Monday, February 27, 2017

15th Sakyadhita International Conference Panel: Monastic Life in the Modern World with Nirmala S. Salgado

Based on research recently conducted in Sri Lanka, I will discuss how different types of institutions of Buddhist nuns promote specific communal rules and why they might address those rules in different ways. The paper will focus on communities of nuns that include both fully ordained bhikkhunis as well as sil matas, who dwell in teaching institutions and meditation centers throughout the country, and belong to a Theravada/Southern Buddhist tradition. I will demonstrate that while nuns living at the various centers focus on the cultivation of contemplative practices that are conducive to the eradication of obstacles on the path to nirvana, and aim at maintaining a disciplined and harmonious life in community, there are important differences in how and why nuns at different institutions engage monastic regulations.

My research has identified four variables that affect how monastic life in Sri Lanka today marks differences in regulations that nuns observe. These include: (1) the locale of the nuns, i.e., whether or not they live in teaching institutions or meditation centers; (2) the degree to which the nuns’ centers are connected to the State monastic networks of monastics; (3) the extent to which nuns observe the recommendations of the Pali Vinaya; and (4) whether or not they have received the higher ordination. While these differences are present in the institutions to which Sri Lankan nuns belong, I also argue that how nuns at different institutions observe monastic discipline in their everyday lives is not as significantly different as one might think, since they share a common interpretation of the meaning and purpose of living a disciplined life in a Buddhist community – a life focused on contemplative practices that are central to who they are and how they live.

Nirmala S. Salgado

Nirmala S. Salgado earned her M.A. in Religion from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and her Ph.D. in Religion from Northwestern University. She is now a professor of Religion at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, where she teaches courses such as Buddhism, Women in Asian Religions, Religions of East Asia, and Religions of India. Her research interests include gender and religion (with a focus on contemporary Buddhism in Sri Lanka), South Asian religion (including its practices in America), and postcolonialism. Her long-term research on Buddhist nuns has been conducted over a thirty-year period. She has published several articles and book chapters on Buddhist nuns and a book, Buddhist Nuns and Gendered Practice: In Search of the Female Reununciant). She is currently working on a collaborative research project with Hiroko Kawanami and Monica Falk on the Communal Jurisprudence of Buddhist Nuns in the Southern Buddhist Traditions

Learn More About the 15th Sakyadhita International Conference on Buddhist Women

The theme for the 2017 conference to be held at The University of Hong Kong is “Contemporary Buddhist Women: Contemplation, Cultural Exchange & Social Action.” This theme highlights the diversity of contemporary Buddhist women throughout the world.

For more information on the conference please visit the Sakyadhita International website and download a brochure.

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