The Burden of Denial

Here’s an insightful piece on some of the broader issues that have been brought up by the bhikkhuni ordination. It’s by Thanissara, who was one of the original siladhara and now is a Dhamma teacher.

In spite of my great debt of gratitude and respect for many monastic elders within the Western forest community I cannot agree with the view that perceived ‘Western demands for gender equality, individual rights and social justice fall outside the practice of Dhamma-vinaya’. The historical movement Buddhism has always allowed for adaptability. Its transmission from one culture to another is not brought about through a rigidity of position but is a flexible process. Buddhism has always allowed itself to be influenced by the culture and the times it is within. The Buddha set a great precedent by using every day conversational language, (Magadhi – closely related to Pali) rather than the language of those who held religious power – Sanskrit. Translation is not just literal to language and culture, but also to the appropriate placement of Dhamma within the time and place it is emerging.

Clearly to transplant one cultural expression of Dhamma into another culture without due consideration to the time and place of the recipient culture is not the best way to ensure vitality and continuity of lineage.
In regards Buddhism entering the West, it has encountered strong influences such as: democracy (which includes lively debate), engaged social action, psychology and feminism, all within the context of the diminishing influence of hierarchy in society. All these influences have inter-faced with the transmission of Dhamma which has generated a dynamic dialogue, one that I would hope can has no fixed conclusions, but can remain open & responsive. To assume that Buddhism is static and beyond any influence or above any cultural consideration is, I feel, a confusion of levels of reality. The only non-changing principle is Nibbana while both Vinaya and Dhamma have flexibility within them. The danger in overly applying ultimate principles to the relative realm is that it leads to a lack of compassion and a veering into a lack of deeper ethic.

These recent events around the placement of nuns within the forest order has brought forth a seeming stated lack of interest in any engaged dialogue, even within the monastic community itself. Instead we have been presented with a ‘party line’ or an official public face that seems increasingly more rigid and uncompromising, one that is not porous and one that is unwilling to receive feedback. This shuts down more authentic and honest group reflection and process. Instead one is being asked to let go of all discernment, all inquiry and concern and to trust the system as it is presented. Also there is the suggestion that if one doesn’t that there is no understanding of the true Dhamma.

It is hard to trust this ‘ultimate approach’ when there seems to be a lack of compassionate interest in feedback, something which surely the Buddha encouraged, and a lack of public honesty regards how much the monastic community in the West, and individuals within it, have been helped by other supports beyond a strict interpretation of how Thai Forest Buddhism is supposed to be lived out. Over the years both individual monastics and the monastic communities within the EU have relied a lot on non Buddhist approaches for their inner development and for the development of the community. Whether it be the on-going support of therapy, therapists, process work or the drawing from other teachers and lineages – even the main meditation method that Ajahn Sumedho uses is an obscure Hindu practice – listening the Nada sound – or as he calls it, the sound of silence. Perhaps there should be more public acknowledgement in this regard; otherwise lay people don’t get a fuller picture of how complex the lived process of awakening actually is.

They don’t get an accurate picture of how much the healing and integration of the personal and communal has been dependent on inter-personal therapeutic process, not just a leap to the ultimate. The insistence of reverting only to the ultimate level has led to community dysfunction and increases the possibility of ‘spiritual by-passing’, where important psychological developmental tasks are thwarted and denied. For example practitioners need to discern what is true transcendence and what is a premature ‘non attachment’ that masks the fear and denial of complex emotional feelings that get evoked in human relationship.
A phrase that has been going through my mind regards all these recent developments is ‘the burden of denial’. When difficult emotions are dismissed or disowned in the name of spiritual purity then that energy gets projected on the ‘other’ For example, when I was a young nun at a formal morning work meeting, I was quietly minding my own business when the abbot came into the meeting. He was clearly upset as he had just disrobed a monk. For myself I didn’t have a particular problem with the monk disrobing, I was just observant of the fact that he was now sitting in lay clothes. However the abbot was angry and yet was pretending that everything was OK. Suddenly a wave of energy hit me, and I found myself consumed with so much grief and upset that I had to leave the meeting and then found myself weeping for two solid hours. It was so clear that it wasn’t my energy, I just happened to have been a vehicle for displaced grief and anger. (And for my trouble was seen as an emotional nun)

When due care and consideration on the relative level of human relationship is denied, (admitting that it can be messy and challenging) and the ultimate level of reality is used as a justification for avoidance of complexity then who carries the dysfunction, who carries the pain?

If ultimate teachings are used to ‘wall off’ authentic human relationship and inter-action then perhaps we do need to really explore what enlightenment actually is as a lived experience? Particularly at this time of planetary crisis when pulling together is so needed, rather than further splitting along lines of lay, monastic, male, female, east, west. In this regard I find the template used by John Welwood of ‘the genuine person’,  a helpful one. For me it talks to the inner integration and marriage of male and female – of ultimate and relative.
“If the only two choices we had were to live in the samsaric ego or in our larger buddha nature, then digging into all the messy issues, emotional conflicts, and communication problems that crop up in personal relationships would not have great value. As a distraction from awakening to our larger nature, it would simply be dirtying our hands. But if we allow for a third truth — the genuine person—then working with our relational issues has real importance and value. For interpersonal work helps the person to develop and evolve, to become a more transparent vessel through which absolute truth becomes embodied on this earthly plane.” John Welwood

Theravada (particularly the male forest marshal archetype of conquering ‘the kilesa’) has held an ‘up and out’ paradigm. I’m not sure it is working overly well for what is needed now. Maybe – as Ajahn Chah encouraged; ‘don’t be a Buddha or bodhisattva, be an earth worm’ – a ‘down and through’ the mud of human relationship is what is needed. Perhaps this is the new frontier (again as Welwood says) ‘the uncharted territory still waiting to be explored.’ If we picked up this exploration, one that also encouraged dialog within the four-fold assembly, there would be only one way to go: we would see that men and women, Bhikkhu & Bhikkhuni are not only equal on an ultimate or ideal level – but also on a relative level – in terms of attitude, honouring, support, placement and potential, and perhaps we may also stretch to look at the lay vehicle (in service of dhamma) as one that is equally worthy for awakening – including the realm of intimate, loving and committed relationship.
Those then that choose monasticism can do so from a place of inner freedom, confidence and maturity and therefore would not need to demonize women or put down the lay life in order to hold onto a psychological prop to maintain their sense of superiority or entitlement. This so called ‘divisiness’ that is currently blamed on those ‘outside’ would be gathered back to the heart. A holistic vision could emerge and there would be the inner freedom to love and cherish this poor and aching world.


123 thoughts on “The Burden of Denial

  1. Beautiful piece,so true ! !
    Makes me remind a paragraph, from A course of Miracles:
    Laws must be communicated if they are to be helpful. In effect, they must be translated for those who speak different languages. Nevertheless, a good translator, although he must alter the form of what he translates, never changes the meaning. In fact, his whole purpose is to change the form so that the original meaning is retained. The Holy Spirit is the translator of the laws to those who do not understand them. You could not do this yourself because a conflicted mind cannot be faithful to one meaning, and will therefore change the meaning to preserve the form.

    The extension of truth ,which is the law of the Kingdom rests only on the knowledge of what truth is.

  2. An open discussion about the degree to which ‘modern day forest teachings’ from Western and Asian monks, is really more about therapy and psychology than anything else, is long over due.

    I don’t mean that in a negative or accusatory sense, or in any way trying to use weasel words to undermine how the Forest Sangha operates — on the contrary, I can see how much good the Sangha do, and I can see just how much the Sangha do to help so many people along the ‘journey of life’ — but, the ways in which projection and denial operate in ‘modern Theravada’ is also glaringly obvious the longer one is around the growth of the movement.

    These things have to be discussed — to not do so is evasive, and can in some cases, just lead to more people hiding from themselves and obscuring their own deep sadnesses they need to face and reconcile — all under the guise of ‘good spiritual practice ‘ and ‘letting go.’

    • Another are you kidding me…!!! My mother didnt love me enough and my father just wasnt there. Im telling you westerners are a bunch of wack jobs. More psychobabble. Maybe we should make the Buddha Sigmund Freud in a dress. What you need is some crystals and burn some sage. Forget the Buddha and the suttas read thses authors-Sylvia Browne ,Alice Bailey ,Deepak Chopra ,Prem Das.

    • Westerners are…
      What you need is…
      In your judgements and name calling you say more about yourself than the people you wish to criticize.
      Not very helpful.

  3. Hello People,

    No matter how we coin it, how right we are or how wrong other are, we remain in Samsara.

    Do not complicate life, life should be simple. If we change ourselves first and not change others first, and if we stop controling others and not be a control freak, the there would be no complication or problem. That is the whole purpose of meditation, to catch, cleanse and purify our unwholesome hearts and unwholesome thoughts with clarity of mind and not using our clouded minds to analyse until we are paralyse.

    Imo, the problem with the West is, they like to control others, citing everything intellectually, rigidly, selfishly, arrogantly, self-centrednessly and democratically but without wisdom, restraint, humility, patience and tolerance. Look at our modern society it has carved. Is this the society and mindset we want our future generations to inherit?

    • But in stating all this aren’t you trying to control others too? Your massive generalisation about western cultures shows that you have spent very little time with good hearted down to earth westerners. What a pity.

      And aren’t the WPP trying to control others?

      Isn’t Ajahn Sumedho trying to control others opportunities by denying them the right to something that the Buddha encouraged?

    • Hi Kanchana,

      I think all of you have misunderstood. WPP reacted because AB tried to change or control Thai Sangha rules with his Vinaya or 4-fold assembly reference. To me, all these are in disguise for his intention to “reform” Thai Forest Sangha Rules.

      For example, if Bodhiyana has its own internal or Sangha Rules that were going smooth sailing for many generations and then WPP tried to “reform” it by saying it is against the Vinaya rules, what would be the reaction from Bodhiyana? Surely, clash, right?

      Anyway, to make the whole thing short, if AB thinks that he belongs to the Vinaya and not AChah’s lineage anymore, then why did he used a lot of AChah’s method of teaching and quotes and stories from AChah and improvised them, change them and claimed them as if they were his own (the Perth community would not know all these).

      I bought AB’s book “Opening the Door of your Heart” for Malaysian Ringgit Sixty-two dollars as a fund-raising for his Jhana Groove Centre in one of his visits. Some of the stories are improvised versions of AChah’s book like “A taste of Freedom by AChah (AB just changed it here and there but the gist of the story is from AC’s book) and compiled and claimed as AB’s book.

      Just conveying Truth. The Truth must be told to dispel ignorance.

    • For example, if Bodhiyana has its own internal or Sangha Rules that were going smooth sailing for many generations and then WPP tried to “reform” it by saying it is against the Vinaya rules, what would be the reaction from Bodhiyana? Surely, clash, right?

      Wrong. The matter would be considered, referred to the Vinaya texts, and a decision made. This is how the Sangha is supposed to operate. Read the Vinaya account of the Second council, which describes in very realistic terms just such an event. This is essential reading for anyone who thinks that Ajahn Brahm should not have done what he did because it ’caused’ controversy. The hero of the second council, Yasa, deliberately criticized the conduct of some monks, and made it into a matter of great controversy. There was much tension and backbiting, but Yasa and his side are considered the virtuous ones because they stuck to the Dhamma and Vinaya, and rejected the notion that something can be accepted just because it has become customary.

      On the contrary, when Ajahn Brahm tried to ask the monks at WPP what he had done wrong in accord with the Vinaya, they just brushed him aside. This is inexcusable. It is precisely the function of these meetings to discuss such matters. It is normal for WPP meetings to discuss points of Vinaya; different views are aired, and decisions may be made, which will often be ignored or changed the next year. It happens all the time, but within a very narrow framework, such as the perennial, ‘can we eat cheese in the afternoon?’ There’s no capacity to address serious issues like bhikkhuni ordination.

      You can argue all you like about how Ajahn Brahm should consider himself a follower of Ajahn Chah not the Vinaya, but if you speak with the WPP monks, they will all tell you that they are the ones following Vinaya. They do not see any difference between what Ajahn Chah’s tradition is doing and what the Vinaya is; on the contrary, the Ajahn Chah tradition is so valuable precisely because it is one of the very few traditions that actually follows Vinaya. And this is true in some sense, WPP does keep a good standard in Vinaya in many things. Yet there are many areas of Vinaya that those monks simply know nothing of, in particular bhikkhuni ordination, because it’s not a part of their traditional teaching. Surely the reasonable thing to do is to actually expand your horizons, do some study, have some discussion, and try to make an informed decision. But there has never been any chance of this happening in WPP.

      You assume that the ‘Thai Forest Sangha’ has a set of rules. But the Thai Forest Sangha is a diverse and loosely organized movement with no central control. WPP has a set of rules, but these do not apply to the rest of the Forest tradition, and in many cases the WPP rules are not kept elsewhere, for example smoking cigarettes. There is also no such thing as a set of rules that has been ‘plain sailing many generations’. The rules and practices of the forest tradition are constantly being challenged, reviewed, altered. They were in Ajahn Chah’s lifetime and they continue to be so.

      Yes, Ajahn Brahm wanted to reform the Thai Sangha, because he believes that their outlawing of bhikkhunis is wrong. But he did not do this by imposing his will on them, threatening to take their monasteries away, spreading malicious falsehoods in the media, making secret efforts to turn their lay communities against them, and the other acts of the WPP monks. He did it by first of all trying to raise the debate and inform the Sangha, for example by having Bhikkhu Bodhi’s paper on bhikkhunis translated and published in Thailand. When it was obvious that there was no interest, he decided that, as the abbot of his own monastery, he would go ahead without seeking permission from the WPP Sangha. He has never tried to impose anything on WPP, merely to raise debate, and to act himself with integrity.

    • The Buddha did not teach one Dhamma for the West and one for the East. The causes of suffering are the same in all humans East and West. Be careful not to fall prey to the identity trap. It is the cause for suffering and great conflicts.
      May I suggest Nobel prize winning economist and author Amartya Sen’s book entitled “Identity and Violence” – this is one example where the Buddha;s teaching can be more deeply understood by looking at the conflicts of our time as well as the Buddha’s time to go more deeply.
      As for controlling others and control freakishness – well to end that is to reach Nibbana. First we try to control ourselves, then everything and everyone around us. Dukkha, Anicca, Anatta.

  4. Hello dear bloggers

    I just wanted to share a lovely little story I heard yesterday. Tis only a little tale, but it’s themes are that of harmony, unconditional love, wisdom…

    Some of you may know about the International Food Fair that is to be held at Dhammaloka Centre in Perth on the 28th of Feb. Tis a regular event that requires several armies of volunteers. And there very capable and experienced general is asian man named Michael. Michael told the current BSWA president that members of the Thai community in Perth came to him and said that they wanted to be the main organisers of the event. And what do you suppose their reason was for wanting to be so involved in this multicultural, grass roots, fund raiser? Here’s the reason: they wanted to express their support for Ajahn Brahm.

    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    I guess once you’ve known someone for 26 years and see them on a regular basis, you are not thrown by the unwholesome conduct and misinformation spread by others.

  5. Thanissara asks: Who carries the pain?
    That is my greatest disappointment in this Sangha. I truly and respectfully hope they will look more deeply into the meaning of Sangha. This is the only real stain. If this is one day resolved, I believe the rest can be resolved.

    • Dear Lisa Karuna,
      That is crucial question here. The so called ‘Thai forest tradition’ is an identity that people borrow it appear as ‘prestigious’ in some ways. And this is the real problem here.Why does one need an identity?

  6. The current state of individual and collective dysfunction is not a comfortable place to be in – no more comfortable than being right in the midst of the tearing apart – but perhaps it’s still less painful than bringing together all of the dissociated fragments and parts. Sometimes properly connected thinking is just too depleting taken on top of all of the other suffering: to the extent that I’ve occasionally practiced dissociation myself over these past few months, I’ve gone around feeling as if I’ve just witnessed a massacre.

    Regarding spiritual bypassing, I suspect that I’m not the only person sometimes feeling divided against myself in relation to the complex issues surrounding gender placement and the ordination of women in Buddhism. There are most certainly others who have separated themselves into various parts, too: all of the outer personas who comply with what’s expected of them and thereby gain approval and reward, and the inner being who keeps their fears and vulnerabilities private and therefore disconnected from others. Rather than dissociating and avoiding, I wonder what would happen in individually and collectively acknowledging both the ugly and the beautiful fragments, discovering where they come from, and learning the meaning behind them…..

    Therefore it dawns on me that if dissociation and avoidance rather than ignorance is the norm, then what is needed is not so much to persuade as to help people (including ourselves) in finding ways to embrace what is already known at the heart level of practice. A gentler, more co-operative process, for example Open Space Technology, so that the the metanoia can come, and so that there is no direction to move but forward. I feel that on a purely practical level, healing this split is probably impossible, given how bad things seem to have gotten. But there are other options and other levels open for exploration and integration. At least, that is what my true heart is in search of.

  7. Hello everyone,

    Good day. Stay cool & Be cool.

    This is all about WPP from Thai Forest Theravada Sangha vs Bodhiyana Monastery from Perth Theravada Sangha.

    This dispute would not end unless we have a better understanding of both the nature of these two Monasteries or Sangha and each of their aim and objective.

    WPP is a Thai Forest theravada. Bodhiyana is a Perth theravada.

    WPP strictly emulated the Buddha with its forest living (pardon me, not concrete forest/jungle) for the sole aim of escaping from Samsara i.e. become Arahants, if possible this lifetime and to realize the Ultimate Truth expunded by Buddha!

    Here, i wish to post a link i happen to see in the “Theravada Blog”, for a glimpse of those Sangha practising the forest tradition and this is not for those deluded and faint minds (those who drink alchohol or have been indulging in alchohol for a long time will have deluded minds and distorted perceptions and disbelief, so not qualified to access) and this is real live testimonials (not mumbo jumbo fairy tales or any legendary). It is a real live story & experiences of Ajahn Mun from the Thai Forest Sangha/Tradition.

    Please have patience to read:-)

    After reading, you will appreciate what it meant by Forest Theravada Tradition and not any other Theravada Traditions or City monasteries or any Devotees Societies where memberships are sought or pot luck or socializing are part of their activities (all these are for beginners in Buddhism, trying to do good and be good and avoid evils socially and for the society at large).

    Your perspective and appreciation of Thai forest tradition will change.

    Highly appreciate the translator/author of this link. Perpetual Sadhu 2U!

    • I think we need to develop a button that says “propaganda” and just click on it from time to time.
      (Oh “Dharma Protector” – thanks for the link by the way)

    • Hi again,

      Re: Buddhism in Modern World – ” Unity in Diversity ”

      Good. Buddhism (originated from India by our Buddha) had spread and diversified globally, now it has also spread to World Wide Web (www) & You Tube. We are considered very very fortunate to have the Buddha’s Teachings or Dhamma and all those noble monks/nuns’s real live experiences and dhamma at a click 24/7.

      Poor thing, those days, monks like Ajahn Mun and his predecessors and many others, all had to go through such tough life and tough way and miseries conquering mountains, jungles and tigers to get the Dhamma and experience the Truth by themselves. These are real Buddha’s Hero disciples.

      Hope in this Samsara journey to Nibbana, we sail through calmly with “Unity in Diversity”.

  8. Dear Readers,

    This is about a debate between Meditation Practitioners & Scholars.

    The only way to end this “crisis” or misunderstanding is to have understanding, patience, tolerance and compromise (as taught by many monks/nun Teachers).

    To get a better understanding and appreciation of what is meant by Thai Forest Tradition, please view this link (a real life story of a monk from Thai Forest Tradition, the late Arahant Ajahn Mun):-

    All of us could perhaps have a different perspective and could better appreciate each of the different traditions available in Buddhism, after finishing reading this biography. ( Words cannot express my thanks to the author/translator of this article and the link therof).

    For 2,553 years, no one had any problem with the Thai Forest Tradition or with any other traditions available in the world (all are heading towards the same destination of Nibbana by different means, for example, some taking aeroplane, some taking coach, some taking buses, some car, some trucks by different roads, duration and distance to the same destination).It is sad that we Buddhist are not only splitting the different types of Buddhism but also the different types of traditions and cultures.

    May this link gives us further insight, wisdom, respect, undersrtanding and peace in overcoming this “crisis” or misunderstanding within the diversified traditions and cultures in Buddhism.

    This link has changed my perspective and life and hope it does for all of you. Enjoy it (with open, clear, undefiled and non-judgmental minds).

    • If Im correct I do believe that both Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato dont respect Ajahn Maha Boowa. I have seen stuff and heard somethings of what they think of him. I could be wrong, but I heard it from a very reliable source.

    • And if your claim were true, please do not omit to mention that practically the entire monastic machinery in Thailand believe that Luang ta Mahaboowa is a sassatavadin, what with all his going on about the “citta never dies”.

    • Dear Bewildered1,

      I’ve listened to 90% of Ajahn Brahms’ talks available online and never heard AB show any disrespect for Ajahn Maha Bua. In fact, in one or two talks, AB gave a positive story involving Ajahn Maha Bua.

      With metta,

    • For 2,553 years, no one had any problem with the Thai Forest Tradition or with any other traditions available in the world

      Please read a little history before making such claims. Opinions are fine, but if they are not backed up with facts, then your opinions will just be dismissed. As we have discussed several times on this blog, Buddhism has had many conflicts and disputes from the times of the Buddha until the present day.

      On the front page of the Thai tabloids a few years ago, Ajahn Maha Bua, the direct disciple of Ajahn Mun, commented on the street protests by monks in Bangkok, calling them ‘mangy dogs’.

      Even as we speak, there is a major crisis in the forest tradition, as the popular monk Ajahn Pramot, has been expelled from the Dhammayut forest circles, apparently for teaching meditation in a slightly different way, and for being too popular. Such has been the level of attacks and threats that there are police guarding his monastery, and he always stays together with another monks so as to not be attacked.

    • Sorry Ajahn Sujato, but in my opinion he’s right. Monks shoudnt be in the streets protesting. Did you see any of the photos of the monks protesting in Cambodia ? Monks fist fighting with lay people are you kidding me ? How about Koren monks street fighting with police over who owns the temple ? If you google you can see the photos of the monks with bloody fists and it doesnt look pretty. So yeah, they are mangy dogs and there are a lot of mangy dogs in Thailand both in robes and on all fours.

      Also, to someones comment above. Why is Ajahn Bramh selling his books ? I thought the dhamma was beyond a price like goods in the market place.

    • I wasn’t expressing any opinion about it, merely pointing out that conflict has been and continues to be a part of Buddhism, not something started by those who support bhikkhuni ordination.

      Personally I have little sympathy for any side in the recent Sangha conflicts in Thailand. No-one seems to have any real vision. I have the greatest respect for Ajahn Maha Bua for his practice, as well as for his very extensive charity work, but his ultra-nationalist, ultra-royalist politics and heavy-handed interventions and u-turn on Thaksin have not been helpful.

      Re selling books; most dhamma books are sold, you might have noticed. As long as the royalties do not go for the author personally, it’s usually accepted. I’m involved in starting a publication society, and the principle I am working on is that the Dhamma should always be freely available; but if people want to pay extra to get it in the form they wish, they have that choice. for example, we’ll publish books with a free online version, and a paid for print-on-demand version. That way we can reach as many people as possible.

    • Dear Ajahn

      It would be great if Ajahn Brahm’s books could be available online (free distribution) just like the other forest dhamma books available online. Dhamma is not for sale commercially. Most dhamma books are being sponsored by well-wishers and distributed free to Buddhists, in the form of hard copy and soft copy.

    • Over the next few months I’m in discussions to set up a Buddhist publication society in Australia called Santipada. When this is operating we’ll be seeking good Dhamma material to publish, and Ajahn Brahm will be at the top of our list…

    • Dear Ajahn Sujato,

      It would be very conveinient for everyone to have Ajahn Brahm’s book ” Mindfulness, Bliss , and Beyond ” available for download or distributed through iBook in addition to hardcopy. It will be like iTunes for music, but this is for books. The iPad is coming out at the end of March 2010 along with iBook. I believe it is also environmentally friendly to read ebook. Is it possible to have Bhikkhu Bhodhi’s books on the sutras available through iBook also ? I would rather have all the sutras in the Pali Canon in the palm of my hand rather than collecting them in bookshelves or carrying them around . It could save a lot of time, energy, and resources for both readers and distributors.

    • (Even as we speak, there is a major crisis in the forest tradition, as the popular monk Ajahn Pramot, has been expelled from the Dhammayut forest circles, apparently for teaching meditation in a slightly different way, and for being too popular. Such has been the level of attacks and threats that there are police guarding his monastery, and he always stays together with another monks so as to not be attacked.)

      Could you please give more details, because their are more then a few wacky monks in Thailand and some even deal in magic, tattoo’s, lotto #, amulets, you name it. Maybe he was like Ajahn Yantra? Didnt Ajahn Yantra get in trouble down under ? Something about being popular with the ladys. I never heard of him myself.

      Thanks for any info Ajahn, I know you love to have me here.

    • Ajahn Pramot is a respected meditation teacher, and has not been involved in the amulets and so on – those things are normal, no-one would be attacked for that. Yantra was attacked primarily because of his dalliances with the ladies. At this distance I’m not really sure of the underlying issues around the Ajahn Pramot affair; perhaps some of our Thai readers would know more.

      And yes, I do love to have you here, as long as you keep your remarks civil and reasonable.

    • Thanks for the info. I tell eveyone here Im “NOT” trying to derail anything or give people a hard time for the fun of it, and thats the truth. Believe me, I feel the dukkha.

    • If you feel the dukkha, bewildered1, then please act in a way that shows much more consideration for the dukkha of others that can be caused by inappropriate language.


    • I’ve learned a little more about Ajahn Pramot. He has apparently been banned from the popular teaching venue Bahn Aree mainly because he has been, so they say, talking about his spiritual attainments (uttarimanussadhamma), and is in the habit of telling his disciples that they have realized various stages of enlightenment. I have no idea whther these accusations are true. For those who read Thai, there’s a typically lurid expose on the Wat Thai Las Vegas site:

    • Dear Bhante

      I heard that Luang Pu Tate also had some problems with his fellow forest Thammayuts. Apparently they found his method too scripturally inclined. I know Ajahn Maha Chatchai would not gossip, but I wonder if that had anything to do with his “fleeing” Wat Hin Mak Peng after Luang Pu Tate’s passing?

    • Thanks Bhante, about the possibility of another Ajahn Maha Chatchai. I got my info from e-sangha (before the attack) that the Ven left Wat Hin Mak Peng without taking up the abbotship after LP Thate’s passing.

    • Hi Bewildered1

      You brought up Pra Ajahn Yantra. Btw, wonder where is he or where did he go after the alleged scandal? He was so charismatic and popular. I remember, although we didn’t understand his dhamma in Thai, we stayed on for his whole dhamma talk till the late nite as he would talk eloquently & demurely without pause for hours and hours past midnite and many supporters would come by the bus loads from all over and form a very long beeline kneeling down with white towels to receive him and of course more ladies supporters as i think ladies are more devotional.

      Buddha had warned monks about fame, even in the Sutta, Buddha warned not to be greedy for supporters, as fame could cause the downfall of a monk.

      Imo, monks should be representing the Sangha and Sasana as a whole and not individually. During Buddha’s time, Buddha sent out 60 Arahants to spread the Dhamma and teach the Buddha’s Dhamma. Why Arahant? As Arahants had eradicated all kilesas (greed,hatred,delusion) so they expounded the Buddha’s Dhamma out of compassion and gratitude to Buddha.

      Nowadays, not all the monks are Arahants, so they are vulnerable to kilesas, and tend to teach differently from the original Dhamma taught by Buddha and can be overwhelmed by kilesas, if not heedful.

    • Blessings Sujato-

      I would like to speak with Ajahn Yantra, as he was my Ajahn’s Ajahn, and I, too, live in California.

      Do you know where he is, more specifically?

      With lovingkindness-

      Sucitto V

    • Dear Sucitto,

      Hi, I have no idea where Ajahn Yantra is. I’ve never met him; although i did hear he was in California some years ago…

      [To dispel confusion for our readers, this is not the Ajahn Sucitto who is abbot of Chithurst. You can visit his blog here.]

  9. There seems to be a deliberate attempt to make the bhikkhuni ordinations look like an initiative by the modern western Buddhists (whoever they are!). I guess the idea is that it then becomes something that should not be undertaken or something that should be undertaken with utmost care – read, ‘don’t do it – we run the risk of polluting the pure Buddha dhamma’.

    It should be kept in mind that bhikkhuni ordinations did happen during the Buddha’s time and the current attempt is simply to revive this age old tradition. It is not an attempt to modernize Buddhism to fit in with the current times or cultural values. The fact that it will be more congruent with the current times and values is a secondary issue.

    If bhikkhuni ordinations can be done now without violating the vinaya (we have not seen a single argument based on vinaya to the contrary thus far) then ordaining women is a process to simply restore the tradition that was in place during the Buddha’s time and it is not a thing to accommodate current western attitude towards women.

    This simply means the position taken by the WPP and their proponents is that the Buddhism without bhikkhunis is the more pure form of Buddhism compared to the Buddhism practiced during the Buddha’s time and hundreds of years after that! Taken to the extreme this means even the Buddha did not comply with the ‘pure dhamma vinaya’ as professed by the WPP!!

    • Dear Avuso

      I could not agree more.

      After reading 😦 posts about how Westerners are trying to subvert Buddhism, I suddenly feel schizophrenic. I’m Chinese, located in S’pore, where English is my 3rd language. Being a supporter of Dhamma-Vinaya means, in this day and age and by :-(‘s reckoning, that I have to run the risk of being labelled “Western”. Why has this discourse descended into a search for the most convenient scapegoat to distract the debaters from the crux of the matter – Adhamma or Dhamma?

    • Because there are a few bloggers appear to join us from time to time to encourage it to descend in this manner. My suggestion, if I may make it, is that when such language and provocation are used that we realize it is a troublemaker and stop responding to them.
      Although it can be good training, it is not the optimal training.
      And certain patterns are becoming rather clear here – the choice of names, the types of provocation.

    • Lisa said:

      “certain patterns are becoming rather clear here – the choice of names, the types of provocation…”

      I love your observation here, Lisa. 🙂

      Thanks to Aj Sujato’s forum here, we have a wonderful opportunity to listen to various views on various issues, as well as being mindful of our aversive reactions to what we don’t like to hear.


  10. Sorry Sylvester,

    My intuition tells me that you are definitely not a Singaporean. I know Singaporeans do not commonly use words like “recalcitrant” and “creatures” on another human. It is frequently used by Aussies.

    Many years back, one Australian politician called one of the South East Asia politicians “a recalcitrant” and it was in the newspaper. People in South East Asia do not know how to use this crude word as it is unfamiliarand uncommon to them.

    Words like “pest” and “roaches” are usually used by Americans on others that they despise.

  11. Oh, brother…! I was staying at Chithurst Monastery and saw a siladara cry in front of the everyone, man was it a trip. It has to be a woman thing because I just cant see any of the monks there or even Ajahn Chah “CRYING” in front of the assembly. Are you kidding me. Even some of the senior Siladara were visibly bothered that she was “CRYING”. Is there anything in the suttas of the Buddha crying ? Maybe we should change things and rewrite the suttas and give the Buddha a feminization make over.

    • Strange that you should find “crying” so objectionable. For someone who’s fond of citing Luang Ta Mahaboowa, perhaps you should reflect on Luang Ta’s very public crying when he announced his Arahanta.

    • Oh, yeah…!!! I forgot about that one. That was really strange, I saw the tape of that too. Oh well, Im still as you say objectionable to crying. Maybe all this is why Im bewildered.

  12. Bewildered wrote —

    ” Im telling you westerners are a bunch of wack jobs. More psychobabble….Oh, brother…! I was staying at Chithurst Monastery and saw a siladara cry in front of the everyone, man was it a trip. It has to be a woman thing because I just cant see any of the monks there or even Ajahn Chah “CRYING” in front of the assembly. Are you kidding me…. Is there anything in the suttas of the Buddha crying ? Maybe we should change things and rewrite the suttas and give the Buddha a feminization make over.”

    Bewildered — Just a thought here — do you really think your tone and words are suitable for a Dhamma discussion board ? I am sure there are some really good websites out there where you can shout and rant and flame as much as you like, or you can take the mickey down the pub can’t you, with your tough ( male ) mates?

    Somehow, I don’t think your aggressive tone is going to prove a good debating method here.

    Just a thought.

    • Im not trying to help anyone. LIke I said the other day just being Ying to your Yang or would that be Yang to your Ying. I dont feel like a tough guy. I just have some rough edges. Im sorry if Im not all warm and fuzzy for you . Also I dont drink, so no need to go to the pub. And yes I think my words are suitable for a blogg site, and how do you know what my tone is you cant hear me can you ?

  13. Nils- Katannuto, re Bewildered’s ‘tough guy rant’…. — well said Nils, well said.

    I don’t know, but I guess the guy must be , well …..bewildered ~!

    • Again Im not a tough guy. I havent been in a fight for sometime and I love to garden. Maybe you guys are alittle to sensitive. Plus Ajahn Sujato can always do a little censorship or just ban me.

      Chill out, everyone isnt sunshine and lollypops. Pertend Im a menstrual cycle Ill go away in a week or so.

      Peace to everyone that is feeling aversion to me. Look at as a time to practice.

  14. Thank you for this reflective piece. I am hopeful that this conflict will get resolved and ultimately be helpful to the fourfold Sangha.

    For the closed heart and mind I say:

    You can not give what you don’ have
    You can not teach what you don’t know
    You can not be what you are not
    You can humbly receive wisdom
    You can educate yourself
    You can transform

    Right Effort is part of the path and it does not conflict with Right View.

  15. Bewildered made me think.
    Scaring to think that we still struggling after all this time. How long we need. When will be clear what it is more important right now? So much work out there, so many people in need, the planet its suffering ,people are leaving this world with out knowing they have the light inside ,thinking that the life in earth and suffering is all what exist .
    Isn’t what the Ego wants? It is not true that in order to be alive the Ego needs confront and prove that his is always right, is not that that keep our selves always apart from each other.
    I m just starting on the Buddhist path, I know nothing comparing to you all, but I have enough time studying to appreciate the enormous knowledge and powerful meaning of Buddha’s teachings, and the great work and effect that has and still be done by his disciples.
    I cannot think was ever a more important time for your work in this planet, we need your wisdom and help; we will not make it with out you.
    We need every one help, all the wisdom is there, all the great human beings that can teach and share the truth with us, because is just one truth , doesn’t matter in what form,
    Hopefully we will awake on time.
    I have to say in my broken English that has being a wonderful experience to be in touch with you all,
    Its inspiring and made me aware of my own needs on this path. Thank you Sujato for the opportunity .
    Please keep inspiring people like me, so far away and with so much to learn.

  16. Lol @ Bewildered, just for you !

    Cripes, I am Bewildered….is joining the Sangha like a Commando course ? No lights, no pillows etc….Blimey….Oh, and no soppy crying allowed in the Sangha mate….

    • See, I made you laugh. I cant be all bad now can I ? I just want to be loved. And yes enter the sangha “SHOULD” be a commando course. Your doing one of the hardest things you can do, and you should be trained like a warrior act like a warrior. And crying is banned. Unless you lost your teddy bear or you miss your mommy.

      Peace and Love from the most hated blogger here.

    • You might not have heard of perhaps the most famous event in recent Thai Buddhism, when Ajahn Maha Bua cried in front of the cameras. It was a tremendous subject of debate in Thailand – the toughest forest arahant of them all, crying! He responded to the criticisms with a typically fiery defence.

    • Yep, you can get them from his website.

      Incidentally, when googling for this I came across this, this, and this, which give some idea of the politics in contemporary Thai forest tradition – especially for our friends who dream of 2500 years of uninterrupted peace and harmony in Buddhism, only spoiled by we western monks and our enslavement to ‘western’ notions of equality!

    • No one hates you here Bewildered. Try as you might.
      In fact, you are doing us a great service. Every nasty provocation allows us to train our minds against the current of thug mentality weaving its way craftily through the community, in every nook and cranny it can find, under the guise of noble monikers, trying to trip up noble intentions of people who have no plan to back down from the truth.
      Every time Mara stokes the fire, it is an opportunity to train. For each of us to only deepen our knowledge and understanding of the Vinaya and our resolve to walk through this “great fire being” called fear. The more you stoke, the more people come on board.
      Just keep it coming Dhamma Friend.

    • Bewildered1,

      Honestly speaking, I’ve found you (your personality projected here) rather cute.

      Thank you for making me smile. 🙂

    • Blessings Bewildered-

      I agree.

      I love your approach, too. You have a way of seeing non-duality, and the ability to express humor at the same time. Now, just be it.

    • Thanks Greg & Bewildered…. Perhaps would not have heard Lonnie Donegan otherwise! Love those old timers.

  17. The following phase comes straight from the Wikipedia (see Tara). I find this story very inspiring and hope others do too:

    “Tara has many stories told which explain her origin as a bodhisattva. One in particular has a lot of resonance for women interested in Buddhism and quite likely for those delving into early 21st century feminism.

    In this tale there is a young princess who lives in a different world system, millions of years in the past. Her name is Yeshe Dawa, which means “Moon of Primordial Awareness”. For quite a number of aeons she makes offerings
    to the Buddha of that world system, whose name was Tonyo Drupa. She receives special instruction from him concerning bodhicitta — the heart-mind of a bodhisattva.

    After doing this, some monks approach her and suggest that because of her level of attainment she should next pray to be reborn as a male to progress further. At this point she lets the monks know in no uncertain terms
    that from the point of view of Enlightenment it is only “weak minded worldlings” who see gender as a barrier to attaining enlightenment. She sadly notes there have been few who wish to work for the welfare of beings in a female form, though. Therefore she resolves to always be reborn as a female bodhisattva, until samsara is no more. She then stays in a palace in a state of meditation for some ten million years, and the power of this
    practice releases tens of millions of beings from suffering. As a result of this, Tonyo Drupa tells her she will henceforth manifest supreme bodhi as the Goddess Tara in many world systems to come.

    With this story in mind, it is interesting to juxtapose this with a quotation from H.H the Dalai Lama about Tara, spoken at a conference on Compassionate Action in Newport Beach, CA in 1989:

    “There is a true feminist movement in Buddhism that relates to the goddess Tara. Following her cultivation of bodhicitta, the bodhisattva’s motivation, she looked upon the situation of those striving towards full awakening
    and she felt that there were too few people who attained Buddhahood as women. So she vowed, “I have developed bodhicitta as a woman. For all my lifetimes along the path I vow to be born as a woman, and in my final lifetime when I attain Buddhahood, then, too, I will be a woman.””

    Tara, then, embodies certain ideals which make her attractive to women practitioners, and her emergence as a Bodhisattva can be seen as a part of Mahayana Buddhism’s reaching out to women, and becoming more inclusive even in 6th century C.E. India.”

    With Metta

    • Thanks for this story, Anne. there’s an active, albeit minority, voice through the Buddhist tradition that speaks for women. It’s possible to find this from the earliest texts, such as the Therigatha, through to the later period. Some historians have tried to argue, on the basis of such stories you refer to, that Mahayana Buddhism was more female-friendly than early Buddhism. However, it’s just as easy to find strongly misogynist statements in Mahayana texts. My own conclusion is that the least sexist form of buddhism was during the Buddha’s life; there was a clampdown on women after his death; and since then, women have struggled to find an authentic place within an essentially patriarchal structure – which is in essence the story of Tara that you quote.

  18. The Forest Tradition sometimes claims to be fundamentalist, ie it sticks as closely as possible to the practices of the earliest Buddhists. Thus it is up against the problem faced by all fundamentalist movements: collision with modern times.

    To me this takes the fun out of fundamentalism. And it creates difficulties for me when I want to associate with the Forest Tradition.

    • “The Forest Tradition…. sticks as closely as possible to the practices of the earliest Buddhists.”

      Hopefully I’m hearing the intention behind this statement – the (romantic ;-)) perception that the Forest Order is a “purist” tradition, right? Yet, if the Thai Forest Tradition was indeed complying with the practices of the earliest Buddhists, then they’d be protecting and nurturing a thriving Bhikkhuni Sangha! The Buddha and the early sangha might well be considered the world’s first emancipators of women because they insured that bhikkhunis and bhikkhus had equal rights, and an equal share in everything including unfettered opportunities in their spiritual development and realization of Nibbana.

      Wanting also to share this, an interview with Ven. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, in which she answers the question: Why doesn’t Thailand follow Sri Lanka’s example in allowing bhikkhuni ordination? “The sangha elders don’t want to, simply,” Dhammananda says. “If they really understood the spirit of Buddhism, they would not be making so much noise.” The article was published a few years ago, but the content is just as relevant now as it was then:


  19. Dear Ajahn

    Many thanks for your links. Grateful for that. Inspiring stories.My sincere apology for my defiled comments, with the aim of seeking the Truth, nothing but the Truth both Conventional and Ultimate Truth.

    Anyway, to those who think Arahants cannot cry, they are not robots. For me as long as their body exists, they could cry but their minds are unperturbable, would not make their minds cry. Buddha said we are crafted from “nama-rupa” (2 separate components). Any objections or comments to my still learning knowledge?

    I think with the internet, we can learn more in a much shorter time. Great. I need not have to travel to Thailand or Perth or anywhere to have a piece of dhamma from the learned wise Ones. Keep it going. It is nourishing to our practice and knowledge, although we need to be resilient as some of our comments could stir up negative emotions (perhaps, also good fertile grounds to gauge our level of practice and progress).

    Truth must go on, good or bad or neutral so we could better ourselves and refined ourselves. Truth must not be swept under the carpet.

  20. The conclusion of the article on, the link of which Aj Sujato kindly posted above is worth laypeople’s consideration:

    “…the fossilised system of monastic feudalism has damaged Buddhism beyond repair.

    “Senior monks in Thailand may be highly honoured as respected teachers of Buddhism, but in practice they apparently don’t know forgiveness.”

  21. Dear all,

    I’ve just reread Thanissara’s article. It’s an intelligent, perspicacious and eloquent piece that touches on important and subtle issues of practical relevance to all Buddhists.

    While the bhikkhuni ordination controversy triggered the creation of the article, it’s not really about bhikkhunis.

    Unfortunately, we have allowed ourselves to become derailed by a few flamers and one-noted propagandists into a circular loop of already discussed issues. In the process, I fear we have not done Thanissara’s heart-felt and poignant work justice.

    Opposition to bhikkhuni ordination is the tip of the iceberg. The recent bhikkhuni-fracas has been a blessing because it has demonstrated how much work needs to be done and so many different issues, on so many different levels, to keep Buddhist practice balanced and healthy.

    Let’s get back on track.

    Thanissara speaks of those who take up monasticism from a place of “inner freedom, confidence and maturity”. It strikes me that a significant proportion of monastics and monastic candidates are not in this space.

    My question is, how can we encourage more people to take up the holy life, not from escapism, not from denial, but as a practical way to live well? To be alive!

    (Not that the former reasons for becoming a monastic are wrong, but we need a better balance, I think).

    How can we develop a holistic vision of Dhamma? How do we live it? I think a good place to start is to not permit those who deride such holistic visions to take up positions of leadership in the four-fold assembly.

    We need to be accountable for our choice of leaders. And if we conscientiously believe our leaders are not up to standard – then darnit! – we need to step and become leaders ourselves. Buddhist institutions are not immune to patterns of institutional degeneration simply because they happen to call themselves Buddhist. Any institution which, through failure of vision, fails to attract talent into its leadership positions, dooms itself to an embarrassing death of boredom, pettiness and mediocrity.

    Let’s not get distracted! Energy spent attempting to persuade those immune to reason is wasted. We need that energy. There’s too much bloody hard work to be done.


    • Jason, to be honest, I don’t think Bewildered really did derail the thread — Sure, he was enjoying himself, imagining he was baiting ‘ a bunch of new age softies’,( EG us ! ) but actually he wasn’t really very successful in that anyway.

      Anyway, I hear Bewlidered’s kinds of criticisms ( and worse ) all the time so IMHO we may as well address them : There are lots of people for example, who do seem to think that the only way the Sangha can be ‘real’, ‘true’ and ‘genuine’ — is by making it all like a grim boarding school — you know, don’t sleep lying down for a month, make sure you do morning tasks like cleaning the toilets at 3. 00 in the morning, before you eat your cold and stale gruel, then wander around a forest with no shoes for the whole day, avoiding wild animals — Anything else just isn’t ‘genuine’.

      And, there are monks who work at breaking down those ‘images’ and who downplay that side of it — and there are also some monks who do play up these ‘images’ because some lay people buy into it and are impressed by the appearance of it all.

      I don’t think it’s too bad to discuss these images and views. I don’t think it’s actually that controversial or divisive to do so — depending of course, on how people go about the discussion that is — admittedly, Bewildered was trying to be provocative about it which is pointless.

      Just my 2 cents.


    • Greg is correct in that ‘bewildered’ (or 😦 or Peace-Maker or Truth – or any other sockpuppets) has not yet managed to successfully derail a thread. I suspect he’ll be back for another go soon, though.
      If he or any of the others really want to hone their derailing skills, I would suggest they start here or perhapshere first.

    • Those links are solid gold, Danielle! I’m new to blogging. and it’s great to that bigots and jerks are business as usual.

      I must be oversensitive.

      “Sockpuppets” … hehehe.

      Still, even if we haven’t been derailed, I have noticed that we’ve managed to go through entire threads without addressing major themes in originating posts due to major digressions almost always related to either why bhikkhuni ordination or Ajahn Brahm aren’t evil.

      I’d like to see us get off the back-foot.


    • Well said, Jason!

      But what do we say to the nay-sayers who would accuse us of being un-Buddhist when we attempt to take over positions of leadership? That we’re acting out of self-interest, conceit, the agatis etc etc. That we’re setting a bad example of Buddhism by exhibiting aversion. It’s enough to cause us to pause and wonder if it’s worth the trouble.

      Oops, that concern was an agati, was it not?

    • Jason –
      I’m glad the links were amusing to someone! – and that the conversation is back on track.

  22. Illusions serve the porpose they were made to serve.And from their purpose they derive whatever meaning that they seem to have .
    He would sacrifice his own identity with everthing,to find a little treasure of his own.And this he cannot do without a sense of isolation,loss and loneliness.This is the treasure he has sought to find.And he could only be afraid of it.Is fear a treasure?Can uncertainty be what you want?Or is it a mistake about your will,and what you really are? Course in Miracles

  23. I think there is a major point here that is being lost in the midst of this rather entertaining, lively and intelligent (well, mostly) debate……..the fact that there are human beings that are SUFFERING. There are wholesome, pure, good human beings in the female form living on this planet today that are being denied the basic human right of having access to the full breadth of the dhamma and are not being provided sufficient support in their quest for enlightenment. A basic right that male monastics take for granted when they enter the forest monastery.

    So in the spirit of loving-kindness for beings who are suffering, these obstacles that have been generated out of ignorance and fear must be eradicated.

    Whilst we remain eternally grateful to venerables Ajahn Brahm and Bhante Sujato for shining the light on this dark issue and bringing it into the forefront of modern Buddhist “politics”, it is really up to us, the women of Buddhism to strive forward positively and forcefully in this arena. Modern woman of the western world have become world leaders, CEOs of major corporations, property owners and developers, business women and juggled careers skillfully alongside raising children and relationships.

    We can start by supporting our sisters who because of their determination and strength, a path for women in Buddhism is being forged. Firstly, we can support Ajahn Vayama and Dhammasara monastry by making donations to this very

  24. As well demonstrated by the links kindly provided by Danielle above, the invocation of ‘self-interest, conceit, the agatis etc etc’ are all well-worn rhetorical techniques used everywhere to derail reasonable dialogue, and put those oriented towards considered, reflective and well-informed discussion on the backfoot.

    In other words, they are techniques used by bullies/attention-seekers to get their way.

    This is precisely why, I think, it is all very much worth the trouble. The argument that this world is samsara and therefore we should do nothing to make it a better place is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more people of good conscience take the backseat, the more the bullies end up in the lead, the harder practice in the world gets, the more good people want to hide etc etc … and so the Dhamma fades from the world – one day completely.

    I think that Thanissara’s call for a holistic vision of Buddhism connects very strongly with Bhante Sujato’s critique of the dangers of state Buddhism, which both flow into the question of leadership.

    It is clear that the Vinaya institutional model is decentralised and grassroots with each sima empowered to conscientiously conduct it’s own sanghakamma by way of internal consensus in accordance with Dhamma and Vinaya. This is diametrical to State Buddhism which is centralised, authoritarian, and sees Dhamma and Vinaya as secondary to power, property, renown and status.

    The Vinaya institutional model is conducive to a holistic practice of Dhamma in that important decisions emerge from the interactions of monastic practitioners who know each other intimately, have deep mutual respect and love, and maintain functional lines of communication.

    The leadership that emerges from such living and dynamic monastic communities is real and connected, not at all abstracted into ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ and ‘if-we-don’t-do-it-this-way-then-everything-will-fall-aparts’. Such leadership is responsive to the day-to-day lived experience of sincere practitioners trying to make the teachings of the Buddha real right here and now. Such leadership is capable of saying, ‘We’ve tried this and that, and that worked but this did not, this is dysfunctional but that is useful.’

    Such sima bound sanghas are in a good position to provide relevant spiritual leadership to their supporters. Such sanghas are models that lay communities can actually look to for practical advice about how to run their own affairs harmoniously, fruitfully and holistically.

    A condition precedent to any kind of wholeness is honesty – to ourselves and to others. Better to feel aversion and own up to it as unwholesome, than be in denial and eulogise denial as the highest of values.


  25. I think there is a major point here that is being lost in the midst of this rather entertaining, lively and intelligent (well, mostly) debate……..the fact that there are human beings that are SUFFERING. There are wholesome, pure, good human beings in the female form living on this planet today that are being denied the basic human right of having access to the full breadth of the dhamma and are not being provided sufficient support in their quest for enlightenment. A basic right that male monastics take for granted when they enter the forest monastery.

    So in the spirit of loving-kindness for beings who are suffering, these obstacles that have been generated out of ignorance and fear must be eradicated.

    Whilst we remain eternally grateful to Venerables Ajahn Brahm and Bhante Sujato for shining the light on this dark issue and bringing it into the forefront of modern Buddhist “politics”, it is really up to us, the women of Buddhism to strive forward positively and forcefully in this arena. Modern woman of the western world have become world leaders, CEOs of major corporations, property owners and developers, business women and have juggled careers skillfully alongside raising children and maintaining relationships. We are University educated, hold Phds, write books, and excel in scientific pursuits. So why are we letting a few traditionalist male monks in a foreign land dictate to us how to live the dhamma?

    We can start by supporting our sisters who because of their determination and strength, a path for women in the forest sangha is being forged. Firstly, we can support Ajahn Vayama and Dhammasara monastry by making donations to this very worthy cause at:

    Secondly, change you wills to leave property and other financial assets gained over your life to support the future of Dhammasara and other female monasteries.

    Thirdly, bring Ajahn Vayama and other female Buddhist nuns to your local sangha for talks. Organise silent meditation retreats for women only where we can all meditate together in support for the feminine principle and be taught by Buddhist female monastics.

    This is not the time for woman to stand by passively and allow this bigotry to continue, it is an affront to the modern western woman. This path to enlightenment chooses us and personally, I dont want anything to stand in my way!


  26. I just wanted to pick up on something at the end of Thanissara’s great piece.

    “If we picked up this exploration, one that also encouraged dialog within the four-fold assembly, there would be only one way to go: we would see that men and women, Bhikkhu & Bhikkhuni are not only equal on an ultimate or ideal level – but also on a relative level – in terms of attitude, honouring, support, placement and potential, and perhaps we may also stretch to look at the lay vehicle (in service of dhamma) as one that is equally worthy for awakening – including the realm of intimate, loving and committed relationship.

    Those then that choose monasticism can do so from a place of inner freedom, confidence and maturity and therefore would not need to demonize women or put down the lay life in order to hold onto a psychological prop to maintain their sense of superiority or entitlement.”

    Because of recent events attention has obviously been focussed on the place of women in the sangha. I thought that Thanissara made a good point regarding the place of lay practitioners and the family in the fourfold sangha. It seems to me that many of the problems of misogyny and the attempted misuse of power that we have seen in the Thai hierarchy have been addressed in the lay world in recent decades (or at least the attempt is being seriously made) and those parts of the monastic community where these problems exist can be supported, taught and, if necessary, held to account by their lay supporters.

    It also seems to me that the root of many of these problems may be in the upbringing that monks received (all monks were kids once) and that we should also be shining the light of dhamma on lay family life too.

    I really do see the lay and monastic communities as partners which can guide each other because each is looking at the other from the outside. It’s hard to look at your own face (well, impossible actually!) – you sometimes need a mirror. The monastic community has traditionally taught the lay community. Perhaps it’s time to recognise that the lay community is not just a provider of dana and aspirants and a recipient of teachings – it can also itself be a source of wisdom.

    • Thanks, David, that’s a really good point. The Vinaya was formed largely in response to the concerns of the laity, and there is no justification to think that they should be left out of such a crucial discussion.

  27. sujato :
    Dear Sucitto,
    Hi, I have no idea where Ajahn Yantra is. I’ve never met him; although i did hear he was in California some years ago…
    [To dispel confusion for our readers, this is not the Ajahn Sucitto who is abbot of Chithurst. You can visit his blog here.]

    Thank you for responding. I am sure if we are meant to cross paths, we will.

  28. I came across this online “The Jhanas” by Ajahn Bramavamso and found this paragraph below. I have read a few suttas on Jhanas but I could not find Buddha’s “focus on the center of the nimitta”. In the suttas, Buddha stated “pure bright awareness”. Wonder if these two are the same. And wonder what is this “cosmic ecstasy”?


    When the nimitta is radiant and stable, then its energy builds up moment by moment. It is like adding peace upon peace upon peace, until the peace becomes huge! As the peace becomes huge, the pitisukha becomes huge and the nimitta grows in luminosity. If one can maintain the one-pointedness here by keeping one’s “focus on the very center of the nimitta”, the power will reach a critical level. One will feel as if the knower is being drawn into the nimitta, that one is falling into the most glorious bliss. Alternatively, one may feel that the nimitta approaches until it envelops the knower, swallowing one up in “cosmic ecstasy”. One is entering Jhana.

    Appreciate if anyone could point out any Sutta reference that states the above “focus on the very center of the nimitta” and “cosmic ecstasy”.I am very interested to find out to clear my doubt.

  29. Wonderful to see so many people so invested in thought, investigation, discernment & sharing around these isues. This has all been very helpful & informative to read about, & the people who are standing with patience, tolerance, & open minds definitely come through in those regards.

    I am happy that Thanissaro has come forward with this stance, for he is in my opinion so incredibly worthy of great respect for the full scale of his being. His approaches to Buddhism in the 21st century are nothing but helpful to all of us. It gladdens my heart to know that monks like Bhante Rahula & Thanissaro are being open & free about what they see & feel, working to unite people, & aiding there own healing further along as well as many others. Even such small & seemingly trivial issues such as monks practicing yoga having light shed on them bring a much greater understanding & peace into the freedom that can be expressed when it comes from a place of insight & true wisdom & is in accordance with the essences of the Buddhist teachings. Thank you all for caring.


    • Hi friendofthecosmos,

      Thanks for your comment. Just to note, and I should make this clearer in the introduction, this article is not by Ven Thanissaro, but by Thanissara, a former siladhara (10 precept nun) from Amaravati. Ven Thanissaro, to my knowledge, has not publicly stated his support for the ordination of bhikkhunis in the Theravada tradition.

    • Ven. Bhante Sujato,

      Why should he? Talking about something already history. There are Bhikkhunis who are able to precess and there are Bhikkhus who have a lot to confess.
      More that supplying all need is not possible and one can not solve the problem of somebody else.
      Just to have a opinion, to leave Sangha Vatthu and the neutrality to simply build up a worldly community?

      A little while more and the baby will be crushed like a farrow in a pigsty. Let them walk, they have all to survive and the rest is up to their own actions.


    • Johann,

      You seem to have a sincere desire to see bhikkhunis succeed spiritually (you must be helping to “supply all need”) and to have a great deal of experience practicing with and learning from bhikkhunis. If I may ask: which bhikkhunis do you study and practice with, and to which of their communities do you give material support?

    • (Answer to your post/question Apr 8 2013 2:13 am, seems that it is not possible to replay on replay, so I replay on the upper tread)

      Dear Brc,

      first of all, it would be very important to know if you are male or female. There are some reasons for such and if you know Vinaya, and have some experience with practicing, you would understand why such is important. There are some significant differences.
      Nevertheless I will risk to answer your question, or better explain you the reason of your answer.

      That is a typical question of people who support a personaly Sangha out of worldly reasons or a typical question of monastic sangha members who are attached to worldly gain.

      You can find them everywhere, actually they are running what we call the “religion” all over the world.

      If you like to support the Sangha, than you will 100% fail to perform that what is called Sanghika Dana.
      If you have the idea to be able to make even higher Dana as Sanghika Dana, which would be done if you offer your gift to a specific person but also to a specific Sangha, you would need to meet a person who is actually a saint or unshakeable on its path. The same counts for a group.

      Not having gained the first fruit of the path, the chance that you would be able to perform such a kind of high dana is very very small, but the chance to perform simply the opposite of punna (meritorious deed) is very hard since you would have and nourish selfview with such.

      So you should not ask such a question. Of course you could join the “I do better” discussions present in every community and even win one or the other time, but in the same time to destroy the plants of your field of merits you had started to work. So its really not wise to step down on such a level.

      As for “which material support do you give”: As much as a Bhikkhu keeping Vinaya could give and that is mostly not much or nothing. But I would be more than happy to meet a Bhikkhuni along the way and I am sure there would be something to share if there is a need either.

      It is not so difficult to understand and get some experiences in regard of people who like to walk the path of the holly live. You just need to close your door form outside, without taking money, insurance card, telephone and other improper support with you. If you do that even only for some month, you will have some real understanding of mind and matter and if you came across Vinaya teach while or after it, you even understand them without much doubt.

      And no, I don’t have any desire to see Bhikkhunis succeed in spiritual stuff but I wish them, for the hail for themselves and all other beings, that they strive simply for one goal (as this is the only reason why one is allowed and welcome to use the heritage as a protection) and on that way they would be even a great support and leading group for their gender and for much harmony in the Sanghas and the worldly spheres as well as there is a lot of irritation and degeneration in our present times.

      As for your question, if I had contact with one or the other Bhikkhuni. I guess I had already some contacts to beings the Buddha called Brahmans by action, Bhikkhus even in laymans clothes, but they live a little aside form the accessibility of the mass and on places where there is still no GPS map and so streets.

      If you would see such beings and after meet the desires and need of the people you might have met, you would know the different of desire and need a little better. Which does not mean that it would be not good to give more as needed, as, if directed to the Noble Sangha, you would not have to fear that they could not share with each others as they should and could.

      Friends, I really like to advise you to work much more on the basics. There is really not the time to teach samma sati and samma samadhi. The world is far away from such.
      You need to learn the basics. There are so less people who even know how to perform Dana as there are really less people who are able to receive gifts. Not to speak of simple roles of respect and gratitude.

      You would really do good with basic work and that goes in direction of the laity as well the monastic Sangha as well. This is basic work for developing sati, and it protects you very ever you might be and what ever you community you depend on is. …I know, most will assume that they are independent… thats the point I am talking about. Not even the basics for right view. Really no need to talk about the worldly eightfold path or even the Noble Eightfold Path above the world.

      May those who can remember some parts reflected in this pure words, find recollections of what they have learned by their generous teachers and gain more confidence out of it.
      May those who can not relay on past experiences remember some words, if they come to face the certain experiences.
      And may all find the way to real peace for themselves with ease.

      metta & mudita

    • poor word, not pure 🙂 you must be careful if you read them. SO better do not if that brothers to much.

      May you excuse this poor! word and take them not so serious as the message behind.

      metta & mudita

    • Dear Johann,

      I did not realize that you are a monastic keeping the Vinaya. Because Johann did not appear to be a typical name of a bhikkhu, I thought you were a layperson.

      My question was a practical one: for bhikkhunis to build an organization, they need institutional and material support. In other words, they need more than lofty sentiment from well-wishers and men who feel some need to show how open-minded they are by expressing support.

      For example, I was surprised to learn about the Siladhara Order that was established in the UK in the early 1980s. Ajahn Sumedho was able to get permission from leaders in Thailand to ordain women, initially establishing 10-precept nuns and then expanding it to over 100 precepts based on the bhikkhuni Patimokkha.

      Despite the obvious limitations of what was established (perhaps the limitations only became obvious as time went on), it did lead to a number of impressive women getting important training, women who went on to become leaders and/or receive full bhikkhuni ordination. One of them is the woman who wrote the piece in the post above, i.e. Thanissara. Another one is Ayya Medhanandi Bhikkhuni, who is founder of Sati Sārāņīya Hermitage in Perth, Ontario: Ayya Medhanandi is a as a fully ordained bhikkhuni who is clearly working well with many bhikkhus: she led a monastic retreat in 2011 with Ajahn Sucitto and others, and will be leading a retreat next month with Ajahn Punnadhammo.

      Ajahn Sumedho and Ajahn Sucitto deserve a credit for what they helped set in motion.

  30. To be very direct on this essay it’s an expression violation the main rules for Bhikkhunis and is simply disrespect. With such there is no further base and should be excused, as quick as possible. It’s another two years training and my she find good teacher to be well trained and able to get ordained soon. I guess she is not ordained yet.

    As for a Bhikkhuni:

    “… The bhikkhunīs did not accept this situation docilely. Soon after vowing to adhere to the eight rules of respect for the rest of her life, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī requested that the bhikkhunīs be relieved of the most onerous one — the first. The fact that she was asking to renege on her word to the Buddha doomed the request to failure.”

    No claim for equality (for something that does not exist) was main overlay for accepting Woman to go forth from the home life into homelessness in the doctrine and discipline made known by the Tathāgata.


    • _/\_

      what is i what is you
      but a form we take upon birth on earth
      where there is a failure there is also a triumph

      support when there is a need
      without motivation and without greed
      is truly a gift indeed

      not related but a beautiful time i had this morning at one of my teacher’s place…

      this morning…
      i sweep and i sit
      breathing in the cooling breeze
      of the forest trees

      this morning …
      i sweep and i sit
      watching a family of monkeys
      joyfully playing with each other on a tree

      this morning …
      i sweep and i sit
      with gratitude as a human
      appreciating my choice to be thankful


  31. Thanks for your generous share!

    I sweep and I sit.

    I had to remember the story mara encountered the Buddha:

    Are you lying there in a stupor,
    or drunk on poetry?
    Are your goals so very few?
    All alone in a secluded lodging,
    what is this dreamer, this sleepy-face?

    A terrible “wake up” tradition. 🙂

    Thanks for your share I hope I could pay it back!

    (could not post with Johann)

  32. _/\_

    What is there to pay when there is nothing to sell
    Only a mutual ‘wake up’ tradition that we share and care

    Another attempt at poetry…

    My Love for the ‘U Care Leapt’ …

    1 to the ratio of 23
    The ratio of one destroyed would turn to how many trees?

    Beautiful and soothing are you before even meeting
    Your bark you release when its time
    Your smoothness allows a gentle simple hug
    You absorb heat without complain
    You heal and disinfect as much as needed

    Your value not appreciated by those
    that claim the land you stand
    Instead they desire what is not theirs
    Nor worth a dime
    for losses they would incur over time

    Frustrated i object without might
    But I learnt from you to release over time
    Praying for your smooth and safe return as your right in time …

    from an amateur poetry drunkard and dreamer with a sleepy-face ? 🙂


  33. _/\_

    the leaves that moves?
    the wind that moves?
    the earth that moves?
    the mind that moves?


    wind comes to the ears, mind comes to receive
    knowing knowing knowing
    return to …


  34. No seriously control freaks are just apart of life and someone’s gotta do it; keep things in line etc there are many kind Buddhists and being humble well sure that is lession to be learnt.

    Ageism seems to be lessening somewhat in Buddhism; just because it is against our constitution to discriminate on age doesn’t mean Buddhist can’t do it- considering the majority of the population are getting on though that might be a good thing if men want to perve at young girls it is not there fault, probably just something to do with not being able to have kids themselves.

    If it weren’t for Ajahn Brahm and the likes of Ajahn Sujato etc ordaining women Theravarden Buddhism might have died out in Australia and probably the West – would anything really grow in the West that excludes women.

    Also it is great for those young and enthusitic people to go an live in Monestries; how better to study the Dhamma and I sure would donate to male and female monestries if I had the money.

  35. Probable the only reason that the Buddha left his wife and kid was that she had a new man in her life – the son; so no need for a relationship with him when you can ahve a more pure life – what a genius he was – to think of that and then to go off and save the world. See the Buddha is truely compassionate and wise.

  36. I’m very glad to have stumbled across your blog. I have great esteem for you, friend, if I may call you that.

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