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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
80 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2014 Bhikkhu Analayo spent many years poring through the voluminous discourses of the Pali canon, trying to unravel an enduring mystery. What, he wondered, was the Buddha’s true view on the ordination of female monastics, or bhikkhunis? For followers of the Theravada school, it’s not an idle question. In countries such as Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand, where Theravada Bud- dhism predominates and the bhikkhuni lineage died out centuries ago, male monastics cite scrip- ture to support their contention that the bhik- khuni order cannot lawfully be restored. That position vexes not only many women in those countries but also Western Buddhists who assume equality between the sexes. “I have from the outset of my research been puzzled by instances of misogyny in the Buddhist texts,” says Analayo, a German-born Theravada monk and professor at the University of Hamburg’s Numata Centre for Buddhist Studies. “It simply doesn’t square with the information we can get about the Buddha’s early teaching.” by Michael Haederle Recently, Analayo published his findings: even in cases where the female lineage has dis- appeared, Theravada monastic leaders can find textual support for the full ordination of women by male monks. “I hope,” says Analayo, “that we have been able to solve the legal issue and say that it is fully, legally valid if an order of bhik- khunis is started in that way.” It’s a sensational claim, one that is currently being discussed in an e-learning course Analayo organized through the Women in Buddhism Study Initiative at the University of Hamburg. More than three hundred participants from thirty- seven countries are studying the approaches of the three vinaya schools to bhikkhuni ordina- tion and learning about strategies women have employed in pursuing their renunciant aspirations in the face of institutional gender bias. The online course is the brainchild of Lisa Fan- cott, a Canadian Buddhist who has worked for the United Nations and Oxfam International as a gender equity specialist. She traces her interest in the project to a 2007 conference in Hamburg— organized by the Dalai Lama—to examine the question of female ordination. “It just blew me away,” Fancott says. “This field of Buddhist stud- ies is fascinating.” PROFILE WOMEN IN BUDDHISM STUDY INITIATIVE University of Hamburg The Dalai Lama with participants attending the international Buddhist congress on women’s ordination, Hamburg, 2007. The congress inspired an online course organized through the Women in Buddhism Study Initiative. ARCHIVEFOUNDATIONFORBUDDHISTSTUDIES