84000 Glossary of Terms

Our trilingual glossary combining entries from all of our publications into one useful resource, giving translations and definitions of thousands of terms, people, places, and texts from the Buddhist canon.

དགེ་སློང་མ། | Glossary of Terms

  • དགེ་སློང་མ།

  • dge slong ma
  • bhikṣuṇī
  • bhikṣunī
  • Term
Publications: 21

The term bhikṣuṇī, often translated as “nun,” refers to the highest among the eight types of prātimokṣa vows that make one part of the Buddhist assembly. The Sanskrit term bhikṣu (to which the female grammatical ending is added) literally means “beggar” or “mendicant,” referring to the fact that Buddhist nuns and monks‍—like other ascetics of the time‍—subsisted on alms (bhikṣā) begged from the laity. In the Tibetan tradition, which follows the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya, a bhikṣuṇī follows 364 rules and a bhikṣu follows 253 rules as part of their moral discipline.

For the first few years of the Buddha’s teachings in India, there was no ordination for women. It started at the persistent request and display of determination of Mahāprajāpatī, the Buddha’s stepmother and aunt, together with five hundred former wives of men of Kapilavastu, who had themselves become monks. Mahāprajāpatī is thus considered to be the founder of the nun’s order.