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Opinions from other supporters of Bhikkhuni ordination


#1

I recently attended a Bhikkhuni-led retreat, and the following has been on my mind a lot since then:

I have a wholehearted wish to support Buddhist monasticism, and would enjoy traveling to monasteries, offering meals, etc. (I spent a week at Aloka Vihara last year, which was wonderful!)

However, many of the monasteries I would happily include on my itinerary do not recognize Bhikkhuni ordination.

As a layperson, it seems that one powerful means of support for Bhikkhunis available to me is to stay away from monasteries who do not recognize their ordination. Maybe this loss of support from the lay community will help the monasteries reassess their position.

On the other hand, it is obviously limiting to avoid monasteries I would otherwise support based on their ordination stance. There are, of course, tons of other legitimate reasons to support these inspiring renunciates.

I’m curious how other supporters of Bhikkhuni ordination have navigated this difficult issue.


#2

Have you asked the monasteries concerned why they don’t support Bhikkhuni ordination? Sometimes direct feedback is effective.
And boycotts are only effective if the reason for the boycott is clear.


#3

Erika, I personally have avoided wats where senior monastics have actively advocated against Bhikkhuni ordination. For me, it’s more than just a difference of opinion on a subject that has a good faith split of opinion. To me, the evidence in favor of the importance and Vinaya legality of Bhikkhuni ordinations is no longer seriously in question. Monks that still actively argue against giving women equal standing in the Sangha do not get my support (rather, I have written with some contempt for these monks) , and I tend to ignore their Dhamma talks as I feel that no matter the quality of the content of the talk, the quality of the heart and mind of the ajahn is suspect, to me.

Some wats that I have visited cannot actively advocate in favor of Bhikkhuni ordination due to the strong connections that some have with, for example, the Thai Sangha. In one case, a wat in the west with monastics that I deeply admire and respect kind of stayed silent on the issue, but in the actual wat, on the kitchen wall, there was an entire wall devoted to information and support for a local Bhikkhuni monastery. I believe these good and honorable monks were trying to walk a fine line between publicly risking offense from the Thai Sangha, and also actively supporting and encouraging their monastic sisters. I always felt their hearts and minds were in the right place, and I supported them.

I also feel that within any given wat, with some exceptions, you will find many monks that personally support Bhikkhuni ordination. Within these wats there might be a wealth of wisdom, compassion, and goodwill that would be a shame to miss, simply due to a single (critical) issue facing Theravada and Forest monasticism. Even in Thailand, I was wrong some years ago to kind of dismiss the Thai Sangha in a blanket fashion for not supporting Bhikkhunis, but I was corrected to appreciate and then understood that many monastics in Thailand support Bhikkhuni ordination, and do so more or less in a polite and discrete Thai way.

I’ve mentioned this anecdote before, but recall again an old story concerning Ajahn Chah. On one Buddha Day at WPP, the lay supporters all brought meal dana for the male monastics, and forgot about the Mae chee แม่ชี . Ajahn Chah had a senior Mae chee deliver the Dhamma talk that day, seemingly to send a strong message to the lay folk.


#4

Good points. I had thought to write and inform them why I was staying away when I would otherwise visit.

Especially for those wats who are staying silent or quietly supporting like @UpasakaMichael mentioned, it might help them to have evidence to pass up the chain of command, so to speak, to show that a lack of public Bhikkhuni support is negatively impacting them in the West (and eventually, worldwide) such that recognizing the Fourfold Sangha becomes the obvious choice.

But perhaps that’s putting the cart before the horse, and it would be helpful to ask individual wats if they’re willing to explain their stance first.


#5

Thank you for your thoughtful response :pray:


#6

I feel this way also. In fact, the wats I would otherwise visit are the ones you have described (publicly silent on the Bhikkhuni issue, I’ve assumed due to certain Sangha ties). Perhaps I can still visit and support these monastics, as you have. Maybe I can do my questioning in person, and ask the monks themselves what I can offer to help the Fourfold Sangha?

There’s a popular Bhikkhu in California who I used to listen to frequently and hoped to visit, but his outspoken anti-Bhikkhuni stance has led me to seek the dhamma elsewhere. That, in itself, has been limiting, but feels like the right thing to do (for me, for now.)


#7

Of course, Erika. Thanks to you for a great question.

M


#8

I could not agree more with this statement.


#10

Just letting you all know that the issues surrounding Bhikkhuni ordination have been extensively discussed on this forum.

Rather than begin another discussion on that in this thread - please search out the relevant threads, read them, and then contribute if there are any additional points to be made.

Many Thanks for your co-operation :anjal: :dharmawheel:


#11

Thanks so much for your wholehearted support of bhikkhunis - but dear good Upasaka, please don’t hurt yourself on our account.

I too have struggled with the question of how an otherwise impressive teacher of Dhamma can take a stand that seems so wrong and even directly opposed to the Buddha’s strong efforts to set aside obstacles that would prevent ordination for women. I’ve mulled over it like a koan. Finally I’ve concluded that I don’t have to understand. An otherwise excellent bhikkhu who’s opposed to bhikkhunis is in good company among the likes of Maha Kassapa and some other seemingly bhikkhuni-hostile arahants of the Buddha’s day.

Consider the case of Ven. Pilindavaccha, disturbing in a different way, who though one of the 80 great disciples, verbally abused his fellows by calling them foul names related to caste.
Ven P calling monks bad names More Info About Ven Pilindavaccha His contemporaries felt very upset by the Elder’s name-calling. How would this kind of behavior, akin to race-baiting slurs, go over in the West these days? It seems too low, lacking in empathy, unworthy to be done by a truly great being, and yet, this arahant did it. His example helps suggest that we cannot take social cues alone as proof of someone’s non-enlightened status.

When even arahants come with no guarantee of social propriety, we can’t expect to see every box of correctness checked for anyone at all, including elders attained to the lesser stages of enlightenment. Despite our feelings about these matters, the elders may have great karmic potency. Gifts to them may bring much fruit, and slander of them may burn.

So let’s be careful not to risk burning ourselves by criticizing these otherwise awe-inspiring elders who don’t in all ways live up to our expectations.


#13

It’s important to get the voice of bhikkhunis heard (doesn’t it say that in the EBTs!)


#14

BGR chair Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi spent two months in India. During this time he was invited to give the keynote address at a conference on “Buddhism and Women’s Liberation,” held in Bodhgaya on January 30 and 31, 2019, under the auspices of the Maha Bodhi Society of India.

“ in my view, for Buddhism to become a full advocate of women’s liberation, it is not enough for small groups of open-minded monks to hold bhikkhuni ordinations on the sidelines. It is further necessary, in the heartlands of Buddhism, to have the status of bhikkhuni recognized by the Sangha authorities and, where relevant, officially endorsed by the government.”