Peeling Back the Layers

Female Higher Ordination in Sri Lanka


  • Vanessa Sasson Marionopolis College, Westmount, QC H3Y 1X9 , Canada



Buddhist nuns, ordination, silmātas, bhikkhunīs, Sri Lanka


The question of higher ordination for Theravada women is a complicated one. Although thousands of Buddhist women in a number of different Theravada countries pursue a life of homelessness and renunciation, the majority are not recognized as ordained renunciants by their surrounding male monastic orders. This paper explores some of the reasons behind the general reticence concerning higher ordination felt by many of the silmatas interviewed, and focuses specifically on some of the socio-economic factors that may be affecting their decision-making process.

Author Biography

Vanessa Sasson, Marionopolis College, Westmount, QC H3Y 1X9 , Canada

Vanessa R. Sasson is a professor of Comparative Religion in the Liberal Arts Department of Marianopolis College, where she has been teaching since 1999. She is also a Research Fellow in the Department of Biblical and Religious Studies at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa, as well as Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion at McGill University. She is the author of The Birth of Moses and the Buddha: A Paradigm for the Comparative Study of Religions (Sheffield: Sheffield University Press, 2007) and co-editor of a forthcoming book entitled, Imagining the Fetus: Embryology and Mythology From Around the World (AAR Religion and Culture Series, New York: Oxford University Press). She is also deeply committed to interfaith work. Among her interfaith activities, she directs an annual Graduate Interfaith Seminar at McGill and is the Canadian director of the Elijah Educational Network.


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How to Cite

Sasson, V. (2010). Peeling Back the Layers: Female Higher Ordination in Sri Lanka. Buddhist Studies Review, 27(1), 77–84.



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