Following the annual Western Buddhist Monastic Conference in Ukiah, California, Alliance for Bhikkunis (AFB) organized a speaking tour for Theravada Bhikkhunis Sudhamma, Sobhana, and Maduka.
They were joined by Samaneri Suvijjana. The tour of Central and Southern California began on October 11 and ended November 9, 2009. In addition, Susan Pembroke, President of AFB, and Donna McCarthy, AFB board member, offered PowerPoint presentations on bhikkhuni history and current AFB projects.
The tour provided an opportunity for lay people to practice with ordained women and learn about the developing American Bhikkhuni Sangha. Women who were considering ordination were able to discover more about the process and learn where they can train and ordain.
Many seasoned lay practitioners were surprised to learn what a struggle it has been for Theravada women to revive the Bhikkhuni Sanghas in Southeast Asia and initiate Bhikkhuni Sanghas in Western countries. Bhikkhuni Sobhana joined the tour fresh from her participation in the Oct. 22, 2009 Australian bhikkhuni ordinations of Ven. Ajahn Vayama, Ven. Nirodha, Ven. Seri, and Ven Hasapanna, all from Australia’s Dhammasara Nuns Monastery. Ven. Sobhana fielded questions on the Perth ordination at Bodhinyana Monastery and explained how the ordination was fully in keeping with the Vinaya.
In their talks, the American bhikkhunis recounted their journey to ordination and what it is like to live as Buddhist clergy. On November 7, they taught a one-day retreat in Santa Barbara. The silent retreat entitled “The Inner Monastic” explored the question: Without outwardly abandoning a good lay life, is there a way for the householder to tap his or her “inner renunciate” and attain stages of enlightenment?
The bhikkhunis were warmly welcomed by San Luis Obispo’s White Heron Sangha, Vipassana San Jose, sitting groups in San Diego, the Laguna Sangha, LA Dharma, Long Beach Meditation, Palm Spring’s Urban Yoga Center, and Santa Barbara’s Open Door Sangha. They also taught a children’s program for Sri Lankan families at the Bodhi House in Fremont, CA.
Bhikkhuni Sudhamma heads the Carolina Buddhist Vihara in South Carolina (www.carolinabuddhist.net). Bhikkhuni Sobhana is part of the Bhavana Society’s monastic community in West Virginia (www.bhavanasociety.org). Bhikkhuni Maduka is the founder of Great Determination Hermitage in Ohio (www.greatdetermination.com). Samaneri Suvijjana resides at Bodhi House in Fremont, CA (bodhihouse.blogspot.com) with Bhikkhuni Tathaaloka.