Letters for the Sangha

Dear friends,

Many of you know of, and hopefully have signed, the petition for bhikkhunis. The organizers of this petition were a group of concerned lay people who came together to address the gender inequality within the Sangha. They plan to deliver the petition to the Ajahns of before the upcoming Western Abbots Meeting, December 7-9 at Wat Pa Nanachat, Thailand.

In addition, the organizers would like to present some letters for the Ajahns, and have invited contribution from the visitors to this blog.

The letters should be respectful, brief, and from-the-heart. We want your voices to be heard.

Please send your letters to: sanghaletters@yahoo.co.uk

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27 thoughts on “Letters for the Sangha

  1. Ajahn Sujato, you’re asking for people to send respectful letters to the Sangha? I have seen incredibly little or no respect to this tradition or the elder Ajahns either here on your blog site or on the Women & the Forest Sangha Facebook. Talk of suing the Sangha? And some of the women calling them sexist pigs. I could go on and on, but I won’t. This is turning out to be a karmic trainwreck for everyone involved. Do any of these posters have any idea about this tradition, or the Ajahns who put their lives on the line and were actually living in a forest, not just using it as a title? I am quite baffled at the near hatred I am seeing towards the monks and this tradition. If this traditon is so terrible and supressive and seemlingly, from the posters, having no redeeming qualities, why are they even bothering? It seems that you as a monk, should not be trying to fan the flames of negativity, but bring about resolution and peace.

    I just finished watching a talk of Ajahn Brahm’s on patience. He quoted the Buddha as saying, “Patience, is the highest of all the spiritual qualities.” I am not seeing a lot of patience from many of these people, or for that matter many of the Buddhist qualities.

    Yes, I agree, there should be respect, not just in a letter, but in what people are saying and in their hearts. Let’s not forget the elder Ajahns who preserved this tradition for us to even be able to debate about it, criticize it, or even how some people are talking, try to destroy it. For clarification’s sake, I am not against the revival of the bhikkhuni order, it just seems the way this has all gone down has left a bad taste in the mouth.

    “A fool with a sense of his foolishness is – at least to that extent – wise” Dhp63

    • dear bewildered – just to make it clear – A.Sujato is not inviting letters to be sent to the elders of the WPP samvasa – this is an initiative of concerned lay people,
      thanks…

    • Dear Thanissara,im glad you were able to focus on the main point of my post.
      Its always good to see those on the path aren’t blinded by their own agendas

      Thanks…

    • All these hurling,back stabbing & mud slinging
      are not values of Buddhism.
      They are politicians.

      If these women called the Thai Sangha sexist pigs,
      then the Bikkhunis Sangha in Perth are also sexist pigs
      as they are comprised of all female members!
      (Bikkhus Sangha all males).

  2. Please do support this – if you have any more energy for bringing the concerns of the petition to the WAM.

    Rebecca is gathering letters
    Brenda has bravely waded into the Babel Tower of Women & the Forest Sangha fb group to gather pertinent comments points – and with permission from A.Sujato – she will do the same from this blog – to present anonymously – (I seem to have finally – maybe – learnt to spell anonymously with so much anon stuff flying around)

    Bhikkhuni Sobhana and Ayya Tathaaloka are gathering more scholastic perspectives to ward off Ajahn Thanissaro’s challenge to Bhikkhuni legitimacy.

    So – this is a great effort at the 11th hour to bring all our concerns to the attention of the WAM – in the hope of more open dialogue and the process of mutual forgiveness that A.Brahm seeks.

    I urge you support – if you wish to write a more personal letter – please do so.

    I have heard that one Thera – who regrets signing the 5 points -that he will feel heartened with support at the WAM with well considered, respectful letters from lay supporters.

    Whilst I also have heard one of the Siladhara ‘feeling sick’ at the misrepresentation of the letter posted on the official Forset Sangha web site ‘Where we are Now’ – as she watches her once ‘beautiful and nourishing community’ being slowly demolished behind a wall of ‘metta speak’

    I’m off to weep a while over my British cup of Tetleys tea……after which I plan to rally to write that letter….please join me in doing so…
    all the best
    Thanissara

    • While I honestly believe that this effort is barking up the wrong tree and that everyone should just get on with their practice (including the bhikkhuni involved) instead of wasting energy and emotions without effect (as you can see, I am not holding my breath waiting for a change of heart here ;) ), I have nevertheless decided to contribute.

      So, just an outline of my letter below:

      Venerable sirs,

      as a lay women supporting monastries of the Thai Forest tradition in various countries, I have been deeply concerned about the rift evident on the matter of bhikkhuni ordination within the Forest tradition.

      While I am aware that Thai tradition might not favour bhikkhuni ordination, from a Western perspective, I respectfully request that you will support such ordinations at least within the Western world.
      I have been fortunate enough to be born in an environment which does enable me and my sisters to pursue any path we chose for our development. I feel strongly that the current disinclination of the Elders of the Thai Forest tradition – and may I most prominently refer especially to the Westerners of this tradition – to support bhikkhuni within the Theravada tradition (and more specificaly its Forest lineage) is not in line with the spiritual path intended by the Buddha in several ways:

      1. The Buddha himself introduced bhikkhuni ordination; more so, he defined it as an essential and integral part of the fourfold sangha structure to continue his teachings

      (MAHA‐PARINIBBĀNA SUTTA, D16: “Evil One, I will not take final Nibbāna till I have monks and nuns and laymen-followers and lay-women-followers who are accomplished, trained skilled, learned, knower of the Dhamma, trained in conformity with the Dhamma, correctly trained and walking the path of the Dhamma, who will pass on what they have gained from their teacher, teach it, declare it, expound it, analyse it, make it clear; till they shall be able by means of the Dhamma to refute false teachings that have arisen, and teach the Dhamma of wondrous effect..”

      2. The vinaya and the intent of the Buddha should count more than traditional customs which are just condition and impermanent. How can conditions really be used to build a line of argument against bhikkhuni ordination?

      3. Lineage is not relevant to the vinaya; it is again custom and tradition and preferecnes again raising its head. The Buddha taught the dhamma, he didn’t teach Mahayana or Theravada vinaya. With this in mind, how can the historical breaking of ties in one location and area justify a global denial to ordination within this line IF the teaching has prevailed (in other regions and “lineages”) AND the Buddha himself has intended bhikkhunis to complete the fourfold assembly?

      With all this in mind, Venerable Sirs, please look into your heart and even more so into the heart of the Buddha and his teachings and endorse the bhikkhuni ordination within the Forest tradition – at least in the West, if you feel it imposes on Thai legislation. It most certainly doesn’t do this in Western countries. I feel confident that technicalities and processes can be improved on, if all parties involved aim to reflect the true intent and meaning of the Buddha’s compassionate and wise stance on bhikkhuni inclusion in the sangha.

      with respect & metta,
      etc. etc. etc.

      Good luck with it, for what it’s worth ;)

    • Thank you dear Ace.
      This is the most clear and compassionate words I have heard for awhile on this topic. I salute your clarity and courage and compassion,
      With metta and respect

    • Beautiful in the beginning, beautiful in the middle and beautiful in the end is the Tathagatha’s teaching.

      Its good to have an eye wash once in a while (but not too much tho, coz it could be bad/too drying for the eyes:-P).

      Wishing you beautiful time with your cups of tea and light cooling breezes from the six directions.

      Metta Cheers

    • Dear Thanissara

      This is not Parliament!
      What petition?

      Buddhism is not for rebels.
      Don’t create “war” in Buddhism.

  3. I’m planning to write a letter, but after reading Ace’s, I think I won’t…

    Not because I’ve changed my mind, but I cannot say it better!

    You are an ACE, Ace!

    Dear Thanissara,…I’m glad you are spearheading the efforts to help women. Thanks a million!

  4. Awesome letter Ace. Dheerayupa, I reckon you ought to write a letter anyway. Imagine bags of mail…they’ll realise how much support this issue has from this side!

  5. Dear Dhammarians & Vinayarians,

    All this that is going on is not BUDDHISM, IT IS EGOISM.

    Our Lord Buddha golden advice to us:

    ” Embrace it, if it does not cause harm to oneself & others;
    DO NOT embrace it, if it causes harm to oneself & others.”

    In this Bikkunis conversion, it is causing harm (disharmony)
    to oneself and others, so it is not Buddhism but Egoism.

    The nature of Buddhism is gentleness and harmony
    with Nature, Oneself & Others.

    “Be heedful, not heedless” – Buddha

  6. Did Ajahn Brahm’s involvement in the bhikkhuni ordination harm anyone?
    No one. It in fact benefits a great number of beings.

    Did the other monks’ harsh response to Ajahn Brahm’s compassionate action harm anyone?

    Ask yourselves what is the real cause of this current sad situation?

    Ajahn Brahm once said it’s not the incident (death, rape, loss of loved ones or even economic recession) that causes sufferings, it’s our relationship to that incident.

    Is excommunicating Ajahn Brahm a compassionate act beneficial to all beings?

    Is seeking Somdet’s revocation of Ajahn Brahm’s preceptor status a compassionate act beneficial to all beings?

    Ask yourselves what are the ‘real’ reasons behind all these actions.

    Was it done out of compassion and wisdom?

    Is it a wise decision to hurt people whose sole intentions are to practice dhamma and those who encourage the practices?

    Is it a compassionate decision?

    Compassion for whom?

  7. i remember with gratitude of the love and compassion of teachers …

    Gratitude for the Teachers of the past
    Gratitude for the Teachers of present
    Gratitude for the Teachers of the future yet to come.

    (with discernment of my own conditions and needs)

    Thank you(s) with metta

  8. It is good to discern the difference between compassion and attachment to wrong conditioning. We should carry with us what is wholesome, yet let go of clinging to what is unwholesome . That is how things can improve . There are many other ways of showing gratitude. May you choose the best method of showing gratitude.

  9. In Anjali,

    Thank you with metta.

    with acceptance of good advice and my own limitations…:-P

    May the same good wishes be returned to thee.

    (Shanti)

  10. Dear Ajahn;
    Many thanks to all monks at Wat Nong Pah Pong and Wat Pah Nanachat who have successfully steered the Wat Nong Pah Pong Sangha’s resolution to excommunicate Ajahn Brahm and delist Bodhinyana Monastery in Perth as abranch monastery of Wat Nong Pah Pong.Your action is,in effect,favorablr to free Ajahn Brahm from all the obsolete traditions and regulations.
    Buddhism does not belong to any particular country,let alone a particular group who perseive themselves as the warden of a sacred sect.Lord Buddha’s teachings belong to humanity.Ajahn Brahm has held himself marvelously as a true follower of Lord Buddha.His compassion is not for one particular group of people,but to mankind.His techings are applicable and practical to all walks of life regardless of age,gender,race or even beliefs and to all types of people,-be it lay people or monastic.His teaching enchance the fact that Buddhism is a true globalised religion which can live in harmony with other religions.Now that he is no longer labeled a member of a certain group of Sangha,thanks to all of you he can become an international,if not universal Bhikkhu. Saddhu…Saddhu…Saddhu.

    • It is difficult to judge from the forefront.
      No one is able to tell the other person’s mind
      except the doer himself/herself.

      The most important is the motive behind one’s
      action or non-action. Only the doer knows the
      motive (if any)either good or bad motive or
      for others or oneself or for others in disguise
      for oneself. No one would know except the doer.
      In this case, only Aj B would know in his conscience.

      So it is hard to take side and pass judgment.

    • Freud would tell you (and Socrates and the Buddha would nod sagely in the background) that it is not even easy for the doer themselves to know the motive behind an action. ;)

  11. The statement signed by the six monks who claimed to represent the Wat Nong Pah Pong Sangha and citing Venerable Somdej Buddhajahn is merely the said group’s opinion and isnot a fact.Mahathera Samakom has not yet informed and has not yet done anything regarding this matter.
    This statement is merely their attempt to employ a psychological tactics to influence the general public to create pressure on their “target”.It is noteworthy that the ranks of all the monks who signed this statement are below Chao Khun.No monks of the Chao Khun level are signatories.It is worth wondering how credible this statement is.Can this statement be deemed official representation of the Wat Nong Pah Pong Sangha’s resolution?

  12. Dear Ajahn,
    May I ask you all to please contemplate the possibility that some monks may have cultivated unwholesomeness thoughts and attempts to dominate the Wat Nong Pah Pong network.
    They are trying their best to make the most of Ajahn Brahm’s involvement in the Bhikkuni ordination in order to gain worldwide acknowledgement of their ability and (apparent) faithfulness to dhamma and vinaya.

  13. Ven. Dr. Yifa’s Response to the Bhikkhuni Ordination at Perth

    Thirty years ago, I visited a Buddhist monastery for the first time in my life. Two weeks later, I decided to shave my head and become a nun. At the time, I was a student at the law school of National Taiwan University, and wanted to be a lawyer or even a politician. I had felt, since I was a child, great sympathy toward the suppressed classes in society and was attracted to fairness and justice. These have been the guiding values in my life.
    The monastery I visited is called Buddha Light Mountain (Fo Guang Shan). Three decades ago, most of Fo Guang Shan’s members were women and most of them were young, in their twenties and thirties, and with a college education. The whole community was very dynamic and energetic, full of hope and life. The founder of the order, Venerable Master Hsing Yun, called for young and educated people to join the Sangha. During those two weeks, I myself had a personal transformation, and changed my path as a lawyer into that of a monastic.
    I was very dedicated to learning and practicing the precepts (the Vinaya). One day, we students were invited by a devotee to stay in a hotel, where the bed in the room was high-up and large. One of the ten precepts is to restrain oneself from sleeping on such a bed. I asked the Venerable Master what I should do. “You need be able to sleep on either the small one or the big one,” he said. “Both are fine.” That was a wonderful lesson, because the reason I came to Buddhism was to look for liberation and not bondage, for the ultimate truth, and not just rules—and some rules in the Vinaya seemed to be unfair, especially the many ones for women.
    Later, Venerable Master Hsing Yun encouraged me to go to abroad for my advanced education. With his support and Fo Guang Shan’s sponsorship, I finished a Master’s degree in philosophy from Hawaii University and the Ph.D. in Religion from Yale within eight years. For my dissertation, I decided to study the Vinaya and the monastic codes of India and China. When I finished my dissertation, I cried out, “Gotama! This old man was so wise and kind.” I felt this to be so, because the Buddha left so much flexibility with the rules, so there were exceptions to particular rules whenever they created inconvenience in the Sangha.
    The Buddha set up the rules after he attained enlightenment, and then proclaimed one after another; but he also responded to the thoughts of the benefactors of monks and nuns, and modified the rules he initiated. He was so wise, because as he kept reminding monastics to adapt to local customs, something that is repeated in the Vinaya texts again and again.
    The Buddha’s most precious teaching concerned “causes and conditions.” Every day, I am aware that the temporal and special conditions where I live are different. The Internet, media, and transportation have reshaped the world and the younger generation is different from my time. As the Buddha taught, the world is changing.
    It is hard for us to imagine today that a spiritual institution such as the Church initiated the Christian Inquisition beyond; it’s hard to believe now that suicide bombers carry out their brutality in the name of religion. Buddhism has been viewed as nonviolent; however, its suppression of women’s rights has caught Westerners’ attention. I believe that Buddha left his palace intending to find a solution to the suffering of all human/sentient beings, and not to build a religion called “Buddhism.”
    In the twentieth century, Buddhism came to the West. Now, in the twenty-first, it is flourishing. But Buddhism is still strange to the West; those Westerners who leave their native faith to step into an Asian culture must have courage and face tremendous challenges. The system of sponsorship has yet to be built for the Western Sangha; many Westerners who seek the monastic life are still like orphans, with no parents (few teachers who understand they are different) and no home (few monasteries fit their culture). We need to adopt a forgiving and inclusive attitude to welcome them to the Sangha.
    I attended a lecture given by one of my best friends, William Ury, co-founder of the Harvard Negotiation Project and author of the bestseller Getting to Yes. At the end of his talk, he quoted the American Poet Edwin Markham. I think there are no better words to fit this situation:

    They drew a circle that shut me out,
    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout!
    But love and I had the wit to win
    We drew a circle that took them in.

    There is a simplistic impression that all Theravada monks are against women’s ordination. That is not true. Fo Guang Shan has given several international ordinations; they were all supported by different groups of Theravada monks. Is it possible to use a “humane” way to reconsider this issue rather than focusing on the letter of the law?

    Bhikkhuni Yifa
    Fo Guang Shan, Taiwan
    Now based His Lai Temple, Los Angeles, USA

  14. I’ve read an article on how to practice metta by a highly-respected Thai monk – P.A. Payutto:

    Practicing metta does not mean having metta without taking any action; otherwise, it will become ‘sluggish metta’. Without using any wisdom, this sluggish metta will become ‘Moha’ (ignorance).

    Buddhism teaches us to have metta as well as living our lives with wisdom and without remissness.

    The teaching that says that we should live with wisdom and without remissness is important. We should understand that this is not a personal issue. It does not mean that when someone harms us, we have to endure and not take revenge, thinking that by not taking any retaliatory action, or allowing others to continue harming us, the issue will come to an end.

    On the contrary, it is a public issue. It is about having a foresight to contemplate how the human society or the world can live in peace. In other words, if such an incident (someone harming someone else or similar deeds) keeps repeating into the future, what will happen? What should be done to ensure that human beings can live together in peace?

  15. We hope that The W A M on 7th-9th December 2009 at Wat Pah Nanachat would be the deal which encouraged the human being with Caring and Compassion. Saddhu…Saddhu…Saddhu.

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