SuttaCentral

Returning to Our Core Values - A Response to the Online Critique of “The First Free Women”

A statement from Ayya Anandabodhi. It is linked to from this page:

I’d request that people who comment take the time to read through the statement first. I’m not going to quote any of it here in the hopes that folks do read the whole thing.

Also hope that folks be particularly careful with speech. There has been time for everyone to reflect more deeply on the issues surrounding the book. So maybe there will be some new perspectives.

My personal thoughts… I agree with her regarding the charges of profiteering. I never thought that was a good argument to make, simply because I know that books like this make hardly any money for the author.

I also think that her concerns about an echo chamber situation on the forum are worth reflecting on.

I’m still uncomfortable with the language of “not a literal translation” because I don’t think that it is suitable to frame it as any kind of translation.

FWIW, having kept track of ways that the book is being used for events and writings online, I have seen very little going on, especially with anyone treating it as a translation of the Therigatha. So perhaps through the work of those on the forum as well as the publisher’s re-issuing, the worst effects of the book presenting non-scripture as scripture have been averted.

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In a year, but probably less, I think most of us will have totally forgotten about this. Anyway, my only question regarding the post is if this is correct:

About a week before the video was made, Weingast reached out to Bhante Sujato asking to have a one-to-one conversation with him about the concerns, but the invitation was declined.

I thought that call took place?

Press releases, book launches, high profile reviewers, publicity events, podcasts, promotional interviews… all these exist solely to publicize the book and thus generate more sales. Even if the author doesn’t necessarily stand to profit from this in a big way, the publisher does, that’s why they sell books! Certainly, authors gain prestige and fame from such things, if not money.

The deceptive choice of “translation” and the subtitle “poems of the enlightened nuns” were not accidental but marketing decisions made deliberately. Marketing decisions and publicity are always about making more sales, never less sales.

Whilst this is very much about the publisher’s marketing strategy, it would be disingenous to suggest that the author was not party to any of these decisions, he certainly participated in a great many publicity events before and after publication where the poems were introduced as translations of the Therigatha.

For context, what I said about the profit motive (I never used the word profit, let alone “profiteering”, which I think has a quite different meaning) came in my essay after mentioning the erroneous categorisation of translation, and examining the deceptive marketing, including giving numerous examples of reviews from the publisher which lauded it as translation and celebrated the women’s voices from the ancient past.

Examining the book’s poems and the high proportion of Weingast’s interventions, it is astonishing that the Shambhala had the audacity to label it a translation in the first place. Seeing so many reviews that mistake it for a translation is disheartening, but at least these people have simply been deceived by the publisher’s marketing. After all, not everyone is a Pali expert, and Shambhala constantly places references to the real Therīgāthā front and centre of their publicity. Is it any wonder people are confused about the truth of this book? How could this have happened? Why on earth would they choose do this?

The truth is this: poetry books by unknown translators and first time authors simply don’t sell all that well. The author and publisher have unscrupulously exploited the name of the Therīgāthā in their marketing, purely for commercial and personal gain. This is a deceptive act of cultural insensitivity and a disrespectful cultural appropriation of a sacred text. Weingast’s original poetry certainly would not have enjoyed such popularity if it had been released on its own merits, without the tenuous connection to the original Therīgāthā. This is a shameless example of standing on the shoulders of giants, simply for the pursuit of sales.


In her response, Ayya Anandabodhi attributes the categorisation of translation as a mistake and apologised for her part in misleading people by speaking of it as a translation.
But it seems she can’t see the link to the money making purpose of the publicity machine (of which she was a part) which is designed to sell the book by calling it a translation or falsely advertising it as containing women’s voices from antiquity. Others rightly called this fraudulent and deceptive because of selling a product which simply wasn’t what it was purporting to be. Importantly, the “brief note” by Weingast explaining the nature of the poems would usually only be read after purchasing the book.

She states that the problems of the book have been now been rectified as the publisher will reissue the book, but glosses over the fact that this only occured because of sustained pressure backed up by sound arguments from numerous concerned Buddhists who contacted the publisher on multiple occasions to express their concerns. The criticism of the book goes far beyond my essay or the D&D site, receiving attention on Reddit, Twitter, academic literary sites, Buddhist websites, and several YouTube channels.

Had this widespread and sustained criticism not occured, it is likely this book would have continued to be marketed and sold as a translation of the enlightened nuns well into the future.

Whether people agree with my analysis that a profit motive was at play in the promotion and selling of the book is up to them to decide. This was just one problem with the book among many that I raised in my essay.

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To put it mildly. It’s not as if this was an unclear point. We repeatedly stated it.

That was a group conversation, which I did not attend.

Weingast contacted me to discuss the issues, and I responded by raising the substantive issues that we had made. Weingast did not respond. As I explained to the discussants at the time, I believed (and believe) that it was a mistake to engage in conversation on Weingast’s terms.


As for the rest, only to say that I agree with Ven Akaliko that the response mischaracterizes his work.

And in discussing my work, the “core values” essay rather oddly focuses on the one detail “red hair” which I have already acknowledged and apologized as a mistake, published both here and on the talk on Youtube. I did this within minutes of realizing that I had made a mistake.

The core value of right speech, before anything else, is truth.

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From Ayya Anandabodhi’s response:

people who are afraid to speak their views on SuttaCentral out of fear of receiving the same treatment that Matty Weingast received.

Indeed. :sleepy:

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Fair and thoughtful criticism from learned, senior monastics? Sign me up!!

I don’t always agree with the criticism I’ve received on this here forum, but I have always learned something from it. :pray:

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On the day that you publish your own poetry, while claiming it is a Buddhist scripture, I will be there for you. You’re welcome! :pray:

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Warm greetings Discuss & Discover community,

I appreciate the deep concern of many in this Forum to safeguard the Buddha’s teachings and foster its availability in the world and that actions were taken toward the protection of the Canonical Early Buddhist texts. Those texts are a source of Dhamma nourishment and inspiration for many.

I also appreciate the potential goodness of publishing poetry, prose, and papers that arise out of personal study and practice, rooted in those Early Buddhist texts, and that the results, too, can be a source of inspiration for Dhamma practice.

My deepest hope is that this Forum is a place where we are nourished and inspired to live the teachings and interact with each other with kindly eyes, right speech, and the good example of the Buddha in dealing with disagreements, admonishments, and conflict.

Where any of us have fallen short in living and writing in this kind and aligned way, may we see it, acknowledge it and, together, strive to do better. To me that is the essence of our practice together.

This topic seems to me a potentially rich place to explore how we communicate. It feels important to me and I am heartened to participate.

This weekend the community I am in (Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery) is holding a training for the Board of Directors, monastics and residents in Non-Violent Communications. When I return from the training I look forward to seeing how this thread has evolved.

I see a beautiful opportunity here and appreciate that I can be a part of it with you.

With kind care,
Ayya Niyyānikā Bhikkhunī

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P.S. Just so you know my mental location around the book “The First Free Women” -

For me personally, both the Canonical Early Buddhist texts and the modern poetry in the “First Free Women” are materials that touch my heart and send me to my cushion to deepen meditation in support of awakening.

Classification of these materials appropriately is important. It is good to have the context for the sources of our inspiration and then, for me, it is even better to let go of the inspiration and watch the practice unfold.

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Ven @Khemarato.bhikkhu I’m glad you’ve had such a positive experience on this forum. However, I do think we should consider Ayya Anandabodhi’s statement that this forum can be very much an echo chamber and this can really make it hard for people to honestly express themselves, and also make it very hard to sort gossip/opinions from fact. Offline, I’ve heard from people (both lay and monastic alike) who are really bothered by the way this matter has been handled by Buddhists, including monastics, online. I’m pointing this out, not to demonize anyone or this forum (which I remain appreciative of), but to (like Ayya @Niyyanika beautifully put) encourage everyone to try to do better.

I don’t want to further engage in this discussion here because it seems pointless. Much metta to everyone :pray: :heart:

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I would say that what happened with this issue was about the same to what happens on other social media sites when influencers criticize someone on some ideological or ethical grounds: Their followers turn into an army and go after the target. Some know this and do it on purpose; some don’t realize until it’s already in full swing.

This is the main reason I was very restrained about my own involvement and attempted to foster some empathy; though, of course, the basic premise was factually true. The book is basically avantgarde art inspired by an ancient text, which the author and supporters seemed to be unaware of.

In any case, the internet has become a political battleground regardless of what the subject matter happens to be. Leaders engage in hard-edged, black-and-white rhetoric that inspire harmful mentalities in themselves and others, and people have come to expect and follow along with it. Which is why I have little to do with it these days besides trying to inject a little wisdom and reasonableness here and there, which is like tossing a cup of water onto a desert.

When even Buddhists have become political combatants, one might imagine we’ve hopefully reached the height of this ideological culture trend and maybe it will reverse sometime soon. It would be nice to get back to a society that’s capable of dealing with its problems instead of fighting over whether they exist or not.

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I have been a member of D&D for many years, and have always felt that Right Speech has been carefully observed, and that in general all people and a variety of opinions are given respect and free latitude to express themselves. I have never perceived of D&D as an “echo chamber:” I’d not want to be part of a forum that simply validated my own views or beliefs. I’ve been corrected here, and redirected, and have appreciated deeply learning from my mistakes.

In my vocation, we have to investigate the circumstances of people and events, gather the facts as best we can, apply accepted standards, and then make judgments about the skillfulness or culpability of actions and events. In doing so, we seek to establish some measure of truth, and as a community we feel some level of comfort that we can operate comfortably as a society when there is a semblance of order and enforcement of norms. The process is not perfect , but without this process, chaos governs.

On some level, as a community of Buddhists that have respect for the Dhamma, there is a place for assessment and investigation of events and publications with a spirit of fairness and goodwill. There is a place for having a body of informed people acting with goodwill to protect the Dhamma and the community of Dhamma practitioners as a whole. Because Buddhism has no “Pope” or central governing authority, it kind of falls on communities of informed practitioners to assess and opine on people and events within the sphere of Buddhism. It falls on all of us to allow for, for example, Bhikkhu Bodhi to take a stand on global food insecurity issues, or the monastics here to take a position on the corruption of known Dhamma.

I don’t know Ayya Anandabodhi, but I respect her views and her commitment to Dhamma principles. Her essay in defense of Mr. Weingast reminded me of closing arguments of a good hearted and impassioned defense attorney protecting her client. As a former prosecutor, my job was not to convict people, but to throw out cases before they reached court that did not merit further investigation. Of those cases that were investigated, my duty was to protect the law and protect the community. The sickest feeling I could have ever had would be to convict someone that I knew was not guilty of the crime charged, and I am glad I was never in a position to be required to do that. I truly believe Mr. Weingast to be the kind and good person Ayya described, and I am sorry for any unjust suffering that he has endured in all of this. I hope that he can, one day, step forward and perhaps have a mature discussion about the issues presented by the publication of TFFW. I wish that he and all that know and care about him to be well, and that this issue with TFFW does not define him as a person.

In the law, we protect free speech almost absolutely, but we don’t let people falsely shout “fire!” in a crowded theatre. It has been my sense that when any of us, or most of us, weighed the facts of the “TFFW” issues, there was a serious breach of skillfulness and ethics by the author and publisher of TFFW. The harm that arose was not just of the immediate harm of the gross misrepresentation of the Therigatha, but that this act, and the somewhat dodgy responses and defenses from the author and the publisher, showed the real propensity for these actors to cause harm without accountability. Lacking a reaction and accountability, these wrongful or deceptive acts would continue and likely replicate in the future.

I don’t think that any that criticized or critiqued TFFW took any pleasure from having to do this. Better that all of us a community work together and focus on the illumination of Dhamma, versus having to actively protect and defend it in some way. But, I feel that if we care about the Buddha and his Dhamma, and we care about each other and our communities and world as a whole, we sometimes have to take a stand to preserve and protect what is right. It’s not always congenial or comfortable, but it’s right (samma) this to do; the lesser option entails further erosion of Dhamma, and more chaos in an otherwise chaotic world.

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the nature of internet is quite that. I believe necessary to remember the Internet relations are not an exact reflection about how people truly is.
The screen becomes more a prolongation of the own mind than a window for real world and people. People fighting in Twitter in wild ways mostly are quiet people in their lifes. It is good apply tolerance and forgetfulness as we do many times with the own akusala contents arising in our own mind because internet favours that “hybrid” (a new fashion word) environment in moral terms.

With all the noise probably everybody knows this is not a textual translation but an inspired version, which is another literary field. Then we are well informed that we should put this book in that library side with Paul Carus and Herman Hesse. At the other side, at least in my case I confess the need to read this book after all the noise and unconscious promotion. And probably after the painful birth of this book, the author will be satisfied in the medium term when seeing the creature travelling more than expected to inspire readers with the lives of buddhists nuns.

Many times in some problems the importance is felt like very high despite being quite relative. Specially when we remember this crazy world is going to ugly sceneries. New people grown with internet relations will turn their look to the Buddha and his monks and nuns, expecting wisdom and comfort on the important things.
Hope the Sangha can be in good shape for these times after these internet trainings :pray:

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Let us hope that these internet forums can continue to evolve into supportive spaces for all who wish to engage with the Dhamma, that no one will be made to feel hated, demonized, ostracized, or driven to despondency.

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I stayed out of the original discussions, as I was not very familiar with the gathas, and I just presumed that it was simply a more “creative” translation.

Much later, after everyone else had finished talking about it, I finally looked into it… Seeing the parallels between these “translations” and actual translations, was really eye-opening. In many cases there seemed to be almost no overlap between the original text, and what was being presented.

Changing an ancient text to the point where it is 90% new material, but people are reading it and believing it is a faithful translation… That is simply wrong. People were being misled, and we can see that from the reviews. Even if we presume the author didn’t know better, Shambhala should have known better.

I think that type of misinformation should elicit a response to raise awareness about the issue. Raising awareness can help to maintain the integrity of the Buddhist texts. Fake Buddha Quotes were also right to point this out, and to highlight some matters like the author frequently going out of his way to sexualize bhikkhunis.

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It is unfortunate that this issue arose, and that it caused so much disquiet on both sides. It is particularly unfortunate that the whole issue would have been completely avoided if the naming and marketing of the book had not implied that it was a translation of ancient poems. Ayya Sudhamma explains the disquiet from her side in this interview with Ayya Vimalanyani, from about the 23rd minute:

On the positive side, the issue inspired the Therigatha Festival, and has caused many of us to actually read the Therigatha in detail.

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Thanks for sharing that Mike, it’s probably worth adding the video transcript here:

Ayya Sudhamma:

…anyway so just to say I felt so small and bit vulnerable to go up against some big forces there, I mean, somebody’s publishing that is getting bought up, so there’s moneyed interest in there and there’s partisans to the to the pumps people who love love love them. It’s filled with many four and five star reviews. I didn’t know then they just actually cut out the [low star] reviews, but it’s all the big reviews, powerful. It’s like, do you really want to do that when you know you just need a peaceful setting in order to do you know your life work and practice? Like really, is this what you want to do? Do you really want to jump into a maelstrom, create a maelstrom out of nothing where there’s peace right now? It’s peaceful. Everything’s at peace. No problem for you and unless you create some commotion there… And then of course even much more on my mind was that there were my sister bikkhunis having written the forward and having helped edit it, promoting it, doing retreats based on it, and I respect them. I adore them. I look up to them and I don’t want to embarrass them and I don’t want to alienate them.

So what do you do with that? So for two months I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it and then somebody wrote a note on this Discuss and Discover [forum] praising the book and that did it! It’s like it snapped. I just snapped. I’m doing this even though I’m not gonna like paying for this. I am one known for speaking up in times when a wise person would have been quiet. I was trying not to do that for once when I read that I just snapped. I have to do this. I cannot be quiet. I have to say this and just kind of sit there and go oh gosh what’s going to happen now? I don’t know…[aside edited out]

I consulted a nun who is well familiar with me and the bikkunnis who had been promoting this and she had cautioned me: ‘don’t do it. You know, talk with her, talk with them, don’t but don’t don’t publish that thing.’ I actually didn’t have the courage to do. I didn’t consult with them,

Well, in part out of just fear and worry and in part that, you know, they were deeply into it so there was nothing i was going to say that was going to change that, I didn’t think. And but then they might have said, ‘please don’t’ and I couldn’t have beared being torn in two directions that way. But I have to. So something else that was in my mind is that I could not be the only person who was disturbed by this play this book but who else could speak up? I was in a bit of a unique position in that because if they spoke up might look anti-woman. I mean it’s just the cancel culture can be quite cruel and sudden and uninformed, so they might they might have gotten some heavy negative feedback on the wrong basis, or they might have feared it or they might just not have noticed that this was going on. But I thought if a bikkhu were worried about this he might not feel like he could say anything and then being a bikkhuni, a layperson being disturbed by it - what platform do they have? But a bikkhuni speaking up about the poetry about the bikkhunis has kind of a natural platform that people would say, ‘oh what does this bikkhuni have to say about this controversial [book]? I’m going to read that. I’m going to read that.’

But among the bikkhunis, surely I wasn’t the only one who was disturbed by the book but who would be who else would be senior to everybody who loved it? Who else would have been reading the proclamations and the ordinations of those who were promoting it?

So I felt like you know the deep and profound respect we have within sangha for our time in robes state of a person, being an elder, gave me a kind of permission to say something that the very junior people might hesitate more. As much as I hesitated, surely someone who had years less of seniority would hesitate more because we really do respect each other we really do respect the time in robes when a person has been in the robes they represent the sangha. They might represent the sangha beautifully, they might represent the sangha a bit sort of badly but the fact is they have more time than oneself in these robes that is to be respected because this is it’s a kind of a respect of this whole thing. We do respect each other of course based on someone being very learned in the vinaya, very learned in the in the dhamma and so forth but there’s also just the fact of you are somebody who’s been doing this thing x number of years and I’ve been doing this thing x minus y number of years therefore I bow down to you to that robe uh out of respect for the sangha itself. You’ve been representing it a while and so just you know the happenstance of having been one of the earliest pioneers in among the westerners. I felt like I just looked around me and I didn’t see anyone else who could do that. Also the analytical mind, you know, the legal training wasn’t completely wasted! My parents certainly do think the money on it was…
[interjection from interviewer edited out]
Before we move on then I have to say I dropped that stone in the water for blush to blush. But it was. And then there was that the author asked for a conversation regarding it and so we had that conversation and everybody’s just going along with the charm. He was just so charming, he was lovely very charming and everybody’s being silenced by the charm. He invited us specifically to discuss the issues raised in that essay and then it turned out to be a meet and greet with the author. So I finally spoke up and said okay what are you going to do about it? Shock shock shock shock shock. He just created chaos in the meeting and shut down the meeting and earned me permanent enemies, I think, from what I’ve seen. But that was when we finally had him for the only time on record he knew people were buying it thinking it was scripture. He knew it and he wanted nothing to change. All that time we had been blaming the publisher up to that moment and then I thought oh this is this is someone without a conscience, this is someone who knows it’s being sold a scripture and doesn’t want that to change. Wow wow. What have we fallen for here? We’ve fallen for something a lot deeper than just some fellow who has accidentally done a bad thing, accidentally done something ahead of that effect. This is someone who knows what he’s doing he wants it to continue. He wants to shut down the conversation. He didn’t want to bring forth the conversation to find out what he could do to fix the situation where people are mistaking his words for scripture. It happened one time that someone gave a talk that in which they had mistaken something I had written for something the Buddha had said and I was truly, truly disturbed and horrified and tried to set it straight immediately. I just can’t imagine going along and smiling and being happy knowing that these books are selling that are my words and being mis-sold as ancient nuns poetry.

I mean that hits so many levels. How much ancient female writing do we have? Very little. How much ancient female poetry do we have? Very little. How much ancient females oriented scripture do we have? Very little so for that to get up-ended and lost and covered over was a disaster for modern people, you know, the casual reader. Also a disaster for Buddhist students who were being misled on what is the Dhamma, you know; our sense pleasure is the great thing or our relationships as mother and sister and so forth that are highlighted in Matty’s version, you know, if you looked at Mahapajapati’s [poem], her the virgin and Matty has her ultimately rejoicing in her relationship with men whereas she’s rejoicing in the fact that this is all over in her actual poem like you couldn’t have gone more you know more of a 180 meaning of her poem and people are reading this thinking this is the way, this is the dharma, this is the direction to direct my mind to find liberation from the pain of life, from sanctuary. That’s very dangerous but even more dangerous is that if a library has limited space, how many translations are they going to give space to? This thing was the library of congress, codified as scripture, as the Therigatha…

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Yes, but to use your metaphor of the justice system, lawyers only get involved after the crime, not before. The phrase ‘aiding and abetting’ comes to mind!

Whilst Ayya Ananadabodhi has criticised me for my analysis, I hope people recognise that I (and others) deliberately chose to minimise criticism of the Aloka sangha’s role in co-creating and publicising the book - out of respect and desire for harmony, and for genuine fear of backlash.
Instead the focus was on the publisher’s promotion, the ‘translation’ and the other problems with the texts. But it must be acknowledged that the Aloka sangha were intimately involved every step of the way, which was a source of great sadness and distress.

The avowed long term friendship and proximity to the author and process of creating the book cannot be said to be an unbiased position. Defending a friend and his work is only natural but it seems that the friendship and their involvement somewhat blinded the community to the problems of the book, which were clearly seen by others who were more removed.

I am very glad that Ayya Anandabodhi has apologised so fully for her role in misleading people into believing the book was a translation. It must have been hard and uncomfortable after lauding it so publicly. I can understand the desire to look around for another target to blame, such as myself. But I hold no grudge for that.


I wish you and your community the best for this session! Maybe we can arrange for a friendly chat another time?

Right speech has been mentioned a few times in this thread. One thing I am aware of in spiritual circles is the tendency towards conflict- avoidance, where people are afraid of speaking their truths, and that quiet passivity is mistakenly regarded as a virtue. This has the effect of shutting down valid disagreements, rather than skillfully learning to have difficult conversations. Or, you see people who want ‘good vibes only’ and any hint of disagreement is characterised as ‘low frequency’ and therefore not ‘spiritual’. This is a tactic often used by cults and religious organisations to shut down genuine criticism. Often this approach is actually based on emotional numbing and exaggerated detachment which masquerades as hyper-positivity, hoping that if we just act happy and avoid talking about difficult things then they will just go away. Often in this process, peace is mistaken for silence, and we are encouraged to jettison our authentic feelings for an imposed and artificial equanimity.

I’m reminded of Potaliya’s mistaken view about equanimity in speech in regards to praise and criticism and the Buddha’s perspicacious response:

Potaliya: “Master Gotama, of these four people, it is the person who neither praises those deserving of praise at the right time, truthfully and substantively; nor criticizes those deserving of criticism at the right time, truthfully and substantively. That is the person I believe to be the finest. Why is that? Because, Master Gotama, equanimity is the best.”

The Buddha: "Potaliya, of these four people, it is the person who criticizes those deserving of criticism at the right time, truthfully and substantively; and praises those deserving of praise at the right time, truthfully and substantively. That is the person I consider to be the finest. Why is that? Because, Potaliya, understanding of time and context is the best.”
Potaliya Sutta AN 4.100

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It is good news that the book is being reissued, redescribed, reclassified. Thank you to everyone who brought us the Therigatha Festival. And it is lovely to see apologies being made.

It seems inevitable that when people gather and discuss there forms some sort of central group that attracts/repels others by its tone or opinions. Look at any coffee house, mothers’ group or pub, besides religious groupings. It seems to be a fact of human interaction that we use talk to bond into groups in this way. (Any sociologists in the house?) Like all groups our Forum has its particular ethos. Thank you @Snowbird for reminding us to speak gently with those who sit on the periphery. :pray:

Sadhu. Sadhu. Sadhu. :pray:

If anything I’ve personally done or said acting as a moderator has had the effect of making anyone - at the centre or on the periphery – feel inappropriately uncomfortable, I ask forgiveness. :pray:

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It’s quite easy to accuse a group of being an echo chamber, but it’s very hard to disprove. It’s like calling someone a racist. I can call anyone a racist, and then when they say, “But I have many friends that are people of color,” then I can reply, “Oh, so you’re counting them? What are they to you? Objects to collect? See! You’re a racist!” Of course there are situations where a particular group truly is an echo chamber, however I don’t think that is true of D&D.

I’ve never fit into any of the neat little boxes people try to put me in. This is true is many aspects of my life, including Buddhism. I come from a Mahayana/Vajrayana background, but now practice Theravada. If you look through my posts on this website, you’ll see several times when I came out in defense of Mahayana or Vajrayana when I thought people were engaging in unskillful speech towards it. There have also been times when I’ve defended Asian Buddhists for their “corrupt” practices, like fortune telling and “magical” amulets. I don’t necessarily believe in those things, but I don’t see why people should be judged for them.

I don’t fit neatly into the mindset of the EBT “movement,” but I also don’t fit neatly into a Mahayana/Vajrayana box, either, since I recognize the bodhisattva path, but don’t believe that it invalidates the arahant path. Not surprisingly, I am, at best, ignored, or given flak by whichever group (Theravada, Mahayana, or Vajrayana) I happen to be dealing with. However, I’ve found people on this forum to be the most accepting of outliers like myself. Of course most people on D&D will never be convinced that Mahayana bodhisattvas are real. However, I don’t get my feelings hurt when people disagree with me on these points, which they have done (skillfully, for the most part). Because realistically, what other kind of reaction could I expect considering that this isn’t a Mahayana or Vajrayana forum?

I noticed that Aloka Vihara has had guest speakers from other traditions, which is great. The talks those people gave seem mostly to be tradition agnostic, though. I didn’t see any Tantra study groups at Aloka Vihara, or a series of teachings based on the Avatamsaka Sutra, for example. If a group of Vajrayana practitioners kept showing up at Aloka Vihara and derailing teachings based on Pali suttas by saying, “Oh, but Vajradhara gave secret teachings where he revealed the tantras, and in those tantras it says these suttas belong to the Hinayana and we don’t have to follow them because…” how long would it be before those people were told to either leave or keep their Vajrayana interpretations of Dharma to themselves? Because a dhamma talk on the Pali suttas in a Theravada vihara isn’t the right time or place for such discussions? Does that make Aloka Vihara an echo chamber? I don’t think it does, just like I don’t think D&D is an echo chamber.

I think we all know that people’s behavior on the internet is different than in real life. So while a dedicated Vajrayana practitioner probably wouldn’t ever walk into a Theravada bhikkhuni vihara week after week spouting Vajrayana Buddhism, most people have no problems doing that online. So the natural separation of people with markedly differing views that happens in the real world (Theravada practitioners mostly frequenting Theravada centers, etc.) doesn’t happen as much online. Of course, even within a single Dhamma center there are people of differing views, but do we call every Dhamma center an echo chamber?

The majority of people on this forum ended up here because of a shared love of the early suttas. For many of us, these are the most important texts in all of Buddhism. Like Gillian said,

We should, of course, strive for inclusivity, however we can’t be responsible for when people overreact. We all have views that we are attached to, and so we all feel upset when those views are challenged by people disagreeing with us. That doesn’t make some group an echo chamber, though. I clearly recall people saying that they felt the poems in the TFFW were fine as independent poems, but didn’t approve of the connection being made to the original verses in the Therigatha. Of course, that isn’t to say that some people might have gotten too worked up over this, but we are all works-in-progress.

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