Just another brick in the wall

As the other thread seems to have gone in the direction of material support for nuns, which is of course great and much needed and appreciated, I want to focus a little more here on another aspect I touched upon and something I only recently started fully appreciating.

Some years ago I did not notice this, or did not want to notice it, even though I heard other nuns say things. I thought it was just them. At first I took it all in my stride, thinking it’s part of the path, it’s just the way things are and just be equanimous with it all. But now it is slowly creeping up on me, I have begun to see the detrimental effects on my own mind.

You might not have an adblocker on your browser. You might think that those commercials have no effect on you; you never had the intention of buying that stuff anyway. But if you keep on seeing these ads, even without paying attention to them, over and over again, they actually start having a subconscious effect on the way you see things and the way you behave. This is how marketing works.

It’s just all these small little signs that if they happen once or twice you don’t think anything of it. Like a monk ignoring you or starting to get nervous when he accidentally finds himself in your presence. Or a monk not wanting to sit anywhere near you, or when you see that senior nuns always have to go behind the junior monks on Pindapata if they are allowed to go at all. Or when you have to sit on a lower seat than monks junior to you. Or when you accidentally touch the box of tea-bags, and it has to be re-offered to the monks. There are so many little signs, too many to list here, that just say: you’re different, you’re inferior. The lay people also pick up on those signs and start acting like that to you as well.

Even those monks who see it have to face the pressure from their peers and superiors. A friend telling me he cannot talk to me because I’m a woman and his superiors won’t agree or the lay people will get upset. Another telling me I should talk to the nuns. But amongst the nuns we can all only just say the same thing. We can try to support each other, telling each other: “it’s not you!”, but as long as we cannot have an open and honest dialog about these things with the monks, nothing is going to change; they will never understand. Like I could never appreciate this until it happened to me. But they stay safe behind the comfortable walls they have built; for them all is well, why put in the effort to understand?

I look into my own mind and find it harder and harder to fight against this. Like a relentless virus that keeps creeping in, wispering: “you’re not like them!”. I can so understand why so many nuns disrobe. It’s not just the material support; that’s only part of the picture and just one more of those subconscious triggers saying: “you’re not worthy of the same support as monks”. It’s the very slow and gradual undermining of your psyche, an almost imperceptible force that eats away at you until you cannot go on any more.

All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.


It seems you read my mind. I fully agree. :cry::sob:


Ayya Vimala ,
How this difference to an adult layperson has to bow down and sit on the floor when we interact with a pisi little young monk perhaps ordained a few weeks ago? We have a 12-year-old young monk in our village temple and he thinks that he is the Maharaj. I started to wonder what sort of an arrogant monk he will be when he grows old. But I hope, with the age, they will grow humble like Bhante Sujato.
What I am saying is this is the Buddhist culture. You have to grin and bear it because our ultimate goal is Nibbana and the elimination of self-identification. Another point is that the discrimination (mana) is built into the human psyche which we have to be reminded when we deal with other people. As I said in a previous post you will win the battle but you will lose the war the way nun’s handling this issue at the moment.

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Are there outside of the Theravada world countries, places or traditions that a Theravada nun could go to where the status of nuns is better? For example Taiwanese nuns seem to have more degrees of freedom it seems.


Dear Ayya,

You are brave and strong, and have much love and wisdom. Anyone would be blessed to have you in their life. If they can’t see that, that is their problem.


Ayya Vimala, it isn’t clear whether this is happening 1) where you are residing now 2) or whether it takes place where your ordination isn’t recognised.

I’m asking whether it is within your sphere of influence (ie. your own monastery) or not. I take it, this happens from either visitors to your temple from outside or in places outside the Ajhan Brahmavanso and other traditions. I think having Bhikkhunis around is new phenomenon to some people- it will probably take a new generation of people for whom Bhikkhunis were always there, for things to change. But any new thing goes through a natural cycle- rejection, over-valuation and acceptance. We are still in the first phase of this cycle, I think. You are so new in fact I just realized my dictionary doesn’t even know how to spell it!

We have ‘not been placed on this earth’ to be loved. By which I mean- we will never receive all the love we ever need- the little slights we encounter, usually out of fear and anxiety/defilements, is common. Genuine discrimination is a feature of the world we live in. It is the clothes we wear, skin colour, speech, back ground, class, gender,anything really and everyone is discriminated against. The Buddha simply calls it all the eight worldly winds, as you well know. Buddhist practice wont change that- it only enables one to not feel the slights- not stop it altogether. When you are able to act despite these things, you will see progress. ‘I am hurt, I am unseen’. If one goes deeply into one’s emotion, it is possible to ‘capture’ the nidus of the place that really hurts- go into that place of hurt -and take the I out. The I is a delusion and only a mental creation, a fantasy- as long as an ‘I’ is functioning in the emotions there will be wall against which people and situations can bump against. No place for a slight I or even manna -dukkha will find you and the world will grate against this I. Bhikkhuni identity- self identification sets up something others can tear down and attack. I’m not saying to not be a Bhikkhuni (obviously) but rather watch how it might strengthen the I. I hope this isn’t too much to hear, but in some situations the practice is difficult, but that is exactly when it has most to offer/rewarding. I’m sure things will change, and your kamma must be good! Sometimes I think someone’s personal enlightenment is the only thing that changes things for the better, internally or externally.

with metta


My dear monk friend and Tan Ajahn is running a typical “Thai style temple”, with all it’s charming and not so charming pro’s and con’s attached … :wink:

I’ve been helping around for a few years now and often sent sympathetic thoughts in his direction when he’s been “pushed around” by a “few” of these not so mindful women with all of their plans and needs. I never asked the monk directly how he actually feels about this “circus” going on.
One time I said: I believe your situation is heavier than mine, because I live together with just one single woman (who can feel free to push me around), but you are “married” with 40 different women, and all of them bosses you around demanding their wishes being met by a nice and serious Bhikku …
He just smiled didn’t reply, but I understand his teaching to me and all; patient endurance!




Being a monastic is never easy, but it is all the more difficult for women. There is no way to mansplain away the issue. Thank you for those threads, they made me more aware of how we can be useful to the sasana through helping where help is most needed. I will commit to encourage people in my country, especially women, to provide at least greater financial support to nuns / bhikkhunis, and maybe more if we can manage to pull something off.


Is it? Again, glad this life grew up elsewhere than SEAsia because… while many things are Buddhist culture, not all habits and rites and rituals are.

may all beings achieve liberation.


'we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.'
even if it’s millimeter by millimeter, I know we will keep progressing, we will never give up.
whatever they say to us, whatever they do, there’s something they can never take away.
surround yourself with our love Ayya, let that be your ‘wall’ too :cry:


so very glad this life was not male! Compassion for being who have such, may all being liberate.

Ayya(s), thankfulness for the living and teaching you in so many ways do, so simply, so helpful and inspiring and instructive to this life! it means more than can be said, for this life. Wishing confidence and mutual support for all sangha, as the Buddha designed.

happy tears in eyes. they need the washing and comfort, in many ways and i am grateful


I like this phrase. it really sticks.
With Metta


screams from the rooftops: YOU ARE WORTHY OF THE SAME SUPPORT AS MONKS. :pray: :heart:


Let one’s own stillness be the mirror that reflect’s back on to it’s source - and if it’s hit’s anybody there, then that will reveal itself - if not then have mercy with a struggling contemplative.

What is worse: Feeling being on top, or feeling being down in the gutter (for one’s own practice ?

Just my heart :yellow_heart::green_heart::blue_heart:

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Why do you think that?
In terms of practices that implicitly or explicitly tell nuns that they are inferior, garudhammas and questions of seniority vs. gender - among other things - are also an issue there. And all these small things that Ayya Vimala has mentioned in her post occur with monks from Bodhinyana just as they occur with others.

(This post is not intended to criticize Ajahn Brahm’s tremendous contributions to the revival of bhikkhunis and the building of bhikkhuni monasteries :anjal: - but these are not the focus of the present thread.)




Gosh, it is so eye-opening to hear about yet so characteristic of samsara. There are people who support the bhikkhunis out there, just as the Buddha opened the path to them, and as the conditions change in general for women both in Buddhist circles and in the wider global context, so too will attitudes. In the meantime, all I can say is treat yourself with kindfulness and know that your Noble Task is so rare and precious.


Bhante, this is not about me. This is about the institutionalized discrimination that undermines the Bhikkhuni Sasana. It’s about that same institutionalized discrimination that has caused the Bhikkhuni lineage to die out in the first place.

Just because it is “part of Buddhist culture” does not make it right, nor does it make it “what the Buddha taught” or part of the EBTs. Where in the Vinaya does it say that nuns have to go behind the Samaneras on Pindapata?

I would also rather sit behind my computer and lead a quiet life just coding and meditating and forget about all of this. But how can I not speak up when 3 nuns I know disrobed in just the last month as a direct result and other friends are depressed and even traumatized.

Today I heard for the first time of a Sri Lankan monastery in Illinois where nuns are asked to go on Pindapata with the monks in line of ordination date, not gender. Contrary to popular belief on this forum, this is the only monastery that I know of where this happens, the only other one stopped when it’s abbot left 6 years ago.

I have a deep respect and gratitude for the Ajahns who have helped the nuns to gain full ordination and who help them to build monasteries. But the underlying problems have not yet been addressed and these patterns that have culturally grown are still alive today, even in their monasteries. It is not enough to give nuns a place of their own to keep them out of the monk’s monasteries. By doing so you cut them off from all training and you keep the discrimanatory patterns alive that have culturally grown but are not part of the Vinaya and that are in the end not helpful for anybody, including the monks.

In my opinion we need to have an active dialog between monks and nuns to learn to understand each other and to eradicate these patterns that are detrimental to Buddhist practice.

These discrimanatory practices have their roots in fear of the “other”, the fear of difference and change and they have to be rooted out for us all to be able to grow and develop.

After all, fear is the path to the Dark Side.


I read Ayya Vimala’s post and feel that there are just no words, really, to respond to what such an excellent person like Ayya must go through day to day with these challenges. The only words that come to mind is the mantra that others have adopted when facing discrimination: “It gets better.” I suppose this mantra is an expression of hope, or faith, that over time, things will get better for Bhikkhunis; that they will enjoy the equality and justice that I know the Buddha would bestow on them were he alive today. Perhaps Mahapajapati is in Pioneertown for a reason: today’s Bhikkhunis truly are pioneers.

I also think of that old technique taught when one has to give a speech to a large audience: “think of the audience sitting there in their knickers.” So maybe, in a similar way, when a Bhikkhuni encounters a discriminatory monk or lay person, she can think of Ayya Kundalakesi. If anyone tries to drag you up a mountain intending to steal your jewels of intellect, accomplishment, or dignity, in your mind push them off the cliff. “Thank you, bhante, for your disrespect, now let me just step back and bow to your ignorance!” A little push, and…


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