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Bhikkhuni Issue: — 26 Comments

  1. Hi,

    “Please do not be sucked in by the silly headlines. Ajahn Brahm and co., despite having been admonished by (some of) the Thai Sangha, are still official Buddhist monks. He is still a great teacher, an inspiration, and definitely one who has acted respectfully and sincerely with the best of intentions. It will make practically no difference if his temple is an official branch of Ajahn Chah tradition or not. It is still recognised by the Thai and worldwide Sangha as an exemplary temple.”

    Wonderful words. Thank you.

    My first reaction is, of course, to say “well done Ajarn Brahm!” at his decision to ordain women, ……. but it’s lovely to have all this context, thank you, and wonderful to see that – contrary to some far-fetched headlines I’ve seen recently – this is no schism!

    Thank you so much.

    Marcus

    • I don’t want to belabour the point – but he did not actually ‘ordain’ anyone. The other bhikkhunis did the ordination.

      This proceedure has happened lots of times, in lots of places. The only difference now is the issue is being more fully discussed and aired. And I guess some of the Bhikkhunis might be less likely to come to Thailand for a while – which is a shame as we have invited a number of them to talk for us.

  2. LOL! Wow – and there’s you putting it in bold too! Funny how you read enough headlines, you think you know what happened! Thanks again for the clarification! _/_

  3. Phra Pandit

    “4 practicing lay women from Ajahn Brahm’s temple in Perth took ordination with several Bhikkhunis. According to tradition they first ‘go forth’ in ordination with the Bhikkhuni preceptor, and then go for a second ceremony with the Bhikkhu Sangha, which kind of puts its seal on the ordination.”

    Did the 4 lay women after ordaining with the Bhikkhunis present then go for “seal on the ordination” with Ajaan Brahm representing the Bhikkhu Sangha?

  4. The Bhikkhus section has a main preceptor, and two assistants who do the examination (are you a human, are you free from debt etc..) – as with Bhikkhu ordinations. As memory serves A. Brahm was one of the two.
    Of course, it all went down in his temple, so he cops for the criticism from his former temple group.

  5. Dear Phra Pandit,

    Thanks very much for your comments on the Bhikkhuni ordination in Perth, as one who had asked you privately about this I was pleased to read it.

    There were some interesting comments by the Bhikkhunis (at the ordination I believe) as to how they had gained spiritually from ordination, and I have a clip (120Mb – collected from YouTube clips) of what they said:-

    http://zarendhara.com/Clips/Buddhism/Bhikkhuniordination.flv

    Personally I had considered that I nominally followed the Forest Sangha having gained much help from Harnham Buddhist Monastery. I believe this issue might have some implications for England with its Forest Sangha monasteries – might require intending Bhikkhunis to visit Scotland? Is there any difference between Forest Sangha monasteries, the Wat Pa Phong Sangha and the Ajaan Chah tradition you speak of?

    With regards to the position of women I believe there are educational and cultural differences between England and Thailand and Australia. It appears that Ajaan Brahm and his monastery felt the need to be defiant concerning the issue. Is it true that Wat Pa Nanachat (international wat?) was setup by Ajaan Chah to promote the Dhamma in the west? If that is the case, how will this expulsion help with that?

    Hope you are keeping well,

    All the Best,

    BillZ

  6. I think the video you linked to was an old one of the conference they had on Bhikkhuni ordination in Aus. a couple of years back.
    Forest Tradition” does not really mean much. It is a description rather than any kind of title/header. Generally it refers to Ajahn Mun related forest temples … but many of those temples are now in the city due to urban sprawl. Ajahn Chah temples are not officially part of the Ajahn Mun lineage as they are Mahanikaya, not Dhammayut temples.
    The ‘Forest Temples’ tend to try and distinguish themselves from the decadent ‘Urban Temples’ as being superior on every level – practise, meditation etc.. These days however, there are actually lots of decadent forest temples, and excellent urban temples, so the distinction is not as valid as it once was.
    Wat Pa Phong tradition = Ajahn Chah tradition. They describe themselves as ‘Forest Lineage’.

    I really don’t think Ajahn Brahm felt any need to be defiant. The women in his temple were going to ordain as Bhikkhunis like it or not. He could send them off to do it elsewhere … but they were his follwers and were supported by the Perth Buddhist Society. He knew if he waited for the Abbots meeting of the Ajahn Chah temples he would be refused permission. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place, and did as his conscience told him.
    Remember, they would have ordained anyway. Ajahn Brahm could not have stopped that even if he wanted to.

    • Cittasamvaro: I think it is a misperception that the World Abbots Meeting is a decision making body and could have given “permission” for anything.
      It was decided in at least 2006 that the next WAM would be held at Bodhinyana. It has also been reported that Ajahn Brahm was going to discuss bhikkhuni ordination at the 2009 WAM, just like he had been talking about it for years. However this discussion was preempted by a Wat Pa Pong general meeting: “In June 2009 the Ajahn Chah Sangha at Wat Pa Pong reaffirmed its willingness to conform with the Thai Sangha governing council’s current position: that bhikkhuni ordination has ceased to exist and cannot be legitimately revived.”
      Why did this happen in June 2009 before the Dec 2009 WAM?
      The timeline implies that WPP “knew” this was a current issue and wanted to take care of it before there could be another group discussion.

  7. I just figured out what _/_ means ! Doh ! I thought it was a wizards hat .

    (if you have not figured it out either I will let you do so on your own)

  8. Back to the point that the Bhikkhu sangha has a way of doing things that emphasises openness, willingness to conform and be admonished, harmony etc.. It is not something that really affects laypeople as it is a monastic protocol.
    This is why the wider Sangha was not supportive of the recent events; even those who fully support the Bhikkhunis (including myself).
    Bhikkhu Bodhi, a keen supporter of bringing pure Theravada Bhikkhunis back into the picture, revised his earlier support in the light of this :
    http://sujato.wordpress.com/2009/11/08/bhikkhu-bodhis-revised-response/

    • thanks, good resource. I hope the whole issue blows over though. Most public just see a case of sexism, without understanding the issues involved.

      Pandit Bhikkhu

      • I don’t think the secretive part of the story holds much water.
        Why did WPP in June 2009 decide that Bhikkhuni ordination was invalid months before the ordination ceremony and the 2009 WAM in Dec when it was supposed to be discussed?
        What is bizzare is the mix mash of official policy and opinion from this doc:
        http://www.dhammalight.com/official/pdf/The_Gathering_Elders_7-9_Dec_2009.pdf

        From the document we have:
        “In June 2009 the Ajahn Chah Sangha at Wat Pa Pong reaffirmed its willingness to conform with the Thai Sangha governing council’s current position: that bhikkhuni ordination has ceased to exist and cannot be legitimately revived.”
        contrast with:
        “The source of these feelings was not outright opposition to bhikkhuni ordination as such (in fact a number of our Western elders consider the arguments supporting its legitimacy to be well-founded), but the sense that the way the ordination had been arranged constituted a serious betrayal of trust.”

        The official stance as of June 2009 was that bhikkhuni ordination cannot exist but some of the “Western elders” think it might be possible? That is some disconnect.

  9. Yes, but by ‘The Sangha’ what is meant is the ‘Wat Pa Pong Sangha’, NOT the Thai Sangha as a whole. And the truth is, only a couple of monks within that group were pressing for the declaration that the ordination was invalid.
    None of the Western temples declared the ordination invalid – because it isn’t. This very proceedure, using both Theravada and Mahayana monks/nuns has been done lots of time before, just not in the WPP group.

  10. Bhante,

    I understood that this meant the WPP Sangha.

    My apologies for pursuing this issue but I am interested in the implications of the institutional discipline. I understand that the WPP Sangha expelled Ajaan Brahm for breaking discipline and effectively going alone realising that the WPP Sangha would not sanction Bhikkhuni ordination – especially as the matter could have been formally raised in December.

    The statement I quoted says the WPP Sangha does not accept the act of ordination as valid in this case. Based on this I assumed, incorrectly from your reply?, that the affiliated monasteries, such as the UK Forest Sangha monasteries, would also be unable to accept the act of ordination as valid.

    Bodhinyana monastery broke ranks to perform the Ordination, yet Harnham for example, could, if they chose, recognise the ordination as valid even though the WPP Sangha, overarching body?, does not. This appears inconsistent, that’s why I am confused.

    Or is Harnham not what you mean by a western temple?

    “And the truth is, only a couple of monks within that group were pressing for the declaration that the ordination was invalid.”

    Does this really matter if the institution formally makes a statement, aren’t all the group bound by the statement?

    Hope you are keeping well,

    All the Best,

    BillZ

  11. “Declarations” are not what they are in the West. There are thousands of declarations by groups/leaders and the Sangha Council. How many times have monks been declared not allowed to visit Pantip Plaza ?
    The Western temples couldn’t start a Nuns vihara (temple) for instance, but that does not mean they would treat a visiting nun disrespectfully or regard her as not ordained.
    I would not say that the branches are particularly ‘bound’ by much.
    Thailand has a way of having one ‘official’ position, and another ‘reality’ position. Look at Bhikkhuni Dhammananda – no official status, but no one is arresting her or treating her as a ‘fake’ of any kind.

  12. Bhante,

    Thanks.

    This clears a lot up for me with regards to institutional discipline.

    I had understood the matter with regard to some “Thai laws”, you are suggesting it is effectively the same for such declarations.

    Perhaps the importance of the declaration with regards to Ajaan Brahm and Bodhinyana could be considered in the same light. But then Bhikkhu Bodhi’s retraction as a reflection of general sentiment is perhaps more important, as well as your

    “This is why the wider Sangha was not supportive of the recent events; even those who fully support the Bhikkhunis (including myself).”

    Hope you are keeping well,

    All the Best,

    BillZ

  13. Sorry to have to correct you bhante but the new bhikkhunis in Australia were not ‘four practicing lay women’. They were 10 precept nuns wearing brown robes and the most senior, Ajahn Vayama was a student of Ayya Khema’s and has been ordained for at least 20 years. I don’t think it’s possible for a lay woman to become a bhikkhuni unless she has trained as a sikkhamana for at least two years. Maybe you could make this correction in your blog entry here as it may help to clear up some confusion for your readers that may result from them thinking that the nuns in question were unprepared for such a step.

    • These four women were indeed 10 precept Dhamma practitioners with ‘Ajahn Vayama’ having completed 24 years of practice, ‘Sister Nirodha’ having completed 6 years of practice, ‘Sister Seri’ had completed 5 years of practice before Bhikkhuni ordination, and ‘Sister Hasapanna’ had completed 3 years as a Dhamma practitioner. All four of these women are members of the Dhammasara (womens) Monastery in the Perth, Western Australia area. Sister (now Bhikkhuni) Nirodha was instrumental in the establishment of the Santi Forest Monastery in Bundanoon, NSW, Australia.

  14. Thank you for the correction. Actually, all the focus had been on Ajahn Brahm so that I, like many, had not really looked at the ordainees. I have heard some of Ajahn Vayama’s dhamma talks in the past.

    • Yes all the focus has gone to Aj. Brahm and the monks as usual, but no surprise there. In reality this is all about the nuns and making bhikkhuni ordination viable for them so that women have the smae conditions within which to practice as men do, just as the Buddha intended.

  15. Seems to me the best way forward is to find some middle ground and reconcile. I understand that Aj Brahm has offered to apologise and make up. In response, the WPP sangha visited his preceptor who subsequently revoked Aj Brahm’s Upajjhaya status. What’s the thinking behind such intransigence?

  16. What is more important? Practising wisdom and compassionate? Or following tradition blindly? Ajahn Brahm did a great job in this occasion, as he set his priority right.