A Trojan horse: thanissaro bhikkhus response to Analayo

Here’s a new article by thanissaro bhikkhu on bhikkhuni ordination. It’s a response to the criticism by bhikkhu Analayo and Brahmali he received for denying the validity of bhikkhuni ordination.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the technical points.



This is a very interesting dialogue.

If only non-Theravādin śrāvakayāna had survived in the Dharmaguptaka lineage. Then this wouldn’t even be a problem.


In the second paragraph of the article linked above, Ven Thanissaro makes the following statement
“1) There I noted that the Buddha made no provision for reviving the Bhikkhu Saṅgha in case it died out after he died, even though he knew full well that it would, and even though he had a positive attitude toward it. So there are no grounds for arguing that, because he had a positive attitude toward the Bhikkhuni Saṅgha, he would have wanted it to be revived without his being present. None of the above responses address this issue at all.”

My question is with regard to the bolded text above. Is it actually true that the Buddha actually KNEW the bikkhuni order would die out first, or is this just an assumption? Implicit in this statement is that the Buddha did not want it revived - or he would have made specific provision for how to reinstate it?


I think it is an assumption based on the notion that even the true dharma disappears for a time (its in that sutta everyone loves to cite about the counterfeit dharma and the true dharma).


There is also the problematic story of the Buddha’s allowances for women’s ordinations cutting short the lifespan of the true dharma by some number of years, I think 500 or 5000. If the saddharma disappears, likely the order of nuns will be gone too.

That brings up another point, sorry for the many-posts.

The “problematic story” alluded to earlier is AN8.51.

According to this sutta, the saddharma a) only lasts 500 years after the preaching of the (historical) Buddha, and b) only would have lasted 1000 years even without women’s participation.

Obviously devotees of early Buddhist texts do not believe this passage.




Not much to add to @Coemgenu, except maybe that B. Thanissaro refered to the bhikkhu order in your quote, so it seems to be a general statement rather than a specific bhikkhuni one.


Although it is a horribly pessimistic thing to say, doesn’t the fact that this preserved line of Buddhist thought, “the dharma will only last Y amount of time,” which is abundant in early Buddhists texts, Mahāyāna texts, and Tantras alike, the fact that it runs to contrary to the thrust of Buddhism as a “lasting” world-historical religion, doesn’t that make it seem slightly more likely to have been an actual remembrance of something the Buddha said?

Jesus didn’t say his Church would only last 1000 years, he didn’t say it would only last 5000 years.
Mohammed didn’t say the Qu’ran would only remain unaltered for any number of years.
The Pope doesn’t teach that the Catholic Church will only last 200 or whatever more years.

But if they did, and it was remembered, and it wasn’t forged slander, then 4000 years later you could look at this memory of Jesus, or Mohammed, or the Pope, and be suspicious that the memory was likely accurate. Because they would not have said that in a context where their original words were lost or forgotten. Their word-compilers would have only compiled the words that aren’t problematic in such a way.

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This is a genuine question from an outsider. Why are these misogynistic rantings given any credence by good mendicants engaging in the way that Analyo and @Brahmali do with Thanissaro? I (rightly) don’t hear the same engagement with the nationalistic monks from Sri Lanka and Burma. Their racist diatribes just seem to be called out and dismissed. Why not just call out and dismiss Thanissaro’s current views on bhikkhuni ordination in the same way?


Whether his view is misogynistic or not set aside, Ven Ṭhānissaro’s view happens to be the view of most of Theravāda with regards to women’s ordination, it seems. So one kind of “has” to listen to it, unless one wants to be in a room, with one’s fingers in one’s ears, not listening, and just yelling “Ordination now!”, in a room of other people having a discussion amongst themselves, all more or less agreeing with each other as to not ordain.

This mainline Theravāda position seems to be: “The order of nuns died out. The order of nuns is dead. There are no nuns to ordain or teach new nuns. A nun is required for the ordination and education of new nuns.” Is this a misinterpretation?


Slightly, yes. Just, you get into all sorts of doctrinal issues if you assume that the Buddha could literally look into the future. He would have foreseen Ananda to forget to ask him to live for an aeon, Devadatta to attack him, monks to ignorantly commit suicide etc. And if he knew and still didn’t prevent it then either our destiny is set in stone (a view he ridiculed in other places) or he didn’t care about others after all.

To make it short, he couldn’t look into the future imho


That’s an interesting responce. I wasn’t even considering the above in light of divination, or a lack of divining ability.

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For those who are unable to read the whole article, here’s a summary.


If this is accurate, then it should behoove the saṃgha who believes that to inquire as to the date of precisely when the last nun died, so that they can calculate a maximum of 500 years after that date, and all promptly disrobe because the dharma is dead for the time being. I don’t see how anyone could argue that the dharma would outlive the nun’s order by more than 500 years by the above logic.

I don’t think they are likely to do that, somehow. So it seems there is an inconsistency somewhere…


Not all of his views are misogynistic, but certainly some contain all the hallmarks.

Or one could just concentrate on ordaining lots of women and showing the world a better, fairer, more equitable Theravada exists. Don’t yell about it, do. Be out, loud and proud. :wink:

So now you’ve got me to start reading another of his terrible articles, god-damn-you :wink:

Yes. That’s the legalistic argument, but Thanissaro also seems to argue that a continuation of the cap on the education of women (by not ordaining them unilaterally) is a “wise and compassionate act”. Although I can’t find a detailed argument for this which is given in brief at the top of the document. I haven’t read the entire article, but I have looked where he indicates the argument should be. But no, it is not a wise and compassionate act to cap a women’s education below that of a man.


Oh, absolutely. The idea that he could make calender predictions of future events is a part of the evolving notion of the Buddha’s omniscience.


I thought he was also arguing that literally only nuns can teach nuns, but I’ve only read the summaries of his points, not the actual points themselves yet.

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But what happens when the prestige of the larger assembly turns against you, disavows association, when your lay support dries up because the more people believe the establishment than the critique of it? Especially if you are now branded a dharma-degenerating clownbucket?

It’s not necessarily simple to ‘just do’ such a thing.

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True, but the reality is none of those bad things are happening. Actually the bhikkhunis are thriving in Sri Lanka and Thailand, “official” opposition looks more and more outdated and irrelevant, and the more monks cling to their stance, the more they’ll be out of touch.

The dirty secret is that the real reason monks’ institutions oppose bhikkhunis is because they’re so weak and threatened. They fear for their livelihood, for their prestige, for the imagined purity of the tradition that has bestowed on them such honor. And they’re right: they are in fact weak, out of touch, and unable to cope with the real world. And we shouldn’t let that drive our choices.