Press Release: Dalai Lama Announces “Full Support” for Introduction of Full Ordination for Women in Tibetan Buddhism

Indicates First Steps Towards That Goal During Groundbreaking Congress in Hamburg

(July 22, 2007, Hamburg) – His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama expressed “full support” for the establishment of full ordination for women in the Tibetan tradition during a history-making conference at the University of Hamburg in Germany last week. His Holiness further indicated concrete measures that can be taken towards accomplishing that aim.

The statement came at the conclusion of the International Congress on Buddhist Women, convened at his request to examine the possibility of instating full ordination for women in Tibetan Buddhism. The congress brought together specialists in monastic codes from Buddhist communities from over 19 countries, and marked the culmination of some 30 years of research into the possibility of establishing full female ordination in the Tibetan tradition. Along with the statement from the Dalai Lama, the congress resulted in the expression of overwhelming support from a large delegation of monastic specialists and senior members of the international Buddhist monastic community.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama was an active participant in a panel of experts in monastic code from all major Buddhist countries. The panel offered its resounding support for the Tibetan initiative, urged immediate action and suggested possible methods for granting Tibetan women the same opportunities as are available to Tibetan men.

The groundbreaking congress, held from July 18 through 20, elicited tremendous interest, with nearly 400 people participating on July 18 and 19, and a total of 1,200 people attending to hear the final outcome on July 20.

Venerable Bhikshuni Jampa Tsedroen (Carola Roloff), co-organizer of the congress, said, “We are deeply gratified by His Holiness’ unflinching commitment to equal spiritual opportunities for women in Tibetan Buddhism. For the first time ever, we have an indication where the road ahead lies for women in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition seeking full ordination.”

Formal Statement of Support Issued

In a formal statement issued at the close of the congress, His Holiness the Dalai Lama affirmed, “The four-fold Buddhist community (of [fully ordained monks], [fully ordained nuns], [male lay followers] and [female lay followers]) is incomplete in the Tibetan tradition. If we can introduce the [full ordination for women], that would be excellent in order to have the four-fold Buddhist community complete…”

“Given that women are fully capable of achieving the ultimate goal of the Buddha’s teachings, in harmony with the spirit of the modern age, the means and opportunity to achieve this goal should be completely accessible to them…”

“On the basis of the above considerations, and after extensive research and consultation with leading vinaya [monastic code] scholars and Sangha [monastic community] members of the Tibetan tradition and Buddhist traditions internationally, and with the backing of the Tibetan Buddhist community, since 1960s, I express my full support for the establishment of the Bhikshuni Sangha [or community of fully ordained women] in the Tibetan tradition.”

Practical Measures Outlined; Conference to Take Place in India This Winter

During a follow-up meeting held on the morning of July 21 with congress participants, His Holiness the Dalai Lama provided further details of the road ahead towards establishing full ordination for women. Among those was a conference to take place this winter in India where senior Tibetan monks can meet with senior members of the other Buddhist monastic orders worldwide.

This conference is crucial to allow the initiative to move forward in the direction proposed by His Holiness in Hamburg, since no single individual has the right to revamp ordination practices or to make changes to the monastic code in Tibetan Buddhism. Rather, decisions regarding community-wide matters should be reach through broad consensus within the monastic community. The conference this coming winter will provide a forum where community-wide discussions can be conducted, and such a consensus may be reached.

Full ordination for women is currently available in Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese Buddhism, through a monastic lineage called Dharmaguptaka. The Dharmaguptaka nuns’ lineage should now be “Tibetanized,” His Holiness said. To that end, he called for the translation of the main texts of the Dharmaguptaka lineage from Chinese into Tibetan language. He further asked nuns already fully ordained in that lineage who practice Tibetan Buddhism to gather in India to perform the monastic rituals of the Dharmaguptaka nuns’ lineage in the Tibetan language.

Additionally, His Holiness made an unequivocal statement that women who have already gone to that lineage for full ordination but who practice within Tibetan Buddhism are accepted as an integral part of Tibetan Buddhism.

Bhikshuni Jampa Tsedroen (Carola Roloff) said, “His Holiness’ unconditional acceptance of the Dharmaguptaka bhikshuni lineage as a valid ordination helps clear the way forward for Tibetan women who have considered receiving their full ordination from that lineage, and for that ordination to be introduced into Tibetan Buddhism.”

Full text of the statement by His Holiness the Dalai Lama can be found at Proceedings of the congress will be published as a book and made available from Wisdom Publications next year.

Damchö Diana Finnegan,