Aṭṭha garudhamma

First time reading this sutta though I’ve heard about it many times, and no, I don’t like this sutta one bit.

Having not read it yet, I gave an excuse that the Buddha gave this particular one to Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī to force her to be humble as she was a queen.

Anyway, my point today is about a Thai monk’s statement:

“This set of principles found in the Gotamīsutta in the Aṅguttara Nikāya are the words the Buddha said to Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, the first ordained bhikkhuni. It is an important principle. It’s the dhamma that the Buddha carefully selected as a form of showing gratitude to someone who was like a mother to him.”

I have had my reaction and opinion, but am wondering what you good people here think about the above?


The Sutta may not be accurate in every detail.

It’s very good that women can go forth though. Very good.

We have to use critical thinking skills above what is written though, and yet in the best case preserve what is written too, and keep it accurate.

As per what the Thai monk said, if there is accuracy in that sense in the Sutta as to the Buddha’s proclaimed generosity to let women go forth as well, then it’s an attempt to look at the Suttas in a positive light. Though I have some reservations about how there is not full equality in that written down Sutta.

But because we’re stuck here with a bunch of old writings, it’s important to look at them in a positive light, because in culmination, they can lead to Enlightenment, even if the meaning or events have been degraded or are not accurate.

I am for full equality between men and women, and people of any gender, and I think the fully Enlightened Buddha was too. I believe women can become and be Buddhas or Brahmas. God as a woman? Count me in.


The article Non-historicity of the Eight Garudhammas by Tathaloka Bhikkuni offers a different perspective.


Are you sure they meant AN 8.51 and not AN 8.53? It sounds like this monk is talking about the Saṅkhitta Sutta (which is often also called “the Gotami Sutta”)…


There’s a lot of speculation; Chinese Agamas read those parts more carefully, showing Buddha asking his Aunt to hold off ordaining, and to shave her head and wear the robes until the time is right. Pāli version seems to be heavily redacted at some point.

It’s a complicated history. In India, at the time, women were seen to be sort of properties of their fathers or husbands or sons, whichever applicable. The kind of complete culture makeover that requires to allow women to ordain, would be far too impossible even for Buddha.

However, Bhikkhu Analayo argues, that the rules were set out not to restrict the nuns per se, but to keep them safe from rape and other misdoings. After all, with such rules set in place, they could show the outside culture that the Monks were the guardians of Nuns, and anything they did to nuns would be met with the Monks’ retribution. Without such assurances in place, a fatherless / husbandless woman in ancient india would be an open invitation for false behaviours. Is it really so different today in some parts of the world?

I suggest you read Gotami section of Bhikkhu Analayo’s Daughters of the Buddha for a more nuanced view especially in light of chinese canon.


I should note that Bhikkhu Sujato has an even more different interpretation. He argues that special training rules were set for members of Buddha’s family, because they were often prone to cause trouble and ask for special privileges. In just about all cases, rules for Buddha’s immediate family are even more harsher than what’s required of general monastics. Gotami’s rules seem to reflect this idea.

A support for this view comes from studying various poems praising nuns. There are a few nuns throughout the canon that are praised highly by others, especially fellow nuns, for being foremost in dhamma, for being excellent teachers, for having exceptional conduct. Gotami, interestingly enough, has no such praises attributed to her. For someone who spearheaded the entire nun order, nuns didn’t think it was important to mention their supposed “leader” at all.

While I agree that this is a peculiar thing indeed, I’m not sure I agree with this interpretation per se, because again, Chinese Canon (which seems to describe the event in more detail and without anachronisms of Pāli edition) seem to support Ven. Analayo’s perspective.

Either way, it’s a good case of canon being a guide and inspiration on our path and not a set of doctrinal teachings. We should apply our reasoning and heart to the matters and draw our own conclusions.


I don’t know the monk, but I would question his knowledge of suttas. :grinning: :laughing:

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Exactly why I think he means AN 8.53 Here is the official Dhammayut chanting book in English:

Only those that really know the suttas will think of 8.51 for “Gotamī Sutta” If his knowledge of suttas is limited to those frequently chanted, I would bet he meant 8.53 :blush:


Thank you so much. That explains it!

:pray: :pray: :pray:

:cherry_blossom: :blossom: :tulip: