Just thought to post some thoughts on the Bhikkhuni here and get some ideas. Maybe I'm on the wrong track with some of this and it would be nice to get feedback from those more knowledgeable on the issue. Maybe this all has been hashed and rehashed elsewhere, please forgive. would
ask that if you read this you refrain from the following:
1) reacting according to your own views and opinions
2) reacting according to what your teacher has said
3) reacting according to what you think most people think
just try not to react. Think first, meditate a bit, then and only then come back and teach
There's an article that was brought to my attention recently and I'm reluctant to give out the link to it, since I think it is fairly biased. Basically, it says the eight garudhamma for bhikkhuni are a later addition to the canon. I'd like to talk about this idea here.
It seems to me we can take one of three stances on these eight rules, rules that in essence require bhikkhunis as a group to be on a level below bhikkhus:
1) we say the rules are not buddhavacana
2) we say the rules are buddhavacana but are not appropriate for modern times
3) we say the rules are buddhavacana and are appropriate for modern times
This seems to cover the main positions on this issue.
The thing I always find myself explaining to people when they ask why monks are bound by this or that precept is that the monk's life is an expedient, not a ultimate truth. Sure, you can touch money without getting attached to it, but when monastic communities apply this principle, havoc ensues in most cases (believe me, I'm not exaggerating). It's a good expedient to adopt the rule not to use money, even though it may cause hardship in certain instances. It doesn't mean that money is intrinsically unwholesome.
Sex, I think it is fair to say, is intrinsically unwholesome, and the first thing a Buddhist renunciant has to give up. I would say this is the more basic of the two fundamental monastic principles (poverty and celibacy). Poverty comes second to celibacy. If we can agree that this is the base of the holy life (brahmacariya), then it seems a wise expedient for a group of heterosexual male monks to exclude females from their group. This, afaics, is what happened in the time of the Buddha. Correct me if I'm wrong, it seems this is what all such "boy's clubs" do. The Buddha was in fact the first in India to allow women to ordain, as I understand.
So, the problem is what do you do what your boy's club turns out to be the sole path to eternal salvation (or something of that magnitude)? You can only explain the benefits of part-time lay practice for so long until sooner or later the girls want to play hardball too. But unlike a boy's club, this is a group of people dedicating their lives to celibacy. As with the money issue, many people have pointed out that men and women can live together without... you know. But the point is not what is theoretically possible, but what actually happens. When you apply the principle of men and women monastics living together, celibacy is not a reasonable outcome in most cases. I think the relationship between homosexuality and monasticism has proven this time and again, though I won't give any examples.
So what do you do? The people who want to say that the garu dhamma are fake have to come up with a better plan, and explain why that plan was instituted in the time of the Buddha but then white-outed and replaced with the current misogynist drivel. The article I mentioned above suggests just such intermingling as I claim above to be impossible, and indeed encourages bhikkhus to go out of their way to pay respect to bhikkhunis as a show of support.
Again, three models seem to appear to me for allowing male and female monastics:
1) separate but equal
2) together, rank by seniority
3) separate, rank by seniority
The third option, from my POV, is what happened. Agree or disagree with what is written in Cv X, but I don't think you can make me believe it was sexism that prompted the garu dhamma. It seems pretty clear that what occurred was a decision that the best way to remain celibate was obviously to remain separate. Separate but equal doesn't work, because a) the bhikkhunis would have no seniors to learn the Buddhadhamma from, and b) it would be equivalent to creating a schism in the sangha, with two governing bodies making independent decisions. Unless you accept some sort of joint operation, and thus constant interaction (sitting together for sanghakamma, etc), this is clearly not acceptable. Not acceptable to the Buddha, not acceptable to monks today. So, you either allow bhikkhus and bhikkhunis to mingle, thus nullifying the main benefit of ordaining in the first place, or you go by seniority, group-style. Bhikkhunis came after, bhikkhunis come after.
I guess the only potential problem with this theory is the Buddha's words on how awful it is for women to join the sangha, but that really is up to interpretation. If you interpret it to mean that women are incapable of monasticism, I think you are missing the point. Sure, there are problems with women living in the forest (sexual assault being a big one), but it seems clear that the problem is more because of all the men already in the sangha; adding women to the mix would be like allowing rust to eat your crops, to use the Buddha's own metaphor.
In this sense, I think interpreting Cv X as sexist is at the least
rash, and at the worst, denigrating the Buddha's words. And I think that the argument that "the time has come" to change the rules, due to change in society, etc. is unfounded. If, as I propose, the rules were instituted based not on gender differences, but the supermagnetic attraction between the genders, then the only change we can observe today is for the worse - I'm told that 64% of the Internet is porn... (just think, every post on dhammawheel is offsetting that
) If anything, we need new rules to deal with things like homosexuality; I don't really mean that, I think we're just up a crick without a paddle; all good things come to an end. All we can do is try to stall the inevitable decline of the Buddhasasana... I really believe that (but please don't derail the thread arguing against me), looking realistically at the situation Buddhism is in and not just because it seems to be what the Buddha says in Cv X. The bhikkhuni situation is just one more in a long list of fragmentations of this heavily-laden vessel we call our religion. The only way back is to patch up the cracks; we should be asking ourselves as we sink into the ocean, why aren't we doing that? Instead of creating more complexity, starting fights for things that have nothing to do with enlightenment, why can't we just live with the simplest, most expedient solution? i.e. what's in the canon.
The obvious truth, IMO overlooked by most people on both sides of this argument is that we ordain to give up, not to take on. When women talk about the empowerment of becoming an equal status bhikkhuni, it sounds like their minds are still stuck in laypeople gear. Equality has no place in Buddhist monasticism. Neither does empowerment. Every monk has a place on the totem pole, irrespective of their worth as a monk
, and more to the point, irrespective of their worth as a human being
. This is an expedient; it tends to favour spritual growth, rather than hinder it (something to remember when you're in line behind the laziest monk in the monastery). When bhikkhus rant and rail against the ordination of bhikkhunis (I was recently called a schismatic for posting a photo of a bhikkhuni ordination on my website and expressing my appreciation of ordination in general), they are falling into the same trap - creating something out of nothing, erecting a wall where there is none, stepping on a rope and crying "snake!"
I've said before (and been called to task for it) that bhikkhus should not encourage bhikkhuni ordination. What I meant was literally that. Don't go out and recruit Bhikkhunis. As far as we know, the Buddha was of that vein. To me, this is a very practical maxim, like "don't tell Suzie Derkins you've got a pet tiger", etc. That, to me seems the happy medium between denying the validity of people who are going to ordain elsewhere anyway and causing nothing but bad press and schism, and opening the flood gates, so to speak, by welcoming the bhikkhunis with open arms... so to speak. I think it is great to see more people ordaining. That's really what's important here, why can't we all see this? Why bicker and argue over who's on first base? If what it's going to take to solve the problem is to put the Bhikkhuni sangha above the bhikkhu sangha, I vote for that, and I'll be first in line to bow down to my seniors female counterparts. Better than having to live with them. I don't have a problem bowing, it's good for the knees.
The problem in Buddhist monasticism, imho, is not the eight garu dhamma, it's the false idea in Buddhist societies (held, they say, by the Buddha) that women are inferior to men. I hope I don't have to pull quotes to refute this one, but I sure can. I hope I've offered an alternative reading to the text that to me seems the most obvious reading anyway, making the sexism argument untenable. If the Buddha was sexist, it was only insofar as he figured it would be easier, as a man, to teach men how to be celibate, rather than women. I don't even think it goes that far. I just think people like to find problems where there are none. That's really the problem... papanca.
Please feel free to poke holes and show me.