Forgiveness – or not

Last Friday (the 13th!) Ajahn Brahm sent an email to the western Ajahns, once more explaining his acts, and very generously suggesting that they hold an Act of Forgiveness. Previously, I put up an excerpt from this email. Doing this was my idea, and Ajahn Brahm gave his permission. Later, however, he reconsidered, and thinking that the message was really just a private gesture of friendship, he asked me to take it down. So I’ve done that.

I’ll leave this post up for the next week for the sake of the kind people who have posted comments. In a week I’ll delete the post entirely. If you want your comment to be saved, please copy it to another appropriate blog posting.

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37 thoughts on “Forgiveness – or not

  1. “I have been trying to do my best to transform this pain/dukkha and desperately trying to understand this suffering and find peace. It has been an on-going process for the last few years. With our most senior monks being critical and upset with the nuns in public and in private last year and then introducing these 5-points, it has became even more confusing and unbearable.” ~ from Voice

    The time for forgiveness and healing is when there is change and the abuse as described above stops. Are we going to listen to this voice or ignore it, describing it as an “uproar” to be sort-circuited? Are we going to hear compassionate voices or disputes about doctrines and ideology?

  2. It breaks my heart to hear Aj Brahm’s plaintive tone. I don’t believe they deserve his magnanimity. They injured him and he’s offering to apologize? Please don’t grovel Aj Brahm. You did the right thing; you’ve offered mutual forgiveness. They will tire of licking the wounds of their bruised uber-monk egos at some point.

    • Dear Also Exp,

      Please do not rub salt into the wound (meant peace).

      It is not for us to judge who is right or who
      is wrong as there are underlying problems to eveything.

      The best thing to do is, do not pass judgement but to
      mitigate the problem that has arisen in a harmonious manner,
      otherwise defeats the purpose of Buddhism (peaceful way of life and training).

      Case study:
      Now, all of us have a glimpse of the First Noble Truth.

      Now,it is for us to look into the Second Noble Truth and
      finally the Third & Fourth Nobel Truth.

      Use Buddha’s wisdom to solve the problem and not to magnify the problem.
      Now all of us have a chance to practice here by applying the 4-Noble Truth.

      Peace

    • More important than calling for an idealized peace is establishing mutual respect and understanding; otherwise it is simply cancer in remission.

      The elders of WPP and the branch monasteries must realize that forgiveness is more important than saving face.

  3. Herllo Friends,

    I am a Western Buddhist but not of the Theravadean traditon. I come just now upon this division amongst my brothers and sisters. Humbling oneself in order to open the hearts of others seems in line with the teachings of the Buddha. Let us all not respond to our pain with words that will create more separation. If we insist there can be no forgiveness until others change, then we bind ourselves.

  4. Dear Ajahn Brahm,

    Remember, your chicken and duck story-telling?
    Respectfully, who is the chicken,who is the duck?

    The best recipe for harmony is to have understanding
    and respect for each others’ culture & traditions,
    besides the Vinaya.

    To some, the Vinaya is more important, whereas to
    others to uphold beliefs/traditions and inheritance
    are equally important.

    To my little knowledge on the Vinaya, i think to the
    Forest Sangha, the golden rule (non Bikkuni ordination)
    is the jewel of their heart and to them is sacred
    (beyond rationale)to maintain its purity without being
    “stained” and the continuity of this legacy that is close
    to their hearts is their responsibility and pride and not
    to change it to fit the world is not to be taken as inferior
    or not in concord with the Vinaya.
    (Oh dear, i wish i was wrong here).

    Anyway Ajahn, we still miss you and your Dhamma talks.
    Take care, Ajahn.

    • Karuna, I would point out that the chicken and duck story is about arguments that are of no consequence. In this case, the bikkunis are being given full-fledged ordination. Because they have devoted their lives to spiritual practice, I would imagine this is an argument of great importance to the sangha.

    • Sorry Bro, don’t mean to be rude.
      A larger picture.

      AB applied COMPASSION
      WPP applied WISDOM

      BUDDHA applied COMPASSION + WISDOM

      No objection to Bikkuni ord.with wisdom.

      Buddha meant 4-fold for harmony and balance, is like 2 arms 2 legs (one is missing, loose balance (harmony) but does not mean gender equality.Like a family unit one without the other is not complete.Seek your forgiveness for any of my unenlightened views.

  5. For what it’s worth, you have my total support Ajahn Brahm. Thanks for being such an awesome role model; to the point where you are publicly following your AFL code! Sadhu!

  6. As disappointed as I am with the ‘English Sangha statement on the five points’, I agree with Ajahn Brahm. If we do not at least WANT to seek and give forgiveness, then there’s no point being Buddhist. We may as well leave the door wide open for Mara and all his helpers. Metta.

    • According to Sanjaya, the former teacher of Sariputta and Moggallana, there will always be your followers wherever you lead to.

  7. Here’s a passage from ‘Customs of the Noble Ones’ by Thanissaro Bhikku that seems rather relevant to the Bhikkuni ordination controversy.

    Ajahn Mun was accused of not following traditional Thai Buddhist customs. He usually responded by saying that he wasn’t interested in bending to the customs of any particular society — as they were, by definition, the customs of people with greed, anger, and delusion in their minds. He was more interested in finding and following the Dhamma’s home culture, or what he called the customs of the noble ones: the practices that had enabled the Buddha and his disciples to achieve Awakening in the first place.

  8. Dear Respectable Bikkus & Bikkunis,

    We, lay buddishts want to see the
    Sangha make up and not break up!

    “One who checks rising anger is like a
    skillful charioteer who handles a chariot
    gone out of control. Others are like those
    who merely hold the reins”. (Dhp V:222)

    • Wisdom

      This isn’t about anger. I don’t see any anger in AB’s communication. Let’s not get diverted. It’s about bhikkuni ordination.

      David

    • David

      I am not referring to AB but to all of us bloggers on this issue.

      Anyway, if you scrutinize deeply, the cause of the rushed bikkunis ordination was also motivated by anger.
      (No offence, just my perception).

      Don’t be angry.

    • Throw in some greed and delusion too. I cant see how Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato didnt fully know what they were doing. Its revolution 101..Fires start when a flammable and/or a combustible material with an adequate supply of oxygen or another oxidizer is subjected to enough heat and is able to sustain a chain reaction. I would liked to have been in on the those meetings leading up to the big day. Mob mentality is always interesting…

    • Ajahn Brahm just ordained a four bhikkhunis and all the ” fire and brimstones” were showered on him.

      O fcourse , some would want him to keep quiet ,do nothing , and be passive . But in a circumstance when change is needed, sometimes you need to be the change. Many centuries have gone by, but we hardly see any change at all when things are left to progress on it’s own accord. How can there be any change when someone does something just a little bit different, they get punished or abused by authorities.

  9. At the end of the day, it always comes back to who walks the talk and who doesn’t. Metta-karuna on one side vs. procedures and technicalities on the other have to be balanced by ALL parties.

    It is starting to emerge who comes out on which side of that balance – which meshes quite nicely in the Buddha’s encouragement to not blindly believe but test out his teachings against our own lifes’ experiences.

    With this in mind, I again would like to encourage everyone to watch and learn – and to follow the path you experience in line with the Buddha’s teachning. Every one of us has this choice. No need to get emotional about those who chose a different path imo, it risks developing and harboring ill will and resentment, leading to negative karma.

    No need to go this path. Let’s keep the information and arguments coming, but don’t let yourself get caught in the web of emotional upheaval. With this in mind I can only applaud Ajahn Brahm for taking the right stance by aiming for mutual forgiveness.

    For those who will keep grinding – and using their axe – they too will reap the fruits of their actions and intentions. All will be well :)

    with Metta.

    • Hi Ace,

      If i did not read it incorrectly from the extract of Aj B, Aj B is hurt by “the misleading accusations and unwarranted penalties…. Having acknowledged faults on both sides”, it if Aj B who wants those who hurt him to apologize to him which he is prepared to also publicly apologized (a reciprocal apology). Is that correct? Sorry for my poor understanding of English. Cheers.

    • Karuna,
      I am no expert on protocol here, but I read the statements that Ven. Sujato posted in a way that Ajahn Brahm is offering apologies for the process which led to the ordination, and suggesting a reciprocal apology by the “opposing fraction”. It doesn’t appear to be a precondition though.

      Now, I can only speculate on the outcome but while I am not well-versed on monastic protocol and processes, I consider myself as having some long-standing in corporate politics and hence human nature. And based on this I am not holding my breath in expecting signs of forgiveness from the conservative elements of the WPP. Ajahn Brahm rocked their boat and undermined their authority – whether it was skillfully done and justified or not is not the point here – and they will continue to throw the book at him as long as they still think it is feasible to just “outsit” the current wave.

      Of course I will be happy and acknowledge that their are indeed wiser than the average corporate player in the world if they do go for the approach that AB is suggesting. If it doesn’t work out this way, though, I suggest next time round that any of the Ajahns are planning something “revolutionary”, they consult some professional “change manager” to prepare the field (just kidding, ofc ;) ).

  10. Hi Ace,

    Looks more like Ajarn Brahm hurt them first
    by secretly & unilaterally ordaining Bikkunis,
    which breach his lineage rules & Sangha law.

    Looks like Ajarn is out of the Forest Sangha
    for good, as the Bikkunis Sangha in Dhammasara
    has officially open for business,per their
    website. Access through http://www.dhammalight.com

  11. I believe Ajahn Brahm is spiritually strong, but I still wish to offer my moral support to Ajahn Brahm and wish him all the best (enlightenment).

    I hope that in the end all parties will be (back to being) good friends in dhamma.

  12. Venerable Ajahn Brahm is very brave. He is a wise hero in the history of modern Theravada Buddhism. I wish he would have applied the method of “Ehi Bhikkhuni Ordination” to ordain his pupils. One day he will hopefully apply this method of Bhikkhuni ordination before he passes into his Maha Parinibbana.
    Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu.

    • Dear Fragile Buddhist – be strong!
      Sorry, but this method of ordination (“ehi bhikkhu”, “ehi bhikkhuni”) is in most cases only available to a Buddha, rather than his disciples (there may have been a short historical window where the Buddha’s first arahant disciples could use this formula). Remember that the Buddha had the unique ability to see the maturity of a person’s spiritual faculties, and how close they were to realisation of Dhamma. For his disciples – as Bhante Sujato points out in his most recent post – any bhikkhu/bhikkhuni preceptor still needs the consent of their local Sangha, assembled in the sima boundary, for an ordination to be valid. So, the legality of an ordination depends upon the consent of the locally assembled Sangha, not the actions of one monk or nun.

      However, the essence of the ‘ehi bhikkhuni’ comment by my wife Dania was that when a person gains inspiration in the Dhamma and wishes to live the renunciate holy life, it’s relatively simple. They don’t need the approval of all Sangha members within a “lineage” or “tradition”, only after decades of debates and international conferences. There is too much reliance in the Thai Forest Sangha on Achariya-vada – what one’s teacher, or their teachers said, rather than clear-headed, non-biased, investigation of the authentic Buddha-vacana.

    • Dear Bro Michael

      We can all argue till the cows come home.

      We are Buddhists, who preached so much on harmony awed by others, but not in practice (sounds a bit hypocratic).

      There are proper channels to propose a change but this looks more like a revolution in the Sangha! What an example for others to emulate. Quite embarrassing for all Buddhists.

      AB has stepped on others tail and should sincerely apologised by declaring the Bikkuis ordination as void under the theravada tradition and reordained them under another tradition, then i think apology would be accepted by the other side. Now, he may verbally apologize but in practice, no apology as he is still adamant.

      AB has forgotten his roots. He is ungrateful by saying he is not the disciples of AChah but Buddha’s disciple (that hurt others) and the support both materially and financially he had while in Thailand.

      He has also had a large financial support from South East Asia Buddhists for his dream to built his retreat centre in Perth (some monastries & centres in S.E.A. are in dire need of financial support from lay people countries, any foreign financial support?)

      It seemed ungrateful of AB now to cut off tie with his lineage in Thailand after his centre is fully completed!
      (IT HURTS!FELT DECEIVED!).

    • I do see. The Buddha had the unique ability (to do that matter). So dis Venerable Ajahn Brahm (to do this matter).

    • Actually, it is the other way around. Others cut off ties with AB or cut him out from the lineage as can be seen with the excommunication. Ajahn Brahm doesn’t want to cut off ties with anyone. He simply stand up to peer pressure and followed his heart. In ordaining bhikkhunis he is only trying to open the door of dhamma to Asian female practitioner( and female practitioners in other regions).

    • - Unity is good.
      – Ordaining bhikkhunis is an attempt to open the door of dhamma to those female. Yes? Is it meant that the door is closed for them without the ordination? How about the involvement of social or political activists of woman’s rights or human rights?

  13. Respectfully, Ajarn Brahm should be in
    world politics or U.N. and an activist in
    human rights.(why waste your potential).

    • Because he can affect more positive change in the world by first and foremost changing himself and by teaching those who come to him rather than trying to change the world.

    • A change from ‘Impossible Theravada Bhikkhuni Ordination’ to ‘Invalid Theravada Bhikkhuni Ordination.’ Success!

  14. Dear Parliament,

    To me, Ajahn Brahm has not at all wasted his potential. He is one of the best – if not the best – monks alive I’ve ever known.

    Without him, I would still be ‘totally’ blinded by delusions and desires and hatred, and would never know of a path to liberation.

    Yours in dhamma,

    Still (but less) Blinded.

    • Agree with you, but human rights, gender equality
      and compassion must have the most important ingredient
      that is, WISDOM.Without wisdom, we make wrong decisions.

      Calmness & harmony lead to Wisdom.
      Tranquility is the highest bliss – Buddha

  15. S.E.Asians :

    He has also had a large financial support from South East Asia Buddhists for his dream to built his retreat centre in Perth (some monastries & centres in S.E.A. are in dire need of financial support from lay people countries, any foreign financial support?)
    It seemed ungrateful of AB now to cut off tie with his lineage in Thailand after his centre is fully completed!(IT HURTS!FELT DECEIVED!).

    I remember Ajahn Brahm said that the BSWA once returned the money to the donors who requested his donations back due to his family’s financial crisis.

    I believe that the BSWA will be happy to return your money if you resented giving donations to the Sangha in Perth.

    I am a Thai living in Thailand and may not have opportunity to make use of the Jhana Grove, but I would like to give a testimony here that I never want my donated money back.

    If I find a Thai sangha worth my donations, I support it within my financial capacity.

    If some places severely lack support, perhaps they have to look at themselves and their situations and try to remedy it, instead of looking at other people with envy.

  16. Dear Ajahn

    Three (3) things that AB need to do to be forgiven i.e

    1. Be grateful and have gratitude to the Elders & Teachers in WPP for teaching you
    the Dhamma & Meditation and provide you with shelter,compassion,care & metta;

    2. “Letting go” of his ego;

    3. Repentance & open the door of his heart.

  17. If my memory serves me right, both Ajahn Sumedho and Ajahn Brahm teach us to practice ‘unconditional’ love and compassion.
    :-)

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