Mission Statement
The CBO is a committee established at the encouragement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2005. Its goal is to make full ordination and excellent Vinaya training available to nuns in all Buddhist traditions, especially the Tibetan tradition.

The History of the Committee for Bhiksuni Ordination in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition

The Committee for Bhiksuni Ordination in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition (formerly known as The Committee for Western Bhiksunis) was formed in the autumn of 2005, after His Holiness the Dalai Lama encouraged Western bhiksunis to become more involved in helping to establish the bhiksuni ordination in the Tibetan tradition.


Founded after the First International Buddhist Women’s Conference in Bodhgaya, India, in 1987, Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women, has the goals of promoting women’s access to both Buddhist education and full bhiksuni ordination. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the opening keynote speaker at the conference and supported women’s interest in learning and practicing the Dharma.

In 1996, in Bodhgaya, a three-week educational program entitled “Life as a Western Buddhist Nun” was held. Here nuns, primarily of the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition (about 20% of the participants were Tibetan nuns), but also from other Buddhist Traditions met to study the Vinaya. The principal teachers were Geshe Thubten Ngawang from the Tibet Centre in Hamburg, Germany, and Bhiksuni Master Wu Yin from Luminary Temple in Chia-I County, Taiwan. Here many nuns in the Tibetan Tradition were first exposed to the idea of bhiksuni ordination. The LWBN participants met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the end of their program, and His Holiness reiterated his support for women’s study and practice.

Women’s interest in bhiksuni ordination began prior to the above two conferences. In the early 1980s His Holiness requested the Department of Religion and Culture of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile (Dharamsala, India) to investigate the authenticity of the extant bhiksuni lineages in the Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean traditions, and to cooperate with leading monks of the Theravada traditions on the question of how to revive full ordination for Buddhist women worldwide. Furthermore, he supported the establishment of various Buddhist nunneries and study centers for novice nuns in India, which vastly improved the level of education of Tibetan nuns. Some of these nuns have now successfully completed the traditional 17-year geshe studies program. However, until now (2010), they have not received the “geshe-ma” degree. Part of the reason for this is that they have not completed the Vinaya studies because it is believed that novice nuns are not allowed to do the full study of monastic rules and regulations (Vinaya). To engage in full Vinaya studies, they would need to be fully ordained, and the bhiksuni ordination (upasampada) is not yet available within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

Founding of the Committee

During the First Conference on Tibetan Buddhism in Europe in Zurich on August 13, 2005, His Holiness the Dalai Lama stated:

I think the time has come. From our side, in the Tibetan case, we have already started serious research work on the bhiksuni issue. We have prepared translations of the Bhiksuni Prātimokṣa Sūtra from Chinese to Tibetan and other materials. Now we need somebody who will actually carry out this work. I think we should set something up.
Recently some Tibetan nuns in India have also been thinking seriously about how to carry out this work. That is good. However, I prefer not Tibetan nuns, but Western Buddhist nuns to carry out this work. I think that if you (Western nuns) carry out this work, it may be more effective. For example, it is questionable if we Tibetans would be able to get a visa to visit Sri Lanka, Burma, or Thailand. It is easier for you foreigners. I think that one body should be specifically responsible for this task. You go to these different places for further research, and in the meantime discuss with senior bhiksus. First, senior bhiksunis need to correct the bhiksus’ way of thinking.

This is the 21st century. Everywhere we are talking about equality. We find a larger number of women who are really showing interest in religion and particularly in the Buddhadharma. So naturally it is the females’ right. Basically Buddhism needs equality.

The key thing is the restoration of the bhiksuni vow. So first we need to educate some senior monks and contact influential respected sangha leaders having some kind of awareness and interest. Finally we should have an International Buddhist Conference, a Buddhist Sangha Conference, discuss the issues, and make some kind of universal resolution or declaration. Then things will become very clear, very authentic.

We should start a working group, a committee, carry out the work, and go to different places. You (Western nuns) cannot just go with a begging bowl. You need some money. Naturally all our bhiksunis are not very rich (laughing). So I would definitely like to give you some donation. I would like to set up some kind of small fund. Then if there is some kind of active body, you can go wherever it is necessary and discuss. Then some concrete result will come.

With this encouragement from His Holiness, Bhiksuni Jampa Tsedroen contacted other senior Western bhiksunis—Ven. Tenzin Palmo, Ven. Lekshe Tsomo, Ven. Thubten Chodron, and Ven. Pema Chodron—and asked them to join her in beginning the Committee for Bhiksuni Ordination in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition (originally called the Committee of Western Bhiksunis) with Ven. Heng-ching as advisor. His Holiness the Dalai Lama donated 50,000 Euros so that they could begin their work. Venerable Ngawang Drolma served on the committee until 2009, at which time she retired to do retreat, and His Holiness Sakya Trizin appointed Ven. Kunga Chodron as the Sakya representative on the Committee.  In 2006, Ven. Master Wu Yin was also invited to be an advisor to the Committee.

The Committee’s Activities

Since its inception in the autumn of 2005, the members of the Committee of for Bhiksuni Ordination and its advisors have been in frequent contact via email. One of our first activities was to research the manner of giving bhiksuni ordination and to prepare a paper in response to two papers concerning the possibility of introducing bhiksuni ordination into the Tibetan tradition —A Means to Achieve Bhiksunis Ordination and The Main Topic of Research at Present: Whether or Not There Is a Way to Ordain Bhiksunis (Gelongma) in Accordance with the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya Tradition of Nalanda that Flourished in Tibet—that were circulated by the Department of Religion and Culture in February, 2006.

The Committee met at Sravasti Abbey in March, 2006, and prepared the paper “Research Regarding the Lineage of Bhiksuni Ordination” which was translated into Tibetan and distributed at the meeting of Vinaya experts in Dharamsala in May, 2006. This paper added to the research done since the mid-1980s by Acarya Geshe Tashi Tsering (Geshe Thubten Jangchub) of the Department of Religion and Culture, which was summarized in A Seminar to be Organised by the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration.

The second CBO took place at Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, New York, to prepare the forthcoming panel with H.H. the Dalai Lama and leading Buddhist monks, nuns and scholars on the last day of the International Congress on Buddhist Women’s Role in the Sangha in Hamburg. Bhikkhu Bodhi very kindly joined us during part of the meeting as an informal advisor.

The Foundation for Buddhist Studies and the First International Congress on Buddhist Women’s Role in the Saṅgha

In accordance with the advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Foundation for Buddhist Studies, which administered the funds His Holiness gave to the CBO, held the First International Congress on Buddhist Women’s Role in the Saṅgha from July 18-20, 2007, in Hamburg Germany. The main themes of the conference were the methods to encourage equal spiritual opportunities for women in the monastic community and the re-establish­ment of full ordination for nuns, particularly in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The congress was held in close cooperation with the Asia-Africa-Institute (AAI) of the University of Hamburg.

The congress brought together monastic and academic specialists in the Buddhist Vinaya (monastic code) from universities and monasteries in over nineteen countries. Their presentations were the culmination of thirty years of research into the possibility of establishing bhiksuni ordination in the Tibetan tradition. On the last day, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was an active participant in a panel of Vinaya experts from the major Buddhist traditions. The panel members gave their support for the introduction of bhiksuni ordination in all Buddhist traditions, and His Holiness issued a statement giving his “full support for the establishment of the Bhiksuni Sangha in the Tibetan tradition.” Nonetheless, His Holiness reiterated a statement he had made several times in the past: that he, as an individual is not able to confer the ordination and that a Vinaya issue, such as introducing bhiksuni ordination into the Tibetan community, is something that must be decided by consensus in the Bhiksu Sangha. Until now, Tibetan monks have not yet come to consensus on this.

The congress also resulted in the publication of an excellent and informative book, Dignity and Discipline, which contains many of the presentations given at the congress. This book may also be previewed; and a summary of all the presentations is also available.

The day after the Hamburg Congress ended, His Holiness called many of the bhiksuni delegates, which included members of the CBO, representatives of the Tibetan Nuns Project and international bhiksunis. He then suggested that a similar congress should be held in India to which all the leading Tibetan monks and abbots of the four Tibetan traditions, as well as well-respected international monks and nuns were invited. Until now (Dec. 2010) there have been discussions about such a conference, but no plans have been confirmed.

Subsequent Meetings and Activities of the CBO

Meanwhile, the CBO has continued to meet, the third meeting being in May, 2009, in Taipei, Taiwan, prior to a conference on education for the Bhiksuni Sangha. Here we discussed a strategy for the revival of the bhiksuni ordination in Tibetan Buddhism—which emphasized education—and discussed the developments among Tibetan nuns. During this meeting two Tibetan nuns from Jangchub Choeling Nunnery, Mundgod, India, were also present.

A fourth meeting was held in Frankfurt, Germany in July, 2009, at which the educational strategy was fleshed out. We decide to compile four booklets:

*A booklet designed for Buddhist nuns practicing in the Tibetan tradition which provides information for those who might consider taking full ordination in the future.
*A booklet that introduces the bhiksuni issue to monks, nuns, and the general public.
*An illustrated booklet of the lives of famous women described in the sutras who were fully ordained.
*A booklet for monastic scholars that includes justification for full ordination for nuns in the Tibetan tradition based on precedent and citations of Vinaya and other scriptures.

We also discussed the three current options considered by the Department of Religion and Culture in which the bhiksuni ordination could be given:

*Ordination by a Mulasarvastivada bhiksu assembly alone based on the male ordination ritual.
*Ordination by an assembly of Mulasarvastivada bhiksus and Dharamaguptaka bhiksunis using the Mulasarvastivada female ordination ritual.
*Ordination by an assembly of Mulasarvastivada bhiksus and Dharamaguptaka bhiksunis.

In late December 2009 – early January 2010 the Committee held its fifth meeting during the 11th Sakyadhita Conference in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Here progress was made on discussing the contents of the booklets and designating its authors, and we decided to create a website. We also discussed our financial situation, given that the funds His Holiness had donated in 2005 had been exhausted.

In August 2010, the sixth CBO meeting took place at Sravasti Abbey in Newport, Washington, USA. Here we reviewed the contents of the booklets for nuns and monks and the booklet of biographies of respected bhiksunis and discussed their printing and distribution. The topic of changing our name to the Committee for Bhiksuni Ordination arose, and this was agreed upon through consensus in subsequent emails. We also discussed the website. Since it is extremely difficult for all of us to meet in one place—we all are involved in many activities, and time and funds for travel are difficult to come by—we decided to meet via Skype every three months.

The first Skype meeting took place in November, 2010, where we followed up on the tasks that we had each volunteered to do in August. Although we were not able to meet in person, the Skype call was a good substitute.

Future Activities

Completion of the first three of the four aforementioned booklets is a top priority of the CBO. The fourth booklet—the one for Vinaya scholars—is in its research phase. Printing and distribution of the booklets are under discussion. We would like to increase the material available on tour website as well. We are considering how to invite people’s generosity so that funds will be available to continue our work. We will stay in touch with the Department of Religion and Culture as well as the Tibetan Nuns Project regarding further developments. In the meantime, some members of the CBO are involved in Vinaya research, writing papers, and attending conferences on Vinaya and Tibetan Buddhism. All are teaching the Dharma—some at universities, others at Dharma centers. One has set up an abbey in the USA, others are aiding Himalayan and Tibetan nunneries in India. All of these projects will continue to expand.