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Democracy or immobilism in the Sangha based on EBT?

I just realised that I missed this. Rather than edit, which you may miss, I will answer it here. By “other citizens” I simply mean other citizens of the country of which we are also a member of.

@Akaliko Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu Bhante :pray:t3::pray:t3::pray:t3::+1:t3::wheel_of_dharma:

Also, glad you came out alive! ( sorry if I am being a bit cheeky here ).

@Ceisiwr In lay life, there is still gender bias, both outwardly and subtle. just ask any woman in an engineering or male dominated vocation. Seems like patriarchy is ingrained genetically! but most kids these days are encouraged in a different way : not just to ‘tolerate’ others, but understand, show kindness and find common ground.
That said, no ten year old girl would ever accept being told to go to the back of the line just because a kindergartener boy came late to the line up! That’s my experience anyway :rofl::rofl:
Tolerance can be ‘forced’, that’s why harmonious agreement is important ( so eloquently put by @Viveka🙏🏼).
Not everyone is going to go that way, but as a Dhamma practitioner , kindness and treating others as I would like to be treated is how I hope to operate in the world :smile:

I hope these vestigial practices meet the modern age someday and the true spirit of the Buddha’s teachings are available to help all beings equally.

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A very wholesome way to live. I agree.

I had to chuckle at this, I find it quite hilarious to see people and organisations proudly waving their anti-progressive, conservative/traditionalist credentials but who are somehow okay with the quite sudden, very recently modern, and entirely unilateral invention of the curious class of monastic that is the siladhara.

It was indeed a radical act of unprecedented creation, a jumbled mess of rules drawn from here and there and cobbled together to present the illusion of offering equality whilst actually making it more elusive; offering a poor substitute to the real thing that was somehow supposed to appease. It is a monastic type not sanctioned by the Buddha, never known of through any of Buddhist history, not recognised by Buddhists internationally, including importantly being rejected by the Wat Pa Pong Sangha and banned by the Sangha Raja of Thailand. The siladhara is a complete fiction, literally frankensteined into existence by a bunch of white men in an obscure Buddhist outpost in the UK, all to avoid ordaining sincere women monastics as Bhikkhunis in the way that was actually set down by the Buddha.

It is real cognitive dissonance, to somehow see this as traditionalist and conservative when it was the exact opposite. There is a certain hypocritical tinge to the British Bhikkhu Sangha attacking others for acting unilaterally without majority support when it is something they did themselves, but in a form never seen before in Buddhism. At least Bhikkhuni ordination has a historical precedent and was already existing and was certainly happening elsewhere in Theravada too… but the Amaravati Sangha somehow hoped to impute that this curious patchwork form of the siladhara was the best and only option, a myth which had been told many times but fortunately is becoming less believable every day as more and more bhikkhunis take ordination. In comparison, there is only a tiny handful of siladharas left practicing across the globe today, a number which diminishes every year. Many of the siladharas disrobed when the male Sangha refused to entertain the reality of Bhikkhuni ordination there, thankfully, some have subsequently ordained as samaneris and also Bhikkhunis.

The ordination of siladharas should be seen for what it really was, the desperate last gasp of men who in good conscience could simply no longer deny that women deserved a greater spiritual role but yet could not bring themselves to relinquish their own vested interests, status or control. Instead they cloaked this mysogony in the thinly illusory veil of the ‘impossibility of change’ and ‘tradition’, which their actions clearly gave a lie to.

So many religious conservatives like to trumpet their traditionalist credentials, but all the while they are making changes here and there, reinterpreting rules, altering views, using technology, the law, innovating and adapting, doing whatever things they pick and choose that suit them (see the examples above of monks and cars, computers etc) but always when it comes to the subject of empowering women, change suddenly becomes something quite impossible to countenance for some reason. Why?

@moderators, this Q&A has been answered but become more of a discussion- should it be moved?

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The Buddha said he goes against the stream - he sees things as they are with right view… And that those who see things as they really are will also be going against the stream of wrong view. Just because someone goes against the stream doesn’t mean they are wrong. Ajahn Brahm calls himself a heretic in a joking, self deprecating manner… Context is important …

Note the many times the Buddha advises people to investigate the origin and continuation of their views. Most well known perhaps the Kalamas sutta

This is of fundamental importance. Identifying the changes to the Buddha Dhamma is essential, Erring on the side of caution, would indicate to me, that one investigates as thoroughly as possible what the Buddha actually taught, and what is likely an addition. There have been many studies on the passage you quote above, and it is agreed that that one single utterance stands alone, against all the other teachings the Buddha gave on the subject.

To take the position that this should be given equal weight to all the other (unquestioned and unambiguous) teachings by the Buddha on the equality of spiritual potential among all beings irrespective of caste or gender, is not ‘conservative’, it is holding onto an anomaly… and giving it a significance not deserved.

The Venerables giving answers here are foremost experts in the field of the Pali texts. Their comments are not personal opinions but are expositions of what the texts actually say. There has been much activity in investigating the texts, and as Ajahn Brahmali has indicated, in the end it comes down to choices about which interpretation to use…

You also talk about being conservative and supporting the stance that Amaravatti has taken

I wonder if you realise how totally radically non-conservative this is, in regards to the Vinaya. It is a wholly new construct - not appearing anywhere in the Buddhas teachings. Perhaps Bhante @sujato can elaborate on this. So it was wholly made up and constructed … how can this be seen to be more conservative, than actually using the Buddhas own methods for Bhikkhuni ordination - which is what Ajahn Brahm did. The bhikkhuni ordinations exactly followed the process laid out by the Buddha… nothing new added or subtracted. It just required reading the Vinaya without the taints of habitual/cultural adopted practices…

The problem lies, in trying to simplify something with quite entrenched views, while still subject to hindrances. I find it very disappointing to see the situation continually misrepresented… I view Ajahn Brahm as the conservative - sticking with the Buddha Dhamma, and not the other way around - even down to the results he has had to endure as a result of going against the prevailing ‘stream’…

It is a source of ongoing conflict and disharmony, a serious threat to the sangha, to try to re-write history, to expunge Ajahn Brahm from the Ajahn Chah lineage, by obviously leaving him out of all the histories of the lineage… it is like - ‘we’ (a few individuals in positions of power) don’t like what he has done - we will erase him - like he never existed -. It is a very damaging stance to take… It saddens me to see such unskillful behaviour causing a rift where we should look for harmony. And that this should be motivated, in order to keep alive something that the Buddha never wanted, by denying women equal access to the Dhamma and the holy life, that the Buddha himself - went against the stream- to create… The prevailing social circumstances in his time were much more radically sexist than they are today… and even then The Buddha established a female Sangha. In todays circumstances, with much greater tolerance and understanding of the superficiality of gender difference, how can we possibly do less than continue to follow the Buddhas example?

Anyway, I wanted to point out that ‘conservatism’ in this case may the very opposite of what you think. And that abdication of rational reflection, checking what revered teachers say against the words of the Buddha, and to have the courage to ‘go against prevailing opinion’ when it is based on wrong view, is something that the Buddha encouraged most strongly.

But this has now moved far from the Topic, which has already been fully answered by the quotations of the relevent parts of the Vinaya.

There is much scholarly work on the subject of Bhikkhuni ordination on the site. All the intricacies of the debates can be followed by reading through some of those topics. Accuracy is imperative, so that we don’t participate in the construction and propogation of a biased narrative…

https://discourse.suttacentral.net/search?q=Bhikkhuni%20ordination

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I had to chuckle at this, I find it quite hilarious to see people and organisations proudly waving their anti-progressive, conservative/traditionalist credentials but who are somehow okay with the quite sudden, very recently modern, and entirely unilateral invention of the curious class of monastic that is the siladhara…It is real cognitive dissonance, to somehow see this as traditionalist and conservative when it was the exact opposite.

It is of course a compromise and i fully appreciate the scepticism felt by other conservative buddhists. My main concern is the integrity of the Vinaya, Dhamma and Sangha. The siladhara does not cross the line IMO, although close to it. It was created out of a desire to include women as much as possible without violating monastic law. It was a way to balance two commendable but conflicting positions.

by a bunch of white men

With sincere respect Bhante but I don’t think this language is helpful.

The ordination of siladharas should be seen for what it really was, the desperate last gasp of men who in good conscience could simply no longer deny that women deserved a greater spiritual role but yet could not bring themselves to relinquish their own vested interests, status or control. Instead they cloaked this mysogony in the thinly illusory veil of the ‘impossibility of change’ and ‘tradition’, which their actions clearly gave a lie to.

I’m afraid I will have to disagree. I don’t think the good and wise monks of Amaravati took their position because of wanting to hold onto power and a dislike of women. I think that is an unfair characterisation of monks and lay Buddhists who take more orthodox and conservative views on such matters. It is possible to disagree with Bikkhuni ordinations without being a sinister misogynist.

So many religious conservatives like to trumpet their traditionalist credentials, but all the while they are making changes here and there, reinterpreting rules, altering views, using technology, the law, innovating and adapting, doing whatever things they pick and choose that suit them (see the examples above of monks and cars, computers etc) but always when it comes to the subject of empowering women, change suddenly becomes something quite impossible to countenance for some reason. Why?

An orthodox Theravadin is for maintaining the integrity of and strict adherence to the Vinaya, Dhamma and Sangha as well as accepting the authority of the Abhidhamma, the commentaries and the Visuddhimagga. That means we tend to not be open to new interpretations of the Dhamma or Vinaya. However, it doesn’t mean that new technology can’t be used just because it is new. As to why there is opposition to female ordination, i’m sure you are familiar with all of the tired arguments by now bhante.

The Buddha said he goes against the stream - he sees things as they are with right view… And that those who see things as they really are will also be going against the stream of wrong view. Just because someone goes against the stream doesn’t mean they are wrong. Ajahn Brahm calls himself a heretic in a joking, self deprecating manner… Context is important …

I agree. That doesn’t mean Ajahn Brahm is right though.

Note the many times the Buddha advises people to investigate the origin and continuation of their views. Most well known perhaps the Kalamas sutta

Yes, all views including progressive and left wing ones. It always seems to be the conservative who is being asked to reassess his/her views and never the progressive.

This is of fundamental importance. Identifying the changes to the Buddha Dhamma is essential, Erring on the side of caution, would indicate to me, that one investigates as thoroughly as possible what the Buddha actually taught, and what is likely an addition. There have been many studies on the passage you quote above, and it is agreed that that one single utterance stands alone, against all the other teachings the Buddha gave on the subject.

To take the position that this should be given equal weight to all the other (unquestioned and unambiguous) teachings by the Buddha on the equality of spiritual potential among all beings irrespective of caste or gender, is not ‘conservative’, it is holding onto an anomaly… and giving it a significance not deserved.

I fundamentally disagree. It is conservative to accept this passage as buddhavacana and so it is a conservative position to say that it is impossible for women to be Buddhas. A quite modern thing to do would be to ignore the passage because it doesn’t match our view of the world and how the Dhamma should be.

The Venerables giving answers here are foremost experts in the field of the Pali texts. Their comments are not personal opinions but are expositions of what the texts actually say. There has been much activity in investigating the texts, and as Ajahn Brahmali has indicated, in the end it comes down to choices about which interpretation to use…

I don’t doubt their knowledge and skills for a moment, but that doesn’t mean they are correct and I am wrong. To me they ignore an important source of authority and interpretation, namely the commentaries. Someone who does away with the commentaries only has the suttas and attanomati to rely upon, which is the lowest form of authority.

You also talk about being conservative and supporting the stance that Amaravatti has taken

I’ve addressed this in my post above.

The problem lies, in trying to simplify something with quite entrenched views, while still subject to hindrances. I find it very disappointing to see the situation continually misrepresented… I view Ajahn Brahm as the conservative - sticking with the Buddha Dhamma, and not the other way around - even down to the results he has had to endure as a result of going against the prevailing ‘stream’…

Its not conservative to ordain women, to ignore the commentaries or to ignore the Abdhidhamma. Its also not conservative at all to treat sarvastivada texts as having the same status as pali texts, which is an EBT approach.

It is a source of ongoing conflict and disharmony, a serious threat to the sangha, to try to re-write history, to expunge Ajahn Brahm from the Ajahn Chah lineage, by obviously leaving him out of all the histories of the lineage… it is like - ‘we’ (a few individuals in positions of power) don’t like what he has done - we will erase him - like he never existed -. It is a very damaging stance to take… It saddens me to see such unskillful behaviour causing a rift where we should look for harmony.

No one is re-writting history. Ajahn Brahm must have known what the consequences of his actions would be and he carried on anyway. He was obviously willing to accept the outcomes. Given the fundamental difference between people like you and people like I, I can’t see how we will ever agree on this topic. The key then will be tolerance and mutual respect, which would mean not claiming the other side holds their views because of some nefarious reason or another.

And that this should be motivated, in order to keep alive something that the Buddha never wanted, by denying women equal access to the Dhamma and the holy life, that the Buddha himself - went against the stream- to create…

I don’t think it was too radical. I believe the Jains also had nuns. He of course wanted women to be nuns, but he would also want us to uphold the Vinaya. This has lead to the conflict we have today between the two camps.

In todays circumstances, with much greater tolerance and understanding of the superficiality of gender difference, how can we possibly do less than continue to follow the Buddhas example?

That is just the thing. We both feel we are doing just that, yet we reach different conclusions.

Anyway, I wanted to point out that ‘conservatism’ in this case may the very opposite of what you think. And that abdication of rational reflection, checking what revered teachers say against the words of the Buddha, and to have the courage to ‘go against prevailing opinion’ when it is based on wrong view, is something that the Buddha encouraged most strongly.

I do check what revered teachers say. I check them against the authority of the suttas, abdhidhamma and the commentaries.

Very ‘interesting’ view for an EBT group … No wonder we disagree :slight_smile:

But this IS an EBT discussion group, and we rely on the EBT’s as the bedrock for discussion.

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This topic was automatically opened after 8 hours.

That was extremely poor wording on my part. It’s the attanomati which is the lowest form of authority rather than the suttas, which is the highest. My point was that without the commentaries there is only attanomati to rely upon to interpret the suttas.

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Dear Ven. Akaliko. Thank you for giving the reference for how the Buddha taught us to resolve disputes. I was looking for this information when we set up our Charity Board for our local Buddhist group. I couldn’t find any details, so we went with the following site: Consensus Decision Making - Seeds for Change
I believe they are/were an environmental group in UK. We have found their method for resolving disputes very good.
I’m happy to hear that you are with your teacher at Lokanta Vihara. I met you during the Rains in 2016 at Bodhinyana when you were a Samanera. Now you are a Bhikkhu and now, our dream of hosting a Buddhist monastery in my small town of Canmore, AB Canada has become a reality. Ajahn Subharo became our resident monastic on June 1, 2020.

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Sadhu sadhu sadhu for this wonderful achievement!

Hoping you’ll never need dispute procedures! But very wise to have them.

Good to hear from you. Blessings to your new community.

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I thought you might be interested to know that the monks at Bodhinyana Monastery have unanimously decided that from now on any bhikkhunī who is visiting us will be allowed to take her place in the pindapat line in accordance with seniority. It may seem like small step to some, but at the very least we are moving on these matters. I would encourage you and others to complain if you ever see anything discriminatory at our monastery. Without that gentle encouragement to change, there is a chance nothing will happen.

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Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

Thankyou. I was exactly just thinking about this tonight, as the Rains begin tomorrow. I wish I was there to see it - but next year :smiley:

May you and the entire Sangha at Bodhinyana and Dhammasara have a wonderful rains :pray:

Tagging @irene so that you can see the result of the process in your opening post, in action .

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Wonderful news.

Sadhu sadhu sadhu to the sangha for moving unanimously to welcome and acknowledge bikkhunis.

:pray::pray::pray:

And I’d like to add: Sadhu sadhu sadhu to the sangha for preserving a convention that respects its own community so much, and ensures that everyone moves forward together with unanimity.

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This is excellent news, thank you for letting us know.

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Very good to hear this. Bhikkunis have struggled long enough to achieve equality with bhikkhus. I’m so glad to hear that the monks at Bodhinyana decided this unanimously.

with metta

Trevor

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We love you guys!!!
:star_struck: :heart_eyes: :clap:

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Yes. Once some mendicants were fighting:

MN128:4.1: Then the Buddha went up to those mendicants and said, “Enough, mendicants! Stop arguing, quarreling, and fighting.”

Three times the Buddha asked them to stop arguing. But the monks insisted:

MN128:4.18: “Wait, sir! Let the Buddha, the Lord of the Dhamma, remain passive, dwelling in blissful meditation in the present life. We will be known for this arguing, quarreling, and fighting.”

So the Buddha left them to their arguing. And the next morning he chastised those monks and departed:

MN128:6.25: Breakers of bones and takers of life, thieves of cattle, horses, wealth, those who plunder the nation: even they can come together, so why on earth can’t you?

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Even though this is essentially a Sangha matter, we lay people may have to express our views with the exclusive intention of helping create conducive conditions for the Sangha to continue with their practice. They are our teachers. So, we have to look after them! Hence the decision to write this Dhamma Piece!

During a recent discussion with a certain Bhikkhu who is not completely convinced about the proposal, (at least, not at the moment), he mentioned about Garu Dhamma; the need to follow vinaya rules established by the Lord Buddha; the possibility of any adverse impact that the softening of rules may have on the Sangha, in future; & also, the Suttas in the AN Book One in which the Lord Buddha discourses that a woman cannot be a Buddha, as the reasons for his position.

This Dhamma Piece is an attempt to shed some light on those views from the point of view of the Dhamma, especially from a lay disciple’s perspective, for the benefit of us all!

Comments
The proposal seems to be somewhat of a divisive issue mainly due to the views of a very small minority of the male Sangha but, it need not be like that! If one could look at the issues with Right View, with one’s own practice as the pivotal factor then, the issues will resolve by itself! So how can we look at them? We could look at them in two different ways:
One way is to look at them as an opportunity to help advance one’s own practice & the second is to look at the conditions under which the current Vinaya Rules may have been established by the Lord Buddha.

  1. Opportunity to advance one’s own practice:
    • If the Bhikkhus allow the Bhikkhunis to take their place on the Pindapatha Line according to the seniority not based on the gender, that will help weaken the conceit & puncture the notion of ‘Self’. When that happens, one would gradually start to see things as they are & realise that this “I” is nothing but a mass of suffering! When we lay-disciples bow down to the Buddha, the Dhamma & the Sangha, that makes us feel humble & help dilute our conceit.

Though not a crushing blow, such humility backed by meditation & the Dhamma Knowledge would undoubtedly help weaken the notion of “self”. So, why not allow Bhikkhunis to be ahead in line, if that will help you swim against the current? When the “self’ starts to get diluted, eventually, we would see the Dhamma & when that happens, one of the three fetters that would be broken is the misapprehension of precepts and observances (SN 45:179).

• Wouldn’t the view that Bhikkhunis should stand at the bottom of the line is a somewhat akin to adherence to precepts & observances?

If one could gradually let go of the easier precepts & observances then, the letting go of other major precepts & observances may become easier!
• Isn’t it better to Give rather than to Receive? By allowing the Bhikkhunis to take their place according to seniority, the Bhikkhus are giving up a privilege that the Lord Buddha has bestowed on them.
Once given that privilege, some of the Bhikkhunis, in their own humility, may stand right at the back! So, the Bhikkhus would become the Givers & so would the Bhikkhunis, too!
• In the Pāyāsi Sutta, DN 23, the Great Arahant Kumārakassapa, in the Simile of the Man Who Carried Hemp gave a fantastic example as to what happens when we adherer to own wrong views & refuse to accept change. So, it would be good to drop the ‘Bale of Hemp’ & exchange it at least to a ‘bundle of copper’ if not for the ultimate ‘bundle of gold’!
• Senior, adored & revered Bhikkhus who were thought by many of us as absolutely great members of the Sangha objected to the Bhikkhuni Ordination. Now, we understand, it is not them! It is the conditioning! The conditioned Dogma! Unless, we see that as conditioning, see the cause of that conditioning, we wouldn’t be able to let that go. If we could see the conditioning as conditioning then, we could act to minimise the impact. If not, we would ever be carrying the ‘Bale of Hemp’!
• In the Alagaddūpama Sutta, (The Simile of the Snake, MN 22), the Lord Buddha advised HIS disciples to use the Dhamma as a raft. Use it, cross the stream then, leave the raft but, not carry it on one’s head!

Here is a short extract from that Sutta:
“Mendicants, I will teach you how the Dhamma is similar to a raft: it’s for crossing over, not for holding on”. (Courtesy of SuttaCentral)
• On the discourse by the Lord Buddha about the inability of a woman to be awakened as a Buddha, in Anguttara Nikāya, it is accepted as absolute, true Dhamma! There are no ifs or buts! With Saddha in our heart, we accept them as the True Saddhamma!
Another message that the Lord Buddha repeatedly discoursed is that the consciousness is constantly changing. The Lord Buddha has taught us that rebirth is a process! It is a process that happens due to causes & effects! In the Maha Taṇhāsaṅkhaya Sutta, (the Longer Discourse on the Ending of Craving, MN 38), the Lord Buddha discoursed to the misguided bhikkhu Sāti, that there is no one transmigrating from life to life, there is no fixed Consciousness or a permanent essence that gets reborn after one’s death. Here is a sentence form that Sutta:
“Silly man, who on earth have you ever known me to teach in that way? Haven’t I said in many ways that consciousness is dependently originated, since consciousness does not arise without a cause?” (Courtesy of SuttaCentral)
So, isn’t there a possibility that a man in this life may be reborn as a woman or the vice versa!
• We don’t know how the Kamma works exactly but, isn’t there a possibility that someone who now could rightfully claim a front place in the queue may have to stand right at the end?
• Our practice should ideally be not to worry about future Buddhas, but to practise the Essence that our Lord Buddha has taught us, ‘Getting Rid of the Self & putting an end to Suffering’!
• Awakening as a Smmasambuddha and getting a forward place by a Bhikkhuni in the Pindapatha line, are entirely two different things of massively different proportions. When one is in the process of developing the Right View, one could look at them in the right way, in the right perspective.

  1. The conditions under which the Procedures for Bhikkhunis may have been established

One thing that some of us have to remember is not to forget the nature of the then Indian Society in which the Lord Buddha established the Bhikkhuni Sasana to help long-suffering females. It was an utterly male dominated society. It was essentially a Patriarchy society. During that time, the middle land was ruled by ruthless kings even though they all paid their utmost respect to the Buddha. For example, the King Ajātasattu of Magadha murdered his own father & did not listen to repeated pleas of his mother to spare the life of the kind, old king Seniya Bimbisara who was a stream-enterer!
So, the decision by the Lord Buddha to allow the women to go forth was a world changing revolution!
Under those conditions, would it be right to say that the Lord Buddha may have introduced certain requirements to appease those who would have been retiring into Male Bastions & looking for reasons to criticize that world changing decision to ordain Bhikkhunīs & establish Bhikkhunī Dispensation!

Way Forward
Our teacher, Ven Ajahn Brahm discourses, frequently, “bend the beliefs to suit the facts/truth, not the other way around”! So, wouldn’t it be better for those who have opposing views to the proposal to see the truth before making a stand? How could we see the truth? Well, the answer that the Lord Buddha has given us is to meditate! Meditate on the practice of four Brahmaviharas & take an equanimous view! When we look at the issues from the other person’s viewpoint, be kind & compassionate, the differences could dissipate: Harmony will prevail! Our conditioned dogmas would start to dilute & the ‘self’ would have no place to hide! Everyone would be happy & peaceful!
It is truly heartening to see the Sangha at Bodhinyana taking meaningful steps to bring gender equality to their daily Pindapatha Procedures! May they continue to be a shining light to the rest of the Buddhist World! Among the contemporary Sangha, they are the trailblazers! No doubt, we are so lucky to live amongst them!

May all beings be Happy, Well & Peaceful
Upasako
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