On “Sex and the Sangha” and the displacement of pain

I’ve just had a read of the excellent blog post on “Sex and the Sangha:Forgiveness, Retribution or Justice” by NellaLou. If you haven’t seen it yet, go and have a read; I’ll have a cuppa and see you in a minute.

Welcome back!

It’s fascinating how she is dealing with very different issues than we have faced directly in the forest tradition. If there’s one thing the Ajahn Chah tradition is renowned for its sexual propriety, and there is no hint of a scandal around these issues. And yet when i read the description of the very many avoidance methods that are used in discussion, I was struck by how many of them are identical. I won’t go over these, as many of them have been mentioned earlier in this blog, but would simply reiterate that such means of dialogue are painfully transparent attempts to avoid the issue.

Which, right now, is discrimination. The Five Points, authored by Ven Pannasaro at the request of Ajahn Sumedho and adopted by the male Ajahns of the Wat Pa Pong tradition in order to suppress its few remaining nuns, remain in force. The Five Points make explicit the power-based discrimination that has characterized that community for many years, and are a public expression of contempt for notions of equality and democracy, which are fundamental to the Buddha’s ethics and his principles for constructing community.

A part of the American Zen community has been struggling with its own problem, the sexual involvement of students with teachers. I don’t want to go too much into that in detail here, but simply to notice that this issue is closely connected with patriarchy. Most of the teachers are male, and the sex is invariably a part of the very unequal power relations of the (usually male) teacher and the (usually female) student.

Astonishingly, some of the women quoted in “Sex and the Sangha” appear to be saying that it’s okay to sleep your way to the top of the spiritual hierarchy – a hierarchy whose “top” and “bottom” have been defined by men, for men. Not something that happens in Wat Pa Pong circles; but it is not hard to find women who through gifts of money, food, and other requisites, seek a special relationship with monks; and to preserve that special status they will side with the monks against equality for women. As Carol Gilligan said, patriarchy divides men against women, and women against each other.

When I was thinking about the similarities and differences between the situations in discussed in “Sex and the Sangha” and WPP, i wondered what the implications might be. It is simplistic to argue that ‘going celibate’ will remove the sex problem, as we all know from the rampant sex scandals among priests. Nor is it enough to say that abolishing celibacy will solve the problems of sexism.

At the end of the day, the issue is not celibacy, but patriarchy: the assumption of power by men, solely by virtue of their gender. As long as patriarchy persists in Buddhism, women will be disempowered and de-voiced, and will survive and flourish solely at the whim of the men. Power corrupts; and it is perhaps not so important that absolute power corrupts absolutely, but that even tiny power corrupts tinyly, as shown so terribly in the Stanford Cookie Experiment. (More properly: ‘Power, approach, and inhibition.‘ Keltner, Dacher; Gruenfeld, Deborah H.; Anderson, Cameron. Psychological Review, Vol 110(2), Apr 2003, 265-284.) Here’s a summary of the experiment from the Harvard Business Review:

To appreciate the first half of the dynamic—that bosses tend to be oblivious to their followers’ perspectives—consider the “cookie experiment” reported by the psychologists Dacher Keltner, Deborah H. Gruenfeld, and Cameron Anderson in 2003. In this study, teams of three students each were instructed to produce a short policy paper. Two members of each team were randomly assigned to write the paper. The third member evaluated it and determined how much the other two would be paid, in effect making them subordinates. About 30 minutes into the meeting, the experimenter brought in a plate of five cookies—a welcome break that was in fact the focus of the experiment. No one was expected to reach for the last cookie on the plate, and no one did. Basic manners dictate such restraint. But what of the fourth cookie—the extra one that could be taken without negotiation or an awkward moment? It turns out that a little taste of power has a substantial effect. The “bosses” not only tended to take the fourth cookie but also displayed signs of “disinhibited” eating, chewing with their mouths open and scattering crumbs widely.

It’s a cute little experiment, but it beautifully illustrates a finding consistent across many studies. When people—independent of personality—wield power, their ability to lord it over others causes them to (1) become more focused on their own needs and wants; (2) become less focused on others’ needs, wants, and actions; and (3) act as if written and unwritten rules that others are expected to follow don’t apply to them. To make matters worse, many bosses suffer a related form of power poisoning: They believe that they are aware of every important development in the organization (even when they are remarkably ignorant of key facts). This affliction is called “the fallacy of centrality”—the assumption that because one holds a central position, one automatically knows everything necessary to exercise effective leadership.

In the examples given in “Sex and the Sangha” from the American Zen sphere, the dark side of this power corruption is expressed as sexual predation. I wonder how this same energy is displaced in the WPP tradition, where sex is ruled out? Obviously, there are many details here in terms of the day-to-day relations between monks and nuns. We have heard the voices of some of the women concerned, so I will not repeat that here.

What does strike me is how the pain that this discrimination causes is displaced outside the narrowly defined community so that it may be safely ignored.

A small example: many years ago, i was hitch-hiking my way north from Sydney to Townsville. A truckie kindly stopped to pick me up and take me the next stage of my journey. While i was sitting there, I had a carton of juice. I asked the truckie, ‘Where’s your rubbish bin?'; he took the carton, wound down the window and threw it out, saying, ‘That’s my rubbish bin.’

Stop right there: see what’s happening. There’s a boundary, between the inside of the cab (‘mine’) and the outside (‘not-mine’). The driver’s sphere of moral concern stops right there, at the boundary. Rubbish inside the cab is a problem; rubbish outside the cab is no problem at all.

So why then did he stop to pick me up? If he is purely selfishly motivated, then why take the trouble to help another person? Who knows? It could have been boredom; perhaps he thought I might share some pot or something with him. But more to the point, no-one is completely selfish. We make constructs in our minds, and those constructs (‘views’) guide where our sphere of concern lies. Perhaps, in those many hours of driving the endless Australian roads, he had ruminated over and over on the chaos of the streets, the selfishness of other drivers, and had become disconnected from that space. Offering someone a lift might, in fact, be a subconscious attempt to reconnect, to find some humanity worth caring for.

But speculation on motives is not really my point here; it’s about how we displace suffering, shifting the cost of our actions outside our cognizance so we can ignore consequences.

It seems to me that the same phenomenon is even more evident on a larger scale, where it is easier to disconnect from lived humanity. Developed countries like Australia maintain their extravagant lifestyles by using the resources and labor of the poor in other countries, a legacy of colonialism. We can afford good consumer goods, huge houses, and crucially, education by virtue of our high incomes, while those in less developed countries struggle to get even the basics. While we think of ourselves as generous benefactors who donate freely to charities, the reality is that the world economy acts as a giant the net ‘hoover‘, sucking wealth out of poorer countries into the rich.

The disastrous side-effects of our untrammeled economic growth are exported as ‘externalities‘: pollution, resource depletion, labor exploitation and the like are (largely) created in the developed world and (largely) experienced in the undeveloped world. The western world only becomes concerned in cases such as the Global Financial Crisis or the oil spill when the developed world experiences, for a short time and a lesser degree, the suffering that much of the rest of the world takes for granted every day.

Why do they put up with it? Because, obviously, they are disempowered and de-voiced. The rich control the instruments of ideology and education. We create the problem, but do not have to deal with it. We define ourselves as ‘free’, ‘democratic’, ‘advanced’, and throw the problem away somewhere ‘other’.

It seems to me a similar thing is happening in the discriminatory policies of the Sangha. The male Sangha do not have to deal with the problems of women. The Sangha defines itself as ‘virtuous’, authentic’, ‘tradition’. Women are shut outside; they are other. They can be generically dismissed by waving that magic wand wielded by the Masters of Doctrine: “It’s their kamma”.

But the suffering of women does not arise in a vacuum. It is no coincidence that Thailand has perhaps the worlds biggest and most voracious sex trade, including the slavery of young girls, and that the Sangha is so adamantly male only. The massive, extremely destructive effects of Thailand’s sex trade – the lives destroyed, the AIDS, the flourishing of organized crime, and so on – are outside the sphere of moral concern of monks. In six years living in Thailand, I never once heard a monk referring to it in a teaching.

The Sangha patriarchy has been an instrument for depriving women of power, control, voice. The inevitable result of that powerlessness is the sexual exploitation of women by men. Due to its vows of celibacy, that exploitation is not carried out by the Sangha itself (at least for those sections of the Sangha that still respect the vows), but by other men, emboldened by the moral authority of masculinity. And yet, even though it is externalized, it is no less real; in fact, I would say it is worse.

In the sexual problems described in some Zen communities, at the least the people meet face to face. The problem can be denied and shunted away, but it is still there. Similarly for poverty and pollution that happens in our own backyard: it’s still wrong and maybe we can’t change it, but at least we know it’s there.

But when we create structures of dominance and submission, insisting that gender be the moral arbiter of relationships, and then export that outside our communities, using our control of ideology (the dismissal of human rights and equality) to deny its existence; then we can live our lives in truly blissful ignorance of the suffering we have contributed to.

Shoppers in a Mosman mall, bedazzled by the surfaces, rarely pause to think of where all this stuff comes from, and how it impacts the lives of others. Monks in a patriarchal Sangha, idolized and idealized, worshiped by women for their power of renunciation, rarely pause to think of how their insistence on women’s submission might affect the very real suffering of women in developing countries.

When senior monastic teachers such as Ajahn Sumedho in the West say things like, ‘Human rights are outside of the Dhamma’, do not think such sayings disappear in a vacuum. Ajahn Sumedho is a powerful, respected public figure in Thailand, and any sayings like this will be taken very seriously and literally: ‘Ajahn Sumedho says that human rights are outside the Dhamma…’. This is how the thinking flows, among the influential circles who regard Ajahn Sumedho and the WPP tradition as the prime exemplars for introducing a successful Sangha into the west. ‘Even the monks in the west don’t believe in bhikkhuni ordination. They know it’s necessary to keep nuns subservient. And not just the monks: the lay people still look up to them as teachers. See, they’re still inviting the Ajahns who support the five Points to teach at their centers; they still support them. It must be the right thing to do…’

And so it goes. The words, the teachings issued from the pulpit, and even more important, the principles embodied in daily monastic life, have always been the moral standard for Buddhist countries. The reality is that most people don’t think very clearly or independently on moral issues. They follow the leader. A strong and clear anti-equality message from on high contributes to a moral climate where meaningful change in areas of major concern for women such as sex slavery and domestic violence remains impossible.

We drink the juice, and then toss the rubbish outside the cab.

96 thoughts on “On “Sex and the Sangha” and the displacement of pain

  1. Thank you Bhante for your kind words about my post.

    All these issues are definitely inter-related. That is my motivation for speaking out on them at the expense of popularity or social comfort. If we don’t face them willingly now we will at some point be forced to face them whether we like it or not. And that will be everyone’s nightmare scenario.

    [Yes I am a she]

  2. Bhante,

    I found this post to be rather extreme. You indemnify people too quickly and are quick to try to ascertain people’s motives instead of just reacting to what is there. In this post you state that there must be negative intentions in the hearts of WPP monks who are necessarily corrupted by power (not necessarily so), then give possibilities for what these negative intentions could be. And you don’t know what the truck driver was thinking. He might have been nervous to pick up someone off the road and was trying to be macho to compensate. Or he was raised to not care about littering.

    How would you like it if someone else were to make blog posts psychoanalyzing you and speculating about what negative intentions you might have?

    When reading this and some earlier posts I have been puzzled at how involved you are with societal problems. There are and always will be societal problems. But the role of a renunciant is to renounce the world not fix it, barring the case that he or she is already an arahant, which you may well be. I don’t know!

    DN 9: “There Potthapada was sitting with his crowd of wanderers, all shouting and making a great commotion, indulging in various kinds of unedifying conversation, such as about kings, robbers, ministers, armies, dangers, wars, food, drink, clothes, beds, garlands, perfumes, relatives, carriages, villages, towns and cities, countries, women, heroes, street- and well-gossip, talk of the departed, desultory chat, speculations about land and sea, talk of being and non-being.”

    (A passage from DN 12 also comes to mind.)

    How is complaining about problems you cannot fix edifying? What is the effect of a post like this? It will just stir up people’s minds and lead to further animosity.

    About buying things made in sweatshops. There is nothing unethical about that. It is not my responsibility to right the global imbalances you talk about. If I choose to try to help poor people in the third world then I can do that. But I am not obligated to do it.

    I am not causing suffering by doing purchasing things that are made in sweatshops and at a cost to the environment. Do you think the poor factory worker in the third world who made that object will suffer if I buy it? The responsibility for environmental degradation, exploitation of workers, etc lies with those who actively do those things to enrich themselves, and they only accrue demerit if their intention is to enrich themselves through exploiting other beings.

    And by the way South Korea and other countries became wealthy by starting out with sweatshops, your claims of one-way wealth suction to the contrary. Which is worse, that a river is polluted and that villagers are paid wages much lower than those workers in the first world can get, or that a village of poor people goes hungry for another season because they have no choice other than to be subsistence farmers on infertile land? I don’t know. But the people involved there make those choices not me, and I am fortunate that I don’t have to make decisions like that.

    Similarly you monks are not obligated to do anything for anyone. Monks can teach out of compassion. But they are not obligated to fix any problems of patriarchy that may exist. Nor are they obligated to help women, or indeed men. There is no obligation to do anything of that kind.

    I’m not saying that monks don’t contribute to suffering by telling women to “know their place” (if that happens, as you say). But asking them to be more gender-neutral in their dealings with laity and laying the responsibility for Thai patriarchalism at their feet are very different matters.

    Your ideas about responsibility for global suffering cannot lead to a coherent ethics. I am responsible for what I personally do. But total nonparticipation in any system that is short of ideal is impossible.

    The Buddha’s ethics for laypeople are the best. And they’re very simple. The five precepts. If we stick to that we can get to heaven.

    • Hi Median,

      I do not agree that Bhante’s post will just stir up animosity with no other useful effect.

      For example I was struck by the recent spate of suicides at the factory site Foxconn where Apple produces iPads. What I found fascinating was that a huge corporation found it necessary to show they cared and were getting involved in sorting this out. This sort of corporate caring is very modern and has only come about because of people (like Bhante), publicising issues and raising awareness.

      So I don’t agree that not discussing these issues is the best way. I do think we need to be aware of where that cheap cellphone/t-shirt/food came from rather than taking all this wealth for granted. What we choose to do, or not do, about it can then be done from a position of knowledge rather than ignorance.

    • Hi Median,

      Good to get us all thinking about these important issues. Please allow me to make a few responses to your comments.

      You indemnify people too quickly and are quick to try to ascertain people’s motives instead of just reacting to what is there.

      Where, exactly? In the post I have not discussed motivation at all, except for the case of the truckie, where almost every sentence has a ‘might’ or a ‘perhaps, and I finish by saying that ‘speculation on motives is not really my point here’. You then, if you don’t mind my saying, go on to undermine your own position by speculating yourself on the truckie’s motives. After all, at least I met the guy…

      you state that there must be negative intentions in the hearts of WPP monks who are necessarily corrupted by power (not necessarily so), then give possibilities for what these negative intentions could be.

      No I don’t.

      How would you like it if someone else were to make blog posts psychoanalyzing you and speculating about what negative intentions you might have?

      O they do, they do. To discuss each other and try to understand each others motives is a crucial part of being human; it’s basic to compassion. When others speculate about my motives I listen and try to see whether they have a point. If they do, I try to change, if not, I try to forget about it.

      How is complaining about problems you cannot fix edifying?

      Fine, then: so, since we’ll never get people to stop killing or getting druck or having adultery, we’ll just stop teaching the five precepts.

      The reality is that the monastic Sangha has always, since the time of the Buddha, been an important voice in commenting on social issues. There are countless examples of these in the Suttas, with the Buddha and the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis apparently in quite regular dialogue with kings, ministers, generals, and wealthy citizens. Always, they encouraged them to live ethically, and to use the power and wealth that they have to create good in the world. The Agganna Sutta, for example, looks at the origins of injustice and punishment in the world, and lays the blame at those who would take more for themselves and deny it to others.

      The real question is not, ‘Should Sangha have a say in such matters?': they always have and always will. The question is, ‘What do they have to say in such matters? How are we, as the moral exemplars in Buddhist culture, using our position for good?’

      If I choose to try to help poor people in the third world then I can do that. But I am not obligated to do it.

      I never said that you were. My article was about how monks in a position of moral authority use language which can have real and powerful effects in creating suffering for others, suffering which the monks themselves are not aware of.

      Personally I believe that once we are aware of the suffering of others, it is fundamental to the nature of compassion that we would consider how our own acts might, whether deliberately or not, be contributing to that suffering; and to do what we can to relieve it.

      Similarly you monks are not obligated to do anything for anyone.

      I beg to differ. Your conception of morality as an entirely negative one – what not to do – is impoverished, and, fortunately, not supported by the Buddha’s words. If you look in the Vinaya, for example, you will find countless examples of duties which monastics are supposed to perform.

      asking them to be more gender-neutral in their dealings with laity and laying the responsibility for Thai patriarchalism at their feet are very different matters.

      First up, the main focus on the article was about the monks enforcing patriarchal control over nuns, not laity. This is not just ‘as i say’, but is an explicit and formal policy of WPP. Second, i did not “lay the responsibility of Thai patriarachalism at their feet”; I said:

      A strong and clear anti-equality message from on high contributes to a moral climate where meaningful change in areas of major concern for women such as sex slavery and domestic violence remains impossible.

      Which is quite a different thing.

      You say:

      total nonparticipation in any system that is short of ideal is impossible.

      At last something we can agree on! But you to continue to attribute to me things that I have simply not said.

      The Buddha’s ethics for laypeople are the best. And they’re very simple. The five precepts. If we stick to that we can get to heaven.

      Really? how about bashing your wife – nothing about that in the five precepts. Or slavery – that’s fine too. In fact you can sell your 14 year old daughter to sex slavery, as happens to thousands of girls in Thailand, without breaking a single precept!

      Of course, if you want you can argue that these things can be inferred from the five precepts, or that they are found elsewhere in the Suttas. But that is exactly my point. Ethics cannot be reduced to just five simple rules. The world is a lot more complex than that.

      The Suttas do not, in fact, present such a simplistic notion of ethics. There are many Suttas dealing with different aspects of ethics for lay people. The Buddha addressed many situations that were before him, and no doubt if he lived today he would have addressed many of the issues that are so pressing for us today.

      As just one example, at the beginning of the Mahaparinibbana Sutta the Buddha is in discussion with Vassakara, the minister of King Ajatasattu. Ajatasattu wants to invade and destroy the Vajjians, and he sends Vassakara to ask the Buddha’s advice. The Buddha responds to this delicate situation by mentioning the ‘7 principles of non-decline’ that he had previously taught the Vajjians. One of those principles is that they should not abduct women (remembering, of course, that in those days this was considered a normal and righteous part of the spoils of war). (vajjī yā tā kulitthiyo kulakumāriyo, tā na okkassa pasayha vāsentī).

      This principle is, of course, not mentioned in the five precepts, but there is no doubt that it is an important moral rule, one which is respected in the laws of all civilized countries today. The Buddha was giving moral advice to politicians, advice which, in his time, would have been seen as progressive, if not extreme. (I can imagine the arguments: “But we need soldiers to protect the realm, and why are they going to fight if they can’t even make off with the women? The Buddha’s overturning our ancient customs!… Anyway, he’s a renunciate – he shouldn’t get involved in such worldly matters… He’s just complaining about something that will never change…”)

      And finally: i would encourage you to read, or re-read, the original post by NellaLou that inspired my article, in particular the long list of tactics that we use to avoid discussing painful matters.

      Nothing that you have said really gets to the point of my article: monks have a special position of moral authority. By creating structures and ideologies that treat women as second-class, they help sustain a moral climate that enables the exploitation and degradation of women. I want to change that. This is not extreme or idealistic. It is simply calling for a bit of reflection, honesty, and compassion on the part of the monks. Many monks, of course, already do this, and what I have said in this article does not apply to them.

  3. Dear Bhante

    I was filled with horripilation reading your essay. What more can I say but Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu!

    If only Buddhists were more trained to understand group psychology and dynamics…

  4. I think we should make a point clear. Buddhism, as it was thought by the Buddha or any peeks out from the Pali canon, is a strongly routed patriarchal system, like the bible, and partly alike the gospels.
    Once said this, we all have the possibilty of choosing our system of belief and/or practice.
    Personally I see most nowdays women as a distraction, even if I am currently hosted in Berlin by a girl in the remaining group…, and so could not stay better than in the Buddha´s dispensation. What in fact surprises me much is the reason why so many women are also attracted to it; most probably not all of them would like to take part in this process of overturning the whole from the interior!

    • I see no being in this world or in another that could chnge our system without totally refunding it on different basis. Communism has not worked just beceuse its supporters were not brave enough.
      Not we should think there will be no victims or pain like it happened when we move at different times in different places from matriarcate to patriarcate.

  5. well said Nella Lou. i couldn’t agree with you more….
    for me , my view of a sanga that does not openly embrace anyone who wishes to practice nekkhamma and to live the holy life fully in the theravada monastic community was shattered by the bikkhuni bruhaha.
    i hope that the influence from western culture on the theravada tradition moves it forward to a more enlightened place.
    anicca ‘is’ whether an ‘ordained sanga’ recognizes it or not.
    anicca can take us to a place of equality, equanimity and compassion.
    anicca enables us to move away from discrimination,sexism, ageism, racism and clinging to ‘tradition’.
    finally, one does not need to be a monk to meditate, be mindful, practice metta and be kind.
    i long for community that lives by the teachings of the buddha, ie. the four noble truths and the eight fold path; and welcomes all, equally, openly, fully.

    • It is advisable to apply the anicca notatin to the cittas that do not include our volition. Otherwise it could come to us, after having insulted someone and hearing its complaints, to preach about anicca instead of apologizing.

    • Absolutely not. That is the main fault also of many contemporary teachers. Cittas endowed with our volition should not be held at least for some time as anicca.
      The risk here is to hit someone and and his complaints answering: “why do you complain on me, it is impermanente and non self, wht has it to do with me?”.
      In other words that is where ethics come on the stage.

    • They’re still anicca. Just because they last for some time doesn’t mean they’re not impermanent.

      In fact everything that is impermanent has to last at least some time, or it couldn’t rise and pass away. It just wouldn’t be there in the first place.

  6. You wrote:
    But the suffering of women does not arise in a vacuum. It is no coincidence that Thailand has perhaps the worlds biggest and most voracious sex trade, including the slavery of young girls, and that the Sangha is so adamantly male only. The massive, extremely destructive effects of Thailand’s sex trade – the lives destroyed, the AIDS, the flourishing of organized crime, and so on – are outside the sphere of moral concern of monks. In six years living in Thailand, I never once heard a monk referring to it in a teaching.

    Perhaps you are unaware of the compassionate work of The Sangha Metta Project? Please educate yourself about their work (not only in Thailand, but in neighboring countries as well) and involving monks, novices and nuns to work within their communities with compassion on a social issue causing great suffering.

    From their website

    http://www.buddhanet.net/sangha-metta/project.html

    The Sangha Metta Project, which engages monks in HIV/AIDS prevention and care, is unique in that it was initiated by monks themselves in response to the need for Buddhist monks to have a more active role in HIV/AIDS prevention and care. Taking the Buddha’s teachings as their inspiration, monks concluded that a core aspect of HIV/AIDS was ignorance about the condition among both the sufferers and the general public.

    Dear Median, I think this is a good response to your snappy “But the role of a renunciant is to renounce the world not fix it” comment. The Sangha is in our midst, not isolated from us. We layfolk have the right to expect education, inspiration, and help from our monks and nuns. We are interdependent.

    Sangha Metta Project
    Laurie Maund (Project manager)
    47/30 Mu Baan Daen Tawan Nua
    Suthep Road, Tambon Suthep
    Muang District
    Chiang Mai
    THAILAND
    Tel/Fax: (66 53) 328137
    Mobile: (66) 871873212
    Email: lauriejm@gmail.com

    • Dear Visaskha,

      Thanks once more for letting us know more of the background and good work going on in Buddhist countries.

      I met Laurie Maund, the director of the Sangha Metta Project, about 15 years ago and we had a long discussion about his work. It’s a fantastic model for how to use legitimate Buddhist ideas and social constructs in a modern setting in a way that will directly affect people’s lives and well-being.

      You are quite right, it’s a major counter-example to my statement that such issues are outside the moral sphere of monks. That was, of course, a generalization, however; you will notice that the blurb on the Sangha Metta project emphasizes how ‘unique’ it is. In fact, I would see this as a great example for how Sangha can respond creatively and meaningfully to real problems, but one which, in doing so, significantly stretches the bounds of traditional Sangha discourse and behaviour.

      For the record, I am by no means trying to argue that all Sangha should get involved in social work. If they want to, great, or if they want to meditate in seclusion, terrific. What i am objecting to is the misuse of “Dhammic” language and ideology in a way that perpetuates suffering.

    • “What i am objecting to is the misuse of “Dhammic” language and ideology in a way that perpetuates suffering.”

      Excellent point, Bhante. Unfortunately this seems to happen quite a bit, not only in the ordained sangha, but also among some western (probably others too but I’m speaking from my experience) lay teachers and other practitioners who misuse “Dhammic” language to justify thinking and behavior that is actually just very unexamined and/or “shadow” based. I’ve personally seen this and have also seen the untold damage it can cause.

      Ahhh, delusion is a mightily slippery, elusive and powerful force for us all, isn’t it? How to see what we can’t see?

      But when group dynamics, community structures, and group-think become increasingly insular, narrow and unresponsive to feedback, combined with dynamics such as undue influence from others one is close to, blaming, other forms of projection (inc. both transference and counter-transference–quite natural but dangerous when unexamined), the (very human) desire to belong, the tendency to control or even ‘get rid of’ those seen as difficult (or those who ‘push one’s buttons’) or just misguided personal perceptions and unwillingness and/or inability to look at one’s own personal and/or group’s shadow issues, it can be particularly difficult to investigate… and very dangerous.
      Dysfunctional, dynamics are not even seen, let alone examined or adequately addressed. And much pain ensues…. (I am speaking from my own experience being in a situation like this, and also from working professionally with groups and organizations, not from having actually lived in WPP communities, so this is not specifically about them.)

      I guess we would all like to hope for and expect more (in terms of “enlightened” behavior and group dynamics, willingness to listen and examine things deeply, good communication, etc) in spiritual groups/communities, but unfortunately all the worldly dhammas, shadow issues, projection, and group dynamics still exist, and sometimes it seems such groups are no more capable of examining and addressing them than most secular/wordly groups and organizations are (sometimes less so). And even worse, most anything can be justified by whatever view (even the most so-called “spiritual” ones) one wishes to use to justify it. Somehow it seems even worse when “spiritual” views/”teachings”/ideology are used… perhaps because there’s an even greater incongruence, and also because it can get much more subtle and thus more difficult to see the actual issues and problems.

      And sadly, in these types of conditions within groups, the worst in each other can get unconsciously fostered, not the best… (not to say the latter doesn’t happen as well at times).

      Of course most of these dynamics operate individually as well (e.g. areas one wants to protect, difficult things to see or be with in oneself and the subtle ways one can avoid those, places of fear, contraction, defensiveness, blaming, etc). At least they come up in me! In fact, the deeper I look and the more I practice, the more I see how subtle it can be, and also how difficult at times…

      Investigating these areas seems like such an important part of the practice… the process of continually examining one’s views, mind-states, intentions and actions (and the effect they have on both oneself and others) on all levels from the most blatant to the most subtle. And not only individually, but also the willingness to address these issues as a group in terms of group dynamics. Takes a lot of courage, reflection, and radically deep honesty…. and wholehearted (and whole-life) practice, doesn’t it?

  7. Wow Bhante that is a wide ranging post covering group dynamics, power, personal responsibility, culture and the relationship between dhamma and politics. Overwhelming really.

    One issue I would like to take up is the statement you attribute to Ajahn Sumedho to the effect that Human Rights and the Dhamma are separate.

    Since they so obviously are not separate I wonder what point AS was making? I doubt it is as simple as saying we should ignore Human Rights if we practice the dhamma. That would be non-sensical and AS is not likely to be so silly. I wonder if he is referring to Human Rights as a political movement and suggesting that involvement in Human Rights campaigns was not a role a serious Dhamma practitioner should take on.

    I can certainly understand that viewpoint. My experience is that involvement in political campaigns is extremely distracting, fraught with conflict and leads one to be more involved in the affairs of the world, often to the detriment of dhamma practice.

    Ajahn Chah did not leave his forest to solve the inequities of Thai society, I can imagine him laughing at the futility of such an exercise. Maybe that is what AS was getting at.

    This of course is a real dilemma for a Buddhist – how involved in the world and its affairs should we be? On the one hand we want to develop equanimity and renounce worldly things, on the other we see so much suffering it compels us to try and help. Where is the balance?

    • Dear wtp,

      I don’t think its obvious to some that human rights and Dhamma are not separate; and I think Ajahn Sumedho means exactly what he says. I have discussed this in more detail in my “Tyranny of Transcendence“. But it’s important to understand that, whatever else the implications of such statements by Ajahn Sumedho might mean, he used them in the context of quite explicitly denying the nuns their rights. The promulgation of the five points was, ironically enough, based on the assumption that the monks have the right to legislate against the will of the nuns; but of course this is never made explicit.

      Again, i’m not saying that monks should get involved in political or social activist campaigns; I’m saying that they should not use moral language which, whether intended or not, can so easily be used as an instrument of oppression; instead, if they are to speak, they should speak up on behalf of the powerless and those in need.

    • Thank-you for your reply Bhante. I guess the fact the Vinaya does not say nuns have to obey monks, may be enough for some monks to oppose their full ordination.

  8. In reading these blogs about the inequity of women and men in Buddhism, I am given to wonder just why one would subject oneself to this in the first place?
    Why organized anything? It seems so childish to need hierachy when awakening has nothing to do with the politics of any religion; rather on ones steady practice.
    I think Toni Packer did a brave thing by renouncing all this extra cirricular comings and goings and focused instead on the present, unadorned moment.
    Thank you,
    Nancy

    • Sometimes things work better when organized. Supposedly, that’s why the Buddha laid down the training rules – for the longevity of the dhamma and the sangha, the story goes, that the dhamma of those Buddhas who didn’t lay down training rules, lasted only a short time, while the dhamma of those Buddhas who did lay down training rules, lasted a long time.

      If we accept this premise – that the training, the vinaya, is important for the health and longevity of the Dhamma and the Sangha… then we accept that it’s important for people to actually follow that vinaya and undergo that training. If only for the sake of future generations.

      From another angle – if we accept the Buddha laid down the training rules, and we accept the Buddha was compassionate and undeluded, then we conclude he laid down the training for a reason, not for no reason – the reason being, our own welfare.

      From another angle – a personal one – what impressed me most about Ajahn Brahm and roused up a lot of instant faith, was that he was obedient to the training laid down by the Buddha – content with robes, not handling money, so on – that gave him serious instant cred in my mind. Because of that delight and happiness I experienced, my faith became well-established and I came to growth in the Dhamma, and so I think “The monastic training and form is not without value to others”.

      From another angle – Ajahn Brahm appears to have undergone great personal growth, moreso than any other person I’ve encountered, I conclude the conditions he developed in contributed to that, so I think “The monastic training is not without value to oneself”.

      If we accept that the vinaya has value, that following the vinaya has value, then proceed to discourage or obstruct people from following the vinaya, then that would be selfish, spiteful and deluded. On the other hand, it would be reasonable, it would be compassionate, if we were to encourage and enable people to live that holy life prescribed by the Buddha. For that we need Bhikkhuni ordination.

    • Dear Angagarika Blake,

      I am sorry to say I say a contradictin in what you said, I am sure you are also fully aware of.
      We should note the Buddha has said the Bikkhuni should rely on Bikkhus – and that, I think, it is very important to highlight – in a time when women were already socially subjected to men even in lay life!
      If we accept His wisdom we should wonder why he cared altogether given the many examples he saw in the famililies of naturally subjecte women.

      Perhaps, of course that is an induction, he thought that female spiritual development could produce perverse effects in a sangha were monks could turn seduced by a nun´s level of development. I think I need not to quote the “retreat romance”, as I think each of us has at least once experienced it, to highlight how a deluded mind could turn ultimate reality beauty, so to say, into erotic longing.
      I hold that the bowing of the women to the men that are inferior to them, serves to take some of the steam out of this dangerous process. A process that remains relatively benign if it sits and remains in the deluded bhikku´s mind, but my turn devasting if it also infects the aforementioned nun.
      Just to put more meat on the fire, I do not think such an organization could would not also persist, if the woman has enough power and is able to turn her erotic attire into spiritual development – there are stories of this kind in the muslim world -, but that would turn the whole into a thing totally different from what we know, what I do not think all of us are ready to wholeheartedly accept.

    • Anagarika Blake says:

      what impressed me most about Ajahn Brahm…was that he was obedient to the training laid down by the Buddha… Because of that delight and happiness I experienced, my faith became well-established and I came to growth in the Dhamma, and so I think “The monastic training and form is not without value to others”.

      …Ajahn Brahm appears to have undergone great personal growth…I conclude the conditions he developed in contributed to that, so I think “The monastic training is not without value to oneself”.

      Sadhu to your logics.

      I’ve followed some of Ajahn Brahm’s teachings and found some peace and happiness, so, like you, I think that the monastic training is of great values.

      With mega metta,

      Dheerayupa

    • investigating, i can’t get past the idea of a buddha being attached to the longevity of a sangha. i have some difficulty imagining a buddha laying down ‘training rules’. seems more like something men do. a buddha would know that any vinaya is subject to anicca and not worth clinging to.
      i can definitely understand a buddha teaching the dhamma.

    • Bhante, I am wondering how come nobody condemned one inappropriate unhealthy link under the name [sex and sangha]. How come Bhante did not moderate such site as it looked like a spam and how did it get its way in your blog? In my opinion, it will portray a very bad image on the Sangha and it is irrelevant with this topic. Perhaps, the appropriate title should be “Gender & Sangha” instead of “sex” as it can be taken the wrong way. Hope, it can be removed.

    • Hi lee-Ann,

      I can’t find any inappropriate links. The automatically generated links on this blog post lead, for me, to one blog on managing pain, and another to a poem on cervical cancer – both quite interesting, actually! The title can’t really be changed, as it is a reference to another blog title. I think most people are savvy enough to know that automatically generated links do not reflect the intentions of the author…

    • Hi lee-Ann,

      I can’t find any inappropriate links. The automatically generated links on this blog post lead, for me, to one blog on managing pain, and another to a poem on cervical cancer – both quite interesting, actually! The title can’t really be changed, as it is a reference to another blog title. I think most people are savvy enough to know that automatically generated links do not reflect the intentions of the author…

    • Dear Bhante
      Probably it was due to a spy-ware. The said link posted was a porno with your blog link to it. It was definitely a spam and not the intention of your blog. I don’t understand it did not show on your pc but the last 2 days, the spam link was there on the icon Recent comments. Thought it is in your interest to be aware of this. It’s strange.

    • I agree with you Nancy at some level. Form – of the religio – kind can become a massive trap – unless we keep it fresh and refreshed – and commit very deeply to the Buddha’s principle of investigation, and we commit to a more rigourous, open, transparent, participatory and transformative concept of Sangha … one that honours the Vinaya but expands beyond that – just as Thay has expanded on the Five Precepts …

    • Dear Nancy and Wtp,
      Your doubts are not new to Buddhist Path. Long ago, as i can recollect, perhaps 2000 year ago, there were some split as regard to the Buddhist ideals. Some conservative thinkers advocated (Theravada = svavaka) the Arahant ideal which encouraged seclusion and non-involvement in the worldly affairs for the fear of such involvement would endanger the equanimity of the practitioners.
      Well, as all of us know, there are always a lot of suffering around (and within) us, this cause someone with a sensitive and compassionate heart to move… to act for reducing the suffering of sentient beings. This is the Boddhisattva ideal, the advocators of this movement call themselves Mahayana. And “why one would subject oneself to this in the first place? Why organized anything? ” is the thought of someone who inclines to Paccekabuddha path.
      So, in Buddhism today we have all of these practices. None is absolutely right and none is absolutely wrong, it just a matter of individual inclination or preference.

  9. Frankly I do not see why we should continue one of the really few blunders of the Buddhasasana and keep on ignoring, rather than resolving, the issue of sex.

  10. sujato :
    Again, i’m not saying that monks should get involved in political or social activist campaigns; I’m saying that they should not use moral language which, whether intended or not, can so easily be used as an instrument of oppression; instead, if they are to speak, they should speak up on behalf of the powerless and those in need.

    I was dismayed to read that there are Sri Lankan Buddhist monks protesting against the UN’s probe of human rights abuses in that country during the recent war. If they feel the need to be involved, why not use their voices to promote the human rights conventions on torture and children’s rights rather than potentially protect abusers?

    • Perhaps the Sri Lankans are fed up with western hypocracy?

      I found Dr. LaVine’s essay on hypocrisy and non-violence particularly provocative.

      If someone like Kook, right-wing Zionist extraordinaire could say: “The very thought of nationalism is despicable to God, for He equates all mankind.” what place could there be for natioalism in Buddhism?

      Al Jazeera
      Tuesday, July 6, 2010

      Beyond hypocrisy

      By Mark LeVine

      What happens when all sides of a conflict are mired in hypocrisy? [EPA]

      Almost two millennia ago, the great Chinese military leader and strategist Zhuge Liang admonished his fellow military men that “when hypocrisy sprouts, even if you have the wisdom of ancient warrior kings you could not defeat a peasant, let alone a crowd of them”.

      He might have well added that hypocrisy is as harmful for the peasants trying to win a measure of freedom as it is to the king that is trying to defeat them.

      Which brings us to a question that too few scholars, policy makers and activists have considered in trying to resolve some of the most frustrating conflicts in the Middle East: What happens when all sides of a conflict are so mired in hypocrisy that no one can steer a path towards some sort of solution?

      A limit on force

      It is easy to see the hypocrisy of the powerful. It takes little effort to compare the democracy and freedom rhetoric of successive US administrations to the reality of war, occupation and support for oppressive and corrupt regimes.

      Similarly, Israel’s routine declarations in support of a peaceful resolution to its conflict with the Palestinians are easily contradicted by its actions on the ground in the Occupied Territories.

      On the other hand, emerging global powers like China are alternatively credited and criticised for their lack of political or diplomatic hypocrisy. They do business with almost every government as long as it suits their strategic interests with no pretension to worrying about human rights or other basic freedoms.

      Yet however corrosive to democratic governance in war-torn “imperial democracies” like the US, hypocrisy can serve as a useful check on the otherwise raw deployment of political power. The need to appear to follow certain norms or self-described ideals places some limits on the use of force; that is one of the key reasons for the development of the new US counterinsurgency strategy deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Indeed, according to the now infamous Rolling Stone expose, one of the things that led to General Stanley McChrystal’s unpopularity with many of his troops was precisely his insistence that his troops go out of their way to avoid harming Afghan civilians, even if it meant putting themselves at greater risk during military operations.

      Hypocrisy and power

      Mixing violence with non-violence undermines the larger mission [AFP]
      But, what happens when the weaker, oppressed and/or occupied side of a conflict, or those supporting it, engage in hypocrisy of their own?

      Hypocrisy is always a double edged sword; but in the case of anti-colonial struggles both sides of the blade cut the weaker party more deeply.

      The Bush administration deployed a clearly hypocritical democracy rhetoric in Iraq because it provided enough of a veneer of legitimacy to allow US forces to become permanently entrenched in the country. The duplicitous behaviour of various Sunni and Shia groups enabled the US to solidify its position.

      In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israeli government hypocrisy surrounding the peace process has long provided just enough legitimacy to ensure the quiescence of the majority of the Israeli Jewish public, and as importantly, the support of the US political and media establishments.

      For their part, Palestinians have not had the luxury of hypocrisy. The duplicities and moral inconsistencies of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas leaders – from pledging democracy and accountability while ruling through violence and corruption, to supporting a two-state solution in English while speaking far more radically in Arabic – have long been expertly exploited by Israel to argue that the larger Palestinian peace discourse was a fraud or, at least, untenable.

      Cost-benefit calculus

      The Gaza flotilla tragedy that saw nine Turkish activists killed by Israeli commandos offers an object lesson in the costs and benefit calculus of hypocrisy when engaged in by, or in this case, on behalf of, Palestinians. And it is one that future flotillas would do well to take heed of.

      While the vast majority of activists participating in the flotilla were committed to non-violence, the well organised group of dozens of activists from the IHH movement who, as the captain of the Mavi Marmara revealed and video of an on board rally before the raid confirmed, planned to attack Israeli commandos when they boarded the ship, provided just enough evidence of hypocrisy on the part of the flotilla.

      Why would a peaceful and non-violent humanitarian mission violently attack soldiers, the Israeli government and its supporters argued to discredit or at least call into question the larger mission in crucial sectors of the Israeli and American media and political establishments.

      As non-violence expert Michael Nagler, who was consulted by organisers of the flotilla about how to deal with just such a scenario, explains: “Our point was that …. in non-violence, as in many other activities, it’s a bad idea to do two things at once. However, mixing aid with controversial delivery people is nothing compared to what must be avoided at all costs: confusing non-violence with violence.”

      Doing two things at once, particularly mixing violence with non-violence, offered Israel the opening it needed to challenge the entire flotilla.

      “Once again, Israel faces hypocrisy and a biased rush to judgement,” Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, argued in defending the commandos’ actions.

      Later, he suggested that flotilla activists should sail to Tehran, exclaiming: “I call on all human rights activists in the world go to Tehran, that’s where there is a human rights violation.”

      Wedge of truth

      The use of violence allowed Netanyahu to deploy the usual Israeli rhetoric [EPA]
      Netanyahu has a point.

      The Iranian government, which offered strong support to the flotilla and threatened to send its own ships to escort the next one, is flagrantly violating the most basic human, civil and political rights of its citizens.

      Peace and democracy activists should be routinely sending flotillas to Iran in solidarity with the democracy movement there. They could certainly send one to Latakia, Syria’s main Mediterranean port, as well, since the support by the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, for the flotilla certainly does not square with its own autocratic rule.

      And why not continue to Turkey, whose government provided the most direct support for the flotilla? It is certainly disingenuous to criticise the Israeli occupation and all its attendant human rights violations when it continues to prosecute its own citizens, such as well known Kurdish singer Ferhat Tunç, merely for their political views. More broadly, it refuses to consider the national rights of its Kurdish population – whose ethnic and linguistic identity is far older than that of Palestinians – never mind coming clean about the Armenian genocide.

      Crucially, this small wedge of truth allowed Netanyahu to pry open the otherwise near universal condemnation of the Israeli assault on the flotilla and its siege of Gaza, creating the space to continue deploying the standard Israeli rhetoric of describing anyone who supports Palestinians as “opposing peace,” while declaring falsely that neither Arab states nor Palestinians are willing to engage in “direct negotiations”.

      Most of the world do not buy his arguments, but most of the world is not his intended audience, which is limited primarily to two crucial constituencies – Jewish Israeli citizens and diaspora Jews on the one hand, and friendly governments and media establishments, particularly in the US and Western Europe, on the other.

      Indeed, in the US, Barack Obama, the US president, has gone as far as to warn Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, that his support for an international probe into the killing of the nine activists “could have negative consequences for Turkey,” specifically because it could “turn into a double edged sword” if investigators dug too deep into the government’s support for the IHH.

      More damaging, the mixing of violence, however minor, with non-violence, has caused aid groups to question the wisdom of participating in future flotillas.

      A senior official in one of the US groups that has helped organise previous efforts explained to me: “We’ve had to really think whether we can participate in any more flotillas, because look where the money is coming from [meaning the IHH]. Not just the violence aboard the one ship, but the hypocrisy of the IHH preaching humanitarian aid while supposedly engaging in violent rhetoric and actions forces us to stop doing precisely the work that most needs to be done or risk alienating our own supporters.”

      Opposing flotillas

      Israelis have also grabbed onto Netanyahu’s hypocrisy accusations. Soon after the killings aboard the Mavi Marmara the Union of Israeli University Students declared its intention to create its own flotilla, firstly to sail out and meet the next aid flotilla and ask them why they are focusing obsessively on Israel when their own governments have so much blood on their hands. If possible, they also want to sail to Turkey in support of the country’s Kurdish population.

      “The goal of our flotilla is to show the hypocrisy of the Gaza flotilla organisers,” explained Boaz Toporovsky, a lawyer by training and the union’s president.

      “They are showing a virtual reality, but we want peace, and we know that most everyone, Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, all want peace. But we need to show that we are a peaceful people, not vicious conquerors as the media depicts us, so we’ll come with no sticks, stones, slingshots. We want to point out that Gaza is not the world’s biggest problem.”

      For Toporovsky, the Kurdish issue is crucial. “We’re trying to show the overreaction of the Turkish state. It’s occupying, it’s killing, it occupies Kurdistan and oppresses Kurds. It occupied North Cyprus and ethnically cleansed it. So, while Turkish activists have the right to talk about Gaza, I think that when someone wants another to act in a way they should show the example by taking care of their own house.”

      Hypocrisy is written all over the Gaza flotillas as far as Toporovsky is concerned. “One third of Israel is under threat from Hamas missiles. I don’t know any sovereign country that would let missiles like that strike it routinely. The US wouldn’t be as nice as us if the west coast was under a similar threat from Mexico. No other country would be either.”

      Joining together

      It is time to view the conflicts in the region holistically [AFP]
      Toporovsky is certainly correct in his last statement. But of course, his justification is precisely that used by Hezbollah and Hamas for their military actions against Israel in response to Israeli violence and occupation.

      He seems to sense the problem, as he went on to explain that members of his own group “talk about hypocrisy all the time”.

      “There is a part of the population that doesn’t recognise the Palestinians’ right to the land and part of the government who wants to have as many settlements as possible.

      “But this is not a matter for the flotilla. For the flotilla we focus on the hypocrisy of the world.”

      Israel is, of course, as much a part of the world as any other country. And in that context, neither Toporovksy nor the Gaza flotilla organisers have considered a third alternative to focusing on one or the other forms of oppression: Why can there not be flotillas to Gaza and to Istanbul, or the Iranian port city of Bandar Lengeh? Why can activists on all sides not join together to break the siege of Gaza, demand greater respect for Kurdish rights and democracy in Iran?

      Such a strategy, of looking at the many conflicts and struggles in the region holistically is gradually dawning on activists across the region. It is perhaps one of the few positive developments of the post-9/11 era.

      Whereas a decade ago there were very few Israeli or diaspora Jewish movements actively pursuing a peace and justice agenda vis-a-vis Palestinians and willing directly to challenge the official Israeli narrative and discourse, today it is hard to keep up with all the new groups who are dedicated to challenging the occupation and the “settler Judaism” that enables it.

      They point out that the Bible specifically prohibits cutting down fruit bearing trees, a major tactic settlers use to hurt Palestinians and quote the Prophet Isaiah demanding that the People of Israel “unlock the fetters of oppression … Let the exploited go free, break off every chain”.

      Muslim activists similarly take inspiration from Islam’s essentially “orthopraxic” nature, which demands ethical behaviour as much as proper religious practice, to challenge the fetishisation of violence among militants.

      Christians, particularly in Palestine, look to the life of Jesus as a model of non-violent direct action against injustice.

      Holistic non-violent strategy

      But there is a difference between religious inspiration and developing a coherent strategy of holistic non-violent resistance against oppression. Such a move, in fact, is at the heart of the non-violent resistance strategies of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

      Gandhi famously said that non-violence was much harder than violence and took endlessly more patience and discipline.

      His disciple King was especially attuned to the role of hypocrisy in sustaining racism in the US. He developed a strategy of non-violent direct action whose goal was precisely to reveal the “tensions” within American society that the oppression of blacks produced, and in so doing to create “such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue”.

      King described this strategy as “non-violent coercion” – using boycotts, sit-ins, education and other forms of militant confrontation it forced the rest of the US to own up to the realities of institutionalised racism.

      What protesters today who would mix, however lightly, violence and non-violence do not understand is that once the mirror is muddied, so to speak, you can no longer hold it up to the larger society to reflect their own hypocrisy and injustice.

      Moreover, violence, even when largely symbolic – as on the Gaza flotilla, or even the theatre of stone throwing that symbolised the largely non-violent first intifada – makes it that much harder to confront an oppressor with their own contradictions because violence inherently creates new ones on both sides that overshadow the central tension.

      Lessons from first intifada

      The theatrical violence of stone-throwing corroded the first intifada [AFP]
      One of the main ongoing debates about the first intifada surrounds the ubiquitous practice of stone throwing.

      Many analysts within and outside of Palestinian society argue that the theatrical violence of stone-throwing ultimately corroded the intifada as it became part of a spectrum that increasingly included more overt violence against other Palestinians and Israelis and took a huge physical toll on the Palestinian population.

      Palestinian activists like Mubarak Awad, an early proponent of Palestinian non-violence, have long tried to deploy similar strategies in the Occupied Territories. And Israel, understanding the danger posed by them, has routinely deployed even more violence in response, as the routine killing of unarmed protesters at various anti-settlement or anti-wall protests illustrates.

      Many Palestinian leaders and activists have adopted non-violence as a valid tactic but few have been willing to adopt it as the primary strategy of resistance, because, in the words of one leader, it would signal weakness to an opponent that only knows the language of force and strength.

      What King’s philosophy and that of contemporary groups who provide non-violence training such as the Ruckus Society – who have in fact been approached by Palestinian groups for training – tell us is that a commitment to non-violence must run deep into the heart of the society if it is to succeed long-term. When faced with non-violence oppressors usually escalate their violence until something snaps in the society at large and the legitimacy of the whole system breaks down.

      The question is whether we are approaching such a moment in Israel/Palestine. The success of various forms of non-violence such as the spread of the boycott movement and the flotillas to Gaza has led even Hamas and Hezbollah to signal their appreciation of the power of non-violent resistance as a potentially more effective strategy than violence in taking on Israel.

      Only a few years ago, such an admission was impossible to imagine.

      The obstacles to such an awareness becoming a well developed strategy are formidable, however.

      At its heart, non-violence demands no longer seeing the oppressor as one’s enemy but instead as a “sick brother” who needs love to break down the resistance. Because of this, non-violent action engaged in with anger and hatred, as happened on the Mavi Marmara, will not succeed in defeating violence, precisely because those practicing it do not understand the need for self transformation as well as for transforming their adversary.

      Beyond nationalism

      Seeing one’s enemy as a brother or sister is not merely difficult to do psychologically, it presents a direct threat to the larger ideologies underlying the conflicts in the Middle East, particularly Israel/Palestine.

      As none other than Rav Avraham Isaac Kook, considered a spiritual father of right-wing Zionism, pointed out about 70 years ago: “The very thought of nationalism is despicable to God, for He equates all mankind. The goal is to seek the true success of all God’s creations. True justice means that one views with equal concern the advancement of the entire human race.”

      Kook himself was unable to square this insight with his support for a nationalism that he understood would lead Zionists to “receive the mistaken impression that the Torah endorses this attitude, whereby we should assign a greater value to our own people’s good than to the welfare of others”.

      To this day, the majority of Jews, Muslims, Christians and other faiths continue to interpret their religious texts in ways that endorse the very chauvinism and narrow identities against which all great religions, in their essence, preach.

      Finally, a new generation is emerging that is trying to return to the texts and pull out precisely the kinds of wisdom that would support non-violent transformation within and between their societies.

      It remains to be seen whether this insight has arrived too late to save Israelis and Palestinians from themselves, but it is clear that those who have chosen this path deserve the support of all people who wish for a peaceful and just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, and those across the region.
      Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. His most recent books are Heavy Metal Islam (Random House) and Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books).

      The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

    • Dear Visakha,
      Thank you for sharing this. May I ask, do you have training in non-violent communication? I have pondered on several occasions how beneficial this training would be for each of us who dares engage in this debate. (Well, particularly me, of course, :-) Generally, the practice of non-discrimination is an area that strikes Mara hard and Mara strikes back through the best of us. I am planning to begin training in NVC after my upcoming retreat. I hear Marshall Rosenberg is a good teacher and that Martin Luther King has a Centre in Georgia and a course that continues to be delivered since his passing.
      And of course, Thay, I think is the Master teacher in the Buddha’s Dhamma tradition. He really gets it, lives it, it is woven into all of his teachings and the way in which he writes and expresses himself, he has shared many tools to help us learn it…
      As one of my former beloved teachers warned, we need an enormous amount of compassion to engage in this debate…

    • Looking further at Hypocrisy. Perhaps a useful look at measuring “non-violence” especially with the emphasis on success and results or conversely on “purity” of motives and tactics.

      July 12, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

      The Hypocrisy of Preaching Nonviolence to Palestinians
      by Ira Chernus

      Nicholas Kristof is in Palestine, though like all mass media journalists he calls it “the West Bank.” He has just discovered that many Palestinians are resisting the Israeli occupation nonviolently, though scholars of nonviolence started writing about the Palestinian resistance over 20 years ago. So Kristof is “waiting for Gandhi,” as the title of his latest New York Times column puts it, or at least a “Palestinian version of Martin Luther King Jr.”

      Perhaps I should not be so cynical. Kristof has gained fame as a crusader for human rights, especially women’s rights. Now he’s taking a real risk by advocating for Palestinian rights and praising Palestinian resistance. Any hint of Israeli wrong-doing has undone many U.S. liberals in the past. And Kristof is giving more than a hint. His previous column detailed Israeli settler violence against Palestinians and clearly sympathized with their plight. He praised the work of Rabbis for Human Rights as “courageous and effective voices on behalf of oppressed Palestinians.”

      Kristof himself deserves praise for placing the Palestinians alongside all the other victims of oppression he has written about so eloquently. He’s moving the mass media one more tiny step toward more honest and balanced reporting on the Israel/Palestine conflict.

      But if a writer is not careful, every step forward can also be a step backward. By calling for a Palestinian Gandhi, Kristof clearly suggests that Palestinian resistance so far has fallen short of his high moral standards. He complains that “many Palestinians define ‘nonviolence’ to include stone-throwing,” so even when they claim to eschew violence their protests “aren’t truly nonviolent.”

      That reinforces a self-serving stereotype we’ve been hearing from supporters of Israeli policy for decades: We Jews want peace, they say. We’ve even got an organized peace movement. But there’s no Palestinian equivalent. It seems like those Palestinians are all a bunch hot-heads, implacably bent on violence. How can we make peace with them?

      That kind of stereotyping spurs even more extreme views that are all too familiar: There’s “no partner for peace” on the Palestinian side. “Those people” are so steeped in violence, there’s no reasoning with them. They only understand one thing: force. And at their worst they ask: What else can you expect from Muslims?

      I’m sure Nick Kristof didn’t mean to promote that kind of simplistic anti-Palestinian prejudice. He sees good guys and bad guys on both sides. But when you are a top columnist for the nation’s top newspaper, you are supposed to be smart enough to understand the implications of your words, to know what people can (and some inevitably will) read between the lines.

      I don’t know Kristof, so I can’t say why he might have fallen into this trap. But I know the U.S. mass media coverage of the issue pretty well. Even when they begin to break out of their reflexive “pro-Israel” shell, mass media journalists are still plagued by lines of thinking that are so old, so deeply ingrained, that they go unnoticed. “Ain’t it a shame those Palestinians are so violent. If only they’d turn to more peaceful ways, all would be well,” is perhaps the oldest and deepest of those lines.

      So it’s not surprising that, even when a prominent columnist appeals for sympathy for the victims of oppression, he ends up indirectly but all too obviously blaming the victims.

      Palestinians might well ask, “Who the hell is Nicholas Kristof to tell us how to resist the occupation anyway?” That’s a good question. What can he really know about their situation after being with them for a day or two? Critics of American journalism have long noted the declining quality of our news from other countries. The main culprit, many say, is the ignorance of journalists who show up in a place for a few days or even a few weeks and write for the folks back home as if they were experts.

      At a deeper level, there’s the ever-present tendency among the stenographers of imperial power to assume that they’ve got the right to preach truth to “the natives” and tell them how to live their lives.

      Even if Kristof had been living in Palestine for years, though, the question would still remain: Does he, or any non-Palestinian, have the right to tell an oppressed people how to resist their oppression? Maybe they do, if they’ve joined the resistance and taken all the risks involved for a long enough time to earn that right. But neither Kristof nor most any of the other non-Palestinians who call for a Palestinian Gandhi fit that description.

      I’ve been teaching and writing about, and advocating nonviolence for a long time. From the beginning, I felt in my gut that I don’t have the right to tell oppressed people to keep their resistance nonviolent, since I haven’t shared in their suffering.

      Eventually, I found in Gandhi’s own writings a powerful theoretical argument to explain my gut feeling. It starts with the heart of Gandhi’s teachings. He would have rejected the premise of Kristof’s column: that nonviolence is a smarter tactic for the Palestinians, the best way to get what they want. For Gandhi, nonviolence was never a tactic or a way to win anything. It was a way — the only way, he insisted — to act out moral truth in daily life. The core principle of Gandhian nonviolence is to do the right thing in every situation, regardless how painful or even lethal the consequences.

      In other words, nonviolence is not about figuring out how to make the other side — even when they are brutal oppressors — change their ways. It’s not about making others change their ways at all. Gandhi said that such efforts are senseless, because we cannot control the choices of others. All we can control is our own choices, trying to make sure that they are as morally correct as possible.

      So telling other people what to do, how to live their lives, or even how to resist oppression simply doesn’t fit Gandhi’s vision of nonviolence. It’s only about changing our own ways.

      But when Gandhi spoke about controlling our own choices, he included in “our” not just himself as an individual but his people. That’s why, in the vast corpus of Gandhi’s writings, you’ll sometimes find indictments of British colonialism and insistence that the British must leave India — in effect, telling the other side what to do — but far more often you’ll find indictments of Gandhi’s own Indian people and insistence that they (Gandhi said “we”) stop cooperating with oppression.

      If you’re looking for another Gandhi, then, look for someone who addresses his own people’s policy choices rather than telling others about what they’re doing wrong and how to fix it. Kristof made a nod in that direction when he repeated the words of Palestinian nonviolence advocates like Moustafa Barghouthi, Ayad Morrar, and Iltezam Morrar. He could have found plenty of others. They’ve got the right to call for a Palestinian Gandhi, since they are talking to their own people.

      The only thing Nick Kristof has the right to do — and the obligation, Gandhi would have added — is to address his own American people about the choices that Americans are making. If any Americans are publicly waiting for the next Gandhi to appear, they should be waiting and hoping for him or her not in Palestine or any foreign country, but right here in the U.S. of A.

      Kristof, given his immense readership and influence, has a special responsibility. Rather than flying half-way around the world for a few days and lamenting his failure to find another Gandhi, he could be doing what Gandhi did: writing about America’s failure to stand on the side of justice, which is the only way to stand on the side of peace.

      As Gershon Baskin, Israel’s leading expert on conflict resolution, recently wrote, the U.S. must play a central role if Israel and Palestine are to forge a just peace settlement. The two parties mistrust each other so deeply that they need a truly even-handed third party to bring them together and guarantee adherence to a peace agreement.

      Though the Obama administration has moved a bit closer than its predecessors to an even-handed approach, it is still far from the genuine neutrality that the Palestinians must see if they are to come to any negotiating table. Foolish steps like bolstering Israel’s nuclear arsenal are bound to move Israel and Palestine away from the peace that both sides need so badly.

      For the sake of that peace, it’s we Americans, not the Palestinians, who need to take up the torch of nonviolence. Until we do, it seems hypocritical to be blaming Palestinians for failing to live up to Gandhian standards.

      But that does not mean we should sit around “waiting for Gandhi.” The Mahatma surely would have scolded Nick Kristof and all of us who waiting for some extraordinary charismatic leader to rescue us from our wars and injustice. It’s easier to wait for someone else to do the job than to heed the charge Gandhi famously left us: Be the change you want to see in the world.

      We Americans have already had our Gandhi. And while we elevated him to the status of a heroic King, most of us conveniently forgot the most difficult parts of his message, his call to recognize our own nation as the greatest purveyor of violence in the world and to practice nonviolence no matter what the consequences.

      Now, instead of waiting for another miraculously gifted leader, we should each be speaking out and acting up, doing whatever little bit we can. We may not see the greatness of a Gandhi or King again for a very long time. But that’s no reason to give up the quest for nonviolent resolution of our problems. It’s all the more reason for each of us to take responsibility for ourselves and our own people, to stop telling others what they should do and start, right now, changing what we do.

      Meanwhile, when oppressed, militarily occupied people resist, let’s recognize that it’s not our place to tell them what means they should or should not use — and certainly not when our own nation is contributing so much to their oppression.

      Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

    • What’s “Western” got to do with it? It’s a UN investigation, not a Western one.

      All the examples covered in the article that you quote are in the Middle East, not the West.

      Western countries are no less liable to hypocrisy than those from any other part of the planet, but no more either, as far as I can see.

  11. I was dismayed to read this line of discussion back up on the baord again. Five points at Amaravati. Why are western women still supporting this sangha – and I include the siladhara in that. Nothing wrong with the vinaya – but as an intelligent western woman, I have to find a way of following the dhamma and vinaya without the bucket load of male view that exists in the Forest Sangha. The siladhara who are still there are giving credability to this group of monastics and this order. Time to ordain as bhikkhuni or develop something else and live some where else. I see on the Facebook site ‘Women and the Forest Sangha’ that there are a number of places for Bhikkhuni in the US and we know there is at least one place in Australia. So women please, lets move on. Lets be positive not negative. Hanging around this ‘five points’ order of monks is no good. It’s their problem – not our problem. Please lets move on. Women need to create something for themselves and stop wasting time complaining about a small group of monastics with a base in Thailand. Ajahn Sujato, you are really a good person, but why do you keep getting stuck in this. Lets promote bhikkhunis and establishing more women’s centres and communities where women can practice and live instead of banging on about five points and about 100 western men ordained in the Forest Sangha Tradition. Leave them behind.

    • Dear Alison,

      Alison wrote :”I see on the Facebook site ‘Women and the Forest Sangha’ that there are a number of places for Bhikkhuni in the US and we know there is at least one place in Australia”

      There are now several places where women can go to get ordain in the Theraveda Forest Tradition/ practice according to the forest style. Thanks to the effort and contribution of various Ajahns (both in the East and West, ie..Sri Lanka, Australia, U.S., etc.. )

      Alison wrote: “Lets promote bhikkhunis and establishing more women’s centres and communities where women can practice and live .”

      This is also one area where we can definitely direct our effort toward. Even though women can travel to various places to ordain and learn the Forest style of practice, but in case they can’t stay in that country they can have a place to practice when they return. Also, that way women don’t have to wait until the monks that are against bhikkhuni ordination to decide to lend a hand or give their order, which might never come at all. They might end up waiting in vain.

  12. I have often wondered as the authors of the Five Points pass away, and the adoring lay community who supports them blindly pass away, and the memory of the origin of the Five Points slowly dies away, and the written records of them get buried under the busy tasks of daily life, and the scholars have abandoned this lineage as it was not one to revere scholarship, whether in 100 years the lineage continued from Ajahn Chah’s successors via Sumedho will begin to argue that the Five Points, like the 8 Garudhammas are attributed to the Buddha. Why do we need to go back to the origin of the Five Points? Everyone knows they were laid down by the Buddha.
    And everyone will agree.
    No need to raise the issue.
    The Buddha issued them.
    And no one will dare argue.
    This is how history plays out.
    Redacted by those whom the redaction suits.
    And as good obedient Buddhists, in the day and the time when it was meant for us to stand up and correct the situation, we stood by and watched a new path take its course, for the harm instead of the benefit of future beings…

    • More strange thinking. 100 western monks ordain in a small community called Thai Forest Sangha and we can extrapolate that the five rules they made up for women to stay in their monateries will now influence all the Buddhism in Japan, Korea, China, Tibet, India, all Western Countries, Sri Lanka, Cambodia etc. etc. I doubt that most of the millions of Buddhists on the planet have heard of Forest Sangha – let alone the 100 odd monks who make up the western branch who made up the five points. Lets open the windows and get some fresh air in here. There’s a whole world out there. Billions of spiritual beings following hundreds of different but equally valid paths. Millions of Buddhists whove never heard of this order. Even the Buddha was not a Buddhist. We don’t know what he did and did not say and we don’t want to get paranoid about what some guy might attribute to the Buddha 100 years from now. The 100 0dd western monks who signed up to the five points will die out and the world will have moved on. Lets not exaggerate their importance. Lets move on and create what we want.

    • Many of us feel a strong affinity deep within us to the teachings of Ven. Ajahn Chah and his disciples on this path, the Theravadan forest tradition.

      No matter how many times we walk away and try other paths that exist within Buddhism, that may be more supportive of women’s spiritual practise, we always know where our heart truely lies. It is a love that always guides us and shines a light forward. It is a love that always brings us back to where we belong.

      For the connection to our Teacher is perpetual, it is everlasting and pervades all our lifetimes, and we must honour that connection in this lifetime, no matter what gender we have been born into here and now. For gender, birth, is temporary but the love and loyalty we hold to our teacher is everlasting.

      We have simply come home. It is what is.

      We cannot walk away no matter how much we want to in response to whatever occurs in this dastardly, earthly world of Samsara. And this the ground upon where we develop compassion for those who have done wrong to women in this spiritual tradition.

    • Ditto to all you have said, Sister Anne, especially this line:

      “We have simply come home.”

      Mega metta,

    • We simply have to come home to the spiritual path – whatever that is for us all. Were you a student of the living Ajahn Chah for many years? Other than that I think this is just attachment to view. The dhamma is freedom from all clinging and all teachers. It is independence and being your own light. There is no perpetual connection to the teacher if the teacher is a person or a tradition. These are just excuses the mind makes up. As much as the 100 western monks who signed up to the 5 points have wrong view – so do you. Maybe that’s why you are locked in the endless argument between each other and can’t move on. The true spiritual path sets you free and gives you the strength to stand alone in the face of everything. Not clinging to some mysterious connection. Please do yourself a favour, let go of this sentimentality and free yourself. You are making excuses and are attached to forms – even worse – possibly male forms. Let go, please, for your own sake.

    • Dearest Alison, I admire your spiritual fortitude. Love is formless and beyond boundaries.

    • I remember ‘reading’ Ajahn Chah saying that we needed to have desires before we could let go of all desires; that is, we need to have a desire to walk the path of letting go before we can walk that path and then let go.

      Still deluded and defiled, I need a teacher whom I respect and whose teachings I can understand to help me find that path.

      While we still cannot let go of all attachments (i.e. while we are not yet enlightened), to be attached to wholesome things in order to finally walk the path of letting go is the only way to do, in my humble opinion.

      Having said that, I thank you, Alison, for reminding me of what is the essence of the Buddha’s teachings.

      With mega metta,

    • Dear Alison,

      Forgot to assure you that once I am enlightened, all clingings will end. :)

      Right now, I cling to my teachers with a happy heart, knowing that my kind teachers would allow a little leeway for this ‘spiritual baby’.

      And for your information, this ‘baby’ is trying to practice what her teachers say and thus believe that: there are different paths to the temple but the paths are not the temple and that one cannot judge which path is a wrong path.

      I, like Anne, have announced that ‘We have come home’ since I have found Ajahn Chah’s and Ajahn Brahm’s teachings most spiritually accessible to me, and I can bravely say that I am a better person before of these two great monks’ teachings.

      My greatest gratitude to the Buddha, Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Brahm.

      With metta to you and wish you peace.

      Dheerayupa

    • We all find techers along the way Dheerayupa. Sometimes the change in the seasons teaches me things – sometimes my dog teaches me – sometimes I find people on the road of life who teach me – and sometimes people who claim to be good teachers can be good teachers. Watching this endless discussion about 100 western born monks making 20 western born siladhara sign a five point basically sexist agreement and these siladhara and laywomen still cling to the monasteries where this sexism is paracticed – teaches me things. Life teaches us the dhamma all the time if we watch and listen – and I’m no where near enlightened. I’m just using the teachings to free myself – and sometimes that means freeing yourself from forms, people, pleaces that are stuck. If there are unhealthy relationships in this group – either monks trying to subjegate and oppress women – or women who suck up to monks to try and get brownie points or show off to their friends I would cross that bunch off my list of places to go. It’s like living with an alchoholic or drug addict – co-dependency is trying to fix and solve their problem – healthy view is to move on and get on with your own life (this includes helping those who really need help).

    • Thank you, Alison, for beautifully defining what I have been clumsily trying to say.

      “Be a light unto yourself”

      From there, right action, thought and speech will naturally arise without needing to refer either to a teaching, teacher,or Sangha.

      With deep thanks for your insight,
      Nancy

    • I think Allison, we should all live like the colorful rainbow with its differences in colors and its tolerance of each other makes it more beautiful to look at.

    • The rainbow is an illusion too, created by water and the light of the sun. It doesn’t have an opinion i.e. we tolerate our other colours – it just is. Anyhow to go along with the metaphor – I dont think we need to tolerate oppression or what is clearly unwholesome onour spiritual path, even if it appears like a lovely colour next to ours. Lets use wisdom and discrimination, gifts that we have been given in this human form, to find the way which will free us.

    • I feel you Allison. I guess we feel oppressed because we want it our way and on our terms and it is like (again a simile) asking the horseshoe to be straighten or bend the other way. This world is born unequal and unfair (conventionally), I guess due to each of our different karma, metaphorically just like the rainbow, can the white color be violet or vice versa?

      Sometimes I contemplate on religion and I find that it created more problems than solving the problems on the part where we tend to sub-divide ourselves within the same religion and each division with its own different mind-sets and logics.

      However, if we take the Dhamma as like a Morality or Spirituality subject taught in schools as an education, then I think it served its purpose.

      I see not only one religion is fighting with the other religion but within itself as well. So, the thought came to me whether we are heading towards the right direction to make the world a better place or worsen it. It looks like we are slowly turning this world into hell.Is religion a success or failure? I think better change religion to education, then maybe less problems.

    • Lee-Ann :I feel you Allison. I guess we feel oppressed because we want it our way and on our terms and it is like (again a simile) asking the horseshoe to be straighten or bend the other way. This world is born unequal and unfair (conventionally), I guess due to each of our different karma, metaphorically just like the rainbow, can the white color be violet or vice versa?
      Sometimes I contemplate on religion and I find that it created more problems than solving the problems on the part where we tend to sub-divide ourselves within the same religion and each division with its own different mind-sets and logics.
      However, if we take the Dhamma as like a Morality or Spirituality subject taught in schools as an education, then I think it served its purpose.
      I see not only one religion is fighting with the other religion but within itself as well. So, the thought came to me whether we are heading towards the right direction to make the world a better place or worsen it. It looks like we are slowly turning this world into hell.Is religion a success or failure? I think better change religion to education, then maybe less problems.

    • Hi Lee-Ann,

      I ended my blogging here but I couldn’t help myself when I read you mentioned Morality as education, which I totally agreed with you. And I read you also mentioned Ven Dr K Sri Dhammananda on “obedience” in Metta Sutta which I noticed that it was omitted in many other Metta Sutta in many English versions. The late Vem Dr K Sri Dhammananda (late Chief Abbot of Buddhist Maha Vihara in Malaysia) was a very learned Pali scholar (PhD) and an experienced & trustworthy Dhamma Teacher and he could not have translated it wrongly. Perhaps, some people did not like the word “obedience” so, wifully omitted it. Obedience made sense as without obedience, one would not obediently follow the Buddha’s 8-Fold Noble Path in an obedient manner. Buddha made things so clear and simple and in a very systematic order for us to get enlightened but we people jumbled it up because of commercialization and trends in propagating Buddhism.

      Buddha laid down Right View first before we could go to the next step #2 – #8. #1 Right View entailed right(always with morality/virtues) and complete understanding of the Dhamma as in the Suttas. Buddha asked us to establish Right View on the Dhamma and Sila as the first stepping stone, before proceed to practice the rest ie. Samadhi & Panna, so we have to learn the Dhamma (theory)first,understood it and have Right View beforehand, just like climbing a ladder with the first step before reaching the top.

      I think without Sila (Right View included), we cannot achieve Right Samadhi & Right Panna no matter how hard we try. Buddha emphasized the word Right (Samma) ie it has a connotation of Right Morality/Pure Virtues.

      Nowadays, people climb to the top first by practicing Jhanas or Meditation or Vipassana without Right View of the Dhamma and Perfect Morality as the firm foundation or base, so when the foundation or base is not strong, we can misuse or abuse Jhanas (for one attained) and ended up in the wrong Path (still with defilements and wrong views).

      From my understanding,Jhanas alone will not give us wisdom and enlightenment, only supernatural or phychic power like during Buddha’s time, there were many of such people with more than 4 Jhanas (levitation, flying or diving into the earth so on) but still not enlightened or attained Nibbana (extinguishment of defilements) because no Dhamma and Right View. There is nothing great about Jhanas and people are so obsessed with it thinking if someone attain Jhanas, he must be enlightened. It is obviously a Wrong View because Big Ego and other defilements still exists.

      I am confident the Buddha’s 8-Rule for women was definitely not an addition at a later stage. I understood it as, Buddha lived in 2 “worlds” i.e ultimate world and convention world. When dealing with convention or worldly matters, Buddha switched to “convention mode” but when dealing with spiritual matters or ultimate world, Buddha switched back to “ultimate mode”.

      Buddha switched to “convention mode” as can be seen in the Sigalovada Sutta (can anyone said this was also added at a later stage? who had this kind of wisdom?) for lay people for lay happiness and also the 8- Rule for Nuns when dealing with conventions for the happiness (harmony) of the Sangha Order. Buddha also knew about Management in Sangha Order, like a C.E.O.!

      So, I agree with you, Lee-Ann, that the 100 Western monks under Ajahn Chah lineage are obediently abiding the Buddha’s convention 8-Rules policy in the Sangha Order to prolong the Buddha-Sassana. Without a healthy Sassana, Buddism will be shot-lived.

      That’s all I want to share on my views and my understanding of those misconceptions.

    • Dear Buddy,

      Buddy wrote: “Obedience made sense as without obedience, one would not obediently follow the Buddha’s 8-Fold Noble Path in an obedient manner. ”

      There is nothing wrong with having faith in the Buddha’s Eightfold Path. The only thing is we need to know whether a certain instruction is actually from the Buddha or not . No one can say for sure that with some 500 years of oral transmission, everything in the Pali Canon is exactly what the Buddha said and no more, no less. I don’t have a problem if someone is obedient towards the Buddha’s instruction. But when it comes to other people, I would obey if it is in line with what the Buddha taught. But if it is not, I would have to go with what the Buddha instructed instead.

      When you practice obedience to the extreme, it becomes blind obedience. Things like the Holocaust become possible largely because people blindly obey Hitler. I don’t have a problem if someone values obedience, but at least be discerning about who you obey. I don’t think it is accurate to say that if you don’t obey a certain person, that means that you don’t obey the Buddha’s Eightfold Path. You can obey the Buddha’s instruction on the Eightfold Path without obeying some other people. The Buddha and the person are not the same.

      Buddy wrote: “Buddha laid down Right View first before we could go to the next step #2 – #8.

      Personally, I don’t look at it as Eight steps to climb like a ladder, but rather 1 path with eight parts that you practice simultaneously. All Eight parts of the path compliments/ support each other. For example:

      Wisdom:

      1. Right view
      From what I learned , for Right View you need “the words of another”. This can be reading suttas, sutta study class , and listening to dhamma talks ( these are made available on the web) . Also , there is ” the work of the mind going back to the source” ( yoniso manasikara). This can be contemplating what you just learned with a mind that is free of the hindrances. It is difficult to see things as they really are when the hindrances have not been suppressed with meditation practice. I don’t think it is a good idea to wait until you have Right View before starting to meditate ( this is taught in retreats and books).

      2. Right intention
      The Buddha started us off with the intentions of Simplicity ( renunciation), loving-kindness, and harmlessness. This is why people are recommended to be more simple and reduce meat consumptions, etc..

      Virtue / Ethical conduct :

      3. Right speech
      4. Right action
      5. Right livelihood

      The retreat guidelines in various meditation retreats include the 5/ 8 precepts. That means no lying, no killing, sexual misconduct, etc..These pretty much have to do with the development of virtue. And it is recommended that people extend the practice of these precepts beyond retreats and practice it in daily life also. AN 11.2 clearly shows how Virtue (sila) supports Samadhi ( concentration/ stillness).

      Concentration/ Stillness:
      6. Right effort
      7. Right mindfulness
      8. Right concentration

      This is also what meditation retreats usually cover.

      Buddy wrote: “From my understanding,Jhanas alone will not give us wisdom and enlightenment, only supernatural or phychic power ”

      From what I read on Jhana and Wisdom from the Buddha , he said :

      ” There is no jhana without wisdom;

      THERE IS NO WISDOM WITHOUT JHANA;

      But for one with both jhana and wisdom,

      They are in the presence of nibbana.”- Buddha

      You don’t automatically have liberating wisdom if you have jhana. But if you contemplate various factors emphasized in the Satipathana, then liberating wisdom can be possible. Without Jhana, it might be impossible to reach Non-returning, Once-returning, and Arahantship. Some even say that it would be difficult ( if not impossible) to reach Stream Entry without Jhana. Jhana is a very important ingredient for liberating insights/ wisdom.

    • Buddy, I think Buddha said Jhanas gives deep tranquility as in Samadhi(Samatha) reiterated in Dhammapada “Samadhi is the highest bliss/tranquility”. In Satipatanna Sutta, Buddha taught Samatha-Vipassana and 4 foundations of Mindfulness for wisdom.I think Vipassana is the catalyst for wisdom.
      I think if there is no mindfulness in Jhanas, then no wisdom but if there is mindfulness in Jhanas then wisdom can arise, otherwise without mindfulness in Jhanas one can be drawn and get lost (literally) in twilight zone, with greed, hatred & delusion still exist and not yet eradicated(my assumption only not conclusive, please investigate).

      I remember the late Dr.K.SriDhammananda always stressed Moral Shame and Moral Fear (Hiri & Ottapa). If we have these two moralities, then the world will have no or less crimes and violence. If everyone obediently & diligently observes the Buddha”s recommended 5 precepts (with moral shame and moral fear present), then the world will be a safer place to live in.

      Can Jhanas (without mindfulness)address moral shame and moral fear or eradicate greed, hatred & delusion?

    • Hi iMeditation,

      I totally agree with you on:-

      ” There is no jhana without wisdom;

      THERE IS NO WISDOM WITHOUT JHANA;

      But for one with both jhana and wisdom,

      They are in the presence of nibbana.”- Buddha

      My understanding is: Right Jhana to achieve the right tranquility for purpose of practising the 4 foundations of mindfulness. Wrong Jhana if one is indulging in the bliss of jhana without mindfulness of feeling,perception,mental formations,consciousness to see anicca,dukkha,anatta. Hope I have correct view on this, if not, can anyone please enlighten us. Million Sadhu!

    • Dear Lee-Ann,

      Lee-Ann wrote :” Can Jhanas (without mindfulness)address moral shame and moral fear or eradicate greed, hatred & delusion?”

      When first sitting down to meditate, a person doesn’t just start with stillness/ jhana. But before settling into stillness or jhana, it is necessary to start with mindfulness/ awareness of the present moment first. In this way , mindfulness support the development of jhana . It doesn’t look like it is possible to enter jhana without having mindfulness from the beginning.

      Can Jhanas address moral shame and moral fear ?

      And according to the Cetana Sutta, it might be difficult for a person without Virtue to arrive at Concentration (a.k.a jhana, samadhi, stillness) .

      Virtue ( moral conduct ) ——leads to—–> Freedom From Remorse ——leads to—–> Joy —> Rapture —> Serene in Body —> Pleasure —> The Mind Grows Concentrated —> Know and See Things As They Actually Are —> ……etc……

      “In this way, mental qualities lead on to mental qualities, mental qualities bring mental qualities to their consummation, for the sake of going from the near to the Further Shore.” – Cetana Sutta

      Accordingly, I would say that a person would need to practice sila and have a certain degree of Virtue before arriving at Jhana . And a person with Virtue ( moral conduct) would have moral shame and moral fear.

      I believe we can say that a person needs to address moral shame and fear ( develop Virtue and become Free From Remorse ) so that The Mind Grows Concentrated or be able to arrive at Jhana.

      Can Jhanas eradicate greed, hatred & delusion?

      According to the Transcendental Dependent Arising:
      CONCENTRATION (SAMADHI/ JHANA) ——leads to—–> Knowledge and vision of things as they are (yathabhutañanadassana) ——leads to—–> Disenchantment (nibbida) ——-> Dispassion (viraga) ——–> Emancipation (vimutti) ———-> KNOWLEDGE OF DESTRUCTION OF THE CANKERS (asavakkhaye ñana)
      – Upanisa Sutta

      Accordingly, I would say that with Jhana, it is possible to eradicate greed, hatred, and delusion. Just like you need to create the proper external and internal conducive conditions for the mind to arrive at stillness/ jhana, you simply need to incline the purified mind after emerging from a jhana toward the right direction to arrive at wisdom and dispassion.

    • Dear Buddy,

      Buddy wrote : “Right Jhana to achieve the right tranquility for purpose of practising the 4 foundations of mindfulness. ”

      After the hindrances have been temporarily suppressed by Jhana, you can use this purified mind to contemplate non-self. For example, contemplate how Body, Feeling, Mind, Mind Objects are non-self. It has more to do with contemplating and penetrating its true nature rather than about ordinary mindfulness before jhana. You can also penetrate Dukkha, Anicca, Cessation, or Nibbida, the 5 aggregates…etc

      Some may ask ‘Why do we need to suppress the 5 hindrances before being able to penetrate the truth of suffering, impermanence, and non-self ?’

      – A mind with Desire is like a bowl of water with colorful dyes in it , but you can’t see through it.
      – A mind with Ill-will/ is like boiling water , with bubbles and steam.

      – A mind with Drowsiness / Torpor is like a bowl of stagnant, stale water with algae and moss covering the surface.

      – A mind that is Restlessness is like water being moved by the wind. There are waves and ripples.

      – A mind with Doubt is like water placed in a dark place. You can’t really see through it.

      – Samyutta Nikaya 46:55

      A mind freed of the 5 hindrances is like still, pure, and clear water in a bright place. You can see right through the bottom. Various concepts that you normally have a hard time assimilating can be easier to grasp and experience directly. For example, why is it that the body, feeling, mental objects, etc.. are not self.
       

      Buddy wrote: “Wrong Jhana if one is indulging in the bliss of jhana without mindfulness of feeling,perception,mental formations,consciousness to see anicca,dukkha,anatta.”

      About the bliss of Jhanas the Buddha said:

      “This is called renunciation-pleasure, seclusion-pleasure, calm-pleasure, self-awakening-pleasure. And of this pleasure I say that it is to be cultivated, to be developed, to be pursued, that it is not to be feared.” – MN 26

      I wouldn’t say that it is wrong jhana if you haven’t learn how to develop wisdom from the pure mental state right after jhana, but it’s just that you still need to allow the wisdom aspect to arise through contemplating various key teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha said that it can takes anywhere between 7 days to 7 years or so, depending on the person.

    • Dear iMeditation,

      Thank you so much for clearly clarifying an ongoing much controversial issue in Thailand: ‘Is Jhana good or bad?’ and ‘The meditation on the four foundations of mindfulness (Vipassana meditation) is better than anapanasati(one of the Samatha meditations)’.

      May you become enlightened in this lifetime.

      With mega metta,

      Dheerayupa

    • Dear Dheerayupa,

      I was just highlighting various points that was discussed in” Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond” regarding Samatha vs. Vipassana. I don’t believe that we can leave out #8 Samma Samadhi ( Jhana) and can still call it the Eightfold Path, because then it would become a sevenfold path instead. And liberating wisdom ( Vipassana, insight) is very crucial to Awakening as well.

      Thanks for the well-wishing. May you become enlightened in this lifetime also.

      _/||\_ ,

    • Hi LIsa,

      Re:”…Five Points? Everyone knows they were laid down by the Buddha.
      And everyone will agree.
      No need to raise the issue.
      The Buddha issued them.
      And no one will dare argue.
      This is how history plays out.
      Redacted by those whom the redaction suits.”

      Good point. I think it’s not an unlikely possibility of something like this happening eventually. As you said, it’s part of how history plays itself out… not totally unlike the childhood game of “telephone”, eh?

      But the fact that this whole issue has “blown up” so to speak, and is also very much out in the open, will hopefully provide a positive balancing condition in terms of what unfolds in the future.

      It sounded from one of your postings that you were perhaps planning to visit Santi? If so, may you have a wonderful retreat.

  13. Fabrizio Bartolomucci :Dear Angagarika Blake,
    I hold that the bowing of the women to the men that are inferior to them, serves to take some of the steam out of this dangerous process. A process that remains relatively benign if it sits and remains in the deluded bhikku´s mind, but my turn devasting if it also infects the aforementioned nun..

    Dear Fabrizio

    Isn’t this strategy simply dislocating the problem with a monk’s lust to the wrong locus?

    It’s just about as bad as the Vinaya account of the monk who castrated himself because he could not deal with his lust.

    “‘When one thing wanted cutting off, O Bhikkhus, that foolish fellow has cut off another! ” :

    Cv V.7.1

  14. This is a bit off topic but the issue below has bothered me for quite some time.

    “It is not hard to find women who through gifts of money, food, and other requisites, seek a special relationship with monks; and to preserve that special status they will side with the monks against equality for women.”

    I remember Ajahn Brahm once said something along this line: the ‘one-upmanship’ not only is about ‘I’m better than others’ but can also be extended to one’s association ‘My Ajahn is better than others’’. I’ve seen many women seeking special relationships (not sexual) with monks because of said reasons or because by associating with ‘great’ monks, they share their ‘greatness’.

    A white-robed nun in the Ajahn Chah tradition boasted to me when I visited ‘her’ temple in a province near Bangkok that Ajahn Chah is ‘better’ than Ajahn Mun because Ajahn Chah’s bones became crystalline immediately after his cremation (which according to her, means that Ajahn Chah was enlightened long before he passed away) while Ajahn Mun’s became crystalline a while after his cremation (which means that Ajahn Mun got enlightened only a short time before he passed away).

    I honestly don’t know why more women than men in Thailand resort to this strategy.

    However, I would like to beg all monks, not only those who oppose Bhikkhuni ordinations but every single member of the Sangha, to contemplate this issue and be cautious about having and maintaining relationships with laypeople – both women and men – where possible. Also, if possible, monks should take special care to ensure that their ‘close’ disciples honestly practice Dhamma to let go of their delusions and defilements. Or, the monks’ close disciples’ boastful words would damage their reputation.

    Yours in dhamma,

    Dheerayupa

    • Dear Dheerayupa

      I salute you on your post. Yes, basking vicariously in the glow of one’s association with a good monastic is just another form of craving.

      I suffer from the opposite effacement when I linger around AJ Brahm and his disciples. I fear being “judged” if they should detect my defilements. But time has proven that these good monastics have nary a censorious grain in them.

      As AJ Brahm said, “I pre-forgive you.” That came in handy many times for my silly slip-ups in Thailand.

    • Dear Sylvester,

      You said: I suffer from the opposite effacement when I linger around AJ Brahm and his disciples. I fear being “judged” if they should detect my defilements.

      I think I understand what you mean. I feel more or less the same: if I do some unwholesome deeds, I am tarnishing my teachers’ reputation.

      Last year when asked about what to do to repay Ajahn Liem’s kindness to me, Ajahn Brahm simply said, “Be good.” So, one of my ways of repaying the kindness and compassion of all my teachers’ is to follow their teachings and be good. :)

      BTW, you did a great job in Thailand. A pity you didn’t stay till the end of the retreat. I was told that on the last evening of the retreat, there was a very beautiful rainbow like last year. A miracle? hehe! :D

    • I always keep hearing about these bloody rainbows but never get to see them when it matters!

      AJ Brahm is the easiest person to attend to. What was harrowing was how difficult it was to manage the interviewees’ expectations.

    • Dear Sylvester, the rainbow outside is not as important as the rainbow inside. :)

      As for managing ‘Interviews with Ajahn Brahm’, it will never be easy. a great number of people seek Ajahn Brahm’s advice on spiritual development as well as on mundane issues of this sensual world.

      BTW, do you have any questions to ask Ajahn Brahm? I’m attending his talk this Saturday in Bangkok. :)

    • one of my favourite retreat moments was during a one day, silent retreat at a house that looks out over a pass between two islands. after a sit, looking out the window a ship was passing by with WISDOM in huge letters on the entire side of the ship.

  15. Run out of replies and quotes above so I’ve moved myself down here. Sorry if its out of sequence. I agree with you Lee Anne. But sometimes when we feel oppressed it means we are oppressed and we need to pack up and get out. Wisdom/discernment is knowing when it’s just our fickle preferences kicking in again – or when we are really making ourselves ill staying in a relationship / job / living place. I get the feeling that the people still involved in the 100 western monks Forest Sangha need to pack up and get out. I saw this morning on the Facebook ‘women and th forest sangha’ site that a monk is leaving for the very reasons we have mentioned. He doesn’t agree and he’s not sticking around moaning about it – he#s moving on to carry on with his practice somewhere else. Good on him. Why are the Siladhara still there and the other people who disagree with all this stuff. I don’t feel sorry for them – I think they need to wake up and smell the coffee. If they want to develop spiritually they have to make some tough choices in life. We’ve all had to do it. Who hasn’t placed themselves at a financial disadvantage or lost their security sometime in the lay world. These western forest sangha monastics need to get outside the comfort zone and get on with it. I agree with what Dheerayupa says. I’ve seen western monks cultivate the friendship of middle aged single/divorced women with the intention of getting some new computer/ camera/ mobile phone etc or funding for plane ticket to do some travel. It goes on all the time. Lets face up to the reality of things and then we can start to free ourselves from our hopes, dreams and expectations. Its scarey, but its a lovely feeling once you’ve made the commitment to jump! Lets stop moaning. Yo Aloka (the monk who has decided to leave and go to another place to practice) is all I can say.

    • Allison, from what you said, it looked like the crack worsen.I don’t want to take any sides or being bias, but in my opinion, for me, the 100 western monks are trying to faithfully observe the “ancient wisdom” expounded by the Buddha. I see that the 8 or 5 rules for Bhikkhunis are the ancient wisdom or true Dhamma discovered by the Buddha (like a treasure), just like the ancient wisdom of the 8 or 5 precepts or the 8-fold Noble Path. These are the recipes passed down to us from the Buddha in harmony with Nature, ourselves and others, and for me, it looks like these are the right formulas advised by the Buddha, so why are we not agreeable to it. The 8 or 5 rules are convention for the ideal operation and administration of the Sangha Order (in a conventional world and not ultimate or absolute world). The defination of men & women are conventions.

      I think the 8 rules are for the benefit of the Sassana and not for personal individual’s ego or rights. As someone said gender rights are concepts and it may not be the right recipe for maintaining the Sassana. So, we cannot judge the 8 rules or 5 rules as wrong or as an injustice to women. Buddha also taught us to have Right Sila first, and Right Concentration and Right Panna will naturally fall in place, as without Sila our minds will have no clarity and we will act or think without wisdom (Panna).

      I trust the 100 monks know what they are doing as they are seasoned experienced forest meditators with clear comprehension of the Dhamma and wisdom. I think there will be no end to this argument as it is our human nature. Allison, it is OK with me if you do not agree with me.You are entitled to your own views.No heart feelings.Chill.

    • It’s OK Alison, you raised some very good points that are worth considering. I had been on the independent bandwagon myself for over 10 years, so I understand where you are coming from. In the end, it just took finding the right teacher (for me). We only know ourselves what is right for us, in order to grow.
      _/\_

      What is wonderful is that we all care enough about Buddhism and its place for women to be having this debate in the first place. There are pleanty of women out there sitting at the local coffee shop talking about mundane things like haircuts, fashion and celebrities, not even giving their spiritual life a second thought. I couldn’t imagine anything worse! :-)

  16. Ven. Sujato’s Blog has been nominated here.

    http://www.blogisattva.org/

    Please check it out and consider voting.

    The Blogisattva Awards — Nominations Are Open
    Sunday July 4, 2010
    Thanks to the efforts of Kyle the Reformed Buddhist, the Blogisattva Awards are on this year. The purpose of these awards, in Kyle’s words, is “recognizing excellence in blogging about Buddhism, to introduce blogs that many may not know about to others and to help build a sense of community.”

    To clarify, it is not an award for the “best Buddhist” who blogs, but for the best blogging about Buddhism. To paraphrase the Visuddhi Magga, much blogging exists, but no bloggers are found, anyway.

    Because I’m a volunteer judge/panelist this blog is not eligible for awards. But do take a look to be sure your other (ahem) favorite Buddhism blogs have been added to the directory. You can add a site that’s missing, including your own, just be sure it’s a site that’s primarily about Buddhism. And please nominate your favorites for an award. Nominations are open until November, I believe, but don’t wait!

  17. Linda writes:
    “I guess we would all like to hope for and expect more (in terms of “enlightened” behavior and group dynamics, willingness to listen and examine things deeply, good communication, etc) in spiritual groups/communities, but unfortunately all the worldly dhammas, shadow issues, projection, and group dynamics still exist, and sometimes it seems such groups are no more capable of examining and addressing them than most secular/wordly groups and organizations are (sometimes less so). And even worse, most anything can be justified by whatever view (even the most so-called “spiritual” ones) one wishes to use to justify it. Somehow it seems even worse when “spiritual” views/”teachings”/ideology are used… perhaps because there’s an even greater incongruence, and also because it can get much more subtle and thus more difficult to see the actual issues and problems.”

    Wonderful post, Linda.
    This discussion seems to have evolved into an inquiry about our own,individual, need to ‘not’ question the status quo and in doing so,avoid the absolute necessity of personal honesty for real growth to occur.
    So many of us still cling to what we perceive as a
    ‘higher authority’ because, I think, we are afraid to step (into) our own, innate intelligence and question
    some of these (political) teachings and their relevancy in today’s world.
    There appears to be a fear of woman in all recoginzed religions and laws within these religions to keep them in their place.

    • Well said Linda and Nancy. I think personal honesty is the key here. I don’t want to waste my time trying to fix a tradition which is clearly very unfriendly towards ordaining women who wish to follow the spiritual path. I don’t feel sorry for the women who are still there – I ask myself – why are you still there and that brings up some interesting reflections. But for myself, My gut tells me to be my own lamp like the Buddha said – my inner knowing tells me to seek out teachers who don’t want me clinging onto their words and dependent on them, – but teachers who show me how to be free, even if that’s really challenging and scary at times. Thanks fellow bloggers, I think a window has been opened and some fresh air is seeping in.

    • Actually thank you for your posting was moved and have altered my notion of those monks and nuns choosing to stay slightly.

    • Actually, it is because of the strength and pioneering spirit of those women in the 80’s and 90’s who had the courage to shave their heads and don the robes, in spite of the odds against them, we wouldn’t have the opportunities for women to “go it alone” and take Bhikkhuni ordination from other women, separate to the male regime, today.
      Lets honour and respect these women, to their courage and committment to the teachings of the Buddha. They are showing us how to be really free.
      _/\_

    • Lets honour and respect the women who were pioneers in the 80’s and 90’s and move on to explore new possibilities. Not get stuck in co-dependent relationships trying to fix traditions/men/ etc who don’t want us there.

    • It’s been awhile since I checked out bhante’s blog. I love your comments. You’re certainly a breath of fresh air!

      I reckon the “true” teachers who have helped us open our window have been the “100 FS monks”. Sadhu to them for knocking real hard on our windows. If not for them, I would still be locked in stale air. And you’re absolutely right let’s move on.

  18. The problem is that what is anicca and dukkha after reflection, turns also into anatta and we should instead take full responsibility of our actions!
    So my suggestion is to temporarily hold cittas including cetana, volition, as endowed of a self.

    • OK, except they’re not. That’s the point.

      Try looking at “your” volitions and see if they really are yours, and that might open up annata to you. None of this means not being responsible for your actions although you’re right, many Buddhists seem to think it does, and that they can blame the negative consequences of their own actions on other people’s kamma.

  19. There is contradiction in what you say: how can you be responsibile for an action if you do not feel responsible for the intention at the root of that action?
    Also there is no possibility for someone to influence the kamma of others; this is restricted to our own kamma.

    • There is a great difference between feeling responsible and being responsible.

      Your second paragraph has so many unexamined assumptions, including ones that appear to contradict your own earlier statements, that I don’t have time to respond adequately at the moment.

  20. Dear Ayya Dharma

    I respectfully disagree with your assessment of which path I may be traveling, As described below, the practitioners of this path, Pacceka-Buddhism,are inclined to keep their awakening to themselves. I think that it is up to the awakened individual to either want to bring this awareness to others or not.
    Also, my question was addressed to women who, after 2,500 years of being viewed as somehow inferior, cutlturally and otherwise to men, would choose to remain in this situation.
    I’ve been reading the Bikkhuni blogs, etc. online and fight back the urge to holler WHY ARE YOU STILL IN THIS? :)
    (The woman who I admire, Toni Packer, stepped out of this just before becoming Roshi at the Rochester, NY Center to be become a dynamic instructer without all the baggage.)

    {Buddhism (both Nikaya and Mahayana traditions) accepts that there are
    three type of Buddha, and generally accept their definitions as
    follows:

    Samyaksam-Buddhas (Pali:Samma-Sambuddha): (also known in the Mahayana
    as Bodhisattva-Buddhas) gain Nirvana by their own efforts, without a
    teacher of the entire path. They may then lead others to enlightenment
    by teaching the Dharma in a time or world where it has been forgotten
    or has not been taught before, because a Samyaksam-Buddha does not
    depend upon a tradition that stretches back to a previous Samyaksam-
    Buddha, but instead discovers the path anew. The Historical Buddha
    Siddhartha Gautama, was a Samyaksam-Buddha.

    Pratyeka-Buddhas (Pali:Pacceka-Buddha): are similar to Samma-
    Sambuddha, in that they attain Nirvana by themselves, but they remain
    silent and keep the discovered Dharma to themselves.

    Sravaka-Buddhas (Pali:Savaka-Buddhas): gain Nirvana, but attain
    Enlightenment by hearing the Dharma as initially taught by a Samyaksam-
    Buddha. After attaining enlightenment, Sravaka-Buddhas might also lead
    others to enlightenment, but cannot teach the Dharma in a time or
    world where it has been forgotten or has not been taught before,
    because they depend upon a tradition that stretches back to a
    Samyaksam-Buddha.}
    ~~~~~~

  21. Thank you, Nancy, for clarifying the concept of Buddhas. That’s correct, but you know, even the present Buddha (Gotama) was quite reluctant to share his newly discovered Dhamma to the world for fearing that the world ‘are of many dusts / defilements in their eyes, so they might not understand the deep/ profound Dhamma’. if Brahma Samapatti did not appear and made a request, well, could we have Dhamma until today?
    Any practitioner can, in different times & circumstances, incline to one of the mentioned Paths. There is no actual distinction between them as we perceive it through concepts.
    WHY ARE YOU STILL IN THIS? … just practice, applying whatever tools you have at hand, don’t bother what kind of Buddha is better.
    Mettena

  22. Buddy :

    My understanding is: Right Jhana to achieve the right tranquility for purpose of practising the 4 foundations of mindfulness. Wrong Jhana if one is indulging in the bliss of jhana without mindfulness of feeling,perception,mental formations,consciousness to see anicca,dukkha,anatta.

    Is it the case that sammasamadhi is required for sammasati? This seems backwards to me.

  23. Sadhu, iMeditation, I appreciate your profound explanation above, but sorry, I am not clear.

    I thought mindfulness(sati or awareness or recollection on dhamma or 4 foundations of mindfulness) is not concentration (samadhi). Jhana is a result of one-pointedness concentration or deep samadhi, but absence of mindfulness. In Jhana or some people experienced it like a trance state or bliss out state, the mind can only do one thing at a time.

    I understand that one needs to be in a certain degree of Jhana state before one can come out of Jhana to do Vipassana i.e mindfulness of the 4 foundations. So in Mahasatipattana, there is both Samatha-Vipassana. One-pointedness or deep concentration give rise to Jhanas and not awareness.Am I right?

    Is there a difference between mindfulness(Sati) and concentration(Samadhi) and is Jhana a Samadhi or a Sati?

  24. Dear Lee Ann,
    Lee Ann wrote :” I thought mindfulness(sati or awareness or recollection on dhamma or 4 foundations of mindfulness) is not concentration (samadhi). ”
    Yes, after you leave jhana then naturally you are aware of the immediate environment again, and are no longer in samadhi ( jhana). You would be in a mindful (sati) state again naturally ( you are no longer in samadhi). That is why I wouldn’t say that there is jhana without mindfulness ( there is mindfulness before and after). However, it is possible that after leaving jhana ( samadhi) and come back into mindfulness (sati, aware of what is going on, 5 senses working again), the person does not contemplate on body, feeling, mind, and mind objects to penetrate its true nature using that state of intense mindfulness without the 5 hindrances ( developing Vipassana).
    Of course, you don’t just have mindfulness after leaving jhana ( samadhi) only. It is possible to establish mindfulness ( awareness, sati) before entering jhana ( samadhi) as well. I would say that mindfulness ( of the breath) before jhana can help you develop Samatha or entering Jhana/ Samadhi . The mindfulness (without 5 hindrances) after coming out of jhana can support the development of Vipassana ( Insight) . The quality of mindfulness before jhana and mindfulness after jhana is different. It is discussed in ” Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond” that mindfulness after jhana is more intense and stronger and without the 5 hindrances. Thus making it more conducive for the arousing of deep Insight ( Vipassana) than the mindfulness before jhana.
    Before jhana, one haven’t entered jhana (samadhi) yet. So what do we need to do to get into jhana ( samadhi) ? The texts instructed that we become aware (mindful) of the breath going in, and the breath going out for a while before being able to settle into Stillness ( jhana/ samadhi). So, before samadhi mindfulness of the breath can help a person to develop Samatha / support the development of Jhana/ samadhi . The book ” Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond” and Annapanasati sutta discussed in detail how mindfulness of breathing can take you into jhana / samatha.

    _/||\_ ,

    • Sadhu to you iMeditation for sharing your in-depth knowledge and experience. I need to try it out myself to experience it. I was told to have first vitaka vicara piti suka upekkha.To have Mindfulness in every step and every phenomena.I guess different teacher taught differently but all would ultimately end up in the same destination.Wish you lots of progress in your endeavors. Metta.

    • Dear Lee-Ann,

      Thanks for your compliments. I really don’t feel like any expert at all. It is simply what was conveyed to me through the words of the Buddha and his various sangha members.

      Lee – Ann wrote: ” I was told to have first vitaka vicara piti suka upekkha.To have Mindfulness in every step and every phenomena. ”

      I think Samma Samadhi (jhana ) requires retreat and sitting still. But Samma Sati ( mindfulness) is something that should be practice at all times , while moving ( walking , cleaning, etc..) or sitting still ( before and after jhana).

      Bringing mindfulness into everyday movements is also another important aspect of mindfulness. There are instances where a person can feel so peaceful in sitting meditation, but become disoriented when coming back out to engage in activities / interactions due to the sharp contrast between solitude retreat and the the world full of frantic activities.. Bringing mindfulness into movements can help a person retain or maintain the centered and joyful feeling while engaging in certain activities.

      I believe mindfulness shouldn’t be confined to just the period of sitting meditation or when sitting still. When you practice being aware of this moment without being carried away by thoughts about past and future , inner chatter, watching emotion as it arise / fall away while moving (walking , lying down, doing things, etc) , it is like what you do in the first stage of sitting meditation. By expanding it into various activities can help build a strong foundation, making it easier to move into stage 2 and higher stages when you sit down to practice jhana( samadhi).

      Some teachers emphasize this aspect of Samma sati ( applying mindfulness while moving) more than others. While other teachers place more emphasis on Samma Sati while sitting still , and Samma Samadhi . When we put the two together, we can see a more complete picture. I guess each one specialize in a particular area.

      Thich Nhat Hanh and Eckhart Tolle are some of the teachers that emphasize the aspect of Samma Sati outside of the cushion . Eckhart taught that, perhaps you can recall a time when you felt more alive than at any other moment , when you had a sudden recognition of beauty, a feeling of deep contentment . And then, this fleeting moment was gone. What if you can make that moment a consistent way of living in the world.

      May you experience the joy and beauty of the path.

      _/||\_ ,

    • Dear iMeditation

      Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu!

      If I may add, I think some of the bliss and happiness that’s left over in post-Jhana samadhi is probably going to be needed to balance out any aversion that could develop when confronted with great insights.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s