A feminist scholar and Assoc. Prof. of Religion at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., Dr. Mrozik spent three years as an ethnographer in Sri Lanka, an island near the southern tip of India, compiling research on Theravada Buddhism. This sect of Buddhism leads the movement to formally ordain Buddhist nuns, called Bhikkhuni.
Dr. Mrozik’s research provides insight into an important event. Bhikkhuni have not been ordained for over a thousand years. Full ordination allows the nuns the right to establish monastic communities under support of the government and Buddhist monks. Two other forms of Buddhism recognize a lesser status of ordination of nuns: Mahayana in Eastern Asia and Vajrayana in Nepal, Tibet and the Himalayas.
“This issue is controversial. Right now there are about 700-1,000 Bhikkhunis and that number is growing,” said Mrozik. “Other Buddhist countries are watching Sri Lanka now. There is international pressure.”
Mrozik discussed some of the barriers to the Bhikkhuni in her two presentations, A Robed Revolution: Female Ordination in Buddhism and Love in a Buddhist Nun’s Temple: Insights into Lay-Monastic Relationships in Sri Lanka.
“It is illegal in Thailand to ordain Bhikkhuni, but the women come to Sri Lanka for their ordination and then return to their homeland and begin a monastic community,” said Mrozik.
Bhikkhuni also struggle with inconsistent support from their community. The Buddhist monks do not collectively support them, which makes it difficult for a quorum (the ritual needed for ordination). The government does not recognize their status and does not give them the same financial aid that Buddhist monks receive.
“Individual monks and individual officials will support the nuns privately, but not in their official capacities,” said Mrozik. “Monk temples will share old textbooks with them, but it is the lay people who really value what the nuns are doing and who allow them to survive.”
Student Ashley Perkins ‘14 attended the forum. “Learning about Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka was an experience in itself, because you don’t always hear about the nun’s perpective; more commonly the monk perspective is what you hear about,” said Perkins.
Mrozik’s presentations are part of a continual process of sharing and applying what she has learned in Sri Lanka. Her next goal is to slow down on lecturing and to start writing.
Mrozik's future plans
“I would like to write articles for my research and then a book,” said Mrozik. She also serves as a mentor to students at Mt. Holyoke College and in Sri Lanka. She will return to Sri Lanka in July to witness the ordination of two Buddhist nuns.
“I would like to thank Wilson College for showing me such wonderful hospitality,” said Mrozik. “I would especially like to thank Dr. True and Dr. Elia for their kindness, and to Jim, Wilson’s driver.”