BUDDHIST NUNS IN THE KATHMANDU VALLEY:
An evolving consciousness
Dr. Sarah Levine (women's Education's Project, Harvard University)
Buddhist Himalaya: A Journal of Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods
Vol. IX No. I & II (1998)
Copyright 1998 by Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods
This paper addresses the following questions:
1. What motivates women of the Newar community of the Kathmandu Valley to become Theravada Buddhist nuns?
2. Following ordination, what is the nature of their religious training and experience and what transformation in outlook and identity are likely to occur?
Unlike Christian Monastic orders which place great emphasis on their recruits having a "vocation" , a spiritual calling, the Theravadit Buddhist order expects only that candidates have a sense of the inevitability of suffering in this world, and in consequence a strong desire to "take refuge" in the three jewels, the Buddha. The Dharma and the Sangha. Even if, at the outset, their teachers and preceptors see minimal evidence of spiritual calling, they are undismayed; rather, they deem it their responsibility to instill such a calling and nurture its development. Though they do not expect that virtuous conduct, concentration or wisdom, the three pillars- and goals- of the religious life, will be easily constructed, they are confident that overtime adherence to monastic discipline and the performance of merit-earning work will produce a mental disposition favorable to spiritual progress leading if not to the attainment of nirvana, to better rebirth.
Therevada Buddhism, in its modern form, has been established presence in the Valley for less than fifty years for the purpose of discussion, I shall divide this period into two and look first at those women who ordained in the years since, Why the 1980 watershed ? Until the early eighties, women were motivated to be come nuns for three principal reasons: in the case of young girls, to avoid marriage and, at time when very few girls went to school, to get a chance to learn to read and write- if only in order to study the Buddhist scriptures: and in the case of older women, to escape the marginality of marital breakdown or widowhood. women continue to join the order for these reasons but today, given that in the middle and upper Newar castes from which nuns are largely drawn, girls commonly have access to secondary and post secondary education, the desire for literacy perse is no longer a motivating factor: again, as educated young women in the Newar community move into the work force and become financially independent some may experience less pleasure to marry than young women did in the past. Thus two conditions which motivated their elders to "go into homelessness" carry less weight with the younger generation. Today however a new factor is operative namely, the desire to make meditation the central focus of one's life. Although before the 1980s some Theravadas, both monastic and lay people, practiced various forms of meditation, they were very few. Only after the introduction in the early 1980s, from Burma, of Vipassana or Insight mediation-whose objective is the experiential understanding of impermanence did meditation, hitherto perceived as an esoteric practice to which only the most spiritually evolved could aspire, become something which ordinary people too, could learn and benefit from.
Having briefly traced the part that female monasticism has played in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, I shall describe the development of the Theravada movement in Nepal, and specifically the experience of nuns; lastly I shall discuss some case material illustrative of motivations for seeking ordination and of subsequent adjustment.
Background: Female Asceticism in the Buddhist Tradition.
Despite a doctrinal emphasis on stereological inclusiveness, early Buddhism in India was marked by a profound ambivalence towards women. Though for the first five years, the Buddha refused to admit them to his monastic order , ultimately he did accept them; But to contain their alleged "hypersexuality, envy, greed, and poor judgment "he imposed many more rules of conduct on nuns that on monks (311 as opposed to 27). Of primary importance are the eight known as the garudhama which ensured female dependence on and subordination to monks.
From the outset then, nuns were permanently relegated to a lower status, a fate which over the centuries took its toll. As Falk has noted, nunneries were established in many parts of India through the third century CE but thereafter endowments were sharply reduced. Though she acknowledges that the rise of Hindu devotionalism at that period may also have been a factor in the siphoning off of lay support for nunneries. Falk suggests that benefactors shifted their support to monks whose scholarship and philosophical training prepared them for public life and away from nuns, who barred from access to higher learning, were excluded from playing a role in the wider society, thereby making them, in the eyes of the laity, inferior recipients of dana (gifts to monastic and monastic institutions) and by the same token poorer "fields" or sources of merit for donors. In any event, before the end of the first millennium, the Bhikkuni Sangha, lacking prestige and leadership, had vanished from India; and by the end of the eleventh century, in the wake of the Chola invasions, it had vanished from Sri Lanka as well.
In Ceylon in the early twentieth century however, a handful of devout Buddhist laywomen under foreign leadership renounced lay life through rite of ordination of their own design, Since the Therevada nuns ordinations lineage had died out may centuries before, they called their ordination rite pabbjja or "going forth" rather than upsampad, and them selves "anagarika" or homeless ones rather that "bhikkhuni" or nuns. When some years later women in other Theravada countries, including Nepal, followed their lead, they too took lower ordination.
With the exception of a small group led by western nun, until recently Theravada nuns did not press for full ordination. In Thailand and Burma, both countries which received the Dharma after the Theravada Bhikkhuni ordination lineage died out, the great majority of nouns seemed resigned to their ambiguous-and in Thailand-much inferior status. In Nepal however, a decade or so ago, a few nuns decided to seek full bhikkhuni ordination. They argued- if only among themselves- that the definition of the word "bhikkhu"- "one who, fearing samsara, goes out into the world and lives by alms"-could as well be applied to themselves as to male monastics. furthermore, that the Buddha, who regarded both sexes as equally capable of attaining enlightenment, could not, given that conviction, have been the source of the garudhamma. Rather, between the time when he promulgated the rules of conduct for nuns and when, after more that three centuries of oral transmission they were written down, male prejudice had fundamentally altered and misrepresented them. In 1988, Anagarika Dhammawati, a leading member of the Nepalese Nuns' order and two of her associates went to Los Angeles, California, to Hsi Lai Temple which is a branch of Fo Kuang Shan Monastery in Taiwan. There they were ordained according to the rites of the Dharmagupta lineage which had been brought in the fifth century from Sri Lanka to China and Which, unlike the Theravada and Mulasarvastivada (Tibetan) lineage, has survived to this day.
On their return to Kathmandu from Los Angeles however, the senior member of the Nepalese Monks' order, in whose view Mahayana rites have no validity, refused to acknowledge their new status as fully ordained nuns, In the decade since their ordination the two groups have met regularly at community events, but though the monks make a point of addressing the nuns as "anagarika" or homeless ones rather that "bhikkkhuni" or (fully ordained)_ nuns, the later have fumed but held their peace. Nevertheless, tensions have been mounting as , in November 1997, a group of fives nuns went to China to receive Upasampada and soon after, in February 1998, in an ordination ceremony organized by Fo Kuang shan Monastery in Bodhgaya, India, second group of twelve nuns took Upasampada. Though to date there has been no public conformation-and , there may never be ('That's not our Newar style", as one nun explained), in private some senior monks have severely castigated the nuns for their audacity and insubordination.
Though the junior monks tend to be more supportive, the senior monks, with only a couple of exceptions, remains categorically opposed to female ordination, a position which the nuns do not expect to change. But time is on their side, they say. Everything is impermanent: inevitably, the older generation will pass away and another, more liberal ones, will take its place.
Who are these determined women?
First, some background on the development of the Theravada movement in modern Nepal.
The Kathmandu valley is one of the very few areas of the world where Hindus and Buddhists still practice their religions side by side as was once the case in medieval India. Scholars have debated as to whether the Brahmanical tradition or Buddhism was the first form of high Indian religion to be introduced into the Kathmandu valley which, Until early modern times, was known as Nepal. In any event, Hinduism and Buddhism have coexisted in the valley for millennia.
Theravad Buddhism - in its modern manifestation-m first appeared on this uniquely syncretistic scene in the 1930s. At that time a handful of Newars who regarded their indigenous vajrayana religion as overly ritualistic and doctrinally stagnant, and judged their priest to be ignorant of the meaning of the Sanskrit texts they read, went abroad in search of better prepared teachers and ordination as monks. A similar desire for a "Purer" form of Buddhism had, only a decade earlier, motivated a handful of young Newar men to take Mahayana ordination from a Tibetan Monks. Tibetan Buddhism had long been a significant presence at the great stupas of the valley and at any period in the previous thousand years had attracted some Newars to its monastic ranks; but though Newar merchants castes had closer ties with Tibet and many individuals had thorough familiarity with Tibetan culture, Tibetan Buddhism as such never drew Newar adherents in any significant numbers. That it was not sufficiently different from the indigenous Newar form of Buddhism to warrant making the shift may have been a factor; again, though many Newar merchants spoke Tibetan, both the textual language and the scripts they were written in presented insurmountable difficulties to most would-be adherents. Indeed, not long after ordination, the young monks mentioned above, while on pilgrimage to the Buddhist sacred placed in North India, had the first recorded encounter by any Nepalese with "modernist" Buddhism, he movement which had originated in the Theravada Buddhist community of Ceylon some thirty years earlier. At Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha had reached enlightenment in the fifth century BCE, these Nepalese met a Burmese Theravada monk named Chndramani, a disciple of Anagarika Dhammapala, the eminent Sinhalese Buddhist reformer. Chandramani's exegesis of the dharma so impressed the young Nepalese that, abandoning their Mahayana vows, they took Thervada ordination. By the early 1930s other disenchanted Newar Buddhists - including three women - were following them to India where they too came under sway of Theravada monks; some took ordination right away while others went to study in Burma and Ceylon and were ordained there.
Theravada Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley
When these first Newars to be exposed to Theravada Buddhism in modern times returned to Nepal from study abroad during the late 1930s and early 1940s, their religious activities began to attract lay support - and also the opposition of the autocratic government of the time. The ranas, the family who provided Nepal with nine successive prime ministers between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, were persuaded by their Brahman priests and counselors to prohibit all missionary activity by any religious group whatever. Though they made an exception for Tibetan Buddhist monks whom, given that Nepal ahs a sizable population of Tibetan descent, they regarded as indigenous, the Ranas, prodded by their Brahmans, deemed Theravada Buddhist monks as a" subversive" i.e. nationalistic force, and their preaching activities as a threat to social cohesion in this so called "Hindu Kingdom". thus almost s soon as these young Theravada missionaries reentered their country they would be arrested and imprisoned or expelled. Finally, in 946, after several unsuccessful attempts to establish themselves, the small group of exiles received permission from the government to settle permanently in their homeland but it was only after the Rana regime's overthrow in 190 that they were allowed to teach the dharma freely; even then, laws proscribing conversion from one religion to another still pertained so that officially their target population was restricted to people who were Buddhists by birth.
As heirs to the Buddhist modernist movement, which from its beginnings in Ceylon in the late nineteenth century had been brought north to the Buddha's homeland, Nepalese Theravada monks and nuns emphasized the rational elements of Buddhism. Their purpose as they defined it was to purify vajrayana Buddhism, that is, to rid it of the magical practices and caste distinctions (adopted in Medieval times from Hinduism) and to educate the laity in the dharma. Over almost five decades since they won the freedom to proselyte, the Theravadas, with their energetic teaching and preaching, vernacular publications of religious texts, social programs, and latterly vipassana meditation courses and retreats, have built a strong backing among a lay population who, though they may not have abandoned Vajrayana Buddhism ( which in large measure defines their social relationship), nevertheless feel that their traditional religious institutions have largely failed to provide the support they need in the face of massive socio-economic change.
From the 1950s onwards the small band of monastics led by returned exiles grew slowly but steadily. In 1966, there were 44 Theravada monks and 37 nuns; In 1982, there were 60 monks and 65 nuns, and in 1989, 59 monks, 72 male and female novices and 70 nuns. Thus far, given that Nepal lacks facilities, young monks and nuns must be sent to monasteries in other theravada countries for advanced religious training and it is a focus of great concern for the senior monks that, on completion of their studies, many young monks either stay abroad in the country here they were trained, on their return, disrobe and marry. In the 1990s the monks' order that barely held its own. As of 1997, there were only 57 fully ordained monks in Nepal: an other 83 novices were in training , about 50 of whom were abroad, though how many of these young men will remain monks once their training is completed is an open question.
Though within the past year two monastic schools have opened in Nepal (one in Kathmandu and one in Dharan)., the student novices are aged between 8 and 15; as they cannot take full ordination before the age of twenty, some at least are likely to fall by the wayside. Again, with the passing of the original group of missionary pioneers, the Nepalese Sangha lacks leadership. Senior monks, trained abroad in different countries which follow different traditions, have repeatedly failed to present a unified front when major problems arise. Furthermore, in contrast with the first cohort of missionary monks, many of the younger monks who have come to maturity in easier times are viewed by the laity as uninspiring preachers and teachers and lax in discipline. By contrast, the number of nuns has held steady. At the time of writing there are 66 nuns in Nepal and about 20 in training abroad; furthermore, unlike the monks, nuns rarely disrobe. Indeed in the past twenty years, instances of nuns disrobing have been few and far between, In part this may be because Newar women do occasionally remain single from choice not merely because they have failed to attract attractive marriage proposals. Thus a Newari girl growing up has a role model other than that of wife and mother. Should she decide not to marry, by joining the order she escapes the dependency of spinsterhood in her father's and later, after his death, in her brother's household. The word she does in the community as teacher, counselor and ritual specialist offers her a more varied and stipulating life that that of many if not most lay women and one which is likely to earn her considerable affection and esteem among the laity. Another most important factor contributing to the nuns' high morale is that, unlike the monks whose superiors often appear fractious and lacking in resolution, the nuns have the benefit of strong and unified leadership.
The First Cohort: 1940-1980
Almost without exception, the first group of Nepalese nuns faced great opposition from their families when they announced their intention to ordain. Though in the case of widows, this antagonism might over time be dissipated, in the case of young girls, families fathers in particular- could never reconcile themselves to the idea that their daughters were making a life long commitment. Many then were forced tom run away. "we were determined not to marry." one nun recalls, "and our fathers were equally determined that we should. Even when later they saw our shaved heads and out dresses, they couldn't accept that we were nuns. they kept telling us, "Now take off that dress, they couldn't accept that we were nuns. They kept telling; us, "Now take off that dress and put on a sari, and come home! But we wanted to be free to learn and to teach others about the dharma, and once we'd shaved out heads there was no going back."
Few in the early cohort had more than a smattering of religious training and, in period when only two percent of the Nepalese population- virtually all of whom were upper caste males- was literate, none had any secular education at all. The monk missionaries who brought Theravada Buddhism to Nepal steered ordinands into career paths, which they judged best suited their potential, and in this respect they differentiated sharply between monks and nuns. Thus though young monks might start out illiterate, they nevertheless might receive many years of training in monasteries in Burma and India., and in later years in Thailand and Sri Lanka, By contrast, most nuns were assigned to menial work in monasteries in the Kathmandu Valley. Though some may have learned to read- or at least to "de-code" -some religious texts, how much they understood of what they read is another matter, Most lived and died knowing very little about the dharma. As one nuns recalled, "They learned the Jataka stories (stories about the Buddha's former lives) and to chant a little of this and a little of that, but reality, they knew no more that lay people."
The first nun to receive a thorough religious education was a girl named Ganesh Kumari Shakya who was born and grew up in Patan. In 1947 when Ganesh Kumari was twelve years old her mother, a devout monastery to study the dharma with a Buyma trained Nepalese monk. There Ganesh Kumari who had learned to read at home, studied the scriptures and Pali, the textual language of Theravada Buddhism. She studied hard and was rewarded with her teacher's praise. But when after just one year he went abroad, she was dismayed; she remembers thinking that she'd caught a glimpse of nirvana and now it had vanished. About the same time, her father began to consider marriage proposal for her, and even though her mother was doing her best to slow down the proceedings, Ganesh Kumari knew marriage couldn't be delayed indefinitely.
She resolved to run away from home to become a nun. With her mother's help she slipped out of the house, evaded her father's attempts to intercept her and reached Kushingaar in India where, in the monastery, she hacked off her hair herself. After many adventures (including a journey of foot though the forests of assam and Manipur with a party of elephant traders and a spell in a Burmese Jail), Ganesh Kumari- who by now was all of 14- reached Rangoon. There she negotiated her admission of Khemarama nunnery Moulmein and began her religious training which lasted -with only one short visit home - for years, "I had a one-track mind," she recalled recently, I'd come to Burma for one purpose only to lean, I was burning to learn - any thing, whatever they were prepared to teach me! To me, dukkha meant one thing above all else- being barred from studying the dharma."
In Burma she was much impressed by the independence of Burmese women. "Here in Nepal, you hear the same stories all the time, about the bitterness between he mother-in- law and the daughter-in-law. In Nepal daughter-in-law eat left-overs, they are treated like servants but in Burma they don't have joint families. Young couples live separately from the parents." The status of Burmese nuns, too, was much higher that that of Nepalese nuns. Though female novices studied exclusively with other females novices, their course was identical to that of male novices. Nuns took the same examinations and were respected as scholars and teachers by the monks. Dhammawati- as Ganesh Kumari had become at ordination- was particularly impressed by the abbess of the nunnery where she lived whose counsel, she noted, was sought by many eminent monks.
During the long years of her religious training Dhammawati became convinced that women were equal to men, and by the same taken, that nuns were equal to monks, But when in 1964, at age 28, she returned to Nepal, this conviction was immediately challenged by senior members to the Nepal Sangha. "It was like going from heaven to hell", she recalls. "Nepalese monks had a very bad case of the 'Asian disease' !" by which she means, that they regarded women as distinctly inferior to men. But she had in hand her Dhammacariya Certification, the equivalent of a doctorate in Buddhist studies.
As not only the first Nepalese nun but the first Nepalese monastic to earn the Dhammacariya, this would be vital importance in her struggles in the years to come: at that time, no Nepalese monk had the degree (and only one has achieved it since) and thus, though the monks might regard her as inferior by virtue of her sex, by virtue of her training they were forced to respect her. Nevertheless, the opposition which her determination to set nuns on an equal footing with monks met with initially is hardly less entrenched today that thirty years ago.
On her return home, Dhammawati Guruma assumed a leadership role in the Nuns' Order, which at that point consisted of a few dozen semi-literate women who lived lives of subordination to monks. Most lived in monasteries, but Dhammawati Guruma had been educated in Burma where monks and nuns were residentially segregated and she was determined not to live in a monastery where inevitably she would be treated as an inferior by the monks. At first the only her only option was to live in the house of a devout layman but within a year of her return an inheritance enabled her to buy some land in central Kathmandu and set about collecting funds for the construction of a small nunnery.
As soon as the place, which she named Dharmakirti had a roof, she moved in with three other nuns who had come back with her from Burma, and from this base, undaunted by the hostility she generated among the monks who, in those early years, often moved to block her from preaching, she set about building a community of nuns which as free from the monk's control as she could make it. Over many years she and her friends and disciples pieced together their own Buddhist "modernist" program: aside from a rigorous religious education for both children and adults, they offered counseling; they translated pali texts, published a monthly magazine and offered their devotees Theravada versions of traditional Vajrayana rites of passage. Determined that, unlike herself, they should received secular education, Dhammawati Guruma began to encourage new ordinands to continue going to school after they joined the order. She also developed a network of lay people in other Theravada countries whose sponsorship enabled young Nepalese nuns, once their secular education was completed, to go abroad for religious training. As her disciple Santi remarks, "My teacher believes that nothing's more important that education but from the start she knew the bhantes were never going to help us women get it, so we had to help ourselves."
The Second Cohort: 1980-98
Whereas in the past many nuns spent their active years performing menial tasks for monks, most who ordained more recently have chosen a different path. In contrast with the earlier group, virtually all of today's entrants have had considerable prior exposure to Theravada Buddhism thought the educational programs, with the order has been offering for decades. These days, adolescent girls who don't want to get married and see becoming a nun as an alternative, don't need to run away from home to join the Order.
Most come from devout Buddhist families and may already have attended Saturday Scholl where they had a good deal of contact with nuns as teachers and advisors. They may well have taken temporary ordination and spent several weeks in studying the dharma in a nunnery. In the case of some who have close relatives-grand fathers and grand mothers, brothers and sisters- who are monks and nuns, they are following a well established family tradition.
Young girls today enter the order with the knowledge that they will be expected to continue their secula education as far as their talents take them. Dhammawati guruna believes that if Theravada Buddhism is to survive let alone flourish in Nepal, it must trans from itself into a truly modern - this mans internationalist movement. Thus she stresses the necessity of learning to speak and read foreign language, both the languages of other foreign languages, both the languages of other Buddhist countries- including Chinese-and English. That as a young person, she never had the opportunity to lean English is for her a source of regret. To girls from better off upper caste families form which a generation ago, the majority of ordinands were recruited, the chance to attend secondary school or even university may no longer bo especially attractive as their own families can afford to educate them. But for middle-caste girls who today form the bulk of new ordinands the opportunity to get a secondary or pose secondary education continues to be an important factor in their decision to ordain. In contrast with an earlier generation however, for today's new entrants the opportunity which monastic life affords for meditational practice may be the most important factor in their decision, In Nepal - for monastic as much as for lay people - meditation is relatively new. Dhammawati recalls that when she was training in Burma in the 1950s meditation wads optional and she, personally, meditated rarely. She was studying so hard that she had little time. Although in this period the vipassana meditational movement was gaining momentum in Burma, she herself had had little or no exposure to it until well after her return to Nepal when, In 1981, Mahasi Sayadaw, a leading meditation Master, visited Kathmandu and instructed some monks and nuns and a few lay people. The following year, 1982, Goenka, and Indian lay teacher from a merchant family long resident in Burma, made the first of several visits to Nepal to give Vipassana instruction to the laity as well as to monastics, Goenka himself was from a Hindu back -ground but her presented himself as a secular person and vipassana as a technique, which any one could use, regardless of religious affiliation. Nevertheless, in Nepal it was in the Theravada Buddhist community that he made his mark.
By the end of the decade, all the larger Theravada monastic institutions in the valley were offering Vipassana instructions; two permanent meditation centers, offering regularly scheduled 10-day meditation retreats, one following goenka's teaching and other that of U Pandita, as disciple of Mahasi Sayadaw, had been established and in both of them nuns played leading roles, Though in the majority in the first group of lay practitioners had been men, women of all ages and levels of education were soon learning vipassana and finding that their practice empowered them: it helped them to control rage at oppressive mother-in-law and alcoholic husbands and to survive grief following great loss. Again, it placed one at the cutting edge it identified one as a modern person as much as a Buddhist.
Some female practitioners, dissatisfied with the benefits that group sessions combined with whatever moments of meditation they could snatch at home provided, decided to ordain. "I realized this was the most important thing for me," one young nun named subha, reports, "but my house wasn't conducive to practice, there was too much noise my brother's children playing, the phone ringing land there was always cooking and cleaning to be done." Subha, who holds a Masters in Commerce, worked for some years in her family's business. A devout Buddhist and since childhood a lay disciple of Dhammawati Guruma, she never wanted to marry and envisaged living with her parents indefinitely. But people told me, after your father and mother die, You'll be along, and who will take care of you when you're old ?" Eventually she decided to ordain. With a wry smile she stays, "Before I came to live in the nunnery I'd be spending house in meditation everyday, I didn't realize I'd be so busy ! . Still, I have half an hour morning and evening which is more that I had in my house."
Children too may become serious mediators, In an era in which, in the belief that education is the last hope for making one's way in a rapidly technologizing world, Nepalese parents are putting great pressure on their offspring to succeed, children report that meditation helps them to concentrate. Some attend retreats in which as child "yogis" and "yoginis" they adhere to the same rigorous schedule of sitting and walking meditation as the adults though for between three and seven rather that ten days. Again, like their elders, some of these children are profoundly affected by their experience and decide that for them the monastic life offers the best prospects of following their calling.
" I want to overcome dukkha and I want to help other people overcome theirs" says one fourteen years old novice nun. The only child of divorced mother, she has experienced much emotional pain as well as economic hardship in her young life. She talks about her experience in meditation to which she was introduced in Saturday school some years ago rather like an addict might talk about drugs. "I see things more clearly, I understand them better and them I feel peaceful," she says.
Whereas nuns in the first cohort see punya- earning merit through practicing the virtues- as their goal, younger nuns expect, through meditation, to acquire pragya - insight into the nature of impermanence, a much more ambitious goal.
Woman must be "pulled" as well as "pushed" toward monasticism. The desire to "go forth" reflects a familiarity with renunciation as an alternative model to marriage, one to which Tibetan monks and nuns in the Valley have long exposed the Valley's Buddhist population. A more important factor however is the role model which Chammawati Gurama provides. It could be argued that for a traditionally Vajrayana Buddhist population which regards the bodhisattva, who seeks the salvation of all sentient beings, rather that arahat, whose primary objective is personal salve action, as the ideal for human conduct, Dhammawati Guruma's style is more appropriate than that of her counter parts, the monks whose approximation of a remote, self-effaced Burmese model tends to intimidate. Whereas the monks present Theravada Buddhism as a uniquely efficacious set of rules of conduct which, if observed strictly enough, promote spiritual growth and lead ultimately to salvation, Dhammawati Guruma and her disciples emphasize the importance of ideas rather that the precepts and regulation,. And ideas may come from many quarters; there is more that one road to salvation.
These days, in the Kathamdnu valley, the spread of Western education leading to employment has given middle and upper caste women the chance to live interesting lives without "going forth". Even so, at a time when the Monks' Order is experiencing a crisis in terms of focus as well as retention of members the Nuns' Order continues to attract- and retain -women from the Newar community and gradually from other ethic groups as well. Though the first therevada missionaries would be gratified, forth years later, by the success of their movement, at the same time they might be surprised to se that the needs of the burgeoning lay community are as often met by nuns as by monks.