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8 Garudhammas

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The eight Garudhammas (heavy rules added to the bhikkhuni rules):

The eight heavy rules were said to have been added to allow more acceptance of a monastic Order for women, during the Buddha's time. They are controversial because they clearly put women in an inferior position and also because many Buddhists, especially those from the Modern Theravada view, have found evidence that the eight Garudhammas are not really from the teachings of Buddha.

1. A nun who has been ordained even for a hundred years must greet respectfully, rise up from her seat, salute with joined palms, do proper homage to a monk ordained but that day.

  • clarification: The Vinaya recounts the story of six monks who lifted up their robes to show their thighs to the nuns. When the Buddha learned about this, he made an exception to that rule and told the nuns not to pay respect to these monks. A nun, then, does not have to bow to every monk, but only to a monk who is worthy of respect.
  • Pajapati's later request: "I would ask one thing of the Blessed One, Ananda. It would be good if the Blessed One would allow making salutations, standing up in the presence of another, paying reverence and the proper performance of duties, to take place equally between both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis according to seniority."

2. A nun must not spend the rains in a residence where there are no monks. [See Bhikkhuni Pac.56: Vin.IV. 313 ]

3. Every half month a nun should desire two things from the Order of Monks : the asking as to the date of the Observance [ uposatha ] day, and the coming for the exhortation (bhikkhunovada). (See Bhikkhuni Pac.59: Vin.IV. 315)

4. After the rains a nun must 'invite' [ pavarana ] before both Orders in respect of three matters, namely what was seen, what was heard, what was suspected. (See Bhikkhuni Pac. 57: Vin. IV.314)

  • amended: However, practical considerations soon necessitated amendments to these and we see in the revised version of these conditions the sanction given to the Bhikkhunis to perform these acts, in the first instance, by themselves.

5. A nun, offending against an important rule, must undergo manatta discipline for half a month before both Orders.

  • another translation: "(5) A bhikkhuni who has broken any of the vows of respect must undergo penance for half a month under both Sanghas... (by Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

6. When, as a probationer, she has trained in the six rules (cha dhamma) for two years, she should seek higher ordination from both Orders.

  • note contradiction: One of the gurudhamma mentions sikkhamanas, probationary nuns who train for two years in preparation to become bhikkhunis. It says that after a probationary nun has trained with a bhikkhuni for two years, that bhikkhuni preceptor has the responsibility to fully ordain her. However, when the Buddha ordained Mahapajapati, there were no probationary nuns. He ordained her directly as a bhikkhuni. So how do we explain that within the eight important rules, one of them states that before becoming a bhikkhuni, a woman must be a probationary nun?

7. A Monk must not be abused or reviled in any way by a nun.

8. From today, admonition of monks by nuns is forbidden. (Book of the Discipline, V.354-55)

  • note Buddhist Laywomen can: This is in contrast to the rules for Buddhist Laywomen who can single handedly accuse a bad monk; which would make no sense since the Ordained, monastic bhikkhunis (nuns) are clearly meant to have more respect than lay people.

Origin of the 8 Garudhammas

There are 227 precepts that bhikkhus (monks) take and 311 for bhikkhunis (nuns). There were more rules for nuns than the rules for monks, but they primarily dealt with the protection of the nuns. For example, a nun was raped when walking through a forest by herself. The Buddha followed this incident with a rule that no nun could walk through the forest by herself.

Ayya Khema was a German born fully ordained nun who wrote many bestselling books and was a master of the Dhamma and the Jhanas. She opened many monasteries and temples in Asia and Europe. Ven. Dr. Dhammananda (C. Kabilsingh) and Ven. Dr. Kusuma are fully ordained bhikkhunis, both with a Ph.D. and are continuing in Sri Lanka and Thailand where Ayya Khema left off and have written on the subject of women’s status. They state that the 8 heavy rules cannot be taken seriously. There are verses in the suttas where the Buddha pointed out some bad monks to some nuns. The Buddha told the nuns not to respect these bad monks. The first nuns did not have nuns present to ordain them. The first nuns did not have senior nuns to seek full ordination to after a probationary period (no. 6 of the 8 heavy rules). Also, there are suttas where the Buddha deliberately remains silent while nuns are giving a Dhamma talk. After the Dhamma talk, the Buddha exclaims that he could not have said it any better (such as in Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta 44 where the Buddha praises the enlightened nun, Ven. Dhammadinna). All of these facts run contrary to the 8 heavy rules and provide evidence that the 8 heavy rules were added later.

The Buddha regularly adapted and changed his code of conduct for monks and nuns as the situation required it (Vinaya). In the Buddhist Vinaya there is a rule that monks and nuns cannot receive full ordination until the age of 20, prior to that time they are novice monks and nuns. But the Buddhist scriptures clearly show that at least one monk, such as Sopaka, received full ordination at the age of 7 (Khuddaka Nikaya, Theragatha 486). This is because he was quite advanced and attained enlightenment, but more importantly shows that many of the Vinaya rules were developed later, as the time and context called for the changes to the rules. In one passage the Buddha specifically mentions that he only creates a rule for the Vinaya when the time is right and the time calls for it (Vinaya, Suttavibhanga 3.9)

In the Maha-paranibbana sutta, of the Digha Nikaya (sutta 16), the Buddha states that the monks and nuns may abolish the minor rules as they see fit: “After I am gone, the Sangha, if it wants, may abolish the lesser and minor training rules.” Once again, the Buddha in his wisdom recognizes that there will most likely be a need for revisions in certain rules as society is more ready for egalitarian type conditions. Considering the historical and logical problems already shown in the eight heavy rules, these are the first that must be let go. In addition, any other rules that might suggest inequality should be let go and those women who have fully ordained should be fully accepted by all Buddhists as there have been ordinations with monks and nuns present and they need not all be from one tradition at the start of the reinstatement. This is keeping in line with the Buddha’s intentions for an Order of monks and an Order of nuns.

Thus, there are two possibilities in regard to the 8 garudhammas: 1) that they were never spoken by the Buddha or 2) that they were spoken by the Buddha to appease the societal norms of the time. In today's modern, egalitarian times, they are not necessary and as the Buddha allowed for, these rules can be now changed.


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