Where can I find an explanation of the "stumbling blocks" (antarāyike dhamme) to ordination for bhikkhunīs?

Hi folks.

I’m looking to find an English translation of the Pāli bhikhunīordination procedure, wherever it may exist. A bonus would be to find both the bhikkhu-only and the dual ordination procedures. Specifically, I’m wondering if I can find it laid out like in the bhikkhu khandakas.

With the development of the conversation, it’s more accurately stated that I’m looking to find an explanation of the “stumbling blocks” (Ajahn Brahmali’s I.B. Horner’s translation of antarāyike dhamme) for bhikkhunīs.

For instance, in the Mahākhandaka we see the stumbling blocks listed:

“I allow you, monks, when one is being ordained to ask him about things which are stumbling-blocks for him. And thus, monks, should he be asked: Have you diseases like this: leprosy, boils, eczema, consumption, epilepsy? Are you a human being? Are you a man? Are you a freeman? Are you without debts? Are you not in the royal service? Have you your parents’ consent? Are you full twenty years of age? Are you complete as to bowl and robes? What is your name? What is the name of your preceptor?”

But we also see prior to this list, an explanation of which are or are not disqualifying factors. For example, the one on the five diseases:

“Monks, one afflicted with (any one of) the five diseases should not be let go forth. Whoever should let (one such) go forth, there is an offence of wrong-doing.”

Do we find the same laid out for the bhikkhunis written down anywhere?

This line of thought arose because of Ven. @Vimala’s excellent essay on ordination for trans, intersex, and non-genderconforming people, and I’d like to know what the written texts say about what is and isn’t required for an ordination to be completely valid.

By valid here, I mean that an ordinee is considered accepted. In contrast to, say, an animal that, even if going through the procedure, would not count as ordained.


Very good question.
I imagine bhante @Dhammanando may be able to help us. Or maybe bhante @brahmali .
I always wondered if the protocol, including typical chanting/recitation done in both bhikkhu and bhikkhuni ordinations is actually something to be found in the “root texts” of Vinayas or something we find in the commentaries. :thinking:



You can’t find it in the bhikkhu khandhakas… it’s in the bhikkhuni khandhaka. :wink: Kd20.
There’s the allowance for bhikkhu-only ordination, but the full sanghakamma is only given for dual ordination. But if you’re after the questions they ask before the ordination (about the paṇḍakas and so on), I strongly recommend to contact Ajahn @Brahmali as well. The existing text on SC is very outdated and a little inaccurate / missing “embarrassing” parts.

bhikkhu only ordination:

dual ordination:


Yes, actually, that’s what I’m after for the most part :microscope:


Just remembered that we had the same discussion before, and Ajahn @Brahmali has posted his translation of the questions already:

The nun who is giving the full ordination should ask about the twenty-four obstructions.

And it should be done in this way: ʻDo you lack genitals? Are your genitals incomplete? Are you without menstruation? Do you menstruate continuously? Do you always wear a menstrual pad? Are you incontinent? Do you have genital prolapse? Do you lack sexual organs? Are you manlike? Do you have fistula? Are you a hermaphrodite? Do you have any of these diseases: leprosy, abscesses,* mild leprosy,** tuberculosis, or epilepsy? Are you human? Are you a woman? Are you a free woman? Are you free from debt? Are you employed by the King? Do you have permission from your parents and husband? Are you twenty years old? Do you have a full set of bowl and robes? What is your name? What is the name of your preceptor?ʼ”

*Gaṇḍa, literally, “a swelling”. Gaṇḍa is commonly translated as “boils”, yet a boil is often just a superficial skin disease without much swelling. “Abscess” seems closer to the mark.
**Kilāsa is closely related to kuṭṭha. Sp.3.88 says: Kilāsoti na bhijjanakaṃ na paggharaṇakaṃ padumapuṇḍarīkapattavaṇṇaṃ kuṭṭhaṃ, “Kilāsa is leprosy without lesions, without discharge, and with the color of red and white lotuses.” It seems modern medical science distinguishes between tuberculoid leprosy, which is mild and has few lesions, and lepromatous leprosy, which is severe and has widespread lesions. It seems plausible to identify kilāsa with the former and kuṭṭha with the latter. But to avoid the technical Latinate medical vocabulary, I render them respectively as “mild leprosy” and “leprosy”.

See full discussion here:


I’ll look through the thread, but do you know off the top of your head if the texts also include what is permissible (with, say, a dukkata) and what is absolutely prohibitive?

For instance: you can fully ordain someone with one of the so-called five diseases as a bhikkhu, but you cannot fully ordain someone who has drawn blood from a Buddha as a bhikkhu.

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Thanks for the suggestions and tagging :smiley:

I can speak to the bhikkhu ordination procedures just a bit, but basically the early Vinaya texts include the barebones procedures. A lot of present-day ceremonies include additions that are not without their place, but not necessary in a strict sense.

Also, communities may have additional requirements that are specific to that monastery.

This came up recently because someone told me they were barred from full ordination at a monastery for a certain reason. The texts themselves didn’t say this was an obstacle, but the community decided for themselves not to move forward.


To my knowledge, the text doesn’t specifically state anything, but it is generally assumed that all of these are absolutely prohibitive those that have parallels in the monks’ rules are handled in the same way, and those that don’t have parallels are absolutely prohibitive. (Edit: I don’t know why that is. Maybe Ajahn Brahmali can explain.)

But I know that in practice, there is some leniency. I know of people who should have answered no to a question and still the senior bhikkhunis decided it was ok to go ahead.


That’s interesting because in the bhikkhu khandakas make the distinction. (Search for stumbling-blocks)

For example, having the five diseases is a “stumbling-block”, but then we also have this:

“Monks, one afflicted with (any one of) the five diseases should not be let go forth. Whoever should let (one such) go forth, there is an offence of wrong-doing.”

So having one of those diseases is a stumbling block but not a complete disqualification. (Though of course some monasteries don’t want to get involved with any “obstructions.”)

I know Ven @Vimala made the distinction in her essay (page 30, section 6) too that only some were total obstructions, but I’m not sure where she saw that.

I tried looking in the bhikkhuni khandakas, but it seems there’s not a similar listing.

Separately, how do I use the text features so I can link directly to the passages I’m referencing? :laughing: :older_man:t5:


Ah, sorry yes, you are right, not all are prohibitive. (I’ll edit my post above.) The text doesn’t state anything, but for those that are dukkaṭas for bhikkhus, it’s assumed that they are also dukkaṭas for bhikkhunīs. Of the questions above, the dukkaṭas are: the five diseases, being a slave, being in debt, being in government service, not having permission, and not having a robe and bowl.
There’s some ambiguity about whether the ordination of a woman below 20 stands or not. (It doesn’t for monks, but the bhikkhunis’ rule is phrased differently.)

I’m not sure why people assume that the questions that are specific to bhikkhunis are absolutely prohibitive. As I said, the text doesn’t say anything. We better wait for Ajahn @Brahmali to clear up this question.

But anyway, since you are interested in paṇḍakas and ubhatobyañjanakas, you should check out the corresponding parts in the bhikkhu khandhakas. There’s nothing specific to the bhikkhunīs, so it’s implied that the bhikkhu rules apply.




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Thank you, thank you Ven. @vimalanyani :bowing_man:t5:

Okay, I edited my original post to clarify what I’m looking for. Which is the explanation of how to deal with the obstructions for bhikkhunis. Will have to wait for Ajahn @Brahmali to grace us with his presence and wisdom, if he’d be so kind.

But yes, I’m mainly interested in what the Pāli texts may have (or don’t have!) to say in light of non-cisgender/non-binary ordination options—especially since they seem to place more emphasis on physical sex characteristics rather than on gender.

Based on the bhikkhu side of the khandakas, I believe one could very successfully conclude (as Ven. @Vimala has) that the texts say the only requirement (as far as gender is concerned), is that one have male sex characteristics.

(Edit: I got a bit ahead of myself there with the Pāli! Hehe, so I’ve removed my Pali comments)


I hope you don’t mind … I noticed that you very substantially changed your OP. Now most of the replies in this thread don’t make sense anymore. It would be a little less confusing for the readers, (and a little nicer for the other posters), if you marked edits, or used the < s > tag, instead of just deleting substantial parts of your post. :slightly_smiling_face: :slightly_smiling_face:


Don’t mind at all! Thanks for the forum etiquette reminder!


Right. So to start with, as suggested by Ayya Vimalañāṇī, the Khandhakas are as applicable to the bhikkhunīs as to the bhikkhus. For instance, all the rules and regulations regarding such important topics as sanghakamma were laid down in relation to monks (with the partial exception of ordination). If this wasn’t applicable to the nuns, they would have almost no guidance on this crucial topic. In general, we need to assume that all the Khandhakas apply to the bhikkhunīs just as they apply to the monks.

This means that all details on ordination laid down in the Maha-kkhandhaka also applies to the nuns, with the exception of those things that are found in the Bhikkhunī-kkhandhaka. Based on this we can say the number of things that bar you absolutely from ordination are very few, as you have pointed out. As a general principle, only if the Vinaya specifically says so, does a particular obstruction (“stumbling block” is I.B. Horner’s rendering) make you completely ineligible for ordination. What this means is that the extra rules for bhikkhunīs are not absolute bars. They are more like guidelines, or perhaps rules that are bound to time and place.

Moreover, it is quite clear that these specific obstructions are late. They are mentioned in the Vibhaṅga to bhikkhu-saṅghādisesa 3 and here, and that’s it as far as the suttas and Vinaya are concerned. In addition they vary considerably from school to school, a fairly reliable indication og lateness. In sum, it seems clear that these were not laid down by the Buddha, which means, of course, that they are not binding.

All in all, there are no good grounds for taking these obstructions as absolute bars to ordination.


Thank you Ajahn @Brahmali! This clarifies quite a bit, though I imagine—as Ayya @vimalanyani pointed out—that different communities still hold the obstructions as they see fit (which some bhikkhus also do, too to be fair).


Thanks for clarifying, Ajahn Brahmali. :anjal: I had always wondered why they should bar someone from ordination, since the text doesn’t explicitly say that.

Yes, in my experience, most nuns do take them seriously, but communities have come up with exceptions to these rules (not explicitly mentioned in the texts, but making a lot of sense).
In general, nuns have to be creative with their ordination rules because they are so strict / non-sensical. For example, we have pācittiyas that forbid a senior nun from ordaining more than one candidate every two years. If anyone really did follow the rules, our sangha would never grow, because we have so few senior nuns qualified to act as preceptors. So the rules are there, but people really try to be as lenient as possible and act with common sense.