The Buddha’s Forgotten Nuns is a documentary film that reveals a little-known truth about Buddhism – that women cannot be fully ordained the same way that men can. Produced by South Australian based production company Budaya Productions, the film’s Director Wiriya Sati has spent the past 5 years traveling to monasteries in Thailand, UK, U.S.A. and Australia, to ask why women can’t ordain as a female monk in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism.
Wiriya was raised a Buddhist, but like many women who wish to advance in their practice, she came up against walls of sexism within the traditional Theravada order.
Is Buddhism a religious movement based on equality? Or is it rooted in a male dominated culture found in most other world religions? The Buddha himself invited women to join his group of disciples as female monks – or bhikkhunis – and allowed them to be ordained alongside men some 2500 years ago. What happened?
In The Buddha’s Forgotten Nuns Wiriya sets out to find out how the role of women in Buddhism changed so drastically and why so few women’s orders remain today. She travels to Buddhist centres around the world, interviews nuns and monks, and examines the cultural baggage that has accumulated around the Buddha’s teachings.
She discovers new paths being forged for women in Australia, the US and pockets around the world and meets the men and women who are pulling down barriers and pushing for change in the monastic world.
But will the Bhikkhuni movement expand beyond a few independent-minded Western communities and gain momentum in still traditional male-oriented cultures?