Chapter 4, like chapters 5 and 6, questions the construction of the “identity” of the Buddhist nun. Including a reading of canonical texts with thinking about contemporary practices, it focuses on the Ten Training Precepts as renunciant or household sīla (moral practices), the ascetic attire worn by female renunciants, and the nomenclature used for and by them. Recent attempts to assess the renunciant status of nuns as denoted by those three interrelated indicators speak not just to the ambiguity inherent in perceptions of contemporary Buddhist renunciation but also to practitioners’ positioning in the debate about the upasampadā--that is, participation in a discourse of power. This chapter argues that scholarly claims about status and identity are inseparable from power and that it is therefore inappropriate, if not impossible, to isolate ideas about nuns’ authentic status from the contexts in which practitioners and scholars alike produce certain discursive claims about it.
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