Western Nuns: The More Difficult Path

September 18, 2007

Author: Sopaporn Kurz

Source: The Buddhist Channel/The Nation


For Western women, leaving behind the worldly life for that of a Buddhist monastery is not an easy choice. Even once personal apprehension is overcome, your family's misgivings can be daunting. Unlike Thai men being ordained for brief periods, taking the vows in other countries can mean a promise never to leave.

"I remember watching one mother weeping in anger as her son received his samanera precepts," says Sudhamma Bhikkhuni, an American bhikkhuni who now leads the Carolina Buddhist Vihara in the United States.

"I think my own mother nearly threw up."

Ordained in Sri Lanka five years ago, Sudhamma points out that, in the US, an individual's decision to embrace Buddhism can be a heavy shock to their Christian or Jewish families.

The devotee is in fact yielding all aspects of security, including financial and medical.

"Bhikkhus and bhikkhunis must give up their property and wealth. They stop accumulating savings and Social Security benefits. If they end up disrobing [leaving the order], they will be destitute lay people. If they become seriously ill they will be unable to pay for medical treatment and would probably die."