Women in Brown : A Short History of the Order of sīladharā, Nuns of the English Forest Sangha, Part One
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AbstractAt Chithurst Buddhist Monastery, in the UK, in 1979, four women joined the newly formed community of Theravāda monks. They lived initially as novices, and their wish to engage more fully with the life of renunciation, combined with the support and commitment of the community leader Ajahn Sumedho and other monks, led to the formation of a unique order of Theravāda Buddhist nuns, who became known as sīladharā. This paper will appear in two parts. This fi rst part begins with a brief contextual overview of Theravāda nuns, from the founding and decline of the order of bhikkhunīs to the various forms of ordination available for women in the Theravāda world today. It then gives a history of the order of sīladharā from its inception until approximately 2000, focusing on the development of their rule and ordination procedures, the way the order has changed over the years and issues and confl icts it has had to deal with, as well as a period when some nuns lived in a women-only community. My research was undertaken by personal interview with founding members of the order as well as by e-mail, telephone and written communications with nuns past and present and with a senior monk involved in the order’s early days. The history until the present day and consideration of future developments will form the second part of the paper.