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    Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka
     
    [ 作者: Tessa Bartholomeusz   来自:期刊原文   已阅:7954   时间:2007-1-16   录入:douyuebo


    ·期刊原文
    Women Under the Bo Tree: Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka,
    by Tessa Bartholomeusz
    Reviewed by Ranjini Obeyesekere
    The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
    Vol.34 No.3 (Sep 1995)
    pp.402-403
    COPYRIGHT 1995 Society for the Scientific Study of Religion

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                By Tessa Bartholomeusz. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
               
                Some of the most haunting and moving
                voices of the Pali canon are those that resonate through the
                fragmentary poems of the theris or nuns of early Buddhism. That
                these fragmentary verses have been preserved and included in the
                Buddhist doctrinal canon indicate that nuns were considered an
                intrinsic part of the sangha in the early years of Buddhism. Tessa
                Bartholomeusz describes the transformations and vicissitudes the
                order of Buddhist nuns has undergone in Sri Lanka, home of Theravada
                Buddhism. It is a fascinating story of transformation, innovation,
                and female resilience, responding necessarily to the political and
                social pressures of a constantly changing context. The most
                innovative feature of twentieth-century female asceticism was the
                institution of nunneries for "lay nuns," or the dasa sil matavo. The
                book is in two parts. Part 1 covers the period up to the twentieth
                century: the establishment of an order of nuns in the third century
                BCE, its demise, for reasons not yet known, around the 12th century
                CE, the Buddhist revival at the end of the nineteenth century, and
                the attempts to revive the lost order of nuns. One of the fine
                ironies of the colonial situation was that it was western
                theosophists and educators like Colonel Olcott who fuelled the
                nationalist Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka against Christianity and
                their western colonial counterparts; and it was a westerner, the
                Countess Miranda de Souza Canavarro, that Anagarika Dharmapala
                invited to reestablish the order of Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka.
                Although the Countess's "nunnery" did not survive long, the idea of
                female renunciates serving the cause of Buddhism caught on, and
                several innovative moves resulted. By the early twentieth century,
                Sinhala Buddhist women had set up the institution of "lay nuns"
                (dasa sil matavo). These were not bhikkhunis or the female
                counterparts of ordained Buddhist monks, these were lay renunciates
                who, either as individuals or in small groups, decided to follow a
                life of Buddhist asceticism. The second part of the book deals with
                some of the organizations set up by these lay renunciates, the
                "nunneries" they established, their innovative methods of
                ordination, their dress and rules of conduct, and their perceptions
                of their role as "lay nuns." Most of the Sinhala lay nuns accept the
                fact (rigidly held by a large section of the ordained monks) that
                since the Theravada order of nuns died out there can never be the
                necessary quorum of nuns required by the vinaya rules to start the
                order again. However, they do not consider this an obstacle to
                fulfilling their roles as female renunciates. In fact, their present
                situation frees them from the control of monks (laid down in the
                vinaya rules of the canon), and gives them independence, autonomy,
                and a sense of power. As lay nuns or dasa sil matavo, they can
                evolve their own rules of conduct, create their own rituals of
                ordination, and yet be part of the larger tradition of Buddhist
                asceticism. It is in that sense a very creative and innovative form
                of feminine resistance, worked out within the Buddhist framework.
                There may be little or no consensus among the different groups of
                lay renunciates on many issues, such as the appropriate rituals and
                rites of passage for the novices, but the groups agree on the basic
                premise that in accordance with Buddhist doctrine, women can, if
                they so choose, give up their traditional social roles and adopt the
                life of a renunciate. Most of the lay nuns whom Bartholomeusz
                describes chose the life of the renunciate. Like their forbears in
                the Pali canon, they did so because a personal tragedy, disillusion
                with the world, a deep religious fervor, or a commitment to service
                in the cause of Buddhism led them to renounce the worldly life.
                Bartholomeusz also traces the shifts and changes in lay attitudes
                toward these renunciates. During the Buddhist revival the lay nuns
                had considerable support from elite social groups who were also
                spearheading the movement for political independence. But once
                independence was won, Buddhism was "restored," and the need for
                female participation in Buddhist activities became less politically
                important, elite support for the movement declined. The ideal of the
                female renunciate has, however, captured the imagination of women
                from the rural areas, and their participation has created
                significant changes in the movement. These renunciates are less
                involved in personal salvation through meditation, but -- like their
                counterparts, the gramavasin (village-dwelling) monks -- they
                believe in a life of service to their fellows, perform pujas and
                rituals such as chanting pirit for the laity, or engage in preaching
                and teaching. With the waning of elite involvement, the social
                standing of the lay nuns also changed. They still get a fair amount
                of support and respect in the villages, but without the earlier
                visibility and influential political support they are seen by the
                general public as marginalized individuals and, unlike monks, as
                having no special niche or status in the larger society. Yet this
                has not deterred women from becoming renunciates. On the contrary,
                Bartholomeusz records that between 1989 and 1992 their numbers
                increased considerably. The push to acquire ordination and
                recognition as bhikkunis or nuns who are members of the sangha,
                comes, ironically, from the foreign nuns who feel the need for such
                acceptance most. Bartholomeusz documents their various organizations
                as well as the ordination ceremonies performed, (predictably) in
                America. Tessa Bartholomeusz's Women Under the Bo Tree contains a
                fund of information for scholars and students of Buddhism. The life
                histories of several of the present day Sri Lankan lay nuns that she
                documents provide rich insights into the personalities of the
                individuals concerned, their contributions to the movement, and the
                sociopolitical and feminist implications of their institution. The
                reader might wish the book had leas of a textbook format where each
                chapter is framed by an introduction and a conclusion. However, in
                focusing attention on an important segment of Buddhist society --
                female renunciates, who though often neglected by male historians,
                both lay and clerical, have yet continued to surface throughout
                Buddhist history -- this book serves an important function.    

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