A Buddhist Sunday – Buddhist Nun Ordination in Sri Lanka

On a recent trip to Sri Lanka we had the good fortune to witness a group of Thai nuns receiving their full ordination as bhikkhunis.

This involved a number of early mornings and listening to a lot of drumming and chanting.

The video below shows part of the ceremonies, starting out before the ordination with a visit to one of the main Buddhist temples near Colombo for Poya, or Full Moon Day. As is customary in both Sri Lanka and Thailand, the lay people wear white.

The first stage of the actual ceremony is the Kathina, or robe giving ceremony, which also marks the end of the rainy season (It did not stop raining however). During this ceremony the robes arrived by means of procession. The chanting goes on the whole night and the procession arrives at the temple around 5am.

The other parts of the ceremony had the decency to start much later. Most times the bus left our accommodation at 6am.

First the nuns are stripped of their status and become lay people, hence the white dress. They are given their robes by already fully ordained nuns/bhikkhunis.

Next, wearing their new robes, the nuns take their vows from the same nuns as before, but in a designated space which marks the monastic and ritual border (sīmā); in this particular case this room was was a pavilion built on the lake, which was, of course, inaccessible to lay people.

The final stage of becoming a fully ordained bhikkhuni is when the head monks of the local areas give them their vows: in this way the ‘dual ordination’ (by both nuns and monks) is achieved.

This last stage is accompanied by more drumming and chanting, and also takes place in the sīmā. Unfortunately I have no footage of the arrival of the monks as I was chartered to carry an umbrella for one of them.

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