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.

3 thoughts on “Causing Trouble

  1. Hi Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato,

    Sorry to hear about the expulsion and hope all this settles down. Seems a powder keg waiting to explode.

    Seems strange to a western eye why Nuns can’t be ordained and be what they want to be.

    I guess if you don’t get respect from your ‘alma mater’ then not to worry as innovation happens everywhere and hopefully in this case too. Many people are mis-understood when they do things until later when some perspective comes in ? Then who am I telling this to ?

    I thought why didn’t you ask permission before going through with the ordinations however I’m sure it is because you took responsibility for your actions – and you are standing by them which is a good example. I know you try to live by example to encourage the same in others.

    Lets see how Buddhism can be practical or applied to resolve this issue. And do so without over-reacting or being fundamentalist, be practical and be in the real world where politics in institutions exist (monks or no monks). I’m waiting to see and hope to see by example how this dispute settles. One of your better advise was think long, mid and short term to get the perspective.

    All the best and hope the Nuns can find a way to be what they want to be.


    PS. to any readers i hope you excuse my ignorance on Buddhism and the terminology just a heartfelt response to the situation.

  2. ..and what’s more….. if Ajahn Brahm is being expelled from wat ping pang pong or whereever for actually NOT discriminating against women then possibly we should write to the Australian Government and have people from wat ping pang pong expelled or banned from entering this country for breaking our code, policies, laws or constitution and discriminating against women.

    We have a pretty good country were all people are treated equally in theory anyway, so take your draconion out dated codes and **&^% *&&^$%$%^ **&^^%^ **&^^%

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