Official WPP statement on Ajahn Brahm’s expulsion

Okay, we’ve got an actual official public announcement by Wat Pah Pong, posted on the Forest Sangha website! This is a first: never before has WPP made such an address to ‘Buddhist Societies Throughout the World’. If nothing else, we’ve already changed the rules of the game. You can read the article on the forest Sangha website, but I’ll upload a copy here, too, just in case the URL changes later. Please have a read, I’ll assume you’ve done so when I continue below.

LettertoBuddhistSocieties_38_English

I have already been contacted by Ajahn Brahm about this, and he states that he disagrees with the statements on ‘secrecy’ and ‘thorough planning’, so I won’t go into these, you can follow up on the BSWA website.

In a subsequent email to the Ajahns, Ajahn Brahm states that the actual reason the WPP Sangha finally agreed to expell him was that he refused to say that the newly ordained bhikkhuni were mae chis. In other words, they would have accepted him if he had deliberately lied in the midst of the Sangha.

I will comment on several mistakes in the WPP letter.

The letter states that WPP and branches (actually it was just a meeting of Thai monks, with few if any Western branches represented) had restated many times that ordaining bhikkhunis is ‘void’. This is completely untrue. The relevant statements say, firstly, that WPP forbids bhikkhuni ordination and secondly that it ‘disagrees’. There is nothing about it being invalid.

The letter then states that the ordination ‘contradicts the law of the Mahatherasamakhom’. Of course, Thai law can never apply overseas, as Ajahn Brahm was told by Somdet Buddhajahn. In addition, the Thai Sangha Act only concerns bhikkhus and samaneras and has no jurisdiction over bhikkhunis. I have discussed the legal situation in more detail here.

The letter goes on to claim that Ajahn Brahm’s actions contravene the ‘principles of Dhamma-Vinaya practiced by the Theravada Sangha of Thailand’. It doesn’t occur to them that Dhamma-Vinaya and the position of the Thai Sangha are two quite different things. When Ajahn Brahm asked them whether they could point to a flaw in the Vinaya, they were completely unable to find anything, so this is sheer rhetoric.

The letter concludes by saying that the acts of Ajahn Brahm and Bodhinyana should not be seen to reflect on WPP, a position that is agreeable to all. It was signed by a long list of Thai Ajahns, and the Australian monk Ajahn Nyanadhammo.

17 thoughts on “Official WPP statement on Ajahn Brahm’s expulsion

  1. Holding both that:

    A) Ajahn Brahm acted secretely.
    B) Ajahn Brahm was repeatedly warned.

    is contradictory. Further, if the complaint is based solely on Ajahn Brahm’s comportment in this specific regard, having the bikkhunis suffer non-recognition of their ordination is a non sequiter.

    I find myself confused at how the blatant illogicality of maintaining such a social machination can be sustained in any Buddhist’s mind.

  2. Sad day for the Buddhist community. Such ignorance is portrayed where “excommunication” has to take place just because effort which was inspired from compassion and right intentions has been taken to promote gender equality. What a shame!

  3. Dear Ajahn Sujato

    Many thanks for the updates. I hope the historic constitution of a COMPLETE 4-fold parissa in Perth will serve as an unstoppable catalyst for the continuation of the Buddha’s vision under the Ajapala banyan tree, formed in the 2nd week after His Sambodhi!

    Just out of curiosity, did the 1 Nov 09 proceedings actually pass a Pabbajaniya Kamma motion, or was it some ex-Vinaya motion?

    • Dear Sylvester,

      It was an ex-Vinaya procedure. There was no punitive action as such, just a de-listing. Ajahn Brahm himself voted against the motion, so it was not by consensus as required by all Vinayakamma. Genuine Vinayakamma requires that the accused person confesses an offence. Here there was no Vinaya offence at all.

      cheers

      Sujato

  4. Ajahn Brahm. You have our support. We are solidly behind you. It is sad that such thing happen especially so we are practising the teaching of Buddha.

  5. That was a bad idea about bhikkhuni ordination from the very start, because this will eventually lead to a huge schism in theravadin sangha all over the world. And this is the major point to think about.

    Please, don’t seek problems in “sexism” or “feminism”.

  6. The article did make some very good points about the ordination. From the information in the article it does seem like it would have been more harmonious to perhaps conduct the ordinations later as some last resort.

    I would however like to mention that the article (especially the personal attack on Brahm as trying to raise his image) seem unfounded. We cannot possibly know the full extent of his view and reasoning concerning the motivation for the ordination. Jumping to such conclusions is simply unhelpful and irrational.

    Although the ordination could be seen as disharmonious (and in a way it was), I would also say it gave much needed attention and action into the issue of Bhikkhuni ordination. Regardless of whether or not the ordinations will stand, it brings necessary focus to an issue that is generally pushed a bit to the side. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here.

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

  8. Ven Ajahn Sujato
    “If nothing else, we’ve already changed the rules of the game’.
    Is that the reason you ordained as a monk – to change the rules of the Buddhist game?
    Respectfully
    Kaushi

    • Dear Kaushi,

      No, I ordained as a monk to realize Awakening.

      In my life as a monk, I have benefited so greatly from this path that I can only wish that others can share the same benefits. This is why it has pained me so much to see that my sisters, the good women everywhere who are inspired to follow the teachings, are barred from having the same opportunities that I have had. I have done what I can to improve this through doing research, discussions, and building a place for women.

      But as I proceeded it became more and more obvious that the absence of women from the Sangha was not merely an accident of history, but was actively maintained by some monks who for whatever reasons feel threatened by the inclusion of bhikkhunis. Their chief tool is silence: stop people talking and the status quo is maintained. I discussed this years ago in an essay about the Hamburg bhikkhuni conference. That is the game whose rules have changed. Now people are talking and we are finally seeing some honesty and acknowledgement of these hidden problems.

  9. Ajahn Sujato,

    Is it possible that the same action might have been motivated by different reasons?

    For some, efforts to excommunicate Ajahn Brahm is the result of their personal
    (negative) feelings towards Ajahn Brahm. For others, dis-infranchising Bodhiyana Monastery is to give Ajahn Brahm more freedom and mobility to teach dhamma as he sees fit without having to comply with ancient traditions that have bound them.

    Just my two Baht.🙂

    Yours in dhamma,

    dheerayupa

  10. I am very surprised to read that Thai Monastic Laws are applicable overseas. I would seriously like to see how these laws are applied in Singapore! I will be the first to report the monk to the police and the Singapore Government and have them deported for good !

  11. The Buddha, in His Compassion and Wisdom, allowed women to be ordained as Nirvana and Dhamma applicable to all. I suspect He foresaw this but still allowed it through because of compassionate people such as Ajahn Sujato & Ajahn Brahm and the Bhikkhunis’ supporters will try to maintain the Theravada Bhikkhuni order. By refusing the Bhikhunis’ ordination for whatever ‘reason’, the Thai Mahasangha have taken several leaps backwards in time, methinks, and gone against the Buddha’s decision! ‘Tis a dark day for Buddhist everywhere indeed!

  12. Ajahn Bramavamso enthusiastically told me in person at Bodhinyana in 2000 that he would like Bodhinyana to “branch away from the Thai Forest Tradition at some point in the future”. At the time, I was quite surprised and a little shocked to hear such an intention. It appears that his vision has become manifested.

  13. It seems to me, after long and painful reflection, as I do sincerely revere the teachings of our Thai Forest western Ajahns, that the Buddha set up a Four Fold Sangha. For a long time it has been a three and a half fold sangha. I am so grateful for Ajahns Brahm and Sujato and the ordination of four bhikkhunis into the Theravada tradition. About time!

    As far as the Four Fold Sangha is concerned, I believe that the lay sangha has a real responsibility to make their views clear to their teachers, and not out of respect, refrain from stating them. We are often told that this is a question of the ordained sangha alone, and not about sexism, or femininism, or even the equal place of women. This seems to me to be simply a means of avoiding the real issue. A minor fault in the viniya for some other incident would probably not have resulted in the expulsion of a respected Ajahn and his monastery.

    To return to the Four Fold Sangha, it contains bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, lay men and lay women. And the physical support for the ordained sangha rests entirely with the laity, as the Buddha so clearly and wisely set it up. If the laity does not want the glass ceiling upheld within the sangha, as it has been so clearly reiterated with the Five Points for the Siladharas, then the laity needs to state their beliefs and desires clearly and insistaetly to their teachers who are often our respected western Ajahns. We must not, out of too much respect for our teachers, refrain from being entirely clear that this inequality for women in the spiritual life is no longer tolerable in the west.

    I do understand that the western Ajahns are between a rock and a hard place with respect to their Thai Forest Elders, and the strong tradition of the sangha making decisions in unity. However they may indeed now have to make a choice, or face dwindling support in the west.

    I have a friend, now in her seventies, whose very strongly held intention for her next life is to ordain as a bhikkhuni in the Thai Forest Tradition. May it be so!

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