Black Sunday

On Sunday November 1st, Ajahn Brahm went to North-east Thailand on the request of the senior Ajahns of the Wat Pah Pong tradition. Having announced on the previous Wednesday in their visit to Somdet Buddhajahn that they intended to expel Ajahn Brahm, this was their day to put the ultimatum to him: recant or be expelled.

The opposition to Ajahn Brahm was led by a small, tightly focused and aggressive group, while other senior Thai monks spoke in favor of gentleness and proportion. A letter calling for the expulsion was read out, authored by Ajahns Sumedho and Khemadhammo, the senior western monks.

Most of those who have heard about this issue overseas have been incredulous. It is really difficult to conceive that something like this could happen, with so little wisdom or reflection – don’t even think about compassion. But WPP is a little world unto itself. There is no possibility of reflection or engagement with a wider sphere, no acknowledgement of the genuine issues that Ajahn Brahm was addressing. Any broader considerations that might be brought to bear were just water off a duck’s back.

Ajahn Brahm tried to point out that Ajahns Pasanno and Amaro, respected Ajahns of the WPP tradition in Abhayagiri Monastery in California, had recently presided over a large bhikkhuni ordination in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. This was ignored. He presented the letters of support from so many people all over the world. They were ignored (but not by us! keep the letters coming!)

Attempts to communicate on the basis of Dhamma-vinaya were doomed from the beginning. Ajahn Brahm found it difficult to even convey some basic facts, such as that he was not the preceptor at the ordination, as the preceptor for a bhikkhuni ordination is a bhikkhuni, not a bhikkhu. Anyone who took the trouble to read the four pages of the Vinaya Pitaka that detail the procedure would know this. But repeated attempts simply failed to get this elementary point across.

When Ajahn Brahm asked what the actual Vinaya objections were, the only substantive response was that the ordination was flawed because there was diṭṭhivipatti, a ‘failure of view’. Failure of view is described in the Anguttara Nikaya (AN 3.117) as the denial of the fruits of merit and the existence of other realms. But when Ajahn Brahm asked what the monk meant by ‘failure of view’, the answer was that Ajahn Brahm was acting on his own view, not that of Wat Pah Pong. So much for rationality.

Ajahn Brahm went so far to accommodate the WPP Ajahns that he even expressed his willingness to not ordain any future bhikkhunis. At this point in the meeting there was a point of stillness, as the Sangha seemed to be on the verge of accepting this compromise. But this was not enough. Led by three monks, Ajahns Anan, Preecha, and Nyanadhammo, there was a demand that Ajahn Brahm recant his existing ordination and declare that the bhikkhunis were mae chis. Of course, they were not mae chis and never have been, as mae chi is a category that only exists in Thailand. In other words, they were asking him to make a bald-faced lie in the midst of the Sangha, and only then could he be allowed to stay. Of course, he knew that the ordination had been done properly, irrespective of anyone’s opinions or opposition, and so he could not do this.

Then the Sangha decided to expel him. A minority of monks grunted their approval, and Ajahn Brahm alone voted against his expulsion.

A number of revealing requests followed. One of the monks said (incorrectly) that Bodhinyana was established as a branch of WPP, and suggested that therefore Ajahn Brahm should be expelled as abbot (!) and a new abbot appointed by WPP.

Another monk said (again incorrectly) that since the funds to build Bodhinyana came from Thai people who donated out of faith in Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Brahm should give a huge cheque to WPP to repay the Thai people!

Another monk opined that since Ajahn Brahm was now out of WPP he was a Mahayanist. (Stay with me here, folks, these things actually happened. I’m not just making it up.)

This is all very revealing. For a moment, the saffron curtain slips, and the dark side reveals itself: power, money, sectarianism.

Ajahn Liem pointedly said that the motion was to deregister Bodhinyana from being a branch monastery of WPP, ‘no more’ (tao nun). He and other monks spoke kindly to Ajahn Brahm afterwards, reaffirming their friendship.

But already there are signs that the excommunication will be taken much further. It was suggested by one monk, for example, that a monk who took part in the ceremony should not join a pilgrimage to India that includes WPP monks. This has nothing to do with WPP’s decision, it is punishment, pure and simple.

This issue highlights many of the problems that many of us have been trying to raise in the Sangha for many years. I can only encourage all Sangha members to actually study the Vinaya and demand of their senior Sangha that proper procedure be followed. Accept no substitute.

There is a deep personal anger and resentment at work here that will soon enough find its expression in various forms of punitive action. Already one of the bhikkhunis who took part in the ordination has been told that she could not do her retreat at Vimutti Monastery in New Zealand as already planned. That’s okay for her, she can come to Santi FM. But what else are these monks brewing up?

Don’t worry, I’ll blog it when I hear about it.

141 thoughts on “Black Sunday

  1. I am very saddened to hear this Venerable Sir. I have recently read Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s open letter to you, and I echo the sentiment.

    Wishing you all the best, and to Ajahn Brahm too.

    With all the metta my heart can muster
    – Jack

  2. Dear Bhante,
    Please know that so many of us rejoice in the ordination and support Ajahn Brahm, you and the Bhikkhunis.

    Sending much metta and gratitude,
    Sarana

  3. thanks for keeping us up to speed with this unbelievable unfolding events..
    just to also mention – there is a group on face book – Women & the Forest Sangha which is very lively and debating recent events – ie Perth ordination / 5 points in the UK / & now Ajahn Brahm’s excommunication (sounds very papal and catholic)

    The only way through this is to keep opening the dialogue – dispelling fear to speak out and share – so thanks for opening the royal road of healthy communication.

    Fear and control is not the way of the Dharma – Ajahn Brahm only followed the intention of the Buddha – it was the right thing to do.
    The ‘authority’ of those who continue to oppress cannot bear good fruit..

    But also I am very saddened that it has come to this – it will be confusing for the lay people – as for many they have projected so much and idealized monastic life..
    Ans so you say Ajahn Sujato – the end of innocence – ultimately not necessarily a bad thing.

  4. Sadhu bhante. Keep the news of this ridiculous scenario coming out. There are already many lay supporters of the Aj Chah tradition responding to this news on facebook with outrage and disbelief. News will spread fast and the Western Sangha at least will be challenged on this.

    During that meeting at WPP, would it have been the case that all the monks needed to be in agreement to ‘expel’ Aj Brahm and Bodhinyana – i.e. not one voice of disagreement to the expulsion?

    When the late Ven. Jiyu Kennett Roshi, an English woman ordained in the Japanese Sangha, returned to the West to start her own order with intentional gender equality, she was expelled from her samvassa as well. She established the successful communities of Throssel Hole in the UK and Shasta Abbey in the US. Decades later, due to her success, she was ‘invited’ by the Japanese Sangha to ‘return’ to the fold as part of their branch communities. Of course, she said thanks but no thanks – who needs you – (or words very much to that effect).

    I know that this ordination lineage will continue now it has begun – as no one wants to support bigots. A great shame that the Western Sangha could not have gotten their act together to do it in unison however. But someone had to start this ball rolling, or rather, pull the first brick out of the wall to a chorus of “Don’t! What are you doing – you are pulling down the great wall which protects us…” – from accountability that is.

    Jitindriya

  5. Good on you Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato – you had the guts to stand up for what you and most people think is the right thing to do.

    The fact that Bodhinyana and Ajahn Brahm has been expelled from WPP tradition really does not mean a thing – it. however, does show the pettiness and ‘un-Buddhistic’ approach taken by the monks who were responsible for this decision. How can they preach to lay people about compassion, understanding, joy with others after taking such a Nazi-like approach to this issue?

    In my mind there is only one question that should have been asked – ‘if the Buddha was alive today would he have had any reservations in ordaining women?’. If the WPP monks can honestly say the answer would be ‘YES, the Buddha would have had reservations in ordaining women today’ then I would have had some respect for the views held by those monks.

    As lay people we are delighted and share the joy of the four nuns ordained recently and hope to see many more ordinations happening in Australia and in other parts of the world.

    Thanks once again.

  6. I shake my head at the madness of it all: ex-communication. banishment. “If I shut my eyes it will all go away.”
    Did these guys miss out on meditation 101?
    Keep writing your truths Ajahn. you’ll find there’s plenty of us who share them.

  7. Thank you for your courage, showing you are true disciples of the Buddha by standing up for the truth no matter what the personal consequences are.

    You are a great example and an inspiration to all of us.

  8. Bhante, I’m so horrified that Ajahn’s whose teachings I have admired for years have acted in this way.

    As an Australian Buddhist woman, I was limitlessly heartened to know that Thai Theravadan Buddhism was evolving to a new form on Australian soil, bringing it in line with the Buddha’s teachings and giving to women the possibility to take the same advantage of this precious human birth as men have given themselves for numbers of years.

    To know that the reaction to it by some western Sangha members has been so extreme and condemning is very confusing, disheartening, shocking and distasteful. Their strain of Buddhism is not mine and I will be removing their teachings from my bookshelves and audio devices. This cloud of delusion from supposed leaders has no place in my practice of Buddhism.

    It’s so hard to understand the positions and views being wielded by the Wat Pah Pong Sanga. I’m absolutely disappointed in them.

    I thank you for your resolve and faith in the Buddha’s teachings. They are of great worth to me.

  9. My support for the western sangha will be transfered to Ajahn Brahm.

    By expelling him from their “men only club” they have insulted the Buddha and revealed themselves as hypocrites.

    I choose my teachers with great care and by this action you have expelled yourselves from my respect

    I have attended several retreats led by the Nuns at Ameravati and have found them to be the most beautiful retreats of all.

    Shame on you WPP, as Ajahn Brahm said, democracy does not exist in Thailand.

    I feel very sad.

  10. How unbelievable, and heartbreaking. If I wanted to write a sketch to ridicule and discredit theravada Buddhism, this would be it. This is the sort of thing that drives people away to Tibetan and Zen Buddhism. I have stuck with this ‘school’ for years becuse the style and the teachings seem to suit me best. But this sort of thing ahs been a constant niggle. It is kind of difficult to wholeheartedly take refuge in SUCH a Sangha.

  11. I’m sorry – my comment was not perfectly clear. Of course I mean the WPP sangha. I am full of admiration and gratitude to Ajahn Brahm and those who support him in this.

  12. Thank you Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato – for supporting the Bhikkuni Sasanaya. This really shows how strong you both are and I admire you wide outlook. You are a real follower of the Gotham Bhuddha. You stick to what bhuddha preached and also you have compassion and lovingkindness to all irrespective of class creed , colour or sex.

    Iam not quite sure about the consequences of this expelling from WPP tradition. Only thing Iam sure is that you will have more time for your self to reach Rahathpala and also to serve the people even better.

    Path you have created will definitely serve to ordain more Bhikunis in the future..
    Wishing you a perfect equanimity

    With Metha

  13. It is, indeed, a black day. Loss of innocence is painful. But through that loss we can leave behind childish things and emerge, albeit shakily, a bit older, a bit wiser.

    When Bhante Sujato told me the news, I suggested that we turn the homepage of SantiFM white instead of black. This hurricane has, strange though it may be, turned out better than anyone could have planned. The Australian Forest Sangha has proved its mettle and earned its independence. The opponents to bhikkhuni ordination in the WPP Sangha has brought shame and embarrassment onto itself.

    With this ending, we also have a beginning.

    And between endings and beginnings, there is continuity. The Buddha would have us bring together those who have been separate. We need not reject all that we have learned from those poor Ajahns who have disappointed us. They have much wisdom too. Only, not so much as we may have once thought.

    We hurt, and then we get back up. And when the time comes, we pick up the pieces left behind.

    >j<

    • I cannot agree with you more that with this new beginning, Ajahn Sujato, The Australian Forest Sangha, Ajahn Brahm & Bodhinyana sangha too, plus our Dhammasara Bhikkhunis, will continue to carry on the teachings of the Buddha with Mega Metta & Wisdom despite the poor, unfair treatment from WPP sangha.

  14. WPP community is JUST a community of monks. It does not even represent the entire Thai community, let alone Theravada Buddhism. WPP expels Brahm! Fine! that shows their class; so let’s move on. It’s not like Ajahn Brahm is “defeated” as a monk. Let this be a beginning of a new chapter. By the way, WPP is not THE authority in Buddhism but Vinaya is! Got to thank Buddha for making the Vinaya the King.

    Good on Brahm for ordaining Bhikkhunis, after all THEY deserve it.

    I am not surprised this happend to Brahm. Some WPP Ajahns are jealous of him – of that I am 100% sure. I was appalled when I first encountered such an attitude towards Brahm by another Abbot of WPP tradition. But hey, office-politics is everywhere. Kim, if you are listening, don’t be surprised if you find it even in Tibetan and Zen Buddhism.

    • Re that last sentence, Grasshopper. I can affirm almost identical behaviour in a Zen organisation in the UK. My local Zen group decided to invite a master, not from our lineage (but whose master’s master had also been the master of the founder of the organisation in question, so almost the same lineage). but recently returned to Britain after receiving transmission in Japan, to give teachings at the group. The governing board of the UK sangha of which we were part told us to rescind the invitation. When our group leader (with support of the group) refused, he was summoned to the board (600kms away). Again refusing to obey, our group was expelled from the Sangha. I loved being part of an independent Sangha, where the priority was meditation, dhamma (ok, dharma to us), and fellowship, not money, power or organisation. I think the expulsion is a great opportunity for the BSWA. Rather than follow someone else’s idea of how the Buddha would have wanted Thais to live in Thailand (seemingly what the WPP says we should do), let’s work out for ourselves how to be Australian Buddhists.

  15. this is a case of the Thai Sangha wishing to exert a dominance over how Buddhism should develop overseas.. it is as if they feel they own the Dhamma, Ajahn Brahm and even Bodhiyana monastery..

    22nd Oct 2009 was the birthday of Australian Theravadan Buddhism..

    throughout history upholding freedom and equality has been a struggle, the Buddha too had to go against the flow, against the flow of the caste system, gender equality and so on..

    by the lack of reasons given for their opposition there is obvious jealousy and resentment behind this which is quite hard to forgive

    one only needs to contemplate the status of women in Thailand in general to realise there is also a very strong cultural inertia behind this opposition which for me is easier to forgive, because it is hard for them to see how things could be different from what they are so blatantly used to..

    btw is it just me or isn’t there something similar about this and when the Boddhisatva’s five ascetic friends left him when He began to adopt the Middle Path?

    the future of Buddhism lies in a strong bhikkhuni order which would be a sign that Buddhism has been fully rekindled..

  16. As a monk for 7 years under my preceptor Ajahn Brahm, at Bodhinyana and Santi FM – I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful and peaceful monks from the Thai branch of Ajahn Chah’s lineage. I feel very sad to hear these same monks reacting to the Perth bhikkhuni ordinations with such lack of understanding, compassion and sympathetic joy. The recriminations that have followed, and the venom that Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato have had to endure is simply appalling. My faith in Buddha Dhamma is not shaken by all this nonsense, but my faith in these mean-spirited monks is certainly shaken. How would they feel if they were reborn as a woman, with the sincere desire for renunciation and nibbana? To follow the path of the arahant bhikkhunis we read about in the suttas?
    All power to Ajahn Brahm & Ajahn Sujato. Thanks too to Bhikkhu Bodhi for his scholarship, rationality, gentleness and compassion.
    May all those women wishing to attain the highest have access to the robes and livelihood of bhikkhunis, as envisaged by the Lord Buddha.

  17. The unwise, unjust and indeed un-Buddhist reaction from Wat Pah Pong clearly shows that it’s current spiritual leadership has become irrelevant in today’s world.

    The forward-thinking spirit and wisdom of Ajahn Cha no longer seems to reside there. Truthful practice of the Vinaya/Dhamma as well as serious Theravada scholarship has moved to Australia, the West and Sri Lanka.

    I extend my sympathy and compassion to those poor, bitter, fearful monks at WPP who have fallen victim to their human frailty after a lifetime of practice. How sad and disappointing to your former followers! May **you** recant from your decision or be expelled from the contemporary Thai Forest Tradition through your own irrelevance…

    Bo

  18. It is rather sad & disappointing to read about the unfair & “draconian” way the WPP sangha has dealt with Ajahn Brahm and the Bhikkhuni Ordination. (Fancy asking to change our 4 venerable Bhikkhunis into Mae Chis!!!!!)

    Thank you Ajahn Brahm & Ajahn Sujato, for your gutsy decisions & wise actions in helping with the Bhikkhuni ordination.
    No matter what, please know that we are 100% behind you.
    You have our word & support always!

  19. Thank you for keeping us posted as to the details. I’m stunned by this chain of events and grateful to Ajahn Brahm and all the men and women who took part in and supported the ordination.

  20. I can’t believe they are excommunicating one of the most highly developed monk of today. He is also one of our favorite monk. AB is doing the thing that is so much needed. The very thing that others are keeping a blind eye to.

    The accusation was that AB had ” failure of view” , or not obeying the views of Wat Pa Pong. But what about non identification with form ( as well as other aggregates) as self. Why treat others differently because of their form. How come they don’t take into consideration the essence of the dhamma when making a decision. Are the WPP ajahns just parroting what the Lord Buddha teaches to others without having a clue what it truly mean.

    I hope they don’t send someone from there to replace AB. We need someone who embodies the dhamma and a no non sense monk like AB to share the teachings of the Buddha. Not everyone can do it.

  21. This incident has just, very interestingly, help make up my mind to reject the weak arguments and poor processes of those clowns and strengthened my resolve to fully support Ajahn Brahm, BSWA and Bodhinyanarama.

  22. Ajahn Sujato makes many good points. I’d like to clarify a couple…

    Bodhinyana (and Dhammasara) were established by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia. The monks and nuns were invited to reside and practice their according to Vinaya. They do so voluntarily just as the lay supporters support them voluntarily. No other group has authority to intervene with this arrangement. And whilst these monasteries have been generous recipients of Thai donations, they have also received generous donations from people of other countries including Singapore and Malaysia – and Australia! I have seen many messages of support from these countries and many more. Based on this I would anticipate that support for the Sanghas in Bodhinyana and Dhammasara to continue.

    I also have had the privilege of meeting some of the monks from the Wat Pah Pong tradition. I still regard them as great teachers. My faith in Ajahn Brahm is enhanced by this event – but my faith in the WPP abbots is not shaken. Why not? Because even arahants can make mistakes. I do not believe that this decision was made out of a mean spirit. I believe it was fear based on a incorrect anticipation of the negative consequences of re-ordaining bhikkunis. However, I believe that this pervasive notion that bad consequences will occur for the Sasana as a result of re-establishing the bhikkuni tradition is at best superstitious, and at worst, a self-fulfilling prophecy as they take action to drive a wedge into their own tradition.

    At this crucial juncture I urge all supporters of Ajahn Brahm and the ordination of bhikkunis to maintain a conciliatory stance towards the WPP abbots. Remember the law of impermanence. They take this action today, but tomorrow, their attitudes may soften. We must remain receptive to those who waver or who reconsider the action that is taken. We must resist the urge to feel aversion towards these monks who have done so much that is kusula for the world because they cannot (yet!) see the valid reasons for taking this action – as has been so well explained by Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato.

    Whilst a difficult sitation presents itself now, with the right attitude, we may yet see this conflict be resolved given time, patience and compassion.

    with metta; sol

    • Well said, Sol. It is hard for us “Westerners” to appreciate the depth of the Thai Sangha leadership’s attachment to existing power structures, authority and tradition (however flawed). I may have been a tad hasty or impetuous with my accusation of mean-spirited-ness. The accounts I have read about the November 1st meeting do suggest, though, that some monks were not acting from the purest of motivations. This is especially so in those attempts to impose punitive sanctions against Ajahn Brahm, Bodhinayana Monastery and it’s resident Sangha. The idea of Ajahn Brahm being replaced as abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery is ludicrous – Ajahn Brahm is the main reason Bodhinyana is such a special place. People come from all corners of the world to practice there, because of Ajahn Brahm’s teachings and example.
      Some Thai monks seem to have a distorted notion that all that is good about Bodhinyana comes from Thailand and ties to the Ajahn Chah lineage. It is instead from adherence to the Dhamma-Vinaya established by the Buddha that goodness arises. If the monks were not practicing properly in accordance with Vinaya, they would have lost their material support years ago. The irony is that this bhikkhuni ordination and subsequent dramas will only enhance the international prestige of, and support for, both Ajahn Brahm and Bodhinayna Monastery.
      I still have tremendous respect and gratitude for the Thai Forest Tradition, and those many Ariyans produced within this Tradition. Over time, however, all traditions are subject to defilement, old age and death. We can’t take refuge in temporal traditions, only Dhamma (and the internet :)).

  23. There have been lies @ deceit in some Sangh’s in the past & there will be in the future. In my opinion follow the Buddhas teaching not Sanghs, & no one can go wrong.

  24. As Ajahn Brahm says – “This too Will Pass”…
    I hope that sooner or later, the Venerable Sangha at WPP and other places who do not support Bikkhuni ordination will appreciate the need for gender equality and agree to uphold the truth. I am confident that this event will open up the path ahead for many more deserving Ten Precept nuns round the world.
    Metta to all, including the Venerable Sangha at WPP.

  25. The comments above all express ringing endorsements of Ajahn Brahm and condemnation of the WPP Sangha.
    I would however like to suggest that fellow readers might consider:
    Given Ajahn Sujato’s clearly partisan approach to this matter, to what extent should his account of the events leading up to and following on from the bhikkhuni ordination be considered balanced and objective?
    Why has there been so little effort to try to understand the position of the Wat Pa Phong Sangha? How justified are the (unsubstantiated) assumptions that it is guided by prejudice, lack of compassion, ignorance and misogny.
    Why should so many senior Thai monks consider Ajahn Brahm to have acted in a deceitful and unethical manner?
    As a Thai Buddhist, am I over-sensitive in sensing in some of Ajahn Sujato’s references to the Thai Sangha, a variation on an all- too familiar Western condescension to ‘backward Asians’
    How was Ajahn Brahm’s understanding and memory of the content of the’Black Sunday’ meeting affected by his very poor Thai language skills?

    • Dear Siam Dham,

      Thanks for the comments. You raise some pertinent issues. I can’t be one to say how accurate my position is, although I can say that I have done my best to base myself on verifiable facts whenever possible. Nothing I have said, however, is ‘unsubstantiated assumptions’: I have carefully supplied whatever information I have directly from the best sources available, and give my interpretations. On one or two occasions errors of fact have been pointed out and I have corrected them immediately. Everyone is free to agree or disagree, which is what this forum is about.

      But by all means, anyone seriously interested in the events should study the position put by both sides before making up their minds.

      However, as I wrote a couple of years ago in my essay Dark Matter, the real problem is that those opposing bhikkhuni ordination simply do not engage in the dialogue. Maybe now, if their hand is forced, we might see some public statements, although I’ve yet to see any signs of this. If you look through my ‘Letter to Good People’ you will see that I have tried to raise the issue again and again.

      Regarding my attitude to the Thai Sangha, please remember that I lived in Thailand for 6 years, and very much love the land and its people, which is why this all pains me so much. In addition, I constantly work together with Sangha of all traditions and backgrounds here in Australia, and this multi-cultural richness is one of the reasons I returned. We had Thai people bring us dana today, and they are full of joy at the bhikkhuni ordination.

      Actually, my own experience with Thai monks in Thailand, and as reported to me by Thai samaneris and bhikkhunis, is that they are generally supportive of bhikkhunis, although not necessarily willing to make this public. A very senior Thai monk when he heard of the bhikkhuni ordination, gave his unqualified anumodana, and said that he thought 80% of Thai monks would agree with what we’ve done.

      But you must remember that the group of monks who make up WPP are only one small group in Thailand. The forest tradition, as we all know, favors meditation and deprecates study. To argue that the monks who made this decision did not do so on the basis of a careful understanding of the actual texts is not a racist slur, but a simple statement of the facts. Most of them would never have read the bhikkhuni Vinaya, or even met a bhikkhuni once in their lives. If monks want to live like that, then good on them, but they shouldn’t try dictate how we are to live in Australia; and, I might add, they themselves understand this and in the past have never tried to interfere.

      As to Ajahn Brahm’s grasp of the Thai language, you’re right, it’s not great, but he does understand it much better than he speaks it. There were Western monks present with excellent Thai, such as Ajahn Nyanadhammo, so I think that translation issues would not have been a major factor.

    • When they are talking about the backwardness of treating women unequally it is about the backwardness of the situation, not the backwardness of Asian. I am an Asian myself, so there is no reason for that. You might be too identified with being Asian, and get offensive thinking people meant to say that Asians are backward. This is an unsubstantial assumption on your part.

      Besides, why the need to identify with being Asian or Caucasian anyways. These people don’t want to discriminate between men or women, they don’t seem to be the type that would discriminate between Asian or Caucasian. Can we learn to go beyond such superficial distinction already.

    • I think Ajahn Sujato’s criticism of the seeming equal misogyny of members of the English Sangha is evidence that his comments are not ‘racially’ prejudiced. It would perhaps aid our understanding of the Thai point of view, Siamdham, if you could explain to we women, why it is that these Thai monks despise us.

    • Barbara, I do not think that misogyny is the motivation for the decision of the WPP ajahns. Furthermore, it I think that all the comments about “Thai monks”, “Westerners” and “the Asian Way”, etceteras is misleading. There are Thai monks that support bhikkuni ordination. Even Somdet Buddhajahn is tacitly supportive through his actions to moderate the reaction of the WPP ajahns. And there are Western monks and lay people that are resisting bhikkuni ordination.

      To suggest that this issue is a “Thai Buddhist vs Western/Australian Buddhist” issue grossly oversimplifies the issue and misses the point.

      To suggest that the WPP ajahns are just misogynists (and to only understand their legacy through this one act) misrepresents their motives.

      There are many within Theravada that cling to tradition and fear change. If we who support bhikkuni ordination suspend our judgement for a moment, we can easily understand why they feel this way. There is much about Theravadan tradition that is worthy of adhering to. If it had not been for such tradition we would not know the tradition handed down from the Buddha today.

      But as in most things in this world, it does no good to cling to views, especially extreme views. We, each generation of Buddhists, must appraise what is handed down to us anew and work out how to apply the Buddha Dhamma according to our circumstances.

      The generalisations and accusations that have been flying around in this debate miss the central points. I personally support Ajahn Brahm in this matter, not out of faith, but having been convinced by the clarity of his arguments in favour of bhikkuni ordination. It is upon the strength of these arguments that these decisions rest. I believe that because these arguments in favour of bhikkuni ordination are clear, fair, reasonable, compassionate, in accordance with the Vinaya propounded by the Lord Buddha, and achievable in practice, that they are worthy of supporting, and that they shall win over the sceptics and stand the test of time.

      Change in this great and ancient tradition will come in stages. Let us reflect not only upon the errors of those we disagree with, but also upon the good that they have done. Let’s keep an open door so that when the time is right, we can all be reconciled.

      peace; sol

    • Dear Sol,

      thanks for your remarks, I agree we have to be clear that there are many Thai monks supportive of bhikkhunis. The anti-bhikkhuni idea is as much a Western perception of Thai culture as anything else.

      But we do need to keep the issue of misogyny in mind. I will blog more about this in time, but it is clear to me that there are several of the Western monks who have very confused attitudes towards women. With the Thais, it is more social conditioning.

    • Hi Barbara,

      Following Sol, I think we need to be very clear that it is certainly not the case that ‘Thai monks’ in general despise women. The problem for them is an institutional and structural one. To be sure, that structure clearly does not recognize the full worth of women, and by limiting and denying women’s potential it harms not only the women, but everyone else as well – including the monks. But this is a quite different thing from an active neurosis about women. That is something I have not seen in Thai monks personally. I know the difference might seem arbitrary, and perhaps it is in terms of the harm that comes about. But in terms of the appropriate response it is very different. Institutional sexism requires institutional reform, hence the bhikkhuni order. It can be expected that as the reform takes root these attitudes will fade away. But neurotic misogyny is a much tougher beast, which probably requires therapy.

    • Read Bhikkhu Bodhis letter and his statement about Thais education and then tell me if their are some thinking Thais are backwards.

  26. Sujato has not aquitted himself well above. His words are not well spoken but instead replete with accusation, emotion, bias & projection.

    The airing of the Sangha’s dirty laundary in public forum is not behaviour fitting of a bhikkhu and can only attract human beings with similar defilements (kilesa).

    It is correct this Australian group be set apart from the Ajahn Chah tradition. They have abused & misused their positions by departing more & more from the dhamma of Ajahn Chah & the Forest Tradition.

    Their intellectual arrogance has been hard to behold. Sujato’s disrespect for the Lord’s First Sermon in his death & dying speech in Malaysia by twisting its meaning for seemingly financial benefaction was enough.

    Indeed. Sugato and Brahmavaso are Mahayanists, who place the gathering of the flock and financial benefaction before the integrity of the Buddha-Dhamma. This Mahayana attitude can only lead to the loss of the Buddha-Dhamma, that was rightfully restored by the Forest Tradition.

    Such sectarian behaviour is fitting for sectarian status.

    • Dear Nick,

      Once again, as in your comment following the article on Pell, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

      As to the ‘death & dying speech in malaysia’ that you refer to – it was actually about the In-between State in early Buddhism, and anyone interested may read it here.

      cheers

      Sujato

    • An extremely respectable monk being excommunicated without proper justification is not a small issue that should be swept aside under the rug just like you would expect them to turn a blind eye to the practice condition of women. Neither of these situation should be ignored , hide in the closet, or kept silence.

      And how is speaking up about the practice condition of women detract from the dhamma. Do they deserve to be excommunicated for this wholesome action? I am open to listen to the other side.

    • iMeditation

      A group or tradition is a group. WPP is a Thai group and Sujato/Brahm are a renegade Australian group. The Thai group have disagreed, for reasons strongly based in Thai expectations. As such, Sujato/Brahm are expelled from the group according to their karma. This does not mean the Sujato/Brahm karma is particularly unwholesome. It is merely a matter of image. It is like the CEO of Nike wearing Adidas clothing. This is not particularly unwholesome but naturally the CEO will be released from Nike and can find a job with Adidas.

      Please remember, this is Australia. The monks can basically do as they please. I trust they will survive in the land of beer, cricket & football.

    • Nick, any ideas about why the majority of WWP monks are against the resinstation of the Bhikkhuni order?

    • Hi Grasshopper

      I suspect (without authority) it is about ‘tradition’, ‘Thai culture’ and ‘Thai expectation’. Thailand culture is largely based in roles & social class. My experience of Thailand is it is not sexist as the culture has strong matriarchial roots. The woman’s role in the family can be quite dominant so perhaps the issue is about maintaining the Thai view of social order. All I am aware of is the Thais generally do not support it.

    • Hi Nick,

      Do you mind if I ask, are you the site administrator ‘Element’ from Buddhaforum.org? I noticed a lot of your comments seem to mirror ‘Element’s’ comments in this thread http://buddhaforum.org/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=735&start=10 , about Brahm teaching superstition to get money off asians, and wondered if that site would be the best place to find out specifically which superstitions you mean?

  27. Words cannot express how appalled I am at the lack of wisdom, compassion and regard for the Buddha’s teaching which is being directed at the Australian Forest Sangha from senior monks overseas who should know better. Thank you, Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato, for your courage and determination, which has led not only to the ordination of 4 bikkhunis, but in the re-examination of my own response to the call of the Dhamma. As a lay Buddhist who read her first Dhamma book 53 years ago, I’m not bothered about WPP throwing out Ajahn Brahm, Bodhinyana or any of us: I will still sit myself down, meditate daily and practice in my own humble way. I cannot count how many times I’ve read and heard the expression ‘the future of Buddhism lies in the West’ in all these years. Maybe it should be amended to ‘Australia’ rather then the ‘West’. Perhaps we are seeing the beginning of a new and more enlightened path, unencumbered by those who act in secrecy, seek to hold on to power and will not listen to reason. As for me, I’m glad I’m still hear to begin this journey. Bravo Ajahns Brahm and Sujato. I’ve waited a long time for this.

  28. Sujato

    I take no issue with bikkhuni ordaination. But as your good self & Brahm are teachers of superstition, I take issue with your good selves as the initiators of such an action. Buddhism already has many female practitioners using rebirth (including as a ‘man’) as their motivation for practice. Your young novice recently advertised on You Tube a motivation for ordaination connected to rebirth & supersititious views. Growth of such as sect is viewed differently by different eyes.

    • So they are excommunicated from the group of Ajahn Chah’s disciple, but nevertheless, they are still Theravedans.

      About taking better rebirth as an objective for practicing, if you read ” Simply This Moment” by Ajahn Brahm, you will clearly see it written that he discourages his monks from aiming for rebirth in heaven. That is only for lay people that are not interested in Nibbana yet. This is another unsubstantial assumption about AB.

      Why on earth would you practice for the sake of rebirth as a man anyways. There is nothing wrong or inferior about being a woman. Just because a certain person wanted to practice for the sake of rebirth as a male, please don’t come to the conclusion that most or all women are that way . Or that women are incapable or grasping the dharma. That is an unsubstantial assumption.

    • Grasshopper. I am not sure of what you are trying to say. Renouncing the world is different to disturbing & creating friction in the pravailing society.

    • iMeditation. Regarding the ‘rebirth as a man’ matter, that is not my belief. I do not even believe in rebirth. But it is a widely held Buddhist belief. Kind regards. Bye.

    • Also, regarding the distinction between monk Nibbana & layperson heaven, whilst this has its basis in the suttas, it also has its basis in another time & culture. In other words, the Forest Tradition generally did not follow this distinction and taught supramundane dhamma to both ordained & layperson. This is another aspect that differentiates this Australian sect from the Forest Tradition.

    • I was saying that the Lord Buddha himself teaches certain people that are not interested in Nibbana to live in a righteous life at least, so that they don’t end up in an unfortunate rebirth.
      That makes sense because, he knows that different people are ready for different levels of teachings. However, for certain lay people that are ready, he gave a teaching that would inspire them to ordain and strive for nibbana.

  29. Thanks for your response Nick:)

    Shouldn’t the WPP rise above forms and social constraints of Thailand? Ajahn Mun and Chah were well known for going against the grain of their society weren’t they? I thought cutting through social man-made constraints is one major aspect of renouncing and embracing the Holy life! In fact I see that message pervading across many teachings of not just Ajahn Brahm but also that of other Senior WPP Ajahns such as Ajahns Amaro, Passano and Sumedho.

  30. Dear all,

    The thread is drifting from the point as these things do. I’d just like to clarify a few things.

    1. Both Ajahn Brahm and myself – as with virtually all Buddhists – believe in rebirth, not because it is a convenient superstition that gets us money from Asians (!) but because it is taught in the Suttas, is rational, and is supported by evidence.

    2. Neither Ajahn Brahm nor myself teach the Dhamma solely for getting reborn in heaven, in fact i think we hardly ever talk about that. Nevertheless, this is very commonly found in the Suttas and is a perfectly respectable consolation prize for Dhamma practitioners. It is also normally taught in forest tradition monasteries. Having lived in those monasteries for many years, I have no idea where Nick gets this notion that the forest tradition does not acknowledge this distinction. However, it may be the case that, given that Thai cultural Buddhism almost exclusively aims at better rebirth, some of the forest monks are concerned to re-balance things by emphasizing the transcendent.

    3. I have not been expelled from WPP. Even though I ordained in that tradition and have great gratitude for the chance to practice the Dhamma in such an authentic way, when it came time to establish my monastery, Santi FM, I never joined Wat Pah Pong, for reasons that should by now be obvious.

    4. As far as being a ‘renegade’ group goes, well that sounds like a dead sexy thing to be. The whole forest tradition in its early days was a renegade bunch, although by now it has settled into comfortable middle-age. But with us, really, there’s no group, just some Dhamma friends. This is, in fact, the mainstream situation in Thailand, especially the forest tradition. The students of Ajahn Mun, for example, all set up their own monasteries which remain interlinked to one degree or another, although with certain differences, but there is no overarching organization like WPP.

    5. There is a tendency, which I find a bit disturbing, to phrase the debate in racial terms, something that is quite alien to how I think about it. If you think that this is an ‘Asian’ or a ‘Western’ issue, please do look at the support letters, which encompass an impressively broad spectrum of humanity. It’s about people, folks, not about westerners or asians or men or women. We only need to use these concepts to deconstruct stereotypes, not build them up.

  31. so in which society has Ajahn Brahm created friction?

    There was no need for excommunication if the majority of WPP are in favour of reinstation of the Bhikkhuni order.

  32. this so called Australian sect doen’t teach Supramundane stuff to lay people? That surely is a joke. Ever heard of Sutta studies? AB’s book on how to obtain the Jhanas? Jhana grove?

  33. Thanks Ajahn Brahm for your courage we have four Bhikkhunis in Perth .
    We are blessed. I know this will pass and we will have more Bhikkhunis in perth.

  34. It takes courage to go against popular beliefs. If Buddha did not go against the popularly held views in ancient India, if he did not go aganist those cast and gender based societies, where would the civilisation be today?

    In buddhism there is no hierarchy; no chain of command. So how can any one expel Ajahn Brahm? That doesn’t make any sense. Buddha has specifically declared that after him, his teachings, the Damma will be the leader. In my view Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujatho are exemplary monks who practice Damma, in the true Theravada tradition, as true Buddha Srawakas.

    Buddha started the Bhikkhuni Ordination. Due to the views of some members of “Sangha”, the bhikkhuni sasana has got diluted in Theravada countries. It is high time that some one stood up, corrected that injustice and reintroduced the proper bhikkhuni sasana. It had to be Ajhan Brahm.

    All we can do is to send our mega metta to those monks who apppear to have failed to understand the essence of the Buddha’s teachings. May they all attain Nibbana, one day.

  35. Dear Ajahn Sujato,

    I would request you to reconsider making all of these things public. Many people may take it all the wrong way.
    Majority of the posts above are fueled with emotions and have now relation to Dhamma Vinaya – something I am sure you would like to be based on.
    I know that you are taking refuge in your intention and therefore might be shielded from the kamma fruits, however, other people may express some very strong views that may lead to the detrimental results in their Dhamma practice.
    If you read above – you will see that some people call WPP Sangha “clowns” – this is not very wholesome. Some of those monks have attained to various stages of Dhamma – WPP Sangha is way too diverse and big to make any kind of generalizations.
    Please Ajahn, reconsider…
    Respects,
    xAranyako

    • I would like to respond to Aranyako’s comments and reflect on the many blessings that have come my way as a result of the Buddhas teachings and the Thai Forest tradition. The Wat Pah Pong Sangha is a diverse collection of monks and includes beings who have purified their minds and exhibit such kindness and compassion that it can have a remarkable effect on those around them. These monks do embody the teachings of the Buddha and are part of the Ariya Sangha. It is unwise to slander these special beings with liitle understanding of who they are and what they represent. Ajahn Brahm inspires such loyalty and inspiration due to the development of his own mind in following the path of the Buddha. It is unfortunate if kilesas have arisen in this debate and important to reflect on the common goals and aspirations we cherish in training to purify our own minds. It is a remarkable development that bhikkunis have been ordained in Western Australia and consequences have flowed from this decision. May the changes that have transpired contribute to the longevity of the sasana and give women the opportunity to whole heartedly devote themselves to the holy life, attaining to the fruits of the path for the benefit of the many.
      Best wishes,
      xEkavihari

  36. THE DAMAGE has been done: The turmoil brought forth has now been exacerbated by opening the floodgate to accusations and counter-accusations, coupled with uncalled-for remarks, some of which are unhealthy, destructive and needless to say, creating bad karma for ourselves in our thoughts and deeds. The loser in the end is Buddhism and what it truly stands for. Haven’t we learnt anything at all after all these years ?

    The ill-wind of discontentment, anger and resentment generated within us over this controversial issue ought to be handled tactfully, with maturity and commonsense….coupled with the underlining true understanding of Vinaya Pitaka but temper with the change in time, culture, traditions and attitude, within the doctrine of impermanence. There is thus no room for any emotional outburst of remarks or comments that are intended just to cause spite and unhappiness to others. That’s not the Buddhist way.

    Ironically, we have witnessed a somewhat similar happening with the Anglicans and the exodus of Anglicans now going to Catholicism.
    Let us learn something from this. Let us not become a mockery for others, Buddhists and non-Buddhists!

    All too often, we lashed out and voiced our un-invited judgment in haste on a matter without knowing all the facts in the case and worse, when we aren’t qualified to do so.
    But that’s the weakness in our human nature that we need to overcome. I am no exception…guilty!

    Like so many of our Buddhist friends here in Perth and I dare say from all over the world who have now come to know about the controversy and the dilemma in which Ajahn Brahm is confronted with: This is a very sad day indeed.
    No doubt, it’s a period of Samsara for our beloved and highly respected Ajahn Brahm.
    But the Buddha has assured us: That too will END.
    As the old saying goes: As one door closes, another door opens.
    NO ONE, PERSON OR BODY, OWNS BUDDHISM.
    NO ONE, PERSON OR BODY, OWNS THE MONOPOLY TO TEACH OR PRACTISE THE DHARMA.
    NO ONE, PERSON OR BODY, OWNS THE “TRADEMARK” OF THERAVADA BUDDHISM.
    Correct me if I am wrong.

    Reading Ajahn Sujato’s Blog, what sprung to my mind was…..and may I be so bold as to question: Is this just another Kangaroo Court?
    Even if it wasn’t, I would still have expected the principle of Natural Justice to be applied with the fairness and wisdom that our senior Ajahns in Wat Pat Pong traditions are renowned for.

    We, and more so, the Sangha must lead by EXAMPLE.
    And as Buddha has taught and encouraged us to think and question if in doubt, there is no better time than now for the WPP Ajahns, having made their decision to “ex-communicate, expel or ostracize” Ajahn Brahm, to then do the right and proper thing….and that is : To draft and set out their reasons for their decision, whatever that might be.
    It’s what lawyers call: Grounds of Judgment.
    It should then be published and made known to all, Buddhist and non-Buddhists.
    A written open judgment, as opposed to one in secrecy, would then allow those concerned to make known their reasons for their decision.

    Ajahn Brahm once advised me to speak from my heart and went on to say that if a monk has done or say anything wrong then we should tell the monk so. That’s not being impertinent. That’s not creating bad karma for ourselves.
    I have chosen to practice Buddhism. Nobody has forced me into it. And the reason I chose Buddhism was my understanding that Buddhism teaches us to think and open our hearts to the sufferings life has laden on all of us from cradle to casket.

    Without any disrespect to the Sangha or anyone of them within: The Sangha must be reminded when the need arises such as now that “ A tree would not survive without its roots.”
    Let us lay people therefore know the whole truth and nothing but the truth rather than a “summary judgment” on Ajahn Brahm whilst keeping us in the dark guessing and asking: why, why, why?
    Give us the respect that we all deserve: A statement of the reasons for the decision.
    Ajahn Brahm might have to be judged by his peers. But ultimately, we are the “roots” that support the Sangha and thus should be the jury of the righteousness of that decision.

    Again, with no disrespect to the WPP Sanghas in Thailand, I as a mere lay person have to ask this somewhat naïve question: Is the ultimatum given to Ajahm Brahm a truly fair one given the enormous support given to the Bhikkhuni ordination and the happiness generated therefrom.
    Is it therefore within the spirit of the Dharma-Vinaya to order a recantation on Ajahn Brahm and also disregarding altogether such support and wishes of us all, not only from Perth but also elsewhere?
    Surely, an amicable solution could be thought through to resolve this issue, leaving “both parties” in their respective position amenable to move on with self-respect…. to either side.

    Amid all these, I am still at a lost not knowing what the Vinaya objections, or as Ajahn Sujato pointed out: “ Failure of View”, were?
    Perhaps those who are more approachable to the WPP Ajahns could find out direct from their own lips and enlighten us, please?
    Meanwhile my heart goes out to Ajahn Brahm .
    All we could do is to pray that commonsense, justice and wisdom would prevail to restore the PEACE that have been the symbol of Buddhism.

    In the absence of any sound judgment on Ajahn Brahm’s alleged (!) and still un-explained “failure of view”:
    1. My response to the monk who has called for Ajahn Brahm to step down as Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery : NO!
    2. My response to the monk who had the gall to suggest for a fat cheque from Ajahn Brahm, supposedly asking for a return of “ donations and gifts” from the good Thai community here and abroad:
    This merely demonstrated the level of childishness and immaturity in that person. My goodness, which right thinking human being would ask for a return of a gift when a “relationship or friendship” ends? Would you?
    From a legal point of view, what authority has he got to ask for that?
    And especially when the donations and gifts came from the Thai lay-supporters….not the WPP Sangha!
    Let those Thai donors come forth and identify themselves if they do want their donations back!
    I dare say most, if not all, would not even want to think about that!

    I suspect and believe that all these misunderstanding and confrontations have unfortunately come about from influences generated outside the WPP Sangha…. from those that have sown themselves with seeds of resentment, anger, hatred, and jealousy, determined to bulldoze their will and wishes onto others using the WPP Ajahns.
    The Sangha is certainly not immune to outside political influences and from bigots that surround them.

    In conclusion, this is a testing time not just for Ajahn Brahm but also for Buddhism and what it stands for.
    Let us help to resolve this in whatever way we could but all parties must have an open mind…and more importantly, an open heart.
    We are now living in the 21st Century. So we need to exercise our judgment on what’s relevant in our present day and age.
    Our paramount consideration is and must always be the well-being and happiness of all and these could only be realized if we work in concert, as ONE in togetherness, with a common goal to resolve the matter amicably and focusing on what Buddha Himself might say, for that seems to me to be the true guide to what’s right and what’s unwise.

    Notwithstanding all that I have stated herein above, I have mixed feelings about an open declaration of our outright support and allegiance to Ajahn Brahm as some might want us to choose between the WPP Ajahns and Ajahn Brahm. This tantamount to an open defiance when it need not have to be.
    I am sure Ajahn Brahm too would NOT want this as that would create a division and wedge within our already confused Buddhist community, similar to one asking a child to choose his love for his or her father OR mother.
    Just as in the old saying: When 2 elephants fight, those tiny creatures underneath would be killed!
    When there is lack of harmony within the Sangha, we the lay-supporters lose.
    Isn’t there room for an “AGREEMENT TO DISAGREE”? Surely this agreement, written or otherwise, would then leave room for an individual Bhikkhu to disagree on any Vinaya : “differences as distinguished from failure, of view.”
    Did Buddha dictate or expect just ONE view? NO!
    Let’s cordially invite those concerned to state their case concisely and clearly so that we could then understand and learn why, if at all, the case against Ajahn Brahm is so serious that warranted his expulsion from the WPP tradition.

    In the meantime, we would do better by giving Ajahn Brahm time and a chance to work out this unhappy event with the WPP Ajahns, without unnecessary intervention or interference from “outside”…since this is, to put it simply: Sangha’s Business!
    We have no right, legally or morally, to intervene.
    If the Sangha can’t, then Buddha help us!

    With metta,

    Sam Tan

  37. Doesnt the Buddha teaches us about wisdom? Wisdom in thought, word or action. Thoughts without wisdom borders on Ignorance. Words without wisdom borders on stupidity. Action without wisdom borders on foolhardy. Do respected Ajahns realised the damage done to Buddhism? Buddha would have this great wisdom and compassion to come out with an amicable resolution and solution. Will there be any more wisdom & compassion left to deal with this? Learned Ajahns use wisdom!!
    MW

  38. I am no expert or authority in Buddhism. But I do know that the Buddha taught a way of life 2600 years ago. The word ‘Buddhism’ did not even exist then. It was coined by the British subsequently. So why the stickiness over Thai tradition, forest tradition, Ajahn Chah’s tradition? They are but names and branding.

    What is important is whether the ordination of nuns benefit oneselves, the other parties and the whole community. I do not find anything unwholesome or harmful over it. Support was given by Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato out of compassion and loving-kindness. It sadden me that the good and wholesome intention has resulted in such an outcome.

    So do not be bothered by whether Ajahn Brahm and his monastery are in WPP or not. It doesn’t matter. What is more important is that we continue to support Ajahn Brahm, his disciples, his monastery and the many good and wonderful work he is doing. Politics exists everywhere. Monastery is no exception.

    By the way, I am an Asian and I support the wonderful work Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato are doing. It is not an issue of East vs West or clash of cultures. It is all about being compassionate, humane and loving-kindness.

    Oh yes, on the issue of “Mahayana evengelism”… it doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as the monks are practising what the Buddha taught and doing for the well being of all beings, we should all say Sadhu to them.

    Also, how many so called “Theravada” monks we have seen going round collecting “alms” or money after lunch? I saw one in Kuala Lumpur collecting alms at night and another one collecting alms at 3pm in Johor Bahru ! Guess they might be bogus monks. But who knows?

    So let’s not be too purist about it.

  39. Oh yes. The Buddha did not say that Buddhism should be confined to Thailand only. It originated from India and spread to many parts of the world. So, nothing wrong if Australia has its own tradition (if one still insists on having tradition).

    If Australia’s Sangha and Buddhist community can do a better job than Thailand, why not?

  40. 5 November 2009

    Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato,

    Don’t let stick-in-the muds obscure the lotuses that are blooming in Serpentine,- and Gigiganup

    Thailand is changing -they have such a show -Red shirt and Yellow shirt

    Now, this .

    Truly Buddhists are a divided lot

    I don’t think the Buddha is pleased.

  41. Theravadan Buddhism seems to be at the crossroads of the most serious crisis in modern history. Yet the silence from the Eastern so-called ‘secular’ ‘progressives’, Western monks, and lay teachers is deafening. Where are their protests against the excommunication of Ajahn Brahm and his monastery? Their proclamations of support for a socially and spiritually enlightened gender-blind religion? Bhikkhus who are in favour of bhikkhuni ordination must take a firm stance, from within their respective institutions. Lay persons must take a stance individually and collectively against the continued oppression of female monastics.
    David Jones writes in “Moral Responsibility in the Holocaust: A Study in the Ethics of Character”, that “One central implication of full moral blameworthiness is deserving [the silence] and negative moral judgment of others, and also deserving whatever additional adverse consequences are properly and justifiably incurred as a result. In short, virtually any aspect of human relationships, social practices, or institutions can become involved when people who are “blameworthy” are made to “answer” for their wrongdoing.”
    There are myriad historical examples of religious, governmental, and institutional wrongdoing in which the conspiracy of silence implied agreement, collusion, or sympathy. There are even more in which silence implied cowardice. It takes conviction and resolve to speak out boldly against injustice and oppression, to refuse to remain silent or indifferent in the face of oligarchy.

    The oppression of women, children and minorities were acceptable until a brave few had the rectitude to speak out against them. Advances in quality of life for all beings have been initiated by those who refused to accept the status quo. Those who witness boldly also give voice to the voiceless and hope to the hopeless.

    The Buddha himself denied the rigid social milieu of his time by refusing to accept an Indian caste system in which women were “Untouchables”. 2,500 years ago, his actions were revolutionary. To be a revolutionary is to walk in the footsteps of the Buddha.

  42. I wish to add, Sujato has again erred and misunderstood the Buddha’s Dhamma when he states: “diṭṭhivipatti, a ‘failure of view’. Failure of view is described in the Anguttara Nikaya (AN 3.117) as the denial of the fruits of merit and the existence of other realms”.

    Sujato. Wrong view (micca dhitti) is also the denial of “mother and father”. In other words, the denial of “benefactors”. Your senior Ajahns have implied Brahm & yourself acted without proper gratitude and consideration for the Forest Tradition.

    This wrong view on your behalf is demonstrated by what you said here: “Another monk said (again incorrectly) that since the funds to build Bodhinyana came from Thai people who donated out of faith in Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Brahm should give a huge cheque to WPP to repay the Thai people!”

    Now the Thai people may have not directly funded the Western Australian monastary but they did finance the WPP tradition and the monasteries in Britain.

    If brief, what the Senior Thai Ajahns have implied about “wrong view” is not incorrect. The only matter subject to debate is whether Brahm and yourself have acted without appropriate gratitude to your forebearers or spiritual father.

    Thus, just as your misunderstood the 4NTs in your Death & Dying speech, you have misunderstood wrong view as expressed in the suttas.

  43. A huge “Thank You’ to the WPP, for giving us this marvellous opportunity to put our practice to practise!
    For all of us – monks and laypeople – living in places where there is peace and harmony, with our material needs easily met, having the company of good friends and easy access to the Dhamma, it is easy enough to become complacent in our practice, those nasty kilesas and asavas well hidden and locked away by delusion.
    And now how they rise in anger and ill-will, jealousy, judgement, blame … the full works!
    Now’s the time for forgiveness and metta, for compassion to those caught up in anger, for mudita – joy that the Bhikkhuni Sasana is established in Australia, and finally the tough one, equanimity – upekkha towards the whole situation.

    ‘And this too shall pass,’ as Prem comments. All this will subside in time and the Bhikkhuni sangha will grow from strength to strength.

    We remember the huge uproar there was in Sri Lanka when Bhikkhuni Kusuma and a few brave ladies supported by courageous monks received ordination at Bodh Gaya 12 years or so ago. Most of the Sangha were against it – and many still are. But the tide cannot, will not, be turned back. There are now over 500 Bhikkhunis in Sri Lanka and Venerable Kusuma is setting up a training center for Bhikkhunis ‘with the hope that under a single umbrella organisation, a new Bhikkhuni organisation will arise under one banner’. Women at long last have the same opportunity as men for the training needed to progress along the path. If it could be easily accomplished by leading a lay life, or as an anagarika keeping 10 precepts, the Blessed One would not have set up a structured Sangha. He saw it fit 26 centuries ago to ordain women and it is even more fitting in the 21st century when all women seek to be equal partners.

    I remember the ten precept nuns – dasa sil mathas – of yore. They were mostly poor and not well educated, living on their own or in small groups and practising the best they could. They could not go on pindapat as monks did, instead going to homes of people they knew, collecting provisions and fending for themselves. Sometimes they’d be invited to someone’s home for a meal.
    I remember too meeting a young Swiss 10 precept nun in Sri Lanka, about 15 years ago, in tears because there was nowhere she could go to receive a proper training.

    On a recent visit to Sri Lanka I attended several Dhamma discussions by well known monks where about 90% of the participants were women. It is women who seem to treasure and value the Dhamma most. It may be because women are more sensitive to suffering and seek a way out.

    As for the ‘Mahayanist’ slur – we Theravadins should be ashamed that we do not adhere to the spirit of the Buddha’s teaching and accept that we are equal in the Dhamma. I believe that in the Mahayana a ‘Master’ could be of either sex.

    So thank you to the Australian Sangha for their courage and vision.

  44. The equality of women is a vital step for acceptance of Buddhism in Australia. My 100% support goes to you, Ajahn Brahm and the nuns. Surely it is what the Buddha would have wanted?
    Metta
    Rachel.

  45. I have just received this (sent via an email mailout from Bhikkhu Munindo) it seems to relate beuatifully and gently to the discussion…

    Dhammapada verse 401

    A great being is great because he or she is free from obstructions in
    the way they relate with life. We are not so great because we get
    caught in feelings and make a problem out of life. We create
    obstructions by the way that we deal with the eight worldly dhammas:
    praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and suffering, popularity
    and insignificance. Because of delusion we relate to these worldly
    winds heedlessly – indulging in what we like and resisting what we
    don’t like. Wisdom on the other hand simply sees the reality of the
    sensory world. It knows the space within which all experiences arise
    and cease. Such knowing means a great being doesn’t even have to try
    to let go; all inclination to cling automatically falls away. He or
    she experiences sensual pleasure but adds nothing to it and takes
    nothing away.

    • Very nice. Thank you for posting this verse Rachel. It has got me thinking.
      We all have views on every matter. The key is what makes us attach to this view or the other. This issue needs to be dealt with with compassion and non-attachment. Sadly clinging to tradition without wisdom is attachment to views. We all need to cultivate wisdom and let go of self.

      I fully support Aj Brahm’s decision and the Ven Bhikkhunis who have bravely taken the step in strengthening their Dhamma practice. As lay people we are most fortunate that women are given the opportunity to practice as equally as monks.

  46. I would like everyone who wants to post here to kindly read what Sol Hanna said before posting your comment. Keep your head cool before committing an act, please.

    FYI, I am a Thai and I support Bhikkhuni ordination simply because ordination is the best way that accommodates our efforts to get on the ‘path’. That the Bhikkhunis are not present in the Thai Theravadan tradition seems not a good reason for rejecting Bhikkhuni ordination. (This is the reason a monk gave to me when I telephoned WPP.– this information could be wrong as I did not have an opportunity to talk to Ajahn Liem himself.) I am happy to listen to and accept reasons based on the vinaya Lord Buddha himself laid down.

    May Ajahn Chah’s lineage remain true to Lord Buddha’s teachings.

    With metta to all.

    Dheerayupa

  47. I hope we in Perth will soon be welcoming monks of the WPP tradition to come and visit and learn about our new tradition.

    With metta,

    Michael

  48. Bhante Sujato,

    This is indeed sad news to come home to. I was made aware of the issue via an open letter from Ajahn Chandako and find the whole matter rather impossible to believe as there seems to be so much petty matters for something which I see as only beneficial to the Sangha as a whole.

    Regardless of the outcome, I remain a fervent supporter of Ajahn Brahm and his bold decision to resolve the bhikkuni issue once and for all, I can only wish that ill-will from the Thai people will subside in time.

    With deepest metta,
    -Jean-Loup

  49. This is just to inform the true Followers of the Buddha,, what was so called ATTAGARUDHAMMA, addopted by the Buddha-

    Atta Garudhamma

    1. A nun who has been ordained (even) for a century must greet respectfully, rise up from her seat, salute with joined palms, do proper homage to a monk ordained but that day.
    2. A nun must not spend the rains in a residence where there is no monk.
    3. Every half month a nun should desire two things from the order of a monks (1) the asking (as to the date) of observance (Uposatha day), (2) the coming for the exhortation (or be observed).
    4. After the rains a nun must invite before both orders in respect of three matter- i. what was seen, ii. What was heard, iii. What was suspected.
    5. A nun offending against an important rule, undergo Mānatta (the discipline) for a half a month.
    6. When, as a probationer, she has trained in the six rules for two years, she should seek ordination.
    7. A monk must not be abused or reviled by a nun.
    8. From to-day admonitions of monks nuns is forbidden, admonitions of nuns by monks is not forbidden

    I’m observing the situation, will have my say soon.

    SABBE SANKHARA ANICCA’TI

    • It seems highly unlikely that the source of these rules could truly be traced to the wise and compassionate Buddha. Did he not warn, in the Kalama Sutta, ‘Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations…but after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it…’? We must weigh up the evidence and look to what is most reasonable, and conducive to the greatest benefit for one and ALL.

    • Hi Eric,

      Have you heard of the 4 aspects of right speech (samma-vaca)? In case not, here they are: Not lying, not using harsh or malicious speech, and not engaging in pointless speech. Good to consider these things, lest one’s mouth (or in this case, keypad) leads one astray.
      May all bloggers and comment posters abide in peace, free from hatred and ill-will.
      Mike (ex-Mudita Bhikkhu)

  50. Everything has to start somewhere , great respect for Ajahn Brahm And Ajahn Sujato to take such courageous stand.
    This is a real ” acid test ” to see who is more enlighten. On one end where religious politic supersede human welfare. One the other end the Buddha’s teaching come first , human welfare and equality become the main priority.
    Waiting for the days to see this is over, which had shaken the entire Buddhist world. All monks from both side welcoming each other again.
    Bhikkhuni ordination is not new , it happen during the Buddha’s time. It is just someone try to revive this tradition.
    Lay people usually do not involve with Sangha issues, but this has gone too far, keeping silent is not the option.

    with metta,
    LPK

  51. I am very surprised of this excommunication news. Our full support to you Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato. As Ajahn always retells in Dhamma Talks “This too will pass ..”, we all need to wear these rings to cool us down now, refraining from undermining any groups …
    This too will pass … regardless in which directions ….

  52. May we celebrate the dialogue that all of this has generated. What a quiet little community we were before all of this. May we now embrace a little dose of real spiritual growth (as a community).
    Change requires dialogue; conflict is that tight corner where we get to do the work that leads to awakening.
    “Airing the dirty laundry” is observing reality as it is. Why shouldn’t there be dirty laundry in this community as in others?
    We have great power as a community to forgive. If there are weaknesses in processes, and they come to light, we get to build a stronger Sangha.
    If there are decisions made based on lack of clear seeing, and they have come to light, let us debate and challenge one another. If there is a misguided undercurrent that is generating decisions that block women or other Dhamma Friends from voicing their concerns or practicing fully, then let those undercurrents come to light and let us and our beloved monastic community begin addressing them.
    If there are obstacles in the hearts of certain monks nuns and laypersons to encouraging all beings fully towards Nibbana then let these obstacles be removed.
    It does seem that Ajahn Brahm’s expulsion from WPPS is entirely invalid. This is my hope and I believe it to be entirely possible to revoke it. Although I am not attached to the outcome, it could help to restore my faith in the dignity of the lineage. I propose the circumstances and processes around the expulsion to be separate issues from the ordination issue.
    Thanissara – if you read this, can you please let me know how to find the facebook link? I searched but could not find. And please let us know how we can support the Nuns of Amaravati. There is sound conventional legal basis, but let us hope that the Vinaya is still relevant and the first recourse.
    Nick, if you are reading this I encourage you wholeheartedly to read the body of scholarship which emerged around the Bikkhuni Congress in 2007 or Ajahn Sujato’s book on Sects and Sectarianism or on Bikkhuni ordination. Your knowledge of Ajahn’s work seems to be focussed on a particular talk and the blogs here. Give it a try.
    With Metta,
    Lisa

  53. A clear examples where politics as taken over the intention. As far as I am concerned Ajan Brahm is liberated from another bond. Sadu!Sadu!!Sadu!!!
    Yes as many said this too will pass.
    May all be happy, peaceful and free from hindrance to attain Nibbana.

  54. It has always saddened me when other belief systems discriminate against women or persons of a different lifestyle. But it really breaks my heart when Buddhists squabble or fall out
    Buddhism will always evolve and we should treat our brothers in Thailand with compassion for their misguided actions,because they are in the minority. No one person or view is bigger than Buddhism.
    In reality Buddhism will grow and Ajahm Brahm and other wonderful teachers from other lineages will guide us toward our goal of enlightenment.
    Namaste

  55. Dear Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato. Congratulations to both of you in providing opportunities to women that has been long due. even saying ‘providing’ for women in this day and age seems so ludicrous. As a species we have not understood the meaning of mutual respect for the other gender. The reactions of monks, even the western ones are very unfortunate. The support they have received from the lay community for many years has been misplaced. Now it’s our turn to ask what have they accomplished? they don’t even seem to have bare minimum common sense- let alone wisdom. The five point document is ridiculous. I would expect something like that from the mullahs of the middle east. Well, my support for them stops today. I can forgive them for their ignorance. The so called ajahn Kayala seems like a woman hater. what type of enlightenment is he working towards?

  56. We should see thing from an overview perspective , not viewing from a tight angle. The Buddhist community consist of different school of thought, tradition , lineage.
    We should follow the Dharma & Vinaya that directly pass down by the Buddha. To an enlighten mind, the intention behind the vinaya is much the same , i- respective of time & space. The basic fundamental of intention does not change , but the implementation and application of it will be the tricky part . Rules and regulation should not deviate from the basic fundamental. Which could be the cause of down fall to certain quarters.
    Forum like this will certain resolve this conflict , by changing the way we look at things.
    By the way we talk, act & think , the way we live that make us Buddhist.
    By openly discuss certain sensitive issue & resolve it , will certain move the entire community forward , towards a better tomorrow.

    with metta,
    LPK

  57. I stumbled across Ajahn Sumedho’s teachings first, then teachings of other WPP monks which led me to Ajahn Chah’s teachings and finally to Ajahn Brahm’s and BSWA, in that order. To me, all of their teachings were very soothing, awesome and just what I was looking for.

    But I am totally against the official WPP’s stance on Bhikkhuni ordination. The ball started to roll in 1979 in Chithurst, UK with Anagarika ordination and subsequently their Ten-precept ordination in 1983. This was of course, a good thing.

    It’s been 25+ years since then but no official progress i.e. moving on to Bhikkhuni ordination from ten-precept nuns has occured. This is a bad thing. Progress has stalled at the same stage as that of Thailand. How many decades does this need to move on? If the hierarchy of WPP is concerned about nun’s official progress, which they surely need to be, things would and should have moved at a much faster rate. It does not take a rocket scientist to realise the hierarchy of WPP does not want this. Either that or they have no guts to move forward in this regard because the Thai hierarchy does not want this. So someone has to give. This is definitely a difficult situation. It was very important for Prince Siddharta to stay with his new-born baby, wife and extended family. But it was even more important to move on and renounce the lay life for the greater good of the rest of the world. This is exactly what Brahm has done as far as I can see.

    Some ppl question then why didn’t he atleast wait till the WAM in December? Hadn’t this Bhikkhuni ordination issue been discussed in previous WAMs before? C’mon guys, it doesn’t take 25 years. WPP’s inaction is telling something. This is from a lay perspective. I am sure AB and Ajahn Sujato would have an even better inkling of what WAM’s decision would have been even at the next WAM. Unfortunately, it seems like ‘if only AB had waited till the next WAM’ is doing-the-rounds. How about if only WPP did something, took some solid action regarding Bhikkhuni ordination instead of just talk-talk in the last 25 years?

    What is more important? Sticking to one’s lineage or helping to reinstate the Bhikkhuni ordination?

    With the subsequent excommunication, this inadvertantly raises doubts in people’s minds. I am yet to see a plausible reason by the WPP as to why the WPP has not gone ahead with Bhikkhuni ordination so far! It’s been sooooooooooo long. When people see a mismatch between what a teacher preaches and what he/she does, it is very disappointing, confusing and heart-breaking. My heart doesn’t jump at supporting the hierarchy of WPP? Tell me why should it?

    I was thinking to myself, so now who do you trust? I was in a very similar situation a couple of years ago with an Abbot of the WPP lineage which gave me a rude awakening. I certainly could see elements of a rift within WPP. That led me to question, should I choose the teachings or the teacher? I couldn’t throw away the teachings because they made sense, at least some of it. But the teacher didn’t. So I thought may be I should keep the bath water and throw away the baby lol. To me the teachings of the monks of the current WPP are still soothing just as before. However after my previous experience, and this excommunication thingie, I am inclined to choose the teachings and not the teacher.

    And oh, PLEASE let’s leave MARA out of this. He/She has been accused for so long by so many. Let us humans take reponsibility for any misdoings and solve human problems without blaming a non-human shall we?

  58. These events stir strong feelings.

    I feel shattered by them. I can not believe that all those monks who were due in Perth this month are not coming. That Aj Sumedo has renounced Aj Brahm (please tell me this is not true). It reminds me of all that I dislike about the Catholic church. Still someone once reminded me not to throw out the baby with the bath water & this is a case in point.

    The Buddah’s Dhamma is what should interest me and the failings of human beings are just interesting and in the long run won’t matter a jot.

    I should also look at my tendency to take a side here. ‘I am on the right side and “they” are on the wrong side’ – views like that can only be wrong. Yet I am aware I have that view. In fact that is what leads to my disappointment with those who I counted as being on “my side” previously.

    It also shows that I am my refuge, I can not look to others for a refuge. how can there be any refuge but myself?

    I would like to extend what moral support I can to Ajahn Brahm and the now independent Perth sangha. All this will pass as all things do – including the churning I can feel in my stomach as I write.

  59. Dear Ajahn Sujato.

    About 3 years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a talk given by you at the Buddhist Library in Sydney. I must confess, I was starting out on my path back then and some of what you said did go over my head, but I understood enough to realise I was in the presence of a wise teacher. This understanding was not unfounded as demonstated by the recent events.

    It seems to me, albeit a lay person and never having visited Thailand, that the resistance may be simply grasping on to control or fear of change itself.

    The President of BSWA, Ajahn Brahm, and your compassion towards the self proclaimed guardians of what is right is admirable. This is a prime example of training put into practise. A lesson other monks should heed.

    If any other monks wish to push their heavy barrows further and impose their will upon on others, then they must do so with the understanding of what goes around, comes around, ie kamma. Any wedge driven by those opposed to bikkhuni ordination will find it turned against them. They will find themselves isolated rather than isolating Ajahn Brahm and any other supporters of bikhunni ordination.

    I see a lot of support for what you did and this is all you need to concentrate on.
    I hope to meet you in person one day and express my thanks for your commitment to teaching us Aussies the path to liberation.

    Be well.

  60. We have known the bhikkhunis at Dhammasara Monastery for many years. They lead by example and their spiritual contributions make this society a better place to live. It is unique to have such a wonderful monastery in Western Australia and is worthy of our support. We wish them every success in their spiritual journey.
    Sadhu to the monks and nuns who made the ordination possible!!

  61. to be fair for both side, I would you, as the middle man, not to put any “feeling” for the readers, let them “read” and “understand” what’s the out history and the out come.

  62. Dear Ajahn Sujato,

    This was not a black Sunday as you like to flavour it; it is a bright day for Buddha’s teachings. I am quite happy for Ajahn Brahm to be expelled from a monastic lineage which hinders him and the bikkunis from reinterpreting Buddhism for the modern society. Ajahn Brahm has been trained as a scientist and he knows how to formulate questions and find answers; now he is finding answers the hard way. He needs to move on from these traditions in theravada and find his own truths keeping Dhamma—teaching of Buddha— as a pointer. Didn’t Buddha do the same thing? Didn’t he say ” I only teach suffering and the ending of it?”
    Wouldn’t these traditions rooted in the past increase suffering?

  63. I find it extremely sad that such a righteous and noble event as the bikkhunis ordination have elicited such an extreme reaction from that group of WPP monks.
    How things must have changed!
    I can only hope that the storm will blow over quickly and all manners of things shall be well again.

  64. First of all, no one is against women becoming bhikkhunis if they so desire, but there are issues that need to be considered, not only in terms of correct authority but also cultural issues.

    Why do the Thai Sangha not ordain bhikkhunis? Because there is no lineage and no one actually has the authority to do so, there is no predjudice involved.

    If there is to be a bhikkhuni Sangha in Thailand then it should be initiated by Thai women themselves. This would be carried out by gathering support from both
    Mae Chees (nuns) and the lay community and then petitioning the Thai government. This petition would then no doubt be passed onto the Mahathera Samahkom (Council of Elders) for consideration, and I suspect that as long as certain details are maintained then they would consider it none of their business and would have no objections.

    These details would involve bikkhunis staying in their own centres with their own authority and having their own dress code, with a lineage presumably introduced from another bhikkhuni Sangha.

    As it stands at the moment, there are only facilities for nuns in Thai Wats, thus introducing bhikkhunis into Thai Wats would pose logistic and cultural problems, e.g. where would they sit, how high would they sit, would they come before or after novices, etc. Thus, having them stay in existing Thai Wats would pose cultural problems regarding this.

    The issue of clothing also needs to be addressed. They should have different clothing than monks, as it is generally considered to be illegal for women to wear monks robes in Thailand. Any women who does travel to Thailand in monks robes faces the likelihood of being arrested, bhikkhuni or not. This is a cultural issue, and although there may not be a specific law on the books, in some places in Thailand, particularly upcountry, you can be assured that the police will make an arrest and the woman will be detained until such clothing is removed.

    As for the reaction of Wat Pah Pong, this is not so surprising, and whether one lives in Thailand, Australia or on the Moon, anyone ordained in the Thai Sangha is expected to follow not only the vinaya but also appreciate the idiosyncracies of Thai culture.

    What Ajarn Brahm has essentially carried out is the introduction of bhikkhuni ordination into the Thai Sangha without consulting the Thai Sangha, and if the same format of ordination as bhikkhu ordination was used then one may perhaps consider this to be somewhat inappropriate and somewhat condescending to the bhikkhunis involved.

    Arguing that there is no law against this or that is insufficient, as we all have to live within the conventions of society, whether we agree with them or not.

    Finally, I can only say that I appreciate the efforts and desires of women to become bhikkhunis, and I wish them well in their endeavours. I would, however, recommend that they do so without the involvement of monks, which isn’t really necessary, and that they ordain in an already established lineage and establish their own authority and dress code so that they may receive the respect that they well deserve.

    • Dear Pra viset,

      Thanks for your comments.

      It’s interesting that you bring up the question of whether the bhikkhunis should wear different robes than the monks. A couple of years ago I was in Thailand at Wat Nanachat, and on Ajahn Kevali’s recommendation i went to see Luang Po Liem and ask him about bhikkhunis.

      One of the things that he brought up was the robes they wore. Luang Po mentioned that in different countries the robes had been adapted for the climate and culture; but to keep it simple, he said, in the Buddha’s day they wore the same robes as the monks. You can see that, he reasoned, by the fact that there are Vinaya rules that govern exchange of robes between bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, which could have only happened if they wore the same robes (excepting the samkacchika or breast-cloth for bhikkhunis).

    • Another observation about robes: When I was in Burma, I couldn’t help but notice that unlike monks — who wore robes made from natural fibres — many women had been given robes made from synthetic fibres. Consequently, women encountered greater difficulties with the heat. One older nun even passed out in the meditation hall one afternoon, and had to be carried out.

      Are the robes that Thai bhikkhunis and bhikkhus wear both made from natural fibres?

    • Hi Brenda,

      Umm, I’m not sure. Monks’ robes are both synthetic and natural; I’m not sure about the mae chis. The few bhikkhunis in Thailand, again I don’t know.

  65. Regarding clothing, I have no doubt that the Luang Po you mentioned was correct, however, Thai Buddhism was not around at the time of The Buddha and Thai society has generally respected the robe rather than who was actually wearing it. Thus, it would be better, acknowledging cultural considerations, for the bhikkhunis to come up with their own dress code.

    To begin with, the present robes, even for bhikkhus, are not the most practical as they are always loosening and slipping, and bhikkhunis could surely come up with a far more practical design, such as general Wat clothes similar to those worn by nuns, and an outer garment for ceremonial occasions and when outside of the Wat.

    The main advantage of a new bhikkhuni dress code of course would be that they would be able to travel freely throughout Thailand and be recognized and respected as bhikkhunis, not simply women wearing monks robes as would be presumed by most Thais.

    In general, disregarding the present upheaval, there is now some momentum towards the recognition of bhikkhunis, so one should not focus upon the reactions but perhaps take a few steps backwards for review and continue onwards.

    Ajarn Brahm has tried putting his shoulder to the door but it has not opened, however, all is not lost. One solution to the bikkhunis immediate recognition would be for them to receive further ordination from an existing lineage, without the involvement of the Thai Sangha, and then proceed to establish that lineage with preceptor etc. within their own centre. They could still call it whatever they liked, but at the moment I would refrain from using the words ‘Thai Sangha’; that can come much later. They can also recognize Ajarn Brahm as their spiritual guide if they so wish, and this re-ordination would also enable Ajarn Brahm to recant on the original ordination, as it would in no way affect their status, thus taking the sting out of the whole affair. This may perhaps be perceived as a difficult step backwards, but if you end up winning in the end what does it matter.

    As for ‘Thai Sangha’ part of their lineage, this will take much longer but it certainly is possible. It needs to be initiated in Thailand in order for it to be called Thai, and definitely needs the help of ‘sen yai’, big noodles, influential people, in order for it to succeed. I can think of one family who may be amenable to offering assistance providing that they are approached with finesse and that the present commotion has been dissolved and the general atmosphere is clear.

    No doubt many people may think that this affair is a case of opposition from the Thai Sangha, not so, and perhaps the present approach may be considered as trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Women in the Thai Sangha have traditionally had the opportunity to ordain as eight precept nuns, often ordaining each other, with the freedom to come and go as they please. Thus, their role within the Sangha has always been somewhat subservient, that is unless they established their own center. However, Thai society as a whole has become accustomed to this arrangement and it is now part of Thai culture.

    Rather than aiming for a change in culture, which could take hundreds of years, and fitting bikkhunis into a situation where they could only be regarded as on a lower level, it would be far better to aim for a completely separate Thai Bhikkhuni Sangha where the bhikkhunis can manage their own affairs and exist as subservient to no one.

  66. Further, regarding the naming of a new Bhikkhuni Sangha, I would think that establishing a Thai Bhikkhuni Sangha is further down the road and dependent upon the efforts of existing Thai bhikkhunis and nuns, therefore it would be more practical for the new bhikkhunis in Australia to establish the (Australian)Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha, or some such title, as a legitimate body, thus opening the doors for more women to become ordained as bhikkhunis, and of course establishing a center where women staying in other locations could turn to for bhikkhuni ordination, or invite its preceptor and bhikkhunis to visit them. The establishment of such a body would be far more reaching than a Thai Bhikkhuni Sangha and could be established almost immediately with few or no obstacles.

    • I would agree , considering in Thailand bhikkhuni ordination is in harmony with the Vinaya but not with the law. In Australia, Bhikkhuni ordination is in harmony with both the Vinaya and the law of the location. You would have to change the law before bhikkhuni ordination can be accepted in Thailand, which would take a long time.

    • Dear Pra Viset,

      Thanks for the suggestion. As time goes on, i’m sure that the Australian Sangha, including bhikkhunis, will gradually find its own identity, although in keeping with Australia’s multiculturalism, this will always be a complex situation with strong international ties. The new bhikkhunis at Dhammasara are a very quiet, contemplative community, and it will be some time before we see the formalized Australian Bhikkhuni Sangha that you envisage.

      There are, of course, more Theravada bhikkhunis in Thailand than Australia, and they have been there longer. Reform there is dependent on the wider reforms and issues facing the Sangha at large. I don’t know whether you have any thoughts on what direction we are likely to see the Thai Sangha move in the next few years?

  67. Dear Ajahn Sujato,

    I am a Thai woman, born and raised in Thailand. I have been interested in and studied Buddhism for a long time, but have started to seriously practicing dhamma and meditation only after I’ve heard Ajahn Brahm’s teachings!

    Even before the bhikkhuni ordination, I thought that when I was ready, I would like to get ordained in Perth! Now, my heart is set to go there. Being a Bhikkhuni in Thailand? Too tough for me. Why? Because apart from fighting my own defilements, I would have to endure difficulties imposed upon me by others, including Thai male monks.

    (Just a funny thought: I wonder what Ajahn Brahm would say if Gucci offerred to design a more practical and modern robe for Ajahn Vayama and other Australian bhikkunis!)

    Thank you, Ajahn Brahm, for showing me the way.

    Thank you, Ajahn Sujato, for supporting Ajahn Brahm.

  68. I doubt that there will be any change at all in the Thai Sangha as its policies are guided by local culture, although, as mentioned, the establishment of a Thai Bhikkhuni Sangha is a distinct possibility as a completely separate entity that does not clash with this culture. What occurs outside of Thailand is generally of no concern, and this particular issue should not be taken that seriously beyond the Wat Pah Pong group.

    Thailand happens to be a country cursed by some of the most corrupt people you could imagine from time to time and blessed by some of the finest people on the planet due to their devotion to Buddhism. These good people have the utmost respect for anyone following the path of The Buddha and are only too willing to help providing that their aims are reasonable. You just have to make sure that you follow the Thai version of reasonable.

  69. As I now understand (from reading the correspondence), the bhikkhunis were legitimately ordained whether members of the Thai Sangha confirmed their ordination or not, and whether their confirmation was recognized or not. Thus my earlier proposal of reordination would not be necessary even if Ajarn Brahm did recant. They are legitimate bhikkhunis.

    As for going back on the sanghakamma, it seems to be a moot point defending the vinaya when it is meaningless in this particular case.

  70. This case leaves me disgusted and saddened. I may simply say to those that wish to renounce Ajahn Brahm and the nuns will not only hurt these good people, but themselves, as this action will repel even more people than are directly hurt.

    One who wishes to exclude women from fully following the monastic path is a man and a patriarc first, hypocrite second, and monk only by name.

    Sincerely,
    Eeva Kulmala, Finland.

  71. Dear Ajahn Sujato,

    Thank you for documenting this. We here in Austin, Texas were saddened to hear about these events. My support for Ajahn Brahm is strengthened by the news of the circumstances surrounding his expulsion. Kudos to Ajahn Brahm for not quavering in this tough situation.

  72. It is with much bemusement that I receive the news of this farcical “excommunication”. I learnt meditation from Ajahn Jagaro twenty years ago and later took the five precepts before Ajahn Brahm. One of the main reasons I abandoned my, albeit very loose, connection with a Christian upbringing and looked to Buddhism was because of the tolerance, kindness and patience that monks such as Jagaro & Brahm exuded and the wonderful sense of peace and calm that this gave me. Buddhism was everything that so many other religions professed to be, but weren’t. Unfortunately, by their embarassing actions a handful of deluded monks seem to be doing their level best to prove otherwise. It seems there is no place we can look today where there isn’t some evidence of political ambition and duplicity. Ajahn Brahm certainly doesn’t need me or anyone else to defend him, but I know when I’m in the presence of a man of truth and goodness and I’ve never had the slightest doubt that Ajahn Brahm is such a man. This charade, too, will pass.

  73. A sad but interesting tale of history. Please read to the end.

    Bhikkuni ordination was started in Sri Lanka during the period of Emperor Ashoka’s reign in India. The Great King sent his son Arahat Bhikkhu Mahinda with the Message to Ceylon known as Cinghalé then. This revived the society in Ceylon in no uncertain manner starting from the King who reigned the island then, down to the very low street cleaner. The King in Ceylon was Devanampiyatissa. He was extremely inspired by the teachings of Arahat Mahinda, but his consort Queen Anula, did better. She became enlightened as a “Sothapanna” a “stream winner”. This made her feel that she would like to practice the Dhamma in a better way and she longed to get ordained. Knowing her wishes Venerable Arahat Mahinda sent message to his sister, who herself was an Arahat Bhikkhuni. Her arrival in Ceylon made a huge “overhaul” or so to say, in the annals of history as it liberated women in a manner, unheard of, unbelievable, until then. The first to ordain was Queen Anula and she became an Arahat herself.

    The advent of an Arahat Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni saw a golden age open up in this island, such as would never happen again. Ceylon reached great heights in every sphere much to the chagrin of its great neighbour India.

    About three centuries later the Buddhist scriptures were written down in Ceylon by Arahats using Sinhala script. However, later-on a monk named Buddhagosha arrived in Sri Lanka from India. He was supposed to have translated into Pali, the commentaries to the Buddhist Scriptures. He was not an Arahat. Thus, he was not qualified to tamper with what Arahats had written down earlier for posterity. Mysteriously, this period saw a great fire gobbling up the library of the “Alahana” Pirivena, (a Pirivena- is a Buddhist College where monks study). The Original Commentaries to the scriptures were said to have caught fire. Buddhagosha then ran away to India before he could taste the wrath of the Sinhalese lay people.

    I personally think that he came purposely to “mess up the whole apple cart” as Sinhalé (Ceylon) was rising far above India in every sphere with the help of the Dhamma. After this the Bhikkuni ordination declined, as it is the “Buddhagosha” version of the Vinaya rules (Not that of the Buddha)that are found up to this day. With the decline of the Bhikkunis the decline in Society was inevitable and sadly that is just what happened to Ceylon.

    • Dear pushparani,

      Thanks for your remarks, and the entirely appropriate perspective on our gratitude to the Sinhala people. i would comment, though, that the account you have given of Buddhaghosa is not, so far as i am aware, based on any genuine early sources for his life. In fact, the reliable information on Buddhaghosa is minimal, and the vast majority of stories one hears derive from legendary texts composed in Burma many hundreds of years later. For a concise and very interesting account, see Ven Nyanamoli’s introduction to his Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga translation), which is widely available and gives the available early sources.

  74. Wonderful is the Lord Buddha fully Enlightened.
    When critics and those who try to defame make their vices heard, the Blessed one is not moved.
    With only thoughts and words of compassion and loving kindness coming forth.

    Wonderful is the Venerable Ajahn Brahm whom must be in the area of the Ariya.
    When critics and those who try to defame make their vices heard, the Venerable one is not moved.
    With only thoughts and words of compassion and loving kindness coming forth.

    Wonderful now that oppressive tradition has cut us all free.
    The Buddha’s vision will eventuate with Bhikkhu, Bhikkhuni, Lay Man Lay Woman and Ariyas will appear.

    Wonderful as Venerable Sariputta announces what is true. “At Benares, in the Deer Park at Isipatanna the Tathagata, accomplished and fully enlightened, set rolling the matchless Wheel of the Dhamma, which cannot be stopped by any recluse (monk/monks) or Brahmin or god or Mara or Brahama or anyone in the world.”

  75. i find this article very biased towards ajahn brahm and not showing the full picture as to why ajahn brahm’s bikkhuni order was ordered to be dissolved.

    as good as the sound of having a bikkhuni order may sound, there are as many problems that HAVE arisen due to it, and that is why the theravada tradition has no more bikkhuni order that has been started by the buddha.

    having a much further range of sight and not wanting these things to happen again, that is why the thai monks of wpp are against this idea.

  76. Dear Ajarn Sujato,

    Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu for your generous and brave that you have done this wonderful thing to fulfilled the Sangha-sabha. I am now in London and want to support the act that revealed the great intention and metta of Lord Buddha.

    As a girl and Buddhist from Thailand. I am support your move and Anu-mothana for this ceremony.

    Very sincerely,

  77. Dear Ajarn Sujato,

    Now Thai monk have been establish some website to show all of the things that happen from both sides. They emphasized it as a Vinaya that created by lord Buddha that cannot be abuse. They said that over and over again. I also checked from famous webboard like Pantip.com for feedback from the Thai like me. Many of them support you only some are not.

    As a historian, I personally believed that we have to focused on the intention behind the law or any regulation. Many Thai on that website declared the only oppposing reason is this act shouldn’t be done because Bhikkuni line was cut down long time ago. So, it is impossible to create a new one…which is not convincing for me.

    During Lord Buddha period, there was a great competition between Buddhist and Hindu, and we cannot reject that women’s status is lowered than now. You have to think that when Queen Gothami begged lord Buddha for an ordination, she is fresh from the royal family and never have to lived by herself before. Sangha-vidhi is sufficient way that different from the one in the palace. If Lord Buddha allowed them to let in and they failed to follow his way. He will face a great pressure from both Hindu and the followers. That’s why he have to make sure and make a regulations to proved them first.

    In conclusion, I just want to say that every rules have the reason behind them. In this case was social reasons, and it is obvious that the society nowadays is different from the one that 2500 years before. The only things that exist the the Philosophy of the lord Buddha himself.

    I have to apologize for my broken English. I just want to share the things that I have known with you all with all my respect.

    Namaskar

    • Dear Natta,

      Thanks so much for your kind comments. I agree absolutely that we must strive to understand the context and intention behind any rule. Bhikkhu Bodhi pointed out that the purpose of the Vinaya is to support and encourage the holy life, not to obstruct it. When I am studying the Vinaya, I always think about this point, and how these rules and guidelines can be a support for our Nibbana.

  78. Im Brazilian,After watching and reading all about your work, I was so excited to find out that unlike the other religions you where speaking, in an easy way, in a way that we really could understand and more showing that all the idea of being a monk make sense. I thought the practice and the hard commitment did take Buddhist monks to other level of knowledge and wisdom.
    I understand why so much hard work its needed to get your mind right and free to really be capable of finding the light and understanding, .
    I thought we do have a chance to change the world, was a new, fresh, view of Buddhism.
    Finally, we found the way to elevate our human kind; finally, someone is really talking about the true trail, yes takes a lot but will be precious.
    A religion that can read in a proper way, the legacy of the special beings that came here to teach us,
    A religion that can see and make discernment between what the actual teachings of the Buddha and the translation of his words by simple man kind at the time.
    Happen with Jesus, now we know is a lot the church didn’t want us to now, the made their on version of the teaching ,as after all the Jesus work and effect to make it clear, they just select what was suitable in order to keep the power and the control.
    Well now we have a whole knew perspective, we find out that the church has being manipulating the knowledge all this time.
    In addition, unfortunate is what happen to you, what it is a great shame, because u where so close.
    Will be a great job for you, to explain how with all your hard work and devotion with so much faith, does not change the old way of thinking. They still feeling week, they are not over the primitive feelings of lust and desire, they still need to keep the temptation (women) away and they still think women can end the Buddhism by just being there. So the great teachers, the masters, the one who should be full of wisdom and light still week, or just unsure of their capacities of teaching others and luck of confidence in their disciples .
    So what it is wrong? Buddha wasn’t sure about women be capable to reach the light or man wasn’t capable of control de instinct even with the hard work and practice ,so they need to be away from everything to reach the light?
    The Christians think Mary Magdalene wasn’t good enough to be a disciple of Jesus, wasn’t a good idea have a women teaching the gospel, now so many year after we find out that is no true .
    We are the same kind or not?
    We do have many lives in a different body or not, we can be female and still reach the light or not?
    Must be hard for you to find out your teachers still afraid of changes and looking for control, as that yeans them not ready, they not that far from the ordinary man, must be difficult to find that they cannot really see the whole picture.
    I’m sorry too, as we still waiting for the awaking of human being to move from we are, is scaring to think
    That even the most venerable people in this planet still far away from the darma, and may take too long, maybe more 2000 years.
    Please, don’t stop, please do like Ghandi, he never give up, he was alone and he didn’t ask permission
    To anyone, he was here no long a go , he fight, he believes he was right and he was one of the special human beings that came here to teach us.
    You doing a great job, making us to see the way, what u say, the way you explain its clear, Im sure that is what Buda WANTED, to make people all over the planet,man and women to see the way.
    Thank you to take the risk and show us the way,we do need to know.
    My english isnt good,I hope u can understand what I mean,and please dont stop the working you are doing,we live in a very difficult times and we do need you.

    ,

    • Dear Monica,

      Thanks so much for your kind and perceptive words, and your encouragement. We need to keep struggling as long as there is injustice and suffering in the world – which means forever. The Buddha kept working for the benefit of all, both in worldly and spiritual spheres, until his last breath. What is there for us to do but follow his example, even if imperfect and uncertain of the way.

  79. Why the fight between eastern and western cultures. It respect is needed here for the elders in Thailand. Furthermore it is difficult to get monks to practice properly let alone women to ordain as monks. With or without a robe what is the difference? Are we not supposed to look at our own hearts? All this talk and no practice. A good practicing mae chi is better than a fully ordained monk. Same applies for male monks. Keep watching the breath and relax. Lack of mindfulness and awareness will just create more suffering!

  80. That is the point Jacqueline!We all know all is One and One is all so the need for a change.Guess now is the right time for changing concepts and open the way to women to be in the right place,side by side.
    Will be a fantástic step for Buddhism,and a huge example for women in all other religions.I feel that is a great Discussion.

  81. Dear Ajanh,

    I just want to share something to all buddhist. I hope all buddhist will understand and do not hate WPP and Thai sangha. perhapes i myself do not anti-bhikhuni or women ordination, but it must be do it right way and right time. Buddha teached us to practise metta, karuna, mudhita and uphekha. so do not be hatred to each others.

    From :-Thanissaro Bhikkhu on the Validity of the Bhikkhuni Ordination_13

    4) It might be argued on the basis of the Great Standards that an allowance similar to Mv.I.74.3 could be assumed for bhikkhunī ordination. However, there is an important difference between the rules surrounding bhikkhus’ preceptors (upajjhāya) and the bhikkhunīs’ sponsors (pavattanī): Rules 82 and 83 in the Bhikkhunī pācittiyas state:

    Bhī Pc 82. Should any bhikkhunī sponsor [Acceptances—act as a preceptor] in consecutive years, it is to be confessed.

    Bhī Pc 83. Should any bhikkhunī sponsor [Acceptances—act as a preceptor for] two [candidates] in one year, it is to be confessed.

    5) However, Bhī Pc 82 and Bhī Pc 83 have an important role in shaping the proper Acceptance procedure for bhikkhunīs. Unlike an upajjhāya, who may take on up to three candidates in a single proclamation, a pavattanī may take on only one. Otherwise she would be breaking Bhī Pc 83. Thus the Great Standards cannot be used to extend to bhikkhunīs the allowance given to bhikkhus in Mv.I.74.3. A single transaction statement giving Acceptance to two or three bhikkhunī candidates with a single sponsor would intrinsically involve a pācittiya offense for the sponsor, and—according to the Vibhaṅga to Pc 83—dukkaṭa offenses for all the other bhikkhunīs participating in the transaction. This sort of transaction statement, because it intrinsically entails the breaking of a rule, would thus be totally unauthorized. In the words of Mv.X.3.2, it would be “apart from the Vinaya…

    a) Bhī Pc 83 does not allow a bhikkhunī to act as a sponsor for more than one candidate for ordination in a year. This rule is in force regardless of the number of residences available for bhikkhunīs.
    f) Thus a bhikkhunī ordination in which the transaction statements mentioned more than one candidate per statement would not be considered valid, and the candidates would not count as bhikkhunīs.

    Buddhist Monastic Code II
    Chapter 23
    Bhikkhunīs
    by
    Thanissaro Bhikkhu

    Then Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, having had her hair cut off, having donned ochre robes, set out for Vesālī together with a large number of Sakyan women. After wandering in stages, she arrived at Vesālī and went to the Gabled Hall in the Great Wood. Then she stood there outside the porch, her feet swollen, her limbs covered with dust, sad and unhappy, crying, her face in tears. Ven. Ānanda saw her standing there … and so asked her, “Why, Gotamī, why are you standing here … your face in tears?”

    “Because, venerable sir, the Blessed One does not allow women’s Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the doctrine and discipline made known by the Tathāgata.”

    “In that case, Gotamī, stay right here for a moment (§) while I ask the Blessed One to allow women’s Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the doctrine and discipline made known by the Tathāgata.”

    Then Ven. Ānanda went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī is standing outside the porch … her face in tears, because the Blessed One does not allow women’s Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the doctrine and discipline made known by the Tathāgata. It would be good if women might obtain the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the doctrine and discipline made known by the Tathāgata.”

    “Enough, Ānanda. Don’t advocate women’s Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the doctrine and discipline made known by the Tathāgata.”

    A second time… A third time, Ven. Ānanda said, “… It would be good, venerable sir, if women might obtain the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the doctrine and discipline made known by the Tathāgata.”

    “Enough, Ānanda. Don’t advocate women’s Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the doctrine and discipline made known by the Tathāgata.”

    Then the thought occurred to Ven. Ānanda, “The Blessed One does not allow women’s Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the doctrine and discipline made known by the Tathāgata. What if I were to find some other way to ask the Blessed One to allow women’s Going-forth …” So he said to the Blessed One, “Venerable sir, if a woman were to go forth from the home life into homelessness in the doctrine and discipline made known by the Tathāgata, would she be able to realize the fruit of stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning, or arahantship?”

    “Yes, Ānanda, she would…”

    “In that case, venerable sir, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī has been of great service to the Blessed One. She was the Blessed One’s aunt, foster mother, nurse, giver of milk. When the Blessed One’s mother passed away, she gave him milk. It would be good if women might obtain the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the doctrine and discipline made known by the Tathāgata.”

    “Ānanda, if Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī accepts eight rules of respect, that will be her full Acceptance.

    1) “A bhikkhunī who has been fully accepted even for more than a century must bow down, rise up from her seat, salute with hands palm-to-palm over her heart, and perform the duties of respect to a bhikkhu even if he has been fully accepted on that very day. This rule is to be honored, respected, revered, venerated, never to be transgressed as long as she lives.

    2) “A bhikkhunī must not spend the rains in a residence where there is no bhikkhu (nearby)…

    3) “Every half-month a bhikkhunī should expect two things from the Bhikkhu Saṅgha: (permission to) ask for the date of the uposatha and (permission to) approach for an exhortation…

    4) “At the end of the Rains-residence, a bhikkhunī should invite (accusations from) both Saṅghas (the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhunī Saṅghas) on any of three grounds: what they have seen, what they have heard, what they have suspected…

    5) “A bhikkhunī who has broken any of the rules of respect must undergo penance for half a month under both Saṅghas…

    6) “Only after a trainee has trained in the six precepts for two years can she request Acceptance from both Saṅghas…

    7) “A bhikkhu must not in any way be insulted or reviled by a bhikkhunī…

    8) “From this day forward, the admonition of a bhikkhu by a bhikkhunī is forbidden, but the admonition of a bhikkhunī by a bhikkhu is not forbidden. This rule, too, is to be honored, respected, revered, venerated, never to be transgressed as long as she lives.

    “If Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī accepts these eight rules of respect, that will be her full Acceptance.”

    Then Ven. Ānanda, having learned the eight rules of respect in the Blessed One’s presence, went to Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī and, on arrival, said to her, “Gotamī, if you accept these eight rules of respect, that will be your full Acceptance…”

    “Ven. Ānanda, just as if a young woman — or man — fond of ornamentation, having been given a garland of lotuses or jasmine or scented creepers, having accepted it in both hands, were to place it on her head, in the same way I accept the eight rules of respect, never to transgress them as long as I live.”

    Then Ven. Ānanda returned to the Blessed One and, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said, “Venerable sir, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī has accepted the eight rules of respect. The Blessed One’s foster mother is fully accepted.”

    “But, Ānanda, if women had not obtained the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the doctrine and discipline made known by the Tathāgata, the holy life would have lasted long, the true Dhamma would have lasted 1,000 years. But now that they have gotten to go forth… this holy life will not last long, the true Dhamma will last only 500 years. Just as a clan in which there are many women and few men is easily plundered by robbers and thieves, in the same way, in whatever doctrine and discipline women get to go forth, the holy life does not last long… Just as a man might make an embankment in advance around a great reservoir to keep the waters from overflowing, in the same way I have set forth in advance the eight rules of respect for bhikkhunīs that they are not to transgress as long as they live.” — Cv.X.1

    i felt so sad because of Ajahn Brahm fight for bhikkhuni, the great practise lineage have broken. i hope this all will recover soon, bring back the saddha of devotees to the teaching of Buddha.

    sadhu..

    with metta
    Balavuddho Bhikkhu

    • With highest respect, Bhikkhu Balavuddho

      In this context, does it mean that the Bhikkhunis in Perth are not valid Bhikkhunis? Did Ajahn Brahm deviate from this Sutta? Can Buddhists condone to deviate from the Suttas to fit the circumstances and social advancement? Appreciate some light shed on these ambiguity and grey areas. Sadhu3x!

  82. Dear Ajahn Sujato,
    I heard being a monk actually not allow to have a debt. Does HECS-Help study lone consider as a debt or it is ok i leave it behind and join the monastery? Ajahn Kalyano and some monk in Melbourne said it is ok and it is not consider as a debt?

    Why monk cannot receive things from woman by hand? i saw some monks do receive things directly from woman. In melbourne, they said your monastery like a circuit, man and woman stay in the same room, receive things directly from opp. sex.

    Is your tradition and the Melbourne one are different?

    thanks

    Johnny

    • Hi Johnny,

      I would agree that an HCES loan is not an obstructive debt as far as ordination is concerned. The basic problem is that is if you owe money that is expected to be repayed, it is a kind of theft. But in student loans, they only expect to get the money back as a percentage of your wages. If you do not have any wages, there is no fault.

      As for receiving things from a woman by hand, this is a custom that has grown up in Thailand. It is because of the ‘taboo’ power that exists between a monk and a woman. This manifests very directly in Thailand; if you touch a woman by accident, or even sit down on a seat that is connected to her seat in a row, she will leap as if stung by electricity. The ‘offering cloth’ acts as a kind of insulation to prevent this.

      It is basically the same idea as the communion cloth used in the Catholic Church in the past for receiving the communion bread:

      the faithful were wont in early times to receive Holy Communion, the men taking the Consecrated Bread into their hands and the women receiving it on a white cloth, called the domenical

      This use of the receiving cloth is sometimes regarded with scorn in other Buddhist traditions. Bhante K Sri Dhammananda disparagingly referred to it as a ‘brahmanical’ custom.

      In line with the entire Buddhist tradition for 2500 years, apart from Thailand, we do not use a receiving cloth here at Santi. The official policy among the Western branches of WPP is that the use of the receiving cloth is optional.

      As for men and women staying in the same room, no they don’t. There are separate and clearly defined areas for male and female guests here. In fact, my kuti is nearly 2 kms walk from the nun’s area.

      Don’t pay attention to these kind of silly remarks. It’s just what happens when people feel threatened.

  83. Dear Ajahn Sujato,

    Thanks for your reply. There are new policy since few yrs ago. If one holding the HECS lone and die suddenly, the debt will transfer one’s family such as parents. I do not want to cause any trouble to my parents, but saving I have is not enough to pay off the debt. … what should i do?\

    Kind regards

    Johnny

    • It seems like a case of needing a clear and supportive vote of yes from both parents. I think there is a Vinaya tale about just such an occurrence, but I could be wrong.

    • Hi Johnny,

      I’ve checked up, and I don’t think this is correct.

      The ATO still says that a family is not liable for any debt under the HELP scheme. The only money that needs to be repayed if a person dies is the repayment out of a person’s income in the year prior to their death.

      Here’s the official website.

  84. How very sad. This is the first I have even become aware of this event, and after reading some counter perspectives, I am motivated to stop supporting the monks I know to be involved.
    A few things strike me as odd from the counter view points are:
    “His social ties with Wat Pa Phong were already weak. He has neglected relations with his Thai colleagues for some time now. Over the last few years several of his trips to Thailand have been devoted to teaching laypeople without including visits to Ubon (most notably the one that coincided with the Wat Pa Phong annual general meeting of June 2009 in which the bhikkhuni issue was discussed”
    This seems to indicate this is more politically motivated than anything.
    Why is it more important for a monk to be part of a some larger organization than to teach the dhamma?
    I hope I haven’t helped create a schism in the sangha.

  85. Hi – I have been out of touch with sangha news for a long time and it has been a body shock I can tell you to read all the various items concerning the Perth ordinations. I have been attending Oxford (UK) buddhist vihara lately and recently the secretary of the Sangharaja stayed for a few weeks, giving lectures at Ox Uni. I asked him about the Sangharaja’s views of full ordinations for women and he said that he, the Sangharaja, did not object to it, neither did he think the majority of monks in Thailand objected but nevertheless that women wishing to become so ordained would have to seek ordinations outside Thailand.

  86. Is Ajan Bharm Mahayana? Why should this happen in a Buddhist context. His Holiness the Dali Lama has always been asked what yana he practiced and he has always declaired he holds Sarvastivadin (the Orginial Hinnayana) vows, wears robes and follows the Dicipline of the Sarvastivada School. As to various meditations all Buddhists groups create their own new ways of doing things and they become quite popular then fade away or are recreaded. Buddhists are Buddhists they are free to create and adapt or bring back into action when the need is required i.e. Bhikkhuni. We are free to adapt if no adaption no evolution.We are all moving to Arahatship in this life and can obtain it here and now.

    • I am very sorry to hear of the severe attacks on Ajahn Brahm, and intentionally or not, on you Ajahn Sujato for the support you both provide to women wishing to ordain.
      I have to say men, wearing robes or not, who try to guide women when they think so little of them are not men who I am at all interested in being guided by.They have no deep understnding to enrich my life regarding an important spiritual area when they do not grasp the simplest of truths visible to most people – that the seeds you plant creates who you are – not the body, gender, title etc you don in this life.

    • Although the guardhamma thing still seems to go on even in Australia not to mention the nullifying patriachial attitude of men in general in buddhism ..maybe it is just that at home their wives have all say and Buddhism is just a medium for them to pratice their patriachilism (is that work) whatever

      The Recent Controversy Regarding the Full Ordination of Women in Theravadan Buddhism
      The first full bhikkhuni ordination of women in the sangha of Thailand’s most famous meditation master, Ajahn Chah, took place on October 22, 2009, at the monastery headed by Ajahn Brahmavamso in Perth, Western Australia. Although this news was met with great rejoicing by many Buddhists worldwide, there was considerable backlash. Almost immediately after the ordinations Ajahn Brahmavamso was officially expelled from communion with the Ajahn Chah sangha. This was principally because he refused pressure both to denounce the bhikkhuni ordination as invalid, and to regard the new bhikkhunis as mae chees–practitioners junior to novice monks. (That it was not within his power to denounce the ordination–it was ostensibly carried out by the bhikkhunis present–was not taken into account.)
      Around the same time as the Perth ordinations there was a contrasting movement within the monasteries of the same lineage in Britain. In August 2009, Ajahn Sumedho–a peer of Ajahn Brahmavamso and also one of Ajahn Chah’s first Western disciples–and a few of his senior monks imposed a “fivepoint agreement” on the nuns’ community of Amaravati and Cittaviveka monasteries. Fashioned on the eight garudhammas, these points assert the seniority of monks to nuns, and additionally block the nuns from taking, or seeking to take, full ordination within that lineage.

      This “fivepoint agreement” is presented below – both in it’s original form (on the left) and with some substitutions (on the right) to highlight just how discriminatory it is:

      1. The structural relationship, as indicated by the Vinaya, of the Bhikkhu Sangha to the Siladhara Sangha is one of seniority, such that the most junior bhikkhu is “senior” to the most senior siladhara. As this relationship of seniority is defined by the Vinaya, it is not considered something we can change. 1. The structural relationship, as indicated by the Vinaya, of the White Sangha to the Black Sangha is one of seniority, such that the most junior White is “senior” to the most senior Black. As this relationship of seniority is defined by the Vinaya, it is not considered something we can change.
      2. In line with this, leadership in ritual situations where there are both bhikkhus and siladhara–such as giving the anumodana [blessings to the lay community] or precepts, leading the chanting or giving a talk–is presumed to rest with the senior bhikkhu present. He may invite a siladhara to lead; if this becomes a regular invitation it does not imply a new standard of shared leadership. 2. In line with this, leadership in ritual situations where there are both Whites and Blacks–such as giving the anumodana [blessings to the lay community] or precepts, leading the chanting or giving a talk–is presumed to rest with the senior White present. He may invite a Black to lead; if this becomes a regular invitation it does not imply a new standard of shared leadership.
      3. The Bhikkhu Sangha will be responsible for the siladhara pabbajja [ordination] the way Luang Por Sumedho [Ajahn Sumedho] was in the past. The siladhara should look to the Bhikkhu Sangha for ordination and guidance rather than exclusively to Luang Por. A candidate for siladhara pabbajja should receive acceptance from the Siladhara Sangha, and should then receive approval by the Bhikkhu Sangha as represented by those bhikkhus who sit on the Elders’ Council. 3. The White Sangha will be responsible for the Black pabbajja [ordination] the way Luang Por Sumedho [Ajahn Sumedho] was in the past. The Blacks should look to the White Sangha for ordination and guidance rather than exclusively to Luang Por. A candidate for Black pabbajja should receive acceptance from the Black Sangha, and should then receive approval by the White Sangha as represented by those Whites who sit on the Elders’ Council.
      4. The formal ritual of giving pavarana [invitation for feedback] by the Siladhara Sangha to the Bhikkhu Sangha should take place at the end of the Vassa as it has in our communities traditionally, in keeping with the structure of the Vinaya. 4. The formal ritual of giving pavarana [invitation for feedback] by the Black Sangha to the White Sangha should take place at the end of the Vassa as it has in our communities traditionally, in keeping with the structure of the Vinaya.
      5. The siladhara training is considered to be a vehicle fully suitable for the realization of liberation, and is respected as such within our tradition. It is offered as a complete training as it stands, and not as a step in the evolution towards a different form, such as bhikkhuni ordination. 5. The Black training is considered to be a vehicle fully suitable for the realization of liberation, and is respected as such within our tradition. It is offered as a complete training as it stands, and not as a step in the evolution towards a different form, such as ordination equalivant to White ordination.
      Suggested by Jill Shepherd – Similar substitutions can be found here.

      ——————————————————————————–

      Some notes on the Amaravati “fivepoint agreement”:

      “As this relationship of seniority is defined by the Vinaya, it is not considered something we can change.”
      Just how authentic is the story of the founding of the Bhikkhuni Order as found in the Vinaya? Please have a look at The Questionable Authenticity of AN 8.51/Cv.X.1 – The Founding of the Order of Nuns for a detailed discussion.

      From MN 76 (which takes place at Kosambi): “here some teacher is a traditionalist, one who regards oral tradition as truth, he teaches a Dhamma by oral tradition, by legends handed down, by what has come down in scriptures. But when a teacher is a tradionalist, one who regards oral tradition as truth, some is well remembered and some is wrongly remembered, some is true and some is otherwise. About this a wise person considers thus: ‘This good teacher is a traditionalist … some is true and some is otherwise.’ So when one finds this holy life is without consolation, he turns away from it and leaves it.”

      In the Kalama Sutta (AN 3.65) the Buddha says “Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture…” and adds “When you know ‘These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when undertaken & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering’ — then you should abandon them.” The “fivepoint agreement” is a greedy power grab, is hostile to the nuns’ community and is certainly delusional with regard to human rights as understood in the 21st century. It has led to to harm & to suffering; therefore, it should be abandoned.

      Some Vinaya rules have already been modified/modernized – e.g. Pacittiya 57. “Should any bhikkhu bathe at intervals of less than half a month, except at the proper occasions, it is to be confessed….”

      “The siladhara training is considered to be a vehicle fully suitable …”
      “Separate but Equal” was a long standing tradition in the United States, even approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. But the reality was “separate and unequal” and a later ruling by the Supreme Court recognized this, struck down the doctrine of “Separate but Equal” and required full integration.

      So what should be the response of the lay community in a situation such as this? There is an incident recorded in the Pali texts that give a suggestion:

      At Ghosita’s monastery at Kosambi a conflict broke out between two factions of monks – over something as trivial as a toilet seat being left up (the actual infraction was leaving a container in the latrine with some water left in it). The two factions blew this all out of proportion and eventually the Buddha was asked to resolve the conflict — but was unable to do so. One morning after eating his alms food, he simply left without notice and went off on solitary retreat. The lay community in Kosambi thought: “These monks are doing us great harm. They have plagued the Blessed One until he has gone away. Let us no longer honor these monks, let us give them no more alms food.” This withdrawal of support led to the monks of Kosambi going to Savatthi, meeting with the Buddha again and resolving the conflict quickly.

      It seem the lay community does have power. Those who have said this subjugation of women is an internal monastic affair affair are wrong – there are not any internal monastic affairs! It would seem that the correct response of those in the lay community who feel some group of monastics is behaving badly, is to withhold support from the monastics who are behaving inappropriately.

      When the monks from Kosambi came to Savatthi wishing to resolve their conflict, the Savatthi lay community went to the Buddha and asked his advice. He replied “Give gifts to both sides. Approve the views of those who speak according to Dhamma.” It would seem that the withdrawal of support is only appropriate as long as there is no willingness to resolve the conflict.

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      The Questionable Authenticity of AN 8.51/Cv.X.1 – The Founding of the Order of Nuns

      For information on the conflict at Kosambi, see The Life of the Buddha, Bhikkhu Ñanamoli, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka, pages 109 – 119. This includes material from Vin. Mv. Kb. 10, MN 128 & MN 48.

      Ordination of Women by Ajahn Brahmavamso in 1990
      History in the Making?
      Ajahn Brahm excommunicated for performing Bhikkhuni Ordination in Australia
      The Time Has Come (PDF)
      Alliance for Bhikkhunis
      Present | The Voices and Activities of Theravada Buddhist Women
      Women & the Forest Sangha Facebook page
      Ajahn Sujato’s Blog “Buddhism for a small world: views and opinions” – see especially his entry about power in the Western monasteries
      Bhikkhu Bodhi’s letters in support of bhikkhuni ordination
      Back to Leigh’s Home Page Site Map Site Search

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