Reform – a challenge

I’ve already made some remarks on the nature of reform in modern Theravada. I continue to be surprised at the unrealistic scenarios that people imagine change can come by.

History is good: it teaches about the messiness of things. Those who argue that universal consensus is necessary before making any changes are, in my opinion, arguing that change should never come. Do you think I’m wrong? Then meet my challenge. I’ve already said this in comments, now let me emphasize it again.

I’ve given several examples in recent Theravada history where reform comes because one person or a small group goes against the will of the majority, or against the tradition, and simply perseveres until their innovations becomes seen as normal.

May someone please give us an example of a major reform that was brought about through universal consensus? Anything in modern Theravada? Theravada through the ages? Other schools of Buddhism? Any major religion, anywhere, anytime? Let’s see if there are any examples, and if they are, how relevant they might be in our current situation.

Here’s two possibilities to start with.

Vatican 2. A major reform of a huge religion, that was accomplished through dialogue and discussion. After statements by previous popes that condemned modernity, now the Roman Church embraced it. new churches were built using modern, abstract art; social values of inclusivity; church services in the vernacular; and many other previously radical ideas suddenly became orthodox. Some areas were untouched, notably ordination for women. Nevertheless, it was a great accomplishment by any standards, but in an organization that has always been far more centralized and structured than Buddhism.

Unification of the Sri Lankan Sangha: Under the rule of the awesome Parakkamabahu 1, the three main sects of Sri Lankan Buddhism were unified. This happened around 1165 CE. The king lamented that, while kings in the past had made tremendous efforts to unify the Sangha, they never managed to do so, because of the endless squabbling of the monks. This reform was really the start of Theravada in the modern sense as a dominant force in S-E Asia. From then on, the diverse traditions of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, and other regions came to be brought more and more under the specific traditions of the Mahavihara in Anuradhapura. Diversity remained underneath the ‘official’ religion as local and regional customs, beliefs, and practices. This reform, like more recent changes in the structure of Thai Buddhism, was only made possible due to State control.


49 thoughts on “Reform – a challenge

  1. I do not think we have to look very far…the Buddha himself was one of the greatest social reformists we have ever had in this world. He did not exclude women (that’s right, women!), serial killers, the poor, prostitutes (or courtesans whatever term one wants to use), the low castes or the untouchables from joining his order and he did this without waiting for consensus from all those who would have had a big say in these matters at that time. And, correct me if I am wrong, he did not expel Devadatta from the order for his most persistent disruptive behaviour either.

    When one considers the so-called acceptable social norms at the time of the Buddha, then one can really appreciate the significance of the changes the Buddha was able to bring about – just by a single human being. And yet, here we are, in this ‘enlightned’ modern and advanced times, still trying to work out whether women are fit enough to become ordained as bhikkhunis!!

    • Hi Guptila,

      Of course the Buddha was a great reformer, but that was not quite the challenge. I’m after a reform within an existing religion. The Buddha – contrary to the modern Hindu fundamentalism – simply ignored or actively rebutted most of the contemporary religious ideas and practices, and started a whole new thing.

    • Sorry Bro Guptila, i don’t agree with you when you said our Buddha was a reformist.

      Buddha did not reform anything, Buddha merely “discovered” the Truth/Law of Spirituality according to the law of existence, just like Einstein discovered molecules and Thomas Edison discovered light and one more (forgot name) discovered Law of Gravity (they are NOT reformists but discover-ists and share their discovery to us!).

      Buddha did not reform the religions prevalent in Buddha’s era but Buddha “converted the ignorants from ignorance with the Truth/Dhamma Buddha discovered through Buddha’s enlightenment.

      Reforms are like forming “new Dhamma” or “new testaments” like the Christians.

      The Australians Sangha is trying to “christianized”or “denominized” Buddhism to suit them by way of reforms. Just like Catholics are Othordox, the other denominations are either protestants,angelicans,born again,reformist,Assembly of Gods etc.Sorry, this is the way i see it.

    • Hi Guptila,

      Reform was definitely not the Buddha’s culture nor was Buddha a greatest reformist.
      Buddha discovered the Truth/the timeless Dhamma and shared his discovery to expel ignorance within the then prevalent religionists in India. Buddha did not reform their religions but merely showed the Path to them to eradicate sufferings for all sentients beings. Merry X’mas to you. Ho,ho,ho.

  2. Dear Venerable,

    My questions are not so much about Perth, but ordination in general.

    How or when do you know it’s time? And if you don’t mind my asking, how did the decision come about for you?

    Other questions I have I think are valid but may be sensitive, and if you would prefer to answer them privately via my e-mail account, that would be fine too.

    To what extent were you, or most monks you’ve known, motivated by having had broken hearts?

    To what extent, also, do you think that either a lifetime acceptance of celibacy or a lifetime embracing of celibacy factors in to the decision to ordain?

    It’s obvious that the monastic life is a life of renunciation, and it seems to me that the primary renunciation is that of coupling and sex. Is it the case that there’s just a certain point where it’s not worth the bother to date anymore, and that ordination is the viable alternative?

    These questions are not meant to be curt but rather candid. I am considering ordination and I know I’m not the only lay-Buddhist to have ever wondered these things. Thank you for your time and considerations in advance.

    With goodwill,

    • Dear Richie,

      Thanks for your questions – a bit off topic, but I’ll try to answer them briefly as best I can.

      For me the decision to ordain came about when i was staying with the Wat Nanachat monks in a wilderness retreat called Dao Dum. I loved it so much I just wanted to keep going.

      Monks and broken hearts: for myself, and i think most monks, ordination was not about a broken heart as such. Even during my last relationship, I remember having a feeling that it was time to move on to something beyond this. Experience of the sadness (as well as the joys) of love is a major factor in developing the aspiration to renounce, but the decision to ordain was based on my positive and life-changing experiences in meditation.

      Lifetime celibacy: Umm, I’m not sure about this. For myself, I guess I just thought it was the right thing to do. A lifetime is a long time, and I don’t know how many of us are really fully conscious of what that means. It’s something that grows little by little.

      Is there a point when dating is not worth it: For me, yes. Obviously this is something that is very personal. I have no idea whether celibacy is useful for most people as a spiritual practice, although I think restraint certainly is. Perhaps its one of those things that requires a specific vocation, and bending people out of their true path ends up creating more dukkha. But the holy life is there to explore, so we just offer the option for you.

    • Dear Venerable,

      That certainly makes sense to me.

      What intrigues me most is what you said about the wilderness retreat.

      To a certain degree I find it very hard to concentrate living in the city. Now I know it’s the case of me carrying around my defilements wherever I go — you might find more solitude in a mall than I would in a hermitage — but it also seems that one’s environment is conducive to concentration, or potentially a massive distraction.

      I remember reading a dhamma talk by Ajahn Chah where he said that women couldn’t get enlightened — just to prick the ears of the audience — and then said men can’t get enlightened either; he went on to say the same thing about monks and nuns and laypeople: all these designations, I believe, being that of sakkaya ditthi. This also makes sense to me.

      Now is it the case that ordination, as a vehicle, is a sort of “fast track” through the four stages of enlightenment, but that ultimate progress — arahantship — is available to anyone; or is it the case that there’s a certain point where a layperson can go no further?

      Two perspectives on this stick out in my mind. I once heard or read Ajahn Sumedho say that enlightenment is simply growing up to be a fully mature person. An another occasion, I read Ajahn Brahm declare — citing the Pali canon — that upon attaining the path of arahantship, a person more-or-less has to ordain, seeming to imply that something “bad” might happen otherwise. It’s also quite possibly the case that I misunderstood him.

      I guess what I’m getting at is: do you believe it is possible for a layperson to attain arahantship? Also, do you think it’s feasible?

    • Hi Richie,

      This is a controversial issue. As often, when the traditions disagree, we find that the early texts are ambiguous. In this case, the Suttas do not definitively say that a lay person can or can not become an arahant. There are a couple of cases of lay arahants, but they are in exceptional circumstances – either they ordain immediately, or they are on their deathbed. Much later, the Milindapanha took this to be normative – all lay arahants must either ordain or die. My personal view is that arahantship has nothing to do with whether you have undergone a ceremony or not. It does, however, depend on a highly developed renunciate lifestyle, one which is hard to realize in the lay life – although, it must be said, also hard to realize in robes.

    • Dear Venerable,

      You know, I agree with you. There was Layman Pang. And we all want to believe in Layman Pang:

      “How wondrous, how mysterious!

      I carry fuel.

      I draw water.”

      Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words, and thank you for ordaining for all of us.

      With metta,

  3. The words below attributed to Margaret Mead are often quoted, but the relative truth of the ‘only’ gets overlooked, I believe.

    ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’

  4. Cannot understand why the Western must always
    own everything and modified everything.

    In Insight Meditation Society article, it is
    mentioned “Western Buddhism” – what is that?
    Is there such a thing as Western or Eastern
    or Northern or Southern Buddhism???

    What exactly is Western Buddhism ?
    New testament? Cult religion?

    Why is the West always making
    enemies with the world and others?

    • Well, there is “Tibetan buddhism”, “Thai Buddhism”, etc. These are terms of convenience to account for local features? Why not use “Western Buddhism” as another term of convenience? It relates also to local features, notably in terms of some underlying values there that apparently from some other areas.

      At the end of the day, it is just a word, about as relevant as any other word: a convention. Nothing to get attached to or wound up about.

      And why do you feel this convention is making enemies with the world? You are free to practice Buddhism as you see suitable. I will simply claim the same right for myself. We are both born a set of (karmic) conditions and we will both follow the path, but as our conditions and karmic environment differs, there is no right or wrong. There just is the Dhamma 🙂
      With metta

    • Dear Ace,

      Buddhism is already so “divided” with the different traditions, namely theravada, mahayana,zen,etc.

      Now, here, we are “dividing” it further by different name or according to countries i.e. Tibetan Buddhism, Western Buddhism, Thai Buddhism & so on. Will these be further break down into sub-section Buddhism?

      I think it is better to use Dhamma (one & only Dhamma & no division). During Buddha’s time, there was no religion, no Buddhism, only Dhamma.

  5. I have a dream
    I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

    I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed : “We hold these truths to be self-evident : that all human beings are created equal.”

    I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the daughters of Bouddha and the sons of Buddha will be able to sit down together at a table of brother and sisterhood.

    I have a dream that women will one day practice a religion where they will not be judged by their gender but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!

    I have a dream that to render evolution of mentalities possible means action.

    I have a dream today that His Holyness the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa will join together to give the full ordination to one hundred tibetan bikkhunis.

    I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. »

    • I think someone posted a link before to Ven. Dhammika’s “Broken Buddha” book/essay.

      I found it an interesting read,as it indicates quite nicely some background – from his personal perception – concerning the cultural trappings of Theravadan Buddhism (in Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka, if I remember correctly)

      I don’t know if his experience are shared by Western monks, so I take it as anecdotal, mainly, but it certainly helped me to put the WPP position into broader cultural context.

    • Even if the texts said that women are not equal to men, it does not say that women are not allowed ordain. That can’t be the reason for forbidding women from ordination.

  6. Here’s a red herring: the First Council. Didn’t Kassapa and the 500 arahants reach consensus? Well, perhaps, although the fact that the texts themselves record a diversity of opinions suggests that the events may not have been as smooth as the orthodox texts would have us believe.

    In any case, this occasion was more of a formation of a religion than a reformation. The only major ‘reform’ that was mooted was the abolition of the ‘lesser and minor rules’. And as we know, even this reform, authorized by the Buddha himself, could find no consensus. Since then – so i believe – there has been no serious attempt to seek consensus across all Buddhism for making changes.

    • Rather, going with the flow(s)…perhaps that is why we have survived so long and so peacefully…a constant peaceful parting of the river into streamlets…or an acceptance of the ever rising and falling of collective Cittas…always Triple Gem but never exactly the same…

      On another note and related to one of your earlier commentaries on the topic:


  7. Just as having faith without reason is blind so too is wholesale acceptance of tradition without questioning or investigating it.

  8. I wonder. lazily, living in specific monasteries for most of the year, rather than just during the rains, is this something that evolved (in accord with the times) or was this way of monastic life created as a reform via consensus?

    • … correcting myself, so that it’s obvious I was lazily wondering rather than implying monastics living in monasteries are lazy ;), I meant to say:

      I wonder, lazily, is living in specific monasteries for most of the year, rather than just during the rains, something that evolved in accord with the times, or was this way of monastic life created as a reform via consensus?

    • Dear jacqui,

      this was, it seems a gradual evolution – one that is still not quite complete, as the wandering lifestyle still attracts monks in Thailand and sri lanka.

  9. Generally, consensus of the majority is one of inertia – the ‘if it ain’t broke’ or ‘if it doesn’t affect me’ then I will do nothing.

    Takes people with real guts to stand up and do something even when it doesn’t affect them. Takes even more guts when the other minority is shouting them down, especially when those people have the silent, shameful backing-by-default of the majority of the do-nothing-ers.

  10. Cut and paste from Theravada blog:-

    “To us lay devotees, the theravada tradition is the first tradition of the original true Dhamma of the Buddha in Pali.
    It is noticed that after Dhamma in Pali is translated into English and with commentaries, the true Dhamma in English could not directly reflect the deep profound meaning in Pali and thus there is a lot of interpretations of the Suttas & Vinaya.
    In Aj Bhram’s case, Aj B likes to interpret the Dhamma in his own style and lingo and by telling stories on his experience and teaching the Dhamma his way, deviating from the order of the Buddha’s Teaching.
    Cited a few examples in his talks or books.One prominent one is in his book “Opening the door of your heart” (in fact, he got this phrase from his father and not from the Sutta; this phrase was spoken by his father to him, although it was not wrong and it was not wrong that he shared it with us, but it is not from the Buddha’s teaching/Sutta) is :-
    Introduction Pg 2 –
    “The Buddha’s central teaching was the 4 NT. Rearranging them from their usual oder, these are:
    1. Happiness
    2. The cause of happiness
    3. The absence of happiness
    4. The cause for such an absence.”
    Although it is directly opposite of the Buddha’s 4 Noble Truth, and although his intention meant good for the happiness of the lay people (instead of talking about suffeing all the time), but it is going against the actual words of the Buddha and totally different from the Buddha’s Four Noble Truth (in Pali) and it is Aj B’s own version/modification of the 4 Noble Truth. With this going on, other sangha may also follow suit to give different interpretation to please the audience and this eventually would give rise to the declination of the true Dhamma and the original 4 Noble Truth would diminished with the replacement of the new versions.
    This need to be addressed early before the true Dhamma declines in the theravada tradition. Theravada tradition is responsible for keeping and preserving the original true Dhamma of our Buddha .
    For the sake of the true Dhamma taught by our Buddha (without suffering, there is no wisdom, so we must first acknowledge suffering first and not happiness as taught by Aj Brahm). If Aj B wanted to teach happiness, he should not change/modify the Buddha’s 4 Noble Truth in its original order, to make him different from others to be unique for fame and innovation.
    This is very sad as most lay people are more incline to happiness than suffering as the 1st Noble Truth. Ask for forgiveness if wrong speech, thought & action. Long live the theravada tradition. Sadhu.”

    • Its thanks to Ajahn Brahm’s teaching technique that thousands more people are coming to Buddhism and seeking out the Buddha’s actual words. Teaching us that there is the potential to end our suffering gives us hope and courage to look at how to do it (the 4th truth – 8 fold path). Following this path leads to us understanding suffering and its cause. I think the Buddha would praise Ajahn Brahm. The Buddha did say that there many, many different ways of teaching the Dhamma.

    • Hi Kenchana,

      No one can change the Buddha’s Words uttered directly from His mouth.

      A disciple teacher can teach differently according to the type and maturity of the students, but to change every word of the Four Noble Truth is NOT the Buddha’s teaching.

      Buddha’s words was to bring both happiness,wisdom and liberation and He would have put it in what Aj B had worded it if He thought this would bring absolute /happiness /liberation/Nibbana to people .

      Buddha had the Sigalavuta Sutta for the happiness of the lay people. Why didn’t Aj B used this Sutta to bring teach happiness to lay people, why did he had to change/modify the 4 Noble Truth (Buddha knew better since He was enlightened and He would have used the word Happiness as 1st Noble Truth if He knew it would work for us, why did He use the word Suffering? There is so much more to it).

      Sorry, no offence but meant to protect & prolong the Words of the Buddha.

    • Hi Laity,

      To have unconditional faith in the statement “the theravada tradition is the first tradition of the original true Dhamma of the Buddha in Pali” can be unwise. It should be remembered that firstly, these were the words of Arahant Ananda as he recalled and that they were not written down for a couple of hundreds of years after that. While one would like to think that the writings would be pretty close to what the Buddha himself said this cannot be guaranteed 100%. After all Buddha himself said not to put ones total faith in the scriptures (Kalama Sutta) but to rely on ones own experiences and inferences.

      Secondly, many skillful teachers have used various interpretations of the Dhamma and Ven. Brahm is not different to many others in this respect. That is exactly why we have so many commentaries today. Even the great Ajanh Chah commonly used the term stillness which is not usually found in the scriptures. Ajahn Sumedho uses ‘Sound of Silence’ quite often, a term that is not found in the scriptures. One could find fault if any one of them claimed that these were Buddha’s original words but I have not seen any one of them claiming as such. We need to view these statements from Ven. Brahm in that context.

    • Sorry Guptila de Silva,

      Those words like “stillness” and “sound of silence” are metaphors to explain further and clearer for the understanding of the lay people, so they could visualize/comprehend the meaning.
      I am not enlightened to comment further.Thank you for your explanation.

    • Dear Laity,

      The idea that the Theraveda tradition is spotless and free of any alteration or addition is a common misconception that many of us live with. Upon closer examination , it doesn’t live up to this reputation 100 %. I would think maybe 80% or so . Of course, if one likes to believe everything without proper discernment and investigating for oneself one is free to do so. But that is not something the Buddha recommended.

      It is good to be able to distinguish between two types of books. One type is an exact translation of the Suttra. This type of would try to say exactly what was in the Pali Canon, but in a different language . For example, various translation of the Palis Canon excerpts by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

      There are original books that people write using their own words instead of translating. There is no rule saying that a monk can only translate the Pali Canon and cannot write any other types of books other than translating . The book ” Opening the Door of Your Heart” is not a work of translation. He is not translating any excerpt of the Buddha’s words in the Pali Canon, nor does he claim that this is an exact translation of the Pali Canon. It is something he wrote. If Ajahn Brahm write a book of his own words and say that this is the words of the Buddha himself or a translation of the Pali Canon, then we can use this example to say Ajahn Brahm wrongly translated the Buddha’s words. But ” Opening the Door of Your Heart” is not a work of translation from Pali.

      The exact translation of the Four Noble Truth is always there. What Ajahn Brahm said was a commentary. It was meant to serve as an illustration or explanation. Clearly, it was not claimed to be the exact words of the Buddha.

    • Hi iMeditation,

      With permission, please allow me to elaborate further and let me try again.

      The crux of Buddha’s Dhamma is meant primarily for monks/nuns/lay renunciants.After Buddha’s enlightenment, Buddha did not go round blowing the trumpet and hitting the gong/cymbal and teach to the mass audience. He knew lay people would find it difficult to understand His Dhamma, so the first people He taught where those who have had obtained Jhanas/meditated or those arahants-to be, on the 4 Nobel Truths & 8 fold Nobel Path (pls correct me if wrong as i learned this from Dhamma books, not my own understanding.

      The 4 Nobel Truth is not a mundane Truth, it is a Supramundane Truth. By trying to explain it in a lay term would distort the Truth and further make lay people more deluded and drifted away from the Truth. Although,AB meant good for all to be happy by putting it the other way round, lay folks would still be ignorant.

      Only without ignorance, we could comprehend or “see” the 4 Noble Truth (if it is so easy to understand the 4 Nobel Truth, then we are putting down the Buddha’s Dhamma & Englightenment).

      Buddha taught differently to different people and according to their levels of purity and cultivation of their minds or understanding, as only the Buddha could “tell” with His enlightened power. Buddha did not use the “rifle range” approach (marketing terminology) to teach the 4 Noble Truth. He only taught this to the monks (O’ Monk).

      It is said that, until and unless we understood the 4 Noble Truth in the supramundane sense, we would still be ignorant. One could only grasp the understanding not from theory or analysis or commentaries but through one’s own “Realization” and it should not be taken as sufferings per se (emotional) but THE TRUTH (rationale).

      By rearranging the 4 Nobel Truth would cause more delusion and no realization and misleading.The future generations would take this revised version (mundane) to be the Buddha’s 4 Noble Truth, if not properly guided. This would not liberate us but put us back to Samsara.

      Imo, the Buddha’s 4 Noble Truth is to be realized and not to be learned or interpreted.Only after realization, perhaps through dhamma practise/observation/relection/contemplation and meditation,could one understand the 4 Noble Truth meant by the Buddha, which is not easy to understand or accept. Hope this clarified my concern.

      Thank you for your views.

    • Dear Laity,

      Laity wrote : “He only taught this to the monks (O’ Monk).”

      ***I would like to say that just because most sutras started out with ‘ O’ Monk’, it doesn’t mean that only monks are entitled to listen or learn about the Four Noble Truth or other sutras.

      Laity wrote- ” He knew lay people would find it difficult to understand His Dhamma, so the first people He taught where those who have had obtained Jhanas/meditated or those arahants-to be, on the 4 Nobel Truths & 8 fold Nobel Path.”

      ***Given that these were the first people that he taught but they are not the last people, nor are they the only ones that he taught. He may started with the ones ” with few dust in their eyes” , but went on to teach the Four Noble Truth and the Eightfold Path to countless beings, lay and monastics alike.

      Laity wrote: “It is said that, until and unless we understood the 4 Noble Truth in the supramundane sense, we would still be ignorant. One could only grasp the understanding not from theory or analysis or commentaries but through one’s own “Realization” and it should not be taken as sufferings per se (emotional) but THE TRUTH (rationale)….Imo, the Buddha’s 4 Noble Truth is to be realized and not to be learned or interpreted.Only after realization, perhaps through dhamma practise/observation/relection/contemplation and meditation,could one understand the 4 Noble Truth meant by the Buddha, which is not easy to understand or accept.”

      ***It is not easy to grasp the Four Noble Truth without jhanas, but that doesn’t mean that the Four Noble Truth should only be taught to people after they have attained jhanas. It may requires jhana to fully grasp the Four Noble Truth, but one doesn’t have to have jhana before being allowed to learn or hear about it.

      We should read everything Ajahn Brahm said about the Four Noble Truth to understand what he is trying to convey. Just reading a few line that he wrote on the subject and come to a hasty conclusion about what he meant to say is not recommended .

      About the Four Noble Truth , Ajahn Brahm also wrote that:

      The four noble truths are the central teaching of the Buddha. The first of these truths is the truth of Dhukkha. …One reason why beings do not understand dukkha is that they see only this present life, and often only a portion of this life. Already in denial about their inevitable sickness and death, they deny their past and future lives even more strongly! When one does not seek out the full picture, one will never reach full understanding. Thus those who commit themselves to truth, and aspire to the freedom that truth brings, must challenge this profound denial of rebirth with the deep insight born of jhana.
      For when one does gain the deep insight of many lives, based on jhana and consequently without any doubt, then deep insight can arise into the full meaning of dhukkha. One can now understand the saying of the Buddha like the following:

      ” For such a long time have your bones filled the cemeteries, long enough to experience revulsion to life, to become dispassionate to life and liberated from life.” ( SN I5I,I)

      For a more complete understanding of what Ajahn Brahm is trying to convey , I recommend reading his book ” Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond”.

    • Dear iMeditation,

      My gentle rebuttal in reciprocal.

      To the best of my knowledge gathered from the Suttas, only a Samma Sambuddha could teach the Dhamma, all of us including our Ajhans are learning and teaching what our Buddha taught and discovered via his enlightenment.Other teachings not in line with the Buddha’s teachings are not the true Dhamma taught by our Samma Sambuddha.

      The sole purpose of Dhamma is for self-realization to pursue Nibbanic bliss and to end samsara for oneself and to help others in the same pursuits, nothing else. All the rest not in accordance to the Buddha’s Dhamma and sayings in the Suttas, are worldy dhamma or disciples’ dhamma, not Buddha’s Dhamma.

      Sorry, dont mean to argue with you, but i am entitled to my opinion and you are also entitled to your own opinions according to our understanding and perception. Have a peaceful day.

    • Dear Laity,

      Samma Sam Buddha refers to one who gains full Enlightenment by his own effort without a teacher ( Buddha). Obviously, all of us including our Ajahns are learning and teaching what our Buddha taught and discovered via his enlightenment. If one wants to disregard what other disciples of the Buddha says about Buddha dharma, then there is the option of learning Pali and read the Suttras in Pali for oneself like various monks do. Personally, I find commentaries by Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Brahm, and translated texts by Bhikkhu Bodhi to be very helpful. I agree with John Roberts from the Buddhist Council of the Northwest when he said this about Ajahn Brahm’s book ” Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond” :

      ” Ajahn Brahm sweeps away the mysteries surrounding the Jhanas. Salted with his often witty stories, this book is like an operator’s manual that one finds after struggling for years with a foreign-language manual. Brahm uses accessible language to explain subjects that other teachers shy away from. This is a bold and important book.”

      With metta,

    • Dear Laity,

      You said:

      “Buddha taught differently to different people and according to their levels of purity and cultivation of their minds or understanding, as only the Buddha could “tell” with His enlightened power. Buddha did not use the “rifle range” approach (marketing terminology) to teach the 4 Noble Truth. He only taught this to the monks (O’ Monk).”

      It is pretty obvious that you critiqued Ajahn Brahms’ teaching styles without having heard many of his talks. I’ve listened to about 90% of what’s available online, and I can tell that his teachings are audience-centred. I don’t know if he is englightened or not, but I can say that he teaches what is needed for and spiritually beneficial to that particular group of audience or as requested.

      I wish you could open the door of your heart to benefit from what Ajahn Brahm has been teaching, and you will find peace in your heart.

      With metta,


    • Dear Dheerayupa,

      Well, people like you and the masses would not know or tell the difference.

      However, people who have meditated and know the indepth of Dhamma would know and could tell the difference.

      Buddha’s Dhamma is very profound and takes a lot of reflection and contemplation to really understand it.

      Meditation is helpful as defilements removed and wisdom arise and one needs clarity of mind and “silence” to understand /grasp the Buddha’s true dhamma and its meaning.-
      With loving metta from the heart.

    • Dear Frustrated,

      It would be a hasty to jump to the conclusion that Dheerayupa doesn’t meditate. It is also possible that she attends meditation retreats often and meditate deeply.

    • Dear iMeditation and Frustrated,

      First of all, thank you so much, iMeditation, for your kind words. 🙂

      I agree with Frustrated, who kindly reminded us that:

      Buddha’s Dhamma is very profound and takes a lot of reflection and contemplation to really understand it.

      So, not all people who meditate and attend meditation retreats will get enlightened in this lifetime. So, dear Frustrated, I admit I’m still defiled and deluded.

      What I will speak of next is simply my personal experience. I’m happy to praise myself that I have become a better being after I have found and appreciated Ajahn Brahm’s talks on dhamma, and followed his teachings.

      For that, I will never ever cease to feel grateful to Ajahn Brahm.

      I believe, iMeditation, that you will understand me and what I’m saying – what it feels like to finally realise that we have wasted so much time allowing ourselves to get lost in our own delusions and jump up and down with life’s ups and downs.

      Today is Christmas Eve and Ajahn Chah said that we Buddhists could also celebrate Chirstmas as it is a time of sharing loving kindness and of peace, and he jokingly called it Buddhamas. (according to Ajahn Brahm’s talk on Happy Buddhamas on BSWA)

      So, may I wish you all ‘HAPPY BUDDHAMAS’! May the Buddha’s teachings enable you to see dhamma and culture a beatiful heart.

      With much metta,
      Yours in dhamma,


    • Dear Dhamma friends,

      I seem to agree with Laity. Buddha’s order of the 4 Noble Truth could not be re-arranged as it would loose its true meaning and the Truth. The rearranged 4 Noble Truth by Ajahn Brahm is like “running” away from the 4 Noble Truth expounded by our Buddha, although i could see that Ajahn Brahm meant good by trying to make people in the mass understand that the end of suffering is Happiness in a mundane level.

      I deeply contemplated on the Buddha’s 4 Noble Truth and reflected on it in our present life.

      I come to my own conclusion that it is the ultimate Truth. We need to come to terms with it and as a result, happiness or rather peace will come naturally, a kind of spiritual and reality acceptance rather than in a denial mode (if the 4 Noble Truth is rearranged).

      Once one buys into the Buddha’s 4 Noble Truth, there comes a peace, when we acknowledge the reality and fact that as long as we are reborn as a being, we are subject to “sufferings” and if this sink into oneself, one can come to terms with it and be at peace instead of trying to “mask” it or “lace” it with happiness, as it would not help people to want to end suffering or “get out” of samsara. For example, sickness, if we come to terms that we are subject to sickness, then we could accept it with peace when it strikes, as it is part of the “suffering” that Buddha was trying to convey (a reality as long as we are still in samsara or have not gone beyond), and that itself end our suffeing mentally as we now know that physically we cannot escape from sickness.

      Buddha’s 4 Noble Truth is more for mental happiness if we see and accept the Truth and by denying it would bring more suffeings both mentally and physically as they are intertwined. Sorry, not good in my explanation but hope you could grasp it.
      Peace(Happiness) = acceptance of the Truth.

  11. Dear Richie and Ajahn Sujato,

    Ajahn Brahm once replied to said question that once one attains enlightenment at the levels of Anagami or Arahat, one will have no desire to live a life with attachments and it is thus natural for them to renunciate and live a monastic life.

    • Dear Michael,

      Thanks so much. Sanitsuda’s saying pretty much what I said in the Projections’ post – without the ‘pop psychology’. Good on her.

  12. Dear Bhante,

    Change is the only constant (impermanence) so reform is change. Not only in Theravada, so is Mahayana. An example is Chinese Mahayana Buddhism because of reforms stretching from the era when Buddhism first spread to China, evolved into 8 major schools (sects). Even till today, reform is ongoing (especially in Taiwan where Chinese Buddhism is free to pratise before China opened up) and there is a growing movement towards the serious study and good understanding of Agama Sutra, in particular the Samyutta Nikaya as the source and foundation of the Buddha Dhamma (“mother” of all Dhamma) which in essence contradict and critical of many of the assumed thoughts and teachings of many renowned Chinese Mahayana Masters. Even in modern day Japan, “Critical Buddhism” is a trend to be reckoned with, challenging and upsetting many of the long held traditional assumed teachings and interpretation of many of the ancient renowned Japanese Dhamma Masters. So reform is evolving and for the well being of the Buddha Dhamma, even though they will cause discomfort, controversy and upset some established organisations or lineages.

    • Dear TS,

      Yes, the reform is ongoing. I have had a little contact with the reformist trends you speak of, especially in Taiwan. There is a lot more serious study of the early Buddhist teachings happening there than in Thailand. even the Japanese Taisho canon in the 1920s contains a fairly systematic notes on the Chinese Agama suttas and their corresponding texts in the Pali canon. Nearly a century later, this is still almost completely unknown in Theravada lands. When I spoke with some of the leaders of the Dhamma Society (World Tipitaka), who have spent a huge effort to compile the most accurate text of the Pali canon, they had never even heard of the corresponding Agama suttas. It is such a shame that the East Asian Sangha has made great efforts to reach out to the Theravada, and recognizes the unique strengths of the Theravada tradition, and yet the Theravadin institutions themselves maintain their ancient sectarianism. Hopefully things will change: there’s an academic journal now through Mahaculalongkorn Uni in Bangkok, which has published articles by Ven Analayo and others, and I have an article coming out there soon.

  13. Regarding the article on the Bangkok post, I really like what is said here:

    “Given rife monastic misconduct, the clergy’s refusal to ordain women, and the lay Buddhists deeply lost in the world of materialism driven by greed and violence, we should not be surprised at the current state of Buddhism in Thailand.”

    I can’t help recalling Ajahn Chah’s simile that Thailand is like an old tree with less productivity, while the West are like saplings ready to flourish. (Sorry if my wording distorts Ajahn Chah’s great simile.)

    I hope that Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato and other good monks in Australia will take good care of the beautiful sapling of Buddhism. Thanks to globalisation and the Internet, I know I will not lack supplies of good Buddhist teachings. 🙂

  14. Dheerayupa :…. Thanks to globalisation and the Internet, I know I will not lack supplies of good Buddhist teachings.

    I hope I am getting the quoting part right here but I really wanted to second that. The resources we have these days to examine and search for ourselves are incredible.
    Let’s just hope we won’t get lost in the mire … 😉

    • Dear Ace,

      I’m trying my best to practice what Ajahn Brahm has taught: keeping a cool head while keeping a warm heart. 🙂

      Yours in dhamma,


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