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 Bankei » Sat Nov 07, 2009 6:33 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
Bankei wrote:Was the Bhikkhuni preceptor a Bhikkhuni with 12 years standing?


Yes, Ayya Tathaaloka has 12 years standing. She ordained in Los Angeles in 1997. See her bio:

http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?tit ... Tathaaloka


Thanks David. Excellent news.

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby Raga Mala » Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:43 am

After spending the last several hours reading about this controversy (which until yesterday I did not even know was raging so heavily), I can only state that I agree with the action taken by Ven. Brahmavamso and co.

Ajahn Sujato's blog is the best resource, because in it he references all the applicable documents on both sides. I think Ven. Sujato and Ven. Brahmali make the case for the Bodhinyana folks as best as can be made. The most important point and that to which we must continually return is that the bhikkhuni ordination is UNARGUABLY a valid Vinaya practice under the rules of the Vinaya Pitaka. And the general rule of holding the Vinaya as the highest authority seems to have been somewhat downplayed by WPP and Thai folks, not to mention english sangha folks. I won't restate what's clearly said and much better articulated by Sujato and Brahmali.

I believe they are correct in identifying this is the "principal sangha issue of our time." Sujato frequently states that Buddhism's very relevance to modern spirituality is at stake.

I could not agree more.

Metta and good wishes for all involved.
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:37 pm

Ven. Dhammika of Buddha Dhamma Mandala Society, Singapore (he is originally from Australia) has chimed in on this subject with a response:

http://sdhammika.blogspot.com/ November 7, 2009 entry

Here are some of the good parts:

"Most better-informed and intelligent Western Buddhists have described this act as ‘courageous’, ‘an historic step’ and ‘laudable’ and I agree completely. However I see the courageousness, the historical significant and the laudability of this ordination somewhat differently. It affirms the Buddhist ideal of gender equality and that is important. It allows women to share with men the benefits (and challenges) of the monastic life, which is only right."

". . . . it is inappropriate in the 21st century to require them to always take second place to a male and that it is degrading to treat them as if they had some sort of contagious disease."
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Nov 07, 2009 6:46 pm

Raga Mala wrote:The most important point and that to which we must continually return is that the bhikkhuni ordination is UNARGUABLY a valid Vinaya practice under the rules of the Vinaya Pitaka.

If so, why is there any dispute about it? Shouting doesn't make something true. It merely indicates that you are strongly attached to your opinion, which is almost certain to lead to arguments. It is better to follow Ajahn Chah's advice — it is not sure.

In my opinion, this matter should be left to the Sangha to discuss and resolve, especially the Thai Forest Sangha. Those who are not well informed about the Vinaya are very likely to make akusala kamma in discussing this topic.
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby Bankei » Sat Nov 07, 2009 10:49 pm

Hi Bhikkhu

The procedures for Bhikkhuni ordination are laid down in the vinaya. I don't think you can dispute the validity of this unless you wish to dispute the validity of the Bhikkhu procedures too. Bhikkhu Brahm followed these proceedures to the letter.

The Thai heirarchy is upset because he did not inform them or obtain their permission. There is no requirement for this in the vinaya.

Some monks do dispute the validity of the ordination lineage of the ordinaing Bhikkhini. Similarly some Dhammayut monks dispute the validity of the Mahanikaya lineage. In Sri Lanka there is also much dispute about lineage validity. I am sure there is in Burma too with their 9 nikaya.

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby Raga Mala » Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:10 pm

With all respect, Bhante,

While I agree with the general principle that Sangha issues should be, as you say, "discussed and resolved" within the Sangha, it is troubling when this is done in a way contrary to Vinaya principles, or cotnrary to commonsense principles. Ajahn Sujato rightly points out many such inconsistencies, including not consulting the involved parties, decisions made by "elder councils", and other extra-Vinayic matters.

Thank you for your noble concern for my akusala kammas, however. I believe it is sincere.
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby notself » Sun Nov 08, 2009 2:55 am

It should be noted that both sides of this situation have published letters explaining their points of view. Since the sangha is speaking to lay people one may assume that the sangha wishes lay people to consider their words.
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 BlackBird » Sun Nov 08, 2009 6:50 am

Hi all, fresh off the press:

OPEN LETTER TO ALL FROM AJAHN BRAHM ON THE EXCOMMUNICATION BY WAT PAH PONG

A Theravada Bhikkhuni Ordination was held in Perth on Thursday 22nd October. The decision to proceed with the Bhikkhuni Ordination was finalised only on 20^th September 2009, when the Committee of The Buddhist Society of Western Australia unanimously gave their support. We did realise this was a sensitive matter and resolved to keep it in-house for the next month as we finalised the preparations. On Wednesday 13^th October, 24 days after the decision was finalised, I informed Ajahn Sumedho in Amaravati, as a matter of courtesy, during my brief visit to the UK to see my mother (who has severe dementia).
The matter of Bhikkhuni Ordination had been discussed in Wat Pah Pong about two years ago and, as I recall, they resolved to follow the lead of the Mahatherasamakom (the supreme Monks’ Council of Thailand). I was and remain under the impression that the ordination of Bhikkhunis outside of Thailand was not contravening the rulings of the Mahatherasamakom. This is because I had consulted with the acting Sangharaja, Somdej Phra Pootajarn, well beforehand to ask him precisely his opinion on the ordination of Bhikkhunis outside of Thailand. His response, which I have circulated amongst the Western Sangha for a long time now, was "Thai Sangha law does not extend outside of Thailand". He repeated this another two times to make his intention clear.

Even though my ordination as a monk was in Thailand, I understood that my obligations were to the Dhamma and Vinaya, not to the Thai state. Nor was allegiance to Thailand part of the advice given to me by the Acting Sangharaja who presented me with the Thai ecclesiastical honour of Tan Chao Khun. The certificate that I received at the ceremony merely states that “Phra Brahmavamso of Bodhinyana Monastery in Australia is a monk of /Royal Grade/ with the title of Phra Visuddhisamvarathera. May he accept the duty in the Buddha’s dispensation of teaching, settling Sangha business and looking after the monks and novices in his monastery in an appropriate manner. And to develop happiness and well being in the Buddha’s Dispensation.”

At the meeting in Wat Pah Pong on Sunday 1st November 2009, to which I was summoned at very short notice, it was apparent that the senior Thai monks had a poor understanding of the Vinaya rules concerning sanghakamma (formal acts of Sangha governance). For example, it took a long time to convince them that a Bhikkhuni Ordination is a double sanghakamma.The first part being performed by a gathering of Bhikkhunis presided over by the Preceptor (“Upajjhaya” or “Pavattini” -Ayya Tathaaloka from the USA) and the second part where the new Bhikkhunis approach the Bhikkhu Sangha to have their ordination confirmed by a ñatticatutthakamma (a formal motion followed by 3 announcements). I was one of the two Bhikkhus who chanted the ñatticatutthakamma in the Bhikkhu Sangha.
Once the senior Thai monks understood that I was not the Upajjhaya, they were willing to let the matter drop, provided I would promise in the midst of the Sangha not to participate in the ordination of any more Bhikkhunis. Remembering the example of Venerable Ananda at the First Council, I made that promise to the assembled Sangha three times. It looked as if harmony would be restored.

However, some senior monks raised the question of the status of the four women who had received Bhikkhuni Ordination. I accepted that they would not be regarded as Bhikkhunis in Thailand under the present climate, but the ordination was legitimate and they were Bhikkhunis. A senior monk then claimed that the ordination was invalid because of "ditthi vipatti", which he explained as meaning without the approval of the Sangha of Wat Pah Pong. As anyone with a basic knowledge of sanghakamma knows, this is nonsense. However, that unfounded view held sway and the meeting came down to a single clear choice: If Ajahn Brahm would state in the midst of the Sangha that the four women were not Bhikkhunis then there would be no penalty, otherwise Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery would be removed from the list of branch monasteries of Wat Pah Pong. I paused for a minute to reflect and, considering that I could not go against the Vinaya and state the Bhikkhunis were not properly ordained, nor could I go against the wishes of the Sangha of Bodhinyana and the thousands of lay Buddhists that support the Bhikkhuni Ordination, I refused to recant.

As a result, Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery was removed as a branch monastery of Wat Pah Pong. I emphasise that this decision had nothing to do with the process, secretive or otherwise, through which the ordination took place. The decision to excommunicate Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery rested solely on my refusal to state that the Bhikkhuni Ordination was invalid.

After the meeting formally concluded I paid my respects to many of the senior monks who reminded me of their continued friendship. For example, one old friend said to me "meuan derm" (meaning "just as before"). I hope that a similar attitude will prevail among all my friends in the Western Sangha.

With mega metta,
Ajahn Brahm


I think this point is worth repeating:

After the meeting formally concluded I paid my respects to many of the senior monks who reminded me of their continued friendship. For example, one old friend said to me "meuan derm" (meaning "just as before"). I hope that a similar attitude will prevail among all my friends in the Western Sangha.


:group:
"And so, because this Teaching is so different from what Westerners are accustomed to, they will try to adapt the Teaching to their own framework. What they need to learn to do is not to adapt the Teaching to their own point of view but to adapt their own point of view to the Teaching. This is called saddhá, or faith, and it means giving oneself to the Teaching even if the Teaching is contrary to one’s own preconceived notions of the way things are."- Ven Bodhesako

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Nov 08, 2009 6:56 am

The following is a statement from Wat Pa Nanachat, explaining their reasons for the expulsion of Ajahn Brahmavamso from the Wat Pa Phong Sangha

Receiving ordination as a bhikkhu in Thailand, entails acceptance of the authority not only of the Vinaya, but also that of the Mahatherasamakom, (the Thai Sangha's governing body) and the laws of the land.


The Wat Pa Phong Sangha considers as a matter of course, that all of its members are ethically bound to respect their commitments to the Mahatherasamakom and to the Thai State.

Ajahn Brahmavamso deliberately and unilaterally performed a ceremony knowing it to be considered illegal by the Thai state, illegitimate by the Mahatherasamakom and thus unacceptable to the Wat Pa Phong Sangha. There could be little doubt that by doing so he was, in effect, turning his back on continued membership of the Wat Pa Phong Sangha

Wat Pa Phong and its branch monasteries constitute an informal grouping within the Thai Sangha. Membership of this group is voluntary and dependent on a willingness to conform to certain broad standards, most of which were established by Ajahn Cha.


They include dhutanga practices such as daily almsround and eating one meal a day from the almsbowl. Special allowances are granted for overseas monasteries and generally speaking, abbots are almost completely autonomous in the running of their own monasteries.

However, in the case that a monastery develops practices that significantly deviate from the Wat Pa Phong template, the matter is raised at the annual general meeting in June. The abbot in question is interviewed and asked to choose between the unacceptable practice or exclusion from the group. This procedure was followed in the case of Ajahn Brahmavamso with a meeting held on 1st November.

Exclusion from the Wat Pa Phong Sangha is primarily intended to maintain the harmony and integrity of the group. It is not a punitive measure, although in Thailand at least, exclusion may lead to a certain loss of prestige and material gains.

Ajahn Brahmavamso is unlikely to be adversely affected by the exclusion. His reputation and fund- raising activities may well be enhanced. His social ties with Wat Pa Phong were already weak. He has neglected relations with his Thai colleagues for some time now.

Over the last few years several of his trips to Thailand have been devoted to teaching laypeople without including visits to Ubon (most notably the one that coincided with the Wat Pa Phong annual general meeting of June 2009 in which the bhikkhuni issue was discussed).

The most common view of the Western theras (elders) is that Ajahn Brahmavamso had agreed to host a 'World Abbots Meeting (WAM) in December in which discussion of the bhikkhuni question was on the agenda. If he had waited until that meeting, and after talking things through, announced his decision to leave the WPP Sangha in order to follow a path he felt deeply to be correct and noble, his actions would have been considered regrettable but honourable.

In planning a bhikkhuni ordination for a couple of months before the WAM was to take place, in concealing his plans until a week before the ordination, and in carrying out the ceremony without speaking to either his preceptor, Somdet Buddhajahn, or the leader of the WPP Sangha, Luang Por Leeam beforehand at all, he acted in a way that suggested deceit and disrespect.

For most of the Wat Pa Phong theras, the intellectual argument over the validity of bhikkhuni ordination is not the point. Their lack of knowledge of the latest studies on the subject is, in their eyes, irrelevant.

To them the issue is that Ajahn Brahmavamso reneged on commitments implicit in his ownership of a Thai monastic passport, his role as abbot of a Wat Pa Phong branch monastery, his position as an officially sanctioned preceptor, and his acceptance of the Jow Khun title (formalizing his membership in the elite strata of the Thai monastic order).

In the meeting of the 1st November it was the perception that Ajahn Brahmavamso had acted disrespectfully to his teachers and lineage that aroused emotions, not his wish to elevate the status of women.

Time only will tell if the bhikkhuni ordination at Bodhinyana monastery in October 2009 will be seen as a key breakthrough in the acceptance of a Theravada bhikkhuni order, or as an overly hasty and confrontational move that alienated many of those it was intended to persuade.

Wat Pa Nanachat
http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php ... 61,0,0,1,0
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Nov 08, 2009 7:00 am

To venture an opinion on this mess, I would say that Ven Brahmavamso did not act all that skilfully, knowing that the ordination would be a serious problem for the Sangha in Thailand. Quite frankly, this whole mess could have been avoided if he had simply withdrawn his organization from the Thai Wat Ba Pong group.
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby poto » Sun Nov 08, 2009 7:45 am

I've been watching this whole thing unfold without saying anything about it until now. As a mere lay person, and not always a very good one, I don't feel it's right for me to comment on the actions or motivations of monastics. This matter seems like something the monastics should be fully able to deal with amongst themselves.

However, I would also like to state my support for the Bhikkhunis. It's good to see new Bhikkhunis being ordained, and I wish them well.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby pilgrim » Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:23 am

I'd like to also add that it seems a little extreme for the WPP sangha to issue a letter addressed to "Buddhist Societies All over the World" and to put up an Appendix on the Forest Sangha website. If the perception is that it was a sangha issue why was it necessary to do that?
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:03 am

poto wrote:However, I would also like to state my support for the Bhikkhunis. It's good to see new Bhikkhunis being ordained, and I wish them well.

Whatever one may think about how this was handled, with this I certainly agree.
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby pilgrim » Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:11 am

tiltbillings wrote:To venture an opinion on this mess, I would say that Ven Brahmavamso did not act all that skilfully, knowing that the ordination would be a serious problem for the Sangha in Thailand. Quite frankly, this whole mess could have been avoided if he had simply withdrawn his organization from the Thai Wat Ba Pong group.

One can also surmise that Ajahn Brahm expected the WPP sangha to act more skilfully. I don't think AB expected them to issue a letter to "Buddhist Societies Throughout the World" . Its like taking full page adverts in all the newspapers to announce your divorce. What's up with that?
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:19 am

pilgrim wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:To venture an opinion on this mess, I would say that Ven Brahmavamso did not act all that skilfully, knowing that the ordination would be a serious problem for the Sangha in Thailand. Quite frankly, this whole mess could have been avoided if he had simply withdrawn his organization from the Thai Wat Ba Pong group.

One can also surmise that Ajahn Brahm expected the WPP sangha to act more skilfully. I don't think AB expected them to issue a letter to "Buddhist Societies Throughout the World" . Its like taking full page adverts in all the newspapers to announce your divorce. What's up with that?

Possibly, but the secrecy business, for me, is the deal breaker and does not point to the most skillful actions. Rather than go that route, it would have been far better to simply - out in the open and forthrightly - to disassociate oneself from the parent organization rather than put them in an untenable position, a position that was not a surprise.

But it is done. At this point I wish the new bhikkhunis well. It will be interesting to see what the Sakyadhitta has to say when it get around to saying anything.
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby forestmat » Sun Nov 08, 2009 11:46 am

Well done Ajahn Brahmavamso.

This talk with introduction by Dennis Sheppard, President, Buddhist Society of Western Australia with a subsequent talk by Aj Brahm is one of the best pieces I have heard regarding this whole situation.

I urge you to listen to it in its entirety.

http://www.bswa.org/modules/mydownloads/singlefile.php?cid=4&lid=871

Metta

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby gavesako » Sun Nov 08, 2009 3:54 pm

The Buddhist Channel: Why the imposed "silence" on the Wat Pah Pong / Bhikkuni Ordination issue
by Lim Kooi Fong, Editorial, The Buddhist Channel, Nov 8, 2009

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- On November 6, 2009, the Buddhist Channel imposed an editorial decision which contravened its mission statement, which is "Free Inquiry, Right Speech, One Dharma".

On that day, we made a decision to "cease the publication of any further news or updates with regards to the Wat Pa Pong / Western Buddhist Sangha situation." (...)

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php ... 68,0,0,1,0
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby phalanyani » Mon Nov 09, 2009 3:09 am

Dear all,
Long time since i checked dhammawheel cause i have access to internet only through mobile phone and letters are in the sice of a millimeter on this page - BUT i read the entire thread.

Presently i'm mae chii in thailand, not in the forest-sangha-tradition but mainly living in the forest and do have the aspiration to ordain as bhikkhuni in theravada tradition.
First of all, i'm grateful that so many of you seem to be pro-bhikkhuni. Good to know!

Theravada Bhikkhunis are officially not existent in thailand but they do exist. Here are some monks and abbots who accept bhikkhunis but do not dare to be the forerunner for ordination in thailand.
There are now about 40 bhikkhunis in thailand. Whatever monks may think about them, laypeople are very open and supportive to them. The bhikkhunis don't give any reason to complain, they follow the rules, so they are something between ignored and somehow accepted, let's say in a way it is accepted that some men feel like women and wear women's dresses, or as is sextourism. It's there, what to do?
Foreign bhikkhunis do not receive a religious-1-year-visa, mae chiis the 8 precept nuns do.

To the concern about bhikkhunis may not keep the rules: i had the chance to get to know many monks. among them there is not one single monk who keeps all rules always stricly.
Touching money is generally not regarded as breaking rule anymore. Other rules, like drinking something that is defenately not according to the rules in the afternoon, digging soil, going shopping, having more then one set of robes, etc. are broken often, regularly, with more or less sense of shame, depending on the monk.
All Bhikkhuni i know keep rules much stricter because they know they are observed. Some people lurk to find faults.

The not-traveling-alone-rule is for bhikkhunis stronger as for bhikkhus, but they have the same rule as far as i know. The point is: not travel alone through wilderness and dangerous places. It's not ment to never go somewhere alone anymore once ordained as bhikkhuni. Traveling by bus or plane is regarded as traveling with a group of merchants, which is allowed even without another person as direct company. Going to or through a village is allowed as long as this village is not inmidst of wilderness or dangerous territory. Going to a lonely parc alone at night would be considered as not allowed ...

To the question which of both sides is right i would say: both, from their point of view.
According to the Buddha every view one clings onto is cathegorized under 'wrong view'.
Is it not clinging to views to refuse to see that wether bhikkhuni ordaination is allowable is more a matter of interpretation more than matter of facts, to neglect the possibility of it, to not even listen to arguments which make it possible?
Where is the parami of compassion in the acts of not giving women the chance to live the holy life and in excommunicating someone who dares the long awaited, wise and compassionate deed. Some of the 160 monks who excommunicated ajahn brahm are called 'masters of meditation' in the letter of wat nanachat. If they really were, they would not cling to their views so fast and show a little more compassion. Politics.

Ajahn brahm dared something that might seem to be wrong now to some, but it will help to establish Buddhism in the west. Women are kind of tired of religions that try to tell them that they are lower, unworthier, that they can not ...
That's just not what the Buddha taught. And there are sources enough for us to hear, read, see and understand that it is not so. Buddha taught there is no difference between men and women, that's what makes Buddhism so attractive to women.

I'm still in thailand because there are the 'others', those monks who understand and support women in their aspiration, for whom nuns are more then servants and women in gerneral more then donators or danger.

The WAM meeting will take place in december in thailand as far as i understand. We will see then if the forest-sangha is really willing to allow and accept Bhikkhuni ordaination in thailand.
If they do, it's early enough to tell ajahn brahm he was wrong and should have waited.
If they don't, we know they are just pretendes and politicians instead of 'masters of meditation'.

May the fourfold society of Bhikkhus, Bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen grow strong in the west. Not traditions are worth to be followed - the lord Buddhas Dhamma is!
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Nov 09, 2009 3:16 am

Greetings Phalanyani,

Thank you for your comments and I hope that your aspiration may be fulfilled sooner rather than later.

:anjali:

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby Ben » Mon Nov 09, 2009 3:44 am

phalanyani wrote:May the fourfold society of Bhikkhus, Bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen grow strong in the west. Not traditions are worth to be followed - the lord Buddhas Dhamma is!

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