Buddhism and “The Gender Dynamic”

Here’s an article that expresses the ‘other side’. It gives a straightforward argument in favor of sexism, and bases that on Buddhist ideas. Of course, I disagree with almost all the good author’s views, but I appreciate the fact that he’s confident enough to express himself clearly and openly.

Nevertheless, the doctrine he expresses is frightening: since domination of females by males is a fact, this is how it should be. This kind of thinking, though rarely expressed with honesty, lies behind many of the attitudes towards women that have been exposed in the rejection of bhikkhunis.

The author makes the surprisingly common error of thinking that ethical ‘equality’ means equality in fact. He says, ‘It is obvious to anyone with even an average level of insight and knowledge that males and females have differences physically, emotionally, mentally, behaviourally and societally.’ Yes it is. Likewise, old people are different from young, black are different from white, tall are different from short, and intelligent are different from stupid. People are different, and differences need to be taken into account.

But this has nothing to do with the ethical principle of equality, which means equal opportunity, equal treatment, and equal respect. Women are not lesser beings than men.

Try this: read the article below, and where it says ‘men’ read ‘whites’, and where it says ‘women’ read ‘blacks’. There’s no swifter way of cutting through the cruft of discriminatory argument.

The author trots out the usual criticisms of the ‘West’, apparently oblivious to the fact that many of the things he praises about Asian society – that women have equal access to education, voting, work opportunities – came about through the influence of ‘Western’ ideals of equality.

He says that women in Asia ‘choose’ to be dominated by men. I just received an email the other day from Sister Yeshe, working in India, who has been explaining to the young men there that it’s wrong to hit women. I wonder what happens to the women who ‘choose’ not to be beaten?

One of his basic arguments is that both the West and Asia discriminate, but the Asians are more honest about it. He’s wrong: people all over the world recognize that there is discrimination, and some, whether Asian or Western (or African or whatever), understand that this is harmful. It is the way it is, but not the way it should be. The Buddha taught an ‘ought’: he wanted us to do what is right, not what everyone else is doing. To use the Buddhist slogan of ‘the way it is’ to justify harmful social norms is a perversion of the Dhamma – one which, sadly enough, is not limited to the present article.

I especially love his arguments from animal behavior – now that’s an ethical precedent! If animals do it, it must be Dhamma! Imagine the possibilities…

GARUDHAMMAS – THE GENDER DYNAMIC 1

Rasika Wijayratne

Men and women are not equal. This is what most people, especially in the West, have trouble grasping especially due to their cultural background and heritage. So when they approach an Eastern tradition like Buddhism and come across something like the Garudhamma rules instituted by the Lord Buddha, they instantly react against it. Although this is understandable, it is never wise or skilful.

The Garudhamma rules were first given by the Lord Buddha to Maha-Pajapati Gotami on admission to the Order as the first female bhikkhuni (higher ordained nun) with the establishment of the female Sangha. These 8 sacred rules were given as a part of her higher ordination and also became part of the female monastic Vinaya rules for all bhikkhunis (Buddhist nuns), starting with Maha-Pajapati Gotami as the first nun. Even though the rules were formally given to Maha-Pajapati Gotami, it is understood that it applies to all bhikkhunis and it is even clear from the way they are worded, “A nun should…”. These eight rules are only there for bhikkhunis and not for bhikkhus (Buddhist monks). This inequality is what upsets some, especially those from the West.

It is true that an inequality is there. However it is also true that men and women, whether one likes to accept it or not, are not equal. This is why this inequality exists in the rules. It is the inability to grasp and accept this basic truth regarding the inequality between men and women that has given rise to this whole debate over whether the Garudhammas should or should not exist in the Dhamma, whether they were or were not instituted by the Lord Buddha and whether sections of the Tipitaka are authentic or not, especially in relation to the Garudhammas. This inability to see, grasp and understand that significant differences exist between men and women and that therefore they are not equal, goes to the heart and root of this whole debate and issue. So it makes sense to try and understand these differences and to also accept and come to terms with them.

It is obvious to anyone with even an average level of insight and knowledge that males and females have differences physically, emotionally, mentally, behaviourally and societally. The physical differences are obvious. It is also a well-known fact that the kinds and levels of hormones (the main ones being testosterone in men and oestrogen in women) that activate inside the body affecting emotions, mood, etc. are different in men and women. These in turn differently affect thinking, behaviour and impact on attributes significant to mental training such as energy, confidence, etc.

The differences between men and women in society, in the East or West, are even more significant. The 2010 Catalyst U.S. Women in Business report found that only 2.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women!2 This is in the USA, a Western society that purports to be egalitarian (equal) in every aspect when it comes to women. It becomes clear from this single example alone, of which there are many, that even in the West, which constantly talks about gender equality, there isn’t much equality in reality. So it is fair to say that even Western societies are male dominated, even though most would not wish to acknowledge it due to factors such as ‘political correctness’ and the laws of the land.

Eastern cultures are openly male dominated by contrast and make no attempts to hide this fact. In Buddhist countries in the East such as Sri Lanka, women enjoy the same levels of equality as enjoyed by women in the West with equal access to education, work opportunities, health care, etc. However being an openly male dominated society, it is understood and accepted that in the family home and in society that the males play a dominant role while the females play a supportive role to the male. This also prevalent in Western societies, even though it is politically incorrect and even against the law to openly state it.

Being male dominated does not in any way refer to the mistreatment of women by men as happens in some societies through subjugation, torture, sexual mistreatment, etc. In a male dominated society both women and women understand the nature of their relationship and live in that way by choice, seeing the advantages in it, rather than by force. Women are treated with dignity and respect and their wishes are respected at all times. It is important to make this distinction clear.

Historically most societies such as the Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Indian, and Chinese were male dominated. However some especially in the West, attempted to adopt egalitarianism (gender equality).3 The West maybe egalitarian ‘on paper,’ but not in reality. So gender-egalitarianism, the view that males and females can ever be equal, contradicts reality, the way thing really are, in short it contradicts the Dhamma, as is evident in both the East as well as the West. So in reality most Eastern and Western societies are still male dominated, but only the East is willing to openly acknowledge it.

In the Bahudhatuka Sutta, the Lord Buddha says that only a male may become a Sammasambuddha, Wheel-turning Monarch, Sakka, Mara or Brahma thus: “It is impossible, it cannot happen that a woman could be an Accomplished One, a Fully Enlightened One (Sammasambuddha) … a Wheel–turning Monarch… that a woman could occupy the position of Sakka … Mara … Brahma – there is no such possibility (while in the form of a woman, however through rebirth as a male it is possible). It is possible that a man might be an Accomplished One, a Fully Enlightened One … a Wheel-turning Monarch… that a man might occupy the position of Sakka … Mara … Brahma – there is such a possibility.”4

Going beyond the these other realms and even looking at the animal realm this gender imbalance again becomes evident among most mammalian species, viz. “Female-biased dominance occurs rarely in mammals, and it is only observed consistently in hyenas and lemurs.”5 A questions that arises is, among lions for example where the males are dominant, what would would happen if females tried to be equal or dominant to the males? Would it create harmony or disharmony in the group of lions? The same question can be applied to other areas such as the Sangha and the family unit.

It is true that the concentrated or enlightened mind on its own is above gender distinctions. But it must be remembered this is following enlightenment, not before where gender where gender is very much relevant. To gain concentration (samadhi) and then enlightenment (Nibbana), one must first be established virtue (sila). This is where the Garudhamma rules have their place. They were instituted by the Lord Buddha first for Maha-Pajapati Gotami and then other bhikkhunis as a way of restraining gender specific unskilful qualities from arising that would compromise their and others’ training, affecting concentration (samadhi) and thus also enlightenment (Nibbana). Here gender specific unskilful qualities refers to the female desire to be on par with or even higher than males. This directly contradicts the reality of the inequality that exists between males and females. So the Garudhamma rules were instituted out of compassion for bhikkhunis, understanding the differences between genders, and not to degrade or subjugate females as some have misunderstood.

The Lord Buddha being full enlightened was fully aware of the gender differences, would have instituted these rules only for female also out of pragmatic reasons and thinking of the harmony of the Sangha community. A fully Self Enlightened One does not discriminate but acts pragmatically for the benefit and welfare of all. He would have understood the universal nature of this gender dynamic, that the males are dominant is every aspect, physically, emotionally, mentally, societally in most societies and even across other realms such as the Diving and animal realms. He would have also understood that if he did not institutionalise a set of rules such as the Garudhammas, that some would attempt to bring gender egalitarianism to the Sangha, as was attempted in Western societies. This would contradict the prevalent reality (Dhamma) of the gender dynamic and would thus create disharmony in the Sangha. As he foresaw 2600 years ago when he instituted the sacred Garudhamma rules, isn’t this very thing happening today in the Sangha community with various attempts at removing the Garudhamma rules in preference for ‘modern’ (and misguided) gender-egalitarianism?

May the true Dhamma remain uncorrupted and last for 10,000 years for the benefit of present and future generations. May you gain the wisdom and strength protect it from all present and future threats!

Notes

1. Please contact the author to obtain the latest version of this document.

2. See New U.S. Women in Business Statistics Released by Catalyst here http://www.womenonbusiness.com/new-us-women-in-business-statistics-released-by-catalyst/ and here http://www.catalyst.org/publication/132/us-women-in-business

Percentage of women in the U.S. labor force: 46.3%

Percentage of women in management, professional and related occupations: 50.6%

Percentage of female Fortune 500 corporate officers: 15.4%

Percentage of female Fortune 500 board seats: 14.8%

Percentage of female Fortune 500 top earners: 6.7%

Percentage of female Fortune 500 CEOs: 2.4%

3. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriarchy

4. The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, A Translation of the Majjihma Nikaya, Translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, pp 929.

5. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominance_hierarchy#Female_dominance_in_mammals

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99 thoughts on “Buddhism and “The Gender Dynamic”

  1. Oh my goodness… this is very sad, and actually rather horrifying…. How can one even start to critique a view, which is so full of ignorance, and with such twisted logic…?

    This is one of the most curious sentences in his article:
    “Women are treated with dignity and respect and their wishes are respected at all times.” Re: the latter half of this, perhaps he means as long as they don’t contradict the obviously superior males who “are dominant in every aspect, physically, emotionally, mentally, societally in most societies and even across other realms such as the Diving and animal realms.” And if they do?

  2. Gee that sounded terrible…by that I meant that maybe he would change his tune if he was on the receiving end of the toxic, sexist and patronizing nonsense he espouses.

  3. It is always rather sad to be exposed to ‘intellectual’ arguments used to justify the supposed superiority of one group over another.

    I feel that so often such arguments come from an inferiority complex that some men have. I wonder if some men (and I am one) feel threatened by the possibility that women may actually outshine them in some way, and therefore feel the need to re-iterate their superiority over them in such unsubstantial terms as represented in this article, not forgetting the same sort of attitude by many of the traditional Thai Sangha (remembering one Ajahn’s statement that without opposition “we will have bhikkhunis everywhere!”)

    In my experience with the Plum Village Sangha of Thich Nhat Hanh, I noticed that the nun’s community were not only much more numerous than the monks, but also much more disciplined, diligent and well-versed in the Dhamma. I am in no way saying that women are necessarily superior to men, but that I can see that the existence of practice communities that include the qualities of both the masculine and the feminine can have a positive impact on the entire Sangha.

    Ultimately, I agree with Bhante Sujato’s assessment that this article only ultimately provides evidence for the differences between men and women, without providing any concrete argument for inherent differences in capacity dictated by gender.

    I do feel that we must understand that any such ignorance exists, like all mental formations, due to particular causes and conditions, and that therefore no ultimate judgment of the person who wrote them is possible. Nevertheless, just like the Buddha in his day exposed wrong views based on the understanding that these cause suffering both to those who adhere to them and those who are affected by them, we are obliged to continue to do so when we encounter these.

    Lastly, if we’re supposed to be basing ethics on the animal realm, as Bhante Sujato points out, the possibilities are endless! What about celibacy, among many other things? Perhaps the author didn’t make that connection.

    With metta,
    Francesco

  4. See analysis by Analayo:

    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+bahudhatuka-sutta+and+its+parallels+on+women's+inabilities.-a0229832356

    In sum, since an accidental loss or an intentional omission of an exposition on the inabilities of women in the Madhyama-agama discourse seems improbable, the most straightforward conclusion would be that the theme of women’s inability is a later addition to the exposition on impossibilities in the different versions of the Discourse on Many Elements. Thus in this respect the Madhyama-agama version quite probably testifies to an early stage, when the theme of what women cannot achieve had not yet become part of the discourse.

    As part of the general tendency to expand on various impossibilities, however, this theme must have soon enough made its way into various versions of the discourse. (64) Whereas the inability of a woman to be a Buddha can still be seen as an expression of leadership conceptions held in ancient Indian patriarchal society, once her ability to be a Pacceka-buddha becomes part of the listing of impossibilities, the implications are clearly a diminishing of the spiritual abilities of women. This tendency can safely be assumed to stand in contrast to the original teachings of early Buddhism, where–as far as the texts allow us to judge–gender was not considered to have an impact on spiritual abilities.

  5. It’s really well written isn’t it? (And I must applaud and say ‘Sadhu’ to the fact that the author clearly doesn’t see a problem with Bhikkuni ordination itself. This is wonderful.)

    I have to confess to seeing a few problems… Though if i took up this author’s assumptions I’d have to humbly admit that i could be really really wrong cos i’m only a women.

    It’s a good job i have a better understanding of myself as a human being and a woman than he does because I’m not going to take up this author’s views, which he seems to see as being in accord with Dhamma, i certainly don’t see them as being in accord with Dhamma – far from it in my humble female opinion.

    Thank goodness my sense of faith in the Buddha’s compassion and wisdom seem to be as view affirming as his!!! I seem to recognise in his writing a happy faith in the Buddha but he and i clearly view the Buddha’s Bodhi in fundamentally different ways!

    I wonder if i were to talk to him directly if I would be ‘respected and treated with dignity’ and how this would occur if my poor views are only those of the lesser half of the human race. He states that women should be “treated with dignity and respect and [that] their wishes are respected at all times.” Yet the wish to be seen as, what Bhante S calls, ‘ethically equal’ seems to be beyond this.

    He himself has unknowingly admitted that women can be ‘equal’ or indeed ‘better’ than men in some spheres. For he admits that some women become CEOs. His views seem even stranger when one considers that he comes from a country that had the world’s first, if not one of the first, female Presidents. I’m assuming he is Sri Lankan.

    Well there’s something else we may have in common. That’s where I’m originally from. I know how this society works in a number of ways. Some of what he’s said above has even worked its way into the traditional Buddhist marriage ceremonies in that country. A friend of mine questioned this and was told that it was just lip service to tradition!

    Anyway, you can’t tell me that I’m a ‘westerner’ (what ever that really means) criticising the ‘east’ (whatever that really means). I make what i feel is a pretty valid claim to be both and so feel i have the right to call a spade a spade. And let’s not even use that word ‘culture’. I get rather tired and bored when it gets over used as a euphemism for sexism and yes, even racism. The ‘west’ doesn’t have a monopoly on that either!

    There’s much that i learned through watching the adults from my culture – of origin – that is very very beautiful. Much that is of love, loyalty, trust, faithfulness, tolerance, patience…i really could go on… But i’ve added the words ‘of origin’ because i’m (thankfully) not bound to this culture. I’m sort of Sri Lankan and sort of Aussie and sort of bits of other places but mostly I’m Buddhist! It’s great having travelled about here and there…one starts to see how silly we can get about culture and nation and identity…and how what’s missing out of these three things is compassion and questioning. How can you find the truth for yourself if you don’t have the courage to question how things are right now for you…to question the very culture you are born into? Truth isn’t something found in believing in tradition or culture or status quo. Truth is found through investigating and questioning and seeing what is kind and what leads to peace. Another piece of advise given to Mahapajapati according to sutta, is that the Dhamma, the truth, is to be recognised because it will be a view/practise that will lead to peace. This is what the Buddha said to her. It seems to me that the Garudhammas lead to turmoil, so the Buddha cannot have said them to her.

    This business of men being natural leaders is so utterly accepted and so subtly accepted in Sri Lankan culture that it really doesn’t surprise me that this author has come out with this view (expressed so eloquently). It’s odd that his obvious faith in Buddha doesn’t seem to have led him to follow the Buddha into questioning this deeply held cultural assumption. It is an assumption that has the very great potential to create huge huge harm.

    When one group is the only one that is given leadership, they have the power to keep out all other groups from having any meaningfully ‘pragmatic’ dignity or respect. This is very very dangerous. This assumption that the man is necessarily going to make the correct decision for the family unit or even the Sangha unit, just because he is a man is so hugely flawed. In terms of Dhamma it’s all wrong because it seems to assume that men do not operate through greed, hatred or delusion, their leadership decisions will always be wonderful and women should just follow whatever they say! This is too dangerous an assumption – an assumption, not a truth – not to be questioned and rebelled against in every age and cycle of human existence. The Buddha did it best though; he was the best feminist of them all.

    Yet once again i say that it’s no surprise that this author holds these assumptions; he appears to be a person who reads the suttas with blind faith and perhaps even a lack of…dare i say it…intelligence. Or perhaps he is so out of practise with utilising the faculty of ‘investigation’ that he cannot help but unconsciously select those teachings that fall into line with his own fixed world views.

    Such a pity because what he has said may really lead him up the garden path. If and when he’s born a woman, my guess is that he will have a hard time believing in himself. No matter how many times he/she is told he-she can be enlightened, she’ll never strengthen that quality of investigation which questions all her deeply cherished views about self and society. How can you be liberated when you are not trained to be fearless, when you are not trained to go against the stream, when you are not trained to believe in yourself as a FULLY capable being. You need this sort of training because the fetters that bind you are frightening to break, take you with the stream and make you feel less than what you can be.

    Thank goodness that not all men (or women) from Sri Lanka espouse these views. I’m fortunate enough to have been rather rebellious when it came to such views and I think my long suffering and very kind parents even benefited from this!

    If he continues to hold on to his views on this matter this author cannot really take to heart any of my criticisms (that is if he ever has the chance to afford me the ‘dignity’ or ‘respect’ of reading them, let alone taking them seriously) since what i have written are the views of a female. Certainly, no offence is intended and I wish him well on his path and join him in wishing that “the true Dhamma remain uncorrupted and last for 10,000 years for the benefit of present and future generations”. Indeed, may the true Dhamma last longer than that and may it not be threatened by those who blame ‘disharmony’ on issues of gender, rather than on suffering, samsara and kilesas!

    With Metta

  6. Is this article published in any reputable source?
    Many people have ridiculous unfounded views and write it on websites, but the question is who is taking them seriously?
    I can’t imagine anyone
    When I read the post- i thought ‘poor guy, he’ll probably be reborn as a dog’

  7. ” How can you find the truth for yourself if you don’t have the courage to question how things are right now for you…”

    Sadhu, Kachana! A sentiment well worth remembering at all times!

  8. Bhante writes: “Try this: read the article below, and where it says ‘men’ read ‘whites’, and where it says ‘women’ read ‘blacks’. There’s no swifter way of cutting through the cruft of discriminatory argument.”

    Try this version: where it says ‘men’ read ‘monastics’, and where it says ‘women’ read ‘lay people.’

    Take this sentence for example:

    Original:
    However being an openly male dominated society, it is understood and accepted that in the family home and in society that the males play a dominant role while the females play a supportive role to the male.

    Race version:
    However being an openly white dominated society, it is understood and accepted that in society the whites play a dominant role while the blacks play a supportive role to the whites.

    Monastic version:
    However being an openly monastic dominated society, it is understood and accepted that in the monastery the monastics play a dominant role while the lay people play a supportive role to the monastics.

    While we see some forms of domination and inequality as clearly discriminatory and unacceptable, are we more accepting of (or blind to) others? I raise this because I see a potentially significant clash between different cultural assumptions about what counts as equality emerging in the attempt to adapt the Thai monastic tradition to a Western, specifically Australian setting. At Santi (and on this blog), the gender equality that is endorsed in the West is vigorously defended. However the different status accorded to monastics and lay people in Thai culture is equally strongly upheld (I wonder if it even becomes sharper in the Australian context, because of the sense that it needs to be defended against a surrounding culture that doesn’t endorse it – similarly to the way immigrant communities are often more conservative and orthodox in their interpretation of tradition that the home countries). To Australian eyes this difference can look a lot like a hierarchy that involves both inequality and a disturbing degree of domination, even if the perspective within the community is that “both lay people and monastics understand the nature of their relationship and live in that way by choice, seeing the advantages in it, rather than by force.” Some food for thought…

  9. I appload you Juzzeau for having the courage to express this observation. This is a bit similar also what Jackie said yesterday, which I also admire her courage to point that out. I noticed that also, but i guess ‘brushed it aside’ yet if we want to avoid Buddhism becoming like the catholic church, it’s an issue we have to point out and be aware not to let this happen. The Buddha never said that any one or group is more superior than another, be it monastic or laity. Again, this seems to come back to the question of refuge, where if we keep the Dhamma as our refuge, (as Buddha said before his parinibbana) then we should be alright. Even if we have confidence in the concept of the ariyas that practicing the path leads to results, then we should be alright. If one interprets the Buddha to mean refuge in people- (which doesn’t seem like the Buddha said that) then we can fall into the trap of ‘assembly inequality’. Not gender, not race, but assembly inequality, as you’ve pointed out here.

    Again, so far when I’ve read the suttas the word bhikkhu/bhikkhuni sangha was only used by ‘regular’ people. When the buddha referred to having confidence in the Sangha, he did not use the word bhikkhu/bhikkhuni but rather 8 persons. Please check this out. I haven’t read all the suttas but in those that I’ve read, it’s what i noticed.
    So those that really want to believe that the Buddha said to have ‘confidence/faith’ in people- what’s the consequence to that? DID the Buddha really say that? As Bhante Brahmali said, you can’t know who is an ariyan so realistically it’s the concept that we have refuge in. That if one follows the path, whether lay, monastic, black or white, male or female, one will get the results!

    I’ve seen my granny worship the catholic priests and she thinks that they can do no harm, and I see it similar in Buddhism as well. This is all a hierarchy and class system- which the Buddha precisely wanted to remove! I do hope Buddhism doesn’t go down that path and just remains as practicing the Dhamma. Being a practical Dhamma practice than a ‘religion’

    That’s one interesting point, the Buddha did not call his disciples ‘Buddhists’. He refereed to some as practitioners (learners). And what he said is he teaches the Dhamma, not Buddhism.
    So I wonder if labeling Buddhism as a religion rather than a Dhamma practice might help in avoiding Buddhism becoming a power struggled religion like Christianity. Do you think by changing the way we call ourselves might make an impact?
    I guess it goes back to if we need refuge in the Buddha now since he’s gone. If Dhamma already implies ‘teachings of the Buddha’ – isn’t refuge in Buddha redundant then?
    We take the suttas and Agamas as being close to the ‘word of the Buddha’- we call that Dhamma, and have confidence in that.
    Are we then ‘Dhamma practitioners’ or ‘Buddhists’?

  10. Hey Dania,

    You know when i first started practising i felt really awkward around male and female monastics and certainly did a lot of awkward bowing etc..

    I still bow etc… but only if i want to. I feel more confident in myself and don’t feel that sense of awkwardness anymore.

    I don’t know if this is encouraged in other western monastaries but i certainly feel quite comfortable about all this at Bodhinyana.

    Also, I think when the Buddha referred to ‘learners’ he was referring to ‘stream enterers’.

    And while i can understand why one could see Buddhism as something other than ‘religion’…to me that is exactly what it is. The highest expression of what all religions generally strive to do at their best; that is to find truth and happiness.

    Much metta

  11. Why we pay any attention to this nonsense is beyond me. Perhaps because he’s so easy to refute? Some societies try to be more Buddhist than the Buddha. By shaving eyebrows? By limiting how women can make offerings to monks? By redefining “proper” sexual relations? All without any basis for their rigidity and prudishness in the Pali Canon. Prostitution, for example, is illegal in Sri Lanka, why? Never mind the shining example of Ambapali, the courtesan Buddha accepted a meal from, who refused to back down to the Licchavi princes, donated her mango grove to the Buddha, renounced the world and became an arahat. So much too for women’s inferiority … this author should really read her marvelous verses and contemplate his own aging body, perhaps.

  12. Thanks Linda

    It’s funny though isn’t it… Sometimes practise is all about challenging things…especially at the beginnings…the beginnings of becoming a serious practitioner, the beginnings of saying “no” to a habit, the beginnings of some times when we sit to meditate after a busy day…

    At other times it’s all about acceptance!! Especially in the middles of things!! Or the ends of things!!

    Anyway…that’s just a weird, probably erroneous observation that only highlights the fact that i need some sleep!!

    Much metta, ;)

  13. I know this has been mentioned before, but I’m reading the mahaparinibbana sutta (still at it…) and i just came to the point where the Buddha said that JUST after he had become awakened, Mara came to him to tell him to attain final nibbana, and he said not until his monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen are realized etc etc

    This completely makes those stories of the Buddha not wanting to ordain women and garudhammas rather inaccurate. Especially since this was his plan right from the beginning! If right at the start he planned to have an assembly of realized teaching nuns, then all those stories where the Buddha apparently said that the Dhamma will decline with having nuns and him not wanting to ordain his foster mother and garudhammas.

    I know it was mentioned many times, but it didn’t hit me as hard as reading it as part of the sutta now. It really makes the point now!

    By the way, anyone understand his explanations of the eight spheres of mastery and eight liberations? it’s totally puzzling me….

  14. This gentleman writes from a place of entitlement – so he can have no idea what the experience is for those who are subjugated due to an unequal power dynamic. However much it is justified by personal interpretation of scripture and tradition (both of which the Buddha encouraged against as guidelines for truth or an appropriate way to live.)

    This unfortunately is the real crux of these historic social, religious and political inequalities.Those in the positions of entitlement are completely clueless as to the impact for those who are disenfranchised.

    It is also the case that very often, perhaps always, maintaining a position of entitlement involves abuse.

  15. The Buddha taught to examine the teachings in light of all the other teachings he has given. So if one were to say “the buddha taught the garudhamas” then the Buddha is telling us to check whether this fits with the Dhamma and Vinaya, and if it doesn’t then it’s a mistake saying that the Buddha taught it.

    This bloke just picked and chose what he wanted from the teachings to fit his defilements and delusion, and ignored the Buddha’s main teachings.

    If one were to publicly write something about the Buddha’s teachings, then one has a big responsibility to first check one’s state of mind, and see if there are any unwholesome states of mind to make sure one doesn’t act or say or write anything with a mind imbued with unwholesome states, then to check with the rest of the teachings. So this guy is not being a responsible “Buddhist” by not even following the Eightfold Path properly (right speech & right effort).

    This is the teaching where the Buddha said if someone heard that the Buddha said something, don’t believe it! check it with the Dhamma!

    “Now if a monk should say that he has heard directly form the Blessed One, that he has learnt directly from him that such is the practice, such the discipline, such the Teacher’s instruction, then what this monk says should neither be accepted nor rejected. Without being accepted or rejected, his words and expressions should be learnt and then compared agains the Teaching and examined against the Discipline. If, when they are compared agains the Teaching and examined agains the Discipline, they do not in fact compare with the Teaching and do not bear examination the with Discipline, the the conclusion must be drawn that this is certainly not the word of the Blessed One but something the monk has mistakenly learn, in which case you should discard it. If , when they are compared against the Teaching and examined against the Discipline, they do in fact compare with the Teaching and bear examination with Discipline, then the conclusion must be drawn that this is certainly the word of the Blessed One and something the monk has correctly learnt” (mahaparinibbana sutta)

  16. Sometimes it’s good to see things from both angles. The good thing about it is that it can minimizes the possibility of ” throwing out the baby with the bathwater” , or eliminating aspects of the dhamma or vinaya that shouldn’t be thrown out. Then it would become incomplete. It is totally understandable that people are reluctant about making changes to anything in the Vinaya until concrete justification can be seen. In fact, it can be a necessary aspect of preserving the dhamma . So I wouldn’t scorn the other party for being cautious .
    It appears that the author of the article is not against bhikkhuni ordination . However when it comes to the garudhamma, it seems that many in Sri Lanka or elsewhere are not ready to let go of it. It is clear in the text that bhikkhunis are allowed to stay in their own monastery. For now, why not have bhikkhunis practice in separate monastery and bhikkhus continue with their practice as usual in their own monastery as before when there were no bhikkhunis. Even if the Garudhamma doesn’t exist, personally I still prefer that they practice separately. That also seems to be the set up of Bodhinyana and Dhamasara , where bhikkhus and bhikkhunis practice separately in their monasteries 30 minutes apart. What is important is that women have a conducive condition to develop mediation just as the men do when they go forth. Why not meet in the middle and work together to establish conducive conditions for women to practice the holy life.

  17. Hey-

    Registration starts today for the online course comparing Madhyama-āgama and Majjhima Nikaya.

    “The main purpose of the course is to introduce central themes of Buddhist thought from an historical-critical perspective through the comparative study of the early discourses. Extracts from the Madhyama-āgama preserved in Chinese will be made available in English translation to participants, so that these can be compared with their Pāli counterparts, which are mostly, but not exclusively, found in the Majjhima-nikāya. The course follows the order of the discourses in the Madhyama-āgama in order to give participants the opportunity to having a direct experience with this collection, which is not yet available in translation in any European language. The coverage of the first chapters of this collection during the summer 2011 course will alternate between brief surveys of some discourses and in-depth studies of other discourses (see below for the discourses selected for this term).”

    http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/index.php?id=126&L=1#c1640

    There is no limit to the number of ‘passive participants’

    course is mid april- mid july thursday evenings CEST
    so that means our friday 1:15am-2:45am!
    I guess this will be for those night owls..
    i don’t know if it will be streamed live or if it will be recorded so that we in Australia can listen to it in the morning?

  18. Thanks for your understanding response, Dania.

    Regarding your question about taking refuge in the Buddha, if the Dhamma is the teachings of the Buddha, we still need to interpret and apply them, right? We can look to the Sangha for help with this, but as you point out, you can’t totally rely on other people – they’re human, they make mistakes, they can’t always give you what you need at the time. So at some point, we need to take on this task of interpreting and practicing the teachings for ourselves. But we’re human too, so how do we know when we’re really understanding and following the Dhamma, and when we’re making mistakes or deluding ourselves? We’ve done our best to take refuge in the Dhamma and the Sangha, but it seems like there’s still something missing. This is where I think the practice of taking refuge in the Buddha comes in – that element of active faith in that part of ourselves and others that connects to the Buddha, as the living embodiment of enlightenment. You’ve said a few times that the Buddha is gone – I’m not so sure about that. I think and feel that in the experience of taking refuge as Bhante Brahmali described it, the Buddha is still alive. That might sound a bit mystical, but not everything can be understood rationally – reason itself teaches us that.

    So maybe we can be ‘Dhamma practitioners’ and ‘Buddhists’ and simply ‘human beings’ (with all the limitations and potential that expression implies), all at the same time.

  19. When I tried to explain to a man that beating his wife for every small mistake she committed is cruel, and bullying one’s wife is not manly. He irritatedly told me that domestic violences is a common practice in the area, “It’s not your problem!” (he tried to warn me off interfering into his household affairs). The next time visiting his family, i had to have a man who is physically much stronger then him accompany me. This man made it clear that he too, can beat the weaker man even harder than the way that man beat his wife! somewhat he got scared.
    When I tried to tell him that he should share home-chores with his wife who had been exhorted after heavy works on their field, then cooking & tending their little sons, and at night, she has to satisfying his carnal desire, … He plainly said its her duties, not his! this is traditional in their culture.
    Oh, poor women, this has been traditionalized in many Buddhist (and non-Buddhist) countries in Asia! They, these men and women need more positive education on how to be a good human being first, before they can marriage and have children. Unfortunately, most church and Temple goers are elderly women, where will these men go after this human life?

  20. Juzzeau…you’ve really put this so well…i can’t find the words to express the admiration i feel…

    There’s a little Buddhist saying that comes to mind: ‘One who see the Buddha sees the Dhamma and one who sees the Dhamma sees the Buddha.’ It’s from the Vakkali Sutta in the Samyutta Nikaya:

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.087x.wlsh.html

    And here’s a light-hearted talk by Ajahn Brahm on the same topic:

    http://audio.buddhistdoor.com/eng/play/1455

    My two cents:
    The Buddha is no longer a ‘person’ like us. He’s just the empty process and he knows it. He’s just the Dhamma itself:

    …just suffering, 4 noble truths, anicca and anatta, just Dependent Origination, just the 5 Khandas. He’s each factor of the 8 fold path – totally purified – and this includes Compassion which is part of the 2nd factor of the path… How can He be anything else? Surely there wouldn’t be much else left after the massive emptying out of Enlightenment.

    And related to this is also the statement that the 4 Jhanas are where you will see the footsteps of the Buddha. I think Ajahn Brahm said that this was stated by the Buddha himself in the Suttas. I also remember Ajahn Brahm saying something along the lines of…when you are in each stage of meditation, the Buddha’s been there too…you’re visiting places he’s visited.

    I think may you could even say you’re visiting Him…cos he was empty of self…and surely these states are increasingly empty of self.

    Metta

  21. Perhaps to a place where he is utterly exploited.

    Those who try and make their foolish ideas – that make abuse, sexism and misogyn – normal, don’t see… that they too are going to suffer because of the ideas they believe in their own minds… It certainly is his business, it’s certainly his kamma….

    Doesn’t he realise that the world he is making for her is the world he is making for himself (not just in the next life), for his children and for all those in his community?

    Oh what a sadly horribly common story…

    Makes me want to meditate.

  22. whoops

    I meant to say…

    I think MAYBE you could even say you’re visiting Him…cos he was empty of self…and surely these states are increasingly empty of self.

  23. When it comes to the Buddha, I have heard someone repeated several times a while back how the Buddha is not present physically, and therefore or he can’t guide a disciple on the Eightfold Path. If that is the person’s personal experience, then I respect that as his/her own experience. There is no point spending time to convince the person to believe. However, that is not to be taken as an established fact for everyone. At the most, it is the person’s own experience, because not everyone share that experience. Ajahn Chah for example, have a different experience than the person.

    The Buddha is considered the “Unsurpassed Trainer of Tamable People” (Anuttaro purisadammasarathi ) . Personally, I would say that is still the case before or presently. His guidance in the path to enlightenment is unlike any teachers I’ve ever learned from. Therefore, for me the Buddha refuge is indispensable .

  24. We live in an age where nations East West North South have agreed to a set of rights and principles and established legal systems that support equality and render illegal most practices that are discriminatory and harmful to other beings (such as the situations dear Ayya Dharma has described).

    The author of the article is sadly unaware of these rights and principles (even though the country he dwells in has likely passed legislation and signed interational treaties which establish these rights and principles as the highest standard of human aspiration).
    Sadly too, people around the world have various levels of ignorance in regards to them.

    Yet – it is rather wonderful to be living in an age where we do have a Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and to witness how women AND MEN East West North South have made use of these agreements – many at risk to their lives – to ensure these rights and freedoms are accessible – de facto, on the ground. These frameworks are there to ensure all human beings have the opportunity and the conditions to live a happy life. That we have access to justice, to resources and to decision-making processes that affect our lives. Aren’t we lucky to live in this time?

    I haven’t come to terms yet with the tendecy in Buddhism to shy away from the language of rights – and equality. The “rights” treaties are there as a framework – they enable a structure to be established in national systems and present a measure of peer pressure and support for governments and people to – at least formally – adhere to the principle “do no harm”. They are like the Eightfold Path and the Vinaya combined. And elaborated and translated for modern life.

    Gender equality – misunderstood by the author, (who has made the mistake of not looking up the term he is critiquing) as Bhante points out – does not mean “sameness”. The concept of gender equality points specifically towards the differences between men and women – and how different conditions require different responses, policies, measures and even different budgets for different things – in order to ensure the one does not lead a rich, full and happy life at the expense of the other- neither individually nor on a massive scale.

    The needs of a being that spends several years of her impoverished life pregnant and has a very high chance – even today of dying in childbirth (or botched abortions because i) birth control ii) “saying no” and iii) safe abortions – are forbidden on pain of imprisonment or a savage beating)- and is assigned the primary reproductive role of caring for these children – this typically involves walking miles to gather wood for fuel, collect water for cooking, rise at 4 am every day to start cooking feeding children, husband – serving her parents and catering to her in-laws…going to work in the fields, running a small business to compensate for dire poverty etc — this being has different needs from the male being. Needs arising from these conditions are for things like food security accessible health care and affordable generic drugs -because her primary role is to care for the family and the burden of the care economy falls directly on her shoulders.

    Whereas the male form will be more concerned about things that fall into his primary responsibilities as seen by the society he is living in – which tends to be the productive role – the man is expected to be the main breadwinner (the reality of who is the main breadwinner male or female is irrelevant at this point) If a man sees himself or others see him as failing in his primary role as breadwinner – it tends to be emasculating and have devastating consequences on the man and that plays out in society- ll the way to policy decisions made by governments. For example, most budgets following the economic downturns – initially – were geared towards creating jobs for men. (forgetting that most families have both parents working – not because of any “modern” values but because of economic necessity; and forgetting that ca 30% of households worldwide are headed by women- raising children with no male present)

    What is important to understand is that men and women have different conditions and on that basis they have different needs. Gender equality first recognizes that there is diversity but that every human being has the right to have their basic needs met and to live a free and full (economic, social, political and spiritual) life without discrimination. There are times when policies and progress in societies achieve this objective with a high degree of success(Scandinavia late 20th Century early 21st). There may never be perfect equality, but enormous achievements have been made in several spheres in our lifetimes. It has been demonstrated that societies that have less discrimination are more prosperous, less corrupt and more peaceful. (And heaps of research has demonstrated that diversity – in the fullest sense – race, regligion, male female, age, experience etc. in the workplace is good for the bottom line.)

    In the Buddhist world, the torch is well held by Thich Nhat Hanh, who, although he does not refer to equality, has made non-discrimination quite central to his teachings. (A small way monastics can help to dissolve discrimination is through their use of language. Thay does this beautifully, one example is his ability to bridge Christian and Buddhist language in his teachings which brings in Christian teachings seamlessly and “new converts” do not feel their new practice is in opposition to what they brought to the community but builds on it – Thay also refers regularly in his teachings to “women” to “she” and “her” and “sisters” and “nuns” and the Therigata and to women such as Yashodhara (who in Thay’s narrative was not abandoned but actually gave her husband permission to leave the palace).

    It is amazing how the word (s) we choose can so profoundly affect and steer debates- and movements. The word “equality” seems to arrest people, men and women alike. People seem to get stuck on it. If I were to choose, I would choose as Thay has chosen. Focus generally on non-discrimination, because this can be so easily related to the Buddha’s teachings and people seem to relate to it more easily.

    Discrimination begins with the delusion of self and the separation of self and other. But the practitioner must also understand that the intention of non-discrimination is not enough because for most of us it is still rooted in delusion. Gender equality goes further than non-discrimination – by looking at the result of the effort – were we successful in our attempts to not discriminate? Has it resulted in all boys and girls going to school or has it resulted in 90% of boys going to school and 90% of girls getting pulled out of school to help raise their siblings? (or vice versa?)

    Has our practice of non-discrimination resulted in a healthy Fourfold Sangha or has the Fourfold Sangha become a Fourfold Sangha of thousands of glittering monks’ monasteries and but a handful of impoverished nuns monasteries? That is why we speak about equality – because it isn’t enough to say we won’t discriminate. The result – the end result – the fruit of non-discrimination must be – equality.

    Last thought in a long post – somewhere in the dialogue each “side” must reflect on how our view or actions affect other people’s hearts.

    _/\_

  25. It’s interesting how to understand refuge in the Buddha since as is pointed out, we all have a different appreciation of what the Buddha is. I just remembered hearing a sutta yesterday where Buddha said that whoever sees dependent origination sees the Buddha
    - and then I remember that the four jhanas are the footprints of the Buddha
    - so in those cases, the Buddha is something more conceptual rather than a historical figure or actual person.

    Even if one were to live at the time of the Buddha and be next to him- an arahat (including a Buddha) is just ‘suffering arising suffering ceasing’ as the arahat bhikkhuni pointed out- there is no being in the Buddha- just heaps of conditions that one day vanish. There is noone there.
    Even Ajahn Chah said ‘there is no Ajahn Chah’

    So even then what is the Buddha? One can be right next to the Buddha but one sees and perceives him based on one’s own conditioned concepts. To actually know what a Buddha is- we must just practice the Eightfold Path and realize nibbana for ourselves, then we know what the Buddha is.

    so in the meantime- i guess our understanding of the refuges is whatever is useful to us to help us along the path. Whatever understanding we have that allows peace, relinquishment to grow in our minds.
    As the Buddha said to Upali- we know what the Dhamma is if it leads to peace, dispassion, fading away, relinquishment, and several other qualities which i forget now :)

    So who’s right, who’s wrong? An understanding of the 3 refuges is right for a person if it brings peace, renouncement, fading away etc etc :) if an understanding brings one closer to nibbana :o)

  26. Hi Dania,

    The aspects you mentioned is true. I just mentioned that Ajahn Chah indicated to disciples that the Buddha guided him when he practiced the wrong way to show that it is not everyone’s experience that the Buddha can’t guide a person on the path any longer. It might be the experience of the person, but shouldn’t be taken as a fact that everyone have to accept. I previously came across someone that insists everyone to accept his/ her experience (of not receiving guidance from the Buddha on the path) as a fact of life.

  27. Hey Dania

    An old post of mine that is being ‘moderated’ and so hasn’t come through yet was pretty much saying this too!!

    I’ve noticed that the a clarification/reply i posted to this old post did come through…it looks a tad lonely and strange without it’s parent post!
    :)

  28. Dear Bhante and other readers of this blog,

    I’ve been feeling some ‘restlessness and remorse’ about the comments I made above, regarding lay people and monastics. Although Dania was kind and discriminating enough to appreciate the couple of good bricks in this post, I now think there were a lot more wonky ones (so to speak). In particular, I’m concerned that my remarks were disrespectful both to monastics and the lay people who support them. I’m really sorry about this and regret any offence I may have caused. On reflection, I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about this relationship in terms of domination, or to compare it to race relations, and I was also doing a disservice to “Australian eyes” in suggesting that this is how Australians would typically see it, especially any who have spent any time at Santi.

    So please accept my apologies, and reverential salutations to you, Bhante and the other monastics at Santi. It is an amazing, difficult and beautiful thing that you are doing, and I am full of respect and admiration for it.

  29. Dear Juzzeau

    Thanks so much of displaying such softness…

    May i just say that I don’t think you have any reason to apologize.

    There was absolutely nothing wrong with what you said. It’s the sort of thing that we need reminders about so that if we have gone that way, we can stop and if we haven’t gone that way, we can guard against it.

    I know of monastarys where the sort of thing you are talking about has happened in the past.

    No…please don’t apologise for what you said. Each of us as individuals have a responsibility to at least try and ensure that this never happens at whatever monastary we attend; i think the best way we can do this is by having a healthy respect for ourselves and our ability to actualise/internalise the Triple Gem.

    I can say this with my head (and heart) held high because i have such a deep love and joy for the Sangha and respect their renunciation so much. They are the ‘official’ ‘professionals’ of this faith and those of them who treat lay people with goodwill (and not as if they haven’t got a hope) are up there in terms of showing everyone how to behave well.

    Juzzeau, may i respectfully suggest that you hold your head/heart up high in terms of all the comments you’ve made. You had the courage and honesty and perhaps even foresight to highlight a potential danger. Sometimes there’s no easy way to say something that might feel difficult to say.

    I have a friend who didn’t report instances of emotional/verbal abuse until many years after the fact because she found what she had to say to be too shocking. And when she detailed for me the exact nature of the events, it was indeed shocking for me to hear. Eventually others came out of the woodwork – reluctantly – and said that they too had suffered in similar ways. This speaking out gave those who were doing the wrong thing the chance to be humble/honest and to change and grow in honesty and kindness. I hope that chance is take because the alternative is defensiveness, ill will and stagnation.

    The comments you’ve made serve as warnings to us all (laypeople and monastics).

    Metta :)

  30. Lisa Karuna :

    For example, most budgets following the economic downturns – initially – were geared towards creating jobs for men. (forgetting that most families have both parents working – not because of any “modern” values but because of economic necessity; and forgetting that ca 30% of households worldwide are headed by women- raising children with no male present)
    …What is important to understand is that men and women have different conditions and on that basis they have different needs. Gender equality first recognizes that there is diversity but that every human being has the right to have their basic needs met and to live a free and full (economic, social, political and spiritual) life without discrimination. There are times when policies and progress in societies achieve this objective with a high degree of success(Scandinavia late 20th Century early 21st). There may never be perfect equality, but enormous achievements have been made in several spheres in our lifetimes. It has been demonstrated that societies that have less discrimination are more prosperous, less corrupt and more peaceful. (And heaps of research has demonstrated that diversity – in the fullest sense – race, regligion, male female, age, experience etc. in the workplace is good for the bottom line.)
    … But the practitioner must also understand that the intention of non-discrimination is not enough because for most of us it is still rooted in delusion. Gender equality goes further than non-discrimination – by looking at the result of the effort – were we successful in our attempts to not discriminate? Has it resulted in all boys and girls going to school or has it resulted in 90% of boys going to school and 90% of girls getting pulled out of school to help raise their siblings? (or vice versa?)
    Has our practice of non-discrimination resulted in a healthy Fourfold Sangha or has the Fourfold Sangha become a Fourfold Sangha of thousands of glittering monks’ monasteries and but a handful of impoverished nuns monasteries? That is why we speak about equality – because it isn’t enough to say we won’t discriminate. The result – the end result – the fruit of non-discrimination must be – equality.
    Last thought in a long post – somewhere in the dialogue each “side” must reflect on how our view or actions affect other people’s hearts.
    _/\_

    Brilliant Lisa.

  31. Dear Juzzeau,

    I support your comments and Kanchana’s response.

    The Wat or the temple must be a place of safety and tranquility in order to be conducive to meditation. But there can also be a “safe space” and a new “culture” created for spiritual growth beyond meditation practice.
    The question of lay-monastic relationship dynamics is certainly central to this.

    There can be a degree of blind deference in the student teacher / lay-monastic relationships – and it may be more prevalent in some cultures than others. It may be more vigourously defended when people from “high-context”(more formal) cultures find themselves practicing in more “low-context” (casual) cultures. I don’t think this is an offensive notion but a reality that makes Western Buddhist communities the immensely challenging and fertile places for spiritual growth that they are.

    In a less multicultural environment, there may be a strong culture of deference to monastics for other reasons. Communites will have their own “cultures” as well and sometimes these run deeper than other cultures that we understand ad “racial” or “national”.

    It is good and wholesome to reflect on this and the causes and conditions. The Buddha did not ask us to have blind faith and because of our wholesome intention to contribute to a conscious and skillful community – we explore these things.

    We also have the good intention of wanting to be inclusive of our fellow practitioners – embrace the diversity – embrace each other while at the same time commit ourselves to a Sangha that asks us to mature – to grow up – to take responsibility – to speak out against injustice – corruption – inequality – yet within a “space” that promises harmony. A tall order!

    Balancing out diverse cultural leanings – yet creating a space that is engaging, respectful, calls us to grow in our understanding of things – I feel demands us to step out of our deep cultural lenses- and I also feel it demands us to step out of deferential mode.

    If we are always bowing and smiling and leaning towards the respectful line – we won’t make mistakes that we can learn from, we won’t embarass ourselves, we won’t challenge the boundaries of relationships – we won’t challenge the sameness and the differences between cultures and thereby expand each others’ views – we stay in a protective bubble that isn’t real and isn’t growth.

    The community is a living, breathing body, of which you are a part and I am a part, each of us makes it what it is. Each of us has the choice to look at our Sangha and ask, what we can offer to make it a more healthy, vibrant place for spiritual growth, or ask, whether the Sangha we are with is conducive to our own spiritual growth. Laypeople should feel empowered to do this an understand that our views may change along the way and that we will make mistakes, just as monastics will.

    It is my hope that in our discussions that we allow the space for people to make mistakes – I am not suggesting that you have – but your moment of conscious reflection allows us to raise this for discussion. Can it be a principle or a guideline for our discussions? There is a lot to make sense of in this world and in community life and the Sangha body is there to give each of us support – we help establish each other in right view, expand our views and deepen our understanding.

    Like the gentleman who wrote this article.

    I am sure, under the right conditions, if we held a space for him, we could offer opportunities for him to expand his awareness and deepen his understanding.

    If the culture of deference becomes the dominant culture, at the expense of investigation, growth, honesty then it can’t be right (in the long run).

    _/\_

  32. Dear Juzzeau, no need to feel ‘remorse’ since this blog is precisely to talk about issues in Buddhism so it’s good to point out the dangers that could happen if we go in a certain direction. It’s like informing our mindfulness, like Kancana said, to guard ourselves to prevent going in that direction if we see it happening, and if we are not going that way, to make sure we don’t! Besides, the Buddha definitely didn’t want any hierarchy and the reality is that in certain places we have a christian type of Buddhism :) and we have to make sure that this doesn’t spread:) We aren’t talking about any monasteries in particular, i don’t have one in mind either when i speak – but it’s a general rule of thumb and preventative measures which we are talking about.
    It’s great that the people are courageous to talk about real subjects and not afraid to discuss this – that is beautiful :)
    Kancana is right, you have the courage to express a warning to us, which is according to Dhamma, what the Buddha would have liked to hear! So don’t be afraid, since hiding behind fear is worse then being open and respectful to the truth.
    AB gave a great talk a few weeks ago, someone asked at the Q&A that their friend thinks it’s not respectful to ask questions, and he replied that it’s not respectful to not ask questions! That we should respect TRUTH more than any ritual or supposed hierarchy. He also warned us and asked us to not treat monastics like royalty! (i remember that since i laughed inside:) but i think he also sees the dangers in what we have been discussing about the danger of power and hierarchy and it’s something we definitely have to look out for and avoid at all cost! :) Remember one of the Buddha’s last words before he died- he said we have the Dhamma- that is our refuge:)
    So please, at the time you didn’t have an intention to offend, but you spoke out of respect for the Dhamma and respect for the future of Buddhism- so it’s just a hindrance being remorseful after the fact:) guilt and fear are hindrances ;)

  33. Dear Kanchana, Lisa and Dania,

    Thanks so much for your responses to my apology – not what I was expecting! I really appreciate what each of you have written.

    It’s true that when I wrote the original post, I had no intention to cause offence, and felt happy about what I had written. It was only later that I began to feel uneasy about how it might be taken and became worried that I was pursuing a logically sound argument at the expense of showing sensitivity to the feelings of people who are struggling to establish a monastic order in a culture that by and large does not appreciate the value of what they are doing. I don’t know if these worries were well-founded or not.

    In any case, I agree with what you have all said about the dangers of relations between monastics and lay people becoming warped by practices of blind deference, or forms of ‘respect’ that are not true respect at all, but empty ritual at best and signs of intimidation or insecurity, or even a kind of defeated or fearful resignation to an abusive situation, at worse. It is true that these negative possibilities need to be recognised and resisted or abandoned, within our communities and within ourselves. Even if it may not always be recognised by the other person, sometimes challenging or questioning someone if you think they are falling into error can be the most meaningful way to show your real respect and care for them, and for the community as a whole. Actually, I think this is what the three of you have just done for me.

    This discussion has prompted me to think about my understanding and practice of respect, which I realise has been a bit confused. After posting the apology, I immediately had one regret, which was that I had directed my ‘reverential salutations’ (I was thinking of ‘anjalikaraniyo’ – ‘worthy of reverential salutations’ in the recollection of the sangha chant) only to the monastics at Santi. I felt I should have directed them to everyone in the community, including the anagarikas and lay supporters. Indeed there are a few long-term lay supporters/members of the Santi community who are some of the most consistent and inspiring Buddhist practitioners I have met. Without them, I know that many of the women who come to Santi to seek ordination would not feel able to continue in the face of the many challenges that this path of practice throws up. Such people never demand any recognition, and there are no formal practices to pay respect to them, so it is easy to forget to show them the appreciation and respect they merit. I hope I do not forget again!

  34. Strange article. I watched a program last night where they interviewed a 15 year old Afghan girl who had set herself on fire from desperation after being married off at the age of 12 and subsequently tortured by her new family. Wonder what the author would make of that ‘male dominated society’. Wonder what the Buddha would have made of it.

    I’m sure two and a half thousand years ago society wasn’t much different yet the Buddha ordained women to become nuns. Taking straight from the source, that’s all I need to know what he thought about the gender difference.

  35. Dear Kanchana,
    You are hired as my Editor! :-) I need one. Sticky keys, teeny tiny notebook screen and over-40-chronic-pain-ramblebrain! (Excuses, all of it, really!) Kanchana, you write beautifully and have summarized beautifully. A heartfelt thank you!
    _/\_

  36. Whoops posted this in the wrong place…will re-post…maybe i shouldn’t be your editor! ;)


    :) Thank you Lisa, it’s really very kind of you to say that. :)

  37. I wrote this story to tell you that “Men and women are not equal” in many places in this world. Our tasks are making these more even, not by revenge, but by realistic helps through education. The Buddha said, among all miracles he knew, the most worthy one is the miracle of education.

  38. Ayya you appear to be right there in the most ‘not equal’ places; doing the educating in very challenging circumstances. I wish you all the very best of good fortune in this. Thank you for doing what you are doing.

    Much metta

  39. When people talk about masculine and feminine, what do they usually mean? I found this silent video of Sarah Palin fascinating because it was made just after the Giffords shooting and still it is, obviously, all about S. Palin. She is incapable of compassion — there is no empathy there at all. To me this is a “liberal/conservative” divide, not a male/female one. And isn’t that often the case?

    http://www.bagnewsnotes.com/2011/01/palins-tucson-rebuttal-with-the-sound-off-how-dare-you/

    “Regardless how hard she tries to come off as reasoned — and she made a pretty fair attempt at it today, reading off the teleprompter you see reflected in her glasses — Sarah Palin can’t help but function in that very narrow emotional register alternating between greater or lesser shades of exasperation, offendedness, self-righteousness or anger. The give-away — if you watch her in general, or if you watched her Tucson rebuttal video today with the sound off, as I did, several times — is the strain in her neck and that tight pursing of the lips (or the look of “just sayin’) she defaults to in pausing before the next volley. (I like that self-righteous frame the best where she’s pulled herself so high, there’s no oxygen left to inhale.)

    If you have the chance to go through the video yourself, by the way, I’d be interested in any frame you can find that captures the kind of emotion the shooting of Rep. Giffords would naturally elicit right now, including sadness, compassion, and — given even the shared responsibility for an over-heated political atmosphere — regret.” Bagnewsnotes — photo journalism.

  40. Here’s a chance to listen to Sri Lankan women talking about relationships in their own country and the norms and laws that operate.

    Sharya Scharenguivel, Professor of Law at Colombo University, Novelist Karen Roberts and Ranjini Obeyesekere, a scholar of Buddhist literature can be heard discussing gender and relationships in Sri Lankan society. This is from the Galle Literary Festival where the BBC’s ‘The Forum’ hosted two sessions.

    It should be uploaded to the BBC’s website today. I’m looking forward to having a listen.

    Here’s the brief write up about the event (from this website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/worldagenda/2011/02/110210_worldagenda_forum_sri_lanka.shtml) by ‘The Forum’s’ Executive Producer Emily Kasriel:

    “The audience was predominantly female, and packed to the brim, eager to throw their experiences and opinions into the mix.

    It was really fascinating to see how the life choices and conflicting emotions felt by Buddha’s wife more than 2,500 years ago, continue to resonate today.

    And at the end the programme our guests returned to the wife of Buddha, no longer merely abandoned, but now empowered as her own spiritual leader. The audience couldn’t get enough of it.”

    Here’s the website:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00dx334

  41. Dear Kanchana,
    Looks rich and potentially enriching!
    Especially curious about the work of Ranjini Obeyesekere, “a scholar of Buddhist literature, traces a legendary relationship that has inspired both poets and monks for centuries. She has spent many years studying and translating writings about Yasodhara, the Buddha’s wife.”
    Pan Nalin was suposed to be embarking on a film about the Buddha’s life from Yasodhara’s perspective but the film has not materialized as yet! I digress from the main topic of the thread but hope this is of interest.
    _/\_

  42. Thanks Terrance, that is fascinating!
    If I am not mistaken Bhante has also raised this in at least one of his wonderful books and posts- that some of the characters who have made it into the Buddhist “narratives” may in fact not have been real historical persons.
    I reckon – but I do not know for sure that Pan Nalin’s film would speak to both historical and mythical aspects of the narratives around Siddharta Buddha’s life (may I call him that?).
    I also find this fascinating because it allows for the narrative to be told in a way that is more gracious – namely that the Buddha and Yasodhara came to the decision together – Yasodhara coming to terms, ecouraging her husband and later attaining Nibbana befre the Buddha. This is how Thay tells it (I believe but must check again in Old Path White Clouds) and I find that narrative much healthier for all of us (and it is not a completey far fetched notion for Yasodhara to have wished to enter the holy life at that time given that Jain women were ordaining – the ascetic life for a woman was an idea and a possibility that would not have been completely foreign to her)
    Thanks for sharing the link, which I will gladly take a look at. I hope also to explore some of the scholarship of Ranjini Obeyesekere.
    _/\_

  43. Ooops- I made a bit of an inference there. Namely- that because someone was not named in the Suttas – that they did not exist! Sorry! I have read too much into what you said – and I have transgressed one of my major life learnigs! That plenty of people existed and even did great things but did not make the annals of history – nor religious texts – not the least of all WOMEN!
    I recently developed a training module on intellectual property for exporters – women running businesses in Africa and exporting – I began the module by highlighting some of the major inventions that were made by women – but claimed by men – because women were not consiered persons – so in the major historical sources – the men were said to have made these inventions- while in fact they had nothing to do with them – their wives or daughters did but had no legal right to “own” property – including things like patents. (This is relevant in many developing countries where women cannt own or inherit property – either by law or by custom) The stories of these great female scientists and innovators are only known by the grace of modern curiosity and careful research.
    _/\_

  44. A movie about the Buddha’s life that I am interested in seeing is one from Ananda and the Buddha’s perspective. Most of the events and teachings in the suttas are from Ananda.

    Many of us are familiar with the part of the story where the Buddha left home to practice for 6 years. During that time his wife was well tended and provided for. However, she would not feel any better than he does during his period of practice.

    The part that many are not familiar with is that she also took up the holy life later. It appeared that she was also known as Bhaddakaccānā Theri in the sangha. Rahula often came to see her when they were living in Jetavana. She developed insight and became an arahant. The Buddha mentioned that Bhaddakaccana was the Chief among nuns in Great Knowledge (“mahabhinnappattanam yadidam bhaddakaccana”, Abhinna: possessed of knowledge, Patta: reached, attained ).Just before her death, at the age of seventy-eight, she took leave of the Buddha and performed various miracles.

    During the years living as an Arahant, we can see that she is likely to be among the happiest people as dukkha was brought to an end through practicing the path that he taught. I can’t imagine her holding grudge towards the Buddha for his period of absence to struggle for enlightenment. The gift he brought back to mother and son after six years of struggle and practice was priceless.

    From the outside we can see how they would missed his presence during his struggle for enlightenment. But what we don’t often see is how happy they were to enjoy the fruit of his struggle. In fact, Rahula was very proud of father. He felt that he was twice blessed in being the son of the Buddha and was himself and Arahant at the age of 20. Rāhula was known to his companions as Rāhula the Fortunate (Rāhulabhadda ). This can be seen in the Rahula’s verse in the Theragatha:

    “In both ways consummate,
    I’m known as Rahula the Fortunate:
    because I’m the son of the Buddha,
    because I’ve the eye that sees Dhammas, because my fermentations are ended, because I’ve no further becoming.
    I’m deserving of offerings,
    a worthy one a three-knowledge man ( Knowledge of past lives, of the passing away reappearance of living beings, and knowledge of the ending of defilements)
    with sight of the Deathless.
    Those blinded by sensuality covered by the net,
    veiled by the veil of craving,
    bound by the Kinsman of the heedless,
    are like fish in the mouth of a trap.
    Throwing that sensuality aside,
    cutting through Mara’s bond,
    pulling out craving, root & all,
    cooled am I, Unbound. ” -Thag. vs. 295f

    Still, some would think that the Buddha should have stayed at home with them and not be absent for six years to struggle for enlightenment at all. And that he should just become a king as he did before in other past lives. Such as the life as King Mahasudassana mentioned in DN 17 and others. Some might think that would be better for his wife and son ( as well as himself and others), or at least that is what his wife and son would want ( for him to not be absent for six years of their lives). But if we look closely at the story of his wife and son, that ( he not become a Buddha) is not what they themselves might want :

    In the time of Dipankara Buddha, when the future Buddha was born as Sumedha, Rahula’s mother was a maiden by the name Sumitta . Sumitta over heard Dipankara Buddha’s definite prophecy given to Sumedha to be the Gotama Buddha at some future time. She then aspired to be the wife of a Buddha. Since her first aspiration to be the wife of a Buddha, she had been his companion throughout many lifetime looking forward to his Awakening as a Buddha .

    About his son, when the Buddha’s son Rahula turned twenty, he received the upasampada ordination and became a fully ordained bhikkhu. The Buddha perceived that he was ripe for Awakening and went together with Rahula to the Blind Men’s Grove . At that time innumerable devas followed the Buddha, saying today venerable Rahula will be further advised for the destruction of the taints. During the time of Padumuttara Buddha, these devas had made their aspiration for enlightenment along with Rahula when he made his aspiration to become an Arahant as the son of the Buddha. Since then, they had been reborn in various heavenly worlds but on this particular day they all assembled together to witness the fulfillment of Rahula’s former aspiration.

    From the outside, we can only see how they missed him during his absence to struggle for enlightenment for 6 years. But what we often fail to see is their happiness of Nirvana when they get to enjoy the fruit of his struggle as fully Enlightened Beings themselves. Also we assume that we know what is better for the two or what they want ( that the Buddha should not have left to become a Buddha) .

    Besides, when it comes to ourselves if we are given the choice between being away from a father or husband for six years or so and become enlightened afterward or to not be apart even for a few years and the whole family just live and die as usual. Which is a better option? Which option would we choose ?

    Some of us might not mind being away for a few years and get to enjoy Nirvana ,or even just better living condition. There are cases where a husband has to go oversea ( let’s say from Lao to USA ) for 6-8 years for an education or to get a degree in law or medicine. Some might tell him to stay at home with his wife and not be away . However, considering how it could contribute to her comfort in the long run for the rest of their lives, it might not be a bad idea for him to study oversea. Would we blame him for the rest of his life when he came back from oversea with a degree to support his wife and children pleasantly. Would his wife and children hold a grudge against him for the few years he was away studying? If his wife and children are enjoying the fruit of his education and his gifts then why can’t we . We should look at the full picture rather than fixating on one particular part of their life story. Otherwise, we are not seeing things as they are but only look at the negative side of things. This is not being realistic , but rather leans toward the side of pessimistic.
    Similarly, when it comes to the the Buddha’s family, it is a good idea to see the full story, before enlightenment their enlightenment, the period during his practice, the whole family’s experience after their enlightenment, rather than fixate on a certain years and totally leave out other parts of their lives.

  45. Hi iMeditation. Do you see this all as historical fact? I had seen the life story as more mythic/symbolic.

  46. Dear Peter,

    The above is a closer look into the story of the Buddha’s wife and son. When it comes to whether it is meant to be historical or symbolic , that is up to each of us to decide.

    About the Buddha in particular, there is a BBC documentary that discussed various archeological findings on the subject. Maybe you have seen it. : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZQ9OZ_JACA

  47. Hi again,
    I was interested if you personally see it as historical fact but if you would prefer to remain silent on that fair enough.

    I feel that if we don’t see the whole story as a “fact” we are at a bit of an advantage because then there is less of a need to justify a position (for example the leaving of his wife and young son).

    I had thought that in what are considered early sources the Buddha was only portrayed as a mendicant possibly from a wealthy or privileged back ground and the full life story was a later elaboration (please correct me if I am wrong here).

    I look forward to watching the documentary when I have a quiet moment. Thanks for the link.

    Best wishes

  48. I think it is necessary to look at Buddhism as factual with some contamination accumulated across the ages – if we are to get anywhere with our practice.

    So, no flying horse, no sneaking off while everyone was sleeping, no one last look at sleeping wife and son, no devas opening the gates. (I want a refund on my movie ticket !)

    The fact according to MN26:

    “So, at a later time, while still young, a black-haired young man endowed with the blessings of youth in the first stage of life — and while my parents, unwilling, were crying with tears streaming down their faces — I shaved off my hair & beard, put on the ochre robe and went forth from the home life into homelessness.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.026.than.html

  49. Dear Peter,

    You are welcome, I hope you enjoy it.

    Whether someone one sees the story as a fact or myth, it shouldn’t effect the practice. Therefore, it is not a big deal if a person believe or not. You may have noticed that the path is about practicing and applying the teaching rather than believing in something or not believing in something. It has more to do with seeing that these identities are temporary and not self rather than clinging to it.

    When it comes to just discussing the story, then wouldn’t we want to discuss the whole story ( whether fact or myth). About the story of the Buddha being away from his wife during the struggle to find the path to enlightenment, it is not the case that she has to go to work or do house chores at home. Everything was pretty much taken care of. He just wasn’t available to meet her emotional needs during his practice. I believe he made up for it when making it possible for her to experience the highest happiness of Nirvana, happiness that is more stable , and not dependent on external factors . If we complain about his absence during the practice, then we should also complain about her life as a fully enlightened being because of his practice. There are often two sides to everything, pros and cons. Can we always have the best of both worlds. If he had stayed home with his wife and enjoy himself , would he be able to give the gift of dhamma to countless people and his family.
    If we weigh the pros and cons, would you choose to spend some years away to practice or not leave home at all. Would he benefit her more in the long run by not leaving her side for even a day or to embark on his practice.

    I wonder how many people think that it is a better decision to follow traditional custom and start leaving home at around 50 or older.

    However, the Buddha mentioned that the best time to apply effort is when the body and mind is healthy.

    About the details of his worldly life, I believe there were various rulers in the area back then. There were Kosala, Sakya, Malla, Koliya, Magadha, Vaji, and various others. Magadha and Kosala were monarchies. Sakya, Vaji , Malla, etc..were Republics. At some point Sakya (Republic) became part of Kosala ( monarchy), the one ruling over the Sakyans was the Buddha’s father. They still pretty much do their things separately. The king of Kosala and Magadha were lay disciples of the Buddha.

    Metta,

  50. Regardless of the factual accuracy of the story…

    It may well have had consequences for real relationships…both in the Buddha’s time and now… Just in terms of those brave men and women who have and do leave their families in order to go forth…

    A story doesn’t have to be real to affect history or present times. It’s themes and characters just have to resonate deeply enough with us.

  51. I had the chance to listen in…

    The time limit allocated for this programme was clearly not enough!! This was obviously the tip of the iceberg. Nevertheless it was wonderful to hear some of the different views on the topic of gender relations, love and marriage in Sri Lankan society.

    Importantly, in light of Bhante’s original post in this thread, were the comments by Sharya Scharenguivel (Professor of Law at Colombo University) at the beginning of the show.

    Briefly, she pointed out that the various traditional laws and customs of Sri Lanka were much more equitable in terms of gender!!!!

    Also ‘marriage’ was not a legal/religious concept/practise. There was no such thing as a dowry in terms of it being a ‘bride price’. Any gifts given were for the daughter and if she left her husband she would take this property with her. And she could indeed leave her husband if she wasn’t happy and return to her family of origin. Also traditional relationships recognised the economic and non-economic contributions of partners.

    Legally (and it would seem culturally) much of the inequality within modern day Sri Lanka marriages are because of colonial inheritances passed on through Roman-Dutch laws and English common law. For instance, it’s through Roman-Dutch laws that the husband is seen as the main decision maker (so much for the somewhat, in my opinion, silly views of the person who wrote the somewhat, in my opinion, silly article which is referred to above) and it is through these same colonial laws that he is seen as the natural guardian of children.

    The apparent conservatism of Sri Lankan gender relations may literally have it’s roots in the Victorian era! Interestingly these – according to the panel – have become internalised by the society and culture in SL. They also pointed out that there had been numerous committees, studies and reports on these matters but nothing seems to come of them. The laws still supports the stupidity of another time, place and value system and it would seem that the culture stopped questioning this a long time ago.

    On a personal note, my paternal grandmother never changed here name when she got married. Apparently the whole thing about changing one’s name is another colonial inheritance. One of the reasons i did is because it’s easier to spell and pronounce…(!!!!)…so nice to have had the choice.

  52. Dear iMeditation,
    Sincere appreciation for your detailed and insightful contribution, as usual. _/\_
    Fact or fiction aside, as you suggest, these narratves do influence us, often the narratives can be narrow, losing some of their potential and purpose -to inspire our faith and urge us to go beyond our worldly attachments.
    Something for me to consider in my own conflict between caring for my parents as they pass through old age and death vs. making a deeper commitment to the Holy Life which could take me far away and make it impossible to do so.
    What I am seeing in your narrative is faith inspiring rather than a shallow – and narrowing- husband abandons wife story – it provides the promise of faith in the Dhamma.
    _/\_

  53. Dear Kanchana,
    Thanks for sharing on the talks. Not suprised about the colonial imposition of unfavourable laws – it is a common thread in many parts of the world (not to say that things were perfect before, but there is ample evidence that they made things worse for women in the Middle East, Africa, South and Southeast Asia). It reminds me of King Mongkut’s borrowing from the Vatican on order to ban Bhikkhunis in Thailand, something Bhante refers to in his book on Bhikkhuni Vinaya.
    _/\_

  54. “A story doesn’t have to be real to affect history or present times. It’s themes and characters just have to resonate deeply enough with us.” Yes but I think that it is a good idea not to get a legend confused with a historical fact.

    Using a legend to help one understand and reflect I would see as a positive. But using a legend to justify a position with the view that the legend was an historical fact or inspired by the divine I would see as possibly immoral.

  55. “Whether someone one sees the story as a fact or myth, it shouldn’t effect the practice. Therefore, it is not a big deal if a person believe or not. You may have noticed that the path is about practicing and applying the teaching rather than believing in something or not believing in something. It has more to do with seeing that these identities are temporary and not self rather than clinging to it.” Yes I agree with this 90% but I personally feel the story has more value as a mythical account of the Buddha’s early life and search rather than as a historical account.

  56. Well perhaps not immoral (unless it was used to justify cruelty) but perhaps it could lead to lesser expressions of stupidity/delusion.

    I agree, it’s very important not to get historical fact confused with legend. We are, as Buddhists, seekers of facts/truth. But as you say, legends/stories have their place; i think they’re useful as a strategy for both teaching and learning; and as Buddhists we are both teachers and learners, not just to others and with others, but to ourselves.

    Metta, k

  57. Dear Lisa,

    Your situation reminded me of a lay Non Returner in MN 81. He couldn’t ordain because his parents were aged and blind . But he tried to practice what he can from home with the instruction from Kassapa Buddha and it didn’t turn out too bad .

    _/||\_

  58. Dear Peter,

    Now if we don’t want to discuss the commentaries whatsoever or want to assume the commentaries to be a myth and just want to refer to the suttas, then there is not much to talk about. The sutta is mainly concern about the dhamma , the path of Awakening set in motion by the Buddha as a result of his 6 years practice rather than stories about the Buddha’s transient worldly identity. The path itself is about letting go of identification, not just with worldly role and social status such as caste etc.. but also the identification with the aggregates. The main concern of the sutta is on the discourses because in this way countless people in later generations can walk the path that he awaken to .

    As Terrance pointed out earlier, in the suttas we don’t find the name Yashodhara . Even the details about the Buddha himself before leaving the household life is not much. We can fit it all into one page if we want. The path itself has little do with a person’s worldly identity. In many cases , the path begin when the person let go of their worldly identity and embark on the holy life as a bhikkhu/ni or novices. Whether the person is a king , villager, from this caste , or that caste, he or she becomes simply a bhikkhu/ ni.

    Metta,

  59. Hi iMeditation, what had really interested me initially is how we as people interact with the story of the Buddha. From you beautiful original post it seemed to me that you were elaborating on what you personally perceived to be an historical event.

    I love the story of the Buddha and feel there is much in there which is inspirational and worthy of reflection but I do not interpret it in an overly literal way. The real joy of Buddhism for me are the deep profound teachings like the three characteristics + the practice of meditation.

    On a side note at the end of Anattalakkhana Sutta do the Panca Vagiya attain full enlightenment and if so how?

  60. Dear Peter,

    Peter wrote: ” What had really interested me initially is how we as people interact with the story of the Buddha. From you beautiful original post it seemed to me that you were elaborating on what you personally perceived to be an historical event.”

    As you know there are some discussions about the story of ” Yashodhara” from the commentaries. I thought that if we are going to discuss that story then let’s discuss the full story from there. But if we define commentary account as myth and only refer to the sutta account , then we don’t find the name Yashodhara there in the sutta. Of course, not everyone choose to consider commentaries as a myth. In any case, if we only refer to the suttas for info about the Buddha’s Household Life before leaving home , then below is what I found on the topic:

    ” I was delicately nurtured, nurtured in utmost refinement, in absolute refinement. In my father’s home, there was a pond made for blue lotuses, another for red lotuses and another one for white lotuses and all of them for my sake. I never used sandalwood other than from Kasi. My head dress, tunic, my lower garments, & my outer cloak were all made of Kasi cloth. A white parasol was held over me day and night,  to protect me from cold, heat, dust, dirt, & dew.

    “There were three palaces for me, one for the cold season, one for the hot season and the other for the rainy season. During the four months of the rainy season I was entertained in the rainy-season palace by minstrels without a single man among them, and I did not once come down from the palace. Whereas the servants, workers, & retainers in other people’s homes are served meals of lentil soup & broken rice, in my father’s home  wheat, fine rice, and meat are served.” 
     
    LEAVING HOME:
    ‘When an untaught, run-of-the-mill person, himself subject to aging, not beyond aging, sees another who is aged, he is horrified, vexed, & disgusted, oblivious to himself that he too is subject to aging, not beyond aging. If I — who am subject to aging, not beyond aging — were to be horrified, vexed, & disgusted on seeing another person who is aged, that would not be fitting for me.’ When I reflected thus, all my intoxication with youth entirely dropped away.”

    The same goes with sickness, and death.

    -Sukhamala Sutta

    “Before my Awakening, when I was still an unawakened Bodhisatta, the thought occurred to me: ” Household life is confining, a dusty path. Life gone forth is the open air. It isn’t easy, living in a home, to practice the holy life totally perfect, totally pure, as a polished shell. What if I, having shaved off my hair & beard and putting on the orchre robe, were to go forth from the household life into homelessness?”

    ” So, at a later time, while still young, a black-haired young man endowed with the blessings of youth in the first stage of life- and while my parents, unwilling, were crying with tears streaming down their faces- I shaved off my hair & beard, put on the orche robe and went forth from the home life into homelessness.” – Maha-Saccaka Sutta
    http://www.buddhagautama.com/leavingtheworldlylife.htm

    The Buddha’s birth account can be found in the Acchariya-Abbhuta Sutta. Everything else has to do with the period from his practice to Enlightenment. And the years of traveling and teachings can be seen from the background information at the beginning of each discourses.

    The Buddha mentioned that  Bhaddakaccana is the Chief among nuns in Great Knowledge in the Anguttara Nikāya (AN 1.248-257 ). The verse from Rahula can be found in the Theragatha instead of the commentary and the event of his enlightenment can be found in a recorded discourse named Cula-Rahulovada Sutta . It appears that Rahula was quite happy with inheriting the dhamma from his father ( being enlightened himself ) and quite proud of being a Buddha’s son. If we suggest that the Buddha not practice, we would deprive Rahula of the two things that made him feel very fortunate about and highly cherished. From the outside we can’t really tell what is , or what is not good for another person’s life. What we perceive to be the thing that makes him sad (Rahula) may actually turn out to be the very thing that makes him most happy about for the rest of his life.

    Peter wrote: “The real joy of Buddhism for me are the deep profound teachings like the three characteristics + the practice of meditation.”

    The teachings left behind by the Buddha after his 6 years practice is the gift that countless of people around the world can enjoy for generations after his parinibbana. Stories are only included in the suttas if the Buddha happened to mention about it when it is relevant to the topic at hand. That’s why we don’t find a story of the Buddha’s life in chronological order in the suttas as it is without sorting through the suttas. The vast majority has to do with his dhamma teaching. Nevertheless, it is interesting.

    Peter wrote: “On a side note at the end of Anattalakkhana Sutta do the Panca Vagiya attain full enlightenment and if so how?”
    It looks like they realized that Form, Perception, Feeling, Consciousness, and Volitional Formations are impermanent and not to be identified with as self. These physical and mental factors of experience worked together to produce a personal experience ( that gives the illusion of a  self).

  61. Hi iMeditation,
    Thank you for taking the time to share these details. I still don’t seem to be any closer to finding out if iMeditation considers the story to be fact though :)

    I’m also not quite clear on this yet: according to the Anattalakkhana Sutta do the Panca Vagiya attain full enlightenment?
    Best wishes

  62. Dear Peter:

    Peter wrote: “Thank you for taking the time to share these details. I still don’t seem to be any closer to finding out if iMeditation considers the story to be fact though :)”

    No problem. It depends on whether we are referring to the commentary account or the sutta account. Also which aspect of the story we are referring to in particular. There is no reason to generalize that the whole commentary is a myth or meant to be symbolic . If we make that assertion then what does each aspect suppose to represent. And in what way is it a myth.

    Also we can’t say for certain that commentaries are 100 accurate . There is a possibility of error on certain part.

    When it comes to the sutta , I don’t see evidence suggesting the Buddha’s account about his experience at home, his disenchantment , and him shaving his hair to leave for practice as a myth.

    Peter wrote: “according to the Anattalakkhana Sutta do the Panca Vagiya attain full enlightenment?”

    At the end it says “Now during this utterance, the hearts of the bhikkhus of the group of five were liberated from the asava through clinging no more.” That refers to Arahantship.

    with Metta,

  63. Hi iMeditation
    Thank you again for taking time to partake in this discussion. I think that you are right in that there is actually no need to assert “that the whole commentary is a myth” and perhaps it is indeed wiser not to formalize a fixed position in relation to the story as presented through the commentaries.
    Again possibly with the story of the “Panca Vagiya” I am looking for a definitive response where I cannot actually receive one but what I had found interesting is the idea that they attained liberation while actually listening to the teaching and that the teaching was so profound and that there previous spiritual parami had left them so ripe for understanding that the they were able to full comprehend and realize that teaching there while in the act of listening rather than being sat in a state of deep meditative trance.
    Best wishes

  64. Dear Peter,

    Peter wrote: “they were able to full comprehend and realize that teaching there while in the act of listening rather than being sat in a state of deep meditative trance”

    They are not in a state of meditative absorption while listening. I wouldn’t suggest developing insight during samma samadhi, but right after coming out of it. This is likely to be shortly after coming out of Noble Silence ( meditative absorption, certain states of jhanas) . Often a person reflect on a particular topic of the dhamma after coming out of various states of Samma Samadhi. The penetration into the subject would lead to a breakthrough in insight. The Contemplating Dhamma section of the Maha-satipatthana sutta lists various topic to reflect on. In the case of the Anatalakhana sutta, the bhikkhus reflect on the 5 Aggregates when the Buddha gives a discourse on it ( shortly after they came out of Samma Samadhi).

    Some might say that they can also be in a state right Before entering Samma Samadhi called “Upacara-Samadhi” and doesn’t have to be After coming out of full concentration of Samma Samadhi. However, I haven’t seen the word access concentration (upacara-samadhi) mentioned in the sutta. Also , it is not included in Samma Samadhi. The four meditative states included in Samma Samadhi can appear over the suttas repeatedly countless of times. Personally, I would prefer to go by what is included in Samma Samadhi rather than something I have not seen mentioned in the sutta .

    “When he has abandoned these, there still remain thoughts about the dhamma (dhamma vitakka). That samadhi is not yet peaceful and sublime; it has not attained to full tranquillity , nor has it achieved mental unification (ekodibhava) ; it is maintained by strenuous suppression of the defilements .

    But there comes a time when his mind becomes inwardly steadied , composed , unified (ekodi), and concentrated ( samadhiyati) . That samadhi is then calm and refined; it has attained to full tranquillity and achieved mental unification (ekodibhava); it is not maintained by strenuous suppression of the defilements. Then to whatever dhamma realizable by supernormal knowledge he directs his mind, he achieves the capacity of realizing that state by supernormal knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain .” –Pamsudhovaka Sutta

    With Metta,

  65. iMediatation, I understand that the third sermon given by the Buddha after his enlightenment was the “Adittapariyaya Sutta”. I believe that it was given to 1000 former fire worshiping ascetics, who had newly gone forth in the Buddha sasana. Again during or just after the teaching all 1000 became enlightened. Would you think that they had all just exited a meditative absorption prior to the start of the sermon, that they all had experience of the jhanas even if the Buddha had not yet elaborated on what “samma samadhi” constituted (at the time of the third sermon)?
    Best wishes

  66. Dear Peter,

    Are you sure that this is the Third sutta ? I would say that this is the third Recorded discourse but definitely not the third discourse. If we go by this assumption and practice accordingly, where would it take us. Also the Anatta-lakkhana Sutta is definitely not the second discourse, but the second recorded discourse. Numerous discourses took place between the first recorded sutta and the second recorded sutta. Before attaining Arahantship after listening to the Anatta-lakkhana Sutta, the Buddha administered to the other bhikkhus with exhortation & instruction and actually brought them to the First Level of enlightenment (Stream Entry). The Anatta-lakkhana Sutta eventually came after this. Because these discourses are not mentioned in the Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta, it doesn’t mean that’s all there is.

    After ordaining Anna Kondanna he continued to instruct them with discourses:

    And the Blessed One administered to the other bhikkhus exhortation and instruction by discourses relating to the Dhamma. And the venerable Vappa, and the venerable Bhaddiya, when they received from the Blessed One such exhortation and instruction by discourses relating to the Dhamma, obtained the pure spotless Dhamma Eye ( that is to say the following knowledge) : ‘ Whatsoever is subject to the condition of origination is subject also to the condition of cessation.’

    And having penetrated the Truth, they spoke the the Blessed One: ‘ Lord let us receive the pabbagga and upasampada ordinations from the Blessed One.’

    ‘ Come, bhikkhus….”

    And the Blessed One, living on what the bhikkhus brought him, administered to the other bhikkhus exhortation and instruction by discourse relating to the Dhamma. In this way the six persons lived on what the three bhikkhus brought home from their alms rounds. And when venerable Mahanama and venerable Assaji received from the Blessed one such exhortation and instruction by discourses relating to the Dhamma, obtained the pure spotless Dhamma Eye. They also asked for ordination and received it from the Buddha with the words ” “Come, bhikkhus…” – Vin Pitaka

    This is before the second recorded sutta .

    With metta,

  67. Hi iMeditation

    I understood that the Adittapariyaya Sutta was considered to be the third sermon given by the Buddha buy maybe that is not the case?

    Because of the time gap as well as the distance between the locations were the sermons were given (The first two were near to Banaras and the Adittapariyaya Sutta at Gaya), one would imagine that there were events and teachings which occurred between the sermons and I believe that some of these are reordered; for example what you have quoted above or the event that lead up to the going forth of the 1000 fire worshiping ascetics.

    However my interest was more in how the 1000 became enlightened while or shortly after listening to the sutta. Do you think that they all already had experience of Jhana and had been practicing Jhanic meditation prior to listening to the sutta?
    Best wishes

  68. Dear Peter,

    The Adittapariyaya sutta and Anattalakkhana sutta are snapshots of a special moment . They are not meant to cover the entire training process of the bhikkhus. To see a more complete picture of the process we have to look at the other suttas in the canon. Sometimes only the significant event was recorded and not the events that lead up to it.

    Again, there is no reason to assume that the Adittapariyaya sutta was the only discourse the Buddha the gave to the group. After the ordination, he dwelled with them in Uruvela for some time before going to Gayasisa. It is very likely that a number of discourses occurred between the Adittapariyaya sutta and Anattalakkhana sutta. The Adittapariyaya sutta is definitely not the first instruction they received:

    ” And the Blessed One, after having dwelt at Uruvelâ as long as he thought fit, went forth to Gayâsîsa, accompanied by a great number of Bhikkhus, by one thousand Bhikkhus who all had been Gatilas before. There near Gayâ, at Gayâsîsa, the Blessed One dwelt together with those thousand Bhikkhus. ” Vin Pitaka

    The details of the full training was not recorded. But personally , I see the Adittapariyaya sutta as the sutta that they reflected on to become enlightened when their mind have been prepared. But not a recording of the only training he gave , nor is it the recording of the full training.

    There is no reason to believe that they can’t get into at least the first jhana with the instruction of the Buddha.

    By the way, you prefer ” dry insight” instead of what was found in the sutta?

    With Metta,

  69. Hi iMeditation
    I think a key significance in the “Adittapariyaya sutta” is that it is the beginning of an unfolding/elaboration of the Buddha’s teaching as well as the expansion of the bhikku sangha.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “”dry insight” instead of what was found in the sutta”. I certainly don’t see awakening as colouring by numbers :) but I would like to think that my life has been deeply touched by the Lord Buddha’s teachings which have been passed down through the sutta + though living teachers and teachings.

    I think we may need to close our discussion if that is okay as I would not like to bore all the readers of Bhante Sujato’s blog indefinitely :)
    Best wishes

  70. (I am quite sure there are many out in cyberspace who have benefitted from your exchanges, Dear Peter and iMeditation. May I be counted among them them)
    _/\_

  71. Actually I also was very inspired by your discussion since it seems that this is precisely what the blog is for. Discussing about the Dhamma no? since there is not much opportunity to discuss with people who are interested. It’s nice to have a place to talk about the practice, understanding of the teachings etc.

  72. From Buddhist Channel —

    When Phra Khru Suwatthanachariyakhun, vice-rector for public relations at Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University (MCU), said, “During the Buddha’s era, there weren’t any nuns. Now things have changed, and now they can stay on temple compounds.” — he was referring to mae chis, of course.

    Gender and religion: Where nuns fear to tread
    The Bangkok Post, March 6, 2011

    A mae chi’s takeover of a Thai Buddhist temple in India has brought the management of the facilities overseas and the role of female clergy to the fore

    Bangkok, Thailand — The controversy over a Thai Buddhist nun successfully petitioning an Indian court to gain control of a temple has raised broader questions surrounding the administration of temples overseas. It has also highlighted the ambiguous role nuns, or mae chi, face within the structure of Buddhism in Thailand.

    A court in India’s Bihar state recently ruled in favour of Mae Chi Ahree Pongsai, a nun in her seventies, who lodged a complaint requesting that she be allowed to replace Phra Khru Pariyat Thammawithet as head of the Thai Nalanda temple, 90km from the state capital of Patna. Mai Chi Ahree reportedly claimed that the former abbot, Phra Maha Tharntong, who died in 2007, had written in his will that if she came into conflict with his successor, she should seek assistance from India’s courts to take over.

    The news of Mae Chi Ahree’s court success, made public following a visit to India by Culture Minister Nipit Intrasombat late last month, caused an uproar in Thai Buddhist circles.

    Phra Khru Suwatthanachariyakhun, vice-rector for public relations at Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University (MCU), said that as the temple was in India, the court’s ruling would have to stand, but the decision flew in the face of Thai-Buddhist tradition.

    Essential Buddhism scripts and principles clearly outline the power structure within a temple and the separation of roles between mai chi and monks, he said. ”Mae chi are barred from managing temples. Only monks, rising to the position of abbot, can manage them,” he said. ”During the Buddha’s era, there weren’t any nuns. Now things have changed, and now they can stay on temple compounds.

    ”But we have never had a nun run a temple before. What will society think about this?”

    Phra Khru Suwatthanachariyakhun said that when monks go to foreign countries, they might request that nuns from their temple in Thailand accompany them, but their role is facilitative _ assisting in religious studies and helping to manage food and accommodation for visitors.

    The administration of the temple is the sole domain of monks, he said.

    NUNS IN THAILAND: BETWEEN TWO REALMS

    Mae chi occupy an ambiguous place in Thai society. The official council of ordained clergy in Thailand, the Sangha Supreme Council, does not recognise mae chi as full members. They are not officially allowed to interpret or teach the dhamma (the teachings of the Buddha), or perform religious rituals.

    The Interior Ministry, however, does regard them as clergy, meaning they are unable to vote, while the Transport Ministry treats them as lay people, denying them rights accorded to monks, such as free transport services.

    In the past, efforts have been made to clarify the status of mae chi, such as in 1991, when the Institute for Thai Nuns pushed parliament to consider a ”Nun Act”, which would outline basic regulations for nuns.

    According to a September, 2002, article from Inter Press Service, the Religious Affairs Department’s response was unambiguous: ”It is impossible. A nun has never existed in a Thai Buddhist decree.”

    Sri Lanka, like Thailand, follows Theravada Buddhism, however it permits women to be ordained as monks. A controversy also challenging traditional power structures within Thai Buddhism erupted in 2001 when a Thai female Buddhist scholar, Dr Chatsumarn Kabilsingh, was ordained in Sri Lanka, and shortly thereafter, another Thai woman, Samaneri Dhammarakhita was ordained by a Sri Lankan preceptor on Thai soil, marking the first time a woman had been ordained in the country.

    But Mae Chi Ananta Nakboon of the Mae Chi foundation [Institute of Thai Mae Chi???Thai Nun's Institute???Buddhasavika Foundation???]strongly disagreed with Mae Chi Ahree’s actions.

    ”What was she thinking when she went to court to get the rights to manage the temple?” she said. ”Mae chi are under the support and teaching of the monks. We have no right to challenge their authority in any case,” said Mae Chi Ananta. ”In the temple, the teaching of the monks receives the highest respect from the people. The mae chi do not earn the same respect. How can they then manage temples successfully?”

    She said mae chi can establish meditation centres and foundations and administrate them, ”but definitely not temples”.

    THAI TEMPLES IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES

    Further complicating matters in Mae Chi Ahree’s case is the way in which Thai temples abroad are administered. Temples here are established as juristic entities under the Ecclesiastical Law (1962, and 1992). The temple is considered religious property that cannot be transferred to any person and comes under the authority of the Sangha Supreme Council. Overseas temples, such as the Thai Nalanda temple, are not beholden to the Ecclesiastical Law or the Sangha Supreme Council.

    There are currently over 300 Thai Buddhist temples around the world, with some 1,200 monks. Thai communities abroad establish the temple, putting administrative power in the hands of laypeople.

    ”Most overseas temples are established as non-profit organisations or under a foundation with or without Thai Buddhist monks at the beginning,” said Amnaj Buasiri, director of the secretariat of the Sangha Supreme Council.

    That difference has led to conflicts arising between monks and foundations’ administrative teams, he said.

    In some instances, committees overseeing temple affairs have fired monks, who have then complained to Thailand’s Office of National Buddhism.

    ”The office has suggested that Thai monks should be named to chair foundations overseeing temple affairs, so that they can better deal with conflicts when they occur,” said Mr Amnaj.

    Phra Khru Suwatthanachariyakhun said that Thai monks going abroad must be familiar with the laws and regulations in their destination countries to avoid conflict. He said a better balance needs to be struck in the way overseas temples are administered _ a shift from the current situation that sees the foundation in charge, and the monks mere residents on temple grounds.

    ”It is very important for the abbot, the monks and the foundation committee to have set rules and an agreement on how to manage the temple and the duties of different parties.”

    Phra Khru Suwatthanachariyakhun proposed that religious attaches be dispatched abroad to deal with conflicts such as those in Mai Chi Ahree’s case, which he said will only increase as overseas Thai communities expand.

    These attaches would cooperate with temples in providing Buddhist teachings and also help resolve disputes between monks and temple committees or wider disagreements between the temples and surrounding communities.

    Mr Amnaj argued that the Thai government should take over Thai Buddhist temples abroad.

    Mr Amnaj strongly believed that a concrete way to solve the management problem of Thai Buddhist temples in foreign countries is to transfer the temples to the Thai government. He cited Wat Buddhapadipa in London and Wat Sanghapadipa in Wales as examples of where this model has been effective.

    ”The temples transferred the land and property rights of the temple compound to the Thai government, and the Thai embassy in the UK works with them to help look after the property as a national asset interest in a foreign country,” he said.

    This would prevent disputes over the transfer of management rights, such as what happened at the Nalanda Temple and give Thai embassies the authority to step in should problems arise.

    He said the proposal has been discussed among relevant authorities but without any resolution. ”Many factors, including different countries’ laws and regulations, must be studied in detail,” he said.

    Mr Amnaj said the main point is that Buddhist temples are religious property and are meant to be a source of Buddhist teachings. They do not belong to any individual or group, even those who have established and supported them.

    In the case of Mae Chi Ahree, Mr Amnaj, who returned from India said this week, said there had been no progress made in talks with her.

    She refused to meet with government representatives, he said, choosing instead to speak through a loudspeaker and insisting she still had the right to manage the temple.

    Mr Amnaj said that Phra Khru Pariyat and eight other monks continued their duties at the temple, and that the facility had thrived since Phra Khru Pariyat took over in 2007.

  73. Just read that article too. Thought it was very strange him saying there were no nuns when we know that is incorrect. Of course there were no mae chis as they are not a Buddhist concept.

    However the situation develops, it’s another reminder of the unfair, the unkind, the unBuddhist-like restrictions female aspirants in Thailand are up against. Such is life, even within Buddhism, but I hope they find easier conditions for practice in the future.

  74. re: The article by Rasika Wijayratne

    Possibly this person was (acidently ((or on purpose)?) dropped on his head, as a child by his mother; this might account for both his problem with intelligence – and his hatred of women.

    More likely though he has a very very very small penis microscopic testicles, not much luck on the relationship side and therefore needs to justify his own misfortunes by denegrating women.

  75. I can’t help but wonder at Ras and his statistics – what he is saying is that because women aren’t greedy power hungry capitalists this makes them less than men, and not capalbe of running buddhist templese no doubt.

    I think he should look up some statistics on men

    (these statistics are estimates only but even if they are just guesses probably still more relevant to than his)

    Rapists – Men 90%

    Murderers – Men 70%

    paedophiles – Men 70% – 99%

    Drug Dealers – Men (guessing about 60 – 80 %

    People who work in abbatoirs, sell alcohol, fishermen – Men (umm about 50% – 80%)

    Percentage of people in jail – men 70% – 80 %

    Percentage of people who bring up children with love, compassion women 90%

    Percentage of people who attend university – I think women out number men these days
    Main qualites that are required of a buddhist wisdom and compassion

    Women win hands down

    Notes

    1. Please contact the author to obtain the latest version of this document.

    2. See New U.S. Women in Business Statistics Released by Catalyst here http://www.womenonbusiness.com/new-us-women-in-business-statistics-released-by-catalyst/ and here http://www.catalyst.org/publication/132/us-women-in-business

    Percentage of women in the U.S. labor force: 46.3%

    Percentage of women in management, professional and related occupations: 50.6%

    Percentage of female Fortune 500 corporate officers: 15.4%

    Percentage of female Fortune 500 board seats: 14.8%

    Percentage of female Fortune 500 top earners: 6.7%

    Percentage of female Fortune 500 CEOs: 2.4%

    3. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriarchy

    4. The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, A Translation of the Majjihma Nikaya, Translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, pp 929.

    5. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominance_hierarchy#Female_dominance_in_mammals

    Also his reference to the fact that there are not many females dominating the animal world or any other “Dominance hierarchies occur in most social animal species that normally live in groups” this seems to be behaviour that is largely related to that of animals, so the fact that women don’t behave like more like humans than animals is apparenlty a bad thing.

  76. 5. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominance_hierarchy#Female_dominance_in_mammals

    Also this reference above to the fact that there are not many females dominating the animal world or any other apparently this is a bad thing umm

    Wikapedia says “Dominance hierarchies occur in most social animal species that normally live in groups” note it says in MOST ANIMAL SPECIES ie this seems to be behaviour that is largely related to that of animals; so the fact that women don’t behave like animals and more like humans than animals is apparenlty a bad thing…umm not sure on that one either Ras.

  77. Ras and the ripening of karma

    I might recommend Ras as a guest lecturer on Women and Culture and/or Women and Religion to the local private girls school or uni, …imagine the reaction he would get..imagine how that would go over… imagine the looks on the faces of the women lecturers..

  78. Yes at least this guy is honest, two opposing views of what the Buddha though about women are his and this one:

    Women and the religious order of the Buddha
    Ven. Professor Dhammavihari

  79. Dear Bhante
    As you’re inviting debate on this hot issue and as this article you linked was highlighted for a fair play in this dilemma, being a lay disciple from the East attempting the Suttas (regarded as the spiritual scriptures of Buddha and code of conduct), here are some citings from the suttas and understanding surrounding this issue in the Theravada tradition. Please allow me to make my comments (although would be disagreeable by the many but to cover the truth is a bigger sin and injustice to Buddha and those who had protected the Teachings for 2,500 years). Firstly, this is with regards to Theravada tradition known to be the direct lineage and heirarchy of the Buddhas or Elders that still remain unbroken to this day.

    The citings:-
    1. ” It is true that an inequality is there. However it is also true that men and women, whether one likes to accept it or not, are not equal. This is why this inequality exists in the rules.” (-article)
    The 8 rules that are said for the benefit of women and the Sassana are deemed authentic unless proven otherwise viz innocent unless proven guilty as in law.
    2. “”A woman of the world is anxious to exhibit her form and shape, whether walking, standing, sitting, or sleeping. Even when represented as a picture, she desires to captivate with the charms of her beauty, and thus to rob men of their steadfast heart.” (-conduct of women)
    3. Buddha agreement to ordain women is conditional for their potential to attain Arahant (spiritually) but Buddha did not give women same status as the monks in managing the Sassana.
    4. The Sassana that originally established by Buddha consists of all monks for prolonging of the Dhamma and the Sangha.
    5. Buddha sent out 60 Arahant monks (no nuns) to spread the Dhamma in all directions.
    6. The Brahman Sahampati was the one that asked Buddha to expound the Dhamma to those with little dust, goes to show that the Dhamma is also precious to the Devas as in many suttas where Buddha preached to the Devas, heavenly gods & Brahmas in the heavenly realms.
    7. The devas are powerful and effluent and are able to shake the earth, so it is better not to upset them.
    8. The reasons behind the extinction of Bhikkhunis in the theravada tradition need to be understood and known before meeting with the same faith in future.
    9. A commentary that those who did not commit sexual misconduct or adultery would never be born as women (women would disagree but could be the truth as to why women had to suffer more than men as women).
    10. Buddha predicted there would be counter-feit Dhammas in future and it is apparently true. The pure Dhamma would become extinct sooner if there was no one to protect it.

    Only understanding and accepting of the true dhammas can reconcile disputes and dilemmas. Buddha did not hide any truth, he told the truth when asked regardless of offensive or non, as those were pure nature of the Truth. Let the ancient wisdom prevail for the longevity of the Dhamma for the benefit of all heavenly gods, humans & all sentient beings.

  80. Dear SM,

    Thanks for your comments. You are always welcome to express your opinions here, and I appreciate that you have done so in a careful and considered manner. Nevertheless, i disagree with most of what you have said. As I have written extensively on these things elsewhere, I ask your forgiveness if I am somewhat brief here.

    here are some citings from the suttas

    Actually, hardly anything you say is a citation from the suttas. If you want to cite, then do it properly: chapter and verse, and when possible a link to the relevant text so that we can see what it is that you are referring to.

    Firstly, this is with regards to Theravada tradition known to be the direct lineage and heirarchy of the Buddhas or Elders that still remain unbroken to this day.

    Theravada tradition is not ‘known’ to be anything of the sort. What we ‘know’ is that there is a living Buddhist tradition that makes this claim; we ‘know’ that there is scant actual historical evidence to support the claim; and we ‘know’ that every religious tradition makes similar claims to authenticity.

    What you are talking about is not knowledge, it is a dogmatic assertion. The Buddha very often insisted that we be extremely cautious in what we claim we can ‘know’; as just one example, see MN 27 Culahatthipadopama Sutta.

    1. ” It is true that an inequality is there. However it is also true that men and women, whether one likes to accept it or not, are not equal. This is why this inequality exists in the rules.” (-article)
    The 8 rules that are said for the benefit of women and the Sassana are deemed authentic unless proven otherwise viz innocent unless proven guilty as in law.

    Deemed by who? I don’t do any such deeming, and am very suspicious of ‘deemers’. I look at the evidence. And the evidence says that there is little reason to think the garudhammas as such were propounded by the Buddha, and many reasons to think they were added later.

    In addition, the garudhammas are nowhere in the Vinaya said to be for the benefit of women.

    2. “”A woman of the world is anxious to exhibit her form and shape, whether walking, standing, sitting, or sleeping. Even when represented as a picture, she desires to captivate with the charms of her beauty, and thus to rob men of their steadfast heart.” (-conduct of women)

    The suttas elsewhere mirror the sensual allure that women have for men with that that men have for women, for example the first series of suttas in the Anguttara Nikaya. This is not sexist, it is just an observation of human nature.

    As i have shown elsewhere, modern studies consistently show that men have greater sexual desire than women. Claims that women are intrinsically more sexual than men are wrong. They are based not on the facts but on prejudice.

    3. Buddha agreement to ordain women is conditional for their potential to attain Arahant (spiritually) but Buddha did not give women same status as the monks in managing the Sassana.

    This is untrue. Bhikkhunis have exactly the same roles in terms of running monasteries, training disciples, teachings, and so on as the monks. The garudhammas and other rules say nothing about management of the sasana.

    4. The Sassana that originally established by Buddha consists of all monks for prolonging of the Dhamma and the Sangha.

    Again, untrue. The suttas say repeatedly that for a full, successful sasana, there must be the fourfold assembly. The Mahaparinibbana Sutta says that the Buddha had this aspiration from the start of his dispensation. Here are just a few of these passages.

    ‘There are, Kassapa, five things that lead to the longevity, non-decay, and non-disappearance of the true Dhamma. What five? Here, the bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, male, and female lay followers live with reverence and deference to the Buddha… the Dhamma… the Sangha… the training… samādhi.’ Saṁyutta Nikāya 16.13.

    I shall not come to my final passing away, Evil One, until my bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen, have become true disciples – wise, well disciplined, apt and learned, preservers of the Dhamma, living according to the Dhamma, abiding by the appropriate conduct, and having learned the Master’s word, are able to expound it, preach it, proclaim it, establish it, reveal it, explain it in detail, and make it clear; until, when adverse opinions arise, they shall be able to refute them thoroughly and well, and to preach this convincing and liberating Dhamma. Dīgha Nikāya 16.3.35; cf. Dīgha Nikāya 16.3.8.

    If in this teaching the venerable Gotama were to be accomplished … bhikkhus were to be accomplished … but no bhikkhunis were to be accomplished, then this holy life would be incomplete in this respect. Vacchagotta Sutta (Majjhima Nikāya 73.13). A similar statement can be found in the two Chinese parallels Saṁyukta Āgama 964 (T2, p. 247, a11) and Saṁyukta Āgama 198 (T2, p. 446, c10).

    5. Buddha sent out 60 Arahant monks (no nuns) to spread the Dhamma in all directions.

    There weren’t any nuns at that time, so this is irrelevant. There are other passages that talk of the nuns teaching. For example, in MN 44 Culavedalla Sutta the Buddha praises a bhikkhuni’s teaching, saying he would have taught in just the same way.

    6. The Brahman Sahampati was the one that asked Buddha to expound the Dhamma to those with little dust, goes to show that the Dhamma is also precious to the Devas as in many suttas where Buddha preached to the Devas, heavenly gods & Brahmas in the heavenly realms.

    This is irrelevant.

    7. The devas are powerful and effluent and are able to shake the earth, so it is better not to upset them.

    So is this.

    8. The reasons behind the extinction of Bhikkhunis in the theravada tradition need to be understood and known before meeting with the same faith in future.

    This is why we study Buddhist history and don’t rely on dogmatic assertions. Unfortunately there is little evidence for why the bhikkhunis passed away, so there is little that can be said, until someone comes up with some new evidence.

    9. A commentary that those who did not commit sexual misconduct or adultery would never be born as women (women would disagree but could be the truth as to why women had to suffer more than men as women).

    This just confirms what we already know: there’s plenty of offensive, sexist material in the commentarial tradition.

    10. Buddha predicted there would be counter-feit Dhammas in future and it is apparently true. The pure Dhamma would become extinct sooner if there was no one to protect it.

    What we are trying to do is to promote the actual four-fold assembly of the Buddha, rather than the counterfeit four-fold assembly found in some decadent Buddhist cultures. In Thailand, you will even hear monks saying that the four-fold assembly is ‘monks, [male] novices, laymen, and laywomen’.

    Only understanding and accepting of the true dhammas can reconcile disputes and dilemmas. Buddha did not hide any truth, he told the truth when asked regardless of offensive or non, as those were pure nature of the Truth. Let the ancient wisdom prevail for the longevity of the Dhamma for the benefit of all heavenly gods, humans & all sentient beings.

    Ahh, finally something we can agree on…

  81. ..SM the Buddha was also honest in what he thought about ignorance and ego and gave many teachings on that as well.

  82. Bhante – Thank you for taking the time to refute what needs to be challenged and for laying out what needs to be promoted. Your tireless work in this regard is uplifting to the heart and a balm to those (particularly women) who seek the way unfettered by erroneous views. Peace and well being to you.

  83. Bhante,

    The commentary is referring to Ittivutaka sutta on, it would be impossible to be born as women for one that did not have sexual misconduct. The conduct of women is from : http://theology101.org/bud/btg/btg34.htm

    To have a fair playing field (not fair play – an error), one should not just take the one that is favorable and drop those unfavorable, as in the 8 Garudhammas. No one have proved it is flawed and unless every member in the Sassana agreed to drop it without a single objection from the 4-fold assembly, then it promotes harmony in the 4-fold, otherwise the 8 Garu should be kept for those who still honor it. The 4-fold is like a “family unit” where every fold has its separate role to play eg patriach and matriach in a family unit. Likewise, Buddha introduced the 8Garu for harmony in the Sassana with probably psychological reasons for the benefit and spiritual progress for both Bhikkus & Bhikkhunis, with the Bhikkhu feeling ashamed if he is not practicing well for a Bhikkhuni to bow at his feet and the Bhikkhuni to challenge her ego when bowing to the Bhikku. Equality is a concept. Just like a car with four wheels, with each wheel having its role and co-operate in order for the car to move smoothly.
    As for the devas, I don’t know much. I know they are being mentioned many times in the suttas. Metta to you.

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