Here is another article giving a Thai perspective on the bhikkhuni ordination, from http://www.prachathai.com.
Buddhist circles have recently received important news. The Sangha of Wat Nong Pa Pong in Ubon Rajathani province announced they were expelling Bodhinyana Monastery of Perth, Western Australia from its membership. This is because the Sangha of Bodhinyana performed bhikkhuni ordination. From now on Bodhinyana Monastery will not be a member of the Ajahn Chah circle of monasteries, and will no longer be supported by the Department of National Buddhist Affairs and the Council of Elders.
The reason behind the expulsion is that ordination of bhikkhunis is against the order of the Sangharaja Krom Luang Jinavornsirivatna of 1928 in which he forbade the Sangha in Thailand to give ordination to women. The Sangharaja’s order was re-affirmed in the meetings of the Council of Elders in 1984 and 1987.
The author is not surprised that the Thai Sangha should punish the Sangha of Bodhinyana Monastery by expelling them, and also I am not surprised that the Sangha of the Bodhinyana should decide to go ahead with the ordination of the bhikkhunis knowing well that it is against the Order and would incur punishment from the Thai Sangha.
I am not surprised at the punishment because it is a familiar technique for the Thai Sangha to punish a group of people who think differently by making them ‘the other’. It is the same technique used on the ‘Santi Asok’ group, and tried unsuccessfully with the ‘Dhammakaya’ group.
I am not surprised that the Bodhinyana Sangha went ahead regardless, as the stand on bhikkhunis which the Sangha of Bodhinyana has taken up is in line with the social value of respect for gender equality, and also emphasizes the spirit of the Buddha’s same message of equality.
Bearing in mind the spirit of the Buddha and the right to gender equality in contemporary society there is no reason to follow the stern ruling of the Thai Sangha.
One who has some understanding of Buddhism knows that originally the Buddha did not allow women to be ordained. But when Ananda asked if women were capable of equal spiritual attainment, the Buddha confirmed that they did, and for that reason he allowed women to join the Sangha.
We may call that this the reason ‘according to the true nature of humanity’, which affirms the truth that men and women both have equal potential to be enlightened. Thus everyone should have the same opportunity to study and practice towards enlightenment.
However, the status of being ‘ordained’ in Buddhism, apart from being a status to allow individuals to study and practice towards enlightenment, is also a ‘social status’ that depends on social and cultural context. Therefore when the Buddha gave permission for women to be ordained there were also tight conditions as seen in the eight garudhammas, starting with the rule: ‘A bhikkhuni ordained even for 100 years will pay respect to a monk ordained but that day.’
This reflects the social context within Indian society which did not recognize gender equality. In Brahmanistic culture not only were women not allowed to be ordained, they were not allowed even to read the Veda. But in Buddhist culture women were given opportunity to study and to practice towards enlightenment since the time of the conception of Buddhism.
Therefore when the Buddha allowed women to become bhikkhunis, in spite of the fact that women have the same spiritual potential to become enlightened like men, there was also the social context of the time where there was no gender equality to be taken into consideration.
But now Buddhism is in the modern world, which accepts and recognizes more of the equality between men and women. If we accept the reason ‘according to the true nature of humanity’, to accept ordination of women in the present social context would be much easier than in the Buddha’s time.
But the reaction of the Thai Sangha to the Sangha of Bodhinyana Monastery (and to Bhikkhuni Dhammananda few years earlier) reflects how the Thai Sangha is not ready to face any new challenge. Not to mention the new challenges which come with the globalization in economics, society, or politics, even when it comes to an old challenge like bhikkhuni ordination, the Thai Sangha can only make them ‘the other’. They push their own people who are more progressive to become ‘the other’. This is not solving the problem but pushing it away.
From now on, the monks who remain warmly preserved in the arms of the Thai Sangha and the Department of National Buddhist Affairs will be only those monks who are good at making amulets and engaged in business under the name of Buddhism, taking money from the public by various means. These monks in fact are ‘the others’ from the true teaching of the Buddha, but become the same flesh and bone with the Thai Sangha. Meanwhile the Sangha who are truly following the teaching and the spirit of the Buddha are being pushed out and become more and more ‘the other’.
In fact, if we look closely at the case of Bodhinyana Monastery having ordained bhikkhunis and being pushed out, the problem does not lie with the Sangha of Bodhinyana Monastery but with the Thai Sangha. It is an attempt to cover up the true reason for ordaining women as accepted and initiated by the Buddha. It is the problem of adjusting and changing to accommodate co-existence in the modern world.
Let me speak very frankly: this is a problem of isolating oneself from reason and truth in the modern world. Eventually it will be a case of missing the boat when the Thai Sangha is not able to adjust Buddhist teaching to accommodate and benefit the modern lifestyle. The Buddhist leaders the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh both emphasise that ‘the world still has Buddhism to free society from suffering.’