English Sangha statement on the five points

Here we have it: the official statement from the English Sangha on the controversial Five Points, which officially subjugate the nuns to the monks. You heard about it first on this blog: before the Perth bhikkhuni ordination, this topic was unknown in the wider community. I heard about it, asked for information, and got none. I heard ‘leaked’ information, blogged it, and then got some more accurate information so I could correct a few mistakes in the first version. An unconventional way of operating; but at least it got results. While the English bhikkhus had always said they would make the Five Points public, there was no sign of any movement until the cat was well out of the bag.

Please read the document carefully. I think you’ll find that, while the authors (unknown) obviously have a very different attitude to these things than I do, the document essentially confirms the criticisms that I have made in this blog, and those which have been expressed by some of the siladharas.

I upload a copy here in case the link to the Forest Sangha website breaks.


79 thoughts on “English Sangha statement on the five points

  1. I can only praise your courage and determination in following through with this issue. I can only hope that the western WPP elders will come to their senses and realize the complete absurdity of the position they have taken. They are putting themselves on the threshold of loosing substantial lay support.

  2. OK. I’m taking a risk here — especially as the first commenter — and posting my very first responses to this letter on Facebook…..

    Oh my God!!!
    What an absolute slog to get through that ‘desana’!!!
    I was falling asleep from about two paragraphs in. Seriously!! There is something in this that is just a like a desana from the high seat – the authorotive (but ‘well-meaning’) voice telling you how it is. An interminable monologue, self justifying, without room for dialogue. Smoothing over all the rough bits with soporiphic tones. As such, it is the true description of the process they are attempting to describe. How these processes just go round in self-perpetuating circles with no real light penetrating from outside, i.e. the objective view!
    And yes Sarah, how many times are we told that we (or specifically, the nuns) must be or have been ‘confused’ about certain things, which is the true source of the pain here. Therefore, ‘we were only acting out of compassion to clear things up’. We who have the absolute control that is, we who do not question at all our absolute authority here, we who give our heart and soul to the vinaya as we interpret it, so as it gives us back the unapproachable authority to preserve it ‘despite changing social conventions’…..
    Oh,boy! My heart is thumping…I have been transported back to that environment where so much real speak is suppressed. If I had the time, I would love to write a point by point response to this letter…..

    ‘Staying sane in such an environment’… Absolutely right Sarana. I tell you, it is difficult indeed to stay sane amidst the depth of resistance at work here and the contortions required to sustain it.
    The letter states that the Siladhara sangha has become strong and well established over 30 years. In moral fortitude that is undoubtedly true, especially for those who remain, but the fact is, the Siladhara community numbers have never risen above 20 nuns in all. It reached its peak in the late ’80s or early 90’s at about 19 nuns I believe. Why is that? Because it is not an environment that fosters their growth as nuns or women.
    These numbers do not represent the amount of women who have entered and moved through the order, for there have been many indeed. It rather represents the amount who have left, many of them very senior nuns too – finding the system wholly unresponsive to their growing sense of living in alignment with Truth, (as opposed to out-dated, oppressive conventions), rightly gained from their years of Dhamma practice.
    Some (you can guess who) may argue we weren’t practicing ‘correctly’ or weren’t ‘committed’ or ‘patient’ enough, or let ‘worldly dhammas’ influence us too much. But for those of us who have awoken to this level of double-speak and to the implausibility of living out of alignment with our sense of what is right, the faith must move to a deeper level. The ripping away of ones identification with lineage, teachers and form is painful but ultimately liberating.
    The situation pushes women/nuns to this level, but for those who remain wholly identified with lineage, teachers and form and are upheld as rightous for doing so, they may never come upon the opportunity to let go of this deep attachment. The Buddha referred to the Dhamma-vinaya as a makeshift raft. It is not an absolute truth to be revered and upheld forever more….
    The Buddha was clear in his response to the lay community’s feedback of his time that much of the vinaya is set up in response to social conventions. He managed to hold out against the pressure of the caste system because of basic human rights convictions. Yet the society of that time and place was not yet ready to let women move beyond discrimination in this regard.
    How long must we wait fellas! Two and a half millennia and a world away from those times and you are still justifying your reasons for this discrimination, in a culture that has ratified equality of the sexes for many decades, by claiming it is not your responsibility to change it. What a wholly inflexible, unworkable and downright immoral position to keep taking. You all assume this ‘Buddha-given’ reality as immutable merely because it suits you, and you can’t be bothered to have to think about other possibilities – but I know for a fact that you’ve never seriously discussed what it might take to make changes on the ground, where we are actually living this dire contradiction of Dhamma. How blinkered can your path to enlightenment be!!!

    • Right on Jit! I was astonished, really astonished, at the content of that 12 page document. It’s as if someone there actually believes these strange machinations of their group mind, and is helplessly repeating it over and over again. It’s a little pathetic, actually. I just finished sending this note to Amaravati, though I don’t know if they read email sent to “webmaster”.

      Dear Men of Amaravati,

      Wow, yes where exactly are you? I’ve just read your ‘Elders’ Council’ “Where We Are Now” document. It’s difficult to articulate the depth of confusion apparent in twelve pages of ineffectual and stumbling apologetics. I wonder if anyone there is familiar with the psychological dynamics of cults or of perpetrator/victim relationships? The document oozes them. Where did a potential practice of wisdom go wrong? What exactly are you practicing there?

      In profound sadness,
      Jo Marie Thompson

    • Jitindriya, thank you for articulating this response – my feelings exactly. And what amazes me is that I’m sure they believe they did a great job with this and that now people will understand how well-intentioned they are, and what a shame they think it is that feelings got unnecessarily hurt. Also, I’m sure you meant ‘Buddha-given’ ironically, but just want to emphasize once again that they are not truly standing on Buddha-vaca or Vinaya, but only on Thai tradition.

  3. It’s just the same old nonsense written from an authoritative place with no real heart and with no real opportunity for dialogue. My feeling is that we just leave these guys (and women who support sexism) to frizzle away with the dark ages. They ain’t gonna really listen, and they ain’t gonna really ever engage. But the clear thing is – no self-respecting woman or man (lay) will continue to support such an out of touch an outdated regime. Like everything, it will just pass away….Let’s start something new and groovy!

    • Yes Please! I was recently reading in a book on the history of nonviolence that the most effective nonviolent movements have been those that create parallel systems and invest their energy there, while letting the old ones die a natural death. I think these guys have sealed their own fate.

  4. It is a deeply distressing manifesto. I can think of some strong historical examples of such virulently anti-, um…. humanity?, treatise but as soon as one mentions them, one loses all credibility. So I won’t. But damn….

  5. The monks who wrote this have to be praised for their uncanny ability to produce volumes of very long documents for a question which requires a simple answer – either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

    No offense to any one but the document reminded me of glossy and verbose brochures often produced by used car salesmen (and, of course, women!).

  6. Dear Bhante

    Might you have access to English translations of the Sangha Acts of 1902, 1941 and 1963?

    If, for some strange reason, the Western sanghas of the WNPP collective feel bound by the 1928 “ban”, perhaps it’s time to examine if the 1941 Act actually preserves that edict. My own guess is that as a revolutionary legislation (altho’ 10 years after the coup), the 1941 Act may have actually dissolved the legal basis for the preservation of the previous Council’s fatwa. It would be nice if we could actually have a Thai constitutional law practitioner examine this angle.

    I just hope the Sarit-sponsored 1962 Act did not resurrect the 1928 ban.

    • Dear Sylvester,

      Actually, I have just received copies of these Acts, but haven’t had the chance to re-read them just yet.

      The Acts themselves say nothing about bhikkhunis. They define the Sangha as bhikkhus and samaneras.

      I think that in the normal course of events that legally binding resolutions would be carried forward from one Act to the next, and this is the theoretical basis for the continuation of the 1928 ruling. However, since this is just said to be a statement from the minutes of a meeting, it is not at all clear to me what the actual legal status is.

      There are, of course, thousands of archaic laws that are theoretically on the books in any old legal system, and most of them simply disappear from practical view, I guess. Only if it was dusted off and tried in court would we see if this rule really sticks.

      As I wrote earlier, the highest authority that has ruled on this case is the Senate sub-committee, whose advice is that the law violates the Constitution and hence cannot stand.

      More astounding than even the dubious legality of the law is the fact that the Thai authorities, for nearly a century, have found nothing at all to say on the issue of bhikkhunis, other than to repeat a flawed, archaic ruling.

  7. I completely agree with jitindriya and the rest here. This has received an amazingly small amount of coverage, considering the furor it released. The document itself was painful to get through, but I did write up a summation and posted it on my page, with relevant points.


    It’s amazing that of all the aggregate news feeds I follow as part of my work writing a Buddhist column, the only place I found out about the petition and this letter was here. You are an invaluable asset to the sangha, Bhante Sujato!

  8. Where did the “siladharas” come from??? Did it exist during the Buddha’s time or was it a new creation by those who opposed full Bhikkuni Ordination to appease the Buddhist communities, and then throw in more control with the “five points”.

    Just come clean on their position whether they stand for or against full Bhikkuni Ordination. There should not be any intermediate camouflage or alibi.

    • Dear TS,

      The siladhara movement was started in the 1980s by the English communities, with Ajahn Sucitto the main monk who developed the rules and structures. According to his testimony, at the time they new little of bhikkhuni ordination and were just trying to do the best thing for everyone.

  9. Thank you for publishing the link. Far too many unclear words, but the intention seems clear.

    Lately, I have often thought of the story of the Buddha ordaining an “untouchable.” How sad for us born in the form of women that we now do not seem to be worthy of the same compassion.

  10. The article brings up an important point:

    “Another important aspect of Dhamma-Vinaya is not to abolish rules laid down by the Buddha and not to create new ones. Originally the Buddha set up a monks’ order, the Bhikkhu Sangha, and later a nuns’ order, the Bhikkhuni Sangha….it was not until very recently that there were many, in the East or the West, who gave any credibility to the suggestion that the Order of Bhikkhunis could be legitimately revived.”

    Then goes on to completely ignore this important point which has become such a point of contention!

    Instead, the author chooses to talk about appeasing the culture of their Thai elders as a matter of respect and berating anyone for trying to impose a western culture on top of that. Instead, he talks about the Siladhara Sangha which many thought was a step forward and has instead become the stopping point for women and the cause of pain.

    I cannot understand why the author chastises western culture being imposed on the Thai cultural version of Theravada, what does culture have to do with Buddhism? Especially when it seems that culture has warped the Vinaya rules to its own means. Perhaps its time an unblinkered Western ‘culture’ can see clearly to those rules and follow accordingly, as AB has bravely done.

    • To Ajahn Sujato, the authors of the letter in question, Dee and everyone,

      I let out a small ‘yipee’ when I read this (the section Dee has quoted). It acknowledges the possibility of legitimate Bhikkuni ordination, that is, ordination that is according to Vinaya.

      But then the letter goes on to justify a form that was not set out by the Buddha. A form that is obviously causing problems; which they themselves admit in their letter. Instead of seeing these problems as a fault in their system, they have chosen to perceive it as an avenue of letting go of desires, for (to quote them) ‘awakening the heart’ and for recognising ‘our own conditioning’.

      What they have failed to do is acknowledge that one, the position they have taken is a product of ‘conditioning’ that is not in accord with Dhamma or Vinaya; two, that ‘awakening the heart’ and ‘recognising our own conditioning’ best occurs within a loving context. Loving contexts do not support these inequitable, unfair power structures that are not from the Buddha. What is from the Buddha is something that they have admitted is a legitimate possiblity. WHY aren’t they willing to look at this?

      Well, to my mind, they have answered that question in their letter. They don’t want to lose their connections with their Thai peers. And why is this so important? I don’t want to focus too much on the important but nevertheless worldly gains of emotional, financial, nostalgic support that they gain. The real gain to my mind is the unique and spectacular form of access they have to those highly attained beings within this tradition. This access is made easier, more personal through their positions as fully ordained male Sangha. Perhaps they are unaware of this great investment on their part.

      Who can blame them for not wanting to lose this. I wouldn’t want to lose such a connection. BUT…this says to me that their motivations in this matter are based on fear. Fear that they are going to lose this support base. The Buddha said that we must not act from fear. To me their actions thus show a deep lack of Faith in Buddha, in Vinaya and in the ability of either of these to really truly take off in a non-Thai context. Isn’t it time to trust in the Buddha a bit more? Isn’t it time to believe that if the Dhamma works it works everywhere, all the time and for everyone? Isn’t it time to grow something that is real and relevant…otherwise what is the blooming point…otherwise we just make ourselves feel better about how we are such wonderful beings practising a wonderful path without really making any honest wonderful headway. No thanks! That’s not what I’m into; that’s not why I have taken refuge in the Triple Gem.

      I would like to add that I am deeply disturbed by the institutional power structure that has been described in this letter (and BTW, thanks Aj Sujato for giving us access to it). This structure has been set up and maintained and has been reinforced through this letter which then states ‘of course all these conditions…only work…when there is an atmostphere of kindness and mutual respect.’ I CANNOT BELIVE WHAT I READ!! How can monks have missed the point of the Vinaya they have been so lucky and priviledged to keep??!!! The Vinaya, as I see it, provides a form (created by a fully Enlightened Being who chose to teach out of compasssion) which PROMOTES interactions with each other which are equitable, kind, respectful!!! An ‘atmosphere of kindness and mutual respect’ is not something that has to exist outside of the formal and official power structure; it is a thing that can be reinforced by the formal and official power structure!!! I cannot believe this clear, glaringly obvious point was missed!!!! Let your nuns be Bhikkunis!!! Let them have this! There is no legal reason for you to stop them.

      In the letter there is talk about not changing the Vinaya to suit our own wishes. Out of a MASSIVE sense of respect for the Buddha, I FULLY AGREE. But who is asking anyone to do that? Bhikkuni ordination can happen legally and in accordance with the Vinaya; indeed it could have happened thus the moment it ‘died out’. Look at the recent research. It just breaks my heart that it has taken this long. What a huge loss to all beings.

      But the letter talks about not changing the Vinaya. It seems to me that this inherited, fashioned, ad hoc power structure is failing to hold the UK community together because it does CHALLENGE THE VINAYA by seeking to replace the Bhikkuni Vinaya with something that is not from the Buddha.

      I state again, this power structure seems very ad hoc to me. For instance:

      ‘Wanting to help ensure this [here the authors are referring to the above mentioned atmostphere of kindness and respect] is felt to be manifest, and reflecting on the arrangement described in the Vinaya [instead of trying to reflect the Vinaya, why not look into how BOTH genders can actually live it?] between bhikkhus and bhikhunis, Luang Por proposed that there always be one monk, other than the abbot, to act as a reference person for the nuns in each of the monasteries with dual communities, one who is liked and respected by the nuns in that community and whose appointment they would need to approve. The intention in establishing this role for a trusted senior monk would be to help with better communication between the monks and nuns, which was obviously needed, and to provide at least one clearly available and always accessible channel for the nuns to address concerns with the monks, particularly if they feel the expression of kindness and respect has been lost.’
      …I am quite disturbed by the ‘at least one’ part of this quote. Furthermore I feel this set up is going to be open to all kinds corruptions because it seems to me to based on the personality and political position of this ‘one monk’. He has to be approved by the nuns. What if the most powerful nuns in the community choose him because of his personality and position and because they want their agendas met; after all we can’t guarantee that people will be all nice and kind all the time. Stick to the Vinaya…I don’t think it contains such gaping holes.

      Trying to find something positive to say about this letter, I can say that at least they have made their intentions clear. And also they state that the ‘wording of the points…is not set in stone’. That is the most hopeful thing in this document.

      Once again, thanks for making these things open and public, Ajahn Sujato. I am weary of not knowing what is going on, of things being swept under the carpet and people being too afraid to say what they think, too much guilt, not enough honesty or courage. I hope this whole thing will help us all to be wary of these things. I’m certainly not exempt from these tendencies as I absolutely do not like conflict. It is quite a big deal for me to air these views and opinions in this manner; but this is too important an issue to keep silent about. And I think this last is an important point.

      Monasteries can run the risk of striving to appear perfect on the outside because they don’t want to upset their supporters or whatever…but I would rather things were more real. Monastaries are not just there for monastics. They are integral to my life as a lay Buddhist. I need you monastics to be honest…warts and all… I need to watch from the sidelines as the Sangha use the Dhamma and the Vinaya to heal the warts and the all. Please be honest with us as you heal; teach us by being honest role models. I don’t care if you get grumpy, make mistakes…I care if you don’t keep your rules and then don’t seek to redress the situation without any sila or metta. This Buddhism busines, it’s mine too…if I own my kamma and I’ve made a lot around this religion…it doesn’t just belong to a select group. Stop stuffing it up by thinking that you own your monasteries, thinking that you are an island surrounded by strangers and that your support bases are thousands of miles away; stop stuffing it up because you are stuffing up something that doesn’t just belong to you.

      K.Lafrentz, Perth WA

  11. The whole account leaves out a very important aspect: there are bhikkhunis.
    If there is so much concern about how to relate to each other in ceremonial ways, where do those samaneris and bhikkhunis fit in with the siladharas (not to mention Mae Chis and other similar non-canonical inventions)?
    Especially for laypeople things get extremely confusing. We´d like to show proper respect, prepare seats, offer food, transportation, etc. correctly but with each “nun” a whole new question and answer session is required and one can not just simply orient oneself according to the bhikkhuni-vinaya.

  12. Reality is participatory. It comes to be by what is chosen as an observation point and when that observation occurs. Having left an English Prof. career because I saw communication was virtually impossible without a great commitment from all sides to listen, to agree on definitions and to speak openly without hidden agendas (what only happens with compassion), I found an alarm going off at the first mention of “Vinaya.”

    Deeply grateful for the openness of Bhante Sujato’s blog and the Women & the Forest Sangha page on facebook, I have come aware of reaching a point where different realities emerge and do not merge. Waiting for the WAM to see if words like “Vinaya” are used as “Vinaya” or if they are used in ways where a compassionate person can know “this is not Dhamma, this is not Vinaya, this is not the Teaching of the Master.” Waitin

  13. I have just sent this e-mail to Amaravati and Abahyagiri Monasteries:

    Dear Venerables Vajiro, Pasanno, and Amaro,

    I have been following the fallout of the bhikkhuni ordination in Perth and have just read through the “Where We are Now” article. The focus of the article, mentioned in the initial paragraph, is about “ongoing efforts to balance the needs in living Sangha life in the West.” It is ironical that the needs of the Sangha in the West are balanced when women are discriminated and treated unfairly. I mean discriminated and unfairly treated because bhikkhuni ordination has been revived in Sri Lanka for more than 20 years now, and choosing to ignore that is just blatant chauvinism. Even “allowing” siladharas to establish their own independent monasteries is just unfair because they will have to live without the full protection of the Vinaya, and that will increase the possibility of failure. Those siladharas should be ordained as bhikkhunis before establishing their own monasteries. You may advertise that allowing the siladharas to go on their own is something done well, but in fact it is a terrible thing you have done. And this is just an example of the numerous dubious statements in the article, which in general is just trying to justify an attitude that is unjustifiable. Maybe thirty years ago there could have been a good reason for the attitude of the WPP elders in relation to women in the Sangha in the West, but right now it is absolutely appalling and shameful. Bhikkhunis in the West will strengthen, not weaken the Buddha Sasana.

    Please show some goodwill and wisdom and free the siladharas, give them the freedom of the Vinaya, and ordain them as bhikkhunis for the welfare of many. The world will thank you for that.

    With metta

    Michael Beisert

    • Dear Michael, I’m just catching up on some posts – thank you for this – I hope it has been read with some openness..
      I agree with what you say and feel much sadness at the clumsy unfolding regards events in the UK, and also feel the lack of heart felt, honest and clear response is damaging to faith in the forest sangha.

  14. The first point imposed on the siladhara was said to come from the Kullavagga -Tenth Khandhaka. The Buddha suggested that we should approach teachings with discernment,experimentation, and careful reflection. Something worth pondering about the Kullavagga-Tenth Khandhaka is, it says that the Buddha didn’t want to ordain bhikkhunis and needed to be talked into it by Ananda. The thing is even before the Buddha established the Bhikkhu sangha or any sangha, he told Mara right after his enlightenment that he intended to establish to Fourfold Sangha ( Bhikkhuni sangha included). Here we see that this Tenth Khandhaka in the vinaya text is contradicting other sutras and the Buddha’s mission statement right after his enlightenment that his will not pass away without first establishing the Fourfold sangha with the Bhikkhuni sangha included.

    It is not typical of the Buddha to say things that are false or make unsubtantial prediction. But here in the Tenth Khandhaka it says the Buddha predicted that his teachings would only last 500 years when it could last 1000 years if he ordains women. But as a matter of fact, the Teaching lasted way beyond 1000 years. It has been over 2500 years . I highly doubt that such false statement comes from the Buddha himself.

    Other things that can be found in this Khandhaka are the 8 outdated rules for Bhikkhuni. The Buddha’s teachings are well known to be timeless. The 8 rules stated in this Khandhaka are outdated.

    There are so many things that doesn’t add up in the Tenth Khandaka .It is hard to imagine that with oral transmission lasting for four hundred years , that perfect accuracy could have been maintained. Many modern scholars of the Vinaya would also agree that the Kullavagga -Tenth Khandhaka could have been a later addition by interest group. Given the unsubstantial credibility of this Khandhaka, it is not recommended to use it as basis for dominating women in the sangha hold it over their heads.

  15. iMeditation :
    It is not typical of the Buddha to say things that are false or make unsubtantial prediction. But here in the Tenth Khandhaka it says the Buddha predicted that his teachings would only last 500 years when it could last 1000 years if he ordains women. But as a matter of fact, the Teaching lasted way beyond 1000 years. It has been over 2500 years . I highly doubt that such false statement comes from the Buddha himself. </p

    Exactly! The Buddha never claimed to be a prophet. The ‘predictions’ of the demise of Buddhism come from many hundreds of years later, which makes one question the validity of many traditional views and rules. None of this has anything to do with the Dhamma itself, and exposes a blatant disregard for the Middle Path and many famous words of the Buddha himself. This looks like self-preservation over Dhamma preservation.

  16. Sujato, you have done a great service to us all to bring this to our attention. I am relatively new to Buddhism (1 year) and am truly dismayed and shocked at these current events. The actions of Wat Pa Pong, on the face of it, from all I have learned to date, seem to be diametrically opposed to what the Buddha was trying to teach us all. Their actions are harmful and clearly are conditioned by much grasping and possibly ill will, and it surprises me that they cannot see this. Thank you again for keeping us up to date.

  17. I saw the recent published minutes of Saranaloka Foundation, which supports the Siladharas in Caifornia. Publically, they are comfortable with the five points.

  18. I am sure the ‘Siladhara order’ was begun with compassion and served a valuable purpose. Its time to let it go when something better and more useful is on offer.

  19. Why is this letter so full of elements that seem to want to justify the authors’ process of consultation? They seem really keen to say that they were consultative. I feel like someone who is in a powerful position is shaking his head sagely and saying how awful it is not to consult; saying how wonderful they themselves are that they did consult; even though they are not going to do anything new for the people who they have consulted with!

    • The nuns weren’t consulted at all, only informal discussions, and then they weren’t notified of much of anything. It describes the nuns feeling cut out of the loop entirely, then commiserated on the lack of communication, then complimented themselves on their great understanding and compassion all at once.

      The whole thing reads as an admission of guilt- only without any implied guilt. They don’t see the nuns as deserving of equal rights, or they would give up this discriminatory process. Wrong View, Wrong Action, Wrong Speech, and probably Wrong Livelihood, since it oppresses people.

  20. What I’m probably struggling most with is the banal meticulousness of their resistance. The statement reads like just another lazy justification towards “processing” women through their monasteries.

    The Elders seem to be isolated and surrounded with people who speak, act, and think like they think, and have for the most part only experienced a life similar to their own. In such an environment, they cannot possibly learn to understand the world in which they live. Kindness and compassion stem from an understanding that it is sometimes only karma that makes our own life easy or hard. If these monks never look beyond their own life mirror, then they may become permanently blind to this truth. Perhaps they already are.

    Actions like publishing the siladhara’s letter are a powerful antidote towards such blindness. Not only for monks, but for all of us. Hers is the loudest, most important voice in this confused cacophony of wails.

    Even for devout practitioners, it’s sometimes easy to ignore suffering that’s not directly in front of us. One can know that such suffering exists, yet that knowledge does not register at a deep emotional and spiritual level; it doesn’t become part of us.
    Reading the siladhara’s letter forces one to DIRECTLY confront the hardship and suffering; it forces one to acknowledge that what is happening is real, that it exists, and that this tragedy is happening to fellow human beings RIGHT NOW. If one can read that letter and not intimately resonate with the great suffering of the writer, then the loss is their own.

    I don’t know what, exactly, can be done by laypeople wanting to help move this situation forward in a positive way, but I do know that continuing to debate with the Borg is…. futile. Instead we could focus on the evolution of our collective compassionate intentions into action. Bhante, can you open up a thread to dialogue here about that?

  21. I have long admired Bhante Sujato for his open mindedness, understanding of the Dhamma and his courage. Living and practicing as a novice monk in on of the communities in UK, I can only voice my silent support for the Bhikkhuni ordination in Perth and for the fact that someone has the guts to do what should have been done long ago. The time is more than ripe!

    I know the seniors behind the document in question. Feeling strongly about women having the same rights as men to fully renounce if they so wish, I feel ashamed these days. Hearing the excommunication declared on a meeting, my jaw dropped in amazement. It was a day of sorrow for me. I had hoped that the maha theras would finally come to their senses and go in the other direction…do the right thing. Instead they justify their fear of change with ‘upholding the vinaya’. It’s pathetic.

    Since I live with these seniors every day I know how the talk goes…off the record. There is a genuine male chauvinist atmosphere in the vihara that I as a junior thought I wouldn’t find when I left worldly life behind. Are not my companions in the holy life supposed to have gone beyond such things? Where is the metta and karuna…are they mere hollow words?

    The Dhamma is not a static phenomena. It is constantly renewing itself. It permeates everything. The essence of Lord Buddha’s teaching is this Dhamma. If we think we are practicing the Dhamma by vehemently upholding the vinaya, afraid of any change when the world around us is changing, then we are not in touch with the living Dhamma. Then we are in a dead tradition and our practice will be fruitless. Then we might as well turn our monasteries into museums and say. “This is how they practiced in the days of the Buddha, 2553 years ago. And we preserve it in minute detail.”

    I have been advised not to speak about this matter. Certain names should not be mentioned in the community. Some are even suggesting taking Bhante Sujato’s books away from the shelves in the library. Can I really take full ordination in this tradition, I ask myself. Do I want to be a Bhikkhu and officially represent a lineage that is so orthodox and stuck in old traditions that it can only lead to marginalization in the future? I have to contemplate that carefully.

    Keep going Bhante! Even here in the sanghas in UK, many think highly of you even if they are not allowed to say it out loud.

    With much Metta,

    • Dear Voiceless,

      Thanks so much for this brave and honest post – I’m delighted you can find your voice! I’m trying hard to write something that doesn’t mention Big Brother, but it’s a struggle. If I keep going, hopefully the threat will come true and finally I’ll be dangerous enough to be banned! Just the publicity any budding writer needs.

      As far as ordination goes, I myself have struggled with this for years. Even though I have tremendous gratitude for the training and support I received in my early years as a monk, I have long felt like I just didn’t belong to what the Ajahn Chah tradition had become. On balance, I think it would have been better for me to have ordained elsewhere; but it’s so hard to know how these things would turn out.

    • Voiceless no longer. Congratulations. And thank you for sharing your perspective. Your image of a museum is how it came to feel for me.
      May you find support on the ground there, as well as here in cyberspace.

    • Dear Voiceless, thank you for your courage and for finding this way of lending your voice and your support. Metta.

    • Dear Voiceless, you are a good and brave deed in a naughty world and should change your name forthwith! Yours is a resounding voice, and Bhante’s reply added to what I needed, rather than would have wished, to hear. It’s a sad time. May the Truth be your guide. The universe is full of possibility. Every good wish.

    • Dear Voiceless, I was just wondering why you can only speak from the shadows ? Does that mean you are sneanking around to write this ? Maybe you should rethink things and where your at ? If you dont have enough courage to speak openly within your communitie what kind of holy life is that. It seems that there are alot of masks being worn.

  22. First of all, I would like to clarify that I am not a Buddhist but a free-thinker with an interest in vipasanna meditation.

    I would like to add my observation regarding this bhikkuni issue. Why is it that ordaining nuns is so difficult in Theravada Buddhism but a non-issue in Mahayana Buddhism? My take on the matter is that it is because Mahayana Buddhism places great importance on the concept of the Bodhisattva ideal. A Bodhisattva is the one who has determination to free sentient beings from samsara with the cycle of death, rebirth and suffering.

    That is why I suppose that there are no obstacles in Mahayana Buddhism to women ordaining as helping women free themselves from samsara by becoming nuns is in accord with this viewpoint.

    It seems to me that some Theravada monks are so absorbed in pursuing their personal path to enlightenment that they run the risk of losing touch with this spirit of true compassion- a compassion not consisting of mere words of kindness but that should, if need be, be backed up by brave and selfless action. A true enlightened being should be someone who is willing go out of his comfort zone, stand in the line of fire, endure harsh opposition for the benefit of others.

    So to Ajahn Brahm and co, I say, carry on the good work!

    • Hello Patricia,

      I am afraid your observations about “no obstacles in Mahayana to women ordination” is not exactly accurate. Just ask the Dalai Lama why aren’t women ordained in the Gelugpa tradition, and for that matter in any of the Tibetan lineages which have a monastic tradition.

  23. Behind the disingenuous arguments of the Five Points the Ehglish Sangha Trust has a hard line message that there is no hope for full bhikkhuni ordination for all women in their tradition. The Five Points are odious, denigrating, humiliating and patronizes women. The authors of the document are faceless and hide behind their robes. Are they afraid of being identified so that their supporters and critics can see they do not walk the talk that they regularly give to their disciples?

  24. About Ajahn Chah on not being rigid and on being adaptable…

    ‘By all accounts, having read the biography of Ajahn Chad, I have to conclude that the venerable. Monk I was listening to was in fact Ajahn Chad. The four points he made are as follows; if our Buddhist tradition is not appealing to young men today we may have to blame ourselves, by being too rigid and too hang up in tradition and dogma. Two, Buddhism had to adapt throughout its history to the changing social and cultural world wherever it went to, the third one, in a democratic society like Thailand, decisions are not made by one person only anymore, not even the King, and he pointed at the King, can make unilateral decisions without the involvement of the democratic, elected parliament of Thailand. Fourth point, the Thai society is moving into the modern age, where everyone should have equal opportunity to learn, work and be active in whatever area they have interest, they feel passionate about and could be of service to our nation.’

    An extract from a letter by Paul Frischknecht

    From: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=153235999615&topic=11526
    Women & the Forest Sangha on Facebook

  25. Ajahn Sujato,

    Is it possible for you to post a response to Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s letter which appears on Dhammalight?

    I would love to find out what Bhikkhu Bodhi thinks of it too.

    With thanks.

    • Hi Kanchana,

      There are a few responses being prepared, I’m kinda hoping to get out of this one.

      But in a word – unimpressed.

      In 36 words: Any response to bhikkhuni ordination that does not acknowledge the sexism in the Sangha and the imperative to overcome this is illegitimate, as it ignores the ethical and spiritual issue at the heart of the matter.

  26. In response to ‘voiceless’

    To echo something that was said earlier (I think by A.Sujato) I am amazed at the level of fear, denial, almost soporific group trance, that the UK monasteries seem to be in the sway of.

    I feel that our role as concerned, observant lay people is to try and wake monastics up to what is happening in their name.

    That a few elders who hold perspectives – and here is no surprise – ‘ that is a genuine male chauvinist atmosphere’ – and cloak that as Dhamma – is taking the order down the path of rigidity and fundamentalism.

    Those who are more conscious than this group sleep – should speak up – it is our collective inheritance – the health of the 4-fold sangha rests on conscious responsive engagement. Not fear, oppression and confusion.

    That is not a great inheritance to leave for those to come.

    So thank you for your voice, and for your courage and for your integrity.
    It is indeed sad that rather than a vibrant result – we could be looking at the practice deadened by a chauvinistic and legalistic mind set.

    Surely this will renders the sincere and devoted practice of the faithful who choose to ordain – left to the shadows of ‘a dead tradition’ that is ‘fruitless’

    WAKE UP everybody in the UK monasteries!

    Please also check out Patrick Butlers’ excellent letter in response on the Forest Sangha face book page.


  27. The 5 points are written from the perspective that they were a communal agreement. Clearly that wasn’t the case.
    They were forced upon the nuns without neogitiation and without consultation with the larger Bhikkhu sangha.
    They were done in an atmosphere of secrecy and it seems intimidation (no futher ordinations are agreed to until they are signed onto & pressure to leave the samvasa if you disagree)
    Surely by both the letter and the spirit of Dhamma – Vinaya, this would render them invalid?

    • Dear Thanissara,

      Of course it would, if this had anything to do with Vinaya. But the invocation of Vinaya by the English Sangha is purely a smokescreen, a distraction. They invoke it when it’s convenient and ignore it when they wish. The siladhara order is set up entirely outside the Vinaya, and hence shorn of the protections the Vinaya should bring.

    • Dear Thanissara,

      There are also LAWS,CONVENTIONS
      & RULES in each country and
      Sangha that TAKE PRECEDENT OVER

      IS IT applicable or allowed by
      law in every country or every
      State in USA?
      It is definitely A BIG NO in S.E.A.

    • hi Sorry,
      you addressed your thoughts to me – and i see you feel strongly – but i am not exactly sure what your conclusion is from the points you make – can you clarify a bit more – thanks.
      ps – same sex marriage is legal in S.Africa.

    • Hi Thanissara,


      Buddhism is to bring us all back to our moral values and closer to nature as we are all now strayed further away from our Buddha Nature.

      To other countries, same sex is legalized as un-natural sex (punishable by law) and same sex marriage is prohibited by law in other countries esp Asian countries. So, if Buddhism says we have to be compassionate to all beings, how are we to address this problem in countries with such laws? We cannot impose our type of compassion to them, right?

      It may be legal in S.Africa as what you have said, but not legal in other parts of the world. It does not mean if we don’t catch up with the “trend” means we are not up to time or have not advanced (old fashioned) or outdated.

      We are evolving further away from Devaloka (Heavenly Realms) and falling to the Realms below Human Realm. Morally, we have to fix this problem and Dhamma is our guiding light so that we do not slip downwards. It doesn’t mean if we do not condone to eg human rights or equality or same sex marriage, we are regarded as not advanced, maybe not advanced in that direction but definitely more advanced morally, righteously, consciously with conscience with moral shame & moral fear (all these in Buddhism timeless code of conduct).

      Apology if you disagree with me (you are entitled to your opinion).

    • Dear Sorry
      OK – it’s clearer to me what your concerns are.
      I see there are two dimensions to ‘morals’
      I would like to make a distinction between these two (in brief) – which is the distinction between outer morals and inner ethics.
      Outer morals that are usually imposed from a societal – religious point of view – with a view in mind to exert some level of control on people, perhaps for some good reasons – but also morals imposed from the outside like that can be subject to real abuse – as we have seen many times in religion.
      The aspect of ‘sikkapadam’ – training – from the Buddha – concerns Inner Ethics – which arises from the basic injunction to ‘do no harm’
      The original teaching does not have a lot to say about homosexuality – regards either its ethics or morals – it leaves the training precept principle for each individual to navigate. (Later additions, for example in Chinese Buddhism, come down hard on homosexuality to accord with the societal morals of the time which viewed homosexuality negatively)
      However, to revert to the original guidelines around the 3rd precept; they are to refrain from sexual misconduct – the guidelines for that are to not have sex with a minor, or someone under anothers’ protection (i.e. – where there is an abuse of vulnerability) and to not ‘move in’ on an already committed relationship (usually results in a lot of suffering)
      Both of these great standards revert one to consider ones own inner ethics.
      The problem of morals without the awakening of inner ethic is that very real harm can be done. For example – Apartheid was backed as morally right by many churches and priests. However anyone with any inner ethic would know it was a violent and abusive system of gross oppression.
      Many people who are awakening – and who consequently begin to have a really heightened degree of inner ethic – find themselves in conflict with the ‘morals’ of the society or even of their religion – including Buddhism.
      What to do..???
      Well it’s a delicate process for each person to navigate. At the end of the day – the guidelines for such navigation have to fall to ‘doing no harm to self or other’ while holding true to ones inner integrity. I would add, that compassion has to be a great standard in response to all beings. Compassion implies a genuine wish to understand the others predicament, it keeps one open, resonant with other beings. When compassion fails, then we find judgement. Judgement (rather than discernment) closes the heart and splits the world.
      Also offered just as a reflection, with appreciation for your concerns,

  28. Did you notice that except for Ajahn Chandako none of the proponents of ‘No Bhikkhuni Ordinations’ have divulged their identities?

    No one or no group has claimed the ownership of the documents released by English Sangha, WPP etc. Yesterday, I had an email one ‘Sadhu’ (that’s the email name!) pointing me various resources stating how bad and wrong the bhikkhuni ordinations are.

    Don’t they have guts to divulge their true identities?

  29. When I was a young monastic in Thailand I was appalled to see how women monastics were treated. Mai Chees were viewed as servants in some places. I have worked as a diversity and social justice advocate for the past few years and seeing this issue with this perspective makes it clear how blind some of the senior monks are to their privilege. I remember talking about race and class and some of the observations I had ,as a brown skin person, and I was usually told that these are all “conventions”. White monks get treated like celebrities in Thailand, I wonder if all this adulation has blinded some of these Western monks. I also know that the UK monasteries want to keep their ties to Thailand. What do “ties” actually mean? We are not talking about the Vatican here!

    I am so happy that the Bhikkhuni ordination happened, I was at Amaravati when Ajahn Vayama was there, She is such a great example of what a good practitioner is!
    Our planet has many needs and real urgent problems, feminine wisdom in the voice of meditators is a great asset!
    I have deep respect for Luang Por Sumedho and I hope that eventually this issue finds a good resolution.
    oh… and Ajahn Sujato, it seems like a long time since tea times in the cave at Poo Jorm Gorm!

  30. Years ago a foreign monk at Wat Bovorneves in Bangkok questioned the validity of another foreign monk’s ordination and encouraged him to reordain in the Dhammayut tradition. I was shocked by that then and hearing that Dhammayut monks won’t even perform Patimokkha with monks of other traditions has made me wonder whether the Dhammayut wasn’t established to be a schism in the Sangha. What place, if any, does lineage have in Theravada Buddhism, especially when it is divisive?

    • Re – purity of ordination lineage –
      I seem to remember that Ajahn Chah expressed doubt to Ajahn Mun about the purity of his own ordination.
      A.Chah was ordained in the Mahanikai and Ajahn Mun the Dhammayut (reform movement).
      On answering his doubt – Ajahn Mun said – don’t worry about it – stay as you are — does anyone know more specifics about this?
      Purity of lineage – a tricky nettle to grasp there!

    • As I understand it the Buddha refused to appoint a successor and urging his followers “to let the Dhamma and the Discipline be your teacher.”

      Many Mahayana Buddhist monks view their lineage from Bodhidharma but there cannot be anyone comparable for the Theravada, can there?

  31. Ajahn Sujato,

    I’ve finally gotten round to reading some of the other postings on this blog…it’s left me feeling a bit like Bishop Spong.

    I’ve still got a shred of hope that the other western ajahns will change. As Bhikkuni Sobhana said on Facebook…trying to get them to see sense can help those women who are with them now and who may go to them in the future.

    I can see now how you have done your part admirably in seeking to create a Sangha that does not discriminate on the basis of gender. We now have the 2 assemblies and the 2 Sanghas here in Aus. We now have a complete – if fledgling – form of Buddhism here. I want to express my sincere thanks. This has affected me very deeply and I’m very grateful.

    Yours in Dhamma.

  32. Just wanted to mix things up a bit after following this for a while – but it is getting very interesting and is starting to remind me of the tabloid press, Buddhism’s own Who Weekly! – but way more academic and insidious, covered in layers of history and institutionalised power structures to protect the figure heads.

    ANY man (especially the condescending and moralising monks in question) who has forgotten that he is born into this world due to the creation of a woman and her body, who cannot treat all women with respect and even reverence for this fact alone must be truely deluded about their own existance and capacity. It’s just soooo ungracious, and really gives Buddhism a bad name.

    As a lay buddhist woman (ironically called Maya) I am very disappointed by the sexism expressed in this religion. For if I were the Buddha’s mother I would be very disappointed and even ashamed at being responsible for giving the world a son who created a religion that allows women to be treated like these monks are proposing to treat all women who even dare try to take the path.

    It (Buddhism) is ->>> sorry to generalise here —->>>> from my understanding, one of the most superfically liberating and ‘kind’ and yet also so obviously controlling and oppressive religions, especially of women. Which kind of makes it hard to have faith in this religion and practice in it also, as a woman. Didn’t the Buddha say to try things out first before believing them and then use your own experience to make decisions about the dhamma? If this is the case then this Thai Forest Sangha is not a tradition which I can trust to take me ‘on the path’ as there is no role for women except as perhaps in supporting roles and as inferior beings.

    These women have been silenced out of positions of power like women have always been through the ages. It’s like being married to the oppressor. Only worse. I pity these nuns who are bothering in a sangha that is so unkind to them. Yet I also respect their faith and ability to remain oppressed.

    The Mahayana approach has always seemed so much more respectful of women generally (I may be wrong in believing this) however I have always, as a woman, taken the personal advice of Buddhist nuns seriously when seeking guidance from the sangha, as a man has limited understanding of what it is like to be a woman. So if one can find very few nuns to turn to because they are simply – not allowed – it makes it hard to be a woman in this community and take this religion seriously. It’s a vicious circle.

    Since more than half the population of the human world is made up of women why would a religion that condescends to these beings (women) so blatantly be even worthy of support from lay women?

    Just sounds like another version of the corporate worlds “glass ceiling” effect. Invisible yet so transparent in a man’s world. SOOOO Predictable. But what would you expect from a bunch of guys who run the show! They are monks, placing them in a very important role as spiritual guides, but also only human and a product of their own cultures.

    I always thought many buddhist monks secretly hated women anyway, and that’s why they hid in monasteries, boys only you know ;-), institutionalising their contempt and calling it dhamma.

    Keep at it Bhante – You are a brave and outspoken man who probably could have been a fantastic lawyer, and they are all just scared of being exposed as sexist pigs instead of noble monastics!

    Metta to ALL beings on this path to cessation 😉 Peace

  33. I am not a student of the Dharma or the Vinya for that matter. I try to practice the Dharma, usually badly. I am just a simple person seeking the truth. In the Buddhas teachings I have found a teaching that I intuitively feel is the closest to the truth. I also sought a teaching that was free of dogma, ritual and cultural values and in the Forest Tradition as taught by Ajahn Brahms i believed that i had found it.

    It is inconceivable to me that the Buddha would see any difference between men and women for are not our bodies just a vehicle? That senior monks and leaders do not have the intuitive wisdom to not discriminate on the basis of sex is also beyond my comprehension, but then I am just a simple man. I will be content to be a simple man for if these men who i am sure have achieved very high levels of insights and Jhanas cannot see this, what has all their achievement actually given them????

    I applaud Ajahn Brahms for what he has done for he has shown me that there is a buudhist teaching that i can follow.

  34. This is not “women’s issue” only for women studies, but the total national lack of awareness on basic human right issue. The denial of bhikkhuni sangha is an expression of an unhealthy society. As long as women (worst in this case as they are ordained) are exploited and suppressed, it implies the existence of the exploiters. In the presentation of this paper, it is a warning of the real danger when the exploiter is the system sustained and nurtured by the government itself.

    Author Ven. Dr Chatsumarn Kabilsingh (Dhammananda)
    For the International Conference on Thai Studies, April 2005


  35. I was just wondering if it is at all possible to show a little respect to this tradition and the great Ajahns who preserved it. Some of you sound like your ready to storm the monastery with pitch forks and torches in hand and burn it down. I can’t believe that no one else has had the guts to stand up for this great tradition, even if it is flawed. Can you show me anything is realm of form that is not flawed? Lets try to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

  36. I was just wondering if it is at all possible to show a little respect to this tradition and the great Ajahns who preserved it. Some of you sound like your ready to storm the monastery with pitch forks and torches in hand and burn it down. I can’t believe that no one else has had the guts to stand up for this great tradition, even if it is flawed. Can you show me anything in this realm of form that is not flawed? Lets try to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

    • Hi Bewildered1,

      Please try to read between the lines. It is because ppl have respect and love for the Thai Forest Tradition including WPP Sangha that many of us keep coming here trying to add their ideas and effort in whatever way they can to reconcile!

      Even after so much outpour of disagreement from the general public that support WPP Sangha, they have failed to come up with a response telling WHY they oppose Bhikkhuni ordination! As far as I know, their response in a nutshell is, “our Elders in Thailand don’t want this, so we follow them because they are our elders and don’t want to break the link”. Thank goodness Prince Siddartha didn’t adopt such a policy of following the tradition of his Elders such as his Father and the well known renunciate-teachers of his time.

      If ppl didn’t care about WPP they wouldn’t even bother to ask WPP to review their decision. Trust me, people won’t be barking at this so-called Oaktree for a long time. For example I already know many who do not support the WPP Branch Monastery in this country simply ‘cos its Abbot is a real character!

      WPP hierarchy’s inability to see through tradition is mind boggling. Doesn’t seem to be in line with what they preach. That is so disappointing.

    • Dear Grasshopper,

      Ahh – you have got it! It’s because we love each other that we argue. If we didn’t love each other, we just wouldn’t care. We all swim in the ocean of the Dhamma. The tradition of the Thai forest masters is truly something awe-inspiring. I still believe it is the closest thing we have to the original practice of the Buddha’s day. Yet it is imperfect, and it is these imperfections that have come into focus here: the treatment of women and the authoritative power structures. My hope is that forest tradition still maintains the wisdom and reflective capacity to understand that fixing these problems would help, not harm, the Sangha.

      When I discussed bhikkhuni ordination with Ajahn Liem a couple of years ago, he said that the problem was that in Thailand things have always been like this. We can’t fix it, so we just leave it as it is. Well, I’m a bit more hopeful than this. I think these problems can be fixed.

    • Dear Bewildered1,

      As a lay Buddhist, just like you are but for a totally different reason, I am bewildered as to why the great Ajahns, for whom I always had great respect, do not walk the walk rather than just talk the talk.

      As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts to this blog, had they made their position clear rather than beating around the bush and stated that they will not support Bhikkhuni Ordinations in any form, this discussion would have ceased long time ago and most contributors to this forum would have respected their position although most would have still disagreed with that outcome.

      I do not think anyone here wishes any harm to any of the Ajahns (who incidently have not revealed their identities but have decided to go behind their establishment names such as the Sangha of WPP, English Sangha, ‘Sadhu’ etc) but people are being honest about the way some of the Buddhist establishments are treating women – simple as that.

      After all the Buddha himself was a ardent proponent of free speech and free thinking so I cannot see any issue why an individual should suppress their own views simply because they do not happen to fit the views of some of the great Ajahns.

      We do not stop people of criminal tendencies and drug addiction want to practice dhamma but somehow there seems to be a major issue when a perfectly sane woman wants to commit her life to the path. Don’t you think that this is not congruent with what the Buddha preached?

    • Dear Buddhist netizens,

      YES,AGREE with bewildered1 – pls have some noble respect for others(we are Buddhist, aren’t we?).
      Others may have more wisdom than us.

      Wisdom is knowing, intellect is reasoning.

      PEOPLE.. if not for this Theravada monks who preserve the true authentic Dhamma (they are our Dhamma Proctectors), we would not be able to taste the Dhamma today and had to wait for many eaons to be reborn where there is Dhamma. We must also be grateful to those western monks who translated the Dhamma from Pali to English Dhamma Propagators) for without which we would still be ignorant of the Dhamma. Be grateful and appreciative. Pls. people, preserve the Dhamma (do what you like what you think is right for you (this is a democratic country) but leave this Thai Forest Sangha alone to preserve the Dhamma and their Sangha laws, they also have the right to do what they like and not being told or pressured by those who challenge them on one aspect of the Vinaya.The overall scenario & timing are also important.

      We should put our energy in concerns like eradicating poverty, social ills,rising crimes,economics and save the world from pollution and further destruction by human beings, instead of arguing the text until the cows come home!

    • There is a HUGE difference between having respect, gratitude & appreciation and being obligated because of HISTORY into an oppressed, polite and silent captivity. It’s a mutually dependent relationship. This is the heart of the matter.

      It’s all good and well to say go be a good Buddhist and help the world be a better place.

      What motivation would a woman have to do all this selfless good work which is in the teachings, if it is all for the GLORY of a not so humble tradition or man/group of men.

      This is not a good enough reason to stay quiet, or make people feel like they have to prioritise respectful reverence to the nth degree and never obtain some equality over their own sangha, progress or practice.

      With metta – and a big long meditative silence that goes on for another thousand years… – peace to you all

  37. Dear Visakha,

    The bhikkhuni from Sri Lanka ordained some of the first bhikkhunis in China. So they can be traced back to this lineage if we want to trace back, but the whole focus on this is trivial and a mere attachment to rites and ritual that is not in the vinaya in the first place. Nowhere in the vinaya does it states that the preceptor bhikkhuni needs to be Theraveda in particular . Nevertheless, later group prefer it. But please don’t say that it is from the vinaya.

  38. I have been considering writing something publicly for some time but keep getting put off by people who, on the one hand, put down those who are perpetrating an abusive situation and, on the other hand, are just as arrogantly saying that it is their job to put the monastic community straight. I try to give the benefit of the doubt to things I don’t know, so when I hear that some of the criticism comes from a place of concern, I listen with my heart and not just my head. But I don’t hear the same kind of respect given to those (who you say deserve respect!) who remain in the monasteries in the UK and may very well be trying their best to come to terms with things. Just because we aren’t so vocal, you want to write us off. Fine, go ahead. I know where I am and it’s not in the place you may think. So, tell us where you are, speak up, you may say. Will you listen when your views are so set, I wonder?

    • Dear Insider,with anjali,

      Those who do not listen to others are those who have too much concepts and own perceptions and worse still egoistic (do not admit even if it is wrong view).
      Only those who practice well, have silent minds and talk less are those who are wise and have clarity & wisdom. Only wisdom could cure this “disease” in the interpretation of the Dhamma in our modern progressive world.

      I trust the UK siladharas are in accord with the Vinaya. Buddha did not talk about gender equality for Bikkunis.He advocated mutual harmony by acknowledging to have Bikkunis/Bikkus Sangha community and male/female lay community (a perfect 4-fold harmony in accord with Nature) and i don’t think He meant to advocate equal status by having 2 separate Sangha with equal rights. He acknowledged having Bikkunis & Bikkus within the same Sangha (with His advice by asking Bikkunis to stay close to the Bikkus, He did not ask Bikkunis to stay a distance (or separate)from the Bikkus)or form a separate Sangha.

      Buddha meant feminine & masculine genders in the Sangha with the 8 rules for the feminine. I don’t think Buddha encouraged women to fight for equal rights knowing this would not be in harmony with Nature & create tension/disharmony in any community (it was interpreted differently).

      Seek forgiveness if wrongly interpreted out of ignorance of the Vinaya.
      Respectfully, yours.Sokhihotu.

    • It’s like seeing family – sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers – fight. It’s so terrible, so ugly, nobody wants to see it go on. But go on it does. And it is very complex. Each person is invested in the conflict for their own very individual reasons.

      You are right though. The conflict and the pain happens, not because we happen to have different ideas and perspectives – for no two people will ever agree completely about everything – but because a failure of listening.

      When things get heated, even if, with heads full of the best intentions, we mean to listen, the heart is yet too tense to open. We invite people to speak, but hurt them with the hardness in our eyes.

      But, as you say, we’re all in a different space. I would say, however, that there are some out there who will listen. Listening sometimes comes from unexpected places. And, of course, their will always be those who will not listen, even if they try.

      This blog is not be the best place for all kinds of listening. Different venues, spaces and vibes need to be created.

      May this family, somehow, somehow, learn to listen to words, to silences and everything gross and subtle in between. We must find a way.


  39. Dear Sujato,

    I wonder what would happen in this hypothetical: Due to some situation in the future there are no more bhikkhus (whether Thai Forest tradition or wider) – it dies out, in other words the men find themselves in the same situation as females today. Later people are interested to practice monastic Buddhism again, would the men find some way to revive the bhikkhu tradition or just accept the circumstances and that there may be no more monks and nuns?

    Also, the monks depend on the support of their lay community and reflect their values – whether consciously or not. I feel the petition, protesting and persuasive arguments may be more effective if they were directed to the lay community who support the monastics. Without that support the monks will be compelled to be more ‘open/receptive’ to change like in the time of the Buddha when fighting between different groups of monks lead to the lay community withdrawing their support.

    • Interesting hypothetical. i don’t know: in the past whenever the tradition has died out in one place it is brought back from another.

      I agree also, that change will be spurred by the lay people, and it is their voices that need to be heard.

  40. Sharing…. some beautiful sights of Bundanoon…

    9August2008-SFM After Pindapat
    30May2009-Amended Grammar

    Thoughts and questions arise,
    Breathing in Breathing Out
    We allow the breathe to heal,
    And the bliss and wonder of Nature
    To soothe and embrace;

    Have you seen trees covered with light pink sakura flowers?
    They look like trees covered with soft pink snow
    Have you seen trees covered with light yellow and brown flowers?
    They look like trees with yellow candles with brown brims on the branches.
    Have you seen trees covered with bright red flowers?
    They look so wonderfully beautiful that I have no words to describe them.
    Trees, trees, trees with different shades of Gold;
    Light shiny yellow leaves of Gold,
    Light shiny brown leaves of Gold
    and Dark brown shiny Leaves of Gold.
    Side by side they stand together to Glow.

    Have you seen the earth covered with grasses?
    The short ones in different shades of Light yellow, green and brown
    Tinged and shiny with reflection from the morning mist
    Have you heard the tall grasses whisper among the winds?
    In light brown and slightly drying up,
    They can still brush together to rustle and whisper softly to each other


  41. A funny sad thing I’ve seen in this whole episode is that some who have been fortunate enough to be trained by Ajahn Chah (or his direct disciples) do not fully understand, let alone practice, Ajahn Chah’s unconventional but compassionate way of teaching.

    Did Ajahn Chah follow conventional ways of training disciples? Did Ajahn Chah let Thai traditions and language barriers prevent him from giving opportunities to westerners to find the Path shown by the Buddha?

    Another question to the English Sangha,…

    You should admit that the best path to enlightenment is to live a Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni life. if you think that women should be content to be eight- or ten-preceptors simply because you deem it’s enough to accommodate one to become enlightened…

    Why don’t you yourselves become eight- or ten-preceptors and become fully enlightened to prove the point?

  42. Hello.

    Theravada Misogyny.

    Here in UK since the passing of The 2006 Gender Equality Act and other Gender Equity Duties it is illegal for organisation-individuals to discriminate on the basis of gender.

    I strongly propose it will not be long before someone takes legal action against the UK Theravada tradition.

    I have been involved in attempting to set up charities to resist discrimination on the basis of gender.
    From my insiders position on this issue I suggest it wont be long before the UK Charities Commission revokes any charitable status which any Theravada establishments may currently enjoy.

    It appears there is a very strong case in law to be made against the current UK Theravada stance as illegally discriminating on the basis of gender.

    With the greatest of respect I humbly suggest the stance of the UK Theravada community is illegal and soon some person or organisation will act in law against the UK Theravada community.

    Having lived in Thailand for 4 years and knowing how loyal and committed to their ancient traditions Thai’s are it seems extremelly unlikely the Thai orthodox community would ever accept the view that the GaruDhammas are later editions to the Pali Cannon.

    I suggest it is extremely unlikely they will ever change their stance.

    In Thailand there are some liberal’s e.g. ex Bhikkh Mettanando etc but the chances of the mainstream and orthodox community changing their stance on the GaruDhamma’s I humbly and with the greatest of respect suggest that will be highly unlikely.

    Perhaps the logic of those who are in favour of discrimination against women-Bhikkhuni’s may go something like this:

    If the GaruDhammas were good enough for all the Arahants before this generation and for the Arahants of many hundred’s of years gone past, well of course the GaruDhamma’s cant be mistaken additions, can they?
    Otherwise the Arahats who are fully awakened would have rejected them!
    The GarDhammas must be part of the original inspired teachings of Buddha, mustn’t they?
    Otherwise it means all the past Arahants who accepted them were mistaken! And obviously that is just impossible.
    It is great heresy to suggest all Arahats in all Theravada countries since the forming of the Pali Cannon are mistaken.
    The view that the GaruDhamma’s are erroneous is insulting to all the Arahats of the past and insulting to those who looked to the Arahats for guidance. You should be ashamed of yourself, no doubt you will go to the hottest hell for casing schism in Buddha’s noble Sasana.


    The above may seem extreme but having lived in Buddhist Asia for 8 years I offer the view that many Buddhists in Asia believe exactly these sentiments.

    Yours in Dhamma.

    Stephen Hendry.

    Theravada misogyny originates within doubtful sections of Kudaka Nikaya.

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