The Importance of the Fourfold Community

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If it is easier for one to practise the Dharma,
one should practise more.
If it is harder for one to practise the Dharma,
one should practise even more.

[In the Mahaparinibbana, the Buddha says,] ‘I will not take parinirvana until I have nuns and female [lay] disciples who are accomplished, trained, skilled, [secure from bondage,] learned, knowers of the Dhamma, trained in conformity with the Dhamma, who will pass on what they have gained from their Teacher, teach it, declare it, establish it, expound it, analyze it, make it clear; until they are able by means of the Dhamma to refute false teachings that have arisen and teach the Dhamma of wondrous effect.’…

The non-discriminative view of women in this passage seems to be due to the ideal of universal salvation, which includes the complete fourfold community [monastics and nuns, laymen and laywomen]. The Buddha has come for the benefit of all beings of all spheres, and for this universal mission it is necessary not to exclude women. Corresponding to that view, this statement contains the mission for both genders and for both kinds of followers – ordained and lay – to teach the Dharma…

A further example of such an integrative view is the Mahavacchagotta Sutta, where the Buddha assures the wandering ascetic Vacchagotta that there are not only far more than five hundred bhikkhus [Buddhist monks] but also far more than five hundred bhikkhunis [Buddhist nuns] who had reached the true goal, and that the number of male lay followers (upasakas) equals the number of female lay followers (upasikas) who will inevitably, after a spontaneous rebirth in the pure abodes, attain final nirvana. We hear that the holy life would be deficient if within any one of the four classes — bhikkhus or bhikkhunis, upasakas or upasikas – no accomplished ones were to be found. To put it in a positive way, each of the four classes of disciples contributes to the accomplishment of the holy life. – Gisela Krey

Dignity & Discipline: Reviving Full Ordination for Buddhist Nuns
Edited by Thea Mohr & Jampa Tsedroen

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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