The main concern of this disseratation is a comparative study of the Bhikkhuni Patimokkha (monastic rules for Buddhist nuns), which is a part of the oldest Buddhist text, namely Vinaya Pitaka (the monastic disciplines). Patimokkha (community of monks and nuns); it is the basic element which holds the Samgha together over the Buddhistic world. Considering the lack of an understanding of the development of the Samgha depends mostly on the study of Patimokkha. In this context the study of the Bhikkhuni Patimokkha becomes significant as it helps determine the authenticity of the historical establishment and development of the Samgha.
Total acceptance of the Pali sources as authentic is, how ever, still questionable. It has been recorded that the Buddha spoke Ardha magadhi but none of his sayings is preserved in this original form. The material handed down to the present days in translation of what may have been the early canon into other Indian languages, chiefly Pali. Buddhism was divided into various schools, most of which have their own texts but nearly all of these are lost to us. There is no definite proof that Pali is the only original and the oldest source. Keeping this fact in mind, a thorough study of the Bhikkhuni Patimokkha should take material form other available sources into account.
The major attempt of this disseratation is, therefore, a comparative study of the Bhikkhuni Patimokkha in only six schools with complete set of Patimokkha. The materials used are from different sources, mainly from Chinese Pitaka which Liang Sathiensut has translated into Thai and the unpublished manuscript is now in my possession. These materials have never been fully utilized in the written western languages. This study also covers the comparative study of the Thai and English translations of the Pali text. Taking into account the materials of other schools enables us to make the study more objectively and efficiently. Through this method some now informations and findings may be expected.
The Buddhist technical terms are usually given in Pali, the spellings are the same as those used by Horner. They appear to be more readable and less confusing than those given by Olden-berg and T. W. Rhys Davids in Vinaya texts, especially when used in type-written form. For example, Rhys Davids writes Likkhavi; kk are in italic, whereas Horner writes Licchavi, which closer to the actual pronunciation. For type-written work such as this disseratation, it becomes difficult to maintain the italic distinction, which might cause confusion.
In this dissertation the tem "Samgha" is used interchange able with "Order", whereas the term "bhikkhu" is rendered as "monk", as in Horner's work. But the term "bhikkhuni" is not rendered as "nun" , mainly because of the difference between the bhikkhuni in early Buddhism and the nun in the Theravada countries in modern times. Presently their are no bhikkhunis in Theravada countries, but there are devoted laywomen who leave the household and reside in the monastery compound. They observe five or eight precepts, wear white or yellow robe with shaven heads. In Thailand, they are called "ji" and in other Theravada countries they are called by other different names. The term "nun" is used for this group of women leading religious lives. They are also different from devoted laywomen whom we call upasika in Pali. Thus, any reference to Buddhist nuns in early Buddhism should strictly use the original term bhikkhunis which no English term can really replace.
In the first chapter of the disseratation, a brief discussion is provided on the position of women in general before the rise of Buddhism. This study is introduced as it might enable us to contrast the position of women in the Buddhistic period with that in the previous period. Women in the Buddhistic period enjoyed comparatively more freedom and privileges than at nay other time, both socially and spiritually. Spiritual achievement for women in Buddhism is a landmark of salvation that no other religious system of that time was ready to recognize.
The second chapter is an attempt to point out certain psychological attitudes the Buddha might have had towards women as a result of his own probably formed from the traditional beliefs prevalent in his time. His personal experience with women helped affirm or deny what had been believed and practiced. His judge-ment was dominated by this background knowledge and guided by his wisdom. This study is necessary, as it enables one to make a proper and critical study of the problems involving the admission of the Bhikkhuni Samgha.
Chapter III deals with the admission of the Bhikkhuni Samgha. Certain remarks made by the Buddha have been interpreted in different ways, pointing out that better understanding of the problems is needed. The distinction should be maintained between the two kind of utterances of the Buddha (Buddha-vacana) namely worked which need further explanation (neyattha), and words which do not need further explanation (nitattha). Discussion is also made on the justification of the acceptance of the Bhikkhuni Samgha. This includes the responsibility of Ananda for the formation of the Bhikkhuni Samgha, and the accusations against him at the first Council presided by Maha Kassapa. Certain considerations, e.g., any personal disagreement which Maha Kassapa might have had against Ananda should be taken into account for a proper discussion of the accusations.
The following six chapters (chapters IV-IX) are the main body of this dissertation. Each chapter takes up the study of the Patimokkha section by section. It is an attempt to search for new informations and new trends of development of the Samgha through the comparative study of the Bhikkhuni Patimokkha of various schools whose Patimokkhas are still available. To provide a better and clearer understanding of the growth the organization of the Samgha, the study covers not only the study of the various Bhikkhuni Patimokkha but also the Bhikkhu Patimokkha. For Theravada, both translations of the Pali text in Thai and English are considered. Many valuable information are brought out against the dim background and provides a wider and richer materials to be taken up for further research work.
A great deal of knowledge about the organization and administration of the Buddhist Samgha can be obtained form the Vinaya Patika. As this study concerns primarily the Bhikkuni Samgha, most of the original materials used are drawn from the Vinaya Pitaka which has been translated into English by Olden-berg and T.W. Rhys Divids and brought to completion by Horner. But the Vinaya Patika of many other Buddhist schools are still preserved at large in Chinese and Tibetan and partially in Sanskrit fragments.
There are a few works which help further our study in this field. Mrs. Rhys Davids has brought out a translation of the Therigatha, known in English as the Psalms of the Sisters which throws some light on the abilities and positions of the bhikkhunis in the early period. A monumental work on the institute of bhikkhunis and its formation has been written by Miss I. B. Horner in Women under Primitive Buddhism. Her work covers wide scope in regard to the position of women before and during the Buddha's time, and many important points have been discussed. Her study in through and analytical within the limit of Pali sources.
About the Author:
born on 6 October, 1944, in Thailand, Dr. (Mrs.) Chatsumarn Kabilsingh graduated with Hons. In Philosophy from Visva Bharti University, Santiniketan (India), received her M. A. degree in Religion from McMaster University, Canada and did her Ph. D in 1982 from Magadh University, Bodhgaya (India). Since 1973 She has been working as Associate Professor Philosophy and Religion and is now Head of the Department of Philosophy and Religion, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Thammasat university, Bangkok, Thailand.
Dr. Kabilsingh is also associated with many learned bodies in Thailand and abroad. Her main fields of specialization cover Eastern Civilisation, Chinese Philosophy, Buddhism, and World Religion.
Dr. Kabilsingh is also has published several books and more than twentyfive research articles including Are there Buddhist Nuns; Essence of Buddhism; Theravada-Mahayana; Islam; Christianity; Sadharma-pundarika-Sutra (Thai trans.) and Buddhism in China.
A widely traveled scholar, Dr. Kabilsingh has attended many International Conferences in different parts of the world and is well known in her field of study.
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