Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.

Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Nov 04, 2009 11:01 pm

Greetings,

I don't really have much to say on this particular issue, because I don't necessarily understand many of the subtleties of the argument.

However, it does sadden me that there exists in Theravada Buddhism barriers, erected based on something inherently empty like gender, on whether one is able to fully commit to the monastic life of which the Buddha praised so highly.

It is good that at least females can become 10-precept nuns, but it would be better if they could be recognised (and thus, supported) as full adherents of the patimokkha.

If Thailand is not welcoming of bhikkhunis, hopefully other traditional Theravada nations where these bhikkunis could be well supported, might be more accommodating... chances are that Thailand might lose some insightful and enlightened females in the process. In such a situation, it is hard to see how it will not be Thailand's loss... deeply spiritual women will leave, and it will be a spiritual version of brain drain.

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby BlackBird » Wed Nov 04, 2009 11:23 pm

I have to apologise for putting the title of 'schism' to this altogether unpleasant series of events. It must be carefully noted that this has nothing to do with communion at all, but to do with affiliation.

All the same, I think it was right to say this has caused a lot of suffering on all sides.

Just viewing the comments in Ven. Sujato's blog is enough to see weighty bad kamma that's cropping up on both sides of this partially-imagined divide. That's what really needs to be addressed. The passion which has arisen in some people carries an inherent danger of making things worse.

Forest Sangha wrote:For now, the willingness to remember our practice of goodwill and careful restraint, rather than allowing our minds to fall into exuberant, unskilful thoughts and speech that can further a sense of divison and confusion, is what will be most helpful.

- source

The quote above hits the nail on the head.

May there be a reconciliation
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby BudSas » Thu Nov 05, 2009 1:56 am

BlackBird wrote:I have to apologise for putting the title of 'schism' to this altogether unpleasant series of events. It must be carefully noted that this has nothing to do with communion at all, but to do with affiliation.


Well said! Sadhu!

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby BudSas » Thu Nov 05, 2009 3:30 am

retrofuturist wrote:
If Thailand is not welcoming of bhikkhunis, hopefully other traditional Theravada nations where these bhikkunis could be well supported, might be more accommodating...


Some humble thoughts based on my current understanding (I might be wrong, and I am prepared to be corrected):

1) I don't believe the official Sangha institution in traditional Theravada countries (ie Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Laos, Cambodia) will formally accept/recognize Bhikkhuni Ordination in the foreseable future. Maybe a kinder form of tolerance, but not a formal acceptance.

2) Bhikkhuni ordination within the spirit of the Pali Vinaya will take place, sooner or later, in monasteries located outside those traditional Theravadan countries (ie monasteries in western countries, and maybe in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc), depending on a number of factors, such as:

- strong or weak ties of the local monastery with the traditional Theravada countries;

- the level of support of the local lay community of that monastery;

- the conduct, sincerety and dedication of the monks and nuns in that monastery;

- the leading role of second (or third) generation of monks who are ordained and mostly trained in monasteries outside those tradional Theravadan countries. Generally, these monks are more sympathetic and supportive of the Bhikkhuni ordination.

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby Vardali » Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:12 am

Interesting development and a clear indication that ego and cultural/traditional bias does not stop at senior Theravadins' doors either.

While I do find Ajahn Brahm's teachings a bit flippant and diosyncratic at times, I am in full support of bhikkhuni ordination, so I have to appreciate his dedication on that matter. If it has been approached in the most skillful way, I cannot say - and at least Ajahn Brahm has been pretty open about his line of action. If the "Five Points" issue from the English sangha - as outlined by Ajahn Sujato - have been corretly represented, I would conclude that this issue has been handled less than openly elsewhere.

It's a shame that Bhikkhuni ordination doesn't seem to find more support in the Thai Forest tradition. Will it create a schism? I would think so - leading to similar discussions about which is the "right" path to follow, as have happened in the past (just think of the vajrayana/hinayana mudslinging). So, in itself it is nothing new. It will show in the long run which interpretations and support will prevail. But at the end of the day, to me, it's nuances on the path, and we all will follow it to the best of our abilities and conditions.
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby gavesako » Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:17 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
gavesako wrote:I don't think anybody ever expected that Wat Pah Pong would agree to the Bhikkhuni Ordination,


Hi Bhante,

Okay, thanks. Then it appears that the timing of the ordinations in October vs. after December is moot, since they would never have approved anyway.

Thanks for the contributions, your work, your support of bhikkhunis, and clarifications. Metta to all.



I think it is important to have access to all the relevant information in order to gain a balanced perspective on the matter, otherwise one will tend to be pulled into one of the extreme views.

The Buddhist Channel is now covering "The Western Sangha Crisis" and here is another open letter which presents some other aspects of the situation, especially regarding the timing (although I don't think the Thai forest monks present at the WPP meeting were so well informed about the whole bhikkhuni matter):


Ajahn Chandako on the Bhikkhuni Ordination in Perth 2009
by Ajahn Chandako, The Buddhist Channel, Nov 5, 2009


This letter was originally written as an open letter to the members of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia, but it may also be shared with others who are interested.

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php ... 66,0,0,1,0
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby cooran » Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:51 am

Dear Ven. Gavesako,

Thank you for this article.

This crisis is not about some supporting and some opposing the Ordination of Bhikkhunis. It is about what is seen as insensitive and unskillful action - as Ajahn Chandako says here:

"And yet I feel this particular ordination was a serious mistake. Why?

First of all, the secrecy with which the ordination was planned and carried out has significantly damaged trust levels with the rest of the Sangha. The normal way we operate as an international monastic community is based on openness and discussion. However, some of the nuns and monks who participated in the ordination told me that they were requested to keep the event secret. They said it was intentionally kept quiet in order to reduce the possibility of other people voicing objections. There was no public announcement until a couple of days beforehand, and the rest of the Sangha only found out indirectly at that time. Ajahn Brahm did not inform his preceptor (the acting head of the Sangha in Thailand) or the head of the Ajahn Chah lineage, Luang Por Liem. Many people feel that they were intentionally deceived.

Secondly is the timing. In just a few months, most of the senior monks and nuns from our tradition would have come together for the first time since the last WAM four years ago. Bhikkhuni ordination was one of the main topics to be discussed. In holding the ordination beforehand, Ajahn Brahm and the Sangha in Perth effectively cut off any discussion on the issue and decided it for themselves. What one monastery decides does not simply affect that monastery, but affects all the other branch monasteries around the world as well. Ajahn Brahm’s decision has already had major harmful effects on the rest of us. To proceed unilaterally on such a sensitive issue as bhikkhuni ordination without consulting other senior monks or nuns came across as blatantly disrespectful and insensitive.

The main issue here is not actually bhikkhuni ordination. The fact is, the vast majority of the senior western monks worldwide are sympathetic to the idea of bhikkhuni ordination, and progress in that direction was also being made in the mainstream of the Asian Theravada Buddhist countries. If Ajahn Brahm had waited to discuss the issue with his peers at the WAM, there was a realistic hope that bhikkhuni ordination would soon be accepted. Then the entire Sangha could have moved forward in unison with a spirit of harmony. I strongly suspect that this ordination at Bodhinyana will set this process of mainstream acceptance back many years."


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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby cooran » Thu Nov 05, 2009 10:01 am

Notification of the Wat Nong Pah Pong Sangha decision to revoke the status of a branch monastery
The Buddhist Channel, Nov 5, 2009

The following is the official statement issued by Wat Nong Pah Pong with regards to the excommunication of Ajahn Brahmavamso from its Sangha
(Editor's note: The statement was slightly edited for grammatical errors)

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- Regarding Phra Visuddhisamvarathera (Ajahn Brahmavamso), abbot of Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery, Perth, Australia, performing a Bhikkhuni ordination on October 22nd, 2009 at Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery with himself as Chanting Acariya and Bhikkhuni Ayya Tathaloka as preceptor.
Ajahn Brahmavamso had thoroughly planned and prepared, and intentionally concealed, not allowing the Sangha of Wat Nong Pah Pong and its branches in Thailand and abroad to know, fearing the objection of the Sangha, (and proceeding) even though the Sangha of Wat Nong Pah Pong and its branches in Thailand and abroad had made a decision against ordaining Bhikkhunis, which was restated many times – the Sangha does not accept the act of ordaining Bhikkhunis on this occasion and holds it as void.
The individuals concerned cannot be considered Theravada Bhikkhunis, as this status contradicts the law of the Mahatherasamakhom, the Sangha administration of the Theravada order in Thailand. Ajahn Brahmavamso had been continually informed of this law, however in violation he went ahead without consulting the Sangha of Wat Nong Pah Pong and its branches in Thailand and abroad.
His actions may cause wrong understanding amongst Buddhists throughout the world, and division of views regarding this issue. For the sake of preventing further problems from arising, and for the unity of the Sangha of Wat Nong Pah Pong and its branches in Thailand and abroad, a meeting was held on November 1st, 2009 at 18:00 hours with Phra Rachapavanavikrom as the presiding monk, together with 160 monks including senior Theras from Thailand and abroad, members of the Sangha committee, and abbots of branch monasteries of Wat Nong Pah Pong both in Thailand and abroad, to have Ajahn Brahmavamso acknowledge his fault in ordaining Bhikkhunis unilaterally.
He would not admit the wrongness of his actions, which contravene the standard kept by the Sangha of Wat Nong Pah Pong to uphold the principles of Dhamma-Vinaya practiced by the Theravada Sangha of Thailand. As a consequence the following unanimous decision was passed:
Bodhinyana Monastery, Perth, Australia, with its abbot Phra Visuddhisamvarathera (Brahmavamso Bhikkhu), is revoked of its status of being a branch monastery of Wat Nong Pah Pong. Wat Nong Pah Pong and its branch monasteries both in Thailand and abroad are not in any way related to or responsible for any of the actions of Bodhinyana Monastery, Perth, Australia, lead by Phra Visuddhisamvarathera (Brahmavamso Bhikkhu), (such as) the ordination of Bhikkhunis that has taken place, and any other activity that may occur in the future.
We therefore make this information available for general distribution, for the notification of whomever may be concerned.
Respectfully yours,
Phra Rachapavanavikrom, (Liem Thitadhammo, abbot of Wat Nong Pah Pong),
Phrakruh Pattanakitvisal (Kam Nissoko),
Phrakru Bodhisarakhunavat (Boonchoo Thitaguno),
Phrakru Ophasavudhigarn (Sophon Obhaso),
Phrakru Pavanaudomakhun (Sopha Uttamo),
Phrakru Suthammaprachot (Kamphong Thitapuñño),
Phra Adhigarn Jundee Kantasaro,
Phra Ajahn Paithun Khantiko,
Phrakru Udomvanahnurak (Sommay Piyadhammo),
Phrakru Palat Anan (Anan Akincano),
Phrakru Nimitviriyanugun (Subin Uttamo),
Phrakru Pavanahnugit (Lai Dipadhammo),
Phra Ajahn Philip Ñanadhammo,
Phrakru Bovornsilavat (Prasert Rakkhitadhammo),
Phrakru Bodhivanahnurak (Vannachit Jitamaro),
Phrakru Vijarasuphavat (Bandit Tejapañño),
Phrakru Santithammaviset (Preechar Jutindharo),
Phra Adhigarn Vichit Adhipuñño,
Phra Adhigarn Henning Kevali.
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby Bankei » Thu Nov 05, 2009 10:15 am

I think the issue is should a monk follow the vinaya or secular authority?

Bhikkhu Sujato makes some good points here, http://sujato.files.wordpress.com/2009/ ... evised.pdf

I would remind the Sangha that Bhikkhuni ordination is a standard, normal saṅghakamma that was laid down by the Lord Buddha in the Vinaya. All saṅghakammas may be performed in the appropriate way by a Sangha within a given sīmā. There is no Vinaya precedent to have to ask for permission from anyone else to carry out saṅghakamma. If a Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni objects to the way the saṅghakamma is performed, they do not have to participate.


Also, on the comment about the ordination of women being against Thai law, two points.
1. Can anyone point to the exact law in question? i.e. Act and section.
2. Why should a person in a foreign country obey such a law, even if there was one?

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby Vardali » Thu Nov 05, 2009 10:25 am

Chris wrote:..

This crisis is not about some supporting and some opposing the Ordination of Bhikkhunis. It is about what is seen as insensitive and unskillful action ...

This might be, but it doesn't fully compute with this:

Chris wrote:....
fearing the objection of the Sangha, (and proceeding) even though the Sangha of Wat Nong Pah Pong and its branches in Thailand and abroad had made a decision against ordaining Bhikkhunis, which was restated many times – the Sangha does not accept the act of ordaining Bhikkhunis on this occasion and holds it as void.
The individuals concerned cannot be considered Theravada Bhikkhunis, as this status contradicts the law of the Mahatherasamakhom, the Sangha administration of the Theravada order in Thailand. Ajahn Brahmavamso had been continually informed of this law, however in violation he went ahead without consulting the Sangha of Wat Nong Pah Pong and its branches in Thailand and abroad. ...

Bold part emphasised by me.

I read this to mean that both Ajahn Brahm's intention to push for Bhikkhuni ordination was known - maybe not the exact date and event - and the WPP position was known to Ajahn Brahm. And considering that this view seems to have been "restated many times", I think it is also obvious that no approval from the Thai side would be forthcoming in any near future.

Which again leaves the "we were not properly consulted" argument a bit shaky imo.

I am afraid this reads like a fundamental difference of opinion - and the question of who has the "final say" on such a matter. That's where dogma begins and ends ...

@Ven. Gavesako:
Could you also share any insight in the "5 Point" issue fo the English Sangha outlined by Ven. Sujato? I am wondering how valid his comments on this matter are, as this would support the view that we are looking at a fundamental "theological" dissens (about how to handle nuns) rather than wrong protocol ...
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby BudSas » Thu Nov 05, 2009 12:41 pm

Chris wrote:Ajahn Chandako says here:

"... Secondly is the timing. In just a few months, most of the senior monks and nuns from our tradition would have come together for the first time since the last WAM four years ago. Bhikkhuni ordination was one of the main topics to be discussed. ...

... The fact is, the vast majority of the senior western monks worldwide are sympathetic to the idea of bhikkhuni ordination, and progress in that direction was also being made in the mainstream of the Asian Theravada Buddhist countries. If Ajahn Brahm had waited to discuss the issue with his peers at the WAM, there was a realistic hope that bhikkhuni ordination would soon be accepted. ..."


I don't know if the "Five Points" story raised in Ven Sujato's Blog is true? He mentioned that those "Five Points", originally drafted by Ajahn Sumedho, were presented by two bhikkhus from the English Council of the Elders to the siladharas in August 2009. The last point is: "The siladhara training is considered to be a vehicle respected in our tradition as suitable for the realization of liberation. It is complete as it stands, and is not an evolution towards a different form such as bhikkhuni ordination." Read the story at:

http://sujato.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/the-five-points/

If it's true, the Elders Council already made up their mind (of not accepting bhikkhuni ordination). Then, what's the point to discuss the bhikkhuni ordination at the December WAM (now cancelled)?

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby gavesako » Thu Nov 05, 2009 1:26 pm

Vardali wrote:
Chris wrote:..

This crisis is not about some supporting and some opposing the Ordination of Bhikkhunis. It is about what is seen as insensitive and unskillful action ...

This might be, but it doesn't fully compute with this:

Chris wrote:....
fearing the objection of the Sangha, (and proceeding) even though the Sangha of Wat Nong Pah Pong and its branches in Thailand and abroad had made a decision against ordaining Bhikkhunis, which was restated many times – the Sangha does not accept the act of ordaining Bhikkhunis on this occasion and holds it as void.
The individuals concerned cannot be considered Theravada Bhikkhunis, as this status contradicts the law of the Mahatherasamakhom, the Sangha administration of the Theravada order in Thailand. Ajahn Brahmavamso had been continually informed of this law, however in violation he went ahead without consulting the Sangha of Wat Nong Pah Pong and its branches in Thailand and abroad. ...

Bold part emphasised by me.

I read this to mean that both Ajahn Brahm's intention to push for Bhikkhuni ordination was known - maybe not the exact date and event - and the WPP position was known to Ajahn Brahm. And considering that this view seems to have been "restated many times", I think it is also obvious that no approval from the Thai side would be forthcoming in any near future.

Which again leaves the "we were not properly consulted" argument a bit shaky imo.

I am afraid this reads like a fundamental difference of opinion - and the question of who has the "final say" on such a matter. That's where dogma begins and ends ...



I also think that it was perhaps an overstatement to say that "bhikkhuni ordination would soon be accepted" in the WPP Sangha, unless it meant that bhikkhunis ordained elsewhere (i.e. in Mahayana tradition, and thus regarded technically as upasika or laywomen by the Thai monks) would be allowed to stay and practise in some of the monasteries, as has already happened in the past.
Some Western monks are fundamentally opposed to bhikkhuni ordination, that is also clear.


@Ven. Gavesako:
Could you also share any insight in the "5 Point" issue fo the English Sangha outlined by Ven. Sujato? I am wondering how valid his comments on this matter are, as this would support the view that we are looking at a fundamental "theological" dissens (about how to handle nuns) rather than wrong protocol ...



I am not qualified to be a spokesman for the English Sangha, and my information is also just second-hand, so I would wait for the relevant document to be made public first of all.
But one thing should be borne in mind by those who write about the situation in England: Ajahn Sumedho did something quite revolutionary when he ordained the first Siladhara (brown) nuns about 25 years ago. From what I heard from him, he tried to ask the senior Thai monks for their opinion first but never got a clear Yes/No answer from them (very much Thai style). So he just took it as a hint that he could go ahead with it if things were kept under control and there were no major issues arising from that. Remember, at that time this was probably regarded as being very radical, similar to Ajahn Brahm ordaining bhikkhunis now. Ajahn Sumedho also said that he can be inspired by great ideals and wants to do what it noble and right. Since then, he has lived with nuns pretty much all the time in England and that relationship has not been easy to say the least. There were many tensions and problems (I will omit the details here) for which not just the monks are to blame, so there is some sense of frustration. It is in this light that the above mentioned "5 points" have to be seen, there is a lot of history behind them, which the Australian monks never experienced first-hand.
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby Vardali » Thu Nov 05, 2009 1:35 pm

Thank you, Bhante, your comments are good enough for me.

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby pilgrim » Thu Nov 05, 2009 1:52 pm

Ajahn Chandako, in his letter, says:
""If the ordination had been independent of Bodhinyana Monastery, Ajahn Brahm would not have been able to take credit for it. Many people I have spoken to think that what was most important to Ajahns Brahm and Sujato was that they go down in history as the ones who revived the bhikkhuni order in the Theravada tradition."
I know the Ajahn is a forest monk, but surely he must know that the bhikkhuni order was revived in the eighties and that there are now hundreds of bhikkhunis all over the world including the west. Or is he is talking about western monks only. Ordinations by Asian monks don't count?
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby notself » Thu Nov 05, 2009 3:38 pm

pilgrim, you make a good point

Here is a link to a directory of Bhikkhuni Centers in Canada and the US.
http://www.bhikkhuni.net/Directory.html

Here is a link to International Bhikkhuni Centers.
http://www.bhikkhuni.net/International%20Dir.html

I can't speak about the International Bhikkhunis, but the American Bhikkhunis were all ordained by Asians in India and Sri Lanka.

I for one do not consider Thailand to be the sole arbiter of Theravada Buddhism. If Thailand doesn't want to follow the wishes of the Buddha that is their affair, but I think that the leadership of Theravada will shift to those groups and nations who do recognize Bhikkhunis. I fear that Thailand will become a backwater of Buddhist thought and practice.
Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he is indeed the noblest victor who conquers himself. ---Dhp 103
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Nov 05, 2009 4:06 pm

notself wrote:pilgrim, you make a good point
Here is a link to a directory of Bhikkhuni Centers in Canada and the US.
http://www.bhikkhuni.net/Directory.html
Here is a link to International Bhikkhuni Centers.
http://www.bhikkhuni.net/International%20Dir.html
I can't speak about the International Bhikkhunis, but the American Bhikkhunis were all ordained by Asians in India and Sri Lanka.
I for one do not consider Thailand to be the sole arbiter of Theravada Buddhism. If Thailand doesn't want to follow the wishes of the Buddha that is their affair, but I think that the leadership of Theravada will shift to those groups and nations who do recognize Bhikkhunis. I fear that Thailand will become a backwater of Buddhist thought and practice.


Thank you pilgrim and notself. I was hoping someone would mention this. Some people are discussing this in other forums and around the internet as if this is the FIRST time (since 1017 AD) women have been ordained as full bhikkhunis. Ayya Khema was a Theravada bhikkhuni in 1988, another group ordained in 1996 and many more ordained from 2000 to present day in the U.S. and Sri Lanka. Bhikkhuni Dhammananda is a full bhikkhuni living in Thailand and she has other bhikkhunis in her monastery too.

The question is to the "validity" of the ordinations, with some feeling that they are not valid and others in full support of the ordinations. We do not hear much about Ven. Piyananda, a Dhamma friend of mine, but he was instrumental in the reinstatement that occurred in Sarnath, India in 1996. Ven. Piyananda is a Sri Lankan monk, living in Los Angeles at one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the U.S.
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby gavesako » Thu Nov 05, 2009 4:21 pm

The reason why they mention it as being "the first bhikkhuni ordination" is because of the involvement of Western monks ordained in the Thai forest tradition, who have a certain pride in keeping the Vinaya more strictly than others (mainly not handling money directly). One of the arguments against the bhikkhuni ordination so far has been that "even if they wear the robes, they don't keep the rules anyway, they use money and travel alone, etc." This group of bhikkhunis, following Ayya Tathaaloka who was their preceptor, will keep certain aspects of the Vinaya more strictly than the existing bhikkhunis in Sri Lanka for example.
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby notself » Thu Nov 05, 2009 6:01 pm

Venerable,
Just out of curiosity, how would you rate the compliance to the Vinaya by the lineage of Bhante Henepola Gunaratana (if you know)? He is the abbot of the Bhavana Society of West Virginia, USA.
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby cooran » Thu Nov 05, 2009 6:38 pm

Hello notself,

Does Bhante Henepola Gunaratana claim to be head of a "lineage"?

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby notself » Thu Nov 05, 2009 6:54 pm

Chris wrote:Hello notself,

Does Bhante Henepola Gunaratana claim to be head of a "lineage"?

metta
Chris

I don't think so. What I meant was did the lineage to which he belongs follow the vinaya.
Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he is indeed the noblest victor who conquers himself. ---Dhp 103
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