A few things…

Just a few miscellaneous items for you.

Here’s a wonderful new article by Ayya Tathaaloka. She has a wonderful way of capturing both the spirit and the sense of things. Do have a read.

There’s been some interest in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s paper on bhikkhuni ordination. Here’s the full paper, including the appendix, which translates Jetavana Sayadaw’s argument for bhikkhuni ordination.

RevivalBhkni-Final-2

My friends over at the Singapore Buddhist fellowship have a lot of interesting bhikkhuni materials on their website, check it out.

Some of you may be aware of a recent article by Ajahn Thanissaro where he questions the validity of the recent ordinations. His article has been criticized by Ayya Tathaaloka, Ayya Sudhamma, Ajahn Brahm, Bhikkhu Bodhi, and I understand that a group of scholars is also preparing a response. This is so great – for once I don’t have to do it myself! I don’t know if there is a place on the web where all these articles are collected together for easy reference? If someone could point me in the right direction I can put up some links – there’s a bit too much material for me to want to post it all here.

35 thoughts on “A few things…

  1. Thanks for this elegant piece from Ayya Thataaloka.

    The argument makes it clear that in “what is affirmed as the oldest strata of the Theravada Buddhist teaching” there is no ambiguity regarding the place and status of women in buddhism; they are there as bhikkhunis practising and variously realising the dhamma. No doubt about it, despite the later textual incursions, interpretations, impositions, and even immolations, that posit a dim view of women.

    What I found poignant is this: that in this oldest strata of the teaching “gender discrimination belongs to the sphere of Mara and those deluded in the lay world”. What has happened to effectively reverse that situation (with some notable exceptions)?

  2. Re: Ajahn Brahm’s Upajjhaya status revoked by The acting Thai Sangha Chief Somdet Buddhajahn (who is also Ajahn Brahm’s upajjhaya)

    Dear Bhante,

    here is the text, as it appears on dhammalight website:

    From the Dhammalight website:

    Some Key Remarks made by Ven. Somdet Buddhajahn
    In a meeting with a delegation from Wat Nong Pah Pong on 17 Nov. 2009

    During a meeting between a delegation of monks representing Wat Nong Pah Pong and the Head of the Acting Council of the Supreme Patriarch of the Thai Sangha, Chao Phra Khun Somdet Buddhajahn, the Wat Nong Pah Pong delegation informed the Somdet that Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso’s membership of the Wat Nong Pah Pong Sangha had recently been revoked, and that his monastery, Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery in Perth, Australia, has been delisted as a branch monastery of Wat Nong Pah Pong. Regarding this decision, the Somdet expressed his “anumodana” or blessing of approval, to the Wat Nong Pah Pong Sangha for acting in accordance with the Thai Elders Council and the Thai Sangha Laws.

    The representatives of Wat Nong Pah Pong met with Ven. Somdet Buddhajahn on 17 November 2552 at 9 a.m. to seek clarification on a number of issues, particularly following Ajahn Brahmavamso’s subsequent public criticisms of the Wat Nong Pah Pong decision, and his misrepresentation of certain facts surrounding it, and also in light of his references to the alleged approval that the Somdet had given him for the Bhikkhuni ordination of 22 October 2552. During this meeting the Somdet made the following remarks:

    1. The ordination of the Bhikkhunis:

    With regard to Ajahn Brahmavamso’s claims that the Somdet had given him the green light to carry out Bhikkhuni ordination, the Somdet responded, “I do not have the authority to allow anyone to ordain Bhikkhunis. Ajahn Brahm is misrepresenting me based on his own understanding of my words.” Referring to the fact that Ajahn Brahmavamso had in the past consulted with the Somdet regarding Bhikkhuni ordination, the Somdet stated that he had explained to Ajahn Brahmavamso that the regulations of the Thai Maha Thera Samakom (The Thai Elders’ Council) and its laws do not govern Theravada Buddhism worldwide. However, this did not mean that permission was being given to ordain Bhikkhunis. The statement was nothing other than a direct reference to the regulations and administration of the Thai Sangha. Any monk who is legally ordained in the Kingdom of Thailand, under the auspices of the Thai Sangha, is required to follow the Thai Elders’ Council’s laws and rulings, regardless of whether they are residing in Thailand or abroad. The Somdet concluded that if any member of the Thai Sangha were to carry out a Bhikkhuni ordination, then the Bhikkhunis could not be considered as having been ordained in the Theravada tradition.

    2. Ajahn Brahmavamso’s Status as an Upajjhaya (preceptor) and his Royal Ecclesiastical Title:

    Regarding Ajahn Brahmavamso’s status as an Upajjhaya granted by the Thai Sangha and his royal ecclesiastical title of ‘Chao Khun’, the Somdet stated that these were given to him only because of his position as a direct disciple of Ajahn Chah and his monastery’s status as a branch of Wat Nong Pah Pong. Now that his membership of the Sangha of Wat Nong Pah Pong has been revoked, his status as an Upajjhaya is no longer valid. From now on Ajahn Brahmavamso is not authorized to give upasampada or issue Thai Sangha registration documents (bai suddhis).

    NOTE THAT AJAHN BRAHM’S ROYAL TITLES ARE NOT REMOVED – I GUESS ONLY THE KING CAN AUTHORISE THAT. NOTICE THE SECOND PART OF THE FIRST SENTENCE, WHICH IMPLIES THAT AJAHN BRAHM HAD TO DO NOTHING MORE THAN WARM THE ABBOT’S SEAT AT BODHINYANA TO GET HIS PRECEPTOR STATUS AND ROYAL TITLES! ANYONE WHO HAS LIVED CLOSELY WITH AJAHN BRAHM OVER MANY YEARS WILL KNOW THAT THIS IS ABSURD.- M.Percy

    3. Ajahn Brahmavamso and Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery

    The Somdet stated that as Ajahn Brahmavamso and Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery have had their membership of the Wat Nong Pah Pong Sangha revoked, this constitutes the end of all their official links with Wat Nong Pah Pong. Whether Ajahn Brahmavamso decides to stay or leave Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery is now up to him. Yet this decision also lies with the lay community involved with the monastery as it is the right and responsibility of faithful Buddhists to choose the course of action they wish to take with regard to the future direction of the monastery. They are the ones who have supported, maintained, and provided material requisites for the monastery all along, including the funds for the initial purchase of land in Perth, Australia, to build Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery, which was offered directly to Phra Bodhinyana Thera (Ajahn Chah Subhaddo) for the use of the greater Sangha and for the benefit and happiness of the multitude of people who wish to practice the Dhamma.

    • Thrash about as they may, the Thai secular and religio-institutional authorities have no power over AB. Nor do they have any power over anyone who takes in Ayya Taathaloka’s message – all this concern for titles and power and face is chaff to Dhamma in its earliest.

      Sorry Mike. But I reckon we should just ignore this kinda stuff. Giving fools and bullies attention, just plays into their hand.

      >j<

    • Yes, let’s just ignore this stuff. If people are creating their own negative worlds that’s their problem. We can ignore it and continue on with our practice of Dhamma, peace, kindness, gentleness, letting go etc etc. :o) We can just continue to develop the bhikkhuni sangha and the old ideas will die out on their own since noone really is taking them seriously?!

    • I am ABSOLUTELY HORRIFIED!!!! It feels like Ajahn Brahm who teaches us to open the doors of our hearts has been thrown out of a few hearts. How can they think this is a right or noble thing to do? This is absolutely the worst thing so far. Is Jason right? Do these people have this kind of power over Ajahn Brahm? I reckon Mara’s seen his chance in this mess and is working over time at present.

    • Um … just to clarify … I was trying to express how no-one has any power over AB. AB makes his own decisions. As do we all – though sometimes we do not like to own up to the fact.

      Mara does not make any decisions for us. He just plays with our foolishness.

    • Sorry, didn’t mean to make it sound like you were saying that they did have power! I meant are you right in your statement that they don’t have this power. Have just read the discussion below and also a family member who used to be a monk under AB’s explained it to me and so I see that AB can go on ordaining hundreds of Aussie monks and nuns for years to come. Hooray!

    • Dear Michael,

      Thanks for posting this. A number of things in this statement should be clarified. First off, Ajahn Brahm never said that Somdet Buddhajahn gave the green light to bhikkhuni ordination, or that he gave permission. What he said was that there was no obstacle since the Mahatherasamakhom have no jurisdiction overseas, as the Somdet explains in the article. My reading of this development is that the Somdet personally would be quite happy to support bhikkhuni ordination, or at least have no objection to it, as long as it does not come under the authority of the Mahatherasamakhom – in other words, as long as it is someone else’s problem.

      A second mistake in the letter is that the land was offered directly to Ajahn Chah – it was not, as he was in a coma by the time the land was purchased. The land was purchased by the BSWA, who had already hosted and knew well Ajahns Jagaro and Brahm, and it was to support them to build a monastery.

      The other thing is to notice the typical slide between ‘Thai Buddhism’ and ‘Theravada’: if Ajahn Brahm’s status as an upajjhaya is revoked under Thai secular law, then the bhikkhunis cannot be Theravada! leaving aside the fact that Ajahn Brahm was not the upajjhaya at the ordination, and that his status had not been revoked at the time the ordination was done, how can this be reconciled with the Somdet’s own self-evident statement that the laws of the Mahatherasamakhom do not govern international Theravada?

    • Thanks Bhante for those clarifications. The problem is that some may have the idea that in order for any bhikkhu ordinations to be valid, one’s preceptor must have a kind of ‘licence’ from the Thai Sangha authorities first (or equivalent authority) – such that any further ordinations Ajahn Brahm performs will be invalid, or at least not recognised if these monks choose to visit Thailand, to live in Thai monasteries. I know this is all outside of the Vinaya. Only the Vinaya can determine one’s ability to act as a preceptor, not some State controlled politico-bureaucracy.

    • Yes, indeed. It is long past time to end this Thai State control over the Sangha. It is bad enough in Thailand, but completely absurd outside it. I discussed this some years ago with Ven Heng Ching, a senior bhikkhuni in Taiwan. She was incredulous to hear that the Western monks still only gave ordinations if ‘allowed’ to by the Thai State. Such a concept is entirely unknown in Taiwan. ‘Why would they do that?’ she asked, to which i could only say, ‘I have no idea.’

      There are hundreds of monks who stay in Thailand who were ordained in Burma, or Sri Lanka, or elsewhere, and they do just fine.

    • I do agree that the Thai government should have nothing to do with the sangha. The department of religious affairs in Thailand was pretty bizzaro.

    • Dear Micheal Percy,

      Basically, they revoked Ajahn Brahm’s title because he did not Obey and because the law in Thailand says that it is illegal to ordain bhikkhuni. But in ordaining bhikkhuni Ajahn Brahm abides by the dharma. And someone who lives in the dharma shouldn’t have his title revoked. In becoming a monk , Ajahn Brahm is committed to the Buddha’s dharma only. Buddha’s dharma and Thai laws are two different things. Becoming a monk shouldn’t permanently bind a person to the law of a certain country no matter where he/she goes.

      It makes sense that wherever a monk goes, he abides by the Buddha’s dharma. But it doesn’t make any sense to say that wherever a monk goes, he needs to abides by Thai laws. Please don’t add Thai laws to the Buddha’s dharma. That would detrimental .

    • With respect iMed. my view is that, there are rules & code of ethics in the Sangha to abide and no doubt each monk is independant and autonomous but each monk belongs to the establishment of the Sangha, for purpose of mutual harmony in the Sangha.

  3. May i be permitted to gently share my thoughts here, with due respect to all the Ajarns who are definitely wiser & knowledgeable than all of us lay people here, so we need to be conscious in speech,thoughts & action.

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT:-
    After having gathered valuable dhamma from the links (AjS.- most appreciated & with gratitude in your sharing of the dhamma & your views & points).

    Buddha used his WISDOM to introduce Bikkunis Sangha with the 8 rules, citing that during that era, males were culturally more dominant even back in China etc.
    If Buddha went against that prevailing culture, there would be disharmony but Buddha executed it without any disharmony or resistance from the community at large during his era.
    We have now female & male dominant communities and as such, bikkunis ordination are more well accepted but it must be executed wisely like our Buddha depending on whether that particular country is more male dominated or female dominated or equal. In this case, in the West, it is equal status for male & female but there are still other developing countries that do not condone or have not or would not condone to this equality culture and progress.

    We have to ask ourselves whether this progress is applicable to all now and in the future before we implement it across the globe.

    We are now in a transition period (from male dominant to gender equality), so it is a difficult decision making era in the future of Buddhism. Should decision be made now or should we go gradually with due respect for other communities.

    What wisdom would our Buddha use if Buddha were to be born in our era? Metta.

    • The Buddha is ahead of his time. He did not shy away from going against the social norm at that time. Society lived by the cast system at that time and judged people according to the type of family they were born into. The Buddha said that whether someone is a Brahmin (a spiritual caste)or not shouldn’t be determined by which family they took birth in but by their own character. He also ordained the “untouchable” caste (very poor caste), which is a no no at the time. I totally agree, because people shouldn’t be excluded from spirituality because they are born poor.

      The way the law is in Thailand, we might have no choice but to let it change at its own pace. But I don’t know how long that would be. I am only concerned about the devout female practitioner of Thailand. They live in a Buddhist country, but can’t embark on Middle Way as intended by the Buddha.

  4. Hi Ajahn Sujato,

    Roni’s right, the link didn’t work BUT it did take me to ‘Dhammadharini’ on google and I typed Ayya’s name in the search box/field and found the following:

    http://groups.google.com/group/dhammadharini/web/responses-to-ajahn-thanissaros-concerns-on-bhikkhuni-ordination-validity

    This is a collection of articles under the umbrella of “Collected Responses to Ajahn Thanissaro’s and Wat Pah Pong’s Concerns on Bhikkhuni Ordination Validity”. I hope this is useful to everyone. It includes an article by Ajahn Brahm and by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

  5. Dear Ven Sir, Bro/Sis in the Dhamma, Namo Buddhaya.

    This is my interpretation of the 4-fold Sangha.

    I instinctively believe that our Buddha did not mean gender equality here, but he must have meant “YIN” & “YANG” (an old age Chinese philosophy)4-fold in the Sangha community and “YIN” & “YANG” in the lay community. He could have meant “YIN” & “YAN” HARMONY in the Sangha & lay community.The perfect harmonious balance in any community.

    Today the world is OFF BALANCE! There is too much “YANG” ENERGY & depleting “YIN” ENERGY (so many examples indicating this in our today”s society).We Buddhist we are made of energy.

    “Yin” is the feminine energy & “Yang” is the masculine energy.

    Today’s world the feminine tried to be masculine with female wearing pants in the house and society, thus contributed more “Yang” energy to the world. If the world has too excessive “Yang” energy, it could be the cause why there were so much violence, crimes, rapes, war etc in this world now. The earth is burning with too much “Yang” energy (it is on “fire”) and not enough “Yin” energy to balance it.

    The Buddha also advised that the Bikkunis should stay close to the Bikku Sangha and given the 8 rules (not to mean submissive) but women by nature is feminine nature. This feminity would make men have more respect for women rather than the feminine gender trying to be masculine and fighting for equal rights.

    The Buddha could mean a Bikkuni & Bikku within one Sangha and not a split gender Sangha but to live harmoniously together and could also act as check & balance in in the Sangha with women as the less masculine and men as more masculine (for harmony).

    Hope all members of Sangha could reconcile and work together to bring back the YIN & YANG HARMONY.

  6. Venerable Sujato,

    Regarding having all of the material relevant to Bhikkhunni ordination in one place. This is something that should be relatively easy to do. There are a number of option available to you that I can help with:

    1.) Collect all of the materials that you would prefer to be available in one place, I will host them on my web server, so as to make sure that their links do not go dead, and you can link to them on the side of your blog.

    2.) We can collaborate on the creation of a simple site that would contain all of these materials, that I would be happy to host.

    3.) If the wordpress.com hosting service doesn’t allow for you to post the links that you would like to in a separate box, then the independent wordpress software certainly does. Once again, the problem with the software if that you need a web server to host the blog, which I would be happy to do.

    If interested, you can email me: jstewart@pariyatti.net

    • Dear James,

      Well, it would be good to have this debate preserved. In a few years, much of the scattered information would be lost in the internet somewhere, particularly those sites, like this one, that rely on free services. Unfortunately, I don’t have time right now to think about doing this, but if anyone would like to it’d be a great thing.

  7. I hope Somdet’s revocation of Ajahn Brahm’s preceptor status would not prevent Ajahn Brahm from travelling to Thailand to give talks and lead meditation retreats.

    Or, it would mean that Thai laypeople are now deprived of a very good monk as a result of a handful of not-compassionate-enough monks.

    May Ajahn Brahm be happy and well.

  8. Dear wisdom,

    I agree that there are rules & code of ethics in the sangha to abide . But in ordaining bhikkhuni, AB did not goes against the code of ethics in the sangha (or the Buddha in particular). We should also examine whether the group itself abide to the code of ethics in the sangha in forbidding women from becoming ordained.

    Throughout history there are many instances where the majority has strayed away from the way intended by the Buddha. Fortunately a brave few speak out on the issue and revived it.

  9. Kanchana :
    Sorry, didn’t mean to make it sound like you were saying that they did have power! I meant are you right in your statement that they don’t have this power. Have just read the discussion below and also a family member who used to be a monk under AB’s explained it to me and so I see that AB can go on ordaining hundreds of Aussie monks and nuns for years to come. Hooray!

    Hooray, I mean, for more monastics in the world. Perhaps a third hooray would not go astray …

  10. I do not have such an issue with the Thai ajahns, they are beholded to their own culture and history. I am however deeply saddened by the western ajahns who seem to be unable to think or act without Thai approval.

    Ajahn Sumedho, Chandako, and Thanissaro in particular deeply sadden me. When “respect” for the Thai Sangha overwhelms natural justice, when legal argument replaces compassion, when concerns about procedure are greater than concerns about principle there is a real problem. There is nothing Buddhist about enforcing regulations and procedures that disenfranchise any group in the Sangha. Would they support a rule that prevented blacks from ordination? or Greenlanders? or former Baptists? or there was a height requirement? Of course they would not.
    Would they believe for a moment that the Buddha intended any of these groups to be treated that way? Of course not.

  11. Bhante,
    I was recently ordained as a Maa Chee by Ajahn Brahm & at that time I only informed my husband (obtained his permission as well) + a few close friends but not my parents. This was done so because my parents might have done something to prevent me from leaving for Perth to get ordained. However, I have no intention of deceiving them, I just postponed giving them the information, which by now I already did.
    I think the Bhikkhuni ordination was not done ‘so openly’ (I don’t like to use the word discretion) for similar reason. I strongly believe that Ajahn Brahm has no intention of deceiving anyone (like he was accused of), let alone deceiving the senior monks whom he respects so highly.
    Not telling/informing (as claimed by Phra Bhavanaviteht) of the event is NOT the same as deceiving. Keeping silent of certain things & disclosing them only at appropriate time have been practiced even during the Buddha’s time.
    I’m just saddened by the fact that this event may have been used as a “political move” to express perhaps (forgive me for saying this) a “spiritual jealousy” towards Ajahn Brahm. Everyone’s concern now seems to NOT be for the welfare of the Dhamma but for their own “safety”: so busy checking out with whom the majority is taking a stand for.
    Anyone who’s known Ajahn Brahm must have felt the mega metta he’s generated towards others & how much respect he’s shown to his teachers & the elders. Yet, on top of all this, he’s given 2 unpleasant options to choose from.
    With the utmost respect, I venerate Ajahn Brahm as my teacher, and completely in support of his statement that his “obligation were to the Dhamma & Vinaya”
    I ask forgiveness for any thought, speech or deed that I’ve done which may may have hurt anyone.

    Mettacittena,
    -Evy-

    • Dear Bewildered,

      She was originally part of Master Hwa’s tradition (City of 10 000 Buddhas). She was largely responsible for the current upsurge in Taiwan’s tertiary education for the Sangha; in addition she was the original creator of the magnificent CBETA digital Chinese canon. Her advice to me: ‘Just do it!’

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