Bhikshuni order to be reinstated by the Karmapa

Great news everyone! The Karmapa is about to reinstate the Bhikshuni order in Tibetan Buddhism!

Aside from this being a wonderful step forward, one thing I would rather like to know about this, will all the nuns who make it to full ordination (which will take a few years) be officially Karma Kagyu? How does the ordination system work within Tibetan Buddhism - is your sect determined by whom you ordain with? Or could Nyingmapas and Gelugpas receive the ordination from the Kagyupas and still remain non-Kagyupas? After all the vows are 'hinayana' while they are identifying more with Mahayana and Vajrayana rather than as Mulasarvastivadins - but I would love to know the official answer to this.

documentary on the issue

Here is a documentary that explores the issue of women and Buddhist ordination.
It says some women were also ordained in the Theravada tradition decades ago, but no further comments.


Ordination among schools

It is a brave step yet we should wait and see what will happen. The suggestion of using the living Dharmaguptika Bikhuni order for reinstating the order in Tibetan Buddhism was brought forward in the past the 17th Karmapa and the 14th Dalai Lama. Yet, unlike what people outside Tibetan society might think, it is not like this that the mere decision of the head of schools would be enough.

There are resistance to such changes among the conservative parts of clergy in Tibetan Buddhism. A Gelugpa nun once told me such ordination must be endorsed with high lamas and many of them don't want to accept it.

But more importantly, due to belief in the central role of lineage, while ordination from other schools is not considered as nullified it will not have the full endorsement either. The monk or nun who receives ordination form other school is a monk or a nun. However, it is not as other monks or nuns who have received ordination from the "guru" in charge of the monastery (in technical term their "root guru" would be different). Thanks to many positive developments, it is OK to receive teachings from several guru and consider one of them your root guru.

Let me cite an example: I know a monk who received his novice vows from the 17th Karmapa himself. He was sent to other Kagyupa teachers for his higher (Gelong) ordination as it was not possible at that time for the Karmapa to grant it. The monk went to a high Kagyu lama (I prefer not to disclose his identity). The high lama told him he "must" receive both novice and higher ordination from him. So, the monk was forced to receive the two ordination in one day despite receiving the first one from Karmapa.

The system in Tibetan Buddhism is highly influenced by the social aristocratic structure of Tibetan society and it is somehow hierarchical. What we witness today from progressive figures like the Karmapa and Dalai Lama is not the usual practice of the past. Due to their familiarity with humanistic and democratic values they are reforming Tibetan Buddhism in a very slow but steady pace to make Tibetan Buddhism fit modern life and overcome resistances by conservative Lamas.

In theory, there must be no problem with Mahayana and "Hinayana" (I don't like this polemic word) issue. All of the Vinayas practiced by schools are Hinayana. There is no Mahayana vinaya order at least today.

Bhikhuni in Tibetan Bhuddhism

I do not have an answer to your question. I too would like to know how the Bhikhuni order will be reinstated. I was of the impression in order for Bhikhuni to ordain there must be currently ordained Bhikhuni to help perform the ceremony.


White Australian Theravada abbot AJAHN BRAHM in one of his many dharma talks on youtube says he angered certain Buddhist milieus by ordaining the Theravada tradition I suppose, but more than this was not said.

In 2009 Ajahn Brahm helped in the ordination of four women of the Theravada school of Buddhism in WA. He was strongly opposed by a sector of the Thailand-based Buddhist clergy and this made headlines in Buddhist world and continues to be a point of contention today despite the growth of the female Sangha in Australia.

documentary about the issue

a little documentary about Ajahn Brahm and the controversy relating to the ordination of nuns.


Justin Williams's picture

Regarding Ajahn Brahm, here

Regarding Ajahn Brahm, here is an interesting video abou the fallout:

Regarding receiving vows from a different vinaya, I believe once in Tibetan history the Mulasarvastivada vinaya was revived by monks from another vinaya tradition. I do not remember the exact details or references, but that establishes a precedent for exactly the problem often quoted.