Orthodox Chinese Buddhism
How Many Kinds of Buddhist Practitioners Are There?
In principle, Buddhism asserts equality. Hence, everyone can become a devotee, and everyone has the potential to become a Buddha. But devotees do differ in their levels of practice and spiritual attainment. And furthermore, according to the type of precepts they take, Buddhists are classified into the following nine ranks: upāsaka (Buddhist laymandisciple; C. jinshinan), upāsikā (Buddhist laywoman disciple; C. jinshinü), layman upholding the upavāsa precepts (jinzhunan), laywoman upholding the upavāsa precepts (jinzhunü), śrāmanera (novice monk; C.shami), śrāmanerikā (novice nun; C. shamini), śiksamānā (probationer; C. shichamona), bhiksu (monk; C. biqiu), and bhiksunī (nun; C. biqiuni).
Laypersons who have sought refuge in the Three Jewels and have taken the five precepts are upāsakas. Laity who keep the eight precepts or live in the monastery are said to be upholding the upavāsa precepts. Clergy who have taken the ten precepts are śrāmaneras or śrāmanerikās, and clergy who have received the full precepts are bhiksus or bhiksunīs.
The purpose of this stage was to verify that a woman was not pregnant and that she could adapt to life as a nun. Practitioners who have taken the bodhisattva precepts do not necessarily belong to any of the nine groups, because anyone, even non-human sentient beings such as animals, can keep the bodhisattva precepts.
Orthodox Chinese Buddhism, How Many Kinds of Buddhist Practitioners Are There ?, p.62