Can an Arahant be against bhikkhuni ordination?

I just finished reading this thread:

…and had a related question. Can someone become an Arahant and still be against bhikkhuni ordination? Wouldn’t it constitute wrong view, and even wrong speech and wrong action, to actively oppose women seeking ordination? Also, it seems there would be some aspect of aversion and delusion in holding anti-bhikkhuni ordination views, making it impossible to become an anagami or maybe even a sakadagami. Am I wrong?


My own thought is that if one is an arahant, one would be free of the bonds of greed, aversion and delusion. The many senior monastics that continue to object to the ordination of women, despite the evidence and the clear Vinaya path to ordination, would in my view stil lbe subject to the fetters of grasping and greed for the status quo, for aversion to what is an obvious entitlement for women that the Buddha himself made clear, and a delusion as to the moral, ethical, and legal arguments in favor of Bhikkhuni ordination.

I think of Ajahn Chah, who may have been an arahant, based on the claims of those that knew him and lived with him. While the issue of Bhikkhuni ordination may not have been presented to him (nor was it an issue ripe for adjudication at that time), I think of the story told of how the laity at WPP brought meal dana only for the Bhikkhus on one Buddhist holiday. Ajahn Chah had one of the Mae Chee give the Dhamma talk that day, an obvious rebuke to those that treated the women differently than the male monastics. It seems to me his wise way of stating his position, at that time, as to how he felt about the equality of women in the sangha.

A bhikkhu with good knowledge of the Dhamma and Vinaya, it seems to me, cannot hold with a straight face the idea that women cannot now be ordained. To hold this belief, despite the evidence so clearly available, is a mark of greed, aversion and delusion, and a real stain on some otherwise excellent monks, IMO.


Thank you for your excellent response!

The way I understand the biggest problem is that Bhikkhuni’s are not willing to accept all the Vinaya rules.


From what I’ve read, even if bhikkhunis accepted all the rules, many bhikkhus would still be opposed to ordination.

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The Bhikkhūnī’s I know keep excellent vinaya. As good or better than many of the Bhikkhus.


I’m gonna cop a lot of flak for this, but I’ve been thinking about this for some time. I think an arahant, and even a Buddha could be against bhikkhuni ordination.

I don’t think opposing bhikkhuni ordination necessarily comes from hatred, although of course it sometimes does. Sometimes people just don’t believe women can do it, not in a hateful way, but because that’s what their society and worldview has taught them. Does this mean they aren’t enlightened? Do they have to attain the knowledge of everything, including the capabilities and strength of women, to attain enlightenment? I’m not sure.


Thank you for your response! Yes, another matter I’ve been thinking for some time now: How much does culture influence an Aharant or Buddha (in this case their view of women and Dhamma)?


Interesting question for me too. I’m sure there will be many different opinions on this. I have also been doing some thinking, and reading recently on this, which has been shaping my thoughts.

I think we are often given this image of arahants or Buddhas that is omniscient, transcending time and space, but I think this might be inaccurate. If we consider the Buddha’s prediction in the Gotami Sutta, at least something about it was incorrect. Also when Ananda requested going forth for women one of the reason Buddha refused was because other sects and faiths also don’t admit women, showing his decisions were moderated/guided by worldview of the day.

PLEASE don’t take me as disrespecting the Buddha. The most important thing in my life are the truths he taught for our liberation. However, I think he was knowing and wise in his time and according to the worldview of the time, and at least didn’t teach according to future/eternal worldview that was far detached from the relevant one of the day.

This raises an issue for me that we should bring our wisdom from the present day and what we know now to guide our practice, rather than stifle the practice 2500 years in the past. For example, now that other sects and faith are admitting women to the highest levels, we should grant women equal status too!


I have heard a senior monastic say that an enlightened person could not be against Bhikkhūnī ordination.
I thought this was a pretty big claim at the time, but then I was considering how a person who had let go of personality view would understand gender. To me this is something that would be transcended. Not the cultural conditioning of being man or woman but viewing self and other by these labels and having these differences. As one practices they May themselves notice their views on gender identity change. It’s just another ‘I am’.

If this is the case, they would see the societal limitations of gender conditioning, but also understanding that there is no reason to limit spiritual opportunities.


I absolutely agree with you. I don’t think an arahant would hold gender identity. But this revelation is very different to how the bhikkhuni situation has been recorded, and is progressing today.

The Buddha himself says gender is no obstacle to spiritual achievement, acknowledging that women who went forth would be able to attain the highest goal. Yet he still (according to legend) initially refused the request.

The problem is not value-based (value of woman vs. man) it’s ‘practical’.

Right now we have rules about how ordination must occur, which create barriers for men and women to recognize the legitimacy of bhikkhuni ordination.

Then we have the vinaya that bhikkhuni must follow. This set of rules is in itself patriarchal and at times sexist, and proves a stumbling block once again for both men, women and female aspirants to reach the freedom of spiritual livelihood. The very fact that vinaya is split along gender lines ‘contradicts’ the fact that the arahant is beyond gender identity (and no, the genderised vinaya is not merely ‘practical’ ie. menstruation hygiene. there are rules in there that are expressly designed to subordinate women).

With these structures built into the texts and core values of what it is to be a bhikkhuni, how can there be genderless-ness or gender equity?


You make an excellent point! Well said!


Yes! And this separate and unequal distinction of Vinaya rules makes no sense especially at the anagami and Arahant levels, where lust and sexual identity is supposed to be extinguished. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

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Well I agree, but even at a lower level too. Of course the Vinaya needs to be kept because there are those in the Sangha who aren’t at that level and need to be protected. I think the Bhikkhu vinaya, which is tried and tested for thousands of year is a good benchmark.

But what justification is there for a differentiating Vinaya based on gender when by different I mean usually stricter, more difficult and more obstructive? The only reasons I see as a common thread are that women are weaker, inferior, more cunning, subversive and immature.

But anyway, excuse me, I am sidetracking the topic :speak_no_evil: my bad!! If we continue to talk on this topic we should start a new thread :blush:

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Please let me disagree. This is not why Buddha himself was opposing it. He was opposing it because it would shorthen the lifespan of clear Dhamma in this word, and further explained that stricter rules were necessary to keep it longer than it would be otherwise.

There lies the difference, however. While in other teachings women often are inferior on the spiritual level, in Buddhism, this equality has always been there. For human beings, ability to awaken depends only on their actions.
And, frankly, I have very serious doubts in the power or “our [current] wisdom”. The fact that today Vinaya rules are broken constantly by everyone (and it is not my own statement) means one of three things: 1) the conditions of the world today are less favourable for Buddhist monasticism; 2) the quality of humans actually declined; 3) both 1 and 2 to some extent. Each of these things does not speak favourably of the contemporary wisdom.

Ordination is not a prerequisite and not a guarantee to following the Path correctly. Spiritual achievements and color of the robe are not too tightly connected.

From our moden western point of view yes. But this is relative and changes across time and cultures.

Vinaya was not spoken for the Arahants. If someone achieves arahantship, he/she already has the perfect virtue. Vinaya is for the beginners, still drowning in defilements.
And today beginners for some reason decided that they know better.

Because it was spoken this way by the founder of the Teaching. We do not have any right to decide which of these are right and wrong. If someone goes forth, like, really goes forth, this should not be an issue. All the pride and other mental formations are conditioned. These are to go away eventually. For you see, the issue is pretty much centered on the fact that the gender differentiation of the Vinaya rules does not conform to the contemporary gender equality ideas. But gender equality ideas are a product of mundane society for mundane purposes, this is Samsara, its phenomenon. It should be left in samsaric society where it belongs. Speaking of relativity, at the time of Buddha this allowance to go forth for women was kind of revolutionary. This is to stress the relativity of our perception of things.

Yes but why would it shorten lifespan of Dhamma in this world?
I can’t believe that is true anyway, because we still have true dhamma and true teachings of the Buddha, so the prediction is wrong. OR will you argue the Dhamma we have is not true and in that case it should be disregarded anyway.

There is no such thing as ‘comteporary’ and ‘past’ wisdom. Wisdom is wisdom. The Buddha and arahants of the past were humans just like us. They inspected, evaluated and knew this world and it’s problems for themselves, and won their liberation for themselves, just as we can.

I disagree, at least regarding the patriarchal assessment. That can be ascertained objectively, that society followed a patriarchal pattern.

So you are saying that beginners should operate according to gender identity, even though it is ultimately false? That unenlightened women need to be held to a stricter and more punitive standard than unenlightened men?

Who might not have been aware how things changed for women of the future.

So in this case, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering’ — then you should abandon them.

Yes but why should this be the case? If we cannot find a good reason that supports skillfulness, then why? ‘Just cause’ is not a good answer.

Not true, there were other female ascetics and nun orders.


This is what Bhante Sujato has to say on the matter:


The answer to why is written in the sutta and parallels.

Yes, that is true. Perhaps, my statement was too vague. I meant that I doubt this (previously described) is wisdom at all.

Yes, but this has nothing to do with the path to enlightenment.

I am saying the should follow Vinaya, and should not modify it according to their ideas, which are samsaric defilements anyway.[quote=“Cara, post:16, topic:6699”]
Not true, there were other female ascetics and nun orders.

This talks about personal qualities, as you can see, not about Vinaya. Besides, what is often missed out is that kalamas were laypeople and not Buddha’s followers. From what I see from the dhammic point of view, all the social justice movements are unskillful, they certainly do not decrease the strife, anger, hatred and delusions.

Vinaya rules even in their current “sexist” version do not prevent and do not make it harder for women to cultivate good qualities, abandon bad qualities, gain correct views and abandon incorrect views.

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This is actually a whole new topic. I am not sure how to create a new one from here, linking them together, so if any of the moderators were to help me, I would be grateful.

We still have true dhamma which is mixed with untrue dhamma. This whole topic arose from the fact that maybe Pali texts are wrong and edited. So how is this pure dhamma? And I am not even talking about ideas of other schools that sometimes are the opposite of the Pali texts. So no, we do not have pure dhamma anymore. Every edit to a sutta is a stain on the dhamma. And you know there are edits.
The best we can do is: analyze, try to grasp the core ideas and practice as best as we can without trying to make it even worse by editing further.
So I do not see any proofs that the prediction is wrong, quite the opposite.
Have a look at SN20.7.
So what I am saying is: do not attempt to edit the texts anymore because you personally don’t like something in them. It is no better than those making those previous edits. It will just add more noise to the signal.

Ok I am a mod but I can’t make this a new topic for you it seems. What you need to do is copy the entire contents of this post, or go back to the main page and select create new topic. Then choose your category and put your new post into the topic. Once you’ve done that it would be a good idea to come back here and delete this post. Otherwise I can do that for you .