Ordination in both Sanghas

Dhammananda bhikkhuni

IN 1928 when Narin Klueng instated on  his daughters , Sara and Chongdi be ordained as bhikkhuni and samaneri respectively. The ordination was secretive and up till now it was not disclosed how it was done, whether there were chapter of bhikkhus giving ordination or not. Obviously at that time there were no bhikkhunis to be part of the ordination. Hence the most Ven.Prince Jinavornsiriwat, the then Sangharaja issued a note to forbid all the Thai monks to give ordination to women at all three levels, Bhikkhuni, sikkhamana and samaneri. This order dated June 18,1928.

The reason given in this order was that the bhikkhuni sangha long died out and cannot be revived.

The crucial question which has never been asked is whether it is necessary to have bhikkhuni sangha present in order to give ordination to bhikkhunis.

A study on the historical development of ordination of women will shed light and allow the readers to make a right decision to come up with a valid answer to the above question.

After the Buddha was enlightened, five years after that he returned to Kapilvastu for a second time to attend to his ailing father, King Suddhodana.

The Buddha attended to his father until the latter became enlightened and peacefully passed away.

On the bed side of the King was Queen Maha Pajapati, she also became Sotapanna (entering the stream of enlightenment)

After the royal cremation, she approached the Buddha and asked to be ordained and to join his Order. The Buddha, without giving reason, refused three times and left for Vesali.

The Queen and a large group of female members from the palace followed her on foot. All of them shaved the heads and put on the robes like the Buddha.

They travelled on foot with much difficulties until they arrived at Kutagara in Mahavana forest where the Buddha resided with the bhikkhu sangha.

Ven.Ananda  came to meet her, learned of her desire, again approached the Buddha on her behalf. The Buddha again refused but gave permission on the reason that because the women have spiritual potentiality to be enlightened.

The Buddha asked Ananda if she would take the 8 Garudhammas, happily she complied. And thus she was the only one to be ordained by receiving Garudhammas.  

Her followers were ordained by the bhikkhu sangha. (I allow you bhikkhus to give bhikkhuni ordination, Bhikkhuni Khandaka, Cullavagga)

This allowance by the Buddha was never lifted, hence must be considered valid up to present.


The Bhikkhus were giving ordination to bhikkhunis for sometimes until there was a case of a woman who refused to answer Antarayikadhamma
(24 dangerous points). The bhikkhus could not continue with the ordination process and reported to the Buddha.

The Buddha, had sympathy for the woman as the questions were very personal, so he suggested that that part of Antarayikadhamma may be asked by the bhikkhunis.

This was the first time that the bhikkhunis came in the process of ordination.


It is called purified by the bhikkhuni sangha and then ordained (upasampada) by the bhikkhu sangha.

But still the candidate even after answering Antarayikadhamma still did not know how to ask for ordination from the bhikkhu sangha.

So a bhikkhuni teacher must give training to the candidate before the candidate would appear for upasampada (ordination) in front of the bhikkhu sangha.

Then the bhikkhuni teacher was not knowledgable and did not give proper training to the candidate.

It was at this time that a pavattini (senior bhikkhuni ) is required to be appointed by the bhikkhu sangha. If a bhikkhuni giving training to the candidate without being appointed as pavattini from the bhikkhu sangha
It is apatti (transgression.)


Hence a pavattini must be appointed. (a bhikkhuni must have at least 12 vassas, learned and knowledgable in Dhamma and vinaya with appointment from the bhikkhu sangha)

So a pavattini has to rehearse the ordination before she can send the candidate for ordination by bhikkhu sangha.

This rehearsal has been misunderstood as the actual ordination itself.

Whether or not the candidate is trained by the bhikkhuni sangha is not a major  vinaya issue, the major vinaya issue for bhikkhuni ordination is that she must be given upasampada by bhikkhu sangha.



Without bhikkhuni sangha if the candidate can answer all the Antarayikadhamma to the bhikkhu kammavacacarya, she will be considered having answered the requirement of the ordination.

Upasampada is a sanghakamma to be done only once. If the same sanghakamma is repeated  the second one is not valid, unless the previous one must be lifted by the sangha. When the sanghakamma is complete by the bhikkhu sangha it does not follow why it should be done by the bhikkhuni sangha. And if it is done in the bhikkhuni sangha, it is not considered valid. As ordination of bhikkhuni must be finalized by the bhikkhu sangha.

(Ref.for this argument can be found in Bhikkhuni Khandaka, Cullavagga.Thai version is in vol.7)

Once we have seen how the history of ordination of bhikkhuni developed, one understands that the insistence on ordination by both sanghas is not valid. Of course if there are bhikkhunis, the bhikkhunis will come in to assist in asking the candidate on the purification of Antarayikadhamma.