This week I came across and old Arthurian story that Bhante Sujato also quotes in his book “White Bones Red Rot Black Snakes”: The story of the The Marriage of Sir Gawain.
Sometimes when you hear something again after many years, maybe from a slightly different perspective, it brings new insights. At least, it did for me so I just wanted to share it with you:
Just makes me wonder: as monastics we tend to live in segregated same-gender communities. Of course there are good reasons for this but I can imagine that this is not always helpful for our spiritual development. Would there not be another way?
The monastery local to me, Sravasti Abbey, though based on Tibetan traditions, is a thoroughly coed community. While the sleeping quarters are very separate, all else is done together, and it seems to work just fine. Granted, only one monk and one male anagarika live there currently, with 12 bikkshunis and 2 female anagarikas. The hope of the abbess, Thubten Chödron, is to grow the numbers of both male and female residents in equal proportion.
The inference is that men have much to learn from women about life and nature and our own purpose in the scheme of things. When we devalue or reject their intuitive knowledge, or ignore their intellectual capabilities, which are considerable, we do so at our own peril, and at the peril of the world we live in.
Ayya Vimala, I agree with your idea here. A coed community of monastics would have many positives, including helping the cultivation of one’s own development; a true community of kalyana mitta. I can see that the lay community would enjoy and benefit from this diversity as well.
I’ve always had female friends as friends. I think many men can identify with the idea that women and men can be great friends, without the relationship becoming romantic or sexual. I recall a talk from a former monk at Suan Mokkh who valued his connections with the female monastics and lay supporters; they who he felt had far more emotional intelligence and capacity for deeper discussion. Some of the male monks could be kind of isolated or even difficult to be around, and I can empathize with this feeling having lived in a wat for some time. I believe he stayed in robes as long as he did as he had these female friends to share ideas with and to support each other’s practice.
There’d just be a more dynamic energy in a coed environment, and more opportunities for collegiality and growth in the Dhamma. If any worried about possible dalliances, at the end of the day, as monastics there is this fundamental rejection of these base sensual impulses as part of the ordination and practice…it seems to me that a suggestion that mature men and women in practice is a risk is demeaning and a pejorative with respect to the strength and fidelity to the Path that one brings to ordained life. In other words, if monks and nuns are prone to fool around, they were likely not to be in robes long in any case.
A well managed coed Wat in the west would be a great experiment, and ultimately a great success. I’d like to see, as part of the growth of Theravada in the west an inclination toward monastic practice centers that are coed, an environment sure to bring strength and support. This might be just one more way that monastic life flourishes in the west.
You’re very welcome in our new monastery in Belgium once we’ve established that
I’d love to visit! Is there a timeline or plan in place for the new monastery; it would be interesting to know? Very happy for you that you have this in your future.
If I do visit, I can actually be useful. We Anagarikas are the Uber service of the monastic world.
We are currently in the process of buying land but bureaucracy takes it’s time. So we hope to actually own the land by the end of November. Than the whole process with building firms and architects, etc. Maybe we can start building at the start of spring next year, but it might also take much longer.
We might indeed need some help by then!
Dear Ayya @vimala,
So happy for you that there will a new monastery! May the new monastery prosper and grow. May the Dhamma continue to be spread in your country!
Enjoy the rest of your vassa!
with respect, reverence, gratitude and in mettā,
Dear Ayya @Vimala
Are you also able to accept donations from overseas regarding new land purchase & monastery construction ? If yes, then a link here would be useful to those who wish to contribute.
Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu! That is very kind of you!
The bank details and paypal donation button are in the column on the right on the website:
You can also sign up for the newsletter to keep informed.
With much gratitude!