Abstract: Three Options: Re-establishing the Bhikshuni Lineage in the Tibetan Tradition

by Heng-ching Shih

At a conference of sixteen Tibetan Vinaya masters held in May 2006 in Dharamsala, India, three options for the re-establishment of Tibetan Bhiksuni lineage were discussed: (1) ordination by Mulasarvastivadin bhiksus alone; (2) ordination by bhiksus of the Mulasarvastivadin lineage together with bhiksunis of the Dharmagupta lineage; and (3) ordination by bhiksus and bhiksunis of the Dharmagupta lineage. Due to time limitations, the issues involved and possible solutions could not be fully discussed. Re-establishing the bhiksuni lineage in the Tibetan tradition remains an issue of vital concern in international Buddhist circles.

In my paper, I will discuss in detail the merits and demerits of each option. For the first option, I will explain the positions taken in the Vinaya sources and the views of ancient Indian and Chinese Vinaya masters in support of ordination by the Bhiksu Sangha alone. For the second option, I will address the question of whether it is possible and valid to have a bhiksuni ordination by conducted by bhiksus and bhiksunis from two different lineages. For the third option, I will address the question of the validity of the Chinese bhiksuni lineage, the main concern of the Tibetan monks, by explaining how the bhiksuni lineage came into being in China and how it continued uninterruptedly until the present day.