Matichon on the land grab

The Thai daily newspaper Matichon (11-2-2010) has reported an official response to the request by Wat Pa Pong to have Ajahn Brahm expelled from Bodhinyana monastery and the land turned over to WPP.

The articles says that the Thai National Office of Buddhism has written to WPP, saying that it would be difficult to take the property, as it rests with the decision of the lay committee (BSWA), who are very supportive of Ajahn Brahm.

It seems the Thai officials want to continue to stay out of the affair, and are simply using a legal pretext rather than making a stand on principle. This is a common technique in Thai politics. It’s good that the official managers of Thai Buddhism have an understanding of the law. The Walters of WPP are simply intent on grabbing what they can and continuing their malicious persecution of Ajahn Brahm. There are more machinations afoot behind the scenes, and I will post about these when i have some more definite information.

96 thoughts on “Matichon on the land grab

  1. I cant help but think that what has happened over the last few months is a good thing as it has divorced the Forest tradition in Australia from Thai cultural hegemony and hopefully will allow this tradition to grow with a western flavor and even more hopefully……..closer to the Buddhas teachings.

    Having lived in Perth for several years and a as a member of the WA Buddhist society since 2006 i have seen first hand the wide ethnic and cultural diversity of its members. Its time for this “melting pot’ to develop its own style.

    I personally look forward to the day where all this bowing and taking off shoes is a personal choice. I don’t think it will happen though as ‘the religious” love their traditions….

    I sometimes think that if the Buddha came back today and started teaching most Buddhists would listen….as he would be representing change and a challenge to the comfort of their traditions , dogmas and beliefs🙂

  2. OOPs should read I sometimes think that if the Buddha came back today and started teaching most Buddhists would NOT listen….as he would be representing change and a challenge to the comfort of their traditions , dogmas and beliefs🙂

  3. Wilc wrote — “I personally look forward to the day where all this bowing and taking off shoes is a personal choice.”

    Wilc, agreed with you about the ‘bowing thing’, which ( imho ) can really be a misused ‘convention’ in Buddhism, but I have to say, I don’t think the ‘taking off the shoes ‘ habit is ever going to go away, particularly because for Asians, it has to be one of the most unhygienic, most insulting, rudest, contemptuous and offensive things to do, to wear one’s shoes inside a building. And to me, that’s a fully justifiable,reasonable perspective on their part, and not ‘just a cultural convention’ that can be misused and misapplied as the bowing expression certainly can be amongst lay and ordained Buddhists.

    I have seen the ‘bowing convention’ misused by Monks to boost their own position and ego, and I have even seen Westerners get truly entangled in the whole ‘practice’, in a way which seriously verged on obsessive compulsive disorder.

    Still, I suppose in the end it depends how we look at it ( IMHO ) — Ajahn Sujato has a good talk on the conventions of bowing on the net.

    Greg.

  4. Wilc and Greg,
    Regarding bowing and shoes. All I can share here is my limited experience.🙂
    Shoes – hm – dirt and noise on lovely hardwood floors (geez especially women’s shoes – why is it ours are made so noisy!) vs. softness, lightness, and mindfulness of the ground below us…Like the Anjali, it is a form of surrender, isn’t it? I let go of that big-business persona, the marathon runner, the designer or working class shoes…we shed a little bit of ego and identity at the door when we shed the shoes….plus – I love being barefoot anywhere anytime – except in below freezing temperatures! (I appreciate, some people do not🙂
    When I see monks going barefoot, I see respect for the way of the Buddha and respect therefore towards their fellow Sangha family and it is a courageous act- the feet are very vulnerable and sensitive and all the little nerves lead to the rest of our body. I have heard many stories about monks in the forest sewing their torn soles back together…an ascetic practice but they toughen up soon enough!….one full of meaning….so I go barefoot in solidarity too with the Buddha and the Sangha and the teacher who is present…
    Bowing and Anjali…another surrender – like the Namaste – I recognize in you what is in me – the same suffering, the same potential to come out of it; I surrender again, my professional persona or my sex or my race – and I honour the Buddha in you, the Buddha in myself, I love and cherish you as my Sangha family.
    And, we dont just bow to one another, we share the bow, bowing to the gift of the Dhamma…sharing the bow we witness it together…together we say “thank you, and isn’t this wonderful? This Triple Gem?”…

    …it is a gesture that is disarming, when we greet and speak with one another…you need not have fear or anxiety with me nor I with you in this moment…because we bow…because we surrender our dialogue and interaction to the Triple Gem…if I met you today, I would bow with my hands in anjali…
    …and it is a gesture to my teacher when I speak with he or she…that shows not just respect for his/her years of going forth, years of training and the offering of teaching they will share with me …but stops my mind briefly to see whether I am mindful before I use my speech.
    ….the Anjali is so full for practice and meaning for me….but to be sincere that has to be in a community and practice in which the full range of experiences can be explored unconditionally (which include times of conflict or of personal grief when we may not feel like bowing- can we be held and guided by the Sangha in that space too?) and be a place of learning – otherwise the Anjali can lose its meaning and become part of the arsenal of tools to smooth things over that actually are demanding our attention and work.
    Metta🙂

    • Dear Lisa

      I love your letting-go response. I can emphatise with it, as I can see how many people invest their “identity” and self-esteem into their badges and armour. I wonder if it does not come from a niggling sense of horror at the nudity of the feet?

      But I can also see where Wilc and Greg are coming from – that customs of the majority could also be used to oppress the minority/ newcomers. That would be equally unskilfull, and in the hands of lesser monks and lay leaders, a source of much aversion that distracts from the real business of Dhamma..

  5. Going barefoot opens a whole new vista of relationship with one’s environment. I love going barefoot and I try and go that way as much as possible. Whenever I put on shoes, I feel I’m being insensitive – walking over the earth is an imposition when I know I could be relating to her, mutually affected by each other’s presence.

    >j<

  6. I agree with much of the above — but there can be a tendency to only see the ‘romanticism’ of such conventions.

    I have also seen the very worldly side, in that I have certainly seen some monks ( Western and Asian ) who clearly felt that people *should* be bowing to them, because they were ‘high status gurus’ and ‘higher spiritual beings’. It can certainly very much a matter of pride and ego — but if you’d asked those Monks, they’d most likely have come up with something like “oh the lay people are bowing to the triple gem, the robe, the bowl, not me ! There is no me, there is no you…just let go, and bow…..”

    And so on and so on and so on…..

    Some of these conventions can be misused — you then get Monks in Dhamma talks saying ‘there is no such thing as rights’ and we all need to just ‘let go.’

    What appear to be ‘romantic’ ceremonies and rituals and teachings can be misused on a worldly level, especially in environments in which people are sometimes very vulnerable.

    I still remember the sight of a furious, red faced western Monk who angrily asked why a western lay person hadn’t grovelled on the floor in front of him. The Monk then went on to literally demand the lay person prostrate himself on the ground.

    The lay person refused, and then walked out of the retreat.

    I saw it, and in that case, the lay person wasn’t the one holding on to his views and opinions, worldly pride ,greed, hatred and delusion — it was the Monk who was doing so.

    I have never forgotten that.

    That Western Monk was no novice either — he had been in the robes since the late ’70’s.

    • Greg,
      I am so sorry to hear about that experience. That feels very much like the storm we have just weathered. An apparent misunderstanding of what it means to care for the well-being of the Sangha. A blatant form of prosthelytizing – essentially, ordering someone to practice or believe something that does not align with their hearts or the truth of the moment.
      A monk never tells someone to bow, unless perhaps the student has ordained and there is some kind of teaching issue?
      Wow.
      I can say that I have never experienced any element of punishment for exploring at my own pace and I have met and sat with (a few dozen?) teachers and monastics from all traditions I can name.
      But I recall my 5 years in a catholic convent and elements of what you describe – feeling suffocated by rules that seemed imposed without breathing life into them – occasionally it seemed as though rituals could become instruments for corralling people’s spirits rather than freeing them…
      how can we keep the ego and the power/social/cultural issues from weaving their threads slowly, invisibly into our individual and Sangha practices…while still working with that which has the potential to be benecifial…?
      By the way, I recall seeing Bhante Sujato deliver a presentation in front of a large crowd, at a university, overseas, barefoot. I believe he was one of the few monastics who was barefoot. (Excuse me Bhante for talking about you.) It struck me a little like the Buddha touching the earth. You will think I am being romantic again. But, it is like making the earth a witness to your words and your gift of going forth.
      I love what Jason said about going barefoot. I am more in tune with the myriad life forms and the textures of grass and pine needles…sharpness of rocks, coolness of water, roughness that comes after a few weeks. It just works for me.
      But I would never tell someone how to practice. 84,000 ways. What works for me, may not work for others.🙂

    • Hi Lisa,

      I love going without shoes. i used to do it a lot in my hippy days, even walking in the city. Sometimes I’d get in trouble, because my band would play a gig at a venue where they insisted on shoes as a safety issue. After i became a monk, i got used to it again, as we weren’t allowed to wear shoes on alms round. Although i struggled sometimes with cracked feet, for quite a while I didn’t wear shoes at all. Of course that meant a long period of enduring stubbed toes as i learnt the lesson Ajahn Chah taught about how westerners have ‘dumb feet’. But you get used to it, and you really do develop a sense of intelligence with your feet.

      Those days are long gone, and I almost always wear sandals these days. But I don’t like to wear them while speaking Dhamma, so even in secular contexts I almost always take my sandals off before teaching.

      You were five years in a Catholic convent? Fascinating – do you have any stories? Yesterday at our samaneri ordination we were blessed with a visit by an Anglican priest from Canberra, Theresa. As well as our (inevitable) discussion of women’s ordination, I was delighted to find out that she’s doing serious textual study of the story of Thecla, one of the early Christian women. there’s some fascinating parallels with some of the early Buddhist nuns, so I’ve been using this story in some of my writings.

    • Ha! Bhante you will laugh then. At the opening ceremonies for the olympics a few days ago, the last song was sung by a Canadian woman, KD Lang. She sang a Leonard Cohen (who was a Zen monk for 10 years) song, (Hallelujah) in front of 60,000 spectators, heads of state and a few billion TV viewers. With no shoes!
      (We’re a little nutty about nature over here. But no one appeared to notice!)

    • Oops again. Sorry Bhante. I am not so good with these blogs! I spent 5 years in a catholic convent going to school – not being a nun, I may have mistakenly left that impression!🙂 (Only in my dreams🙂

  7. Hi Lisa, well, I wouldn’t want to over state the issue — I am only mentioning isolated incidents — For the most part, I am pretty much in favour of monastic conventions, which have much to commend them within spaces set aside for mindful practice.

    Also,for those Westerners against Monastic convention, there is the danger of the Western practitioner needlessly and overly making a big deal of the whole “I refuse to bow” thing , when in actual fact, the convention of bowing is usually no more ‘exploitative’ or ‘sinister’ than the regular Christians’ practice of kneeling and crossing themselves when they enter a church, which, for the most part, is a harmless enough cultural practise as a sign of respect and ‘mindfulness’ on entering a ‘sacred space’.

    Indeed, some Western practitioners may be showing arrogance, and creating a burden for themselves by ‘refusing to bow’, when more often than not , bowing is actually no big deal. I have to say, I have known some Western layman/women Buddhist circles who consider themselves committed Buddhists — yet are so adamantly against all ‘Asian’ ritual — and to me, much of their attitude against ‘Asian ritual’ emerged as a subconscious deluded sense of ‘Western superiority’ on their part.

    All I am saying however — is there is the strong *potential* for misuse of these conventions within any religious group — and we need to be aware of that.

  8. I was raised in rural Western Australia and never really wore shoes until i was 12, my feet were so tough I could run across gravel and never give it a thought and hot bitumen on a 40 degree day was not a problem🙂

    My point about no shoes is that it has no spiritual signifcance and is mindless in its application…..I am all for taking shoes off in most meditation areas and for hygiene reasons, as this is practical and makes perfect sense.

    On the other hand at Dhammaloka in WA they have a a library with offices and visitor area where i once saw a guy get extremely angry when a visitor walked in off the street with thongs on!!!! My point is that this is a public area why take your shoes off. The other issue i have is with kitchens in monasteries…say Santi and Bohdiyana, having worked in both kitchens the question I have is that it sound occupational & health practice not to wear shoes in busy kitchens with knifes, hot water and slippery floors??? Of course it doesn’t but we do it …why…tradition!

    On bowing …Lisa’s comments were very eloquently put and I understand her position completely.

    I however wonder what the Buddha would have thought of ritualised bowing??? A genuine spontaneous bow is an appropriate and beautiful thing as it comes from the heart but how much bowing actually comes from that place?

    I am not adamantly against asian rituals but i believe that I have a western cultural tradition that needs be honored for that is my culture and i seek the right to practice Buddhism within that culture without having to change my culture.

    Bill

  9. An interesting deviation from the main topic.
    I live in Scandinavia where it is also normal to take of shoes. It’s a nice thing to do in all houses, provided of course everybody does it and thus the floors remain clean.
    Triple bowing in the Thai way is not a necessity of Buddhism but is a part of the Thai language as applied to Theravada Buddhism.
    In western language it tends to mean something different and can be very offputting to newcomers who are the very people we want to make comfortable. After all if a simple bend at the waist shows the deepest respect to our queen what does this triple grovel onto a floor (traditionally quite dirty because we don’t remove our shoes) mean, especially if made to a man who has just become a monk for 4 days?
    When my brother and his wife came to the temple there happens to havebeen a lot of bowing and they felt so uncomfortable they walked out and have never tried again.
    At a sutta class given by a wesern ajahn of 15 vassas at Amaravati students were triple bowing to him in turn when he suddenly exoloded “Have you any idea how embarassed that makes me feel. Please don’t do it!”
    Initially I had difficulties and then made a determined effort to practice and observe until I had solved it. First you have to know what you are bowing to or for. Then I found observing the physical act really interesting. The lower I bowed the more psychological resistance I encountered so I would stop and reflect, thus it took me a long time before I reached the floor. However the instant my forehead touched the floor there was a feeling of instant, comfortable surrender.
    Shortly after I read the well known passage by Ajahn Chah and after that felt completely comfortable within myself about how to bow.
    Not that that was the end of all difficulties. I have been in monasteries in Thailand where the bowing seems like an endless protocol – 3 times to the Buddha rupa, then the women to the men then the samanens to the seniors, then the monks to the abbot then the lay people to the abbot then the lay people to the monks, then all to the buddha again, by which time I am tired and wondering why if the buddha has 3 bows why can’t the rest only have one etc?
    Actually it is also interesting where I am now staying, in a Thai temple in Scandinavia. Here the Thai monks are enjoying learning the local language and customs. They seem very anxious to blend in and bowing is now somewhat restricted to Thais (often not their children) and for formal occasions. I therefore tend to bow to be polite and do what is expected. This will become even more complicated as women become more recognised and I noticed when Ajahn Brahm was here that he managed to often allow women to the fore by simply sticking to the local (Western)conventions. This is also helpful to buddhist sympathisers who are not confined to Thai expressions of Buddhism.
    So, I guess we do the best we can under the prevailing circumstances and if it is difficult at times then keep a sense of humour and reflect that it is a good thing to be reminded of what you are trying to do.

  10. Bill, you make a lot of very good points, which need to be debated imho,as different cultures and religions meet.

    There are pluses and minuses on both sides, as all our impressions show.

    The reality is, in Western culture, bowing implies negative submission,defeat, deferring, often with a deeply unfair emphasis, and contains a very strong power dynamic which can be exploited,and can denote disrespect of the person and domination. That is how we have understood it historically — it’s no point pretending otherwise.

    Whilst to Asians, bowing is totally normal,respectful to oneself and others, and doesn’t inherently involve any of those negative connotations at all. Asians will bow to parents, grandparents, teachers etc, and it has nothing inherently unsavoury or domineering about it.

    Sujato’s Dhamma talk online goes into all these issues quite wll I think.

    Greg.

    Greg.

  11. Another thought to add — Asians probably think Westerners are making a big deal about nothing when they have problems with the bowing — after all, imagine if an Asian converted to Catholicism, then refused to genuflect to one knee on the ground, and cross him/herself when they went into a church? We’d probably think they were making a fuss over nothing.

    Just a thought — I am trying to look fairly at both sides of the debate.

  12. Hi Greg

    A very good site I enjoyed it particularly this paragraph

    A number of scholars have created lists of characteristics of modern Buddhism. These mainly consist of: 1) Rejecting ritual, 2) promoting ideas of equality, individualism and universalism, 3) returning to Buddhist origins, 4) stressing Buddhism’s compatibility with science and modernity, 5) practicing meditation. In contrast to this idea of ‘modern’ Buddhism is its opposite sometimes labeled as ‘traditional’ Buddhism. In contrast to its modern forms, this idea of traditional Buddhism is perceived as focusing on ritual, chanting and blessings, ‘folk’/animist practices, amulets, and is seen as local/national and cultural instead of universal. One can see that for a significant portion of foreign meditators in Thailand, the idea of meditation as the universal characteristic of the Buddhist tradition is prevalent. There is a resistance to these practiced considered ‘traditional,’ as meditation is seen as the only practice a part of the preferred ‘modern’ Buddhism.

  13. “At the opening ceremonies for the olympics a few days ago, the last song was sung by a Canadian woman, KD Lang. She sang a Leonard Cohen (who was a Zen monk for 10 years) song, (Hallelujah) in front of 60,000 spectators, heads of state and a few billion TV viewers. With no shoes!”

    k.d. lang sang her hit “Constant Craving” many years ago before I was a Buddhist. I love its lyrics and tune and became her fan. She was interviewed by Shambhala Sun magazine in its March 2008 issue on the release of her new album Watershed reflecting the dramatic changes to her life since she became a committed Buddhist. Here’s the link http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3184&Itemid=247

    • Wow! Albert I did not know she was a Dhamma Friend. How sweet of you to post the link. I looked again (at the one picture available online) and she was barefoot when she sang🙂 Very cool. I wonder if I should try that. Next time I make a presentation. Go barefoot and touch the earth before I do it. Will make me work harder on the preparation at least.

    • Oh beautiful article! Nice addition to earlier discussions on creative arts and practice. And now I understand the impact she had on the audience and the world from that performance. People are scrambling to take another look. What is also fun and lends itself to our discussions is KD Lang is androgynous. There have been foreign reports that this man KD Lang sang. It is so hard to tell what form she is in.

    • Thank you Lisa for your comments in all your posts. I find them well reasoned and moderate in tone and a pleasure to read.

      As to k.d.lang’s gender I would not be surprised if she is androgynous. Throughout history we’ve had great inventors, scientists, artists, composers and other leaders in their own field who were not heterosexual. Life in all its wonderful combinations and possibilities is diverse.

      A little word of advice on going barefoot at a presentation. Please ensure the feet are clean especially the soles. Dirty soles are a distraction and would put off the audience. Other than that go for it.

      Much metta.

  14. Just got on my computer (+ Internet) and was about to send Aj Sujato the news. Glad he’s already been informed of the good news. I hope that this latest development will discourage further unskillful actions from those few WPP monks, and then we all can live in peace and move on.

    As for the discussion above, I really enjoy reading all your comments. Despite different opinions and experience and background, you all have enthusiastically held a lively discussion in a very friendly manner. What a lovely Buddhist society we’ve got here!

    May I add about the shoes thing? I am a Thai and taking the shoes off is nothing religious or ritual at all in my society. It’s simply the issue of cleanliness.

    In the old days, we lived in wooden house and we cleaned the floor every day. We sat and ate on the floor. It would be very unhygeinic and ‘dirty’ if someone wore outdoors footwear in the house.

    We ensured that our feet would be clean when we were in the house by having a water container at the foot of the stairs entrance to the house. Now, at my house, I simply have a welcome doormat to wipe the feet.

    On a personal note, like Lisa and many others here, I love being barefooted, especially when walking on soft grass in the morning or late afternoon. A lovely way to feel connected with Mother Nature. 🙂

  15. Dear “Modern” Buddhists

    IMO, going barefoot is good reflexology and liberation for our feet instead of having the feet “imprisoned” by shoes or sandals the whole day. It also allows the feet to breathe and be totally free like a retreat (a break) during those short spiritual period. It is also good for releasing toxins from our body as the earth or floor compassionately absorbs all our negative elements or emotions into the earth or floor and the earth emits us its natural energy into our body.By renouncing our shoes for a while, will enhance our health, we become healthier, especially,(i was told, don’t mind sharing unselfishly)if we step barefoot on green grass, all those radiation we receive from our PCs, mobiles and modern gadgets will be absorbed into the earth(Nature’s “medicine”).

    As for bowing, it is the first key to the door of Buddhism. It “kills”(antidote) the ego (if done sincerely, and not blindly or do not perceive it as inferior or stupid)and it is a nourishment for increasing our humility and sense of respect (good for our minds in meditation). When we bow sincerely with respect & gratitude, we will feel a therapeutic well being healing our body & mind, the reason why most Mahayana monks/nun look radiant & healthy because they bow a lot in their chanting rituals – wholesome rituals). Health-wise, it is good for our spine and central nervous system (one will have a more supple and flexible spine and aids the nervous system and excellent for our ABS!)relieving stress and aids breathing (helpful preparation for our meditation later on as we sit without mobility). When we bow, the blood gets a chance to flow to our brains and thus becomes more alert and “sane”.

    My contention is, Buddhism would not have bowing and all the other “rituals” if it was not conducive for us (these are all ancient “secrets”). We bow to our King & Queen as acknowledgment of respect, if not, as a diplomatic protocol, just like before a formal speech, we acknowledge all those VIPs, in this spiritual formality, we bow to the Enlightened One and His Teachings, just like when a student bows to a kung fu Teacher, requesting the Teacher to teach and that the student is ready to receive the Teaching or like we normally stand up in class and wish Good Morning to our school Teachers or Principal. Bowing is simply a spiritually beneficial mannerism (not mandatory in Buddhism).

    Not only Buddhists bow, all other religions, if we observe, all bow if not, curtsy. For those who have belly or pregnant and find it difficult to bow, then we could bend one knee instead of the full bow. IMO, all those so called “rituals” are beneficial for our mind and body.

    Please do not do away with these two so called “rituals”. IMO,it is very powerful & beneficial (not inferior)both for the do-er and, for those who see others bow also would feel a sense of rejoice in them like having a dose of tranquilizer(literally), if we are mindful. Try it, with sincerity and in the long term, you will see the transformation in you. You will become more humble and compassionate and.. mindful. Happy bowing.

  16. Hi,

    First, the Aussies want to change the Thai forest tradition from non-Bhikkhuni ordination to Bhikkhuni ordination, NOW, you guys want to change the practice of “barefoot” to “shoe” and “bowing” to “no bowing” in the temple. What is going on with Perth? Why don’t you guys revamp the whole Suttas/Vinaya & overturn the whole Buddhism according to the Perth way of life? Please don’t call it Buddhism, as we still want the original Buddhism the way it is,un-tampered and un-soiled. Use another -ism please, how about “Brahma-ism”. How’s tat? You guys can then have your own Perth rules with Ajahn, oops.. sorry, no Thai word here too, should be Bhante like Ajahn Sujato changed to Bhante Sujato, now Ajahn Brahm should be Bhante Brahm, since he is no longer under Thai tradition, or maybe not even Bhante, change it to Father Brahm (the Western style);

    Scrap bowing, scrap barefoot, scrap sexist, scrap non-equality, scrap the suffering order of 4 Noble Truth to Happiness/Blissful 4 Noble Truth, scrap the solemn dhamma talks to comedy dhamma!Paradise Hula hula, with beer drinking as precept:-)

    Please don’t ruin the 2,554-year Buddhism because of the Perth egoism, arrogance,delusion and laziness. Reform only applies to Perth only.. Yeee ha!.

    • Ah, Dearest Edgar,
      I reckon most of us on Bhante’s blog are not from even 5000 miles close to Perth. You should be aware of how your fellow Sangha brothers and sisters are feeling. As Bikkhu Bodhi warned in 2007, “If people see Theravada Buddhism as a religion that includes male renunciants but excludes female renunciants, or which admits them only through some unofficial ordination, they will suspect something is fundamentally askew, and defensive arguments based on arcane principles of monastic law are not going to go very far to break down distrust. This will be an instance of the type of behaviour we meet so often in the Vinaya where those without confidence do not gain confidence, while among those with confidence, some will undergo vacillation.” And this, Dear Dhamma Friend is exactly what is happening across the WPP Sanghas from Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Canada, USA to the UK and Germany.
      Good of you to join us in the conversation. Yeee ha back at you.

    • Dear Lisa

      If you guys want to do your “Ways”, go ahead, no one has the right to stop you guys and you guys also need not have to ask any permission from anyone or “test the water” by telling the whole world in blogs at the expense of others’ practices, beliefs and harmony. Go ahead with whatever you all think right for you but please stop judging others and criticize and cursing with your Vinaya. The Vinaya is your only Teacher. You don’t belong to any Sangha. Do what you like. You can also change Buddhism to a different name, no one has the right to stop you guys as long as not at the expense of harmony in the Sasana and deviations in the Buddha’s Teachings. All the best! I am done with blogging. Good day.Metta.

    • Dear Edgar,
      “You do not belong to any Sangha”
      – well, I hear pain in these words in many ways.
      As a woman – I am not welcome to belong to many Sanghas simply by virtue of my birth.
      How compassionate of you to recognize that.
      There are only a few Sanghas where I am truly welcome. For the majority -as your words ring loud and true – I indeed do not not belong. Simply because I was born in female form.
      Keep turning beings away…
      …turning beings away from the Dharma and the Sangha
      is this your “Way”?
      …and no one has the right to stop you?
      …or protest?
      …or find another way?

    • Hi Lisa,

      I responded earlier, but my comments were not posted.

      Anyway, i’ll try again. Sorry, when I said “You do not belong to the Sangha”, i meant YOU ALL do not belong to the Sangha (NOT the female thingy), as you all are lay devotees with no Sangha Rules to follow,therefore you all are free to do whatever you all like eg you do not have to condone to bowing or shoe if you all do not wish to, as Buddhism has no commandments.

      The Buddha merely told us the Truth and showed us the Path, whether we want to follow or not and how & what we want, it is our choice. Buddha told us if you do this, you get this, if you don’t do this you don’t get this -simple. We are the ones who are making life so complicated by defining this is Asian culture, this is Western culture and so on. We are causing a cultural schism (i didn’t mean Sangha schism).

      For me, Buddhism is cultureless, borderless and colorless. Buddhism is not a Universal Law & Order(i.e Convention), it is a Universal Truth and has only one Universal Culture i.e. Unconditional Metta to oneself and others (there is no such thing as Asian metta is better than Western metta or vice-versa).

      Wilc,
      Globalized culture – we are in an era of globalization.

      Greg,
      Motivation – Obviously, not motivated by greed or jealousy (i have no interest in the Sangha). Simply, motivated by dissappointment about all this division of cultures going on in Buddhism. Buddhism did not divide us. We are the ones dividing ourselves into Asian,Western and so on.

      To me, Buddhism is simply about the recognition/comprehension of the 4-Noble Truths to motivate us to practise/follow the 8-fold Noble Path to attain Nibbana (extinction of all our defilements i.e. no more becoming again/out of Samsara), regardless of creed,color or culture.The choice is left for us to adapt and adopt all wholesome cultures and discard unwholesome cultures with our Right View & Precepts.

      Cheers. May you all be well & happy! (No more causing sufferings for others).Have a good peaceful year ahead!

    • Dear Lisa
      I did not mean that you are a female and do not belong to the Sangha. I meant you were a lay devotee that did not belong to the Sangha and you had no Sangha Rules to govern you, so you are free to do whatever seems right for you.

      Dear Wilc,
      We are in the age of globalization.

      Dear Greg & Dheerarupa,
      Obviously, not motivated by greed or jealousy, but by disspointment that Buddhism has been further divided into cultures.

      IMO, Buddhism is cultureless,colorless and borderless. The only culture in Buddhism is the Noble Truth & the Noble Path – 4Noble Truth & 8fold Noble Path for every culture, regardless of creed or tradition. We could maintain our culture and tradition with Buddhism. No conflict at all whatsoever.

      When Buddha was asked why people have fights, if i am not wrong,briefly put as, Buddha said because of coveteousness and greed. Why people have coveteousness & greed,He was asked further.Buddha said because of desires (likes & dislikes).Why desires? Buddha said because of thinking. Why thinking? Buddha said because people think too much, like day dreaming(eg. think of doing this and doing that).Please correct me if wrong.

      Good day & peace to all.

    • Lisa
      I encountered problem getting my comments posted.
      Lisa, i meant you as a lay devotees who do not belong to the Sangha and bound by rules.You are free to do as you wish. Don’t get me wrong.
      Wilc,
      Globalization
      Greg
      No bad motivation like jealousy or greed, just dissappointment over split of culture (cultural schism, not Sangha – i have no interest in sangha)
      Good day.

  17. Edgar, hold on mate — you are going off on one here —

    Now, who on earth from the Australian Sangha said they wanted to ‘ban bowing and the no shoes rules’ ?

    For God’s sake man, calm down — the LAY people,the UNORDAINED from all over the world were discussing those issues ,on the current thread — NOT Sujato or Brahm, neither of whom, to my knowledge, has ever discussed ‘banning’ bowing and the taking off of shoes.

    Sujato’s Blog is a discussion board,clearly initiated by him, monitored by him, and topic led by him — but it’s a place for everyone and everyone to have their say about many issues — what is discussed here is certainly monitored by Sujato, but it doesn’t mean he agrees with us by any means.

    • Dear Bloggers,

      We, from the other shore, smelt something that the Perth lay committees together with Brahm & Sujato had something up their sleeves for a long time. The puzzle was now clearer that they had plans to reform Buddhism in Perth or Australia and to influence other Western Sangha to break away from the traditional Asian culture and have ownership of their own Buddhism. Frankly,if so, i think Bramavamso should have been more honest and straighforward about it and not elusively beating round the bush by breaching the Bhikkhuni ordination rule and later told the world that he got excommunicated by WPP for ordaining women in the name of gender equality and human rights. Brahmavamso already knew this would happen to him and this was what they would do to him if he went ahead with the Bhikkhuni ordination and this was what he wanted, so to “get out” of this tradition/lineage, the only one sure thing to do was for him to go against the Thai Sangha Rules for him to officially break away from the lineage, and yet he wanted to remain as the “good guy” and make WPP the “bad guy”. That was a very sly thing to do and not straightforward and unbecoming of a monk’s behaviour. He betrayed everybody including the 4 Nuns (used as his “baits” or “plank” to cross the river,literally) to achieve his “BIG dream”. Another thing i observed is,can monks set up Fan Club, like Hollywood idols? It is alright for, say, lay devotees to set up their society’s fan club but not for monks/nuns, whose missionary work is solely to propagate the Dhamma after they have “gone forth” (no more kilesas)and not to gain popularity and to move away form the rest of the Sangha to become outstanding from the rest. Bramavamso has big plans in his mind with the collaboration of his own monks, including Sujato.Perhaps, he thought he was already an Arahant after he experienced his “Blissful Jhana”.

      He is one monk who knows how to “market” himself and enjoys the priviledges of being famous. If i am not wrong, they have plansm to change all the Asian cultures in Buddhism to their own culture and play to their tune. Buddhism is a religion of liberation, no rituals whatsoever. All those Asian practices and so called rituals are beneficial to the minds and body and serve as strong foundation towards the goal of liberation. The Perth buddhists see all these rituals and traditions as inferior,uncivilized and for the indegineous people living on trees!

      By all means, go ahead with your noble reform but don’t drag other buddhists into it!

    • Yikes! I thought we were past this drivel.

      Oh well. Can’t please everyone. Onward ho with our noble reform!

      >j<

    • Dear Tony,
      Ajahn Brahm is not the most popular monk in Ajahn Chah’s tradition because Buddhists have been dragged into something. It is because he is worthy of offerings and worthy of respect. Trust the Dhamma.
      What shore are you from anyways? This is one big Sangha family that crosses many shores.🙂
      And we hit the propaganda button now every time someone suggests Bikkhuni ordination is some kind of devious act from up someone’s sleeve. The Buddha and Ajahn Chah would be laughing hysterically at that.
      Let’s build the Sangha. Sangha building. Your hands, my hands, one voice, one Dhamma.
      (What is it that is blocking your heart? If we are true Dhamma friends, then I practice deep listening and ask you- what is it that is blocking your heart? Strip away all the conspiracy theories and the he said she said and what is left? If your interest in triple gem is sincere, and mine is too, then I must understand where you are coming from. And that is hard to do because there is much noise and suffering in your posting and I see a very different story from the one you are telling. So, if you are here to share and to move a little closer, then look into your heart and tell me, what is your fear? What is it?)
      Metta (Barefoot Lisa)

    • Tony

      you have a very fertile imagination, have you ever thought of writing conspiracy novels, i think you would be very good at it.

      bill

    • Dear Lisa

      I think from the tone, Tony is angry because he fears that Perth Buddhists and Sangha will “reform” Buddhism and “ruin” Buddhism by trying to please and satisfy everybody eg. the women, the gays etc.

      Buddhism is useful for those who do not want to be immersed anymore in the worldly sea of desires and defilements(Samsara). Those who want to amplify and satisfy their desires and be remained in worldly pursuits, would find difficulty in going against the grain, as Buddha’s Dhamma is teaching us to abandon worldly pursuits by going against the grain. No wonder, Buddha said in the Sutta, that not many would cross to the other shore.Therefore, Right View is essential as it is the right road to wisdom and understanding.

      Be cool.

    • Who cares about the Thai culture’s flavoring of Buddhism. If anything is certain from the unskillfulness with which these senior Thai monks have handled the current situation, it’s the fact that the Thai Buddhist tradition is far from having a legitimately claim on the Buddha Dhamma. Quite the reverse actually. Those who disagree with these Thai prejudices are far from disagreeing with the Buddha.

      I read the transcript from the meeting and was stricken with a saddening fear that with these monks being seeing as representative of the Buddha Dhamma, Buddhism will start to become the laughing stock of the world.

      So sad.

  18. PS Edgar, I should also add that some of us are delighted that Sujato is discussing topics that have for too long been placed off limits by the Theravada Sangha of all races , and glad that he is also looking into aspects of Theravada practice that others just don’t discuss.

    I have been close to Buddhism since the 80’s, and have longed for such debates to be initiated — there is far far too much avoidance, projection, therapy masked as ‘true Dhamma’, narcissism,romanticism,sometimes posturing, and other issues in the Western Sangha that has been staring us all in the face for years — it’s the elephant in the room.

    It’s not that I want to criticise or undermine the Sangha — I love the Sangha and deeply appreciate them.

    But anyone who loves the Sangha will want to be as honest as possible about them too.

    Anything else is to me, just putting ones head in the sand.

    Greg.

    • P.S. Right speech is also free speech – free in the sense that the Buddha encouraged investigation. Sometimes investigation involves asking questions, sometimes difficult ones, controversial ones, seeking, hearing other points of view. In some of the virulent posts there is a strong undertone of quelching the freedom to investigate.

  19. Hi Edgar

    Do you honestly believe that the form of Buddhism being practiced in the Thailand, India, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Laos has remained EXACTLY the same for the last 2,554 years and further that the practice of Buddhism in each of those countries is completely free of cultural influences.

    Are you also saying that The practice of Theradava Buddhism in the aforementioned countries is identical in each country?

    I think you should read Bhante Sujato’s post on Fundamentalism as you will see yourself there

    https://sujato.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/fundamentalism/

    I for one would enjoy hearing your thoughts on this post as I think you are just a little afraid of change in the Buddhas time you would loved the Brahmins!!!

    • Hi Wilc

      If you guys are thinking of incorporating your Aussie culture (no shoeless & no bowing) into your practice, why can’t you guys be more sincere and open about it, why the need to condemn Asian cultures and challenge others with your understand and intelligence on the Vinaya to achieve it? No one would blame you guys for wanting to have your own culture, but to go about it disharmoniously and causing schism in the Sangha and breaking the Thai Sangha Rules on Bhikkhuni ordination (Ajarn Brahm could have the Nuns ordained outside Bodhiyana & no one gets hurt)to achieve this, was very unprofessional, unethical, mischevious and dishonest.

      BTW, bowing and not wearing shoes into temples or spiritual places are not only an Asian culture but it is a universal spiritual etiquette and a mark of reverance and humility (a universal language).

      Most religions in the world practice them eg. Muslim, Hindus etc (except the Christians who are allowed to wear shoes into churches and do not bow but cutsy and draw a cross in the air over their chest).

      Bowing is good for health esp. the spine, nervous system & ABS! and to allow blood to reach the head whereas barefoot is also beneficial to liberate the feet (to breathe) and give the sole(“soul”) of the feet a break, besides cleanliness!

      The Aussies regard all these practices as “uncivilized rituals” and inferior because of their superiority complex mentality.

      Are you guys thinking of doing what the churches do i.e wearing shoes inside the temple, no bowing but have benches for sitting like in a church with a Priest and ministers (male and female ministers) for worshipping? Be honest about it and stop all this divide as Asian culture or Western culture. Now we are in a globalized culture, all these practices are Buddha’s culture (not Asian or Western). Stop creating schism!

    • So Edgar there is only one way your way.

      Can you explain how that fits with your idea of a globalised culture??? or put another way what is your idea of a globalised culture????

  20. Well said Wilc — in some quarters, anyone who questions the party line is considered a trouble maker, someone not following the true Dhamma, an upstart, a heretic, arrogant, deluded or worse.

    Well, that may be true sometimes — of course, who is and isn’t a trouble maker; and who is, or isn’t serving up a phoney version of the Dhamma is open to question, and could be a subjective judgement. For Example, I do genuinely believe that the FWBO’s adaptations of the Dhamma have been damaging and not always wiseley motivated.

    But — you have to hear peiople out first,and see what they have to say when they have a fresh way of seeing traditional religious teachings. You have to look at what is being said and praticed and you have to look fairly at their motivations, their scholarship, and so on.

    And so far, I can’t see anything even slightly untoward in what Sujato is saying, doing, and teaching.

    • @ Greg & challenging the party line – At Chithurst Monastery a few weeks ago – one of the nuns who signed the petition – found a note pinned on the nuns door with her name on it. When she opened the note – it had her signature circled in red on the petition.
      It had been pinned there by the monks as an act of intimidation. She is a very compassionate and cool headed nun – and so she asked them to dialog around the impact of this gesture.. They avoided her.

    • Ye Gods.

      I know there are much worse things happening in the world. I know there is rape and war and AIDS and poverty and abuse of children. But I still get a jolt of moral outrage when I hear things like this. I’ve heard so many stories over the years, but I still have to push myself to confront the actual reality of it – that people in a supposed spiritual community can do such a thing; and then, when an appropriate process is called for to deal with it, it’s just ignored. You’d never get away with this in a company or NGO or government body, but apparently monastics get a free ticket. For the end result of this process, see the Irish Church.

    • You’d never get away with it in a commercial organisation these days, either. It’s tempting to say to oneself “we’re so much better off these days with a legally-enforced culture of open dialogue, communication and non-discrimination in government and business” and then you realise that these kinds of processes were actually all put in place by the Buddha in the Vinaya a couple of thousand years ago. Are these people serious about being monks, or are they just dressing up and pretending?

    • “But I still get a jolt of moral outrage when I hear things like this.”

      Yes, and feelings of deep, deep sadness….

    • And one more thing….this is exactly the reason why women need to have equal status to men within a monastic community. It has nothing to do with women being demanding, angry, wanting to assert control, or assume a position of power. It has everything to do with the fact, that as long as there is inequality of status within the community; unenlightened, narcissitic (and just plain mean and nasty) men think they have the right to initimidate, abuse, and use fear tactics over women (of a lesser staus).
      Does anyone know the name of this monk?
      IMO he should be shamed and blamed so he can feel the full extent of his OWN karma. Grrrrr….

    • Wait a minute….”monks”. All of them? Are you serious? What on earth are the monks at Chithurst Monastery DOING over there????
      Obviously NOT meditating; to be capable of such a loathesome and degenerative act of ill will and hatred towards another spiritual practitioner.

      The laypeople supporting the monks at the monastery should be outraged by such behaviour, and begin questioning why they are financially suppoting the monastery when clearly these monks are not working on their own spiritual progress.

      Come on the Abbot of Chithurst….you don’t get to hide this kind of disgraceful behaviour under the rug!

    • But you know what – this nun is more free – the monks are caught up in their identification and attachments to their ‘pure’ way of life and their entitlements.

      This nun is leaving the UK – another loss for the community there…she will take her light else where.

    • Yes you are right and it is a very sad and black time for the laymembers of the Chithurst Monastery, but I have to say for the very first time in 16 years as a practising Buddhist my spiritual faith in this path has been completely shaken. I mean, how could these monks behave like this? What’s the point in meditating if this is the kind of behaviour it begets?

    • Rather than embark on a spiritual path it seems that these people should just focus on growing up first.

    • Does the Buddhism of today prematurely teach or emphasise meditation? I wonder.

      Several years ago, a Chinese doctor — probably of clairvoyant ability — advised that I stop meditating because I was not yet mature enough to do it properly. At the time, I was miffed, but looking back I see his point. I could have saved myself a fair bit of physical pain — I see now how the way I was meditating made me chronically ill — if I’d been humble enough to heed his words.

      It seems to me that establishing a foundation of healthy relationships with others based on kindness, love and generosity, and a simple and relaxed lifestyle should be a prerequisite to any attempt at deep meditation practice.

      Unfortunately, meditation these days is seen as a cure for (or at least a holiday from) the stress of fast-paced faceless living instead of something to be developed after the determination to renounce these things. That renunciation takes time to practice and mature. There’s ample work to be done here for all practitioners, lay or monastic, before they hit the cusion.

      I think we’re seeing the deeply destructive effects of this attitude now. When aspirants become monastics out of an escapist attitude, and monastics stay in the robes out of the same, then the top-heavy endeavours done on shaky foundations naturally leads to injury. That this imbalance has set itself so deeply on an institutional level is very sad but unavoidably true. But, perhaps or probably, this has always been the case.

      And yet we need the sangha, not matter how imperfect. Buddhism cannot survive without the sangha – even if its just an institutional sangha rather than an ariya sangha.

      When I read the introduction to I B Horners translation of the Sutta-Vibhanga I was struck and amused by what strange ideas academics can conceive of Buddhism — divorced as they are from the real fruits of monastic life.

      Sure, monastics themselves have strange ideas about what the Buddha taught, but at least by maintaining the sangha we give ourselves a fighting chance of working out what the Buddha actually meant. If we leave it to the academics alone, we’re lost.

      I don’t think it is possible to institutionalise a non-escapist and mature approach to the holy life. It’s probably impossible to create an institutional sangha that behaves itself.

      But I still believe the ariya sangha exists. They may not have the skill to build inspiring institutions in the way (we imagine) they existed in the Buddha’s time though. Which puts the onus back on us.

      Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any institutional conveyor belt to nibbana.

      >j<

    • Dear Jason,

      Your comments above once again remind me of what the Buddha told laypeople and monastics to do:

      Laypeople: Dana (to promote loving kindness and generosity), Sila (precepts to ensure virtuous conduct), and Bhavana (meditation to develop wisdom).

      Monastics: Sila (precepts), Samadhi (meditation) and Panna (wisdom).

      For us, laypeople, to develop loving kindness to as many beings as possible along with cultivating virtues are pre-requisites to having ‘wholesome’ meditations.

      Thank you, Jason, for reminding me not to get astray from the essential basics to our dhamma practices.

      Yours in dhamma,

    • Thanks for the timely reminder.

      Oh Khun Dheerayupa – will we meet in June at Chiang Rai? I’ve bought my tickets.🙂

    • Yes Jason, i am very grateful that there are very inspiring male monks teaching the dhamma such as Bhante Sujato and Ajahn Brahm. Otherwise, I think I would just give up and continue on with a secular sangha for the rest of my life.
      I just can’t believe that these Elder monks who exclude women, cannot understand the deep wounding and harm that this view causes to the female psyche.

    • Dear Sylvester,

      I’ve reserved a seat with BF but haven’t made the payment yet. Also, I already booked a flight to Chiang Rai.

      Hope we can have nice dhamma discussions during the first five days we are there.
      🙂

    • On Relationship

      Only the true lover knows
      Fearless relinquishment.

      The frightened one
      Spurred on by vengeance
      Returns evermore
      To suffering’s source.

      >j<

    • What stands between a woman and the Dhamma is evil and shall be verbally slain.

      This is Right Speech.

      How easy is to superficially judge and extol words of right view, right action, right speech from a self-imposed
      pedastal in an ivory tower on a remote hill, when one has not walked in the shoes of the subjugated, the abused,
      and the down-trodden.

      The facts are that in a patriarchical, authoritian structure of the Buddhist Sangha, women are being abused sexually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually on a daily basis. Women who have been hammered over the head with scripture that has been self-servedly twisted to impose obedience and compliance onto them, making them ripe for abuse.

      And when they complain of such abuse, they are named vengeful.

      Nothing new here, this has been going on for 2,000 years.

      How patient are women supposed to be? Is patience really a virtue?

      Does obedience, submission, silence = compliance?

      Of course we mustn’t speak of such atrocities in this forum, it may
      offend those with a delicate mind.

      Are words of Noble Reform just being used to placate laymembers, the majority of whom are women, to support the monastery?
      But when pressed, will these same spiritual leaders resort automatically to authoritian orders from a corrupt institution that exhorts suppression and spiritual abuse?

      Actions speak louder than words.

      We must ask ourselves, is my mind strong enough to meet Nibbana? Am I strong enough to see all that is, and feel the suffering of all?

      If someone is trapped in a burning house do we rush in and save them, risking
      being burned and even dying ourselves, or do we sit in a trance of denial on a
      distant hill and speak of Right Action and watch them burn?

      Which one is the real Heroine in the Celestial world?

      Is the Status Quo really Noble and Righteous?

      Has Love really prevailed?

      As in the footsteps of Greg who has gone before me, this will be my last post here.
      Sadly the burden of denial is too deeply imbred for justice to prevail.

    • Jason

      Thanks for a really clear piece of writing. My experience certainly bears it out.

      David

    • Thanissara,

      Don’t believe you did that! You have breached your 4th precept (slandering).

      Ajahn Succito and those from Chithurst Monastery are well-respected monks from Ajahn Chah lineage who are simple and low-key. Some of the netizens here are going all way out to desperately slander those monasteries and monks from Ajahn Chah lineage, with vindictive intention. If not mistaken, that Monastery was one of the first monastery in the West founded by Ajahn Sumedho who is one of the pioneer monks in the West.

      Thanissara, were you not from the Ajahn Chah lineage as well? Really sad.

    • ycl

      The legal offence of slander involves saying something derogatory about another person which is not true. Similarly, a breach of the fourth precept involves telling an untruth, be it a frank lie or an exaggeration or a bit of “spin”.

      Would you please state exactly what Thanissara has written that is untrue, or be in danger of exactly the same offence of which you accuse Thanissara.

      Thanks

      David

  21. Edgar, you are making way too much of the ‘wishing to ban’ bowing and the no shoes thing — one or two of us made some ( balanced ) comments on those conventions, no more, no less. Why are you making such a big issue of it ? As for myself, I have, on occasion,certainly seen monastics misusing the power dynamic involved in bowing, but I have only seen that very rarely — I see bowing as no more a big deal than genuflecting when I go into a church. I don’t always like it, but so what, that’s an issue I can easily work out. Why are you getting stuck on it? What’s your motivation here?

  22. The ‘Bowing and taking off our shoes’ is an unexpected irrelevance to the thread, but at the beginning formed a good and friendly discussion. Now, it is deemed by some a potential cause for schism. It has also invited a dhamma friend’s imagination to rival that of Dan Brown’s.

    I also would like to repeat Greg’s question. What is your motivation behind all the harsh comments?

    I hope that it is not because you are upset by the news that after all the attempts, Bodhiyana Monastery seems out of reach of some WPP monks now?

    With metta,

  23. Posted this further up – but I think it may be a bit lost in the middle of the thread – so – dutiyampi…

    re – what gets evoked for westerners by Asian religious forms – –

    In Europe a women with a shaved head evokes the perception of collaboration in the 2nd world war (particularly in France) – punishment for adultery in gypsy communities – and generally is seen as a terrible disgrace (unlike the perceptions in Asia where it is associated with holiness)

    As a nun in 1979 in England – shaving my head was profoundly challenging as all those perceptions were evoked – it was a statement that alienated me from all main stream society –
    It didn’t feel empowering regards a personal statement of spiritual commitment – it felt shaming.

    I suppose I did get to perceive it as somewhat liberating, due to the power of the collective aspiration that we shared as a monastic community –

    But as I write this i realise this is the first time I’ve ever acknowledged in public the effect of shaving my head all those years ago, while living in a Western society. Nowadays its less of a big deal, even a fashion statement!.

    And just another thought – The first person I saw bow was Ajahn Chah. He came to England in 1977 and came to a retreat I was on. (A Goenka retreat)

    It was at a Burmese centre and a Buddha rupa was stuffed in the corner (none of us paid particular attention to the statue) – When Ajahn Chah saw it he went over and bowed in the most beautiful way.
    I was stunned to see this monk get down on the floor and bow.
    I perceived his gesture of bowing as a perfect response within life. It made total sense to me.

    However I have also experienced much ‘bowing and scrapping’ as a tool for power control – when used like that it is very wounding.

    Thank you again for this open forum – agree with Greg – for too long there has been a culture of monologue rather than dialog.

    • Dear Thanissara

      Your post on shaven heads has stayed with me, but it is only now a few weeks later that my response has formed.

      You pointed out the connection in Europe with shame and its use as a punishment, especially for women. In Northern European cultures with Germanic roots (England, Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, the USA) it has also become a symbol of nationalist and racist violence.

      In my understanding the original purpose of shaving the head and wearing robes made from cast off cloth in a Buddhist context was as a sign and as a practical act of renunciation. In contrast it has struck me that for many monks I’ve met the whole head-shaving robe-wearing thing has become an adornment and a status symbol and a sign of being “someone special”. Perhaps these days a sign of real renunciation would be to wear unremarkable clothes, have an unremarkable hairstyle, and just practice without being somebody special.

      I’m also struck by the fact that the “going forth into homelessness” seems to have become nothing of the kind. Many monastics seem to live in very comfortable homes, waited on by laypeople, mostly women, with no requirement to work or contribute to their upkeep at all. They go through the motions of going to beg for food but the whole thing is highly ritualised and there are queues of laypeople waiting to give them more food than they can eat. They aren’t supposed to store food overnight so they just let the lay attendants do it for them and, oh look, surprise surprise, there it is in the morning for them to pretend to beg for again.

      I think what really opened my eyes was when I understood how the merit system works. The monks tell the laypeople that they have to “make merit” to get a better future life (isn’t there some nourishment of craving in that?) and one of the best ways to “make merit” is, surprise surprise, to feed and clothe the monks. You can think about sila and samadhi and panna later .. if at all. The most important thing is to feed the monks now. It’s really turned into a spiritual protection racket and is a travesty of the original intention as far as I can discern it.

      I know there have been reactions against this from within the monastic sangha, such as the TFT itself, but degeneration soon seems to set in. I realised recently that now if I meet someone doing head-shaving and robe-wearing I kind of assume that they’re not a serious practitioner and they need to prove themselves far more than a committed or interested lay co-practitioner, who I tend to give the benefit of the doubt. That is my own judgemental-ness, I know, and not at all to be relied upon, but it’s interesting that it’s ended up that way.

      David

    • When making merit resembles the selling of indulgences a la the medieval Catholic Church, it is thereby equally deplorable. Perhaps making merit needs to be recast in terms of social/environmental works and various international aid organizations.

    • Hi David,

      just a brief comment on this. It’s interesting that in the Pali canon, whenever dana is mentioned, it’s almost always dana to monastics. In the corresponding passages in the Agamas, it will often mention dana to the poor and deserving, as well as to monastics…

  24. sujato :
    … when an appropriate process is called for to deal with it, it’s just ignored.

    Even given the benefit of the doubt, this is undeniably an indicium of a institutional corruption (as opposed to individual turpitude). The only people with the effective means to turn this around are the local supporters of Chithurst. Should any such persons take up the challenge, they have my support.

    >jj<

  25. Ajahn Sucitto is definitely not into this kind of immature and cowardly behaviour (from what I suspect was a lone monk, with a lot of unresolved pain – most probably heightened by the intensity of retreat)

    Ajahn Sucitto is a deeply caring and sensitive monk. He is totally into dialogue. Please don’t create a whole world of fixed ‘bad people’ out of this. Chithurst monastery is composed, like any other, of a collection of individuals with their own kammic predicament.

    If anyone has any doubt about Ajahn Sucitto’s character, I would suggest they give him a call after the winter retreat. Have a chat.

    Anjali,
    A

    • Asoka, with anjali

      I agree with you, Asoka. Thanissara is trying to cause further schism within the Western Sangha. She is like breaking her 4th precept.

      She was trained under Ajahn Chah and now backstabbing her lineage she came from, for woman’s rights and status in the Sangha.

      Those 4 Nuns in Perth wanted desperately woman power and recognition by asking for Bkhikkhunis status.They aspired to follow AB’s footsteps to be internationally recognized and popular or perhaps under instructions. Ego still at play.

      Ajahn Succito is a true devoted disciple of Ajahn Chah Forest Sangha and well respected by many for being very low profile and simple in nature. Proud of you, Ajahn Succito, for upholding the Forest Sangha Elders Tradition.

      Ajahn Sumedho is a respectable wise long standing monk with over 45 years Vassa and a pioneer in the Western Sangha under the lineage of Ajahn Chah.The Westerners would not have Buddhism without Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Succito and the others from Ajahn Chah’s lineage courage and effort in promoting Buddhism harmoniously in the West. The Westerners should be grateful to Ajahn Sumedho for his lifetime sacrifice for the sake of the Buddha-Sasana and propagation of Dhamma.Ajahn Sumedho is indeed the first Western Sangha and First Forest Sangha Western lineage. A Big Sadhu to them.

    • Um… no A.P. the “lone” monk in question is the one breaking their precepts, by doing this act of ill-will. Thanissara just reported it. Don’t shoot the messenger.
      This has nothing to do with casting aspersions on Ajahn Sumedho or Ajahn Succito. Except that this manner be handled in the correct and compassionate way…..privately. End of story. Let’s move on.

    • I meant “this matter be handled in the correct and compassionate way….privately.”
      Re-emphasis on privately.

  26. Hmmm…

    Wonder whether Thanissara was ever directly trained by Ajarn Chah?

    Wonder how being ‘true devoted disciple of Ajahn Chah Forest Sangha and well respected by many for being very low profile and simple in nature’
    and
    ‘putting on the robes of the monastics’
    is viewed differently for ‘man’ and ‘woman’???

    Wonder…
    Perception…
    The perception of one who views…
    And the perception of one who does the action…
    Maybe they are not in congruent?:-)

    Metta Cheers!

  27. Jason Chan :
    On Relationship
    Only the true lover knows
    Fearless relinquishment.
    The frightened one
    Spurred on by vengeance
    Returns evermore
    To suffering’s source.
    >j<

    Nice work, Jason. And how true.

  28. Anne :
    Has Love really prevailed?
    As in the footsteps of Greg who has gone before me, this will be my last post here.
    Sadly the burden of denial is too deeply imbred for justice to prevail.

    Hi Anne,

    I’m not sure if this post was in response to my poem. If so … so much for the clarity of poetry!

    The inspiration for the poem was actually David’s comment that “Rather than embark on a spiritual path it seems that these people should just focus on growing up first”.

    The Chinese believe that human development is unbalanced without “ren” which is that part of the spirit which can only grow with human interaction. The poem was a critique of those who attempt to transcend without growing up in ren first. Such transcendence is based on fear, hatred and vengeance, and suppress and hide it as some might, their dark face shows in time.

    This happens so often, I don’t think its worth pointing fingers (although I will confess that I’ve been there). It’s a natural part of practice, only some people get stuck there. What we can try an change is the institutional and cultural aspects of Buddhism that eulogise fear dressed up as freedom.

    >jj<

  29. “those who attempt to transcend without growing up in ren first” This tendency is well reflected by an American named John Wellwoods in under the discussion on ‘spiritual bypassing’.

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