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1st Arya Kshema

Gyalwang Karmapa’s Teaching During the 1st Arya Kshema Nuns’ Gathering – Why Bhikshuni Ordination is Important


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Women monastics are indispensible

During the historic first Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering for Kagyu nuns the Gyalwang Karmapa offered eight days of dharma discourses, interspersing his teachings with frank and well-researched advice on the important issue of full-nun’s ordination in Tibet (known in Sanskrit as ‘Bhikshuni’ ordination and in Tibetan as ‘Gelongma’ ordination).

Citing little-known textual descriptions, the Gyalwang Karmapa related accounts of thriving nuns’ communities—including many fully ordained nuns—in central areas of Tibet several centuries ago. However, such communities have disappeared and today there is no full ordination offered to nuns within the Tibetan tradition.

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Opening Speech by Ani Miaorong Fashi

I have never felt that there is any difference between females and males. Being Buddhist disciples we all know that wisdom, courage and compassion, all these wonderful qualities, are inherently owned by all sentient beings. The only difference may be in the expression and demonstration of these qualities.

When I think of all the women I know, different races, ages, and nationalities, among these I include many of you that I have been in touch with, when I think of you all, especially Himalayan women, my heart is full of peace and humility. I see the qualities of tenderness, humility, gentleness, and delicacy. Also the qualities of great perseverance, self-sacrifice, and forbearance.   Thereby, I have realized that perhaps these qualities are the embodiment of wisdom and courage in women. Even though this is so, I also see that you are faced with the difficulties of living conditions, the prejudice of society, less opportunities for education and fewer resources.  Indeed this is a visible and obvious reality. However, today the purpose of this gathering is not to feel sorry for ourselves or bemoan social conditions because the real difficulties do not come from external pre-defined roles imposed on us, the real difficulty we face comes from how we view ourselves In other words it is how we identify with the idea of society and impose that on ourselves. That is our ultimate limitation.

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Opening Speech by Ani Damchö

I begin by paying homage to this distinguished assembly, headed by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa and His Eminence the 12th Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, along with the eminent tulkus, learned khenpos and geshes, venerable sangha and community of lay supporters.

The Gyalwang Karmapa has convened this historical first winter Dharma session for Karma Kagyu nuns in this most sacred site of Bodhgaya, so it might be auspicious to recollect a conversation that took place here shortly after the Buddha’s enlightenment and before he left the vicinity of the Bodhi tree. At that time, Mara came and suggested that the Buddha should pass into parinirvana since he had already accomplished his aim of attaining complete enlightenment. The Buddha replied that he would only pass into parinirvana after not only his bhikshus but also his bhikshunis and upsakas had a clear understanding of the Dharma and could successfully debate with those who argue against the Dharma. This conversation is related in theSanghabhedavastu (dge ‘dun byen gyi gzhi) and other Sanskrit texts as well, and clearly demonstrates that the Buddha intended that his female sangha also take an active role in defending the Dharma, and thereby preserving it for future generations.

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The Opening Ceremony of the 1st Annual Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering for the Kagyu Nuns

The main shrine hall of Tergar Monastery had been transformed for this the first ever Karma Kamtsang Nuns’ Winter Dharma Gathering. The great tormas from the Kagyu Monlam had been brought over from the pavilion and, along with offerings of fruit, biscuits and sweets, intricately arranged into cylindrical shapes Korean style, they adorned the front of the dais behind the Gyalwang Karmapa’s throne.

The magnificent, brightly-coloured stitched thangkas of the Kagyu forefathers and lineage holders, which had lined the sides of the Monlam Pavilion aisle, now hung on either side of the central section of the shrine room. The 197 nuns, drawn from 6 Karma Kagyu nunneries in Bhutan, India and Nepal, along with a scattering of Chinese and Western nuns who follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, sat patiently in rows of raised seats, and a nun umze waited to lead the chanting. 

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