Another Siladhara speaks

Please find below some reflections from Sister Sumedha, one of the siladharas in the English Sangha.

“To echo something that was said earlier (I think on Sujato’s blog) I am amazed at the level of fear, denial, almost soporific group trance that the UK monasteries seem to be in the sway of.

I feel that our role as concerned, observant lay people is to try and wake monastics up to what is happening in their name”

When I read this in the ongoing discussion on the web I felt a strong need – as a woman living in the UK communities for over a decade – to write a response.

What I want to say is: I am not asleep to what is happening. I applaud the current unfurling of the complexities and denials that are active in our community life. The issue for me is not just one of gender equality or democracy, though those are important results that come from a heart that is genuinely open and something I very much wish to see. This, to me, is rooted in a spiritual emergency.

The core of why I came here is this: I was deeply suffering but sensed, even more deeply, that in our very nature is the capacity to awaken. Hearing the Buddha’s teaching on non – clinging brought a light which has helped an inner perspective to grow. Where is the heart closed, where is there fear, need to control, protect, hide etc? Learning to let this light flow and be active – to bring its power to transform into real, living life – this is the human/spiritual journey as I see… My experience shows it does bring space for wisdom, love, and compassion to shine. From our nature – all of us.

To have been able to ordain was in effect making an outer commitment to this inner capacity to awaken. Tradition, a vehicle. Living in a place where I felt a shared aspiration has been profoundly helpful. Having a community, teachings, living as an alms mendicant, have nourished me beyond words. I want to see that openly and fully available for anyone to whom it is beneficial, as the Buddha intended.

In these ways I respect the place of teachers, of tradition and of training.

But any aspect that has become institutionalised can cut rather than celebrate this awakening life. In everyone: those that apparently hold power as much as those who apparently don’t. Whatever spiritual authority comes through our forms, if it is true, belongs to no-one, and everyone, so when the form takes hold of it – in rigid hierarchies or whatever – we are lost.

Structure/freedom, solitude/engagement, accepting teachings/knowing one’s inner authority – these are some of the most wonderful and creative paradoxes we have. But when rigidity sets in, and uses liberation teachings and vinaya to justify its stance, the creative relationship with freedom is endangered (to say the least).

It is out of concern for this, as a monastic regarding the “what is happening in our name”, that I feel moved to write.

What I see happening in our name is spiritual justification of certain loyalties – to Thailand, to the lineage and whatever attitudes prevail in that family. Of course this has, in part, a genuine spiritual basis in terms of a lineage of teachers who have truly affected one’s life, and I respect that, I feel and honour it in myself.

But there is also a loyalty process that is more to do with the sense of family, with acceptance and, importantly, with support, social, political and financial. Examining family values is notoriously difficult; they get embedded. Without listening to outside feedback, without valuing it, without being willing to speak when timely and risk losing support, we just condition each other in certain attitudes – around hierarchy, gender, around what is or isn’t proper practice. And how then does one preserve an openness of view? How does practice connect to anything outside its own small world? What happens when one steps out – as is evident with Aj Brahm – is uproar…

Experiencing this kind of ‘world closure’ – ever more clearly – is heartbreaking. Truly heartbreaking when the Buddha’s teaching is such an open ground. I experience it as something like a betrayal of the beauty and potential that is within us all. Not defeating, but deeply deeply saddening and sobering.

Where it leaves me is with an ever firmer conviction that practice must be connected in our lives. That our work as monastics is not just to transcend the world – when anyway, even as renunciates, we live in it – but to acknowledge the drives of fear, anger, control, desire, human need – and not just play them out in our monastic forms. Then the vinaya could again become a vehicle that facilitates awakening rather than a model of purity that replaces the heart. Its a big task.

What nourishes me is that the model of practice that the Buddha established was not something static. 2500 years ago, in the social conditions of his time, the Buddha established ordination for women. The vinaya was established through a series of responses to specific situations. Responses. He also took conventions of purity and reestablished them in saying a Brahmin is not a Brahmin by birth alone but by deed. This was a fearless heart putting its wisdom and clarity into action. He was connecting practice in the world.

So, personally, I find the discussions and events unfolding crucially important. Questioning: issues of authority, how transcendence can become avoidance (so, integration), the importance of presence and embodiment…these are basic and pressing areas.

If, as someone said recently, these are areas of more ‘feminine’ insight, they are something the presence of women in and around this tradition can bring – and partly why we (and men who enter these arenas) seem to be so threatening. We are not the threat. It is that work that is the threat, but so important in terms of Dhamma.

Sr Sumedha

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50 thoughts on “Another Siladhara speaks

  1. Dear Sister,
    I wish you well on your journey. But I am confused. There is so much talk about the bhikkhuni ordination and also now about Siladhara. Are they connected. Do the Siladhara want to become bhikkhunis if they could? Do you? I was under the impression that there were many outdated rules that could be hard to keep now in this modern day. Please clarify and perhaps comment on what practical measures you think would help.Thank you.

  2. Dear Sister Sumedha,
    Thank you for what you shared. You sound deeply committed to the Path of Awakening. I appreciate the considered way you have approached these issues – neither blame nor blindness. You bravely shared what you value within the form but also show the limitations of it. I would imagine that all who enter monastic life do so largely because they aspire to the noble aspects of the tradition (and perhaps later find out aspects that don’t seem so noble). Then what to do – change the form or leave? No form is the essence of truth; the best they can do is to point truth and support the individual’s discovery of it. I would agree that using a form to dismiss what is experienced in daily life seems a bit off to me. How can the conditioned and the unconditioned meet without compromising either?

  3. any form of clinging to notions is avicca
    this applies to both sides of the debate
    Letting go is the only way.
    The Ordained sangha is iimpregnated with organised events, activities and constructive thought. this is a road travcelling in the opposite direction of that which the arahants tread
    Ordaining will not release a person froom constant activity
    as a layperson you are no more burdened with activity and distractions to the art of lettiing go than as an ordained member
    the sila and how many precepts you practise is up to you as a person, ordaiined or not.
    The desire to ordaina nd the frustration at beig forbidden such a thing is understandable, i myself have been down that road.
    But the desire to ordain and frustration that comes from unfairness and inequality is a kiles and clinging thought/desire which brings only suffering.
    You do not ordain by putting on a robe
    you ordaiin in your heart
    many laypersons are “pra” in their hearts and inner practise, and many laymen/women are noble beings (even if others dont know it) – few bhikkhus attain becoming one of the 4 types of noble person (which are eight, as is the case with laypersons. free yourselves and just practise the dhamma with as much effort (samma vayama) as your progress allows and “jai yen yen” (keep a calm disposition without clinging to notions)
    I ordained before i was a Bhikkhu and remain ordained after leaviung the sangha.
    The color of your robes is not important (Pacavekanakanavidhi) they are only to protect from the elements, food is not for enjoyment only to keep us alive and fend off suffering, the roof over our head is not for pride or showing off or display, it is to protect us from the elements.
    Listening to ajahn passano explaining to laypersons attending a retreat, he explained the ten precepts they were keeping – as he got to the bit about not listening to music, no tv or electronics and entertainment.. i realised that 98 percent of all Bhikkhus have a mobile fone, but that laypersons on retreats renounce all such things.
    Dont worry you aint missing anything that much.
    Few sentient beings indeed will make that crossing to the other side in such a short time.Bhikkhuni or layperson.. it doesnt matter as in the end it is up to our inner efforts and nothing to do with being ordained in an exterior manner.
    You ordain yourself really and iot is your efforts which bring advancement.
    I once was clinging to the notion that i have to be a bhikkhu to advance better.
    Its simply not tru the kuti i stayed in the most bhikkhus watched tv all day.
    there was a shop where they could buy ice cream and pepsi cola..
    only the kammathana forest monks really have the chance to practise austerities as in the times of the Buddha, when so many became sotapannnas, sakitakami anakami and arahants.
    I saw a publicity for a dhamma meeting in a 5 star hotel in hua hin with the Buddhist fellowship with famous western monks of the ajahn chah tradition. the advert promoted the self pampering thought and was offering buffet lunch and all nice fruits etc.. five star dhamma talk for executives..
    oh no
    ajah chah wouldnt be impressed at all.
    Many western monks who i have met in his lineage areb noble beings (2 monks i met were decades in the forest alone in an ashram in thailand – they are not famous and leave the fame up to tohers who revel in it)
    Some of the monks of ajahn chah who have acheived “star status” are teaching things which are of the world not of lokuttara – this is not the path that leads to nibbana and the end of suffering
    even such people as these can fall prey to avicca.
    two in particular like to talk about their personal inner acheivements and abilities attained. This is not the way and they are clinging to the nimittas which ajahn chah warned against becoming fascinated with and entangled in.
    Nimitta such as the sound of silence are obstructions and obstacles to further development. if you develop the need for such things as a sign of your progress then you are creating the cause for future suffering. if you cant hear the sound of silence all of a sudden, then you will worry “i lost my meditative ability” “Oh No” and off to suffer you go.
    “attaining peace through meditation” was the title of one lecture – ajahn chah says “meditation is not about attaining or getting things” “it is about getting rid of things”
    so teaching people to “attain peace through meditation” is teaching them the wrong base of practise.
    Oh dear oh dear we humans we just dont get it most of us.

    But after a period of ordination i found that it

  4. all you have to do;
    practise samatha meditation with anapanasathi, and vipassana or Bodhibakyadhamma 37 to increase the subtlety off your perception, and then use it to watch the heart (cetasika) in real time. What you percieve and discover will become ever more subtle as you progress. Use this to see where the kilesas are hiding .
    Attaing 8th jhana is not going to free us, even the Buddha’s first teachers cound reach nevasanyasanyayatana, but did not enlighten. Finding, recognizing and removing the kilesas will make you an arahant, nothing else will work except this. meditation is a tool to be used for this purpose only.
    After all, Arahang means ‘free from kilesas/desires’, & not “super meditation master’
    Teaching people to sek happiness is ok as a basic starting point. But the advanced practitioner knows that the seeking of happiness is precisely the cause of suffering. happiness before arahantship is impermanent and leads to suffering when we cling to such and it is no longe rpresent.
    Clinging is to be avoinded. Clinging to non clinging is also to be avoided, because aversion is not the opposite of clinging, it is the same thiing as clinging. clinging for something to “not be like this” is what we call aversion (like clingiing to the notion that women should be allowed to ordain or not be allowed to) – atachment and aversions are both forms of clinging, one is a double positive and the other a double negative, thats the only difference between attachment and aversion.
    Just let go of things you cannot change, and practise your dhamma without bringing suffering upon yourself.
    Having said this, of course women should be allowed to ordain. But theres a lot of ignorance and pride in the world and in the sangha too. So dont suffer for it please it will distract yout efforts in dhamma.
    Contribute for your rights but dont suffer for it. We cannot control that which is outside of us, only that which is within us.

  5. Dear Question,

    I am not sure whether the nun who wrote this article will be reading this blog, so allow me to attempt to answer your questions as best I can. the bhikkhuni ordination is the ordination platform for women established by the Buddha and documented in the Buddhist scriptures. The siladhara form was established in england in the 1980s, based on the work of the monks at the time, and modeled after the Vinaya. There is, so far as I am aware, no consensus among the siladhara as to whether they would like to become bhikkhunis or not. As you can see from the response to the Perth ordinations, the attitude to bhikkhuni ordination from the male Wat pa Pong Sangha is not supportive.

    As far as the rules to be kept by the bhikkhunis are concerned, the important thing to remember that bhikkhuni ordination is not defined by a set of rules. It is defined by the full acceptance in the Sangha by means of the proper ordination. The rules came into play later, and are a set of principles in how best to manage the holy life. Like any set of rules they are contingent, and are interpreted and practiced in different ways at different times. I have discussed this in some detail in my book, Bhikkhuni Vinaya Studies.

  6. Dhamma is perhaps to be absorbed by the heart above all, and to be interpreted by the mind with caution.
    Attempts to ‘preserve’ the interpretations by being attached to rites and rituals can be dangerous, as the Buddha pointed out.
    I have found it increasingly difficult not to be depressed by authoritative men who ‘appear’ to be intent on finding a legalistic reason to withhold recognition of the ordinations, not because of the event itself but because it will allow some women to participate, even though the Buddha himself said that they had equal spiritual potential.
    Well, here is another blazing example of why it should be allowed.
    It makes my heart glad that Sister Sumedha has spoken from the heart in true Theravada tradition and has signed her name at the end. Such spiritual honesty and bravery has to be at the core of a movement that is to last.
    May her stature continue to grow.

  7. Sister Sumedha sent this to me this morning which she hoped would be included in her reflection above – I feel it speaks really to the heart of this struggle – so want to honour her words, courage and the clarity of statement by including this also. And would concur – that ‘Spiritual Emergency’ is indeed what we are in the midst of – on every level of human and global consciousness – all is inter-dependent.

    ” The external imbalance of male/female reflects to me an inner split of masculine/feminine that spiritually and in the world has powerful effects. If the feminine is the more embodied, connected aspect of being then to exclude it, outside or in (anyof us), leaves us vulnerable to closing down to parts of ourselves, to others and to the world.

    It is truly heartbreaking when the Buddha’s teaching is such an open ground. I experience it as something like a betrayal of the beauty and potential that is within us all. Not defeating, but deeply, deeply saddening and sobering.
    This is the spirtual emergency I feel we are in.”

    Sister Sumedha

  8. Dear All,
    I personally find, that after being very interested to ordain for many years- several years ago ( and practising in the past with that aspiration) and then becoming disillusioned about it….
    that the compassionate concerns i am witnessing, in their scholarly appearance and personal….from Sangha who are ordained and lay…is TRULY INSPIRING ME . It is reminding me of the heart of why i love the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.

    Thankyou so much Dear Compassionate and Wise ones.

  9. Amen, Spencer…! What I want to know is how do all these bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis have so much time to blog. I was amazed at how many of these giving up the world and leading a holy life” or “freedom from lust, craving and desires have web-sites. This all seems like a big karmic joke…!!! Maybe they shouldnt be so worried about their egos or the color of the robes. Did’nt the Buddha say something about setting an example for the lay people to instill faith…Maybe they should get off the computers and get into the forest. Also, for some of the woman on here and other sites you can clearly see you have an agenda that seems to flow from a place that may have nothing to do with if there are Bhikkunis or not.

  10. Dear Highly respectable Ven. Spencer,

    Oh, you are amongst the most wise ones. As Buddhism becomes popular, many laypeople jumped into the bandwagon to become monks/nuns without first practicing their Sila & going straight into Meditation and many monks/nuns getting caught in the worldly life.
    There was a wise monk who observed that the laypeople are behaving like monks/nuns and the monks/nun are behaving like laypeople.Some monks/nuns having few years practice are so eager to teach the world with their own understanding and even do not take heed of the Elder Monks who are wise, because of ego and anxious to form their own disciples,monastries and networks (kilesas still present or growing bigger).
    A lot of monks/nuns are returning to the worldly lives (in their robes) and caught in fund raisings and projects after projects and pampered by the lay devotees who are crazy going after the monks/nuns for merits, instead of learning the Dhamma from the Vinaya and Suttas in library/internet and learning Pali. Some monks are very busy travelling here & there giving talks, giving retreats overseas and eventually lost their tranquility.Monks/nuns should stay in the monastries to teach the Dhamma, Pali, conduct inhouse retreats/8 precepts.
    Buddhists have turned Buddhism from a serene peaceful spiritual life into a busy thriving business organizations. Majority of devotees are women and they are neglecting their household duties (left chores to maids) and motherly duty to their children to involve and busy with all kinds of activities in the monasteries, resulting in more sufferings.

  11. Sokhihotu Wise Ven Sir,

    This Bikkunis crisis has made us lay Buddhists very confused, disturbed and demoralized.

    Please advise Ven Sir for lay Buddhists, whether we could liberate ourselves from Samsara by learning from the Suttas,Vinaya and relying on the Maha Satipattanna Sutta to practise meditation on our own (with peace)and taking our 8 precepts on our own, without becoming a monk/nun. Is that possible?

    As for this Bikkunis crisis, we should let the Dhamma takes its own gentle gradual harmonious course and allow the Dhamma to unfold itself like a budding flower slowly gently unfolding its petal(what a beautiful sight and fragrance), rather than manually opening the petals. The Dhamma will take care of itself & we do not need to disturb the Law of Dhamma, since we are evolving every moment (Law of Evolution).

    May Nibbana be in your loving heart and may you have a long peaceful life.

  12. SADHU TO YOU, VEN SPENCER,

    Fully AGREE!

    BUDDHA’S WISE WORDS:- “Embrace it, if it does not cause harm
    to oneself and others;
    Do not embrace it, if it causes harm
    to oneself and causes harm to others”.

    In this IMPATIENT BIKKUNIS CONVERSION,
    it is now harming(disharmony)the Bikkunis
    and harming (disharmony) the other Sangha,
    so it is NOT BUDDHISM, IT IS EGO-ISM.

  13. I’m kinda grateful they have websites, or I’d never be able to read and listen to their teachings! Buddha could have sat in the forest but he did choose to come out and teach. In this day and age he might even have used the internet to get his teachings across or at least had supporters who used this method to give access to his teachings to others.

    I can understand your concern about the Bhikkuni situation being overtaken by a Women’s Liberation (no pun intended) movement in disguise, but that’s all the more reason to look at the situation calmly and with reason. In a Thai situation it seems the two will go hand in hand, eventually.

    We can’t all sit in a forest and hope the situation improves while we meditate, sometimes we have to stand up and take action, for ourselves and for the women who might choose to follow behind us. Instilling faith in the lay community is one thing, but to keep the community in the dark over something that effects 50% of them, well I don’t think that’s what the Buddha would have wanted.

  14. Thank you Bhante Sujato for helping the development/establishment of bhikkhuni sangha. What you said “… the injustice of excluding women from full participation in the holy life. … The Vinaya is intended to support and encourage human beings to find liberation from suffering. ” really makes the goal of what we’re trying to do here clear. It seems we can get sidetracked (i notice many comments about comments etc) so it’s worth highlighting this precious point which you made: the monastic life is there to support and encourage all human beings to find liberation.. the vinaya and leading the holy path makes it much easier to meditate, renounce and awaken from delusion. It is important to have the possibility to lead this monastic life.

  15. Bewildered – if you look deeply, “you have an agenda” is an “agenda”…look more deeply…and to both of you dear Dhamma Friends, communication, debate, connecting …is part of living in a living Sangha (as opposed to a dead Sangha). Based on real conditions arising. Propelling us forward in our learning, study and understanding. Dhamma talks and practice on the abstract level alone, reciting the words of the Buddha – disconnected from real life situations, the realities of our diverse experiences as human beings – empty words disconnected from the heart and from our aspirations to attain nibbana, is a dead practice.
    If you see all of this as ego, look more deeply. Look more deeply.
    As for the Hua Hin retreat, I did not attend, as I felt it would not be the way of practice for me. But did the Buddha not say there are 84,000 ways to teach, did he not find gentle ways to persuade non-Dhamma friends to come and listen to the Dhamma each according to their conditions? Does each of us know the “best way” while “the other” does not? Look more deeply. I have something to learn from every way, every situation, including your posting, and if I am not learning, I need to look more deeply. I am not seeing your compassion…I know it is there somewhere…I will look more deeply too.

  16. Dear Belle, There are many who wish you to go forth! It brings me great joy to hear of anyone going forth. Find your Sangha. And let us not tarry too long!
    Metta,
    Lisa

  17. Sadhu, sadhu sadhu!
    It seems that some just cannot see this. Is it foolish to spend our time clearingt he dust in others eyes, when we can go towards other traditions which have already done so?

  18. Spencer wrote: “Ordaining will not release a person froom constant activity
    as a layperson you are no more burdened with activity and distractions to the art of lettiing go than as an ordained member”

    If that is the case then the Buddha could have just let his disciples live a lay life. There would be no need to establish the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni lifestyle. I believe the Buddha established the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni lifestyle so that they have necessary condition for practice.

    Spencer Wrote ” You do not ordain by putting on a robe
    you ordaiin in your heart”

    It is true that contentment arise when you know how to go within. However, a suitable condition need to be in place before we can successfully go within in a way that would yield result. For example, if you can arrange to live a life on retreat similar to that of the monks (have enough time and space ), and you have the right map/ instructions showing you how to go within. In that case you can go within from wherever you are living. Otherwise, it is best to join a monastery or forest refuge where it is set up in a way that give you enough time and space to be in solitude and stillness. Many people cannot arrange to have this kind of life as a householder or from where they are. That’s why the Lord Buddha created this institution to provide a suitable condition necessary for anyone and everyone to be able to go within themselves and awaken.

    I know that not all monasteries allow monks to watch TV. The internet is a great tool to spread the dhamma. Many of us get our dhamma talks from monks that are half way around the world through the internet. It saves you from having to climb the mountains to receive teachings as in the ancient times.

    Spencer wrote:” five star dhamma talk for executives..oh no”

    Before reacting, if we take some time to gather more info we would find out that the event was organized by executives themselves. The monk simply got invited to give a dhamma talk. And if we take time to find out what the talk is about, we would find that the monk is simply teaching executives to nurture their employee and be kind to them. That way employee will be more motivated , and both sides can benefit from a harmonious partnership.

    Spencer wrote”
    “they are clinging to the nimittas which ajahn chah warned against becoming fascinated with and entangled in……teaching people to “attain peace through meditation” is teaching them the wrong base of practise.”

    Bhuddhagosa and various teachers explained about nimitta and the piti-sukkha (joy and happiness) that arise at some point during meditation. Piti-sukkha is something that came directly from the teaching of the Buddha, it is not something that these teachers made up. It is true they explained about piti-sukkha, nimmita, and jhanas, but they also explained clearly that these things come from letting go. The first thing that they instructed students to do is to :

    1. Let go of past and future
    2. Let go of inner chatter
    3. Let go everything else and place attention on one thing ( meditation object, breath, etc).

    The further you go the more you need to let go , like letting go of burdens and baggages. They taught that nimitta, piti-sukkha, and jhanas are born from letting go. Even if you let go of desires for the whole world, but if the desire for results in meditation ( Jhana) or enlightenment is there, that means craving is there. As we know desire or craving is the first hindrance to meditation. Jhana or samadhi happens only when the 5 hindrances are absent.

  19. In a perfect world, women wouldn’t be obstructed from the Middle Path, Ajahn Brahm wouldn’t be excommunited for showing them compassion and helping them. And Ajahn Sujato wouldn’t have to blog about it because the other side refuse to be fair. Unfortunately, something unjust has happened. It is in their nature to speak up, reach out and help others.

    It is one thing to simply recite the Metta Sutta and keep a blind eye to others suffering, it another thing to actually practice it by doing something to relieve other’s sufferings.

    This is not something that happens everyday or something that people want to deal with. Unfortunately, there is no other way. If you do see another way, please tell us.

  20. Back in the days the only way to give a dhamma talk or teaching was for the teacher to travel by foot. And the students have to go to the Himalayas to receive a teaching. Today, the internet can be a useful platform for spiritual teachers everywhere to post mp3, writing, and information for others to access. The positive thing about website is that you only need to post it once and it can be accessed by as many people for as many time as they need to without the teacher having to repeat it to different people at different time. Also , anyone who is interested can access it with ease right from the comfort of their home. It actually save the teacher and student a lot of time and energy. If they don’t post it on the internet, then they have to spend time giving a teaching through other ways anyways.

  21. Sadhu Sr Sumedha

    I would like to remind us all to read what Sr Sumedha wrote:

    The vinaya could again become a vehicle that facilitates awakening rather than a model of purity that replaces the heart.

    What nourishes me is that the model of practice that the Buddha established was not something static… The vinaya was established through a series of responses to specific situations. Responses. … He was connecting practice in the world.

    Sadhu

  22. Dear Dheerayupa,
    Thankyou for this reminder, i particularly appreciate the part you quoted from Venerable Sister Sumedha that highlights the word- RESPONSE.
    Responding comes from a place of quiet and spacious Lovewisdom. And it can only lead to more light in the worlds.
    Re-acting is to be contemplated more deeply, until it can calm and turn to RESPONSE.
    May it be so.

  23. SPENCER :
    I saw a publicity for a dhamma meeting in a 5 star hotel in hua hin with the Buddhist fellowship with famous western monks of the ajahn chah tradition. the advert promoted the self pampering thought and was offering buffet lunch and all nice fruits etc.. five star dhamma talk for executives..oh noajah chah wouldnt be impressed at all.

    As a layperson who attended said retreat, I would like to clarify what many of you may not be able to envisage.

    Many of my friends had similar reactions to Spencer’s: dhamma and meditation are best practiced in austere conditions.

    I have attended several meditation retreats at an Ajahn Chah’s lineage monastery, it is generally good as this particular one provides simple but reasonably comfortable accommodations and facilities, but the least fruitful retreat I have is also at an Ajahn Chah’s lineage monastery: Wat Pah Nanachat.

    My stay at Wat Pah Nanachat is good in a sense that I had a great opportunity to practice patience and tolerance (though I can do that easily at my work place without taking annual leave and travelling several hundreds of kilometers) and mindfulness (of my unwholesome irritation and disappointment).

    The nine-day retreat at the Sheraton Hua Hin in June 2009 comprised the best Kalayanamitra (friends in dhamma) and Patirupadesavasa (suitable and favourable place) I’ve been fortunate to experience. The retreatants were good-hearted and truly practicing five or eight precepts. The whole atmosphere was serene and conducive to the calming of the mind.

    The dhamma talks Ajahn Brahm gave were inspiring as well as enlightening. The meditations both led by Ajahn Brahm and on our own were the best I have ever experienced in my whole life.

    Everyone I talked to was so happy and grateful for the wonderful time they had to experience the beauty of dhamma practiced.

    May I remind you all to please not criticize anything before you have all the information or have actually experience it yourselves?

  24. iMeditation :It is one thing to simply recite the Metta Sutta and keep a blind eye to others suffering, it another thing to actually practice it by doing something to relieve other’s sufferings…
    The Buddha could have just let his disciples live a lay life. There would be no need to establish the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni lifestyle. I believe the Buddha established the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni lifestyle so that they have necessary condition for practice.

    Well said, iMeditation.

    Sadhu

  25. I am happy for you Dheerayupa, thankyou for sharing your experience.
    And iMeditation certainly makes a very clear and thoughtful point that would stand up to reason.
    May we deepen are practise of Metta, off the page.

  26. I refer to Spencer’s post which implies the correct way to practise is to retire to remote forests and practise austerities. There is a place for that but if all monks were to do this, Buddhism will not be available to many and will die out. In fact, that was pretty much how Korea was lost to Christianity. While the monks retired to their forest hermitages, the evangelists were busy in the cities. It should also be pointed out that the Buddha walked through towns and visited palaces to teach the Dhamma. And he asked his sangha to teach to all.

  27. Dear Pilgrim,
    May the Dhamma BLOOM always, spreading like purest wildflower fields of Enlightenment !

    Here is a lovely and inspiring address of some inspiring women in Buddhism, if you have not seen it yet – http://www.owbaw.org/

  28. I think there are many kinds of Dhamma taught now in our modern world. There are now the WORLDLY DHAMMA & the NON-WORLDLY DHAMMA. Even Meditation, there are the WORLDLY MEDITATION & the NON-WORLDLY MEDITATION.We have to be careful and judge by yourself. If it gives you more worldly pleasures and lead you to more sensual pleasures like the worldly happiness and entertaining your 5 senses, then it is not the right path, but if it leads you to see the 1st Noble Truth, then it is the first step to the 8fold Noble Path. What Ven Spencer pointed is true because most of us are still deluded and still attached to the world.If a Ven pointed out our mistake, we must reflect on it as he is a wise person and he spoke from his heart (with probably tears in his eyes to see that we are still in the net of woeful Samsara).Sadhu Ven, for your courage and compassion and wisdom.

  29. Alas, I missed that retreat. After the Khao Lak retreat a year earlier, I was thirsting for some serious bhavana among so many kalyanamitta. Great thing was, none of the meditators seemed to be affected by the luxury or comfort of the venue. People were just content to sit quietly in the rather austere floor of the hall, and the Noble Silence was so inspiring. At meals, there was no gossip and no tiracchanakatha whatsoever. I wonder where Ven Spencer’s patigha came from…

  30. Dear Venerable with respect,

    Wondering what is the purpose of monks/nuns wearing the robes and keeping countless precepts if it is not to end Samsara to enter Nibbana. Nowadays, we observed there are many monks/nuns doing humanitarian works/projects and getting all kinds of awards, instead of staying away from the worldly life.Some are doing welfare works,motivators,counsellings etc. Is this all the right path to end Samsara or create more samsara for themselves. There are NGOs and humanitarian organisations to take care of welfare & humanitarian works, so are monks/nuns going to do better than them? Of course, this is a compassionate mission but can they get out of samsara by involving themselves in lay people’s responsibilities? Would they have peace to practise with their busy schedule and jobs to become free from desires like an Arahats. If monk/nun do not aspire to become Arahats, then why wear robes to do humanitarian jobs? It is like making use of the robes for their humanitarian jobs. Quite confusing what is the purpose of wearing the robes if not for achieving Nibbana which need peace, serenity and tranquility to attain it.

  31. The only true Dhamma teacher is our Lord Buddha and those disciples of Buddha who are now our teachers who taught from the Buddha’s Dhamma,Suttas & Vinaya. Because of competition from other religions, Buddhism has lost its path of liberation to join in the competitive world. Buddha said there are four types of people (including monks/nuns)refer to Buddha’s Suttas for guidance. Dhammalight.com has posted online the Suttas & Vinayas (treasure of Buddha’s teaching).Wish you be enlightened by it.

  32. Sylvester,

    What you described the Khao Lak retreat was what happened at the Hua Hin retreat. Serene, inspiring and enlightening.

    I feel sorry for those who keep refusing to open the door of their heart to good dhamma.

    Hope to see you in Chiang Mai next year, Sylvester.

  33. A recent article on the Buddhist Channel explained that :

    ” The recent official statement from Wat Pah Nanachat, however, begins with the first explicit acknowledgment I know of that they regard the Mahatherasamaghorn and Thai State law as acceptable religious authorities and that they require all monks of the same communion to also submit to these extraneous traditional authorities.

    This effectively means that they are not in practice truly committed to refuge in Dhamma-Vinaya only, and in practice the Thai Forest Tradition often seems more like a cult of abbots than a scriptural religion. To submit to the Mahatherasamaghorn or Thai State law or even Wat Pah Pong Elders Council or the English Sangha’s Elders Council as religious authorities, independent of Dhamma-Vinaya, is so seriously compromising the commitment to Refuge that those ‘Buddhist’ practitioners are practically not really Buddhist.

    “Yes, I am saying that I believe the Thai Forest Tradition is not actually Buddhist, but it is, in practice, ‘Thai Traditional Religion’, with much continuity and influence from Buddhism, but ultimately not Buddhist, because when push comes to shove, as we have seen, when traditional authorities with no validity in Dhamma and Vinaya contradict and claim to overrule or supersede Dhamma Vinaya, they choose the Thai traditional(ist) authorities over the Suttas and Vinaya that were authorised by the Buddha on his deathbed as his representative and replacement for as long as the Sasana endures.”

  34. Respectable One,

    Buddhism has become very commercialized and corrupted in our modern world.

    Buddha taught and showed us the way to get out of Samsara (suffering/sensual world) i.e the worldly stuff but most of us are unable to cross to the other shore (of course, it is easier said then done).That is why Buddha wore the rope and monks wear the rope to remind themselves not to be attached or return to the world.

    Some monks want to have the best of both worlds i.e going to Nibbana/Arahat (free from desires/kilesas) & remaining in the world trying to make the world a better place. Is that possible? The world is expanding and contracting by itself & no one could change that or save it, except saving ourselves.If every one could save ourselves, then we don’t need to save the world.

    Monks/nuns have to make a choice. They can’t spend 6months in the forest working out their Nibbana and the other 6 months working out their humanitarian/social works/projects or politics/fame. Buddha did not do that after enlightenment but save those who could be saved out of Samsara.

    Monks/nuns should not drag Buddhism into Parliament or politics. Our purpose is to “work internally” to attain Nibbana. Buddhism is pressured by other religions esp Christianity to involve in humanitarian & social works (which is good but i think should not bring religion into it to gain support for the religion).Those who want to do humanitarian/social works should join the NGOs or organisations like U.N. and not using religion to gain support and justify to the world that this religion has done so much for the world.

    Buddhism is about inner world not outer world. Those monks/nuns who are eager to contribute to the world should not use the robe to gain respect or support or take advantage of the robe for power or authority for their cause albeit wholesome causes.If they are sincere in helping the world, don’t drag religion into it, join those humanitarian organisations. Religion divides the world and the people.
    Religion is being used by people to gain power/fame/support & credibility and because of religion the world fights today.

    Buddhism is a peaceful spiritual science for self-practice towards liberation, not a religion. We hope monks/nuns do not bring Buddhism into the Parliament to change the world. Change ourselves first before we try to change others.

    The Buddha Taught what He practiced and practiced what He Thaught.
    If monks/nuns do not practiced what they taught, then please do not teach others.It is embarrassing and an insult to Buddhism.

    Ven Spencer, may you have good health and long life and finally attain Nibbana!

  35. Dhammapada: Verse 174

    “This world is blind.
    Here there are few who
    clearly see.

    As birds escaping from
    a net, few go to a
    blissful state”.- Buddha

  36. I love the fact that Theraveda tradition preserved the monastic lifestyle prescribed by the Buddha. However, there is one aspect it failed to preserve.The fourfold sangha of the Buddha was turned into a threefold sangha for no substantial reason. And this is causing unnecessary obstructions for others. The natural thing to do would be to revive it. It only becomes a huge social and political issue because the monks from WPP involved themselves and create obstructions. We don’t expect any monks to do “humanitarian /social works/projects”. But the least they can do is not become part of the problem or interfere. But they have to interfere and create obstructions for others.

    When monks study the Buddha’s teaching of non identification with form as self and yet practice discrimination to the entire female gender based on their form, that is what I call an embarrassment to Buddhism. This practice contradicts the essence of the Buddha’s teaching itself.

    Any monks who really spent time developing themselves internally would see this. How can you expect AB to act as if he didn’t see this. It is right under their nose. Day in and day out they see female practitioners being obstructed and not given the right practicing condition because of their form. The practice of discrimination contradicts the essence of Buddhism. I wouldn’t say that this is merely a worldly issue that should be left unaddressed.

  37. Dhammapada V:9

    “He who wears the yellow robe,
    without being freed from impurity,
    who is devoid of self-control and
    truth, is not worthy of it.”
    – Buddha

    “What laughter, what joy when the
    world is ever burning? Shrouded
    in darkness will you not seek a light?
    – Buddha (V:146)

  38. Dear Dahmmapad

    Very true, even in the Buddha’s suttas, it is said in future there will be counterfeit of the true Dhamma and when these counterfeit Dhamma is taken as the true Dhamma by people, the true Dhamma will dissapear. Buddha further said there will be some senseless monks/nuns that will cause the true Dhamma to fade away. It is like gold, once we have synthetic gold there will be no pure gold and synthetic gold is regarded as pure gold.It has been corrupted. Similarly with the Dhamma in future. So, rely on the true Dhamma found in original teachings of the Buddha in the Suttas, Vinaya & Nikayas.

  39. The Buddha said that the dharma is a raft and should’t be attached to. Does that mean that we should all abandon the raft and stop studying the dharma and practice, or forget about ordaining bhikkhus and bhikkhunis. If we let go of the raft while half way in the middle of the river or before reaching the other shore we would surely drown in the river of samsara. Likewise , it is not wise to tell others to forget about ordaining or that they don’t need the right conditions for practicing. Having the right condition to practice serves as the foundation for progress on the path.

    This issue is something that is happening right in side the monastery. If the monks don’t address it , who will? Since a threefold sangha was not set up by the Buddha, I wondered why it was allowed to go on like that for so long without anyone doing anything about it. After seeing all the attacks and unwarranted punishments going towards Ajahn Brahm, I understood why hardly anyone wants to get involve or do somthing about this situation. There are too much risk involved and too many problems to deal with. Some of the other monks doesn’t want to bother or get involve, that is fine. But at least don’t get involve in trying sabotage other’s effort when they are actually doing something to help. How come they say that it is a worldly issue that should’t be bothered with, but then get involved with trying to block it. Isn’t this also considered involving? But worse , it is not getting involve to help others but to create further obstructions and adding more burden for the monks that are making effort to improve things. How can that be considered compassion. With so much lip service being paid to focusing on inner development, I would expect to see some signs of wisdom and compassion being reflected in their actions and decisions .

  40. Dear Bhante,

    Does it mean that those 4 Bikkhunis cannot achieve liberation (Nibbana) without being ordained?

    What about lay women then? No hope for liberation until and unless we are ordained as Bikkunis? If not wrong, Buddha said women could become Arahant with the 10 precepts or the 8 rules. Is that not correct?

    Btw, what is the purpose of this Bikkunis ordination? Is it for liberation from Samsara or for worldly gains & power or what? Why are they so crazy over it? Important is the mind & proper practice, not the title or robe.
    Senseless and silly, as title and fame would be their major hindrance in liberation.
    Are they sure they wanted this so much for the sake of liberation and not recognition? Is there a hidden agenda?

  41. Respectful Bhante,

    This Bhikunis ordination is the result of women trying to behave like men.
    They wanted equal rights like men and they also want to dress up like men, even they wore Bhiku’s robes,with even stronger color than all the ajarns, making them more dominating and manly.

    Wonder what did the bhikunis in Buddha’s time wore?
    Bhikkunis should wear all whites, a symbol of purity & sila whereas brown look dirty and muddy on them.
    For Bhikus, brown is fine as they had to look manly and macho but Bhikunis in macho color, oh no, not for them(not feminine & pure).
    I think lay people would have more respect if they wore white.

    So, now these Bhikunis had to go alms round in the street with their bowls bare footed? This is gender equality.

  42. iMeditation :it is not wise to tell others to forget about ordaining or that they don’t need the right conditions for practicing. Having the right condition to practice serves as the foundation for progress on the path…
    After seeing all the attacks and unwarranted punishments going towards Ajahn Brahm, I understood why hardly anyone wants to get involve or do somthing about this situation. There are too much risk involved and too many problems to deal with. Some of the other monks doesn’t want to bother or get involve, that is fine. But at least don’t get involve in trying sabotage other’s effort when they are actually doing something to help.

    Well said, IMeditation.

    Sadhu

  43. Buddha preached the true Dhamma by telling stories to enlighten, Aj B tells jokes to entertain his audience.Monk business is tough nowadays, one have to tell jokes to become popular and stand out from other monks.Its 20th century Dhamma marketing.Its wordly Dhamma.He knows people love to laugh and be entertained.He also love to joke and entertain and most of all love to talk.What to do.All still putujanas love pleasures. Monks also need to have competitive edge to become famous.

    Buddha only taught those who can be tamed from sensual worldly desires.

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