Hi once more my patient readers! We were hit with lightning on Thursday afternoon, and have only just got the phone and internet connection going again. Rumors that the lightning was wielded by Sakka in revenge for bhikkhuni ordination are, alas, unconfirmed.
Thanks to all who made suggestions for my little Charter for Compassion speech. The event itself was small, less than 50 people. Actually, the organizer was just one woman, Danielle, who had found out about it only ten days previous, and had pulled it all together in that time.
So the gathering was small, but good. The interfaith speakers were, as usual, eloquent and passionate in presenting the compassionate heart of their own traditions as they see it.
After carefully considering the various responses to my speech, I decided to go ahead with it more or less as per the original draft. I take on board the suggestion that bringing in the bhikkhuni issue may be limiting or reductive; this is true. But it is also true that such events tend towards the banal, presenting nice sounding platitudes that do not grapple with reality. Anyway, such abstract considerations aside, the best speeches are those that come from what is most urgent and vital for the speaker.
I was lucky to help set up another Buddhist speaker for the event, Prof. Bill Foley, who I had not met before. He’s a long term Tibetan practitioner, and was asked to speak on behalf of the gay Buddhist community. He said that, for all the great practices and teachings, Buddhist institutions are still rooted in a medieval culture that has simply not addressed two crucial aspects of the modern world: democracy and feminism. Unless they do so, they are doomed to remain forever marginal.
Bill also said that Buddhist institutions were homophobic. This is untrue, certainly as far as the Thai tradition goes, and I believe in Theravada generally. While there may be occasional homophobia, generally it is not an issue, and I know several gay monks who live quite happily in traditional monasteries. Of course they face special issues staying in a celibate same-sex community, but generally they are supported in this.
One of the most pertinent lines: ‘… any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate.’