The Bhikkhuni Ordination Debate

Global Aspirations, Local Concerns, with special emphasis on the views of the monastic community in Burma


  • Hiroko Kawanami Lancaster University



bhikkhunī revival, Burmese Saṅgha, gender, secular ideas


This paper examines the recent events following the bhikkhuni revival in Sri Lanka, and looks at the position of the Burmese Sangha, which has traditionally seen itself as the custodian of an ‘authentic’ Buddhist legacy, thrown into a debate by the action of a Burmese bhikkhuni who was recently ordained in Sri Lanka. It introduces the early initiatives of revivalist monks in Burma as well as the viewpoints of Burmese Sangha and the nuns in regard to the bhikkhuni issue. Since most debate on the position of nuns take place without much reference to the local political contexts in which they stand, the state monastic organization in Burma is introduced to aid understanding of the framework in which the nuns operate today. At another level, the paper draws attention to the tension created between the international bhikkhunis who promote liberal ideologies of gender equality, individual rights and universalism into a faith based community, and local nuns who adhere to the traditional norms of religious duty, moral discipline and service to the community, and questions the ultimate aim in endorsing such secular ideals.

Author Biography

Hiroko Kawanami, Lancaster University

Department of Religious Studies, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK Research Interests: Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia; Women in Buddhism; modernity & Buddhism in contemporary societies (Burma, Thailand and Japan).


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How to Cite

Kawanami, H. (2007). The Bhikkhuni Ordination Debate: Global Aspirations, Local Concerns, with special emphasis on the views of the monastic community in Burma. Buddhist Studies Review, 24(2), 226–244.