By Nirmala S. Salgado

According to wide study in Sri Lanka and interviews with Theravada and Tibetan nuns from around the globe, Salgado's groundbreaking research urges a rethinking of girl renunciation. How are scholarly bills complicit in reinscribing imperialist tales concerning the subjectivity of Buddhist girls? How do key Buddhist "concepts" akin to dukkha, samsara, and sila ground woman renunciant perform? Salgado's provocative research questions the secular thought of the better ordination of nuns as a political move for freedom opposed to patriarchal norms. Arguing that the lives of nuns defy translation right into a politics of world sisterhood equivalent prior to legislation, she demands more-nuanced readings of nuns' daily renunciant practices.

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The uncritical acceptance of the idea that Sri Lankan Buddhism needs to be resurrected by Westerners who know (or live) it “better” than Sri Lankans resonates with a certain type of colonial knowledge production. That kind of thinking is reinforced in an account that mentions how two German nuns were penalized in Sri Lanka for their somewhat unusual efforts to bring about the bhikkhuni upasampada. In contrast, two Sri Lankan women Bartholomeusz discusses in the very next section are portrayed as failed renunciants.

How easy it is to forget that one never lives one’s life apart from the conditions in which one finds one’s self. Norms—if there are such things—exist as part of the conditions in which people live, not as superimposed ideals that one can “choose” apart from those conditions. ”22 In effect, she questions whether Western feminist discourses on Buddhism have much relevance in understanding the contemporary experiences of Buddhist nuns in both Sri Lanka and Taiwan. 23 Cheng is evidently concerned about what a Western feminist discourse might mean for the study of religion as that discourse “may unintentionally set up imperial boundaries that homogenize 40 narr ation differences among women” (6).

The call continues to find a grounding in an assumption about the presence of the sacred/profane and public/private distinctions that are well Decolonizing Female Renunciation 31 known in the Western academy. It is unsurprising, then, that she comes to a conclusion that has disturbed many, claiming that reforming Buddhism requires a transformation that may ideally derive from the West: “Western Buddhism, in which the vast majority of Buddhists are both serious practitioners and lay people heavily involved in family and career concerns, may well be the most fertile ground for this development.

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