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The Eight Garudhammas are the basic difference between Bhikshuni Vinaya and Bhikshu Vinaya. A garudhamma (Pali) or garudharma (Sanskrit) is one of the eight rules of respect.

According to scripture and legend they have come from Gautama Buddha himself, though modern scholars have shown that this story abounds in textual problems, and cannot possibly be a factual account.[1] The Eight Garudhammas are:

(1) A bhikkhuni who has been fully ordained even for more than a century must bow down, rise up from her seat, salute with hands palm-to-palm over her heart, and perform the duties of respect to a bhikkhu even if he has been fully ordained only a day. This rule is to be honored, respected, revered, venerated, never to be transgressed as long as she lives."

(2)A bhikkhuni must not spend the rains in a residence where there is no bhikkhu...

(3) Every half-month a bhikkhuni should request two things from the Bhikkhu Sangha: she should ask for the date of the uposatha day and come for an exhortation...

(4) At the end of the Rains-residence, a bhikkhuni should invite (criticism both from) the Bhikkhu Sangha and the Bhikkhuni Sangha on any of three grounds: what they have seen, what they have heard, what they have suspected...

(5) A bhikkhuni who has broken any of the vows of respect must undergo penance for half a month under both Sanghas...

(6) Only after a probationer has trained in the six precepts for two years should she request ordination from both Sanghas...

(7) A bhikkhu must not in any way be insulted or reviled by a bhikkhuni...

(8) From this day forward, the admonition of a bhikkhu by a bhikkhuni is forbidden, but the admonition of a bhikkhuni by a bhikkhu is not forbidden. This rule, too, is to be honored, respected, revered, venerated, never to be transgressed as long as she lives.

With regard to the first and most onerous of the rules, the Buddha is portrayed as saying that he instituted it due to the expectations of his society.[2] An identical rule is found in Jainism.[3]

These rules were instituted, whether by the Buddha himself or other members of the early sangha, to fulfill certain requirements put on them by society. Monks and nuns had to be sufficiently separated to give no accusation of impropriety between them, but not so separate that the nuns became an autonomous group of women without at least formal subordination to some male authority; this was unacceptable to society at large, and would have rendered the sangha socially unacceptable. Social acceptability was vital for the sangha, as it could survive without material support from lay society.[4]

Effects on the Ordination of Women

When giving the Eight Garudhammas to Mahapajapati Gotami, the Buddha said they would constitute her full ordination (Pali:upasampada): "If Mahapajapati Gotami accepts these eight vows of respect, that will be her full ordination."[5] However, Bhikkunī Kusuma in her article "Inaccuracies in Buddhist Women's History" has pointed out a number of inaccuracies in the ways the Eight Garudhammas have been recorded in the Pali Canon and its commentaries.[6]

In Theravada Buddhism today the full Bhikkhuni ordination lineage has been restored in Sri Lanka, but Theravadin nuns in other countries find it extremely difficult to obtain full ordination. Although some expressed an interest in receiving the full ordination via the surviving Mahayana full Bhikkhuni ordination in the course of the 20th century, it was not simply the difficulties of ordination from a different school of Buddhism that detered them. Ellison Banks Findly reports that mae chis in Thailand were also deterred by the propspect of full ordination requiring them keeping the Eight Garudhammas and therefore having a formal subordination to the monks in addition to existing cultural discrimination.[7] In 2003 the first Thai woman to receive full Bhikkhuni ordination under the name of Dhammananda, was Dr. Chatumarn Kabilsingh, a former university professor. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni now heads a temple for Buddhist women, enjoying extremely narrow recognition in Thai society.

Although Tibetan Buddhism has never had a bhikshuni ordination lineage and only a tradition of novice nuns, it has had a number of famous women practitioners who were yoginis. Many Buddhist scholars and laypeople all over the world want to help Tibetans -for example- to establish a full ordination. Bhikshuni Prof. Dr. Karma Lekshe Tsomo, University of San Diego, California, USA, President of Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women stated, while talking about Gender Equality and Human Rights: "It would be helpful if Tibetan nuns could study the bhikshuni vows before the ordination is established. The traditional custom is that one is only allowed to study the bhikshu or bhikshuni vows after having taken them. Moreover, at present, the Tibetan nuns are prevented from completing the Geshema degree, since Vinaya is one of the five subjects studied and they are not permitted to study it without already being bhikshunis." [8]

See also


  1. Ajahn Sujato.
  2. Ajahn Sujato, Bhikkhuni FAQ.
  3. Ajahn Sujato, A Painful Ambiguity. [1].
  4. Peter Harvey, An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics. Cambridge University Press, 2000, page 390. Quoting Sponberg 1992, 13-18.
  5. Buddhist Monastic Code II, Chapter 23, Bhikkhunis Thanissaro Bhikkhu (For free distribution).
  6. Kusuma, Bhikuni (2000). "Inaccuracies in Buddhist Women's History". in Karma Lekshe Tsomo. Innovative Buddhist Women: Swimming Against the Stream. Routledge. pp. 5–13. ISBN 9780700712199. 
  7. Banks Findly, Ellison (2000). Women's Buddhism, Buddhism's Women. Wisdom Publications. pp. 47. ISBN 9780861711659. 
  8. A Summary Report of the 2007 International Congress on the Women's Role in the Sangha: Bhikshuni Vinaya and Ordination Lineages - Bhikshuni Prof. Dr. Karma Lekshe Tsomo, University of San Diego, California, USA, President of Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women

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