Statement from the WAM

Here is the official statement issued by the Ajahns who attended the WAM, held from 7-9 December 2009. I don’t have a final list of those who attended.

wam document_final 11 Dec 09

I won’t go into a detailed analysis, as there is little new here. Essentially, the Ajahns don’t give any ground, but are solely concerned to justify their positions. There is a very brief acknowledgement of the letters and petitions that were delivered, but no serious attempt to address the issues and concerns.

I would like to just comment on one almost by-the-by statement in the paper.

There was a sense of frustration that we had not as yet been able to adequately transmit our understanding of the various issues raised, accompanied by an acknowledgment that it was hard to see how it could have been any other way. Our commitment to the principle of consultation and consensus meant that we had no choice but to delay crafting a coherent response until we could come together as a group and discuss the matter face to face.

On one level, this is fair enough: as a group, they need to formulate a group response, and this takes time. But it is also disingenuous, because they are also individuals who speak ‘from the heart’ – as the standard Forest Tradition approach emphasizes – on all kinds of crucial issues. While a ‘corporate’ response is needed, this does not hinder making personal statements – at least, not in other issues.

I have a decidedly ambivalent attitude when conflict is said to be caused by ‘communication’ – made famous in such stories as Ajahn Brahm’s ‘chicken and duck’. Sometimes, it is just the communications that is at fault, and it goes without saying that we can and should all strive to improve.

Yet my experience teaches me that, time and time again, the issue is not the manner of communications, it is the substance that causes the real problems. One test that I use is this. Look at the communications, at those who are doing the communicating, and see what real world issues there are. Is it, for example, a problem of language and translation? Or is it that people are too timid to articulate their needs? Or is it that no-one is listening? Or that there are no adequate channels or means of communication?

When I do that in our current situation, it strikes me that none of these things are really a problem, except for communications between the Thai Sangha and the rest of the world. This is a genuine, serious problem, and one which I think needs a lot of effort to overcome. But with the Western monks, they are intelligent, articulate men; they have access to any kinds of technology they need; and they have a ready-made audience of people who are bending their ears, striving to hear everything they say. People sit in absolute silence, soaking up every nuance of the words that emerge in a Dhamma talk; and there is an eager yearning to hear what they have to say on this issue, which we have seen all over the world. Yet they still feel that they cannot communicate properly, and this hurts.

If being misunderstood is painful – which it is – then what of those who are systematically silenced? What of those, especially women, whose voices have never been listened to properly in the history of Buddhism? How are the marginal, the powerless, to feel, when thousands of voices are dismissed in a few lines?

I have noticed a pattern of communication, most obviously from the English Sangha, where the concern for ‘form’ or ‘tone’ becomes not merely a part of the discussion, but completely displaces any response to the content.

For example, many years ago, Ajahn Brahm wrote a piece on dependent origination, where he critiques the so-called ‘one lifetime interpretation’. The critique was directed at Ven Payutto’s book on the topic, although his ideas are shared with many in the Western Sangha. Obviously, in a subtle matter such as this, it is natural that there be a variety of opinions, which should be discussed in the Sangha. Ajahn Brahm raised a number of important, substantive problems with the ‘one lifetime interpretation’. But these were practically ignored, as response focused on what was perceived as Ajahn Brahm’s ‘tone’. Some aspects of the ‘tone’ included, for example, that he quoted from the Pali texts in ALL CAPS, which was seen as like shouting. Fair enough, it’s a good stylistic point; but Ajahn Brahm did it that way because they didn’t have a computer so it was all on a manual typewriter and that was the only convenient way to distinguish the Pali and the English. A minor stylistic nuance, and an understandable part of the debate. But after a flurry of discussion around these issues, it just went away, and monks continued to teach one-life dependent origination while simply ignoring the serious doctrinal problems this raises. The situation remains, and in this, as in very many other central doctrinal matters, the Ajahn Chah Sangha tolerates a wide diversity of incompatible views. The fact that one-life dependent origination is highly controversial and clearly contradicts the Theravada position (and also the interpretation of other schools) does not seem to be a problem, even though theoretically this could make the difference as to whether it is possible to be enlightened or not.

This is just one example, but for me it has become a red flag. Whenever i see discussion diverted to focus of the manner of communication, I ask myself whether there are genuine communications problems; if I can’t see them, I suspect that what is really happening is avoidance. When a superficial concept of ‘harmony’ is stressed above all others I look to the substance of the debate. When there is an excessive insistence on ‘harmony’, we lose the capacity to tolerate and dialogue with difference.

I don’t believe that the widespread opposition to the WPP’s actions, and the call for a serious reform of the role of women in the Sangha, has anything to do with a communications problem. I think we understand the Ajahns perfectly well. We understand that the tradition is important to them; we understand that they feel hurt that they weren’t consulted; we understand that they value harmony. Better communications will do nothing to change this.

The problem is not one of communications, especially from the Ajahns’ side. The problem is one of values. I believe that inequality and discrimination are fundamentally wrong. They contradict the Dhamma, they cause harm, and they go against the noblest values that are widely accepted in the world. Preservation of a tradition is, as a rule, a good thing, but it can never outweigh such fundamental values. Where a tradition contradicts such ethical values, it should be reformed. This is the ongoing nature of all traditions anyway, that they are in a constant state of transformation. such a reform should be guided by ethical principles and the genuine needs of people, not by the interests of the institutions.

The letter from the WAM imagines the Theravada tradition to be ‘like a gnarled and deeply rooted oak…’ This is a telling sense of their own self-perception. Compare this with Ajahn Chah’s famous simile: Thai Buddhism is like an old mango tree – big but bearing few, sour fruit – while Buddhism in the West was like a sapling – small, but with great potential.

Now the WAM identifies itself with the old tree. It sees long-lasting and strength comes from size, age, and thickness. But in nature, long-lasting comes from the ability to adapt to a changing environment. Each organism inherits its DNA, its genotype; but the phenotype emerges in dynamic response to its environment. Recent biology emphasizes the role of the – i forget the name for them – the widgets in the cell that ‘read’ the DNA. They go to one segment of DNA, select and copy that, and use it for its purpose.

This is just like a tradition, very literally how the Pali canon is used. Selected bits are pulled from the shelves and used for specific purposes, while the vast bulk remains there, like so-called ‘junk DNA’.

What this dynamic scenario shows is that, while the DNA is important in providing a store of potential information – the wisdom of the ages – the survival of the organism really depends on the behavior of those who read that information and put it into practice in a way that responds to the immediate needs on the environmental niche.

79 thoughts on “Statement from the WAM

  1. Dear Bhante,

    Now that we have seen the result of the WAM, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Perth branch of the Wat Pah Pong group is moving in a different direction from everyone else. This may be a good time to take stock of the situation and consider the future consequences of this split. But first of all I would like to express a ‘parting’ appreciation for all the senior monks and nuns of the WPP group that I have known for a long time.

    My personal experiences with the Ajahns of the Western Wat Pah Pong branch monasteries have almost always been very positive. On the few occasions that I have met Ajahn Sumedho he has come across as a friendly, compassionate and understanding monk. Although I do not know him well, I highly respect him for these humane qualities that I have personally witnessed. Much the same can be said for almost all the other Western Ajahns. I have known a number of them for many years, and they are good-hearted and sincerely practising Buddhist monks. Even throughout the recent turmoil and difficulties, they have mostly been impeccably kind. I hold them all in high esteem, and despite the present situation this is unlikely to change.

    At the same time, I am not too saddened that we are now parting ways. I have come to think that the WPP group, in their noble attempt to preserve the legacy of Ajahn Chah, may have become too conservative to be an effective vehicle for promoting Buddhism in the West. The irony in this is that Ajahn Chah himself was part of a reform movement – that is, the Thai forest tradition – that was very much on the edge of what was acceptable for the Thai Sangha establishment. He was one of the leading monks to spearhead a ‘back-to-basics’ movement, where the focus was on practising the Buddha’s teachings, as opposed to simply fulfilling the institutional roles that the Sangha had acquired in Thai society. So whereas Ajahn Chah in many ways was a revolutionary, the present leadership of the Western WPP monasteries tends to conservatism.

    I am not convinced, therefore, that conservatism is always the best way to preserve Ajahn Chah’s heritage. It seems to me that we need to follow Ajahn Chah’s example in a more profound sense than just attempting to preserve his standards in their exact form. In my opinion, we need to apply his fearless reform spirit in our own lives, and thereby help ensure that Buddhism stays relevant in the societies to which it has been introduced.

    It is still not clear to me that there is any permanent rift between the WPP group and Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery and, in any case, I find it hard to believe that old friendships will not continue much as before. But even if there is a clean and permanent separation between WPP and Bodhinyana Monastery, I think the recent events may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The Buddhist Society of Western Australia, Dhammasara Nuns Monastery and Bodhinyana Monastery are now much freer to think and act independently, according to what they think is in the best interest of Buddhism in Australia. This sort of independence and a concomitant responsiveness to the expectations of the local society, I believe, is required for Buddhism to become a fully integrated and accepted part of Western society. It is still too early to say, and some may find this perspective hubristic, but perhaps what we are witnessing is a natural and positive evolution towards a more sustainable form of Western Buddhism.

    Ajahn Brahmali

    • Namo Buddhaya

      Why is it no one asked why our Gotama Budda rejected three times for women “going forth”? If not for Ananda who requested three times (influenced by Mara), there would be no ordained Bhikkuni.However, this rejection also contradictd the Buddha’s four fold sangha(definitely not with equal rights, as layman & laywomen inclusive in the four fold). How can layman & laywomen be equal status with the Bhikkus Bhikkunis. Therefore, definitely the Bhikkunis meant by Buddha would also not be equal status with Bhikkus.But now, the purpose of Bhikkunis ordination is for equal rights which is not in harmony with what Buddha meant by four-fold Sangha.Sensibly, it was not meant equal rights but merely for purpose of harmony but with different levels of status (reason for Buddha to explicitly commanded the 8 rules for Bhikkunis that is to be committed for life).

      Some argued that Buddhism would not survive in the West because of its refusal to go along with the change in society and times(Mara at play). In fact, no one could stop change but nowadays, the change is towards declination and deterioration and it is important for the society does not deteriorate morally (going downhill).

      Buddhism should not be dragged downhill in tandem with the society’s perception and needs/progress/change. In fact, the society should come back and “climb uphill” to the origin/truth/Dhamma (the West perceived as conservative because they are progressive; it is wrong to say that Buddhism need to be progressive as Buddhism has never been conservative but because people progress so it is perceived as conservative; it is the truth and truth is Dhamma and Dhamma is timeless and need not be changed to fit the changing world and society as it is the Law of Nature & Existence).

      For purpose of argument, take for example, the Law of Gravity.Can we say that the Law of Gravity is conservative as it did not progress with the demand and needs of the progressive society or world? Law of Gravity remains the truth whether there is change or not.Similarly with the Dhamma (Law of Nature & Existence).It is wrong to say the Dhamma or Vinaya or Suttas during Buddha’s time are outdated and conservative and need to change in tandem with the modern world otherwise it would not be relevant in the West) as the Truth can never be destroyed over time.

      Dhamma need not change while the world changes and evolves.Like the Buddha’s simile on the 6 animals going strayed and Buddha said to bring back this 6 animals by “tying them down” reminding them to come back to its origin (very profound). The world now is like the 6 animals going further away from the origin & moral truth, so the world should be reminded to come back to its moral values and to the origin (with restraint, regulations and control to prevent it from further deterioration and decline) i.e the Dhamma and not asking the Dhamma/Buddha’s suttas to become like the “unleashed 6 animals”.

      Forgive for any wrong perception and opinion. – With Metta, Karuna & Upekka.

    • Perhaps the question isn’t whether Buddhism is being downgraded for a Western audience, but how much of the meaning behind the Dhamma, the Vinaya and Suttas have been changed to fit ever changing Eastern societies over the years.

      I think some now question whether the Buddha did in fact reject ordination of women three times, but irregardless he did ordain them eventually. Perhaps Western society has emerged into a time when we can fully embrace the Buddha’s teaching on equality without fear or subjugation that many Eastern traditions still live under.

      Ajahn Mun, Ajahn Chah both rocked the Buddhist boat so to speak when they returned to the roots of what the Buddha practiced. For me, I feel that’s what these ordinations are doing, returning to what the Buddha established, not adding but maybe taking away layers that have been added on, layers which perhaps cause suffering due to social constraints of the eastern traditions.

      And I guess it depends what true Dhamma is for most. Again for me, it points the way to end suffering, but also helps to prevent causing suffering along the way.

      Metta :)

    • Dear Santa Claus,

      Santa claus wrote: “Those who want Buddhism to keep up with current times need to change their robes too as those robes are too traditional for them (it is 2,500 year old dress).”

      I would like to point out that it is a misconception that we are merely trying to keep up with current time and altering what was established by the Buddha. Instead, we are restoring what was established by the Buddha . And it also happens that bhikkhuni ordination is in harmony with the ethics of the current time. Those that are still living under the notion that bhikkhuni ordination is not in line with the vinaya because the ” bhikkhuni lineage out ” is over simplistic and need to wake up. There are too many people still believing in this age old myth.

    • Dear Venerable Brahmali,

      Thank you for your comment, it is wonderful to see this sort of statement. There are many of us struggling with what “Australian” or “Western” Buddhism will be, and this is all a part of that evolutionary process. Adapting the Thai cultural form is not going to last as you say.

      Many thanks

      Ben

    • Hi,

      Imo, if ever there was a legitimate revival of Bhikkunis ordination, Sri Lanka theravada tradition should be the ones giving the green light, as the first theravada tradition started in Sri Lanka (after Buddhism died in India during that time).

      I guess the Thai Sangha also had no right to revive the Bhikkunis ordination without prior consent first obtained from the Sri Lanka theravada Sangha.

      AB belongs to the Sangha and not act like an independant individual. He cannot have the best of both worlds.Whether he likes it or not, the overall Sangha have a final say with a majority vote to pass any legislation within the Sangha. He has violated or breached that discipline.

    • Dear Dhamma Sister,

      Thanks for your remarks. i appreciate your concern for the large scale functioning of the Sangha; but we really need to look more closely at the Vinaya before making these kinds of judgements.

      The problem is that there is no central organization that can speak on behalf of ‘Sri Lankan Buddhism’. Nor should there be: the Buddha did not set up the Sangha on a national basis. The Vinaya is a decentralized system, where the Sangha in each monastery is empowered to carry out all necessary acts of the Sangha, such as ordination. You can read about this, especially in the first two chapters of the Khandhaka (Mahavagga). According to the Vinaya (vassupanayikakkhandhaka), bhikkhus have an obligation to help performing bhikkhuni ordination, even if it means traveling from their monasteries during the rains retreat.

      There is no procedure in the Vinaya that would enable the majority of the Sangha to make a decision of this sort. In fact, decisions in the Sangha must be by the consensus of the local Sangha, not by majority (except in a few cases). This is why the Dalai Lama, when I asked him about how he saw it could be possible to get the Tibetan Sangha to accept bhikkhuni ordination, said ‘I also do not know’. The simple fact is that the Sangha as a whole does not have the capacity to make these kinds of decisions, either in the Vinaya, or in the national Sangha bodies.

      This is why Ajahn Liem said to me about bhikkhuni ordination: “It’s been this way since the beginning. We can’t fix it, so we just leave it as it is.” I disagree with him in his ethical and historical stance, but he is absolutely right in an institutional sense. The only options are to leave it as it is, or go ahead with reforms.

      If you think I’m wrong, here’s my challenge: find for me one single large scale reform that has been introduced by the Theravada Sangha in the past 100 years by means of consensus or majority decision. If that’s too hard, try the last 2000 years.

    • With anjali Ajahn,

      Sadhu x3! Point taken (our lay comments due to lack of info on historical Buddhism as we have not been brought up learning historical Buddhism, we usually learn the practice unless we go for Higher Buddhism or Scholar learning or DIY).Apology Bhante and seek 4giveness, do not have any malicious intention but have harmony in the Sangha in mind.Just being frank and innocent.As lay people we are still very ignorant about the Sangha & its mechanism.
      Have a nice day!

    • Respectfully Bhante,

      If i am not mistaken, historically, didn’t Rev Kassappa convened a Council and had the consensus of all 500 Arahants on the documentation of the Suttas?
      Pls. correct me if i am wrong. Sadhu.

    • Hmm, I wonder if that Council actually involved ALL 500 living Arahants, or just a selection of 500 Arahants? The latter seems to be how the 11th Khandhaka of the Culavagga presents it. Plus, I don’t actually see the other Arahants passing resolutions (by consensus or otherwise) to adopt the suttas enumerated in the Q&A format between Ven Mahakassapa and Ven Ananda. The only 2 resolutions that look relevant were the motions proposed by the 2 said Venerables to question and to answer. In fact, after this was done, a wandering elder Ven Purana who chanced upon the council, declined to adopt the rehearsal of the Council.

    • Dear Bhantes Sujato and Brahmali,

      thanks for your timely and well-expressed comments on the WAM 2009 aftermath. Reconciliation between AB and the WPP/WAM hardliners seems lost (for the moment). I feel relieved for Ajahn Brahm and his senior monks, that they do not have to sit through these tiresome and largely irrelevant WAM/WPP meetings again. The WAM report was disappointing for its lack of compassion and its disingenuous presentation of Ajahn Brahm’s actions. They should be applauding Ajahn Brahm for his courage and devotion to strengthening the fourfold assembly. Ajahn Brahm is just doing what the Buddha intended and praised.

      Conservatism is a good thing, but only if you are conserving something of value. When what you are conserving (namely, discriminatory and narrow-minded interpretations, and applications of Vinaya texts) is repugnant to the mature values of the society you live in, then reform is necessary.

      Bureaucratic-authoritarian groups stifle creativity, innovation, and freedom of thought. Unfortunately, the WPP/WAM senior monks are reflecting this tendency towards quashing dissenting views and a suffocating attention to legalities, procedures and ‘form’. As much as I admire and respect the great meditation masters of the Ajahn Chah lineage, I am saddened that their legacy is tainted because of this cultural (and in some cases personal) clash of values. If the bhikkhuni Sangha was good enough for the Buddha, then it should be good enough for our Venerable Ajahns, and their followers.

      May the all in the fourfold assembly attain liberation from small-mindedness, jealousy, envy, pride and superiority complexes. May all outside the assembly get in!

      Michael Percy (formerly Mudita Bhikkhu)

    • Hey People,

      So, what is all that fuss now. Show is over. No more problem, as AB got what he wanted according to plan and the Thai Sangha got to keep their precious inheritance.We can all move on now.

      Those who want Buddhism to keep up with current times need to change their robes too as those robes are too traditional for them (it is 2,500 year old dress).

      Buddhism is a traditional discipline. Buddha never advocated gender equality but gave each gender different responsibilities as per the Sigalovatta Sutta(something like that) for lay man and lay woman.Clearly shows Buddha’s wisdom in accordance with Nature for peace, harmony and happiness (core teaching of all Buddhas).

      Take it easy. Don’t be so hard on one another. LIFE IS SHORT!
      AULD LANG SHYE. HAVE A MERRY, MERRY X’MAS & A HAPPY HAPPY NEW YEAR!
      LET’S REJOICE.

    • ‘Am in agreement Mike.

      Was VERY disappointed with the following quote from the WAM statement which is referring to the fact that Ajahn Brahm had stated last year that he would not perform an ordination (not that he did, Ayya Tattaloka did):

      “We have been told that Ajahn
      Brahmavamso subsequently changed his mind and that we ‘should move on.’ But, given the
      emphasis we as bhikkhus place on keeping our word, we do not consider this to be an
      adequate response.”

      I have to confess that after the initial resignation and disappointment faded I was furious with this statement.

      (Yes, to those of you who are commenting on the anger that is apparent in some comments; what did you expect? This is an extremely sensitive issue. We are none of us claiming to be Anagamis who are free of anger. Anger is not wholesome but when it arises, it arises. Anatta relates to this too…I am not in control of my anger to the extent that I can say, let my anger not arise, let my anger be unseen, let my anger be thus…it doesn’t work like that. We do metta when we are not angry. Forgive ourselves and others after we’ve been angry and try jolly hard to restrain ourselves when we are angry. That’s it.)

      Getting back to the above quote:

      I feel that there is the implication that Ajahn Brahm lied. THIS IS GOING WAY TOO FAR. Whoever authorised this statement has crossed a line. They know perfectly well that according to the rules of monks, a lie ocurrs when: your INTENTIONis to lie, to deceive. My understanding is that you must have this intention before, during and after you have made your statement for it to constitue a lie. My understanding is that whoever wrote this statement may well have known this!! SHAME, SHAME, SHAME on you whoever you are that wrote this highly inflammatory statement. As long as you do not publicly acknowledge your fault how can there be any real forgiveness, healing, harmony and moving on? At least Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato publicly acknowledge their faults!

    • Instead of lying (see post number 10), it sounds as if Ajahn Brahm placed his trust in his monastic brothers; that they would be understanding of the fact that circumstances had changed since last year and that new information had come to light. He must have trusted that they would have the same high standards of acceptance and tolerance that he does. From my experiences of observing and talking to Ajahn Brahm I can say that he has an EXTREMELY high standard of integrity.

      He has taken his ‘slap in the face’ far more light-heartedly than his brothers who authorised this current WAM statement.

      They state:
      ‘In our monastic culture, the
      disrespect perceived in Ajahn Brahmavamso’s actions is, in other words, profound. It is
      comparable to a slap in the face.’

      At least they admit that this disrespect is a perception within their culture. Why aren’t they moving beyond this? Shouldn’t they be role-modelling tolerance, acceptance and light-heartedness in the face of adversaity? These are the kind of role models that someone as grouchy as I can be need!

      I would like to state also that I still have the deepest, sincerest love and respect for the Noble Beings who reside within the Wat Pah Pong Sangha. If ever I have the opportunity to support them in some way, I will.

      If ever I am in a situation where there is a monk who needs support and I know they were partly responsible for this WAM statement; if I am able to, I will still support them. This is because of what I have learned from Ajahn Brahm; there are these few acts, but they are more than these few acts and in criticising there few acts, I do not criticise there many good acts. I wish they could do as much for Ajahn Brahm.

  2. I believe there is a now sense of relief that Bodhinyana monastery and WPP group go their own separate ways, certainly among most of the Buddhist Society of WA supporters including me. For Buddhism to grow and flourish in contemporary non-gender discriminative Australian society there needs to be equal opportunities for women to be fully ordained as monastics. Lay people do want to support bhikkhunis and there is no doubt that the Dhammasara bhikkhunis will get all the material support they need. And with their commitment to their practice this augurs well for the bhukkhuni revival and for Buddhism as a whole.

  3. Bhante

    Thank you once again for helping to bring a clear understanding to the debate

    Support for Bhikkuni ordination continues to gather momentum

    The following is from http://www.insightmeditationaustralia.org/

    “A STATEMENT OF SUPPORT FROM INSIGHT MEDITATION TEACHERS IN AUSTRALIA FOR THE FULL ORDINATION OF FOUR BHIKKHUNIS IN PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

    We wish to express our support and appreciation for the first Theravada bhikkhuni ordination to take place in Australia on October 22, 2009. We rejoice with the four new bhikkhunis, Venerable Sisters Vayama (Australia), Nirdoha (Germany/Australia), Seri (Malaysia/Australia) and Hassapanna (Malaysia/Australia).

    We wish to thank Venerable Ajahn Brahmvamso, along with the monks, nuns and laypeople connected with Bodhinyana Monastery and Dhammasara Monastery for Nuns, for creating the conditions that allowed the Sangha of nuns to become confident and strong enough to be able to take such a progressive step, despite criticism from senior teachers in their own lineage. We also wish to thank the eight senior bhikkhunis who travelled to Perth to ordain the new bhikkhunis, including Venerable Tathaloka, preceptor, and Venerables Sucinta and Sobhna, reciters of the formal act of full admission.

    These new bhikkhunis have embraced the highest level of the Buddha’s Dharma-Vinaya (teaching and training). We know they will need the daily kindness and support of the ordained and lay sangha for such a difficult life. We trust that they will deepen their commitment to and love for the bhikkhuni way of life and become an inspiration for other women to follow in their footsteps.

    We regard this revival of the Theravada Bhikkhuni order as a sign of the coming of age of Western Buddhism. It is now possible for women to undertake the discipline of the Vinaya equally with men, shouldering an equal responsibility to share the Dharma. The co-operation of fully ordained men and women will contribute greatly to the welfare, happiness and benefit of many. This was the original vision of the Buddha 2500 years ago, in far less enlightened times than today.

    We understand that the ordination of the bhikkhunis has generated considerable disquiet among senior ajahns and bhikkhus at Wat Pah Pong and Wat Pah Nanachat in Thailand, Wat Amaravati in Britain, and among various branch monasteries of Wat Pah Pong in Western countries. These monasteries have raised objections that Ajahn Brahmvamso and Ajahn Sujato failed to consult adequately with the elders of the tradition or with Thai Buddhist authorities.

    We regret that senior bhikkhus in the Ajahn Chah tradition took the view that the current level of training in Thailand and elsewhere for ordained women could not be “a step in the evolution towards a different form such as bhikkhuni ordination,” We also regret the decision to expel Bodhinyana Monastery from their lineage.

    We continue to respect the role of the ordained Sangha of Wat Pah Pong and its branch monasteries in ensuring a high standard of Vinaya training for monks, the opportunity for women to take robes as siladhara (holders of the precepts) and offering of teachings to householders.

    We support the decision of Bodhinyana Monastery to embark on a vision of shared responsibility of the Dharma Vinaya between monks and nuns. The fourfold assembly of fully ordained Buddhist monks and Buddhist nuns, laywomen and laymen has been restored, honouring the original spirit of the Buddha’s teachings and making accessible the Dharma to one and all.

    SADHU! SADHU! SADHU!

    Signed by Insight Meditation Teachers, Australia.
    Anna Markey, Adelaide
    Anton Eastick (Canberra)
    Bobbi Allan, The Channon
    Carol Perry, The Channon, NSW
    Christopher Titmuss, Totnes, UK (visiting teacher)
    Ellen Davison, The Channon, NSW
    Jess Huon, Melbourne
    Patrick Kearney, Woodford (Blue Mountains)
    Radha Nicholson, Byron Bay, NSW
    Sexton Burke, Bellingen, NSW
    Subhana, Sydney
    Will James, Bellingen, NSW”

    With Metta
    Bill

  4. Dear Bhante,
    I’ve been waiting for and am glad to read your analysis of the WAM letter (their name has now become onomatopoetic).

    It’s ironic that they complain about communication problems when this letter makes painfully clear that have no idea who their audience is. Who are they addressing? Do they think because they said “Hey, this is the way we do things” we will sit back and say, ‘Oh, I see. Okay, just forget I mentioned it.’?

    And what is this BS about the Siladhara aren’t lesser than, they just have to act that way?!? I’m beginning to think the WAM monks are completely clueless. Completely. Totally. Clueless.

    I’m not sure who “they” are, but I am deeply and profoundly disappointed in them. I have provided financial support to the western sanghas for a long time–but it seems they figure they don’t need me or what I care about. Talk about hurt feelings.

    I’m reposting here what a highly respected American lay teacher wrote about the letter: “my most general feeling is that the letter lacks generosity. Even with the views expressed in the response, there could of been a variety of additional statements, intentions, and plans that would have contributed to furthering the opportunities and possibilities for women. The WAM monks had a wide audience and this would have been an opportune time to have said something that would have increased the “pasada” of us laity. In the vinaya, one of the main, if not the main reason the Buddha gives for instituting new monastic rules is to increase the “pasada” (faith) among the laity.”

    • Dear David

      I’m not if AC Sujato was referring to this, but here’s the version I always refer to.

      http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books3/Ajahn_Brahm_PATICCA_SAMUPPADA_DEPENDENT_ORIGINATION.htm

      It would not have been easy for AC Brahm to write this, especially if the critique was directed at Ven Payutto, who was his acariya (I believe) at his ordination. In any event, I’ve not quite finished reading Ven Payutto’s ideas on this, but I’m left with the impression that he was supportive of the Abhidhammic and Commentarial notion of Dependant Origination operating on a moment-to-moment basis.

    • Dear Sylvester,

      For the record, Ven Payutto was not the Acariya at Ajahn Brahm’s ordination.

      Thanks for the link: this essay presents similar ideas, and is obviously part of a critique of the one-life theory, but it is not the actual letter that was sent to Ven Payutto via his translater, Bruce Evans. I don’t believe that letter, which was hand written, has been published.

  5. “we had not as yet been able to adequately transmit our understanding of the various issues raised”

    tip # 1: there is a more effective way transmit – and generate – understanding than monologue. It is called dialogue.

    tip # 2: around 3000 people heard the transmitted messages. They just didn’t agree with them. (That bit might take time to understand. It is a developmental issue.)

    The delivery to the WAM of a collected range of voices expressing concern at the displacement of women within this tradition of buddhism made it clear that to continue to proceed in this way without regard for context is not in harmony with supporters in the west.

    There is a useful formula for ways of knowing, that applies equally to mundane and to transcendent knowing:

    there is that which we know we know
    there is that we we know we don’t know
    there is that which we don’t know that we know
    there is that which we don’t know that we don’t know

    Those involved in the WAM have made their decision, based on the fourth type of knowing: not having listened, they cannot know what they do not know.

    This ‘response’ lays bare what were otherwise sotto voce assumptions.

    Supporters and prospective monastics now have a clear choice. As Aj Brahmali has said earlier, we are indeed witnessing the evolution of Buddhism within its western context.

  6. “The letter from the WAM imagines the Theravada tradition to be ‘like a gnarled and deeply rooted oak…’ This is a telling sense of their own self-perception. Compare this with Ajahn Chah’s famous simile: Thai Buddhism is like an old mango tree – big but bearing few, sour fruit – while Buddhism in the West was like a sapling – small, but with great potential.

    Now the WAM identifies itself with the old tree. It sees long-lasting and strength comes from size, age, and thickness. But in nature, long-lasting comes from the ability to adapt to a changing environment.”

    sadhu ajahn – eco systems that are sustainable aren’t ones rooted in power – but in adaptability…

  7. Dear Bhante

    Were the “widgets” you mentioned RNA polymerase or transciption factors? :)

    Your widget actually provides a very strong analogy to the WAM/WNPP genetic make-up and its current phenotype. Transcription factors are often thwarted from expressing good genes, by any number of cellular and environmental factors. Perhaps the Thai cultural millieu and the agatis are those factors dominating that assembly and preventing the Dhamma transcription factors from bringing out the best in them.

    May they not be resistant to or contemptuous of well-meaning Dhamma-dana from the larger 4-fold Parissa.

  8. sujato :Dear Sylvester,
    For the record, Ven Payutto was not the Acariya at Ajahn Brahm’s ordination.

    Many thanks for the timely correction. Looks like I was misinformed by a disciple of a disciple of Ven Payutto.

  9. thanissara :“The letter from the WAM imagines the Theravada tradition to be ‘like a gnarled and deeply rooted oak…’

    This is a telling sense of their own self-perception. Compare this with Ajahn Chah’s famous simile: Thai Buddhism is like an old mango tree – big but bearing few, sour fruit :
    – while Buddhism in the West was like a sapling – small, but with great potential.

    Dear Thanissara,

    As soon as I see the simile used in the WAM report, I couldn’t help laughing to myself. Being Ajahn Chah’s disciples, the WAM monks – of all the people – should never ever have used that simile!

    Lots of thanks to Ajahn Jagaro, who asked Ajahn Brahm to come to Australia to grow a strong and beautiful sapling in Australia – far away from the big but old and dying tree…

    And big Sadhu to Ajahn Brahmali.

  10. Thank you for posting this. I felt quite angry when this whole situation erupted since I am a female lay Buddhist. Happily, what arises ceases.

    The WAM monks have made their position quite clear, so I have ceased supporting them financially, and unsubscribed from the podcasts of their teachings. I am grateful for the teachings received in the past, but cannot continue to ignore the second-class status of women in the order.

    Thank you again for your blog postings.

    • Carol,
      May you find your way, Dhamma Sister. May we share with one another in future regarding where we land. May we energize those paths where we see truth blossoming. These are new paths but some are more than just saplings. May we stay connected in friendship so that we do not lose our way. May we support our courageous Dhamma sisters either through direct support or by example, by strengthening those Sanghas where there is no discrimination in practice.
      Metta

    • Dear Carol,
      can wholeheartedly understand and support your decision. Integrity is essential.
      Something that is often overlooked is that all mysogynist monks seem to coveniently forget in their arrogance and blindness that they are almost exclusively and unfailingly and daily fed by women supporters.
      I have long ago suggested every time their shameful stance on bhikkhuni ordination came up in a discussion that all women should immediately go on strike and stop supporting anybody who discriminates against women like in the most ignorant and darkest middle ages.
      Not surpisingly, one of the main reasons why this doesn’t appeal as an option for many a female devotee is the fear of losing out on merits – which is another complex issue that is by far too little discussed and questioned.
      I commend you on your logical conclusion and consequent reasoning.
      With Metta,
      Barbara

    • Dear Barbara G,
      Thankyou for bringing up this aspect related to merits. I would really appreciate hearing from Bhante Sujato on this complex issue.
      Metta,
      Belle

    • yes – also to echo what both Barbara and belle have said..

      clearly the whole issue of ‘gaining merit’ – internalized very powerfully by some women in thailand to the extent of them saying they wish to be born a man next time – would also benefit from a through investigation.

      While I greatly appreciate Ajahn Sujato’s incredible energy and effort to research and speak to so many of these issues.. maybe we put too much expectation on him to have to do all this work – (though I confess, I’d love to read what he would say regards this issue, and of course a monk refuting this understanding of merit making would be good)

      But it would also be powerful for women themselves to speak to the issue and help explode the myth.

  11. Dear Ven. Sujato,
    in my opinion Bhikkhu Bodhi’s revised response was very wise and correct.
    The most important thing now is to look forward and to restore some harmony again.

    With Metta

    Stefan

  12. Let us not waste another breath against these powerful winds. Let us breathe into that which we know to be true and deepen our practice and commitment to truth and awakening… shall I keep responding to wrong view or keep deepening my establishment in right view? It looks as though our oak tree Dhamma family are re-examining their wisdom on their terms and in their own time. Good for them. Shall I try to lug a big oak tree along with me on my path or set free? Once we are facing the right direction, all we have to do is walk…faith in Dhamma and clear seeing…and don’t be distracted any longer…

    • Looks like there is a lot of anger and hatred built up here.
      There is also schism within the two fold lay buddhists
      (there is inevitably 2 camps born now).

      Are we practising Buddhism or Sacar-ism(sarcastic)?
      We are hypocrites!

      Jingle bell, jingle bell jingle all the way…
      oh what fun, it’s no fun, la, la,la,la,la…hey!

  13. Dear Bhante Sujato,

    A great piece! Thank you for your insightful analysis! You hit the nail on the head by going straight to the crux of the matter – which is that it is not a question of communication or of being conservative or of adhering blindly to tradition (in this case the alleged impossibility of reviving bhikkhuni ordination just because there are no more bhikkhunis to ordain new bhikkhunis – what a petty and silly reason!) but of fundamental and universal values, sheer common sense and justice! This is what is grossly and shockingly lacking in the WAM ajahns.

    Their simile likening the Theravadin tradition to a ‘gnarled and deeply rooted oak’ is a joke as has been well pointed out by you when you counter-quoted the late Ajahn Chah who likened Thai Buddhism to “an old mango tree – big but bearing few, sour fruit – while Buddhism in the West was like a sapling – small, but with great potential.”

    We all know that Thai Buddhism is decadent to the core (and I suppose the same can be said of traditional Buddhism in many traditional Buddhist countries) but if anybody were to deny this, one can say that it is not only one who says it but Ajahn Chah himself said so as quoted above. The sad thing is that Ajahn Chah expected his senior Western disciples like Ajahn Sumedho, et al, to do something about and for Buddhism in the West – what the Thai monks have already destroyed in their own homeland – but now we see the WAM foreign monks letting down their own great teacher.

    I have no doubt that Ajahn Sumedho and other WAM monks have done great service for Buddhism in the West and for this, of course, due credit, gratitude and respect must be given. But in regard to standing up for the rights of womenfolk they have failed miserably. Surely the Buddha would fully have approved the revival of the Bhikkhuni sangha since He Himself said his Sangha would not be complete unless there is the four-fold assembly of bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen in existence. It would seem your thesis is right – that misogynism and andocentrism lurk insidiously in the hearts and minds of many patriachal-conditioned monks.

    Once again, many sadhus for your excellent article.

    Visu

  14. Dear Bhante Sujato,

    thank you for another brilliant and detailed analysis.

    Thank you for not being deterred from the heart of the matter by diversion and distraction, by people straying from the point and changing the subject, for remaining focussed, clear-sighted, level-headed, intelligent and wise. It is much appreciated.

    The following passage of your excellent post is a pleasure to read and sums it all up nicely:

    “The problem is not one of communications, especially from the Ajahns’ side. The problem is one of values. I believe that inequality and discrimination are fundamentally wrong. They contradict the Dhamma, they cause harm, and they go against the noblest values that are widely accepted in the world. Preservation of a tradition is, as a rule, a good thing, but it can never outweigh such fundamental values. Where a tradition contradicts such ethical values, it should be reformed. This is the ongoing nature of all traditions anyway, that they are in a constant state of transformation. such a reform should be guided by ethical principles and the genuine needs of people, not by the interests of the institutions.”

    That’s what it’s all about.

    With Metta,
    barbara

  15. “Tradition is a guide and not a jailer”
    William Somerset Maugham

    “A tradition without intelligence is not worth having.”
    T.S. Eliot
    (I would prefer replacing “intelligence” with “wisdom” here.)

  16. Dear Bhante and all,

    This is worth a listen (particularly the Q & A):

    [audio src="http://www.vimutti.org.nz/MP3s/Ajahn%20Amaro%20-%20Not%20Holding%20to%20Fixed%20Views-%20Full%20Ordination%20for%20Women%20in%20Buddhism.mp3" /]

    Blessings,
    A

    • Thanks for the link Asoka,

      One wrong view can turn the Buddha’s fourfold sangha into a threefold sangha . Not to mention the 1000 years of unnecessary complications and obstructions in the Noble Eightfold Path for the other 50 % of the population.  It is  about time that people let go of attachment to the false view that ” Bhikkhuni ordination can’t be done because the Bhikkhuni lineage died out”. Ajahn Brahm’s action can be seen as a wake up call for anyone who still lives under this delusion. Instead, it was seen as a “slap in the face”. I would like to apologize if other’s egos get hurt.. I am pretty sure the bhikkhuni ordination was not done with the intention of hurting anyone’s ego.

      I can see why Ajahn Brahm was surprised about the few elder’s reaction. He probably thought that as long as it is the right thing to do and benefit others , they wouldn’t make such a big deal out of it. But I guess the focus was mainly on their own egos, and how hurt their egos felt instead of how this could improve the practicing conditions for others. I was surprised that so much egos are still there in the first place. I always thought that the few eldest elders must be arahants . It is said that even if arahants get shot by an arrow, only physical pain arise but no emotional suffering. Here this wake up call was perceived as a slap in the face. And so much complaints /obsession about how it hurts their feelings/ egos the whole time and nothing else to say.

      I can understand why some people were surprised about their unskillful conditioned reactions as well as actions. But it is okay, conditioned reactions takes time and practice to overcome and undo. I guess some of us have overestimated the elders involved.

    • Hello iMeditation,

      Thanks for your response. You raise an interesting point, that is certainly food for contemplation!

      Warm wishes to you,
      A

  17. The WAM Statement smacks the EGO of typical organised religious organisations we see so often these days, Unquestionable loyalty, obedience and conformity seemed so familiar with many of these sectarian organisations, justifying their control with excuses of tradition, lineage, corporate culture, consensus, consultation, communication, respect for elders, etc, to the extent of abusing the good name of their founding teachers, to demand centrral authority. This is so sas and so rampant in all world religions, not less Buddhism.

  18. Without forethought, any organization can become cultic. Look at the problems the Catholic Church faces.

    Be Transparent

    * discuss policies, procedures & scandals openly

    * publicize open complaint procedures

    * report public scandals promptly to members, law officials & public media

    * allow free information flow & fully disclose “secrets,” especially those that might affect potential members’ choice to join

    * fully disclose the group’s political & legislative involvement

    * fully disclose finances, particularly international finances, with third-party audits

    * create a member-driven task force to set reasonable fees for retreats & “courses”

    * dialogue openly with laity, the press & the public

    Be Accountable

    * publish — and adhere to — a set of ethics

    * publish — and adhere to — all fees & donation policies

    * oversee clergy & other agents with governing boards

    * if any group agent acts unethically or illegally, take full responsibility

    Advocate Freedom

    * allow open questioning of the leader’s beliefs & practices

    * Create a mechanism for modifying beliefs & practices

    * create an elective or accountable structure of representation (as in most churches)

    * promote freedom of speech within the group, without reprisals for contrary opinions

    * promote academic freedom for clergy & scholars

    * allow access to files/records held on members & public individuals

    * advocate freedom to explore our spirituality without shunning or other repercussions

    * avoid use of shame or guilt to control members

    Provide Member Protections

    * institute safeguards against members devoting damaging amounts of time, money & emotional resources to the group

    Value Respect for Non-Members

    * foster a systemic respect for other spiritual traditions & non-members

    * foster a systemic respect for the rule of law, rather than the belief the ends justify the means

    * foster a systemic respect for members’ families, whether they are members or not

    * foster a systemic practice of charity & support to the less fortunate

    * encourage members to live or socialize with non-group members

    That’s a spiritual organization I could be proud of.

    John M. Knapp, LMSW
    KnappFamilyCounseling.com

  19. Dear Bhikkunis,

    When the time is right and the conditions are right, Bhikkhunis will definitely blossom and bloomed. Question is, is NOW the right time and right conditions?. If there are still parties objecting to it, this goes to show that it is premature to have gone forth for Bhikkunis in full scale or across the board.

    An aggressive approach would create more resistance and tension with more problems for other existing Bhikkunis now. Put on hold until it is more acceptable to all parties. This is not a simple and straight forward case or just having to get it over and done with. Careful scrutiny is essential.

    The suttas clearly mentioned both in favour and against, so let Dhamma takes its own course for it to materialize. What’s the hurry, it is not 2012 coming, although we know one day it would come. Personal practice is more important than getting promoted to Bhikkunis to gain more respect, power, reputation, recognition and higher commitment spiritually.

    Do support Bhikkunis but mutual respect is also necessary.

    • Dear Dhamma Sister,

      If not now then when? Should the Bhikkhunis wait until their next life ? Or the life when others finally assimilate the fact that bhikkhuni lineage have not died out? Why not tell others to wake up and let go of hanging on to the fixed view / misconception that ” bhikkhuni lineage died out ” right now. The facts are in front of them.

      Why is it a noble thing when men ordain. But when women want to ordain it is considered as being attached to status? Can’t women be inspired by the dhamma of the Buddha too?  Right now most women in Thailand doesn’t have the proper conditions to practice as Machees. How will they succeed in transcending the conditioned realm. We need to be a little bit practical. 
       Why did the elders involved put so much emphasis on the fact that they needed to be consulted with and obeyed if they were not attached to their status as being ordained some years earlier than Ajahn Brahm. And that no matter how noble something is , whether it is right or not if it was not run through  them it is nothing? Can you see an extreme case of attachment to status and power there. 

      It is said that ordaining women is A , and not getting the approval of the elders is D – . I’ ve seen Ajahn Brahm was expelled for the D -, but so far I haven’t seen them do any about the A . If opening the door of dhamma to women is considered A , then at least acknowledge it and accept the ordination of women. Instead , what we hear is that ” bhikkuni lineage died out” .   

    • Hi iMeditation,with anjali,

      There were many theravada bhikkhunis being ordained in Sri Lanka before the 4 Bhikkhunis in Perth and the Thai Sangha had no problem with that and did not interfere or object and made ita big issue of it, as each Sangha has their own Board of Sangha or heirachy.

      In AB’s case, it is different, as his monastery is an extension of the Thai Forest Sangha and Ajahn Chah lineage (is like in our modern times, a subsidiary of a parent company and any policies had to be unanimous or made known in a meeting before implementing & enforcing)and any new policy need to be unanimous, unless AB denounced himself and his monastery from the Thai Forest Sangha & Ajahn Chah lineage to be an independant lineage (which no one could have the right to stop or block him from doing that), otherwise AB is duty bound, so to speak, to abide all the rules and discipline under his Sangha and lineage that he is passionately linked. There had to be some kind of an Order within the Sangha you belong to otherwise disharmony and deviations would arise. Consultations and advice from the Elders are very important and respecting their views and decisions is also advisable and vice-versa.

    • Dear Dhamma Sister,

      I wonder why was Ajahn Brahm required to get permission for this ordination when “there were many Theraveda bhikkhunis being ordained in Sri Lanka before the 4 bhikkhunis in Perth and the Thai Sangha had no problem with that and did not interfered. ”

      The problem is that bhikkhuni ordination continue to be ignored and remain close to women despite the fact that there were many Theraveda bhikkhunis. The excuse was that they cannot accept it because of the famous ” bhikkhuni lineage died out” line. As we know , that excuse is insubstantial. And to continue to use that excuse after knowing that it is illegitimate is a ” betrayal of trust” to society at large. The fact that a whole group does it, doesn’t make it any less wrong.

      The skillful thing for them to do is be aware of their conditioned emotional reaction before acting on it. If they had calmed down and analyze the situation, they would find that the ordination doesn’t contradict the Dhamma and vinaya. In forbidding women from entering the Fourfold sangha, they are actually the ones compromising what the Buddha established. The right thing to do would be to decide for themselves whether they will continue straying from the Fourfold Sangha established by the Buddha or to change their ways. It is not at all skillful to abuse one’s position as the ones being ordained before Ajahn Brahm to expel him without a substantial reason other than ‘ he goes against our will’. Their “will” of not ordaining women is wrong according to the vinaya in the first place. There is a lack of self examination and introspection before punishing others.

      In the article “Monastic Lineages and the Vinaya: Which is Buddhist” Kester Ratcliff wrote that ” about the status in Vinaya of traditional authority/ies ( Wat Pah Pong Theras Council)and the meaning of ‘refuge’ as the commitment defining being ‘Buddhist': The whole corpus of Suttas and Vinaya, in all the recensions, make it absolutely incontestably clear that ‘refuge’ in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, or “refuge in (/reliance on) Dhamma and not a person” requires an absolutely uncompromising and exclusive commitment to Dhamma-Vinaya “only”. Dhamma and Vinaya in this context also clearly means the Suttas and Vinaya (e.g. the Buddha’s deathbed words: “The Dhamma and Vinaya “as taught and formulated by me”, will be your Teacher when I am gone”).”

      “In the rhetoric of the Thai traditionalist faction, they regularly use ‘harmony’ and ‘schism’ as threats to enforce conformity and suppress any kind of dissent from the totalitarian autocracy of the abbots, which is rather obviously, radically and totally inconsistent with the original constitution of the Sangha defined in the Vinaya….To submit to the Wat Pah Pong Elders Council as religious authorities, independent of Dhamma-Vinaya, is seriously compromising the commitment to Refuge

      They also have a handy redefinition of ‘seniority’ in terms of ‘hierarchy’ which they usually mention at about this point in the argument, but inconveniently for them it is debunked by the definition of the principle of seniority in the Suttas and Vinaya, where it says that the Sangha should consider Elders as “to be listened to” (sotabban maññessanti), not as authoritative in themselves.

      The principle of respect for seniority and all the manners associated with it are just that: manners and careful consideration for long experience and learning, not a justification for authority. Seniority, according to Vinaya, carries absolutely no authority at all independent of Dhamma-Vinaya, and it is not a justification for the traditional practice of hierarchy, which has its origins in medieval political shenanigans, especially the 12th Century Sri Lankan Pollanaruwa Katikavatas issued by kings to restructure the Sangha in line with the secular polity then in a feudalist, hierarchical structure – these contain the first references to ‘abbots’ (adhikāra).

      To be precise, ‘authority’ (assumed right of entitlement to command) doesn’t really apply even regarding Dhamma-Vinaya; what I really mean is the attribute of regularly being trusted, to the extent of a community committing to someone/ something as the source of its unifying communal ethos, and having joined a committed community, that source of the community’s ethos is ethically binding so long as one remains a voluntary member of it – i.e. the ‘authority’ (using it vaguely again) is based on a social contract.”

    • Ajahn Brahm talked about Conducive Conditions during an interview:
      (Bangkok Post, April 28, 2009, Buddhist Channel )

      Nissara Horayangura- It is not necessary to be a bhikkhuni to realise enlightenment – some laywomen and mae chees have done it. How can being a bhikkhuni help one to progress in dharma and reach the highest goal?

      Ajahn Brahm- This is related to the issue of support. The Buddha said you need sappaya [conducive conditions] for practice – a quiet place, good support and not too many duties to perform. Currently, it’s very hard for women to find such places…
      Also, a bhikkhuni has more rules of restraint than an upasika (female disciple) or a mae chee [eight to 10 precepts versus 311 precepts for bhikkhunis]. What we are restraining are the senses, the outflows of the mind, the defilements. So in a very profound sense, when one makes that transition, even from a novice to a bhikkhu, or mae chee to a bhikkhuni, those extra rules are very helpful. Because of greater restraint, you usually find that it’s easier to gain the deeper attainments in meditation and also enlightenment.

      Nissara Horayangura- But can’t women practitioners just study the bhikkhuni rules and keep them on their own, without needing to be bhikkhunis?

      When you keep the rules when you’re living in a community [of monks], then you really do keep the rules. Because there are other monks checking on you. And you’re in a situation where you’re supported to keep the rules. If you try to keep them by yourself, other people who don’t understand their importance will argue with you, and you will lose those rules.

      Nissara Horayangura- Similarly, women are commonly told by many monks and even other laywomen that ‘it’s not necessary to ordain to practice’. You can ordain in your heart ['buad thi jai'] and practise wherever you are. What do you think?

      Ajahn Brahm- If monks say [to women] that it’s not necessary to ordain to practice well, then they should disrobe and practise as laypersons. Then at least they’ll be true to their word. The reason why they are monks is because it is easier to practise as a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni.

      I was there with Ajahn Chah one evening when Christopher Titmuss [a lay teacher in the UK], who was then a monk, went to tell Ajahn Chah he was about to disrobe. Ajahn Chah said, “Why?” And he said, “Because I want to teach the dharma in the West, and it’s easier to teach as a layperson than a monk”. And Ajahn Chah responded, “Then why did the Buddha establish the sangha?” He made a very strong point, that the Buddha established it because it is the best vehicle for a person to practise to reach enlightenment, and also the best vehicle for teaching the dharma.

      Nissara Horayangura-So in a way is it rather like ‘lip service’ to say ‘women and men have equal spiritual potential’ if there are not equal supporting conditions to realise that potential?

      I agree. I’d use a simile. We may say that women are as intelligent as men, but then have no universities that accept women. When I went to Cambridge University there were about 30 colleges for men and only three colleges for women. Today men and women are equally represented throughout that university. If we’d have said, “Yes, women are as intelligent” but still kept 30 men’s colleges to three women’s colleges, would that be acceptable?

  20. To get back to normal, all AB had to do is to have his Bhikkunis re-ordained out of Bodhiyana monastery, say in Sri Lanka but still under theravada tradition and AB could still be in the Thai Sangha.

  21. Dhamma Sister :

    Hi,

    Imo, if ever there was a legitimate revival of Bhikkunis ordination, Sri Lanka theravada tradition should be the ones giving the green light, as the first theravada tradition started in Sri Lanka (after Buddhism died in India during that time).

    I guess the Thai Sangha also had no right to revive the Bhikkunis ordination without prior consent first obtained from the Sri Lanka theravada Sangha.

    AB belongs to the Sangha and not act like an independant individual. He cannot have the best of both worlds.Whether he likes it or not, the overall Sangha have a final say with a majority vote to pass any legislation within the Sangha. He has violated or breached that discipline.

    Please see the recent comments by Ven Sumangala, a very senior Sri Lankan Elder who has been one of the main forces supporting bhikkhuni ordination for many years. He states, quite in accord with Vinaya, that there is no need to gain permission from anyone outside the sima before performing ordinations.

  22. Discriminating against nuns _ from wikipedia

    In March 1993, in Dharmasala, seat of the Dalai Lama in exile, it has been said on this topic by two Buddhist monks:

    “American Tibetan Buddhist monk Thubten Pende [35] gave his views: “When I translated the texts concerning the ordination ceremony I got such a shock. It said that even the most senior nun had to sit behind the most novice monk because, although her ordination was superior, the basis of that ordination, her body, was inferior. I thought, “There it is.” I’d heard about this belief but I’d never found evidence of it. I had to recite this text at the ceremony. I was embarrassed to say it and ashamed of the institution I was representing. I wondered, “Why doesn’t she get up and leave?” I would.’[36]

    The English Theravadan monk Ven. Ajahn Amaro also spoke up: ‘Seeing the nuns not receiving the respect given to the monks is very painful. It is like having a spear in your heart,’ he said.” [37].
    [edit]

  23. Dear Venerables, Bros & Sis in the Dhamma,

    No more blogging for me (before i get addicted to blogging)
    as harmony is not restored and it is getting no where except
    creating more karmas for myself and others by commenting with
    no peace in mind.

    May all have peace and happiness in pursuit of Nibbanic bliss.

    Wishing all Merry X’Mas & Happy New Year.

  24. Dear Bhante,
    Thank you for your dedication to openness. When you do have a list of attendees at the WAM – complete or partial in progress – please kindly post it so lay supporters can see the names of those who consented to the statement. Unless, I have misunderstood and the statement’s lack of attendee signatures implies a single consenting voice for all WPP affiliated monasteries and otherwise associated bhikkhus?

  25. Santa Claus :Hey People,
    So, what is all that fuss now. Show is over. No more problem, as AB got what he wanted according to plan and the Thai Sangha got to keep their precious inheritance.We can all move on now.
    Those who want Buddhism to keep up with current times need to change their robes too as those robes are too traditional for them (it is 2,500 year old dress).
    Buddhism is a traditional discipline. Buddha never advocated gender equality but gave each gender different responsibilities as per the Sigalovatta Sutta(something like that) for lay man and lay woman.Clearly shows Buddha’s wisdom in accordance with Nature for peace, harmony and happiness (core teaching of all Buddhas).
    Take it easy. Don’t be so hard on one another. LIFE IS SHORT!AULD LANG SHYE. HAVE A MERRY, MERRY X’MAS & A HAPPY HAPPY NEW YEAR!LET’S REJOICE.

    I think Im starting to believe in Santa…! Could it be that a fat guy who wears a flamboyant red suit, lives at the north pole, flys around at night in a sled pulled by 12 rain deer and passes out presents to little kids who have been good has more wisdom then most bloggers ? Thank you Santa…! I wonder who will be getting a lump of coal this year ?

  26. I hear that the Sangha in the UK, with the Venerable Thai Monks, are just following the Forest Tradition. What about following the original Teacher, the original Teachings – the Lord Buddha. I ask myself, “what would the Buddha do in this situation”? I do think he would do today, as he did back then, and ordain females into the order. This seems to be what we have failed to see, that it is the Dhamma, that we look to for authority.
    The Buddha did something out of the ordinary during his time by ordaining women, when they were considered lower than males. He went against the stream. So we need to ask when we find ourselves in a difficult situation – “what would the Buddha do”?
    Love to you all.

    • Dear Isa,

      What would Buddha do if Buddha is alive?

      Buddha would say & do the same thing as what HE had said 2,600 years ago. HE would firmly pronounced 3 times “Do not ask for going forth,women”. However, Buddha did not belittle women’s capability to attain spirituality, Buddha confirmed women could achieve to aranhanthood if they practise diligently without “going forth”.

      I guess what Buddha meant was,… “sorry ladies”, no “going forth” for ladies so no forming of Ladies Sangha but can still achieve with the 8 rules or 10 rules laid down by Buddha for ladies to aranhanthood but no Sanghahood!

      When Buddha declared anything 3 times or for the 3rd time, IT IS OFFICIAL!

      So it is final, Buddha declared OFFICIALLY NO BHIKKhUNIS SANGHA but they can practise spiritually to the highest without forming a Bhikkhunis Sangha(going forth). Hope correctly interpreted.

    • Hi Santa Claus

      I have to confess that I haven’t read every single Sutta in the Pali Canon… Nor have I done a comparative study of all the ‘Canons’ in existance in different countries… Nor have a read various authors who have researched the history of Buddhism… Nor have I done any primary research on these matters myself…

      However, I’ve read enough of the Majjima Nikaya and the Samyutta Nikkaya and the Therigatha, to notice that the Lord Buddha repeatedly SUPPORTED, ENCOURAGED, PROMOTED AND PROTECTED FULLY ORDAINED NUNS.

      Even the example you are referring to…

      (which by the way there is doubt about it being the words of the compassionate Buddha…worth looking into this…but I digress…)

      …with regard to the example you are referring to, I’d like to point out that you are not paying attention to the MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THIS SUTTA. The most important part is that the LORD BUDDHA GAVE WOMEN THE GOING FORTH!!!!!!

      Furthermore, in my humble opinion, IF THE LORD BUDDHA WERE HERE, I reckon he might say something along the lines of ‘FOOLISH MAN [he often addressed people who had misunderstood or misrepresented him in this way, its a stock phrase in the suttas] WHEN DID I STATE THAT THE BHIKKUS ARE NO LONGER ALLOWED TO ORDAIN BHIKKUNIS? FOOLISH MAN, WHEN DID I TALK ABOUT LINEAGES? FOOLISH MAN, WHEN DID I STATE THAT THE IMPURITY OF A LINEAGE INVALIDATED AN ORDINATION? FOOLISH MAN, DID I NOT STATE THAT I WOULD NOT ATTAIN FINAL NIBBANA UNTIL THE SANGHA OF BHIKKUS, THE SANGHA OF BHIKKUNIS, THE ASSEMBLY OF LAYMEN AND THE ASSEMBLY OF LAY WOMEN WERE ESTABLISHED. FOOLISH MAN, YOU HAVE MADE UNFORTUNATE KAMMA IN MISREPRESENTING ME.’

    • Any one who has done research into these matters or knows about such things…please set me straight if whay i think the Buddha would say is completely out of line…

      I ask forgiveness if i have misrepresented Him.

      Please correct me if i am wrong.

    • Hi Kenchana,

      We are all analysing the Buddha’s suttas, so don’t be annoyed (cool it Bro).

      All of us are arguing on these 2 contradictions.

      1. Buddha officially rejected 3 times (those days 3 X means official)to Gotami (Buddha’s aunt & foster mum) “going forth”;

      2. Buddha wanted to see the 4-fold assembly before Parrinibbana.

      Hey, folks, Buddha said 4-fold assembly and NOT 4-fold Sangha! (correct me, if i am wong, i am still learning from you).

      Bhikkunis in the 4-fold assembly could mean Bhikkhunis in the same Sangha i.e one Sangha with Bhikkhus & Bhikkhunis (with 8 rules committed for life for Bhikkhunis).Very clear, no ambiguity in the Sutta.

      Conclusion: Only one Sangha and not two Sangha (Buddha would not have ordered for two Sangha as Buddha placed Harmony as paramount, he would not SPLIT the Sangha and he would not go against Nature or nature of gender i.e promote gender equality as there are distinctively 2 genders of the opposite sex).

      So, to my understanding, definitely Buddha meant one Sangha and NOT two Sangha.

      “Wishing U a merry Merry X’mas”.
      Ho, ho, ho.

    • Dear Santa Claus,

      I would have to agree with Kanchana on this.

      An article on the Dhamma Encyclopedia stated that ” Bhikkhu Dr. Analayo, in his research feels that the Buddha was misrepresented in the texts about being reluctant to ordain women. Ven. Dr. Analayo pointed out an obvious timeline discrepancy that amazingly has gone undetected until now.

      It involves the deeply held belief that Ananda played an instrumental role in the founding of the bhikkhuni sangha. He was credited, and later chastised by the First Council, for advocating for the ordination of the Buddha’s maternal aunt and stepmother, Mahapajapati.

      In a paper presented at the University of Marburg, Germany, Ven. Dr. Analayo writes, “There are many problems chronologically, however, in the traditional account of Mahaprajapati (from the Commentaries). She first requested ordination five years after Buddha’s enlightenment; but Ananda, who requested Buddha on her behalf, first ordained only twenty years after Buddha’s enlightenment. Considering that Mahaprajapati, as Buddha’s maternal aunt, raised him after his mother’s death, she would have been about eighty years old when Ananda was senior enough to make the request.”

    • Dear iMeditation,

      yes, this is just one of several obvious incoherencies in the whole Mahapajapati account. It is not history, it is a myth – the myth of origins for the bhikkhuni Sangha.

  27. I would like to repeat what iMeditation kindly cited from the Bangkok Post because what Nissara asked and the responses she got were the same as those I’ve asked many people, both monks and laypeople. I really want to challenge all the monks who have said and thought so to do what Ajahn Brahm said: disrobe and practice!

    Nissara Horayangura- Similarly, women are commonly told by many monks and even other laywomen that ‘it’s not necessary to ordain to practice’. You can ordain in your heart ['buad thi jai'] and practise wherever you are. What do you think?

    Ajahn Brahm- If monks say [to women] that it’s not necessary to ordain to practice well, then they should disrobe and practise as laypersons. Then at least they’ll be true to their word. The reason why they are monks is because it is easier to practise as a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni.

    I was there with Ajahn Chah one evening when Christopher Titmuss [a lay teacher in the UK], who was then a monk, went to tell Ajahn Chah he was about to disrobe. Ajahn Chah said, “Why?” And he said, “Because I want to teach the dharma in the West, and it’s easier to teach as a layperson than a monk”. And Ajahn Chah responded, “Then why did the Buddha establish the sangha?” He made a very strong point, that the Buddha established it because it is the best vehicle for a person to practise to reach enlightenment, and also the best vehicle for teaching the dharma.

  28. Dear all,

    FYI, the expulsion of Bodhiyana Monastery is now officiated by the Thai Council of Sangha. And this issue is newsworthy!

    May Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato and Bodhiyana monastics be not discouraged by the Thai Sangha Council’s decision.

    http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/29661/wat-expelled-over-female-ordination

    The Sangha Supreme Council has upheld a decision by the Wat Pah Pong Forest Sangha to exclude the Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery in Western Australia from its community after its abbot ordained two women.

    It is forbidden to ordain a woman as a bhikkhuni (female monk) in Thai Theravada Buddhism, the dominant sect in this country, because there is no lineage to Theravada bhikkhuni in Thailand.

    But British-born abbot Phra Brahmvamso allowed the ordination in late October and participated in the ceremony despite opposition from many senior monks.

    The expulsion of Bodhinyana monastery, a branch of Wat Pah Pong Forest Sangha in Ubon Ratchathani province, does not mean its temple status is revoked.
    The temple was granted permission by the Australian government, the council’s secretariat office director, Amnat Buasiri, said, citing the council’s meeting on Dec 11. The council’s decision was announced on Saturday.

    • Dear Dheerayupa,

      I wonder if it is right for the authorities to selectively adhere to one aspect of the Vinaya, while deliberately choose to ignore other parts of it?

      It was pointed out to them that according to the vinaya, it is possible for bhikkhus to ordain bhikkhuni even without a bhikkhuni preceptor. The Buddha established the dual ordination procedure to reduce any feelings of awkwardness the new bhikkhuni may have during the ceremony. Other than that, there is nothing wrong about ordination by bhikkhus only. So the Buddha didn’t revoke this original procedure, nor did he forbid the bhikkhus from ordaining bhikkhunis without a bhikkhuni sangha. If there is a bhikkhuni sangha available, then it is best to use the dual ordination procedure to avoid any feelings of discomfort the bhikkhuni may have. But when there is no bhikkhunis available , then it makes perfect sense to use the original ordination procedure , with bhikkhus only.
      Ven Sumangala Thera pointed out that if Bhikkhunis doesn’t have any problem with this then ” Higher Ordination of Bhikkhuni by Bhikkhu is faultless”

      The authorities still act as if they didn’t hear anything and simply disregard this aspect of the vinaya. Isn’t this considered an abuse of authority and a transgression from what the Buddha established ? It is clear the idea that the Theraveda tradition doesn’t add or subtract anything from what the Buddha left behind is a big misconception.

      From generation to generation , children in Thailand will be fed with the line ” bhikkhuni lineage died out” and the other part of the vinaya mentioned above will be entirely left out. The false conditioning will continue to circulate in Thailand . Who knows how long it will go on, and how long female practitioners will have to suffer due to the enlightened decisions of some people.

    • Dear iMeditation,

      I don’t know if you are a Thai or not, but as a Thai woman who wants to ordain in the future (if possible), the situation of Buddhism in Thailand is really depressing for me. :-(

      I have heard so many Thai people, including 99.99% of my peer, say that they don’t go to the temple because there are no good monks. Sad, isn’t it? And we, Thai people, think that we are the land of Buddhism!

      I thought I’ve found good monks when I ‘discovered’ Ajahn Chah’s lineage, but even before this expulsion of Bodhiyana, I’ve started to feel that some monks who claim they are Ajahn Chah’s disciples are not ‘true’ disciples of Ajahn Chah.

      During my desperate search for temples that accommodate weekend retreats near Bangkok, I visited a Wat Pah Pong branch monastery where the abbot allegedly bowed to a white-robed man. Another branch is headed by a monk who was so curt to me with no apparent reason.

      I was disheartened.

      Now, I’ve resigned to my fate of having to listen to Ajahn Brahms’ talks online. Australians people are so lucky!

    • Forgot to mention that this action of the Sangha Council could be interpreted as: ‘some’ monks brought up the issue to the Council for their ‘unusually prompt’ response.

    • Dear Dheerayupa,

      Sorry I meant to say unenlightened decision above instead of enlightened.

      I agree , the practitioners in Australia are very blessed.

      Dheerayupa, maybe try Sri Lanka if possible. May the Buddha be with you in your practice.

  29. Thank you Ajahn Sujato for all of your postings and the information you have shared about the workings of the monastic community. When I have found the teachers of the Forest Tradition (Ajahn Brahm, then Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Sumedho), I found the clearest formulation I have ever heard of the Dhamma. Most helpful since I was suffering from a serious illness at the time — most appreciated.

    However, the discord within the community seems to be increasing rather than decreasing, and the WAM statement confirms that women will remain second class members of the Forest Tradition, except in Australia. So it’s goodbye from me.

    While I have found the monastic teachers often present teachings in the clearest manner for my understanding, I don’t want to spend so much time bogged down in the relationship between male and female monastics, lay people and monastics, etc. I have listened to many lay teachers over the past two years, and have decided to focus my attention on their teachings.

    It is good to know that that monastics are human, too, even if it leads to so many problems.

    Best wishes to you and the rest of the ordained and non-ordained community.

    • Dear Carol,

      Thanks for the polite good-bye. I can fully understand where you’re coming from; and frankly, if i was a woman I’d probably have done the same long ago. I am still surprised that any women want to perservere in the face of this discrimination; at least we know that many monks, while they are conspicuously silent, in their hearts do not agree with what is going on.

  30. Ajahn Sujato,

    You wrote about Ajahn Brahm’s take on Dependent Origination…

    I found a comment on Ajahn Punnadhammo’s Blog which seemed to be confirming what you were saying; it’s the post made on the 17.12.09:

    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=22928991&postID=6003330245215237738

    What’s interesting is that the previous comments by this person seemed to be against Ajahn Brahm’s actions… It is a very positive sign that he/she has made these comments. Perhaps dialogue is possible. Perhaps harmony and healing is possible.

    Happy Buddhamas and a Merry New Year.

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