Bhikkhu Bodhi’s revised response

A couple of days ago I received a message from Bhikkhu Bodhi, with a revision of his previous opinion on the recent bhikkhuni ordination in Perth. Essentially, he totally supports bhikkhuni ordination but wishes we had gone about it differently. I’ll post the text of this below. It’s taken a couple of days to get around to putting this up; I’ve been mostly away from Santi, and just catching up. But also I’m in the middle of a long reply to Ven Bodhi asking him to reconsider his reconsideration, which I haven’t been able to finish yet. But it seems his new letter has ‘gone the rounds’, so I should put it up here to show good faith. I’ll let you know how this develops over the next few days.



Nov. 6, 2009
Dear Ven. Sujato,

Over the past few days I have obtained more information about the background to the bhikkhuni ordination in Perth than I had available to me last week, when I wrote my letter of congratulations. This more recent information has given me a fuller and clearer picture of the implications of the ordination. While I did expect that Ajahn Brahm and you would be ostracized by the wider WPP Sangha, at the time I wrote I did not realize that relations between monastic communities and among the individual monks that comprise this tradition were as tight and communally determined as they actually are. In the light of my recent insights into the way this tradition functions, I have been compelled to revise the opinion I expressed in the letter I sent you last week and which I approved being posted on your website. I would appreciate it if you would also post this letter on the same website to round out my assessment of the ordination.

I first want to make it absolutely clear that in principle I fully support bhikkhuni ordination. I regard the women who have taken this ordination, whether from lineages based in the so-called “Mahayana countries” or from the recently emergent Theravada bhikkhunis, as legitimately ordained bhikkhunis, fully entitled to participate in the Sangha acts prescribed for them in the Vinaya. I also believe that a full-scale revival of the Bhikkhuni Sangha and its unqualified acceptance by the Bhikkhu Sangha is an imperative for the Theravāda tradition in our time.

At the same time, however, in view of the intimate communal structure of the WPP Sangha and the close bonds between the abbots of the monasteries belonging to this tradition, I have been regretfully forced to the conclusion that Ajahn Brahm and yourself were at fault for proceeding in the hasty and secretive way in which you conducted the ordination. In my opinion, in view of the fact that Ajahn Brahm had been an important and much respected member of this community, he should have discussed the issue openly and fully at a meeting with all its prominent representatives, and patiently attempted to prevail upon them with the art of persuasion. You might object that he (and yourself) have tried doing so for years without success, but I am not sure that there has not been substantial progress in this area. Don’t forget that several of the European abbots and siladharas attended the conference at Hamburg, which in itself marked a significant step forward. Further, and especially, a World Abbots’ Meeting was scheduled to be held at Bodhinyana Monastery in December, with the bhikkhuni issue given a prominent place on the agenda. You would only have had to wait patiently for another six weeks to bring the issue to a head.

I believe that, even if you both had felt that the urgency of bhikkhuni ordination had reached a “tipping point,” the meeting in December would have served as the ideal venue to press for a final decision. Even if you were pessimistic that the meeting would have had fruitful results, it still could have served as a final testing ground. If, at that meeting, the international abbots had approved bhikkhuni ordination, at least for Western Australia, you would have been at liberty to arrange the ordination in harmony with the wider WPP Sangha (at least the international branches) and thus hurt feelings would have been minimized. If, on the other hand, the proposal to conduct bhikkhuni ordination was flatly rejected, Ajahn Brahm could have made a reasonable choice. He could either have decided to withdraw from the WPP network and arrange the ordination as a fully autonomous elder monk; or else, while still belonging to the WPP Sangha, he could have conducted the ordination in defiance of the prevailing decision and risked excommunication. In such an event, at least, the decision to proceed with bhikkhuni ordination would have been made openly and after a final attempt at persuasion had failed. Six more weeks of waiting, and the issue could have been decided by a simple up or down vote. As it is, by conducting the ordination in a secretive way, without giving sufficient heed to the opinions and feelings of others in his tradition, he has caused divisions, belligerence, and pain which, with more circumspection, might have been avoided or at least reduced.

The opinion I express here is in full accord with the qualifications that I made in the full version of my Hamburg presentation, which I will cite as an appendix to this letter. Please be assured that, while I express these reservations about the way Ajahn Brahm proceeded in this affair, I still lend him my moral support just as much as I support the revival of bhikkhuni ordination in the Theravāda tradition.


50 thoughts on “Bhikkhu Bodhi’s revised response

  1. Just for the record, Bhante Sujato did not play a part in the decision to do the ordinations “in secret”.

    Also, perfect world scenarios are just fantasies. Hindsight is always 20/20.

    We cannot doubt that the decision of A. Vayama and A. Brahm to ordain quietly came from the best of intentions. Nobody can know what the future holds.

    Furthermore, even if we accept that the decision of A. Vayama and A. Brahm was blameworthy, they can only be held responsible for their own choices. The responsibility for the childish and disproportional response of the WPP sangha lies squarely with the WPP sangha.

    With the deepest of respects, I consider B. Bodhi’s reasoning flawed.


  2. Looking in hindsight, it does appear that “it should have been done differently”, but that is only because now, we can see the extreme and heavy-handed response from WPP. No one expects the WPP sangha to act in such a manner. AB and AS acted on the premise that everyone involved would react more skilfully.

  3. I agree with most of what Bhikkhu Bodhi says.
    I’ll offer the idea that the sticky was always going to hit the fan over these ordinations.
    They were done relatively quietly….AB, AS & AV have been given a caning by the WPP Sangha.
    Had the decision been made to make the ordinations a very public event…sent invites to all the Abbots of the Ajahn Chah Tradition etc., You would have gotten criticism for making the event public and trying to stir up controversy and discord. You’d still have gotten a caning.
    As for taking Bhikkhuni ordinations to yet another WAM….someone was working on a strategy of stalling in the hope that the entire Bhikkhuni idea would simply go away.
    I happen to be of the opinion that both AB & AS knew that one very likely outcome of the ordinations was going to be the WPP Sangha doing what they have done. (Note: I’m very glad that neither AB or AS are chess players…I’m not sure I could cope with my opponent being so many steps ahead of me). You knew what you were doing. You had considered the likely outcomes of your actions, you went ahead and did them. Now you have to consider your next steps.
    I would like to hear Ajahn Vayama’s views. She was a central player in this and so far has been silent.
    Also the deed is done. WPP can cluck all it likes, but as everyone but WPP knows and admits, the Bhikkhuni ordinations were done in accordance with the Vinaya and as an act of the Sangha are valid ordinations.
    So Ajahns: Where to from here?

  4. In the Buddha’s time if someone got faith in the Dhamma and asked to go forth as a lay or ordained follower of the Buddha, he just said “Ehi bhikkhu/bhikkhuni” and that’s it! Simple. A simple ordination is keeping in line with the Buddha’s teachings and Dhamma. It is the essence of the Dhamma. Creating all this papanca and hesitations about ordination is NOT in keeping with the Buddha’s teachings and Dhamma. So a simple and straightforward ordination is keeping in line with ‘the spirit’ of the Buddha’s teachings. That is what was done at Bodhinyana. Beautiful! If they were to wait and ask the whole international community of monks if it’s ok, then this is NOT in keeping with the teachings of the Buddha. When a monk wants to ordain he does not need an international meeting and decades of meetings before commencing the holy life. “Ehi Bhikkhu!” “Ehi Bhikkhuni” was all that was done.

    • I love this. Thank you for reminding us. I have heard scholars refer to it as the “Ehi” formula. (Of course. Suitable candidates etc. etc. But Ehi is so loving and true to the Buddha’s Dhamma that is a Dhamma for Everyone)

    • Not so fast.

      There was also the story of Ven. Pukkusati (MN 140-Dhatu-vibhanga Sutta). He got killed by a runaway cow trying to get full ordination by the Buddha. For some strange reason which I still cannot fathom: Pukkusati needed to get all the T’s crossed and the eye’s dotted in order to get the Buddha’s full acceptance.

      “Ehi bhikkhu” was not enough.

      But it didn’t matter anyway. Since he was already a non-returner according to the Buddha, monk or no monk. So the rite and ritual of ordination is just a nice-to-have in this particular story. No big deal.

      On the other hand, ordination of the monks and nuns in general serves a useful purpose since it enhances motivation for full enlightenment and liberation, so we rejoice and support those who desire to do so.

  5. Well said, Dania.

    Bhikkhu Bodhi is a respected monk and with good reason. I was delighted when he congratulated Aj Brahm on the occasion of the Bhikkhuni ordination in Perth. Evidently he’s been asked – or has chosen – to reconsider and has shifted his position based largely, it seems, on matters of procedure. He is free to do that.

    We are free to avoid falling into the trap of following the commentary of every Bhikkhu and of taking our lead from them. That practice in itself has contributed to the inequities we’re seeking to re-dress.

    “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”. (Perhaps we don’t need Bob Dylan to tell us that, either…)

    Fortunately we each have (or live within) hearts that have the capacity for full awakening.

  6. I do not think most lay people are interested to know whether Ven. Brahm violated the ‘Thai Sangha’ protocol or not or whether the decision to expel can be upheld in a court of law.

    [b]However, what many people would like to know is simply whether or not the WPP monks support bhikkhuni ordination and whether or not they consider whether the ordination conducted on the 22nd October was in accordance with the vinaya rules.[/b]

    We will be awaiting eagerly to see whether the promised announcement of Luang Por Sumedho will answer these two questions with simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ statements.

    Judgments and opinions about Ven. Brahm’s conduct is not the issue at hand and such statements are simply being used to avoid the core issue. It is encouraging to note that Bhikkhu Bodhi has answered these two question directly and I would sincerely hope the WPP monks would do the same.

  7. “he has caused divisions, belligerence, and pain” to members of the Sangha …

    I thought I had been taught in Buddhism that anger/belligerence comes from within ourselves, our own attachments, our fault finding mind, greed, hatred etc. etc?

    How can Ajahn Brahm have caused it?
    This may seem simplistic but it seems core to me.

    The issue anyway is not Ajahn Brahm it is bhikkhuni ordination.


    • Well said Rachel!
      Anger is a defilement caused by delusion. Noone can directly cause it. When Ven. Sariputta heard harsh speech he remained cool and unbothered. When someone asked him why he just said “it’s just sound making contact with the ear”.

  8. Dear Bhante

    I wonder if Ven Bodhi was correct to refer to “while still belonging to the WPP Sangha”. Was that loose collective of associated monasteries capable of being treated as a “sangha” within the meaning of the Vinaya?

    I personally believe that AC Brahm, in forcing the hand of the WNPP collective (if that was in fact his intent), took a more defensible course of action than paying lip service to the 6 week interval.

    • Dear Sylvester,

      No, the WPP Sangha has no relevance from a Vinaya perspective. There is no concept of a ‘tradition’ or ‘nikaya’ in the Vinaya. For the purposes of formal Acts such as ordination, the Sangha always means simply the bhikkhus or bhikkhunis in the local monastery; technically, those within the sima boundary.

  9. I am one of the Bhikkhunis participant in the Bhikkhuni ordination in Perth. The ordination was done in according to the procedure prescribed Pali Vinaya (Culavagga, Vin II, X). i have no regret to be a part of the Sanghe Act in making Bhikkhuni. This is to pay my debt to elder monks and nuns who have compassionately helped me to learn and practice Buddhism in the best way I can. And to show gratitude to our supporters for their loving kindness toward the Sangha. Nevertheless, in my mind, the ordination is only officially confirm the status of the 4 nuns at Dhammasara as Bhikkhunis, actually, they have long ago been Bhikkhunis in essence. For an official act to be successful, it should be done in a right time, with wise decision. Therefore, the reason Ven bhikkhu Bodhi brought forth is praiseworthy. Sangha is a harmonious congregation, not individual decision. Only after the event, seeing the undesirable (but somehow, pre-visualised reactions from WPP, i feel that the ordination should do in a more open way, as Ven Bodhi has clearly stated.
    With Metta to all of you.
    Ayya Dhammananda

    • Sorry folks. Ayya accidentally posted as me. We both live at Santi and my login must have been defaulted on the terminal she used to post the above.


  10. Dear Ajahn Sujato,

    Is it stated in the Vinaya that whenever a monastery ordain a bhikkhuni they have to get permission from other monasteries around the area, around the world, or at least hold a meeting with related monasteries before doing so? I thought each monastery conduct it’s own ordination without having to tell other monastery every time they ordain someone.

    If not, then why is he at fault for not waiting till he get permission from other monasteries around the world?

    There was a Theraveda bhikkhuni sangha present, and a bhikkhu sangha present. It followed the instruction in the Pali vinaya. Then what is the justification for the excommunication?

    • The fear of the loss of influence over its associated monasteries;

      The fear of the loss of its prestige as a Thai institution, beholden as it were to secular Thai laws, moribund customs which they still believe to exist.

      The fear of the loss of the “AC Chah” brand equity.

      I’m, of course, giving the minority agitators the benefit of the doubt in not assuming that they had a personal axe to grind with AC Brahm.

    • Namo Buddayo,

      Let’s not take sides. Let’s be rationale.Leave books aside (use our purity & go by love in our hearts with no defilements).

      Just put WPP in Ajarn B’s shoes.

      In future, if one of Ajarn B’s disciples were to branch out eg in Middle East, and they ordained Bikkunis /Bikkus there without even the courtesy to inform or consult or invite Ajarn B or his monatery where they had training & shelter from, and instead consult the Middle East Buddhist Community, how would Ajarn B and his monastery react and felt? It is the same for WPP.

      It is a matter of courtesy and approval,that’s all it takes to do, openly (all this not in the Vinaya, that doesn’t mean one can ignore and just follow blindly the book & not procedures/heirarchy).

      If the Dhammasara Bikkunis wanted to establish their own Bikkunis Order or Australian Buddhist tradition, they should be open about it by asking permission from their lineage/tradition/parent monastery to relinquish them to be an independant tradition first before the ordination(surely WPP would be happy to allow that if it meant good for the Dhamma and relevant to the Aussie Buddhist community).WPP has no right to go against that if you want to break-off from the WPP/FST banners. By bypassing WPP & FST, the Bikkunis had by default established their own Order or Australian Tradition without any lineage/tradition/parent monastery, and by default, they should not use Ajahn Chah as their fore-teacher to propagate their teachings /gain popilarity / trust.

      This is my personal feelings & perception not to be taken conclusive (blogs are meant for discussions, no heart feelings, be open minded).
      Calmness leads to Wisdom.
      Metta to all.

    • Dear Felicia,

      If Ajahn Brahm’s disciples were to go ahead and ordain bhikkhus and bhikkhunis without consulting him, I’m sure he would be delighted! Ordination is a beautiful thing. It is a normal part of monastic life, and a simple, regular procedure in the Vinaya.

      The question that needs to be asked, rather, is how the decision makers in the Thai Sangha, and especially in WPP, can prevent other monks from practicing Dhamma and Vinaya in accordance with their conscience. there is no precedent for this in the Vinaya. Please remember that when WPP made rulings against bhikkhuni ordination, they did not consult with anyone. Nor was the decision based on an informed process. It was just brought up in a meeting without prior notification, and ruled against. Why is it okay for WPP to ban bhikkhuni ordination, where it is not okay for the Perth Sangha to do it?

      The ordination was not done out of disrespect or trying to harm anybody. It was simply done to support women’s aspirations in the Dhamma Vinaya. The exclusion of women from the holy life in Theravada Buddhism is wrong and harmful, and what is wrong should not be tolerated, even for one moment! A tradition should be valued if it supports us to do good, but any tradition, in this complex world, is a mixture of good and bad. We need to use our discernment to keep what is good and let go of what is bad.

    • Dear iMeditation,

      Of course, as you suggest, none of these things are found in the Vinaya, and the responses by WPP have not seriously tried to find fault with the Vinaya procedure – but I suspect some people may be working on it.

      The justification, as you can see from the various letters, was that Ajahn Brahm disobeyed the rules of WPP and the Mahatherasamakhom.

    • Dear Ajahn Sujato,

      Thanks for your response. Personally, I only regard the Buddha’s dhamma and Truth as important. The rules of WPP we can let WPP follow now.

      About the Vinaya, I am aware that before the Ordination takes place you have done extensive research on Bhikkhuni Ordination Vinaya and have written a book about it. Please post a link to it from this blog so others can be more informed as well.

      WPP and Mahatherasamakhom are obligated to follow a certain law, social norms of the location in addition to the Buddha’s vinaya and Truth. Therefore, I do sympathize with them as well.

      I hope both side can reconcile at this point instead of dragging it out any longer. After all, both belong to the sangha of the Buddha.

  11. So it is not the case that Ajahn Brahm had violated the Buddha’s vinaya in any way. It is just the case of not following the social norm of a certain group.

  12. iMeditation :So it is not the case that Ajahn Brahm had violated the Buddha’s vinaya in any way. It is just the case of not following the social norm of a certain group.

    IMHO, you’ve nailed the core essence of this issue so well!

  13. Though I hold Bikhu Bodhi with the highest of regards, I do not agree with his revised take on the bikkhuni’s ordination.
    Having read Ajahn Brahm’s explanations, I am inclined to his point of view.
    May the storm soon subside, may all manners of things be well.

  14. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s revised response is well-reasoned.
    The Ajahns at Bhodinyana are also well-reasoning people. If, after due consideration, they chose not to announce their intentions to the wider sangha they must have had good reason. Perhaps we have not heard a full account of what their reasons were, and perhaps they are keeping a tactful silence on this issue. There appears to have been a real concern that the proceedings could and would have been disrupted if they had announced their intentions. My recollection of ordination ceremonies is that there is a moment when the sangah is required, by its united silence, to indicate its agreement to the proceedings. I imagine then, that if one visiting sangha member had objected – like the point in a wedding where the priest invites people to ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ – that this could have been enough to make it impossible to proceed. Could this have happened, Bhante?

  15. Between 1850 and 1930 Western visitors who traveled about in Siam encountered two kinds of Buddhism. One embraced the local forms of Buddhism practiced by the majority of the people, including local aristocracies who lived in muangs throughout the regions claimed by Siam. The other was the Buddhism founded by Prince Mongkut, whose followers were mostly members of the royal family, the upper class, and government officials who lived in Bangkok. By the end of the 19th century the Buddhism favored by the elite became the standard for state Buddhism. By the middle of the 20th century, Mongkut’s scientific Buddhism had been transformed into a bureaucratized religion. The strength of local traditions had by then been greatly undermined.
    Pg 351 The Buddha in the Jungle, by Kamala Tiyavanich

  16. With due respect to WPP, looks like, Ajahn Brahm did not violate the Vinaya but merely violating the Thai monastic culture.It is just a cultural shock! The east culture values respect elders whereas it is not the western culture, so who is right? Ajahn Brahms signature “it is the act not the person” so just make good the act, why after the person?(with due respect). Isn’t Buddhism about compassion and mega metta & mega forgiveness? WPP should take the lead.I ask for forgiveness if anything said here is wrong or not helpful.Ajahn Brahm, whatever happens, you have our full support, you have helped and touched many devotees’ lives(even saved some lives) with your Dhamma with humour, and you have inspired, motivated many all over the world and brought the Dhamma alive.Miilion thanks for your humble compassion and mega metta to us devotees.We will never forget your ever smiling face and your mega metta.Be patient, this issue “this too will pass” quote & unquote. Sokhihotu.

  17. Puzzled with the excommunication of Ajahn Brahm. Why Ajahn Brahm and not the Bikkuni? Why WPP picked on Ajahn Brahm, its not his fault. If the Bikkuni did not want the ordination, there would be no such ordination. To liberate from samsara, title is not important. Women bikkunis can still be liberated WITHOUT being ordained!All past and future Buddhas are men, so strive hard as bikkunis (without ordination) to be reborn as men in next life and than get chance to be ordained.There must be a reason why all Buddhas are men (although i am a woman).

    • The idea that a woman should strive hard to be reborn in the next life as a man first before being able to ordain is not the teaching of the Buddha. The Buddha himself ordained woman in this very life. That is why there was a Fourfold sangha, with the Bhikkhuni sangha included. The Buddha didn’t tell woman to wait until their next life as a man. I wonder, who added this ?

      It is true that to become liberated the title is not important. Here we are talking about the practicing condition for women. Not being able to ordain, women have to practice like an Anagarika and go no further. As we know, the practicing condition for a person who just made a transition from lay life to monastic life such as an Anagarika is different from that of the practicing condition of the monks. If a change from the practicing condition of an Anagarika to the practicing condition of a monk is not necessary, then the Buddha would have just let people practice like an Anagarika instead of further changing their lifestyle as monks. If a change from the lifestyle of an Anagarika to the lifestyle of a monk is necessary for liberation, then why would you expect women to become liberated practicing like an Anagarika only and go no further? Women also need proper practicing condition to progress on the path to liberation.

    • Dear iMeditation,

      Thanks for all these refelctions.

      The main feeling that i get from the women who want to be bhikkhunis is simply, well, this is how the Buddha wanted us to live if we are to devote ourselves fully to his path, so let’s do it out of faith. In the end, we can all have different ideas about whether it is a good thing or not, but the point is that as a basic question of religious freedom, women should be able to ordain if they wish, and monks should be able to support this if they wish, with having fire & brimstone poured upon them…

  18. Hi, as a lay Buddhist from the East, can’t help but to give personal views & comments (seek forgiveness if wrong,pls enlighten).

    It is not about the ordination per se, the excom. is about not abiding to traditions & in accordance to Thai culture.
    Monks are to have humility and not to be rebellious, which is foreign to westerners/foreigner, according to the Thai /Eastern traditions.

    Buddhism is an Eastern religion and with Eastern culture.When the West adopted Buddhism, they couldn’t blend into the Eastern culture and being Westerners who always want to change things and have their own branding,so clashes arose.
    Example, Eastern people drink natural mineral water but the Western modified natural water to Coke/Pepsi/flavor juice (its branding), so Buddhism is going into branding in the West which goes against the traditional convention & culture.

    Nowadays,lay people and also monks interpret the Dhamma in their own style to gain recognition and fame/branding eg. the 8fold Noble Path should be in that order (first Sila 2nd Samadhi 3rd Panna) and not otherwise which are commonly practiced now (straight to Meditation no Sila perfection yet).
    Another is the 4noble truth and 5 precepts – 1st avoid killing not 1st avoid intoxicants, as Buddha goes according to severity of offences which is to avoid killing (as most severe)& not avoid intoxicant, as most severe.

    Another observation nowadays is, lay people are not going after the Buddha’s teachings but going after the teachings of the monks or the popularity of the monks. Monks should belong to the Sangha and not an individual or a personality/identity.They should preach the Buddha’s suttas and not their own teachings or interpretations or understanding.

    In my opinion, in the Bikkuni ordination in Australia, the Bikkunis should in the first place not ask for ordination without prior approval from the tradition/heritage/elders they are under.they should not have their own set of rules or “Autralianize” Buddhism.It should not be the fault of Ajahn Brahm who had to take the blame and the axe.The cause was from the two Bikkunis, the one who wanted to be ordained and the one who did the ordination (pls correct if wrong).
    Why is Ajahn Brahm expelled for this act? What about the two Bikkunis,are they too expelled or are they still legitimate Bikuunis under the Thai theravada tradition? It is more of culture clash than Vinaya.Pls. enlighten us lay Buddhists.Seek forgiveness, if wrongly commented or wrong views.

  19. Sorry, iMeditation (don’t mean to offend you or the Bikkunis).Just wondering…if Bikkunis are given equal conditions as ordained monks to practise, is that possible without risking the Bikkunis lives? Say, can a Bikkuni stay in the forest or the cave alone practising meditation without being harmed? However, it is possible for a monk.Both the Thai and Ajahn Brahm monastries have their own set of reasons.The eastern cultures are more into preservation and conservation and therefore viewed this as a serious offence but the East must also understand the Western culture, to have a haapy “marriage”. The important thing here is, each party’s clear intention and conscience whom all of us cannot judge as no one can tell the other’s mind.So, it is hard to judge and comment who is right or wrong.If wrong, get it right; if right everything is alright.Do not prolong the squabbling as it would only split & divide instead of unite & harmony amongst Buddhists community.The best solution, follow our Lord Buddha’s teaching & Vinaya/Suttas, with respect for others and elders (in our Lord Buddha’s teachings).Pls.end all bloggings(preserve precepts).Peace to all.

    • Dear Yokie,

      Thanks for your concern and comments.

      I’d just like to say that it’s very important that this not be cast as a west vs. east thing. After all, the bhikkhuni order was started in India, and passed down through Asian cultures. And in modern times, it is the Sri Lankans that have led the way to reintroducing bhikkhunis; we western monks are way behind them. We don’t do what we are doing because of a disrespect for ‘Asian’ tradition. We have been to Asia and lived there for many years, practicing and benefiting from the teachings that have been so amazingly preserved and passed down. It is precisely because we love this tradition that we want to share it as widely as we can.

      We were discussing this point with some Sangha from different traditions last night, and the question came up, ‘Why do we always argue with the ones that we are closest to?’ To which the answer is, of course: ‘Because we love them. Because we care.’ If we didn’t care, then, well, we just just wouldn’t care. As you say, like a happy marriage; and what marriage is there that has not weathered a few storms?

      Regarding your questions on safety: of course this is a great concern. there are various provisions regarding this in the Vinaya.

      As came up in the Manthink blog, rape and other violence against women is always connected with a degredation and diminishment of women as human beings. My opinion – and I hope to develop this in a more research-backed article soon – is that sexual violence against women will be dramatically reduced in Theravada countries as the bhikkhuni order gains strength, and women’s rights become more recognized.

    • K.Lumpur lay Buddhist :
      Just wondering…if Bikkunis are given equal conditions as ordained monks to practise, is that possible without risking the Bikkunis lives? Say, can a Bikkuni stay in the forest or the cave alone practising meditation without being harmed? However, it is possible for a monk.

      The issue raised does not make any sense at all for those who follow the Buddha’s teachings.

      Please read and study MN-2

      MN 2 – Sabbasava Sutta: All the Fermentations (Taints, Outflows)
      (translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu)
      “[5] And what are the fermentations to be abandoned by avoiding? There is the case where a monk, reflecting appropriately, avoids a wild elephant, a wild horse, a wild bull, a wild dog, a snake, a stump, a bramble patch, a chasm, a cliff, a cesspool, an open sewer. Reflecting appropriately, he avoids sitting in the sorts of unsuitable seats, wandering to the sorts of unsuitable habitats, and associating with the sorts of bad friends that would make his knowledgeable friends in the holy life suspect him of evil conduct. The fermentations, vexation, or fever that would arise if he were not to avoid these things do not arise for him when he avoids them. These are called the fermentations to be abandoned by avoiding. ….

      Surely there had been some forest monks who become tiger dinner or fell of cliffs due to their reckless choices to practice meditation in very treacherous places.

      It is idiotic to endanger one’s own life. It is not the Middle-Way taught by the Buddha.

    • Regarding the safety of bhikkhuni from jungles and nature, this issue didn’t prevent the Bhikkhunis from ordination over 2500 years ago. It shouldn’t be an issue in the modern world. The issue of safety from the wild is not something that can’t be solved. At least not big enough to make the entire female gender wait until their next life as a man before embarking on the Middle Path.

  20. sujato :

    the point is that as a basic question of religious freedom, women should be able to ordain if they wish, and monks should be able to support this if they wish, with having fire & brimstone poured upon them…

    This is another common reason for Bhikkhuni ordination that I hope would become obvious to everyone these days.

  21. Eastern Land :

    What about the two Bikkunis,are they too expelled or are they still legitimate Bikuunis under the Thai theravada tradition? It is more of culture clash than Vinaya.Pls. enlighten us lay Buddhists.Seek forgiveness, if wrongly commented or wrong views.

    I feel that culture clash can provide a good opportunity for people to re-examine their social conditioning. Let’s ask ourselves why are women not allowed equal practicing condition as men. Is this fair and just? It is true that it is a social norm in a certain culture to not allow women equal opportunity to practice, but that does not mean that social norms are not prone to mistakes or that it is perfect. Therefore, it is not enough to just say that this is how it has always been so that is how it should be. We need to actually reflect on this issue instead mere using conditioned response.

  22. That this controversy has erupted is unfortunate.
    But I think it is time the issue of the bikkhuni ordination in the Theravada tradition is addressed.
    There is no reason why the gathering of world abbots of the WPP[now, in Thailand, I believe] should not address the issue.
    From the discussions I see even among the laypeople there are also two schools of thoughts.
    Ajahn Brahm and the Bodhinaya Monastery has taken this brave step, it is time to question whether are there really valid reasons against the bikkhuni ordination other than that 1928 ban!

  23. AB had said that the ordination ceremony is like the birth of a bhikkhu/ bhikkhuni. It is something to celebrate not to excommunicate. Besides, AB is the type that would say ” Whatever you do, the door of my heart will always be open to you”. He is not the type that would dictate what his disciple should do. As long as you have thought it out for yourself, then that is enough. He wouldn’t try to exert power over anyone’s decision or action.

  24. Dear Ajahn Sujato,

    Let’s create a website on Bhikkhuni ordination complete with a domain name and other features. Let me know so if you want to so I can go ahead and purchase a domain name ,etc…

    • Dear iMeditation,

      Well, i can only applaud your enthusiasm, but starting another website is a bit much for me right now. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the existing web presence of bhikkhunis: there’s quite a lot. This page gives quite a few resources. Perhaps you might find working with one of these groups useful. In particular, there’s the Alliance for Bhikkhunis.

  25. I heard Aj Brahm speak again in Oslo just before the ordinations. What struck me was his ability to include and draw sincere consensus from his audience, including Theravada, Mahayana and Tibetan monks and nuns as well as academics. His enthusiasm and willinness to discuss dhamma until late at night were infectious. He spoke only briefly about the coming Bhikkhuni ordinations but at some length about examining his motives and the consequences of his actions. He was clearly sincere and concerned about restoring the balance of the four fold sangha.
    Shortly afterwards I visited Amaravati and found very contrasting moods.
    The Siladharas also had this wider view although oppressed by the pressure and ritual humiliation which has been continuing for some time.
    However, many of the monks seemed disturbed and introspective about procedures and rules. An apposite case for forest monks of not being able to see the wood for the trees perhaps? (although there were a few exceptions).
    One senior Ajahn laughingly brushed the issue aside: ‘Don’t they realise (speaking of women and siladarha in particular) that the Buddha was a man. When a female Buddha comes, then they will have a case.’
    Another Ajhan put the case differently. The nub seemed to be that there would always be some monks who would not participate in certain rituals with Bhikkhunis and if that happened it would cause a technical schism (a very serious offence). Therefore women should not press for this because they would cause it! (A convenient peg to hang diquiet and fear upon?)
    There is also the now well documented case of another senior Ajahn who used the Dhamma chair to swear and fulminate against the women: and of course the very senior Ajahn who wrote ‘Not in my lifetime’.
    At this stage it should be noted that all the monks and siladharas think that they are being reasonable, or fair, or righteous or lawful (or perhaps just plain pragmatic?). So without even widening the area it is quite clear that that any action taken or no action at all was going to upset somebody.
    This is not a new problem as has been reiterated recently in some detail.
    Nevertheless over the years ordinations have taken place in India and Sri Lanka to provide Bhiukkhunis working in a Theravada tradition and they are now working well and are respected. Most are in Sri Lanka (about 600) but about 50 are in Thailand. Of course there are some people in high positions who are uninterested in that but insist that there is a ‘technical error’ in their ordination.
    The Hamburg conference called by the Dalai Lama indicated that there was nothing to prevent the ordination of Bhikkhunis in both Theravada and Tibetan traditions.
    Ajahns Brahm and Sugato and other sangha members have spent many years writing and researching and contacting people as we have seen.
    I don’t know all that has been said or understood by the Ajahns and I am wary about statements that Aj. Brahm ‘should’ have waited 6 weeks for the meeting. Basic Buddhism: There is no permanence, things change all the time. This occurs, that results. I think Aj. Brahm was under immense pressure to weigh up the ever changing situation and whether he was right or wrong is simply opinion.
    What is absolutely clear to me now though (especially considering the reaction to the ordinations) is that it would only have taken a few monks at the planned meeting to make the majority of the others so bogged down and uncomfortable (without even considering the main question of whether Bhikkuni ordinations should be allowed or not) that a decision would have been postponed for many more years.
    The important thing is that the Gordian knot has been cut. The ordinations have been done in a valid way. I think that any problems should be welcomed as an opportunity.
    The one thing that everyone is agreed on is that women have equal spiritual potential to men.
    There is clearly a significant number of sangha and lay people who want Bhikkhuni (and samaneri) ordination to be recognised as allowable. This does not mean women have to ordain nor does it mean that Thai culture has to change unless individuals want it.
    But it should be recognised that the Buddha intended a balanced four fold Sangha and what many perceive is that we are heading towards a one fold sangha who instruct us and ask us to chant that they are worthy of respect. It will not survive that way which is why the Buddha in his great wisdom set it up so that we had to be dependant on each other.
    I sincerely hope that the re-arranged WAM meeting in December can consider things with mindfullness and heart rather that too much head. The siladharas could have helped in this but have unsurprisingly declined to attend and most have left the monasteries for a while for a breather. The lay people also wait.
    We all hope for decisions we can live with.

  26. Dear Venerables and Friends,

    The Alliance for Bhikkhunis is following these events closely and has endorsed the petition in support of gender equality at

    The AfB e-magazine was just published with a call for reconciliation and healing and in full support of Theravada bhikkhunis living in accordance with the Patimokkha. It can be found online at

    We welcome your letters of support and suggestions for action. Tax- deductible, secure online donations can be made at and directed to the bhikkhuni monastery of your choice, anywhere in the world.

    Rather than splitting into a dozen different directions, please let’s consider working with the organizations actively working toward bhikkhuni ordination. AfB has direction for your energy and focus. Together we can make this an opportunity for the growth of the Dhamma Vinaya and the fourfold sangha everywhere in the world. AfB has been actively supporting Thai bhikkhunis and bhikkhunis worldwide since its inception. If we can be of service to you, please email either me (Marcia) or the AfB board at

    Let’s grow together for the benefit of all.


    • Sadhu! Marcia. Yes indeed, this is a time to recognize our common spirit and work together.

      In the future, Sangha organization will not be based on the top-down, patriarchal, bureaucratic Vatican-like model that the Thai government has decided on. If we look at how information and organization is structured today, we see that it is much ‘flatter’, interconnected, organic – like web 2.0. And that is exactly what we find in the Vinaya – organization based on individual ‘cells’, each working independently, but co-ordinated and harmonized by their respect for Dhamma-Vinaya. It is just another example of the extraordinary modernness of the Vinaya in so many ways.




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