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Dhamma Wheel • View topic - Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

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 bodhabill » Fri Jan 08, 2010 11:24 am

Hi All

Another post on Bhante Sujato's blog at http://sujato.wordpress.com/

The Thai Sangha
January 8, 2010

Prof. Nidhi Eausivong

Article in Thai published in Matichon daily on Jan 4, 2010.

Dr Nidhi is a well known professor in the History Department of Chiengmai University. He is in his late 60s, and educated in the US. He is a foremost Thai academic, who has often providing guidance and advice for the government. For the first time he has come out very clearly on bhikkhuni issue. He is also the founder of Midnight University in Chiengmai.

Finally, there is no bhikkhuni Sangha in the Thai Sangha. One of the senior Venerable monks who ordained women in Australia has been expelled from the forest tradition branch of Wat Nong Pa Pong. The Thai Sangha announced that they do not recognize the ordination. Luckily, however, the said Venerable was not expelled from the Thai Sangha altogether.

The door to allow women to be ordained as bhikkhunis is closed.

However, other countries belonging to the same Theravada tradition are opening the door to welcome the bhikkhuni Sangha. There is already a bhikkhuni Sangha in Sri Lanka, and the Laos community may not object to bhikkhuni Sangha when the need for bhikkhunis arises, and that may be true also with the Sangha in Cambodia and Myanmar.

Will the Thai Sangha perform sanghakamma together with the bhikkhu Sangha from Sri Lanka, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar if all those Sanghas already have bhikkhuni Sangha? Or they will accept to join with the bhikkhu Sangha but still refuse the bhikkhuni Sangha?

I am reminded of one particular case which happened in the reign of King Rama I. When the bhikkhus and samaneras from Laos came to further their study in Bangkok, they were not accepted as at the time of their ordination they did not pronounce Pali properly, in accordance with the Thai pronunciation. So the Thai bhikkhus insisted that the Lao monks must go through ordination again. Responding to this, the King said that there was no need for such ordination, as ordination arises from the intention. If the Laotian monks had a good intention there is no obstacle, and they are no less bhikkhus.

This was the spirit of the King who is the founder of the present dynasty. He was willing to adjust to new changes through understanding the underlying principle. Without understanding the underlying principle, the dynasty would not have lasted up to the present. Other institutions also will not survive without adjusting themselves to the new circumstances. When they cannot adjust we can imagine that the institution itself will not maintain its relevance to society for long.

In fact in the current case there is some ambiguity that the Thai Sangha could have used for its own benefit. Since the ordination of bhikkhunis in foreign countries took place under the Thai Sangha, the Sangha could have used this to test the beginnings of change without raising it as a controversial issue. No one loses face.

That is, they could have neither recognized nor resisted the ordination, allowing the case to prove itself for social reaction and acceptance.

To do this does not mean that the Sangha allows it to happen according to the worldly powers. We must not forget that in principle the bhikkhuni Sangha is part of the Sangha according to the Dhamma and Vinaya.

The fact that the Thai Sangha does not recognize the bhikkhuni Sangha is a result of a conservative interpretation of the Vinaya, instead of a more inclusive reading which would allow the fulfilment of the fourfold Buddhist community.

The Thai Sangha came into existence in 1908 according to the first Sangha Act. The purpose then was to utilize the Sangha as a tool to strengthen the absolute monarchy. Therefore the Thai Sangha arose to play the role to spread the Government power to rural areas, and also to control all the monks to have the same goal and practice under the Government.

At the same time, the Thai Sangha was under an able leadership of a well educated monk of the time, that is Somdej Krom Praya Vajirnanavarorosa, who later became the Sangharaja. He led the Thai Sangha to face the challenges of the time effectively. The Thai Sangha worked as a cornerstone to interpret the teaching of the Buddha in line with scientific reasoning, making Buddhism a worthy religion of Siam, one of the modern countries of that time.

In this modern world, the old challenges that were faced at that time have been replaced with emerging challenges for religions to prove their validity in the modern world.

Some of the new challenges of the contemporary world, to which each religion must be able to respond effectively, are:

1. Poverty. This has spread to a large area of humanity. There is a structural exploitation which has never been witnessed before in human history.

2. Environmental degradation. This is now so immense that humanity may not be able to survive.

3. Equality. A sharp and clear consciousness of equality between gender, race, and culture.

4. Peace. The need for long lasting peace on the foundation of sharing and justice. At the same time, people in a civilized world also seek inner peace.

If one should ask what the Thai Sangha has done to respond to these new challenges, the answer is that as a religious institution they have addressed none of these concerns.

We will have a better understanding if we take a look at religious movements around the world including many institutes within Buddhism.

Quite apart from the radical Liberation Theology, the Catholic Church seems to be sharply aware of the social issues of poverty and environmental degradation. These two issues have been the focus of statements and actions by consecutive Popes. The right for ordination for women priests both in the Catholic and Anglican Churches is a topic that is still argued worldwide. The religious institutions allow the issue to be in dialogue even when women priests have not been recognized.

Religious institutions play the role of balancing dictatorships and try to intervene positively in many international conflicts.

Coming back to the same old question, how is the Thai Sangha responding to the new challenges of the modern world?

It is difficult to maintain religion in this modern world. It is true that human beings are still the same, they still need to find the answer which they cannot find outside religion. But a religion cannot merely provide such answers, it must also provide an answer to the people who are still facing the reality of the world. Religion cannot only advise the poor to be diligent and work harder, for this is not sufficient to explain the widespread poverty all over the world.

Similarly it is not sufficient to tell women about gender equality by simply stating that both men and women have equal spiritual capacity to be enlightened, but women do not have the right to be ordained. Immediately it will raise another practical question, that is, men also do not need to be ordained, so why do we need the Sangha at all?

The Thai Sangha is one of the important institutions of the ‘right’ system in Thailand, and like other institutions, they are also facing new challenges of the modern world. So far none of them have been able to adjust to meet the challenges. I have written about this many times in the case of capitalism, political parties, political ideology, moral system, educational system, culture, etc.

The ‘right’ system has been successful in the past because it has the flexibility to adjust, and we had wise men to remind us and provide ideological foundation.

Can the wisdom of the ‘right’ express itself only in the color of the shirt?


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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby bodhabill » Fri Jan 08, 2010 11:26 am

Hi All

And yet another post on Bhante Sujato's blog at http://sujato.wordpress.com/

From Prachathai by Surapot Thaweesak
January 8, 2010

Here is another article giving a Thai perspective on the bhikkhuni ordination, from www.prachathai.com.

Buddhist circles have recently received important news. The Sangha of Wat Nong Pa Pong in Ubon Rajathani province announced they were expelling Bodhinyana Monastery of Perth, Western Australia from its membership. This is because the Sangha of Bodhinyana performed bhikkhuni ordination. From now on Bodhinyana Monastery will not be a member of the Ajahn Chah circle of monasteries, and will no longer be supported by the Department of National Buddhist Affairs and the Council of Elders.

The reason behind the expulsion is that ordination of bhikkhunis is against the order of the Sangharaja Krom Luang Jinavornsirivatna of 1928 in which he forbade the Sangha in Thailand to give ordination to women. The Sangharaja’s order was re-affirmed in the meetings of the Council of Elders in 1984 and 1987.

The author is not surprised that the Thai Sangha should punish the Sangha of Bodhinyana Monastery by expelling them, and also I am not surprised that the Sangha of the Bodhinyana should decide to go ahead with the ordination of the bhikkhunis knowing well that it is against the Order and would incur punishment from the Thai Sangha.

I am not surprised at the punishment because it is a familiar technique for the Thai Sangha to punish a group of people who think differently by making them ‘the other’. It is the same technique used on the ‘Santi Asok’ group, and tried unsuccessfully with the ‘Dhammakaya’ group.

I am not surprised that the Bodhinyana Sangha went ahead regardless, as the stand on bhikkhunis which the Sangha of Bodhinyana has taken up is in line with the social value of respect for gender equality, and also emphasizes the spirit of the Buddha’s same message of equality.

Bearing in mind the spirit of the Buddha and the right to gender equality in contemporary society there is no reason to follow the stern ruling of the Thai Sangha.

One who has some understanding of Buddhism knows that originally the Buddha did not allow women to be ordained. But when Ananda asked if women were capable of equal spiritual attainment, the Buddha confirmed that they did, and for that reason he allowed women to join the Sangha.

We may call that this the reason ‘according to the true nature of humanity’, which affirms the truth that men and women both have equal potential to be enlightened. Thus everyone should have the same opportunity to study and practice towards enlightenment.

However, the status of being ‘ordained’ in Buddhism, apart from being a status to allow individuals to study and practice towards enlightenment, is also a ‘social status’ that depends on social and cultural context. Therefore when the Buddha gave permission for women to be ordained there were also tight conditions as seen in the eight garudhammas, starting with the rule: ‘A bhikkhuni ordained even for 100 years will pay respect to a monk ordained but that day.’

This reflects the social context within Indian society which did not recognize gender equality. In Brahmanistic culture not only were women not allowed to be ordained, they were not allowed even to read the Veda. But in Buddhist culture women were given opportunity to study and to practice towards enlightenment since the time of the conception of Buddhism.

Therefore when the Buddha allowed women to become bhikkhunis, in spite of the fact that women have the same spiritual potential to become enlightened like men, there was also the social context of the time where there was no gender equality to be taken into consideration.

But now Buddhism is in the modern world, which accepts and recognizes more of the equality between men and women. If we accept the reason ‘according to the true nature of humanity’, to accept ordination of women in the present social context would be much easier than in the Buddha’s time.

But the reaction of the Thai Sangha to the Sangha of Bodhinyana Monastery (and to Bhikkhuni Dhammananda few years earlier) reflects how the Thai Sangha is not ready to face any new challenge. Not to mention the new challenges which come with the globalization in economics, society, or politics, even when it comes to an old challenge like bhikkhuni ordination, the Thai Sangha can only make them ‘the other’. They push their own people who are more progressive to become ‘the other’. This is not solving the problem but pushing it away.

From now on, the monks who remain warmly preserved in the arms of the Thai Sangha and the Department of National Buddhist Affairs will be only those monks who are good at making amulets and engaged in business under the name of Buddhism, taking money from the public by various means. These monks in fact are ‘the others’ from the true teaching of the Buddha, but become the same flesh and bone with the Thai Sangha. Meanwhile the Sangha who are truly following the teaching and the spirit of the Buddha are being pushed out and become more and more ‘the other’.

In fact, if we look closely at the case of Bodhinyana Monastery having ordained bhikkhunis and being pushed out, the problem does not lie with the Sangha of Bodhinyana Monastery but with the Thai Sangha. It is an attempt to cover up the true reason for ordaining women as accepted and initiated by the Buddha. It is the problem of adjusting and changing to accommodate co-existence in the modern world.

Let me speak very frankly: this is a problem of isolating oneself from reason and truth in the modern world. Eventually it will be a case of missing the boat when the Thai Sangha is not able to adjust Buddhist teaching to accommodate and benefit the modern lifestyle. The Buddhist leaders the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh both emphasise that ‘the world still has Buddhism to free society from suffering.’


With Metta
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jan 08, 2010 7:09 pm

Vardali wrote:
Vardali wrote:
Manapa wrote:Where is the original press release to back her up?


She stated somewhere (Facebook!?) that it was a hardcopy handout. I am assuming that it was in Thai, though (as it was a Thai press conf).
Perhaps you can contact her or WPP if you want a copy of that.


Well, you asked for the press release and I told you where I suggest you might find it, as it seems to be of relevance to you.


looks like there were crossed wires there! I wasn't asking for the press release, but rather where her proof is, last I checked journalist integrity wasn't based on heart felt pleas of being correct, but evidence, and the evidence available doesn't suggest she was accurate.

I am waiting for a response from a couple of places about the actual press release, from before your suggestion.
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby appicchato » Fri Jan 08, 2010 9:34 pm

I've been biting my tongue through much of this thread due to some really inane statements...but I will say that Sanitsuda Ekachai is a stand-up journalist who is a beacon of light in a dark night writing about this particular situation, and many others...

Before casting aspersions some might consider getting a (better) grip...
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby cooran » Fri Jan 08, 2010 10:02 pm

Hello Bhante,

This is a discussion forum ~ obviously all posters don't hold identical opinions and view. Personal disparagement of the understanding of others is, of course, another matter. So ~ you don't agree with the Forest Sangha viewpoint? Is that just the Thai Sangha or the Worldwide Forest Sangha?

metta,
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby appicchato » Sat Jan 09, 2010 12:37 am

Hi Chris,

I neither agree, nor disagree (and I would be/am happy to see bhikkhunis in the robes)...it is what it is...what my personal observation and experience tells me, having lived in Asia for quite a long time, is that the differences in thinking between the Oriental and Occidental are large and many...what I see coming is some kind of split...Thais will never (willingly) acquiesce to anything they consider an affront to them...the key figures in this MUST have known this...but forward we move... :smile:

Doesn't ALL of this rhubarb involve rite and ritual?...and haven't we been advised not to cling to closely to ANY rite or ritual?...
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jan 09, 2010 1:18 am

Greetings,

appicchato wrote:Doesn't ALL of this rhubarb involve rite and ritual?...and haven't we been advised not to cling to closely to ANY rite or ritual?...


Venerable Appicchato is cool 8-)

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby cooran » Sat Jan 09, 2010 1:42 am

appicchato wrote:Hi Chris,

I neither agree, nor disagree (and I would be/am happy to see bhikkhunis in the robes)...it is what it is...what my personal observation and experience tells me, having lived in Asia for quite a long time, is that the differences in thinking between the Oriental and Occidental are large and many...what I see coming is some kind of split...Thais will never (willingly) acquiesce to anything they consider an affront to them...the key figures in this MUST have known this...but forward we move... :smile:
Doesn't ALL of this rhubarb involve rite and ritual?...and haven't we been advised not to cling to closely to ANY rite or ritual?...


Hello Bhante,

I understand what you are saying - you would probably find the talk by Ajahn Amaro which fijinut gave us quite interesting.

"Not Holding to Fixed Views:- Full Ordination for Women in Buddhism"
http://www.vimutti.org.nz/MP3s/Ajahn%20 ... ddhism.mp3

I don't think the Vinaya is silabataparamasa-upadana, do you?

with metta
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby appicchato » Sat Jan 09, 2010 1:56 am

cooran wrote:I don't think the Vinaya is silabataparamasa-upadana, do you?

Definitely not...rites and rules are (to my way of thinking (to use my much used phrase)) apples and oranges...

Thank you for the link... :smile:
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby BlackBird » Sat Jan 09, 2010 4:04 am

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby bodhabill » Tue Jan 12, 2010 7:57 am

Hi All


A copy of a Letter to Perth Thai Community from the BSWA from the current and past presidents of the Buddhist Society of Western Australai posted on Bhante Sujatos blog at http://sujato.wordpress.com/

Letter to Perth Thai Community from the BSWA
January 12, 2010

Here’s the Buddhist Society of WA’s official response to the allegations made by Wat Pah Pong stemming from the press conference on 28 December, 2009. It is signed by present and past Presidents of the Society.

4 January 2010

To Members of the Perth Thai Community,

It has come to my attention that a senior Thai monk from Wat Pah Pong has been phoning some of the Thai people here in Perth with the intention of trying to get them to ask Ajahn Brahmawamso to resign. Following this action I have heard that three Thai ladies have started a petition for this purpose and are waiting around outside Nollamara on the weekends urging our Thai community to sign.

The allegations of misconduct made against Ajahn Brahm include the incorrect statements that Bodhinyana was built primarily with money donated by the Thai disciples of the late Ajahn Chah, and that Ajahn Chah had visited Perth, and further, that Bodhinyana had once been given to Wat Pah Pong or to Ajahn Chah. The allegations also include falsehoods that relate to the recent Bhikkuni ordinations.

I intend to set out below a response to all the allegations that have been made, so our members and the community in general will know the truth of all these matters. There has been some mischief perpetrated by some members of the Wat Pah Pong community in order to try and weaken our Nuns’ fully ordained status. My intention is not to be scornful of the Thai community or to belittle any aspect of Thai culture. The truth is that I and the committee have the greatest respect for Thai culture and the fact that Ajahn Chah has had such a wonderful influence on us all here in Perth, is a blessing for us all. My intention is to be truthful in the hope that I will not offend, but clarify the issues for us all.

Firstly, and by way of setting the scene, a Press Conference was held in Bangkok recently by the “Wat Pah Pong Executive Council”. For the first time, these WPP elder monks revealed officially and publicly that their problem with us was not with any secrecy or lack of consultation but with the Bhikkhuni Ordination itself. They are implacably opposed to the reintroduction of the Bhikkuni order. Phra Khru Opaswuthikon said:

“If action is not taken, the council fears that more women could be ordained in the West. Sooner or later, we’ll see female monks everywhere”.

He added that the introduction of the Siladhara order, or 10-precept nuns which was set up by the most senior western monk, Ajahn Sumedho, as an alternative to female monks in Thailand was also “unthinkable”.

I along with our committee believe this unbending stance has justified our decision not to consult with Wat Pah Pong before the Bhikkhuni Ordination, as such consultation would have been not only a waste of time, but also may have led to the Bhikkhuni Ordination being blocked.

The following points will set the record straight with the allegations that have been made.

Bodhinyana Monastery was never given to Ajahn Chah, nor to Wat Pa Pong. Ajahn Chah had a stroke during the Rains Retreat of 1983 and was subsequently unable to speak or travel. A few months later, on December 1st 1983, the vacant land for Bodhinyana Monastery was purchased. It is not possible that Bodhinyana Monastery could have been given to Ajahn Chah because he was incapacitated before the land was purchased. Nor was Bodhinyana Monastery ever given to Wat Pah Pong. From the very beginning, Bodhinyana Monastery remained the property of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia, not of any monk. According to Australian Law, it would be illegal to give Bodhinyana Monastery to Wat Pah Pong or to any other organisation.

Bodhinyana Monastery was not “built primarily with money donated by the Thai disciples of Ajahn Chah”. It was built with donations coming mostly from within Australia, from Sri Lankan, Burmese, Singaporean, Malaysian, Thai and Australian members of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia, out of faith in the monks at Bodhinyana. Significant overseas funds came early on from Chao Khun Pannyananda of Bangkok, Somchai’s “Esso Buddhist Group”, Khun Prayoonsri of Bangkok, and later from Malaysia and Singapore. These were given out of faith in Ajahn Jagaro, and later in Ajahn Brahm.

Bodhinyana Monastery is not a Thai Temple, it is a Theravada Buddhist Monastery open to all nationalities. It has a wide support base consisting of Buddhists of many nationalities. Nevertheless, most Thai Buddhists in Perth go to Bodhinyana Monastery, and the associated Dhammaloka Centre in Perth, out of faith in the teachings, compassion and conduct, that they have observed in the monks of Bodhinyana for over 26 years.

Ajahn Brahm has never been accused of Temple mismanagement. Because of Australian Law, all donations and payments are audited by a professional outside accountant and the audited statements are presented to the members of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia every year at the annual AGM. No Temple in Thailand has to undergo such meticulous scrutiny.

Ajahn Brahm has never changed the Temple bylaws. According to Australian Law, it is impossible for a monk or any one person to change the bylaws in the Constitution of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia. Such changes can only be done at an Annual General Meeting, or at a Special General Meeting, with a two thirds majority of members agreeing to the change. Consequently, Ajahn Brahm has not made such changes “in his own interest”, nor “despite any disagreement from the Bodhinyana Sangha”. The Bodhinyana Sangha has always supported Ajahn Brahm.

Temple Ownership has not “greatly troubled the Thai Buddhists in Australia”. There have been no problems in this area.

The Bhikkhuni Ordination was fully supported by the members of The Buddhist Society of Western Australia, and most Thai Buddhists in Perth have no problem with supporting the new Bhikkhunis. Some senior Thai Buddhists living in Perth attended the Ordination ceremony to show their support.

Ajahn Brahm did not ordain the four Bhikkhunis. The preceptor was the American born Theravada Bhikkhuni, Ayya Tathaloka. Another American born Theravada Bhikkhuni, Ayya Sobhana, together with a German born Theravada Bhikkhuni, Ayya Sucinta, chanted the “Kammavaca”. The four women were ordained by Bhikkhunis. Ajahn Brahm participated in the “Confirming” ceremony performed by the Bhikkhu Sangha that followed the ordination, as required by the Vinaya.

Since the lineage follows that of the preceptor, the four Bhikkhunis in Australia belong to the “Nikaya” of their preceptor, which is the Syam Nikaya of Sri Lanka. Therefore, they should be of no concern to the Thai Buddhist authorities.

Vinaya Masters are clear that Ajahn Brahm did not break any rule of Vinaya. Moreover, as he was not the Preceptor, or Upajjhaya, he did not transgress long established Thai Sangha Law.

Ajahn Brahm did not receive any invitation to the meeting of monks at Wat Pah Pong on 16th January 2010. Having not been invited, he cannot have refused any invitation.

As current and a past President of the Buddhist Society I know that the above account of the issues involved is correct, but as you will see I have asked those past Presidents that are currently available to counter sign this letter. I personally have not had any contact, in any way, with anyone, who has had any issues with the way our Buddhist Society has handled the Bhikkuni ordination, apart from people being disappointed that they could not attend. If you do have any further concerns, I would be happy to receive your question or queries directly. My telephone number is (08) 9367 3918.

I am disappointed that Ajahn Brahm is being treated with such disrespect, and I know that most people reading this letter will concur. However, I also know that Ajahn Brahm has very broad shoulders and will let this issue flow away “like water off a ducks back”. Having said this I call on all of our members to come together with good will and show support for Ajahn Brahm and the Buddhist Society of WA.

Yours very respectfully,

Dennis Sheppard
President BSWA

Counter signed by Past Presidents
Rachel Green
Don Weerakody
Sol Hanna
James Pinakus
Binh Anson


With Metta
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"Complaining is finding faults, wisdom is finding solutions" Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Jan 12, 2010 2:26 pm

since this is intended for thai immigrants are they gonna make a thai version?
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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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Bhikkhuni Ordination: Letter from a Samaneri

Postby suanck » Sat Jan 23, 2010 11:04 am

Taken from: http://sujato.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/letter-from-a-samaneri-in-thailand/

Letter from a samaneri in Thailand

The following text comes from a letter written by a samaneri in Thailand to Ajahn Brahm and the Bodhinyana community. She has granted permission to have an edited version posted on this blog.

Dear Ajahn Brahm,

I’m really sorry to hear about all the fall out that has come in the wake of the bhikkhuni ordinations and the challenges directed at you personally and at the Bodhinyana community. Although I bet you are perfectly fine and equanimous in the face of all of this, I just wanted to write to express my moral support and gratitude.

Given the limited (and glacial-speed) internet access at our monastery, I came to learn of the news a bit belatedly and to be honest was surprised the ordinations happened so soon. Although I have since tried to read up on it, I haven’t been able to keep up with all the developments and the different perspectives on them all that closely. So I must say I don’t really understand all the whys and hows of the situation.

But whether I understand them or not, I trust that you had your good reasons for taking the course of action you did, reasons borne of compassion and wisdom.

It’s rare to find a monk who will care deeply enough about women’s opportunities for spiritual practice to actually do something about it. It’s rarer to find a monk who will do something major – putting in hard work and taking a stand despite the negative repercussions that could follow. A heartfelt thank you to you, the Bodhinyana monks, and all others who have contributed, for being among this rare lot.

While the success and longevity of a revived bhikkhuni sangha ultimately rests on the shoulders of the women themselves – on their commitment to studying the Dhamma-Vinaya and practicing it purely, living a life dedicated to the cultivation of virtue, mental discipline, and wisdom – the support of bhikkhus is also essential, and greatly appreciated.

Actually, the debt we owe to bhikkhus runs wider and deeper than that. The truth is, it is the example of well-practicing bhikkhus, whatever their views on bhikkhuni ordination may be, that inspires women to think of devoting their lives to the dhamma and ordaining in the first place. My bhikkhuni Ajahn here, for example, says that reading about Ajahn Mun’s life, way of practice, and teachings in the classic book Patipada was hugely motivating. It made her want to follow his example of going forth to live and practice as the Buddha did. There are also many living bhikkhus whom we are fortunate to have as role models. When women like myself look up at their bhikkhu teachers and see the fruits of their years in the robes – how beautifully, and far, they have developed on the Path – and also hear them talk about how much they love and value being a monk, we cannot help but want to follow in their footsteps. The problem is, once that aspiration is sparked, we find that the way they took is not open to us. We realize we can only “follow their footsteps” at the level of metaphor, or at best strike out into improvised, and ultimately inadequate, approximations of the ordination form the Buddha had designed for us.

Inevitably, such a situation proves unsustainable. But nothing ever gets changed unless some brave people go first. Despite the current maelstrom surrounding the Perth ordinations, and all the regrettable hurt feelings of various parties involved, I believe in the long-term so much good will come of what has happened. Actually, I think so much good already has. If the bhikkhuni issue wasn’t on many people’s minds in Thailand (and other parts of the world) before, well, it certainly is now. This may not have been the gentlest of awakenings, but at the end of the day awareness is awareness. At least the issue is now being openly discussed. That’s the crucial first step towards bringing about wider change.

When that wider change comes to fruition, and bhikkhuni sanghas are well-established in different countries, I truly believe it will be so wonderful. My conviction of this only gets firmer and firmer. Even in a mere six months of being a samaneri, I have seen so many reasons why re-establishing the bhikkhuni sangha is so important – so many ways the bhikkhuni sangha can contribute, and is contributing, to Buddhism and society. Some of these ideas I had already registered at an intellectual level beforehand. But in witnessing a real live bhikkhuni sangha in action and personally experiencing ordination, all these purported reasons are coming to life more vividly, and are proving to ring so true.

And I’m finding they’re just the tip of the iceberg. More and more reasons keep coming to light, many of which most people (even card-carrying bhikkhuni supporters like me) probably couldn’t even imagine unless they actually experience having real bhikkhunis around. The list just keeps growing; I’m losing count.

For me personally, being able to ordain as a samaneri has been such a precious opportunity. Now I get it, why this is called the ‘holy life’. Having the chance to renounce and live immersed in the dhamma has made it so clear – there is absolutely no comparison to practicing as a layperson. This is way, way better. Laypeople who say otherwise need to give it a go. (And monks who say otherwise, at least to women, ought to stop confusing them.) The benefit of a conducive environment, kalyanamittas, and the protection of higher sila – all this sounds like I am basically regurgitating what you said in that interview you gave about bhikkhunis, but now I can understand it at a different level and actually testify to the world of difference it makes in dhamma practice.

But it is more than just the chance to renounce. The form of renunciation does matter. It does to me, and it does to so many women I have encountered, whether they are ordained yet or not. I cannot put into words how deeply it moves me to be ordained into the original monastic vehicle given to us by the Buddha himself. It means so much to feel that I am truly a daughter of the Buddha. That I have a rightful place in the ordained half of the fourfold assembly he set up. That I am an authentic part of the Sasana with a designated duty in helping to carry on his dispensation. Even as a mere seedling of a real bhikkhuni, I feel it this powerfully – I can barely imagine the joy a fully-ordained bhikkhuni must feel.

It has also been so beautiful to see the complete fourfold Buddhist society reassembled in the Theravada tradition. In the past months, I have experienced several occasions where representatives of all four pillars have convened at one place at one time, and it has been a wondrous thing to behold and participate in. There is such a feeling of fullness and completion, of mutual support and goodwill, of dynamism and strength. This is how Buddhist society was meant to be. This is Buddhist society at its best.

One of the most significant, and touching, consequences of having the fourth pillar present is the impact it is having on girls and women, whose needs can now be better served. That starts with enabling them even just to discover what those needs may actually include – things that they had previously been missing and hadn’t even realized they had been missing. And then, providing channels for those needs to be expressed, and ways for them to be met.

In the time I have been here, there has been an unending stream of women, including long-standing maechees, either coming to the monastery, writing, or phoning who say they are interested in ordaining. Many others may not have thought of ordaining before, but become interested in it after having contact with the nuns here.

For those who have ordained, taking the higher precepts brings many concrete benefits. In addition to empowering personal dhamma practice, another very important, but often overlooked, advantage of the samaneri-bhikkhuni form is that it provides a highly effective system of rules and principles for governing the monastic community. My bhikkhuni Ajahn recalls that when this monastery was still a maechee center, community management was difficult as they did not have any clear guidelines. However, once they took higher ordination they were able to institute the set of rules mandated by the Buddha himself, reflecting his wisdom and evoking his authority. They have found these to be a much more solid and efficacious basis on which to run the community, producing more harmonious relations and better ways of resolving problems than they had experienced before. Once women have the benefit of living in a peaceable and orderly community, they will be better supported in their monastic vocation.

Yet it’s not just women interested in ordaining who are benefiting from the bhikkhuni sangha. Too often the discussion is framed only in these very narrow terms, which leads people to argue that offering females a decent monastic form and training similar to bhikkhunis without actually being bhikkhunis would be enough. But they’re really missing the bigger picture, the bigger point of it all. A hugely important benefit of having well-practicing bhikkhunis is that they can enhance the spreading of dhamma, especially to girls and women. They can draw more girls and women to become interested in the dhamma, and can convey that dhamma in ways that touch girls and women at a deeper level. Partly, it’s because as females they ‘speak the same language.’ Also, because women can interact more intimately with nuns, they can be exposed to dhamma teachings through informal interactions or observing daily life situations, which I myself have found often leaves a stronger, more visceral impression than what is received from formal dhamma talks.

Even more elemental than that, I feel there is just something so profoundly affirming about learning dhamma from someone who looks like you, who you can see yourself in – it seeds you with stronger faith in your own spiritual capacity. It’s true that women are told (often as a consolation for not being able to ordain) that the Buddha taught that men and women have equal potential to be enlightened. And we believe it. Or think we believe it. I certainly thought I did. But it was only after I met and interacted with inspiring nuns for the first time (just a few years ago, and I’m already in my thirties!) that something inside me truly clicked: “Hey! I really can do this!” My “this” was even quite modest – I just meant progressing in the dhamma, let alone the big Enlightenment. Feeling that jolt made me realize how tenuous and shallow my faith in my spiritual potential actually had been. It is only when women are able to see more living female role models, more commonly, that true faith in ourselves can really establish itself deep down in our hearts. Without it, we are seriously handicapped – for that faith is absolutely crucial for a person to develop, or even just to set forth, on the Path.

It’s not only me. I’ve also seen the incredible effect live bhikkhunis (and even samaneris) can have on other women. Just being able to be touched physically by the nuns is really powerful, more so than one might expect. Grown women are moved to tears by things as simple as being able to have the bhikkhunis rub their heads in blessing, the way they’ve seen men blessed by bhikkhus. Or just having a nun press them gently on the back to adjust their meditation posture can be deeply affecting. More broadly, what moves women is the feeling that they have found their refuge – women teachers they can connect with and be guided closely by and a place to practice where they can feel at home.

Aside from women already interested in ordaining, this monastery also sees a continuous flow of women and girls of all ages and backgrounds coming to visit, to help with work, or to stay and practice for a period. Even young girls and teenagers, which has been so refreshing to see. Some even opt to spend their weekends or longer school holidays here. I’ve seen many cases of young girls who are inspired to come and become more interested in the dhamma as a result of interactions with the nuns here. And sometimes the most effective bridge is not necessarily the Ajahn or senior nuns, but a junior nun closer to their age, who can be like an older sister they can relate to, look up to and be mentored by. Even little novice-novices like me have apparently inspired a kiddo or two (much to my surprise!). It’s not so easy for them to have such an experience at a bhikkhu monastery, where they would only have more limited contact with the monks, especially junior monks.

It’s true that all these benefits can be offered to some degree by other forms of nuns. But one simply can’t deny there is a more powerful effect when it comes from nuns wearing these robes, all the more so in a traditionally Buddhist country where the saffron robes are steeped with so much meaning and elicit so much respect. So many women and girls have said they were so happy to see “phra poo ying” (female monks) for the first time, many being moved to tears. Many men, including monks, and boys have expressed similar sentiments as well (although maybe not the tears part).

Indeed, what has been revelatory to me is the way it’s not just girls and women, but also boys and men who have really found something valuable in the bhikkhuni sangha. Some of the monastery’s most faithful and active supporters are actually men. Even men who at first objected to having to bow to a woman are happy to do it now, because they have gained a lot of benefit from the dhamma taught and lived by the nuns here.

Granted, this bhikkhuni-samaneri community in Northern Thailand is still relatively new, so I don’t mean to overstate things too prematurely. Of course there is still much to be figured out and developed in converting from a maechee to a bhikkhuni monastery, but I think what they have achieved and the contributions they have been made so far bode well.

This has really become a much longer letter than what I started out intending to write, but I just wanted to share with you what is happening here as a ‘case study’ of a bhikkhuni-samaneri community that offers living proof of how much good has come from re-establishing bhikkhunis, and how much it has meant to people. It’s so important, your work in helping to support the bhikkhuni revival. What you are doing and saying has a far wider impact than Perth or Australia, giving encouragement and uplift to people all over the world. I hope you all know how much it is appreciated by so many. (And will be appreciated by more before too long, even if they don’t realize it yet!)

With respect and best wishes for the new year,

A Samaneri in Thailand
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby suanck » Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:47 pm

Hi all,

1) In the thread: "Ajahn Sumedho - On Gratitude"
(an interview by Lim Kooi Fong, The Buddhist Channel, January 20, 2010)

reposted on this website:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=3316

[you can read the original at: http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=6,8875,0,0,1,0 ]

Ven Ajahn Sumedho briefly presented his view on the issue of Bhikkhuni Ordination.

2) and following is the comment of a reader (PJ Pilgrim) in The Buddhist Channel:

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=22,8881,0,0,1,0

Suan.
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby appicchato » Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:17 am


I, for one, found PJ Pilgrim's thoughts 'spot on'...
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby Bankei » Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:31 am

There is also a new translation of a Thai newspaper article here http://sujato.wordpress.com/

It concerns WPP monks agitating for the removal of Brahm Bhikkhu's preceptor status. They want to override the vinaya.

Bankei
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby notself » Tue Jan 26, 2010 4:43 am

When the State names a specific religion as its official religion both the State and the religion are compromised.
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 suanck » Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:20 pm

Bankei wrote:There is also a new translation of a Thai newspaper article here http://sujato.wordpress.com/

It concerns WPP monks agitating for the removal of Brahm Bhikkhu's preceptor status. They want to override the vinaya.


If my information is correct, it's only a small group of WPP monks (about 4 or 5 monks, both Thai and non-Thai) who are very vocal with an anti-bhikkhuni ordination stand and an anti-AB agenda. The rest of WPP group are either sympathetic or indifferent to the bhikkhuni issue.

Of course, I might be wrong!

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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby pilgrim » Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:25 am

suanck wrote:If my information is correct, it's only a small group of WPP monks (about 4 or 5 monks, both Thai and non-Thai) who are very vocal with an anti-bhikkhuni ordination stand and an anti-AB agenda. The rest of WPP group are either sympathetic or indifferent to the bhikkhuni issue.

Of course, I might be wrong!

Suan.

It probably would be unwise to ask for their names to be mentioned publicly, but I sure would like to know who's leading the posse.

aka pj pilgrim
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Re: Bhikkhuni Ordination performed - by Ajahn Brahmavamso

Postby appicchato » Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:55 am

notself wrote:When the State names a specific religion as its official religion both the State and the religion are compromised.


We're all compromised, in some fashion, just by virtue of being...
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