The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby Bankei » Thu Nov 05, 2009 10:13 am

As you have probably read elsewhere Ajahn Brahm and his temple, Bodhinyana, has been expelled from the Forest Sangha Network (FSN) and the Wat Pah Pong (WPP) group.

I want to use this thread to discuss the ‘expulsion’ rather than the ordination issues.

Overall I think this is a good thing for a few reasons.

Ajahn Brahm is a senior monk, why should he have to submit to the authority of Wat Pa Pong in Thailand or even of other senior monks? The Vinaya is the sole authority for determining Sangha issues and the Vinaya makes no mention of the Mahatherasamakhom, Thai Council of Elders. Nor does it mention branch temples coming under the authority of ‘head temples’.

The Vinaya says a monk is independent with 5 rains as a Bhikkhu. With 10 rains a monk can act as a preceptor – there are no State registrations or certificates or exams needed.

Ajahn Brahm wasn’t even ordained in the ‘lineage’ of Ajahn Chah. He was ordained by the current acting Sangharaja Buddhajahn.

Another related issue is diversity. The Sangha in the west is still new and small, but it is dominated by monks of the FSN. This stifles diversity of opinion and flavour of Buddhism. The FSN only one particular approach, or style of Buddhism or even within Thai Buddhism it is just one small part. Wouldn’t it be a shame if it was thought that all Buddhism or all monks should conform to this style?

The monks in the Ajahn Chah lineage are also very Thai, despite most of them being westerners. Not all Thai trained western monks are like this. It’s good to have diversity.

Not all of the monks taught by Ajahn Chah or others in his lineage want to be members of the group. There was another English monk who went his own way many years ago – I forget his name now, Khema something. Ajahn Sujato also decided not to be part of the group.

I am not sure what benefits there would be in being a ‘member’ of the group. Lack of independence and a requirement to submit to the authority in England are the obvious draw backs. Maybe there were yearly membership fees too as well as the requirements to fly around the world for meetings.

What does everyone think?

Bankei
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Re: The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby PeterB » Thu Nov 05, 2009 11:00 am

I think that even among the wise human frailities will always creep in. I think we should perhaps refrain from taking sides, and wait to see how things develop, as develop they will. In the meantime we all have cushions that need sitting on, and breath that needs observing etc.
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Re: The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby zavk » Thu Nov 05, 2009 11:21 am

May all parties be at ease and be at peace.
With metta,
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Re: The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby notself » Thu Nov 05, 2009 3:57 pm

Bankei,
I agree with your post. If the Buddha had wanted to establish a hierarchy of monks with a supreme patriarch and a panel of dhamma bureaucrats, he would have done so. When asked the Buddha refused to do so, leaving only the teachings and the discipline as a guide.

From the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.
33. "Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.

"And how, Ananda, is a bhikkhu an island unto himself, a refuge unto himself, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as his island, the Dhamma as his refuge, seeking no other refuge?

34. "When he dwells contemplating the body in the body, earnestly, clearly comprehending, and mindfully, after having overcome desire and sorrow in regard to the world; when he dwells contemplating feelings in feelings, the mind in the mind, and mental objects in mental objects, earnestly, clearly comprehending, and mindfully, after having overcome desire and sorrow in regard to the world, then, truly, he is an island unto himself, a refuge unto himself, seeking no external refuge; having the Dhamma as his island, the Dhamma as his refuge, seeking no other refuge.

35. "Those bhikkhus of mine, Ananda, who now or after I am gone, abide as an island unto themselves, as a refuge unto themselves, seeking no other refuge; having the Dhamma as their island and refuge, seeking no other refuge: it is they who will become the highest, [20] if they have the desire to learn."
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: The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Nov 05, 2009 9:46 pm

Greetings notself,

notself wrote:If the Buddha had wanted to establish a hierarchy of monks with a supreme patriarch and a panel of dhamma bureaucrats, he would have done so. When asked the Buddha refused to do so, leaving only the teachings and the discipline as a guide.


Well said.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Nov 05, 2009 9:56 pm

Hi notself,
notself wrote: When asked the Buddha refused to do so, leaving only the teachings and the discipline as a guide.

Yes, so Wat Pah Pong can cease collaborating with Ajahn Brahm but not revoke his status as a Bhikkhu.

Metta
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Re: The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby pilgrim » Fri Nov 06, 2009 2:51 am

How does this impact the monks ordained or training in Bodhinyana? Are they still part of the WPP sangha and allowed to stay at their monasteries? Will monks from WPP monasteries be allowed by their abbots to stay at Bodhinyana? How does this influence the intentions of those who aspire to ordain in choosing a suitable monastery?
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Re: The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby jcsuperstar » Fri Nov 06, 2009 5:20 am

i doubt thats all been worked out yet
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby Raga Mala » Fri Nov 06, 2009 8:28 am

Hey all,
Sorry I am new to this story...what is the reason for this, or the stated reason? Is there a link to a statement by WPP that I can read for more background on this?

I find Ajahn Brahm to be a great teacher and his teachings have been a great help to me, I hope that this will not affect his ability to disseminate his teachings.

Peace
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Re: The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Nov 06, 2009 8:42 am

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Re: The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby siqi_81 » Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:10 am

http://www.bswa.org/modules/news/articl ... toryid=769

Hi, the above link is the response from the monastery on this.
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Re: The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby shjohnk » Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:28 am

PeterB wrote:I think that even among the wise human frailities will always creep in. I think we should perhaps refrain from taking sides, and wait to see how things develop, as develop they will. In the meantime we all have cushions that need sitting on, and breath that needs observing etc.


:goodpost:
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Re: The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby pink_trike » Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:49 am

Raga Mala wrote:Hey all,
...what is the reason for this


Most likely complexities of politics, personalities, and dogma that will never fully be disclosed publicly.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Re: The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:55 am

Bankei wrote:As you have probably read elsewhere Ajahn Brahm and his temple, Bodhinyana, has been expelled from the Forest Sangha Network (FSN) and the Wat Pah Pong (WPP) group.

There is nothing about that that is a surprise. It probably would have better has AB resigned from those organizations before hand rather than forcing this action by them. Badly handled it would seem.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Expulsion of Ajahn Brahm from the FSN

Postby Vardali » Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:57 am

It is my impression that there are a few issues intermingled here:

One the shere issue of bhikkhuni ordination within a Thai forest tradition or branch thereof
The role of Ajahn Brahm himself (as a teacher, personality, monastic leader)
The role of Western vs a parochial "Homeland" perspective

That this story has made (Buddhist) headlines seems to be very much centered around AB. I doubt it would have had started the same level of discussion if bhikkhuni ordination had been brought up in such a way by some more obscure (in terms of less proliferate) teacher with far less general air time. And if so, it might have focused on the issue of bhikkhuni ordination in Theravada/Thai Forest in general, rather on this particular case. But then again, I am not sure how likely it would have been for anyone but a self-proclaimed "free spirit" like AB to push for it against established setup.

I guess there is little doubt that AB has been a very proliferate producer of teachings, via his pretty effective internet presence, books and international appearances. From my perception (coming from Germany), he is hard to miss when you look for Theravada teachings on the net. Be it self-marketing or just an explicit international stance, it is fair to say he's more high profile as a Buddhist teacher than many other, probably equally deserving teachers. This makes him more visible and hence more subject to criticism. By this effect alone AB is prone to polarize.

I know that I didn't like his style at all in the beginning, it was too flippant and "pop-cultured" for my taste when I started off; more sober and solemn styles went down much better for me, initially. Still, I have to admit, AB has grown on me; he certainly is inspiring and refreshing, even though I still move elsewhere for some more indepth understanding.

I am under the impression that this polarity around AB is driving the current discussion. I noticed the reference to concerns from the WPP monks about "BSWA" turning into a "cult", i.e. a threat to (their) established tradition. This seems to permeate the discussion to such an extent that the scholastic view on the bhikkhuni ordination has been - conveniently? - sidelined by the WPP - unjustifiedly so, in my opinion. Though unfortunate, the discussion shown highlights the question of what differences will charismatic leaders make in the evolution of teachings.
AB is undoubtedly charismatic and I would think he appeals to a lot of Western students/disciples because he transmits Asian (Buddhist) perspectives into a frame of reference that is easily accessible to Australian, European and American students. This alone makes it an interesting field-study how this development - and the Australian vs. the traditional Thai path - turns out over time. So, it might indeed be History in the making.

Sorry for this meandering, I guess I was sharing my impression of the ongoings - from a totally subjective perspective of limited information, of course.
Hm, does that fall already under unskillful speech? :broke:

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