Letter to Perth Thai Community from the BSWA
Here’s the Buddhist Society of WA’s official response to the allegations made by Wat Pah Pong stemming from the press conference on 28 December, 2009. It is signed by present and past Presidents of the Society.
4 January 2010
To Members of the Perth Thai Community,
It has come to my attention that a senior Thai monk from Wat Pah Pong has been phoning some of the Thai people here in Perth with the intention of trying to get them to ask Ajahn Brahmawamso to resign. Following this action I have heard that three Thai ladies have started a petition for this purpose and are waiting around outside Nollamara on the weekends urging our Thai community to sign.
The allegations of misconduct made against Ajahn Brahm include the incorrect statements that Bodhinyana was built primarily with money donated by the Thai disciples of the late Ajahn Chah, and that Ajahn Chah had visited Perth, and further, that Bodhinyana had once been given to Wat Pah Pong or to Ajahn Chah. The allegations also include falsehoods that relate to the recent Bhikkuni ordinations.
I intend to set out below a response to all the allegations that have been made, so our members and the community in general will know the truth of all these matters. There has been some mischief perpetrated by some members of the Wat Pah Pong community in order to try and weaken our Nuns’ fully ordained status. My intention is not to be scornful of the Thai community or to belittle any aspect of Thai culture. The truth is that I and the committee have the greatest respect for Thai culture and the fact that Ajahn Chah has had such a wonderful influence on us all here in Perth, is a blessing for us all. My intention is to be truthful in the hope that I will not offend, but clarify the issues for us all.
Firstly, and by way of setting the scene, a Press Conference was held in Bangkok recently by the “Wat Pah Pong Executive Council”. For the first time, these WPP elder monks revealed officially and publicly that their problem with us was not with any secrecy or lack of consultation but with the Bhikkhuni Ordination itself. They are implacably opposed to the reintroduction of the Bhikkuni order. Phra Khru Opaswuthikon said:
“If action is not taken, the council fears that more women could be ordained in the West. Sooner or later, we’ll see female monks everywhere”.
He added that the introduction of the Siladhara order, or 10-precept nuns which was set up by the most senior western monk, Ajahn Sumedho, as an alternative to female monks in Thailand was also “unthinkable”.
I along with our committee believe this unbending stance has justified our decision not to consult with Wat Pah Pong before the Bhikkhuni Ordination, as such consultation would have been not only a waste of time, but also may have led to the Bhikkhuni Ordination being blocked.
The following points will set the record straight with the allegations that have been made.
Bodhinyana Monastery was never given to Ajahn Chah, nor to Wat Pa Pong. Ajahn Chah had a stroke during the Rains Retreat of 1983 and was subsequently unable to speak or travel. A few months later, on December 1st 1983, the vacant land for Bodhinyana Monastery was purchased. It is not possible that Bodhinyana Monastery could have been given to Ajahn Chah because he was incapacitated before the land was purchased. Nor was Bodhinyana Monastery ever given to Wat Pah Pong. From the very beginning, Bodhinyana Monastery remained the property of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia, not of any monk. According to Australian Law, it would be illegal to give Bodhinyana Monastery to Wat Pah Pong or to any other organisation.
Bodhinyana Monastery was not “built primarily with money donated by the Thai disciples of Ajahn Chah”. It was built with donations coming mostly from within Australia, from Sri Lankan, Burmese, Singaporean, Malaysian, Thai and Australian members of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia, out of faith in the monks at Bodhinyana. Significant overseas funds came early on from Chao Khun Pannyananda of Bangkok, Somchai’s “Esso Buddhist Group”, Khun Prayoonsri of Bangkok, and later from Malaysia and Singapore. These were given out of faith in Ajahn Jagaro, and later in Ajahn Brahm.
Bodhinyana Monastery is not a Thai Temple, it is a Theravada Buddhist Monastery open to all nationalities. It has a wide support base consisting of Buddhists of many nationalities. Nevertheless, most Thai Buddhists in Perth go to Bodhinyana Monastery, and the associated Dhammaloka Centre in Perth, out of faith in the teachings, compassion and conduct, that they have observed in the monks of Bodhinyana for over 26 years.
Ajahn Brahm has never been accused of Temple mismanagement. Because of Australian Law, all donations and payments are audited by a professional outside accountant and the audited statements are presented to the members of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia every year at the annual AGM. No Temple in Thailand has to undergo such meticulous scrutiny.
Ajahn Brahm has never changed the Temple bylaws. According to Australian Law, it is impossible for a monk or any one person to change the bylaws in the Constitution of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia. Such changes can only be done at an Annual General Meeting, or at a Special General Meeting, with a two thirds majority of members agreeing to the change. Consequently, Ajahn Brahm has not made such changes “in his own interest”, nor “despite any disagreement from the Bodhinyana Sangha”. The Bodhinyana Sangha has always supported Ajahn Brahm.
Temple Ownership has not “greatly troubled the Thai Buddhists in Australia”. There have been no problems in this area.
The Bhikkhuni Ordination was fully supported by the members of The Buddhist Society of Western Australia, and most Thai Buddhists in Perth have no problem with supporting the new Bhikkhunis. Some senior Thai Buddhists living in Perth attended the Ordination ceremony to show their support.
Ajahn Brahm did not ordain the four Bhikkhunis. The preceptor was the American born Theravada Bhikkhuni, Ayya Tathaloka. Another American born Theravada Bhikkhuni, Ayya Sobhana, together with a German born Theravada Bhikkhuni, Ayya Sucinta, chanted the “Kammavaca”. The four women were ordained by Bhikkhunis. Ajahn Brahm participated in the “Confirming” ceremony performed by the Bhikkhu Sangha that followed the ordination, as required by the Vinaya.
Since the lineage follows that of the preceptor, the four Bhikkhunis in Australia belong to the “Nikaya” of their preceptor, which is the Syam Nikaya of Sri Lanka. Therefore, they should be of no concern to the Thai Buddhist authorities.
Vinaya Masters are clear that Ajahn Brahm did not break any rule of Vinaya. Moreover, as he was not the Preceptor, or Upajjhaya, he did not transgress long established Thai Sangha Law.
Ajahn Brahm did not receive any invitation to the meeting of monks at Wat Pah Pong on 16th January 2010. Having not been invited, he cannot have refused any invitation.
As current and a past President of the Buddhist Society I know that the above account of the issues involved is correct, but as you will see I have asked those past Presidents that are currently available to counter sign this letter. I personally have not had any contact, in any way, with anyone, who has had any issues with the way our Buddhist Society has handled the Bhikkuni ordination, apart from people being disappointed that they could not attend. If you do have any further concerns, I would be happy to receive your question or queries directly. My telephone number is (08) 9367 3918.
I am disappointed that Ajahn Brahm is being treated with such disrespect, and I know that most people reading this letter will concur. However, I also know that Ajahn Brahm has very broad shoulders and will let this issue flow away “like water off a ducks back”. Having said this I call on all of our members to come together with good will and show support for Ajahn Brahm and the Buddhist Society of WA.
Yours very respectfully,
Counter signed by Past Presidents