The Order of Nuns
the fifth year of his ministry, the Buddha was staying at
Vesali when he heard that his father, King Suddhodana, was
ill. He decided to visit him again at Kapilavatthu to teach
him the Dharma, and made the long journey. After hearing the
Dharma, the king immediately attained arahantship and passed
away peacefully seven days later. It was in this year that
the order of nuns was founded at the request of Maha Pajapati
Gotami, the aunt and foster mother of the Buddha.
times she approached the Buddha and asked him to ordain her
into the Sangha, but each time the Buddha refused, giving
no reason at all. After the Buddha had stayed at Kapilavatthu
a while, he journeyed back to Vesali.
Gotami was a determined lady, and would not be so easily discouraged.
She had a plan to get her way. She cut her hair, put on yellow
garments and, surrounded by a large number of Sakyan ladies,
walked 150 miles from Kapilavatthu to Vesali. When she arrived
at Vesali, her feet were swollen and her body was covered
with dust. She stood outside the hall where the Buddha was
staying with tears on her face, still hoping that the Buddha
would ordain her as a nun.
was surprised to see her in this condition. "Gotami,
why are you standing here like this?" he asked.
"Venerable Ananda, it is because the Blessed One does
not give permission for women to become nuns," she replied.
here, Gotami, I'll ask the Blessed One about this," Ananda
told her. When Ananda asked the Buddha to admit Maha Pajapati
Gotami as a nun, the Buddha refused. Ananda asked three times
and three times the Buddha refused.
Ananda put the request in a different way. Respectfully he
questioned the Buddha, "Lord, are women capable of realising
the various stages of sainthood as nuns?"
are, Ananda," said the Buddha.
that is so, Lord, then it would be good if women could be
ordained as nuns," said Ananda, encouraged by the Buddha's
Ananda, Maha Pajapati Gotami would accept the Eight Conditions*
it would be regarded that she has been ordained already as
Ananda mentioned the conditions to Maha Pajapati Gotami, she
gladly agreed to abide by those conditions and automatically
became a nun. Before long she attained arahantship. The other
Sakyan ladies who were ordained with her also attained Arahantship.
establishment of an order of nuns with rules and regulations
was an opportunity for women that Buddha offered for the first
time in the history of the world. No other religious leader
had given such a high religious position for women.
These rules are related to the monks and nuns code of ethics.