Many fully ordained Buddhist monastic women in Bay Area

by Ayya Tathaaloka, Dhammadharini Vihara, Fremont, Inside Bay Area, May 15, 2006

My great appreciation for all of the efforts that have gone into preparing your beautiful Sunday (May 7) feature article: "A Monk's Woman."

However, we are not the only fully ordained Buddhist monastic women in town, nor the only Buddhist women's monastery.

There are many different traditions and Monastic Orders in Buddhism, a good number of which are represented here in our greater Bay Area. It is true that the lineage and tradition of full ordination for women (or the Bhikkhuni Sangha), which was begun by the Buddha himself in his lifetime, died out in Southeast Asian Theravadan Buddhism around 1,000 years ago.

I wish to publicly acknowledge and reaffirm here, that this lineage did not die out in all Buddhist traditions, but has continued unbroken to this day in China, Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia, and now in those Buddhist traditions in the West.

Our San Francisco Bay Area has fully ordained women (bhikkhunis or bhiksunis) in the Tibetan, Chinese, Taiwanese and Vietnamese Buddhist traditions as well as monasteries, temples and retreat centers where they live, practice and teach.

It is specifically in the Southeast Asian Theravadan Buddhist traditions from Thailand, Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos and Cambodian, and their Western branches, that the tradition of full monastic ordination for women lapsed long ago and is just now beginning a comeback, both in Asia and in the West.

Fremont's Dhammadharini Vihara has been the first site of this revival, for women in Theravadan Buddhism, in the Western United States and in California, and I am the first American women to receive and still hold the full Pali Theravadan Bhikkhuni Ordination here in the United States that I know of. For this, I gratefully acknowledge my Buddhist Monastic Sisters and Teachers from Korea and Vietnam who have passed down and preserved this heritage to this day.

My thanks for your helping to clear up any unintended sense of having not properly acknowledged the Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhist Women's Monastic Communities.