Transgood

My favorite bit of the Abhidhamma is the first paragraph: Phenomena that are skilful, phenomena that are unskilfull, phenomena that are undesignated.. Actually, this seemingly innocuous phrase emerged from the debates in ancient India about the nature of the Dhamma: can we describe everything as dyads—as pairs of opposites or complements—or do we need to acknowledge a “third”. The Theravadins opted to include the “third”, here said to be things that are “undesignated”, that is, not describable as either good or bad.

This is good. Dyads get all rigid and crusty. They become dogmas; literally black and white. So here, as often in Buddhism, we meet the mysterious “third”, somehow not quite fitting in to the normal scheme of things.

This is not merely a problem of categorization. The existence of a “leftover” is essential for Awakening: Nibbana is among those things that are “undesignated”. It is beyond good and evil, and its existence signifies that an escape from the duality is possible.

The same is true on more mundane levels, such as gender. Everywhere we go, we are subtly conditioned to think of gender as binary; signs on bathrooms, clothes, idioms like “he/she”, and so on, with all the connotations and stereotypes that go along with these.

Yet this, like all dyads, undersells the truth. Gender is far more complex than just two. There are gay people, whose sexual orientation does not agree with the stereotype. There are transsexual people, who identify with a gender other than that assigned at birth, and who may seek to change their gender via surgery. There are intersex people, who have physical attributes that are not readily assignable as either male or female. There are asexual people, who simply have no sexual interest. And I am sure there are many other variations. And of course, all of these things may interact, and change, and be fluid and uncertain.

But what is certain is that these people are all, you know, people. They have jobs and loves and losses and lives, just like anyone else. But they have something that many others don’t: they have to endure a constant discrimination, an exclusion and marginalization that pervades every aspect of life.

Some people

I am a very privileged person. I’m white, male, middle class, from a developed country. I don’t know what it’s like to be harassed for being who I am. I don’t know what it’s like to live your whole life being told you’re different, weird, a freak. But I imagine it’s not very nice. So I have to listen to what others say to know what discrimination feels like.

It’s even worse when you come to religion. Here we are, approaching the realm of the spiritual, a place we come to because we believe in something better; because we want to be lifted up. Yet we meet, here again, the same dreary, boring discrimination we’ve found elsewhere; except now it comes from God, or from the Buddha, or from Allah. Terrific. That’s just so helpful.

Why is it that religions seem to be the bastion of the most repressive forms of discrimination? I think it comes down to order. Recall the anthropology of Levi Strauss; he talked about how tribes negotiate ambiguous dualities through such things as the kinship systems. Who can we have sex with? This is one of the basic questions that cultures have to answer, as soon as they create structures larger than an extended family group.

Culture arises from this imperative; negotiation of sexual partners is one of the key concerns of all ancient mythology. And “third gender” people don’t fit neatly into this either/or narrative. They become defined as “other” by culture; notice how animals don’t have this kind of discrimination. In more developed cultures, there is a mythic narrative that explicitly defines the acceptable roles of male and female; this is sorted out, for example, in Genesis.

How that happens depends on the culture. It is, of course, entirely possible to include the “third” as part of how humanity is “in the beginning”, and some cultures in fact do this. In India, traditionally at least, there has been a greater tendency to be inclusive of diverse sexualities, and people of third genders have often been ascribed a special sacred role. These days, with the rise of a more narrow-minded Hindutva mentality, such ideas are becoming displaced, under the influence of the more rigid and dogmatic monotheistic religions.

Religions have inherited the role of sustaining this kind of order. Notice how it goes: first there is a statistical generalization (most people fit into a cisgender male or female role); then there is a normative assertion (cisgender masculinity and femininity are the only acceptable forms of gender and sexuality). That normative assertion is then forever in battle with reality. Listening to Catholic and Anglican bishops insist that there is and can only ever be one form of marriage, I was left wondering whether these good gentlemen had ever met an actual human being.

But religions should be doing much more than telling us what is right and wrong; in fact ethics is really tangential to religion. The real purpose of a true religious or spiritual path is to point to a greater or a higher sense of meaning; a value that changes all values. For Buddhists, this is Nibbana; for Christians, God, and so on. So it is inherent in the very nature of the spiritual path that there must be a “third”, beyond good and evil.

And to point this out, to embody it in human culture, has been one of the traditional roles of third gender persons, whether in ancient Greece, China, or India. Living on the edges, they are a reminder of the limitations of our cultural norms. They show us that dyads are never perfect.

In modern times, this dynamic is playing out in new ways. We no longer wish to assign people special roles, whether for good or bad, based on a sacred text; instead we want to empower people to find themselves, to grow and live in the best way that they can. And third gender people, by speaking out and letting us know of their lives and their sufferings, reveal for us some of the myriad ways we are bound by culture and convention, limiting the expression of our humanity. This is not just a theory or an ancient sacred ideal; it is a powerful force that has changed, and is changing, our world for the better.

It is sad but true: we usually have to suffer before we start to question. I hope our world is moving, slowly and uncertainly, towards a more inclusive ethic, one that values all humans—and non-humans. It will take time. One thing is sure: this will not be driven by those, like me, who have much. It will be driven by those who suffer. And we owe a special debt of gratitude to all those courageous people who do not fit neatly into the categories that our cultures have decided on, who speak out and who change things for the better.

83 thoughts on “Transgood

  1. “My favorite bit of the Abhidhamma is the first paragraph: Phenomena that are skilful, phenomena that are unskilfull, phenomena that are undesignated.. (…)This is good. Dyads get all rigid and crusty. They become dogmas; literally black and white. So here, as often in Buddhism, we meet the mysterious “third”, somehow not quite fitting in to the normal scheme of things.”

    But do those “undesignated phenomena” have anything to do with Nibbana? As far as I know, in the Abhidhamma, Nibbana is determined as asankhata dhamma (The Unformed, Unoriginated, Unconditioned, Uncreated), which can’t be analyzed at all. The “mysterious third” you are talking about, just means mundane phenomena, which are not yet determined, but this does not mean they will remain as such forever, all phenomena are impermanent. Sure, other phenomena explain everything as black and white, as it actually is in Samsara, is described in the early texts about karma (not in the commentary Abhidhamma) and witnessed by any honest man. If someone seeks to escape the rigid Buddhist ethics, he can always turn his attention to shifty Advaita Vedanta or Mahayana texts, or as Nagarjuna & Co. , just continue to confuse the ontological emptyness with ethics.

    • Well, it’s a curious ambiguity, but the answer is yes, the abyakata does include Nibbana, as well as rupa (matter), pannatti (concepts), and so on.

      The early suttas certainly don’t treat kamma as just black and white. In fact they analyze it as fourfold: black, white, black and white, and neither black nor white. Rigid ethics are bad ethics.

    • Sujato:

      “The early suttas certainly don’t treat kamma as just black and white. In fact they analyze it as fourfold: black, white, black and white, and neither black nor white. Rigid ethics are bad ethics.”

      Don’t confuse the Buddhist ethics with the possible results of kamma, it is just ridiculous. Rigid ethics is the only way to real purification of the mind, which is and always was the core Buddhist means of attaining Enlightenment and overcoming the Samsaric duality, embodied in the Noble Eightfold Path. It is another matter that it takes courage and inner honesty to admit one’s imperfection and then forgive oneself in order to move further. All nonsense you are telling here (I don’t mean human freedom and rights of homosexuals) is untrue not only for the early texts, but also for the Abhidhamma itself. That’s what surprises.

      There are much more adequate works about overcoming the duality of Samsara described in the early texts, for example this one: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/bps-essay_27.html

  2. To become a monastic in Theravada you have to prove you are a man or woman. Transgender don’t have a hope in hell. How are you going to fix that?

    • There’s nothing to “fix.” A trans woman is a woman and a trans man is a man. I don’t see what the problem is. Although I would be interested in what happens when, say, a kathoey tries to ordain. Thailand being Thailand, I assume it’s just not allowable, but that seems to make as much sense as disallowing bhikkhuni ordination.

    • Transgendered people are typically physically male or female, they simply identify with the opposite gender. In the case of someone who has had a sex change, the Vinaya explicitly allows them to be a monk or a nun, in the gender to which they now belong (not their birth gender). The only problem in the Vinaya is with people who have indistinct or ambiguous sexual organs, such as hermaphrodites. Such people are, in my view unfortunately, forbidden from ordination. I’m not aware of such a case actually occurring, but if someone like this did want to ordain, rather than giving up hope, I would suggest that they approach myself, or another sympathetic monastic, and discuss possible solutions. Vinaya is very flexible, and with some good will, you can usually find a way.

    • I think the problem already starts when separating monasteries in male and female ones. Honestly whenever I see pictures of monks/nuns I wonder whether these baldheads are men or women, so to me they look all very similar. Which I think is great! I always assumed the reason for that gender segregation was so that “nothing would happen”. But, speaking of “the third”, it’s just as possible that a monk falls in love with another monk or a nun with another nun. But being a monk/nun walking the Noble Eightfold Path and restraining oneself, there should be no risk at all for anyone.
      So my opinion is that first of all (well, apart from allowing nuns full ordination first and foremost) monks and nuns should be allowed to live in the same place. Then there is no more need to distinguish between any kind of gender at all.

    • Hi Suse,

      Yes, of course it happens that gay and bi monks and nuns exist, and obviously there are issues involved. Like anything, you can deal with them or not.

      In the Vinaya, it is in fact mandated that the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis live in association, although it is not entirely clear what this meant. Probably it meant they had separate living quarters not too distant from each other. These days we can communicate over distance, so it is not regarded as such an issue. One problem is that when nuns live right by the monks, there is a seemingly insurmountable tendency to prioritize the monks over the nuns. Lay people, and often the nuns themselves, automatically defer to the monks, no matter what you do to promote equality. So by living separately, one advantage is that the nuns can take on the leadership role that the monks normally take.

  3. What is wonderful about the theme of Ajahn Sujato’s essay is that science supports the conclusions reached in Ajahn’s article. Were it true that Buddhist ethics ran opposite to science on this issue, we might have some difficulties reconciling expansive ideas of personhood, marriage, and sexuality. Instead, the Buddha’s teachings are very pragmatic, and invite us to investigate and demonstrate through examination the truth of existence. “Certain commonalities have been cited between scientific investigation and Buddhist thought. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in a speech at the meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, listed a “suspicion of absolutes” and a reliance on causality and empiricism as common philosophical principles shared between Buddhism and science.”

    Causes and conditions arise and create our forms and mundane realities. Such varied causes and conditions arise in people such that some are straight, some gay, some bisexual, transgendered…all are normal and valuable and real insofar as they are the natural biological and psychological products of these arisen causes and conditions. So, if we support the nondyadic approach of the Dhamma, and support the science that is multidimensional, how then can we ever see some who is gay, bisexual or transgendered as “an other?” How can we not wish for all varied people the same degree of Metta as we wish for ourselves, that we all be happy, safe and peaceful?

    • Yes, for sure, sometimes I just like to take a random spot to start and essay in! Of course the Abhidhamma usually draws pretty directly from the Suttas, and in this case, I think they got something important right.

  4. Sujato says:

    Why is it that religions seem to be the bastion of the most repressive forms of discrimination? I think it comes down to order.

    That’s right, order, that is predictability. Human beings prefer predictability, since it allows planning, preparation and knowledge of what to expect. When you see a masculine body you expect the person to behave a certain way. Behavior which doesn’t match the looks throws one off and creates uneasiness. That’s the reason for rejection of the ‘others’ by societies. This doesn’t justify discrimination, but this explains its basis.

    Maybe the behavior isn’t determined by the biology but its patterns and gender roles are still the result of evolution of the human race, whos development preceded the advent of human culture with its codes, and so it’s them, which for now can be considered ‘natural’

  5. “And of course, all of these things may interact, and change, and be fluid and uncertain.”
    When reading the sentence, I could not help but think about the homosexually oriented people who wants to change their orientation. They are often being discriminated by the mainstream gay organizations, as such people shakes the belief that homosexuality is an in-born trait and can never be changed.

  6. so as a woman if I wanted to train at Bodhinyana monks monastery all I have to is identify as a bloke? I wish you’d told me this about 18 years ago.

  7. Sujato:

    I understand we are all not perfect, but deleting comments with the alternative views of other Buddhists really opens my eyes on your so called “spirituality”. It is just ugly and cowardly, just as your distortion of the foundations of early Buddhism. I’m going to write about this, your dishonesty, especially towards a female follower, won’t remain unknown, at least in my community. And yes, I will repost all my comments deleted by you.

  8. sadly the user under the name Victoria hasn’t reformed since s/he launched personal attacks on myself in this blog
    She hasn’t been rebuffed then and that’s the reason she have the nerve to attack the blog owner himself now

    i was taken aback by the rudeness of her comment Sujato deleted and believe that her comment instead of being shyly removed had to be used as a means of teaching her a lesson in netiquette and acceptable ways of communication with people, especially on a Dhamma oriented blog, and a ground for prior warning with prospect of blocking access to commenting

    • Hi Bayan,

      I’m sorry that you had to endure such personal attacks: please accept my apology, I will try to do better in future.

      I will block Victoria’s IP address, so hopefully this will not happen again. If people are not able to participate in civil conversation, they have no place on this blog. I want it to be a place where everyone can feel safe from any kind of personal attacks or harassment.

    • It is a very long, long journey from the head to the heart. Perhaps someday Victoria will make that journey and then she will, with her knowledge of scripture, possess special skill for helping others.

      Until that journey is made, however, the temptation to smack others in the head with the “raft” of the Dhamma can be just too tempting.

  9. well I am totally ignorant of the Abhidhamma and know only a little about the Suttas, so I can’t comment on whether the points Victoria made were sound or not. However I must say I am a little surprised that they have been censored. I would have liked it more if, as a teacher, Sujato had just replied to her arguments. It’s true that the post by Victoria is very ‘direct’ in its form, but why censor it? I’m a professor and I have always encoraged criticism from students; also, a few times some students or collegues have tried to prove me wrong in quite an aggressive way in my lectures or conferences. I have always felt that as a teacher the best way to deal with that is simply to argue my point as clearly and patiently as possible.

    • Hi Stefano,

      I agree, as you can see from many hundreds of examples on this blog. However there is a difference between criticizing an idea and attacking a person.

      I want to encourage right speech here. When I called her out on her comment—which was more than “direct”, it was a deliberate insult—she showed no signs of graciously accepting admonition. This is, if you want to get textual about it, the meaning of “suvaco” in the Metta Sutta. Someone who one can admonish, and will readily accept a genuine criticism as a chance for personal growth. She didn’t do this, but responded with further attacks.

      I have put up with hundreds, if not thousands, of abusive and critical comments on this blog. In one recent case, I was finally driven to the police to stop someone from clogging up the whole blog with, at times, over a hundred comments a day accusing my of being a rapist, child murderer, and so on. Obviously the situation with Victoria is not as serious as this, but I have much reduced patience with people who cannot behave in a civil manner.

      As far as I’m concerned, this blog is my home. Commenters are guests in my home, and they should behave towards me, and towards other commenters, with the same politeness and respect that you would if you were in someone else’s house.

  10. Hi Sujato, ok. On the subject of ordination and sexual orientation which has been discussed above, I have consulted Ajahn Brahm’s translation of the Vinaya and found that amongst the ‘beings who should not be ordained in the first place but who if ordained by mistake must be expelled for life’ are: Pandaka – Translated as : Eunuchs and Homosexuals and : Ubhatobyatjanaka – translated as : neuters and bisexuals. I understand there is some ambiguity in the interpretation of the term Pandaka(?). But I was wondering above all whether the reasons behind the rules banning these particular sets of people from ordination are known, and if so what they are, since I understood from Gombrich that the Vinaya was developed gradually as a set of pragmatic rules to respond to practical situations and difficulties.

    • it’s interesting as in principle upon ordination a person basically becomes asexual so it’s unclear why these definitions still relevant with respect to the candidates
      i don’t think there’s any spiritual justification for that, so the reason was probably social

  11. It’s always amazing to me that some people, like Victoria, that study the Dhamma and write about it ( in her case, in Russian), lose sight of the core spirit of the Dhamma: compassion, Metta, and kindness. I see from time to time on Theravada forums intelligent, serious people bashing each other, ad hom attacks, over something like the meaning of ‘Metta.’ There’s some real irony there. I hope that Victoria can go forward in her life with a mindful sense of Right Speech, that the Buddha admonished us to be attentive to speech that is positive and beneficial. “It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will.”— AN 5.198 So many smart Pali ‘experts’ out there on the ‘internets’ that are so quick to forget the heart of what the Buddha taught. Perhaps in time she will mature, and become less reactive and more mindful of what being on this Path means. I send her Metta with these thoughts.

    • И, Виктория, пожалуйста, отпустите вашу потребность сообщить о вашем блоге этих взаимодействий. Если вы недовольны взаимодействия, просто быть спокойным. Чтобы опубликовать все это в своем блоге просто нездоровым, и не отражает хорошо на вас или вашего очевидной разведки и преданность делу.

  12. Victoria’s points are valid, though getting upset about it isn’t worth it.

    The Buddha talked about three kinds of feelings – pleasant, unpleasant, and neither-unpleasant-nor-pleasant – but only two kinds of thinking, two kinds of volitional activities – either wholesome/skillful or unwholesome/unskillful.

    All the rest is spinning.

    Nibbana isn’t a third, an ‘undesignated.’ It’s pleasant (a pleasure beyond pleasure, i.e. a pleasure not rooted in contact – see MN 59, for example). And the conditions for its realization include skilful volitional activities.

  13. Just had a thought which I’ll share here for what it’s worth. The idea that things are not 100% black nor white, but different shades of grey, reminds me of the Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo, who invented the technique of ‘sfumato’. This consists precisely in depicting continuous, infinitesimal transitions in light and shade on a surface. This pictorial style translates Leonardo’s view of nature and of the world as a continuum, with no abrupt transtitions, where everything is caracterised by constant flow and gradual change. This is well reflected in Leonardo’s rather elusive personality.
    By contrast a more clear cut, black and white world view and ethics are found in the artist Michelangelo. His sculpural paintings with their hard edges and clearly defined lights and shades unambiguously express this.
    So perhaps it is not surprising that there has been some animated discussion in the posts above: after all Leonardo and Michelangelo themselves were big rivals😉

    • I know Victoria, and I only wrote that half in jest. However, insofar as I was talking of style, for two creative geniuses of that magnitude style does indeed reflect both their world vision and their ethics (though admittedly not Nibbana since neither of them knew what that meant). I don’t think that it’s the place to develop this discussion, but on the close relationship between artistic style and ethics there are good discussions for example in FR Leavis (for literature) or Ruskin for the visual arts.

  14. [When moderating this comment please use your best judgment that if anything I say here may be harmful just remove it; thanks.]

    Bhante thank you for having the courage to make such positive statements on a topic not yet compassionately addressed in our religious communities. This is a really important and timely topic; its controversial nature only highlights the need.

    By the way, I took the Abhidhamma comparison not so much as a literal description but as poetic words to encourage people, and found your post very beautiful.

    The impact of rebirth, not yet mentioned, seems to me central to this topic. In the Pali Canon we find indications that over the lifetimes one may switch gender at any given rebirth, as in Mahapajapati’s Therigatha verse:

    “I’ve been mother and son before;
    And father, brother — grandmother too.
    Not understanding what was real,
    I flowed-on without finding [peace].” (Thig 6.6)

    Given the endless time of rebirths in Samsara various combinations of gender experience are possible, including being repeatedly reborn one gender uninterruptedly for hundreds of lifetimes before being reborn again as the other gender. If reborn as a different gender than what one had become accustomed to during many lifetimes, how could it not result in a disconnect from the new physical gender or the newly-expected sexual preference? Imagine if one were reborn a heterosexual female uninterruptedly for 500 lifetimes, then reborn male; surely s/he would have difficulty adjusting, perhaps holding a female gender identity despite physical manhood or continuing to feel exclusive sexual attraction to males (or both).

    Our Theravada tradition offers accounts of people strongly affected by various kinds of habits, likes or dislikes gained during past lifetimes. Examples:

    • The Udana recounts that a monk named Meghiya was assailed by shocking sexual fantasies of dancing girls and also thoughts of cruelty when he seated himself in certain a grove. According to tradition, during 500 lifetimes Meghiya had been a king using that place as his royal park – where many times he had sat with his dancing girls and also had given orders to execute prisoners. (Com. To Ud 4.1)

    • When a couple greeted the Buddha by calling him their son, lovingly scolding him for not visiting and causing their “other” children to bow to him, the monks were puzzled until the Buddha explained that this couple had been his parents for 500 previous lifetimes. (Com. to Dh 225)

    • On one occasion an enlightened monk received criticism for his habit of rudely addressing others as “Outcast”. The Udana (Ud 3.6) states: “Then the Blessed One, having directed attention to [the monk’s] previous lives, said to the monks, ‘Don’t take offense at the monk Vaccha. It’s not out of inner hatred that he goes around addressing the monks as if they were outcastes. For 500 consecutive lifetimes the monk Vaccha has been born in brahman families. For a long time he has been accustomed to addressing people as outcastes. That’s why he goes around addressing the monks as if they were outcastes.'”

    • Strong friendships that persisted across many lifetimes are often mentioned in our tradition. (Many Jataka birth stories highlight these connections, such as Ja 498. See also, for example, two monks’ longstanding friendship mentioned at SN 21.12 and Com.)

    If such minor personal attributes may persist after multiple-lives’ repetition, how much more a matter integral to a person’s identity? The sense of one’s own gender, or one’s perception of which gender can be a potential spouse, if repeated lifetime after lifetime hundreds of times, should leave a powerful impression. The impact upon gender identity or sexual preference would be quite beyond one’s control and wholly normal for anyone from a similar past life background. I fail to understand why this point is not already obvious to all Buddhists.

    As for the hermaphrodite condition, it is mentioned as a karmic result of deeds, like many other factors present at birth such as physical strength or disability (along with social circumstances including family status, intelligence, finances). We cannot choose through wishing what kind of body we gain each life. “Bhikkus, this body is not yours, nor does it belong to others. It is old kamma [i.e., result of previous kamma], to be seen as generated and fashioned by volition, as something to be felt.” (SN ii 64)

    In ancient Indian culture marriage was of utmost importance; any genital variation would ruin one’s value on the marriage market. As a socially severely painful circumstance a genital variation at birth was a result of bad kamma, similar to poverty or a disability.

    On one occasion an ancient bhikkhuni explained to a friend how she had come to join the holy life. She had sought reprieve in the holy life after being unsuccessful in marriage, the cause of which she pinpointed to an evil kamma incurred in a past lifetime; she had been a proud wealthy young man (!) who violated another man’s wife (or others’ wives), suffering as the result a string of unfortunate births, each less painful than the one before as the kamma weakened. First he suffered hell realm, then a series of animal births in which he was castrated, lame and miserable; finally he regained human form but was born on the street to a slave and “was neither a woman nor a man” in gender. The next rebirth was as a girl in a poor family, who got sold to pay family debts and eventually ended up getting married as a man’s second wife, living in disharmony with the jealous first wife. In her next and final life she was born with beauty into a loving and wealthy family, but on getting married was treated with stunning cruelty and rejection by her husband. Repeated efforts at marriage only deepened her humiliation as each man soon rejected her, the last one a beggar who preferred to return to begging than to live luxuriously together with her, calling her odious. She then sought permission to ordain into the Bhikkhuni Sangha to overcome what she assumed to be a past evil kamma, intending suicide as the alternative if her parents resisted. Thus she became ordained; in a week she attained full enlightenment, together with recollection of her past lives. (Thig 400-447)

    The more our culture accepts and embraces the reality that some people are born having both male and female genital characteristics and other variations, the less this state will be painful and undesirable, hence less associated with bad kamma. Currently it remains a social disability. If our culture were to exalt these differences then gaining them would require good kamma.

    These reflections should help rouse compassion towards anyone who does not meet standard expectations of gender, relationship preference or gender identity.

    Someone asked about ordination of hermaphrodites. A number of conditions among new monastics led to mockery of the Sangha thus became reasons to disallow ordination, such as castration among men, various female troubles among women that would have disqualified them from marriage (such as constant menstruation), and the social taboo of a branding of the skin on a visible place of the body. Hermaphrodites and those lacking sexual characteristics were among the list. But since even large and striking tattoos are overlooked nowadays, perhaps some of these other ordination restrictions may quietly ease eventually as social perceptions change.

  15. besides, Sujato’s original article discusses eg sexual orientation and gender, and Leonardo’s treatment of the subject, with his well know androgynous figures, comes to mind, as does the mystery and ambiguity surrounding his own sexuality.

  16. Bhante,

    I had some questions about monk life and would like to correspond with you privately. I understand that you are incredibly busy, and would patiently await hearing back from you, but would appreciate your perspective on a question which I’m currently contemplating.

    Many thanks and best wishes,
    Bhikkhu K

  17. “Nibbana is among those things that are “undesignated”. It is beyond good and evil, and its existence signifies that an escape from the duality is possible.”
    “The real purpose of a true religious or spiritual path is to point to a greater or a higher sense of meaning; a value that changes all values. For Buddhists, this is Nibbana”

    Bhante,
    Could you explain how / if Nibbana is different from the atheist’s belief in the afterlife? If not then wouldn’t it be preferable to fast track it by taking the atheist’s perspective?

    Much appreciated

    • Hi Pookie,

      By the atheist’s belief, I assume you mean the annihilationist view that there is nothing after death? I’d prefer to use the word annihilationist here, as it is more specific. Typically atheism implies the rejection of a god in the metaphysical sense, so I regard myself as an atheist.

      The difference between the annihilationist view and the Buddha’s is subtle, and not easy to capture in full in a brief comment. But there are some things we can say.

      The simple problem is the practical one. According to the Suttas, the belief in annihilationism, that is, that there is no afterlife (or only a limited number of them) and afterwards there is nothing, is simply wrong. There is, in fact, a continuation of consciousness for all except the enlightened. So, being based on delusion, this view does not lead to the anticipated results. People who hold this view don’t think they will be reborn, but in fact they are. So this view offers no solace or progress towards true peace. It is not a fast track, it is losing the track.

      On the other hand, again arguing from the Suttas here, since it is a fact that we are reborn, the view that this is the case is a correct one, and provides a meaningful basis for spiritual progress. Of course, if the Suttas are incorrect, and there is in fact no such thing as rebirth, then this argument fails.

      The second thing we can say is regarding the nature of suffering. Suffering, like anything else in this conditioned realm, is relative. We perceive our situation as happy, until we see something better. So from the annihilationist point of view, all there is is this life. And this life is mostly not too bad. There is, therefore, no real understanding of dukkha in this worldview. If you look at how dukkha is discussed in secularist circles, it is all very middle class and theoretical. Just deal with it, and then it ends; it’s not such a big deal. However, from the Buddhist point of view, consciousness just keeps going on, and it experiences the most horrific forms of suffering again and again. Thus the escape from suffering, which is Nibbana, assumes an urgent importance.

      Finally, I’ll just mention a theoretical distinction, which I have raised before on the blog, Ken Wilber’s pre/trans fallacy. This says, in general, that if we proceed from A to B to C, that A and C always have something similar, that is, they are not B. Someone who is at point A or B, therefore, will often tend to confuse them. However, someone at point C knows for themselves what points A and B are like, and knows that despite certain similarities they are also very different.

      I think this is what is happening here. As we start out on our spiritual journey, we have a limited grasp of the truth, and we see only dimly. There are, it is true, important similarities between the annihilationist position and that of the Suttas. But there are also great differences, which only become apparent over time.

      The most critical difference is the experiential aspect. We see cessation as happiness, because this is how we are trained through our meditation. Each step of meditation is a gradual cessation, and we know for ourselves that this is the purest form of bliss. Nibbana is nothing but the continuation of this process, the “settling of all activities”.

    • Sujato says:

      There is, in fact, a continuation of consciousness for all except the enlightened.

      i came to a similar conclusion, that atta does exist, but only in samsara and as long as one fosters one’s personality or individuality one is bound to remain in samsara

    • <>
      <>

      May I point out a few problems:
      1. The word enlightened in ambiguous. What does it mean?
      2. How to reconcile ‘atta does exist’ with the anatta concept.
      3. Samsara implies life before birth and life after birth and life from birth to death. In short the fundamental problem of philosophy; that is speculation.
      4. Within the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha there is no room for speculation, to my knowledge.

    • Bayan writes,

      i came to a similar conclusion, that atta does exist

      I don’t think that’s what Bhante Sujato is saying, that atta does exist. The sense that there is an atta and that there is any permanent existence are the results of attachments to the 5 khandas (clinging aggregates); they arise and cease; they are not indications of any underlying permanent or unchanging essence (atta).

      Saying that “there is a continuation of consciousness for all except the enlightened” and saying that “atta does exist” seem to be two different things.

    • Thank you for your quick response.
      <>
      The problem has to do with the word ‘exist’. For us human beings, atta does exist. I think therefore I am.
      Atta is Vedic Sanskrit atman. For the Lord Buddha. “atta” is I, me and mine. See anttakakkhanasutta.
      The context of the sutta is: Lord Buddha (Buddho Bhagavaa) and the bhikkhus of the Group of five; they were all sotapannas. As they were listening to the exposition of Anattalakkha there minds were freed from Asavas. A perosn who is freed from, according to the Sutta does not think as I me and mine.
      The elimination of ‘I me and mine’ starts with a sotapanna. A sotapanna has no Sakkayaditthi. That is this body is not “I me mine”. At this point, the “mind” is “I me mine” (to a sotapanna). When a sotapanna, only and only if, listens to a “Bhagava Araham Sammaasambuddo”, he beomes a Sutavaa Ariyasavako then he is freed from Asavas. And he is freed from ‘I me and mine’ (anatta). This is my reading of the intended meaning of the Sutta.

      A personal note: I don’t “understand the Sutta”. I don;t accept that there are any sotapannas in this world since at least the First Split of Savakasangha.
      My understanding of Lord Buddha is that he was the greatest human being in history. He is above this worls like the purest lotus. I therefore venerate him with all my heart an soul, I use the expression: “Namo tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammasambuddhassa”. I never use the expression “the Buddha”. I use the term “Lord Buddha” because he is my Lord.

      Again many thanks for your reply.

    • There are few typographical error in my previous reply. Please accept my apolgies.
      Here is a version with the errors corrected. [There still may besome]

      The problem has to do with the word ‘exist’. For us human beings, atta does exist–I think therefore I am.
      Atta is Vedic Sanskrit atman. For the Lord Buddha. “atta” is ‘I, me and mine’. See anttakakkhanasutta.
      The context of the sutta is: Lord Buddha (Buddho Bhagavaa) and the bhikkhus of the Group of five; the GoF bhikkhus were all sotapannas. As they were listening to the exposition of Anattalakkha Sutta their minds were freed from Asavas. A perosn who is freed from Asavas, according to the Sutta, does not think as “I me and mine”.
      The elimination of “I me and mine” starts with a Sotapanna. A Sotapanna has no Sakkayaditthi. That is: this body is not “I me mine”. At this point, the “mind” is “I me mine” (to a Sotapanna). When a Sotapanna, only and only if, he listens to a “Bhagava Araham Sammaasambuddo”, he beomes a Sutavaa Ariyasavako then he is freed from Asavas. And he is freed from ‘I me and mine’ (anatta). This is my reading of the intended meaning of the Sutta.

      A personal note: I don’t “understand the Sutta”. I don;t accept that there are any Sotapannas in this world since at least the First Split of Savakasangha.
      My understanding of Lord Buddha is that he was the greatest human being in history. He is above this world like the purest lotus. I therefore venerate him with all my heart an soul, I use the expression: “Namo tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammasambuddhassa”. I never use the expression “the Buddha”. I use the term “Lord Buddha” because he is my Lord. The Buddha is an English term used by outsiders.

    • Brc says:

      The sense that there is an atta and that there is any permanent existence are the results of attachments to the 5 khandas (clinging aggregates)

      that’s right, and these attachments are only possible in samsara
      in absolute terms this is an illusion, but in samsara it’s very real and everyone can attest to that

      D.C. Wijeratna says:

      3. Samsara implies life before birth and life after birth and life from birth to death. In short the fundamental problem of philosophy; that is speculation.
      4. Within the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha there is no room for speculation, to my knowledge.

      it’s a perfectly dhammic concept, it’s the Buddha himself who in the Suttas acknowledges or implies the fact of innumerable lifetimes before the current one and countless lifetimes expecting a person after the current one unless a noble level is achieved
      it’s quite self-evident i would guess

    • <>
      Self-evident is a dangerous word. In epistemology (theory of knowledge), a self-evident proposition is one that is known to be true by understanding its meaning without proof. [Wikipedia].

    • D.C. Wijeratna

      not sure why you take the labor to point that out as the word was used in a specific context, which does warrant its use
      i don’t think the Buddha’s stance on rebirth is a matter of proving, or disputing, or figuring out for those familiar with the Nikayas, it’s for that reason that it’s self-evident
      if you don’t agree, say so with reasoning, so we discuss the subject matter instead of judging statements, like this one is speculation, that one is dangerous etc.

    • Sujato says:

      I didn’t say that the atta existed, but that consciousness does.

      ‘exist’ is a word defining something permanent isn’t it? atta is understood as something permanent isn’t it?

      so by deduction: if consciousness exists, it’s permanent, and if it’s permanent it is consciousness which is atta

      but even the statement that consciousness exists or is continued isn’t orthodox, since being a khandha it is impermanent

    • In English, the word “exist” doesn’t carry any connotation of permanence. A meal exists, a mood exists, an idea exists, and they all pass away. In Indic, it is true, terms derived from asti/atthi sometimes have a philosophic force of permanence, some echoes of which we can see in the suttas. But in ordinary usage even these are frequently used in contexts of impermanence. Anyway, in saying that consciousness exists I was not implying any permanence, of course.

    • <> True. However, exist implies objective reality or being (Oxford Dictionaries).

      <> I remember reading somewhere atthi and natthi are two extremes. Without resorting to these ends the Tathagata point out the Dhamma with a middle approach (Majjhena). Sutta words are not derived from any language, real or imagianary. They are the words of the Dhamma of the Lord. They have the properties given in “Svakkhato Bhagavata Dhammo…”–the definition.

      <> According to Dhamma, consciousness cannot be seen (Anidassanam). It is not possible to speak of anything you don’t know, according to Ludwig Wittgensteinn. This is generally accepted now.

  18. Thanks for this post, Bhante. I had a transgender friend who was murdered, years ago now – the kind of discrimination you are opposing here can be very violent, and speaking out against it is important. I have great admiration for people who live openly between the genders in our society. It is an act of considerable courage and integrity.

    I am a little surprised that you position yourself as someone outside this kind of problem, whose privilege makes you immune to it. No offense, but as a Western man who has spent most of his life getting around in a kind of wrap-around dress, you’re pretty weird…🙂 Seriously, it seems to me that monastics do occupy a space that is beyond the usual categories of gender (even if gender, paradoxically, seems to be a peculiarly vexed issue in this domain).

    • Hi Juzzeau,

      Good point! It’s true that we obfuscate these boundaries quite nicely. But I was mainly meaning that I hadn’t really suffered as a result of this. In fact the opposite; monks are hallowed and raised above society. Just a couple of nights ago I was invited to say some words at a gathering in the Wesley Church in Perth, before the good and the great; well, in front of the rich and powerful anyway. I didn’t notice any trans people on the podium…

    • Abhidhamma is generally considered later than the Nikayas. There are in existence more than one Abhidhamma. Sarvastivada Abhidhamma is one of them. Fragments of Sariputta Abhidhamma has been found in China it seems.

      I am not sure, whether there is a consensus on the meaning of Abhidhamma. I think that a discussion of the meaning of of the word “Abhidhamma” should be the start.

      I am in agreement with the interpretation suvaca in the Karaniya Metta Sutta, It comes from a different “source”. The word is the same as the Sinhala ‘suvaca’. We were instructed by our teacher’s, in primary school, to end our letters to our teachers thus “Suvaca shishya”.

  19. Hello,
    Theravada (Elders) Sangha in Asia do not condone to ‘ah kuah’ (homos) and matriarchy in the Sangha. It has prospered in this hierarchy for a few millenniums, and now in the West for the past 45 years.

    May the Theravada Sangha and Theravada Buddhism continue to prosper with the Buddha Dhamma & Vinaya in its origin form & order, both in Asia and in the West though in recent years it had relatively become a minority tradition with the emergence of various sects & traditions in Buddhism after having survived for a few millenniums. The original form & order of Theravada (Elders) Sangha would probably go extinct if the Theravada (Elders) Sangha is weak and easily susceptible to the winds of change in the world.

    It cannot be denied that there are now attempts by both internal & external force to topple and weaken the Theravada (Elders) Sangha and Theravada Buddhism. May the Theravada Buddhism live long for many more millenniums.

    The majority Westerners are oblivious that they had been socially- influenced and mentally-controlled by the secret force ‘Illuminati’. Has ‘Illuminati’ found its way to Buddhism?! Not surprising.

    • But what is the difference between the Theravada and Mahayana. These came to existence after the First Split. So they have nothing to do with the Lord’s Dhamma. Neither group did understand the Lord’s Dhamma.

  20. Including the 3rd category, the not-either/or, is so important for seeing reality as it is. And for skillfully, compassionately dealing w/ that reality. But how hard it is to not rely on the dualisms! They make it (we believe) so much easier to get along, make it so much easier to know, to be secure ….. & to thereby lessen all the existential fears that come w/ being human. For in seeing the 3rd category, the middle way, we have to pay much more attention, & evaluate our thoughts & behaviors all the time. We have to consider what is right based on reality, so we have to look at more things that might scare us. I think this is why there is so much backlash to LGBTQ rights (just to name one potent issue) — those who have minds conditioned to the dualities are frightened out of those mindsets by ‘the others’.

  21. Sujato says:

    Anyway, in saying that consciousness exists I was not implying any permanence, of course.

    So by acknowledgement of a continuation of consciousness do you, bhante, of opinion that consciousness kind of connects between two adjacent lifetimes without breaking up at death of a being?
    … And so do fabrications along with it since they condition the existence of consciousness

    • Yes, although I wouldn’t use the translation fabrications: perhaps “intentions”. But of course these is a continuing process, not a permanent entity.

    • alright, if so there must be a certain kind of individuality to it even though it’s changing, something which can be called ‘This is me, this is my self, this is what I am.’ manifested as a linear stream of ever changing consciousness, intentions and other aggregates, just like a river which always has different water but the same (more or less or in large part) bed, or a brain which is the same while the thoughts are different

      because the Buddha is known to teach that kamma is individual, and so produces results linearly in only one direction which every time ripen in one particular lifetime or along one stream of consecutive lifetimes connected with one another by cause-and-effect relationship

      this view is also supported by the essence of the ability to recollect past lives where one recollects lives one associates particularly with oneself and not with others

      ‘There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.’ Thus he recollects his manifold past lives in their modes and details. Just as if a man were to go from his home village to another village, and then from that village to yet another village, and then from that village back to his home village. The thought would occur to him, ‘I went from my home village to that village over there. There I stood in such a way, sat in such a way, talked in such a way, and remained silent in such a way. From that village I went to that village over there, and there I stood in such a way, sat in such a way, talked in such a way, and remained silent in such a way. From that village I came back home.’

      Samaññaphala Sutta (DN 2)

      if kamma produced in one particular lifetime would affect many different lives, spiritual and moral progress wouldn’t be possible, attempts of improving one’s future lives by doing wholesome deeds would lose their effectiveness and attaining any noble level and eventual awakening would become highly contingent

      so this stream of individual existence, to which this changing consciousness and intentions belong, is what can be called ‘This is me, this is my self, this is what I am.’, that’s what i meant by atta existing in samsara
      can you agree?

      and how would you reconcile with your point of view that consciousness continues after physical death the statement from the Nagara sutta (SN 12.65) ?

      ‘Name-&-form exists when what exists? From what as a requisite condition is there name-&-form?’ From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: ‘Name-&-form exists when consciousness exists. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form.’ Then the thought occurred to me, ‘Consciousness exists when what exists? From what as a requisite condition comes consciousness?’ From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: ‘Consciousness exists when name-&-form exists. From name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness.’

      because if follows from it that once the body with its psychic faculties disintegrates there should be no consciousness remaining

    • Just to quickly respond to a couple of pointshere:

      if kamma produced in one particular lifetime would affect many different lives, spiritual and moral progress wouldn’t be possible, attempts of improving one’s future lives by doing wholesome deeds would lose their effectiveness and attaining any noble level and eventual awakening would become highly contingent

      This only applies if kamma is deterministic, and if all things are determined by kamma. This was exactly the argument that the Buddha leveled against the Jains. For the Buddha, past kamma was merely one of multiple influences, and it never determines the choices that you make in the present.

      if follows from it that once the body with its psychic faculties disintegrates there should be no consciousness remaining

      No, because “rupa” (translated above as “form”) does not just mean the body. The Suttas distinguish between olarikarupa (coarse matter), which includes the body, and sukhumarupa (subtle matter) which would include things like the mind made body and so on. These are never really defined in great detail, but they clearly include the kinds of energetic forms that are frequently attested in out of body experiences, near death experiences, and the like. So at death the coarse matter is left behind, while there is still a representation of this in subtle matter. Think, for example, of the relation between a sheet of paper with a message written on it, and the information on that paper as represented in digital form.

  22. Hi Victoria, Bhante is one of the most liberal forces around in Buddhism today. Thanks Bhante, for enduring the down side of this.

  23. hi Victoria It would be great if you came to Australia. Santi Monastery was started by Bhante Sujato and they accept all kinds of people there (even me). He is a cool monk and you are very smart. We need critical thinkers in Theravada so I am not bothered by this conflict. My first supervisor in shale gas hydraulic fracturing risk to groundwater in Western Australia was a Russian woman.I think Russian women are very interesting. All the best for the New Year. Hope to see you around.

  24. I don’t know, but this appears very confusing and conflicting to me. If gays or lesbians are allowed to be ordained into the Order and stay together, what is the difference with nuns staying with monks? If all monks, nuns, gays and lesbians had to be celibate, isn’t the nuns then be allowed to stay together with the monks if gays are allowed to stay together with the monks or lesbians with the nuns? Obviously doesn’t make sense to me. That was the reason Buddha forbids third genders ordinations i.e. pandakas because of this problem in co-habiting together.

    During Buddha’s time there was a pandaka who engaged in sexual intercourse with a same gender and when the incident was related to the Buddha, a rule was laid down by the Buddha that all pandakas cannot be ordained. I think pandakas apply to all kinds of same gender sexual activities, not only limited to haemopridite because it was the mode of sexual act or sexual desire that was the determining factor and not singled out the different types. It’s common sense!

    • this is a legit point

      since sexual desire is one of the strongest and toughest to overcome, having a mixed monastic community would put its members under additional strain in their efforts to keep the precept of celibacy, giving unnecessary allurement and undermining their heedfulness

      placing male homosexuals with men and female homosexuals with women creates the same problem for them, but at the same time their effective separation seems impossible since in every configuration they will either be prone to seduction themselves or act as a factor of seduction for others

      still living in separate communities in the Buddha time didn’t prevent monks and nuns from committing violations of the Vinaya rules regulating sexual behavior, so it really is up to a person and his/er own responsibility

    • I don’t know, but my thought is that by staying together is putting themselves ‘from the frying pan into the fire’ where they throw themselves into more unnecessary sexual oppression within this given environment. It’d be more chaotic, disturbing and challenging for them both emotionally and sexually. If they are serious in celibacy, don’t they think it’d be easier without such companions of temptations and environment? Aren’t they not asking for it? From the frying pan to the fire? It’s not compassionate towards them. I don’t find it compassionate. If we’re truly compassionate for their welfare, don’t we think we should provide a more conducive environment rather than a challenging environment for their celibacy practice? Aren’t we supposed to be concern for them on a personal scale rather than appearing compassionate by the virtue of inclusiveness or gender equality propaganda by ordaining them and then put them in a lion’s den, so to speak. It’s not helping at all by subjecting them to a place worse than before they got ordained as it’s not conducive and sexual-friendly. I empathize with them. Help them not challenge them. My 2 cent.

    • And I don’t find any kindness in the act of subjecting them into this sort of avoidable unnecessary challenge. Instead, I find it a cruel thing to do to them and is not at all compassionate!

    • I think it’s more of a management issue than anything. Of course, humans being what they are, you can’t stop hanky panky, no matter what rules you make. At the end of the day, you have to rely on people’s sincerity.

      It is certainly incorrect to say that a pandaka applies to all kinds of same sex activities. Even a fleeting familiarity with the Vinaya literature would dispel this idea. The term pandaka is obscure and variable in meaning, but it refers to some kind of physical/cultural category. There are many, many references to same sex activity among the Sangha in the Vinaya, and this is never equated with being a pandaka. Of course, as in the example you cite, a pandaka can engage in same-sex activity, but this doesn’t imply that all same sex activity is that of pandakas. Same sex activity is treated routinely in the Vinaya, and it is never penalized or demeaned as compared to heterosexuality.

      The Buddha’s teachings are beautiful, wise, and full of compassion. Let us not demean them by importing these cruel, primitive, ignorant superstitions from the worst forms of theistic religions.

    • With much respect, it didn’t sound like superstition to me, perhaps to others but to me I called it common sense. Sorry to say that common sense is neither madness, cruel or primitive. A wise mother would put common sense above superstition and all that jazz. Don’t mean to be sarcastic here but to me it’s a fact. Brilliant horoscope though.

    • I found this article on the subject that I found interesting: http://www.buddhanet.net/homosexu.htm The article notes that “a type of person called a pandaka is occasionally mentioned in the Vinaya in contexts that make it clear that such a person is some kind of sexual non-conformist. The Vinaya also stipulates that pandakas are not allowed to be ordained, and if, inadvertently, one has been, he is expelled.”

      The article does not equate a pandaka with a gay or lesbian person, but rather a person that demonstrates peculiar or exaggerated behaviors, the modern day “screaming queen” (article’s term, not mine). “As the Buddha seems to have had a profound understanding of human nature and have been remarkably free from prejudice, and as there is not evidence that homosexuals are any more libidinous or that they have any more difficulties in maintaining celibacy than heterosexuals, it seems unlikely that the Buddha would exclude homosexuals per se from the monastic life. The term pandaka therefore probably does not refer to homosexuals in general but rather to the effeminate, self-advertising and promiscuous homosexual.”

    • <>

      Pandaka in the context of Dhamma is one who is unable to give up ‘Kamasukhallikanuyoga’; one of the two “Ends”. Vinaya rules do not allow Pandakas to be given Pabbajja. Vinaya is for the Sangha. It governs their behaviour. It is imporper for householders to talk about these rules.

    • <>
      “is this your opinion or is it the official position of the Buddha?”
      The sentence above certainly is mine. It is based on the following statement of the Leader (Satthā):
      Yo vo, ānanda, mayā dhammo ca vinayo ca desito paññatto, so vo mamaccayena satthā.
      Ananda the Dhamma pointed out by me and the Vinaya promulgated by me shall be your Leader, after I am gone.
      This instruction was for Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis. They should follow it. The householders are not bound by the Dhamma and Vinaya of the Leader. I venerate the Leader and the Saṇgha. So for me it is improper to discuss the Vinaya promulgated by the Leader.

    • D.C. Wijeratna,

      i would call your conclusion drawn from the quoted Buddha’s phrase extremely far-fetched and contrived

      from the statement that Vinaya is the guide for monastics there’s no way it could logically follow that it’s a taboo for discussing by householders

      it’s the same as stating that since Qur’an is for believers in Allah, it’s content is taboo for believers in Jehova, Christ, Krisna or atheists

      there’re simply no rules in human logic which would allow such conclusion, it actually sounds fundamentalist

      no less peculiar is your conclusion that householders aren’t bound by the Dhamma, in this respect it’s instructive to take into account that the Buddha addressed his teaching to householders as well, five precepts and Uposatha’s eight precepts are meant for them in particular

    • <>

      Thank you. I gave an opinion. Now you are giving an opinion. Which opinion is true casnnot be decided by debate or argumentaion.

      <>
      The above is what I said.

    • D.C., one thought I can add to this is that, yes, the Vinaya applies to the monastics only. Yet, it can be helpful for the laity to be aware of the Vinaya rules, and to discuss them. This can cultivate an awareness of the life of the monks/nuns and a deeper respect for them. Further, it can be of assistance to the monastics that the laity understand these rules so that the rules can be kept. One example is the injunction against monks handling currency, or a monk being under the roof of a dwelling with a woman inside. If the laity is mindful of the rule against monks and money, it lessens the chance that a lay person in good faith could compromise a monk by placing currency in his/her almsbowl. As Ajahn has said, the Dhamma is the source of the Vinaya rules.

    • Hi, Anagarika, thank you for the reply. It is a Subasitha.
      It depends on the meanings you attach to the word “Buddhism” and the terminology of Buddhism. My perception is that Buddhism is a product of those who don’t understand the Dhamma of the Lord (Bhagavata Dhammo). The simple definition of Lord’s Dhamma is “Svakkhato bhagavata Dhammo Sadditthiko Akaliko Ehipassiko Opanaiko, Paccattam Veditabbo Vinnuhi”. I accept “Bhagava Araham Sammasambuddho” as my Lord–meaning I follow his advice in all matters connected with my life.
      After the “Mahaparinibbana” only the Lord’ Dhamma and Vinaya rules remained. That too was for a short time. Historians say that the Great Schism was the end of Vinaya, From then onwards, there is no Lord, Lord’ Dhamma, Lord’s Sangha in this world. In other words, we are back to the position before the Lord (Buddha); an infinite number of world views. It is impossible to study even one of them properly for lack of adequate data, except possibly Hinduism, and Jainism.

      Fortunately for us, some words of Lord’s word (Buddha-word) remain scattered here and there; especially in the Pali Suttas. For those who want to follow the Lord’s advice there is some relevant advice in the Buddha-word. For example, see the Dhammika Sutta of the Sutta Nipata,

      I hope the above will be helpful to you in some sense.

      With friendly thoughts,
      D.C.

  25. Out of empathy, rightfully, I don’t think they should be confined in such unconducive environment that promotes challenging sexual suppression and oppression on a daily basis. IMO it’s more unhealthy for them, as it is a mental and psychological torment and challenge that they had to face daily unlike those other monastics without such challenging environment. Do you think any parent would allow their children to be ordained and having to face such mental torment? Hope the Sangha would re-assess and review such kind of ordinations (which is said that the Buddha forbids) that inevitably subjecting them to such challenging torture, out of true compassion. Metta.

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