Meddling monastics?

That is perfectly understandable - best wishes - may you be well and happy and realise complete loving caring freedom. You are in good company with a good heart! :anjal:

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SarathW1, How fortunate that I am just a laywoman, and can question these rules, which confuse and trouble many people, Buddhist and non Buddhist, lay and monastic. Therefore, it is different, and it makes a difference.

Arahants can do what arahants do, let us try not to predict them; they can be profound.

May all beings achieve liberation. Metta.


Sarath, I’m going to assume you aren’t an arahanth Bhikkhuni or have met one to know their views, on rules that might have been developed later. The picture painted in school classrooms during Buddhism class of who arahanths are, must have changed a little over the years I hope? - they are devoid of critical thinking, surely, or loving-kindness, for that matter?

With metta

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Take an extra bow for me! I look forward to the day when you are a senior monk - you may feel you are then in a position to be more proactive in positive change. Real substantive change that gets rid of discrimination once and for all! It looks like none of us should hold our breath as it does not seem like anything fundamental is going to happen. It must have everything to do with who is currently pulling the strings when it comes to this issue. The system is based on seniority - the senior bhikkhus and bhikkhunis - and, if they don’t want to see fundamental change then nothing can be done about it. Its not surprising that people find themselves wanting to leave after a few years. Its not surprising that monastics are such ‘rare birds’. I hope this is not something they take delight in - because it is a quiet tragedy.

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Maybe there’s more scope then right now to develop the path in a more progressive lay setting? Be less rock, more water-like? :slight_smile:

with metta

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“Recognition, no blame, change.” - Ayya Khema

“Acknowledge, forgive, learn.” - [I think] Ajahn Brahm

We don’t have to wait another 2600 years - procrastinate - simply, recognise the issue, don’t blame anyone and, change! The pain, fear, frustration, disappointment etc. we may feel about the issue and, what to do about it, does not go away by ignoring it. There is suffering that leads to the end of suffering and there is suffering that serves no useful purpose. Patriarchy is an instance of the latter and no amount of ‘pretending otherwise’ makes it go away.

There is a thing called passive-resistance - non-cooperation with that which oppresses - an individual, group, ethos* etc. By not cooperating - not playing the game - there can be consequences. People will either accept or reject you - they may tolerate you and/or sympathise with you (for the stand you take). Whatever happens, if, what you are doing is right and it is necessary for the wellbeing of all sentient beings, then there is no reason to hesitate.

We have the internet now and email so it would just be a matter of savvy networking to build up a support base that understands the issue and would like to be a part of a worthy and auspicious change in the Buddhist community as a whole. This kind of networking and finding a support-base who will help - through material support (maybe crowd-fund) - would be a practical and initial step in making the change happen - sooner rather than later or, never! Then, those wise and compassionate way-farers who have ‘built’ the infrastructure could simply ‘step-away’ from the old-order and embody the values they hold - wholeheartedly.

If, there are people in the hierarchy who are not supporting what needs to be done then, I guess you will need to stop being held-down and manipulated by them - sad but true. It could all happen with a great deal of good-will by those who wish - out of their own inner conviction - to help Buddhism to flourish in this new era.

If anyone would like to support change, practically and/or otherwise, we could begin the process ‘here and now’? If, you post an email address I will contact you and, lets get the ball rolling? My email address is:

*Ethos: the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspirations.

We need a new-ethos and new stories to ‘live by’?

“It must have everything to do with who is currently pulling the strings”? Have you read about South Asian and Southeast Asian culture and history (which comprises 98% of the Buddhist population)? Seniority is deeply ingrained in South and Southeast Asian culture, and has been for the past thousands of years—no one is pulling strings; that is how people in those countries and cultures (India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Japan and others) live and have lived for centuries, and have being doing relatively well (in comparison to the West—see below). The problem is not seniority, it is human defilement, be it monastic, lay, male or female.

Seniority is important, no matter how it is perceived in the West (I live here by the way). In the West, absolute equality (or wanting to believe in absolute equality) is so prevalent, that how seniors are respected in the East is confusing. Yet, while Native Americans greatly revered their elders, in modern Western culture, old people are placed in seniors’ residents (often of questionable standards) to wait and die, without many people putting that into question. Is seniority bad? No, in a large number of situations and contexts, it is good and important.

Even the Buddha intentionally structured the sangha according to seniority.

With regards to respect, if a good university professor, who having researched and taught for 30 years, would have the same respect as I as a student have for him, that would be weird and uncomfortable. Should a senior monk of 30 vassas bow down and respect a novice of a few months in the same way the novice bows down and has respect for the elder and learned monk? That would be as unpleasant for the novice as for the senior monk (and would make no sense). Should a senior monk of 30 vassas have much respect for a senior monk of 20 vassas? Of course (although, not by obligation).

Seniority is important; a bhikkhunī of 30 vassas bowing down to a bhikkhu of not even one vassa is a whole different story (personally, I find it makes no sense). However, it doesn’t mean that seniority is the problem (nor that absolute equality, which is a false ideal, would solve the problem).


So your understanding of sociology, psychology, the history of the world, the culture of all Buddhist countries, as well as politics has led you to the conclusion that everything is structured patriarchally and that men are essentially the source of all problems? Are you being serious, or you’re just joking?

History is a can of worms and patriarchy is a big-wriggler!

I am all for respecting seniority if the seniors are behaving in a way that is worthy of respect. I don’t think the idea of ‘respecting elders’ as a social-norm - just because they have been around longer or, the ‘rules’ tell us it’s a good idea - should be practiced. That really makes NO sense IMO!

No matter how old the tradition is, all traditions, like everything else, should be questioned. Some traditions are useful to continue and if we continued in others, it would be a ‘mistake’.

We had a tradition of royal-control all over Europe - not that long ago. We had a tradition of church-control in Europe - not that long ago. Thankfully, those traditions based on seniority are non longer as powerful as they used to be. This seems to be what we are discussing here - correct - unquestioned authority (based on seniority) and, control?

You seem to be saying, it is a good idea to ‘not’ question the validity of traditions and, get rid of those that no longer serve a useful purpose? You seem to be saying, that this unquestioning obedience to seniority and the age-old tradition - unconditionally - is what helps to make the countries in Asia - you listed - great and successful societies? In some instances, what you are saying is probably correct and in others?

I know that there have been autocratic rulers in the recent history of Sth-East Asia that have championed your cause! They told the citizens in their country and the world at large that they were following the ‘Asian- model’ of governance. This is the way ‘we’ do it here and we are not interested in your ‘western’ democratic’ ideals and, your western notions like: human rights - we Asians love to have ‘strong-men’ in control. We love father-figures to guide us and, rule over us - father knows best! This is why we are successful! This is the message about the Asian-way that the grand-patriarch of Singaporean politics had to share with us all (may he be well and happy in future lives).

I guess there is more than one way to measure success? I am not sure if your view - followed to the letter - is something I would ascribe to? But good-luck with it - may you be well and happy! :heart_eyes:

No, we’re not talking about unquestioned authority and control; you’re the only one talking about this.

I never said those things, nor do I believe in them—and I was referring to the sangha and the general population in those countries. I said nothing about politics.

Laurence, you seem to not understand what seniority is—or at least have a very extreme view of it—as well as confusing it with authority, politics and control.

I’m just talking about basic seniority in the Buddhist sangha. You are aware that the Buddha intentionally structured the sangha according to seniority, right? To have respect and take care of one’s seniors/elders?

Obviously, oppressive behaviours and beliefs in religion (or anywhere for that matter) is problematic. I’m not denying that.

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I don’t believe we should unconditionally accept the authority of elders in Buddhism - because of their seniority. They may behave inappropriately and it would not be a good idea to follow their lead if that was the case. I do believe that respect should be earned not just expected. No confusion here, in politics, religion and, everywhere else, the same principle holds true - question everything! Patriarchy is not something I find necessary or helpful in any shape or form in any kind of situation or circumstance.

Yes, but you’re replying to me about things I never said nor believe in (i.e., oppression, unjust authority, patriacrchy, etc.).


I am not sure I understand what your disagreement is about? I am not saying we should all be equals and there should not be authorities, people of distinction that deserve respect.

It would seem we have different ways of looking at this issue and that is good-news. We don’t have to think alike! Respect can mean different things in different contexts. We can respect and love our elders and provide them with help and support - great - that’s as it should be! However, this does not mean that we need to have seniors/elders in leadership roles - making all the decisions.

The Buddha may have adopted that approach as a way of insuring the welfare of senior monastics. In the place he lived that may have been standard practice - as it is today throughout the developing world. Elders are supported by the younger family members when they grow old. If this is why the Buddha adopted this approach, as a social-security measure for the elders then, that makes good sense. Is that the kind of situation we live with today - has anything changed?

I believe in respect for teachers based on wisdom and compassion - primarily. Everyone should be respected an looked after - old and young - makes no difference. If women are not being given appropriate respect and they are dominated by men in the sangha - then that is not a way of caring for everyone equally. Hence, discrimination based on gender needs to end - correct?

I do believe reform is ‘in order’ when it comes to the code of conduct for Buddhist monastics. I have no problem with you disagreeing - judging from the deafening silence with regard to what I have been sharing it would seem that most everyone here seems to agree with what you are saying. So be it! I don’t believe that patriarchy or matriarchy is something we should support in any shape or form - religious, political etc.

Hats off for your way of practice :tophat:,
-and i like to add that those three aspects mentioned are exact the same one I experienced when starting to make prostrating a natural and effortless movement of joy and friendliness to this world.


Actually prostrating help the person who making it and not necessarily the receiving person.
It is good for your physical health and mental health.


And one has’nt yet started to say what kind of impact it has on the feelings of self and ego … :wink:

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What I think is you can prostrate with ignorance or wisdom.
Ignorance will lead to inferiority complex and delusion, the wisdom will lead to liberation through destroying self-view.

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Hi laurence,

I very much appreciate the ferver by which you want to end discrimination in all its aspects.

But probably there is a misunderstanding as to how the Buddha wanted the Sangha to work, and what the implications of seniority actually are.

Being senior (in ordination) does not automatically mean being in charge for all decisions. According to the vinaya, Sangha decisions have to be made within the community, ideally as unanimous decisions, and not imposed by the most senior monastic to the junior ones. And decisions should be made locally, within every seperate community, and not in a centralistic way. This is precisely the reason why it won’t work to make changes on a general, worldwide level, “once and for all”, as you put it in some of your posts.

Of course these ideals from the vinaya are not practised everywhere to the same degree. But there is no central authority to push this through—that’s exactly the way how the Sangha works: locally, not centralised, based on voluntariness, not obligation. With all the advantages and drawbacks this implies.

Interesting talk on this topic:

Look for example at the communities in Perth—I understand that this is where you live. There are actually not many monasteries in the world that come as close to this vinaya ideal als those communities, especially Bodhinyana. We all know Ajahn Brahm as the senior monk and wellknown teacher, and he is certainly well respected—but is he making all decisions? There are some stories how he had to give in to the opinion of all the other monks because he was the only one with his opinion… and he willingly did.

On the other hand, in a country like Thailand for example, there are government—not Sangha—laws stating that there has to be a central authority for the country’s Sangha. This has nothing to do with the vinaya, and it cannot be changed but by the Thai government.

You say you are not a member of the BSWA and therefore not in charge to initiate any change in the local communities and ask others to take initiative. Why don’t you become a member yourself, and maybe not only that, but take on some responsibility in the committee? This would provide you a good opportunity to see more closely how the two monasteries are running, and you would also probably see better where concretely things can be improved.

And just a side issue: In one of your posts you are publishing your personal email address. I don’t think this is a good idea and would probably suggest to ask people to PM you instead if they want to join your “anti-discrimination initiative”—let me just call it this way.



I concur. I was thinking of Anukampa Bhikkhuni project in UK, which I support. We hope to set up a monastery for Bhikkhunis, in London or nearby. Ven Canda is attending our monthly dhamma session tomorrow, and it will help raise awareness.

With metta


Thanks Sabbamitta, I understand that the different monasteries - groups - associations can make autonomous decisions based on consensus. That is why I found the comment about a need for ‘international’ Vinaya reform - that people had more pressing concerns - peculiar. It is also possible - correct me if I am wrong - that people can create new-groups if, they have a common interest that they wish to voluntarily pursue. This may be a sensible way of going about the realisation of common goals when there seems to be little room to manoeuvre within existing groups and organisations.

There seemed to be a great deal of problematising going on when it came to the idea that ‘change is possible’. As long as people keep thinking that way then it may create a scenario where change takes a long time to happen - if ever! This would mean another 2600 years could go by and the same issue could still exist as nobody has any clue as to how to break the stalemate - is that possible? That would be a bit silly - don’t you think?

I have been a member of the BSWA many times since 1988. At the moment my membership has expired and eventually I will get around to renewing it. I lived at Bodhinyana monastery for 6 months in 1988 and, it was a regular part of my life ‘on and off’ after that. For a number of years I was a weekly visitor at Bodhinyana - I was a carer and I would take trips there to keep my disabled friend happy and entertained - he loved the monks and Buddhism. Some of the monks were very fond of him - as well! I used to regularly attend Friday night and/or Saturday afternoon meditations at Dhammaloka - city-centre - for many many years and attend retreats when possible.

I had an interest in Buddhism before I moved to Perth in 88 - and had teachers and, attended retreats on the east-coast where I come from. I lived - and served - at ‘Wat Buddha Dhamma’ for two 6 month periods in the 90’s. I first went there to attend a retreat - ‘Ayya Khema’ was the teacher. Ayya was very kind to me with her teachings and she also asked me to help - as support staff - at ‘Wat Buddha Dhamma’. Many of us feel blessed and grateful to ‘Ayya’ for her gifts and help in so many ways. When I was in my teens I spent time living at ‘Chenrezig Institute’ and I have had a number of valuable teachers - for which I am grateful - from an early age.

I don’t see what the issue is with sharing my email and welcoming communication - if anyone feels so inclined. I have simply chosen to express my views and opinions in this forum as others have done. As with other participants there is no requirement to pay any attention to what is shared - its optional. I am not sure why I need to be singled out for special-attention and advised of what I need to do - or not do - but I am sure your motivation is good (like your doodles). All the best, Laurence :anjal:

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