Open question to Bhante Sujato - Reform of Vinaya Pitaka

Bhante @sujato, I think you are the best person to answer my question and remove my doubts about the questions I have about the schism. I welcome the input from other members even though this is specifically addressed to Bhante Sujato.

  • Is there a hidden agenda to reform the Vinaya Pitaka withing your circle of Sangha?
  • Can you reform or re-write the Vinaya Pitaka without a proper council?
  • Obviously, there will be a split in Sangha in this matter and will that amount to a schism?
  • There is a continued outcry about Bikkhuni Vinaya Pitaka, and in your opinion how this never-ending grievance come to a rest?
  • How is Bikkhuni Vinaya problem differing to any other problems in the Vinaya Pitaka such as handling money?

A link to my previous question about Schism.

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No there won’t and no it wouldn’t be.

When sexists stop discriminating against women and recognize that it is women’s right to practice and interpret their religion in accordance with their conscience, just as men have always done.

The main difference is that in the case of monks handling money, monks interpret their own rules.

In the case of nuns’ Vinaya, men—whether monks or lay—set themselves up as arbiters of womens’ behavior, policing and criticizing as they see fit. This is what is called “sexism”.


But how do you stop that? Even if you change the Vinaya code it will not stop the bully.
At least in a workplace, if you are bullied you can take your boss to the court.
It appears Bikkhunis bring their grievances to a forum like this as they do not have any other outlet. For example, if a male monk got some problem, how do they handle it.
or is it “this is my temple you put up or shut up or leave”

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It’s a long process. But the solution starts when you can name the problem. To paraphrase Lenny Bruce, if you can’t say the word “sexism” you can’t talk about sexism in the Sangha.

Agreed. But no-one is talking about changing the Vinaya.

In principle, yes, and the fact that this is even possible is definitely a step forward. But of course it is only one thing in a very complex and many-faceted social change.

As the ongoing revelations about abuse in Hollywood reveal, it is all too common for women who suffer abuse—even intelligent, outspoken, and courageous women—to remain silent out of a very justified fear of the backlash and harassment, and even physical violence, that happens when you speak the truth.

Let me make this point crystal clear, just in case you think I am making a vague analogy. Nuns have suffered, and are still suffering, rape, beating, emotional manipulation, and other horrific form of abuse at the hands of monks. The kinds of abuse that happen in temples is no different from that which is being reported in Hollywood. To silence nuns is to enable abuse.

May I suggest that it’s better to not speak of “grievances”; it makes it sound like the problem is the emotional incapacity of the nuns. Rather, it would be more accurate and helpful to say “the nuns share their experiences of discrimination, looking for ways to overcome them.”

But yes, nuns have few outlets to discuss such matters. Women are regularly bullied and harassed on the internet, it is a standard part of the female experience. It is essential that nuns be encouraged and supported, so that they feel safe and accepted and open to speak honestly about their experiences.

If a monk responds to admonishment by attacking the admonisher, then yes, I would ask them to leave, and in fact I have done so on several occasions.


So why you can’t apply the same to nuns?
If you do the same to a nun they complain to saying that you are a sexist!


I have not come across ANY nun, either on this forum or anywhere else, who

But I have come across monks.

Calling someone sexist is not attack.

Calling someone sexist is an admonishment.

There’s a very, very, very big difference.

These are not jokes. That you can make this comment at all

after @sujato stated this:

…is both astonishing and disturbing.


I have never known a nun to behave in this manner. But if she did, under the same circumstances, I would treat her the same. However, it’s unlikely that circumstances would be equal. For a start, if a monk is kicked out he has plenty of other places to go.

Please do not misrepresent what the nuns are doing. This is simply continuing the problem.

They are not making false claims that fair treatment is sexist. They are making true claims that actual discrimination is sexist.

They know the difference, because they have suffered discrimination. If you do not know the difference, you need to go to them and ask them to explain it to you.


Has this power given to men in Vinaya code?

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No monk has any power of command over nuns, or any right to interfere in the operation of the nuns’ community in any way. Despite this, monks routinely operate outside and against the Vinaya in this way, and no-one calls them to account for it.

There are a number of specified contexts where the monks are involved, and in those cases both they and the nuns, are governed by the Vinaya. For example, when a nun has been ordained by the nuns, she seeks confirmation of the ordination before the monks. At such a time, they have a point at which they can refuse to confirm the ordination. This would rarely if ever happen; it is kind of like at a marriage when the priest says, “does anyone object?” But a case might occur if the candidate is inappropriate, or the procedure had not been properly followed.

What is completely against the letter and the spirit of the Vinaya is to behave like, say, the monks of Amaravati did. They unilaterally imposed a set of five rules of discrimination against the nuns. The nuns didn’t want to accept them. So the monks said they would refuse to ordain nuns until they complied. The monks can freely abuse their power in this way, and still get lauded as great exemplars of the Dhamma, but if a nun speaks about it she is shunned and bullied.


Dear Venerable ,

If may I ask , when the Buddha was alive , has any nuns ever disagrees with the vinaya ?

Bhante @sujato I borrowed the following from DW. I am not an expert in Vinaya but why monks and nuns can’t use the following tools. Do you have this system in operation?

If both sides act in good faith and without prejudice, accusations of this sort are easy to settle on an informal basis. If an accusation can’t be settled informally, it should be taken to a meeting of the Community so that the group as a whole may pass judgment.>

Both monks and nuns have expressed disagreement.

The Vinaya methods for dealing with conflict are fantastic, and in fact are one of the most useful parts of the Vinaya.

However, there are several distinct problems here.

The first is that these methods are, in practice, rarely used in the contemporary Sangha. There are some monasteries that use them, but they are the exception. So the first thing is to raise awareness among the Sangha that these procedures exist, and how to use them.

The second problem is that the formal methods only deal with issues on one side of the Sangha; that is, either among the monks or among the nuns. So this is fine if it is in settling problems that occur in one community, but not when it comes to issues between the two communities. Of course the formal legal proceedings of the Vinaya could be used as a precedent for this, but it is an additional step.

And finally, there is the problem that it is virtually impossible to have a meeting in “good faith and without prejudice” when most monks’ communities have never even considered including nuns in the conversation. Please remember, almost every Sangha decision regarding the fate of the nuns has been made 100% by monks, with not a single nun present or even consulted in the process.


Do you consider adopting this method within the circle of your Sangha?
Now what I see is the problem lies not within the Vinaya rule but within the Sangha themselves. They adopt the Vinaya in peace meal instead of as a whole.

I’m not really sure why you think I have a “circle of Sangha”. I live alone.

But when I ran a monastery, yes we used such procedures, and both monks and nuns were included. It worked well, and I always encourage other monastics to follow this example too. At Bodhinyana, too, they follow such procedures, although given the separation of the monks and nuns, it is done on each side alone.


In which sutra/vinaya or ebt ?

Walk alone like a rhino!
If I were in your shoes I would have done the same.

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Sorry, I don’t have time to look up references.

With the limited knowledge I have about the law, I think Vinaya can be enforced by law.

Sorry, I didn’t mean law law, just the principles of the Vinaya.

Is this happening in Western countries or you are referring to this problem in countries like Myanmar , Sri Lanka , Cambodia , Laos , Singapore , Malaysia , Indonesia and Vietnam ?