from Sri Lanka have had played an important role in dissemination of the message and the Order of both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism throughout Asia. It was Sri Lankan Buddhist nuns who introduced the Order of nuns into China in 433 AD. There are historical evidences that the Order of Buddhist nuns survived and thrived in India for fifteen centuries. During the third century BC, the Sanghamitr, the daughter of Emperor Aoka, visited Sri Lanka in order to conduct the ordination of Queen Anul and hundreds of Sri Lankan women who wished to become nuns. Arriving from India with a sapling of the bodhi tree, she established the Bhiku Sagha that continued to flourish until the fall of Anurdhapura Kingdom (1017 AD). That leads disappearance of Order from Sri Lankan landscape and discontinuity. Hence, following ten centuries there was no trace of Theravdin Bhikkhuni-s anywhere According to the historical evidences from both China and Sri Lanka, the lineage of full ordination for nuns was transmitted to China in the fifth century AD, when a bhiku named Devasar set out on a two-year journey to Nanjing. In the year 433 AD, she and her companions conducted a bhiku ordination ceremony for hundreds of Chinese nuns. This was the beginning of the Bhiku Sagha in China that in the latter periods spread to Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Taiwan, and still alive even present day. Until recently, full bhikkhu ordination was not available to nuns in the Theravada tradition. In the absence of the bhikkhuni order, a movement of ten-precept nuns (dasa-slmt) began in Sri Lanka. In the past few decades, Buddhist women from Sri Lanka and other

countries have begun to revive the Bhiku Sagha in their own traditions by receiving full ordination from the bhiku lineages that have continued in those countries over the centuries. As a solution for the re-establishment of Bhiku Sagha, some argued that Chinese nuns received higher ordination from Sri Lankan nuns and had been established on a firm vinaya footing and therefore can now confer higher ordination upon Sri Lankan nuns today.

Accordingly, Mahabodhi Society of India came forward with the assistance of the World Sangha Council and Sakyadhita International Organization of Buddhist Women and held an ordination ceremony on 8.12.1996 at Saranath Temple, India. At this ceremony, 11 selected Sinhalese dasa-sl-mt-s were ordained fully as bhikkhu-s by a team of Theravda monks in concert with a quorum of Korean Nuns. Thus for the first time nearly after thousand odd years the Theravda Bhikkhu Order was revived in India. And in 1998, twenty women from Sri Lanka received it in Bodhgaya, India, from Chinese bhiku-s and bhiku-s. The bhiku ordination was given in Sri Lanka in 1998. However this restoration of Order of nuns was a matter of controversial among the Theravdins as the Theravada and Mahayana have been separated for thousands of years and many doctrinal differences divide the two traditions.

This paper will trace the history of introduction of the Order of Buddhist Nuns by Sri Lankan nuns to China and its latter formations in Korea, Japan and Taiwan. It will also attempt to explore the lineal relationship of the present Order of Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka in particular, and in other Theravda countries with East Asian Buddhist nuns. In the process of reading the paper will chat how the Theravda bhiku tradition got transformed into Mahyana Buddhism and how it underwent a cycle of restoration within the Theravda tradition.