‘Derisive and divisive’, or ‘clear & open’?

For my readers, and especially leavers of comments, thanks so much for all contributing to make this space something for us all to learn from.

You may have noticed that some of my comments have been a little – how to say – strong? Impolite? Extreme? I’m trying things out, feeling my way towards a better way of communicating. Some people say what I’ve said is ‘clear and open elucidations’, others that it is ‘derisive and divisive’, more fit for an American political blog than a Buddhist monk. (Ouch! That hurt. Unless it’s Michael Moore, of course.)

What do you think? Should I change my style? Are there things that are offensive and better removed? Or am I on the right track – perhaps not open enough? Will I become known as the Richard Dawkins of Buddhism – or the Sarah Palin?

Over to you…


64 thoughts on “‘Derisive and divisive’, or ‘clear & open’?

  1. impermanence is a kind of natural forgiving – restrictions
    are just a kind of limitation – a condition or conditional
    limitation – its good to test them ….

  2. Dear Bhante,
    The only things that are offensive and should be removed are the attitudes of those monastics who oppose giving women the right be become bhikkhunis. This is clearly a human rights issue, not a theoretical point of doctrine. I applaud your clear and open elucidations.
    Bill Magee

  3. ‘Clear and Open’ is my view on your style of communication and I hope you will continue to maintain that. We have enough people beating around the bush and I do not believe that such approach can help us on our quest for the Truth.

  4. Ajahn, you’re the Tom Waits of Buddhism, singing the songs of experience rather than those of innocence, holding up a deep, dark, truthful mirror 🙂

    Upholding the 4th Precept better than most. Please keep up the good work! This is much-needed in what appears to be a culture of repression and self-delusion.

    Yourself and Ajahn Brahm, while having slightly different approaches are showing true courage and leadership in the West.


  5. Yes, clear and open and unafraid is my reading of your style, and I find it very helpful, even though the issues that you are raising are very challenging.

    Other, I’m including myself, are benefitting from understanding more fully some of the human-made structures that shape the tradition we are practicing in, but would also benefit from guidance (dhamma teachings?) (from the suttas) on how to be discerning in our own speech and actions in response to these troublesome issues.

    How can we, as lay people, express our distress and disagreement with decisions made by leading monks in our tradition, that are affection our tradition, whilst ensuring that our speech and actions are compassionate, wise and skilful?

    Sorry this isn’t a direct answer to your question. Indirectly, and with deep respect, I suppose I’m asking how your practice and knowledge of the suttas guides you to clarity in your speech and actions.

  6. The problem with the Theravada style of Buddhism (and other religious sects) has always been the way it controls what people say or think by utilizing the accepted dogma and doctrines in a way which silences. For example, if i complain about inequality I am told that there is no such thing as “man” or “woman” – it is all just conventional wisdom. This garbage about “conventional” wisdom seems to always be used conveniently if it suits those in power. By the same token, if something is just a “conventional” truth, then it can so easily be changed and we can welcome flexibility and evolution. Why is it then that “conventions” are defended to the death if it means changing the power structures? Sadly, as you stated previously Sujato, it’s all about POWER. Some men want to hold on to it for their lives, they are terrified of a power sharing arrangement with women. Unfortunately, they don’t have the guts to admit it. And do women/nuns just want power? Maybe, and some will and do wield it unskillfully – I have been on the receiving end of this from women in the monasteries. But at the end of the day, I think it is more about justice, equality, and dignity. No more or less. And as far as speaking about it goes – it has to happen – loud, hard, clear, and as wisely as possible. Dialogue can be healing, it reveals the shadows and lies and delusions. And we all have our own style of communicating. Yours is a breath of fresh Aussie air in a traditional cultural environment of repression, denial, and control. Australians are born to see through the BS and not afraid of authority. So there!

    • Honestly I think its worth for all of us – and yourself – to check out what Theravada Buddhism is about. Its not controlling, but just more strictly on the rules the Buddha set out. What’s wrong with that?

      Its a choice free people are able to make. I also dont see “defends to the death” if few people have one versus the other opinion, that’s the beauty of Theravada that we “just” heed to words of the Buddha and are on our way.

  7. Dear Ajahn Sujato,
    I do feel a tiny little sarcasm may have crept into a line here or there which could have been misconstrued or used by others to criticize (and we know people may have been looking for something to criticize…). But given the circumstances, given your personal engagement in and commitment to the Vinaya, truth of the Buddha’s teaching, and the vast scholarship, I think you were as restrained as any realized person (besides Ajahn Chah) could have been. Given we are all mature-ish (I try anyways:-) committed Dhamma students I think we can handle it!!! If there are people who think we laypeople cannot, then WHAT ARE WE ALL PRACTICING FOR, ANYWAYS?? (Sarcasm 🙂 Many of us were overcome by shock – (myself around transparency issues, expulsion and the maltreatment of the Amaravati nuns) – and it is only natural for us to have FEELINGS around this! I feel for this practice to be REAL, then we acknowledge REAL emotions, REAL dialogue (which isn’t going to always be polite) and REAL growth in Dhamma (which involves pain, mistakes, forgiveness- and the SPACE WITHIN WHICH THIS IS PERMITTED TO HAPPEN) I do find, when I do this graceful dance of the wai, the gentle walk and the smile – that though it is beautiful and beneficial, it does not always honour reality as it is.
    Ajahn Sujato, you have been the torchbearer for truth on this and this is an enormous service to the Triple Gem. It is obvious to sincere students that this is simply your sincere duty and it speaks to your great gifts.
    Dialogue around the Bikkhuni ordination is absolutely necessary at all levels.
    Aside from that, a forum through which lay students can actually talk about Dhamma in reality, rather than in the abstract, and in generalities, is a huge service to the Sangha. May we grow in Dhamma not just alone on the cushion- but as a community.

    • Bhante Sujato,
      In terms of my previous comment – David has put it better – in terms of “irony”.

    • Well, irony has a more dignified philosophical lineage starting with Socrates; but I think much of Socrates’ famous ‘irony’ is really sarcasm!

  8. Bhante, I support your work and love your teachings. But please, for the time being, speak gently. This is a troubling and scary time for those who are frightened that change will destroy what they’ve been working for. You must bare their harsh words but refrain from engaging. Your goals are ascendant! Now is the time for humility and fence-mending.

  9. hmm – we “should” all be friends – but as you know the tradition is
    cultural and strict – as you have seen, even you can be affected !
    exclusion seems to be a common mode of these times – but is it very
    helpful – we could do better – why don’t the orthodox buddhists move
    witht the times – try to evolve – I have long thought this about the
    heads of the dhamma – we should be moving Forward in THis
    lifetime – in this era – it doesn’t make sense for a path of liberation
    not to do so ….. these events only move us forward –

  10. To all reading this:
    are you sure you want to go down this path of thinking, talking, intellectualizing?
    It is surely not conducive to spiritual wellbeing.

    I think maybe Ajahn Chah himself would advocate a more mindful, more quiet, more accepting approach.

    “Let go of love and hate and let things be. That’s all that I do in my own practice.” – Ajahn Chah

    • Bravo Daniel. Well said, and my feelings exactly.
      The damage being done, Ajahn Sujato, please can we now leave well alone, and not politicise this anymore. This will only harm us, and our own practise as well as that of a lot of others. It isnt worth it at all, even if people sell lots of books and get famous through this. I for one will not post nor even read about this any more. As someone said, a lot of people have acted on behalf of Mara, the ego, sadly.
      May we all find our way out of this by returning to our cushions and to the breath.
      Sabbe Satta Bhavantu Sukhi tatta.
      ‘Let go of love and hate. Let things BE.’
      With metta.

  11. Bhante, I think the very question may have been misframed. The critical aspect of maturity that grows – eventually – from the loss of innocence is that move from idealisation to acceptance of reality:

    murky, complex, ambiguous, contradictory, muddy, in-your-face, inabstractable … reality

    Was it the Buddha’s teaching that everybody should have the same personality? Clearly not. He had many Enlightened students, each with distinct and sometimes antagonistic styles.

    You have done nothing extreme. You’ve simply been brave enough to be different – in the open – God forbid!

    So my suggestion would be that we all follow your example and be a bit prouder of our individuality. Let’s each of us make our practice real by bringing some personality, style and character to what we love so much. Let’s bring a bit of oomph to Buddhism. If that means a bit of argy bargy here and there – big deal!

    When relationships are built on love and mutual respect, they are unshaken by differences in style and opinion. How can we get to know and love each other deeply if we never disagree?

  12. Dear Bhante,
    I am so grateful to you for pointing out that there’s an elephant in the room. The silencing of truth in the dhamma community at large is similar to the dysfunctional family in which everyone tiptoes around pretending things are grand when indeed they very much aren’t.

    We can’t control how people respond to what we say–so clear and open to one person may be divisive to another.

    You’re definitely not Sarah Palin, not Richard Dawkins, maybe a tinge of Michael Moore. I guess the real question is what were your intentions?
    My sense is that you aren’t afraid of telling the truth.

    With gratitude and respect,

  13. Hi Bhante. Very humble to ask! No it’s good to be clear- to teach principles of Dhamma. Coincidence: I was just listening to a sutta, i forget which one, where Buddha says that when one speaks one speaks clearly and not hurridly (which you speak very nicely) and that one doesn’t point to individuals and make personal statements but rather teach principles of Dhamma. So saying clear facts like: Buddha established bhikkhu and bhikkhuni sangha and that all are needed for Buddhism to continue. That monastic life makes it easier to practice the path so both genders should have this opportunity etc. So far I haven’t got the impression that you were giving personal attacks or anything but rather teaching principles of Dhamma which is good! Also you clarified areas which we did not know and clarification is good since it keeps our minds from proliferating. Keep at it Bhante!

  14. Bhante:

    There were some sardonic bits that I would have preferred not been present, as Lisa suggests, but I also think that this desire is a problem only for my preconceived ideas of what a ‘monk’ is supposed to be all about universally, without being affected by context. I think this idea of mine is to be abandoned, and I think your human(e) commentary and behavior in this blog is very helpful in this respect. The entire flow of events is a strong and useful reminder that even in Buddhism (I say ‘even in’ as I think many people had this idea consciously or not…) that ‘even in’ Buddhism there are just people, doing their people thing.

    I see that the Sangha was built without a central authority in order that the Dhamma would be able to flexibly follow us around corners not even the Buddha might have foreseen, and when I see all of these events from this perspective, I find myself heartened.

  15. Dear Bhante,

    Continue with your “clear open, frank and forthright” style of expressing the TRUTH. Your responsibility as a Dhamma teacher is NOT to entertain, but to try your very best to tell it the way the Buddha has taught, even if these words may come across as uncomfortable to some. If it has to be said, say it so long as the TRUTH is not camouflaged or lost along the way.

  16. Dear Sujato

    Far more important than your communication style is your intention and the result of your actions, which has been to bring important information to light. Good on you.

    I have always found the subdued, breathy, appeasing communication style prevalent in most Buddhist groups a bit confusing and unreal. It’s always made me wonder what power play is at work and what it is that people are so afraid of saying – and now we know.

    I therefore find your straightforward way of talking and writing a great relief – refreshing, relaxing, no sense of a hidden agenda.

    The only comment that I would make is about your use of irony, for example in your intro to the “Statement from Wat Pa Nanachat”. As a Brit I habitually use irony and I’ve got myself into trouble among international groups. Most Brits and Australians “get” irony. Most North Americans don’t – they either take you literally, which leads to confusion, or they think you’re being rude. It can be even more confusing for people for whom English is a second language who may also well not get the nuance. I’ve learned to avoid it as it can cause confusion (which is a pity, because there can be a lot of play and letting go in the freedom to be ironic, and a lot can be communicated in a few words).

    But far more more important than style is what you have brought to light and the courage that you have had to do that.



    • Dear David,

      Thanks for the comment on irony, I’ll bear it in mind. When i was in Malaysia, i read a similar point being made about misunderstandings between Malaysian and Singaporean politicians. Malaysians can be very playful and teasing in their communications, which apparently was a regular source of confusion for their more straight-up Singaporean counterparts.

  17. Personally I like the page as it is straight forward. To the topic at hand, here I would like more well balanced discussion.

    I am really not font with some people pushing this to be a gender equality issue (get the Asian women out of prostitution type, forgetting that across Asia women have much better job opportunities as in Western Countries).

    Equally, I think the traditionalists have a need to be objective and considering both points and make decisions based on that ..

    Given that we all should be more like switzerland I still think its desirable to be forthright.


  18. Lisa Karuna, Bo Schafers, and Jason: I second your words, completely, thank you!

    Dear Bhante Sujato,

    You’re Oh-kay!

    Thank you for being so dedicated and sincere a practitioner of the Dhamma-Vinaya, even though you might be misunderstood and get a bit of trouble for it now and again. It’s worth it, it really is, and you seem to accept it all (your role, the results) very gracefully. It’s a process, and certainly you’re learning a lot from it, too, and I appreciate and your sharing that, and am only grateful to you for being brave and enduring enough to follow through with your duties, in line with the Buddha’s teachings.

    My temperament can be somewhat restrained, so I admit I was a bit hesitant about the tone of writing initially (knowing how things spread on the internet) but that was due to my lack of understanding about the situation, and my own fear and anxiety about ‘breaking things up’ – sometimes preferring harmony at all costs. But fear is never a wholesome motivation, for anything. In that respect, you and Ajahn Brahm have given me a useful, real-life reminder that: Honesty/Truthfulness is para-mount (it’s a para-mi, a force, a summit, a power!), and most often will cause some disagreement. But disagreement is a normal part of life. Why, even the Buddha was not free from people disagreeing with him.

    I think this whole situation has been very educational (and quite exciting!): it has been a ‘test’. But I think everyone did quite well, and your prompting and giving us this opportunity to openly and communally reflect upon what has happened is really a wonderful and much appreciated addition. Speech is not a minor part of the path because so much of our life – in one way or another, through one media or another – takes form through speech. And as the world gets smaller and more crowded, and we become more connected, truthful, wise, compassionate, and meaningful speech (perhaps the lack of it) is something we need to pay attention to.

    But importantly, our thoughts/intention and speech should be aligned with what we do, and all that should be aligned with the truth, with right view. And I can only offer my humble thanks to yourself and Ajahn Brahm, and anyone else who has supported and contributed to this, for being true to that, to such a high degree! You and Ajahn Brahm have given a clear, distinctive, and truthful voice to Buddhism. And, what’s more, you live by that.

    These words are just the praise and blame of the world, but do keep up your good work in the Dhamma!

    With much metta ~

    PS: I am always deeply impressed by the simple yet striking way the Buddha showed Rahula the importance of truth/honesty in the contemplative life. I will be re-reading and reflecting upon that sutta, as well as the Sappurisa & the Suta suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya. And a portion from MN 58, advice to prince Abhaya. Thanks for the occasion : )

    • Dear Analeya,

      Thanks for your comments, these are all very helpful perspectives.

      I’ve been cautious about saying much on this thread, as I wanted to hear how people responded to my blog, without giving away too much as to why i’ve gone this road. But we were just discussing some of these issue here at Santi, and I remembered one very specific moment when i was writing an email when the issue first started to break out. I found myself toning everything down, smoothing out all rough edges, making it all nice, like a suburban garden. But I live in the Aussie bush! It’s full of jagged rocks and spiky shrubs. I could see creeping into my words a subtle passive-aggressive quality. (If you’re not familiar with this term, check out this great site.) I knew there was so much passion and energy in this issue, yet the public statements were predictably legalistic, and used ‘Dhamma’ not to find the truth, but to smooth over something that in reality is rough. Something changed in me then, and I wanted to speak from somewhere more honest, even if that place was not very nice.

  19. Bhante and all,

    I’m really enjoying all your comments and the airing out at this new level – the quality of the discourse itself.

    As I said over on the Women & Forest Sangha group on facebook, I don’t think it serves anyone to make a pretense of cool-headed rationalism when it’s obvious that these events spark strong emotional responses in many on all sides. In the Buddhist context, a ruse of emotional control then becomes a transparent attempt to claim the high ground of practice by appearing more equanimous or wise. The hypocrisy of using unemotional language, while taking actions that to me seem highly irrational and loaded with fear, anger, and an impulse to control…well, that’s not something I want to emulate as a practicing Buddhist. For me, nothing is more essential to practice than honesty, particularly self-honesty. My interpretation of recent events is that some senior monks have strayed dangerously far from self-honesty, and the nauseatingly vacuous, pious, numb, self-righteous language common to monastic-speak has not helped the situation. Thank you, Bhante, for breaking with that tradition.

    Still, given the level of fear running, Justin has a good point (and Sal, I believe, elsewhere on this blog) that language interpreted as too strong can harden perceived dividing lines and leave little room for conciliation and change. Also, I don’t think humility can ever go wrong. The events are shocking and painful enough, and it’s understandable that for some, conditioned to expect a certain kind of discourse, flippant or sarcastic language might overload the sense of shock. Bhante, could you avoid that without cramping your style? I don’t think it would weaken your message.

    Someone on the facebook forum mentioned that sometimes she gets the sense that this back-and-forth is about old scores being settled. I’ve had the same feeling … that there’s a pissing contest going on between the men, and the point of it all – women’s monastic practice – falls by the wayside at times. I do know your intentions are sincere, Bhante, but it’s telling that at least two of us had this perception – something to watch for.

    Also, the bhikkhunis often disappear from the discourse altogether, as if they’re not agents in their own right. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the WPP Sangha that the women themselves have a right to decide the timing of their own ordination, according to their own preparedness and practice, and that monks’ politics should take a back seat. Of course, the newly-ordained bhikkhunis at Dhammasara don’t have internet there and haven’t weighed in on these debates. How beautiful, and ironic, that they’re simply getting on with practice while we carry on here. On that note, bye for now.

    • Dear Jackie,

      Thanks so much for this, especially the last paragraph. It is the nuns’ ordination, not the monks, and the nuns must be the ones to make the decision. As it happens I just got an email from someone who’s just come back from Dhammasara, and he reports that he had a nice chat with Ajahn Vayama, who is well. She’s spoken with Ajahn Brahm and they all agree now is the time for reconciliation.

  20. Dear Sujato,

    I think you are well on the right track. You are just calling a spade a spade. If anything you have been rather restrained – you could have hit even harder, considering how unjustly the WPP ajahns have acted and the downright mean and absurd position taken by the Amavarati ajahns in their five-point suppression of their poor nuns.

    A maha-sadhu to you for standing up for the womenfolk. Ananda would have been proud of you. And the Buddha – have you not well-pointed out years ago – had already declared that the Sangha would not have been complete without the bhikkhunis. And so you and Ajahn Brahm are only doing the decent and right thing – that is, making the Sangha whole and complete. Those who object can only be misogynists (in this particular context) and prejudiced against the womenfolk, and all the reasons they gave for ex-communicating Ajahn Brahm are hollow and petty.

    My salutations and respects to you.


  21. Dear Ac Sujato,

    I support the movement on restoring the Bhikkuni Order.

    There is nothing wrong with your comments. They are just open and honest, well, truthful as well.

    But as usual, the truth hurts! Ouch.

  22. Oh yes,

    Pls tell Ac Brahm, that the Buddhist Fellowship in Singapore, we Singaporean’s too are behind the commendable and highly-encouraging actions.

    IN history, great man and great women had always encountered strong objections and obstacles in their decisions. But what makes them great men and great women, is their courage to stand up for what is good for mankind, despite all the resistance they would be getting.

    With Metta
    Gloria Aw

  23. if anyone’s looking for a standard of discourse appropriate to ‘noble ones’ try this:
    Aj Mahabua purportedly had tears as he described to a questioner his experience of full awakening. Some people reacted to his tears – how can he be an arahant if he cries?! – and gossiped about the veracity or not of his attainments. His response is a joy to behold, a symphony of adjectives and expletives, a true expression of frustration at the jaw-dropping ignorance he was listening to. He said (in part):
    “What’s the matter anyway, are you people crazy? – that’s what
    I’d like to ask. Has any one of you ever seen Dhamma’s pure
    nature? Since the day I was born, I myself had never seen it…As a result of my practice, I have steadily gained knowl- edge and insight, stage by stage, in the manner that I have de-scribed to you. I practiced in that manner until I finally attained the crowning achievement, an attainment which has now expressed itself in its own natural way.
    Have any of you ever tried to see the Supreme Dhamma? Or are you all satisfied to sit there blindly with your mouths gaping open, barking noisily at the pure nature of Dhamma? Why don’t you bark at that pile of excrement hanging around your neck instead? Think about that! That pile of excrement is a mass of fire. Greed, anger, and delusion give birth to that pile of excrement” and so on.
    You can feel his energy in this, and you can understand it too. Let’s set the elocution lessons aside and take care not to succumb to the panic and back-tracking that truth can provoke in some.
    Aj Sujato I commend your willingness to step out on an edge and speak from your own sense of truth and clarity, just as I commend that courage in Thanissara, Jitindriya, Marg and other post-monastic women who have endured silencing strategies within the monasteries and had the courage to persist in dialogue around difficult issues.
    If we think the truth looks one way only (some kind of doey-eyed monastic who doesn’t dare rock the boat even while such rocking might save lives) then we’ve missed the point. Let’s keep this can of worms open. The worms nourish the soil to optimise growth.

  24. Ajahn
    I really appreciate what you have done..are doing in the spirit of integrity, openness and truth.
    It’s not an easy edge to hold in the face of so many smoke screens, criticism and such complexity.
    However the times call for daring spirit – either that or slow death of women’s participation in the Buddhasasana..So thank you Bhante – may your courage give strength to others to live more fearlessly..
    I trust there will be some healing of all this mess at some point – and I hope that the samvasa between all of Ajahn Chah’s monasteries will ultimately hold together – I believe he would have wanted nothing less. However if not – we all know how to practice!
    thanks Ajahn –
    & Cheers

    ps – I have pasted below my response to B.Bodhi’s most recent letter from our fb page.

    Please find Bhikkhu Bodhi’s letter to Ajahn Sujato also posted on the Discussion board.
    It seems he didn’t have all the ‘facts’ when he wrote his initial congratulations – I’m not so sure he still has all the ‘facts’ with this second letter either… but it does go to illustrate the compexity of the matter

    Bhikkhu Bodhi is clear that he supports Bhikkhuni ordination, however doing things in harmony is considered a very important critera of monastic sangha proceedings (I know you wouldn’t think so given the ‘expulsion’ of A.Brahm and the secretive nature of the 5 points.).

    I very much respect B.Bodhi, but there’s a real dilema he posits…You need harmony for Bhikkhuni ordination – and yet the very giving of ordination creates splits.

    I don’t know all the ins and outs of why the ordinations in Perth didn’t wait til after the WAM council, but I do trust that either way it would cause a split – perhaps one much worse if they had waited.

    Perhaps it’s harder for B.Bodhi to get a ‘temputure’ gage – being more on his own outside the daily proceedings of the UK monasteries. And after all everyone was in their more liberal selves at the Congress he mentions.. but
    it seems to me that in no way was Bhikkhuni ordination on the agenda of the elders – other than to block it left, right and centre.

    On coming back from the Hamburg conference (which he mentions as a possible softening and opening of opinion within the community of elders on the subject of ordination)
    I respectfully approached Ajahn Sumedho to talk about it and received a totally closed door…He did not want to know a thing about it.

    As far as I have heard the whole engagement with the Congress was not taken on board by the community at all – except those nuns that went and who they represented.

    After that two excellent nuns disrobed in dismay

    How many more nuns and potential great practitioners in that form have to be lost to this endless politicking and procrastination by the male elder council??

    For me that’s the issue – and that goes beyond the legalities & niceities of Bhikkhuni ordination

    What we really need is an attitude and culture shift..

    • Ajahn Thanissara
      But what is it that you would gain as a theri other than an enhanced sense of ‘perception’ by your followers than as a 10 precept nun? Would you be more virtuous and kinder (sila), concentrate your mind better (samadhi), and wiser (panna)? Is this not the path? Has this urge to be ‘nun equal to a monk’ not the fires of ‘tanha’? Is not our aim in renunciating, the understanding of our own impulses in quietude?
      Anjali to the two nuns who disrobed. May their progress on the path grow daily, as it is certain to.

    • Kaushi I disrobed after attending the Hamburg Congress, in part, because it made very clear to me that our particular tradition was caught in fundamentalism around the place of women in the tradition.

      This fundamentalist attitude flows to other issues too. It represents a closing of the heart and a taking refuge in textual forms.

      The question is not about aspiring to equality. The point is about recognising it in the first place. It is not that something has to be gained by women it is that something has been taken from women.

      People are complex creatures. That some men have fear and loathing of women isn’t the problem. The problem is a resistance to investigate its origins, and a misuse of one’s position to keep women out.

      To investigate this requires moving from the safety of texts to the uncharted and murky territory of the heart. An aptitude in this kind of investigation is something the siladhara in the UK have developed over time and contribute to the communities there. Several monks there have remarked on how essential it is to have that element of the feminine brought into the practice. Those voices tend to go unheard…

    • Kaushi,

      Samadhi rests on sila. This is something that I found stressed in Ajahn Chah’s teachings (as found in the many booklets compiled by his followers).

      I remember a newly ordained 10 precept nun remarking that she felt a change in her meditation.

      I also know a monk who often remarks that one cannot change overnight just because one is suddenly wearing a robe.

      Yet it is the idea of that robe…it is reflecting on what it stands for that can inspire the mind to joy and stillness. It is also the gradual transformation that occurs through years of keeping a standard of sila that is at first new/inspiring; eventually inspiration gives way to a confidence based on experience and a gradually deepening practise…all based on greater sila. Even contemplating the idea of sila seems to enhance meditation.

      I remember going to last Friday’s talk at Dhammaloka and listening to Ajahn Brahm, something he said triggered in me an image of a great door opening…echoes of the ‘the doors to the deathless are open’…these echoes seemed to resonate around a sense of a vision of the four great pillars of Buddhism having come to rest in this country. It’s taken a while to write these sentences, but these images/visions/whatever you may wish to call them only lasted a split second, and after that second was over; it felt as if a door was open to me, my being seemed to open and my mind which arrived in that temple tired seemed to suddenly remember again what it had remembered during a particularly peaceful retreat; it remembered something about meditation and my mind sat in a slow revolution around something peaceful and still. And this was because of a moments unintentional contemplation of sila…to me that’s something that the four pillars symbolise…the guardians of virtue, the context of practise for the sasana, the protectors of the nation.

      Even today I reflected before I walked mediation: there are laymen and women who have taken refuge, there are bhikkus and bhikkunis who have taken refuge and they are here and I am among them. I cannot describe how gorgeous and divine the feeling was around my heart; I dived into my feet. The greater sila they keep is not just for them…it has even inspired my small still young practise…what a beautiful thing. A friend of mine remarked on how it’s easy enough to say that there’s no difference between a male/female arhant; she said that to her as a practising female it made a difference; she said she wanted to see the images of female arhants on a monastery wall, to sit at their feet, to bow to them. I am an unenlightened being struggling with as much faith and courage as I can muster; it would help my deluded mind to see such a being; a being whom I could relate to on a conventional level, it would help so much.

      Even reflecting on Sila, let alone keeping it, seems to be effective in meditation. Surely if some of us feel ready to keep more and more sila, it is wrong and unwholesome not to listen to the possibile ways of making this happen.

      I read Bhikkhu Bodhi’s booklet which presents the arguments against and for Bhikkuni ordination and ulitimately settles on the argument for it; surely if these arguments are open to interpretation the thing to do is to choose the most compassionate interpretation.

      May our hearts be open to wholesome changes. I certainly started out having reservations about Bhikkuni ordination…I was waiting to see if the arguments were solid – rational and supported by evidence. If my stubborn mind can be changed, then anybody’s can!


    • Dear Kaushi,
      The momentum behind Bikkhunis paves the way first for other women to see the Buddha’s message that all beings can reach Nibbana. As much as I love my male teachers and may have adopted a male teacher over a female teacher at times, as much as I try to see through form, I am still in female form and not fully enlightened – when I see a Bikkhuni it gives me a faith that I have the potential to reach Nibbana ; to take refuge and to go forth- that I do not get otherwise, no matter how much rationality I bring to it. A few weeks ago I saw a picture of Bikkhuni Sanghamitta (daughter of King Ashoka who brought the Buddha’s Bikkhuni order to SL) from the SL caves.
      I cannot describe the joy and inspiration I felt. Indescribable. And it is just not the same to see a male Bikkhu, although that sight brings me great joy.
      Second, when there is a status given to the female Sangha, as in the Buddha’s time, this translates into more students, resources, spaces and places for study – for women. Without the order, those places and resources have been vastly diminished for women compared to the Buddha’s time. (the question of resources is part of the politicization of the issue)
      Thailand is a perfect example. Families send their sons to the Wats. Not their daughters.
      Third, is the integrity of the lineage and the Buddha’s teaching. If I am to go forth, I will go forth in that lineage which honours most closely the Buddha’s teaching and legacy. If given the option I shall pursue nothing less. It is a matter of integrity and taking the Buddha’s teaching sincerely to heart. If he encouraged women to practice as Bikkhunis, then that is my highest aspiration. Any other way compromises the fundamental messages and teachings of the Buddha, unless there is no other option.
      Fourth and finally, it goes much much deeper than perception and some ridiculous “mind your ego” practice. Let’s turn that upside down. What kind of practice is it to think you have more status, rights or birthright or or more ability than others and to be reminded of that every day? The honouring of any form of dominance in my humble understanding of spiritual teachings and looking back on the history of violence against women-is a destructive force. Dominance of one over another is attachment to self and identity – this dominance theory in Christianity extended over animals and the earth and provides a deep-seeded justification of political, economic and environmental destruction; institutionalized “dominance” of men over women in Christianity led to the massacre of 2 million women as “witches” in Europe over the ages.
      What of rebirth? Have I not seen that I was female in the past and therefore wish t extend the same opportunities I had to other women? Can I control my own rebirth such that I will return again in this privileged male form? Do I have some guarantee that I wont return as a female? In this case, is it not in my self interest to ensure that institutional obstacles to practice are removed for all future births? Do I truly believe I can control rebirth and return as a man? Would such a belief help my understanding of anatta and rebirth? In my humble opinion, honouring dominance and discrimination seriously detracts from the practice.

  25. Regardless of what you have said previously, I think the time has now come to begin mending fences and being conciliatory. People have (understandably) strong views on the issue of bhikkuni ordination. But some of the views and opinions being expressed in this debate are intemperate and especially divisive.

    The bhikkunis have been ordained. The WPP Ajahns may have over-reacted, but so what? It seems to me that the whole “split” is exaggerated (as has been implied by Ajahn Brahm in his most recent open letter) and in danger of becoming further exaccerbated.

    Ajahn Sujato, as a Buddhist leader in Australia and an active participant in these events, I believe you have a responsibility now to cool down the simmering tensions. This does not imply that I think you should water down your views on bhikkuni ordination in any way. But as Bhikkhu Bodhi points out, the future of the bhikkuni sangha may very well depend to some extent on acceptance from the bhikkhu sangha. As a bhikkhu yourself and a proponent of bhikkuni ordination, don’t you think that it might be in the interests of the further support and development of the bhikkuni sangha to use some soothing persuasion at this juncture?

    To the extent that it is possible, I think an emphasis on harmony and reconciliation would be functionally quite useful at this point. I still think there are bhikkhus (and laymen) who are sitting on the fence or who may seem aligned to the “anti-bhikkhuni abbotts” but can be won over through persuasion and demonstrating moderate, restrained and conciliatory behaviour at this point.

    What do you think?

    • Hi Sol,

      Well, what I think changes from day to day. As I commented before, I am more interested in hearing peoples opinions than in justifying or criticizing my own contribution. But for now just this much.

      For thousands of years (since the time of the canonical bhikkhuni texts), the male Sangha’s is virtually the only voice in Buddhism. And when we look at what that voice has had to say in support of women’s spiritual aspirations, we can only come away disappointed. Now for a brief window their authority comes into question. Everything changes. Is the most important thing for us right now to be concerned for the feelings of the monks? Is this not privileging the status quo of the monks yet again?

    • I agree j Sujato, you make an important point here.

      With respect, Sol, my experience in robes was that we were constantly told that restraint from expressing these difficult issues would have the best effect; one or two monks had even been heard to suggest ‘meekness’ as the appropriate mode for nuns…

      On the contrary, what I found was that persisting through the defences and resistances to air such matters was more effective (if uncomfortable all round). Silence in more recent times has led to the imposition on the sisters of the 5 points.

      It is easy, and lazy, to dress up resistance to dialogue as ‘noble silence’. It becomes passive-aggression, and its negative consequences ripple out.

      It is harder, and worthier, to develop tolerance for the discomfort that apparent conflict can bring.

      It is also difficult to hold a paradox such as ‘the monks I find noble are amongst those who have acted ignobly on this issue’. Yet a capacity to hold both truths and move forward in dialogue is an important developmental step.

      Let’s not block – through recourse to textual aphorisms – those who are managing to take that step. The heart is not a legislated domain. Give it some space to open.

  26. Dear Ajahn,

    thank you for fighting tirelessly for the nuns over the years and at the same time for keeping us all informed with what is happening.

    Unfortunately, I have to agree that sometime, the choice of words come across as too strong and encouraging strong emotions. As a Buddhist leader and having 16400 “eye balls” looking at your blog, it is important to write in a manner that build harmony and bridge between the 2 camps rather than encourage ppl to take sides (Us vs Them).

    Thanks for your dedication to the cause!

  27. Dear Bhante, overall I basically agree with Sol, except minus the compromise bit.

    As an old friend and one of your most sympathetic critics, while I wholeheartedly support the revival of the bhikkhunis as you know, I still find sometimes your style makes you somewhat of a liability to your own cause!

    I totally wholeheartedly support being uncompromising when it’s really fundamentally important, such as about the basis of Dhamma-Vinaya only, not extraneous traditional authorities, but perhaps an uncompromising position in a moderate tone is more persuasive to those who really need persuading than an (imo) actually still slightly compromised position (re. the infection of hierarchical culture into the Sangha) in a (sometimes, somewhat) belligerent tone?

    There’s a passage somewhere (you probably remember where to find it better than me now) which says that the dhammapakkha is to be distinguished by the way they try to convince and persuade the adhammapakkha reasonably. Relatively, you are enormously more reasonable than the Thai traditionalist faction, because they just consistently refuse to look at any evidence and ignore and suppress any criticism, however sincere and well-meaning, but please beware of giving some ‘swing voters’ the mis-impression that you’re the less reasonable arguer and thus must be in the wrong.

    Also I used to find when I was giving feedback on drafts of your Bhikkhuni research, that sometimes your progress towards your conclusions is more rhetorical than logical -I mentioned this before. If you say something thrice, it doesn’t really make it true, it just makes it seem so, but those you need to convince will notice that there actually weren’t any solid reasons given along the way. The most frustrating part of that for me was that often I knew there was good evidence for approximately what you were concluding, but you just hadn’t used it while relying on rhetorical repetition instead.

    On the other hand, @Sol, in the overall mixture, having a slightly Dawkins-esque one among the frontline may be “functional” as well, perhaps? It takes many kinds of trees to make a good forest, no?

    Thank you for listening, Bhante! Fight the good fight! 😉

  28. Dear Ajahn Sujato,

    Thank you for all you have done to give us a more accurate information on the recent developments about the Bikkhunis ordination. I appreciate your style and think that although it is sometimes too worldly, that’s how it has to be according to the present situation. It’s just my feed-back.

    I have, though, a question on a commentary you did about the WPP’s reaction, that it is too dangerous to have bikkhunis. Can you elaborate a bit more on that?
    All I can see is a great benefit for the ordained Sangha that can only grow strong, and for all of us, the lay people that so much revere and depend on this Sangha to inspire us in our practice.

    Thank you with Maha Metta,

    Yvone Beisert from Sao Paulo, Brazil

    • Dear Yvone,

      Ahh, this is where it gets interesting. The debate on legal issues, ‘secrecy’, and so on is, as far as I’m concerned, really just a tactic to avoid the real issue: full acceptance by the male Sangha of persons of different gender. The nuns at Dhammasara are the quietest contemplative community you could imagine. How can it be that such an act can cause such a storm all over the world?

      I discussed this a few days ago, and one of the women said, ‘What is it about women that they fear – multitasking?’

      Whatever is going on, it is deep-seated, irrational response. The wellsprings of this fear lie very deep, and cannot be reduced to any simple formula. I have contemplated, studied, and discussed this problem over and again for the last several years. I can’t go into it in detail here, but you can find some of my reflections on it in the talk I gave the night before the ordination in Bodhinyana..

  29. What a breath of fresh air in Yvone’s inquiry as to why such strong resistance from parts of the Sangha to ordination of women and her observations that it would surely be of great benefit to the Sangha in general.
    As someone who has spent nine months living in a monastic community in Thailand I would like to offer a few observations. Never in my life I have been so constantly reminded of my gender in subtle and not so subtle ways. From a community which has as it’s basic tennants concepts such as ‘non self’, compassion for all living beings and non identification with self it seems there are some real and profound ‘issues’ surrounding gender.
    This can only be sustained for a limited period of time before the absurdity of it all demands a more thoughtful response. If a thoughtful response does not occur one of two things happen. One, it errupts from frustration like it has done now or Two, intelligent women walk away which has also happened.
    It is a lifestyle worthy of support, worthy of respect. A lifestyle, which for the benefit of all living beings should be inculsive rather than exculsive regardless of the body which is inhabitated. As bodies are such temporary dwellings the need to put so much emphasis on them leaves me wondering what the big issue really is here?
    So may there be peace, thoughtfulness and an open heart in resolving this matter for it is one that needs to be addressed.
    Best wishes
    Lots of metta

  30. Friends,

    First, I realize I have not had specific helpful suggestions or insights to offer (I don’t have the background, intellectual and otherwise) but that I have been more focused on the attitude and general movement or tone of discussion. I therefore hope that this comment does not detract from or dilute the potency of the critical work that has collected, and that this post isn’t completely misplaced. If it is, may it please be removed or deleted? Thanks. It’s already getting to be a very long ‘scroll’ to get to the bottom!

    I agree with Sol & Kester on many points, and appreciate the way they expressed it. And recommend that the relatively ‘balanced’ (perhaps some of yo would prefer to call it conservative) response from the Buddhist Channel …

    . . . be included somewhere on this blog (as this link is okay, I make no demands) which sometimes does feel like it’s fanning the fire, though I think things like this have a natural climax point and decline, and sometimes it’s just anxiety and impatience that makes us worried. Make no mistake: this fire CAN be helpful, but it takes a lot of care to tend to, and wise attention in order to put it to good use, so it doesn’t dry out the pools of inner and communal peace from which we feed (and contribute to), or burn the house down, or burn us. Everyone here is very conscientious and aware, and I am confident that each is acting within his / her greatest capacity with regard to what is suitable, though we may disagree : ) Yes, we grow and change from day to day – and may it be just so.

    Now that the ordination has happened, and passed, I don’t see that an emphasis on harmony and reconciliation would imply ‘privileging the status quo’. Nor does it doesn’t imply that we have to keep silent about something that wants and needs to be heard, or to stop pursuing this as a worthy course of study and action. The ordination did create a spark and now the issue has come into the light. I just hope we don’t burn it up by focusing on it with a magnifying glass. Please understand I am not implying that anyone has behaved outrageously (and I am no one to judge) but that I am only sharing this because I find it to be a useful and humbling reminder for myself. To me, ‘being careful’ or ‘cool’ doesn’t mean ‘stepping down’ or feigning respect or stopping the ‘investigation’, but rather a reminder that I can respectfully turn away and ‘disengage’ from opposition, i.e. ‘what is not beneficial’, and give/direct my focus and full attention to fulfilling my duties (what that is, every person must decide for him/herself). Of course, it is easy to say because I have the luxury to do so; I am anonymous and invisible – carefree. While I appreciate and enjoy my freedom, I respect the responsibilities that others have. We are all coming from very different places.

    There is still work to do but, to me, the MOST important concern and emphasis must be directed to bhikkhuni training, making sure that it is kept to the highest standard (the Dhammasara bhikkhunis are impeccable) so that we can show others the true benefits of ordaining bhikkhunis. With that aim in mind, harmony and reconciliation – individually within oneself, and as a community – must naturally be a step TOWARDS that goal, not away from it. For a short while. We can start out anew once we’ve gained more ground. Stopping, pausing, just like when we meditate, gives us a different perspective. It doesn’t mean we’re not ‘progressing’.

    There should be time for consultation, and EVERY member should be valued for their contribution and response. And while we work our way towards that goal – even if it seems wearisome because we ‘should’ ALREADY be there – it is my hope (and it is just that, no more), as one who aspires to this path, that we can continue our efforts – together – with great care, with great respect, with continued great learning and investigation, and with even greater patience and forgiveness, and giving much thought to the many delicate but worthy considerations Bhikkhu Bodhi highlighted in his speech at the Hamburg Conference. If we have done all that to our utmost, and we still get no footing, then we must necessarily, as Bhikkhu Bodhi noted, follow our own conscience in this matter – without remorse. All the would-haves and should-haves is just guesswork in hindsight, and hindsight is always a very different kind of seeing. Which we can learn from. But a lot of progress has been made, and we have only to continue in the appropriate way. It’s already happening.

    I remember Ayya Khema saying that, ultimately, it’s up to the women (everyone can join, but she was speaking out specifically to women), lay and ordained to make this work. And the only way we can make it work and show the ordination to be a worthy move forward for Buddhism is by upholding the Dhamma-Vinaya as bhikkhunis and upasikas of the highest order. And now that we have that chance, let us focus on that! That, I feel, is the most positive and supportive way for me to contribute to the situation as it stands. I don’t see others’ approval or disapproval (individually or as a group) on this one issue as bearing so much weight (given my inclination and life situation) or as a reason for me to abandon their Dhamma teachings. Or perhaps what I should say is that I’m not willing to make that an important criteria: to me it really isn’t. Important is what’s happening right now, how we are individually and collectively ‘harnessing’ this energy – the thinking, the writing, the studying, the learning, the frustration, the joy, the plans, the meditating, the reflecting, the excitement, the hopes, the expectations, the trepidation, and anything else – how we’re milking it for what it’s worth and using it to develop and grow strong in our practice. Because how we harness and utilize this energy does and WILL have a tremendous and direct effect on others; on all. This energy IS available, and we can always direct and redirect it towards the highest good – the highest good for others and ourselves. I believe we’re trying, each in our own way. Keep at it.

    The point has been made that sometimes REASONING isn’t the best way of getting one’s point across. To that end, may the bhikkhunis be well developed in their training, highly skilled in the Dhamma and Vinaya, so that many may prosper in the dispensation and reach nibbana. And may we contribute to that success by providing them with suitable conditions conducive to meditative practice, and by being supporters who are equally well-disciplined and learned in the Dhamma-Vinaya. That is, afterall, what we all wish to see and make possible. To achieve this, there is plenty of work to do. And this work I will most happily apply myself to – by reading Ajahn Sujato’s studies and books, reading and contemplating the suttas and vinaya, listening to Dhamma talks, upholding the precepts as a humble offering to the triple gem, and of vital importance, by respectfully, patiently, and resolutely continuing meditation practice, so that, at the end of the day, and at the end of this life, I can do for myself what none other can do for me.

    Words, and so much of it here, and so much more I’ve added, are so easily misunderstood. But my heart always turns back to – turn towards – respect. For me, respect is a most central and critical point, upon which the important and unimportant must equally rest, otherwise how can we work, how can anything flourish, how can we work together? Again and again in all that I do and with all that happens, I find that I must begin each moment anew, with gratitude and respect.

    Not sure if this will show visually: “The Chinese character, 勸 quan4 (to exhort, advise, persuade) has a radical 力 li4 (strength), and phonetic 雚 guan4 (heron). It may be that this combination was used owing to the great patience of the heron, whose Chinese common name is “old waiter”, 老等 lao3 teng3. It will gaze into the water for hours without moving, in order to secure a fish. If we could use the same Patience AND Vigilance in persuading people, much would be accomplished.”

    Please do not mistake this quote for mockery, that is furthest from my mind as I know this has been a very long time in the coming for many of you, and I am really not qualified to say a word. But I offer it only for reflection, and as an encouragement and appreciation for all that has been accomplished through patience, and equally, effort.

    Other points to consider:

    PREVENTING GROUPTHINK — perhaps a useful guideline.

    According to Irving Janis, decision making groups are not necessarily doomed to groupthink. He also claims that there are several ways to prevent it. Janis devised seven ways of preventing groupthink (209-15):

    1.Leaders should assign each member the role of “critical evaluator”. This allows each member to freely air objections and doubts.

    2.Higher-ups should not express an opinion when assigning a task to a group.

    3.The organization should set up several independent groups, working on the same problem.

    4.All effective alternatives should be examined.

    5.Each member should discuss the group’s ideas with trusted people outside of the group.

    6.The group should invite outside experts into meetings. Group members should be allowed to discuss with and question the outside experts.

    7.At least one group member should be assigned the role of Devil’s advocate. This should be a different person for each meeting.

    “Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. During Groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking. A variety of motives for this may exist such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance. The term is frequently used pejoratively, with hindsight.”

    As we are not free from that either, I heartily welcome and commend the genuinely concerned yet playful questioning, the occasional humour, the truthful reservations in some instances, the critical thinking, and the active participation by so many. However, more fully with my heart, do I commend and encourage (with hands in anjali) the care. Which is there – which is here – in abundance. May it grow.

    May all beings grow in peace & wisdom.

    • @analeya -I apologize for not reading the whole thing, I’m exhausted, but I did read the seven points about avoiding or minimizing groupthink, thanks for those -interesting because it’s so transferable.

    • Dear Analeya,
      WOW ! What a wonderful and rich comment you make, including ancient chinese wisdom and a more modern seven points on how to help not fall into group-think! How much care and reflection you show ! Thankyou.

      Dear Bhante Sujato,
      thankyou for working on applying these seven points in your own monastery and wise-works.

  31. ‘This is the way it is’ Bhante; we need to know what is going on. You are an Australian living in Australia, so I expect you to write for us in an Oz manner – direct and straightforward, not hobbled by cultural conventions from elsewhere. This is the reason I emigrated here and I’d be disappointed if we started walking round problems on tiptoes. The winds of change have arrived and we need to know where we are. Once you have given us the facts, surely we followers of the Dhamma can be mature enough to make up our own minds about the need for flexibility in this modern world? As one of the ordination-excluded 50% of the population I’m grateful to read your views and the way you express them. Rigidity has no place in Australian life – just ask the nearest High School teacher.

  32. Hi Bhante,
    I just wanted to lend some support. I think you have followed your heart for many years now and your determination and commitment are admirable. I think you have acted as a catalyst for change and you have well and truly got the ball rolling on this important issue. Your historical research places this event in a context that resonates with the aspirations of many and allows a sense of healing for those who have felt the struggle for bhikkuni recognition keenly. You have assisted this process by changing perceptions and opening hearts. Not everyone is happy with what has unfolded and the emotions of many have been stirred, my impression is this will act as a catalyst for further change and has shone a light on a subject that needed illumination. I am sure you have received criticism for your approach and remembering the nature of a firehorse, I am not particularly suprised. I do feel that a renewal will be the result of this process and a spark has been ignited. I think that perhaps you can now act as a force of loving kindness and allow the procees to continue with the momentum it has gained. My memories of you are of a keen and passionate intellect but also of a big and open heart devoted to the happiness of all beings.
    With Metta and Anjali,

  33. Ajahn Sujato,

    I would like to add my thanks…

    The saddest thing in all this is that something was not done a 1000 years ago.

    At least it is being done now.

    Best not to worry about what has been…(said, done, etc…) I reckon you’re just going to have to stay the course. Easy for me to say. But you have the knowledge of all the tools to help yourself Ajahn… At the risk of sounding overly controlling…I hope you are looking after yourself as I imagine this cannot be an easy time.

    Wishing you all the very best.

  34. I think you should continue to be yourself. It is nice to have the similar stances but different styles of you & Ajahn Brahm on this issue

  35. Dear Ajahn Sujato,

    “strong” or “extreme” are certainly not words that can apply to your skillful stance on misogyny in Thai Buddhism.

    Those calling for a softer approach are really demanding that others not upset the status quo of long-held cultural sexism, not to cause waves & to idly let women suffer the brunt of inequality in spiritual life.

    The Buddha himself was a radical reformist in his day, setting aside the barriers of caste & gender (with a little push from Ananda!)as requirements for sangha. As best i can see, this is only a ‘buddhist’ issue insofar as a buddhist tradition has allowed cultural bigotry to override the teachings of the Buddha.

    The difference between following vinyaya set forth by the Buddha & following blatant sexual discrimination set forth by a small group of Thai elders – is a distinction that needs to be made known to the public by those qualified to speak about it, such as yourself.

    People have been trying the ‘softly softly’ approach for decades & all that seems to have done is to give the big “thumbs up” to the Buddhist Boys Club mentality.

    I have nothing but heart-felt appreciation and admiration for your stance & postings & I hope you continue undaunted by pressures to ‘tone it down’.


  36. great and deep discussions here. The theme of Bhikkuni ordination is just one of the themes that are opening up on the horizon of Buddhism arriving in the West. As a young monk for some 13 years in Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh’s sangha, I have been in touch with many challenges and a fair number of my elder and younger brothers have left or disrobed. I fully support women receiving the full ordination, this for us in Plum Village is a yearly and normal occurrence and Thay ( Ven.Thich Nhat Hanh ) has done much to support the nuns sangha. Every New Year we perform a ceremony in which the whole monk sangha prostrates to the nuns ( including Thay ) and viceversa, while we recite a beautiful text honoring our mutual aspirations. This would never happen in Vietnam, or other Buddhist countries.
    I wholeheartedly support Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato,
    much care,
    T.Phap Son,

  37. This is a belated comment, but I’d like to offer it anyway.

    I would like to suggest against what could be perceived as derisive and divisive speech. I think a useful guiding line in writing would be to offer one’s viewpoints as platforms for dialogue (which I here don’t equate with debate) with proponents of opposing viewpoints.

    lest we forget, if Bhikkhunis are to gain widespread acceptance in the forest tradition (and the Theravadin tradition at large), then it is the very people that are the targets of your… ‘incisive’ rethoric that will need convincing to change their views. I believe an aggressive / straightforward rethoric will have the effect of alienating the oppponent viewholders moreso than softening their stance.

    best wishes

  38. I am new to your blog, so I will answer, not only in relation to the nuns issue, but in relation to your general style, as I have seen in your articles, you tube videos and postings — None of which are at all divisive or abrasive !

    They are though, honest and thought provoking talks/articles, because they don’t follow the old party line and they don’t showcase cliches to keep people happy.

    Good points I’d say, and I noticed that from your early you tube postings, when you talked about the history of Buddhism, in particular (if I remember right?) the Hindu influences in Thai Buddhism, and then issues/concepts like Jhana, Citta and Vipassana — I was interested in your original approach to these teachings/concepts, and the fact you clearly weren’t shy to differ with the ‘party line’, because you’d based what you said on your own extensive readings of the texts and further historical research.

    You have a different style from many of the other Forest Monks, and why not? You seem to be direct and deal with lots of facets of the spiritual life, not isolating human experience and knowledge into separate little boxes. Another Monk who seems to be equally broad in his approach is Shravasti Dhammika in Singapore. He has linked to a few of your talks on his blog.

    I remember when I was new to Buddhism in the 80’s, I expected all monks to be totally tranquil and other worldly,in a cosmic state far,far above us ‘mere humans’ — but of course I found out that ,even though I certainly look(ed) to Monks for insight, knowledge, calm and wisdom, they of course,had all the same foibles, failings and excellence, weak and strong points as the rest of us. And why ever not? What else should anyone expect? And if a lay person does expect different from their teacher, expecting their Ajahn to be faultless, then doesn’t that lead to the very real problem of projection and self delusion on the part of the lay follower?

    Also, there is a direct honesty about your approach which is also good to see — I have seen a few ‘tranquil’ and ‘peaceful’ monks over the years, suddenly explode with anger, or to suddenly boil over , or to show anger, jealousy or vindictiveness or competitiveness, apparently out of the blue — and of course, why shouldn’t they , because we are all like that, lay or ordained, and all multi faceted . But in the case of those monks I saw displaying those qualities, my reaction was — well why hadn’t they expressed themselves more honestly and openly right from the start — rather than waiting to let it all build up and get released in an embarrassing explosion?

    So for those reasons, I really think you are on the right track, and I’d say that seasoned, thoughtful mediators , lay and ordained, will see that and respect it for what it is.

    Just my opinion and take on it Sujato.

    What do other board contributors think?

    I look forward to more of your talks.


    • Thnanks so much for the kind words, Greg. Sometimes it gets really intense, i just don’t know what is the right thing to do. I trust the Dhamma, and try to let my life flow in that direction, but things are so complex it’s often really hard to know. So I do my best; often, as you imply, we Buddhists think that saying nothing is always the best option. But as a long term policy it often causes more harm than good. The thing i’m proudest on in all this is in giving a public space for all those voices – troubled, doubting, questioning, critical – that I’ve been listening to over the past few years, which have remained bubbling under the surface as Buddhism, and especially the forest tradition, remain seemingly immune to public criticism.

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