On occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Chinese Bhikkhuni Association, over 50 bhikkhunis received the 1st Global Bhikkhuni Award in Taiwan on November 19. The award was established to honor bhikkhunis who have made significant contributions to the Buddhist community, Ayya Anandabodhi & Ayya Santacitta have also been selected for the award ~ see more details by clicking on their names above.
Ayya Anandabodhi went to Taiwan to receive the awards, please see more photos on our FB page.
Here is an article in Lion’s Roar about the six bhikkhunis from America who were honored at this event.
Some reflections from Ayya Anandabodhi after returning from Taiwan:
On November 15 I left for San Francisco airport to travel for the first time to Taiwan, to receive the 1st Global Bhikkhuni Award, both for myself and for Ayya Santacitta, for establishing Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery. 51 bhikkhunis worldwide were nominated, including six from North America: Ven Pema Chodron of Gampo Abby, Nova Scotia, Canada (she was unable to attend); Ven Thubten Chodron of Sravasti Abbey, Spokane, WA; Ayya Sudharshana, of Samadhi Buddhist Meditation Center, Pinellas Park, FL – originally from Sri Lanka (Ven Sudharshana is the most senior Theravadin bhikkhuni in the USA); Ven Dr Pannavati of Heartwood Refuge, Hendersonville, NC and the two of us.
The occasion for the award ceremony was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Chinese Buddhist Bhikkhuni Association (CBBA), which was established by a group of senior bhikkhunis in Taiwan. They joined with Ven Dr Lee & Ven Rattanavali of the International Women’s Meditation Center in Rayong, Thailand to honor bhikkhunis worldwide, bringing us together to learn and gain inspiration from each other as we continue our work and practice. Taiwan is predominantly a Buddhist country and has the highest percentage of bhikkhunis of any country in the world! These bhikkhunis have been instrumental in the reestablishment of the Bhikkhuni Lineage in Theravada and Tibetan traditions.
The senior bhikkhunis of CBBA – each having over 50 years in the robes – were part of a group of 23 nuns who were trained and educated by one of the outstanding bhikkhus, who came from China during the Cultural Revolution to seek refuge in Taiwan. People spoke of the hardships of those early years, when there was not enough to eat and accommodation was basic, if at all. Wishing to support the growth and strength of the Bhikkhuni Sangha, those bhikkhus emphasized the Buddha’s egalitarian teachings and de-emphasized the Eight Garudhamma rules, which position nuns in a subordinate and dependent relationship to the monks. Being empowered to take leadership and agency, these nuns have done great works and their strength, confidence and gentleness is impressive and heart warming.
On the days before and after the ceremony we were shown some of the places these nuns had established, including huge temples abundant in both Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist art, as well as an elementary school and a high school. The school, built on what had been a potato field when the nuns arrived, became badly damaged twice in earthquakes. Each time it was rebuilt, beautifully designed and spacious. The students were confident, disciplined and creative and shared their talents and hospitality with us during our time there. We visited other impressive monasteries and Buddhist museums in the country and saw some of the famous craggy forested mountains with temples tucked into the landscape, so beautiful. There were 5 coach loads of us in all, grouped together by language – Mandarin, Korean, Thai and English.
The award ceremony itself was held in a stadium in the city of Kaohsiung. Incredibly, around 10,000 people attended, with the audience consisting of members of the Fourfold
Sangha; bhikkhus, bhikkhunis and a huge number of lay supporters. It was live streamed on TV and the national newspapers ran a full page spread on the ceremony. There is great faith in the bhikkhuni sangha in Taiwan!
Venerable Thubden Chodron, one of the most senior western bhikkhunis in the Tibetan Tradition, commented to me how inconceivable it would be for either of our traditions to honor their bhikkhunis in this way (not that we are seeking it!). While women continue to ordain in both Tibetan and Theravadin traditions, our ordinations are still not widely recognized by the bhikkhus. Recognized or not, the Bhikkhuni Ordination lineage can be traced from India to Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan and from there, out to many parts of the world. To meet and be part of this greater Bhikkhuni Sangha has been life changing for me and brings much joy and well-being. “We are your Dharma Sisters” they would say. It was like meeting long lost relatives and discovering a shared love and connection that only the heart can know.
Ayya Santacitta and I would like to express our deep gratitude to each one of you who have welcomed us and supported the evolution of Aloka Vihara over these years. You enrich our lives and without you none of this could have come to be. May the merits of your generosity and wise action be a support in your practice, as you continue to deepen this path of awakening and may it benefit all beings.
With metta ~