do you think of the Eight Garudharmas?
When the Buddha finally allowed women to join the Order, he
gave the Eight Garudharmas for them to follow. The Queen Maha
Pajapati took these upon herself as a garland decorating her
head. Nevertheless these Eight Garudharmas have been much criticised,
assuming after all the Buddha was not free from Indian social
to take a close look at the Eight Garudharmas:
1. A nun
who has been ordained (even) for a century must greet respectfully,
rise up from her seat, salute with joined palms, do proper homage
to a monk ordained but that day.
2. A nun
must not spend the rains in a residence where there is no monk.
half month a nun should desire two things from the Order of
monks : the asking (as to the date) of the Observance day, and
the coming for the exhortation (of a monk).
the rains a nun must invite before both the Orders in respect
of three matters; what was seen, what was heard and what was
5. A nun,
offending against an important rule, must undergo manatta
(discipline) for half a month before both the Orders.
as a probationers, she has been trained in the six rules for
two years, she should seek ordination from both the Orders.
7. A monk
must not be abused or reviled in any way by a nun.
From today admonition of monks by nuns is forbidden, admonition
by monks is not forbidden.
actually prescribed the Eight Garudharmas for the bhikkhunis
to follow so that they function as a protection for themselves.
Looking at them superficially one may think that they are measures
women. To understand and appreciate Garudharma one needs to
look at them within the given social and historical contexts.
has always been patriarchal. Men are always at the central points
of thoughts and interests. Women were brought up within a cultural
and social setting which placed them as subordinates. They are
under the care of their parents when young, under protection
of their husbands when married, and under protection of their
sons in their advanced age (Manudharmasastra). Women
are taken as dependent beings. They cannot be left alone so
much so that women are not accustomed to making decisions on
their own. Their lives completely depend on the guidance of
male members of the families. Religious life is not to be mentioned.
A woman can expect to have spiritual salvation only through
devotion and service to her husband. She may make offerings
as the other half of her husband, but independently she cannot
perform any ritual. She is neither allowed to recite nor to
read the Vedas as she is unclean, and vice versa, she is unclean
because she cannot study the Vedas.
religious conditions permit the only salvation for her through
devotion to her husband. It also linked to her obligation of
bearing sons to her family. It is believed that the son must
perform the final rite to allow the access to heaven for his
parents. In case a woman cannot bring forth a son to her husband's
family, her presence is indeed considered inauspicious.
emerged from Indian soil full of these social values. One needs
to be reminded that Buddhist monks in the early period were
after all Indian men from different castes moulded with these
social norms and values.
to join the Order at least five years after the bhikkhu sangha
was established. It is only natural and understandable that
the Buddha would place the bhikkhuni Sangha in a subordinate
position to the bhikkhu Sangha for the harmonious coexistence
and for a functional purpose in order to establish a balanced
foundation of administration. The bhikkhuni Sangha may be seen
as a later arrival of younger sisters who must accept and pay
respect to the bhikkhu Sangha, comparatively their elder brothers.
The Buddha was well aware that with the admission of a large
group of female followers he would need assistance from the
bhikkhus to help him in the teaching and training of the newly
ordained bhikkhunis. The easiest way to make their path smooth
is to make them subordinate to the bhikkhu Sangha for functional
But as the
story unfolds itself, we find that the bhikkhus still expected
the bhikkhunis to perform household chores for them just the
way they were familiar with when they were still in their households.
The difference was that now instead of serving men at home,
the nuns serve them in a monastic setting. If we look at the
Eight Garudharmas negatively we will find that they become measures
to support and affirm such values.
study shows that we cannot take the Eight Garudharmas as final
authority without flexibility. I can quote an example of the
first Garudharma which says that "a nun even ordained for
100 years must pay respect to a monk ordained that day."
Later there was a case of six monks who playfully lifted up
their robes showing their thighs to attract the bhikkhunis'
attention. In this case, the Buddha instructed the bhikkhunis
not to pay respect to these monks. This shows that any rule
laid down by the Buddha always has a certain requirement to
it. One should not stick to the rule without understanding the
spirit of it.
also mention that the 6th Garudharma mentions that "a sikkhamana
having completed the 2-year training, is to ask for higher ordination"
is a later requirement. When the Buddha allowed Queen Maha Pajapati
to join the Order, She was ordained as a bhikkhuni. Sikkhamana
was not in existence at that time. What may be drawn from this
seeming discrepancy is that the Garudharmas was introduced in
a later period but placed at the conception of the bhikkhuni
ordination to give emphasis to its authority as the recorder
might have thought this to be a good measure for the bhikkhu
sangha to control the bhikkhuni Sangha.
the Eight Garudharmas may be found already in the Patimokkha