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A Thilashin (Burmese: သီလရှင်, pronounced: [θìla̰ʃɪ̀ɴ]; from Pali Sīla, lit. "Possessor of morality") is a Burmese Buddhist female lay renunciant. They are often mistakenly referred to as nuns, but are closest to Samaneri.

Thilashin during alms round in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma).

They, like the Mae ji of neighbouring Thailand and the dasa sil mata of Sri Lanka, occupy a position somewhere between that of an ordinary lay follower and an ordained monk. However,they are treated more favourably than the Mae ji, being able to receive training, practice meditation and sit for the same qualification examinations as the monks.

Thilashins observe the ten precepts and can be recognized by their pink robes, shaven head, orange or brown shawl and metal alms bowl. Thilashins would also go out on alms round on Uposatha days and receive uncooked rice or money.

Thilashins are addressed with the honorifics "Sayalay" (Burmese: ဆရာလေး, [sʰəjàlé], meaning little teacher), and "Daw" (ဒေါ်, [dɔ̀]). These are used as honorifics to the Buddhist name given.

Thilashins can reside in either separate nunneries or in segregated monasteries. They do not have to look after the monks, but may help cook for the monks if required. Although ranked lower than the monks, they are not subservient to them.


Thilashins are not ordained members of the Sangha.[1] In many respects their lifestyle resembles that of a Bhikkhuni, even to the extent of making a daily alms-round. However, they cannot obtain full ordination as the Bhikkhuni lineage died out. According to the Vinaya, Bhikkhunis can be ordained only in the presence of a Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni.

There have been efforts by a few Thilashins to reinstate the Bhikkhuni lineage, although there are reservations from the government and general populace, including the women.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ The Buddhist world of Southeast Asia By Donald K. Swearer