At the Buddhist Society of WA’s AGM on 12/3/2001, an address was given by the president, Dennis Shepard, that commented on the ongoing persecution of monks associated with the bhikkhuni ordinations that took place in october 2009.
Below is a transcript from the relevant sections. This is reposted from the comments section.
Note that during the meeting, Ajahn Brahm asked Dennis whether he (AB) had instigated this address or asked Dennis to speak out on this; Dennis replied that he had not. Ajahn Brahm mentioned this to me specifically, as he feels that people smetimes accuse him of masterminding events behind the scenes. Similarly, the opinions expressed on this blog are my own – as I made clear in the title of the blog – and do not reflect Ajahn Brahm’s or anyone else’s opinions, unless i am quoting or referring to them.
The events that Dennis is referring to are well-known to us and are quite widespread. For example, I am teaching a retreat in Perth in June, because one monk who had already agreed to do it pulled out under pressure from WPP. I follow Dennis’ lead in not naming monks here; I believe that all members of WPP should be held responsible for these acts, as they are carried out as the policy of WPP as a whole.
“31. Fallout from Bhikkuni Ordination.
It is with some regret that I need to report to our members the hardening of attitudes towards us and in particular to Ajahn Brahm by some senior monks from the Wat Pah Pong group, obviously still angry and annoyed over the Bhikkuni ordination in October 2009. I have just re-read my report from last year, and realized that the harmony and forgiveness I was hoping for last year seems still to be a long way away. It feels like things have got worse. Over the past year I feel our committee and our supporters have, in the interest of harmony and peace, suppressed a lot of feelings and words that could have been said, in the hope that the silence would allow these disaffected monks, who are displaying ill will towards Ajahn Brahm, a clear view of what they are doing in order for them to see where they are at.
The Wat Pah Pong meeting that disenfranchised our centre and Ajahn Brahm as WPP affiliates never made any mention of following through with a ban on any monks speaking or associating with Ajahn Brahm. It never called for Ajahn Brahm or any monks that associate with him to be “sent to Coventry”. This however, is the reality of our circumstance now. Monks that were coming to teach or stay at Bodinyana have been intimidated and told to expect the same treatment that Ajahn Brahm received if they show any friendship to us. Even monks that we have trained are not allowed to return, on pain of being ostracized. Bodhinyana connected monks have been refused a place to stay in overseas monasteries connected to WPP. There have been many terrible and hurtful things said and done over the past year and frankly it makes me feel ashamed that Buddhist people, especially monks, could do such things.
I call on the leadership at Wat Pah Pong to take stock of what they are doing. If these things are happening without your knowledge, investigate it, and stop what is happening immediately.
Wat Pah Pong has inflicted a punishment on the Perth centre for ordaining bhikkunis against their wishes. We have accepted that punishment. As mentioned in last year’s report we are very sad about being disenfranchised from WPP, we never set out to have things turn out the way that it did.
We can accept that the WPP group does not want to be associated with the ordination of bhikkunis. However we expect that WPP should let us go our own way now that we are not affiliated. If there are monks who feel so strongly about women’s ordination that they do not want to associate with us then that is fine, but we cannot accept the war of fear and intimidation that is being propagated around the world to stop all WPP connected monks associating with us. Unfortunately the stage is set for some very nasty scenes around the world, unless this unfortunate episode can be resolved.
We have heard from many people around the world who are very concerned about the edicts that are coming from this select group of monks. Stories of intimidation and threats in order to change constitutions so that WPP can have the final say. WPP needs to understand that Western Countries outside Thailand have particular “Incorporations Laws” that govern their countries. I would predict that the constitutions that have been changed following pressure from WPP will not stand up if they ever get to a court. This is to say nothing of the morality behind of what these monks are setting out to do.
Why is it that WPP want to have control over the Buddhist Societies in other countries any way? Buddhism will only grow in countries where the grass roots people accept it and understand it through there own cultures. Thailand cannot expect to control how Western countries will perceive Buddhism.
The key note address given at the International Conference on the dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in the 21st Century held in Salaya Bangkok Sep/Oct 2010 by Richard Gombrick, had a lot to say on subjects like this. His discussion focused in particular on Theravadan Buddhism and how it should be best propagated in the West. I would recommend that all interested parties involved in the events since the Nun’s ordination and who are interested in the best way for host counties to export Buddhism into the countries that are interested in accepting it, to read this address. It is available on the web.
We are sorry for the trouble that has been caused between good friends in carrying out the ordinations in the way that we did, but is was inevitable. As my report last year demonstrated, we in Perth have been on this pathway for a long time. Everyone knew what we were planning to do. The constant refrain from our detractors that we should have done it differently and the spurious notion that we did it secretly does not hold water, any way you look at it. As mentioned in last years report, I still contend and have seen no evidence to change my mind that the secrecy was from the other side. The way that the WPP elders planned to introduce a new Siladara model for women at the Western Abbots Meeting in 2009 still rankles. Ajahn Brahm was never involved in this and was never informed that the secret meetings were taking place. It is here that the rot started and it needs to be acknowledged. Things may have been different if we had known and had participated!
We are now 18 months past the ordination. Please let us all be friends. It is no fun being at loggerheads with good friends. It is especially not fun being “sent to Coventry” by friends and people you admire and respect.
We in Perth are resigned to accept our fate in not being part of the Wat Pah Pong group; however we do not wish to be ostracized by monks who are friends and colleagues. If for reasons that you truly can not stand to be with us in the presence of our Bhikkuni community then OK, but we hope you will eventually change your mind. But for those who are interested in friendship, fellowship and propagation of the Dhamma then please break through this barrier of fear and intimidation and come and visit us. We in turn would love to be accepted and be allowed to visit you.
It is time for all this trouble to stop. Please accept our open hands in friendship.”
495 thoughts on “BSWA President’s report on ‘being sent to Coventry’”
It is disheartening to hear that after 18 months some monks still continue to attack Ajahn Brahm and the Perth Sangha. The ban on contacts with the Perth Sangha, in particular, sounds so very childish and, to me, violates the essence of Buddhism. I feel so sad that people who have been training in the robe for a long time have not touched even the outer bark of Buddhism – Metta. What is most dispiriting is that these are not just ordinary men who happened to undergo a ceremony of taking 227 precepts; they are supposed to be monk disciples of our great teacher Ajahn Chah!
Having said that, I think that one of the things that we have to remember is one of Ajahn Chahs’ teachings to Ajahn Sumedho: “The world is like this.” It’s sad, but we just have to accept that Ajahn Chah was a great monk and a great teacher, but some monks may not have been good students.
Aj Sujato said: “all members of WPP should be held responsible for these acts, as they are carried out as the policy of WPP as a whole.”
I’m not sure all WPP monks have sanctioned these acts and I’m more than hesitant to believe that Ajahn Liam, the current abbot of WPP, was made aware. I would love to see more information which would confirm that it is really WPP’s policy. Pressure from senior personnel does not always reflect the manager’s attitude, and several times it might be against the managers’ wishes.
Yours in dhamma,
It’s all very painful, isn’t it? I was just kind of hoping that time would pass by and sanity would be restored, but it’s hard to remain hopeful.
There is no doubt that the practices commented on by Dennis, of which I have knowledge also, are the ‘official’ WPP policies. Since the individuals do not take responsibility, then the organization they belong to and act on behalf of must.
It is quite true that many of the monks do not know what is going on, but it is their responsibility to be informed. Any well-run organization must make important matters open and the members must be informed and able to offer feedback. Lack of accountable governance and transparency is not an excuse.
It is impossible that LP Liem does not know of this policy; whether he personally approves it is another matter. In any case, this ongoing persecution goes against what LP Liem said at the end of the meeting when Ajahn Brahm was expelled; he said, ‘tao nun’ – ‘that’s all’.
Have some patience Ven Sujato. 🙂
Thanks, peter, i’ll try.
Dear Ajahn Sujato,
I’ve talked to a friend and suggested that some people should approach Aj Liem and talk with him face-to-face. I don’t know how we could make this trip as gentle and full of loving kindness as possible without appearing ‘confrontational’. I am more than happy to act as a translator (if WPP will allow a woman to be a translator. I would rather not let a western monk who hates Ajahn Brahm act as a translator.)
What I would love to see is someone respectfully asks Aj Liem if he, as the current abbot of WPP and (de facto) head of Ajahn Chah’s legacy, established or sanctioned this policy of ‘excommunication’.
If his answer is a yes, we just have to accept that Ajahn Brahm is a disciple of Ajahn Chah who happens to have different opinions from other disciples of the same teacher.
If some monks prefer to choose to belong to the majority, then it’s their choice. If some monks prefer to voice their opinion that is different and be excommunicated, it’s their choice as well.
In January, I talked to a cousin of mine whose teacher is Ajahn Ganha, Ajahn Chah’s disciple and nephew. He was excommunicated (I don’t know the extent) because he said that Ajahn Brahm did nothing wrong.
Your in dhamma,
Well, it would be nice to make such a visit. Let us know if it happens.
And as for Ajahn Ganha being excommunicated, all I can think to say is, ‘Noooo!’ It’s all too too much.
Respectfully I would like to continue to challenge the idea that Ajahn Chah’s nephew and Ajahn Brahm are “out” while WPP is “in”.
In the grand scheme of things, the reality is quite the other way around.
Wouldn’t you agree?
The narrative is what propells change in the world.
Dear Aj Sujato,
Yes, I will. But first of all, we need to find volunteers who are able to contact Ajahn Liem and get an appointment with him. 🙂
Dear Bhante and Dhee,
There are some people you might like to bring along with you to the meeting:
Sydney Boys High take on the issue of Gender Equality
(A group of Year 10 students at Sydney Boys High School, for their Community Action Project for High Resolves, chose to raise awareness about gender inequality. They created a compelling presentation, and a short video (below) about why we should turn things around, and have been continuing to spread their message to their peers, even after the project finished. This is the “boy effect” on the “girl effect”.)
It might be a precious learning opporutnity to visit Ajahn Ganha (although my instinct says he might be difficult to find.)
I know where he is staying. 🙂 I will try to find time to visit him when I come back from my ‘Club Med’ retreat next month. 🙂
It’s all part of women’s history and will take time
See how many centuries it has taken to get to the degree of liberation that women have at present
Very sad but maybe this will turn out to be one of these examples of historical inflexibility which only the action of time can resolve
My lovely Sangha – what has happened to it? I cry.
..especially as women can live a liberated life, go to Dharma centres and become enlightened outside the walls of monestries and the prison of male insecurity? or what ever the problem is they have with women.
NO offense to ordained people but to be honest I really can’t see why any women would want to be ordained anyway, what is the advantage of it? What is the point- to get victimised by men? how last century is that !
Women can study the Suttas at home anyway, (you no while they get their hubbies to wash the dishes and vacumn the carpet), fly to Dharma centres anywhere in the world on their corporate $110,000 a year salaries, even buy their monestries and fly in a teacher or two.
Do you think maybe you will have to bribe women to ordain or something.. with something like …you can have the biggest bowl or the monestry with the best view; see even that doesn’t really work because you can’t really bribe an ordained person becasue they are not suppose to care about that . umm
..whoopsy that should read, they will have to bribe
If as the Buddha says we are all equal or at least it is Dharma to have equal opportunity to the Dharma (and just remember what they teach at uni folks, : equal access does not necessarily mean equal opportunity is given … I think there is something in that for all of us)
…..anyway then maybe the first step might be getting (I think AB has done his bit and as Thervarden Monks aren’t suppose to sing and dance) gettign maybe Midnight Oil to play at a big Vesek do and rip off there shirts to reveal a bit AGOLOGY. yeah that might help.
Your lovely Sangha is 500 million strong and growing.
For those who clicked on the 2 hour AGM link- the relevant ‘president’s speech’ starts at 1 hour and 14 minutes.
And it was made clear that this speech was from the committee and AB did not ask them to talk about it, it was purely a response from the lay community.
It would be nice to know specifically which western monasteries are cooperating with the WPP stance against BSWA. Which monasteries are not hosting monks or are being inhospitable. Individually, I want to know if the American WPP affiliate, Abahyagiri, is siding with BSWA, WPP, or remaining neutral. It’s the responsibility of the lay community to hold the ordained community to high standards, and withhold support if they are misbehaving.
One might look at their website and see who they clearly affiliate themselves with. If they are affiliating themselves with Ajahn Chah branch monasteries or WPP on their website then perhaps ask them in person next time you are there where they stand on this.
As we say in French, “courage!”
Maybe it is good for women to know who these people monks are too, maybe it is not good for them to accidently wander into these places anyway, even if they were able too, although I imagine they have big huge big signs and out front saying “no niggers” or “no asians”, whoops sorry typo I mean “no women”.
The process of this split, increasingly enforced by WPP,seems to now move beyond BSWA. Therefore it would be good to know where each monastery, senior monk, elder council and lay trust stands in relationship to their affiliation. And what such affiliation implies.
Those trying to tread water in some kind of middle ground are being dashed against the rocks of narrow minded bigots who are pulling the whole of the extended Sangha into a battle for control. Shame on those who perpetuate this ignoble behavior.
I think the only way we can find out is to ask them. I have the contact list for senior monks as mentioned in my post later on in this thread. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send out the list to anone who needs it.
Here in the UK you can tell that some recommendations from WPP are being followed when publications don’t list any of the monasteries in Australia, either Bodinyana or Santi Forest. We’re all friends in Dhamma and yet it’s very sad to see this ostracising happening.
I would love to go visit Perth if it wasn’t for the fact that flying from this side of the world is prohibitively expensive, still I remain supportive of the ordination of Bhikkunis as well as focussing on giving metta to all living beings. Hopefully wisdom will prevail in the end.
Dear Jean-Loup- there are good sales on from time to time! Austrlians are incredibly hospitable. On my first and only trip I visited and stayed in 7 or 8 cities and towns alltogether. Same wonderful reception across the board, coast to coast. I wish it for you.
One of my best friends lives in Tasmania and is getting married next month but my family and I won’t be able to attend due to finances 😦
I’m well aware of Australians’ kindness and hospitality, we’re blessed to count a few of them amongst our friends. We can only hope travelling will be easier with time (I have a 2-year old and that would also be quite a long journey for her at the moment)
with much metta
I’m going to Perth next month. I don’t have much money either. What I did was I saved all the mileage or points on all my credit cards for a few years till the amount was big enough to exchange for a ticket to Perth. 🙂
I hope one day you can manage to visit the Sangha there.
Allow me to share again, what I saw with my eyes, bearing in I live in Canada and went on my own accord, out of respect for the spirit of investigation, love of the truth, and appreciation for a monk who raised the bar for a community that IMHO veered starkly off the right path.
The Sanghas in Australia appear to be thriving, healthy both materially and morally. Apart from bonds of love and affection with WPP monastics, they do not appear to need anything materially and certainly “morally” from anyone at WPP. If there is a need for anything, there is a worldwide Sangha body of 500 million Buddhists in case anyone forgot.
It does not hurt Bodhinyana or any of the Australian Sanghas to be separated from WPP. They fit into a much wider larger Australian and international Sangha that agrees with their philosophy and supports them with great enthusiam.
(People who respect the Bhikkhuni Vinaya and know there is no such thing as mae chee Vinaya or Siladhara Vinaya.)
WPP on the other hand, on the Australian and the world stage is a fringe family and is increasingly marginalizing itself both in the individual countries where they are established and internationally by this pitiful behaviour.
As for who is pressuring whom, may I also clarify based on what I have seen:
What strikes anyone who visits Bodhinyana is that Ajahn Brahm barely has time to eat is daily meal. In order to squeek in to pay my respects – after traveling all the way from Canada, I actually had to interrupt him towards the end of his meal. And I consider that a great blessing. Take a look at his teaching schedule – he is requested to give teachings all over the world and all over Australia. Understand what it takes to run a monastery, to care for both the monastic training as well as the lay community – and both of these are growing, so the work grows every day. On top of that Ajahn Brahm contributes more widely in Australia to raise awareness of Buddhism and to build interfaith understanding and cooperation and doing a fine job at that.
That this man would have time or gain any sort of benefit from reaching backwards to tinker somehow with the dynamics of an old community that is stuck in the events of over one and a half years ago, burning in the acids of its own jealousy and ill-will – is preposterous. Preposterous.
If monks want to visit Australia or visit Ajahn Brahm – it is a long way to go, so it must be of their own hearts and resources to do so – and they will hae to come up with it either through their own monastery or …?. If they are monastics and not free to move as they please or get punished for it then someone in their own community must ask why. It is their responsibility to make these choices. How on earth would it be someone else’s? There are many monastics who visit the Australin Sanghas and dont get punished. While I was there there were visits from Sri Lankan, Tibetan and Vietnamese monastics. None of them faced any sort of backlash or punishment. They were perfectly free to mingle with Ajahn Brahm. He is accepted in the internatioal Sangha and much appreciated for his courage and commitment to the truth.
My apologies if anything here sounds divisive – it is not meant to be. Please recall I am based in Canada, practiced for 6 years in the TFS and have no personal or professional ties to WPP or the Australian Sanghas.
Comments are meant to help us put things into perspective. We must know fear and intimidation is there when our view gets narrowed. This is a big beautiful world full of amazing teachers who get it. Let us celebrate that, let us practice well and support those who are worthy of offerings and worthy of respect.
I am a very proud Buddhist when I read this speech made at the AGM and see continued patience and forgiveness shown by Ajahn Brahm and hs community. It is something for me to aspire to. It is something that encourages me to do better rather than chase my own tail of bitterness and anger towards the failures of people in my old community.
(Sorry again for small screen sticky key etc type-os!)
@Lisa, If you avoid reacting to this scholar’s first sentence, and read carefully, it looks like the WPP sangha politics are striking Canada.
Thanks for the link.
I wonder whether you’d consider replying to Peter’s question about the relationship between the US bhikkhunis and the local WPP sangha?
Dear Bhante Sujato, Everyone knows that Aj. Pasanno and Aj. Yatiko from Abhayagiri FM participated in our ordination of four bhikkhunis, last August. This brave action was very healing to the California lay vipassana community, who had found the controversy rather disheartening. At the moment, we express our love and respect for the Abhayagiri sangha by giving them space to work out their own process.
Dear Ayya, I think we should all take inspiration and hope from that.
May things be allowed to blossom and heal, according to there nature.
You are always so positive. Bless you for being in our midst, for going forth, for your bravery and leadership.
I wish I could be so positive. I find this article a little vague. I know the author – his wife taught Thai language at the college where I last studied (and later sat as an Advisory Board Member). Bless him for having the courage to say something.
Before I go on another long rant, to cheer everyone up, I attach a youtube of Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai (who brought peace to Africa through her movement that saw millions of trees planted across the continent)It is a short
video on how to deal with “overwhelm” – “how to be a hummingbird.” It seems appropriate.
Out of respect for my former teachers I have abstained from sharing publicly regarding what has transpired in their communities or what I have observed of them. It doesn’t look so positive to me at a distance – at a distance because having a different opinion has made me something of an outcast in my old communities. Last summer I attempted to reach out to a few lay friends on the matters at hand and was met with outright hostility. The denial and hear-see-speak-no-evil syndrome was thick. Ajahn Sumedho visited during the summer and it was clear that veneration for the patriarch was more important than thoughtful consideration of changes in the community or the decimation of the Siladhara community in the UK. (Duty to venerate supercedes duty to protect – one of the ingredients of “dis-engaged” Buddhism)
You will recall, one of the Canadian communities came out very quickly in support of Bhikkhunis. I understand now that they are not doing so well financially. Yet it is the most rustic forest evironment I have stepped into – much harsher (with bears and minus 30 in winter it rivals King cobras, scorpions and centipedes- but it is glorious in its full Dhamma nature splendour) There resides a monk who is truly in solitude in the forest, with a lovely, modest community around him. Authentic. The other communities have been quiet on the Bhikkhuni issue and concurrently are doing well financially. When Dania asked a previously supportive Canadian Bhikkhu about the Bhikkhuni issue he replied that it was a matter of economics.
Each monastery in the Ajahn Chah “network” seemed until these incidents to be relatively independent in their activities as the Buddha wished it – these communities have developed organically based on the symbiotic relationships between monastics and local people who invited them to come or grew up organically around an individual monk. Each one is distinct from the other and until recently managed in their own manner, but without a doubt in strict discipline and loving flourish.
I can hardly imagine any of them having to answer to a nefarious (sorry, this is how it appears) group of decision-makers in a far away land who are for the most part and for practical reasons that the Buddha clearly foresaw – out of touch. In spite of financial gain the headaches could only increase and one can hardly imagine what they would gain from aligning themselves with baffling decisions and principles.
But the business of establishing and running a monastery and building a community is tough and grinding and relentless. Many have said that Westerners do not give enough financially to support monastic communities. People may make short term choices for reasons which they feel will lead to long term gain.
Unfortunately when it is at the expense of the spirit of the Buddha’s teachings, and neglects the spiritual wellness of people within and outside the community, some of us have to separate. Is this the difference between this brand of Buddhism and engaged Buddhism? That we don’t “sell out” when things get tough? Any one contributing on this blog has undergone a process of reflection and alignment which has surely brought some form of grief or loss.
In spite of my growing apart from them – I believe there are many ways to resolve issues and if anyone could bring harmony, love and wisdom to a Sangha it would be the three A/C monastic communities in Canada.
What is lacking in the article is the means or the forum or the venue for this to happen. Without transparent, coherent channels of influence and decision-making it appears on the surface that these communities are disempowered and have further disempowered themselves by buying into these emerging arrangements.
It is clear to me now, why the Universe sent a hailstorm of obstacles my way during the last 3 years – I had the aspiration to ordain and was planning and arranging to be more physically close to these communities in order to know one another better, to understand more deeply the commitment, assess whether I have what it takes, and whether the environment can offer me the appropriate path to liberation – but was literally physically blocked from spending any length of meaningful time with them, for more than 2 years – all manner of injuries and illnesses and obstacles proliferated.
I thank the Devas profoundly for this. Had I gotten closer during these “interesting times” I would have been more devastated and most likely tossed the Triple Gem into the dumpster.
As usual it feels vulnerable to share these things. Take what is useful and toss the rest!
First of all, to prevent any misunderstandings: I’m a supporter of Bhikkhuni ordination, and I admire the teachings of Ajahn Brahm and Bhante Sujato.
However, I am a little surprised by the evil intentions some of the readers (and Bhante Sujato himself?) seem to attribute to the WPP Sangha, when it is perfectly possible to explain it through other, more plausible, means.
I’m not sure if the authors of these comments have appreciated the complexity of the situation. As Ajahn Brahm and Bhante Sujato would no doubt know very well, the monastic world is a strange place, where the priorities are entirely different from those of lay people. We need not be in a haste to dismiss a group of dedicated practitioners as nothing but a bunch of angry old men just because they haven’t got over the bhikkhuni issue. For better or for worse, these are the kind of things the Sangha takes very seriosly; perhaps 18 months is not quite enough time for things to cool down.
Would you disagree that here is jealousy and ill-will? That rather than moving on, some members of the community are getting stuck in these negative energies and taking action on this basis? How can a disease that is not named begin to be healed?
Personally I do not feel that all monks in the WPP family are overcome with bitterness and jealousy, but that some are. Unfortunately it looks to the outside world that these few are holding others hostage. The actions have also caused deep spiritual distress when monastics are to care for the spiritual welfare of their constituents and the wider word audience.
In any case there is little communication or outreach on many matters – WPP family actions have far reaching impacts on the wider Buddhist community – now and in generations to come, even if it is a monority. There are other communities watching with concern.
If some like myself speak unskillfully – where are those who speak skillfully? May their voices be heard soon and more effectively.
I simply don’t know (FYI, I’m not from WPP). All we can say for certain is that they are ignorant about the issue and seem to be confident enough in their decision – that bhikkhuni ordination cannot be revived – to not bother investigating further.
Buddhist monasticism has a shoking history of minor issues creating major problems, including schisms. But I doubt if this dispute would be carried on for long. The next generation of WPP monks might not have any reason to take it so seriously.
Dear Ven. Yogananda,
Ven Yogananda wrote: ” All we can say for certain is that they are ignorant about the issue and seem to be confident enough in their decision – that bhikkhuni ordination cannot be revived – to not bother investigating further.”
I would like to give WPP the benefit of the doubt and assume that this is simply a misunderstanding of the dhamma on the part of WPP monkk rather than due to any wrong intention. For this reason, we should forgive and forget.
However, the action of forbidding other monks from speaking or associating with Ajahn Brahm is very hurtful. He doesn’t deserve such treatment when he has not violated the dhamma. I hope that such treatment will come to an end soon.
Ven. Yogananda wrote: ” But I doubt if this dispute would be carried on for long. The next generation of WPP monks might not have any reason to take it so seriously.”
I hope that this will be the case. And we hope to hear from them. To avoid any false assumption or misunderstanding of each other from either side, I hope that channels of communication will begin to open so everyone will have an opportunity to sit down together and sort things out. After all, both parties involved are dhamma brothers and sisters. There is no reason to continue not speaking to each other. I believe many people would love to see both side cooperate peacefully.
iMeditation it is not just WPP:
From “The Revival of Bhikkhunī Ordination
in the Theravāda Tradition” by Ven. Bhikku Bodhi
“But while the ordination of bhikkhunīs has won the backing of large numbers of bhikkhus as well as lay devotees, to date it still has not received official recognition from either the Sri Lankan government or the mahānāyaka theras, the chief prelates of the fraternities of monks. In other Theravāda Buddhist countries, notably Thailand and Myanmar, resistance to a revival of the Bhikkhunī Sangha is still strong. In those countries, the conservative elders regard such a revival as contrary to the Vinaya and even as a threat to the longevity of Buddhism.”
Again we are appealing to number. But what is the logic behind it. Why is it not accepted ?
Yes patience and education should hopefully overcome this.
Women are part of the human race aren’t we (and I for one even though I don’t exist or whatever) no only too well women are not perfect by any means and caution needs to be taken, and I run across some very `destructive’ women in my line of work, to say the least..but still surely the time must be close and all that mediation and wisdom must be able to see this sometime soon (I mean it has been a few thouand years now but hey who is counting patience is a virture, patience is a virtur, because men are problemic too.
Maybe Buddhist should just ordain or put the issue ofhuman beings first and put the issue of male or female second or something….although I would stick with WPP on one thing, separate toilets .. I ain’t going so far as those shared toilets, even WPP couldn’t argue women are far superior when it comes down to clean toilets. So WPP I with you on that guys!
Thanks for the comments. I agree, one should always look for the simplest and most generous explanation for problems. It is not rightto think of WPP as nothing more than a bunch of angry old men; it’s just not like that. Actually, most WPP monks are kind and sincere people, who really believe that they are doing what’s best; and by and large, the tradition has done a lot of wonderful things. Go to any thai WPP monastery on an uposatha day, and see the quiet monks, the dhamma talk, he chanting, the villagers joining in for an all night meditation; see the prosperity and spiritual growth in the local community, the purity of the Dhamma teachings, the contendedness of the Sangha. These are all real, as I know very well from my six years in thailand. Those who have only read my blog, which started life as a critique of WPP’s policy and actions regarding bhikkhuni ordination, can be forgiven for thinking that somehow I have a thing against the whole tradition; but in my Dhamma talks over the years I have many times spoken in praise of the positive aspects.
Regarding the opposition to Ajahn Brahm, I am sure that most monks don’t know much about the issue, and simply go along out of faith in the Ajahns. Most of the Ajahns, too, don’t know much about the issues. A few of the Ajahns have unwholesome intentions – jealousy, hatred of women, and the like – and unfortunately it is this agenda that has come to dominate the corporate acts and policies of the organization. For the rest, the problem is not ill will as such, but negligence and lack of courage to stand up for what is right.
Dear Venerable and other friends in dhamma,
I sincerely apologise if my words sound harsh and full of ill will.
When I wrote “I feel so sad that people who have been training in the robe for a long time have not touched even the outer bark of Buddhism”, I was thinking about some monks who were earnestly seeking means to give Ajahn Brahm tangible punishments, including stripping him of his preceptot status, his ecclesiastical title, his abbotship and even his monkhood (a monk called Ajahn Brahm Mr. Brahmavamso on his blog while relating the story). And it seems that some of them did not stop but continue the efforts. What has driven them? I cannot bring myself to believe that they have done this to protect Buddhism. To me, wanting to hurt another being – physically, emotionally or socially – is not a conduct becoming of a monk.
Please forgive me for honestly expressing my opinion.
Yours in dhamma,
P.S. Having been born and raised and lived in Thailand for nearly five decades, it’s very easy for me to believe that not all monks keep 227 precepts.
Dear Venerable Yogananda,
It is odd to think that after more than a year we are still trying to articulate some of the foundational issues around going for refuge in Sangha. Perhaps being more distant from the fray or being of another community you could share your perspective.
One of the major issues we struggle with and why I think people like myself get drawn back in (even though I have realized it is better for my health to move on) is to resolve the issue of ethics and responsibility as an individual lay person – and by extension as a micro-Sangha within a much larger world Buddhist family.
From your perspective, Venerable, what are the ethical responsibilities of lay persons and how shoud they go about protecting the Sangha (i.e. minorities within the Sangha why may be abused such as homosexuals, racial minorities, women, or people with a certain view) and encouraging things like transparency and respect for the laws of the day?
There is a real sense of responsibility among people affected in these communities to engage where ethically necessary – even if it brings no personal benefit – only grief. Yet we have no precedents really because we weren’t “weaned” spiritually in Sanghas that call us to take such responsibility – but we were raised on suttas and a path that does.
In clear cut engaged Buddhist communities (I always refer to Thich Nhaht Hanh because he invented the term) non-discrimination is very central to the teaching – it isn’t difficult for some of us to understand that this is at the very core of Right View. TNH’s teaching on Sangha is also quite different – and one that requires of every participant, maturity, responsibility and love- towards onesself and to other members of the greatest Sangha -known and unknown –
The TFS as much as I know of it – 6 years – 5 monasteries – a fraction I guess – is not engaged – and many of us, attached to a Sangha family – awoke in the wake of all Ajahn Brahm’s “expulsion” to realize that we are engaged Buddhists who somehow landed in communities that are not engaged (without knowing how to articulate this). (By not engaged I mean in terms of lacking maturity around institutional transparency, democratic decision-making, in terms of how community is defined and facilitated, in terms of speaking up, participating, commitment to non-discrimination, etc).
I think Ajahn Brahm formally joined the ranks of engaged Buddhists by taking the decisions he took – in fact “engaged” is his teaching style ayways – and culturally – philosophially – it just doesnt fit with the WPP model which is not engaged Buddhism.
Many lay followers woke up to this and scratched our heads, wondering how we landed on the wrong path or perhaps just in the wrong shoes. Many are “engaged” in this dialogue because there is a sense that we have the responsibility to shine a light on the old and help transform it. But that entails a maturity which we did not gain from our practice, otherwise it would be happening right now as we speak. So, in this struggle each one has to decide is it better to acknowledge that our practice aligns better with a new direction and follow it or continue to take an interest in the unfolding of the old.
But the “new” is cloudy because “engaged” Buddhism is not the halmark of the Theravada at the moment at least. There are attempts in some of the Western branches but these are in their infancy – and are now under wraps.
Late night ramblings. Birth of the new “engaged” Theravada.
My earlier note
It will take time for all elements of this situation to learn to hang together
Perhaps this is relevant to the discussion:
On my very brief interview with Ajahn Brahm, I shared with him that I had practiced with senior monks in Canada in Ajahn Chah’s tradition.
To my surprise, he almost chastised me for “running away” and coming to Australia. In no uncertain terms he underlined how lucky I was to have practiced with such good monks and his tone suggested I was a rather spoiled child for visiting him when my own Sangha was so worthy of high respect.
I can attest personally, that Ajahn Brahm would put his efforts into keeping Sangha families together and in tact rather than pulling them apart or dividing loyalties.
Lisa, so will you be continuing your practice under the guidance of you own Sangha in North America, as Ajahn Brahm seems to have recommended?
I do not follow the advice of monks, I follow the Dhamma, the truth in the heart.
Dear Peter and Lisa,
I will make sure that I will not ask Ajahn Brahm about the Thai Sangha as I don’t want him to tell me to take refuge in the Thai Sangha. I would hate to disobey him. 🙂
Having said that, I still visit Ajahn Mitsuo Gavesago’s monastery and meditation center, listen to Ajahn Sumedho’s talks and read Ajahn Liam’s books.
What? You still listen to Ajahn Sumedho’s talks?
That’s it, Dhee.
As of today you are excommunicated from this Restaurant at the end of the Dhammaverse!
I know you were joking, Lisa. 🙂
On a more serious note, I’ve found Ajahn Sumedho’s talks very illuminating. He talked about some of his own defilements – delusions, hatred and ill will as well as superiority complex. Sharing similar defilements, I’ve found hope that one day I will be able to always be mindful and aware of my defilements and finally let go of them.
Following Ajahn Brahm’s repeated teaching on the two bad bricks, I don’t care if Ajahn Sumedho is for or against Bhikkhuni ordinations. If he was against, it would be only one among the 999 good bricks of his.
May he be happy and well. _/\_
I burst out laughing when I read your reply to Dhee. Thanks for that bit of hilarious wit. I love it!
I have not been following Bhante Sujato’s blog for many months and am so glad that a Dhamma friend of mine forwarded me this update. So, the tide has not changed. Perhaps there’s more to learn from the unfolding. I know I have and I am very grateful.
I have often wondered what Ajahn Chah meant when he said that Buddhism would take root and grow more rapidly in the West than in Thailand. Did he perhaps think that the West would be more conducive to reviving the bhikkhuni order and hence the fourfold assembly? And the re-establishment of the fourfold Sangha to uphold the Dhamma and Vinaya is akin to restoring the Buddha’s legacy, right? I like to believe that that was Ajahn Chah’s vision.
It’s sad to hear of what’s happened at Wat Buddha Dhamma.
I burst out laughing when I read your reply to Dhee! Thanks so much for that hilarious bit of wit.
I have not been following Bhante Sujato’s blog for quite some months now and am so glad that a good Dhamma friend alerted me to this recent update. So, the tide has not changed yet. Perhaps there’s still much to be learnt from all the unfolding. I know I have and am very grateful indeed that veils have been lifted.
I vaguely remember having heard in a Dhamma talk more than a decade ago by one of Ajahn Chah’s senior Western monks that Ajahn Chah had remarked that Buddhism would take root and grow more rapidly in the West than in Thailand. I wonder if it was perhaps he thought that the West would revive the bhikkhuni order, and that the world would be better for it.
“The Sanghas in Australia appear to be thriving, healthy both materially and morally. Apart from bonds of love and affection with WPP monastics, they do not appear to need anything materially and certainly “morally” from anyone at WPP. If there is a need for anything, there is a worldwide Sangha body of 500 million Buddhists in case anyone forgot”.
Just to add to this comment that is right what you say, for lay people or women there is no problem in finding a centre to practise in and in Australia their are alot of other forms of Buddhism (AND RELIGIONS AND RACES BECAUSE LISTEN WE HAVE POLICIES THAT FORBID ANY FORM OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST OTHER HUMAN BEINGS UNLESS THERE ARE SPECIc MORAL GROUNDS FOR DOING SO) although they may in some ways have strange attitudes to women that maybe hard for western women to understand they can be very accepting and encouraging towards women, hopefully for the right reasons.
If ethics are relative then maybe vows are relative and if person is not accepted in one form many women tend to move on. I don’t know how it works for ordained of if it is similar but alot of women tend to turn to Tibetan Buddhism after experiences the discrimination in Theravarden Buddhism, although this has it problems too.
In my local area all the human beings standing for the elections are women, yes ALL, our Prime Minister (whether a good one or not) is a women….yesh so bring it on Wat ping pong.
First they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -Gandhi
Neither the Sri lankan government nor the mahanayaka theras have any legitimacy in making decisions in Theravada Buddhism. The sangha is a democracy.
As the Vinaya recommends those who refuse to adhere to the Dhamma and vinaya should simply be ignored. If people prefer to practice Thai or Sri Lankan culture then let them, that doesn’t mean we have to support it and encourage it. The form of Buddhism we patronize as lay followers will be what propagates (or dies of irrelevance) in our respective cultures.
I think often times we misinterpret the last brahma-vihara; equanimity. Lets not forget that each brahma-vihara has 2 hindrances that block their fruition, a near enemy and a far enemy. The far enemy being craving/clinging. The near enemy being indifferent to the suffering of others. Bhante Sujato has a great article on this topic entitled “The Tyranny of Transcedance.”
The Buddha did not mince words when it came to discrimination and neither should we. The Bhikhhuni Samyutta clearly rhetorically links discrimination against women with having a demonic nature.
In the face of oppression or violence against a gender, race, religious or sexual orientation, the appropriate response is clearly the second brahma-vihara; compassion, or the first brahma-vihara;loving kindness in action. Peace,
I think a lot of this is nothing to do with Bhikkhunis, and everything to do with Ajahn Brahm.
Previous to the Perth Bhikkhuni ordination, I was in WPP monasteries. The anti-Brahm sentiment was already strong, if a monk wanted to go to Bodhinyana, they would have at very least strongly discouraged. So really it isn’t much change to move on to out-right forbidding it.
What I don’t exactly know, is why there is so much bitterness and resentment towards Ajahn Brahm. At the end of the day, my sneaking suspicion it just comes from jealousy and envy. They resent Ajahn Brahm because he is such a famous and popular monk, and they’d dearly love to take him down a notch or two.
So that’s what I think. That all we’ve really seen, is pre-existing attitudes bought to the surface, by the Bhikkhuni Ordination. Those attitudes weren’t caused by the Bhikkhuni ordination though, and the cause of those attitudes is stronger than ever. WPP is becoming ever increasingly power-hungry and for so as long as AB is powerful and influential, they’ll consider him a rival. And because they’ve formally given up on trying to “integrate” Ajahn Brahm into WPP, Ajahn Brahm is now very firmly stuffed in the enemy category. And I think they actually want an enemy to “unite around”.
I strongly suspect that the situation will be (partially) resolved at the grass-roots level, some branch monasteries will just get sick and tired of keeping up the charade (of appeasement) and disregard it, and others will follow. Hoping for things to change from a top-down level is somewhat naive, because the nice guys aren’t power hungry enough to try and topple those who wield power.
I totally second Nandiya.
I went to Wat Pah Nanachat to have a self retreat in April 2009 and learnt from a German Anagarika that some monks were harshly critical of Ajahn Brahm.
I think that we have to make clear which issue we are addressing. Though they are inter-related, they are of different origins and need to be addressed accordingly.
The issues are:
1. whether Bhikkhuni ordinations are doable according to the vinaya
2. the campaign against Ajahn Brahm on a personal level.
3. some monks’ attitude towards having female counterparts in the Sangha, or gender superiority complex
I hope to see more information – both pro and con – on the abovementioned.
Yours in dhamma,
I agree with you Nandiya that the reason for the extent of the vindictiveness and un-Buddhist behaviour directed at Ajahn Brahm has little to do with the bhikkhuni issue, per se. My feeling is that this bhikkhuni “controversy” is being used as wedge to drive the deep-seated personal attacks against AB, his monks, and the institutions he represents.
One example which demonstrates this clearly is that of Birken Forest Monastery in BC, Canada. Until recently, their monastery’s website – http://birken.ca/ – was the best non-Australian source for Ajahn Brahm mp3 audio talks. Recently they were all removed, under instruction from the WPP hierarchy. The website, however, still hosts mp3 talks from Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni, as well as prominent monks who have strongly supported bhikkhuni ordination, such as Bhante Gunaratana & Bhikkhu Bodhi. To make it even more farcical, in the recommended readings section, all three of Ajahn Brahm’s books are still recommended. So – it’s okay to read Ajahn Brahm’s Dhamma books, but not to listen to his Dhamma talks – eh? Also ironic, is that most of the monks at Birken have never trained in Thailand, are Western-born & educated, and that the abbot, Ajahn Sona, was in fact ordained by Bhante Gunaratana, who has personally participated in bhikkhuni ordinations ( reference )
Situations like this show that bhikkhuni ordination is not the issue. Certain monks in the WPP/Wat Nanachat hierarchy obviously feel threatened by Ajahn Brahm or hold personal grudges against him, and are using their (dwindling) power to intimidate other monks & Buddhist groups into cutting off relations with Ajahn Brahm, and discouraging others from associating with him & his Dhamma talks. I have sent emails to Birken monastery to protest against this blatant discrimination against Ajahn Brahm – only to receive the unconvincing reply that “It is not personal, it’s just Sangha policy”. Go figure.
Another example – Ajahn Brahm, as current, and long-serving Director of Wat Buddha Dhamma (WBD) in NSW Australia [ reference ], is now being effectively shut out from WBD, as the WPP senior monks have banned all monks there, or those wishing to stay there, from associating from Ajahn Brahm – such that even monks ordained and trained by Ajahn Brahm have been told to either disown him, or go elsewhere! The current abbot, Ajahn Khemavaro, has been effectively bullied by the WPP monks into disowning Ajahn Brahm – even though Khemavaro revered, lived and trained with AB for 8 years, at Bodhinyana. Khemavaro’s biography even omits any mention of his teacher Ajahn Brahm & his years of training at and being supported by Bodhinyana! How sad. WBD is not even listed as an affiliated WPP monastery. The irony of the situation is that WBD was started and funded by Ayya Khema – one of the first Western Bhikkhunis, and one of the first Western monastics to teach all factors of the 8-fold path – including Jhanas, (like Ajahn Brahm). I’m not sure what the lay committee of WBD make of all this, given Ajahn Brahm’s three decade long association with, and support of WBD.
Following BSWA President Dennis Sheppard’s AGM address & also the commentary by former President Rachel Green – I recommend that all concerned Buddhists contact those WPP/WatNanachat monks involved, to voice your disapproval (or if you are that way inclined, approval) of their un-Buddhist and unwholesome actions. If someone (Kancana?) has the relevant contact details for these monks, could you please post them here. Thanks.
It is time for the intimidation, fear and persecution to stop, and for the Buddha-Dhamma to prevail. Truth will win in the end. My feeling is that all those monks & their supporters who are anti-bhikkhuni and anti-Ajahn Brahm will simply doom themselves to irrelevance and obscurity, the more they pursue the type of actions which I’ve illustrated, and which have been pointed out by Dennis Sheppard, Bhante Sujato & others.
‘I will not pass away, O Evil One, until I have bhikkhu disciples… bhikkhunī disciples… layman disciples… laywomen disciples who are accomplished, disciplined, skilled, learned, expert in the Dhamma, practiced in accord with the Dhamma, properly practiced, living in accord with Dhamma, who, having learnt from their own teacher, expound, teach, declare, set out, explain, analyse it and make it clear; who are able to refute in accord with Dhamma other teachings that appear, and then teach the wonderful Dhamma.’ DN 16.3.7 – 8
I am one of the current directors at WBD and one of the co-founders as well. We built a family home at WBD in 1978 and lived and worked there every day for 6 years in the early 80’s.
Because being one of the co-founders of WBD, (which had a monastery, meditation center and a village in the early days, I was recently invited to become a director of WBD to support re-establishing a monastery. Ven. Khemavaro expressed interest in becoming the senior monk with view of becoming an Abbott after a trial period. I was trilled to accept as after 15 years of much chaos, power vacuum and land grab since Khantipalo disroed, WBD was lost and about to go into receivership about 2 years ago.
I intimately knew and lived in the WBD community with Ayya Khema and Bhikkhu Khantipalo. The Wat supported both monks and nuns and three 10 precept nuns were ordained there. Ayya Khema and Lawrence Khantipalo would be horrified to learn that the current Abbott of WBD is intent in making WBD a branch monastery of WPP. They would also be horrified to learn that the place is being handed over to the Thais, which Khantipalo opposed very very strongly. They both lived at Wat Buddharangsee in 1977 and wanted a place for Australians.
2 years ago in a meeting with myself. Lawrence Khantipalo and Chao Khun Samai. Lawrence specifically reguested of Chao Khun Samai that he does not turn WBD into a Thai Wat. Their legacy has not been respected, it has blatently been ignored and I also feel betrayed that i was used as a go between to acquire an asset for the Thais. I do not support WBD becoming a branch monastery of WPP period.
After recovering from the shock, after the last WBD directors meeting in Jan. my confidence has been shattered. I feel really sad at the drastic change of events since I signed up as a Director.Ajahn Brahm was asked to resign in front of everone by Ven Khemavaro supported by Chao Khun Samai. Fortunately but he refused.
I have been keeping silence of this issue to this day but I think something needs to be done by the wider WBD supporters community. The WBD supporters are in the dark as to what is actually going on. There is a senior WPP monk Ajahn Dtun coming to WBD to give a retreat over Easter and I think those Australian Buddhists who oppose branch status should send a strong message via him to WPP.
The WPP resolution that monks cannot visit each others monasteries is creating a schism, confusion and terrible ill will. Where is the metta, the understanding and good will? Are we to continue feeding monks who support this division? It is not good enough to teach Metta, we must all live it, including the monks. The Buddhas legacy is being dragged through the mud.
Thanks, Liz, for these brave comments. I too hope the matter will come up for more honest and open public discussion.
Incidentally, when Ajahn Dtun taught a retreat in Melbourne a few years ago, several members of Santi’s Sangha went, including bhikkhunis. All of them remarked how inclusive and kind Ajahn Dtun was. He made a special point to welcome the bhikkhunis, and even invited Ayya Samacitta to stay with him in Thailand, which she did. (For those Santi friends who remember Ayya Samacitta, she’s now in a forest monastery in Sri Lanka). They also commented how noticeable it was that Ajahn Dtun’s openness and friendliness was not echoed in the western monk doing the interpretation; apparently, when Ajahn Dtun would refer to ‘bhikkhus and bhikkhunis’ the translation would only mention bhikkhus!
Is it a possibility that WPP do not have an issue with Bhikkuni per se but more with the way that Ajahn Brahm has gone about his business and that he has not acted in consensus.
What is the relationship like between the Bhikkuni ordained in the US and the WPP sangha based there?
Liz, I just cannot believe this! If all this is true, and I have no reason to suspect that you are not telling the truth, this is indeed a very sad turn of events for Buddhism in Australia. This is more than a land grab by some who claim to be Buddhist monks….
Thanks for posting some interesting/disturbing information Micheal.
I do not think there was any doubt in anyone’s mind that at the root of this problem was personal vendetta against Ajahn Brahm. Lay people in Buddhists countries like him and respect him and this naturally would have caused envy and jealousy among some monks(?).
However, to see that there may be a well crafted strategy in place to discredit Ajahn Brahm is disturbing, to say the least.
Rather than speculating about this matter over and over, I wonder whether it would be worthwhile to document instances such as the ones that Michael has outlined above so that this becomes public knowledge. The more awareness about real facts will help lay people determine who they should support or not support.
I am happy to compile a list if others are willing to supply substantiated or verifiable facts which then can be posted at a relevant site. This way, we can let the truth unmask the puppeteers.
It would appear that http://www.dhammatalks.org.uk/ also contains no talks whatsoever from Ajahn Brahm in their library. I may have to investigate why that is
These were removed almost straight after the bikkhuni ordinations.
I’ll guess because it says teachers in the Forest Sangha Tradition and in their eyes Ajahn Brahm isn’t part of that anymore.
What disappoints is that Ajahn Brahm’s talks have helped so many people, myself included. To remove them and remove that chance for other people to find insights, peace, all the best that Buddhism has to offer…well, it is not a good act. It’s a selfish and petty act and harmful.
And a cowardly one because I suspect it is done so their lay people don’t find out about the controversy and question them on it.
You’re right Dee. Birken’s website is indeed making bad kamma for making such valuable liberating Dhamma less accessible. I too came across AB Dhamma talks on Birken that really freed me from a lot of suffering and provided me faith in the Dhamma, let me to read the suttas and meditate. And it really disappointed me to see that they removed such valuable Dhamma.
Dhammatalks.org.au has no excuse since on their website it says “Theravadin Forest Sangha ” By definition, Theravada forest sangha is any sangha that practices in a forest tradition. Forest tradition according to the suttas is defined by a certain distance from the nearest village house (something like that, would have to check out the sutta I have in mind). So according to what they are advertising on their website, AB’s Dhamma talks can be included. WPP has no ownership of what defines a forest sangha.
dhammatalks.org.uk would have to change their website since saying from various ‘Theravadin Forest Sangha ‘ is a bit misleading, they should be more specific and say what they actually represent.
Give me a break with all this “bad kamma” nonsense.
How does a website make bad kamma?
I’ve got an up to date email contact list of most senior Ajahns in the Thai Forest tradition. Send me an email to email@example.com and I will forward it on to you.
I think Ajahn Brahm needs to step in and give his disciples some clear guidence here. This really is all too much.
“nazi practises of WPP” Did no one else notice this? Or is this kind analogy acceptable here?
Imagine how you would feel if you were a woman ….
Well, I am a woman, and I have no trouble finding gross injustices in this world that make these issues mere trifles. There is certainly nothing here in this little contre temps that would make me come close to hating Buddhism, for heaven’s sake. The pseudo-liberation of feminism is really nothing very much. The equality of ordinary human beings stuck in Samsara is pitiful stuff after all.
“There is certainly nothing here in this little contre temps that would make me come close to hating Buddhism, for heaven’s sake”
NO there may not be anything in that little (contre temps) but there maybe something in your ……….oh umm never mind
“contre temps” wow is that French?
Brilliant Visakha. You have summed up the situation with a clear perspective of this situation and with so few words! Thanks for your thoughts here.
quite right! No nazi analogies, please. Remember Godwin’s law…. I’ll delete that comment, if wished it can be resubmitted minus the Nazi bit….
FYI, on WordPress blogs, once a person’s comment has been approved, usually subsequent comments are automatically approved without requiring the moderator (who is me!). Sometimes this does not work, and people who have had previous comments approved find that they have to wait for moderation.
I had neve heard of Godwin’s Law, it’s a good one. I must admit I was also waiting for the C word and now it has also arrived :).
To Bhante Sujato or any ordained person or someone who know the answer to this question.
With regards to following strictly the teachings of the Buddha by way of the Suttas as the Dharma, rather than the guru and/or teacher as they do in other forms of Buddhism, would other forms of Buddhism not just say that (or what would you say to the belief) that they believe that they can be Buddhas and/or that there will be another Buddha (Manjushi) or some one in the next eon anyway ie so will the Suttas still be relevant?
Hope that makes sense or if you don’t now or don’t want to answer can you ask Ahajan Brahm to answer this? Thanks
Actually don’t worry I just found the answer; yes they still say ‘realise the original Buddha’s teachings (sutras)
…and (shastras)their commentaries
whoops this ended up down the bottom
Actually don’t worry I just found the answer; yes they still say ‘realise the original Buddha’s teachings’ (sutras)
Dear Sir, as a recap and to finish of I would like to say that the English Sangha Trust was started in 1956 for the reason of supporting the Venerable Kapilavaddho bhikkhu who was the first European to be ordained in Thailand. Nuns were not much in the picture then though there were some around. For the history of the beginning of the Trust please go to http://www.aimwell.org – books-other authors-“Honour Thy Fathers”. If you will excuse me pushing my thing! Therefore the Trust mandate was mainly for the support of the bhikkhu Sangha.
The monastics that arrived in England in 1977 did not have to include women in their venture. But within a few years of being here, a delightful lady (Pat Stoll) who knew them from the early Hampstead days became the first preceptor to wear white robes and live on Trust property. Since then they have given support to women and developed their vehicle of practice up to Siladhara. The amount of thought and effort that the monks put into this, especially Aj. Suchito, I believe, was considerable. The fact that for whatever reason, they felt they could not engage in the bhikkhuni order; but still put forth much effort to support women so they can “lead the life”. I think can only be seen as laudable.
Despite the fact that the bhikkhu Sangha had a fracas with the nuns, they still, as far as I know, continue to ordain women as siladhara. And the fracas is in essence a side issue when discussing respect of the Buddha’s Sangha.
Because of the above it would seem to me somewhat ludicrous to say they are all women haters, especially the Ajahns, who direct the Sangha. There exists still, though a few years on from the fracas a group of mainly women that continue to harass the bhikkhu Sangha and furthermore appear to put in efforts to bring about their downfall. This is strange considering it’s mentioned many times that the four fold Sangha of the Buddha should exist.
I think that respect here needs to be shown or at least nothing derogatory said, as we all can’t like everyone of course. Especially as they are a good vinaya keeping Sangha. In fact I might go as far as saying that even a rotten Sangha should be shown some respect for wearing the Buddha’s robe. At least if not doing the wearer much good, it may do so for those seeing it. The sight of which can bring up good thoughts of the Buddhadhamma.
My thanks to kanchana (mar 31) and imeditation (april 1st) for your posts. I keep in mind your suggestions and have the intention when next visiting Amaravati to seek out Aj. Amaro and will ask concerning the bhikhuni order and AB. Whether I get avoided, an answer or indeed the boot, we shall see!
My thanks to bhikkhu Bramali for the information provided (mar 26)
My thanks to Dheerayupa, Jun Pan and Daege for your kind words and reconsiderations.
“And as for a person who is impure in his bodily behavior & verbal behavior, and who does not periodically experience mental clarity & calm, how should one subdue hatred for him? Just as when there is a sick man — in pain, seriously ill — traveling along a road, far from the next village & far from the last, unable to get the food he needs, unable to get the medicine he needs, unable to get a suitable assistant, unable to get anyone to take him to human habitation. Now suppose another person were to see him coming along the road. He would do what he could out of compassion, pity, & sympathy for the man, thinking, ‘O that this man should get the food he needs, the medicine he needs, a suitable assistant, someone to take him to human habitation. Why is that? So that he won’t fall into ruin right here.’ In the same way, when a person is impure in his bodily behavior & verbal behavior, and who does not periodically experience mental clarity & calm, one should do “what one can out of compassion, pity, & sympathy for him, thinking, ‘O that this man should abandon wrong bodily conduct and develop right bodily conduct, abandon wrong verbal conduct and develop right verbal conduct, abandon wrong mental conduct and develop right mental conduct. Why is that? So that, on the break-up of the body, after death, he won’t fall into the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, purgatory.’ Thus the hatred for him should be subdued.”
Thanks for that. I will try 🙂
Lovely for putting that up Sam.
It’s a great reminder of such helpful and wonderful teachings/guidance
Nice succinct piece on the “The Little Bangkok Sangha” blog titled “Bhikkhuni Tide”
Another point of controversy which AB is involved in, is teaching Jhanas.
It should be borne in mind, that for the most part, one of either two attitudes are taken up:
1) Jhanas are bad.
2) Jhanas are okay, but they should be part of the “closed fist” teachings exclusively for monastics.
Ajahn Brahm has taken up a position which goes contrary to both major positions, and this counts against him in those circles where one of those positions is accepted.
The WPP attitude probably errs on the side of “jhanas are bad”, if you talk about experiencing bliss in meditation you might get treated like a crazy person. Or you’ll be criticized and scorned for talking about them (ie it’s okay to do jhanas, but only if you keep it to yourself).
Being controversial has it’s consequences. In Ajahn Brahm’s case, a lot of not so little things, add up.
I remember in one of AB’s talks, he said something like:
“I decided to teach what I thought was important. And if everyone in the whole world rejects me for that, fine, I’ll have lots of time for meditation!”
I think even for him, he must have realized that teaching the important stuff would get him rejected.
I for one am of course very very grateful to AB for teaching the important stuff, and I know I’m not alone. Yet it must be acknowledged that there are unavoidable consequences, with one such consequence being, that the people who don’t like the important stuff, wont like Ajahn Brahm. Yes, it’s stupid. But what can anyone do about it?
The problem here stems from “Buddhists” not bothering to read suttas or agamas. Once one opens up the Buddha’s teachings, one clearly sees the Buddha describe the four noble truths & Eightfold Path. Jhanas are everywhere and indispensable along the path. If the Buddha would be teaching now, he’d also be excommunicated for ordaining bhikkhunis and teaching jhanas 🙂
There are some senior monks from the thai forest tradition in Thailand I heard who teach something like ‘original mind’ or say consciousness or mind is eternal & indestructible or something like that.
But according to the Buddha this is ‘wrong view’ (wrong view number 8 in the DN1).
So those cannot even be stream winners and are still deluded.
It’s the responsibility of all Buddhists I think to not misrepresent the Buddha like that.
But I have hope that these issues will vanish since my perception of the new generation of Buddhists is that they go back to the source of Buddhism: suttas/agamas and check with the Buddha’s teachings. Perhaps decades ago people didn’t have this access, but with our technology and internet, and more accurate translation work, it’s more convenient to hear the words of the Buddha.
And this might also be at the heart of the opposition against Ajahn Brahm because AB grounds his teachings in the word of the Buddha whereas some of those Thai monks just rely on the views of their teachers and their own, without checking the words of the Buddha, and call that dhamma.
“The problem here stems from “Buddhists” not bothering to read suttas or agamas.”
This struck me.
Sometimes people can be a little laid back, trusting their teachers and the books and the talks. And a lot of people in many countries have had no choice but to trust. Much in the same way the Catholic Church has controlled their own dogma over the centuries, preventing the illiterate masses from gaining any insights that might go against their own presentation.
But how many of us who have the ability to read, have access to the suttas, have the questioning mind to actually go and study these? A dharma talk might be blissful but what if it’s wrong view?
And while the onus should be on us to go study and question – things that Ajahn Brahm and wise monks tells us to do! – how much of that is anathema to those who wish to control their own brand of the dharma?
I think you are spot on, the rot started with Ajahn Brahm’s decision to open up Jhana teachings to ordinary mere mortals. So much for dhamma being ‘Opanaiko’! The bikkhuni issue was just the icing on the cake.
Little known fact: Ajahn Brahm started teaching jhanas more openly following the example of Ayya Khema.
remember at ABM one time a monk called Attapemo – now disrobed I think – apropos of nothing –
suddenly shouted at me across the sala that I should ‘stop practising jhanas!!’ I replied that I wouldnt know a jhana if it hit me on the head, wondering what on earth had prompted him to verbally attack me like that
paranoia, from him, more like
Thanks so much for shedding light on such things through your first hand experience.
I’m so glad to hear your voice.
A thoughtful piece by a young Rabbi on women in the clergy of various faiths
“The clergy will never be the same in any tradition now that women serve as clergy in many. Nor would we want it to be. Their presence is one to celebrate.”
Thanks, Lisa, a lovely, reflective article.
Dear Nandiya and Dania,
Dania wrote: “Once one opens up the Buddha’s teachings, one clearly sees the Buddha describe the four noble truths & Eightfold Path. Jhanas are everywhere and indispensable along the path. If the Buddha would be teaching now, he’d also be excommunicated for ordaining bhikkhunis and teaching jhanas :)”
Nandiya wrote: “Another point of controversy which AB is involved in, is teaching Jhanas.
It should be borne in mind, that for the most part, one of either two attitudes are taken up:
1) Jhanas are bad. 2) Jhanas are okay, but they should be part of the “closed fist” teachings exclusively for monastics.
Ajahn Brahm has taken up a position which goes contrary to both major positions, and this counts against him in those circles where one of those positions is accepted.”
I wonder if these originate from the Buddha or originated from certain disciple’s personal opinion. Let’s check the suttas to find out before going along with it, or else we will end up in the same place in our practice. Did the Buddha say the four jhanas are bad ? If we look in the Maha-Saccaka Sutta that is not the case. This is what he said regarding Samma Samadhi :
” Could that be the path to Awakening?’ Then following on that memory came the realization: ‘That is the path to Awakening.’ I thought: ‘So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities?’ I thought: ‘I am no longer afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities:
Did the texts mention that Jhanas are okay, but they should be part of the “closed fist” teachings exclusively for monastics? In the MN 53, Ananda instructed a group of Kapilavatthu Sakyans on the four jhanas at the request of the Buddha.
The Buddha said to Ven. Ananda, “Ananda, speak to the Kapilavatthu Sakyans about the person who follows the practice for one in training.”
Note: “One in training” is a person who has attained at least stream-entry, but not yet arahantship.
In his talk to the crowd, Ananda said : “And how does the disciple of the noble ones obtain at will — without trouble or difficulty — the four jhanas that constitute heightened awareness and a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now? There is the case where, quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities, the disciple of the noble ones enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.’ With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is how the disciple of the noble ones obtains at will — without trouble or difficulty — the four jhanas that constitute heightened awareness and a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now.”
“Now, when a disciple of the noble ones is consummate in virtue in this way, guards the doors to his sense faculties in this way, knows moderation in eating in this way, is devoted to wakefulness in this way, is endowed with seven qualities in this way, and obtains at will — without trouble or difficulty — the four jhanas that constitute heightened awareness and a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now in this way, then he is called a disciple of the noble ones who follows the practice for one in training, whose eggs are unspoiled, who is capable of breaking out, capable of awakening, capable of attaining the supreme rest from the yoke.”-
-Sekha Sutta MN 53.
Also, in the Nigantha Nataputta Sutta of the Citta Samyutta # 41 ,we can see that Citta the lay disciple of the Buddha practiced and experienced Samma Samadhi .
Thank you, iMed, for the very useful quotations.
May I copy your quote of the sutta on my Facebook?
Dear Aj Sujato, Aj Brahmali, iMed, Sylvester and other dhamma friends,
A favour to ask about suttas.
Thai monks whom I saw opposing jhana teachings usually cite the Buddha’s alleged response to the Deva’s statement that his teachers had already passed away when the Buddha was thinking of teaching the dhamma he had just discovered.
Those Thai monks claimed that the Buddha exclaimed, “Damnation” (the most polite word I can think of as an equivalent to the Thai word ‘Chip-hai’) with shocked disappointment because the Buddha knew that his teachers would ‘get stuck’ in the heaven realm of Brahmma for a very long time, at the end of which they would go to lower realms, and possibly hell.
That is a testimony enough for those monks to justify how bad jhanas can be.
Could you please tell me where I can find ‘true’ translation of this particular episode in the Pali canon?
The episode is from MN26, the sutta known as “The Noble Search”. The sutta can be found in full at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.026.than.html. The relevant section reads as follows:
“Then the thought occurred to me, ‘To whom should I teach the Dhamma first? Who will quickly understand this Dhamma?’ Then the thought occurred to me, ‘This Alara Kalama is wise, competent, intelligent. He has long had little dust in his eyes. What if I were to teach him the Dhamma first? He will quickly understand this Dhamma.’ Then devas came to me and said, ‘Lord, Alara Kalama died seven days ago.’ And knowledge & vision arose within me: ‘Alara Kalama died seven days ago.’ The thought occurred to me, ‘A great loss has Alara Kalama suffered. If he had heard this Dhamma, he would have quickly understood it.’
“Then the thought occurred to me, ‘To whom should I teach the Dhamma first? Who will quickly understand this Dhamma?’ Then the thought occurred to me, ‘This Uddaka Ramaputta is wise, competent, intelligent. He has long had little dust in his eyes. What if I were to teach him the Dhamma first? He will quickly understand this Dhamma.’ Then devas came to me and said, ‘Lord, Uddaka Ramaputta died last night.’ And knowledge & vision arose within me: ‘Uddaka Ramaputta died last night.’ The thought occurred to me, ‘A great loss has Uddaka Ramaputta suffered. If he had heard this Dhamma, he would have quickly understood it.’
With much metta.
Thank you so much for your reply. I wonder how the word “Chip-hai (Damnation)” got inserted here…
Individual interpretation of what the Buddha were feeling, I guess.
I hope to be able to listen to your inspiring teachings at Bodhiyana.
With great respect,
And to add the next paragraph:
Notice that the non-jhana yogis of the group of five are not said to have had ‘little dust in their eyes’, nor does the Buddha think they will “quickly understand”.
This is also a great lesson in how not to read the Suttas!
When i wrote my first book, a swift pair of messengers, I encountered many examples of this kind of reasoning. I realized that it was wrong in principle to use this kind of narrative or one-off passage to overthrow the clear and explicit teachings found in many places. In order to find out what the role of jhana is in practice, we should not look to a remark made by the Buddha (especially a mistranslated one) while talking about his decision on who first to teach! We should look at the mainstream, central passages where the Buddha described the actual path to Awakening. And in every single one of those passages, wherever meditation or samadhi is defined, it is always the four jhanas.
Unfortunately, in Buddhism there are few who even read these suttas (let alone practice them, but that’s a whole other story…) and most peoples’, even monks’, knowledge is mainly taken from traditional sources such as the life of the Buddha, which is no doubt where this misunderstanding arose. I am constantly hearing people say, “but it says such and such in a sutta”, when in fact it’s from a Jataka or commentarial tale. Read the Suttas – accept no substitute!
Thank you, all dhamma friends, for the information and wise comments.
I was shocked by the information revealed here, and I am so happy that many of Ajahn Brahm’s students are trying to heed his teachings. It’s encourgaing to see people who are earnestly trying to practice the Dhamma as taught by the Buddha. If I don’t follow his teachings (on this blog), please do not hesitate to kindly and gently kick me. 🙂
Guptila, some info on the bans on Ajahn Brahms’ teachings in Thailand.
A school with an English-born monk disciple of Ajahn Chah as their spiritual advisor had been distributing Ajahn Chah’s books in English, books and talks by Ajahn Chah’s western disciples, including Ajahn Brahm’s Thai version of ‘Open the Door of Your Heart’ until the Bhikkhuni ordination incident. The book could not be obtained anywhere as it is copyrighted.
Fortunately, last December, some disciples of Ajahn Brahm could get a permission to have the publisher print the book and whoever wants a copy needs to get it directly from the publisher.
Regarding Jhana teachings, I attended a meditation retreat by a monk who teaches ‘Vipassana’ meditation. During the interview, I asked him what was wrong about teaching ‘Samatha’ meditation and getting nimittas and jhanas, etc. Was it really dangerous as heatedly claimed by many monks?
His honest reply stunned me — ‘Samatha’ meditation is good, but how many people can do it? He had to resort to teaching something easy for most people; at least, laypeople could have something for their spiritual development. He kindly advised that if I could, I should do the real meditation.
Perhaps what he did not say was ‘how many monks can do real meditation so that they can teach it?’
A bit off-topic
FYI, one of the panel topics at the Sakyadhita International Conference to be held in Bangkok during 12-18 June 2011 is “The Bhikkhuni Issue Revisited”!
Should be interesting…
One thing is for sure- they won’t be spending much time speaking about WPP or what is happening now. It is a drop in a bucket compared to the wonderful flourishing of old and new nun’s communities that is unfolding (where the nuns and their male and female lay supprters are to busy with the business of Dhamma to be checking the internet)
Dear Dheerayupa and Dania,
Dheerayupa wrote: “May I copy your quote of the sutta on my Facebook?”
Of course you can Dheerayupa.
Dania wrote: ” ‘wrong view’ (wrong view number 8 in the DN1). ..So those cannot even be stream winners and are still deluded. It’s the responsibility of all Buddhists I think to not misrepresent the Buddha like that.”
I believe that the ones that are next in line to become Abbot ( actually monastics in general, but especially future Abbots) should prepare themselves in learning the discourses of the Buddha throughly. As well as spend a great deal of time in solitude meditation practice and letting go of the 5 hindrances during daily activities ( Sila Sutta).
According to the Buddha’s advice in the Mahaparinibbana sutta, the Dhamma should be our main teacher. Others can be helpful to shine the light on the teaching, but it should not replace the discourses of the Buddha. Let’s say a teacher grasp 90 % of the pure dhamma. His disciples grasped 90 % of that. The next generation grasp 90 % of the 90 % of the 90 %. Afters so many generations, what pass as dhamma can be so watered down.
If we look at the Buddha’s daily routine, we see that he set aside part of the day for solitude meditation and part of the day for dhamma . The Vinaya should be kept at all time. The three aspects correlate with Sila, Panna, Samadhi. The monastic lifestyle provides people with the proper conditions and sufficient time necessary to practice all three. According to MN 43, supporting factors for right view includes: sila, learning, discussion, samatha , and vipassana.
“Assisted by five factors, right view has cetovimuttiphala as its fruit & reward, and pannavimuttiphala as its fruit & benefit. Right view is assisted by virtue ( sila) , assisted by learning , assisted by discussion, assisted by tranquility (samatha ), assisted by insight (vipassana).”- MN 43
Here we see that it is not the case that we should practice vipassana and leave out samatha, nor is it the case that we should practice meditation and leave out learning & discussion. Also it is not the case that sila can be ignored.
ack in the time of the Buddha, some monks can memorize the dhamma word by word and recite them to the Buddha from memory. Now the discourses sit in the books, and the books are displayed and not read. Someone mentioned that it is possible for a person to be ordained for years without having read the discourses of the Buddha. One tradition might place little emphasis on meditation, while another tradition would place little emphasis on learning the Buddha’s discourses, yet another tradition would place little emphasis on Sila or letting go of the hindrances during daily activities. The insight required for Right View becomes difficult if not impossible when missing the necessary supporting factors.
This is the reason why I personally feel that there is a need for a renewal in Buddhism. The various factors of the Eightfold Path need to be integrated into our practice in a way that is more complete.
Dheerayupa wrote: “His honest reply stunned me — ‘Samatha’ meditation is good, but how many people can do it? ….Perhaps what he did not say was ‘how many monks can do real meditation so that they can teach it?’”
It is necessary to abandon the 5 hindrances of meditation before Samma Samadhi can happen. The practice of using the present moment as the focal point and let go of the 5 hindrances while walking, lying down, standing ,etc..are usually dismissed. If we wait until sitting meditation to begin the practice of letting go of the 5 hindrances, when will we be able to go beyond them and get into Samma Samadhi. Yet this is not emphasized in certain tradition. The Sila Sutta emphasized this practice, and it is in the stock formula for enlightenment.
“Bhikkhus, when the bhikkhu is virtuous, observing the patimokkha, conducting himself with the right behavior, realizing the danger in the slightest fault, what further has he to do?
“Even when walking he dispels grasping , aversion, sloth and drowsiness, restlessness & worry , and has discarded doubts , then his energy becomes actively aroused, unclouded mindfulness is established, his body is at ease and unexcited, his mind is collected ( samahita: settled, composed, collected of mind) and unified ( ekagga: unified, calm, tranquil). Even when walking, if he is scrupulous in this way, it is said : ‘ strenuous and scrupulous, he is continually with aroused effort to dispel.’ ”
The same is repeated for the other activities:
“Even when standing he dispels….”
“Even when sitting he dispels…..”
“Even when lying down he dispels..” – Sila Sutta
Dania wrote: “But I have hope that these issues will vanish since my perception of the new generation of Buddhists is that they go back to the source of Buddhism. … Perhaps decades ago people didn’t have this access, but with our technology and internet, and more accurate translation work, it’s more convenient to hear the words of the Buddha.”
Yes, nowadays it is possible to have the entire Pali Canon in our pocket. Various translations are available for downloading into a portable device to read anytime anywhere. Monastery lifestyle should provide the monastics with enough time and space for meditation practice as well as study of the Buddha’s discourses and keeping the training rules. Hopefully through a more complete application of the written dhamma , more people will become living dhamma ( embodiment of the dhamma, Awakening) .
This book on the frames of reference is based to some extent on my own thoughts and opinions. In some spots it may not be directly in line with the original texts, because my primary aim has been to get to the heart of the matter so that it can be conveniently put into practice. Those who hold zealously to the texts may feel that what I have written is wrong; but as for me, I feel that whoever is able to practice in line with what is written here will find that it can be taken as a guide to the true principles of concentration, discernment, and release. To hold to the texts isn’t wrong, but they should be held to discerningly, just as in medicine: A doctor who thinks that the only way to cure a fever is to drink a concoction of boiled neem and quinine leaves is wrong. Some doctors may add the leaves of other trees and make it into a powder; some may make a concentrated extract; others may vary the dosage. In the same way, when practicing the Dhamma, to go no further than the texts may in some cases be wrong. Actually, any path that abandons defilement and brings relief from suffering is right. The value of medicine lies in its ability to cure disease; the value of a method of practice lies in its ability to abandon defilement. As far as I can see, there is nothing wrong with any method that has been found to work. In the end, all such methods must follow the basic principles of virtue, concentration, and discernment, and differ only as to whether they are crude or sophisticated, direct or indirect, fast or slow.
Taken from the introduction to “Frames of Reference” by Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo.
I personally like both the technics taught and style of teaching of the late Ajahn Lee.
i like Ajahn Lee too, Peter
Thank you iMeditation for your comment and reminding us of the importance of abandoning the 5 hindrances and stressing meditation 🙂
You’re right, any Buddhist: lay or monastic, we should practice to abandon these 5 hindrances.
As for a teacher, totally agree, we’d expect a teacher to be skilled in meditation and Buddha’s teachings. That’s quite a lot of responsibility so monastics do have a lot of practice to do 🙂 since there’s quite a demand for good monastics.
I remember in a vinaya class at Santi we were going through the whole vinaya and in a part it said we should look for a teacher who is an arahant, and if not an arahant, then a non-returner, if not a non-returner, than a once returner, if not that, then a stream winner, if not that then at least one who can teach the buddha’s teachings (so one who knows the suttas) but the best teachers would have been those who and are liberated, realized the Dhamma. The problem is that we don’t know who is liberated. My guess is since in other parts it mentions that jhanas are the ‘hang out’ (paraphrasing) place of the ariyans, then we’d find teachers who have great conduct, teach jhanas and of course have right view, enough of the Budhda’s teachings. But in the end, it’s true the Dhamma is our refuge so we must go back to the Buddha’s teachings and keep on practicing that 8fold path, abandoning the hindrances, meditating etc:) then people won’t rely so much on monastics. Although the well-practiced monastics can serve as inspiration and discussion/clarification, we really have to keep at the practice. We all know what to do, we just have to go ahead and keep on the practice:)
Well said iMeditation: “This is the reason why I personally feel that there is a need for a renewal in Buddhism. The various factors of the Eightfold Path need to be integrated into our practice in a way that is more complete.”
That’s so true, I think most of the troubles will vanish if we all just go back to fundamental and essential Buddhism: 4 noble truths, eithfold path, abandoning hindrances etc. We all have access to these teachings and if we just follow the Buddha’s teachings, ideally there wouldn’t be such disparities between traditions. We all have the same teacher (the Buddha) we just have to follow his guidance:)
Also what Michael said is a great reminder too: We are disciples of the Buddha first and foremost.
So that has precedence over any Ajahn Chah or any monastic.
Dania wrote: “As for a teacher, totally agree, we’d expect a teacher to be skilled in meditation and Buddha’s teachings. That’s quite a lot of responsibility so monastics do have a lot of practice to do 🙂 since there’s quite a demand for good monastics.”
Such a comprehensive practice requires a lot of time, but that is what the monastic life is for. I hope that anyone who is going to be Abbot will prepare himself throughly ( not that other bhikkhus shouldn’t) .
As for lay people, I believe people can go as far as they want to or just practice what they are comfortable with.
Dania wrote: “Also what Michael said is a great reminder too: We are disciples of the Buddha first and foremost.”
I think one of my favorite suttas on jhana is MN 27. Bhante G points out that the ideal time to practice vipassana is within samasamadthi (the four jhanas) the suttas seem to support that position because nowhere can i find evidence for coming out of jhana to practice vipassana.
“With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, the monk directs and inclines it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations. He discerns, as it has come to be, that ‘This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress… This is the way leading to the cessation of stress… These are mental fermentations… This is the origination of fermentations… This is the cessation of fermentations… This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.’
“This, too, is called a footprint of the Tathagata, a scratch mark of the Tathagata, a tusk slash of the Tathagata. A disciple of the noble ones has not yet come to conclusion, but he comes to the conclusion, ‘The Blessed One is rightly self-awakened; the Dhamma is well-taught by the Blessed One; the Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples has practiced rightly.'
“His heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, is released from the fermentation of sensuality, the fermentation of becoming, the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, ‘Released.’ He discerns that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.’-MN 27
There is also a sutta in the Anguttara Nikaya 9.36 that is even more direct in its meaning:
“‘I tell you, the ending of the mental fermentations depends on the first jhana.’ Thus it has been said. In reference to what was it said? There is the case where a monk, secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: ‘This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.’
“Suppose that an archer or archer’s apprentice were to practice on a straw man or mound of clay, so that after a while he would become able to shoot long distances, to fire accurate shots in rapid succession, and to pierce great masses. In the same way, there is the case where a monk… enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: ‘This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.’
“Staying right there, he reaches the ending of the mental fermentations. Or, if not, then — through this very dhamma-passion, this very dhamma-delight, and from the total wasting away of the first five of the fetters — he is due to be reborn [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world.
“‘I tell you, the ending of the mental fermentations depends on the first jhana.’ Thus was it said, and in reference to this was it said.
It doesn’t seem like the four formless attainments are considered jhanas in the suttapitaka. What are everyones thoughts on these suttas? Peace,
With deep respect to Bhante G, methinks we need to move away from using English grammar to interpret the suttas. The English translations are just fine, but one needs to look to the Pali grammars to see what they say about present tense verbs.
So, the suttas may have verb clusters such as viharati (for abiding in the Jhanas) followed immediately by pajanati (for the vipassana refrains). But the Pali present tense does not indicate concomittance, for which other grammatical devices are used for that function.
The point commonly overlooked in those who argue for vipassana-within-jhana is the impossibility of dhammavicaya sambojjhanga (the enlightenment factor of investigation of states) within the jhanas that have no vitakka or vicara. Take a look at the canonical definition of this enlightenment factor, and you will have little doubt that vipassana-within-jhana is an oxymoron. Look especially at how the definitions invariably require the verb form of vicara to be operating before dhammavicaya can be said to be present.
Thank you Sylvester for that clarification!
It’s great to have someone like you knowledgable in the suttas and pali to point out these areas that might cause misunderstanding.
I agree with Dania. I am very grateful for Bhante Sujato for making this blog available for us.
Dear Jun Pan,
It is good to see your contributions here. Nrmally Bhante’s posts are enriching areound varied topics of social or political interest, not to mention Vinaya and Sutta study. I have done more Sutta study here than on my own 😉 (ouch, yes, I admit it)
I am a floating member of a few Sanghas and do not live in Australia. The discussions around the Thai Forest Sanghas in Ajahn Chah’s tradition can get a little heated – but in the fire of change beautiful things have been born such as the possibility of going forth as a Bhikkhuni in Australia and what I feel is the birth of engaged Buddhism in the Theravada! Thanks in no small part to AB and AS.
I hope you will not feel discouraged by the intensity of some of the posts here or by what is happening. I visited the Sanghas in Australia and they are doing so well. Their supporters are pleased with the directions they have taken – aye- they have taken them together – and there is much flourish and solid practice as far as I can tell. There are many wonderful communities that you can spend time with in North America who are non-discriminatory and do support women’s aspirations to go forth. (If you haven’t already, you may wish to check the Alliance for Bhikkhunis website for more info.)
With love in the Dhamma
Quoting from Richard Gombrich’s talk:
“I am sorry to have to say it, but one of the main things that attracts people to a religion is when it produces figures who are prepared to speak out against cruelty and injustice. Where are the Theravādin leaders comparable to the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh? True religious leaders are not frightened to be controversial…How, then, can Theravāda Buddhism be disseminated? How can it even be saved? I find the answer obvious. We have to return to the Buddha’s teaching. Our leaders must fearlessly stand up and tell the world that Buddhism is meant to apply to the whole of life, public and private.”
Wow, Bhante – thank you for keeping the world up to date with your informative blog and kind wisdom. We have not met but my boss Ven. Madika met you at the Western Monastic Gathering at CTTB last year. Respected ones here, please forgive any speech I make that is less than skillful, I am just a grasshopper and very happy to make your aquaintance…
Mr Gombrich challenges us to be loud and proud, so to speak. We have the leaders, they are amazing and they are doing as the Buddha taught: teaching and sending the Four Brahmaviharas into the world.
Ajahn Brahm is at the top of his class with impeccable kindness, forgiveness and skillful speech. He and others like him, such as you, Bhante, are Theravada’s leaders today. They may not have the illustrious mythology and wealth behind them the Dalai Lama has but they are not falling into the snares Mara sets for them. And they are bravely setting contrasting examples to the hordes of Mara infesting the Theravada Sangha.
Here in the states we are struggling to grow, some of us recognize the only way we will flourish is to quietly spread Metta, not make any attempt to be rock stars, not look for success as it were but to maintain and attain the BuddhaDhamma. Speaking out against cruelty and injustice must be done skillfully or it has the opposite of the desired effect. WPP is providing the opportunity for such a demonstration and our wise leaders are taming this ungentle beast.
Recently here in the states there have been a couple of popular bumperstickers, the first was: “Mean people suck” the second was “Mean people are suffering.” Mostly bullies fade away if they are not recognized as awesome, over and over I see that Metta is our best option, lets put it to good use. 🙂
Thanks for sharing. I would agree that the original texts doesn’t refer the formless states such as nothingness or neither perception nor non perception as jhana, but only the commentaries. Also , these are not included in Samma Samadhi. In the Magga-vibhanga Sutta, the Buddha defined Samma Samadhi as First jhana, Second Jhana, Third Jhana, and Fourth Jhana.
About when is the best time to contemplate the dhamma to arrive at a breakthough in insight, some suggest right before jhana, within jhana, or shortly after jhana. I would go with shortly after or immediately after jhana, when the mind is purified. The reason is because we should be calming down thoughts and perception instead of engaging them to stir them up.
The Pamsudhovaka Sutta shows that a samadhi where one is still reflecting on the dhamma is not deep enough:
“When he has abandoned these, there still remain thoughts about the dhamma (dhamma vitakka). That samadhi is not yet peaceful and sublime; it has not attained to full tranquillity , nor has it achieved mental unification (ekodibhava) ; it is maintained by strenuous suppression of the defilements . –Pamsudhovaka Sutta
Accordingly , I wouldn’t assume that the sutta implies that a person should contemplate the dhamma during jhana, much less before ( a.k.a. access concentration) . We can , but the sutta above indicates that “That samadhi is not yet peaceful and sublime; it has not attained to full tranquillity , nor has it achieved mental unification (ekodibhava) “.
We should be calming perception down instead of engaging it to stir it up . According to the Anapanasati sutta:
5. ‘I shall breathe in experiencing piti (rapture) ’; he trains thus, ‘I shall breathe out experiencing piti (rapture) ’;
6. He trains thus, ‘I shall breathe in experiencing sukha’; he trains thus, ‘I shall breathe out experiencing sukha’;
7. He trains thus, ‘I shall breathe in experiencing the mental formation’ ( perception and feeling) ; He trains thus, ‘I shall breathe out experiencing the mental formation’ ( perception and feeling) ;
8. He trains thus, ‘I shall breathe in calming the mental formation’( perception and feeling) ; He trains thus, ‘I shall breathe out calming the mental formation ( perception and feeling)’ – Anapanasati sutta
Note: mental formations are perception and feeling according to MN 44
Thanks for the response imeditation,
I will have to write a lengthier response a little later, Have you read bhante Gunaratana’s article “Should we Come out of Jhana to Practice Vipassana?” found here: http://www.bhavanasociety.org/resource/should_we_come_out_of_jhana_to_practice_vipassana/
let me know your thoughts, peace
I hope you will find this essay by Piya Tan on Bhante G’s position helpful in showing another dimension to the issue.
Click to access 33.1b-Buddha-discovers-dhyana.-piya.pdf
The sutta that is popular with the proponents of the “discursive jhana” model is MN 111, a rather problemmatic sutta (particularly the English translation). It is unique in the Pali Canon, and has no known parallel in the Agamas. Plus, it is the only sutta in the 4 early Nikayas that uses this unusual word “vavatthita” (variously translated as ‘determined’, ‘analysed’ or ‘ferreted’), and the only other place where this word recurs is in the Patisambhidāmagga, a late work. The suttas themselves offer no clue as to the meaning of vavatthita, and it is left to the Commentaries to supply the meaning, which is taken up in the translations.
More problemmatic is the translation of “anupada” to mean “one by one as they occured”. Most readers are easily misled into reading this as an adjective for the dhamma-s experienced in the jhanas, but the Pali itself is clear that anupada is not an adjective, but an adverb that qualifies the vavatthita. This misreading of Ven Nanamoli’s translation could lead to all sorts of wrong inferences, when “anupadavavatthitā ” should simply read as “(did) vavattheti uninterruptedly”.
Thanks, Sylvester. I’ve just read Piya’s analysis, and he does a fine job as always.
I would add that the Anupada Sutta is not merely problematic, but is clearly a late sutta. It tells us nothing new about what the Buddha taught, but about how the formulas in the Suttas came to be assembled into the Abhidhamma. It highlights the methodological flaw of using an occasional, dubious passage to overturn the common sense reading of countless mainstream suttas: again and again the suttas speak of the practice of jhana followed by the development of insight.
I think I will be bolder and offer my suspicion that MN 111 post-dates even the Abhidhamma’s Vibhanga and Dhammasangani.
For years, based on Mrs Rhys Davids’ translation of the Dhs, I took the Dhammasangani to be nothing more than a dry laundry list of dhamma-s to be found within each of the different “cittas”. It was not until I read Ven Payutto’s essay on Dependant Origination and the actual Dhs itself that I realised that what the Dhs was presenting was not a laundary list of dhamma-s (eg 56 dhamma-s for the kusula kamavacara citta) but a list of 11 iddapaccayata clusters repeated as a peyyala series for the other kusula cittas (except for the lokuttarajhana citta list).
It was only a little later that the Commentaries, in their interpretation of the Dhs’ “tasmin samaye” for each citta, applied the concept of the khanika citta (citta atomised to a khana) and came up with the citta and cetasika model of dhamma-s.
What I see in MN 111 is not the strict textual presentation of iddapaccayata sets found in the Abhidhamma, but the Commentarial interpretation of the cetasikas that MUST accompany and be concomittant with each citta.
Had the Commentaries preserved the Dhs’ iddapaccayata formulation, the Theravada cetasika theory might have developed on a completely different trajectory, and MN 111 might have turned out quite differently from its present “sahagata” presentation.
Just my suspicions for now…
Interesting point. I have showed in A History of Mindfulness that in certain points the suttas may be later than certain abhidhamma passages. if your argument is true this may be the case for the Anupada Sutta as well. I would be interested to see how the Anupada Sutta compares in a detailed study taking into account the earliest phase of the pali abhidhamma (the Vibhanga; in particular the fragments of non-standard lists that we find, for example, here as well as the chinese/Skt.)
Thank you for the response ven. Sujato imeditation and Sylvester. I hope I’m not a bother, but there is no-one I can consult about these matters where I live, so your input is immensely helpful, a thousand sadhu’s!!
I agree with Sylvester and your analysis of MN 111. However, MN 111 was never the main impetus for my belief that one could practice vipassana in jhana, more on that in a bit.
There is one point in Piya’s article and ven. Brahm’s book Mindfulness Bliss And Beyond, that doesn’t make sense to me or seem to be found in the stock passages on the four jhanas:
“Before we go on, we should have some idea of the nature of the dhya-
nas. The numerous passages in the early Buddhist texts describe that dhyana arises with the abandoning
of all mental hindrances,106 that is, when the five physical sense-doors have been closed, revealing only
the mind. In this way, we are experiencing the mind directly: we are the mind.”
If the 5-hindrances are removed why should we assume that the 5 sense doors are completely shut down? If the suttas meant to say that the 5 sense doors are completely shut down wouldn’t it have been much more accurate to say that the meditator abandons the 5 aggregates instead of the 5 hindrances?
And if what ven. Brahm says about any jhana is true:
“Brahmavamso summarizes the characteristics or landmarks of all dhyanas as follows:
(1) There is no possibility of thought.
(2) No decision-making process is available.
(3) There is no perception of time.
(4) Consciousness is non-dual, making comprehension inaccessible.
(5) Yet one is very, very aware, but only of bliss that doesn’t move.
(6) The five senses are fully shut off, and only the sixth sense, mind, is in operation.”
Then why do the suttas stipulate that when one leaves the 4th jhana and enters the first formless attainment one experiences this:
“with the complete surmounting of perceptions of form, with the disappearance of PERCEPTIONS OF SENSORY IMPACT, with NON-ATTENTION TO PERCEPTIONS OF DIVERSITY, aware that ‘space is infinite’, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of infinite space..” [emphasis added] -BN&BB MN 30.17
If ven. Brahm has already abandoned the 5 sense doors in the first jhana then what is he to abandon when he enters the first formless attainment?
The stock passage for the first jhana which appears everywhere in the suttas is that first jhana is accompanied by applied and sustained thought. But ven. Brahm says there is no possibility of any thought.
I agree ven. Sujato that vipassana is clearly to be practiced after one attains jhana, but i dont see where the suttas say one leaves jhana to practice vipassana. From the Anapanasatti sutta:
 Breathing in long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in long’; or breathing out long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out long.’
 He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.’  He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.’  He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication.’
 He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the mind.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the mind.’
 He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in focusing on inconstancy.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out focusing on inconstancy.’  He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in focusing on dispassion [literally, fading].’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out focusing on dispassion.’
If such an important detail as leaving the attainment of jhana before practicing insight was meant, why doesn’t the sutta clearly state that? Instead it seems to seamlessly flow into insight practice right after jhana.
I’m eager for everyone’s thoughts, peace.
At the risk of sounding like Ajahn Brahm’s mouthpiece :), here are my thoughts on your queries –
1. “shutting down” of the 5 sense doors – This occurs, because the standard 1st Jhana pericope says “vivicc’eva kamehi”, which means “secluded (!) from the kāmā”. Now, most of the English translations out there follow the Abhidhammic definition of this pericope to mean “secluded from kamacchanda/kamaraga/sensual desire”.
On the other hand, kāmā in the suttas means sights, smells, sounds, tastes and tactility – all of the contents of the kāmaloka. Be careful also not to conflate kāmaguna (the pleasant kāmā) with kāmā, as AN 6.63 has a resounding caution against this.
Most translators forget the paradox that occurs with applying the Abhidhammic definition of “vivicceva kamehi”. If kāmā in that formula meant kamacchanda/sensual desire, instead of sense objects, this must entail that an Arahant (free of all the defilements and Hindrances) should be in a Jhana 24/7. But the suttas are clear that the Arahants and the Buddha “attain” the Jhanas, which is clearly the case that they don’t abide in the Jhanas 24/7.
The seclusion from the 5 Hindrances occur because of the adjacent seclusion formula – “vivica akusalehi dhammehi” (secluded from unwholesome states). I don’t think we should conflate the 5 sense doors (indriyas) with the 5 Aggregates (khandha).
I’ve posted elsewhere that there is a technical explanation for why the 5 senses disappear in Jhana. Here it goes –
“Kāmasaññanirodha occurs when there is no tajjo samannāhāro directed at any kāmā and its corresponding indriya, thereby leading to the absence of the arising of the corresponding type of consciousness of any kāmā, which in turn entails the absence of the phassa-s corresponding to the kāmā, and thereby negating the paccaya for kāmasañña, QED – kāmasaññanirodha”.
Between the above, and Ajahn Brahm’s more simplistic way of putting it, I think Ajahn Brahm’s presentation should be preferred in a book that is trying to reach the average Buddhist.
Have to run now. Hope to address your other queries later.
Lars wrote: “‘If the 5-hindrances are removed why should we assume that the 5 sense doors are completely shut down? ”
If we look at MN 51, it speaks about both. After the instruction on sila and full awareness to dispel the hindrances during daily activities , comes the instruction on sitting meditation:
“Possessing this mass of virtues (sila) , the restraint of the mental faculties, right mindfulness ( sati) and full awareness, one resorts to a secluded dwelling, such as the forest, the root of a tree….one sits legs crossed and mindfulness established in front.
1. Dispelling covetousness for the world one abides freeing the mind.
2. Dispelling anger one abides with a mind free of anger, compassionate to all born.
3. Dispelling sloth and torpor one abides, aware of a perception of light, mindful of cleaning sloth and torpor.
4. Dispelling restlessness and worry one abides with a mind internally appeased, cleaning the mind of restlessness and worry.
5. Abides with doubts dispelled of merit that should be, and should not be done.
The bhikkhu dispelling the five hindrances of the mind, and wisely making the minor defilements weak, quite withdrawn from ( vivicca) kamehi , withdrawn from ( vivicca : separating oneself from) unwholesome mental states — And with vitakka and vicara , rapture ( piti) , and happiness ( sukkha) born of solitude he enters and abides in the first jhana.”- MN 51
Lars wrote; “And if what ven. Brahm says about any jhana is true:
– The five senses are fully shut off, and only the sixth sense, mind, is in operation.”
Then why do the suttas stipulate that when one leaves the 4th jhana and enters the first formless attainment one experiences this:“with the complete surmounting of perceptions of form, with the disappearance of PERCEPTIONS OF SENSORY IMPACT, with NON-ATTENTION TO PERCEPTIONS OF DIVERSITY, aware that ‘space is infinite’, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of infinite space..” [emphasis added] -BN&BB MN 30.17
Instead of the disappearance of ” perception of sensory impact”, it should be the disappearance of ” ALL SENSE OF RESISTENCE”.
“And then, with the complete transcending of Rupa-sannanam (perceptions of form, perception of materiality ) ,with the disappearance of ALL SENSE OF RESISTENCE ( paṭighasaññānaṃ, patigha : repulsion, repugnance, anger, atthaṅgamā : setting down ), and paying no heed to (amanasikārā: not attending to) the perception of diversity(nānattasaññānaṃ )”
Also ” perception of form” ( Rupa- sanna) is not to be understood as referring to the physical body. But here it is used in the context similar to the way it is used in ” rupa-loka” ( form realm, the sphere of materiality, Fine material realm) . Here the word ” rupa” does not refer to body but refers to materiality or ” Fine material” .
In rupa- jhanas, one left behind ” kama-sanna”. After the arupa states one left behind ” rupa-sanna”.
” By the attainments of the 1st jhana, KAMA-SANNA ( perception of five sense objects & sense desires, perception of the things of the kama loka) cease (niruddhā)
-by the attainments of the 2nd jhana, vitakkavicārā cease
-by the attainments of the 3rd jhana, rapture ( piti) ceases
-by the attainments of the 4th jhana, assāsapassāssā cease ”
-by the attainments of the Sphere of Infinite space, RUPA-SANNA (the perception of materiality , perception of form) ceases ” – Sangiti Sutta
Just to clarify, ‘patigha’ in the first arupa means neither ‘anger’ nor ‘sense impact’ but refers to the patighasamphassa referred to in the Mahanidana Sutta. This kind of contact is that associated with ‘rupa’. The formula is saying that not only does ‘rupa’ end (where rupa is the residual mental image formed from the original meditation object), but also the contact conditioned by rupa ends. From the Mahanidana Sutta:
Continuing to your next query –
2. the transition formula between 4th Jhana and the first Immaterial Attainment of “Infinite Space”.
Firstly, I would suggest that we ask whether or not we move directly from one jhana to the next by deciding to do so. Based on how DN 16 presents the Buddha’s passages through the jhanas, it looks clear to me that before “entering” each jhana, one first “emerges” from the preceding jhana, even when doing so in reverse order. This suggests that one does not enter the attainment of “Infinite Space” by deciding to do so when one was in the 4th Jhana.
Secondly, it does not seem to be correct to read the “sign-posts” descriptions of the Jhanas and the Arupa attainments as implying that the Jhanas contain perceptions that are described to be transcended in “Infinite Space”. For example, DN 9 clarifies quite clearly the “cessation” that marks the transition from 4th Jhana to “Infinite Space” as follows –
“And then, with the complete transcending of perceptions of rupa, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not heeding perceptions of diversity, [perceiving,] ‘Infinite space,’ the monk enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of space. His earlier perception of a refined truth of neither pleasure nor pain ceases, and on that occasion there is a perception of a refined truth of the dimension of the infinitude of space. On that occasion he is one who is percipient of a refined truth of the dimension of the infinitude of space. And thus it is that with training one perception arises and with training another perception ceases.”
Based on this, it seems clear that the transition between 4th Jhana and Infinite Space is marked by a very specific change in perception of “mental feeling” to a purely “conceptual” perception.
Thirdly, and I believe this to be most critical, is the 2 sets of (i) perceptions transcended and (ii) the perception attained. For (ii), that perception is “Infinite Space”. Now, the suttas, eg MN 62, describe the “space dhatu” as being defined by and sustained by “rupa”. Rupa delineates space by the absence and presence of rupa. As long as “rupa” is present to delineate that space, that space will be limited by the presence of the rupa. To gain the perception of “Infinite Space”, all perceptions of any vestige of rupa will have to be transcended, and the meditation therefore makes use of the very same factors that make up 1st Jhana, except perhaps for the “meditation object”. This can be done when starting up meditation, eg the Mettasahagata Sutta suggests that the development of karuna leads to Infinite Space.
Just my hypothesis to share _/\_
Lars wrote: ” (1) There is no possibility of thought.”
Ajahn Brahm’s book mentions that :
” All jhanas are states of unmoving bliss, ALMOST. HOWEVER, in the first jhana, there is some movement discernible. ” – Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
This is in reference to vitakka and vicara.
However, in second jhana and beyond, there is no thought . If we think that it is impossible to go beyond thoughts in any of the four jhanas or shouldn’t go beyond thoughts in any of the four jhanas then it is a good idea to look at the Nigantha Nataputta sutta of the Citta Samyutta . The Nigantha Nataputta ( Jain leader) does not even believe that it is possible.
Nigantha Nataputta said to Citta ( a non-returner disciple of the Buddha) : “ Householder, do you have faith in the ascetic Gotama when he says: “ There is a concentration without thought and examination, there is a cessaton of thought and examination?”
Citta : “ In this manner, venerable sir, I do not go by faith in the Blessed One …..”
Nigantha Nataputta said: “ …….One who thinks that thought and examination can be stopped might imagine he could catch the wind in a net or arrest the current of the river Ganges with his own fist.”
Citta then goes on to explain that he doesn’t just go by mere faith, but directly experienced it for himself. Also he explained how he entered these jhanas :
What do you think, venerable sir, which is superior : knowledge or faith?”
” Knowledge, householder, is superior to faith.”
” Well , venerable sire, to whatever extent I wish……..I enter and dwell in the 1st jhana…….2nd jhana………….3rth jhana……….4th jhana.”
Note: Citta gave the stock formula for the instruction on entering the four jhanas, but I am not posting the whole thing here.
If basing on vitakka and vicara in the first jhana , we claim that a person should contemplate the dhamma while ” inside” jhana, then how do we contemplate the dhamma when starting from the 2nd jhana onward when there is no vitakka ” within” jhana. Some might assert that, first jhana is the only suitable for developing insight. But in the suttas we see that other three jeans are suitable for insight as well, and not just the 1st jhana. So this needs to be address if we claim that insight should be practiced ” inside” jhana and not “after” jhana. Because the sutta is not specific on this part we assume that it is ” inside” . But if we examine these points, it is not a good idea to make that assumption.
Dear Bhante Sujato,
I realize that it is not ‘ anger’ in this context. I just included the entire definition as it is from the dictionary there which includes all the various context. But that is not to say that all of these context would apply here. I just listed it there in quotation mark for the purpose of reference. Of course only one would apply. Various translator translated it as ‘ resistance’, and that it what I used as the definition and not ‘ anger’.
Rhys Davids, Maurice Walsh, and Thanisaro rendered it as ‘ resistance’.
They rendered paṭigha- saññānaṃ as ” sense of resistence”.
As we know both aversion and desire are absent even in the first jhana , so that is not ‘ anger’ for sure.
I came across the article you mentioned already. Let me know which point you want to discuss.
The sutta doesn’t specify ” within” jhana. What we often see is that after jhana. After could either be after entering jhana, or after a jhana. So which one is it. When we look at the Pamsudhovaka Sutta, it clearly shows that a samadhi where “there still remain thoughts about the dhamma (dhamma vitakka)” is “not yet peaceful and sublime; it has not attained to full tranquillity (patippassaddhi), nor has it achieved mental unification (ekodibhava)”. How can one contemplate the dhamma within jhana and not after. Also mental formation should be allowed to calm as well during jhana, that includes perception and feeling. I wanted to see someone address this before we move on further. Below is a longer version of the sutta I quoted above.
“When he has abandoned these, there still remain thoughts about the dhamma (dhamma vitakka).
“That samadhi ( concentration, onepointedness of mind) is not yet peaceful and sublime; it has not attained to full tranquillity (patippassaddhi), nor has it achieved mental unification (ekodibhava) ; it is maintained by strenuous suppression of the defilements (sasankhara-niggayha-varita-gato).
But there comes a time when his mind becomes inwardly steadied (santitthati: stands still, remains, to be fixed, settled) , composed ( sannisidati) , unified (ekodi), and concentrated ( samadhiyati) . That samadhi is then calm and refined; it has attained to full tranquillity and achieved mental unification (ekodibhava); it is not maintained by strenuous suppression of the defilements. Then to whatever dhamma realizable by supernormal knowledge (abhinna) he directs his mind, he achieves the capacity of realizing that state by supranormal knowledge (abhinna), whenever the necessary conditions obtain ( sati sati ayatane).
“If he wishes: ’ May I enjoy manifold supranormal powers, such as being one, becoming many, being many becoming one , appearing and vanishing. May I go unimpeded through walls, through ramparts and mountains as if through space. May I dive in and come out of earth as though in water. May I walk on water as though on earth. Sitting crosslegged may I fly through the air like a winged bird . With my hand may I touch & stroke even the sun & moon, so mighty & powerful. May I exercise influence with my body even as far as the Brahma worlds.’ -he achieves the capacity of realizing that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.
“If he wishes: ’With the purified divine ear-element beyond human, may I hear both kinds of sounds, heavenly and human, whether near or far’ —he achieves the capacity of realizing that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.
“If he wishes: ‘May I penetrate and understand the minds of other beings. May I know the mind with greed, the mind without greed, the angry mind and the not angry mind. May I know the deluded mind and the not deluded mind, the composed mind and the distracted mind. May I know the exalted mind and the un exalted mind, the surpassable mind and an unsurpassable mind . May I know the concentrated mind and the un-concentrated mind, the liberated mind and the un-liberated mind ‘—he achieves the capacity of realizing that state by supranormal knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.
“If he wishes, “May I recollect the manifold previous births such as one birth, two, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty births. One hundred births, one thousand births, one hundred thousand births, innumerable aeons of cosmic-contraction, innumerable aeons of cosmic-expansion, innumerable aeons of cosmic-contraction and cosmic-expansion. There I was with this name, in this clan, with this disposition, supported thus, experiencing these pleasant and unpleasant feelings, enjoying such a lifespan. Disappearing from there I was born there with this name, in this clan, with this disposition, supported thus, experiencing these pleasant and unpleasant feelings, enjoying such a lifespan. Disappearing from there I was born here.’ May I thus recollect the manifold previous births with all details.” — he achieves the capacity of realizing that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.
“If he wishes, “With the purified divine eye beyond human may I see beings disappearing and appearing beautiful and ugly, in heaven and hell, born according their kamma.’These good beings owing to misconduct in body, words and mind, reviling noble ones, owing to bearing wrong view and the actions based on wrong views, after death are born in misery, in states of deprivation, in decrease, in hell. These good beings owing to right conduct in body, words and mind, not reviling noble ones, owing to bearing right view and the actions based on right views, after death are born in increase, in fortunate states, in heaven. Thus may I see beings disappearing and appearing beautiful and ugly, in heaven and hell, born according their kamma” —he achieves the capacity of realizing that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.
“If he wishes, “By the ending of the asava , may I enter and abide in the anasava liberation of mind (cetovimutti) , liberation of wisdom (pannavimutti) , realizing it for myself with direct knowledge in this very life.”—he achieves the capacity of realizing that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.” -Pamsudhovaka Sutta
I don’t understand the big deal. I am a Sri Lankan and in Sri Lanka, we have legitimate ordained Bhikunni’s.
We had an alms giving in my house where all the monks were in fact Bhikkuni’s.
Why is this different in Thailand where the tradition is also Therevada?
Thanks, I agree completely! The experience of having bhikkhunis around is very uplifting and inspiring to so many people, whether east or west.
Dear Sri Lankan Lay Buddhist,
Sri Lankan Lay Buddhist: “I don’t understand the big deal. I am a Sri Lankan and in Sri Lanka, we have legitimate ordained Bhikunni’s.
We had an alms giving in my house where all the monks were in fact Bhikkuni’s.
Why is this different in Thailand where the tradition is also Therevada?”
It is wonderful to know that there are places where the complete fourfold assembly established by the Buddha still exist without missing half of the monastic sangha. I hope to see Australia and U.S. and elsewhere have a complete fourfold assembly as well.
Sri Lanka is a sacred island with waterfalls and many monasteries amidst nature. I want to take a pilgrimage there sometimes.
I live in Tampa Florida USA and we do have one Sri-Lankan bhikkuni living here. She has been a nun for 25 rains I believe. I think she was with the first batch of nuns who were ordained in Sri Lanka.
Lars wrote: “I live in Tampa Florida USA and we do have one Sri-Lankan bhikkuni living here. She has been a nun for 25 rains I believe. I think she was with the first batch of nuns who were ordained in Sri Lanka.”
Thanks for sharing. There are also two groups of Theravedan bhikkhunis ordained by Theravedan bhikkhus in California, USA. They belong to the forest tradition of Sri Lanka. I am so thrilled that there are Theraveda bhikkhunis in the US and that the door of dharma is open to them.
True but if you go to their “About” page it also says :
Ajahn Brahm having been one of the disciples of Ajahn Chah, one might expect his talks to be available there as well.
Definition of Cult on Wikipedia
(I am not suggesting anything other than this may be useful reading. That we may always set healthy boundaries for ourselves and that we may be better able to engage with others who have been blinded by false doctrine, charismatic leaders and “groupthink”. Healthy boundaries can become blurred and if this goes on for too long a great deal of harm can be done) _/\_
Studies performed by those who believe that some religious groups do practice mind control have identified a number of key steps in coercive persuasion:
1.People are put in physical or emotionally distressing situations;
2.Their problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized;
3.They receive unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from a charismatic leader or group;
4.They get a (new) identity based on the group;
5.They are subject to entrapment (isolation from friends, relatives and the mainstream culture) and their access to information is severely controlled.
This view is disputed by scholars such as James Gene and Bette Nove Evans. Society for the Scientific Study of Religion stated in 1990 that there was not sufficient research to permit a consensus on the matter and that “one should not automatically equate the techniques involved in the process of physical coercion and control with those of nonphysical coercion and control
Potential for harm
When you buy into something that seems to explain everything, you can soon be coaxed into doing almost anything ”
In the opinion of Benjamin Zablocki, a professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, groups that have been characterized as cults are at high risk of becoming abusive to members. He states that this is in part due to members’ adulation of charismatic leaders contributing to the leaders becoming corrupted by power. Zablocki defines a cult as an ideological organization held together by charismatic relationships and the demands total commitment. According to Barrett, the most common accusation made against groups referred to as cults is sexual abuse (See some allegations made by former members). According to Kranenborg, some groups are risky when they advise their members not to use regular medical care.
Michael Langone gives three different models for conversion. Under Langone’s deliberative model, people are said to join cults primarily because of how they view a particular group. Langone notes that this view is most favored among sociologists and religious scholars. Under the “psychodynamic model,” popular with some mental health professionals, individuals choose to join for fulfillment of subconscious psychological needs. Finally, the “thought reform model” posits that people do not join because of their own psychological needs, also because of the group’s influence through forms of psychological manipulation. Langone claims that those mental health experts who have more direct experience with large numbers of cultists tend to favor this latter view.
Some scholars favor one particular view, or combined elements of each. According to Marc Gallanter, typical reasons why people join cults include a search for community and a spiritual quest. Stark and Bainbridge, in discussing the process by which individuals join new religious groups, have even questioned the utility of the concept of conversion, suggesting that affiliation is a more useful concept.
There are several ways people leave a cult: Popular authors Conway and Siegelman conducted a survey and published it in the book Snapping regarding after-cult effects and deprogramming and concluded that people deprogrammed had fewer problems than people not deprogrammed. The BBC writes that, “in a survey done by Jill Mytton on 200 former cult members most of them reported problems adjusting to society and about a third would benefit from some counseling”.
Ronald Burks, in a study comparing Group Psychological Abuse Scale (GPA) and Neurological Impairment Scale (NIS) scores in 132 former members of cults and cultic relationships, found a positive correlation between intensity of reform environment as measured by the GPA and cognitive impairment as measured by the NIS. Additional findings were a reduced earning potential in view of the education level that corroborates earlier studies of cult critics (Martin 1993; Singer & Ofshe, 1990; West & Martin, 1994) and significant levels of depression and dissociation agreeing with Conway & Siegelman, (1982), Lewis & Bromley, (1987) and Martin, et al. (1992).
Sociologists Bromley and Hadden note a lack of empirical support for claimed consequences of having been a member of a “cult” or “sect”, and substantial empirical evidence against it. These include the fact that the overwhelming proportion of people who get involved in NRMs leave, most short of two years; the overwhelming proportion of people who leave do so of their own volition; and that two-thirds (67%) felt “wiser for the experience.”
According to F. Derks and J. van der Lans, there is no uniform post-cult trauma. While psychological and social problems upon resignation are not uncommon, their character and intensity are greatly dependent on the personal history and on the traits of the ex-member, and on the reasons for and way of resignation.
The report of the “Swedish Government’s Commission on New Religious Movements” (1998) states that the great majority of members of new religious movements derive positive experiences from their subscription to ideas or doctrines which correspond to their personal needs, and that withdrawal from these movements is usually quite undramatic, as these people leave feeling enriched by a predominantly positive experience. Although the report describes that there are a small number of withdrawals that require support (100 out of 50,000+ people), the report did not recommend that any special resources be established for their rehabilitation, as these cases are very rare.
Stuart A. Wright explores the distinction between the apostate narrative and the role of the apostate, asserting that the former follows a predictable pattern, in which the apostate utilizes a “captivity narrative” that emphasizes manipulation, entrapment and being victims of “sinister cult practices”. These narratives provide a rationale for a “hostage-rescue” motif, in which cults are likened to POW camps and deprogramming as heroic hostage rescue efforts. He also makes a distinction between “leavetakers” and “apostates”, asserting that despite the popular literature and lurid media accounts of stories of “rescued or recovering ‘ex-cultists'”, empirical studies of defectors from NRMs “generally indicate favorable, sympathetic or at the very least mixed responses toward their former group.”
Lisa, I think you are very brave to bring up this cult issue. This revivalist/fundamentalist/New Buddhism with the charismatic leader does seem to be heading in that direction (possibly more sect than cult though).
I feel that it is a tragedy that the very important and wonderful re-awakening of the Bhikkuni issue has been caught up in this.
From the “Wandering Dhamma” blog “Bhikkhuni Meditation Center in Chom Tong, Chiangmai”
Lovely post Peter, thank you. _/\_
But to see the Bhikkhuni issue a being “caught up in it” is a narratave, I cannot emphasize this enough. If there is any spin – it is that – and we must all drop it. It has to do with so much more which has been said in other posts and my own ontribution i that there is a large section of practitioners who are rather more “engaged Buddhists” and we have outgrown WPP Sanghas.
There has been a separation. Let us all build on the new.
If we are to get involved in the aggressive actions being taken towards Ajahn Brahm, then let people indicate what it is we can do. Otherwise, all we can do is pray for a peaceful resolution, for the dousing of fires in vengeful hearts and the building of a new Sangha body that espouses our shared values and provides a place of rest for those feeling distressed because they too have outgrown their Sanghas.
This is reform. It does not have to be so painful. I celebrate that I have broken free from something that was not healthy. I celebrate too that many nuns have left Amaravati (acknowledging that it was unjust and deeply painful for them and many Buddhists around the world). They will be far freer and happier in their new communities.
Most of what is transpiring – I mean the reality of what is happening, movement, shifting, changing, growing – is a breath of fresh air.
We just have to breathe…
And what about the nuns who have stayed at/with amaravati and those who still choose to commit to that community. Can we celebrate with them.
That is a very good question. This is where I really have to decide if I am an engaged Buddhist or not!
The tiny shreds that are left of that community are extremely brave and either hope to tenaciously forge through a very difficult and painful transition – or they have succumbed to the heavy handed conditioning that has become the hallmark of the Amaravati community and are willing to make the best of the rest of their lives.
As an engaged Buddhist, I celebrate their courage with a caveat.
We all talk about strictly upholding the Vinaya:
There is no Siladhara Vinaya. There is Bhikkhuni Vinaya. Therefore, one is breakng Vinaya and one is not.
Multiple choice quiz.
Do I support an aberration of the Vinaya? Or do I go with what the Buddha established?
Do I support something that is forced onto the community under duress, or do I support something that develops in an organic, participatory manner?
Do I support something that is reluctantly accepted or something that is accepted joyfully, as something that is beneficial for them?
Do I support changes imposed on women, born out of haste and in the midst of a gurgling conflict between men over things that have nothing to do with Bhikkhunis? Or do I reject that kind of decision-making wholeheartedly? (5 points)
Do I support changes that come closer to internationally and nationally respected laws? Or do I support something that pulls us away from both conventional laws and Vinaya to a standard that is below both of these?
Do I support something that jives with the Buddha’s teaching on right view (non-discrimination) or do I support something that directly contravenes that?
Do I support something that is decided and imposed based in ignorance of all of these things or based on a knowledge and understandng of all of these things?
I do tend to go on! Sorry. I wonder what is there to celebrate?
I celebrate the going forth as the Buddha gave it. If any of that is to be changed, I support an inclusive, INFORMED, process within a framework of deep listening and loving speech, where the people affected have a say on that which will affect them directly, in an environment that is void of intimidation, with a conclusion that lifts us all to a higher standard of virtue, not a lower one.
Lisa, I think it is worth remembering that the Nuns at Amaravati really were trail blazers. And those who have stayed and those who have left have done a great deal to move buddhism forward. At the time that the 10 precept order came there were no Theravada Bhikkuni and this was seen as a way to move things forward and progresive. Things have changed now and possibly that community is now lagging on the forward movement.
I have tremendous respect for both those who have stayed and also for those who have left.
Of course, I agree that these women had the best intentions and that the solution put forth at the time seemed right for those who put it forth. I mean no disrespect to the nuns at Amaravati and respect how you feel about their contribution.
I have listened to many Dhamma talks by Venerable Candasiri and have particularly enjoyed Venerable Sundara’s teachings (when I could access them. During the 6 years I practiced in AC branch monasteries, their names were hardly ever mentioned and their talks have been available but usually buried under the heaps of talks by monks who were more well known. for those who havent had the benefit, I would highly recommend a listen). I have no doubt these women are great Dhamma teachers, that they have inspired many lay people, fellow monastics and inspired other women to consider living the holy life.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express this as well as speak my truth.
PS – And men such as yourself who have been supportive of them – are to receive our sincerest gratitude. We can learn well from different teachers and without diversity both in monastic and lay supporters, our experience and learning can only be skewed. I know that what has affected them has deeply troubled many male lay practitioners as it has many male monastics for various reasons. I have never separated my heart from acknowledging this suffering.
In fact I think the deepest suffering, after the nuns themselves must have been for the men – the male monastics and the male lay upporters. For us women – once we have lived a life we are used to discrimination – we face it every day. In a spiritual context as Sujata alludes to below, it is at a much deeper level, the most fragile level of a human being’s experience – still we have to get used to this being told we can’t do this or that because we don’t have that extra bit of skin or that Y chromosome.
I believe it is a more traumatic event for men because they are cut off again from the feminine. They are told again – cut yourself off from that which you love, from that which complements you, from your human family, from those qualities in you that are reflected here, from those qualities that you wish to cultivate, from your mothers, sisters, daughters…at a deeper level, this must be more painful.
There are riems of contemporary articles on the death of the spirtual male (practitioner – not leader) because they are increasingly socialized out of caring for others and out of seeking stillness. What happened to the nuns at Amaravati must be hugely conflicting and deeply painful for male practitioners. It’s another act of cutting off, of violence, when these men were seeking refuge from that.
I really respect the consistent gentleness of your speech throughout this blog. Thank you. _/\_ It’s healing to read such positive, gentle writing which is also unashamedly revealing of your truth and how you see and have experienced things.
Bless you for your comments below. I am not sure if Terry would agree with you. There are times when I think of those scary Demons in Tibetan art and wonder when we need to pull out these faces – not to hurt but to jolt each other awake.
I am not a teacher so I am surely unskillful at it. There are times when I need to be jolted too and to remember how much harm I can cause with my words. There are times when I act in speech out of anger, for the most part and in the case of what I said to Terry, I truly believe that if we are only selectively awakening, (selectively reading, selectively quoting, selectively “compassionate”, selectively sending loving kindness), in certain cases, the scary face needs to come out to jolt us out of that delusion.
That is our job as spiritual friends and ultimately it is out of compassion for the friend and the community- and for ourselves to learn and grow.
No shining example here but it warms the heart when we can dwell together in Dhamma friendship, Dear Kanchana. I do not know what I would have done without your spiritual Friendship and example the last year and a half.
Thank you. I feel the same way. 🙂
And may i say that there is no shining example here either…
But I think that sometimes we have little glimmers of shine… And these should be celebrated, acknowledged and made much of. _/\_ So I celebrate your little glimmers of shine! 🙂 🙂 🙂
Much metta 🙂
It should be remembered that just 2 weeks before a heap big pow wow of all the Ajahns in Aussi, one of the subjects on the agenda being bhikkhuni ordination. Therefore all the monks had booked their flights and had their tickets paid and made their arrangements. Ajahn Brahm called to inform them that he was going out on a limb to perform a bhikkhuni ordination, no discussion involved. In other words he stuck his finger up at his fellow bhikkhus and supposed friends who he was meant to be in unison with, being part of the same group.
The idea that the other monks are envious or jealous of him is quite frankly a somewhat ridiculous view.
There must be some undeclared women haters amongst the monks and lay men but equally there are undeclared men haters amongst women. Therefore it behoves people to check out all the facts involved before making rash statements and resolutions. And not allow themselves to be to persuaded by the views of others who may appear to be but infact lack any real knowledge of Buddha dhamma.
Thanks for the comment.
While it is understandable that some people should have been upset with how things transpired, it is wrong to interpret the timing or the manner of the ordination as an attack on the other Ajahns. In fact it was not about them at all – it was about the community giving support for women to take full ordination. The ordination was not done ‘at’ anyone, it was done ‘for’ the candidates. I spoke with Ajahn Brahm before the ordinations were performed, and it was his intention that the ordinations be done in a way that would minimize conflict. He believed that when the monks came for the meeting after the ordination, it would give them a chance to make their criticism, discuss differences, and move forward. None of us had any idea of the ferocity of the reaction.
I’m quite sure bhante that Ajahn Brahm would not have had even the slightest intention to cause a rift between his friends in the Western Sangha or in Thailand. He may possibly have hoped that having had the ordination it would become accepted, and then things would proceed as normal.
However it would seem that the majority of Ajahns were not in favour of Bhikkhuni ordinations at that time. Not because they don’t want them to be so but because of the complexity of bringing it forward to the satisfaction of most of the people involved. I’m not sure of your meaning regarding minimizing conflict. The fact that Aj.Brahm was involved with this arrangement and was present at the bhikkhuni ordination would be enough to sign his approval of it. From my point of view that’s enough to throw a cat among the pigeons, so to speak!
I do believe that women need to have some patients here. It’s not any one’s fault that the bhikkhuni’s died out between 300 and 1000 years ago. It therefore may take a bit of sorting out for its revival. As far as I am aware the Majority of the western monks are being cautious and are following the Buddha’s teachings as per the Paranibbana sutta –
——-“The growth of the bhikkhus is to be expected, not their decline, bhikkhus, so long as they assemble frequently and in large numbers; meet and disperse peacefully and attend to the affairs of the Sangha in concord; so long as they appoint no new rules, and do not abolish the existing ones, but proceed in accordance with the code of training (Vinaya) laid down; so long as they show respect, honour, esteem, and veneration towards the elder bhikkhus,
As their elder bhikkhus and roots are in Thailand they could be said to following their advice which would be the correct thing to do according to the Buddha. Now Thailand is at present adjusting to the growing desire of women to ordain, it is slow but it is happening. I will put an article I have just come across in the next panel which explains this quite nicely. Their approach is evolution rather than revolution.
I’m sure that in time and not to long either, as Thailand changes so will the West. Meanwhile back at the ranch the women have gone from keeping 5 precepts to 10 precepts to 10 precepts plus 180 rules from the bhikkhuni vinaya (siladhara). Not bad in 30 years. It may appear that the forward march in Thailand and in the West may conjoin soon. I hope so as I would like to see the ordination of bhikkhuni’s.
I take the view here that Ajahn Brahm’s approval of bhikkhuni ordination although with good intentions in mind was somewhat premature and certainly out of line with his colleagues in the West and Thailand. Hence a nasty situation has arisen which has involved a great loss for all of those involved and all the Buddhists worldwide who look up to the Sangha as a guide.
I hope this may be resolved one day.
One major event that is happening in the Buddhist world right now is that females appear to be causing a considerable amount of problems. Both the problems involving Ajahn Brahm and at Amaravati concern women. This is an observation and fact, not a judgement. Most certainly it is causing the Buddha’s Sangha to split and it is causing bhikkhus, nuns and many lay folk to be disillusioned with both the Sangha and Buddhism.
There is a group of women at large who appear to put their hard-line feminist views before their Buddhist ones or even it seems before common sense. When a group of nuns who felt they were in a position of power by fulfilling many monastery duties, demanded from the Sangha to increase their position, presumably with regards equality. This was rejected by the bhikkhu Sangha as they did’nt have the option to comply even if they wanted to (the bhikkhu Sangha may have acted a little harshly to this which was perhaps wrong).
Henceforth these ladies have embarked on a reign of terror and vengeance on the bhikkhu Sangha. They started by trying to talk Barre meditation centre into refusing to have these bhikkhus teach in their premises (using the equality card). Where ever you look on the net Buddhist chat sites you will find them agitating, spewing their venom and leaving nasty remarks concerning the bhikkhu Sangha, in an effort to bring them into disrepute. Mainly now using the sympathy card – “we are suffering from deep mental wounds and trauma” etc. One is led to think that they have been subjected to waterboarding and sleep deprivation!
Beware of getting sucked into following these, at the moment, hate filled minds masquerading as Buddhists.
It can help sometimes to ask oneself would the Buddha think, speak or act in these ways?
No wonder he legged it off into the forest for months at a time to cool down from listening to peoples squabbling!
I am responding to your post as a woman who had never thought of herself as a feminist until reading this post of yours. I was born during the cultural revolution in mainland China and am now a chaired professor at MIT. I thought of myself as a good example of women being treated as equals in this world. But the apparent insensitivity and the implicit hostility in your post is an eye opener. To read it in a Buddhist community is shocking. Nevertheless, I thank you for your honesty. Knowing that there are people like you out there, I think I’ll call myself a feminist from now on.
So I had almost a week to reflect on what I wrote above and I wish to soften the feisty tone of my message. While I still do not agree with the hostile attitude implicit in your post, I can appreciate the fact that I actually know nothing about you. In fact, last Saturday was the first time I knew your existence, and your post was the only extent of my knowledge of you. So I don’t really know where you are coming from and what the circumstances are. So I wish to take back my own hostile tone toward you and extend good will. Sincerely, I wish you the best. May you be at peace. Also, I take this opportunity to forgive myself 🙂
“It’s not any one’s fault that the bhikkhuni’s died out between 300 and 1000 years ago.”
You speak of patience in your post. After one year and a half, when you first began posting, and all the postings you have read regarding Bhikkhuni Vinaya (there is no Mae Chee Vinaya – there is no Siladhara Vinaya – if you are indeed concerned with “strictly” upholding Vinaya) and all the postings here regarding the history of Bhikkhunis on all of the sites you frequent, it takes patience to see a friend still cling to mythology rather than accept the above statement as false and finally put it away.
Second, your posts have not lost in their hatred of women, indeed they have increased. Who is to “blame” – Ajahn Brahm or “venom spewing feminists?”
That your posts are not removed for their level of hatred towards women and that they receive considered response from respected members of the community shows a great deal of patience.
When you sign your messages with “warm regards”, to whom are you directing these “warm regards?” It seems a very narrow group of people indeed.
There have been differences of opinion between friends within a larger community. It was dealt with and in Australia and most of the rest of the world, people have laid that to rest and moved on.
Those who support women’s ordination have been labelled outcasts by a very small number of Buddhists who cling to WPP doctrine – a very small and insignificant number in a world of 500 million Buddhists and hundreds if not thousands of Sanghas who practice according to Bhikkhuni Vinaya.
You have excommunicated them. Good for you. So why can’t you leave them alone and move on? Why do you continue this harassment?
It’s so nice to hear from you after our conversations some time ago on WFS. Thank you for your misinformed, acid comments.
I’m beginning to think that perhaps we were married in a previous life!
I hope Ajahn Sujato will indulge me here for making the below comments on this site as generally it is not to do with the Australian monastery or its present problems, though there is a link.
I noticed that a number of ladies from the core WFS website have migrated to Aj. Sujato’s blog, no doubt in an effort to exploit the rift between bhikkhus, and spread venomous remarks towards the bhikkhu Sangha, to many more people.
You mentioned that I am showing my hatred of women but again you have got it wrong. I don’t hate women at all and have as many women friends as men. However I do find certain types such as yourself and your coterie of fellow ultra feminists rather irksome because of the mayhem you are causing within good Buddhist communities.
If one looks through your comments on this site and those of your WFS friends it will be seen that they are laced and littered with vitriolic, bellicose remarks towards the bhikkhu Sangha. Which have spewed out of your mouths since the monks turned down your ultra feminist views of how they should run the Sangha. You have continued to harass them for a long time now. Which includes coercing people to withhold support for them, and posting their email addresses, probably in the hope that people will send them emails to disturb their minds. I do believe it’s time for you to let go of your hatred and move on to fresh pastures. Why not start your own thing. How about a 12th century, druid political activist group?
Though as you don’t have the finance and numbers to set out on your own and having failed to hijack Amaravati I’m sure you will be looking to move in on other established Buddhist groups.
You may appear on this website as poor little downtrodden women who have been wounded terribly by those great big brutes in the WPP but I know you from the WFS site. Here the genteel ladies have appeared as the worst of the spitty cat female’s types, where I have been called a “half troll” and all manner of laughable, stupid, silly, childish comments. It’s fortunate that most females are just not like your group; otherwise I may think I am in the hell realms!
I asked you on your WFS website what you meant by equality and what rules you required to be changed to satisfy you. Well you had plenty of gas for your bhikkhu bashing, barbed rhetoric but totally ran out when it came to answering these questions. What have you to hide? Well I’m sure that the garadhammas are straight out the window, followed by many other rules. And of course half the Pali Canon would need to go as I’m sure it would upset your feminine sensibilities.
I’m glad you brought up the “removed” idea again Lisa. As I’m sure you well know I was removed from the WFS site. Because I kept presenting you with the opposite views of your own in an effort to bring about a bit of common sense and balance to your website. You will probably maintain that it was because I hate women. A Thai lady who posted that Thai women do not all view their position in the same way as Western feminists, but instead of engaging her in discussion, she was immediately clawed to death by the regular cheetahs and heard of no more, there have been others that have been warned of with expulsion if they continue to show you the other side of the coin.
Its nice to see other are beginning to wake up to what your position is regarding Buddhism. A few of the Buddha’s Sutta’s were posted on the WFS concerning arguing and bhikkhuing (excuse the pun) which was immediately rejected by one of your core members who disagreed with it. Obviously this core member of yours considers her knowledge, as a member of the “divine feminine” to be well above men, even the Buddha! They were removed by the poster with this comment –
“I deleted PP posts. It seems it joined a wrong group, and soon I will log off from it. I thought W&FS is based on Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, and that the group wants to rise up the word of the Lord Buddha. I misunderstood the name ‘Women & Forest Sangha’ thinking it is a movement which tries to back to the roots, and reawaken the bhikkhuni order, but now I realize it is a movement to change Dhamma-Vinaya into New Age form. When there were some dismissive remarks on Suttas, I immediately deleted them, because criticisms of them could bring a lot of bad kamma. I also noticed that some members were banned from W&FS just because they wanted to give an alternative perspective (freedom of speech?), but I will step down on my own”.
Finally may I say that I was a bit surprised to hear from any WFS members, so perhaps you will do me a favour? Do not reply to me concerning this comment or any comments I make anywhere. You totally lack the ability to see a whole situation, and are totally lost in your ideas of grandeur for women. Ultra feminists do not possess even a modicum of humility. So it is unfortunately impossible to discuss anything with you.
For the sake of the wider audience of this blog and given that these comments are misleading factually and liberally mix my behaviour and comments with those of other people whom I have never met and do not have any professional or personal affiliation with any more so than with Terry himself, I will provide a more detailed response later.
For now, I must underline that Terry is referring to someone else calling him names. I do not hate men and I do not discriminate against men or other beings like trolls. In fact I rather like both.
(Even that one in the Harry Potter film. The one with the huge green slimey goober that sloshed onto Harry’s wand, for that big moment of childish “ooh, yuck!”)
I am fairly certain I was never married to Terry in a previous life as he suggests.
I also do not believe that bickering or name calling are hallmarks of a healthy relationship, marital or otherwise.
Although he says he will not read this I appreciate that Terry has read some of the comments regarding Bhikkhuni ordination in this thread and is showing a degree of openness that I have not seen previously. This is all a Friend would wish for.
That we each open our hearts just a wee bit wider…
(And yes, in spite of the zing to those comments, and their slanderous nature, it was in response to an admittedly confrontational approach. Others are free to judge my character based on their own assessments. Otherwise, all is quite forgiven at this end)
You said: “And yes, in spite of the zing to those comments, and their slanderous nature, it was in response to an admittedly confrontational approach. Others are free to judge my character based on their own assessments. Otherwise, all is quite forgiven at this end”
Thanks for that. It is healing to read acknowledgement. It is healing to read the word ‘forgiven’.
Are you a HP fan? 🙂 I shan’t admit I am until you do… 😉
The overtones of your article seem to incinuate that women are just objects with the minds of children. Is that what you really believe?
You incinuate in less than subtle ways that women need everything decided for them and about them, without reference to them, and the most concerning attitude of your post is that you seem to have no compassion for them.
If women want to ordain then this is their decision too, of course realised beings, male and/or female have the right and should say whether they feel it is the time or not, but it is not up to them to decide for the women it is up to women as well, because and obviuosly even though ordination may have died out (supposedly) for women studying the Dharma did not, these days women even out number men at Dharma centres.
I find your patriarchial and patronising approach to the whole issue quite distasteful and it is this sort of attitude to women that for your information actually turns women into men hating feminists; in fact I would go so far as to say that if your post had been just a little more aggresive and patrionising I would go even a bit further than becoming a feminist and become a lesbian.
I am not a full on Buddhist scholar of the Suttas but I do not understand how all this carry on about Ajahn Brahm causing a rift in the Sangha can be right; if a Sangha is not following the ethical or written Dharma of the Buddha, as it seems WPP are not, then apart from outside, if not, then how can there be a Schism in their Sangha if they are not one.
Also it seems logical and reasonable that if they are not following the Buddhas teaching then they are the ones causing a schism because they are the ones going against the Dharma.
I take to heart and I see where you are coming from in your first 3 paragraphs, interesting that I did not see it that way. Bit like one of those funny pictures you stare at for a while and out pops another picture. I will try to address these comments of yours.
I understand that the best research, and by a female researcher can find no trace of bhikkhunis existing (reported on WFS website) before 300 years ago, and even that may be spurious’ in which case it would be 1000 years ago. So as far as is provable it is not a case of the bhikkhuni order “supposedly” dying out. It’s a fact that needs to be faced rather than skipped around, because it does’nt suit ones opinions.
Naturally of course women have the choice to ordain or not to ordain as they so desire. There is no disputing that and indeed it is the same for men. But In the case of the Theravada Sangha, officially there is no bhikkhuni Sangha to join because it ran out – period. This is what I was trying to portray in my comment. I notice that many women have greater attributes than I have and I very much respect them for that.
I’m not sure that this signifies a schism in the Sangha. Just because a monk leaves a monastery and sets up his own I don’t think could be called a schism, which might entail a change of doctrine or rules methinks. Though I stand to be corrected, as I am no expert in defining a schism in the Sangha.
You made this statement – “if a Sangha is not following the ethical or written Dharma of the Buddha, as it seems WPP are not” I can’t see for the life of me where you got this from? From my view they very much are.
Terry wrote: “I take the view here that Ajahn Brahm’s approval of bhikkhuni ordination although with good intentions in mind was somewhat premature and certainly out of line with his colleagues in the West and Thailand. Hence a nasty situation has arisen which has involved a great loss .”
There are monks from other monasteries who participated in Bhikkhuni ordination before, but they are not preceptors so the Bhikkhunis do not become Thai Forest Tradition bhikkhunis. So there is not problem there.
It is not very different in Ajahn Brahm’s case. He is not the preceptor so the bhikkhunis do not become Thai Forest Tradition bhikkhunis. But they follow the Sri Lankan Forest Tradition of their preceptor. As we know, the Sri Lankan Bhikkhuni Sangha was revived awhile back by Theravedan bhikkhus of Sri lanka.
The lay sangha in Australia wanted to have a fourfold assembly as set up by the Buddha a long time ago , instead of inheriting an incomplete one. Since there are Theravedan bhikkhunis in Sri Lanka Forest Tradition, I don’t see why they shouldn’t invite these bhikkhunis over to start a bhikkhuni sangha in the Sri Lanka Forest Tradition there in the country. After all, there are Sri Lankan bhikkhunis staying in Thailand as well .
I believe the overreaction was due to their misunderstanding that Ajahn Brahm was the preceptor and therefore had jumpstart the Thai bhikkhuni sangha. But that is not the case, here we just have four more bhikkhunis in the Sri Lanka Forest Tradition, which is nothing new and should not disturb anyone.
Terry wrote: “I’m quite sure bhante that Ajahn Brahm would not have had even the slightest intention to cause a rift between his friends in the Western Sangha or in Thailand. ”
I believe you are right about this. May the sangha sit down together to clear up their misunderstanding .
Terry wrote: “Now Thailand is at present adjusting to the growing desire of women to ordain, it is slow but it is happening. I will put an article I have just come across in the next panel which explains this quite nicely. ”
Thanks for sharing. How delightful.
Article: “There will not be a sudden decree of authentication ordination for women, as that would be a jolt to Thai culture. …There are also all the logistical problems of legalities, laws, and structure of authority for the new Bhikkhuni temples if they opened up.
The Somdeths are not against bhikkhuni ordination per se, just against sudden changes in the broad Thai culture. The Thai Sangha in the U.S. has actively helped ordain Bhikkhunis, and the Somdeths temples have hosted Bhikkhunis from time to time without issue. …At Wat Maap Jan, Wat Songtamkalyani and other places, the nuns go on almsround with the monks.
“Naturally things have a long way to go, but they are in fact going. The quiet evolution of the issue is ticking along at snails pace, and there is not a policy of suppression on the part of the Sangha Council, but one of letting things develop slowly and peacefully. The country has a policy of religious freedom after all.
But to establish a Bhikkhuni Sangha Council will take time and acceptance from the general public. It will also take some changes to the law. If such a council is set up, there can be working committees to coordinate between the monks/nuns as necessary. According to Buddhism, the monks and nuns were always separate communities.”
Thanks for sharing the above article Terry.
Terry wrote: ” It may appear that the forward march in Thailand and in the West may conjoin soon. I hope so as I would like to see the ordination of bhikkhuni’s.”
I am looking forward to this day.
Dear imeditation, thank you for the very interesting information concerning the ordination method. It certainly puts a different light on things. Is’nt that what knowledge is for!
It was first advertised as a Theravada forest Sangha bhikkhuni ordination which has given a strong colour to the proceedings to start with. This further information has changed the colour somewhat. Thanks also to Aj. Sujato and especially to sister Sobhana for her very detailed description of what appears to be a very complicated process!
Terry wrote: “thank you for the very interesting information concerning the ordination method. It certainly puts a different light on things. Is’nt that what knowledge is for!”
You’re welcome. I am happy that we can improve our understanding of the situation .
Terry wrote: “Therefore I would like to request that someone in authority in the Australian monastery would talk to their supporters and attempt to cut off this WPP and bhikkhu bashing adhamma behavior.”
This is also what I have in mind. People from the other party should speak to whichever person that is inflicting the higher penalty on Ajahn Brahm, which requires other Theravedan bhikkhus including his disciple to not associate with him. He did not ordain Thai Theraveda Forest Sangha bhikkhunis, but Sri Lanka Theraveda Forest Bhikkhunis . He did not violate any rules of the WPP group , nor does he violate any Vinaya of the Buddha. Whoever inflicted the higher penalty on him wrongly, should be made to apologize or cease his actions immediately.
Terry wrote: “Especially as both the AB and WPP Sanghas are very good. Both keeping good vinaya and teaching the Buddha dhamma to other monks, nuns and lay folk and both sides of course do an amazing amount of good work.
I sincerely hope that some profitable decisions can be made.”
That is what both sides truly need at the moment. This is just a misunderstanding . We are kalyanamitta after all. I hope that both parities can continue to associate and learn from one another on this path.
Terry Shine said:
“When a group of nuns who felt they were in a position of power by fulfilling many monastery duties, demanded from the Sangha to increase their position, presumably with regards equality. This was rejected by the bhikkhu Sangha as they did’nt have the option to comply even if they wanted to (the bhikkhu Sangha may have acted a little harshly to this which was perhaps wrong).”
I repeat again this sentence from the above quoted paragraph:
“the bhikkhu Sangha may have acted a little harshly to this which was perhaps wrong”
…that’s quite a concession.
…so it wasn’t just AB and hateful women who should be ignored (cos ignoring hate was clearly the Buddha’s teaching…no wait…wasn’t it love and kindness that dispells hate?) that are the cause of problems? Maybe the hateful women became hateful because of being ‘a little harshly’ dealt with. Maybe they are indeed in pain because those they looked up to did not treat them as they would expect to be treated by spiritual beings/teachers/authorities.
Makes you wonder… If this ‘little harshness’, which was ‘perhaps wrong’, is how they dealt with women who were looking to them for guidance and support, perhaps they were indeed capable of a ‘little harshness’ in their speech and actions towards AB.
“I take the view here that Ajahn Brahm’s approval of bhikkhuni ordination although with good intentions in mind was somewhat premature and certainly out of line with his colleagues in the West and Thailand. Hence [HENCE???? HOW DOES THE FIRST SENTENCE LOGICALLY, WISELY OR COMPASSIONATELY ACT AS A LEGITIMATE CAUSE FOR THIS SENTENCE?] a nasty situation has arisen which has involved a great loss for all of those involved and all the Buddhists worldwide who look up to the Sangha as a guide.”
….continues to be repeated just goes to show that there is no real substance or justification for their treatment of AB. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it was indeed spite and jealousy of AB that was the real cause. The Bhikkhuni ordination just gave them the perfect reason to act.
The Little Bangkok Sangha
The Sangha Council on Bhikkhunis
Theravada Buddhism has been lacking an ordained lineage for women for a long time – but this is changing. There are a number of Bhikkhunis (female monks) ordained both in Thailand and the US, who are putting down firm roots that are growing strongly over the last few years. The arrows of change are pointing in the direction of a fully functioning Bhikkhuni ordination lineage.
Where most articles, especially by certain embittered Bkk Post writers, tend to vilify monks and cry sexism, the Sangha Council that heads the Bhikkhu Sangha has a rather more evolutionary approach:
The Sangha Council is lead by the Sangharaja, but he is now constantly in hospital and is not taking any kind of active role in the council activities. It falls to 9 senior monks called ’Somdeths’ to run the Sangha Council. Various other offices within and outside the Ordained Sangha are represented, including the ministry for Culture, and the National Buddhism Office (under the PM). The Somdeths are the top monks, and there are always 9 of them, and from them will be selected the next Supreme Patriarchs of Thailand. The main 3 Somdeths are the abbots of Wat Saket (golden mountain, Bkk) Wat Rakhang, and Wat Pak Nam. They are all over 80 years of age.
The general policy is one of evolution, not revolution.
There will not be a sudden decree of authentication ordination for women, as that would be a jolt to Thai culture. And as we all know, Thailand has a very strong culture that they are very proud of – no one is going to make sudden drastic changes. There are also all the logistical problems of legalities, laws, and structure of authority for the new Bhikkhuni temples if they opened up. Right now, the anarchic governance of the Thai Sangha, while without any real structure, does in fact work very well, based as it is around ‘face’ and good intentions, rather than constitution. There are also the views of the many highly regarded Mae Chee’s to take into consideration – as many of them do not want to ordain as Bhikkhunis; for them the Mae Chee system is working fine. Also some of the resistence comes from Thai lay women. There are many views.
The Somdeths are not against bhikkhuni ordination per se, just against sudden changes in the broad Thai culture. The Thai Sangha in the U.S. has actively helped ordain Bhikkhunis, and the Somdeths temples have hosted Bhikkhunis from time to time without issue. Other nuns, from the Mahayana Bhikkhuni lineages, and from Ajahn Sumedho’s temples in the UK have been welcomed in the monks universities Mahacula and Mahamakut, and in various temples around Thailand. At Wat Maap Jan, Wat Songtamkalyani and other places, the nuns go on almsround with the monks. So even though the law of Thailand prohibits women from wearing monks robes, it is clear that space and respect is being given to women in the Sangha, and it is not a case of organised disapproval.
Naturally things have a long way to go, but they are in fact going. The quiet evolution of the issue is ticking along at snails pace, and there is not a policy of suppression on the part of the Sangha Council, but one of letting things develop slowly and peacefully. The country has a policy of religious freedom after all.
It should be noted that the Sangha Council is for the Bhikkhus – for the male order. Things were set up this way from the start – the monks look after the monks, and this is not going to change. Hence the Bhikkhunis are in an ambiguous position. If they seek full inclusion (as opposed to recognition) from the Council, they will be part of an organisation in which they can never rise or participate fully. Do they really want to be part of this group?
But to establish a Bhikkhuni Sangha Council will take time and acceptance from the general public. It will also take some changes to the law. If such a council is set up, there can be working committees to coordinate between the monks/nuns as necessary. According to Buddhism, the monks and nuns were always separate communities.
In the mean time the question of legality is in limbo. Afterall there is religious freedom in Thailand, so any religious group can legally exist here. Some kind of official recognition from the monks Council however would make things like visa application more clear, and give some direction to the adjustments of Thai culture.
“The general policy is one of evolution, not revolution”.
Are you incinuating that it is the problem and/or fault of females, that they are not evolved?
Who is not evolved the women or the male so called sangha that appear to be dragging their knuckles on the ground when it comes to this issues.
If it is an evolution it is an evolution on both sides not as you seem to incinuate that women are the only ones who need to evolve.
Think you have got the wrong end of the stick. What was being spoken about was not people but the vehicles of bhikkhu and bhikkhuni ordinations.
Put it this way if your car was parked outside your house and another vehicle just smashed into it. You would first need to deal with the police and insurance company’s. When that is sorted you would then get the car repaired in a garage, they may not have all the parts so the repair could be delayed but eventually you will get your car back. This is a process that just has to be gone through frustrating as it may be.
The vehicle of yours is the bhikkhuni order. The fact that its usage was taken away is the bhikkhuni order disappearing and the process of dealing with paperwork and repairs is the period we are in now.
That’s all, nothing to do with a male/female competition of mental evolution.
“There will not be a sudden decree of authentication ordination for women, as that would be a jolt to Thai culture”.
That paragraph thanks says it all, in other cultures they enforce and encourage men to have sex with other men before marriage to a women, men are circumciseds, etc such things are slow to change but it is not right to patronise all women for the culture of certain countries.
“Where most articles, especially by certain embittered Bkk Post writers, tend to vilify monks and cry sexism, the Sangha Council that heads the Bhikkhu Sangha has a rather more evolutionary approach”
Not very nice to refer to and indeed dismiss people who (I’m assuming) one has little knowledge of, as embittered. Unless they have their sources of course…
Yet one wonders whether the Council would be bothering to take even a more ‘evolutionary’ approach, if it wasn’t at least in part, due to the role of Bang Kok Post reporters shedding light on the issue.
Nevertheless, I’m deeply grateful to hear about this news. Thank you for sharing this.
Thanks for posting this, and for your previous comments. While I don’t agree with everything you’ve said, I appreciate that it takes courage to express views in a forum where you know they will be unpopular, so kudos for that!
Regarding the article above, it’s a refreshingly sane and accurate piece. What we should note, however, is that Ajahn Brahm’s acts have not contradicted any laws of Thailand or rulings of the Mahatherasamakhom, which is why the Thai sangha authorities have not criticized or censured him at all. Only WPP has done so, arguing that his acts are against Thai law, when in fact as the article says the ‘question of legality is in limbo’ even in Thailand, not to speak of overseas.
The de facto policy of Thai State Buddhism regarding bhikkhunis is ‘live and let live’, and we only wish that WPP had followed this policy. Considering that there are many bhikkhunis living and practicing happily in Thailand, performing ordination with monks from a Thai lineage in an overseas monastery is not a revolutionary, but an evolutionary step. Some monks, however, don’t believe in evolution.
Oh, thank you so much for noticing these things and pointing them out!!
It was wonderful to hear of Ajahn Brahm’s receiving robes from the King of Thailand at Kathina 2010 when I was in Australia. It was hugely symbolic at the subconscious level and brought a wave of relief.
I wonder if it was the fact that despite all the public commotion against Ajahn Brahm’s involvement in the alleged ‘illegitimate’ Bhikkhuni ordinations, Ajahn still received royal cloth for the Kathina that added fuel to some unenlightened monks’ incensement…
As you say bhante the Thai Sangha have adopted a laissez-faire attitude to bhikkhuni ordination. But they hav’nt as far as I know come out and declared them to be legit yet.
There is something strange in what is going on. The English Sangha is not entitled to support women at all; it was set up in order to support the bhikkhu Sangha. However they have chosen to embrace women into the order though have only gone as far as ordaining them as siladhara. Which is pretty close to bhikkhuni ordination. One may ask why they are not going that one step further? Well they must have some reason for this.
However, it seems that is what their stance is at the moment. That is all they have to offer right now. If it does’nt suit people they should simply go elsewhere. I feel sure the WPP Sangha won’t mind that, and at least there is an elsewhere.
There is no need to stand around vilifying the WPP simply because they have different views and ways of doing things, which of course they see as valid and correct for them. As you say AB realized there would be conflict with his decisions but was not able to judge the exact response. Unfortunately it was a bit on the heavy side but none the less AB took the risk and went ahead and did what he felt was valid and correct.
The thing that most concerns me is that I have a great love for the Buddha’s teaching and practice; which is carried through the ages by the bhikkhu Sangha. One has to consider that Buddhism is only on the planet for a blink of an eye in world length times. Therefore it behoves all of us to make the most of it while it is here.
The animosity that is around due to this situation and being whipped up more by the ultra-feminists from the WFS group is exceedingly undesirable. The situation being exactly as above and all the shouting and screaming and finger pointing will not improve this situation. In fact it will make it a great deal worse.
There must be many references in the Pali Canon to explain cause and effect and the different types of results which occur due to negative actions. Pictures of people taken rebirth with large tongues being ploughed (ouch!) come to mind. Though allegorical, one gets the message. Or rather they should do.
Both for the sake of the continuance of the Buddha teachings and indeed if any friendship should be hoped for amongst the Ajahns then this animosity needs to stop.
Therefore I would like to request that someone in authority in the Australian monastery would talk to their supporters and attempt to cut off this WPP and bhikkhu bashing adhamma behaviour.
Especially as both the AB and WPP Sanghas are very good. Both keeping good vinaya and teaching the Buddha dhamma to other monks, nuns and lay folk and both sides of course do an amazing amount of good work.
I sincerely hope that some profitable decisions can be made.
A great rational comment. _/\_
Terry said: “The English Sangha is not entitled to support women at all; it was set up in order to support the bhikkhu Sangha. However they have chosen to embrace women into the order though have only gone as far as ordaining them as siladhara. Which is pretty close to bhikkhuni ordination. One may ask why they are not going that one step further? Well they must have some reason for this.”
That was my thoughts too. How I wish I could understand their reasons. Perhaps once we know their real reasons, we can empathise with them with a bit less difficulty? 🙂
Terry said: “There is no need to stand around vilifying the WPP simply because they have different views and ways of doing things, which of course they see as valid and correct for them.”
Totally agree with you here. Vilifying them will not make them change their mind. Quite the opposite, it could make them stand more firm on their wrong view.
Terry said: “The animosity…is exceedingly undesirable… All the shouting and screaming and finger pointing will not improve this situation. In fact it will make it a great deal worse.”
Thank you for having the guts to say this. I was a coward and did not express my opinion on the issue more clearly for fear that people would mistake me for being anti-Bhikkhuni ordinations. I will post what I wrote to a dhamma friend in a separate post.
Terry said: “Both for the sake of the continuance of the Buddha teachings and indeed if any friendship should be hoped for amongst the Ajahns then this animosity needs to stop.”
I agree. Having deep reverence for Ajahn Chah’s and Ajahn Brahm’s teachings, I wish we could do something skillful and wholesome to promote loving kindness and compassion among monks in this lineage.
Yours in the dhamma,
I really liked Bhikkhu Brahmali’s response to Jun Pan in which includes the following statement:
“I think it is important not to judge the entire Wat Pah Pong (WPP) Sangha, neither the Thai nor the Western, on the basis of what has happened. The situation is complex, as is usually the case when it comes to human interaction. One thing to bear in mind is that the Thai Sangha is very hierarchical, and much of the Western WPP Sangha has adopted this approach. In practice this means that a few senior monks tend to dominate Sangha business, and the majority of monks will often feel too intimidated to speak up. For the same reason, the concerns of lay people are often ignored. If you combine this with ignorance of the broader Buddhist world, you may get some unfortunate results.”
I also like:
“Please also remember that conditioning and delusion are very powerful forces. It is possible to be a good monastic and meditator, yet be profoundly deluded about certain issues. Anyone who is deluded hurts themselves, or their own cause, more than anyone else. If you remember this, you may be able to feel a sense of compassion instead of getting upset. To avoid conceit, it is also useful to remember that most of us – probably all of us – are deluded in some respect or other. Again, the right response is compassion towards ourselves and others. My point is that although it is important to take a stand on what is right, it is equally important not to get carried away and forget basic Buddhist principles. Let us be careful not to be swamped with negative emotions. If we’re not, we lose the Dhamma in a much more profound sense. (By the way, this is in no way meant as a judgement of you.)”
I thought these were worth repeating.
Thank you Jun for asking the question and thank you Bhikkhu Brahmali for showing her the simple courtesy of doing his best to answer her.
Terrry, here it is. Here is the “someone in authority in the Australian monastery” who is “talk[ing] to their supporters and attempt[ing] to cut off this WPP and bhikkhu bashing adhamma behaviour.”
Why is the onus on the “Australian monastery?”
Why aren’t the anonymous committee of WPP/dhammalight, not doing anything?
Indeed, are you also asking them to explain why they are intimidating monks into cutting off the “Australian monastery”?
Do the people in “authority” in Australia have to be responsible for their mess too?
We are not so hierarchical over here.
Our “authorities” can guide us and encourage us…as Bh Brahmali has done already…but they don’t control us and they certainly don’t intimidate us.
I haven’t bashed any monks…literally or figuratively. I have been critical of some of their behaviours (or lack thereof) and I have stated how I have felt about these behaviours (on occasion).
As for WPP bashing… Dhammalight.com represents itself as WPP admin committee (or words to that effect). They do not name themselves. Who actually sits at the keyboard and puts stuff on this site? Who constructed it? Who authorises it? Edits it? We don’t know. Which WPP monks are unaware/ignorant/negligent in making themselves aware? Which ones are fully aware and participating in isolating the BSWA and Bodhinyana and AB? We don’t know their names for sure.
Until such time as dhammalight.com states that it is not representing every member of WPP, what can one do but continue to refer to WPP in it’s entirety.
Nevertheless, I believe that many virtuous and skilled and wonderful monks are part of this group and I have repeatedly stated, again and again, my respect and admiration for them. I wish more of them were setting the WPP agenda. But I can see how easy it is for them to be intimidated into following those who are currently setting the agenda…apparently the current powers have now cut of Ajahn Ganha (Ajahn Chah’s nephew and an apparently very wonderful monk) for stating his support for AB.
It needs to be pointed out that it was Ajahn Brahm who, at my behest, placed bhikkhuni ordination on the agenda for the 2009 meeting. Ajahn Brahm had written to the Ajahns who were scheduled to attend the meeting on two separate occasions asking for agenda items. He received little feedback, and none that concerned bhikkhunis or bhikkhuni ordination.
Ven Bramaili, I guess every one would agree that the whole situation is rather unfortunate. Do you not think that it may be a wise move for Ajahn Brahm to give his supporters some guidance and ask them to possibly take a step back, which may well help this hostility to cease?
Yes, the situation is very unfortunate. I am concerned some people may be turning their backs on Buddhism. This would be ironic, actually extremely sad, since most of the monks involved in this conflict have spent years and decades trying to build up Buddhism in the West. According to the Pali Canon, one of the main reasons for the laying down of Vinaya rules is to preserve the confidence of Buddhists. What we are seeing now is the destruction of such confidence, and it is terrible news for anyone who cares about the Dhamma.
As for Ajahn Brahm, he has been out of Australia since Saturday 19th of March, and is not scheduled to return until Wednesday 30th. He is virtually incommunicado where he is, and I won’t be able to speak with him until he is back. If you do have concerns, I would suggest addressing them directly to Ajahn Brahm using one of the email addresses on the BSWA website. Your correspondence will be forwarded to him.
Thank you for your reply Ven Brahmali. I do have some reservations about contacting Ajahn Brahm directly and thought you as a close confidant may be in a good position to draw his attention to the situation. I will consider it though.
I think that the lay people have the right to voice their expressions, concerns and discuss current topics in buddhism.
This is precisely what this blog is for.
It’s even called: “Buddhism for a small world: views & opinions”
Yes i agree (within reasonable boundries). Were you comfortable with the post that was removed by the moderator?
It is my opinion that Ajahn Brahm could do more to help ease the situation.
What is needed is someone from WPP to explain why is Bhikkhuni Ordination not acceptable ? ???
I can fully understand why many people are upset at the actions of WPP at the moment.
It is about time that WPP speak up. The person that should speak up at the moment is not Ajahn Brahm but WPP.
Since they are not able to explain why Bhikkhuni Ordination is not acceptable, they need to apologize to Ajahn Brahm for all punishment inflicted on him.
We neither receive explanation nor apology. It is about time that we hear something from WPP.
All we hear so far is them repeating ” bhikkhunis died out”. It is starting to sound like a broken record. We have addressed this in various ways and from different angles . If they are not satisfied with that, then it is about time that they speak up or else cease any acts of punishment towards Ajahn Brahm immediately.
Nice post iMed
The ball is in WPP’s field now. It’s good if they acknowledge their mistakes and change accordingly.
The Buddha gave us guidelines on behavior: not to act out of ill-will, fear, desire, delusion, and to speak at the right time and only if it is useful (i’m just paraphrasing, i forget the sutta which taught that). The Buddha never told us what to do, he just gave us guidelines how we can check if our speech and actions are wholesome. That’s what’s admirable with a monk like AB, he just teaches Dhamma, but doesn’t tell us what to do or say.
Well said iMeditation
What we have not had from these WPP monks and their supporters are any thoughtful and well reasoned justifications for their views and actions – based on the words of the Buddha, and with reference to Dhamma-Vinaya. If it weren’t for the courage of people here and elsewhere to bring to the surface the actions of those monks, then their arrogance, meddling and bullying would go unchecked.
To call on Ajahn Brahm to do something now is just blaming the victim. AB has done all he reasonably can to apologize for his actions, seek forgiveness and achieve a peaceful resolution to the situation. The WPP hardliners and their operatives have only shown how petty-minded they can be, and how fruitless their years of Dhamma practice appear to have been. Those lay supporters who have fed, clothed and worshipped them for years have good reason to be dismayed, upset & annoyed.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the majority of the Vinaya rules came about through lay people complaining to the Buddha directly or indirectly about the bad behaviour of monks or nuns. So we have countless precedents for calling to account the un-Buddhist and immoral behaviour of certain monks.
Much of the vitriol and malice directed at AB has to do with the fact that he teaches jhanas and uttari-manussa-dhammas to all people: monastics and laypeople alike. Just as the Buddha did, with an open hand. Ajahn Brahm’s teachings are thoroughly immersed in the Suttas & Vinaya – based upon an excellent grasp of the Pali texts.
Just as in the time of the Buddha, there were lay sotapannas, sakadagmis, and anagamis who were fully skilled in jhanas and Buddha-vacana, like “Citta the householder”- AB recognises that the Dhamma does not have to remain the exclusive province of monks.
Ajahn Brahm encourages people to learn Pali, study the Suttas (and now Agamas) and read the Buddha’s words for themselves, to verify what he teaches. There you will find no basis for “citt-derm”, “original mind”, or any other nascent “mind as self” views which pervade the teachings of many of the famous Thai Forest Monks. These views have more in common with Hinduism than Buddhsim. This is undoubtedly one of the roots of the antipathy toward Ajahn Brahm. The fact that he is able to name their wrong views, with reference to the Buddha’s teachings, like DN 1 – the Brahmajala Sutta wrong view number 8 [“What is called thought (citta), or mind (mano) or consciousness (viññana), that is a self (atta) that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, the same for ever and ever”].
If anyone on this blog site is representing or defending those monks who oppose Ajahn Brahm, his Dhamma teachings or the ordination of bhikkhunis, then I would recommend that you invite these monks on here to share their views & opinions with us. The actions of these WPP monks have so far been mostly covert, with little moral justification or explanation given for policies like banning old monastic friends from residing at each other’s monasteries, and in foreign countries where they have no secular, Vinaya or ethical support for their policies.
I am foremost a disciple of the Buddha, not any Ajahn. The Dhamma-Vinaya that He laid down for us to follow makes no provisions at all for the type of divisive and punitive actions undertaken by these WPP affiliated monks. The same goes for bhikkhuni ordination. The Buddha clearly stated that bhikkhunis were & are integral for the survival and prosperity of the Dhamma-Vinaya. All sincere Buddhists should therefore heed His words, and support bhikkhuni ordination, for the sake of the Buddha-Sasana. To oppose bhikkhuni ordination, and thus block women from full participation in & protection of the Vinaya, on spurious historical, or procedural grounds, just shows how feeble-minded and mean-spirited some monks are, around this issue.
The further these WPP affiliated monks harden their hearts against bhikkhunis & bhikkhuni ordination, and flout basic principles of Dhamma-Vinaya – the further they face obscurity, dwindling support, illegitimacy and the condemnation of all intelligent, well informed and sincere Buddhists.
I wanted to clarify a point that has been implicit in several comments so far, about the Thai forest teaching of the ‘original mind’. This has been criticized as being a ‘Hindu’ teaching, a criticism made within Thailand, as well as, for example, by the scholar monks of Sri Lanka.
It’s important to understand that the Thai forest tradition is fundamentally anti-doctrine. The Ajahns claim to speak directly from experience, and it is not important to them whether what they say is the same as the suttas or not, especially on such arcane points. For this reason, different forest teachers teach in quite different ways, and its not easy to pin down what exactly it is that they teach.
If you look in Ajahn Mun’s biography, at a certain point in his practice he realized that he would not develop the 4 patisambhidas. Now it is these patisambhidas that enable the precise and explicit analysis of the Dhamma in all its details. This, I believe, is an implicit acknowledgment that the contribution of the Thai forest tradition will not be realized in terms of a clear or consistent philosophical articulation of the Dhamma. And i think it is obvious from the style of teaching that this is in fact the case.
Regarding the original mind, different teachers mean quite different things by it. I have heard talks in Thai where Ajahn Thate used original mind quite clearly in the sense of ‘samadhi’, nothing more. Ajahn Chah tended to avoid the term, and when pressed (by a western monk!) he described it as ‘cessation’. Ajahn Maha Bua, on the other hand, tended to treat it from a quasi-eternalist perspective.
It’s difficult to say what Ajahn Mun meant by it; but in the little book of his teachings, he justifies the term by reference to the Pali phrase: ‘Thitbhutam Avijjapaccaya sankhara….’ The problem being that this phrase is not found in the suttas, it is not grammatical, nor does the word ‘thitibhutam’ (‘steady-state’) have anything to do with ‘original mind’. Perhaps the quoted phrase was taken by Ajahn Mun from a pali handbook of some kind, and in the context of dependent origination it may have referred to the idea that dependent origination is a timeless principle (dhammatthitata).
In any case, it’s important to remember that doctrinal consistency is the last thing we should seek or expect from the Thai forest tradition, and while many including myself find the quasi-eternalist use of ‘original mind’ to be problematic, we should not assume that all the Thai Ajahns accept this in any literal sense. Ajahn Liem, for example, commented to a friend of mine that the original mind sounded ‘a bit like a self’.
iMeditation so you also don’t have a problem “nazi practises of WPP” comment which Bhante Sujato has now removed?
You can see information from WPP here:
I should add that that I’am providing this link purely for your information.
Having bhikkhuni ordinations is worthy of celebration since it’s fostering the Buddha’s fourfould assembly.
A man who wishes to ordain does not have to seek permission from an overseas community of monks, he can seek ordination locally.
So I don’t see any reason why a woman wanting to ordain in Australia, has to ask permission from a community of Thai monks living in Thailand.
That’s plainly sexist and has no foundation in VInaya.
Sorry, I am not very experienced with posting comments here. Hopefully, it will show up correctly.
First of all, I am very grateful to Bhante Sujato for making this blog available to us. It has been an invaluable source of timely information.
When I see a fellow blogger went a little overboard (i.e., beyond the boundaries as defined by Peter Durham), I thought to myself: I know where this is coming from. In the heat of the moment, we say stupid things, and we are sorry for that. But what I don’t understand is the collective behavior of the WPP monks, especially the western monks. I think this is the main reason why people are coming to this website: try to make sense out of this mess. It’s possible that the monastics are operating under a different code of conduct. But I do hope that they care about us lay practitioners. If they do, please try to reach us using a medium that is different from the faceless dhammalight.com. How about some sincere dialogs from one human being to another?
Nicely said Jun:)
I agree, we forgive our fellow bloggers from saying things ‘heat of the moment’. We all have defilements (unless one is an arahant) so no need to punish anyone:)
Yes, I think we all come here for a spiritual community of friends. Bhikkhu Brahmali gave a nice friday talk yesterday about spiritual friendship and reminded us of the importance of a healthy Buddhist community to seek inspiration, encouragement and even discussion.
So indeed it’s nice having a place where people all over the world can come to if they need some advice, inspiration or just discuss some Dhamma:) or in the recent case, make sense out of the current situation of Buddhism in our world.
Hi Jun Pan
Well the comment was removed by Bhante Sujato so I guess I am not the only one who found it objectionable. I must admit that I was surprised that no one else pulled up Daege for the coment.
Hi Michael I wasn’t aware that Ajahn Brahm had been naming the wrong veiws of the famous forest monks. Was there a paticular monk?
Peter wrote: ” so you also don’t have a problem with the ….comment which Bhante Sujato has now removed?”
About the analogy , the moderator had removed it. We are all responsible adults, what makes you think Ajahn Brahm should tell us what to do or not to do. Or that he should be responsible for our words or action. This blog belongs to Ajahn Sujato, he is the best person to contact regarding comments post on this blog.
If Ajahm Brahm said something out of line , then by all means contact him and let him know. But if someone else said something then let the person know instead of than Ajahn Brahm. Each person is responsible for his/ her own words, thought, and action. We don’t have a concept of surrendering our words thoughts and action to a teacher. Therefore, the person to address shouldn’t be Ajahn Brahm. But thanks for the reminder for everyone to be more mindful of our words.
About the website , you might not be aware that we already discussed every aspect of it a year ago from the very beginning. Everything is still on this blog. Please feel free to go back and look at it for more complete details.
I may have issed it but in another post I asked you what you felt Ajahn Brahm was doing – if anything at all- that was in any way pressuring anyone? If so,
2) whom is he pressuring
3) who do you consider to be “Ajahn Brahm’s supporters?” that he should provide better guidance to and if so, in regards to what?
Sorry If I missed your earlier question. As far as I am aware I have not said Ajahn Brahm was pressuring anyone.
I consider the BSWA to be Ajahn Brahm supporter + a wider audience.
With regard to the guidance, I personally would like to see a re-harmonization between Ajahn Brahm, The BSWA and monasteries elsewhere, also between lay supporters. And also the opportunity for woman to go forth and live the holy life in a way that is non-discriminatory. I feel that the feelings being expressed towards WPP, Forest Tradition and those of differing opinions is not positive and it someways, to me, it feels like we are at a precipice and it may be sensible to take a step back. This is my opinion and it is my opinion that Ajahn Brahm could help us to take a step back. But if everyone else is not happy with that or thinks there is no need or thinks it is silly so be it. By re-harmonization I do not mean a closing in of the ranks or anybody being kept under thumb.
I would also say that
I also find this movement towards some kind of doctrinal purity that is non- inclusive rather concerning. I am not sure exactly where this is originating from though
Thanks for your response. Those are beautiful wishes, how could I not share them with you.
I do not know much more than you and sit here tens of thousands of kilometres away from Ajahn Brahm’s Sangha. As such and generally I cannot call myself, for example, a follower of Ajahn Brahm more than any other Buddhist teacher I know of. I am a passer-by on a public blog by a monk who lives 4000 km east of Ajahn Brahm, a monk whom I have come greatly to respect for his phenomenal books on meditation, Vinaya and women’s ordination and his courage for living his vocation in an engaged and courageous manner.
I hope that people do not make the mistake of lumping me or any other bloggers into Ajahn Brahm’s community and assume that he has any influence over me or what I say. He does not even in the slightest tiniest shred. In fact he does not even know who I am.
I take responsibility for my words and actions and so must anyone who posts a blog on any public site. At least that is how it works in countries and communities where we have freedom of speech!
I feel for Ajahn Brahm’s Sangha as I also feel for my old Sanghas in Canada for being harassed rather unjustly (regardless of who did what first – all of these monasteries – not just AB’s are being harassed by WPP, not by AB). So my sympathy lies with everyone. (Even with those stirring up the WBD troubles- they must be absolutely burning to the core with jealousy)
I have very smilar wishes as you do and feel there is not much I can or am willing to do except lend moral and financial support from near or far to the new Bhikkhuni cmmunities and those monks and nuns and lay people who support a Buddhism I can align my heart with.
For me being a Buddhist entails being as informed as possible (which is very difficult in a Sangha that does not believe in that) taking action when I see injustice (which is very difficult in a Sangha that does not believe in that) – that means informing others of what information has passed my way, informing them of national and international legal obligations, helping them see the harm that is being done and encouraging them to put the welfare of their followers and the wider Buddhist world at the top of the priority list –
– this requires above all a framework for deep listening and loving speech – for dialogue – to discuss issues openly and resolve them peacefully – regardless of what has transpired.
Above all, it entails each individual member of the Sangha – lay and monastic taking responsibility for his or her thoughts speech actions. (Again – very difficult in a Sangha that does not belive in that)
It absolutely does not entail trying to wrestle someone’s monastery away from them, trying to control monasteries in other countries, telling senior monks suddenly that they have to do this or that without a thought for the hurt it may cause their constituencies. It does not entail building a culture of denial, secrecy, blind reverence to a patriarch at the expense of severe harm to members of his – our shared – community. It does not entail discriminating against anyone, be that a monk who gives bad Dhamma talks 😉 – a layperson who has a disability, a man who wishes to go forth and is openly gay, a monk who I don’t like because of his views, a female aspirant who was previously catholic, etc. It does not entail issuing threats, intimidating others.
Does not entail open harsh and demoralizing excommunication – of anyone – even those monks who I feel are behaving unskillfully and causing great harm and should themselves be excommunicated – I may wish for that at times but that is not the Buddhism I signed up for.
Does this make me an engaged Buddhist? I think so. The question is: Whether or not one can be an engaged Buddhist in the Theravada at this time. If not, then what to do. Stop taking refuge in Sangha, change to a new Sangha, work within the Sangha to change things?
I am certainly not saying that there is not harassment going on and if the monastics in Canada are being harassed that is very sad, but I’m sure that things will change (is that a Buddhist idea?) and more than likely they will change for the better.
Things can often be interpreted in a number of ways. I don’t like to use Wat Buddha Dhamma as an example because I really don’t know the facts are don’t want to cause offense but I will anyway – Maybe we could say that Wat Buddha Dhamma was going to be no more but now it is growing again and it can be a place were people can listen to “inclusive and kind” teachers like Ajahn Dtun and maybe in time wounds can heal.
I think you are wise for not becoming over affiliated with one group or teacher.
That’s a lovely thought Peter. I hope in time the wounds will heal too.
For some odd reason there is no reply button on your comment made just below (2 4 11) so I’ve stuck it here in the hope it gets on ok. Terry
Lisa Karuna comment to terry 2 4 11
For the sake of the wider audience of this blog and given that these comments are misleading factually and liberally mix my behaviour and comments with those of other people whom I have never met and do not have any professional or personal affiliation with any more so than with Terry himself, I will provide a more detailed response later.
For now, I must underline that Terry is referring to someone else calling him names. I do not hate men and I do not discriminate against men or other beings like trolls. In fact I rather like both.
(Even that one in the Harry Potter film. The one with the huge green slimey goober that sloshed onto Harry’s wand, for that big moment of childish “ooh, yuck!”)
I am fairly certain I was never married to Terry in a previous life as he suggests.
I also do not believe that bickering or name calling are hallmarks of a healthy relationship, marital or otherwise.
Although he says he will not read this I appreciate that Terry has read some of the comments regarding Bhikkhuni ordination in this thread and is showing a degree of openness that I have not seen previously. This is all a Friend would wish for.
That we each open our hearts just a wee bit wider…
(And yes, in spite of the zing to those comments, and their slanderous nature, it was in response to an admittedly confrontational approach. Others are free to judge my character based on their own assessments. Otherwise, all is quite forgiven at this end)
Lisa Karuna 27 3 11
“You speak of patience in your post. After one year and a half, when you first began posting, and all the postings you have read regarding Bhikkhuni Vinaya (there is no Mae Chee Vinaya – there is no Siladhara Vinaya – if you are indeed concerned with “strictly” upholding Vinaya) and all the postings here regarding the history of Bhikkhunis on all of the sites you frequent, it takes patience to see a friend still cling to mythology rather than accept the above statement as false and finally put it away.
Second, your posts have not lost in their hatred of women, indeed they have increased. Who is to “blame” – Ajahn Brahm or “venom spewing feminists?”
That your posts are not removed for their level of hatred towards women and that they receive considered response from respected members of the community shows a great deal of patience”.
Now Lisa I could consider that this first post to me by yourself on this blog (27 3 11) was defamatory, and certainly shall we say acid? And the second one was about the same. And acid begets acid. However I should not have fallen for that trap.
I admit to using you as a means of, not so much attack, but as a sort of BBC Panorama expose of the WFS and their nefarious attacks on the Buddha’s bhikkhu Sangha which they can’t seem to let go of, in fact it gets worse.
However, though not my intention it has come across as a considerable personal attack on your person. Though of course, you were very much part of the (clawing angels) WFS website when I was on it. Although when my membership was deleted so were the debates between me and others. Fortunately I kept a log of them.
However, as said, I did not really intend this to be a personal affront on an individual. People, as you say can make up their minds about your stance in this situation by reading your comments.
Therefore please accept my apologies for this contretemps.
I wholeheartedly accept your apology.
I also apologize if my deliberately confrontational approach in a public forum caused pain or grief.
Conflict causes fear to arise in me as it does in anyone else. However, I feel it can bring us closer to a shared truth.
From your perspective, in order to honour your truth, my truth, the truth of others how might we address one another henceforth?
How might we share our differences and agreements and everything in between that they may be heard at the level of the heart and not categorically labelled or rejected?
I am not suggesting that Ajahn Brahm should tell you what to do and
I do realize that this issue has been discussed before but it does seem to be ongoing. I had understood that you had wanted some info on wpp’s position.
Have you seen daegesege latest posts? I guess it is one way to try and get rid of me (is there a paranoia emoticon, lol).
I certainly don’t want to ‘get rid of you’! That would serve no kind/loving purpose to anyone! At least you are communicating and questioning. Thank you for asking what you need to ask and for saying what you feel is your truth.
The information on the website you posted is very outdated (the last time I checked) and full of outdated inaccuracies. In view of the article posted by Terry, it would seem that the Thai Sangha is moving in the general direction of contradicting what is on this website you have pointed to.
The anonymity (last i looked) of said website, in effect contributes to the deathly silence coming from WPP quarters with regards to it’s official treatment of AB and others through intimidation. Frankly and despite the fact that it was unjust and based on incorrect information, I’ll accept the so called ‘excommunication’…but they have gone way beyond the scope of their original ‘punishment’. The numerous incidents that I could write about here to demonstrate this would take too long so I shan’t go in to it… The point I’m trying to arrive at is that the ball is well and truly in their court and I doubt they are planning to hit it back this way. Hopefully those many monks who are good and true who still exist within the WPP fold will start to take more of an interest in the formal agenda that is being set by the current powers. This is I think where one of the real hopes for harmony lyes…not in appealing to AB to influence his supporters. Which by the way, he does in so far as he encourages us constantly to speak from gentleness, kindness and peace. Whether or not we succeed should not be seen as a reflection on him!
I’m unsure why you’ve expressed reservations about contacting AB personally. You seem to be the one that is very concerned that he do something. Why not go directly to source and contact him. You could even try ringing Bodhinyana and speaking to him directly, if you are not in Perth.
I don’t think we should pressure AB to ‘do’ something. The ‘doing’ should lie on the monasteries like Wat Buddha Dhamma who didn’t let a monk from Bodhinyana stay at that monastery unless he never returns back to Bodhinyana again. THe ‘doing’ should like on Birken to put back the Dhamma talks from AB which they removed. The doing should like in Thailand to allow the development of the Bhikkhuni sangha. That’s where something should be done. I don’t see any reason for blaming the victim.
typo, i meant the ‘doing’ should like (not like)
The website says “Dhammalight has been created not by any individual but the Administrative Committee of the Wat Nong Pah Pong Sangha.”
I think the letter from Wat Pah Nanachat is worth reading and if people have read it, it is worth reading again. I don’t know if it is balanced but I do think it does gives some insight (possibly not positive:)), I also think the letter from Ajahn Brahm is worth reading .
Now this doesn’t mean that I agree with wpp group but I don’t think things are as cut and dry or as clear as we would all like things to be. I also think that Ajahn Brahm is free to change his mind (I do all the time) and act as he see fit but I’m sure most would agree the present situation is not great.
Yeah…I’m really skeptical about the ‘Administrative Committee’ line… I’ve heard it is (or was) actually a layperson behind the site and that this person isn’t in touch with all WPP members.
I think Ajahn Sujato’s post elsewhere on this thread about the complexities within the WPP was very interesting.
And in a another post (also I think on this thread) he highlighted how when Ajahn Dtun kindly and inclusively mentioned both Bhikkhus and Bhikkunis, the Western monk translator just mentioned Bhikkhus! I found this both disturbing (re: the western monk and the very real chance that Ajahn Dtun didn’t know about this) and heartening (that Ajahn Dtun would be so kind and compassionate).
Peter, I have no wish to re-visit the website you are referring to. My last visit left a very bad taste in the mouth.
Hi Kanchana, I’m sure that the documents presented through the website are genuine.
With regard to Ajahn Dtun, do you think his planed visit should be politicized?
In the previous post you also enquired about my reservations about contacting Ajahn Brahm. I have expressed my views and members of his community are aware of the views which I have expressed. I would like to think that he would be kept informed but yes contacting him directly is also an option.
Dear Kanchana, one final point now if someone makes a post on this blog like “What are you saying someone called you a .C… no really, surprise surprise.” or “I am kinda suprised no one has ‘pulled you up’ or moderated you for being complete Di..h…” why is that that no one here feels the need to raise the matter. Is it acceptable?
Dear Peter ,
Peter wrote: “I do realize that this issue has been discussed before but it does seem to be ongoing. I had understood that you had wanted some info on wpp’s position.”
I mean something related to the current situation. To see discussion about this website, simply go back to the date when Bhikkhuni Ordination in Perth started on this blog and start reading from there on. There is no need to repeat everything we discussed for months over a year ago.
What I can say is that Ajahn Brahm took part in a Sri Lanka Forest Tradition bhikkhuni ordination, why should that bother anyone . The bhikkhuni sangha in the Sri Lanka Forest Tradition was revived by Sri Lankan Theraveda bhikkhus a while back. There is nothing wrong with having more bhikkhunis in this tradition in Australia as well, or any country.
That’s an excellent point you raised iMed! i never thought of it that way: “What I can say is that Ajahn Brahm took part in a Sri Lanka Forest Tradition bhikkhuni ordination, why should that bother anyone . The bhikkhuni sangha in the Sri Lanka Forest Tradition was revived by Sri Lankan Theraveda bhikkhus a while back. There is nothing wrong with having more bhikkhunis in this tradition in Australia as well, or any country.”
Hi iMeditation, Sorry I had thought that the ordination had taken place at a branch monestry of WPP in Australia. And the nuns who were ordaianed were joining a WPP affiliated comunity (at that time).
Just to clarify, Dhammasara nun’s monastery has never been affiliated with WPP.
The women ordained in Perth are Sri Lankan Forest Tradition bhikkhunis because their preceptor is not affiliated with WPP or Thai Forest Tradition. The ordination of Sri Lankan Tradition bhikkhunis does not require international permission from various monks in the Thai Forest Tradition of WPP.
Dear iMeditation, we are just splitting hairs here but Bhante Sujato wrote “first Theravada bhikkhuni ordination in Australia, and the first bhikkhuni ordination in the Thai Forest Tradition anywhere in the world” https://sujato.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/how-australia%E2%80%99s-first-theravada-bhikkhuni-ordination-happened/
Thanks for pointing this out, perhaps it was a misleading way of putting things. To be honest, when we do ordinations we just think of ordaining someone in the Dhamma-vinaya of the Lord Buddha. It has nothing to do with Thai or Sri lanka, except in so far as the details of form. The ordination was performed in a similar manner to the bhikkhu ordinations in the forest tradition in Thailand, and was held in a sima of a monastery (at the time) affiliated with Wat Pa Pong. Yet the presiding bhikkhuni and bhikkhuni Sangha stemmed from mainly Sri lankan tradition. So it could be described in different ways, none of which have any real basis in the Vinaya itself.
It is best that you ask Ajahn Sujato about what he wrote.
Ajahn Brahm tried to explain this to the WPP group when he was summoned immediately after the ordination:
“At the meeting in Wat Pah Pong on Sunday 1st November 2009, to which I was summoned at very short notice….. it took a long time to convince them that a Bhikkhuni Ordination is a double sanghakamma.The first part being performed by a gathering of Bhikkhunis presided over by the Preceptor (“Upajjhaya” or “Pavattini” -Ayya Tathaaloka from the USA) and the second part where the new Bhikkhunis approach the Bhikkhu Sangha to have their ordination confirmed by a ñatticatutthakamma (a formal motion followed by 3 announcements). I was one of the two Bhikkhus who chanted the ñatticatutthakamma in the Bhikkhu Sangha.
Once the senior Thai monks understood that I was not the Upajjhaya, they were willing to let the matter drop, provided I would promise in the midst of the Sangha not to participate in the ordination of any more Bhikkhunis.” – Ajahn Brahm
This was later explained again by BSWA in a response letter:
” Ajahn Brahm did not ordain the four Bhikkhunis. The preceptor was the American born Theravada Bhikkhuni, Ayya Tathaloka. Another American born Theravada Bhikkhuni, Ayya Sobhana, together with a German born Theravada Bhikkhuni, Ayya Sucinta, chanted the “Kammavaca”. The four women were ordained by Bhikkhunis. Ajahn Brahm participated in the “Confirming” ceremony performed by the Bhikkhu Sangha that followed the ordination, as required by the Vinaya.
Since the lineage follows that of the preceptor, the four Bhikkhunis in Australia belong to the “Nikaya” of their preceptor, which is theSyam Nikaya of Sri Lanka. Therefore, they should be of no concern to the Thai Buddhist authorities.
Vinaya Masters are clear that Ajahn Brahm did not break any rule of Vinaya. Moreover, as he was not the Preceptor, or Upajjhaya, he did not transgress long established Thai Sangha Law.”
Dear iMeditation, As I said before in my opinion this is just splitting hairs but thank you for your reply.
Wishing you Peace
Thanks for the well wishing , may you be content as well.
What about the significance of Sima? Sorry to have forgotten or not gotten all of ths by now!
Following on from the discussion regards Ajahn Brahm & the Perth ordinations & the thread eading to Bhikkhu Brahmali comment:
“It needs to be pointed out that it was Ajahn Brahm who, at my behest, placed bhikkhuni ordination on the agenda for the 2009 meeting. Ajahn Brahm had written to the Ajahns who were scheduled to attend the meeting on two separate occasions asking for agenda items. He received little feedback, and none that concerned bhikkhunis or bhikkhuni ordination.”
I found Ajahn Brahm’s own perspective very clarifying.. I share it below.
I have just read your excellent article in “Present”, but would like to correct a couple of minor points.
Bodhinyana Monastery in Perth was never a member of the “Elders Council”, I was never invited to any of their meetings, nor was I ever informed of what they discussed or agreed upon. This council was made up of senior monks from Amaravati, Chithurst, Harnham, Devon Vihara, the Swiss monastery, the Italian monastery, Abhayagiri and Bodhinyanarama in New Zealand.
This was because Bodhinyana Monastery in Perth began when Ajahn Chah sent Ajahn Jagaro to Australia. It was a direct offshoot of Wat Pah Pong. It did not originate as an offshoot of Amaravati/Chithurst, and so was never under Ajahn Sumedho. This was why we were never part of the “Amaravati Group”. For this reason, the Sangha in Perth felt no obligation to consult with this council prior to the Perth Bhikkhuni Ordinations last year. That I did personally inform Ajahn Sumedho and Vajiro about the ordinations about 10 days’ beforehand was out of courtesy, not obligation.
However, I did consult the Thai Elders Council (Mahatherasamakom) through its leader, Somdej Pootajarn. He famously told me three times in response to my direct question on Bhikkhuni ordination in Australia that “Thai Sangha Law does not extend to the West”. I also consulted with Phra Prom Gunaporn (Phra Payutto), probably the most esteemed scholar currently in Thailand, and he advised to act compassionately. A copy of his letter is posted on Ajahn Sujato’s Blog.
I also consulted with the head of Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University, Phra Dhammakosajarn, but he declined to reply.The oft repeated charge against the Perth Sangha of non consultation is a myth.
Lastly. I was organising the 2009 WAM. When I asked for subjects to discuss, only Ajahn Sucitto gave any suggestions. All the other Theras supplied nothing. It was myself who suggested that we discuss Bhikkhuni Ordination at the WAM. No-one else showed any interest. Once I discovered in November about the Five Points, I realised why none of these monks were interested in discussing Bhikkhuni Ordination.
With Mega Metta, Ajahn Brahm
I’ll re-say something I posted earlier for Terry’s benefit: Men don’t have to ask an overseas community of monks if they want to ordain locally, so there is no reason why women should seek permission from a particular overseas community of monks if they want to ordain locally. That would be discrimination.
Ajahn Brahm doesn’t ‘speak out’ actively for the last two years and neither does the BSWA… Yet they are labelled as putting out spin.
Ajahn Brahm is a gifted teacher and he is thus labelled as being a charismatic leader of a sect/cult.
Many people around the world have been touched and helped by him and have been gently shown the way to spiritual independence (as opposed to dependence) by him…and they are labelled as being members of a cult.
Finally the BSWA (not AB himself) speaks out and breaks its silence about what has been quietly happening over the last two years…and instead of the light being shone on the actions of those who have perpetuated the intimidation of others, the disharmony and division between others, the criticisms are once again levelled at AB.
And he is asked to step in and reign in his followers. As if he has such control over people…he isn’t, contrary to a minority belief, a cult leader. Quite the opposite.
Morever he is far more accessible and willing to communicate than other Senior Western monks who continue to ignore this issue. Having said this, I feel it important to state here that to this date, I have never discussed this issue with him. I am speaking for myself. I am not his, or anyone else’s, mouthpiece.
And what are the specific criticisms that are being levelled against him? Well the words ‘consensus’ and ‘consultation’ are once again ‘spinning’ around the place.
Yet there is little acknowledgement of the following:
1. Ajahn Brahm’s repeated attempts to discuss the issue with other western monks prior to the event in late 2009. Not to mention his repeated attempts to mend the breach that had occured and seek forgiveness, healing and communication. None of these things are mentioned often enough or at all. Where is the spin on this? It is needed sorely.
2. The fact that the BSWA had made no secret of its plans to move towards Bhikkuni Ordination. (See report of 2009 AGM held in March of that year; many months *before* the Bhikkhuni Ordinations).
3. The fact that Ajahn Brahm did not in fact, according to Vinaya, ordain the nuns. This was the job of Ayya Tatthaloka. Which of course means that they were ordained into her lineage which I believe is Sri Lankan, not the Ajahn Chah lineage as is popularly quoted pretty much everywhere.
4. The Vinaya followed in the Ajahn Chah Western Monasateries was translated primarily by Ajahn Brahm. His expertise in the Vinaya was good enough for this but somehow not recognised in late 2009.
5. The 5 Points formulated in the UK (primarily by Ajahn Pannasaro, I understand) were done so in secret. While monks such as Ajahn Vajiro (who is reported elsewhere to have been on a ‘crusade’ -his word apparently- to get rid of the nuns continue to choose not to speak to Ajahn Brahm even while visiting Perth) may well be behind the continued emphasis on how he didn’t reach ‘consenses’ and didn’t ‘consult’. This ‘spin’ keeps us all discussing – accusing and defending – Ajahn Brahm’s supposed fault and keeps us from noticing that the nuns in the UK were not consulted about the 5 points, and even though it was obvious that AB wanted to put nuns on the Western Abbots Meeting agenda, he was not consulted, let alone told.
And now…let me assume for a moment that AB commited the heinous and unpardonable crime of not consulting and arriving at consensus with others of his traditon… Where is the mercy, the unconditional metta, the discussion, the redemption, the rehabilitation, the reconciliation, the amnesty, the forgivenes, the Buddhism in the way in which some are seeking to isolate not only AB, but his monastery and the BSWA? Indeed where is the Buddha Dhamma in any policy which seeks to close the door to anyone who is ‘tainted’ by association with the BSWA or AB? At what point do the relevant Sanghas recognise that if it’s unkind or divisive or untrue, it does not deserve to be called ‘Sangha Policy’? Why is such a policy being defended?
And are we, who dare to blemish the names of those who are so loved by others, to be branded liars? Breakers of the 4th precept? Are we to be labelled as those who are engaging in mere political spin that is without any shred of truth or evidence to back it up?
Why is it that there is no clear defence put up by those who seek to attack AB? Indeed, their only ‘defense’ seems to be an attack on AB and ‘his supporters’.
While it may be hard to hear such things if you love, respect and support those who continue to accuse AB… Imagine how hard it is to say them. Many of those who defend AB, also loved, respected and supported his detractors.
Yes, there is anger, hurt and hostitlity being expressed here and there and not just on the internet. So let us let it be heard. Let us hear what they are saying and try and respond as best we can. But let us do our very best, to not go into useless denial that serves no purpose.
While I love, respect and admire Ajahn Brahm…defending him is not what motivates me to write here. While it hurts me deeply to hear him so harshly and unjustly criticised, it hurts far more deeply to see the damage done to this lovely Faith.
I fully support the BSWA’s actions in acting transparently and in outlining what has been going on. The secrecy of those who have been seeking to intimidate monks (e.g at WBD) has given them power. It is time to shine a light on their actions and if possible name them. Yet I would not wish, upon finding out who they are, to treat them to the same unforgiving treatment they have meted out. Yet before forgiveness and letting go there must come truth and communication and acknowledgement and honesty. My belief is that this will not come. Thus we as laypeople must make ourselves aware of the situation and rise above all this and not become like those who have not been able to teach us through their own speech or actions. Perhaps we can teach them. But even more importantly, perhaps we can find other ways to teach ourselves to go beyond their lack knowledge.
I thank Ajahn Brahm for being a role model for me. Showing me how to speak gently and truthfully and showing me how to forgive and how to be kind; for showing me how to meditate for peace, for wisdom and for kindness; for showing me how to live my life with increasing happiness and harmony and confidence; for encouraging me to depend on myself and my own ability to awaken rather than to rely on him (yeah, he’s not much of a cult leader, he totally fails at trying to control others); for causing the faith and strength I draw in/from the Triple Gem to treble every year. Anything I have written here that hasn’t lived up to this teaching is simply because of my own unenlightenment and stupidity for which, like any good pupil of Ajahn Brahm’s, I wholeheartedly forgive myself for. And I humbly ask forgiveness for anything I have written here or elsewhere that has caused harm or has been inaccurate. And while this last was said with sincere humility, please don’t for a moment mistake this humility for a lack of self respect, self acceptance, self love or indeed self awareness of all that is good about me. I wouldn’t be a pupil of Ajahn Brahm’s if I wasn’t growing in these things… It is a very strange thing to find that in the only religion that teaches the doctrine of Non-Self, one must first start from Self-Esteem: Right Intention doesn’t just go outwards to others, it must go inwards as well.
A great post Kanchana. Thank You 🙂
Kanchana, thank you for your heartfelt expression and clarity, and thank you for your teaching. I feel inspired and humbled.
A great post Kanchana.
I fully agree, this is an issue much bigger than alleged faults of Ajahn Brahm or WPP. If AB has faults that is his problem and if others have faults that’s their problem.
However,to me, the key issue is, if those who have gone forth and who have been practising almost all their lives can resort to vindictiveness, wanting to control assets, buildings, organisations, can get overwhelmed by envy, jealousy, hide behind organisational structures and titles to carry out these cowardly acts that does not unfortunately give us lay people any confidence in the Sanha. It unfortunately casts a big shadow over the efficacy of the entire forest tradition. How could this path produce a group of people who could go totally against what the path is supposed to produce? In fact, I have good Christian friends who would not even dream of doing what is reported to have been done by some WPP monks.No doubt Bill Clinton would have said, it is the practice, stupid!
Dear Peter, Jackie and Guptila,
Thank you for your kind and positive feedback.
A great and inspiring post, Kanchana. Sadhu. _/\_
May I say ‘ditto’ to your thank-Ajahn-Brahm paragrahn? I, too, am forever in his debt.
I just want to add that his teachings have shown me where and how to start walking towards the Path. I don’t think anyone can ask for more from a spiritual leader.
Your post has also reminded me to be more mindful of my action (by body, speech or mind), though whatever unskillful action we might be committing should not be deemed as reflecting our teacher’s teachings. 🙂
Yours in dhamma,
Thanks Dheerayupa. 🙂
Thank goodness we can remind each other…
I need all the reminders I can get!!
It is great to see Ahajan Brahm and others ordinating women, it seems this is a brave step in Theravarden Buddhism. The truly heroic ones though, it seems, will be the women who do actually ordain.
May the force be with them. :0
“Hi Jun Pan
Well the comment was removed by Bhante Sujato so I guess I am not the only one who found it objectionable. I must admit that I was surprised that no one else pulled up Daege for the coment”.
I am kinda suprised no one has ‘pulled you up’ or moderated you for being complete Di..h… but hay saying the word n…(which was taken out but has now been put back in by you) is worthy of moderation but d..kh… aren’t according to the moderator.
Why I think you are no better than the WPP …maybe a little bit of self reflection on your part might help you with that, especially concentrate on the posts whereby you don’t think people should have the right to support what they believe is right”,
Thank you Bhante Sujato for that excellent clarification!
Although it should be encouraged for people who call themselves “Buddhists monastics” to actually teach the Buddha’s teachings! 🙂
And if they use established Buddhist terminology, they should use them correctly. Also, they should avoid using non-Buddhist terms like ‘original mind’ since that is open to so much misunderstanding and interpretation.
Any lingering hope of a ‘self’ prevents one from abandoning craving for existence and thus prevents the nibbida and thus blocks the path to ending samsara. That’s baaaaad kamma suggesting wrong view.
You’d expect from a Buddhist monk to base their teachings on the Buddha’s teachings.
You said: “I also find this movement towards some kind of doctrinal purity that is non- inclusive rather concerning. I am not sure exactly where this is originating from though”
Can you please clarify what is meant here?
With metta, K
Dania’s post above your post would be an example.
Okay, I think I see what you are saying.
I cannot speak for Dania’s intentions, which I’m sure were good. I’ll let her do that as she’s closest to her intentions and knows them best. However, I’ll just mention that what i know of her is that she has a kind heart and a strong love for the Dhamma.
But referring to Bhante Sujato’s post (which she is referring to)… I thought he was actually trying to bring a greater sense of understanding to the very matter you’ve highlighted. I thought he did so in a way that was non-judgemental.
I’m a pupil of Ajahn Brahm’s and this has worked for me. And I also ‘am a believer in the necessity of finding out what the Buddha actually taught. I like that people like Bhante Sujato and others study ancient texts in order to try and ascertain which teachings were indeed from the Great Teacher and which weren’t.
I don’t see why Buddhists can’t respectfully and kindly disagree with each other about such things. Is it so terrible that someone could disagree with us? Do we have to cut them off? I find as human beings, the tendency which I’ve observed in my own heart, is to remove myself from those who do not see things in the same way. But then I would have to remove myself from everyone I love as well because I don’t always agree with them. We have to find a way beyond this human tendency to shove away those who disagree with us. I would love to see myself get better at this.
I think also as Buddhists, there can be a tendency to associate with those who we feel are going to encourage the growth of Dhamma in our lives.
While I think this is a marvellous thing, I think it can lead us into the trap of shutting people out and being unintentionally unkind. There must be some sense of balance here and each of us has to find what works best for us. I don’t think there is one size fits all rule for this.
When I was new to Buddhist Practise, I would go out of my way to reduce all contact with anyone that wasn’t Buddhist. This led my mind to become controlling, fearful and anxious. Now (due to Ajahn Brahm’s influence) I have learned to be as fully present as possible to whoever is speaking and to show a genuine interest and care for whatever topic they are speaking about. It’s not always pleasant or easy (when I’m sick, tired, stressed or busy) but I feel kinder and happier about myself afterwards and I feel kinder and happier towards the person I am talking to.
I find it interesting that others would use different terminology to myself in order to describe the same thing. Sometimes it provides a different view on a familiar topic which can be very useful indeed.
You know, I’ve observed a tendency towards fearfulness when others don’t agree with us; I wonder if it is a normal, though unskillful, human response? I try and reflect that I have nothing to fear from someone disagreeing with me because at the end of the day, I have to investigate the matter for myself and see what works for me and make up my own mind.
Thanks for that Peter. I enjoyed fleshing out those thoughts.
That’s really nice of you to share your practice with us Kancana. I was just listening to a sutta class of Bh Brahmali reading MN38 and there was a reminder of the simile of the raft: that we should use the Dhamma as a raft to cross the shore rather than attaching to it. Then he reminded us of the simile of the snack, that if you grasp the snake it bites us (i.e. not grasping the Dhamma in the wrong way), and it also reminded me that all these teachings are to liberate our hearts from suffering, to have loving kindness and not even a thought of ill will to someone sawing our arm! So all these teachings are practical ways to be liberated from suffering rather than to argue over. Arguing over teachings is like attaching to the raft and grasping at the snake. (If anyone has a different understanding of the simile of the snake than please share it:). So I totally agree with you and thank you for that reminder. I wanted to share with you also that teaching i got from the sutta because it was a great reminder to continue the practice. So we can point out the Buddha’s teachings to those who misrepresent them, but not get upset over it. We do our job and leave it at that:)
Last wednesday sutta class we were also reminded that if we practice a lot of metta, then ideally we would never get ill will! wouldn’t that be cool 🙂 then if we get reborn it would be in a high brahma realm! that’s enough incentive for me not to get grumpy 😉
Dania, your typo above “the simile of the snack” gave me a laugh–thanks. Maybe that’s the simile where we think just one little unskilful action won’t do any harm, then maybe just one more…. 😉
Much metta Dania. 🙂
LOL…similie of the snack… Well spotted Jackie.
What about … If you grasp at a snack you bite it…again and again and again…Don’t I know it!!!
Great analogy Jackie. Made me smile. How subtle and deceiving that thought can be….
I was just going over the sutta Majjhima Nikaya 38
The Longer Discourse on the Destruction of Craving
And surprise surprise it ended up being precisely about the wrong view that consciousness is eternal. So if anyone needs some reference
It’s also interesting that the sutta starts out by someone misrepresenting the Buddha, and the monks had to correct his wrong view, the same way we are doing on this blog:)
“Then those bhikkhus thinking to dissuade the bhikkhu Sati from that pernicious view, cross examined him, asked for reasons and discussed with him: “Friend, Sati do not say that, do not misrepresent the Blessed One. The Blessed One did not say that. The Blessed One has shown in various ways, that consciousness arises dependently. Without a cause there is no arising of consciousness.””
Yet Sati was still stubborn!
It shows that it is important to correct people’s wrong views and correctly represent the Buddha, even if people call it “doctrinal purity” 😉
On Right Speech…something useful for us all to reflect on.
Extract from Abhaya Sutta: To Prince Abhaya
(On Right Speech)
 In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
 In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
 In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.
 In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.
 In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.
 In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings.”
Also from the Kakacupama Sutta: The Simile of the Saw
“Monks, there are these five aspects of speech by which others may address you: timely or untimely, true or false, affectionate or harsh, beneficial or unbeneficial, with a mind of good-will or with inner hate. Others may address you in a timely way or an untimely way. They may address you with what is true or what is false. They may address you in an affectionate way or a harsh way. They may address you in a beneficial way or an unbeneficial way. They may address you with a mind of good-will or with inner hate. In any event, you should train yourselves: ‘Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic to that person’s welfare, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading him with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with him, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.’ That’s how you should train yourselves.
Not sure whether calling for Ajahn Brahm’s guidance in this matter would be the best thing.
For one, it might solidify in minds that this is instigated by Ajahn Brahm when the BSWA has been at pains to stress they are acting independently. We follow the Buddha, the Dhamma, though Ajahn Brahm inspires us greatly and translates the Buddha’s words into ways we can understand and accept in our cultural circles!
Secondly, we’ve listen to Ajahn Brahm’s talks, we’ve read the books. I think all the guidance is there really.
For myself this means supporting and encouraging those monasteries that follow the teachings of the Buddha, rewarding behaviour that resonates with my own instincts that Bhikkunis are an integral part of the Sangha. It means bringing to light the issues where I can, especially those that some wish to remain in darkness.
The monks and nuns and lay supporters that have supported the ordinations will continue to flourish. Monks that are afraid or intimidated into not associating will have that loss sadly. But it’s their own choice.
Dee, would you consider Wat Pa Pong as a monastery “that follows the teachings of the Buddha”?
There are contradictions and spins in a few places still, I agree.
But previously you said that being mindful of the details of ordination procedures outlined in the Vinaya is simply a matter of “splitting hairs”
– yet many “WPP” Sanghas project the spin that they are “upholding strict Vinaya” by NOT being mindful of the details of ordination procedures outlined in the Vinaya.
Can you see the contradiction and the spin?
I can accept that certain members of the community were not prepared to get involved in Bhikkhuni ordinations of any kind for whatever their reasons were.
But one cannot accept that this reluctance is based in a “strict upholding of Vinaya.”
(Especially when considering that other “WPP” monks did exactly as Ajahn Brahm did -before AB did it and after- and did not get excommunicated)
I would like to hear WPP’s explanation on this ‘double standard’ treatment, too.
Lisa, I think your right from what I have read and heard in terms of strict vinaya the ordination of woman is not as problematic as people once imagined or put forward.
And even if it was problematic in this day and age there would be a real need to solve the problem.
In all honesty? Not entirely, not strictly enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure many there follow the teachings, are highly learned, highly discplined, know the lineage and all the correct procedures and rituals and chanting – things I’ll never attain. And there’s many a wonderful monk to have emerged to spread the teachings.
But to me, it seems too steeped in culture and less steeped in Buddhism which to me has always been about compassion and kindness along with the insights, the wisdom. I don’t know the Vinaya or the Suttas, I couldn’t hold an intellectual discourse on either.
The Buddha told us to do no harm. He taught kindness. He ordained women.
As someone else said, if he were to be a monk today he would have been kicked out too by the WPP!
What about you? Do you think they follow the Buddha? Do you think they would have kicked him out too?
Dee, I’d say it’s as good as anywhere. It has a strong cultural context but that is how Buddhism has continued to keep rolling, by touching peoples lives.
Would they kick him out, who knows?
Maybe it was unfair to suggest the WPP is ‘un-Buddhist’ when it really is a cultural issues.
As you say, Buddhism flourishes where it can resonate culturally. Do you think it would have found such a strong female following in the West with the cultural misogeny (if that’s not too strong a word) against those who ordain? I can’t help but remember the experience of the two Thai sisters who ordained back in the 1920s and suffered terribly at the hands of their culture.
If my experience of Buddhism had been that, I’d have stuck to aetheism!
If Buddhism is to flourish in the West, the WPP need to let go and let it find its roots here.
Do you think it was the culture of the Buddha’s time to ordain women?
Sometimes things change at there own pace. Sometimes we need to push and sometimes hold back.
Buddhism with it’s roots in the Thai forest tradition has already planted fairly strong roots in the west.
I think things are changing and will continue to change in Thailand. There are and have been lots of highly respected woman in Thailand/Thai Society, as well as lots of gender discrimination. It is not a black and white story.
I don’t know what was normal in the Buddhas time but I thought that there were female mendicants / Jain nuns etc. Possibly Bhant Sujato could spread some light if he see this post.
I don’t have the wisdom to know when to hold back, I only know that to create a space for change requires right effort.
It’s wrong for these things to remain hidden, yet there seems an almost ashamed and cowardly element amongst those opposing Bhikkuni ordinations, wishing to suppress the issues, attempting to isolate and divide over the issues.
Is that something we should hold back on? Have patience and allow the ill will to fester amongst both sides? It’s clearly not going away by itself!
You talk of roots, but I can’t seem them thriving long. The West has changed far too much to accept something that has only in recent years put behind itself (and is still trying) – gender inequality.
When I hear Sharia Law, I grow alarmed.
When I hear no women in the Catholic Church allowed, I cool towards those monastics.
When I hear no Bhikkunis, no four-fold Sangha as prescribed by the Buddha, I reject the foundation, the ‘roots’ as rotten and un-Buddhist.
We need to be careful what we characterize as “cutural” – as in “Thai” or “Australian” – there are “culutres” that have more to do with an approach to teaching, to practice and to community building…many of us are searching for a “culture” that fits with how we understand the Eightfold path – which I sense among many of us is more a form of Engaged Buddhism – which is practiced East and West – I think it is really important to reflect on this because there are engaged Buddhist Sanghas or Sanghas that better align with our aspirations. We can probably wait at minimum 5 years before any AC branch monastery moulds itself along these lines – it would involve revolutionary changes at all possible levels – this is why we need to put down our attachment to lineage and find the best community that aligns with our moral compasses on those issues of deep concern to us – this is what the Buddha would have suggested – as the Buddha sought to teach each one according to their conditioning/gifts…there is no enlightenment to be had by hitting ones head against a wall and lamenting losses for 5 or 10 years …that time is too precious to waste as life can vanish in a blink…gravitate to that which empowers you, inspires you and makes you turn off the internet and (shhh!) practice Jhana!
“Dear Kanchana, one final point now if someone makes a post on this blog like “What are you saying someone called you a .C… no really, surprise surprise.” or “I am kinda suprised no one has ‘pulled you up’ or moderated you for being complete Di..h…” why is that that no one here feels the need to raise the matter. Is it acceptable?”
As far as I can remember you are the one that first started to attack my posts and harrass me on this forum, that was not moderated, now it seems you are trying to incite others to do the same, if you have any issues with my posts or anything maybe we can discuss them. Why didn’t you just discuss these issues with me in the first place rather than being rude and talking about me behind my back or going to the moderator, I would have been happy to oblige in changing words you find offensive
With regard to the above although you accuse and incinuate I called y ou a c— I did not, I do not recall ever having using that word in my life actually, I did say “What are you saying someone called you a .C… no really, surprise surprise.” but hey you left yourself wide open for that and it was too good an opportunity to resist.
If in the future you have any issues with any words I use I would be happy to find an alternate word ie possibly I should have uses the word obnoxious rather than d—h—.
Peter please feel free to address me personally in future with regards to issues you have with my posts also maybe we can discuss why you believe that it is fine for you to harrass and be rude and negetive to me, but not the other way around, is this because I am female?
So what would you like to discuss Peter, woudl you like me to clarify some of my posts, their meanings etc?
Hi daege, In my opinion your post using rhe analogy was totally out of order and the previous post on another thread about “atrocities in Tibet” was also worthy of comment. It does surprise me that no one else in this forum pulled you up for these comments and in fact people seemed to offer support.
At no time have I gone behind your back. Everything I have said has been out in the open. I am not in private communication with and do not personally know anyone else who has posted on this blog post.
Sorry if you feel I am harassing you, in fact I had actually thought you were harassing me and again was surprised that no one else thought your posts were stepping over a line. Your gender has never entered my mind.
I do not know how this misunderstanding occurred
My post regarding Tibet said:
“Will there be negetive karma for male monastics who try to hoard the Dharma and ordination for themselves.
I have heard from relatively reliable sources that at least some of the “horrific’ atrocities in Tibet that have been occurring over the last fifty years may be due to Tibetans not spreading the Dharma when they had the chance, or it is a way of forcing them to spread the Dharma or something like that etc
TO WHICH YOU REPLIED:
March 21st, 2011
REPLYQUOTE“Did I really just read that?
Did I really just read that?
This is as far as I remember the first time we talked so I am not too sure how you interpreted that as me harassing you, and you didn’t explain what you found offensive about this, anyway maybe it was a misunderstanding.
I understand that you found the word in another post distasteful and I apologise for this and the post has been removed, but it wasn’t actually even the point of my post and the word was meant more as a description of a type of mindset or possible ideology rather than a strict analogy.
The post was not meant to focus on this concept but simply to state or ask, “does Australia really want to encourage monks trained under the belief that men are superior to women, if this is what is occurring in other countries” and saying from my experience having been with a person who seems to have been brainwashed to believe this we don’t.
Also it was sort of saying or asking, that it would be reasonable and acceptable in a country like Australia that they do not impose these views on us and while it is hoped that harmony prevales between WPP and Perth is it such a bad thing that monks from there do not come here and vicsa versa; well if it means they are not bringing their views here maybe not, or at least not until they change there views, certainly I would not miss having around a monk who believes women are inferior, nor would I wish to stay in monestries where this belief is held, but that is just me.
Anyway I apologise for my part in causing any trouble and hope this is now sorted and wish you th best too.:)
daege, just to clarify I did not consider the first example as harasment. What I was refering to is later posts like:
“What are you saying someone called you a .C… no really, surprise surprise.”
“I am kinda suprised no one has ‘pulled you up’ or moderated you for being complete Di..h…”
+ the implication that I am a sexist.
Possibly harasment is not quite the right word, I didn’t really feel harrased. I just used it as it was a word you had used.
I would also add that it is not the word that I found distasteful in your other post but the analogy.
The thing was the first comment you made to my post on Tibet “did I just read that” I found a little rude to be honest, then from there I said something like ‘oh maybe that is not a good reference referring to something in my post’, in fact I probably should not have said that because I really didn’t understand your comment and found it abit ambiguous but thought it best just to assume you meant the reference to ‘highly realised people and leave it at that as I didn’t want to enter into any conflict with you.
Then I posted the other post after a particularly bad morning with someone who is in the mindset of ‘women are inferior’ with that analogy , but the analogy was not aimed at you and the post was not addressed to you so not sure how this was interpret as an insult to you or harassment of you .
Then you didn’t like post but rather than saying to me something like ‘do you mind not using that word’ you seemed to appeal to everyone else to ‘gang up on me’ or so I interpreted it to talk around me not to me
Then the moderator took the post off fair enough.
Then you seemed to insinuate to the moderator I had called you a c— when I didn’t.
Anyway this is how it seemed from my end; that is you make a rude comment about my first post, react to a word in the second post that wasn’t aimed at or addressed to you, and then start appealing to other on the internet about this post, then insinuate I called you a c— when I didn’t.
Anyway this is how I saw it but as I said something has been misunderstanding here and glad it is sorted.
Dear Peter, I do appreciate the tenor of your comments here. The statement about the 2009 ordination being first in the Thai Forest Tradition was not accurate, and Ayya Tathaaloka subsequently clarified. (I as there as the second kammacarini).
The ordination lineage would follow the bhikkhuni preceptor’s side, and Ayya T’s ordination was from Sri Lanka, Siam Nikaya.
In its details, Ayya’s Tathaaloka’s ordination was interesting and very American. Her bhikkhu preceptor,Ven. Havanpola Ratanasara was a pioneer in ecumenical cooperation among Buddhists in Los Angeles, arguably the most diverse Buddhist place in the world. As allowed in the Vinaya, Bhante Ratanasara organized Ayya T’s higher ordination by a multi-ethnic gathering of the bhikkhu and bhikkhuni sanghas. Technically, the ordaining sangha was made up of a quorum of Theravada bhikkhus, and the Theravada script was followed. Therefore, it was technically a bhikkhu-only ordination and hence her ordination lineage from Siam Nikaya. The “outside” bhikkhus and bhikkhunis were part of the ordaining sangha, but not necessary to make up the quorum.
Even at the 2010 ordination at the Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara in Los Angeles, where I assisted in ordaining 5 new bhikkhunis, there were a number of very senior Chinese bhikkhunis and one Korean bhikkhu among the panel. This was a dual ordination, with the bhikkhuni sangha led by Ven. Sudarshana Peliyagoda and the bhikkhu sangha led by Ven Walpola Piyananda.
This beautiful allowance in the Vinaya enables the bonds of good-will and support across the boundaries of ethnicity, denomination, or narrowly organized schools. Even Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Pasanno participated in the 2009 Mahayana ordination or 21 bhikksunis and 3 bhikksus, at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, invited by Master Hua.
Practice lineage (not ordination lineage) is custom, not vinaya. By ordination lineage, I suppose the WPP-FS monks are Maha Nikai (LP Chah’s ordination). By practice, they are affiliated into the WPP-FS organization. The bhikkhunis at Dhammadharini in California follow Theravada forest style of practice. Our mentors include LP Maha Prasert (Thai). We consult with several senior bhikkhus for guidance about vinaya and practice. We have a relationship with our brother and sister sanghas where we have ordained samaneris and bhikkhunis, but not a tightly bound structure.
Certainly, the Dhammasara nuns have a close practice relationship with Ajahn Brahm, but in its founding, it was clearly demarcated as an independent nuns’ monastery, not a branch of Bodhinyana,
The problems of the WPP-FS sangha are real, and we deeply wish for them to come to a good resolution. But those issues don’t any more need to burden the monastic women. There are many other options opening up for us.
Thanks for the clarification. Just to confuse things further, Ayya T’s ordination is the Siam Nikaya from Sri lanka, which was historically derived from the Maha Nikaya of Thailand (Siam), although there are no significant ongoing links in organization.
What I should have said originally was something like, ‘the first bhikkhuni ordination whose bhikkhu quorum stemmed from the Thai Forest Tradition’.
Are you sure that the Siam Nikaya in SL accepts bhikkhuni ordinations? I was under the impression they do not but we’re now in Kolkata and can’t easily confirm that.
Visakha, you are correct, Siyam Nikaya does not accept the Bhikkhuni as a valid ordination. However, they do not have the system of top-down control over the appointment of preceptors. The command and control is not complete even in Sri Lanka, much less overseas. For example, my bhikkhu Sri Sumangala my preceptor in Sri Lanka, started ordaining men of all castes many years before he began to ordain bhikkhunis.
We usually don’t assert or emphasize the siyam nikaya connection, but by coincidence, their bhikkhus have helped a lot of women to become bhikkhunis.
A valid ordination requires a an ordaining quorum and the agreement of all the sangha members who are inside the sima at the moment. It never required authorization from a higher level authority structure. On the other hand, it is not desirable to just round up a few minimally qualified bhikkhus. One should go to the best qualified bhikkhu preceptor in one’s local region.
I should have said Ven. Inamaluwa Sri Sumangala Mahathero, my bhikkhu preceptor. (I know the bhikkhu is not the preceptor in a dual ordination, but in Sri Lankan style ordinations they are treated as such.)
Thank you for you clarification. Hopefully in the not to distant future the going forth of Bhikuni will be a much more ordinary (but still special) event.
This is from the dhammaloka.org forum pages – a relevant Q & A between Jun Pan & Bhante Brahmali, on “When monastics disappoint”
So my question is: what should we do when monastics disappoint us?
Unfortunately, you’ve just got to get used to it. Disappointments are to be expected; monastics are human beings. The key issue, perhaps, is not to let one’s confidence in Buddhism depend on any individual.
Since the Perth ordination, I, along with the rest of the world that cares about Buddhism, had to observe the unfolding of a sequence of events, some comical, some shocking, and mostly depressing. I find myself asking this question again and again: How can this be the product of years of full-time practice on the Buddha’s path to enlightenment? Some of the behavior seems ignoble even by conventional, non-Buddhist standard, and yet, we see them in monastics, both collectively as a group and individually as a person.
I think it is important not to judge the entire Wat Pah Pong (WPP) Sangha, neither the Thai nor the Western, on the basis of what has happened. The situation is complex, as is usually the case when it comes to human interaction. One thing to bear in mind is that the Thai Sangha is very hierarchical, and much of the Western WPP Sangha has adopted this approach. In practice this means that a few senior monks tend to dominate Sangha business, and the majority of monks will often feel too intimidated to speak up. For the same reason, the concerns of lay people are often ignored. If you combine this with ignorance of the broader Buddhist world, you may get some unfortunate results.
The most recent example is about this monk who was trained in Bodhinyana for 8 years. For various reasons, he then turned his back on his teacher who mentored him for 8 years, his monastery that housed him for 8 years, and his Buddhist society that fed and supported him for 8 years. Where is the basic human decency? On top of it, it troubles me to know that this is a good monk, well-trained by an excellent teacher. I just cannot make sense out of this. How could this be the product of 8 years of diligent training? What went wrong? Or is there anything wrong here? What are we to learn from this example to guide our own practice?
I think the answer is that he places his faith first and foremost in certain Thai monks whose teachings may seem to be at odds with those of Ajahn Brahm. I suppose he felt he had to choose one or the other. When he was subsequently pressured to make an absolute choice, he went the way he did.
Monastics are extremely important for our practice. As such, it is highly consequential for our practice when their behaviors disappoint. In my personal practice, I feel extremely grateful to contemporary teachers like Ayya Khema and Ajahn Brahm. I honestly don’t know where I would be without them, especially when having to hear about the various disappointing events involving some individual monastics or certain monastic groups. Do you think we should just ignore the negatives and focus on the positives? Shall we just forgive, forget and then move on?
It is all part of getting a realistic perspective on the Sangha. The reality is that the number of truly exceptional people, whether monastic or lay, is always going to be tiny. This is true even within a tradition as celebrated as the Thai Forest Tradition. So be careful not to take individuals as your refuge. Rather, simply remember that as long as we have the Dhamma, there will always be a small number of people who realize the teachings; we just don’t know exactly who they are. Keep your eyes and ears open, keeping asking questions, and you will be able to steer the right course.
Please also remember that conditioning and delusion are very powerful forces. It is possible to be a good monastic and meditator, yet be profoundly deluded about certain issues. Anyone who is deluded hurts themselves, or their own cause, more than anyone else. If you remember this, you may be able to feel a sense of compassion instead of getting upset. To avoid conceit, it is also useful to remember that most of us – probably all of us – are deluded in some respect or other. Again, the right response is compassion towards ourselves and others. My point is that although it is important to take a stand on what is right, it is equally important not to get carried away and forget basic Buddhist principles. Let us be careful not to be swamped with negative emotions. If we’re not, we lose the Dhamma in a much more profound sense. (By the way, this is in no way meant as a judgement of you.)
If it is not appropriate to post it on a public forum, I will be grateful if you could respond to my questions privately.
If you have the guts to bring these things up in public, you deserve a public response.
Thank you very much for posting those pages here.
After reading them, I’m so very grateful to life that I’ve found Ajahn Brahm and his monks. What a lucky Buddhist I am!
Lowest bows to Ajahn Brahmali for gently keeping us in skillful perspective.
“although it is important to take a stand on what is right, it is equally important not to get carried away and forget basic Buddhist principles. Let us be careful not to be swamped with negative emotions. If we’re not, we lose the Dhamma in a much more profound sense.”
I hope I will be able to listen to Ajahn’s inspiring teachings at Bodhinyana.
Yours in dhamma,
thank you for posting this
Not sure if this post will come out right, but I just found a heart-warming story, about generosity & contentment:
As for injustices, this story from the Bangkok Post is quite typical. All sorts of things are mixed up here; it seems that Thai authorities recognize only those monks with Thai ordination certificates and regard monks from Cambodia, Burma and Sri Lanka as “bogus monks.” Do they really mean to disrobe (defrock?) non-Thai monks for “unThai” behavior? Perhaps Bhikkhunis are not the only ones condemned to suffer from the Thai penchant to confuse culture with the Buddha’s teaching.
Thailand: Bogus monks exploit Buddhism
The Bangkok Post, March 26, 2011
While many saffron-robed foreigners are genuinely interested in studying religion, some are entering Thailand illegally to beg for money from the public
Bangkok, Thailand — The presence of more than 300 foreign Buddhists at a Bangkok temple has raised concerns that some might be bogus monks begging for money and preying on people.
<< Almost 300 foreign monks live in tents at Wat Talom in Bangkok’s Phasicharoen district where six Burmese monks, a Mon monk and a Cambodian novice were arrested on charges of illegal entry to the country last week. TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD
Officers from the Immigration Bureau, Thammasala police station and the National Buddhism Bureau inspected Wat Talom in Phasicharoen district early on March 17 following complaints that hundreds of foreign monks had sought shelter at the temple.
The team found about 300 monks and novices from various countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos and Burma living in tents on the temple grounds.
Many had entered the country legally, with some carrying tourist visas and some using foreign students' visas.
Eight, including six Burmese monks, one ethnic Mon monk and one Cambodian novice, failed to produce travel documents and ordination certificates.
The eight were defrocked and sent to the Immigration Bureau on illegal entry charges.
Pol Col Chartchai Iamsaeng, deputy commander of the Immigration Bureau's investigation centre, who led the inspection, said members of the public had complained that many monks, thought not to be Thai nationals, lived in the temple and some went out in the afternoon to collect alms, which was against Buddhist teaching.
Phra Maha Boontheung Chutinatharo, abbot of Wat Talom, said the foreign monks had entered the country legally to study dhamma and some wanted to visit Thailand.
Many monks from overseas wanted to study here as Thailand was known for its Buddhism studies. "Residents living near the temple might not be aware that many monks staying at the temple are foreign monks who entered the country to study Buddhist teachings," said the abbot.
"Those foreign monks do not have the same custom of completing their alms-collecting by 10am, the way we do."
Nopparat Benjawattananan , director of the National Buddhism Bureau (NBB), said 1,057 foreign monks sought permission from his office to live in the kingdom last year.
Most came from Cambodia with 279, followed by Bangladesh 264, Nepal 131, Burma 104, Laos 46, China 34, Malaysia 33, Vietnam 29, the United States, 23, and Indonesia 18. The rest were from other countries, he said.
Thailand's reputation as a haven for Buddhist studies had opened the way for gangs to enter the country under the guise of being foreign monks, said the NBB director.
A source said Singapore and Malaysia had also grappled with problems of bogus monks begging for money.
Mr Nopparat said the NBB could not control foreign monks who had not registered with his agency.
Bogus monks had entered the country using tourist visas.
The NBB did not know how many foreign monks had entered the country. Foreigners wanting to study at Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University or Mahamakut Buddhist University could directly seek permission from those two Buddhist universities.
Mr Nopparat said he would invite representatives from the two universities to discuss the registration of foreign monks with his agency to ensure better controls.
Kai (real name withheld), 40, who lives near Wat Talom, said most foreign monks had left the temple following news reports about their presence.
However, he believed some of the monks were still staying in the country, begging for money.
He said they would probably return to the temple after news about them faded away.
"The problem started about 10 years ago when the temple changed abbots," he said.
Boonchai Chuecharnwong, a businessman in Bang Bua Thong area, condemned those who wore saffron robes to exploit Buddhism.
Monastic police patrol city
Many people know the city administration is responsible for ensuring the safety of Bangkok residents. Its city inspectors or thetsakit officials are assigned to help police guard the city.
But only a few people know about the monastic police whose task is to protect Buddhism.
The National Buddhism Bureau formed a group of officials to monitor the wayward activities of Buddhist monks in Bangkok and surrounding provinces a long time ago.
The monastic police look for monks who fail to adhere to their vows or are involved in disciplinary or legal wrongdoing and report their misconduct to the bureau. The bureau will alert the police, who apprehend the monks, said Udom Songkhajorn, a bureau official.
There are about 15 monastic police officers in Bangkok. The officials are divided into four teams.
The duties of the monastic police are similar to those of thetsakit officials as they have no authority to make arrests. They only pass on information as whistleblowers.
Monks accused of breaching Buddhist teachings or involved in wrongdoing will be investigated by a panel of monks. If there is a basis to the accusation, the monks will be defrocked.
Mr Udom said cases against wayward monks in the provinces would be handled by provincial Buddhism offices.
Dear Visakha and dhamma friends,
Visakha said: “it seems that Thai authorities recognize only those monks with Thai ordination certificates and regard monks from Cambodia, Burma and Sri Lanka as “bogus monks.”
This news article does not surprise me. Not because I have expected Thai officials to behave unskillfully as you said, but because many cunning unskillful men know how to exploit Thai people who regards monks as a good source of ‘making merits’.
I don’t think that Thai officials do not recognise monks ordained elsewhere. Please note that in Thailand, ordained monks do have a certificate and carry an ID, like we all do – students have a student ID, military people have a military ID and general public have ordinary civilian IDs. Only that this ID clearly specifies the holder as a monk, a real ordained monk, not a man wearing yellow robes.
If men in yellow robes cannot present a monk ID, it’s highly likely that they are not monks.
A few months ago a colleague of mine stopped on her way to work to give food to the monks. Unfortunately, she pulled over not far from a VW with a man in yellow robes behind the wheel. After that man switched off the engine, he went to the trunk and took out a bowl and then appeared to go on an almsround.
My colleague was shocked. She talked to street vendors nearby and they said that before they gave food to the monks, they had to make sure that they gave food to real monks, not men wearing yellow robes pretending to be monks.
That is an example of real ‘bogus monks’.
Apart from bogus monks, Thailand has seen men officially ordained as monks who slept with prostitutes, raped young boy novices, took possession of the temple’s donations, etc.
Please do not let one newsworthy episode make you label all actions undertaken by Thai officials as unwholesome.
Yours in dhamma,
It appears that there are lay people who disguise as monks to receive donation. Are monks in Thailand allowed to use and spend money ? The problem of laymen disguise as monks to receive donation might be greatly diminished if the monks are following the vinaya of the Buddha.
A century after the Buddha’s parinibbana, the bhikkhus from Vesali changed 10 rules. One of them was that it was permissible to receive gold and silver ( today it is money). But only Venerable Yasa stick to the rules of the Buddha. The other bhikkhus joined together and issued a punishment against him.
According to the Vinaya Pitaka, the Buddha once said:
” There are , O bhikkhus, four obstructions of the sun and moon, by which when the sun and moon are effected, they give no heat and they give no light, and they are no longer glorious. And what are the four? They are clouds and fog and dusty smoke and Rahu, by which when the sun and the moon are affected they give neither heat nor light nor sheen. Just so, O Bhikkhus, there are four stains by which when samanas and brahmanas are affected they give neither heat nor light nor sheen. And what are the four?
There are some samanas and brahmanas who drink strong drink, and things intoxicating, abstain not therefrom. This is the first of such stains.
There are some samanas and brahmanas who practice sexual intercourse, abstain not therefrom. This is the second of such stains.
And further , O bhikkhus, there are some samanas and brahmanas who accept silver and gold ( today it is money) , abstaining not from the use thereof. This is the third of such stains.
And lastly, O bhikkhus, there are some samanas and brahmanas who gain their livelihood by low arts, abtaining not form such means of life. This is the fourth of such stains. ”
On another occasion to Manikulaka:
“For him whomsoever, Manikulaka, gold and silver are allowed, to him also the five kinds of sensual pleasure are allowed. And to whomsover these five kinds of pleasure are allowed, him you may know of a certainty to be following neither the rule of the Samanas, nor the rule of the sons of Sakya. …I have never said in any way whatever that gold or silver may be sought after or accepted.”
After Venerable Yasa told the lay people about what the Buddha said, the Vaggian bhikkhus decided:
‘The venerable Yasa, the son of Kakandaka, without being deputed by us, has proclaimed to laymen ( a false doctrine). Come, let us carry out the act of Suspension against him.’ And they assembled together with the intention of doing so.
But the venerable Yasa, the son of Kakandaka, rose up into the sky and descended at Kosambi. After this is the birth of Hinayana and Mahayana tradition.
But now I see that some Hinayana bhikkhus also broke this very important rule that the ancient Theravedan bhikkhus condemned. It is one of the “four stains by which when samanas and brahmanas are affected they give neither heat nor light nor sheen”.
First of all, thank you so much for citing the sutta. I think I need to copy and paste of lots of what you posted here for future reference. 🙂
Monks in Thailand can own money since before I was born. I don’t know exactly when but I know when some monks stopped accepting money.
It was King Rama IV when he was a monk who in 1824 started what later became officially named ‘Dhammayutikanikaya’. One of the reformed practices was that monks would not accept money.
“What was King Mongkut’s motive to reform Thai Buddhism? King Mongkut observed that monastic education tended to build on the commentarial texts of later periods rather than on the original Pali Canon. They failed to investigate and study the original Pali Canon but followed the traditional practices which were influenced by later texts. This led the Thai sangha to misinterpret Buddhist teaching and follow the teachers’ tradition rather than the true teaching of the Buddha.”
— from http://cdn.learners.in.th/assets/media/files/000/063/672/original_King_Mongkut_and_Pali_Script.pdf?1285565216
However, in practice, there are always clever people seeking loopholes. Modern interpretation is: Dhammayutikanikaya cannot ‘touch’ money. So, laypeople have to buy a ‘Anumodana’ certificate for the amount they want to give to the monk. It thus works like a cashier cheque. The rest is up to that particular monk – whether or not to accumulate his personal wealth.
On the other hand, good monks in the Mahanikaya, such as those at Wat Nyanavesagawan (P.A. Payutto’s), do not own money. All donations, even intentionally given to individual monks, will go to the temple’s bank account.
To come back to our original discussion of men exploiting Buddhism, I agree with you that it’s because of money or an easy way to earn money through Buddhist practices and traditions in Thailand that unskillful men don yellow robes and take advantage of laypeople who are not aware that they are supporting men wearing yellow robes, not real monks.
As for foreign monks, I cannot testify for or against them as I do not know of any specific case where real foreign monks are disrobed. However, in theory, I would say that monks from other countries should have a kind of an ID to show that they are monks. Or, Thailand could be the ‘land of the free’ for con artists wearing yellow robes reaping wealth on Buddhists’ intentions of making merits and destroying Buddhism in the process (or to be exact, laypeople’s faith in Buddhism).
Yours in the dhamma,
Dheerayupa wrote: “good monks in the Mahanikaya, such as those at Wat Nyanavesagawan (P.A. Payutto’s), do not own money. All donations, even intentionally given to individual monks, will go to the temple’s bank account.”
P.A. Payutto seems like someone who understands both the letter of the rule and the theory behind it. It is possible to defeat the purpose of a training rule or practice when we just cling to the literal word and not the theory and purpose behind it.
The monastic life was set up to help people in weakening desires and dukkha. Without spending money , it would be difficult to turn to things of the 5 senses as a source of satisfaction. Not feeding desire we enable it to weakens. Also , with the practice of meditation one develops inner happiness ( such as piti and sukha ) from within that is not dependent on the things of the 5 sense world ( kama-loka, sense realm) . This makes it possible for a person to let go of sense desires. The practice of not handling money in a transaction, and meditation practice work together to bring about the cessation of desires for worldly things. A person can become very content with just food, shelter, and robe without the need for much unnecessary objects. A bhikkhu who makes use of these two practices properly can abides in contentment , not inflicted or agitated by desires, unburdened with worldly things.
Not applying these two practices properly , desires will remain and yet pleasant abiding here and now can’t be experienced.
Rules that do not impact the practice that much we make a big deal of and rules that have a great impact on the practice we take it lightly or not take it seriously enough. This is among the ” four stains by which when monastics are affected they give neither heat nor light nor sheen.” In other words , they decrease the effectiveness of the monastic practice and reduce the possibility of experiencing the fruits of the path.
For the monks to experience the intended benefit of the practice of not handling money, I hope that learned bhikkhus in Thailand will get together to address this issue of allowing monks to accept money directly. The monks should be encouraged to follow the example of P.A. Payutto’s Wat Nyanavesagawan and apply this training rule properly. It might also help to minimize the problem of lay people disguising as monks.
If not the laypeople can offer food , robes to the monks directly, but money ( or checks, certificates, etc..) for constructing and maintaining the temple can go directly to the Temple instead of any individual monks found elsewhere. This way, certain lay people cannot disguise as monks to receive offering. Also, it can be helpful to be aware of what kinds of things monks are allowed by the Buddha .
Dheerayupa wrote: ” Modern interpretation is: Dhammayutikanikaya cannot ‘touch’ money. So, laypeople have to buy a ‘Anumodana’ certificate for the amount they want to give to the monk. ”
I also read from Bhikkhu Ariyesako’s article that: “For Laypeople: A lay-person should never offer money directly to a bhikkhu… even if it is placed inside an envelope or together with other requisites. They should either deposit the money with the monastery steward, put it in a donation-box or into the monastery bank account. They may then state their invitation to the bhikkhu(s) regarding the kind or amount of requisite(s). In Thailand, for example, knowledgeable lay-people would deposit money with the steward and offer to the bhikkhu(s) an invitation note mentioning the details of the offering.”
I believe that this is fine as long as the monks are not allowed to use the certificate in place of money in a transaction or cash the certificate for money , but to exchange it for the allowable items they need at the temple. The items they need should not be things that are forbidden according to the Vinaya. I think study material or e-reader can be useful, other than that I can’t think of that much more since the 4 requisites are provided.
I believe the proper application of the Buddha’s important training rule should be carried out with the cooperation of both monks and lay people.
It can also be helpful to the situation if laypeople are aware of the things that are appropriate and inappropriate for a monastics to have that way we can avoid offering things that are not allowable.
This link provides some info:
– The four requisites, food, clothing, shelter and medicines.
– Although a monk lives on whatever is offered, vegetarianism is encouraged.
Inappropriate Items Including Money
T.V.’s and videos for entertainment should not be used by a monk. Under certain circumstances, a Dharma video or a documentary programme may be watched.
One who is content with little should be a light to a world where consumer instincts and greed are whipped up in people’s minds.
The Vinaya even prohibits a monk from having someone else receive money on his behalf. In practical terms, monasteries are financially controlled by lay stewards, who then make open invitation for the Sangha to ask for what they need, under the direction of the Abbot. A junior monk even has to ask an appointed agent (generally a senior monk or Abbot) if he may take up the stewards’ offer to pay for dental treatment or obtain medicines, for example. This means that as far as is reasonably possible, the donations that are given to the stewards to support the Sangha are not wasted on unnecessary whims.
If a layperson wishes to give something to a particular monk, but is uncertain what he needs, he should make an invitation. Any financial donations should not be to a monk but to the stewards of the monastery, perhaps mentioning if it’s for a particular item or for the needs of a certain monk. For items such as travelling expenses, money can be given to an accompanying anagarika (dressed in white) or accompanying layperson, who can then buy tickets, drinks for a journey or anything else that the monk may need at that time. It is quite a good exercise in mindfulness for a layperson to actually consider what items are necessary and offer those rather than money.
Monks and nuns lead lives of total celibacy in which any kind of sexual behaviour is forbidden. This includes even suggestive speech or physical contact with lustful intent, both of which are very serious offences for monks and nuns. As one’s intent may not always be obvious (even to oneself), and one’s words not always guarded, it is a general principle for monks and nuns to refrain from any physical contact with members of the opposite sex. Monks should have a male present who can understand what is being said when conversing with a lady, and a similar situation holds true for nuns.
Much of this standard of behaviour is to prevent scandalous gossip or misunderstanding occurring. In the stories that explain the origination of a rule, there are examples of monks being accused of being a woman’s lover, of a woman’s misunderstanding a monk’s reason for being with her, and even of a monk being thrashed by a jealous husband!
So, to prevent such misunderstanding, however groundless, a monk has to be accompanied by a man whenever he is in the presence of a woman; on a journey; or sitting alone in a secluded place (one would not call a meditation hall or a bus station a secluded place). Generally, monks would also refrain from carrying on correspondence with women, other than for matters pertaining to the monastery, travel arrangements, providing basic information, etc. When teaching Dharma, even in a letter, it is easy for inspiration and compassion to turn into attachment.
Well said. _/\_ You’ve articualted what should be done so very well.
However, I would not be very optimistic about the hopeful change on banning monks from owning money. It’s not only because of the unenlightened monks but also because of deluded laypeople.
A letter from P.A. Payutto to his lay supporters several months ago read that laypeople should stop addressing him as the recipient of their donations; all donations should and will go to the temple’s bank account.
However, later I still saw many people write on their donation envelops ‘To Phra Promkunaphorn (P.A. Payutto)’. These laypeople respect him and want to give money to him as an individual. And it is as simple as that.
What is needed is good abbots who know and practice the dhamma so that he can promote compliance with the Buddha’s teaching instead of simply ‘letting things go with the flow’.
Many people also give money to monks during their morning almsround. “It’s convenient as I don’t have time to cook”, they claim.
It’s also a common practice in Thailand to give money (cash in envelopes or ‘Anumodana certificates’) to monks who have performed religious ceremonies for us such as chanting at a funeral or giving blessings at the wedding, house-blessing, birthday, etc ceremonies.
I don’t want to make it sound as if Buddhism in Thailand were degrading, but that is what has been like in Thailand since I remember. On the other hand, we have had great teachers like Ajahn Chah and good monks/scholars like P.A. Payutto.
To me, the best course of action is to do what we believe to be skillful and wholesome according to the Buddha’s teachings in whatever role we are playing. And always keep in mind that we are the owner of our kamma and the heir to our kamma.
Dheerayupa wrote: ” A letter from P.A. Payutto to his lay supporters several months ago read that laypeople should stop addressing him as the recipient of their donations; all donations should and will go to the temple’s bank account. However, later I still saw many people write on their donation envelops ‘To Phra Promkunaphorn (P.A. Payutto)’. These laypeople respect him and want to give money to him as an individual. And it is as simple as that.”
Perhaps people are not aware that when speaking about offering to individual monastics, the Buddha said :
“And I say that in no way is a gift to a person individually ever more fruitful than an offering made to the Sangha” ( as a whole)
That’s why when Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī offered a pair of cloths that has been spun by her, woven by her, especially for the Buddha, ” the Blessed One told her: “Give it to the Sangha, Gotamī. When you give it to the Sangha, both I and the Sangha will be honored.” -MN 142 – The Exposition of Offerings
Dheerayupa wrote: ” What is needed is good abbots who know and practice the dhamma so that he can promote compliance with the Buddha’s teaching instead of simply ‘letting things go with the flow’. ”
“I don’t want to make it sound as if Buddhism in Thailand were degrading, but that is what has been like in Thailand since I remember. On the other hand, we have had great teachers like Ajahn Chah and good monks/scholars like P.A. Payutto.”
“people also give money to monks during their morning almsround. “It’s convenient as I don’t have time to cook”, they claim. It’s also a common practice in Thailand to give money (cash in envelopes or ‘Anumodana certificates’) to monks who have performed religious ceremonies for us such as chanting at a funeral or giving blessings at the wedding, house-blessing, birthday, etc ceremonies.”
This is very true, Buddhist scholars, teachers, and learned monastics in Thailand need to address these issues in order to improve the situation. Many Theravedans are proud of the fact that they are preserving the Buddha’s original teaching. I must admit they put much effort into preserving the Vinaya, Sutta, and meditation. Also , the forest sangha preserve the tradition of dwelling in nature or near the gate of the city to practice. All these are important aspects of the Buddha’s dhamma. Truly, they deserve much gratitude and respect for this. However, they are sliding away from this in the recent years. It is important for learned monastics to resolve the issue we are facing.
The event that gave rise to the division between Theraveda and Mahayana tradition in the first place was when Venerable Yasa noticed that a number of monks use money when it is against the Vinaya of the Buddha . Right now , aren’t they doing the same thing. The monks should be notified that they may accept checks made to the Temple ( sangha as a whole ) that takes care of their requisites. Also , what the monks get with their ‘ Anumodana certificates should be regulated by the Temple to ensure that it is allowable in the Vinaya. This would contribute to improving the quality of their training.
They also need to educate people about these words from the Buddha regarding offering to individual monastics and sangha as a whole:
“And I say that in no way is a gift to a person individually ever more fruitful than an offering made to the Sangha” ( as a whole)
In this way , not only the monks are properly abiding by the Buddha’s training rules , but people who disguise as monastics have a difficult time cashing the checks for money.
Perhaps lay practitioners, Buddhist professors, and scholars in Thailand should bring this up to learned monastics. I am aware of various news articles where there are complaints about these issues, and that there are police that keep an eye out for disguisers. Although this might help to a certain degree, the monastics should also take the proper steps to improve the situation.
You wrote: If men in yellow robes cannot present a monk ID, it’s highly likely that they are not monks.
I regret the impression that monks ordained elsewhere are somehow bogus. We have had long association with refugee monks from Burma, Mon, Shan, Karen, Burman, who have been hounded and harassed because of not having Thai papers, which obviously they do not and cannot have. Too often such monks have been disrobed and placed in detention. This is not the place to go into Thailand’s abysmal refugee policies but the it is not a valid reason to disrobe a monk for not being a Thai monk. To malign these good monks as beggers for money is really not fair.
I haven’t heard of good foreign monks being disrobed, but it doesn’t mean it never happened. I feel sad if good foreign monks were disrobed and put in jail by Thai officials.
However, as a Buddhist living in Thailand, I stand firm on my opinion that monks of whatever origin or from whatever country should have a kind of an official ID to prove that they are monks. I never said and I don’t think that the Thai officials on the news said that foreign monks have to have Thai IDs.
Can you imagine a radical not-yet-known terrorist wearing yellow robes. And as a ‘monk;, he could easily walk around Bangkok on almsround and people would not suspect (as foreign monks in our country are very common now) that he might be on his way to planing bombs in the city centre or even on his suicide bombing mission?
Please forgive my extreme fantasised example. But I do hope that you will get the picture of how easy it is for a man to pretend to be a monk and make quite a nice living here.
It’s true that there are innnocent people sentenced guilty, but the court also sentenced to jail people who really committed a crime. This does not mean that the judicial system in that particular country is a total failure.
Yes, the Thai officials are in a difficult position. While there may not have been terrorists in robes, there have been drug smugglers and human traffickers. Thailand has long unpoliced borders with some of the wildest lands on earth, and combined with the Thai peoples reverence for monks and reluctance to interfere with them, it is a very touchy policing issue.
When I read that and especially:
“Monks accused of breaching Buddhist teachings or involved in wrongdoing will be investigated by a panel of monks. If there is a basis to the accusation, the monks will be defrocked.”
I couldn’t help thinking, maybe it’s a good idea for Ajahn Brahm and the other monks involved in the ordinations to stay away from Thailand for a little while.
“a monk has to be accompanied by a man whenever he is in the presence of a woman; on a journey; or sitting alone in a secluded place (one would not call a meditation hall or a bus station a secluded place). Generally, monks would also refrain from carrying on correspondence with women, other than for matters pertaining to the monastery, travel arrangements, providing basic information, etc. When teaching Dharma, even in a letter, it is easy for inspiration and compassion to turn into attachment”.
are they joking I mean I can see the point of that in genera, but it is abit if not hugely insulting to women, I mean there are so many good looking, fit men of means in the world, why would any women be attracted to a man with a bald head wearing a dress without a penny to his name, come on …seriously and especially and old Thai blokes ..are they kidding themselves, maybe they need to seriously take stock of their own ego’s and have a good look at themselves in the mirror or something. give me a break.
I can see theough that women might need protection from them though yes that makes sense.
Sometimes it has to do not with what will transpire but what gossipy types or people less open minded as you will perceive things and then suddenly rumours are buzzing around town. I have seen this in some monasteries where unfortunately there is a thick tradition of gossip – I catch wind of it and think “how ridiculous!” but in fact the lay people are making serious allegations when there is no basis for them in reality. These are rules to protect the Sangha.
There are some like an old lady touching a monk’s arm affectionately or a nun hugging a smal boy or a mother holding her son, where I think it is going a little too far…and may have no basis in Vinaya either (dont quote me on most things related to Vinaya unless I give the source in which case check it 😉
Just something funny but relevant to what you said.
Ajahn Brahm once told of a funny episode at Wat Pah Nanachat (forgive me if I got it wrong). During the Q&A session after a dhamma talk, a monk got extremely embarrased after reading a written question: “Will you run away and marry me, please?”
That good-looking monk hid himself away from the public for some time since.
That would be abit embarrassing yes, my friend and I had the same experience visiting a foreign country, so many proposals we nearly had to leave the country.
Whoops!!! I really botched that last post. Many apologies.
Bhante S, if you see this, would you please delete the above, botched job? Thanks. _/\_
Here tis again…
Peter said: “Hi Kanchana, I’m sure that the documents presented through the website are genuine.”
My response: “Hi Peter, I can’t be sure of this at all. Just as I think (sorry if I’m wrong, just going on memory) you’ve stated elsewhere that you can’t comment on what’s said by other and what goes elsewhere because you are unsure of what people are saying…well…same for me as far as this website is concerned.
In the past I heard that some of the Western Monks asked that both sides of the story be presented on it. The last time I looked this wasn’t the case. I believe they also asked that there be authors (names, not committees) who could be contacted (and held accountable and be more transparent)…last time i looked this was not done. I hope you looked very recently and found this was done.
Moreover, the last time I looked at their information about Bhikkuni ordination, it was seriously dodgy.”
Peter said: “With regard to Ajahn Dtun, do you think his planed visit should be politicized?”
Yup! For sure!
I’m not of the opinion that Buddhism and ‘politics’ are mutually exclusive. Impossible in my opinion because we do not practise this particular religion in a vacumn. We practise in the world. That is why we have Sila. Sila is not just the 5 precepts. These 5 precepts are the very basic; wonderful and not to belittle them but that’s what they are. To purify the mind further, one must act out the very opposites of these 5 precepts. One must practise harmlessness, generosity of heart, trust worthiness, right speech and clarify the mind to the very best of one’s ability.
In my considered opinion, it would be wrong, utterly wrong for someone who is a position to have access to Ajahn Dtun who can speak Thai, to not approach him about these issues and about what is going on. Perhaps he does not know. Perhaps his knowing will be the catalyst for something massively healing. How could one neglect to try such a thing, knowing these possibilities might come about. Ajahn Dtun is highly, highly respected. He may have enough clout to gently, wisely use the avenues open to him. I have heard only good about him. I’m sure if he was told, he would do what he thought was best to alleviate the problem. It might not be all guns blazing and an obvious solution straight away…but I’m sure he’d at least try.”
In the previous post you also enquired about my reservations about contacting Ajahn Brahm. I have expressed my views and members of his community are aware of the views which I have expressed. I would like to think that he would be kept informed but yes contacting him directly is also an option.”
Dear Peter, He’s just not so well informed. The man only has so much time on his hands. Besides which, he’s really weird in that he actually lives his teaching of “present moment awareness”. If it’s not in front of him right now he’s not going to be knowing about it. I gather he’s teaching overseas at present…he’d have no idea about all this stuff on Bhante Sujato’s blog!!
He’s really very gentle and doesn’t bit one bit. One monk once described him thus: You know about the carrot and the stick? Well Ajahn Brahm uses the carrot a lot and when he uses the stick he just gently taps you with it. Give him a call/email if you really want to get something through to him.
But I must fully agree with Dee’s comments. Asking him to step in at this point is exactly what some in WPP would love to see. Then they can blame him for stirring things up. He’s been quiet for two years…someone apparently interpreted that silence as talking alot!!! Go figure!
Geez! I keep stuffing up!!
Lots of typos but just to correct one of them…
I meant to say ‘doesn’t bite one bit’…not ‘bit one bit’ (??!!??)
Clearly I need to leave this computer in peace for a bit…or should that be give myself some peace from it…? 🙂
Right…I’m off…bit late but I might vacumn the house! Cheers all. 🙂
I also must go now. Good luck.
Hi Kanchana, You think they forged the letter from Ajahn Brahm? I had refered to two specific documents presented through the website.
Don’t worry I do not think Ajahn Brahm bites. I have met him before 🙂
You mean the letter dated Tuesday 8th April 2008?
The one that is a whole year before the 2009 Annual General Meeting of the BSWA? At which the BSWA agreed to move towards Bhikkuni ordination. Do you mean the letter that was a whole year before this agreement by BSWA members.
The letter that starts with,
“Dear Ajahn Kevali,
The letter that states: “…if we keep in contact with one another, then there is less chance of generating misunderstandings.”
The letter in which they have focused on and underlined, the most accusatory line possible and have neglected to include the rest/the end, of…where is the rest of the letter?
How do I know that in a subsequent page, Ajahn does not say something that contradicts the underlined statement?
This letter was a private document which they have shamelessly abused. This letter is clearly, clearly, showing that Ajahn Brahm was in the process of communicating with his peers about this issue…referring to translations of Bhikku Bodhi’s book, referrring to research, referring to Bhikkuni Vinaya. To use this letter in this way seems rather malicious, in my opinion.
And here in all it’s ‘horror’, is the famous underlined line: But anyone that says that Ajahn Brahm is planning to ordain Bhikkunis is misrepresenting me and inflaming a very sensitive issue needlessly.”
Does anyone actually read anything that has been posted/said by anyone else?
He didn’t ordain them. Ayya Tatthaloka did. The fact that they use this line shows up their level of ignorance around this issue and their apathy around learning anything about it. Indeed, this is reflected in the lines of this very letter, in which Ajahn Brahm, fearlessly, respectfully and truthfully states,
“However, many monks have neither studied the Bhikkuni Vinaya in depth, nor know pali, nor have they studied the latest research on the subject. To remedy this problem, I have had translated into Thai well balanced article on the validity of Bhikkuni ordination written by Bhikku Bodhi.”
AB goes on to say that he plans to send this to Senior Thai monks, including those of WPP and that he would send the reciepient of this letter a copy in English.
I add that his tone is respectful, truthful, humble and gentle throughout.
It is ironic that the underlined sentence includes a statement about misrepresenting him (AB) because that is exactly what they have tried to do in underlining it and posting on this website.
In a further ironic twist, this letter actually demonstrates what I and others have been saying all along that Ajahn Brahm had tried repeatedly to consult with his peers and elders. Indeed, all the way at the start of 2008.
Perhaps they should have just underlined the sentence and blanked out the rest of the letter. But maybe they thought their readers would wish to remain as ignorant of the surrounding facts, as they appear to be.
I would like to end by stating that this ill-named website is incredibly outdated. It would seem that even Thailand is inching slowly towards a fuller support of Bhkkuni ordination. The statements on this website, which are two years old, have not caught up.
“How do I know that in a subsequent page, Ajahn does not say something that contradicts the underlined statement?” As far as I can see the letter is all there. Did you see both pages?
But so what?
Why focus on this?
What about the rest of my points? Aren’t they valid?
If there’s something in the other page that is remotely relevant, perhaps you can post it here?
I tried and couldn’t find it.
Thank you, Kanchana, for your in-depth explanation of the letter.
I totally forgot about this bit: “However, many monks have neither studied the Bhikkuni Vinaya in depth, nor know pali, nor have they studied the latest research on the subject. To remedy this problem, I have had translated into Thai well balanced article on the validity of Bhikkuni ordination written by Bhikku Bodhi.”
Daege has said somewhere here that education is the key. It seems that Ajahn Brahm has been trying to do that. I wonder how many Thai monks have received and read the translation. Perhaps, our kind Aj Sujato could tell us what has happened to the translation.
A dhamma friend has kindly emailed me both pages as they appear on the dhammlight.com site.
I suggesting scanning and printing and then white-ing out the underlining. Or alternatively, just ignore this blatent attempt at taking something out of context in order to villify someone. And read the whole thing.
What is the picture that emerges? It is of someone bending over backwards to consult with his peers and his elders.
So now to the second page:
It is really odd that they chose to highlight the following line: “I would never do anything so insensitive as to ordain Bhikkhunis without consulting our fellow Mahatheras of our tradition in the West.”
Since it clearly demonstrates that to AB, communication and consultation were important.
But you say, ‘this shows he went against his word’. Not at all. For starters, remember this was in early 2008. The ordinations happened in late 2009. Almost 2 years. Much would have happened between 08 and 09. Much background, much new communication, much new learning and new knowledge. All that went between these two dates, we do not know. Whatever it was, it led AB to… Not change his mind. No. Because he did NOT ordain the Bhikkunis (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Rather he helped to facilitate their ordination. To hold this underlined sentence against him shows such pettiness of character and smallness of heart.
I urge everyone to look at the *whole* letter. The purpose of this letter was clearly to build a bridge of communicaton, consultation and harmony. As Bhikkhu Brahmali has said elsewhere, they tried on separate occasions to put the issue of Bhikkuni Ordination on the Western Abbots Meeting agenda; I imagine it was like knocking on a brick wall.
I am not bothering responding to the second sentence in this paragraph as the reasons for it being highlighted are probably just as silly as the first.
But on to the next paragraph. You might notice that the first sentence underlined is incomplete; they’ve deliberately chosen not to underline the first part of it because if a reader just reads it in isolation, the impact of the words is greater and it sounds as if AB is admitting to planning a Bhikkuni ordination himself. It is a low down thing to do to suggest this when his very purpose in writing this letter is to state that he wanted to communicate first.
As for the next bit…they’ve really shot themselves in the foot underlining this bit!! It just shows again that Ajahn Brahm was really keen to communicate directly and to clear up misunderstandings.
I cannot see how any right thinking person would just read what is underlined and then not look at the date, the general warm, humble, gentle tone, the overall message of the letter and not see that it cannot possibly be used to villify its author; quite the opposite in fact.
It’s a disgrace that they tried to use this private communication and twist into something it was not intended to be. It was written to Ajahn Kevali in good faith. What does Ajahn Kevali have against Ajahn Brahm, that he would allow such a private and open hearted communication to be so abused?
Dear D and all,
When I say ‘But you say’ in the 7th paragraph… I don’t mean you 🙂 I just meant in general.
I didn’t edit very well with this post; but it’s essentially about the second page of that very nice letter that was used in a very silly way… My comments about the first page are somewhere about this thread!
No worries. 🙂
One thing I’ve learnt from listening to Ajahn Brahms’ talks is that we should start any kind of interaction with people with metta. So, when we come across something that might be interpreted as upsetting or offensive, we should stop and take a more careful look (or listen) at that remark. Most of the time, it is not as negative as we think. The rest of the time, by doing so, we naturally stop the current of the negative feelings that have just been formed to flow.
I agree with you (not about the “I didn’t edit very well with this post” 🙂 ), but how a letter written with metta and efforts for maintaining harmony could be easily abused. However, I believe that in the end it doesn’t matter what was or was not underlined.
People will see what they want or expect to see.
So, for me, the letter is, in fact, a good testimony to Ajahn Brahm’s metta towards women and utmost attempts to help them without breaking the vinaya nor upsetting his seniors and peers.
Of course, for those who are against Ajahn Brahm, they would focus on a sentence that Ajahn Brahm wrote a long time ago as evidence of his (alleged) lie without taking into considertaion the long time lapse.
Not being a person who would keep incoming email for too long a period in my mailbox unless they are really important, I’m wondering why Ajahn Kevali kept this letter for a long time. He must have thought it was very important?
Kanchana, Have you read the Bhikku Bodhi booklet which is linked to a couple of times in this thread? I think the “conclusion” section is well worth reading and to my mind helps with the overall picture. As we can see from the ” Ayya Tathaaloka” there are Bhikkuni. What seems to be lacking is a wider recognition, which would create authority.
Yes, I read it more than two years ago. Months before the 09 ordinations.
My friend and I attended an open BSWA gathering in which the possibility of Bhikkuni ordination was discussed by the 4 nuns and Ajahn Sujato. At the end of the gathering, we went up and obtained a copy of the booklet. I had it by my bed and read it avidly each night until I’d finished. I also told anyone that would listen and probably made a pest of myself in the process!
I thought it was an awesome conclusion. I fully agree with you, a wider recognition of these matters is hugely lacking; I do think that over the last two years, there has been some small improvement in this!
I also think that Ajahn Brahm tried very hard (as *that* letter shows) to communicate about this very issue. He tried to put this on the agenda of the Western Abbots Meeting. Finally after all this communication; after all these attempts at consultation; he, Ajahn Sujato, 12 Bhikkunis and the monks of Bodhinyana decided to help the four nuns themselves. I support these actions fully.
I appreciate your tireless support for Sangha building. I am so glad you are there in Australia. It is a nourishing place for a practitioner and I can see that you are nourishing it too. I rejoice with you.
🙂 Thanks Lisa
Kanchana / Apr 8 2011 1:47 pm
Kanchana wrote –
But what about Freedom of Outcome? If one starts with the assumption that the Buddha knew what he was doing; one can then move to the assumption that men would be best served by ordaining as Bhikkhus, rather than as novices/samaneras. Yes?………..
Terry reply –
Dear Kanchana thank you for your delightful letter, which brings forth a very interesting subject for discussion.
As far as I can see the gist of your question is can people gain spiritually and more quickly from joining the Sangha’s. By keeping within the bounds of rules and morality and ingraining this into the mind as a habitual practice. I think the simple answer is yes, but it’s not necessarily for everyone.
Lay people can also follow the noble 8 fold path and can see anicca, dukkha and anatta even if they have never formally taken the basic 5 precepts.
The path as far as I know is to build concentration and/or continuous insight in mind, both aimed initially at reducing the constant clutter of thoughts, which normally take up all the space in our minds, to be able to see what lies below. What lies below is a continuous flow of various types of consciousness’s that can be followed with mindfulness. Following these one eventually can see that each one of them are entirely separate from each other, because it can be seen clearly that each one totally disappears, before the next one arises. Continuing the practice one would go beyond the concepts (sights, sounds etc.) involved, into just seeing mental processes. Around this time one realizes the Buddha’s teachings of anicca, dukkha and anatta. In this case the dukkha is not old age or illnesses, but being locked into a process that one can’t seem to get out of. The anatta aspect is that these processes continue unabated without any help from what we think of as our self. See one mark, see all three. Personally I don’t know of any other way of seeing the 3 marks but there may be.
The morality aspect would be in the continuous honing of them due to the practice. Whether the practice, in increments, improves morality or morality improves practice in increments, I really don’t know. Perhaps a bit of both!
So a layperson can attain to knowledge of the 3 marks without even formally taking the 5 precepts. Though morality must be there.
Joining the Sangha’s, can I imagine be extremely useful for some people but also a hindrance for others. Many who in the East have been dumped in the Sangha as kids and remained there, spend most of their time wondering what it would be like to experience worldly life. They may have been better to go out into it and experiment to realize that it’s not quite as the advertising world would lead us to believe!
One does need the urge to be dissatisfied with the world to give a reason to find an alternative. So if you feel you would gain from joining the Sangha by gaining discipline and companionship from like minded people then why not? Guess you will only know by trying it. If after some years you don’t seem to be getting anywhere then you would need to put in more effort with meditation practice or you can go back into the world and suffer some more!
There are different types of monasteries around so choosing one suitable, perhaps with good teachers available, or that visit, would help.
I’m not sure what duties Sangha members have to provide, if anything, for the lay. I would imagine that they at least need as a minimum to keep within the vinaya rules, as people donate their sometimes hard earned money, to support the Sangha members, so they can train within the Buddha’s teachings. It could be that training the mind in morality is all that is sufficiently required and that one is not even required to meditate. Perhaps someone who knows the books better than I do could answer that.
Whether you would realize the Buddha’s teachings more quickly by joining the Sangha depends on your nature and quidance from friends. You could join the Sangha and get “hung up” on keeping “rule and ritual”. You could think of yourself as a minority member of an elite group doing the “only right thing” and become puffed up and unbearable with conceit.
For Sangha members who wish to do more serious seated meditation, facilities for such would be needed to be in place and available for use. Being quicker to develop practice would depend not only on your own mind, but what there is available as support. Daily 24/7 mindfulness practice though very hard to maintain is more than necessary, it’s essential. Practicing anapanasati to where one gets sukha’d out can help considerably. It reduces getting lost in thought trains for long periods, is an extremely pleasant way to live and facilitates keeping your mind on the ball.
With regards to women having the same facilities as men to practice then I am personally all for it. As stated many time I am enjoying seeing the groundswell of the bhikkhuni Sangha albeit at the moment in the Sri Lankan tradition. It’s interesting that there has been such a resurgence of women especially in the West, only in the last, say 50 years, to do so to seek the going forth. Re- setting up the bhikkhuni monastic system after it having died out some time ago requires patience. One would’nt dump a load of ingredients in front of an even skilled chef and expect a 3 course meal in 5 minutes!
This groundswell of women desiring to join the Sangha is wonderful. The fact that so many women have realized that they are as nuts as men and are seeking for answers to cure this mental malady is so good to see! (smily)
Overall though I think it’s good for all of us to remember that the dhamma is under our nose tip at all times. Be encouraged by the fact that nobody with a half decent heart and determination can fail to make progress, eventually on the Buddha’s path, given the right effort. One may get bashed to the left and bashed to the right, and at times may feel a bit mentally blooded and unsteady of feet, but if one just keeps at it, hopefully getting help from good dhamma friends, whether lay of Sangha along the way – then eventually you cannot fail to gain the knowledge proclaimed and well taught by the Buddha!
Whoops this should go here.
So it sounds Terry like you do agree that, while different, both men and women have the same capacity to become enlightened, therefore ordaining for women should not be an problem? Is that right?
Just crashing your post with the little internet time I have as it was the first one I landed on.
I like your intellectual explanation above, but while intellectual understanding of the Dharma is one thing, as is paraphasing the knowledge of others, and the Suttas, and a skill most people ‘get through’ university on, experiential learning and ‘living’ the Dharma, especially that of humility and service and of course the precepts is equally difficult I believe.
Anyway best wishes.
Thankyou also for that lovely reply. 🙂
It’s funny because after reading your post i read Bhante’s in the ‘myth’ thread and found that his post complements yours. So will repeat his last paragraph here:
“People have different characters and will thrive in different environments. We are like plants – some thrive in rich soil, some in sandy; some with lots of sun, some in the shade; some in the wet, some in the dry. To debate about, ‘What is the best environment for growing plants?’ is really a waste of time. What is needed is to understand the best environment for this plant, and to do what we can to provide it.”
I cannot fault what you’ve written. 🙂
You reminded me of something I heard (may someone correct me if I’m wrong _/\_ ) that it is only the Anagami who has continuous mindfulness. In which case, one wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that there’s no hope for us!
But then…the Anagami must once have been like us.
Perhaps it’s cos mindfulness cannot be sustained always. At least not by an act of will.
Actually, that makes sense to me…in terms of the Anattalakhana Sutta anyway… Isn’t it here in this Sutta the Buddha says that the 5 khandas are without self. And if they were self, i would be able to say (for consciousness for example) ‘may my consciousness be thus, may my consciousness not be thus?’. If the Buddha is right, then perhaps it’s only the gradual training that can slowly ensure that we put the causes in to one day have unremittting sati/mindfulness. So may be we can’t control our mindfulness and make it be 24/7. Because we can’t say…to paraphrase the Anattalakhana Sutta…”may my mindfulness be thus, may my mindfulness not be thus”. Because sati is not self, is not controllable. But cos of the reality of kamma and conditionality, we can put forth the causes to increase it. In which case, the pressure is significantly off, in terms of how we approach the 7th path factor! Hope that made sense!! 🙂
Well…that’s just my current take on the matter. 🙂 Thanks again 🙂 for your reply. 🙂 It was much appreciated.
I’m afraid I too must take a bow and say a metta-ish farewell to all you lovely blog buddies now. Other things are demanding my time now, so it could be a while before I comment here again. Though I may pop by and have a quick read from time to time! Thanks so much Bhante Sujato for hosting this blog with such grace. With much respect Bhante, ‘you rock!’ 8)
Much metta to all. 🙂
Ok, that was probably the 2nd last post for a while! 🙂
That was primarily (though not exclusively 😉 ) a reply to Terry but it didn’t seem to get posted in the right place, so I just wanted to make that clear by stating this here.
Much metta to all again. 🙂
Kanchana wrote: “Perhaps it’s cos mindfulness cannot be sustained always. At least not by an act of will.”
I also heard Ajahn Brahm said that you cannot will the mind to stay still. Some might interpret that to mean that since the mind doesn’t obey our will so why bother meditating to still the mind , it is impossible. For example, the Nigantha Nataputta said that those who think they can enter a state where there is no thought is trying to stop the wind or river with their hands.
Kanchana wrote: “perhaps it’s only the gradual training that can slowly ensure that we put the causes in to one day have unremittting sati/mindfulness”
I would also approach it with gradual practice.
Kanchana wrote: “So may be we can’t control our mindfulness and make it be 24/7.”
I agree that there are times when the hindrance of sloth & torpor / sleepiness is too strong. No matter what we do we can’t abandon it. Then maybe it is a good idea to let it be and go with the flow in that moment rather than keep on forcing it to go away. Like the saying goes, ” If the string is too tight it will break.”
But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t practice bringing the mind back and let go of desire, aversion, worry, doubt, sloth and torpor whenever we see that they arise. We should also keep in mind that there is also the other part of the saying: “If the string is too lax it will not play”.
It is not just Effort that should be applied, but skillful effort that is balanced. That is why Right Effort is mentioned in the Eightfold Path.
If we say that we shouldn’t practice being watchful of thoughts and feelings as they arise to let go of desire, aversion, worry, doubt, sloth and torpor while walking, standing , lying down, and sitting, because “we can’t control our mind and make it be 24/7″, then in this case we shouldn’t do that while sitting in meditation as well, nor should we meditate. That is also what we are doing in sitting meditation until the mind settles into stillness.
Anguttara Nikaya 10: 61 mentions that:
” Restraint of the senses, too has its nutriment ; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment of restraint of the senses? ‘ Mindfulness and clear comprehension’ should be the answer.
Mindfulness and clear comprehension , too, have their nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment of mindfulness and clear comprehension ? ‘ Proper attention’ should be the answer.
“Proper attention , too, has its nutriment; it is not without a nutriment. And what is the nutriment of proper attention? ‘ Faith ( confidence) ‘ should be the answer. ”
An example of how to have confidence and practice applying “proper attention” is not spending too much time attending to magazines, TV commercials, or movies with sexual content or objects that give rise to lust or unnecessary desires. This cut off the nutriment that nourish the hindrance of desire and weakens it. And whenever the thought of lust arise in the mind, one is aware as it arise and allow it fade rather than feeding it with attention, or perpetuate it with further participation. The same goes with the hindrance of aversion and restlessness & worry. This continual ‘ proper attending’ contribute to the strengthening of Mindfulness and Clear comprehension while weakening the hindrances to meditation.
The way I see it, noticing whenever desire, aversion, worry, doubt, sloth & torpor arise and let go of them takes practice. If we do this throughout the day as well ( as the Buddha suggested) it builds a strong foundation. When sitting down to meditate we won’t have to struggle so much with bringing the mind back from getting drawn into thoughts of desire, aversion, worry, doubt, sloth & torpor, because be have been practicing this throughout the day. It is easier to move on to the next “step” of the meditation.
There is a story AB told about a man who just ordained one year or three years, but he became an Arahant when other people have been ordained much longer have not. They asked him , and was told that during the years as a layperson he practiced being aware and watchful of the mind even while working in the field or engaging in the activities in daily life.
It makes sense, because when he joined the monastery to develop deeper meditation, his mind is well developed with a strong foundation and the ability to let go of the hindrances is developed. It is easier to go from mindfulness of the present moment to Silent present moment awareness to concentration during sitting meditation in the full-time retreat at the monastery.
There IS, in fact, wider recognition. The problem is we keep reverting back to a handful of communities or people within those communities who do not recognize them, in hopes that we can change them or they will change. That is the problem with “narrative”.
You know, that teaching on how hundreds of good things happen to us every day, but when one or two things go poorly, we get hooked by them.
Maybe we should start a page, pages, and threads on all the support and the good things that have come to the women who have ordained!
And a page on all the great talks and teachings by nuns!
And list all the things we can do to plant the seeds of peace…
Lisa, If we were to go to all the temples in all the traditionally theravada lands I think the level of recognition would be fairly small (but growing). The webpage sounds like a great idea 🙂
“If we were to go to all the temples in all the traditionally theravada lands…”
well, there is only one way to find out!
A Bhikkhuni pilgrimage!
Which wuld include paying respects to those great temples of Master Bhikkhus who supported or trained great Bhikkunis, I can think of quite a few ancient sites in China…
(Recalling too that there is a Sanghamitta express from Bangalore to Chennai!)
(Wouldnt that be wonderful?)
Regarding the ‘update’ article ” A Response to the 30th December 2009 Article, “Monks Target Western Clergy.” on Dhammalight,…
If my memory serves me correctly, the writer of the article in the Bangkok Post did not mistranslate the press release. I had a photocopy of the press release in Thai and the article said what the press release said. Please be noted that not only the Bangkok Post but also a few other Thai-language newspapers reported the press conference and cited the press release. I’m sorry I just threw away the copy just a couple months ago when my office moved to a new building. Or, I would scan and mail it to whoever wanted to see the evidence.
On the other hand, I have to admire them for being clever this time — blaming it on the ‘lost in translation’, which is rather difficult to prove as many of you don’t read Thai and only a handful of Thai journalists had a copy of the press release. Also, the author of this article was very careful with his language. It appears well moderated and sounded calm, cool and collected, and definitely rational and respectable, compared to what they have done before.
Thank goodness for you!
Yes, I noticed this!
I remember that time… Nevermind memory though… All our comments and learnings about this are right here on Bhante Sujato’s Blog. Thank goodness for that. And if anyone has a copy of the actual article (in it’s various translations) I’d love a copy posted here.
Apparently there was also a *written* press release. How an earth is it possible to misquote a written press release…surely it is right there for you to quote from! And I’m assuming, it’s going to be released by the people who are doing the talking/who called the press and who want the infor to get out there!
I can’t believe they are trying to change their tune now, two years later!
When all this first happened, 2 things struck me. 1. The Western WPP monks kept (inaccurately) going on about a lack of consultation as the reason behind the ‘excommunication’. (A more pathetic, unforgiving, unBuddhist reason I can’t presently think of.) 2. Any Thai monk of the WPP seemed to be stating that it was because of the Bhikkhuni Ordination itself.
Indeed, Ajahn Brahm reported that it was the second reason. And this is borne out by the two (from memory) different accounts (including a transcript) of this meeting that I have read as well as that ridiculous press conference.
Now, here we are in 2011 and the so called ‘update’ on the dhammalight.com site might be better labelled a ‘lie’. Or maybe a kinder word might be ‘spin’.
Perhaps they finally worked out a couple of things: 1. Their western counterparts were using a different reason and they decided that they should all be saying the same thing. 2. That Bhikkhuni Ordination might actually be valid and that Thailand might possibly be supportive of it and so they should now be seen to have all along been on the right side.
Sorry, but this behaviour does not earn any respect in my book. Who are these people really? Does anyone know? How come they are incapable of showing any humility or acknowledgement? I will humbly apologise for that last statement if they prove me wrong and admit their mistake. For goodness sake, they are supposed to be senior monks!
The avalanche of lost respect would soon start to rebuild if they took some responsibility for their actions.
This is where some of the mending needs to start. Not from ‘AB’s side’. It must start from those causing harm.
I had a copy of the original written press release that the WPP monks gave to the reporters that day. 🙂
One WPP monk’s name got mentioned: Phra Kru Opas Wutthikorn, the abbot of Bueng Latthiwan monastery in Ayuddhaya.
I believe that the info on the press conference could be found on this blog.
Just remembering something Thanasanti related when she was going to be ordained as a bhikkhuni with Tathaloka Bhikkhuni et al – Ajahn Passano gave her a big two-thumbs up and a broad smile.
..oh how fulfulling it must be for a women to have the approval of a man.
There is a bit of history behind this. And it also has to do with a senior monkwithin the larger comunity of nay sayers cming around and being openly supportive. I believe he was the one who gave her Samaneri ordination or something like that. So it has to do with filial relations and friends celebrating together. We do form bonds with our teachers and want them there for the big moment – like having all of your loved ones at your wedding. I think I understand what you are getting at, we shouldn’t “need” the approval of others but when it is there it is reassuring – especially when at the time it was a huge step for the person ordaining – at a time when the community was in the midst of an extremely painful transition…the Bhikkhuni Sangha does not want either to live in complete isolation, Sangha is supposed to be a big family, with relationships of mutual support and quite genuine and deep mutual affection. So the love and support (not necessarily approval) of the Bhikkhu Sangha is needed and cherished.
(Spoken from someone who is not a Bhikkhuni – so that’s just my two cents! 😉 _/\_
Thanks for that I see your point. Although and with regard to the other post and your response I am sure this selective attention by the monks is good but it is hard to understand in our culture, if all they want to do is palm you off onto nuns and women why don’t they have more women ordain, why is there this issue in the first place.
Like they put up all these male teachers but then they are only supporitve when they can palm you off on to women teachers or someone else. Why not just have more women ordained and teachers in teh first place. But then knowing men all they will do is get women teachers who are passive aggressive controllers, young and good looking women, or those females sexists who keep all the women downtrodden and keep all access to the powerful monks or whatever to themselves, so then most normal women will leave anyway.
It is hard to know the answer to this issue but thanks for your post.
I think I put in another post that a friend of mine had trouble with a Christian priest who when her family died ‘did’ not even both to be supportive, she thinks he was more worried about what people thought.
Although this was years ago she is still angry about this, she is a good person but quite wrathful and could not beleive that what she described ‘as an ugly old *&^, who looks likea p*^*&*&^% would even for one minute think that she would want to bleep bleep bleep” I won’t actually repeat what she said because I am sure it would not make it on anyway, but she was really insulted by this.
Any way thanks again for the post, have a nice day
all I want to say is that in 1978 I think it was I entered a buddhist house for the first time and upon pondering the small books and literatures on offer there in the hall was attracted to one with an image of a person in strange orange clothes (!) and the title ‘Banner of the Arahants’. I did not open the book, I did not need to. I saw the picture and knew was that all I wanted to be one of those. What ever the ‘banner’ was, whatever an ‘arahant’ was. Later I opened the book and read that no women could become monks.(Monks, Nuns, had no especial difference to me) I was shocked to my core, for the first time in my life. I never dreamt I could not be something. I think now that maybe this is one reason – sadly, there are others –
why my monastic life has not worked out for me in the UK.
There has not been that proper, full, true vehicle to travel in.
I deepy appreciate your sharing and the courageous steps you took in your life against the tide and at much risk.
I wonder if you have thoughts on how we can forge ahead with a refreshed Sangha that aligns with what we understand to be the Eightfold path.
Personally I feel it involves throwing our weight behind the new Bhikkhuni Sanghas – being present for them, giving our time and whatever else we have to give to them and establishing a network with the brodaer Buddhist community that is more engaged (as in the Buddha’s teachings apply to everything – are not separate from livelihood, from politics, from culture, from environment, from society, from economy, from education, from administration)
I have been reflecting the last few day on lineage and how the two most prominent teachers of our time,
HHDL and TNH never – if ever – then rarely rarely mention their teachers or their lineages or lineage period. The world is their Sangha, the heart and the Eightfold path are the temple…
It was very important for me over the last year and a half to let go of lineage, the false comfort that because there was some kind of line goinng backwards somewhere that it offered security or integrity. This is BIG identity – atta delusion – family and tradition are important – but the boundaries and the usefulness of it is something to reflect on…(not to mention the notion of the Bhikkhu lineage being unbroken since the Buddha’s time is trotted out as a reason to deny Bhikkhuni ordination – even though it has been proven false – at the very least implausible by Buddhist historians and archaologists)
sujato Yes, the Thai officials are in a difficult position. While there may not have been terrorists in robes, there have been drug smugglers and human traffickers. Thailand has long unpoliced borders with some of the wildest lands on earth, and combined with the Thai peoples reverence for monks and reluctance to interfere with them, it is a very touchy policing issue.
You seem to be taking a rather chauvanistic way to view the world — taking the Thai position only, while all those “others” are seen as “wild” full of drug smugglers and human trafficekers? You might want to inform yourself about Burma and Cambodia ….
My perspective has been quite other, and the Thai authorities have not been so deserving of sympathy, dating from the ’80s when Khmer survivors of the Pol Pat years were pushed back into the wilds across the Thai border, and years later, the entire Mon refugee camp called Halockhani pushed back into a no-man’s land over the border. Those are just two examples but it fdoesn’t seem very compassionate to blithly blame the victims and comfortably side with the “authorities.”
We could go back to the time of the Vietnam war – or back to now with the implicit involvement of police in human trafficking…(and the encouragement of boys to ordain and girls to be trafficked…)
I hope you do!! And I already can’t wait to hear all about it!!! (highly excited emoticon here)
Will try to visit Ajahn Gunha sometime in May if he stays at his monastery in Nakhon Ratchasima during that time. 🙂
(Dhee I hope you will also visit Dhammasara. One of the most wonderful and empowering experiences of my life – and Ven Dhammananda near Bkk – to fill your heart before Ven Ganha. Dont mean to tell you what to do! I just wish it for you becase it may bring you great joy. For me it immediately erased any conflicted feelings. because it is all so simple and wholesome and joyful. One wonders how anyone could see something wrong in any of it. And to witness the overwhelming support (participation) of the lay community, dispels any lack of faith…_/\_)
I’m planning to visit Dhammasara too. Hope it’s not too far to walk. 🙂
As for Ven Dhammananda’s monastery, I already went there. I love the room where they have statutes of fully enlightened bhikkhunis during the Buddha’s time. 🙂
… and their commentries (shastras)
Possibly what is needed is a big PR campaign educating Buddhist men about the correct teachings of the Buddha with regards to exactly what the Buddha said; that all races, genders etc can follow Buddhism,then it might be safe for women to ordain in the Thervarden Tradition ie free from men with attitudes like yours, which is probablythe main obstacle in womens ordination, not anything the Buddha ever taught.
No doubt your next life will be that of a women Terry, while I enjoy my life as a female, I doubt you will, but I will pray for you as I am sure many other women will too.
The thing that most concerns me is that I have a great love for the Buddha’s teaching and practice; which is carried through the ages by the bhikkhu Sangha. One has to consider that Buddhism is only on the planet for a blink of an eye in world length times. Therefore it behoves all of us to make the most of it while it is here.
…but you are not following what the teachings or practicings what they say, ie that all races and genders can ordain and become enlightened so what are you actualy enjoying?
The Buddha was born 2600 years ago, hopefully Bikkis had enough time in the first 500 years to get strong the teachings didn’t die out, there on the internet and if it makes you feel better just to be safe I might and maybe you could too, put some in a time capsule under the house , just in case OK.
Whoops that top paragraph is suppose a quote from Terry.
That is so rational of you too Dheeryupa, animosity towards men I see as women haters (or men who think they are superior to women) is wrong too, whether they are or not is not the problem it is hatred on both sides that is wrong.
I should apologise for any I have shown.
I must admit ordinary women like myself do someimes hold hatred towards these men we see as thinking they are superior when they are not and because we can find nothing in the Buddhas teaching that would support this.
I think next time I visit my female teacher she will reproach me dreadfully , the nuns I am sure would never hold such animosity and are so forgiving and skilful, I have a long way to go to become like them, but we can all only do our best I suppose!
daege said: “whether they are or not is not the problem it is hatred on both sides that is wrong”
Sadhu to your wise comment _/\_ dhamma friend. 🙂
It’s not easy to embrace our anger, accept the difference in views and try to be objective at the same time. I guess we, learners of dhamma, have been struggling a lot with this practice. What we need is good people like Ajahn Sujato, Ajahn Brahmali and several others on this board to gently remind us of the essence of the Buddha’s teachings – metta and compassion.
Last Sunday I was gravely agitated by a person whom many regard as ‘kind and compassionate and angelic’; only Ajahn Chah’s and Ajahn Brahm’s teachings on loving kindness (even towards our own anger) prevented me from rudely storming out of a Buddhist meeting of about 100 participants. But it was very, very close…
In an age where reasoning and respectability are highly valued, advocates need to carefully choose methods, including the language, to communicate their cause to appeal to the general public to win their approval and support. It would be stupid to ‘shout’ to make a demand for peace.
I just wish that we could be gifted with some insight to know how to effectively win a war against deep-rooted beliefs and traditions.
If we showed only anger towards those who are opposing us, we would lose the war even before it got started.
One thing that many people might have forgotten is that the information on why bhikkhuni ordinations is possible and legitimate is not widely, or possibly not at all, available in the Thai language. How can we expect Thai senior monks who don’t read English and don’t use the Internet to see our side of reasoning, which is just contrary to what they think they have known all their life?
If we put ourselves in their shoes…
Imagine this scenario (which is made to sound extreme as it is written in the point of view of an innocent Thai monk).
70-year-old and 50-rains monk Somchai, born and raised in a backwater village in a remote part of Thailand, has been told by everyone since he was a kid even before he got ordained at the age of 20 that bhikkhuni ordinations need dual ordinations and unfortunately, Thailand has never had bhikkhunis, so naturally women cannot be ordained. This has nothing to do with sexual discrimination at all. It’s simply a matter of ‘tough luck’ for Thai women.
He never gave it much thought and never had any desire to study the vinaya in depth to find out the truth as it didn’t concern him and also because no woman in his village ever expressed their wish to him that they wanted to be ordained as a bhikkhuni.
Then, one day he was told that some foreign women in a foreign land were ordained in his tradition. He was surprised, and the immediate responding thought was that it was against the vinaya.
So, he voiced his concern.
Then, he was angrily attacked and wrongly accused of being sexist. He was told that we are now living in the modern age, where equal rights must be respected in every country. This group which consists mainly of women of other nationalities then demanded that his country must adopt equal rights policies and allow bhikkuni ordinations.
If we were him, what would we feel and what would we do?
I know this scenario sounds ridiculous, but I dare say that 50% of Thai monks would be like the monk in the story.
So, if western people want Thailand to change her laws, careful planning and meticulous implementation are needed. Anger will get us nowhere.
If by the time you’ve arrived at this line, you are sufficiently upset with me, may I gently remind you that I support the Bhikkhuni Sangha.
Yes, I was trying to play the devil advocate though I think most Thai monks and Thai officials are not devil in regard to the Bhikkhuni issue; they are simply ignorant.
P.S. The story above is supposed to be about monks who are never informed of the vinaya relevant to the Bhikkhuni ordinations. Monks with their own agenda to pursue their attacks against a female Sangha and/or Ajahn Brahm would need another story that I would rather refrain from composing. 🙂
Yours in the dhamma,
“He never gave it much thought and never had any desire to study the vinaya in depth to find out the truth as it didn’t concern him and also because no woman in his village ever expressed their wish to him that they wanted to be ordained as a bhikkhuni”
Thanks for your post, I see your point and it is good to see it from the point of view of the Thai Monks, I but if women where told they couldn’t maybe that is why they never expressed their wish to.
Sounds like education is the key yes, and yes it is good to see it from their point of view.
From the Wests point of view:
We grow up the same as men, whether we like it or not we do the same jobs as men, as well as look after children, women even out number men in universities these days I think.
We start to here about the ‘Buddhism’ and see pictures of beautiful monks who we are told have great wisdom and compassion. We look around at our dearly loved male companians sitting on the couch watching the footy, or the opposite working 100 hours a week, secretly checking out the hottest youngest thing around and think god love em but they has to be more, these monks look so different, so wise, so compassionate.
Then these monks tell us that the bloke down the pub checking out the chick in the mini skirit, watching the footy, on his 10th beer can get ordained, but the women with six kids, two uni degrees, who has also looked after her elderly parents and regularly does volunteer work to help the disabled, can’t.
I think men like to think women will be outraged but I doubt many are really angry at these monks, I am certainly not or this situation, probably just a bit bored and dumbfounded that the issue still exists. It is very boring discrimination.
Maybe they could send these monks to the west maybe to America as part of their training or for a holiday or something, that might help.
I really enjoy reading your sound and illuminating counter argument expressed from an opposite perspective. I really admire your great sense of humour. 🙂
daege said: “Then these monks tell us that the bloke down the pub checking out the chick in the mini skirit, watching the footy, on his 10th beer can get ordained, but the women with six kids, two uni degrees, who has also looked after her elderly parents and regularly does volunteer work to help the disabled, can’t.”
Totally funny! And yet, your humourous story clearly portrays the rather sad situation which is generally going on in the West. Many women in Bangkok are like those you’ve described. They work all day and rush back home to look after the kids. When asked if their husband helped look after their babies during the night, my two best friends said no because ‘he works hard all day and he needs his sleep’.
daege said: “education is the key.”
I totally agree with you here. Now, the question is how to do it effectively while maintaining harmony.
Tough question indeed.
Sorry having trouble with my computer, the antivirus slows it down so that I type something and it prints 30 seconds after, very confusing.
Anyway I don’t know about sound and illuminating… and if I have to tell you it is funny is it really funny? 🙂 now that is a deep philosophical question !
I think education is something that is going on here anyway and what most people are saying and it is what AB, Ajahn Sujato and also what another monk who has experience of WPP have been saying and doing all along, so its happening.
Maybe being positive is the way to keep harmony, Obama is the President of the United States and we have a female Prime Minister so hopefully without sounding to flakey and/or frivolous being positive is a good start, if people really want it and it is not just talk and seriously believe it can happen, are careful about who they ordain but at the same time are supportive and positive then I have absolutely no doubt it will happen.:)
I just want to say this, from the sidelines I’ve been really appreciating your humor, spirit and straight-forwardness, i’ve been finding your posts refreshing and encouraging to read – just writing this apropos of nothing, except appreciation
May not have internet connection for a while, just wanted to say though thank you, more wrong speech than right I think; but can only try.
Admire your ability to ordain, hope the lay and Ajahns are being supportive.
Metta and kind regards
I too am going offline soon, so in a few days won’t be round for a while (maybe you get this when i’m gone and you’re back;). . .
– finding one’s balance with speaking is hard, how to be both honest and true, and say what is beneficial – these seem the two poles one tries to balance – i tend towards ‘niceness’ and i see you tend towards truth-telling as you see it, so it’s a matter of coming into the middle. I think truth telling is no more wrong speech than being too nice and not direct enough. My teacher Ayya Tathaaloka is a good example of balance i often find, I try to watch closely and learn;).
So, for me, I’ve been incredibly lucky as a monastic, and have found amazing spaces – after time as a Mae Chee in Thailand, i went to Santi (Bhante Sujato saved the day for me, by welcoming me to his monastery) and am now at Aranya Bodhi (http://www.aranyabodhi.org/ http://awakening-forest-hermitage.blogspot.com/ http://awakening-forest-hermitage.blogspot.com/).
Things over there in California are really good. And, I’ve been lucky to have been in many situations and lived in monasteries where relationships between monks and nuns are easy, warm, respectful, uncomplicated – it’s like, there’s just no problem. So, for the most part this is my lived experience.
I’ve certainly had moments of despair and great pain, and have really grappled with the other side as well – but overall have had really good teachers, and been in environments where there’s a lot of open dialogue. I wish I could send you some pictures of the harmony between the two sanghas, and great friendship.
And i have made many lay-friends, as well as ordained friends, as you probably know, really incredible and precious people gravitate to monasteries, so it’s really a beautiful environment to live in.
Anyhow wishing you the best, and sending metta
I am in full agreement with your arguements here.
Including your P.S. 🙂
This sort of understanding is essential. Thank you for elucidating this very important part of the story so very eloquently. Thank you for bringing your own personal understanding to this long conversation that Bhante is hosting. Thank you. _/\_
Wouldn’t the answer be, like so many of the issues in our modern world, one of education then?
Of course, if the monks then continue to choose to live in ignorance, rather than investigating for themselves as the Buddha taught, or choosing to keep others in ignorance to forcefeed a doctrine, then there isn’t much to do except support better teachers and move on.
How about a slight change of tack. We should look at what is acceptable and right for our society in the 21st centuary irrespective of what the Buddha taught.
Peter wrote: “We should look at what is acceptable and right for our society in the 21st centuary irrespective of what the Buddha taught.”
What is right and acceptable varies from one society to another, from one period to another. So which is right and which is not? For example, if we are living in a different society or different period, slavery is acceptable in that society during that period, or burning a wife along with her husband’s pyre is acceptable in that society during that period, whereas in another region and period it is not.
I believe this is why I chose the dhamma as a guiding principle. Of course, each person is free to choose himself/ herself the principle they want to live by.
Is there anything the Buddha taught that isn’t acceptable in today’s Western societies?
I just don’t understand how a monk who has been ordained for 50 rains or whatever has never even read the texts? it doesn’t make sense. Yes put support behind better teachers, if they are not willing or can’t see things differently or at least read the texts surely moving on is best, they can’t be forced to change, but maybe if the things around them change they might start to see things differently.
Hopefully though any damage they may cause to others can be minimised.
(Either that or we could go completely the other way and organise a ‘people for women in Buddhism’ protest March down George Street with banners and placards and drums and invite prominant people on a really slow news day. DON’T FREAK OUT I AM JUST KIDDING – early April Fools day joke).:)
“I just don’t understand how a monk who has been ordained for 50 rains or whatever has never even read the texts? it doesn’t make sense. Yes put support behind better teachers, if they are not willing or can’t see things differently or at least read the texts surely moving on is best, they can’t be forced to change, but maybe if the things around them change they might start to see things differently.”
I agree with you on this. This is unacceptable. The texts contain written dhamma discourses of the Buddha. The purpose of the written dhamma is to guide them in becoming living dhamma. If the written dhamma just stay in the book that is on a shelf and not internalized, what are the chances of them practicing correctly and becoming living dhamma. How will they pass on the gift of dhamma .
Dear iMed and dhamma friends,
I’ve got some info on education in the Thai Sangha. Please bear in mind that this info might be outdated. If anyone knows the latest info, please correct me.
The first type is called Dhammika studies (Nak-dham in the Thai language). The courses include: Buddhist proverbs, the Buddha’s biography (and his disciples) and the Vinaya.
The second type is Pali studies.
The third type, Abhidhamma, has become very popular now.
The first type is the basic one and is divided into three levels: basic, intermediate and advanced. Not all monks finish the advanced level. Even those with the advanced certificate are not guaranteed that they will have learnt everything there is in the Pali Canon.
Those with the 9th grade certificate in the Pali studies could be expected to have read the whole canon.
So, I would assume that the topic of the Bhikkhuni ordination might not be widely known or studied.
However, P.A. Payutto has written an extensive essay on Bhikkhuni ordination. The monk there has told me (on the phone) that he is happy to give a copy to me if I’m interested. So, I will do that when I have time to go there and will report to this blog what I’ve read. 🙂
It will be really interesting to here what P.A. Payutto has written in relation to Bhikkhuni ordination.
I’m going overseas next Friday and this weekend will be spent preparing for the trip, so the soonest I can go and get a copy is April 23…
However, I’ll see if I can find time to go there before that.
I did find a link to “Bhikkuni’s problems : the challenging drill of Thai society” on the Dhammalight web site:
Click to access th-payutto_book_10-44.pdf
And an interview here:
Both of these are about 10 tears old though.
PS Bhante Sujato if you find a duplicate of this post in your spam trap can you please delete it?
Thanks for sharing the information. I am aware that there is also a norm of joining the monastery temporarily. That is a good opportunity to learn the dhamma. There are people who join for 1 week, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years , 3 years , or longer. Accordingly, I would prefer to organize the dhamma study process as below:
The ones that join 7 days will have enough time for a meditation retreat. Therefore the monastery should facilitate a retreat that teach them the techniques to apply:
– Full Awareness in daily activities
– Sitting Meditation
– learn the Buddha’s biography (and his disciples)
3 Months ( Sila)
Same meditation , full awareness in daily activities practices as above but also add:
Study of the Suttas given by the Buddha to householders, which often emphasizes Sila and Doing good deeds as an expression of Metta.
– Right Livelihood
– Right Speech
– Right Action.
The reason for this is that after the three months retreat, people usually return to lay life. Although all three division of the Eightfold Path should be introduced, but emphasis should be placed on the Sila division which focuses on purity in words, thoughts, action , and doing good things to improve society through one’s livelihood. About 20 percent of the Pali Canon are suttas given to householders for their welfare and benefit in daily life. The ones that will return to household life after three months would have enough time to learn these teachings which they can apply after leaving their 3 months retreat.
6 Months ( Samadhi) :
Same meditation , full awareness in daily activities, Sila ( abandon unwholesome deeds) , and Metta ( doing good deeds) practices as above but also add:
– Studies of suttas relating to mindfulness and full awareness to abandon the 5 hindrances in daily life activities.
– Studies of suttas relating to meditation practices
1st year ( Panna)
Same meditation , full awareness in daily activities, Sila ( abandon unwholesome deeds) , and Metta ( doing good deeds) practices as above, but also add the studies of essential concepts of the Dhamma. For example:
– Satipatthana, Four Right Efforts(Sammappadhana), The Five Spiritual Faculties, The four Means of Accomplishment/ Paths to Power (Iddhipada) ,The five Spiritual Faculties (Indriya),
Seven Factors of Enlightenment, Noble Eightfold Path , Dependent Origination,
the 5 Aggregates, Four Noble Truths
– Also , more in depth study of the VINAYA and the story behind it.
2nd year :
Meditation , full awareness in daily activities, and observing the Vinaya practices, but also add:
– In depth study of the Sutta Pitaka. For example, setting aside time each day to read a sutta from the either the Majjhima Nikaya, Digha Nikaya, Samyutta Nikaya, Anguttara Nikaya , or Khuddaka Nikaya
– Pali : The reason I put pali here in the 2nd year is because those that are not interested in spending more than 1 year in the monastic life doesn’t have sufficient time to study the Sutta pitaka in Pali .
– Finishing the Sutta Pitaka studies.
– Pali Studies
Dheerayupa wrote: “The third type, Abhidhamma, has become very popular now.”
Personally, I would get to this after finishing the other two pitaka first ( Sutta Pitaka and Vinaya Pitaka).
Thank you for the link. Perhaps I needn’t go to the temple.
Have scanned the whole document. Very interesting. And I must admit I like it coz what he said happened to be similar to what has been my thoughts.
The first thing we need to do is to have Metta.
The second thing is to investigate the Buddha’s rules.
Dear Aj. Sujato, do you need the translation of this document? If so, I could do that after I come back from my retreat (April 17).
Thank you again, Peter.
Dee and Peter,
I agree with you both.
But I think to bring Dheerayupa’s picture into this, we need to acknowledge the enormity of the context/issue/task.
One thing that Ajahn Brahm teaches again and again is that we cannot control others. But he doesn’t stop teaching just cos he can’t *make* his pupils understand the Dhamma.
So it doesn’t mean we don’t communicate, state our position etc… I think one does all one can and then just leaves it alone. And above all, one must strive to reign one self in (not others) in terms of acting or speaking from anger (acknowledging anger is a whole other matter). Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, that we don’t get angry…but surely as Buddhists, we should be aiming to forgive all the time. There should be examples of asking and giving forgiveness littered through the pages of this and all other Buddhist sites!!!
Anyway…I think it’s a big job. But we shouldn’t just turn away from monks who disagree. We should turn away from monks who disagree nastily, maliciously and angrily.
Here’s Ayya Tathaaloka on Building Respectful Dialogue:
I want to try and clarify my last statement here… “We should turn away from monks who disagree nastily, maliciously and angrily.”
I want to delete “angrily” from this.
And I want to acknowledge that while almost anyone (barring the odd Anagami or Arahant) can come from malice or general mean-ness…it’s also possible for this to change. That we can feel sorry for being mean, that the meanness falls away. So let us never really close the door to anyone.
daege said: “whether they are or not is not the problem it is hatred on both sides that is wrong”
Sadhu to your wise comment _/\_ dhamma friend.
It’s not easy to embrace our anger, accept the difference in views and try to be objective at the same time. I guess we, learners of dhamma, have been struggling a lot with this practice. What we need is good people like Ajahn Sujato, Ajahn Brahmali and several others on this board to gently remind us of the essence of the Buddha’s teachings – metta and compassion.
…and possibly an understanding of how Buddha taught equality, because even though it is hard to put in to practise I have also learnt all this from nuns as well not just Monks.
While I do feel some hatred sometimes I think it is also boredom because these attitudes of bigotry are so out dated, oh well s’pose it is also a lesson in Patience too 🙂
I’m sharing your sentiment, Daege. To me, the feeling might be more towards ‘exasperation’. I sometimes would like to shake those monks and tell them to ‘wake up’ and ‘read the texts’!
Anyway, Kanchana wisely said that after we try our best, we just have to accept things whatever they turn out to be.
So, we just need to do our best for the religion that has helped us through our difficult times and to become better people.
Dear Daege and all
I love that you said this:
“While I do feel hatred sometimes”
Your honesty makes it possible for me to acknowledge this too. It makes it possible for me to forgive myself and forgive someone else’s (perceived) hatred. It leaves the door open for viewing someone through different eyes, for even viewing someone who is hateful, with different eyes.
We are not just our anger.
It’s so easy to read these black and white words and colour them with our past associations with someoene’s writing, or current past-influenced perceptions of ‘someone’. How can we possibly know someone, where they are coming from and ‘who’ they are without having known them and even lived with them for many years, let alone without seeing them in person? We can only guess and our guesses are coloured by our own views and where we are coming from. It’s so hard to give them the benefit of the doubt sometimes, because of this.
My head is swimming a bit as I write this. I feel vulnerable about writing this. I hope it is viewed in the way that it is intended…but I cannot control that.
May we all be well and happy, may no harm come near…to any of us through our own actions or through another’s.
Kanchana, Yes your points are valid. I am not here to defend a position but to discuss. Why don’t you read the whole letter and if it is irrelevant or outdated or if Ajahn Brahm changed his position (which is allowed) at least you will know and be able to make up you own informed opinion. Maybe the letter was posted just as a distraction or to justify a position.
I did try to find it but couldn’t see where the rest of it was. There was no where to scroll or click…no arrows…
There are links on the page were the letter is first presented – Page One, Page Two.
When I first looked I only found half the letter and thought it rather odd that half a letter had been uploaded.
Which letter are you refering to ?
Ajahn B’s letter on dhammalight.
May I trouble you to refer to my response which is currently at the (almost) end of this thread?
Sorry for jumping in when you addressed Peter…apologies to both…
Wishing everyone well…I must be off now…
Dear Kanchana and Peter,
Thanks for the clarification Kanchana.
Peter, everything posted on that website was discussed the moment it went up.
The entire discussion of everything on dhammalight is still on this website. If you missed it, feel free to read it. The reason I want to refer you to this is because the discussion of each and every post on that website went on for a while beginning last, last, year. To go back and repeat everything again is unnecessary.
But let me know which part of the letter you want to discuss again in particular.
iMeditation thanks for your opinion. Do you do discussion?
Peter wrote: ” iMeditation thanks for your opinion. Do you do discussion?”
You are welcome Peter.
Discussion is what all of us on this blog are doing. The purpose is to come to a better understanding of each other and to resolve the situation.
iMeditation, do you think you were possibly my dad in a previous life? 🙂
i’ve just spent a bit of time (which I can ill afford just now…have to run!) trying to find it…
Maybe there’s something wrong/incompatible with my browser. This is the same computer that read a 9 as a 6, on that flier that Bhante S had posted a link to (all those weeks ago)… If there’s anything relevant, could i trouble you to copy it here?
Funny actually… A computer program can ‘misunderstand’ another computer program…
Reminds me of the ‘vipallasas’ or ‘twistings of perception’ that ocurr… We are never really going to hear each other fully. Your words/others words are always going to be filtered through my own automatic perceptions. Considering this, there’s a strong case for staying silent!! But there’s an equally strong case for patient, ongoing communication and clarification. I guess sometimes we make mistakes about when we should do the former and when we should do the latter…that can’t be helped either!
I saw both pages since it was first uploaded, but I’ve just noticed that the second page seems not directly follow the first page.
The last line of the first page reads:
“As a senior Buddhist monk who teaches internationally, I ahve to say that you cannot maintain respect for Budhism by blocking bhikkhuni ordination without a legitimate reason. Now, I cannot find”
The first line of the second page started with a paragraph indention and read:
“For your information, I did discuss bhikkhuni ordination with the Mahatheras who were at Wat Pah Nanachat in January 2008 for Ajahn Chah’s memorial ceremonies. We do remain in touch.”
Thank you for verbalising/writing the fact that you are here to discuss.
It is not always easy for me to keep a cool head (goodness knows I’m trying) and I may be quite blunt at times. But I want you to know that I REALLY appreciate that fact that you are open to discussion, communication and questioning. This is what has been lacking throughout the last two…indeed it would appear…or more, years.
You have not asked anyone to be quiet (as far as i can remember 🙂 anyway) and I really really really appreciate that.
Thank you also for the simple statement telling me that my points were valid. I appreciate that.
Dear Friends in the Dhamma,
Out of gratitude, may we make time today for a metta meditation dedicated to or directed towards Ajahn Vayama and Ajahn Brahm. Ajahn Brahm is quite sick at the moment.
Peace wrote in BSWA’s recent newsletter something like: if we spare a moment to radiate thoughts of loving kindness, Ajahn Vayama certainly has a heart big enough to receive it. I’d say the same for Ajahn Brahm.
And from a place of metta inspired by these two teachers, may we spread, share, and give metta freely to all practitioners and non-practitioners, all beings unconditionally.
Life is ephemeral, our teachers won’t be around indefinitely, nor will we. The opportunities we have are passing, moment by moment, day by day. I have learned so much from what has happened in this little “tea cup” of Buddhism, even those events that I may have labeled “unfortunate” have inspired me – they have inspired me to really grow as a human being, to always challenge myself, kindly but courageously. May we always find the courage to be honest to ourselves (about ourselves), and find the courage to be honest to others.
“… May we also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life. May we always rise above them with morality, integrity, forgiveness, compassion, mindfulness, and wisdom… May all beings …” — Bhante G.
Thank you with Metta.
Wishing them both well
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” — Albert Schweitzer
Is there anyone out there who can create a facebook page to pray for Ajahn Brahm and we can make it a worldwide invitation?
(Low tech Me)
(An “Event” invitation)
I think it could just be a cold. 🙂
He might even be giving tonights talk.
A facebook site would have been good but glad he is better now.
Great! The call t prayers must have worked! 😉 “LOL” as they say.
I understand that the best research, and by a female researcher can find no trace of bhikkhunis existing (reported on WFS website) before 300 years ago, and even that may be spurious’ in which case it would be 1000 years ago. So as far as is provable it is not a case of the bhikkhuni order “supposedly” dying out. It’s a fact that needs to be faced rather than skipped around, because it does’nt suit ones opinions.
What researcher is this? I am not too sure what your point is here, why does it matter whether they existed then or not, I mean neither did vegetarianism in alot of places but doesn’t mean it isn’t a good thing and doesn’t exist now;
Naturally of course women have the choice to ordain or not to ordain as they so desire. There is no disputing that and indeed it is the same for men. But In the case of the Theravada Sangha, officially there is no bhikkhuni Sangha to join because it ran out – period. This is what I was trying to portray in my comment. I notice that many women have greater attributes than I have and I very much respect them for that.
Well can’t they join what does exist or the male Sangha or something are you talking aboutThailand or somewhere as there are ordained nuns in Australia; I can’t say what is right for Asian Countries, I am only speaking of the West.
You made this statement – “if a Sangha is not following the ethical or written Dharma of the Buddha, as it seems WPP are not” I can’t see for the life of me where you got this from? From my view they very much are.
Apparently from my understanding of the Buddhas teachings there is nothing that says women cannot ordain or become enlightened, and discrimating against gender is not Dharma. Where does it say it is Dharma to discriminate against women?
Whoops my quotes didn’t work if someone is moderating this maybe they wouldn’t mind deleting my previos post that is the same as this.
Terry you said:
“I noticed that a number of ladies from the core WFS website have migrated to Aj. Sujato’s blog”,
Just for the record and in case you are including me in this degeneration and labelling of females on this website, I do not no Lisa or even what the WFS website is or anyone else on here.
I am not too sure what you mean by an ultrafeminist but a feminist is defined as “a doctrine or movement that advocates equal rights for women” it sounds like therefore you oppose feminists therefore equal rights for women, that is your choice; but please feel free to call me a feminist any time, I will be proud to be called one.
Terry Said “The fact that its usage was taken away is the bhikkhuni order disappearing and the process of dealing with paperwork and repairs is the period we are in now.”
Great I think what you say is right! finally we agree on something! April Fool’s no we don’t – no kidding yes we do seriously I like what you say so lets be positive and get on with the paperwork 🙂
“I am not too sure what you mean by an ultrafeminist but a feminist is defined as “a doctrine or movement that advocates equal rights for women” it sounds like therefore you oppose feminists therefore equal rights for women, that is your choice; but please feel free to call me a feminist any time, I will be proud to be called one”.
An ultra feminist I have described in these articles is a woman who has gained an importance beyond being equal to men. Personally I find nothing wrong with ultra feminists In their own right. They are a group of people with certain views and concepts and naturally they are entitled to think that way if they so wish. I cannot find it unacceptable. The problems arise when they work their way into other groups and then try to change them in to accepting their views.
It’s a shame they don’t use their considerable energy and intelligence for more positive endeavours. They could for instance get together a set of nun’s rules that do suit them. Put them out on the net or where ever, to see what support there would be for that.
Keeping 5 precepts is the ideal in Buddhism for layfolk. However if you cannot keep 5, then keep 4. If you cannot keep 4 then keep 3 etc. Better to keep 1 precept than none, and ones stay in the Buddha’s dispensation may have gained some value. So having a watered down (less rules than the bhikkhuni order) nun’s order could well be worthwhile having.
The very basic vows you must have even to claim to be a Buddhist as far as I am aware are
-Do not take a life
-Not lying (especially with bad intentions)
-Not speaking divisively,
– which includes: thoughts of malice and distorted, antagonistic thinking especially to ordained peole such as nuns or Bhikkinis.
It is interesting to note that in alternative forms of Buddhism, one of the basic vows is:
I must not hate women (this would be a good one for Theravarden Buddhists ha ha)
…because apparently such thinking carries with it very heavy karma.
Best wishes Terry.
“Apparently from my understanding of the Buddhas teachings there is nothing that says women cannot ordain or become enlightened, and discrimating against gender is not Dharma. Where does it say it is Dharma to discriminate against women”?
In the Theravada tradition, a controversy has arisen because in the rules (Pali Canon, Vinaya) for ordaining bhikkhuni’s there has to be other bhikkhuni’s present at the ordination with so many years practice under their belt. But as the order ran out and there are no bhikkhuni’s around some argue that it is now impossible to ordain new bhikkhuni’s. But others argue that it can be revived under the “it’s been allowed before” rule.
This is the period of discussion we are in now. There is’nt anything in the slightest discriminatory about it. It’s a technical argument.
There are women out there that wish to keep the full bhikkhuni vinaya rules. One who lives in Colorado or Virginia, USA, has written an article telling of the benefits of keeping all the bhikkhuni rules including the garadhammas. I think another group of bhikkhuni’s has started in California but the rules they keep has not been declared as far as I know.
“This is the period of discussion we are in now. There is’nt anything in the slightest discriminatory about it. It’s a technical argument”
Ok thanks for that, I see your point I was just looking at the issue from a more overall view; I mean does it say there can’t be Africans ordained unless there are other Africans present who have been ordained
Nonethe less I see your point obviously this will take some time and minds of people far more scholarly than myself to unravel.
Anyway you have inspired me to do some Sutta study so if I can I think I will go listen to some of Ven Bramalis Sutta talks.
Terry, there are around 30 Theravada bhikkhunis around the USA who have undertaken the 311 rules of the Patimokkha according to the Pali canon. I am not sure of the number in Thailand, but there are 4 or 5 Theravada bhikkhuni dwellings in that country. There are over 800 Theravada bhikkhunis in Sri Lanka. There is at least one Theravada bhikkhuni community in Indonesia. There are three Theravada bhikkhuni communities in Australia. The definition of a Theravada Bhikkhuni is one who has undertaken the 311 precepts of the Pali Patimokkha, was not disqualified from ordaining, and was ordained by a valid sangha.
The other system you are proposing, with alternate sets of rules, has been tried since the foundation of the silashins in Burma and the dasa sil mata in Sri Lanka, around the beginning of the 19th Century. It’s not a new idea, although they didn’t publish their rules on the internet. Anyone who wants to may follow one of the alternative women’s Buddhist orders. Any woman who wants to ordain in affiliation with Amaravati may follow the siladara rules, which are already very well established.
Also, any woman who wants to may obtain bhikkhuni ordination. There is now an established process and qualified ordaining sanghas for such ordinations in Sri Lanka, California, and Australia.
The Facebook group WFS was primarily created in reaction to the five points controversy at Amaravati. That entire situation was unrelated to the Perth Australia ordination. At the time, we did not even know that five points had been imposed, or what they consisted of. The Siladara sisters had been asked not to discuss it. The connection between the two events is a kind of perfect storm, where Ajahn Brahm and the bhikkhunis at Dhammasara Nuns Monastery were swept up with all the reactivity when the 5 points went public.
if your not already aware of this, here’s an article written by Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi (with preface by Ajahn Brahm and Forward by Bhante Sujato) re. the revival of the bhikkhuni ordination in the theravadan tradition.
A lot of the work getting to the bottom of this technicality has already been done, and this article provides some good information on this.
Click to access venbodhi-revival-bhikkhuni-ordination.pdf
Sister Sobhana you are a veritable mine of information, and indeed the bearer of good news! With regards the bhikkhuni Sangha in keeping the full bhikkhuni Sangha patimoka rules. Myself, and I’m sure that thousands of Buddhist followers would be well pleased to see the Buddha’s bhikkhuni Sangha acting within his good instructions; and thereby giving the conditions for the continuance of his teachings. Excellent.
I do have another question regarding this, but perhaps another day. There are times when one needs to do some serious practice to calm the mind!
My thanks to you again.
The Bhikkhuni Sangha in the Theravada was revived in the 1990s.
Can you please confirm that you have read these words and understood them?
People have posted facts such as these, with articles and the procedures and Vinaya context to back up what happened, the names of the presiding Sangha members even and lineages they were from – several – innumerable times over the last year and a half in response to your comments on many fora. Most of what Ayya Sobhana has posted below you have also been privy to, over and over.
Now we are doing this again and I am not sure if you are either
1) not reading the comments
2) you are reading them but the information is not sinking in
3) you are reading them but – even though it is a fact, you cannot bring yourself to accept that these events have transpired
4) you have read the comments and the articles yet you are being deliberately provocative
If it is the latter, then you must understand why people lose patience. If it is the former, then may we offer you the opportunity to acknowledge reading and understanding that the Bhikkhuni Sangha was revived in the Theravada two decades ago and the information that Ayya Sobhana has provided for you in her comments?
Can you understand that from this moment forward, some among us will consider it provocative of you to continue saying there is no Bhikkhuni Sangha and that it cannot be revived in the Theravada, when in fact it has already?
PS – Respectfully, I should clarify that I mentioned Ayya Sobhana’s comments in my thread because I found them useful and not because I am affiliated with her or with her community. (In another thread Terry suggested that I am the mastermind behind the WFS site, which is not mine but the work of others) In another thread I have also expressed appreciation for Terry’s refreshing opening mindedness towards some of the discussion threads. With Metta
Here is a nice poem to end (well nearly) th eweek which I am sure you all know.
Live in Joy
Live in Joy, In love,
Even among those who hate.
Live in joy, In health,
Even among the afflicted.
Live in joy, In peace,
Even among the troubled.
Look within. Be still.
Free from fear and attachment,
Know the sweet joy of living in the way.
There is no fire like greed,
No crime like hatred,
No sorrow like separation,
No sickness like hunger of heart,
And no joy like the joy of freedom.
Health, contentment and trust
Are your greatest possessions,
And freedom your greatest joy.
Look within. Be still.
Free from fear and attachment,
Know the sweet joy of living in the way.
from the Dhammapada, Words of the Buddha
Thank you. 🙂
Sorry I haven’t got much internet access at the moment so I will just quickly say:
I must admit after some bad experiences with Buddhist my views were obsured too, it always seemed to me unless you came to the Dharma enlightened you were somehow punished for it or worse exploited for it, so I guess the hard bit isdealing with peoples greed hatred and delusion without harming the Dharma or Vinaya.
Any way I appreciate your honesty and this website and especially Ahajn Sugato in helping me overcome my wrong views as well:)
Thank you very much for that information.
I was starting to think I was having visions or something, because I often see nuns around, mainly they are of the Tibetan traditions, but I am sure I have seen Theravarden ones as well. (NSW Australia)
Terry must be talking about somewhere in Asia or something.
Kind Regards and thank you again.
Hi Bhikkhuni Admimutta
Thank you for that, I have limited internet access sometimes so have not read this article, but will make a point of doing so.
While I do not no the other ladies on this website I will take note of their forgivng, kind and tolerant behaviour and their thorough concise and undoubtable knowledge of the Suttas and apologise to you for making negative judgements about your character, and for anything harsh I may have said to you.
I must confess Terry I originally perceived you as a man in serious need of counselling, a man who may have been deeply hurt by women in the past who is now reeking a vengeful assult on women to appease his angry and hurtful feelings or someone with misplaced loyally who is using this to give himself some sense of power but who is really just quite ridiculous and harmful. I even thought this is the type of guy who if he came anywhere near me I would just call the cops.
I thought who is he defending? Are they his teachers, if not doesn’t this looser weirdo have anything better to do, he obviously knows nothing about Buddhism, the Buddha ordained his mother and even the Dalai Lama says women should now fully ordain, it is time and he has never really been known to support women much.
I thought if they are his teachers why would they let him destroy himself by making such bad karma for himself, don’t they care about him or are they just using him,
and it fuelled my belief that the Bhikkini order must never again be allowed to die out, if it ever did.
Are you this manipulative, devious lying person full of intense ill will I perceived you as, or are you a person capable of using the intense energy, commitment and loyalty you have to do good in the world. I thought I bet Greenpeace would love to have him on board.
I must also confess to Ahjhan Sujato, also someone I do not know, that I thought he was terribly unfair at first for taking off my post when it was the the other person involved who I believed was harrassing me and for allowing you to verbally and psychologically abuse women on this website.
Therefore Terry if ever you are taken off this website, again I was wrong because what would be the point you would just go somewhere else and I am sure Ahjan Sujato is wise in his moderating, but please blame me for complaining if it does happen.
Anyway as Lisa and the other ladies pointed out so eloquently you have lots of of good qualities and I would also like to add even if you add this post to your database, which no doubt you will do, I still wish the best for you Terry, I wish you peace and happiness and send you lovingkindness.
“DO NO HARM” – The Buddha
The key mistake that everyone has overlooked or ignored or have or just not noticed is……Bhante Sujato has got the date wrong for the AGM 🙂
On a more serious note, there is this observation:
“Human observations are biased toward confirming the observer’s conscious and unconscious expectations and view of the world; we “see what we expect to see”. In psychology, this is called confirmation bias. Since the object of scientific research is the discovery of new phenomena, this bias can and has caused new discoveries to be overlooked.”
Perhaps your observation might have reflected an underlying problem of the Bhikkhuni debate we have been having. 🙂
Just listened to AB’s latest talk:
Trust them, even when they let you down…
Wow, lot of comments on some sad news.
The comments appear in somewhat chaotic order, so I have no idea where my comment will show up.
Still, I wanted to highlight something that was mentioned a couple of times above and which seems pertinent to understand the WPP stance. And I have to admit that I have only recently understood that the Bikkhuni Ordination is just the “final straw …”, so to speak, of what leading WPP representatives hold against Ajahn Brahm.
It appears to me that he is seen as actually “misinterpreting” the Dhamma and hence foster wrong view by his teachings, notably his take on samadhi meditation, the role jhanas, the role of vipassana, and his general attitude to the Pali Canon & the Abhidhamma Pitaka.
As I am neither a scholar nor a expert meditator, I have to admit that I am lost in the scholastic and technical arguments pro and con Ajahn Brahm’s – or the WPP – interpretations. So I have resigned myself in following one approach and see where it will take me 😉 . And in good time – or not – I might realize myself who was on the mark and where all this disagreement stems from.
Still, it does help to explain the strictness by which WPP is cutting any ties and links to Ajahn Brahm and to pressure those in the middle: If he has stopped teaching the “right” Buddhism (in their view), then of course any associatiation is hurtful to (Theravada) Buddhism, as they see it.
I am pointing this out because there appears a lot of interpretation as a “personal grudge” – which is of course a possibility (monks are human too, after all); but it could also in all honesty be a fundamental scholastic difference scratching at the core of how (Thai Forest/WPP) Theravada Buddhism sees itself.
Just my, I hope thoroughly compassionate, opinion of why things are as they seem to be atm.
I am inlined to agree that if the essence of teaching and cmmunity are different on many levels that communities would part ways. If I am not mistaken, this was the original, “innocent” understannd of schism- that communities part ways rather than a civil war brew within. That one or more “wisdoms” grow organcally – each can fit within the Eightfold path (Mahayana and Theravada for example) but look and be expeienced differently.
What I have a problem with is interference in people’s right to associate with others and move freely. I have referred to the definition of “cult” earlier. I am not saying any of these communities are cults. However, when groups move in certain directions, and begin adopting practices such as blocking individuals from exercizing their freedoms accorded them by the law and by their own natural – wholesome inclinations, then we are veering in some dangerous territory. Not only because that is illegal, but because it is extremist and leading in a very dangerous direction.
It isn’t that I do not understand the sentiments behind it, but that I would wish for reason to prevail and religious groups not to interefere with an individual’s right to freedom of movement and contact if it is against there will, and if their intentions and actions are not against the law and not unwholesome.
Recently on the Women and the Forest Sangha facebook site, they have raised the issue of why monks at UK and other monasteries were so 100% against bhikkhuni ordination. They mention hitting a brick wall – a train wreck – and experiencing rage as being the experience of those siladhara living in community at the time. I think the siladhara lost a lot of support and confidence with the monks and lay people because of their own behaviour. They believed they were entitled to equal status with the monks without any discussion with the senior sangha in Thailand -as if the Ajahn Chah lineage didn’t have anything to do with Thailand. A lot, probably the majority, of the nuns were regularly going for psychotherapy – and this made them believe that their self view was paramount and the position of the tradition they had willingly joined was secondary or even not to be considered at all. They felt themselves to be worthy of respect – demanding respect – and treating lay people as servants. They had people to drive them everywhere – they had fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh made yoghurt with their muesli in the morning – women therapists visited the monastery regularly to give them massage, reiki, all kinds of alternative therapies – they travelled to visit every passing Hindu or Tibetan guru or lama to listen to their teachings and get blessings (everyone from the hugging mother to Tenzin Palmo) – they became extremely arrogant and lost touch with grass roots. Maybe a lot of this problem was because they did not have a proper vinaya and so were not really applying themselves to the Buddha’s teaching as laid out in the suttas but listening to the psychotherapists and other new age teachings. Anyhow, I’m very glad that women interested in the dhamma are now becoming bhikkhunis and following the vinaya. I’m sorry that Ajahn Brahm is still being sent to coventry for his part in the bhikkhuni ordinations. I hope that this will pass in time.
Florentyna wrote: “I think the siladhara lost a lot of support and confidence with the monks and lay people because of their own behaviour. .. A lot, probably the majority, of the nuns were regularly going for psychotherapy …. They had people to drive them everywhere – they had fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh made yoghurt with their muesli in the morning – women therapists visited the monastery regularly to give them massage, reiki, all kinds of alternative therapies – they travelled to visit every passing Hindu or Tibetan guru or lama to listen to their teachings and get blessings (everyone from the hugging mother to Tenzin Palmo) – they became extremely arrogant and lost touch with grass roots. ”
I do sympathize with the bhikkhus sangha who have to live with this . lol :). Maybe this is what drove them to want to instate the 5 points. lol. 🙂 I might also do the same thing if I have to live with that. No offense sisters.
Just kidding, I would prefer the alternative taken by Ajahn Brahm. Of course, I also sympathize with the women for not being allowed to practice according to the practicing guidelines for bhikkhunis as set up by the Buddha.
Florentyna wrote: “They had people to drive them everywhere – they had fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh made yoghurt with their muesli in the morning ”
Florentyna wrote: “women therapists visited the monastery regularly to give them massage, reiki, all kinds of alternative therapies ”
I see the purpose of a forest monastery as an ideal full-time retreat conducive to meditation practice. If we go on a retreat and started driving everywhere, that wouldn’t be a retreat anymore is it. What is the purpose of the training rule of not driving, when we constantly have other people take us from one place to another instead. We might as well drive ourselves, because that defeat the purpose of the training rule or not being able to drive in the first place. It is one thing to go and get necessary supplies for the monastery, but it is another thing to always want to go here and there while on full-time retreat at the monastery. At the monastery, Anagarikas often take care of getting necessary supplies so where is the need to here and there or everywhere.
The monastery retreat is ideal for solitude meditation and suitable for practicing according to the Vinaya of the Buddha . Other than that there is no need to join.
The forest monastery is an ideal full-time retreat for people to go within. Before joining a monastery to go on an intense full – time retreat, maybe it is best that people attend a lot of part-time retreat ( 9 days , 3 months vassa, etc..) such as those at IMS , Jhana Grove, Bhavana, etc..If they are able to experience piti or sukha during these part-time retreat then think about joining a monastery and be on retreat full-time to develop deeper meditation. Then the need to seek distractions can be greatly reduced.
When we experience the piti and sukha of meditation , sensory distractions of the mundane world become unnecessary. It is just a like you out grow the need and attachment for toys when growing up. It is not that the person suppresses the desire for toys, but the desire for toys just falls away on its own when growing up.
At the beginning of living a simple life in the monastery, it might feel like a practice and effort is needed to keep the mind from craving unnecessary sensory stimulations or entertainment. However, once the mind has a taste of a the joy and happiness that come from within, it will let go of grasping for the coarser joy of the 5 sense world / kama-loka or other distractions ( no matter what form it may take) . Finally, the development of panna takes a person beyond any kind of attachment.
The monastic life will no longer feel like a practice but a way of life that is full of contentment in every moment. The feeling that ‘ if I only have this I will be happy in the future ‘ will not be there at all because it can be experienced directly in this very moment. Without being able to tap into the source of piti or sukha from within , it is difficult to be content in the holy life. But that is not to say that piti sukha is all there is to the path of liberation.
Florentyna wrote: “They mention hitting a brick wall – a train wreck – and experiencing rage as being the experience of those siladhara living in community at the time. ”
“Maybe a lot of this problem was because they did not have a proper vinaya and so were not really applying themselves to the Buddha’s teaching as laid out in the suttas but listening to the psychotherapists and other new age teachings. Anyhow, I’m very glad that women interested in the dhamma are now becoming bhikkhunis and following the vinaya. I’m sorry that Ajahn Brahm is still being sent to coventry for his part in the bhikkhuni ordinations. I hope that this will pass in time.”
It must have been difficult. I am glad that somebody invited the Theraveda bhikkhunis from Sri Lanka over to continue the bhikkhuni sangha, so that women can practice properly according to the practicing guidelines of the Buddha.
Just to clarify – as one of the moderators of W&FS – which has gathered quite a lot of attention in this thread – and vilification it seems.
The discussion thread you refer to from W&FS started off with this question:
“I have a question – saw somewhere that Ajahn Amaro had mentioned a train wreck – what is that a reference to; is it to do with the bhikkhuni issue? Does anyone know?”
The responses to that question included clarification that when Ajahn Amaro talked of his experience of becoming abbot of Amaravati, it was NOT to do with the Bhikkhuni ordinations or Ajahn Braham, but it was his reference to the experience of coming back to the UK monasteries post the 5 point process – he experienced it as like being ‘abbot of a train wreck’ – The nuns’ community at Chithurst went from a thriving community to empty.
The accusations of nuns doing therapy – drawing from other inspirational sources, etc – can equally be said of many monks. Including pretty much all of the abbots who have done – and continue to be involved with – therapeutic process.
Many people have deeply felt the loss of a vibrant nuns community in the UK and not the loss of respect for the nuns or women themselves. In fact the nuns that have left have been impeccable in their speech and conduct. Many left after dedicating 10 – 25 years of their lives, helping to build up the communities. They left to go back into society with very little or no support. They are remarkable practitioners, and continue to practice.
Right now two nuns have returned to Amaravati to take leave of the WPP FS lineage so they can come back to America to take full Bhikkhuni ordination. They go in the spirit of expressing gratitude and asking for forgiveness. All of the nuns who have left the UK monasteries did the same. They left expressing gratitude and asking for forgiveness.
The reference to rage – which you frame in the following way – ‘rage as being the experience of those siladhara living in community at the time’ is a distortion of the actual comment.. which was a comment regards trying to understand why nun/ nuns were a recipient of so much rage. As the person who commented is being skillful in their speech, they don’t mention specific incidents – but to quote exactly what was said…As it is important to get this clear. They weren’t talking about the rage of Siladhara…
” I can understand if there is a political division and there is an interest to to keep to one side. That is fairly common. But the rage that was expressed towards the nuns speaks more about something else than political lines. Certainly the shaming, scapegoating and ostracism that happened has a lot more in it than not wanting to alienate a certain group. The unmitigated rage that was directed towards an individual who nonviolently didn’t participate, speaks volumes about the “line” as a means to control and subvert rather than a need to be all together in communion for the higher good.”
The other common accusation that is being thrown around on this thread is that the nuns were demanding equal rights somehow – There was a discussion regards the possibility of consideration of Bhikkhuni ordination. This was borne out by the attendance of 4 or 5 siladhara and 2 abbots at the 2007 Hamburg Conference. Not all the nuns themselves felt clear about the pros and cons of Bhikkhuni ordination. It was something in process as a discussion. That process was cut short by the delivery of the 5 points.
I think Ajahn Sumedho has made it very clear where he stands. The way that happened forced the issue of making everyone else have to come into relationship with the ‘line’ he drew. I think people have done that to the best of their ability, and moved on to where they need to go to.
Thank you for sharing.
Thanissara wrote: ” Many people have deeply felt the loss of a vibrant nuns community in the UK and not the loss of respect for the nuns or women themselves. ”
I also feel that the Forest Theraveda Tradition in the UK is missing a bhikkhuni sangha. Perhaps people can start a monastery in UK and invite bhikkhunis from Sri Lanka over to start a Forest Tradition bhikkhuni sangha there.
Thanissara wrote: “Right now two nuns have returned to Amaravati to take leave of the WPP FS lineage so they can come back to America to take full Bhikkhuni ordination. ”
I glad that they will be able to practice according to the guidelines of the Buddha.
Thanissara wrote: “The accusations of nuns doing therapy – drawing from other inspirational sources, etc – can equally be said of many monks. Including pretty much all of the abbots who have done – and continue to be involved with – therapeutic process.”
I understand that being an Abbot requires a lot of work. This can be training disciples, attending to the public, managing the monastery, etc.. However, an experienced meditator would be able to enter into meditation to rejuvenate himself /herself both mentally and physically so that he can continue his work sufficiently. Unless, there is so much going on that they hinder the person’s development in meditation.
If for some reason the Abbot is in need of psychotherapy, maybe he should allow the next person who is mentally sound enough to take on the task of being an Abbot. Hopefully, the next Abbot would be developed enough in meditation so that he does not require therapy. If an Abbot has not prepared himself enough in meditation and requires therapy, how would he guide others beyond where he is. There is a small possibility that others who follow his steps might end up where he is and not further.
Thanissara wrote: “Including pretty much all of the abbots”
I wonder how is it that so many people who needs therapy are allowed to become abbots. What effect would it have in the students who follow their guidance ?
Thanissara wrote: ” drawing from other inspirational sources”
The system established is a complete system consisting of a path that is Eightfold. If we apply all aspects of this path properly, it would yield result. Dependency on a ‘ guru’ is not required on this path nor is there a need to incorporate other elements into the practice.
The Buddha said in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta: ” In whatsoever Dhamma and Discipline, Subhadda, there exists not the Noble Eightfold Path, neither is there to be found a true samana of the first ( Stream Entry) , second ( Once Returner) , third ( Non-Returner) , or fourth ( Arahant) degree . But in whatsoever Dhamma and Discipline there is found the Noble Eightfold Path, there is found a true samana of the first, second, third, and fourth degree of saintliness. In this Dhamma and Discipline, Subhadda, there exists the Noble Eightfold Path; and in it alone are also found true samanas of the first, second, third, and fourth degrees of saintliness (enlightenment). The systems of other schools are empty of true samanas . If the bhikkhus live (practice) rightly, the world will not be empty of arahants. ”
In some case there is the Sila division but no Samadhi or Panna division. In other case there is the Samadhi division but no Sila or Panna division. The Eightfold path has Sila, Samadhi, and Panna division. It is not missing anything. Also there is no need to add other practices to the formula to alter it.
Isn’t this the very thing that the Theraveda tradition is trying to avoid. I am surprise that the abbots are setting such an example for other practitioners who practice with them. How can it be that the Abbots are also doing the same thing.
However, I heard that there is a new Abbot at Amaravati. Hopefully, things will be different from now on.
Entering therapeutic process doesn’t necessarily indicate some kind of deficiency.
On the contrary it can help an individual, family or community understand their psychological processes more fully, thereby increasing empathy and reducing suffering.
An understanding of psychology is actually useful as an abbot, not just at a theoretical level, but through having undergone ones own inner exploration and healing.
Experience shows that in the West there is a great tendency to ‘spiritual bypassing.’
Deeper psychological wounds, due to ill completed early developmental processes, tend to be avoided through premature ‘transcendence.’
In these cases increased spiritual power tends to also inflate the ‘shadow’ What is then not owned; anger, rage, fear for example, is then projected out – but with much more force than by someone who has less samadhi.
Spiritual communities are extremely susceptible to psychological abuse perpetrated in the name of spirituality.
Because of this I’d rather be involved with a spiritual community, Buddhist or otherwise, that has some psychological sophistication, it’s a real asset for a healthy community.
Though probably it’d be more helpful for those monasatics who have explored these themes to write openly about them. Not only in terms of their own process, but why & how their inquiry into psychology and therapy has been important for the development of the monastic communities in the West.
Thanissara wrote: ” Entering therapeutic process doesn’t necessarily indicate some kind of deficiency. On the contrary it can help an individual, family or community understand their psychological processes more fully, thereby increasing empathy and reducing suffering.”
I understand that many people and community can benefit from psychotherapy and I do recommend it to anyone family who need it.
However that is not to say that this should be part of the practice of many people on the path to liberation or be incorporated into the lives of many practitioners .
Usually, before ordaining people be will be asked if they are physically or mentally healthy before ordaining. If they are still into exploring various alternatives other than being committed to the path of practice or practice according to the formula than perhaps postpone ordination until they are done with their exploration and ready to apply this path of practice.
Thanissara wrote: “Though probably it’d be more helpful for those monasatics who have explored these themes to write openly about them. Not only in terms of their own process, but why & how their inquiry into psychology and therapy has been important for the development of the monastic communities in the West.”
In a way, psychology and spiritually can be compatible because both seek to understand the mystery of the mind and transcend dukkha the may arise from it. It is one thing for psychologist and monastics to cooperate for research purposes. But I wouldn’t go as far as saying that monastics need psychotherapy in order to function or progress on their spiritual path, or that that it is necessary for them to incorporate it.
The way I understand it is that meditation has more to do with going beyond the mind by stilling it or going beyond the repetitive inner chatter that create so much emotional ups and downs in our lives. These can come up from memories of the subconscious mind. Rather than analyzing the past, the teachings focus on transcending it altogether.
Psychotherapy on the other hand place much emphasis on analyzing the subconscious layer of the mind that holds the memories of past events that started since childhood and its content ,as well as how these past conditioning impact a person’s behavior and thought patterns throughout their lives. That is not to say that’s all psychotherapy is capable of. There is still much to discover in the future.
But still, the practice as set up by the Buddha is complete in itself. What is needed is a through and precise application of it rather incorporating numerous external elements into it.
Personally, I would say that rather than dedicating much time and energy into the past monastics should let go of past and future and go deeply into the present moment in order to transcend the noise of the mind which bring so much mental and emotional dukkha. This is called the direct path.
Florentyna wrote: “women therapists visited the monastery regularly to give them ((((((massage, reiki, all kinds of alternative therapies)))))) ”
Florentyna wrote: “They had people to drive them everywhere – they had fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh made yoghurt with their muesli in the morning ”
I believe it is very nice of these women therapist to visit and give them these therapies but it is not something that is required or considered to be necessary in the monastic life. Lay women still living a household life can enjoy these therapies therapies. They can be relaxing, but I wouldn’t say that they are necessary for enlightenment.
Do you think we should still oblige our monastics to live only by those medical treatments that were available at the time of the Buddha?
A second consideration, haven’t we witnessed in all of this that it is difficult for some individuals to delve into the present moment when they are stuck in the past? And that after decades of practice, they can take directions that are fuelled less by wisdom and more by early conditioning, that, in spite of other accomplishments, remains a thorn that just doesnn’t want to be pulled out? This applies both to individuals and to communities. In fact, where we might be missig out IS in the application of it – the path and the teachings are lived so very differently from one community to the next – I think it can’t hurt to turn to outside references fom time to time – just as HHDL checks the Buddha’s teachings against modern science – or just as we check Vinaya against modern laws – it is not that the two should be identical,, it i that there is learning and a “reality check” that can come from stepping outside from time to time. _/\_
Lisa wrote: “Do you think we should still oblige our monastics to live only by those medical treatments that were available at the time of the Buddha?”
I believe that in special cases of mental illness or instability or physical illness, monastics can and should use whatever treatment modern medicine has to offer.
However, to incorporate reiki, massage therapy, gurus, etc.. into the monastic path of practice for the purpose of enlightenment is not necessary. I understand that spiritually inclined people are into exploring everything, that has its time and place or phases. But, this is not something that the Buddha prescribed as part of the formula for his disciples . What if later on someone wants to incorporate sex as a spiritual practice in Theraveda Buddhism as well. The formula laid down by the Buddha will become diluted.
Lisa wrote: “A second consideration, haven’t we witnessed in all of this that it is difficult for some individuals to delve into the present moment when they are stuck in the past? ”
The way I see it is that many in the past have followed this path and became enlightened for thousands of years without the need for psychotherapy. I don’t see why the practice suddenly requires psychotherapy now all of a sudden. And that we need to add things to the formula of enlightenment. What happened is that they are distracted by things that are not essential thereby disperse their energy in the wrong outlet.
I see the problem of not being able to experience the fruit of the practice comes from straying away from the original practice.
Lisa wrote: “And that after decades of practice, they can take directions that are fuelled less by wisdom and more by early conditioning, that, in spite of other accomplishments, remains a thorn that just doesnn’t want to be pulled out? I think it can’t hurt to turn to outside references fom time to time .”
As we can see with all the therapies the abbots at Amaravati are getting they still made the decision that they made and AB has no therapy other than meditation but made a better choice. As we can see it is not the case that abbots that spend hours dwelling on their past childhood and talking about it, end up making better decisions or become wiser.
Sitting there hours a week reviving the past in childhood and in life etc.. can actually hinder being present. No amount of dwelling or analyzing the past will transcend it . It is endless. Part of the meditation practice is letting these thoughts go whether we are sitting, standing , reclining, lying down, or in meditation,etc..When a person becomes ordain, he or she let go of his /her past identity, the issues of the household life to still the mind. But it doesn’t help if we turn to other sources for distraction by going here or there.
The basic instruction AB gave for developing meditation is :
” When I teach meditation, I like to begin at the simple stage of giving up the baggage of past and future. You may think that this is an easy thing to do, but it is not. Abandoning the past means not thinking about your work, your family, your commitments, your responsibilities, your good or bad times in childhood, and so on.
You abandon all past experiences by showing no interest in them at all. During meditation you become someone who has no history. You do not think about where you live, where you were born, who your parents were, or what your upbringing was like. All of that history you renounce. In this way, if you are meditating with otter’s, everyone becomes equal- just a meditator. It becomes unimportant whether you are an old hand at meditation or just a beginner. “- Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
In psychotherapy, many hours can be spent on going back to the past and bringing it all up, dwelling on it, examining it, analyzing it. It can be a hindrance . This is different than the practice of abandoning all these junks in our mind in meditation. When that happens ( mental stillness) , we immediately experience inner joy and well-being.
Lisa Karuna wrote: ” just as HHDL checks the Buddha’s teachings against modern science – or just as we check Vinaya against modern laws – it is not that the two should be identical,, it i that there is learning and a “reality check” that can come from stepping outside from time to time.”
Of course, if a person is still not confident in the path enough to practice it fully then by all means explore , experiment with various options then ordain. But to sign up for this practice then go on and practice something else, to add this subtract that and alter the formula.
Another thing is others that are on the path will look on and follow because they see that people in the community and their teacher do it. Pretty soon the entire sangha think they need psychotherapy from abbot to bhikkhus/ bhikkhunis. From one abbot to the next. Maybe the place to go for that is hospital .
I see the monastic sangha as a vehicle that provides the necessary conducive conditions for enlightenment. If psychotherapist wanted to cooperate with monastics for research purposes than there is nothing wrong with that, but saying they need psychotherapy in their practice for enlightenment is too far. There are special situations where someone has chemical imbalance or has a medical need, then they should get treatment. I am not suggesting that they should be treated with ancient medicine.
The understanding of psychotherapy is evolving – most contemporary psycho-spiritual disciplines now work entirely from present moment awareness. What is past is actually present.
What is unconscious and unhealed from the past repeats.. Not only in our individual consciousness but also in our collective.
As it turns out one cannot always just let go of the ‘past’ as an act of will.
Depth therapy also works beyond the cognitive level – though it may use the cognitive – stories, narratives etc… to apply mindful awareness at the ‘felt sense’ within embodiment…right now. For example see Gendlin’s ‘focusing’ work.
This is very much in harmony with the foundations of mindfulness. The difference is instead of applying the process of inquiry alone, one works with another or others, which increases the power of awareness, safety and empathy. This can quicken the resolution of early psychological material which when un-worked out continually hinders present moment well being.
I should also say such depth awareness work, in relationship with another/ others – can also help access very positive and empowering qualities that have been submerged- it’s not all about wounds.
One can work alone in this way – to a certain extent – though very sophisticated psychological defenses operate to make the pain of early wounds unfelt. Instead of resolving the primary issue at that primary level, symptoms of that pain keep reappearing as depression, obsessive anxiety, erratic mood swings, paranoia etc..
If one is not aware that sometimes such symptoms indicate deeper issues, and then applies the idea of letting go prematurely often those symptoms become exaggerated, projected out or repressed.
When this happens within a community that is committed to the highest ideals of spirituality – and yet is unable to process primitive feelings that are triggered in relationship – due to the premature spiritual by-passing or premature transcendence.. then it generates a weird ‘relational field’
It actually starts to sow the seeds of a fundamentalism and consequent scape goating.. Anger is not ‘mine’ or ‘ours’ – it belongs to those…’crazy feminists’ or ‘insensitive monks’ and so on..
There is a lot of idealism about what enlightenment should look like and enlightened people, but there’s quite a journey from the ideal to the integration of Awakening. And for the most part that is a very human journey. As far as I can see, we need all the help we can get for that journey.
It’s easy to project such high ideals of enlightenment onto others, but i wonder how it would be for those who do so to live themselves within a monastery for a while, within a community with all sorts of characters who display all sorts of tendencies…
How then do these ideals actually get lived out…?
It seems to me what has transpired in the Western monasteries around issues of gender and power, are less to do with enlightenment and more to do with our shared wounded humanity.
wishing us all much peace and well being
Thanissara wrote: “The understanding of psychotherapy is evolving – most contemporary psycho-spiritual disciplines now work entirely from present moment awareness. ”
When it comes to mindfulness based programs in particular , it is something that I believe can be helpful for members of the sangha to get involve with because it is related to the ( #7) Noble Eightfold Path. The type of activities and practices I am concerned about is mainly the following and not Mindfulness related practices:
“They had people to drive them everywhere – they had fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh made yoghurt with their muesli in the morning … they travelled to visit every passing Hindu or Tibetan guru or lama to listen to their teachings and get blessings (everyone from the hugging mother to Tenzin Palmo) – they became extremely arrogant and lost touch with grass roots. ”
I am aware that in the recent years various scientist and psychologist have incorporated mindfulness techniques into therapies, and there are more emphasis on bringing people beyond mental baggage coming from the past and awaken to life in this moment fully . This is refreshing to see happening. Since this is part of the Eightfold Path, I was hoping that the sangha already apply this as part of their practice at the monastery on a daily basis while they ” chop wood” , ” carry water”, or carrying out their daily activities. The routines in the monastery allow room for mindful actions. Abbots and teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield, and Joseph Goldstein, also played an important role in applying and teaching mindfulness. This is #7 of the Eightfold Path. I hope that more abbots will master this part of the Eightfold Path to set an example to others in the sangha. Right Effort supports Right mindfulness, and Right Mindfulness supports Right Concentration. It can be unrealistic to expect much success in Right Concentration when leaving out the other supporting factors that serve as a foundation from which it can spring forth.
“Training for Enlightenment”
“If while a monk is walking, standing, sitting or reclining while awake, a sensual thought, a thought of ill will, or a violent thought arises in him, and he does not tolerate it but abandons it, dispels it, eliminates it and abolishes it, that monk—who in such a manner ever and again shows earnest endeavour and moral shame—is called energetic and resolute.
Whether walking or standing, Whether sitting or lying down, One who cherishes evil thoughts
Connected with the worldly life Is travelling down a treacherous path, Beguiled by delusive things. Such a monk cannot attain Enlightenment, the supreme goal.
Whether walking or standing, Whether sitting or lying down, One who overcomes these thoughts Finds delight in stilling the mind. Such a monk may well attain Enlightenment, the supreme goal. ” – Anguttara Nikaya ( 4: 11)
But the above is not to say that monastics need psychotherapy to become enlightened. What they need is to fully apply what is already there in the teaching to experience the fruit. I notice the Zen tradition place emphasis on this aspect of the Eightfold Path more than other Buddhist tradition.
Thanissara wrote: “What is past is actually present. What is unconscious and unhealed from the past repeats. Not only in our individual consciousness but also in our collective. As it turns out one cannot always just let go of the ‘past’ as an act of will.”
This is where Right Effort comes in to support the development of Right Mindfulness.
“There are four right efforts, O monk.What four?
Herein a monk rouses his will :
_ to not to permit the arising of evil, unwholesome states that have not arisen
—to abandon evil, unwholesome states Already arisen
—to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen
—to maintain wholesome states already arisen and not allow them to disappear;
he makes an effort (for it), stirs up his energy exerts his mind and strives. ” -Anguttara Nikaya (4:13)
While the sitting meditation practice of Right Concentration is limited to a certain time of the day sitting in solitude ( sometimes sitting in group ), the Buddha also suggested that effort should be applied to abandon unwholesome states that have arisen and develop unwholesome states when not in sitting meditation. And this is to be practices throughout the day while carrying out other activities. If people don’t put Right Effort to practice, I am not surprise that Right Mindfulness doesn’t comes about.
In Anguttara Nikaya (3:68) the Buddha said:
’Lust is less blamable but hard to remove. Hatred is more blamable but easier to remove. Delusion is very blamable and hard to remove.’……..
“If they ask: ’But what, friends, is the cause and reason for the non-arising of unarisen lust, and for the abandoning of arisen lust?’ you should reply: ’A foul object: for one who attends properly to a foul object, unarisen lust will not arise and arisen lust will be abandoned.’
“If they ask: ’And what, friends, is the cause and reason for the non-arising of unarisen hatred, and for the abandoning of arisen hatred?’ you should reply: ’The liberation of the mind by loving kindness: for one who attends properly to the liberation of the mind by loving kindness, unarisen hatred will not arise and arisen hatred will be abandoned.’
“If they ask: ’And what, friends, is the cause and reason for the non-arising of unarisen delusion, and for the abandoning of arisen delusion?’ you should reply: ’Proper attention: for one who attends properly to things, unarisen delusion will not arise and arisen delusion will be abandoned.’’ – Anguttara Nikaya (3:68)
Thanissara wrote: ” The difference is instead of applying the process of inquiry alone, one works with another or others, which increases the power of awareness, safety and empathy. This can quicken the resolution of early psychological material which when un-worked out continually hinders present moment well being….”
When it comes to working with others, Thich Nhat Hanh emphasizes a lot on the various ways in which everyone in the sangha can motivate and remind each other to apply mindfulness and right effort in their everyday practice. This should be incorporated into other communities or sangha as well.
Psychotherapist have developed programs that provide people with helpful tools to apply mindfulness. For example, Clive Sherloc is a psychiatrist trained in the traditional Rinzai School of Zen developed Adaptation Practice. Jon Kabat-Zinn developed Mindfulness Based Stressed Reduction. Soma Morita who is a Japanese psychiatrist trained in the Zen tradition developed Morita therapy.
These programs can contribute to making the concept of mindfulness more applicable . It doesn’t hurt for monastics to become familiar with various programs relating to the application of mindfulness. There is room for collaboration between monastics and psychotherapist to disseminate these practices to people for their benefit. However, I would not say that the sangha requires psychotherapy for enlightenment.
Thanissara said: ‘As it turns out one cannot always just let go of the ‘past’ as an act of will.”
This, for me, is one of the teachings at the very heart of how Ajahn Brahm teaches.
The other thing, for me, that is right their at the centre of his way of teaching is loving-kindness.
I can see how it can help to have someone else there when delusion and suffering are thick and overwhelming. I tested out a number of alternative therapies and the most helpful for me were situations where the therapist was modelling kindness and love.
But in the end, for me, it was someone that I didn’t have to pay money to that showed me how I should feel about myself. Perhaps it is kammic, that though born to loving parents, I had to wait 29 years to really allow my heart/my being to experience the feeling of being unconditionally loved. It was a deep and far reaching revelation to me…”Oh! This is how I should view/feel/look upon myself.” We can teach each other what it feels like to love ourselves and subsequently others. The lesson is ongoing for me…but I thank my lucky stars that I met the people that I did, because they ensured that I started learning the correct lessons.
So if it helps to pay someone for this, then why not? If it has the desired result.
However, the trap I’ve noticed (from personal experience) is that the therapeutic setting can cause one to bypass the following that Thanissara said: ‘As it turns out one cannot always just let go of the ‘past’ as an act of will.”
Because working with another, generally (though we don’t realise it often in the intensity of what is happening) there is plenty of ‘will’ working. Ours and the therapist’s.
It is only alone, in meditation, that one can let go of the will to the extent that one lets go of even the desire to try and solve whatever pain is coming up. For me this takes love and courage. But when both love and courage are present, I find that the problem dissolves and disappears.
But often, I’ve been too tired, stressed, overwhelmed; and I find that in wanting to try and solve the problem, I’m actually coming from a place that is seeking to push it away. Once I recognise this, I can stop, apply love and bring forth courage. And the problem eventually fades.
I’ve found that the patience required for this process is considerable. Which is why love and courage are essential.
The patience required must be able to withstand the possibility that the problem may not fade to our satisfaction in just one sitting. But I’ve found that if I can maintain love (metta) and gentelness (compassion) and give up (renunciation) the desire to ‘feel better’ or to solve the problem and invite it to stay…that it’s, ironically, highly likely to disappear within the next few sits. If it doesn’t it’s because at some level I am still craving for this problem to ‘go away’. Often just this reflection brings this craving to the fore and then I just ‘leave it alone’ (as I’ve heard Ajahn Brahm say so often) and it starts to fade.
In the past, I remember this happening and actually grabbing onto the problem as it faded and bringing it back!!! I was rather stupid (said with a smile and much self love). I thought this problem was ‘me’. I thought I had to solve it and that it’s solving had to, surely, be harder than this mere fading!
BTW please note: metta, compassion, renunciation are the elements of Right Intention. These moments on the cushion/chair do not have to recede once one gets up from one’s seat. But it does take significant hard work outside of meditation. But for me, now, that’s what the rest of the 8 fold path is for.
Things like Reiki, Kinesiology (which, with a good practiioner is awesome) etc… Can surely be seen as acts of loving kindness towards ourselves. ‘Medicines’ that can make the path easier. Personally I don’t have a problem with monastics having access to the such things as long as it is not an ongoing luxury but useful, little used medicine. As a layperson, I cannot afford to buy such things for monks and nuns on a regular basis, when I cannot even afford to buy them for myself.
In order to cultivate loving kindness and compassion, the Buddha taught us to look deeply and try to understand the suffering of others.
I have heard from monastics and laymen and laywomen in the UK who feel they understand the suffering of the nuns at Amaravati. Yet this seems to be a level of understanding that is kept hidden from public.
Given that I am far away and do not spent time as you do in that community, can you tell me, what kind of encouragement there has been by the teachers at Amaravati to consider the suffering of the nuns community and to send them loving kindness, to show them compassion?
Given that my understanding is that compassion and loving kindness – based on an understanding of the suffering of others, applies to everyone, especially in times of conlfict, this is something that deeply concerns me.
We hear so little about it and it is quite discouraging to hear the voice of compassion behind the scenes but not in public. It is a skewed picture for thoe of us so far away.
Is there more to your thiking or your heart than what you have just shared above regarding the nuns that reflects this compassion and loving kindness?
I think there is always more to a persons heart. What I write about is how it was. Of course I’m sure its been a terrible shock for the siladhara now. But I am trying to suggest why they may have experienced so much negtivity when they asked for more status. I’m happy that the women are able to ordain as bhikkhuni. As I said, keeping the bhikkhuni vinaya as laid down by the buddha and adherence to the dhamma will hopefully lead them to the path of enlightenment, not other paths. Many women cannot indulge themselves in all these treatments and therapies and pilgrimages and visits to gurus that the nuns enjoyed because we do not have the money to spend. Mortgages and children take up our financial resources. The Buddha’s teaching is free. We can listen to it freely. We can practice it freely. It will take us to liberation. Not all this other stuff. Speaking of love and compassion – many lay women support women in sanghas abroad who do not enjoy these exceptional conditions. I feel a lot of compassion for the living conditions of nuns abroad compared what was going on in the UK. This is not to cause an argument. Just to present some facts which are true. Mistakes were made. Lets learn from them and move on to a better situation. A proper vinaya and bhikkhuni ordination is a wonderful opportunity for women who are serious practitioners.
I fully agree with you there. Which is why I think that in the end, everybody has to decide for him-/herself, which footsteps to follow. Unfortunately, I suspect that on either side of this particular fence, everyone feels that the footsteps he’s following are the right ones.
Perhaps it will take much more than a year or two to realize that in the end, we are all trying to follow the Buddha to the best of our understanding and experience 🙂
Somewhere on this blog there was reference to ‘feminists’ demanding IMS block FS monks from teaching there. I want to make it clear that no such demand has ever been made by myself or any other contributors, who I personally know, to W&FS.
The USA based Insight community – at Board & Guiding Teacher level – is quite capable of entering its own process regards the 5 point delivery and considerations in regards their relationship to Bhikkhuni ordination. I suggest you contact them directly for clarification as to their position.
P.A. Payutto said that the first step to respond to the request for the revival of the Bukkhuni Sangha is to have metta. As long as there is discrimation or prejudice, etc, the revival can never be realised.
So, let’s assume that everyone on this board has metta towards each other and we all wish to pave ways for modern women to get an opportunity to ordain as a full bhikkhuni in the Theravadin tradition.
The second step, according to P.A. Payutto, is what Terry has said: discussion on the technicality of how to make it possible.
P.A. Payutto said that there was no use citing the constitution that provides that all human beings are equal as a reason for women to have the right to get ordained, because all Thai women have that right; the real problem is simply that there is no one in this tradition who has the right to ordain women.
We should not get distracted from the important issue and start getting angry and criticising others.
If we really want Buddhism to grow, we have to start where we can best start – ourselves. We should practice Buddhism by cultivating metta.
So, if the problem is the technicality of the rules, then we need to find ways to resolve it; if we can’t, we just have to accept that nothing is permanent, as is the Theravadin Bhikkhuni Sangha.
Bhikkhu Bodhi and Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato and others have been working hard on the info in the sutta and the vinaya to show that it is possible. Perhaps the best way is to get it more widely disseminated?
Yes, you’re right, and we even have a one-day monk ordination to make merits for our just-passwed-away elderly relative.
Your suggestion sounds logical. Now, how can we get the Thai Sangha to consider it?
Then, we also have an issue about monks who join the Sangha just to have a place to stay and food in their tummy, what should we do about it? These ‘monks’ will of course never bother to study the dhamma.
Dheerayupa wrote: “Your suggestion sounds logical. Now, how can we get the Thai Sangha to consider it?”
Perhaps one place to start is to bring it up to P. A. Payutto and various professors in this field see if they have any objection . If they are interested they can teach it in this order. It’s the same thing, but just the order of it is arranged differently to make it easier for people to see the full picture in a shorter time frame. Also, there is more emphasis on the suttas in this arrangement.
Dheerayupa wrote: “Then, we also have an issue about monks who join the Sangha just to have a place to stay and food in their tummy, what should we do about it? These ‘monks’ will of course never bother to study the dhamma.”
Let us hope that when the dhamma is presented in a direct and easy to understand manner, they will grasp it and be inspired to explore further.
Have’nt got the hang of blogs yet so hope this comment is in an ok place.
Just wanted to say that I thought your reply to Lisa on the 4th april 11 concerning medicines and also to Thanissara on the 5th april 11 concerning psychotherapy, were great. I read them both a few times. You definitely have a grip on Buddhist practice, thank you for your good knowledge.
I have seen it shown that some therapies can work, generally of a primal scream type thing where a particular experience from the past is relived and then releases a depression experienced in the now, supposedly due to it. Though not sure of its authenticity, it was shown on a movie made for scientology and the use of their emachines. As you indicated that if one is at the point of being bedridden with anxiety then this may be useful. Though this gets rid of one little blip amongst hundreds and is nothing compared to knowledge of anicca, dukkha and anatta which applies to all of our lives.
I guess it’s easier to engage in a therapy than put in the effort to practice meditation which at times is tough. But then think of the results. With anapanasati one can get a sukha’d out mind and rise above it all or insight and just watch all the bits and pieces arising and passing, and it is obvious that they do not belong to anyone but nature. As you say imeditation beats the hell out of psychotherapy!
Many of the therapies which entail discussing one’s pains, in fact serve to increase them by continually bringing them to mind and dwelling on them, and they endorse the self view further. This is MY pain it belongs to ME.
Any way imeditation I thought that your comments, were very well worth reading, in fact a pleasure. It’s always a joy to hear questions answered so well in the way of Dhamma.
May I enquire whether you are a monastic in Perth!
Although I think the Perth community can be a role model for other communities, but I don’t live close to Perth. I am also not ordained , but I like to visit various monasteries close to nature though.
Terry wrote: “This this MY pain it belongs to ME”
It is true that the past carries into the present because past conditionings has the ability to effect how we live our lives presently, but spending countless hours to sort this story of ME out might not be enough to take us beyond it. With this approach, we are still stuck in the story of ME and continue to get carried away by it or get sucked into it when the ME itself is illusory , much less the impermanent story of ME or MY story.
In the practice we are told to observe the rise and fall of the aggregates not identify with it or get carry away by it . Also abandon grasping and displeasure relating to the 6 senses, such as thoughts about the past, desires, or anything that take us out of being centered in this moment.
As MN 51 points out that: “On cognizing a mind-object with the mind, one does not grasp at its signs and features. ”
A thought may arise but we don’t pursue it further. What we pay attention to , we give it energy or increase it. What we keep replaying in our mind or fixate our attention on that is what we are strengthening .
The Kalyanamittadi Vagga also mentions that:
“Bhikkhus, I do not know of of any other thing more conducive to the fading of arisen restlessness and worry than an composing the mind. The composed mind, bhikkhus, leads to the non-arising of unarisen restlessness and worry and fades arisen restlessness and worry. …..
“Bhikkhus, I do not know anything else that gives rise to non arisen factors of enlightenment and develops and completes arisen factors of enlightenment as proper attending . Bhikkhus, someone attending properly, produces non-arisen factors of enlightenment and develops and completes arisen enlightenment factors”
Some indicated that it is difficult if not impossible to will the mind to let go of arising thoughts relating to the past ( ex: memories of past event that triggered painful emotions) and desires relating to the distant future, therefore we should not try or that we should find something else.
But in applying Right Effort to bring the mind back to what is here and now , throughout the day , day in and day out, we are gradually training the mind to be remain grounded in the present. It is a process of consciously reconditioning the mind through repeated practice. When speaking about Right Effort, I don’t think it mean to simply use our will once or twice then thoughts about past and future ( whether painful or desirable) will immediately leave us alone forever It takes repetition , and it gets better with practice. Just like our habitual negative thought patterns, how did it become an ingrained habit that kept on repeating itself or resurfacing. Through repetition or replaying in the mind. In the same way we can also repeatedly coming back to the what is actually in front of us , so that it becomes a habit. In this way of reconditioning or mental discipline, instead of feeding the habitual pattern of getting drawn into the story of ME , we are getting into the habit of being with what is actually here in front of us.
However, lately various psychotherapist trained in Zen or mindfulness are focusing more on bringing patients to the present and letting go of the past rather than analyzing the past. As with other fields, it is constantly evolving. I feel that it is heading in the right direction and has much potential in the years to come.
What the Eightfold Path and psychotherapy have in common is that both are dealing with the mind. However, psychotherapy was not intended to be a path to enlightenment. I believe psychotherapy often seek to bring a person back to normal condition like people everywhere in society. The aim of the Eightfold Path is to bring normal people beyond the normal condition of changing emotions and awaken from the story that we create for ourselves. The Buddha himself served as an example of the potential that is within every being.
You said: “It is true that the past carries into the present because past conditionings has the ability to effect how we live our lives presently, but spending countless hours to sort this story of ME out might not be enough to take us beyond it. With this approach, we are still stuck in the story of ME and continue to get carried away by it or get sucked into it when the ME itself is illusory , much less the impermanent story of ME or MY story.”
I like that. Nice.
Although, I can also see how this is not in our control (to differing degrees at different times)…especially when you reflect on Anatta. How can this be in our control?
So sometimes when that “ME” is busy causing problems…the answer – sometimes – is just lots of tea and sympathy. Basically metta and someone to ‘just listen’. I guess it’s knowing when it’s time to stop the flow of tea and sympathy and when it’s time to keep the kettle on. Tricky one that can probably only be known on a case by case basis.
“P.A. Payutto said that the first step to respond to the request for the revival of the Bukkhuni Sangha is to have metta. As long as there is discrimation or prejudice, etc, the revival can never be realised.”
Yes but (without causing desire oo wee) to arise men need to have compassion for women to and realsie their anger to women is a problem and not just blame women or project their anger onto women
“So, let’s assume that everyone on this board has metta towards each other and we all wish to pave ways for modern women to get an opportunity to ordain as a full bhikkhuni in the Theravadin tradition.”
Big assumption, who really knows what peoples karma or preducdices are, but yeah be positive.
“The second step, according to P.A. Payutto, is what Terry has said: discussion on the technicality of how to make it possible.
P.A. Payutto said that there was no use citing the constitution that provides that all human beings are equal as a reason for women to have the right to get ordained, because all Thai women have that right; the real problem is simply that there is no one in this tradition who has the right to ordain women.”
What? Women are already ordained or suddenly they just don’t exist? and if that is the case maybe it is the problem ofthe tradition not women.
“We should not get distracted from the important issue and start getting angry and criticising others.”
Women have a right to to debate issues as do men and this point should not be used to ‘keep women silent’
“If we really want Buddhism to grow, we have to start where we can best start – ourselves. We should practice Buddhism by cultivating metta”
Yes and that goes for men too, and metta does not include men dictating to women .
“So, if the problem is the technicality of the rules, then we need to find ways to resolve it; if we can’t, we just have to accept that nothing is permanent, as is the Theravadin Bhikkhuni Sangha”.
It is not just a problem of technicality it is one of attitudes, the scriptures have been interpreted as meaning men where better than women by some cultures becasue it suited them, this was wrong, it is a matter of men not think ing they are better and not dictating to to women and changing thier attitudes, is this why it died out in th efirst place?
“Bhikkhu Bodhi and Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato and others have been working hard on the info in the sutta and the vinaya to show that it is possible. Perhaps the best way is to get it more widely disseminated?”
Yeah and hope it is not translated only by men.
Anyway I wish you all the best with it. adieu (that
s french 🙂
Dear Bhikkhuni Adhimutta
My internet connection is not good going out of range so just quickly say, thank you for that.
I think my speech is more wrong than right at times but can only try:)
I really admire your ability to ordain and hope you get full support from the lay people and the Ajahn’s. (If not let me know and I’ll organise an ultra, ultra feminist march down George Street:0)…just kidding…I know practise metta, patience etc , etc.
Metta and kind regards
Hi Bhikkini Adimutta,
Thank you for that, I am on a computer at a library so have looked at your pictures. It is encouraging to see the ‘lived experience’ and that it is actually a reality.
I usually follow more alternate types of Buddhism, but also for some reason was drawn to Ahjan Brahm and by way of him Ajahn Sujato who also seems like a very good monk. But I think I now no why my Tibetan teacher gives me that odd look of bemused fear, me being too truthful!
In these traditions too there doesn’t seem to be much issue with monks and nuns or women getting ordained.
We needn’t do that 🙂 as P.A.Prayutto’s temple is as close to an ideal monastery as a city temple can be.
Though it’s a city temple (Mahanikaya, where monks are usually allowed to accept money and etc), monks at this temple have been known to follow the Buddha’s vinaya and P.A. Payutto’s effort to educate young men in Buddhism is widely known.
I just wish that Thailand had more monasteris like this and can’t help wondering what we could do to realise this dream.
Beautifully said, Kanchana. I wouldn’t be able to say it better. So, I will just repeat what you said:
Indeed, only after trying to practice what Ajahn Brahm has taught was I able to have a first taste of freedom from the past — the guilty feelings for all the mistakes I’ve made and the anger towards all the wrongs that others have done to me.
I admit I’m not totally successful, but sensing the result of the practice, I know one day I could be free.
And all this is thanks to Ajah