About APRO

I was recently asked to write a little about APRO, and I thought I would share this with you for your interest.

What is APRO?

APRO is the Australian Partnership of Religious Organizations. It is the peak of peak bodies for religious organizations in Australia. It was formed in the wake of 9/11, as a positive response to the increasing levels of religious intolerance in the Australian community. Over the past several years, APRO has organized and taken part in a number of events, including interfaith conferences, media training exercises, meetings with government, and so on. The basic purpose it to improve harmony and understanding among the religious traditions in Australia.

APRO is an informal body, which meets irregularly, a couple of times a year. It was originally under the auspices of FECCA. In any case, it is an independent body, with no financial backers to speak of.

The APRO members come from the main peak bodies of Australian religions. You can see the list on their website: http://www.fecca.org.au/aboutus/projects/item/87-australian-partnership-of-religious-organisations-apro

All the people on the APRO panel are wonderful; we get on very nicely, and have never had any conflicts. Everyone is sincerely dedicated to improving religious harmony, and we have never had any problems with people pushing their own agenda

Why is it important for Buddhists to have a representative on it?

As a multi-religious country, it is essential that Australia have a strong and healthy interfaith element. Without it, all the religions operate in their own narrow stream, without learning from each other. King Ashoka said that one never helps one’s own religions by criticizing the religions of others, but one only helps one’s own religion by helping other religions. I believe that the tolerant and diverse religious heritage of India, and East Asia generally, is a tradition of great importance in these times where religion too often becomes the reason for division, not harmony.

The religious culture of Australia is, of course, traditionally dominated by Christianity, but this is changing rapidly. Australia is the only developed country where Buddhism is the second largest religion. It is essential that Buddhists have a seat at the table whenever there are important interfaith forums, such as APRO.

What did you contribute and get out of it?

I have learnt a tremendous amount from my involvement with APRO, too much to summarize here. But if the is one lesson, then it is this: that we always share more in common with other religions than we have differences. We should not be afraid to stand up and make clear what the differences are. For example, several times I have had to remind people that Buddhists don’t believe in God. But don’t let the differences tear us apart.

I think I have been able to contribute something to APRO also. Often Buddhists have quite a different way of seeing things than others do, and I have never been afraid to mention this. At other times, in conferences and the like, I find that what Buddhists can do best is to stay silent. Sometimes we have had a panel of speakers; I opt to sit meditation with everyone for a few minutes; and afterwards people tell me it was the most memorable of all the speeches! Generally it is, I think, true that many of the other religions have better organized and more effective policies of social welfare than we do, and we can learn much from them about this. But the contemplative element is sorely lacking, so this is something we can contribute.

Ajahn Brahm’s response to ‘The Time Has Come’

A little while ago i posted the new article called ‘The Time Has Come’, by several former siladharas. As always, articles on bhikkhuni ordination evoke the most comments and response on this blog. We were delighted to have a post by Ajahn Brahm, which, as one of our commenters mentioned, was in danger of being buried beneath the weight of the comment thread. So i’ve lifted that comment and re-posted it here.

The discussion on these matters can get a little intense, so if I could ask you to read the ‘About‘ page, which has guidelines for posting, before making comments.

“What would it look like to relocate the ‘problem’ of bhikkhuni ordination and gender equity within Buddhism to where it really belongs? … with those who fear women’s full participation”

Having read the comments in this thread with interest, as I am inextricably involved, I think they have drifted away from the main thrust of the Buddhadharma magazine article as expressed in the quote above. That is, for too long Ajahn Sujato, myself and the participating Bhikkhunis, have been asked to justify our actions in facilitating the Perth Bhikkhuni ordinations.

Now it is the time for those Western monks, and Thai monks who either live in the West or regularly travel there, to either show their support for Bhikkhuni ordination in the West,or justify their opposition to it.

Ajahn Sumedho is leaving Amaravati at the end of this year, so is the Thai monk Ven Pannyasaro who, I was told, drafted the notorious Five Points. Ajahn Amaro, currently at Abhayagiri Monastery in California, is to take over leadership of the Amaravati group. It seems appropriate that he makes his position on Bhikkhuni ordination clear, in plain English not in Amaravati-speak, to the supporters of his future monastery. Other influential monks such as Ajahn Vajiro of Amaravati, Ajahn Nyanadhammo in Thailand, Ajahn Pasanno of Abhayagiri, the Thai monk Ajahn Preecha in Italy, Ajahn Tiradhammo in New Zealand, the Thai monk Ajahn Anan who visits the West regularly, they should also be pressed by their lay supporters to publicly explain their position, not as a group but as individuals. If they have nothing to be ashamed of, they should have no fear in articulating their position in public clearly and independently. I ask this because I understand that straightforward honesty, not deafening silence, is necessary for moving forward on this painful issue.

Unfortunately, I do not have the power to compel these good monks to explain whatever position they hold on Bhikkhuni ordination, or to question them on why they refused my genuine offer of forgiveness and reconciliation. But you, the lay people who feed these monks and provide the funds that support their other needs, do have that power. Maybe it is the time to exercise that power.

It is now the time, as a result of The Buddhadharma magazine’s article, for them to personally explain themselves to the Buddhist world.

With Mega Metta, Ajahn Brahm.

Causing Trouble

There’s a lot of noise about causing dissension, separating the Sangha. It’s a regular threat that’s tossed around whenever anyone mentions bhikkhuni ordination. But for anyone who knows their Vinaya, it’s all a lot of lukewarm air.

Harmony and schism are intentional states. They arise from the intention of people, in this case monastics, to either join together or to split apart. They can never arise from a mere reaction to something one does not like.

The classic schismatic was Devadatta. He made up ‘Five Points’, deliberately basing these on what is not Dhamma and Vinaya, and with malicious intent used these as a pretext for dividing the Sangha. He led away a group of monks and they performed their own separate saṅghakamma. This is what schism means in the Vinaya.

Of course there may be, and frequently are, causes for division and tension in the Sangha which fall short of schism. This sort of thing happens all the time. The Theravada Sangha is in fact rife with sects and divisions, usually based on pure politics, or on spurious notions of ordination lineage.

When Ajahn Brahm informed Ajahn Sumedho that he was performing bhikkhuni ordination, the word quickly spread around the world. Some monks were very upset and criticized Ajahn Brahm for causing disharmony in the Sangha. They threatened to have Ajahn Brahm and his monastery expelled from Wat Pah Pong.

In this disappointing series of events, it is plain that Ajahn Brahm and the Bodhinyana Sangha have done nothing to cause disharmony. They knew, of course, that bhikkhuni ordination would be unpopular with some monks, but chose to go ahead anyway, as they believed it was the right thing to do. They did not do with the intention to cause disharmony of any sort. The fact that some monks got upset is entirely the responsibility of those monks.

No-one who took part in the ordination had anything in their hearts other than a pure wish to follow the Dhamma and Vinaya in its fullness.

Some of the threateners claimed that the Wat Pah Pong rulings of 2007 & 2009 would be interpreted as entailing instant expulsion. Now, as I have shown in my ‘Letter to Good People’, these rulings mention no punishment. So a rule that has no punitive dimension is taken to result in automatic expulsion. This has no precedent in Vinaya, or indeed in any realm of civilized discourse.

Expulsion in the Vinaya is a punishment for serious misconduct. In this case there has been no misconduct, only the carrying out of a regular saṅghakamma in accordance with the letter and the spirit. There is no reasonable grounds for threatening expulsion, or anything else. The only reasonable response is to have joy and gladness that, at last, something is being done.