Is there a "place" in the west for a monastery that is home to Bhikkhus AND Bhikkhunis?

I have been married 15 years. I feel like the luckiest guy alive. Honestly, I do. I know some may think that sounds delusional but that is the way it is.

I am overwhelmed by such an amazing sense of gratitude for the love my wife has given me. I sometimes can’t believe that someone could love me the way she does. I know nothing lasts forever, but I truly cherish what we have. There have been times, particularly early on in our marriage, when I was a real dead-beat. I was self-centred, selfish and had a really high opinion of myself. My wife has been so forgiving. She has put up with a lot. She has humbled me and brought me down to earth. She has been a mirror for me, sometimes she has been extremely patient and other times, she has just cut me right down.

Aside from my mother who worked so amazingly hard to raise my sister and I all on her own, my wife has been the most influential woman in my life. Add to that our two teenage daughters who both continue to inspire me for so many reasons (we also have a 5 yo son who is an absolute angel) and I am surrounded by females to whom I owe so much. In addition there is my female boss, who is an incredibly dedicated public servant, and you can start to see why I am passionate about gender issues.

There is nothing I would not do for my wife and children. For my wife and daughters, I will do everything in my power to see that they can reach their full potential, both spiritually and worldly. Some may say that trying to elevate women’s status in society goes against the laws of nature, kamma and even the teachings of the Buddha, and is fool-hardy but I don’t care. The gratitude I have towards my wife, daughters and mother moves and drives me to think, speak and act this way. I will continue to promote these ideals of gender diversity and equality. Am I banging my head against a brick wall? I don’t know, but it feels right and I’ll keep doing it. Does this go against the Dhamma, I don’t think so, but I am prepared to take that risk.

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This is the western monastery local to me, near Spokane, Washington USA, as mentioned in a previous thread, An old story

http://www.sravastiabbey.org/index.html

Currently, there is only one monk to twelve Bikkshunis, and one male anagarika to two female anagarikas, but it seems to be a very peaceful community with a thriving and generous lay community, and was given the Dalai Lama’s full blessing. While I prefer the EBTs and such teachers as Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Brahm, Ajahn Sujato, Ajahn Brahmali, etc. I do enjoy every minute spent at Sravasti, and can appreciate the more esoteric practices of vajrayana as taught by Venerable Chödron, a gifted and inspirational teacher. It is her hope to grow the Sangha equally in gender, and employs many aspects of non-violent communication amongst her disciples to diffuse any potential conflicts inherent in a community, until, I would assume, their practice was developed enough to overcome these obstacles without reliance on such methods. Maybe potential coed monastics could learn from this example/practice?

With metta,

:anjal:

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The Buddha taught there is no person we can show more gratitude towards than our mother (and father). Also, since bhikkhunis choose the bhikkhuni life, obviously child-bearing is not so important to them so I am not sure what Allison is trying to argue here? Monastic Buddhism obviously has always regarded reproductive instincts as counter to the path but how is this related to ‘Bhikkhunism’? Are bhikkhuni also trying to abandon craving? Or is Allison inferring they take on a ‘mothering role’, as I originally alluded to?

I suppose they are more complex when individuals are distracted from meditation. When I lived in a monastery, all I found “complex” was certain worldly behaviors of certain monks & nuns.

I already suggested junior monks are probably not allowed to admonish nuns.

[quote=“Brenna, post:32, topic:3209”]
Yes, but women also left the household for freedom during the Buddha’s time. It was not exclusively men who sought liberation from suffering.[/quote]
Leaving the household usually meant living in the forest & wandering. When the Buddha’s upper-class aunt/mother arrived with her female companions, my impression is they wanted to live with the monks (in a monastery) rather than live in the forest among themselves. I trust many monks had to sacrifice their freedoms to accommodate this.

If bhikkunis today become famous gurus and thus fund raise, why can’t they not be independent of the monks & merely congregate together each full-moon?

That is certainly a contentious assertion for which many observers may strongly disagree with.

[quote=“Brenna, post:32, topic:3209”]
This equality can be realized through understanding the patterns of male-superiority that have existed over time.[/quote]

MN 115 states a Sammasambuddha (the self-enlightened-Buddha that starts the Buddhist religion) cannot be a woman. We live in a free world today. Why are not the bhikkhunis raising their own funds & starting their own monasteries?

:slight_smile:

I have not noticed the teachings of the Buddha are against the ‘elevation’ or ‘equality’ of women. However, if they actually were, I would suggest it is not ethical of you to try to impose you will onto the teachings of the Buddha if they were actually ‘sexist’. Instead, it would probably be ethical of you to start your own non-sexist religion.

Fortunately, I believe, in many subtle ways, nature & the Dhamma point to women being superior in the worldly or moral realm. This appears to have been demonstrated by how your wife elevated you (rather than you elevating her). I imagine even your own daughters have often acted to improve your behaviour. In my life experience, I have gained the impression that, in their natural state, young girls/women naturally have a superior moral sensibility than young boys/men. I have to also personally acknowledge there was a time in my life when an important woman elevated me morally & helped me to become much more compassionate.

However, in the monastery, I imagine women performing their natural role of trying to make men moral is not the way of life. I would guess monks & nuns follow the Dhamma-Vinaya rather than the wishes of their husbands & wives.

Hello Jayantha

I suppose I should kind of apologize if it was me that “derailed” your thread however you did ask for a larger pool of wisdom.

Possibly, when there is a retreat for laypeople, the monastery could simply invite a bhikkhuni to provide some teachings.

Obviously, the previous bhikkhuni focus where you are did not work out. Two strong virtuous bhikkhuni & bhikkhu leaders established in sunnata could make it work.

With metta :slight_smile:

Did the Buddha really say that… ?
I was wondering about this few years ago after reading MN115.
Bhikkhu Analayo gives some good answers in his comparative study “The Bahudhātuka-sutta and its Parallels On Women’s Inabilities”. Here is the link.

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Whatever

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Mate, I know how you feel. Really. But there’s something awesome about knowing and experiencing something for yourself, no-one can take that away from you. That’s what I love about the path the Buddha taught.

No matter what our intentions, we can all only speak from our own experiences - experiences that get caught up in bias, furnished by information we find that agrees with what we already believe, and ultimately, constantly, blinded by ignorance. That’s why all this is going to go nowhere. Why I, and perhaps you too, are suffering.

BUT maybe that’s the point. This has given me, yet again, another wonderful opportunity to continue to understand suffering. My own and others.

Anyway what’s this got to do with bhikkhunis and bhikkhus living together? Well, maybe there’s a chance to suffer more! :laughing: Just kidding. But I do think we’ve got a way to go for both genders before we see this becoming a functional reality.

Obviously, we need to keep addressing our biases and the tendency towards sexism in the practice of Buddhism. I do believe we have to keep resisting these notions of what a man or woman should or shouldn’t be or what they are or aren’t better at. It’s just trite and leads to weird expectations and exclusion of people who don’t ‘fit the mold’.

Perhaps it will become a possibility in an environment where we’re all willing to confront our biases, make the goal the focus, minus the BS and ego, and keep in mind…"It is a gain for me, it is a great gain for me, that I am living with such companions in the holy life… Why should I not set aside what I wish to do and do what these venerable ones wish to do?’

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There’s an obscure author who wrote a book about this very subject matter, which I enjoyed thoroughly, and would be well worth your time when you have a few spare moments. It’s called “White Bones, Red Rot, Black Snakes” by some monk named Bikkhu @sujato, ever heard of him?:wink: Anyway, here’s the link to the pdf file.
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://santifm.org/santipada/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/wbrrbsSCREENopt.pdf&ved=0ahUKEwjpq5nZ4IzPAhVN4mMKHTOvDUsQFggbMAA&usg=AFQjCNFjw_r9hO5Ox-ALNSYlP2Jqz-48rA&sig2=JGo1MKUsCB47PtifaOPYaA

With metta,

:anjal:

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In my opinion, the gender stereotypes are not very helpful. The idea of the nature of women being to control men is an old idea in literature, e.g., Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It is not some unique insight, but rather the sort of idea that men pass on to one another to express frustration with the opposite sex.

How about monks and nuns? Even in all-male environments, monastics from quite a few traditions have engaged in sexual relationships as the quality of monastic rules and institutions declined. There already have been problems. But would a monastery with both monks and nuns run increased risk of such behaviors?

At least in SA 615 and SN 47.10, the nuns are said to have a separate residence, and Ānanda has to make a special trip in order to visit them. This is probably a very early account of a residency for nuns, since it is part of the core of the saṃyukta for the Bases of Mindfulness.

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Goodwin presents the aforementioned ideas in order to provide an example as to part of the reason why bhikkhunis aren’t ordained in places like Thailand and Burma. It is women’s perceived biological ‘flaws’ that Goodwin argues contributes to the monks unwillingness to ordain them.

Can you provide an example, please. Also, what’s your definition of feminism?

They are (e.g. 1,2,3,4,5).

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I would like to make an observation or two regarding vinaya based monasticism and its applicability to emerging societies and the subject of gender.

I understand that I live in a certain community which is regarded as quite progressive (Brighton in the UK) and furthermore I live within a certain subset of that community that is regarded as progressive even within Brighton. However over the years I have seen what was once our radical, progressive ideas become mainstream and these days we even have an increasing parity in the way the law in the UK treats individuals with such advances as 'gay marriage’ now being legal, and to a large extent considered equivalent to ‘straight marriage’.

So, I would like to ask you to consider if the concept of gender is a valid one for future societies and for the legal structure of Theravada monasticism going forward?

We seem to be in the situation where we cannot find anything that effectively differentiates between what we might call a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’.

So my idea @Jayantha, is that as you progress towards a more senior status in the Sangha, that you consider doing away with any reference to gender within the legal framework of the monastic community.

I think that we should understand gender as a simple cultural distinction, and while it was prevalent in the time of the Buddha, and somewhat prevalent today, going forward we can see no reason for making any such distinction, a distinction which encourages discrimination and suffering for a variety of subsets in society.

Due to communication technologies we now have a much clearer idea that rather than some binary man/woman, gay/straight division, we find both gender and sexuality are spectrums, and quite possibly these spectrums are open ended. I find that many of the teenagers that I know, have this very fluid way of talking about gender and sexuality that just didn’t exist back in the 60s and 70s when I was growing up.

I know that was potentially a little radical for many, so many thanks for reading to the end.

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Gender is a purely cultural invention to define roles in a society, this is true as I learned this in my college courses(major was anthropology and it blew me away the first time I learned about some cultures having 5 genders or more). However sex (ie male/female and the various biological mixes) is biological. There are actual differences in biology, genetics and of course acculturation between the sexes, this would be true if misogyny/misandry no longer existed and was somehow culturally bread out of the species. I don’t see how just because there is a spectrum doesn’t mean care needs to be taken in working with the differences along that spectrum, especially in relation to how monastics interact with themselves and society.

I think it’s a fair giant leap to go from accepting someone based on their own personal identification on a spectrum(which the Buddha did in the Vinaya itself, allowing someone who “developed the characteristics” of the opposite sex to join the new sex’s order), and totally deleting sex and gender out of the vinaya and monastic life however. There are many practical reasons in daily life to take these factors into consideration.

although I would be interested to see what Bhantes @sujato and @Brahmali have to say about this regarding the vinaya, I’m just a newbie to this life.

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Great points made here, Ven @Jayantha. I hope that some of us can either formally or informally do some research over the coming year to see how coed monasteries have functioned, and integrated well with good management of some of the issues (good and not-so-good) that inevitably affect monastic men and women living in proximity with each other. I’m going to try to get out to Abhayagiri this Fall ( 1st visit) and would like to pop into City of 10,000 Buddhas to see how the monastics there thrive. If the subject of a Forest tradition coed monastic campus is of interest, those of us with some perspectives can keep updating and it will be interesting to see how this goes. At the end of the day, the better that the " EBT/Forest/Bhikkhuni/Bhikkhu " tradition can thrive in the west, the better the chance the Dhamma/Vinaya has of thriving and propagating in the west.

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Thank you however I do not have time to read 190 pages of scholarship, which offers a questionable rendering in its very 1st reference to MN 115, by stating: "a woman is incapable of occupying various positions, one of them being that of a Buddha. " An accurate rendering of this would be "a woman is incapable of occupying various positions, one of them being that of a Sammāsambuddha.”

(Since I performed a document search of the word ‘Sammāsambuddha’ & only found a footnote, I assume the article has not discussed the distinction between a ‘Sammāsambuddha’ & a ‘Buddha’).

The distinction here is important because the term ‘Buddha’ is often used generically in Buddhism to refer to merely an ‘arahant’. In other words, there is no doubt women can develop ‘arahantship’ or ‘Buddhahood’. MN 115 only states a woman cannot be the one & only original ‘Sammāsambuddha’ that arises only once in a world system comprising of many millennium.

In our recorded human history, my understanding is there has only been one Sammāsambuddha, namely, Gotama. While there is a sutta or more that mentions ‘previous Sammāsambuddhas’, there is no recorded history of such.

Thus, what is the probability of a woman being a Sammāsambuddha? Is there one major surviving religion that has a female founder? Is there one modern nation with a female founder?

However, being less hypothetical, let us ask which gender left their homes & toughed it out in the forests & jungles searching for enlightenment, without any teacher of arahantship? Then once achieving enlightenment, which gender had the spiritual authority to start the doctrine of anatta & sunnata (not-self/voidness) in a world of priests that believed in Brahma (God) & Atman (rather than have it rejected)?

Then which gender walked around India & also the known world, risking their lives to spread the Dhamma (which also occurred in Christianity)? How many suttas are there that depict a Bhikkhuni going to a dangerous land as a missionary (‘dhammaduta’) and losing their life after establishing hundreds of coverts to Buddha-Dhamma?

:evergreen_tree:

This is COMPLETELY FALSE. Please read the article again and do not misinform people about its contents.

Apologies if I misrepresented the claims of the article. I was referring in my post to a section in which the author quotes scholar Juree Vichit Vadakan’s article “Women and the Family in Thailand in the Midst of Social Change”, who writes, “[women] are viewed as polluted because of their menstrual blood” (246). This is notably a study of family and culture in relation to religious values, and thus I should rather have written how in some countries women are viewed as inferior due to menstruation.

The hormone testosterone is associated with a desire for status.

Though many many men are not terribly interested in devoting their lives to accumulating status, power, etc. some self-hating men have used (and continue to use) religion, as they have used war, money, political power etc., to accumulate status and build up their egos. Sadly religion was long one of the most important tools for accumulating money, power, status, etc. --and scriptures were used to consolidate and manipulate that power… Just as we see politicians, business people, religious figures etc. manipulating “the truth” today… Religious scriptures have been one of the most powerful tools for accomplishing this.

Some of the worst sorts are attracted to power… and in the past, and to a lesser extent today, to religious power… Powerful religious men have often seen women as a threat to their personal “spiritual” “achievement” …or as an easy target… and so such people perpetuated negative views about them…or cut them out of religious scriptures or denied/refuted women’s accomplishments to build up their own egos or to make it easy to keep what they saw as necessary vows of celibacy–or or to project their own desires, negative qualities, and self-hatred on an imagined “other.”

This phenomenon may easily be seen across the globe in the tendency to also look down upon, discriminate against, and scapegoat people of different religions/sects/nationalities etc.

This is the reason there are totally contradictory stories, views, and rules about women and other groups in ancient scriptures…which also revere women and advocate love, compassion, kindness and nondiscrimination.

You are certainly wrong about Buddhism --and about Christianity. There has been a great deal of excellent scholarly work on the accomplishment and importance of women in early Christian communities.

In short the scriptures misogynist/andocentric view of women, and refusal to acknowledge women’s spiritual accomplishments etc., has nothing to do with women themselves.

A bit of advice: Don’t use Buddhism to build up your ego or that of other men/monks/Buddhists or whatever.

By doing so you demonstrate no understanding of Buddhism whatsoever… Buddhism is about letting go of the ego (not building it up) and realizing that we are not separate…

If you use Buddhism to look down on others or discriminate against them --whether women, the laity, people of religions or other sects, or whatever-- you are in fact distorting and misusing the Dharma in a manner that will harm yourself and others.

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I should add this was a response to the person who was suggesting that men are somehow superior to women… The sequence of responses may make that unclear…

I am not really sure what accomplishments are being referring to, here? I am personally not aware of an abundance of women teachers that have explained or demonstrated the path to Emptiness/Nibbana.

I said correctly & truly in my post that Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī sought to be part of the Buddha’s Sangha that was created & grown by men, including at the risk of their lives in hostile places.

I said correctly & truly in my post that Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī could have started her own religious group if she had the requisite spiritual accomplishments.

I said correctly & truly in my post that the male Sangha had the compassion (karuna) & sacrifice (caga) to allow (rather than refuse) Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī & her female companions into their Sangha, which was solely based on living the non-household wandering life.

Having abandoned home,
living free from society,
the sage
in villages
creates no intimacies

The Buddha SN 22.3

I do understand Buddhism, where spiritual accomplishments are measured by the eradication of defilements, such as craving, social attachment, delusion, self & fear.

The Pali scriptures do not contain a misogynist/andocentric view of women and refusal to acknowledge women’s spiritual accomplishments since they devote an entire section (The Therigatha) to the teachings of arahant nuns & even some major suttas, such as MN 44.

MN 115 is simply a scripture than states a woman cannot be the 1st Buddha that starts the Buddhist religion in a world system. Since history shows no record or evidence of a woman starting a Buddhist religion, why would we want to dispute or argue over this probable fact in MN 115?

My sense of your viewpoint is not misogyny as the problem but the struggle to humble oneself to the difficulty of accomplishing the Buddhist path (which is not easy to accomplish for both men & women). Writing academic & hypothetical academic papers is far different from the reality of reaching Nibbana.

Kind regards :deciduous_tree:

Dhp 75. One is the quest for worldly gain and quite another is the path to Nibbana. Clearly understanding this, let not the monk [or nun], the disciple of the Buddha, be carried away by worldly acclaim, but develop detachment instead.