Fun & Games

Ambiance in B’desh favourable to take monkhood for female Buddhists: interview

By Pradyot Sri Barua

DHAKA, Feb 01,2017 (BSS)- Clad in saffron rob and beaming with the enlightenment that dawned in her following the path of Buddhist monks, Bhikkhuni Gautami says "You need to lead a monk life to follow the philosophy of the Lord Buddha and serve humanity,"

Gautami is among the first five Buddhist females who became monks in November 2011 with the passion to achieve knowledge, inquisitiveness about Buddha's philosophy and apathy to worldly life.

"We are here after overcoming many obstacles. It is like a war to survive as a woman monk in a man-dominated society," she told BSS.

Gautami now a teacher of meditation said thirst of knowledge generally prompts them to lead a monk life as family life is not congenial for devotional paths.

The trend to become a Buddhist monk among the Bangladeshi women is rising day by day. Buddhist philosophers considering that acquire knowledge, inquisitiveness on Buddha philosophy and apathy to family life are the main reasons which encourage them to be a believer of Buddhist monk.

They believe that the religious sentiment among the Buddhist women is raising immensely. The philosophers think that the Buddha's main theme "Non-violence is the soul of religion", inspire the women to become a monk. Thirst of knowledge generally prompts them to lead a monk life as family life is not congenial to do such thing.

Gautami led four more fellow females to receive the traditional sacred ceremony to take monkhood which is the first ever in the history in the case of women in Bangladesh.

The ceremony was held under the Bodhi tree, the highest holy place of Buddhist, where the Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, in Bodh Gaya in India under the supervision of Dr Barasambhodhi Mohathero.

After adopting the monkhood the first batch of female monks in Bangladesh entered into a new life and identity with new names. The other four women are Sramoni Khema, Sramoni Bisakha, Sramoni Supriya and Sramoni Suvadhra.

After coming back to Bangladesh they begin their religious activities at a rented house in Mohammadpur Housing Society area in Chittagong city.

The five women sramoni -- the first step to become a monk -- also begin their fight for existence as monks. Even some in the Buddhist community especially male monks could not accept those women sramoni.

They opposed their activities while some male monks opposed it openly at many religious programmes.

It was alleged that when the mother of Dr Barasambhudhi Mothero died, he could not attend his mother's cremation ceremony as some male monks opposed.

But the women (Sramoni Sangha) could not be stopped in going ahead with their mission as a result after them many Buddhist women showed their interest to become a monk and adopted the holy path to lead enlightened life.

At the early stage when Sramoni Gautami and Sramoni Bisakha decided to become monks went to Sri Lanka. They received their trainings as

monks under the supervision of Sumithara Mohatheri at Shakkyadhrity Meditation Center).

The two female Bikkhunis after coming back to Bangladesh expanded their activities.

At present, there are five women monks, 10 sramonis and 200 mithila (wearing white cloth) in Bangladesh.

They also build a 'Bangladesh Bhikkhuni Aram and Bhabona Kendro' (Bangladesh pagoda for women and meditation center) at Mirsarai upazila in Chittagong.

The monks also made another pagoda at Khagrachari named 'Swanjibini Bhabona Kendro'.

From her childhood, Bhikkhuni Gautami has attraction about the Lord Buddha and his philosophy. Later, she inclined to meditation and started it.

Gautami said the Lord Buddha created Bhikkhuni Sangha (woman monk society) himself. After that there is no obstacle to become a monk of a woman. But many male monks in Bangladesh cannot accept us while it is common in Buddhist friendly state.

Former founder chairman of Pali Department of Chittagong University Professor Dr Dipankar Srijnan Barua said the Lord Buddha created "Bhikkhuni Sangha" himself. "So, I think there has no obstacles to become a monk for a woman."

There are many women monk in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, Philippines, Australia, Japan, China, and other countries, he said.

"We should cooperate the women who want to become a monk," said Dr Barua.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)