The Gyalwang Karmapa Welcomes Gelongmas to the Tibetan Tradition (December 13, 2007, Tergar Monastery)
13 December, 2007: This year, there is a strict code of conduct which all gelong and gelongma attending Kagyu Monlam must observe. All gelong and gelongma will have undergone three days training and a test in this code of conduct. During the Monlam they will be expected to attend every Monlam session, including the daily Sojong. They will eat only from the alms bowl, not eat after midday, and, on the final day, they must join the Alms Procession.
At a special meeting for gelongma (Sanskrit: Bhiksuni), held in his private room at Tergar Monastery this morning, the Gyalwang Karmapa welcomed everyone who had come to attend the 25th Kagyu Monlam. He then gave a short talk, discussing the reasons why he had specially invited the gelongma to attend the Kagyu Monlam.
He recounted how, in 2004, when he took on the responsibility of overseeing the running of Kagyu Monlam, he began looking into the Vinaya and researching codes of conduct.
The Tibetan sangha has both gelong (fully ordained monks) and getsul (novices) but no gelongma (fully ordained nuns) only getsulma (novices). Yet, there are many gelongma from other traditions who don Tibetan robes. Because of his concern over the absence of the gelongma ordination in the Tibetan tradition, he began searching the Sutras and the Vinaya, looking more closely into the issues, trying to find a way in which he could help the gelongma. The more he studied, the more his interest and concern grew.
There was, however, an obstacle to this research, because, according to the Vinaya, a getsul is not supposed to study the gelong and gelongma Vinaya, and he himself was a getsul. However, because he is a doctrine holder and holds a position of great responsibility, he did study these texts, trusting that he would not incur any fault. After studying the issue, he felt deeply that if there were a gelongma sangha in the Tibetan tradition, it would be a glorious achievement.
Gyalwang Karmapa cited two reasons why it had been difficult to establish a gelongma ordination lineage in the Tibetan tradition.
Firstly, the Vinaya is the foundation upon which the Buddhist sangha relies, so changes are difficult to make. The constitution of a country cannot be changed immediately, but it can be changed through a lengthy process. Similarly, the Vinaya could be changed, but the process would be very slow. Hence, it would have been difficult to start the tradition of gelongma in Tibet.
Secondly, there is the inflexibility of some members of the sangha who think that there is no need for gelongma.
However, the Gyalwang Karmapa explained, it was his hope that the participation of gelongma in Kagyu Monlam, would eventually lead to the establishment of a gelongma sangha in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, because their excellent conduct would bear witness to all of the grace of the gelongma tradition. He reminded them that they therefore had a responsibility to live up to these expectations.
Finally, he said he prayed that all the nuns would stay well and that no obstacles would arise, so that they could attend the Monlam from beginning to end.
He concluded by offering each gelongma a complete set of robes.