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Directions of Learning, Learning Directions: Myanmar-Burmese Buddhist Nuns, Responsibility, and their Experiences with the Scriptural Examinations

Issue: Vol 37 No. 2 (2020)

Journal: Buddhist Studies Review

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Buddhist Studies

DOI: 10.1558/bsrv.40501


This article engages with nine Myanmar-Burmese Buddhist nuns (thilashin) from three different nunneries in Sagaing, Myanmar, and examines their experiences with the monastic examinations. Because the nuns’ voices are frequently omitted from studies on monastic education, this article includes these perspectives and examines a few of the factors that contribute to the thilashin’s success in their education trajectories. In my research I find that responsibility, gratitude, and the Burmese concept of kyezusat—the return of gratitude to carers—plays a key role. I examine the nuns’ networks and ‘interlocking relationships’ between teachers and students. I additionally explore the active role that thilashin play in maneuvering their monastic kin into the different education systems that results in affective notions of kyezusat, and the responsibility for the monk or nun to want to return the gratitude to the one who took care of them. Furthermore, in order to understand monastics and their education, as well as Burmese Buddhist society, I advocate looking at the Siṅgālovādasutta, in particular at Ledi Sayadaw’s version of this sutta, the Sukumāramaggadīpanī, and the suttas within the Mahāvagga in the Pali Vinaya that focus on reciprocity. These texts highlight examples of students taking care of their teachers and the teachers taking care of their students that help influence Buddhism today.

Author: Rachelle Saruya

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