The International Association of Buddhist Women Sakyadhita came into being in 1987 in Bodhgaya, North India, as a result of the first conference in history of Buddhist nuns. It was founded by the initiators and participants of this memorable gathering which included amongst others the Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo (USA), the late Ven. Ayya Khema, Sylvia Wetzel and the Ven. Jampa Tsedroen (Carola Roloff) (all from Germany), as well as the Ven. Bhikkhuni Kusuma (formerly Dr. Kusuma Devendra, Sri Lanka) and the Ven Bhikkhuni Dhammananda (formerly Dr. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh, Thailand).
The conference was under the patronage of the 14th Dalai Lama, whose ongoing encouragement, also on later occasions was for the women of Sakyadhita to stay active and to discuss and present the issues of Buddhist women to the public.
Decisions were made after the first conference, to unite nuns and laywomen under one roof and to publish the presentations of the conference. Great merit is due to the Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo who edits the contributions and papers of the now biannual conferences in books.
All international Sakyadhita conferences had lasting effects in the different Asian countries. For the first time they have brought to public awareness the situation of the so-called 'ten-precept nuns' in the Theravada countries and the 'novice nuns' of the Tibetan tradition, while putting the urgent question again and again to the public, and to the order of the monks asking why women of these countries have such limited training facilities and why the monks are not helping to re-establish the nuns order.
These inquiries have been effective. There actually has been movement during the last years! There still is no admittance to full ordination for nuns within the Tibetan tradition, but nunneries have been established where similar to the University Monasteries of the monks and supported by the Dalai Lama it is now possible for nuns to study Buddhist philosophy and where they will be able to complete their studies with the 'Geshema' qualification.
Further nunneries established schools with advanced training programmes, sending nuns suitable for higher education to the first named monasteries with the aim for them to return to their home monasteries as teachers after completion, thus replacing the monk teachers.
With regard to entitlement to full ordination, a first big success was won by the Singhalese women: by the end of 1996, ten women received full ordination in Sarnath, North India. After that, further full ordinations followed in Bodh Gaya (India) and in Sri Lanka. So the Nuns Order in Sri Lanka, after an interruption of 1000 years, has been newly established through this and has also been accepted by the local community. For further information: http://www.sakyadhita-srilanka.org/
If you wish to become member, to receive more information, support a social project or our work, please contact the representatives of a Sakyadhita branch in Europe nearest to you.