Bhikkhunis and the garu dhammas

I have a question or doubt. If fully ordained nuns or bhikkhunis have to keep the garu dhammas, I think there is no way thant bhikkhus and bhikkhunis have the same chance to have equality in the monastic community. Is this so?
Nowadays bhikkhunis in the Theravada or Mahayana tradition do hold the garu dhammas?


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This is an open ended question and the topic should be under a different category: Discussion.

Also, this subject has previously been discussed here. Did you search for it before creating the topic?


Thanks for your answer. I am quite new to this site.

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There are lots of views on this topic and as was pointed out this has been discussed here on the forum many times in the past. To read those threads, go to the search :mag_right: field at the top of the page, enter “garudhammas” and you’ll see quite a few results.

It’s a bit of a heated topic at times, so take a deep breath!


We’re very happy to have you here!

Leaving aside the more legalistic issues, one thing that I think it’s important to reflect on is that the Vinaya is there as a guide for finding peace and liberation. It’s not there to trap people in narrow thinking and discrimination.

As a monk for the last quarter century, I can attest that there is hardly a single bhikkhu alive on the planet who has never broken any Vinaya rule—except maybe those ordained on this day! They are not, and never have been, iron-clad rules, but guidelines interpreted in different ways by different individuals and communities. Of course there are some cases where the rules are very clear-cut, and breaking them requires expulsion. But the vast majority are not like that. We learn them, understand them, and live with them in the best way we can according to our conscience.

However one interprets the garudhammas and other bhikkhuni rules, they are rules for the bhikkhunis. It is up to them to decide what they mean and how to apply them. It is not the responsibility of anyone else, including monks. The Vinaya is a system based on mutual respect and trust, and our sisters deserve that much.


Hi Grace,
Welcome to the Forum. I’ve moved your question to the Watercooler category, because the Q&A section is reserved for questions that have straightforward answers.

I did a simple search for “Bhikkhuni garu” and got a number of results here: You can refine such a search by using the advanced options. If you’re not sure how to use them ask a question (in the Q&A section) and someone is sure to help you.

I hope you find what you’re looking for. :slight_smile:


Since Bhante has opened the lid, I’ll add a comment. Earlier I sent this as a private message to Grace, but others may also find it interesting.

Hi @GRACE, thanks for your question. When you look up past discussions on the topic it’ll help if you spell it garudhamma (one word).

As a nun of 21 years and bhikkhuni of 17 years, in my experience, the garudhamma only have occasion to bite when living in a shared (bhikkhuni & bhikkhuni) [edit :joy:(bhikkhu & bhikkhuni)] monastery that keeps the garudhammas, a rare combination to find. That’s where you’d have to see young freshly-shaven bhikkhus go ahead of elder bhikkhunis in the lunch line, day after day. But for me, though such a spectacle would’ve been appalling in my younger days, after so many years more experience, I just really don’t care. It’s trivial. So long as we’re not suffering extra burdensome chores based on gender, no problem!

With all but a few of us bhikkhunis living in different monasteries from bhikkhus, though the G. rules sound intimidating, they end up having only two significant impacts that come mind offhand.

(1) They cause us to seek out teachings from the best monks, the awesome famous ones whom we’d never have had the nerve to bother if not compelled by the rules. It’s a blessing. (Same thing with reaching out to monks for connection during Vassa.)

(2) The G. require dual ordination, a ceremony which is lovely and beautiful, uniting our male & female Sanghas, and which becomes problematic only due to the reluctance of many monks to ordain women thereby limiting our opportunities. That is a modern (and temporary! and rapidly improving!) issue, not the Buddha’s intention.


If i may enquire , in terms of equality , why should nuns had to observe rules which appears to be much more than the monks ? And i wonder why in the first council there werent even one female arahant partipating ?

Thank you so much Ayya!

I often think that, if you were to look at the bhikkhus rules without any context, they would seem crazy. You can’t touch money? You can’t mow the lawn!! But when you live them, they (mostly) make sense, and where they don’t, you find a way to get by. Vinaya isn’t perfect, but it’s a beautiful way to live when you have the chance.

The operative word here is “seems”. In fact, almost all of the rules that appear to be extra for the nuns are in fact found for the monks, just in different places, or in different ways. Then there are some rules that are stricter for nuns, and some that are stricter for monks. There are some that seem to disadvantage women, and others that offer them a special protection. Vinaya is complex and nuanced!

Two things I would always recommend for anyone trying to understand Vinaya, especially the nuns’ Vinaya:

  1. Get to know some real live bhikkhunis!
  2. For understanding the original community, start with the Therigatha. That paints a much more vivid picture of the lived spiritual life of the bhikkhunis. Afterwards, if you want to look at the Vinaya, remember that the Vinaya is for what happens when things go wrong. It was never meant to paint a complete picture of spiritual life. The Bhikkhuni Vinaya is, perhaps second only to the Satipatthana Sutta, the most over- and mis- interpreted text in Pali!

Technically this is because it is framed as a Sanghakamma, i.e. a formal act of the Sangha, where only either bhikkhus of bhikkhunis are present. But the question then becomes, why was it done like this? Well, that is speculative, but we can say that it goes against the Buddha’s recommendations. In the Suttas, he repeatedly said that the recitation should be maintained in the four-fold assembly.

We can assume that the shift had something to do with politics in the Sangha.


Thanks bhante . A two sided coin .

This could be due to errors in the transmission .

one of the reason could be that the nuns are not supposed to participate in the reciting of monks rules .

Well, that is part of it. It’s a complex question, but IMHO the root of the issue is colonialism. The Europeans disparaged the native religions as superstitions, and the response to that, in all Buddhist lands, is what we call “Buddhist modernism”, which emphasized the rational and practical side of Dhamma. Applied to meditation, you get the modern take on Satipatthana. It’s scientific and rational, ready for co-opting by the West!

Yes, exactly. It makes sense in the case of the normal operation of the communities. The problem is, why was it used here?


Bhante , dont you think the sutta contents itself appear muddled and jumbled ?

I supposed this has nothing to do with inequality . But the way how the sangha being established .
Eg . A company with ceo , manager , supervisor with different tasks and rumunerations . A clerk payment in no way is equal to the manager .

No. Why, do you?

Except the Sangha already had a sophisticated organizational model supplied in the Vinaya, and it is not designed on such hierarchical basis.