Some thoughts on the Sangha disesa 10 of the Bhikkhuni patimokkha
Several times I heard it say, ‘a Bhikkhuni cannot disrobe’, or a Bhikkhuni can only disrobe by committing a parajika offence’ or ‘a Bhikkhuni disrobes by putting on lay peoples clothes and live like a layperson for longer than 7 days’. (to wear lay peoples clothes is allowed for monastics up to 7 days when in danger)
All these above considerations were made, because different from the Bhikkhu’s rules, Bhikkhunis have a rule which says (version of the Santipada edition): Should any Bhikkhuni, angry and displeased say: ‘I repudiate the Buddha, I repudiate the Dhamma, I repudiate the Sangha, I repudiate the training. Since when when were the Sakyan daughter contemplatives the only contemplatives. There are other contemplatives etc.’ If she says so, the other Bhikkhunis should admonish her up to three times, if she still persists in her anger saying the above, she commits a Sanghadisesa offence.
Not that I had really seriously considered disrobing but at a point in my monastic life I was so disillusioned that I flirted with the thought, every monastic does, I was told.
Women do express their anger different than men. In a men’s community they might beat their noses bloody and then every one goes their way – but women, when angry and displeased either harm others or themselves rather verbally than with fists. And they keep nagging if no satisfactory change occurs.
So, yes such a rule as Sanghadisesa 10 which is the one I am just pondering about, is helpful in the Bhikkhuni’s set of rules. It is more than fair to give the angry sister warning admonishments to calm down, before it actually comes to the real breach of the rule.
The phrase: ‘I repudiate the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha and give up the training’ is to my knowledge exactly that which a monk has to say when he wants to disrobe. Whether he says it angry and displeased, lustful because a woman is waiting for him to get out of the robes or out of careful considerations with good intentions (there was the case of a monk who did disrobe to care for his mother but he kept living like a monk) is not relevant, when he says the formula in front of a witness it is valid and he is no longer a monk (correct me if I’m wrong, it is long since I read the monks rules and commentaries). Hence our brethren came to think that if we are Sanghadisesa when we say the phrase, then we can actually not disrobe.
This is of course not entirely wrong, but it leaves the ‘angry and displeased’ part out of consideration. Also it does not consider the words: ‘Since when were the Sakyan daughter contemplatives the only contemplatives. There are other contemplatives who are conscientious, scrupulous and desirous of training. I will practice the holy life in their company!’
A younger woman, not in her menopause yet might say something like this quite easily, when angry and displeased, not really meaning it, just being 3 days before her period. They need some attention, want to know that they do well and they should stay. Monks, especially who ordained early do not have enough experience with women to understand this.
To my understanding of this rule, should a Bhikkhuni be angry and displeased when she says it, just (a Bhikkhuni sister) give her a hug tell her she should sleep on it for some nights. If she keeps saying it, give her time to talk, just listen. She might change her mind.
But then, when a Bhikkhuni is calm and fully conscious of what she is saying and doing, she can disrobe with the same formula as the monks do.
Well, that’s what I think about it. May there be no reasons for Bhikkhunis to disrobe and may we all overcome our anger.