Fully Involved: The Story of Ordained Women in Buddhist Tradition

Though I am thin, sick,
And lean on a stick
I have climbed up Vulture Peak.

Robe thrown down
Bowl turned over,
[I] leaned on a rock,
Then the great darkness opened.
– Citta’s awakening poem from The Therigatta
from The First Buddhist Women by Susan Murcott

After many years of steadily presenting their desire and their right to be fully involved in Dharma practice as renunciates, women were allowed to join the ordained sangha as equals on the Eightfold Path, and though social norms kept them somewhat separate from the monks, many of these early female practitioners quickly became fully awakened, as well as highly respected Dharma teachers. Over the course of its 2,500-year history, Buddhism, like so many cultures, came to devalue the role of women. Now, thanks to the strength and commitment of contemporary nuns, such as our sangha’s friend and visiting teacher Ajahn Santacitta, the nuns are returning. Many of us practicing in the West in the Insight tradition are not familiar with the strength and importance early Buddhist teachings put on the interactive roles of monastic and lay communities; we have mostly lost touch with and interest in the part monastics have played in keeping the Dharma alive.

This month we have an opportunity to learn a bit more about the roots of our Buddhist Insight tradition. On Monday, March 20, within the format of our regular 5:30 sit, VIMS has the special honor of hosting a presentation by Mindy Zlotnick on the history of ordained women in the monastic order. Please join us for a meditation at 5:30 p.m., and a 6 p.m. video presentation. If your are able, come at five p.m. for a reception for the presenter.

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