History

After the disappearance of the Bhikkhuni Order in Sri Lanka in the 11th Century, following the revival of Buddhism by end of the 19th Century and influenced by the famous reformer Anagarika Dharmapala, in 1907 the first aramaya of Dasa Sil Matas (10-precept-mothers) was established in Sri Lanka.

This movement of renunciants – although not accepted being part of the Buddhist Sangha in Sri Lanka – are observing the 10 precepts of novice nuns. There have been over 4000 such renunciants during the last few decades. They leave the household life, shave their heads, don yellow robes and live a simple life in small nunneries, scattered around the country, under the guidance of a Dasa Sil Mata nun teacher. The communities with whom they live support them with food, medicine and other basic needs. These nuns in turn attend to the spiritual and social needs of the communities. Many nunneries run pre-schools and Dhamma schools, and provide counselling for women and children. Nuns also play a special role in initiating community programmes or as advisers to community development authorities.

In 1993 a group of Buddhist women under the leadership of Kusuma Devendra and Ranjani de Silva, among others, all being co-founders and members of Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women, organized the 3rd International Conference on Buddhist Women in Colombo. This conference was a big success as public attention was directed to the situation of Buddhist women in Sri Lanka, their need of a much better education and the need of re-establishing the Bhikkhuni Order. The above mentioned conference organizers registered in 1994 "Sakyadhita” in Sri Lanka to promote the goals laid down by Sakyadhita International and the ones discussed during the 1993 Colombo Conference.

The first President of Sakyadhita in Sri Lanka, Dr. Kusuma Devendra, decided to become a nun and was fully ordained as one of the first Bhikkhunis in 1996. She is presently living and practicing in Colombo under the name of Bhikkhuni Kusuma and is invited now worldwide to give talks.

She was followed as President of Sakyadhita in Sri Lanka by Ranjani de Silva. Her efforts are mainly focussed to assist those aspiring for ordination. Under her guidance also the Sakyadhita Training and Meditation Centre was established and set up 15 miles south of Colombo with residential facilities for the use of national and international nuns and laywomen with the crucial financial support of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Germany.

With the introduction of the Bhikkhuni Ordination in the Theravada tradition in December 1996, today – by mid 2010 – there are around 500 to 1000 Bhikkhunis in Sri Lanka and many Samaneris waiting to be qualified for Higher Ordination. An exact number cannot be given, as there is no record for it.

These Bhikkhunis now perform certain religious and ecclesiastical activities on an equal footing with the monks, and thus enjoy better religious and social status – nevertheless they are still waiting to be officially recognized as part of the Buddhist Sangha in Sri Lanka.


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