Recently, I attended a silent retreat with nuns from California. During the retreat they educated us about the dilemma of bhikkhuni ordination, which has been denied them by the Vipassana forest elders in Thailand. An Ajahn in Australia ordained them but the Thailand elders don’t recognize their ordination. They have taken the mantle of bhikkhuni including the many precepts that accompany that designation.
We lay people on the retreat responded to their story with questions and offers of support.
What was most powerful about the retreat for me was their strength, resilience and courage-to leave their monasteries and form the small monasteries where they live now, not knowing whether they would find support from the surrounding communities. What an act of faith and trust in the Dharma.
Their message was simple. There is a way to find true freedom. The Buddha taught the 7 factors of awakening and that’s what they offered us on the retreat. Their Dharma talks were brief, maybe 20 minutes. It was what they didn’t say. Their demeanor, their open faces and hands, their unguarded kindness and love for us that was palpable, allowed us to practice with safety and open-heartedness. Even now, typing this, I am filled with tenderness and gratitude for their simple and fierce lives.
Restore the bhukkhuni ordination. The buddha taught 4 legs of the stool, bhikkus, bhikkhunis, lay men and lay women. Restore the balance. May it be so.