Ajahn Brahm & the UN Vesak

A few days ago I made an update on bhikkhuni issues, in which I noted in passing that Ajahn Brahm had been excluded from this year’s UN Vesak celebrations in Bangkok, presumably due to the bhikkhuni ordinations last October. Ajahn Brahm has attended the event for the past several years, and this year he already had a paper accepted for presentation.

I will repeat the story here, as it is significant enough so that it should not be buried away underneath another post.

Obviously, I was quite disturbed when I heard this news. It has been discussed among the Australian Sangha Association and the Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils, and it was widely felt that this kind of exclusion was unjust, and in particular did not live up to the ideals of fairness and equality which the UN stands for. As we can see in the comments responding to the original post, many others shared these feelings.

I waited before blogging on this, as our original communication, dated 27 January, indicated that an official notification from the UN Vesak organizers was imminent. It is now over three months later, and with the actual conference just around the corner (23-25 May), Ajahn Brahm has still not received any official notification.

Our original, and so far only, communication regarding this has been an email from one of the people involved in organizing the conference. This stated that Ajahn Brahm was voted not to be invited, because of the bhikkhuni controversy; that it was said to be a Sangha issue; that the members of the committee would write a formal letter to Ajahn Brahm; and that Goh Seng Chai, [a Malaysian representative on the committee) was behind the prohibition.

When I mentioned this event in my blog, there were a number of strong criticisms of this prohibition. Understandably, Goh Seng Chai himself was concerned about this, and was kind enough to post directly the following comment. You will see from the comment that GSC more or less confirms the original details, with the exception of his own role in the decision.

Dear Ajahn Sujato,

I am writing to you with due respect to you as member of the sangha. Your accusation of me opposing to the invitation for Ajahn Brahm to attend the UN Vesak is very disturbing. Your accusation is untrue. How and where did you get this untrue Message. I have a video recording of the meeting discussing the issue. In this video, there were different opinions on the issue. What I said in the meeting was that since it is the issue of the sangha and it is for the sangha to discuss. The decision made was that of the EXCO and no one person can make a decision. If I were to object, I was just one person’s view.

Venerable, please get your fact right before nyou publicly accused me for what I have not done. It is not fair, as member of the Sangha, you should check the facts first before making any accusation.

If you want to see the Minutes and the Video, I can share with you.

I hereby demand a public apoly to me.

Sadhu to you. Sukhi Hotu

To which I made the following reply:

Dear Goh Seng Chai,

Thanks so much for commenting. There’s no need at all to demand an apology: if I’ve said anything that’s offensive or incorrect, then may you please forgive me.

You will understand that I hear many things, and choose quite carefully what will be posted here. Those items that are mere rumor or hearsay I exclude, and i will only post thing if I have heard them directly from a reliable source. Of course, even the most reliable sources can be mistaken, and any offense caused is very unfortunate. When inaccuracies are brought to my attention, I retract them immediately – as I have already retracted my mention of your opposing Ajahn Brahm at the UN Vesak.

Nevertheless, in taking up your positions of responsibility in powerful Buddhist institutions, you must be open to public scrutiny and criticism. If that criticism is mistaken, then fair enough, it should be countered and retracted. But we must not let ourselves get in a situation where criticism is wrong in and of itself. And, of course, this is why I encourage an open and questioning forum, where I myself have been criticized many times.

So once again I thank for responding and stating your position. This is how dialogue should be carried out.

We should remember, however, that this leaves unresolved the main problem, which is the exclusion of Ajahn Brahm because he supported performing bhikkhuni ordination.

I will comment further on this, but if you could allow me just a little time to consult before I say anything else.

I’ve had time now to reflect and consult with Ajahn Brahm and others, and I’d like to respond further to Goh Seng Chai’s kind gesture in opening communication.

If it is not too much trouble, Mr. Goh Seng Chai, I’d like to ask the following of you.

  1. Thanks you for your offer of sending the video and minutes of the meeting. I’d be delighted if you could do so, and obviously Ajahn Brahm and others involved would like to see them. If it is possible to post these here, that would be terrific. If not, then if you could email them to santioffice [at] gmail [dot] com.
  2. For those who don’t wish to go through all the materials, would you briefly state why Ajahn Brahm was excluded?
  3. For our information, exactly which committee made this decision?
  4. We are curious as to why Ajahn Brahm has had no formal notification of his prohibition. Why is this?
  5. Myself, as well as several commenters on this blog, have expressed that we would like to formally protest Ajahn Brahm’s exclusion. It’s not easy for us to find our where to send our communications. Could you let us know, firstly, who is the head of the relevant committee and how do we contact them; and secondly, who does the committee, or the UN Vesak generally, answer to in the UN itself, and how do we contact them?

Finally, I would just like to repeat that, as I understand it, there is no question of the UN Vesak organizers generally being opposed to bhikkhuni ordinations, as the participation of nuns has been encouraged at this meeting. This is a wonderful thing, and I congratulate you, Goh Seng Chai, and other organizers on your contribution towards such a healthy development in international Buddhism.

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83 thoughts on “Ajahn Brahm & the UN Vesak

  1. Still in his reply, Mr. Goh did not state that he supported the Bhikkuni Ordination, from my read. I hope that I read wrongly as Mr. Goh is quite a well known and respected member in the Buddhist community in Malaysia.

  2. sorry a bit off topic here, but did i hear something that Ven Sumedho is leaving Amaravati? Anyone know what’s happening there?

    Also, does Bhante Sujato know what is the consequence of not following the garudhammas? They’re quite hilarious and I don’t believe the Buddha would say such a thing. I know that much evidence is shown that it’s probably not coming from the Buddha. Is there any consequence to not following them somewhere in the suttas?

    • Hi Dania,

      Ajahn Sumedho is retiring as abbot of Amaravati (actually, he has been removing himself from practical leadership for many years now.) Ajahn Amaro is going to England to become the new abbot, leaving Ajahn pasanno as the sole abbot of Abhayagiri.

      As for following the garudhammas, or not, there is no explicit penalty for breaking a garudhamma.

      However, this requires a little explanation. One of the garudhammas themselves says that one who breaks a garudhamma must perform manatta (a kind of penance) for 15 days. Manatta is one of the most serious forms of punishment in the Vinaya, and is normally only levied for the second most serious class of offence, sanghadisesa. It is unthinkable that nuns should have to do manatta for a simple breach of etiquette. the rule is very odd, in that in no other class of rules do we find that one of the rules in that class legislates the penalty for all offences of that class. On the contrary, the universal convention in Vinaya is that the penalty for rules is mentioned at the end of each rule.

      This confusion is cleared up by observing that in several places in the Pali Vinaya, the word ‘garudhamma’ is applied to sanghadisesa offences for monks. Similarly, in several of the Vinayas, where the pali says one who breaks a ‘garudhamma’ must perform manatta, they say one who breaks ‘sanghadisesa’ must perform manatta. Clearly, then, the manatta penalty applies to one who is breaking a sanghadisesa rule.

      That leaves the garudhammas in a status similar to, say, the sekhiya rules, as rules of training without specific penalty. Since most of the garudhammas are also included as pacittiyas, then the pacittiya (confessable) offence still applies in those cases.

  3. Bhante

    I really don’t get it as to why you have to post all these monastic issues in public to generate sentiments.

    Why can’t your monastics deal directly with the other monastics on this exclusion. You know you are involving public sentiments on monastic squabbling. There will always be two sides of the coin in any issue.

    Why bringing up all these monastic issues with the lay people who are ignorant of the inside scenario? What is the motive behind all this? You know this would lead to more unpleasant sentiments.I really don’t get it.

    • Dear Yoh,

      I would encourage you to read my earlier posts on this matter. I have, for many years, gently and reasonably tried to raise the question of bhikkhunis in the Ajahn Chah Sangha, and got nowhere. There was no meaningful response, no engagement, no interest. While everywhere else in Buddhist circles people have been extremely positive and receptive to discussion of bhikkhunis, the Ajahn Chah tradition persistently refused to engage.

      There is no mechanism by which the Sangha can reasonably sort out these problems. It does not exist. This is why those within the Ajahn Chah tradition who oppose bhikkhuni ordination do so, not by encouraging public debate and dialogue, but by back-room power-mongering, as we see, for example, in the efforts by senior WPP Ajahns to make the Thai lay people of Perth form a petition to get Ajahn Brahm expelled from Bodhinyana.

      Why is it that such secret lobbying, motivated by greed and jealousy, is fine, but if i mention that this is going on, I am to be criticized?

      Lay people deserve a better deal. The people who read this blog are not stupid. They are fully capable of understanding a complex situation, and engaging in an intelligent dialogue about it. We are mature adults, debating an issue of concern for us all.

    • Bhante

      Pardon me, if i do get you right – are you and Ajahn Brahm trying to round up all the Western monks from Ajahn Chah’s lineage to compel the Thai Theravada Sangha/WPP to abolish their non-bhikkhunis ordination policy? It sounds to me like politicking.

      If so, don’t you think it is a bit racial? It seems to me like you and Ajahn Brahm dislike the Thais (perhaps you had some bad experiences and impression with them). I am sure both of you were treated like their brothers, and sons to the Thai Elders during your stay there?

      Moreover, both you and Ajahn Brahm were totally aware of their monastic law.It is indirectly like interfering with their Thai Monastic Law. This is their law, protocol and diplomacy in their country on bhikkhunis issue.

      I am sure WPP and Ajahn Chah’s disciples are put in a very difficult position too. They too had to comply with and respect their Thai Monastic Law.

      How could they try to abolish their own country’s Monastic Law that had survived peacefully & successfully for so many generations due to pressure from external force or foreign demand?That would be like betraying their own country.

      Why is there a need to compel them to abolish their monastic law when they did not interfere with Bhikkhunis ordination outside their country, tradition and lineage? Why can’t Ajahn Brahm & you respect their Thai Monastic law instead of trying to tear it down.

      I trust this conflict can be settled in a more diplomatic and amicable manner on a monastic level without involving the lay people for support to avoid making matter worse and relationship strained.

      My apology if i offended or insulted anyone.
      May all be well and happy.

    • Valuable comments in that it gives Bhante a chance to answer; so others who think along these lines can read it directly from him rather than making guesses about what he’s doing and why he’s doing it.

      8 paragraphs i think you’ve written. All of them are based on this opening paragraph of yours:

      ‘Pardon me, if i do get you right – are you and Ajahn Brahm trying to round up all the Western monks from Ajahn Chah’s lineage to compel the Thai Theravada Sangha/WPP to abolish their non-bhikkhunis ordination policy? It sounds to me like politicking.’

      It seems that after making this statement you proceed to assume (instead of first waiting for a reply) that the answer to your question is ‘yes’. And then you proceed to scold based on your own answer to your own question.

      (The scolding is also full of assumptions as opposed to facts.)

      Why not ask the question and then wait for Bhante’s answer and then comment.

    • Hi Yoh,

      Thanks for your comments. Just a couple of responses:

      As for being racial, if you reviewed my writing on this, you will find from the very beginning I have persistently stated, with many supporting examples, that this is not a racial or cultural issue, that bhikkhuni ordination is an Asian cultural institution, that very many Thais, including Thai monks, support it, and that much of the opposition comes from western monks.

      As for obeying Thai law, again i have written extensively about this. The whole question of ‘Thai law’ is a furphy. There is no ‘law’ against bhikkhuni ordination. There was a statement made by the Sangharaja in 1928, and that’s about it. The Thai senate select committee in 2003 found that the 1928 ruling was invalid, as it contradicted the Thai Constitution’s clauses on gender equality and freedom of religion. There has been no compulsion on the part of the Thai Sangha at all; in fact, they have made no official statements. The response to Ajahn Brahm was on the instigation of a few WPP monks, both Thai and Western, who are personally opposed to bhikkhuni ordination, and/or are jealous of Ajahn Brahm.

      As for the Thai monastic law surviving ‘peacefully and successfully for so many generations’, you really should read up a little on events in recent Thai Buddhist history. Here, here, and here are a few articles to get you started. Thai Buddhist law is by no means peaceful or successful. In fact, monks have been on the street in protests time and time again, most recently in support of the ‘Red Shirts’. Virtually everyone agrees that the current system is badly broken, yet no-one has been able to fix it. Standards of education among the monks is appalling, the number of monks is rapidly collapsing, and the Sangha as a whole has no meaningful strategy to deal with the massive changes that have taken place in Thai society. The criticisms of the Thai Sangha from within Thailand, in particular the Thai Sangha itself, are far greater than anything Ajahn Brahm or I have done or said.

      The monks of WPP have based their criticisms of Ajahn Brahm on their claim that he comes under the governance of Thai law. If that is the case, then they should clearly demonstrate how that can be so (since he lives overseas), what are the relevant laws, and what is the formal advice of the Mahatherasamakhom. They have done none of these things. Why? Because, as I said, the whole thing is a furphy.

      Whatever the legal situation might be, monks are, in theory, mature and responsible moral agents. Part of growing up is in recognizing that ones parents, for all the blessings they have given, are in the end, fallible human beings. And so one enters into a mature relationship, where mutual discussion, to-ing and fro-ing, can take place. Thai Elders have, as you say, been like fathers and brothers to us. But that does not mean they are perfect, it does not mean they are beyond criticism, and it does not mean that we can have no other relationship with them except blind, unquestioning obedience.

      No matter who they are, and no matter what the situation is with Thai law, discrimination against women is wrong. It brings harm and suffering to many people. And good people should stand up and speak against it.

  4. Dude,

    once again there you go…assuming stuff…

    what makes you think that lay people aren’t intimately involved with these issues?

    that’s a tad naive of you

    i might not be in on the inner circle but i’m fairly certain others are… i can check for you if you like…. just say the word.

    you have an odd idea of a buddhist community if you think that the separation between sangha and lay is so marked… extended family we may well be, but family nonetheless…besides which, some folk are closer to extended family than they are to immediate family.

  5. Just saw this from the Nation and have no idea of its relevance, except as for cults?

    PM urged to halt grand temple plan
    By The Nation
    Published on May 10, 2010

    Activists and NGOs yesterday submitted an open letter to the prime minister asking him to put on hold a proposal by the Dhamamakaya Temple to offer a Bt1-billion fund to the Office of Basic Education Commission (OBEC) to train more than 10 million students and 70,000 officials over a three-year period.

    The letter, submitted by noted thinker Sulak Sivirak, called for an abrupt halt to this proposal and an immediate investigation, while suspending all OBEC officials involved.

    The temple has offered scholarships to provide training on Bud-dhism, meditation and morality lessons to 10 million high school students in all 30,000 schools across the country, along with around 700,000 teachers, community leaders and politicians over a three-year period starting later this year.

    The 43 activists and NGO members are questioning, besides other things, the training project costs, which are not specified, and the content of Buddhism teachings by the temple, as to whether they are accurate enough and in line with mainstream Buddhist doctrines.

    • Bhante,

      Here it is: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/home/2010/05/10/national/PM-urged-to-halt-grand-temple-plan-30128919.html.

      Dhammakaya Temple is known for being close to the Red Shirt protesters in Thailand.

      Their teachings are proven to be a bit off the Buddha’s. For instance:

      1. They said that Nibbana is not Anatta.
      2. Their supporters, my mother included, were told that if you donated a lot, you would get a lot when you died and went to heaven.
      3. Before having breakfast, a famous nun would sit meditate to offer rice to the Buddha (I was there). Their practice was different from Thai Buddhists’ practice. We Thais do that as a tradition, more like a gesture, but at that temple, they really made us believe that the nun truly went via her physic mind to heaven to offer rice to Lord Buddha.

      If you want to know more about this temple, please tell me and I will get it for you.

    • Oooh! So your mum has a bit of connection to the Dhammakaya.

      Any chance she might happen to have Roon Lek or Roon Song amulet chanted by LP Sodh? I’m trying to upgrade from my Roon Saam.

      Sorry, I couldn’t resist teasing you. _/\_

    • You are very funny, Sylvester. :)

      Yes, my mum was (I’m not sure about now) a big fan of Dhammakaya. :(

  6. Venerable Sujato – Thank you for your exposition of these important issues. “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out”. (I Claudius)

    It’s really rather sad … it was Ajahn Sumedho’s teachings that really made Buddhism come alive for me many years ago. At least that led me to the Pali Canon – and Ven. Bikkhu Bodhi who is an amazing scholar and expounder of dhamma.

    Once when I visited another Thera vihara I noted that the monks did not like women – and it was fear that I smelled.

    Personally, I think all of this anti-ordination erm … nonsense (trying to be polite) boils down to fear of women. Something that has been going on in all of the world’s cultures.

    Again, Venerable, I appreciate your efforts and thank you.

    Although I’ve noted that some people think that one should, in essence, “turn the other cheek”, I can’t side with Sakkha on this one. I side with Vepacitti – sometimes – you have to fight back – unfortunate but true – or else one will be walked upon.

    Vepacitt-a

  7. Here is the link to the list of panelists at the UN Vesak celebration: http://www.icundv.com/vesak2010/node/141

    There is no information on guest speakers.

    While trying to find if there is any Bhikkhuni invited as a panelist, I found that this monk “Aung Shing Marma” who will speak on Forest Conservation and Dhamma Development is a 25- year-old third-year student at Maha Chulalongkorn Rajavidayalai University. Interesting, isn’t it?

    • What I meant in my post is: they invited young and inexperienced monks to be a panelist, but how many bhikkhunis are guest speakers and panelists?

      I’m sorry to sound pessimistic, but sometimes Thai people practice fake kindness or openness by inviting people to ‘be there’ but not to ‘be heard’.

      BTW, for those who are about to defend Thai people, I’m a Thai – born and raised and living in Thailand for several decades; I have no delusions about my country mates. :)

      With metta,

    • Please reconsider that Aung Shing Marma might be quiet qualified to speak on Forest Conservation and Dhamma Develoment. Marma might indicate that he is from Arakan, Northern India or the Chittagong Hilly Tract, areas that have a long Buddhist history and critical interest in conserving forests. Do you really mean to say that the Bhikkhuni issue is the ONLY issue we need to be concerned about or that a 25 year old monk student at Maha Chula has nothing useful to say?

    • Dear Visakha,

      I’m sorry if my comment sounds offensive. I did not mean to launch a personal attack on Aung Shing Marma.

      My message was simply to say that though some bhikkhunis are invited, from the list on the website, I cannot see any bhikkhuni as a main player in the three-day celebrations. An exceptional 25-year-old monk could have something useful to say at this International event, but… no one single bhikkhuni has something to contribute?

      Again, I would like to apologise if I’ve said anything that’s offensive towards Aung Shing Marma.

      With metta,

  8. Visakha Kawasaki said: “I’m sorry to sound pessimistic, but sometimes Thai people practice fake kindness or openness by inviting people to ‘be there’ but not to ‘be heard’.”

    This isn’t a “Thai” thing – it’s a people thing – people are the same the world over. And round and round we spin … (!)

    Sounds like samsara don’t it? (wink)

    • Visakha Kawasaki said no such thing, ever, anywhere, let alone here. Please do not put words in my mouth and steal my good name.

      Visakha Kawasaki said: “I’m sorry to sound pessimistic, but sometimes Thai people practice ….” Not so.

    • Dear fellow bloggers,

      Visakha Kawasaki did not say: “I’m sorry to sound pessimistic, but sometimes Thai people practice fake kindness or openness by inviting people to ‘be there’ but not to ‘be heard’.”

      I, dheerayupa, said that.

      With metta,

      dheerayupa

    • Dear Dheerayupa

      I cannot possibly think any less of you for having said that. It is a brave thing to say, and only those free from the taint of identification with “state”, “ethnicity”, “culture” etc will be enlightened enough to admit the fault of her countrymen. The road to Nibbana is littered with the debris of rose-tinted glasses, and it looks like you’ve discarded yours. Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

    • .
      Visakha – I see I mis-read from whom I took that quote – sorry. I didn’t have my reading glasses on at the time and don’t see well without them. Again sorry to have ascribed that quote to you.

      Nonetheless – my point is the same – it’s not “Thai” or “Americans” or whomever – it’s PEOPLE who can be “fake”.

      That was all.

      Vepacitta

  9. Yoh :
    Bhante
    I really don’t get it as to why you have to post all these monastic issues in public to generate sentiments.
    Why can’t your monastics deal directly with the other monastics on this exclusion.

    This is not however an issue involving only the Bhikkhu Sangha. This is an issue which most directly effect women who wish to ordain or are in various states of ordination. Arguably it also effects those lay people, women and men, who believe on principle that the monastic path should be fully open to women who are desirous of such training – there is the view, well-respected in modern society, that if a person’s desire is wholesome, they should be allowed to pursue it and not be obstructed simply out of bigotry.

    If this was an issue which only effected Bhikkhu’s, then it should be left to the Bhikkhu’s to deal with. But as an issue which effects the four-fold Sangha it is an issue for the four-fold Sangha to deal with. It is right for the lay-men and lay-women to question why the Bhikkhu’s are obstructing good women from following the monastic path.

  10. 01. It is indeed both shocking and surprising that a sangha member like yourself has come so low that you do not apply or practiced what you preached. It is immaterial whether one is a sangha member or a layperson. If one made a mistake of accusing someone who has not done it, it is proper for one to apologise. Ajahn, you should be humble enough to apologize to me. How can you expect me to fold my palms put my hand and bow to you to pay my respect when I meet you? From what you have written I am sure you are people full of anger and jealousy and you don’t know the difference between right and wrong. As a forest and meditating monk, you should leave the computer and return to the forest and meditate more. You are hiding behind the yellow robe because if you weren’t a monk, your blog would be sued for defamation and liable a long time ago!

    02. As you have said you got the direct information, “Quote: You will understand that I hear many things, choose quite carefully what will be posted here. Those items that are mere rumor or hearsay I exclude, and I will only post thing if have heard them directly from a reliable source. Of course, even the most reliable sources can be mistaken, and any offense caused is very unfortunate. When inaccuracies are brought to my attention, I retract them immediately – as I have already retracted my mention of your opposing Ajahn Brahm at the UN Vesak. Unquote. Ajahn, where did you retract what you said. I think you should be mindful what you are saying. Don’t let me say what I don’t like to say and to show my disrespect to the yellow robe.

    03. Ajahn, you should be brave enough to let go the name of the person who feed you with the wrong information. If you get the wrong information, this is rumour mongering and gossiping. Rumours mongering and gossiping is wrong and it is breaking the fourth precepts for the layperson. If one fed you with wrong information, he is telling lies and one who put up the same information without checking is also lying. This is breaking of precepts and vinaya.

    04. No one can stop you for writing in your personal opinion on your blog but when your statement on your blog are untrue, libellous & defamatory then you are breaking the laws. And furthermore you are inciting good people to get angry with me based on unfounded rumours which you are libellously spreading. This is NOT the teaching of the Buddha! Rather as a member of the Sangha, your duty is to be an example in right speech and lead the lay people to be a good Buddhist.

    05. In regards to the invitation of Ajahn Brahm to the UN Vesak this year, my personal opinion is that it is the right of the organizing committee to choose and select the speakers as they think it’s appropriate and those speakers may changed from year to year. As you know Ajahn Brahm has been invited as a guest speaker in the past for numerous years and now it is an opportunity to give the chance to others. The committee has the right to invite others to be a guest speaker the same opportunity as Ajahn Brahm has had.

    06. On your request for the DVD and Minutes, there is no way I can send to you the Video and the Minutes. First of all, I did not say that I can share with you the video and the Minutes. I only said that I have a video recording of the Meeting to show that what you said is untrue. Please don’t put words into my mouth. You please refer below on what I wrote in your blog. Here again you are not mindful. Please for goodness sake, I never offer to send you the video and the Minutes. First of all you are not even the members of the EXCO. Only the EXCO of ICUNDV can view the video. If ever I want to share the video, I have to get the permission and approval from the EXCO. Please bear this in mind that I did not block the invitation for Ajahn Brahm. I want to repeat what I have said earlier “who is I to stop the invitation to Ajahn Brahm, Am I so powerful that I can brainwash the sangha members.” Please have some respect for the members of the EXCO. Please do not simply said things wihout thinking and not have respect for the learned members of the EXCO of ICUNDV.
    “Dear Ajahn Sujato,
    I am writing to you with due respect to you as member of the sangha. Your accusation of me opposing to the invitation for Ajahn Brahm to attend the UN Vesak is very disturbing. Your accusation is untrue. How and where did you get this untrue Message? I have a video recording of the meeting discussing the issue. In this video, there were different opinions on the issue. What I said in the meeting was that since it is the issue of the sangha and it is for the sangha to discuss. The decision made was that of the EXCO and no one person can make a decision. If I were to object, I was just one person’s view.
    Venerable, please get your fact right before nyou publicly accused me for what I have not done. It is not fair, as member of the Sangha; you should check the facts first before making any accusation.”

    07. On my personal level, I am not going to waste my time with you talking about these issues which you have driven by political agenda.

    08. Your blog has been a political caused driven by you under the delusion of high mindedness which is led only to conflict, argument and divisions in both monastic and the lay Buddhist community and you, as a result make a very bad karma, because the ends does not justified the means. You are acting as the mouth piece of Ajahn Brahm!

    09. As a sangha, you are to lead the laypeople to practise Right Speech, Right Thoughs and Right Aaction. The laypeople upon you as teacher and that is why we address you as “Ajahn”. If you don’t behave as one, you need to give us reasons why we should address you as Ajahn. From what you have made wrong accusation you have made, you still are very proud of your own self and that will one day destroy you and leave the sangha.

    10. If I do not get an official apology on this blog for your libellous comment, I’m considering my legal opinion.

    11. I would like to appeal to all those with right mind not to go to this blog as it will not do all of you any good.

    • Mr Goh, it seems that you are speaking out of ill will.
      These words of yours are not words that go straight to the heart and kind. Not inspiring at all. Have a nice cup of tea and relax :)

    • Mr Goh Seng Chai,

      Your response seems rather heavy-handed, legalistic, and threatening to some very simple and forthright questions.

      Further, you yourself stated in your previous blog post:

      “If you want to see the Minutes and the Video, I can share with you”

      Are you now retracting that statement by adopting an offensive stance?

      Still, I do not know and would like to know who I can write to in the UN Vesak committee regarding this decision? It is a simple question.

      regards, Anne

    • Secondly, please do not be so insulting and rude to Ajahn Sujato, he is a very good, humble, dedicated and mindful monk and I find your harsh words to him very abrasive!

    • Dear Mr. Goh Seng Chai,

      Please allow me to respond to the pertinent sections in your post using your system of paragraph numbers.

      01. In reply to your original post, i responded by asking for forgiveness, which is the normal form of apology used in Buddhism. Allow me to say again: I apologize for any offence or harm that may have arisen to you due to any statements made by me on this blog.

      02. I retracted my original statement from the place it was originally posted.

      03. My original information came in the form of a private communication and I do not feel it would be appropriate to share the name of the person. Nor is it relevant to the issue at hand.

      05. Thank you for giving your perspective on my question.

      06. In your current comment, you say,

      I did not say that I can share with you the video and the Minutes. I only said that I have a video recording of the Meeting to show that what you said is untrue.

      However, in your original comment, which is reproduced at the top of this post, you say,

      If you want to see the Minutes and the Video, I can share with you.

      In your current comment, you omit this line, which should follow on from:

      you should check the facts first before making any accusation

      In any case, since you are not willing to share the information, we cannot see for ourselves the facts of the matter.

      It is a shame that you have responded so severely to what should have been a simple correction. I will leave aside your personal criticisms, as wise people will decide for themselves.

      Yours in Dhamma

      Bhante Sujato

    • mr. goh seng chai,
      better clam down and do some serious metta meditation.
      if you don’t like the blog don’t open it.
      if you don’t want to bow, don’t bow.
      considering your legal options? consider letting go of your considerable ego and meditating more on anatta.
      metta
      metta
      metta

  11. Dear Mr. Goh Seng Chai,

    I’ve heard that last December a retreat in Malaysia led by Ajahn Brahm had some difficulties as the sponsor(s) of the food for retreatants retracted his/her/their offer. I don’t know if it is true or not and have no one to ask. Since you are the chairman of a respectable Buddhist society in Malaysia, you might have the information. If it is true, perhaps you may be able to also tell us who was behind the change of mind of the sponsor(s).

    With metta,
    Dheerayupa

  12. I have just read Mr Goh Seng Chai’s latest response on this blog.

    ***

    It seems he is asking again for an apology and it seems he is considering legal action.

    I went back and re-read Bhante Sujato’s letter and comments to him which included:

    “Thanks so much for commenting. There’s no need at all to demand an apology: if I’ve said anything that’s offensive or incorrect, then may you please forgive me.”

    Perhaps this statement wasn’t apologetic enough? To me it sounds like a soft, kind statement but maybe to it’s reciepient it didn’t sound like Bhante was sorry enough?

    I have to say, I have never ever heard of anyone in the Sangha asking forgiveness (publicly too) from a layperson!!

    ***

    Bhante also states:

    “If it is not too much trouble, Mr. Goh Seng Chai, I’d like to ask the following of you.”

    Which i thought was a very nice, kind tone of voice. But i wonder if Mr Goh Seng Chai felt really agitated by the request of the video and minutes?

    ***

    Bhante also states:

    “Myself, as well as several commenters on this blog, have expressed that we would like to formally protest Ajahn Brahm’s exclusion. It’s not easy for us to find our where to send our communications. Could you let us know, firstly, who is the head of the relevant committee and how do we contact them; and secondly, who does the committee, or the UN Vesak generally, answer to in the UN itself, and how do we contact them?”

    I noticed that this question was not answered.

    ***

    Bhante states:

    “Finally, I would just like to repeat that, as I understand it, there is no question of the UN Vesak organizers generally being opposed to bhikkhuni ordinations, as the participation of nuns has been encouraged at this meeting. This is a wonderful thing, and I congratulate you, Goh Seng Chai, and other organizers on your contribution towards such a healthy development in international Buddhism.”

    Bhante Sujato says such kind and approving things and congratulates Mr Goh Seng Chai but this doesn’t seem to be noticed very much.

    • That’s a really great response Kancana, Bhante Sujato was very kind and soft and there was no need for Mr. Goh to have such a harsh reply.

  13. Those of you living in Asia at the moment, can i just politely ask two small questions? Just out of curiousity because i don’t know the answers.

    1. In your cultures, is losing face a fearful thing that requires massive courage and faith to face?

    2. And…do you know of anyone in your country who is a good role model of how to behave when they lose face? That is someone who behaves with honesty and courage rather than anger and defensiveness.

    It’s ok if no-one responds but if someone does i’d be very grateful.

    With lots of Metta.

    • Hi Kanchana,

      Just out of curiosity too, are you not of Asian origin? Your nom de plume is.

    • Yes. South Asian.

      I’ve lived in a few countries but mainly outside of Asia.

      I know more about the country i am in than the one i was born in!!

    • That is a very good idea.

      I’d especially be interested in their answer to the 2nd one!!

    • Dear Kanchana,

      I was born and raised and have been living in Thailand all my life (which is quite a few decades now).

      Question number one: losing face is a HUGE thing in my country! The easiest way to make an enemy out of most people is to embarrass them in public!

      Question number two: may I take a couple of weeks to get deep enough a meditation to recall events of my earlier life? :)

      My vague memory tells me that I have seen only a handful and most of them were teachers (because I was in teaching most of my life). Teachers are known to be authoritative when it comes to their field of knowledge, but a few I’ve known could take criticisms and admit their mistakes.

      To be honest with you, admitting your academic mistakes in front of the class is one of the most difficult things to do. It’s not only losing face, but losing face to those inferior to you in status (students)! You are risking losing their respect!

      I guess this is what many senior monks are feeling right now. Afraid to admit their mistakes to the laypeople, who generally are inferior to them in terms of dhamma accomplishments.

      Overcoming our defilements is not easy. I can easily empathise with you all.

      May we all have courage to do what needs to be done to purify our mind and pave way to finally enter the stream.

      With mega metta,

    • I’ve a little experience of teaching myself Dheerayupa!

      It isn’t easy within my own mind but i notice that if i’m honest and confident that it’s okay to make a mistake…my students respect that!

      I have grown, over the years, to value this because i’m teaching them through my own example that it’s okay to make a mistake, it’s okay to be honest about it and it doesn’t mean the end of the world.

      This doesn’t mean that i don’t feel the odd twinge of nervousness when it does happen!!!

    • Dear Kanchana,

      I’ve found that it was more difficult for me to admit my mistakes when I was young adults with successful academic and career records. It was easier when I got older. And now that I’m pretty old, it’s no problem at all. Ha! Ha!

    • You don’t sound old! You sound young. Must be because you are unafraid to review new information and change your mind based on such information.
      :)

    • I started to feel old when I felt I’d seen so much sufferings and realised how ignorant and deluded I’d been all my life. Age-wise, I really am not a young chick. :)

  14. 10. If I do not get an official apology on this blog for your libellous comment, I’m considering my legal opinion.

    I think he meant legal option.

    I’s very difficult to prove libel in court – all it will do is make the attorneys money.

    This person sounds like a typical bully.

    Vepacitta

  15. Dear Bhante and fellow bloggers,

    How can we be sure that it was Mr. Goh Seng Chai who wrote all those comments?

    Mr. Goh Seng Chai is the chairman of a respectable Buddhist society, so he must be an example of good-hearted people. He would think twice before launching his verbal attacks against a monk whom he doesn’t know well.

    Can it be another ‘Maria’?

    Just my two cents.

    • Dheerayupa,

      Thank you for your wise comments.

      It’s good to remember this possibility.

      Also a very dear friend just reminded me of the following verses from the Dhammapada, the Buddha’s words:

      “Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world; by non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is an eternal law.”

      “Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth.”

      “Enduring patience is the highest austerity. “Nibbana is supreme,” say the Buddhas. He is not a true monk who harms another, nor a real renunciate who oppresses others.”

      (From the translation by Acharya Buddharakkhita found in “The Dhammapada: The Buddha’s Path of Wisdom” with an introduction by Bhikkhu Bodhi, BPS, Sri Lanka, 2nd Ed., 1996)

      May we all be well and happy.

    • That’s a good point Dheerayupa, we can’t be sure if it really was Mr Goh or someone just causing trouble. Perhaps we can just ignore whoever wrote that response.

    • Yes Dheerayupa, I am beginning to wonder the same. It seems highly unlikely that a respected Government official would respond in such an unprofessional and self-righteous manner.
      I am beginning to suspect that perhaps Goh is Yoh?

      Have we been duped?

    • Excuse me Sis Anne

      I SWEAR TO BUDDHA HERE THAT I AM NOT GOH!!!

      PLEASE MAKE GOOD YOUR BASELESS ACCUSATION AND PLEASE STOP HAVING THIS KIND OF APPARITION.

      WE CAN UNDERSTAND ALL OUR PAINS BUT THAT DOES NOT WARRANT US TO “BRUTALLY ATTACK VERBALLY” EACH OTHER AT NO COST.

      I REITERATE HERE I AM NOT GOH, I AM NOT MARIA, I AM NOT WHOEVER…. YOU THINK I AM. FULL STOP.

    • PS.I never accused you of being Maria, just Goh. Perhaps the similarity in names caused my assumption (incorrectly).

    • Dear Yoh,

      yes, thanks for standing up for yourself. I don’t approve of the many instances when someone is accused of being someone else, usually for no very good reason. I have just modified my guidelines on the ‘about’ page to mention this specifically. Unfortunately, it is the case that some trolls will deliberately hide their identity behind different names. However if one is in doubt, ask politely, don’t accuse.

    • Thanks for making an example of this Bhante, despite it happening in many other posts. :(

    • Ajahn, pls permit me to clarify.

      I hope you are not referring me when you said “some trolls deliberately hide…… “.

      I did not hide behind different names. I blog under the name Yoh all the time. You can check in your server whether i hide behind Goh or not and before Anne accused me that Yoh is also Maria or etc, i better defend myself first.You can check the IP if Yoh’s & Goh’s are similar.I assure you I am not Goh.

      Anyway, i said i quit blogging now. I wish to express a gesture of kind thanks to you for allowing me to blog in your Blog and for posting all my comments in your Blog.

      I wish to apologize to you and any blogger here if my comments were found offensive and disagreeable to some.

      Wishing all good health, happiness & peace.

      May Buddhism prosper in Perth and wishing Ajahn Brahm & You all the Best and Success in your noble aspirations. SADHU!

    • Dear Yoh,

      No , I did not mean you at all – this was just a general statement about a problem which is well known in the blogging world. I never thought your messages had any similarity to anyone else’s. You have your own style: forthright, confident, but at the same time responsive. You listen. in any case, I don’t play the game of ‘guess the real identity’. I respond to what is written, not to my guesses about what lies behind….

      All the best

    • Dear Yoh, may you have a smooth happy and quick path towards cessation and ultimate happiness. I am sorry if anything I have said would also have offended you:) Please accept my apologize. Thank you for your sincere post and please keep an open mind.
      all the best

    • Dear Yoh,

      I hope you have accepted my apology for the Goh thing. I repeat I never thought or accused you of being Maria. You are way too present for that.
      I hope we can put our differences in opinion behind us. I am not offended by what you have said. You have your opinion. Mine is different.
      I hope you too are not offended by my views.
      After all, that is all they are….views.

      I too will come off this blog (I said this before but like you came back on). In the end,
      it is not a healthy place for me to be either. The hatred I hear directed towards women is too painful for one to bear.

      Unfortunately it also makes me want to turn away from Buddhism altogether. And I have always loved
      being a Buddhist. It literally saved my life once long ago.

      I wonder if the Ajahns in the UK and Thailand
      realise their negative effects on people.

    • Dear Anne,

      I would feel sad not to see your name again on this blog. However, if you don’t feel happy around here, please remember that you do have brothers and sisters in dhamma who wish you well. :)

      I also feel upset when I read negative comments about my dear Ajahns and some unwholesome actions committed by some monks.

      BUT, may I borrow Ajahn Chah’s words said to Ajahn Sumedho when he complained about bad monks? Ajahn Chah: The world is like this, Sumedho.

      Negative emotions are useful. We can never know what heaven is if there is no hell. We wouldn’t appreciate good speech and actions if we never came across speech and actions not to our liking. We wouldn’t appreciate the good monks we respect if we never saw true colors of some men hidden in yellow robes. (Latest news on bad men in yellow robes is a Thai abbot raping young Summertime novices.)

      May you find peace wherever you are.

      Warm loving kindness to you.

      Dheerayupa

    • Sis Anne

      I sincerely accept your apology. It is all misunderstandings and our minds are too fast at work(our monkey mind, not us, is to be blame)and our fingers to fast to hit the PC buttons.

      I find all of us here blog because we all love our Monks and Nuns and we all want to protect them and wish for the best for Buddhism.

      We hope all the Sangha regardless of traditions can compromise and unite so that we can put all this arguments and disputes behind us and be open and transparent in all our actions.

      We must have links in our past life to cross path with each other. I wish you happiness and hope you will not turn away from Buddhism. This is how things are in Samsara.

      We can be in Nibbana in Samsara. Ajahn Sumedho explained Nibbana is non-grasping (we learn to not be too attached as attachments can hurt and harm us). Let us learn from this incident and come out a better person. All the best to you. Please accept a e-hug from me(:-).

    • Thank you dear Dhamma sister Dheerayupa.:)
      I will probably see you again on the ‘Women & Forest Sangha’ where the dialogue is more positive.
      Thank you also for the comfort of the quote from Ven. Ajahn Chah. How true.

      Terrible news of this monks’ criminal (and animal) behaviour. No doubt they will blame the girl for being too sexy, or something equally ridiculous! *Sigh* When will men stop their bad behaviour? Probably not until they reach Nibbana I suspect.
      Myself, i think i will go back to Mahayana….there is a lot to be said for the Boddhissatva vow. I’m beginning to understand why the Tibetans made changes.

      With much loving kindness to you.

    • Thank you dear Yoh for your sweet reply. I accept your e-hug and send you one back! :)
      Yes, I too wish we could all stop fighting and get along. All everyone wants is harmony and peace. Much blessings to you my friend.

    • Dear Avusos

      Just remember this – your sadness are simply states of feelings that have arisen according to their conditions. Why grieve over them?

    • Dear Yoh, Anne, Dheerayupa and Sylvester,

      Thankyou for this soft, kind and generous hearted exchange of words.

      It has been healing to read it.

      Much much metta to you all.

    • Dear Anne,

      I don’t use this name on Facebook. I use my real name here out of respect for Bhante Sujato. :)

      Look for Mushy Mushroom who likes Monet. :)

      With warm loving kindness.

    • Dear Ann, it’s interesting that you find this ‘unhealthy’. Perhaps change the way you look at it? For instance, for me when I read these crazy things being said about Buddhism and women (ex: people saying that Buddha didn’t establish bhikkhuni sangha or that women should just be happy with their siladhara or go to sri lanka if they want to live monastic life…) instead of getting depressed, it just gave me more motivation to practice! Because i realize, damn this world needs women who practice and who can later lead by example. Now I don’t know if I’ll eventually ordain or not but if I do, I better be able to meditate and teach the Dhamma and inspire people. (far from it now but it gives motivation). So dear Ann, that’s ok that you won’t be blogging, it’ll give you more time to meditate:) but you can also try changing the way you look at things :)

      Also remember, that these are only very few people that think that. The majority of people are ‘alright’ and do support bhikkhuni sangha! In fact even in the Buddha’s time there were foolish people. remember the group of 6!

    • Forgot to inform you all that this abbot ‘repeatedly raped’ several young male novices (boys who got ordained during the school summer vacation) who ordained at his temple.

      Can’t imagine how deep the hell he would be going to!

    • The article can be read here. Child abuse in temples is an issue that has raised its ugly head in Australia, too. The Australian Sangha Association has made regular mention of it for the past several years.

      In the current case, the guilty monk made the excuse, ‘everyone else is doing it’ – morally obscene, yes, but such claims ought to be taken seriously and the matter investigated systematically. In their treatment of women, the Buddhist Sangha is losing their international prestige, the naive glow of the ‘spiritual East’ is dying. If and when major child abuse scandals become current internationally, the honeymoon will truly be over. Meanwhile, of course, the victims suffer every day for the rest of their lives. In the current case, at least the perpetrator has been caught and jailed. Hopefully the Thai authorities, inclusive of the Sangha, will act swiftly and decisively to eliminate such criminals from the Sangha.

    • Thank you Kanchana. You are so lucky to have such a strong thriving community in Perth with such a magnificant teacher who embraces everyone with love and Metta. One day I will try and get over there and maybe you will find me sitting next to you in meditation. :)
      With love and Metta dear Sister,

    • Dear Dania,
      No matter how I look at it, hate is hate. People from both sides on this blog are getting really, really hurt and this is not good for anyone.
      I have to find other ways to help with social change.
      Thanks anyway dear sis.

  16. I think this is a classical case of a cultural clash that is inevitable when west meets east. What might be regarded as soft and honest by a westerner will be seen as blunt and way too forward to an Asian. So I’m not so surprised at Mr. Goh Seng Chai’s response.

    Putting this aside however, what I’m puzzled about is his demand of Bhante to check his facts, where it is obvious that the facts are in the minutes and video of the meeting- which he denies access to…………….

    • You said:

      ‘Putting this aside however, what I’m puzzled about is his demand of Bhante to check his facts, where it is obvious that the facts are in the minutes and video of the meeting- which he denies access to…………….’

      Good point.

  17. I won’t get too worked up by Mr Goh’s comments. I’m Malaysian and quite familiar with him. He is very active and does contribute quite a bit to organising Buddhist activities here. But he is known for that, running here and there very busily, but not known for someone who practises or is even knowledgeable about the Dhamma. I do not mean this maliciously although it may be construed that way, but to put things into perspective.

  18. Dear Sir,
    I would like my earlier post above to be removed. It was written because of the ongoing emotional debate. But looking back maybe it is not so good to write. Please remove the post if possible. Thanks

  19. The new issue of “Present | The Voices and Activities of Theravadan Buddhist Women”, published by the Alliance for Bhikkhunis, in online now. It features a brilliant article by Thanissara entitled “Take It or leave It and the Ground in Between,” an excellent article by Saccavadi on discrimination against women in Burma, an article by Ven. Anaalayo in which he re-examines the Bahudhātuka-sutta, and much more. Check it out!

    http://bhikkhuni.net/present/index.html

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