Bhrikutī & the Appearance of New Non-Bhikkhunī Forms of Women’s Asceticism in Buddhism
Ayyā Tathālokā Bhikkhunī
|Image 1: Bhrikutī Devī, Nepal|
In this sixth post in our “History of Women in Buddhism - Indonesia” series, we pick up a topic that is only hinted at being possible in Part 5 - the subject of the appearance of non-bhikkhunī/bhikṣuṇī forms of women’s (and men’s) ascetic/spiritual ideals (and practices) in Buddhism. It is a time in history or her-story when both royal blood and ascetic spiritual power and mastery appear to have become an essential qualification of the deification of the fe/male rulers of the land, often united with or balanced by their co-appearance as either awesome likenesses or living embodiments of the bodhisattvas and buddhas of Mantranāya and Tantrayāna Buddhism, which has been spreading and developing in Java now for a period of more than 500 years (from the 7th-13th century). We look at one such example in the image of Bhrikutī, an apparently royal female ascetic of spiritual power, who appears very close to the most exemplary Śaivite royal female ascetic and consort, Parvatī, and yet is a manifestation of both the Buddhist wisdom of the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, and the fierce form of compassion of the savioress, Bhagavātī Aryā Tārā.
This post is specially dedicated to all those affected by the 25 April 2015 earthquakes in Nepal and the surrounding areas, to all those in need, and to all those who are helping.
Extracted from Ayyā Tathālokā’s paper “Light of the Kilis: Our Indonesian Bhikkhunī Ancestors,” this is the sixth part in our “Women in Buddhism - Indonesia” mini-series leading up to the 14th Sakyadhita Conference in Borobudur, Indonesia.