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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Binara Poya and the Bhikkuni Order

Binara Poya and the Bhikkuni Order

Out of the Poya days, which falls during the rainy season, Binara is of special significance as far as Buddhist Order is concerned. Binara Poya begins according to the English Season in Autumn (Sarath in Sinhala) between Summer and Winter from September to November in the Northern hemisphere.

During this period, members of the Maha Sangha, observe the Disciplinary Code laid down by the Blessed One. They stay indoors during this rainy season and perform special monastic rituals and attend to many religious ceremonies, meditate and deliver sermons.

There is a very close relationship between the Buddhist monks and lay - ‘dayakas’. Temples get filled with large number of devotees observing “Sil” on Binara Poya day. Youth play a prominent role in Buddhist activities on Poya days.

Bhikkuni Order

When the Blessed One was residing at Nigrodharamaya in the City of Kapilavastu, Mahaprajapathi Gothami, approached the Enlightened One, and requested permission for women to enter the Order. The Buddha turned down her kind request thrice.

The Buddha left Kapilavastupura, proceeded to the City of Vesali and resided at Kutagara Hall.

In the meantime, Mahaprajapathi Gothami, the chief of the Bhikkuni Sasanaya, who played a lead role, with five hundred wives of the princes, shaved their heads, wore yellow robes, met Venerable Ananda Thera and humbly requested him to speak to the Blessed One to grant permission for them to enter the Bhikkuni Order.

Once again, the Buddha turned down their request, made by Ven. Ananda. Again and again Ven. Ananda appealed to the Buddha to grant permission for Prajapathi Gothami and her 500 companions to enter the Order.

Considering the request of Prajapathi Gothami, the Buddha granted permission to womenfolk to enter the Sasanaya on Binara Poya day and requested them that they should strictly follow and honour the eight important principles (Garu Dharma Ata) laid down by the Buddha. It was called as the Code of Conduct for Bhikkunis.

Some of the highlights of this “Garu Dharma” are:

a) A Bhikkuni (Nun), although she had attained the Higher Order, even hundred years ago, She should worship and honour a Bhikku who had attained the Higher Order on that very day. Here the date of the seniority does not matter.

b) No Bhikkuni should be engaged in Retreat in an area where there are no Bhikkus. (Monks)

c) Bhikkunis should take the advice of Bhikkhus. (Monks)

d) At the end of the Retreat a Bhikkuni should ceremoniously end the “Retreat” in the presence of Bhikkunis and Bhikkhus.

e) A novice Bhikkuni, should gain higher ordination in front of Bhikkunis only after one year of study.

f) Bhikkunis should not advise Bhikkhus, although Bhikkus may advise Bhikkunis.

Venerable Ananda, described these condition to Mahaprajapathi Gothami and stated “If you accept these conditions, the Blessed One will grant permission to initiate the Bhikkuni Order.

Mahaprajapathi Gothami facing the direction of the Blessed One made this announcement. “Ven Ananda, just as young men and women would bathe and adorn themselves with garlands of Jesmin flowers, so do I accept those conditions laid down by the Blessed One.

Thus, was the beginning of the Bhikkuni Order (Sasanaya) on a Binara Full Moon day.

With the advent of Buddhism to Sri Lanka during King Devanampiyatissa’s reign, the daughter of the Great King Emperor Asoka’s daughter Sangamitta brought the Bo-sapling Jayasiri Maha Bodhi and there began the Bhikkuni Sasanaya in Sri Lanka.

In a very silent manner sans publicity, the Sri Lankan Bhikkunis, contribute their share for the propagation of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. They also play a leading role in spreading the Message of Buddhism. We are ever grateful to them.

May the Triple Gem Bless you.

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