New Course: The Foremost Theris of Old

The Therigatha Festival is over but you still want to learn more about the ancient Theris?

Join Ayya @Vimalanyani’s zoom course The Foremost Therīs of Old!

The Buddhist texts focus heavily on the male sangha, but we can still see glimpses of the lives of the early nuns. The Pali texts preserve a list of 13 outstanding bhikkhunīs, together with a few of their discourses and a collection of their poems (the Therīgāthā). The texts in Chinese, Sanskrit, Tibetan and other source languages preserve lists of up to 50 outstanding therīs, and suttas not found in the Pali canon. This material is supplemented in all traditions by later works, such as the apadānas and commentaries.

In each session of the course, we’ll focus on one nun, and trace the development of her story, her life, and her teaching through the historical layers of texts. We’ll explore how a common core diverges over time in the different traditions, and also how similar motifs play out in the lives of different Therīs.

By incorporating material from different source languages, we’ll get a broader overview over the richness of the Buddhist tradition, and see how regional differences and cultures have influenced the texts and shaped the roles of women. This will also help us understand modern attitudes towards nuns, female practitioners and women in general in Buddhist societies.

We’ll also include material from Ayya Vimalanyani’s new translation of the Chinese Bhikkhuni Vinayas, as vinaya on the one hand seems to have had a great influence on the preservation and interpretation of sutta texts, but on the other hand often seems to be in striking contradiction to the actual practices described in suttas, apadānas, and commentaries. Vinaya plays a key role in the (re-)establishment of the Theravada and Mulasarvastivada bhikkhunī sanghas. It also shapes the expectations placed on the nuns from outside, and can often be experienced as discriminatory and restricting. Therefore, these tensions between the rule texts, and the descriptions of actual practice are worth exploring and understanding.

Weekly sessions on Mondays, starting May 31st. Next session is on 2021-05-31T12:00:00Z
45 min presentation, 15 min discussion / Q&A.

The course will be held on zoom. Contact to join, and get login details.

Course outline:
Session 1: Introduction
Session 2: The lists of foremost nuns
Session 3: Mahāpajāpatī
Session 4: Khemā
Session 5: Uppalavaṇṇā
Session 6: Paṭācārā
Session 7: The nuns engaging in ascetic practices
Session 8: Bhaddā Kuṇḍalakesā
Session 9: Bhaddā Kapilanī
Session 10: Yasodharā
Session 11: Selā
Session 12: Thullanandā


Congratulations! This course looks great, well done for putting it together. :pray::pray::pray:


Yeserday’s experience of the live Introduction was so worthwhile, and how good to have recordings available to look back to. :writing_hand:

Sadhu. Sadhu. Sadhu.


Thank you Ayya. I’m sorry that the sessions are too late for me in my time zone, but I appreciate the recordings.


This week’s recording: :sparkles:


Session 3: Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī :sparkles: