The Mulasarvastivada Bhiksuni Has the Horns of a Rabbit: Why the Master's Tools Will Never Reconstruct the Master's House
Trinlae, Bhiksuni Lozang, Journal of Buddhist Ethics
No compelling evidence has been produced to indicate that Tibetan Buddhism has ever maintained a complete monastic community that included fully ordained women. Over the past several decades, however, a number of women practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, ordained as Mula novice nuns, have sought and obtained full-ordination following Dharmaguptaka Vinaya procedures preserved in Chinese Mahayana Buddhist societies. Demand for bhiksun ordination has led to the administration of several bhiksun ordination ceremonies in various countries designed to accommodate the needs of international candidates, and to on-going questions among Tibetan Buddhists about whether it is possible and suitable for Tibetan Buddhist monastic groups following Mula Vinaya to directly offer full-ordination to women.
Despite regular opportunities to discuss the prospect of offering full-ordination to Tibetan Buddhist women, there is little evidence of widespread support for it among Mula clergy. Contemporary moral theory can help us to identify possible reasons for this apparent lack of support, and can help indicate specific obstacles that will have to be overcome before Tibetan Buddhist groups are likely to invite women to join its communities as fully ordained members.
Contemporary social cognitivist Lawrence Kohlberg of Harvard's Center for Moral Education, in his stage theory of moral development, plotted a six-stage evolutionary trajectory of moral development spanning pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional levels. It has been referenced in the constructive-developmentalism object-relations psychological development model of research-theorist Robert Kegan (52-53). It can be further summarized as shown in figure 1:
Fig. 1. Kohlberg's stages of Moral Development Developmental Over-Riding Moral Level Principle Rationale Perspective pre-conventional 1: External Law Obey rules and Carrot and Egocentric Morality avoid harm stick 2: Individual Meet immediate Enlightened Individualistic and Instrumental interests of self-interest and relative self and (you scratch my agreement back, I'll obligations scratch yours) conventional 3: Interpersonal Meet social Reputation; Individual with Conformity expectations maintenance of respect to authority and others without a prevailing generalized stereotypes perspective of empathy 4: Social Obey and uphold Institutional Systemic with System laws; integrity; respect to rules contribution to avoiding and regulations; the group schisms individual considered insofar as relevant to the system post-conventional 5: Social Uphold a Social Integration of Contract pluralist system obligation to pluralism via of values within voluntarily formal which certain engage in a mechanisms of absolutes contract to laws and nevertheless provide for contracts persist, such as rights and right to life welfare of all 6: Universal Universal Conviction in Moral Ethics principles of the validity of perspective of human dignity, universal human integrity and respect and ethical and dignity human rights of principles; individuals; the personal validity of dedication social contracts upholds them and laws derive from their coherence with the universal principles
Kohlberg's research was conducted in Mexico, the Bahamas, Taiwan, Indonesia, Turkey, Honduras, India, Nigeria, and Kenya (Schaffer 353) and thus suggests universal ethnic applications of moral stages. Although Kohlberg's research has been faulted for applying generalizations to the diverse general population based on predominantly male population samples, it has withstood such scrutiny. (2)
However, two further considerations are relevant. First, where a dominant social group asserts its socio-moral perspective to be definitively authoritative and is unwilling or unable to take other views into account, such that its view is the one to which all others must necessarily be subordinated, anyone in that society entertaining a varying viewpoint may be constrained to accept such variations as valid. Second, research theorist Carol Gilligan's research has noted that women's characterizations of the moral perspective correlative to the stage five Social Contract level are from a perspective which includes custodial activities with respect to the wider society. She calls this an "ethic of care" (73-74), which is not merely a matter of negotiating individual rights, i.e., the generalized allotment of rights of the individual vis-a-vis society or the state. That is, Gilligan's research indicates that when women's voices are included in the definition of morality, the perspective expands from an exclusively male perspective "and the underlying epistemology correspondingly shifts from the Greek ideal of knowledge as a …
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Publication information: Article title: The Mulasarvastivada Bhiksuni Has the Horns of a Rabbit: Why the Master's Tools Will Never Reconstruct the Master's House. Contributors: Trinlae, Bhiksuni Lozang - Author. Journal title: Journal of Buddhist Ethics. Volume: 17. Publication date: Annual 2010. Page number: 311+. © 2008 Journal of Buddhist Ethics. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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