A Trojan horse: thanissaro bhikkhus response to Analayo


Yet he cannot prove that his master and all those preceding him have adhered strictly to that same theoretical model of validation since the time of early Sangha or the Buddha. This is all a joke!

Most of the key teachers from which the Thai forest tradition were very vocal about how they had to find the Dhamma themselves amidst of corrupt, lazy or simply bogus monastic communities.

Mind as well that the re establishment of bhikkhu Sangha in thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma happened mostly via royal decrees and most likely never involved a proper transmission from good enough bilhikkhus to the one starting nikayas anew. Most of the time some fellows were just told to do so and in exchange got to live in temples next door to the palaces, eating good food and enjoying prestige of being friends of the kings…

All this is very well known and clear to anyone with the least understanding of the origins of what is nowadays called Theravada Sangha.

And yet he writes so many words to disqualify the beautiful effort and dedication of women who very much likely have more faith, energy and potential to get anywhere in the path than the famous mythical ajahns of the past, who usually have more words and wisdom attributed to them in fantastic and delirious accounts and essays than they ever had or even said out loud…


What I appreciate about Analayo is that he is multi-dimensional. Being fluent in Pali, Chinese, Tibetan and Sanskrit, he doesn’t just take positions based only on the Pali versions of the dhamma, he interrogates all of the witnesses, trying to sift out what most likely was said. And so important to me is that he’s not just a scholar, he meditates as much or more than he writes. I’m certainly not disparaging Alexander Wynne or Richard Gombrich, I’m just saying that the whole point of the dhamma is liberation from dukkha and Analayo’s approach seems well grounded in practical practice towards the Buddha’s message.


I don’t know about Gombrich, but I get the impression Wynne must meditate, because he writes about meditation and it’s origins in great depth, and with a lot of insight.


That’s really great to hear! I know virtually nothing about Wynne or Gombrich, so I’m careful to try my best not to judge them or take Analayo’s side based on my previously formed opinions, that would be tragic for me and others. It’s not troublesome for me when another person has a differing view from mine, I just need to remember to investigate, be open and weigh with my dhamma sense. For instance, I have tremendous respect for Bhikkhu Bodhi and I know that he is a noble disciple of the Buddha but I know that his perspective comes heavily influenced by the Theravada school and the Abhidhamma so when I read his translations or writings, I take that into consideration.


I took this to be a standard scholarly method of citing authors, rather than a personal show of disrespect. It removes the personal and makes it academic from my perspective :slight_smile:


Among monastics, a junior (lesser years in robes) should address the senior monk (longer years in robes) with Venerable (at the very least) or titles used in each respective tradition. This is what I have seen in Vietnamese, Burmese and Thai traditions.


S/w surprisingly, this thread has elicited a good number of level-headed discussions of the points of evidence and their argumentation. The fact that the occasional emotional slant has failed to ignite much beyond itself is reassuring. Restraint (sila) manages to prevail.


:anjal: :grinning: :bowing_woman: :thaibuddha:


I am sorry if I offended anyone.


Oh my! I’m a little disappointed with this comment because that’s your paraphrase, not mine. What I actually said is:

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”.

By misquoting a small part of a larger sentence you have changed the meaning considerably. I don’t understand the reason that you did this? Do you not see the difference between my actual quote and your misrepresentation of what I said? Was it deliberate? Why did you put that paraphrase of yours in quotes, thereby implying that this is what I had said? What were you thinking? I mourn for the loss of the integrity and/or intellectual rigour in this discussion.

Oh well. :cry:

We have many spiritual leaders in my religion who come up with a problem without even attempting to come up with a solution too. But why do they do this? In other areas they are very intelligent and creative. But suddenly when it comes to the area of the education or position of women their wits abandon them. We all deserve better.

I would point out that this is considered a minor offence in Thanissaro’s explanation of the Buddhist Monastic Code.

Before ordination, one must choose a bhikkhu to act as one’s preceptor. The Mahāvagga (I.36-37) gives a long list of qualifications a bhikkhu must meet before he can act as a preceptor, while the Commentary divides the list into two levels: ideal and minimal qualifications. A bhikkhu who lacks the minimal qualifications incurs a dukkaṭa if he acts as a preceptor; a bhikkhu who meets the minimal but lacks the ideal qualifications is not an ideal person to give guidance, but he incurs no penalty in doing so.

Is it beyond the wit of Thanissaro to come up with a work around in these exceptional circumstances?

As I say, this is not what I said. But what is the end result of a) his lack of motivation to find a way to allow women access to the highest Buddhist education and b) his active attempts to stop any progress in that direction?

For me (as an outsider) it does seem that a better use of his time might be to act like the example that you point out in the last paragraph of your post.

And of course this is not what is happening. From what I have seen so far, the nuns are not left to their own devices. If this is Thanissaro’s view and you have not misrepresented his position, then he should maybe try to educate himself with the reality of the situation and then see how he can help.

Oh well, if you can’t see it, you can’t see it. Maybe you need to live with him in close proximity for a number of years to get a proper understanding of his biases? :wink:


I apologize for misquoting, but don’t see how was it more than turning ‘argue’ into the participle ‘arguing’ and using ‘for’ instead of ‘that’? That part of your statement implied that Thanissaro in his article discussed limiting the education of women, though you do qualify it with “seems”, which might indicate that it’s an interpretation on your part rather than a literal quotation. (Your full statement juxtaposes the education issue with issues of wisdom and compassion.)

I may have missed it, but don’t recall him advocating limiting their education, so my text suggested that attributing that to him might be paraphrasing (in the sense of an interpretation rather than a direct quotation). Perhaps you could point out where in the essay you think that meaning is found? Then I would readily take back the “not…fair” bit.

Please accept that there was no intention of deliberately misrepresenting your statement.

And I still don’t understand how ordaining women (unilaterally or otherwise) affects their access to education. Again the possibility here that I missed something to that effect in the essay (or in the discussion here?), where you could also help by pointed that out.

I’ve tried hard to stick with a textual -criticism [edited] approach here, clarifying information as to what’s actually written in the essay, and to add perspective from what I know first-hand about V. Thanissaro, hoping to contribute to an even-handed discussion.


Fair enough. We are clearly talking different languages. No worries.


I’ll do my best to wade through Ven Thanissaro’s legalistic approach to the issue, but I am inclined to think that without the full ordination of nuns in the Theravada tradition it is likely that much more than the order of bhikkhunis will die out


In traditional Buddhist cultures, Buddhist education is monk-centric. For example, in Tibetan Buddhism it was always impossible for any woman to get a Geshe degree. Why? Because part of the geshe course dealt with Vinaya, and only those who are fully-ordained can study Vinaya. This may be changing, but it was the case until recently.

Similarly in the different traditional Buddhist countries there are hard and soft obstacles for women who want to get a good education. Discrimination is real and pervasive, and it creates genuine and lasting harm.

An exception to this is Taiwan, where following the example of an innovative and forward-looking generation of monk leaders, the bhikkhunis have become leaders in promoting improved education among the Sangha.

As long as women are prevented from ordaining as bhikkhunis, they will continue to be treated as second-class citizens in the Sangha. And as long as they are treated as second-class citizens, their access to education, health care, travel, and other basic human needs will continue to be curtailed and limited.


Also, the reputation of Buddhism will suffer among many and their hearts will remain closed to the Dhamma.


This has changed:


Sadhu! My goodness, this is so important. See the joy in those nuns’ faces! This is what happens when you support people to practice the Dhamma.


Am I the only one who sees these “one famous monk’s views vs another famous monk’s views” as the Buddhist world’s equivalent of the USA’s fascination with celebrity feuds, and more generally gossip about famous people? Unless you’re actually analyzing their positions seriously and thoroughly and speaking to further understanding and progress, as some in this thread assuredly have, for everyone else it’s essentially something to gossip about.


Thanks for the information. I see the point / evidence, though it would seem much of what you mention ("hard and soft obstacles" to education of women) is not specific to Buddhist countries or traditions, but endemic to much of the general Asian region – overwhelmingly Hindu or Muslim.

On a side note, I recall that since 10 years or so, Sheila Catherine (a local Insight Meditation teacher) has been raising money to support a school for girls somewhere in Bahir, which apparently has been effective, contributing to (as noted in Wikipedia) a dramatic increase in women’s literacy there of some 20% over the past two decades.

Anyway, I think it’s a bit of a distortion to attribute to Ajahn Thanissaro an intention to directly hinder women’s education (specifically with respect to the dhamma ). While his purist take on preserving traditional dhamma/Vinaya does involve (indirectly) the problem of full ordination for women, his teaching practice appears completely even-handed – no difference in his attitudes to women or men (or other gender flavors). In fact I know of cases where he has been involved in the advanced training of women (lay) teachers in Insight Meditation circles. The imputed misogyny accusation against him, that has surfaced in this discussion, is unfair. As rigorous as his positions on principle may be (as also in the critique of “false dhamma” of modernist Western Buddhism), he makes every effort to keep it impersonal and non-discriminatory.


Very true. Does he know who taught Ajahn Mun and Ajhan Sao? Ajahn Mun said that he had basically no teacher and progress by trials and errors and the help of heavenly beings, not by following the example of a teacher! I don’t understand how he can use this argument of the need of a continuous lineage of teacher/student while his own tradition relies on a person that was self-taught. Does he address this paradox somewhere in his writing?

@Viveka worte:
@Nessie wrote:
One more thing which but puzzled me: Ven. Thanissaro and Ven. Alanayo seem to avoid the respectful “Venerable” when citing/naming each other.

I took this to be a standard scholarly method of citing authors, rather than a personal show of disrespect. It removes the personal and makes it academic from my perspective :slight_smile:

I noticed that also! I hope this hypothesis of using academic citation is what happened…