“Ānanda, if females had not gained the going forth from the lay life to homelessness in the teaching and training proclaimed by the Realized One, the spiritual life would have lasted long. The true teaching would have remained for a thousand years. But since they have gained the going forth, now the spiritual life will not last long. The true teaching will remain only five hundred years. https://suttacentral.net/an8.51/en/sujato
I think it’s important here to take into account the parallels to the Gotamī-sutta, especially T 60. Such an analysis will reveal the multivocality inherent to early Buddhist discourse on women. See, e.g., “The Going Forth of Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī in T 60”.
Winding back a bit: the passage from the Gotamī-sutta cited in the original post expresses some clearly misogynist sentiments. But if we put the passage in the larger context of its sutta and parallels we can discern three different attitudes toward women: (a) “soteriological inclusiveness”, (b) “ascetic misogyny”, and (c ) “institutional androcentrism”. These different attitudes were first described by Prof. Alan Sponberg (see “Attitudes toward Women and the Feminine in Early Buddhism”). Rather than pointing to an ambiguity in the early Buddhist stance toward women, Sponberg takes the presence of these three attitudes in the early Buddhist corpus as indicating the “multivocality” of the EBTs. That is,
what we have here “is not a single, uncertain voice, but rather a multiplicity of voices, each expressing a different set of concerns current among members of the early community”
Anālayo (2016) [see link in first paragraph] quoting Sponberg (1992) [see link in second paragraph]
Perhaps it’s the same Dhamma drowned in a cacophony of distorted echoes, a hall of wobbly mirrors. We’re so far beyond even a thousand years, let alone a mere five hundred. Yet the EBTs still ring true and loud, immediately effective, inviting inspection, relevant and thereby proven because of that visibility in this very life.
AN3.53:2.7: This is how the teaching is visible in this very life, immediately effective, inviting inspection, relevant, so that sensible people can know it for themselves.
Such is the power of generosity!
Still, even now, we can recollect and consider the behavior of the Perfected One.
He did not say, I invented meditation which I use well. He had (at the least as a boddisatta (one intent on Awakening)) gratitude, for what he well remembered he had been given. He recommended gratitude.
If a questioner was sincere, his patience snd generosity was inexhaustible.
He did not bad mouth followers of other paths, except as might be both accurate and to the benefit of all hearers and repeaters.
He urged diligence focussed on the work each had and could do.
Even to the unique transformative creation of the Four Noble Truths, he surrendered and did not cling to ownership, by recognizing Buddhas past and future.
Being and knowing what he was - a Buddha! - he taught with flawless generosity, to the last moments of his life.
This is to me the most beautiful recollection. Like a stirring crystal clear Dhamma talk, is the example of that Holy Life.
“The last century saw the rise of lay meditation, which by now has become a mass movement that even affects health care in hospitals and education in secular society. Similar to the many beneficial effects that the full integration of laity in Dharma practice has shown, I believe the full integration of the bhikkhunis will have numerous beneficial effects.
The modern world is in dire need of a reorientation, and the Dharma is able to offer the frame-work and the tools for this purpose. Yet, such reorientation has to be lived, it has to be taught by example. For that, we need Dharma practitioners from all four assemblies, monastic and lay, female and male.”—-Analayo
The dhamma is actually in a state of millennial resurgence after 2000 years in a holding pattern. The modern interest in the mind picks up the threads from the Buddha’s time, and has affinity with the element air, where correspondence is seen between the breath and wind power.
You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, “What did that man pick up?” “He picked up a piece of Truth,” said the devil. “That is a very bad business for you, then,” said his friend. “Oh, not at all,” the devil replied, “I am going to let him organize it.”
The dhamma of today is true enough. But it is found mainly in the studies of EBTs, not in the monks/nuns Sangha.
The ture dhamma is found particularly in the SN/SA, which is the foundation of all four Nikayas/Agamas in the formation of EBTs, according to the Buddhist monk, Yinshun (see Choong Mun-keat, The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism, pp. 7-11).
Yes, indeed. Even the bhante Punnaji from sri lanka said that the true teaching was last 1-200years after Buddha parinibbana. The problem in translation, in keeping the message pure, retranslate, new suttas, then came the mahayana, vajrayana, tantrayana, maitreya etc.
For example we can translate sankhara into fermentations, fabrications, mental constructions, karma, intentions, formations.
Bhava into beings, existence, becomings.
Tanha into craving, emotional reaction, desire.
So what’s the left overs must be sotapannas and sakadagamis from the time of Buddha! Maybe you are one , who knows.
I really like what Ajahn Geoff wrote about this, that the problem is not that we don’t have true dhamma, the problem is that these days we also have fake dhamma. There are weird Buddhist cults, and even the most orthodox traditions (like my own) veer quite far from the Dhamma on certain topics.
So we just have to be more discerning is all. Back in the day people could hear one teaching and BAM get enlightened. These days it takes quite a bit more study and meditation, introspection and reformation, learning and relearning — in short, discernment.
But it’s still possible, and indeed these modern times have seen a nice, steady trickle of Arahants coming out of the forests of Thailand… But that’s just my opinion! Investigate for yourself to see if this is true or counterfeit
Thanks a lot, Bhante, for reminding me of basics, back to beginners mind that sees what is with open curiosity
Ajahn Geoff is a tough old chap, with both wisdom and a good sense of humor. I have listened a lot to him, and find his take on DO and Sunjata to be deep and profound.
And I agree that there was a trickle of Arahants coming out of the forests of northeastern Thailand a few decades ago. I’m very happy that my introduction to the teachings was from one of those, and pupils under his direct training have brought me further and kept me on track.
But all of these teachers were themselves trained directly by accomplished masters, and that might not be the case for young monks and nuns today.
Maybe when these senior monks that had a direct link to an Arahant are gone, it will all be just a memory because there will be nobody around anymore to teach the living dhamma
I regard an Arahant to be alive as long as those who lived with him is still alive. When they are gone, it’s all history.
Wasn’t it the case that at some crisis point in the history of Sri Lankan Buddhism, the sangha faced a choice, in effect, between preserving the texts and practicing what they contained? And did they not choose preservation?
I am fairly sure that I read this, but I don’t recall where. (And I would appreciate book recommendations about the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka!)
If so, then Buddhist practice has already been reconstructed at least once, and a breach of continuity already exists. From there, we would have to answer the question: Did this or other disjunctions in the history of the transmission of practice constitute an effective soteriological break or not?
One might declare that the original is gone, and that we must all wait for the next Buddha to be born, a position not far from the Pure Land sect. Or one might say that this or that particular group had resuscitated an effective method of practice. Or one might say that neither of these is true, and that while true Buddhist practice has ceased to exist, it could eventually be rebuilt correctly.
All of this is a bit far removed from the original topic, but perhaps that’s because I find it impossible to credit the idea that letting women practice was, or could be, the cause of such disasters.