Ajahn Chandako’s remarks on bhikkhuni ordination

My old friend Ajahn Chandako has written a long letter on the bhikkhuni ordination issue, and it is available on the Buddhist Channel. Even though i disagree with most of what he says, I’d encourage you to read the article.

One point I should make clear, though. Ajahn Chandako says that people say the decision to have the ordination done in Bodhinyana was because Ajahn Brahm and myself wanted to go down in history as the gallant saviors of the bhikkhunis.

What actually happened was that several of the nuns, including Ajahn Vayama and Ayya Tathaaloka came to Bodhinyana on the Tuesday, where we discussed a number of suggestions they made. One of these was that the ordination be done at Dhammasara rather than Bodhinyana. The nuns were mainly concerned to do things in a way that would minimize any problems for Ajahn Brahm.

I was neutral on this (for the record, I was not involved in organizing the ordination as such, although I did take part on the day), and so we rang Ajahn Brahm in Norway. He said he would prefer to do the ordination at Bodhinyana, as the sīmā there had been formally set up and recognized, and so he felt that it would be a ‘stronger’ sīmā than one set up for the occasion at Dhammasara.

Ajahn Chandako says he has known me for 17 years, and still he make such claims about my intentions. I guess he really just doesn’t know me at all.

42 thoughts on “Ajahn Chandako’s remarks on bhikkhuni ordination

  1. Pardon me for asking this question: Why are western monks, who, unlike many of their eastern counterparts, have a fair idea of what equality between all genders entails, stuck with Asian lineages that seem to have great respect for some of the moribund customs of today? Seriously, when are we going to have a truly “western school” of Buddhism? For the record, I am a non-westerner.

  2. I’m just an ordinary practicing Buddhist, don’t know much about Theravada’s codes, but I do know that the Buddha taught us that both man and woman suffer equally and they all seek the same path to end suffering. My heart tells me that any tradition, no matter how old, large, powerful or prestigious, that does not allow Bikkhuni ordination is out of line with the Buddha’s teaching. I’d gladly walk alone and take refuge elsewhere. James Le The (Sydney).

  3. Ok, so the the Bihkkuni Ordination was made despite Thai customs, maybe it is time to move forward to a more global Theravada Buddhism. I am not Thai, not Australian, but I use BSWA website, I listen to Ajahn Brahm’s Dhamma talks. In Romania, where I live, there are few Buddhists and I hope Theravada Buddhism would be “at home” some day in my country too. But I am wondering is it necessary to import Thai customs, Tibetan customs etc.? If Theravada Buddhism will fail to provide equal conditions for men and women it will become extinct like other ancient dinosaurs. I guess it will have to adapt at present time conditions, it will have to find a line between arbitrary and too rigid. After all it is The Middle Way
    I know little about Vinaya, this is why I am asking you, Venerable Sir, if this “globalization” could be possible? Thank you for the information you provide us.

  4. Thanks for setting the record straight Bhante Sujato, and thanks too to Bhante Chandako for trying so hard to keep the peace. As a long-time disciple of Ajahn Brahm, I tend to support whatever he does, not blindly, but because I respect his learning, wisdom and compassion. May cool heads prevail & may we keep our mindfulness & respect for the robes of the Buddha & arahant bhikkhus & bhikkhunis (past, present and future).

  5. Ajahn Chandako says “Many people I have spoken to think that what was most important to Ajahns Brahm and Sujato was that they go down in history as the ones who revived the bhikkhuni order in the Theravada tradition; that they would be perceived as gallant saviors.”

    Surely he must know that the Theravada bhikkhuni tradition was revived in the 80s and that there are now hundreds of bhikkhunis all over the world? Can he explain this statement or is he focusing only on ordinations performed by Western monks? Does he feel that past ordinations performed by Asian bhikkhus don’t count?

  6. I think this reflects a blinkered assumption that prevails in a large part of this community – that the Forest Sangha monks ARE Theravadin Buddhism. Also shows how ‘close-eyed’ they are in how they perceive bhikkhunis ordained ‘elsewhere’. (It’s called an SEP field i.e. someone else’s problem).
    To say that if Brahm was not involved in the ordination, and if it took place at the nuns’ monastery instead of Bodhinyana, that it might have saved the situation, shows that they would have been happy to continue to ignore the women/nuns and their new status. But Brahm’s involvement meant that they couldn’t simply ignore it anymore – they would now have to get him to discredit it, or discredit him.

  7. Can we say that Ajahn Brahm is chasing after expulsion/ excommunication in ordaining bhikkhunis just because he is being expelled. The answer is no. Likewise, we also cannot say that Ajahn Brahm is seeking self-glorification just because people agree with his cause when he is ordaining bhikkhuni. Both events are external happenings, we can’t jump to a hasty conclusion or make an assumption about the intention behind his action.

  8. Ajahn Chandakos’s letter is saying that had AB waited till the WAM, Bhikkhuni ordination is likely to be approved. He is supposed to wait. Since he didn’t waited a few months later , and did it on his own without letting everyone know about it he is getting expelled.

    If it is so simple, who wouldn’t have wait. But according A Sujato, there was already a meeting back in June in WPP. And they already decided to ban bhikkhuni ordination. Perhaps, A Chandakos didn’t know about this when he gave his opinion in that open letter to the public.

    • I don’t know why this issue is being dragged up again but I think imeditation’s response clarifies that what this Monks says is ill-informed.

    • Peter,

      Umm especially when the poster is doing the very thing they say not to ie rehashing the past ; moving on …oh well

    • I’m glad that they didn’t wait because… if you listen to Ajahn Vayama in a Q&A session quite soon after the Bhikkhuni ordination… perhaps you will be glad it happened sooner, rather than later. I hope that she is well and happy.

  9. I am rather saddened by how things turned out surrounding the issue of reviving the Theravada Bhikkuni tradition or nun’s ordination in the current era.

    I am an Asian lady who is born and grew up in Singapore, a vibrant city of diverse cultures, and which once used to be a fishing village many decades ago. I have been exposed to the fair share of ‘male importance and dominance’ in our Chinese culture, received modern education, currently working in the financial industry, traveled to many countries and have many friends of different nationality and culture. Besides Singapore, I have the blessings to travel to India, Myanmar, USA, Sri Lanka, just to name a few, to learn the Dhamma and seat in meditation retreats and have a wish to go forth one day in the Theravada tradition when circumstances are ‘right’. I admire, treasure and highly respect all teachers who are committed to themselves to earnestly practice as a monastic and those, having achieved their own progress compassionately teach Dhamma and meditation in a open, fair and equal manner, to those who want to learn, be it man or woman. This is a great blessing to everyone who wishes to practice in the Buddha’s path.

    I do not read the scriptures much and am writing from a very neutral position – neutral to who are involved in the recent events, only tackling the issue at hand. I practise meditation keenly and tries to put into practice what I learn in Dhamma, though not perfectly. My views may be naive and over simplistic but I also believe that we can agree to disagree sometimes and I also believe nothing is impossible if we all put in our hearts and wisdom together to make it happen. I have no intention to hurt or show disrespect to anyone and apologize in advance to anyone who may feel hurt by my writings below.

    My views and questions are as follows:

     If Bhikkhuni tradition was set up and present in Buddha’s time but later became lost due to wars after he was gone (I stand to be corrected if I am wrong), to complete the Sangha, WHY are we taking so long to reinstate the Theravada Bhikkhuni tradition? WHAT ARE THE ISSUES stopping the Sangha to proceed with it in modern times? If Buddha were alive now, given the current globalization era, how would he reinstate the Theravada Bhikkuni ordination, whilst respecting, but not necessarily following, if not relevant, the different cultures in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and other parts of the world? What would be that practice which will support Bhikkuni to learn, practice and share the Dhamma in the same equal chance as a Bhikkhu? What would he do?
     As a gentle reminder, the Budhha could not have been born if not for his mother. No monks or nuns can be born if there were no women to give birth to them in the first place, of course not forgetting the importance of men that contribute to the conception of the babies. Certain qualities may be more evident in men and not in women but it is also true in other essential qualities in women which are not usually evident in men too. No one is more important than the other; we are all interdependent. In an Asian culture, whether you are a man or a woman, as youngsters, we have to pay respect by addressing them as elder than ourselves, be it elder siblings, uncles or aunties. In the Sangha, if monks are given seniority based on the number of rain retreats completed, then why would nuns not be accorded with seniority is similar terms but yet subject nuns who may have completed more rain retreats be more junior to even a novice monk? Isn’t this going against the order of things? Strange.
     As a woman, frankly, I do not need to be ‘recognized’ as a nun by any monk or anyone if I am committed and want to practice in Buddha’s path. I would practice in my own right as a human being who wants to and would feel happy to do so. In a community life, I also would not mind if it is to be men that stand in front of the line to get food first as long as I still have food to eat after all. Perhaps, if I am a woman from a different culture, I may feel differently even about that. I am sure that some nuns who are currently practicing have been facing many oppressive, agonizing and unfair moments within the community, which was why there have been constant ‘cry’ for the need for nuns’ ordination. A man will never understand what a woman faces. However, if we all put ourselves in the shoes of a race that is being discriminated solely because of race alone, then perhaps even men will understand and feel something strong enough to do something about being treated unfarily. Nevertheless, putting aside the different tolerance and accomodating level across different cultures surrounding the ‘inequality status between men and women’, however, what is important is the practice, not gender issues, power issues or cultural issues. Teachers, environmental and Sangha support for a woman who wants to go forth, to be able to learn with equal chance is important, of which isn’t this support equally important for a man too?
     At the end, this is an issue of reinstating the Theravada Bhikkuni tradition, isn’t it? Or is it an issue of who did what, who is showing disrespect to who and what? Who has more power, following or support? Who is being hurt? Have we gotten ourselves distracted by issues other than the issue at hand?
    o Perhaps the way Ajanh Brahm, a western monk carried out the Bhikhuni’s ordination was ‘secretive’ and not ideal, possibly ‘threatening’ and ‘showing disrespect’ to the Asian counterparts or Asian culture and the Ajahn Chah’s tradition. If it was not him, it could be someone else to. If it happens to be an Asian who did that, which went against a ‘Western culture’, would the western monastics feel equally disrespected and hurt too? However, it is also understandable that that was the way it was carried out by Ajahn Brahm, if no one listened or saw the importance to discuss and do something about reinstating the Bhikkhuni tradition within Ajahn Chan’s lineage when the subject was brought up in the past. The fact that it had to be done secretly is sad enough. Having done that, it is then attracting harsh action like expulsion is even sadder. Do we realize that all these reflect the wisdom of the many monastics, teachers and the unity within the Ajahn Chah community to support the Sangha and Budhha’s practice?
    o I also do not understand why just because Ajahn Brahm did things ‘his’ way should delay further discussion, plan and action to revive the Theravada Bhikkuni ordination. They are separate issues. I support the reinstating the Theravada Bhikkuni ordination and the Sangha who makes an effort to revive this tradition, but I do not support those who unreasonably, irrationally and cowardly oppose to the reviving of the tradition due to their own selfish cultural reasons nor do I support those who intentionally try to revive the tradition in a disrespectful and self-conceited way. I do not know Ajahn Brahm personally but I am sure no one really has the intention to hurt anyone personally or culturally. It is very difficult to please everyone. Sometimes, when everyone has to be considered, nothing can be done. I am sure Ajahn Brahm did things the way he knew best and his counterparts have grounds and reasons to feel hurt in their own way too.
     May I humbly suggest that instead of seeing who is right and wrong, wise or not wise, or who is good and bad, can we all stand together in unity – Sangha as a whole, forget about Ajahn Chan lineage or other lineage for a while, take this as a lesson for us all, come to discuss, work out a plan to revive the Theravada Bhikkhuni order like how in the Arahants would have come together to put in records Buddha’s teadhings. Let this be a glorious event for everyone in Sangha. It does not have to be the glory of any one person. First of all, no one person will truly be able to claim credit for this event other than the Buddha himself who set it in place in the first place. What the Sangha could do is work together to revive this tradition and rejoice in the glory as one. In this way, we are merely putting back what our original teacher wanted and would have done. That’s all, nothing more.
    o In this respect, may I also humbly suggest that this practice be initiated and revived at the place where it was lost after Buddha’s time, to give a sense of continuity.
    o I hope we all can learn from the recent events, look at the issues at hand, work out what are the issues supporting the need for Bhikkhuni ordination, what issues are stopping the reviving of it, then work out a plan to revive the tradition in a harmonious, joyous and united whole, supporting the Triple Gem – Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. This is important for everyone one

  10. Bhikkhu Brahm did nothing wrong.

    He help perform an ordination with other Theravadin Bhukkhuni. This was done in accordance with vinaya procedures. Who is WPP to say this was wrong? A monk does not need permission from other monks as long as he is qualified according to vinaya.

    Bankei

  11. My wife used to pull me to attend talks by Buddhist elders and monks. After each talk, I felt further away from Buddhism, until I attended the one by Ajahn Brahm. He is a great communicator. Ajahn Brahm gave all the answers I was looking for. I learnt how to meditate by reading his simple booklets on it. In short, I have great respect for Ajahn Brahm for not only his teachings, but also for setting an example for other Buddhists (laypersons and monks) to follow.

    On this issue of Bhikkhuni Ordination, if my understanding of the circumstances leading to the excommunication of Ajahn Brahm is correct, then I should say that Ajahn Brahm’s wisdom is just as good as mine despite that I have not spent a single monastic day in my life.

    Bhikkhuni Ordination is a contentious issue. It is on the agenda of the coming World Abbots Meeting in Perth in December (if this information is not correct, then I withdraw whatever I have written on this subject). I am not knowledgeable enough to discuss the merits or demerits of Bhikkhuni Ordination. However, surely, by proceeding with this debatable Ordination and as such, shutting the mind to a possible wide range of view of many equally respectable and learned Ajahn’s, Ajahn Brahm was preempting, a tactic that is often used politically in the corporate world. In that sense, I am disappointed.

    Ong Poh Seng

  12. Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu Ajahn Brahmali!!! Right on! Yours is a sane, sensible and well informed reply to the claims and counter-claims being made about this controversy. I am sure also that Ajahn Brahm is relieved to not have to attend any more useless meetings at WPP where he is pushing the proverbial up hill, promoting bhikkhuni ordinations. May the fourfold assembly thrive, regardless of those who stand in the way of women’s access to Dhamma-Vinaya. I can’t remember the Buddha ever saying that monks have a monopoly on prestige and material support from lay Buddhists. My recollection from the suttas is that the Buddha made extra effort to safeguard the livelihoods of bhikkhunis, especially from the misdeeds of unscrupulous bhikkhus.

  13. I would like to comment on the point raised by Ajahn Chandako:

    “Even if he considered the bhikkhuni law unjust, in accepting his Chao Khun status from the King of Thailand (similar to being appointed a bishop), Ajahn Brahm agreed to uphold Thai law and the regulations of the Great Council of Elders. It is my understanding that this is explicitly written in his Chao Khun certificate.”

    I do not think it is correct to state that. The King of Thailand had in the past conferred such titles on Mahayana monks. I know that Venerable Fa Zhao, Abbot of Golden Pagoda Temple in Singapore was also conferred Chao Khun title. He is a Mahayana monk. I do not think he will be subscribing to the Thai laws and regulatons of the Great Council of Elders in Thailand.

    Similarly, monasteries and temples in Singapore (including the Royal Thai Temple) should also subscribed to the laws and regulations of the host country. It is not an embassy and is not exempted from the laws of the host country. I would be very concerned if Buddhist monasteries in Singapore start to apply Thai laws. The Singapore Government will never accept the application of foreign laws in an independent sovereign country.

    Therefore, it is not correct to state that by accepting the Chao Khun title, Ajahn Brahm is obligated to uphold Thai laws and regulations of the Great Council of Elders in Thailand in Australia. The Australian Governement should be concerned if Ajahn Brahm is really required to do that.

    • Could not agree more with Sivali’s observation. One has to question the integrity of the sangha if a title conferred to them becomes such an important issue. I have known Ven. Brahm for a long time but I never knew that he had been conferred a Chao Khun title until this discussion started happening. This says a lot about the level of importance Ven. Brahm attaches to these worldly titles which indicates that he cannot be bribed by a lofty title.

  14. I am reminded of the woes that Ananda is said to have suffered at the First Council after the Buddha’s death. There he was required to repent various wrongs, of which one was:

    .. with having exerted himself to procure the admission of women into the Order (Vin.ii.253).
    (Vin = Vinaya Pitaka, see http://what-buddha-said.net/library/DPPN/aa/aananda.htm for the further details)

    So it seems that the WPP are following Maha Kassapa’s lead (if the account is historically accurate), criticising those who seek to enable the recognition of women’s Buddhist practice, and tacitly implying that the Buddha was wrong to ordain women. What we are seeing today is heir to an old old problem in the Sangha.

    Ananda also got into trouble for not having asked the Buddha which Vinaya rules could be changed to suit local culture and conditions and which not. Whatever the Buddha would have said, had Ananda asked him, I think one thing is pretty clear. If the Vinaya (or at least how you are interpreting it) impedes people from _fully_ realising the dhamma, living it, and passing it on, then it is time for change.

    To my mind, the ordination in WA was a case of following the example of the Buddha who also enabled an ordination of bhikkuni where it hadn’t happened before. Perhaps the WPP should concentrate on following the Buddha’s example, not settling for the much more dubious lead of (some of) the First Council.

  15. All the rhetoric aside, I would like Wat Pah Pong to declare if they are in support or against Bhikkuni Ordination, period.

  16. All the rhetoric asdie, would each of the Western Sangha of Ajahn Chah lineage declare their stand on the Bhikkuni Ordination issue, independent of their affiliation to Wat Pah Pong. This is the crux of the matter for many decades of controversy. The rest of the arguments about Ajahn Brahm’s way of handling the Bhikkuni Ordination ceremony are secondary.

  17. Michael Percy :My recollection from the suttas is that the Buddha made extra effort to safeguard the livelihoods of bhikkhunis, especially from the misdeeds of unscrupulous bhikkhus.

    Michael, you’ve said something that I have been searching for!

    It seems that some male monks are so concerned with discrimination while others with keeping the purity of the Theravada tradition. They may have forgotten what the Buddha truly wanted.

    The Buddha made extra effort to safeguard the Bhikkuni-hood. This should be highlighted in BIG BOLD letters for all the monks to read!

    I remember that Ajahn Brahm said that Bhikkunis were forbidden to dwell in forests, not because the Buddha was discriminating against women, but he made the rule to protect the future Bhikkhunis after Bhikkhuni Ubolwanna (forgive me if I get the name wrong) was raped.

    Many monks might have forgotten why more rules were needed for Bhikkhunis — not to discourage women, but to protect female disciples.

  18. An act or a decision taken within a particular set of context when viewed from a different perspective and context would have very different meaning and emotive responses from different people.

    Buddha’s apparent discrimination against women has to be seen in the proper context of the spiritual practices taught by Buddha.

    WPP’s decision to delist (ex-communication seem strong) Bodhinyana should also be seen in its own context of living in the forest.

    Ajahn Brahm’s going ahead “secretly” (which is quite open now) with the ordination should also be seen in its own context.

    If we apply western world view to harshly judge WPP’s decision we will come to very negative conclusion of the monks who had decided on this course of action. Many insults were also directed at them.

  19. Well, don’t understand what is the big fuss (anyway, no every women is qualified to be ordained, it is only a minority; for women 332 precepts men 227,so how many women can be ordained).Be realistic not rigid. Our Buddha had predicted that one day the Dhamma would die off, so don’t blame it on the Bikkunis ordination. Whether women are ordained or not, the Dhamma would one day die off just like this planet would also one day explode, so why not give a chance for women to liberate themselves while conditions are still condusive? Pls correct me if i am wrong and ask for forgiveness if my view is wrong view.On a different note, we were taught to embrace change and the only component that is permanent is change-Anicca.Pls. enlighten.Sokhihotu!

  20. We are all different, we have different cultural background and therefore require “different mode of transport” to reach the same place. It is therefore not surpising that there are many type of buddhisim schools to cater to our different cultural and other different needs. It is good to have linkage but if it is better to be independent, so be it.
    End of the day, it is important to practise the basic of what the buddha teached us and it must be free to all.

    • Yes, I do agree. Like mathematics you can do it in several equations and arrive at same conclusion. But in reality is this possible? But then again we will never know casue the one who have reached won’t tell us.

  21. I am but a layperson. Seems to me there is attachment to “self”, “me” vs “you”, “men” vs “women”, “asian” vs “western”, “traditional” vs “modern”…

    “Do everything with a mind that lets go. Don’t accept praise or gain or anything else. If you let go a little you will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace. ”
    — Ajahn Chah

  22. Brothers and Sisters of the Dhamma,

    Let us all remember that our time here on earth is not forever. Let us grab whatever time we have to cultivate to the best in our practise to liberate ourselves. Let us not get too carried away by our emotions of who is right and who is not. What is done is clearly in the past. The past is a memory. Why do we like to hold on to the past so much? Isnt the truth in this very moment, now?

    I am just a lay buddhist, I may not know too much about the vinaya but clearly what Ajahn Brahm did was merely in the interest of the practising nuns, to give them further encouragement to walk the path laid down by Buddha for all beings, regardless of race, age and gender. If I am not mistaken, Ajahn Brahm has already taken the first move to seek forgiveness from the Sangha. Can’t the sangha come together and forgive your brother in the Dhamma?

    At the end of the day, isn’t peace and harmony most important? We are all followers of the Buddha, let us always come back to the core teachings of the Buddha which stresses on wisdom, peace and compassion. This issue has dragged long enough. Let us not continue to give non-buddhists the wrong impression of our practice. If Ajahn Chah was alive today, I am sure he will be very sad to see this unresolved disharmony among the Sangha. As it is, there are so many other pressing needs in the world today that needs our love and attention, let us not waste any more time dwelling in this matter. And if all solution fails, why don’t we just go back to the Buddha and asked ourselves: “What would Buddha do if he was in this situation?”

    Please do remember too that while this issue is going on, Ajahn Vayama is trying to cope with her ill health as best she could every passing day. Why don’t all of us redirect our focus into something more positive and radiate metta to her instead? Ajahn or not, she is and will always be our Sister in the Dhamma, let us not forget that.

    ” The stick is only heavy is we continue to hold on to it”

    • Setting aside your need for labels, I don’t wonder why the so-called secular Buddhism is growing…

      It’s growing because it reinforces much of your preconceived worldview. What’s most familiar is often what’s most appealing.

  23. Asking questions are actually good thing if you are not understanding something fully, except this article offers fastidious understanding yet.

  24. I think people are taking the specific bhikkhuni ordination that Ajahn Brahm officiated to be a very simplistic matter.

    Actually, bhikkhuni ordinations are already happening in the Theravada world, especially in the Sri Lankan sangha. Nobody is making a big deal about bhikkhuni ordinations there. Why is there a problem with the Bodhinyana bhikkhuni ordination? The problem is not really the bhikkhuni ordination itself, but the way it was done.

    But for the moment, leave aside bhikkhuni ordination – let’s pretend this were not the issue at all. The question I have is: Having the accepted the status of Chao Khun from the king of Thailand, Ajahn Brahm owes allegiance to the Great Council of Elders in Thailand. Is it not proper for such a senior monk as Ajahn Brahm to care to consult with them, win their support, and then proceed with the ordination? I’m simply talking about abiding by the laws and conditions of the Great Council of Elders – not about just bhikkhuni ordination in particular.

    I am not a monastic, and I am not talking about traditional values here at all. I am an engineer in a high tech firm and even in such lay life consulting with others has a value that I did not realize for a very long time. I know from my own mistakes, that to do something without consultation even of peers or juniors, (not to talk of seniors) amounts to disregard and disrespect, even in lay circles, even among secular educated engineers in a high-tech manufacturing firm. No wonder it would be a big deal for Thai Buddhists. And frankly, I have made such mistakes myself too. I’d go and make a major change under the rug and everyone is wondering what the hell changed. It doesn’t feel nice when they are taken by surprise. It took me several months to realize that I should make the effort to meet my colleagues – whether they were senior to me, or junior – talk to them, try to persuade them, and after I get all of them to support me (or as many as I can), then invite everyone to a meeting, discuss it again, present my ideas and use the help of my colleagues that have committed to support me, and then finally make a decision. It may be slow, but it is more effective.

    Frankly, my sympathies are with Ajahn Brahm also. I’m sure the intentions were noble. I love his talks and all that, but I think there is a lesson here. This whole thing could have been managed much better. Anyway, that doesn’t stop anyone from learning in the Dhamma. Life goes on.

    This whole incident reminds me of a time I was a young man, in love with a woman about 7 years younger than me. Watching a movie at night, we both fell asleep on the couch. Now I come from a super-conservative Indian family where meeting a girl and watching a movie with her at night in a separate room was already the biggest leeway my family could give us. And here I was being careless, falling asleep on a couch! Neither of us were doing anything untoward – we weren’t even touching each other while sleeping right there, but my 80-year old grandmother got up and saw us lying there together. She didn’t say anything right then, but she blew up the next morning.

    Now is it a fact that it was an innocent mistake – yes. Is it true that there was no contact – yes. Did I repent being careless – yes. Did I apologize – YES. But that doesn’t change the fact that the act deeply hurt my grandmother. She wanted to see us married ceremonially and have the chance to “bless” me and her. And sleeping together on the couch symbolized to her that we didn’t care for all that, and simply cared nothing for the social mores at all. It is a different matter that the girl herself decided to dump me and go on – which is when I regained my senses, got a shock of samvega, and have now decided not to marry.

    Now, as to the question of equality, I don’t think bhikkhunis have equal status as bhikkhus anyway. Some of the rules the Buddha had set up really makes it very hard for women to even travel anywhere on their own alone. A bhikkhuni has to be within a small distance of another woman at dawn while waking up. It is not like a bhikkhu where they can just roam around freely alone in the forests like Ajahn Mun or Ajahn Chah did. And I don’t even have to talk about the eight garudhammas. Bhikkhunis have very little independence – partly because the Buddha wanted their safety and partly because of the way the bhikkhuni sangha originated at the time of the Buddha. So I am not really sure a bhikkhuni ordination is actually going to “empower” women.

    So if we truly want to talk about “empowering” women, it is important to consider all the social circumstances of the modern day and the facilities we have, and maybe institute a new order of nuns that is more in line with modern way of living, and yet conducive to the spiritual training of the Buddha.

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