Venerable Bhikkhuni Kusuma

Venerable Bhikkhuni Kusuma, glowing with compassion and kindness, delivers her remarkable Dhamma talks, filled with real life experiences, speaks to the hearts and inspires and consoles many of us showing how we can weave the noble teachings of the Buddha to lessen the miseries of our daily lives. Ven Bhikkuni Kusuma, MA, PhD, is a fully ordained Buddhist nun from Sri Lanka who has pioneered the re-establishment of the Theravada Female Buddhist Order in Sri Lanka.

The Order of Theravada Bhikkhunis was first established in Sri Lanka with the visit of Bhikkhuni Sangamitta in the year of 307 BC, the daughter of Emperor Ashoka, of India. In the 6th century A.D. after nearly 900 years, the Bbhikkhuni ordination was taken to China by Sri Lankan Bhikkhunis headed by Bhikkuni Devasara. Thus, the Sri Lankan ordination was established in China., from China it went to Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam etc. According to Sri Lankan tradition all the Bhikkhunis in the world today are descendants of Sri Lankan Bhikkhunis and the lineage can be traced to Mahaprajapati through Sanghamitta, which was the Pali Magadhi tradition in India.

The Lineage mysteriously died out in Sri Lanka 1000 years ago, and in 1996, Bhikkhuni Kusuma became the very first women in present Sri lanka to don the robes of a Bhikkuni after the lapse of nearly 1000 years.

She received her higher ordination in Sarnath, India in 1996 under the auspices of the Indian Mahabodhi Society, of which the President then was late Ven. Mapalgama Vipulasara Thero and received instruction and training in Sarnath for two years under the able guidance of Ven. Pandit Andawela Devasiri, a Sri Lankan monk in the Pali tradition of Bhikkhuni Vinaya. We are now fortunate to have the female Bhikkhuni order re-established in Sri Lanka.

Bhikkhuni Kusuma's life story as a mother of six children who lost two of her children due to illness, is inspirational to women all over the world.

She started her life as a science teacher and was awarded a scholarship in 1969 to study for MSc in Molecular Biology in U.S.A. During her stay there, Kusuma Devendra realised that there are no real answers in Science to the beginning, and end of life. She returned to her children and husband in Sri Lanka and decided to study Pali and Buddhist Philosophy to find answers to her questions. She joined the academic staff of University of Sri Jayawardenepura, Sri Lanka as a lecturer and taught English for 20 years. During that period, reading the 'Tripitaka' and venturing forth in search of the truth, Kusuma Devendra wrote her MA thesis on "Sati-in Buddhist Meditation, A Mental Therapy" and started her PhD studies in 1982 on the nuns of Sri Lanka. She collected data with an American Professor of Sociology and read for her second Ph .D thesis on the 311 rules of Vinaya for Bhikkhunis.

Bhikkhuni Kusuma's close liaison with late Sister Ayya Khema, the German Buddhist Nun, inspired her to start her own meditation centre named " Ayya Khema International Buddhist Meditation Centre" in Olaboduwa, Horana, Sri Lanka .

She has been engaged in meditation for over 25 years, practicing and teaching both Vipassana and Samatha. Recalling the struggle to gain recognition for the Bhikkhuni movement, she says, "The Bhikkhuni higher ordination were taboo." The females who entered the dasa sil matha movement had no income, no education, no sanghika dana, and no sanghika property; they lead a hard life not well regarded by a society that has long lost its tradition of Bhikkhuni Order. Today there are about 1000 Bhikkhunis and more than 4,000 ten precept nuns (Dasa Sil Mathas). There are more than 40 nuns with degrees while several have done their MAs. They engage in counseling suffering women and children with special attention to battered women due to alcoholic husbands.

Sabbadanam dhammadanam Jinati
"The gift of Dhamma surpasses all other Gifts "

adapted from "Living in Peace" book series