Bhikkuni Sangha in Sri Lanka

Teruwan Saranayi,
This is a nice summary of events that lead to creation of Bhikkhunī order in Sri Lanka, its disintegration, and re-establishment as compiled by an eminent scholar Dr. Goonatilake.

For reading pleasure of many :smiley:


Thanks so much. I placed a query about this ages ago and now my question is answered.

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Sukhi Hotu

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The Unbroken Lineage of the Sri Lankan Bhikkhuni Sangha from 3rd Century B.C.E. to the Present

Dr. Goonatilake used the tittle “The Unbroken Lineage”, however, the study doesn’t account the fact Unbroken.
To prove the lineage is unbroken, an providing evidences to show the continuity from 520 CE to present shoud be provided. Eventhough, the paper provides some details to prove the lineage in Sri Lanka, the evidances provided to prove the lineage in China after inroduction of nun ordaination are not significant.
I was looking for an study about this for a long time, it seems the question remains unanswered.

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May I ask what for you would count as “significant evidence” for the unbrokenness of the bhikkhunī paramparā in China?

And does there exist any evidence of a similar sort for the unbrokenness of the bhikkhu paramparā in Sri Lanka? Or in any other country?


You might be way senior than me, so please don’t call me bhante. I would prefer calling by name.

The paper should review continuity of the lineage, not only the introduction to China and the reintroduction of the sasana to Sri Lanka. Thats what I meant Significant. Providing this much is not significant.
I would be really interested if someone can provide a review on Chinese Buddhism. I Just startrd to read History of Chinese Buddhism by cha uziang kuang (sorry if the spellings are wrong)

I have my doubts on this lineage too since it has broken several times, reintroduced Sri Lanka to Burma and Thailand, and from there to Sri Lanka.
Questioning like this would make you think that I am one of those monks who are against new bhikkuni higher ordination in Sri Lanka. Bhante, I am not one of them.
In my opinion, Upasampadā is not something one, or more precisely bhikku sanga can offer you but your own discipline. Upasampadā is an ivent where sangas let other bhikkus know that this person is one of you (bhikku) from this moment, treat him like one.

Sīmā is something created to keep bhikkus united, what exactly is the current stuation? Sīmā created to keep bhikkus united but today, because of issues arised from that made bhikkus apart.


Dear respectful venerable,
“Upasampadā is an ivent where sangas let other bhikkus know that this person is one of you (bhikku) from this moment, treat him like one.”
Can you tell us from where did you get information.
In the following sutta, The Lord Buddha gives ten pre-requirements to be acquired by a monk before being offered with Upadampada.
“Upāli, a mendicant should have ten qualities to give ordination"
About sīmā too, there were reasons to declare to establish and use of a sīmā.
Please refer SuttaCentral.
With a lot of metta and wishes for your good health and wellbeing to develop samatha and vipassanā.

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Bhante, Let me explain my opinion a bit more.
One’s own virtue and discipline and achievements depends on his own behaviour and effort. No one can offer him as a gift not even the Buddha (“tumhehi kiccaṃ ātappaṃ akkhātāro tathāgatā”).

Higher ordination is an event or a ceremony, where a person requests ordination from sanga and then if it seems right they declare him a bhikku using ñatticatukkamma which is letting saṃga know this person is a bhikku here onwards. As long as saṃga allows it he become a bhikku with upasampadā virtue.
Here I am not going to explain the whole process of ordination.
My point is that as long as one declared a bhikku, no mater where he got his ordination, dhammayuktika, ramanya or syam what ever it is, he has to respect the rules and vinaya. Vinaya is really helpful to get rid of kleshas, sometimes it helps us keep away from objects and situations which gives rise to kleshas.

I met some bhikkus who are really concerned about purity of their lineage, and ordinated several times to make sure his lineage is purified, I find these unnecessary. If a set of bhikkus (more than 5) declared one as a bhikku in a sīmā through ordination ceremony, he has to focus on his path and sīla, rather than thinking about the purity of the lineage. There are number of debates on sīmās, where they think of smaller things that makes sīmā unfit. I wonder how something materialistic do any harm to the path of purification.

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Dear respectful venerable,
Thanks a lot for explaining your understanding.
With regard to dhamma-vinaya we have to always go by the teaching.
We make our own decisions based on pondering over our own thoughts based upon our own ‘papañcasaññāsaṅkhā’. Then we have to check with Sutta & Vinaya to ascertain if we are right and correct. If we cannot find in there, we can always check the events when our Sammasambudda had done things and accept the correct thing.
You must be aware, Sammasambudda gave upasampadā to various mendicants, in various occasions, without any grandiose, sometimes to a single mendicant or sometimes to more.
I think if you are well aware, many people, when they became confident of Sammasambudda and the teaching, they requested for Pabbajja and upasampada. For some people he declared why they have to wait for some time before offering upasampada.
I think a erudite Bhante, like our respected Bhante @sujato, would be kind enough to explain this more fully.
Sukhi Hotu!
May you be happy and healthy and fulfill all sāmaññaphalāni.

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It’s an interesting question, and I am not sure there is satisfactory research into this. Of course there is no way we can ever really prove anything, but it is still interesting to look.

A couple of points are, I think, clear. The most pertinent is that, for most of the period in question, China was the largest, most stable, and best organized nation in the world. So it seems reasonable that if anyone had a stable transmission, they did. Moreover, we have far better historical information for China than for anywhere else in the Buddhist world. It is worth bearing this in mind, for if we find issues or problems in the Chinese sphere, the presence of such problems is a better attestation to the existence of a coherent tradition than the absence of problems in regions lacking sources.

My friend Chi Kwang Sunim found, at a nuns’ monastery in Korea, a very ancient book, maintained by the abbots, which recorded the ordination details of candidates going back for centuries. Many such records, I believe could be found in the northern regions, but are still kept solely in the monasteries. I have not heard of similar records in the Theravadin lands, though perhaps there might be.

The lineage claims in Theravada seem to be mostly based on the record of the Kalyani Sima. Given how frequently that crops up in such discussions, I suspect there are not a whole lot of other records, especially older ones.