It’s time, once more, to bid fairwell to my dear blog friends. I’m leaving my Dad’s place tomorrow, and will be moving about for some time. I will be back when I get settled a bit more. In the meantime, keep on going!


Why Devadatta Was No Saint

A little while ago we had some discussion about Reginald Ray’s controversial and popular idea that Devadatta was really a forest saint, unfairly maligned in later Buddhism. I read his work many years ago, and it has always bugged me, so I decided to do a bit of fact checking. Here is the essay that results. Short version: the theory is wrong.

The whole essay is a little too long for a blog post, so you can download the pdf, or read it over on Santipada. Here’s the abstract:

Devad­atta is depic­ted as the archetypal vil­lain in all Buddhist tra­di­tions. Regin­ald Ray has argued for a rad­ical reas­sess­ment of Devad­atta as a forest saint who was unfairly maligned in later mon­astic Buddhism. His work has been influ­en­tial, but it relies on omis­sions and mis­taken read­ings of the sources. Ray’s claim that ‘there is no over­lap between the Mahāsaṅghika treat­ment [of Devad­atta] and that of the five [Sthavira] schools’ is untrue. On the con­trary, the man­ner in which Devad­atta is depic­ted in the Mahāsaṅghika is broadly sim­ilar to the Sthavira accounts. Such dif­fer­ences as do exist are lit­er­ary rather than doc­trinal. The stor­ies of Devadatta’s deprav­ity became increas­ingly lurid in later Buddhism, but this is a nor­mal fea­ture of the myth­o­lo­giz­ing pro­cess, and has noth­ing to do with any ant­ag­on­ism against forest ascet­ics. In any case, the early sources are unan­im­ous in con­demning Devad­atta as the instig­ator of the first schism in the Buddhist community.

My books at Santipada

The final versions of all six of my books* are finished and available through Santipada.org.

These books have been a labour of love for me, and are the fruits of countless hours of perspiration and inspiration. I’ve done everything I can to ensure that they are as well written, researched, and presented as possible, and I make them available as widely as I can. You can read them on the web, download them, get an ebook, and even, for the traditionalists among you, order a paperback version. Here’s the blurb for each of these books.

I don’t have any way of publicizing these apart from this blog, so I’d really appreciate it if you’d spread these around on whatever network or social media you use. On the Santipada site I encourage donations to Buddhist Global Relief, and the (minimal) proceeds from book sales go to Santi FM.**

White Bones Red Rot Black Snakes

Enchant­ing, power­ful, hor­rific, beau­ti­ful, wise, deadly, com­pas­sion­ate, seduct­ive. Women in Buddhist story and image are all these things and more. She takes the signs of the ancient god­dess – the lotus, the sac­red grove, the ser­pent, the sac­ri­fice – and uses them in aston­ish­ing new ways. Her story is one of suf­fer­ing and great tri­als, and through it all an unquench­able long­ing to be free. This beau­ti­fully illus­trated work is as layered and sub­vers­ive as myth­o­logy itself. Based dir­ectly on authen­tic Buddhist texts, and informed with insights from psy­cho­logy and com­par­at­ive myth­o­logy, it takes a fresh look at how Buddhist women have been depic­ted by men and how they have depic­ted themselves.

Dreams of Bhadda

Bhaddā was a true ori­ginal. An ascetic, a philo­sopher, and a mur­derer, who became one of the best-loved of all the bhikkhunis. Here is a vivid re-imagining of her story: a Buddhist nun like you’ve never seen before.



A History of Mindfulness

The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta is the most influ­en­tial scrip­ture in Buddhist med­it­a­tion. It is the found­a­tion text for the mod­ern schools of ‘vipas­sanā’ or ‘insight’ med­it­a­tion. The well-known Pali dis­course is, how­ever, only one of many early Buddhist texts that deal with mind­ful­ness. This is the first full-scale study to encom­pass all extant ver­sions of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, tak­ing into account the dynamic evol­u­tion of the Buddhist scrip­tures and the broader Indian med­it­at­ive cul­ture. A new vis­ion emerges from this ground­break­ing study: mind­ful­ness is not a sys­tem of ‘dry insight’ but is the ‘way to con­ver­gence’ lead­ing the mind to deep states of peace.

Sects & Sectarianism

Why are there so many schools of Buddhism? Are the dif­fer­ences just cul­tural, or do they have fun­da­ment­ally dif­fer­ent vis­ions of Dhamma? This work assesses the claims of the tra­di­tions, and takes into account to find­ings of mod­ern schol­ar­ship. It pays spe­cial atten­tion to the ori­gins of the mon­astic orders. If we are to under­stand the dif­fer­ences, and some­times ten­sions, between the schools of Buddhism today, we must exam­ine more closely the forces that spurred their formation.

A Swift Pair of Messengers

Serenity and insight are the two great wings of Buddhist med­it­a­tion. They each have a spe­cial role to play in the path to Awaken­ing. While some mod­ern approaches seek to mar­gin­al­ize serenity in favor of ‘dry’ insight, the Buddha’s own dis­courses place serenity right at the cen­ter of the path. This book col­lects vir­tu­ally all the sig­ni­fic­ant pas­sages on this topic that are found in the early dis­courses, care­fully elu­cid­ated for the mod­ern reader.

Bhikkhuni Vinaya Studies

Although his­tor­ic­ally mar­gin­al­ized, Buddhist nuns are tak­ing their place in mod­ern Buddhism. Like the monks, Buddhist nuns live by an ancient sys­tem of mon­astic law, the Vinaya. This work invest­ig­ates vari­ous areas of uncer­tainty and con­tro­versy in how the Vinaya is to be under­stood and applied today.



In addition to these books, I have updated and improved two old websites on bhikkhuni ordination: Sikkhamana and Bhikkhuni Patimokkha. These consist mainly of translations and comparative tables for those interested in a serious study of issues relating to bhikkhuni ordination.



* Not counting the illustrated book Beginnings, which was previously available at Budaedu, but appears to have run out.

** For those who might be curious about my policy re selling books, basically I would prefer for everything to be given away free. Most people who read them will get them via a free distribution publisher or from a free download. You can also buy them through the print on demand publisher Lulu.com. In this case the price just covers the printing and postage, as Lulu does not require that the author takes any royalties. However, Lulu also makes available distribution through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, etc. And to enable this one must accept a certain minimum of author royalties. I don’t want this for myself, so it is a donation for Santi.

Good News for Nuns

There has been some wonderful progress for nuns and bhikkhunis in the Tibetan tradition in recent months. I’ve been kept up to date by Ven Jampa Tsedroen. Here’s a summary.

In May there was a decision to allow Tibetan nuns of the Gelugpa tradition to receive a geshe title. This has been controversial in the past due mainly to the requirement for full Vinaya studies. The geshe degree is the highest title in Tibetan Buddhist studies, and it requires a thorough training in all areas of Buddhist texts in the Tibetan canon. This includes the Vinaya, traditionally the last section to be taught. According to the Tibetan tradition, however (shared also with the Chinese tradition), Vinaya may only be taught to those fully ordained. (This idea probably originated in a misunderstanding of some passages in the early Vinaya, but that’s beside the point here.) Since nuns cannot be fully ordained, they cannot complete the studies and therefore cannot become geshe. Now the full course of study has become available on a non-sectarian basis.

Here is an article about the issue by Ven Jampa Tsedroen.

In addition, the Tibetan department of Religion and Culture has organized a high level committee to support the introduction of full ordination for women in the Mulasarvastivada tradition. The committee includes two members from each of the four main Tibetan sects, as well as two representatives from the nuns.

The committee has invited Ven Jampa and others to present research results in the last two weeks of October. They have received specific requests as to the texts that the committee is interested in, and these are being prepared. There seems to be a good chance that some genuine progress is at last at hand.

In other news, congratulations for the new samaneris ordained at Aranyabodhi and at Santi! It feels strange not to be there, but I couldn’t be happier.

My vassa

Hi all,

Just a voice from the wilderness here. I’m at my dad’s place in Coffs Harbor, enjoying the quiet and lack of stuff! I haven’t got much to say at the moment, so here’s a few photos.

The back yard

Chandra fixes stuff.

Dad, Stanley, and Nisu on the back porch.