July 10, 2002
I am happy to know that the 7th Sakyadhita International Conference on Buddhist Women is being held in Taiwan and that it is to be addressed by a wide range of speakers from across the Buddhist world. It is my firm belief that we Buddhists have a significant contribution to make to the welfare of humanity according to our Buddhist tradition and philosophy.
I am encouraged to know that practical steps are being taken to train women teachers, improve educational prospects for women and create a communications network among Buddhist women, whatever tradition they belong to. Within the Tibetan community, unlike in past Tibet, we have introduced programs for serious study of Buddhist philosophy in some of our nunneries here in India since over two decades.
In this context I know that many people attending your conference have a great interest in the propagation of the Bhikkshuni ordination. A great deal of research has already been done on this, which in turn has raised a lot of issues that remain to be resolved by an assembly of Vinaya experts. Vinaya issues are and always have been complex. If we look back at the historical early Buddhist assemblies, even then questions of Vinaya were central to discussions.
I have felt that the re-institution of the Bhikkshuni ordination is very important. After all, the Buddha confirmed that both women and men have equal opportunity and potential to practise the Dharma and to achieve its goals. We have an obligation to uphold this view.
Now, as to how the re-institution of the Bhikkshuni ordination should be done, this is a matter for the Sangha to decide. No single person has any authority to take such a decision. Some of my friends and colleagues have suggested that as the Dalai Lama I could issue a decree or make a decision, but this is not a matter on which any individual, whoever he or she is, can decide. It is a matter for the Sangha community.
It would be helpful if this matter were discussed at an international assembly of the Sangha. Representatives of all the major Vinaya traditions should be present. The issue should be dealt with on the basis of thorough research and discussion. If we can assemble some genuine scholars as well as good practitioners, who have more open minds and are respected, to discuss this issue thoroughly, I believe we can achieve a positive result.
I offer my greetings to all the participants, as well as my sincere prayers that your conference may be successful in realising practical ways of supporting women who seek inner peace and through that greater peace in the world.