When the Buddha first allowed women to be ordained, women from many different castes, both high and low, decided to take up the robes and alms. From then on the female Sangha (monastic communities) grew very quickly. The first written records come from the reign of King Ashoka. Specifically, at around the time of the third council, there is record of the Bhikkhuni Sangha settling down on the island of Sri Lanka. The transmission of the order to Sri Lanka and beyond was largely due to a bhikkhuni (nun) and daughter of King Ashoka named Sanghamitta Theri. In later life she helped spread Buddhism out of Sri Lanka and into neighbouring countries. There are records showing that, at its peak, the Bhikkhuni Sangha in Sri Lanka was large and healthy, although by around the 11th century it was in serious decline and eventually died out. This is probably due in most part to wars and invaders from Tamil Nadu in Southern India. In the end, this just goes to show that whatever arises will pass away.
Female Monk,Temple of the tooth.
Kandy, Sri Lanka, 2014.
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