The Buddha taught that the path of awakening
rested in the practice of the four fold sangha which includes monks
(bhikkhus), nuns (bhikkhunis), laywomen, and laymen. As the dharma
spread from India into the rest of Asia, both men and women were
ordained and the sangha of lay practitioners thrived. In the West
today, monks, laywomen, and laymen are all still thriving.
However, between the time of the Buddha and
now, the bhikkhuni order died out in India for a variety of cultural
and political reasons, though it continued in China, Taiwan, and
Korea. Today there is a deep interest on the part of many practitioners
in reestablishing the bhikkhuni order in the Theravadin tradition.
In the dharma establishing its roots firmly in
the West, in cultures that welcome and respect all practitioners
regardless of gender, it is incumbent on us to encourage and support
bhikkhuni ordination. The teaching of awakening and freedom would only
be diminished by the marginalizing of any sincere aspirant.