India, the site of the Buddha's great awakening, has a rich an ancient history of enlightened women, both monastics (Skt: bhiksuni, Pali: bhikkhuni) and lay women (upasika) savika disciples of the Buddha -- essential aspects of the Buddha's Four-fold Assembly of disciples -- the bearers of his inheritance. This blog shares with you some of the wealth of their long and contemporary history, together with sites, writings and happenings of interest.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bhikshuni Asramaya of Sthaviri Sanghamitra and Her Mother at Sanchi-Vidisha





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Bhiksuni Asramaya of Sthaviri Sanghamitra (Pali: Bhikkhuni Upassaya of Sanghamitta Theri) and her Mother, Vedisa Devi (Queen of Vedisa) in Vidhisa, nearby Sanci, Bhopal State
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The stupas on the hill at Sanci in India's Bopal State, from the 3rd century BCE, are the oldest standing stone structures in India and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


They are also well known in studies of Indian women in Buddhism for their plentiful votive inscriptions preserving names of both upasikas and bhikkhunis who were active donors and supporters of their construction.


Little is generally known though of the monastery of the venerable mother Sanghamitra Sthaviri, daughter of Vedisa Devi and the Emperor Ashoka, sister of Sthavira Mahendra (Mahinda Thera) and mother of Sramanera Sumana.  Sanghamitra Sthaviri is well known for her founding the Indian Bhiksuni Sangha internationally in Sri Lanka, and is remembered as one of our world's first known international women religious emissaries.


Sthaviri Sanghamitra Arriving With Bodhi Vriksha Sapling to Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka




Once, in conversation with the venerable elder Sri Lankan bhikkhu Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, he mentioned this: 


"I stayed in Sanci for two years and almost every evening walked to the ruins of Vidhisa Devi's monastery. Sanci is only 6 miles from Vidisa, which until 1956 was known as Bhilsa. Sanci is the only place where three Sthupas have been built by Emperor Asoka--the big one enshrining the relics of the Buddha and the other two enshrining the relics of Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Moggallana. To the South of these three Sthupas is the Bhikkhuni monastery built by king Asoka. The head Bhikkhuni, I heard [not confirmed] was Ven. Vidhisa, mother of Ven. Mahinda and Ven. Sanghamitta. According to Mahawamsa Venerable Mahinda went to Sanci to see his mother who was a Bhikkhuni then, before he went to Sri Lanka to establish Buddhasasana there. As I stayed there for two years, I remember this place very well."


See his walking path on Google Maps from space here.


Bhante G, as he is affectionately known to his students, had stayed in India as a Buddhist missionary before coming and beginning his teaching career in the USA from whence he became famous around the world.  


The stupas at Sanci are well known, also world famous treasures of Buddhism. Vidisha (Pali: Vidisa) Devi's ancient monastery/nunnery is not well known.  I wish that anyone who knows of it or has photos of it would please contact us.  


  


Sanci Stupa 3


Ancient Monastery at Sanci

The photos of Sanci above and below here are from Wikipedia's Collective Commons. 

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