Letter from a samaneri in Thailand

The following text comes from a letter written by a samaneri in Thailand to Ajahn Brahm and the Bodhinyana community. She has granted permission to have an edited version posted on this blog.

Dear Ajahn Brahm,

I’m really sorry to hear about all the fall out that has come in the wake of the bhikkhuni ordinations and the challenges directed at you personally and at the Bodhinyana community. Although I bet you are perfectly fine and equanimous in the face of all of this, I just wanted to write to express my moral support and gratitude.

Given the limited (and glacial-speed) internet access at our monastery, I came to learn of the news a bit belatedly and to be honest was surprised the ordinations happened so soon. Although I have since tried to read up on it, I haven’t been able to keep up with all the developments and the different perspectives on them all that closely. So I must say I don’t really understand all the whys and hows of the situation.

But whether I understand them or not, I trust that you had your good reasons for taking the course of action you did, reasons borne of compassion and wisdom.

It’s rare to find a monk who will care deeply enough about women’s opportunities for spiritual practice to actually do something about it. It’s rarer to find a monk who will do something major – putting in hard work and taking a stand despite the negative repercussions that could follow. A heartfelt thank you to you, the Bodhinyana monks, and all others who have contributed, for being among this rare lot.

While the success and longevity of a revived bhikkhuni sangha ultimately rests on the shoulders of the women themselves – on their commitment to studying the Dhamma-Vinaya and practicing it purely, living a life dedicated to the cultivation of virtue, mental discipline, and wisdom – the support of bhikkhus is also essential, and greatly appreciated.

Actually, the debt we owe to bhikkhus runs wider and deeper than that. The truth is, it is the example of well-practicing bhikkhus, whatever their views on bhikkhuni ordination may be, that inspires women to think of devoting their lives to the dhamma and ordaining in the first place. My bhikkhuni Ajahn here, for example, says that reading about Ajahn Mun’s life, way of practice, and teachings in the classic book Patipada was hugely motivating. It made her want to follow his example of going forth to live and practice as the Buddha did. There are also many living bhikkhus whom we are fortunate to have as role models. When women like myself look up at their bhikkhu teachers and see the fruits of their years in the robes – how beautifully, and far, they have developed on the Path – and also hear them talk about how much they love and value being a monk, we cannot help but want to follow in their footsteps. The problem is, once that aspiration is sparked, we find that the way they took is not open to us. We realize we can only “follow their footsteps” at the level of metaphor, or at best strike out into improvised, and ultimately inadequate, approximations of the ordination form the Buddha had designed for us.

Inevitably, such a situation proves unsustainable. But nothing ever gets changed unless some brave people go first. Despite the current maelstrom surrounding the Perth ordinations, and all the regrettable hurt feelings of various parties involved, I believe in the long-term so much good will come of what has happened. Actually, I think so much good already has. If the bhikkhuni issue wasn’t on many people’s minds in Thailand (and other parts of the world) before, well, it certainly is now. This may not have been the gentlest of awakenings, but at the end of the day awareness is awareness. At least the issue is now being openly discussed. That’s the crucial first step towards bringing about wider change.

When that wider change comes to fruition, and bhikkhuni sanghas are well-established in different countries, I truly believe it will be so wonderful. My conviction of this only gets firmer and firmer. Even in a mere six months of being a samaneri, I have seen so many reasons why re-establishing the bhikkhuni sangha is so important – so many ways the bhikkhuni sangha can contribute, and is contributing, to Buddhism and society. Some of these ideas I had already registered at an intellectual level beforehand. But in witnessing a real live bhikkhuni sangha in action and personally experiencing ordination, all these purported reasons are coming to life more vividly, and are proving to ring so true.

And I’m finding they’re just the tip of the iceberg. More and more reasons keep coming to light, many of which most people (even card-carrying bhikkhuni supporters like me) probably couldn’t even imagine unless they actually experience having real bhikkhunis around. The list just keeps growing; I’m losing count.

For me personally, being able to ordain as a samaneri has been such a precious opportunity. Now I get it, why this is called the ‘holy life’. Having the chance to renounce and live immersed in the dhamma has made it so clear – there is absolutely no comparison to practicing as a layperson. This is way, way better. Laypeople who say otherwise need to give it a go. (And monks who say otherwise, at least to women, ought to stop confusing them.) The benefit of a conducive environment, kalyanamittas, and the protection of higher sila – all this sounds like I am basically regurgitating what you said in that interview you gave about bhikkhunis, but now I can understand it at a different level and actually testify to the world of difference it makes in dhamma practice.

But it is more than just the chance to renounce. The form of renunciation does matter. It does to me, and it does to so many women I have encountered, whether they are ordained yet or not. I cannot put into words how deeply it moves me to be ordained into the original monastic vehicle given to us by the Buddha himself. It means so much to feel that I am truly a daughter of the Buddha. That I have a rightful place in the ordained half of the fourfold assembly he set up. That I am an authentic part of the Sasana with a designated duty in helping to carry on his dispensation. Even as a mere seedling of a real bhikkhuni, I feel it this powerfully – I can barely imagine the joy a fully-ordained bhikkhuni must feel.

It has also been so beautiful to see the complete fourfold Buddhist society reassembled in the Theravada tradition. In the past months, I have experienced several occasions where representatives of all four pillars have convened at one place at one time, and it has been a wondrous thing to behold and participate in. There is such a feeling of fullness and completion, of mutual support and goodwill, of dynamism and strength. This is how Buddhist society was meant to be. This is Buddhist society at its best.

One of the most significant, and touching, consequences of having the fourth pillar present is the impact it is having on girls and women, whose needs can now be better served. That starts with enabling them even just to discover what those needs may actually include – things that they had previously been missing and hadn’t even realized they had been missing. And then, providing channels for those needs to be expressed, and ways for them to be met.

In the time I have been here, there has been an unending stream of women, including long-standing maechees, either coming to the monastery, writing, or phoning who say they are interested in ordaining. Many others may not have thought of ordaining before, but become interested in it after having contact with the nuns here.

For those who have ordained, taking the higher precepts brings many concrete benefits. In addition to empowering personal dhamma practice, another very important, but often overlooked, advantage of the samaneri-bhikkhuni form is that it provides a highly effective system of rules and principles for governing the monastic community. My bhikkhuni Ajahn recalls that when this monastery was still a maechee center, community management was difficult as they did not have any clear guidelines. However, once they took higher ordination they were able to institute the set of rules mandated by the Buddha himself, reflecting his wisdom and evoking his authority. They have found these to be a much more solid and efficacious basis on which to run the community, producing more harmonious relations and better ways of resolving problems than they had experienced before. Once women have the benefit of living in a peaceable and orderly community, they will be better supported in their monastic vocation.

Yet it’s not just women interested in ordaining who are benefiting from the bhikkhuni sangha. Too often the discussion is framed only in these very narrow terms, which leads people to argue that offering females a decent monastic form and training similar to bhikkhunis without actually being bhikkhunis would be enough. But they’re really missing the bigger picture, the bigger point of it all. A hugely important benefit of having well-practicing bhikkhunis is that they can enhance the spreading of dhamma, especially to girls and women. They can draw more girls and women to become interested in the dhamma, and can convey that dhamma in ways that touch girls and women at a deeper level. Partly, it’s because as females they ‘speak the same language.’ Also, because women can interact more intimately with nuns, they can be exposed to dhamma teachings through informal interactions or observing daily life situations, which I myself have found often leaves a stronger, more visceral impression than what is received from formal dhamma talks.

Even more elemental than that, I feel there is just something so profoundly affirming about learning dhamma from someone who looks like you, who you can see yourself in – it seeds you with stronger faith in your own spiritual capacity. It’s true that women are told (often as a consolation for not being able to ordain) that the Buddha taught that men and women have equal potential to be enlightened. And we believe it. Or think we believe it. I certainly thought I did. But it was only after I met and interacted with inspiring nuns for the first time (just a few years ago, and I’m already in my thirties!) that something inside me truly clicked: “Hey! I really can do this!” My “this” was even quite modest – I just meant progressing in the dhamma, let alone the big Enlightenment. Feeling that jolt made me realize how tenuous and shallow my faith in my spiritual potential actually had been. It is only when women are able to see more living female role models, more commonly, that true faith in ourselves can really establish itself deep down in our hearts. Without it, we are seriously handicapped – for that faith is absolutely crucial for a person to develop, or even just to set forth, on the Path.

It’s not only me. I’ve also seen the incredible effect live bhikkhunis (and even samaneris) can have on other women. Just being able to be touched physically by the nuns is really powerful, more so than one might expect. Grown women are moved to tears by things as simple as being able to have the bhikkhunis rub their heads in blessing, the way they’ve seen men blessed by bhikkhus. Or just having a nun press them gently on the back to adjust their meditation posture can be deeply affecting. More broadly, what moves women is the feeling that they have found their refuge – women teachers they can connect with and be guided closely by and a place to practice where they can feel at home.

Aside from women already interested in ordaining, this monastery also sees a continuous flow of women and girls of all ages and backgrounds coming to visit, to help with work, or to stay and practice for a period. Even young girls and teenagers, which has been so refreshing to see. Some even opt to spend their weekends or longer school holidays here. I’ve seen many cases of young girls who are inspired to come and become more interested in the dhamma as a result of interactions with the nuns here. And sometimes the most effective bridge is not necessarily the Ajahn or senior nuns, but a junior nun closer to their age, who can be like an older sister they can relate to, look up to and be mentored by. Even little novice-novices like me have apparently inspired a kiddo or two (much to my surprise!). It’s not so easy for them to have such an experience at a bhikkhu monastery, where they would only have more limited contact with the monks, especially junior monks.

It’s true that all these benefits can be offered to some degree by other forms of nuns. But one simply can’t deny there is a more powerful effect when it comes from nuns wearing these robes, all the more so in a traditionally Buddhist country where the saffron robes are steeped with so much meaning and elicit so much respect. So many women and girls have said they were so happy to see “phra poo ying” (female monks) for the first time, many being moved to tears. Many men, including monks, and boys have expressed similar sentiments as well (although maybe not the tears part).

Indeed, what has been revelatory to me is the way it’s not just girls and women, but also boys and men who have really found something valuable in the bhikkhuni sangha. Some of the monastery’s most faithful and active supporters are actually men. Even men who at first objected to having to bow to a woman are happy to do it now, because they have gained a lot of benefit from the dhamma taught and lived by the nuns here.

Granted, this bhikkhuni-samaneri community in Northern Thailand is still relatively new, so I don’t mean to overstate things too prematurely. Of course there is still much to be figured out and developed in converting from a maechee to a bhikkhuni monastery, but I think what they have achieved and the contributions they have been made so far bode well.

This has really become a much longer letter than what I started out intending to write, but I just wanted to share with you what is happening here as a ‘case study’ of a bhikkhuni-samaneri community that offers living proof of how much good has come from re-establishing bhikkhunis, and how much it has meant to people. It’s so important, your work in helping to support the bhikkhuni revival. What you are doing and saying has a far wider impact than Perth or Australia, giving encouragement and uplift to people all over the world. I hope you all know how much it is appreciated by so many. (And will be appreciated by more before too long, even if they don’t realize it yet!)

With respect and best wishes for the new year,

A Samaneri in Thailand

27 thoughts on “Letter from a samaneri in Thailand

  1. Dear Samaneri,

    I guess now the dust has settled after the “storm”. Ajahn Brahm branch monastery is no longer a branch monastery of the main monastery of WPP and is now regarded as a Mahayana tradition by WPP. Well, what’s in a name, said Shakespeare? If the Bhikkunis in Perth do not want to be regarded as Mahayana, then how about Dhammayana? Hey, it rhymes with Dhamma. We have Mahayana,theravada,vajrana etc now Dhammayana. We should not prolong the issue and move on. Don’t think Ajahn Brahm is sad about this as he now has a free hand to do what he likes with his own rules and not duty bound to the Thai rules, but his Australian or Ajahn Brahm’s rules.So, we all should leave this issue to rest and restore peace and harmony in the Sasana. The purpose of the Sangha is to prolong the Sasana so that the Buddha,Dhamma & Sangha (Buddha Sasana) remains in perpetuity. We should be grateful to the monks Sangha in Thailand for upholding the rules and Buddha’s Dhamma in harmony for 2,553 years without which we would live in “darkness” devoid of the Dhamma. We must appreciate and have gratitude to our Elders for the Dhamma still preserved till today and it is our responsibility to preserve it in its original state for the future generations to come, out of compassion and gratitude. Metta.

    • At long last bhikkhunis are establishing their own nunneries in Thailand and living separately from the bhikkhus. It’s wonderful news for all fair minded people.

      “Don’t think Ajahn Brahm is sad about this as he now has a free hand to do what he likes with his own rules and not duty bound to the Thai rules, but his Australian or Ajahn Brahm’s rules.”

      I have stayed at Ajahn Brahm’s Bodhinyana Monastery on numerous occasions over the past 10 years and I believe I know him well enough to state that he follows the Vinaya strictly and he does not make his own rules. He participated in the recent bhikkhuni ordination because it is in accordance to the Vinaya. If the Thai Theravada monks had followed the Vinaya to the same extent they would have ordained bhikkhunis years ago.

      “We should be grateful to the monks Sangha in Thailand for upholding the rules and Buddha’s Dhamma in harmony for 2,553 years without which we would live in “darkness” devoid of the Dhamma.”

      Theravada Buddhism only reached Thailand in the 6th century CE which is roughly a thousand years after the final passing away of Buddha. It’s wishful thinking that the Thai Sangha have upheld the Dhammma for 2553 years and we would be living in darkness. Buddhism spread to Sri Lanka and other near Indian subcontinent countries well before it got to Thailand.

      Reference: Buddhism in Thailand http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_in_thailand

  2. Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom].”

    Wonderful times are we living, when the teachings of the Great Masters are finally getting trough us
    Beginning to be finally understood and changing old concepts. Hopefully Buddhist and Christians will review the old thinking.

    • That’s a beautiful quote, Monica. It’s nice to be given a reason to pause and wonder what it would have been like to have been in the presence of the sages of yore.

      >j<

  3. Sujata Yokohoma :
    Dear Samaneri,
    … We should not prolong the issue and move on. … We must appreciate and have gratitude to our Elders for the Dhamma still preserved till today and it is our responsibility to preserve it in its original state for the future generations to come, out of compassion and gratitude.

    Hi Sujata,

    I’m not sure how the specific content of the Samaneri’s letter is contrary to either of these injunctions. Can I trouble you to elaborate?

    >j<

  4. From Shravasti Dhammika’s blog – An interesting read!

    A friend sent me this article written by Steven Evans, a former monk and a long time resident in Thailand. I find it sensible and balanced and so I decided to share it with you. I take issue with Steven’s statement that there would be no Buddhism without the Thai Sangha (what about the Sri Lankan and the Burmese Sangha?) but this is a small point. But I certainly endorse his conclusion – do what’s best for the development of a Western Buddhism and let traditional Asian Buddhists work on their own issues.

    All the attention given to the women’s ordination-Achan Brahm-Wat Nong Pa Pong fracas, but especially the tenor of the attention, is getting a bit irritating. At the very least, the spectacle of rank new-comers to a 25 hundred year old tradition, or if you prefer, 13 hundred or so in Thailand, bashing its caretakers and transmitters, without whom there would be no tradition for us to be newcomers to, because they fail to conform to our own very modern, very Western, ideals, leaves a bad taste. Don’t get me wrong. I am very much in favor of full ordination for women—on an equal basis with men (which, of course, will require some creative reinterpretation of the garukadhamma), and I am excited about the ordination at the center of the controversy. The burning issue, however, should not be the injustice of severing Achan Brahm’s official ties to Wat Nong Pa etc., but how to proceed with building a Western Sangha in a way that remains true to the tradition even as adapting, even radically altering it for the West. From that perspective, indeed, the “excommunication” of Achan Brahm and his monasery is a gift. He, at least, and those who are with him, need no longer worry themselves over the approval or disapproval of the Thai Sangha. But that is what all this is about. There has been no excommunication. No one has been forced to disrobe or barred from the pursuit of nibbana. What has happened, rather, is that the Thai hierarchy has distanced itself decisively from an act that it is not ready to condone. Don’t be fooled. Whether or not the monks at Wat Nong Pa genuinely want to take the punitive actions they have been taking, the hierarchy is leaning on them, to the extent necessary forcing them, to do so. Take proprietary control of “Thai” monasteries abroad run by Western monks? That’s the hierarchy speaking, even if it is presented as a request by Wat Nong Pa. And if the monks refused to comply (I’m not saying that they would refuse, I don’t know that, only supposing if), they would risk their monastery losing its legal status, its lands appropriated, the monks expelled.
    We need to understand first of all, that the Thai Sangha is not a democracy, nor a loose federation of monasteries and monks, or whatever ideal form we may have read (rightly or wrongly) into the Vinaya. It is a rigid, tightly controlled hierarchy, modeled, quite explicitly, on a combination of monarchy and military dictatorship. For the hierarchy to remain silent in the face of a forbidden act at a monastery and with the approval of a monk that might be considered part of the hierarchy would imply tacit approval, and, at best, that the chain of command had with impunity been breached, at worst, turned on its head. It would imply condoning not only women’s ordination, but also crass insubordination. Better, from their point of view, to make it clear that the monk and monastery are not part of the hierarchy.You will retort that insubordination is precisely in order here, that the chain of command should, must, be breached, turned on its head. I’m very much inclined to agree, but does not insubordination by definition come from within? Achan Brahm should have sponsored the ordinations. The Thai hierarchy was perfectly, if disappointingly, within its rights in dissociating from him and his monastery. But what about demanding property rights to “Thai” monasteries abroad? Or else… what? Or else you are not under the Thai hierarchy. So be it.
    It’s time Western monasteries were on their own. (When the Thai Sangha re-established Buddhism in Sri Lanka a couple hundred plus years ago, how long did the Sri Lankan’s continue under Thai sovereignty? When will the Thai’s start demanding that Sri Lankan monasteries built with Thai help be returned to Thai ownership as punishment for ordaining women?) But there is something deeper at work here. All the hand wringing over the Thai reaction strikes me as culturally blind. To the extent that they are paying attention, and I’m not aware that they are, it must strike the Thais as a demand that they begin ordaining women forthwith. Silence, again, implies approval, approval in a rigid hierarchy is capitulation: let the ordinations begin! But from within Thai life and culture, the male-only Sangha makes perfect sense (bear with me). This is a largely matriarchal society, perhaps excepting, for example, the Chinese minority, and the Sangha as a men’s only club makes sense as an escape from female domination, and as a compensation for the day-to-day humiliation men suffer at their wives’ hands. Lay men can, and do, point to the Sangha as the proof of men’s superiority even as they do their wives’ bidding, much as they threaten a return to the wholly imaginary good old days when a wife was her husband’s slave with no rights whatsoever. That those days are imaginary is borne out by what survives of some early Thai popular literature. Here’s how it works: the wives do all the thinking and planning and organizing, while the men sit around drinking—and sneaking off and whoring—waiting for their wives’ orders, “Plow!” “Plant!” “Harvest!” “Buy!” “Sell!”, with which they generally and meekly comply. Now, none of this is to deny the horrible problems with abusive, even murderous, husbands. To be fair, there are abusive and murderous wives as well, I’ve seen women beat their husbands in public. But the men more often get away with it: the law is largely in the hands of males glad to get back at females. It’s much more complicated than this, of course. The point is simply that to project modern Western ideals of gender equality into Thai society and to insist that Thai institutions conform to those ideals makes no sense whatsoever.
    But doesn’t banning women’s ordination at least symbolically ban women from nibbana? No Thai I have ever queried (including monks) believes that only monks can achieve nibbana, and there are probably more Thai women than monks meditating seriously and hoping for enlightenment. But there is more. Thai monasteries cannot simply start ordaining women—some would if they could—not only because of the Sangha hierarchy, but because the Sangha, as are the Christian and Islamic hierarchies (the law requires a hierarchy), is under the direct supervision and control of the state. Women’s ordination is thus a national, secular political and legal issue, as much it is as a religious issue, and Thailand, you may have noticed, is in the midst of much more pressing political and legal issues just now. You will no doubt have noticed that Thais do not hesitate to march in the streets (or occupy government house, shut down the airport, shut down Bangkok) to demand change. The country is currently in a state of near paralysis as a result of these opposed factions making demands. And women’s ordination does not figure in those demands. There have been no marches demanding women’s ordination. There is no movement for it to speak of, though there are women’s movements for women’s safety, a much larger concern. I suspect that one thing that is operative on the Thai side is resistance to imperialism. It seems that every time you allow Westies to become involved, they begin redefining and redesigning and restructuring everything according to their own (obviously better) understanding. A Western man subordinates himself to the Thai Sangha, accepts Thai ordination and gaining the trust of the Thai Sangha, becomes a well-known teacher of Thai Buddhism and abbot of a monastery in the Thai tradition—then bodily drags that tradition into something that is totally foreign and contrary, at least on the surface. Forces a crisis (and such it is). This feels like a breach of trust; or like imperialism. Remember that Thailand was never colonized, and is proud of that heritage. Not that Thailand is anti-west or anti-modern, but it has adopted and adapted Western ways at its own pace and volition, picking and choosing as it would. It will continue to do so, to work out its own destiny, to be sure, in engagement with the West, as with Chinese civilization, and Indian and Islamic civilizations, but it will not be dragged, kicking and screaming into anything. Women’s ordination? It’s coming.
    Ten years ago I said to a very senior monk that Thai bhikkhuni ordinations would be routine within 20 years. Five, he retorted, believing he and others could make it happen. He’s behind schedule, but it is coming, just a bit of awkwardness getting over all the years of refusal. But this: they will not be dragged into it, or allow even the slightest appearance of bowing to imperialist pressure. Thus the expulsion of Achan Brahm etc. Thus, relax, move on into the new world of an independent Western Sangha—remember our Thai progenitors and revere them as appropriate, but do what seems best for the new Western Sangha and let the Thai’s work through their own crises.

    • In response to this long letter I would make two major criticisms.

      First, there is no evidence anywhere that the Thai hierarchy has been behind the opposition to bhikkhuni ordination. The only official response from the Mahatherasamakhom to date is to note the delisting of Bodhinyana as a branch monastery of WPP. All the other acts we have witnessed, including visiting Somdet Buddhajahn, calling Ajahn Brahm to Thailand, issuing various statements in opposition, expulsion, the Dec 28 press conference, the Dhammalight website, punitive actions against participants, calls for Bodhinyana to be given to WPP, and secret attempts to turn the Perth Thai community against Ajahn Brahm, have originated solely on the initiative of monks from WPP. I have never seen or heard of any suggestion that there has been any overt or covert attempt by the Mahatherasamakhom or other entities in the Thai hierarchy to influence WPP.

      Second, this article ignores the role played by the Western monks. The opposition to the ordination originated from the Western Ajahns following the meeting between Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sumedho, and up till now some of the most aggressive actions have been taken by Western monks on their own initiative. This is not to say that all Western monks have behaved like this; most have not, but some have. On the other hand, many Thai monks are very supportive of bhikkhuni ordination. It is not an issue of Thailand vs. the West. The serious problem is that some Western Ajahns of the best established order of Forest monks have aligned themselves with the most conservative forces of Thai Buddhism. This is a radical shift of great significance for the future of the Sangha outside Thailand, and it needs to be aired and discussed publicly.

      I agree that the Thai community has other things to worry about right now – don’t they always? But if not for the concerted opposition initiated and carried through by certain Western and Thai Ajahns of WPP, I don’t think the Mahatherasamakhom would have done anything. Even now they haven’t done anything; that’s their nature. Dr Nidhi suggested that the Thai Sangha have lost a great chance by not simply sitting back and observing the response to the ordination. I agree, and I still believe that if it were not for the aggressive campaign by WPP, the Thai Sangha would have done no more than issue a few ‘tut-tuts’ (if that much) and declared that the matter was ‘under consideration’.

    • Dear readers,

      The Western Sangha is doing much with their virtue and exemplary of patience endurance and self-restraint. If a monk has no self-restrait, it is not worthy of the robe.

      The Perth Sangha is trying to concort reforms/politics into religion. Religion is about spirituality and not worldly.

      I fully respect the Western Elders for their wisdom.

      Buddha emphasized a lot on filial phiety, theravada teachings as the name implied, placed filial pheity paramount. People do not regard an Elder in the Sangha(highly respected) as Elder for nothing.

      If the Perth Sangha wants to do their own thing and be different, let it be, but do not try to lobby, provoke and pressure the other theravada Sangha into it.

      Now the Perth Sangha and BSWA can move on with their noble life, with their 4 vinayally-ordained bhikkhunis
      and the chapter closed.

      A parable for reflection :-)
      If a durian tree (Asian fruit tree)is not ready to bear its fruits, it will not bear its fruits and the fruits need to be naturally fallen for a good ripen fruit. The durian tree need not be told what to do, it will bear its fruits when the time is ripen and the conditions are right.

      For now, “Let it be…”(sung by John Lennon/Paul Mccartney)

      “When I find myself in times of trouble
      Mother Mary comes to me
      Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
      And in my hour of darkness
      She is standing right in front of me
      Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

      Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
      Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

      And when the broken hearted people
      Living in the world agree
      There will be an answer, let it be
      For though they may be parted there is
      Still a chance that they will see
      There will be an answer, let it be

      Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
      Yeah there will be an answer, let it be
      Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
      Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

      Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
      Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

      And when the night is cloudy
      There is still a light that shines on me
      Shine on until tomorrow, let it be
      I wake up to the sound of music
      Mother Mary comes to me
      Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

      Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
      There will be an answer, let it be
      Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
      Whisper words of wisdom, let it be”…..

  5. Sam, I find Shravasti Dhammika’s blog to be excellent reading, and like Sujato’s, it’s also ‘controversial’ in places whilst striving to stay totally faithful to the scriptures, , which to me is an interesting , challenging and thought provoking development in the Forest Sangha/Theravada literature.

  6. “At the very least, the spectacle of rank new-comers to a 25 hundred year old tradition, or if you prefer, 13 hundred or so in Thailand, bashing its caretakers and transmitters, without whom there would be no tradition for us to be newcomers to, because they fail to conform to our own very modern, very Western, ideals, leaves a bad taste.”

    Having closely followed the discussions and debates on this blog since the ordinations last year, I think that, overall, they have not been undertaken with the specific intent to be insensitive or to ‘bash’ Thai culture and tradition. To interpret events this way would be terribly self-referential.

    The fact that views expressed have brought out the gap between a traditional Thai understanding of Buddhist practice and the understanding of practice that emerges from a careful investigation of the Suttas is not intended to offend, cause disharmony, reify Western values over Thai values, or even motivate Thai practitioners to come to a different understanding of practice.

    Overall, I think the discussion of the gap is just that, a discussion of the gap. Also, I would emphasise that, at least on this blog, the gap being discussed is not that between Thai Buddhism and Western Buddhism, but between the reality of how Buddhism is practised in the Thai Forest Tradition and how we sincerely understanding, after careful investigation, the descriptions of practice in the Suttas.

    (An aside: To say that the Thais should be left to do their own thing in their own time and the Westerners should go off separately and do their own thing in their own time is to commit a gross category-error based on nationalism instead of Dhamma. According to the Suttas, each and every sangha within a sima should be allowed to consciensciously do it own things in its own time in accordance with the Dhamma. I think it is just as inappropriate for one sima in Thailand to be seen as representing all Thai Buddhists as it is for one sima in Australia to be seen as representing all Western Buddhists.)

    The discussion has been refreshingly open, honest and clear. If this mode of discussion is foreign to the way that we as Buddhists are used to discussing difficult and important issues, and if this mode is felt to be disrespectful, then I think we need to re-evaluate what it means to be respectful.

    As a cricket loving, surfing, snag-munching Australian lad, I personally struggled for many years with the notion of respect towards my Chinese parents. What I realised as my relationship with them matured is that while openly discussion controversial issues at the weekly family dinner gathering at my parents’ house is indeed insensitive – that’s not the way they deal with things – that doesn’t mean I should never do it anywhere.

    The discussions about bhikkhunis have not been taking place in the living room of a loyal orthodox Thai forest sangha lay-supporter. They have been taking place over the internet in forums designed to talk about bhikkhuni ordination and related issues. If the participants in those forums cannot feel free to talk openly, clearly and honestly in such forums, where should they do it instead? Indeed, is it not insensitive to the culture of the people of such forums to expect them to change because they do not do things in a traditional way?

    Respect that flows in one way, cannot reasonably be called respect from a suttural perspective. While it is true that no healthy spiritual tradition can survive without its wise and experienced elders, nor can it survive without informed and inquiring students. Respect as a living Dhamma reality fulfils its function when it bridges the two sides of this divide.

    >j<

  7. A very nice letter from this blessed samaneri. It brought a tear to the corner of my eye.

    And it is heartening to get an “on the ground” report from a Bhikkhuni monastery in Thailand, pointing to the strong grassroots support for Bhikkhuni’s, which is at the end of the day, more important than support from the hierarchy.

    The more people who believe in Bhikkhunis as a reality, the easier things will get. The main problem is people who still view Bhikkhunis as being hypothetical.

    • Good day,

      All bhikkhunis should emulate noble respectable ladies like Mother Theresa and Master Cheng Yen (Tzu Chi Foundation) who go about doing their noble works harmoniously, peacefully with no personal gains whatsoever but only boundless compassion and self-sacrifice. Both are very good example for those noble ladies who sincerely aspire to give their heart and soul to the world for a better peaceful world, without harming themselves or others. Both have really “gone forth” beyond self(anatta). Both truly deserved admiration and our “hats off” for their pure heart and mind and did not at any point desire for fame or power or involve in politics or recognition despite their famous worldwide reputation as noble humanitarian Sisters.

      The Perth Bhikkhunis should emulate these two outstanding female “saints”. The Perth Bhikkhunis still have strong desires for status and power.

      There are many cases of lay ladies attaining Arahant (mostly in Asia countries)without being ordained whatsoever, by just practising selflessly & effortlessly the 8 fold Noble Path (Buddha confirmed that women can also become Arahant but never say had to be ordained or become a female monks or Bhikkhuni to achieve it). It is proven that ladies need not be ordained to become female monks to attain Arahant.

    • S.Svarasti :

      The Perth Bhikkhunis should emulate these two outstanding female “saints”. The Perth Bhikkhunis still have strong desires for status and power.

      In saying this, I believe you misrepresent the Perth Bhikkhuni’s. I quote from Ayya Seri “The ordination has generated lots of interest around the globe and even on the internet. However, I am still a tadpole in the bush of Perth hills without internet access.”
      The Nuns are allowed to go about their daily business (or un-busyness) unhindered, while a bunch of hot air flies around the stratosphere. And as far as I can tell, the Nuns like it that way.

      In the letter here, this Samaneri makes the point that it is conductive to communal harmony to be able to invoke the authority of the Buddha, such that the rules for communal living don’t come down to the opinion and preferences of individual women/men (or even a group). This is a highly praiseworthy reason for wishing to be fully ordained and follow vinaya, to be able to say “Like the Blessed One, I practise the holy life”.

      “There are many cases of lay ladies attaining Arahant (mostly in Asia countries)without being ordained whatsoever, by just practising selflessly & effortlessly the 8 fold Noble Path (Buddha confirmed that women can also become Arahant but never say had to be ordained or become a female monks or Bhikkhuni to achieve it). It is proven that ladies need not be ordained to become female monks to attain Arahant.”

      I think this is assigning purely selfish motives to the women (ie: they want to attain something), but being a Monk or Nun is also a selfless, compassionate thing (if done fully within the spirit). Fully ordained members of the Sangha contribute to the world in a unique way. The first time I saw a Monk and heard his talk, I was most impressed by the fact that he followed the training lay down by the Buddha, without alteration, to the best of his ability. Since that indicated his integrity and confidence in the Buddha, it made him a Buddhist Monk rather than something… lesser.
      I would have been less impressed if he was a Monk… but not really a Monk. I mean come on? Buddhists ought to have confidence that the Buddha was the wisest person who ever lived, and as such, ought to have confidence that the systems he created to live by, are also the most effective, and this confidence should be put into action by living by those systems. If not even Buddhists have this confidence, then why should anyone else?

  8. http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=22,8881,0,0,1,0

    “I refer to the interview with Ajahn Sumedho where he described his position on bhikkhuni ordination. He explains that he opposes bhikkhuni ordination because he views the arguments in favour of re-establishing this order as premised on modern, western demands for gender equality, individual rights and social justice and fall outside the practice of Dhamma-vinaya.
    Although I have great respect for the Ajahn, I disagree with his views on this issue. I believe his views, which may be representative of many in the western sangha, takes this position because they see this issue from a westerner’s perspective. I believe this issue should be viewed on a more macro perspective, independent of the position or experience of any one section of the Sangha.

    I am very supportive of the bhikkhuni sangha. I am an Asian male and have traveled to the West only once in my life for a period of less than a week. I do not see my support for bhikkhunis as anything related to western, modern or feminist agendas, even if they may be relevant. I see the initiative to re-establish the bhikkhuni order as a valid effort based on the Vinaya in accordance with the original intentions of the Buddha.

    Today, most bhikkhunis are Asians, not westerners. Half of the four new bhikkhunis from the Perth ordination are Asians. Ordinations have largely taken place in Asia. The efforts to re-establish the bhikkhuni order is neither modern nor western; it is an effort to re-establish an ancient order sanctioned by the Buddha himself and which thrived over large parts of Asia for centuries, in accordance with the procedures set out in the Vinaya. It is therefore unfortunate that the western sangha continues to view the calls for the re-establishment of the bhikkhuni sangha as part of a modernist, western, socially engineered agenda.

    I would suggest that the monks who choose to support bhikkhuni ordinations, be allowed to do so without condemnation or opposition. One can happily choose to play the violin, without opposing those who choose to play the piano.

    Many of us have great gratitude to the Thai elders, and rightly so. But we should also be accepting of those who act out of gratitude and allegiance to the Buddha and his Dhamma.”
    Metta

    • Going by your username I thought you are female. Nuns have been around a long time and without doubt many have done good deeds and are true to their calling. The recent issue of bhikkhuni ordination in WA should be confined to WPP-affiliated monks and monasteries – called the Group. Mustering support here and there, justifying this and that is craving and attachment.
      To some extent, Aj Sumedho is right that the ordination was ‘premised on modern, western demands for gender equality, individual rights and social justice and fall outside the practice of Dhamma-vinaya.’ I can’t even imagine man-made rules on ordination (viz Vinaya) are so critical and quoted left and right by various bloggers. If so, how was the first Bhikkhuni ordained? Was there a Vinaya on Bhikkhuni ordination then?
      I failed to see any contribution from modernists with regards to the Dhamma. It is such a waste of time mounting so many studies and postulations when the core aspects of Buddha-dhamma could be better enunciated to reach more ignorant people including so-called Buddhist lay and Sangha.

  9. Peter Mah :
    The Perth Sangha is trying to concort reforms/politics into religion. Religion is about spirituality and not worldly.

    Obviously the Buddha got it wrong! According to this the person who found Buddhism, the Gautama Buddha, should have spent 45 years meditating under a tree. He really should not have got into peace making with Sakyas and Koliyas when they were fighting with each other nor he should have got involved in many activities involving ordinary lay people. He should not have spoken out when he saw others preaching the wrong things to ordinary people – he obviously wasted lot of time trying to fix many social problems.

    Some one (I forget who it was) said that it only takes good people to do nothing for evil to triumph. How true.

    Great lyrics by Lennon/McCartney – they would have included, ‘let bhikkhunis be’ if they knew what was going on at that time :-)

    • And the Buddha must have been equally wrong to speak against the caste system, or to advise kings, generals, and government ministers. Anyway, since when has following the Vinaya and taking ordination been a worldly thing?

  10. Guptila de Silva, WELL SAID!

    As for those who keep repeating themselves that women need not be ordained to get enlightened, please do two things:

    1. Ask yourselves why the Buddha established the Sangha – the order of the renunciates.

    2. for monks with such an idea, please disrobe and prove to the world that YOU, as lay persons, can get enlightened without the accommodating environment of the monastery for bhikkhus.

    Dheerayupa Sukonthapanthu

    • Dear all,

      Firstly, sorry, don’t meant to quarrel with anyone here, but for all intent and purpose, the nature of blogging is to voice out our opinions and view for purpose of ventilation over a controversial issue.

      Please correct me if wrong, if not mistaken, Buddha established only the Bhikkhu Sangha until Ananda (overcame by Mara) pleaded with Buddha to admit Mahapati Gotami (Buddha’s aunt) as Bhikkhuni.

      Most lay women who attained Arahant are all “mai chees”(8 preceptors) who live a monastic lifestlye. Buddha acknowledged that it was difficult to practise the 8fold Noble Path as lay or householders (as one of the pre-requisites is to be a celibate, how then can lay or householder is able to fulfill that mandatory precept of “Abramacariya…?)

      Buddhism had survived for 2,553 years without the revival of Bhikkhunis Sangha.

      During these years, there were so many Arahants and learned monks and scholars who were experts in the Vinaya. Question.. why didn’t they go ahead with the revival, if they thought it was in accordance with the Vinaya? Why longest Vassa Western Elder monks like Luang Por Sumedho (45 vassas) and Eastern Elder monks like Luang Por Chah (more than 45 years) or Chief Rev. K.Sri Dammananda Thera (more than 50 vassas)did not revive the Bhikkhuni Sangha if they thought it was possible in the Vinaya and practical in this modern world? Ajahn Brahm is considered still a very young monk (maybe less than 20 vassas? not sure, but definitely less than 45 vassas).

      The Thai theravada Sangha also dare not revive the Bhikkhuni Sangha as Buddhism and the Sangha had been doing well for 2,553 years harmoniously in the East and they would not want to be responsible and be blamed for dismantling this long standing harmony. Now, with the revival of Bhikkhunis, will Buddhism or theravada Buddhism last for another 2,500 years?

      To me, all these gender equality, individual rights, democracy etc are modern worldly demands and not spirituality demands.

      Buddhism follows the natural Law of Spirituality/Law of Nature/Existence and NOT the Law of the modern world or Law of Man-made or mankind!

      Law of Spirituality/Law of Nature/Existence is TIMELESS, BLAMELESS, & STAINLESS and KNOWS NO PITY FOR THE WORLD that is ever changing and deteriorating or destruction of morals, humanity & environment.

      My sincere apology if this is disagreeable to some of our Dhamma bros & sis or Venerables.Seek your forgiveness.

  11. It makes me very happy to read the letter from the Samaneri in Thailand, particularly when she talks of a working 4 fold sangha.
    Of course that is my own opinion based upon my own conditioned view of the world. There are plenty of different views as the variety of comments show.
    The readers of this blog probably like me also look at other sources such as ‘women in the forest tradition’ and ‘dhammalight’ etc.
    What unites us all is an interest in the dhamma by whatever name, more specifically in Buddhism and particularly in the Theravada Forest tradition.
    Sujata Yokohoma echoes the wish of many when she says,
    ‘we all should leave this issue to rest and restore peace and harmony in the Sasana’.
    This is a well meant aspiration but unrealistic.
    If my memory serves me correctly there was a time when Ajahn Chah returned to his monastery and Ajahn Sumedho who had been left in charge reported that everything had been peaceful in his absence. Ajahn Chah was amused because he knew that a monastery is a working establishment in which periods of peace should not be clung to any more than the inevitable periods of turmoil.
    What is different at the moment is that the central issues are not just personal but effect a large number of people at the same time. As others have reminded us we should constantly bear in mind all that unites us so that the polarizing issues are in context.
    This is not the first major issue to create turmoil in the West (the East is more used to it). I have been involved in Buddhism for nearly 50 years now and I remember times, particularly inh the early 60’s when major upsets invloved nearly every form of Buddhism in the UK at the same time.(incidentally it was not an issue about women). It was very painful for a lot of people but some of us learned to integrate the experiences, some gave up in disgust and some settled in a particular camp.
    Then, as now one issue was whether to get involved or to keep quiet so as not to rock the boat. My initial feeling this time was not to be involved, at least not publicly, knowing that the convulsion would pass.
    However there is a huge diference now and that is the ease and speed of communication. (although I have struggled with my first view of a blog or facebook). Significantly, details come to light and are instantly shared and preserved on the net. Which means that it is less easy to hide controversial items and present the way you would like things to appear. I must say that as the details unfold I am sure there are an increasing majority who see that as long as we respect each others sincerely held views and forgive the clumsiness of the overenthusiastic this cyberspace dialogue is on balance a very beneficial process.
    It is interesting also that participation (even if it is just reading) leads to virtual communities having a lot of influence world wide. This can give rise to curious situations, For example, Amaravati can appear to be a place of serenity (if you can ignore the fact that there are few nuns left and the monks and nuns rarely sit together as before). Little is mentioned in the newsletter. The lay buddhist group feel that they should quietly support the monks by fading into the background and gearing their meetings and bulletins around totally bland non-controversial subjects. I am not saying that this is wrong under the circumstances,( that is for those on the ground to decide, although it seems a long way from an active inter-relationship between the four fold sangha); the interesting thing is that those same people are at the same time immersed in the internet dialogue and I guarantee that next time Ajahn Brahm comes to the UK he will have an eager audience (whether they totally agree with him or not).
    So what is, or should be, the function of a monastery today?
    Sujato Yokohoma says:’ The purpose of the Sangha is to prolong the Sasana so that the Buddha,Dhamma & Sangha (Buddha Sasana) remains in perpetuity’. That is a confusing statement but will serve as a starting point.
    If I say that the Buddha is ‘the one who knows’ that should satisfy most buddhists and many with a different or wider perspective.
    The Dhamma is sometimes put as what he knows but for me this limits ‘the one who knows’ to gender and person. I prefer to think of the dhamma as the truth of the way things are, bearing in mind that until unconditioned awakening occurs there will be only relative truths depending upon the level of consciousness.
    The sangha then are those who aspire to follow the path of the ‘one who knows’.
    The most important thing to me is the Dhamma which has appeared throughout the ages as an awakening or profound insight to individuals. The problem is that this defies attempts at description because it is so simple. How can you describe something where there is nothing apart, no subject, object or tense. So in the aftermath one grasps at the ‘language’ of the environment one is surrounded by and the misunderstandings begin. Some of those who have not had much insight nevertheless feel the hunger for that which when they get they will recognise; and so they follow those who seem to know.
    There is a more mundane way of looking at Buddha, dhamma and sangha.
    We are fortunate that the historical Buddha Sakyamuni was born at a time of comparative political stability where holy men were venerated, that he lived for a long time and that his followers survived long enough to commit things to writing. This is also known as the Dhamma . Later there were commentators, sects, sub-sects, Mahayana, Vajrayana and so on all claiming that their method made it easier to see the truth.
    Spiritual progress, especially for the hinayana and their descendents, was based upon renunciation, surrender and acceptance, to get rid of greed, hatred and delusion (i.e.I want, I don’t want, and I am deluded (in that I strive for material things for example). The paradox is that it is difficult to even begin to make spiritual progress if the body is demanding that you must give priority to the basics of food, warmth, shelter etc (the 4 requisites or Maslows Hierarchy if you like) and normally it’s the 3 qualities that you want to give up that ensure you have the basic requisites. I’m sure it was worked out long ago that the lay people provide the requisites in exchange for some of the wisdom of the holy men. The Buddha elaborated the rules governing this symbiotic ralationship as his monks and nuns grew in number and all this was easily transferred to the monasteries.
    Over the millenia though it was great teachers that stood out and reinvigorated the vision. These were not confned to Buddhism although the language of the buddhist environment meant that there were more. A few strove virtually alone and lived in islolated places. I think it was about 200 years after the early teachers went to Tibet that the first monastery was built there. Other monasteries followed because they were necessary for survival during times of political unrest. But even the most powerful kings, warriors and merchants could not delay death and were fearful of the afterlife and the interference of the ‘spirits’ so there was an incentive for them to trade with the spiritually adept. So Buddhism spread with the aid of the rich and powerful and naturally the monasteries produced their saints and their sinners and there were good and bad periods.
    So let’s fast forward now to Thailand in the 20th century. The sangha had come to mean buddhist monks only and was not in a very healthy state. King Mongkut tried to reform it but instead created another tier. Much later Ajahn Mun, followed especially by Ajahn Chah instituted the Forest tradition. They were radically different and it took time for their fame to grow. The way that the Ajahn Chah tradition grew, especially in the West is now well known, as is all the recent events with the ordination of the nuns in Australia so I will jump forward to the present day.
    Thailand. Most people would say that the saffron robed monks are an integrated and beautiful part of Thai society, which is not the same as saying that they all try to be pure and holy. Given the fact that practically all males pass through the monastic system you wouldn’t expect that. There is undoubtedly some corruption and vice, and a great deal of magic, animism and superstition but often for the lay people even if they are wearing a Ganesh amulet its all Buddhism. There are also of course some very good people. Naturally there is also a big divide between the educated and uneducated monks.
    You could say that the ‘city monks’ look after the welfare of the people and the forest monks have loftier ideals. The latter, especially Ajahn Chah tradition have attained high status and it has become quite trendy for other monks to adopt the same colour robes. Sometimes the differences are not so obvious apart from the fact that forest monks do have trees around them and I have certainly been to Ajahn Chah forest monasteries where much of the time is spent making magical diagrams, love potions, artificial penises etc. However even these were relatively happy places. I guess most of the monasteries (forest or City) suit the local population. They have to,otherwise they don’t get the support! It’s a safe place for children and women and for most it’s just the way things are. Bear in mind too that many .families with money tend to use schools run by christians, mostly catholic. This doesn’t make them christian but the education is good and it obviously affects the attitude. The other big development, taking buddhsim away from the purely local is the rise of Dhammakaya with its TV station and massive precision style rallies.
    UK. The ethnic Theravada monasteries or temples (Thai, Sri Lankan, Burmese) are invariably ‘city temples’ (I am living in a Thai European one now) and are a cultural as well as a religious centre.Women tend to dominate and are often a majority on the steering committee, take care of the spirit house etc and have a great deal of influence. On important days (e.g. the Kings or Queens birthday) they stay at the monasterys in white on 8 precepts in large numbers for maybe a week.The young boys are encouraged to enter as samaneras at a different time for a similar period. For any adult men who haven’t done this they can arrange to become a monk (full ordination) for a few days. Most Thai women would expect this rather than marry a man who is only ‘half baked’.Communication between lay (mostly women) and monks is expected and cultural behaviour of sitting somewhat lower than the monk and addressing him politely seem to do nothing to detract from the close and varied dialogue which can last for a long time. There is a sort of balance here and since these are not places one expects to enter for long term spiritual progress (the monks are invariably shipped in from Thailand)There is really neglible pressure for change.
    Everybody knows about Ajahn Chah, how he set up the training for Westerners in Thailand and how it came to England with Ajahn Sumedo and others and then flourished as it moved to Chithurst, Amaravati and around the world. Amaravati, the biggest and nearest to London where Luang Por Sumedho still lives (when he is not travelling) is the busiest. Such is the fame that it is visited regularly by not just Thais but many other ethnic Theravadins. They like to bring food and there are a core of families who reliably support the temple financially. However the kitchens and other duties are done by the western volunteers temporarily living there and the vast majority of people attending the retreat centre in the grounds are Westerners. They will not of course have a Buddhist background and will usually have investigated many strands of buddhism and other religious and philosophical avenues but invariably have no knowledge of animism and other Thai beliefs or be interested in making merit etc. It is quite interesting on weekends to find a big group of Thais happily surrounding the only Thai monk, and some around LP Sumedho when he is in the sala but there is little communication between the monks and the westerners and it is very difficult even to find an opportunity to speak to one unless you arrange an appointment. Then of course they are friendly enough but somehow the natural communication dynamic does not seem to have developed as in a Thai environment. There are always more women than men and the waiting list to become anagarikaas is long. These women for me are very important in expressing the female side not just in the sangha but for my own internal balance. They have much to teach to complement the male side especially in areas such as feeling, sensation, mind/body interface and communication. It is noticable that almost all the senior nuns teach and produce CDs whereas few of the monks do, being much more insular.
    Now of course there are many fewer nuns, especially senior nuns, and lay people like me are concerned about the welfare of the greater sangha and the institutions supporting them.
    I am grateful for the internet because it is providing much needed information which is still surprising me. For example I have always had respect for the way Ajahn Sumedho brought the Ajahn Chah tradition to England and the way he set up the siladhara, with the consent of the Thai elders. I had always assumed from the little information that emerged that he was just biding his time along with other Western monks until he felt the Thai elders were ready to accept full ordination for nuns if they wanted it. Then came the 5 points. I imagined it to be a bit like an american civil rights activist in the deep south in the 50’s saying to a black man ‘look we are on your side but now is not a good time to change the law so be patient’. That might have been acceptable but then comes the rider and the man says ‘and I need you to sign this paper saying that you agree wholeheartedly not to demand your freedom in the future; and until you sign I will withdraw the privileges you already have.’ And this sort of thing was said to nuns for whom the 4 requisites were being provided! Even then I assumed that it was a crass blunder by some of the monks to keep the Thai elders happy; and there was a sort of group recognition of insensitivity.
    So nuns left, some to the USA with the blessing of the monks, then the WAM and all that followed. First it seemed that there was an amicable divorce of Aj. Brahm from WPP which had nothing to do with Bhikkunis just the lack of consultation. That soon changed and it seemed the Thai WPP were being vindictive and untruthful, but all the time it seemed that the Western Ajahns were simply keeping their heads down to avoid the fall out.
    Now Ajahn Sujato has written this: First, there is no evidence anywhere that the Thai hierarchy has been behind the opposition to bhikkhuni ordination.
    Second, this article ignores the role played by the Western monks. The opposition to the ordination originated from the Western Ajahns following the meeting between Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sumedho, and up till now some of the most aggressive actions have been taken by Western monks on their own initiative. This is not to say that all Western monks have behaved like this; most have not, but some have. On the other hand, many Thai monks are very supportive of bhikkhuni ordination. It is not an issue of Thailand vs. the West. The serious problem is that some Western Ajahns of the best established order of Forest monks have aligned themselves with the most conservative forces of Thai Buddhism. This is a radical shift of great significance for the future of the Sangha outside Thailand, and it needs to be aired and discussed publicly.
    That was very closely followed by this: http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=22,8881,0,0,1,0 which refers back to this article

    http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=6,8875,0,0,1,0

    This is an article in the Buddhist Channel yesterday which includes: I refer to the interview with Ajahn Sumedho where he described his position on bhikkhuni ordination. He explains that he opposes bhikkhuni ordination because he views the arguments in favour of re-establishing this order as premised on modern, western demands for gender equality, individual rights and social justice and fall outside the practice of Dhamma-vinaya.
    Well, it’s all very well saying that women should follow the vinaya but since there is considerable controversy over the validity of these injunctions by scholars, we need to know that LP Sumedho holds these views. Even now I am unsure whether there is a genuine conviction about this or whether because of its gratitude context he is saying that he feels obliged to support his Thai brothers. I have no objection to anybody holding any views but when it is important to a large organisation it should be made clear.

    I am beginning to see that Bhikkhunis will continue to spread in those countries that already have monastic communities; more quickly in Sri Lanka because of the flexibility in its mixture of Sinhalese, Tamil and British cultures, more slowly in the more conservative and largely non english speaking Thailand. What will nourish and sustain it is information and the internet community as well as the traditional local support.
    What is not so clear now is what is happening in the Western Ajahn Chah monasteries. Perhaps it will clarify things if we view these monasteries like colleges in a loosely knit university. Each runs semi independently according to the views of it’s principal.
    My experience over the years is that spiritual teachers, like university professors, are often quite brilliant in some respects and yet have flaws or eccentricities as well.
    I can think of one famous teacher I knew very well who managed to indulge in wine and women and yet produce a surviving lineage with a famous and well published teacher. Somehow the dharma got passed (as perhaps did the karma), and there are plenty of his students who think his behaviour was an asset.
    What we as active lay members and potential students need to know is whether the views of the principals are compatible with our aspirations. If they are sincerely held views there should be no objection to their dissemination, and they will be respected.
    So AJAHN SUJATO, perhaps you would set the ball rolling by telling us which Ajahns presented which views to whom?
    Isn’t this how the lay/sangha system is supposed to work?

  12. Dear Luke,

    Just one rather minor point in your post that I would like to clarify: artificial penises.

    They in fact are not artificial penises. They are Shiva Linga. Followers of Hinduism will worship Shiva, a major Hindu deity, in the abstract form of Shiva linga.

    In Thailand, it’s very common to see many Hinduist traditions and beliefs infused in Buddhism, and many uneducated Thai Buddhists generally take this aspect of the apparently ‘Thai’ Buddhism, as well as animism and other superstitions, to be real Buddhism. Sad, but it is a fact.

    BTW, I like your post. :)

  13. Dear Luke,

    Luke said….”and I have certainly been to Ajahn Chah forest monasteries where much of the time is spent making magical diagrams, love potions, artificial penises etc.”

    Beg your pardon? “artificial penises”? What the %&^%^* For what??? Is that a joke?? Please make yourself clear on this, are you vindictive?

    • Dear Bro in dhamma and Luke,

      May I respond to Bro’s question regarding the artificial penises? As I said in the earlier post:

      “They in fact are not artificial penises. They are Shiva Linga, usually craved of wood. Followers of Hinduism will worship Shiva, a major Hindu deity, in the abstract form of Shiva linga.

      In Thailand, it’s very common to see many Hinduist traditions and beliefs infused in Buddhism, and many uneducated Thai Buddhists generally take this aspect of the apparently ‘Thai’ Buddhism, as well as animism and other superstitions, to be real Buddhism.”

      This talisman is believed by many Thais to possess power to protect the wearer from harms and ailments as well as to attract women to the male wearer.

      Please do not be offended by this local superstition.

  14. I hold bhikkhunis in highest esteem as a female Zen student seeking to ordain as a lay priest. There is something so admirable about renunciation and a desire to devote life to the monastic world.

    Those with the courage to champion the bhikkhuni cause around the world should unite and keep speaking about this issue. Now that I’m far more informed, I am passionate about it.

    This letter from a samaneri so wonderfully describes the benefits that girls, lay women, men, and aspiring bhikkhunis alike can reap from the example of an ordained female wearing the robes. Practicing and learning the dharma from these women can instantly inspire others to evolve their best spiritual self, knowing that there is always a ways to go on the journey, and that such deep devotion is possible.

    I appreciate this samaneri’s message and the faith-filled, insightful support of the Perth community and all others who believe in bhikkhuni revival.

    I am deeply touched. Advancing the bhikkhuni revival has now become significant way to enhance my practice. I know that I will be furthering the vision that The Buddha had for our world.

    I urge others to see it in the same way.

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