I would like to review the list of embarrassing questions that are asked of prospective bhikkhunis which led to the dual ordination process for them. (They were questions like “Is your vagina a real vagina?”) In Khandaka # 20 (Kd.20.17.1 and Kd.20.17.2), in The Book of the Discipline, translated by I. B. Horner, this is discussed but (at least in the versions I have reviewed) the text includes an ellipsis in place of the most pertinent text. However, I think there is an earlier translation of the Vinaya by Oldenberg and perhaps that has the text I am looking for. Does anyone know where I can find that discussion about those questions? (I want to find the exact wording from the Pali texts, not someone’s summary or paraphrasing.)
This is from the ordination script. I don’t know who translated it.
Nasi animittā (Not a eunuch?)
– Āma Ayye (Yes, Lord Ayya)
Nasi nimittamattā (Not having ‘mere’ signs of sexuality?)
– Āma Ayye
Nasi alohitā (Not having vaginal bleeding always?)
– Āma Ayye
Nasi dhuvalohitā (Not having vaginal bleeding unusually?)
– Āma Ayye
Nasi dhuvacolā (Not having vaginal infection?)
– Āma Ayye
Nasi paggharaṇī (Not having vaginal discharge?)
– Āma Ayye
Nasi sikhariṇī (Not having venereal disease?)
– Āma Ayye
Nasi itthi-paṇḍikā (Not a female pandaka)
– Āma Ayye
Nasi vepurisikā (Not having changing sexuality based on new moon and full moon?)
– Āma Ayye
Nasi sambhinnā (Not asexual?)
– Āma Ayye
Nasi ubhatobyañjanā (Not having both male and female organs?
– Āma Ayye
Santi te evarūpā ābādhā (Do you have any diseases as these? Answer yes or no.)
Natthi Ayye (No, Lord Ayya)
Manussāsi (Are you a human being?)
Āma Ayye (yes, Lord Ayya)
Itthīsi (Are you female?)
Bhujissāsi (Are you a free woman?)
Anaṇāsi (Are you free from debt?)
Nasi rājabhaṭī (Are you exempt from military service?)
Anuññātāsi mātāpitūhi sāmikena (Have you come with the permission of your parents?)
Paripuṇṇa vīsati vassāsi (Are you of the full age of twenty years?)
Paripuṇṇan te pattacīvaraṃ (Are your alms bowls and robes complete?)
Kiṃ nāmāsi (What is your name?)
Ahaṃ ayye nāginī nāma (My name is Nāga.)
Kā nāmā te pavattinī (what is the name of your superior?)
Ayya tissa therī nāma (Lord, my superior is Venerable Tissa)
I actually think this translation is a bit wonky. For example, animittā means signless, i.e. no sexual characteristics, not eunuch; and alohitā means bloodless, i.e. no menses, not always bleeding, etc.
Maybe Ajahn @Brahmali can share his new translation.
Can! These details are found in the Bhikkhunī-kkhandhaka. Here it is, with notes and everything:
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”.
Hi Ajahn Brahmali,
Thank you for this material. I think it will be useful for what I am doing (I am writing an article/letter which relates in part to this topic). I would appreciate knowing exactly which text this came from and who translated it. Do you know?
Thank you also Ayya vimalanyani for your effort, although I think the material from Ajahn Brahmali will be more useful.
I was just recently assisting with connecting the translation of this material with the original Pali, so I am familiar with the location. Please see:
As to who did the translation, the translator is Ajahn Brahmali himself.
So kind of you! And just in case she hasn’t yet learned how to navigate between the Pali & English:
- same link in English -
Thank you for the information, GreenTara.
Thank you for the link to the English text, Charlotteannun.
Just for clarification, the only English translation available on Sutta Central for this text is by I. B. Horner, circa 1950. The excerpt that Ajahn Brahmali posted above is a new English translation that he has created, but is not yet published on Sutta Central.
Compare I.B. Horner’s
Now at that time ordained women were to be seen without sexual characteristics and who were defective in sex and bloodless and with stagnant blood and who were always dressed and dripping and deformed and female eunuchs and man-like women and those whose sexuality was indistinct and those who were hermaphrodites.
to Ajahn Brahmali’s
At that time the full ordination had been given to women without genitals, with incomplete genitals, who did not menstruate, who menstruated continuously, who always wore menstrual pads, who were incontinent, who had genital prolapse, who were sexual nonconformists, who were manlike, who had fistula, who were hermaphrodites.
I think this more recent translation provides clearer terminology that is consistent with modern usage.
EDIT: while cleaning up the raw code for pasting here, I inadvertently left out a few items. It is now fixed.
Yes, it does seem that of the two passages you quoted here the one by Ajahn Brahmali is clearer. Will Ajahn Brahmali be publishing this in book form? Did he translate the entire Vinaya or just part of it?
Also, could you please provide the text between the quote from your last post and the quote in Ajahn Brahmali’s post? Also, the heading in Ajahn Brahmali’s translation is “Third Recitation Section,” right?
Also, the link provided above by Charlotteannun goes to an I.B. Horner translation which seems to have no section numbers. This is all in Khandaka # 20, section 17.1 in The Book of the Discipline, right?
You can follow the progress for the publication of this translation on Sutta Central in this thread: https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/notes-on-the-segmentation-of-pali-vinaya-with-brahmalis-translation/10665/517 As to any intention to publish in book form, it would be best to ask Ajahn Brahmali about that - I have no idea.
The only intervening text is:
“They told the Master and he said:”
“The third section for recitation”
Ok. Now I can piece together the entire section and use it in the article/letter I am writing.
Thank you for your help.
Does “sambhinnā” mean “not being sexually attracted to anybody” (which is the normal meaning of “asexual” in modern English, but seems like a silly reason to disqualify someone) or “not possessing sexual organs” (which makes more sense in the context)?
Well, as I said, it’s from an ordination script, not a translation by a professional translator.
IB Horner translates this as having indistinct sexuality, Ajahn Brahmali says having fistula…
Best to tag Ajahn @Brahmali to clarify.
The word sambhinnā is made up of bhinna, a past participle that means “broken”, and the prefix sam, which normally means “with” or “together”. So from an etymological point of view, it may seem to refer to something that is joint together through being broken, which is what fistula refers to. This fits well with the commentarial explanation.
I didn’t include my comments on the terms translated above, and perhaps I should have. In any case, here is my comment on sambhinnā, which includes the commentarial explanation:
Sp.1.285 says: Sambhinnāti sambhinnavaccamaggapassāvamaggā, “Sambhinnā means the anus and the vagina are joined.” That passāvamagga, “the path of urine,” can refer to the vagina is clear from bhikkhu pārājika 1, MS.1.109, where it refers to an orifice for sexual intercourse. Also, it is anatomically more likely that that the anus and vagina would be conjoined, rather than the anus and the urethra.
The translations given in the document supplied by Ayya @Vimalanyani are not very reliable.
I’m wondering if Horner is using some old-timey definition of “asexual.” I dunno what that word meant in the 1950s.
Thank you, @brahmali, for the clarification on what sambhinnā likely means.
I believe the ordination script was translated by a Sri Lankan, who may not have been a native English speaker.
I’m guessing that they meant “no / not fully developed / ambiguous sexual organs”. This might also be what IB Horner had in mind…
As you say, “asexual” doesn’t make any sense in today’s usage.
And in the Vinaya, there are several cases of asexual people being ordained.