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The ordination of bhikkhunīs: from Trojan horse to St. Bernard dog


#1

The latest instalment in the debate between Ajahn Ṭhānissaro and Venerable Anālayo on the legality of bhikkhunī ordination in the Theravada tradition has just been released. Venerable Anālayo has responded to Ajahn Ṭhānissaro’s article A Trojan Horse: Unilateral Bhikkhunī Ordination Revisited in an essay (Case.pdf (276.4 KB) ) and in an open letter (letter Thanissaro 2.pdf (108.2 KB) ), in which he criticises Ajahn Ṭhānissaro’s style of argument. And since Ajahn Ṭhānissaro also criticises my own modest contribution to this debate, I have found it necessary to defend my position (A Rejoinder to Ajahn Ṭhānissaro by Brahmali.pdf (404.6 KB)).

Ajahn Ṭhānissaro’s A Trojan Horse article is unsatisfactory on a number of accounts, not least because of its title. Ordaining and supporting bhikkhunīs is no going to destroy Buddhism, quite the contrary. The anecdotal evidence from around the world suggests that bhikkhunīs, if anything, take the monastic training more seriously than their male counterparts. Female Buddhist renunciants – including 8-precept nuns, 10-precept sāmaṇerīs, and bhikkhunīs – are embroiled in far fewer scandals, and are generally perceived as more helpful to society and more serious in their practice. The higher status of bhikkhunī will help these women gain more respect from the community and better access to necessary resources, which is likely to lead to further improvements in their ability to live well. Far from being a Trojan horse, the support of bhikkhunīs is likely to supply badly needed oxygen to a Buddhism that is already on life support. The St. Bernard dog is the appropriate symbol.

In truth, this debate is getting more and more superfluous. The bhikkhunīs are here to stay. There are thousands of bhikkhunīs in Sri Lanka, perhaps 200 in Thailand, and a significant number scattered all round the world. What they need now is support, both in terms of training and material requisites. The time for debating the legality of bhikkhunī ordination has passed. The time for action is long overdue.


#2

Bhante, there seems to be some problem with the links. I can download your article but when clicking on the two by Ven. Anālayo I get: Oops! That page doesn’t exist or is private.


#3

Thanks for letting me know. I am not sure what I have done wrong, but I’ve tried to upload the documents once more. Please let me know if the problem persists.


#4

Fixed. Thanks.

:+1:


#5

Thanks so much for sharing these articles, Bhante! Ajahn Ṭhānissaro and Venerable Anālayo’s never-ending argument on bhikkhuni ordination is one of my favorite things.

My dog, Titus approves of this message:

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#6

Thanks so much for posting these, Ven. I read Analayo’s letter the other day, it was, I felt, a strong yet dignified response.

I will refrain from a lengthy comment; but because the historical context is swift to fade, I would mention that when Ven Thanissaro wrote his original article in support of continued discrimination against women in 2008 or thereabouts, several nuns wrote responses, including Ven Tenzin Palmo. Yet it is only yourself and Ven Analayo who he responds to. For him, the conversation on bhikkhuni ordination is an argument among monks.

If monks truly believed that women are deserving of respect and dignity, then they would listen to the voices of women and support their choices.


#7

Many thanks @brahmali for this article and your previous contributions to the legal and ethical case for Bhikkhuni ordination.

As you say, the time for debate is over. Indeed! May it be so! :blush: Many people moved on long ago…
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One thing that continues to delight me is that in the many years that all the anti-bhikkhuni cases have been put, rebutted, restated and rebutted again, the Bhikkhuni Sangha has continued to grow and now is flourishing. And it is not even in defiance of the ‘no’ argument, but purely from the desire to practice the holy life. The ‘no’ case is increasingly looking narrow, marginalised and baseless. Continuing to respond to these arguments only serves to give them more power than they deserve. To add another animal image; a lioness does not turn around when a small dog barks!

The Bhikkhuni Sangha has many friends among the lay community and many allies in the Bhikkhu Sangha, too. May we all continue to support the Bhikkhunis in whatever ways they require.


#8

“Gotami, the qualities of which you may know, ‘These qualities lead to passion, not to dispassion; … You may categorically hold, ‘This is not the Dhamma, this is not the Vinaya SuttaCentral

This ruckus has had its day. I think it needs to be put to bed. :sleeping_bed: :grinning:


#9

Please excuse me my directness and fairness here, as a disclaimer I should upfront underline that I strongly respect every bhikkhu involved in this discussion, and bhikkunis as well. This is a non-personalised post intended to present a viewpoint that may be quite opposite to the one promoted here.

Well, who knows? If the original bhikkhunisangha was labelled as the cause for quicker disappearance of pure Dhamma, how is it going to be different this time?

If Vinaya says “you can’t” it means “you can’t”. Everything else is vain attempts to reinterpret in favour of a particular view. Otherwise let’s just scrap it alltogether and make bhikkhu-families with bhikkhu-children and bhikkhu-owned credit unions, yay! So modern.

You either preserve, or don’t . Preserving “almost all but the parts we don’t like” is not preserving.

Good for them, of course, but is it equally good for the Dhamma? I imagine how this is going to lead to revising even more of Dhamma and Vinaya. Let me elaborate. There are, basically, two types of women who join Sangha: those who can agree to “sexist” limitations imposed on them by the existing Vinaya and tradition, and those who can’t. Who are those who can’t? There are those in whom ideas of feminism and social justice are rooted deep enough (and those are more active and ready to fight for their cause). (Needless to say there are also men with the same ideas). And what can we see in the world as the effects of actions of bearers of these ideas? Breakage of working systems. I don’t want to touch such aspects of these systems as “fairness” and similar, it’s a different question. But here’s the fact: social justice proponents do destroy established working systems, whatever they are. Buddhism is an established working system, which is obviously “unfair” from the point of view of social justice. No need to say it will most certainly share the fate of all other “unfair” systems, if the social justice proponents take over. It’s not going to be “oh we just fix and patch this one thing, so it will make things better”, no, it never stops at that.

It’s on life support not because it’s lacking women, but because it degrades and fades, as everything degrades and fades. Funny that some Buddhists fail to see anicca in what’s dear to their hearts.

I haven’t seen people more passionate than those fighting for justice and equality nowadays. And the people full of passion advocate and push for changes and revision. It’s hard to miss where it goes.

It’s not like anyone is going to stop that. These changes are driven not by humans who miraculously became “better” in the last ~60 years so now they know how to make the world a better place. These changes are driven by changing socio-economic factors, by industrial and informational revolutions, by global processes far above any individual in this manussa-loka. So just don’t misconceive your part in the bigger picture, even though you’re most probably going to “win” anyways. :slight_smile: (If nothing global is going to unexpectedly radically turn things over, of course; and you probably already did win.)


#10

And exactly what is the Vinaya? There is disagreement about its extent. Even the Buddha said the minor rules could be dispensed with and as far as I can tell there is not a line that clearly delineates major from minor.


#11

This issue is a double-edged sword; it cuts both ways. I found Akkosaka Sutta AN 10.88 this morning, translated by Venerable Sujato:

9. Senior Mendicants - 88. An Abuser
“Mendicants, any mendicant who abuses and insults their spiritual companions, speaking ill of the noble ones, will, without a doubt, fall into one or other of these ten disasters. What ten?

  1. They don’t achieve the unachieved.
  2. What they have achieved falls away.
  3. They don’t refine their good qualities.
  4. They overestimate their good qualities, or
  5. live the spiritual life dissatisfied, or
  6. commit a corrupt offence, or
  7. contract a severe illness, or
  8. go mad and lose their mind.
  9. They feel lost when they die.
  10. And when their body breaks up, after death, they are reborn in a place of loss, a bad place, the underworld, hell.

Any mendicant who abuses and insults their spiritual companions, speaking ill of the noble ones, will, without a doubt, fall into one or other of these ten disasters.”

My interpretation is that this would apply to householders who “abuse” monastics too.


#12

A related parallel to the above sutta is Bhaṇḍanakāraka Sutta AN 5.212 (22. abuse - 212. Starting Arguments), translated by Venerable Sujato on Sutta Central. This alternate translation is clearer.

“… Bhikshus, a monk who is a source of strife, a source of quarrels, a source of disputes, a source of legal [ecclesiastical] cases for the sangha, can expect to have 5 disadvantages.
What are the five?
(1) He does not attain what has not been attained.
(2) He falls away from what he has attained.
(3) His bad reputation is spread about.
(4) He dies confused.
(5) With the break-up of the body after death, he is reborn in a plane of misery, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell…”


#13

As far as I am concerned, you are always welcome to be direct so long as we can discuss in good faith.

Well, a number of people, including Ven. Anālayo, consider this statement a later addition. And to me too it does look a bit strange. The Buddha decides to ordain bhikkhunīs and the first thing he says is that it will be detrimental to the long-term survival of the Dhamma? It seems incongruous.

But let’s leave that aside. Let’s assume for a moment that the Buddha actually said this. In this case, the astounding thing is that he still decided to ordain bhikkhunīs. It was worth it regardless. If anything this is a testament to the importance of the bhikkhunī-saṅgha. And if the Buddha thought it was so important, then perhaps we should see it the same way.

Second, the Buddha said this in a particular context, which was Indian society 2,500 years ago and at the beginning of his dispensation. To assume that we should adopt the same attitude now seems unreasonable. If you look at the reasons why the Buddha was reluctant, I would suggest that some of these may no longer apply.

But this is precisely what the discussion between Ajahn Ṭhānissaro and venerable Anālayo is about. Personally I cannot see any barrier in vinaya to ordaining bhikkhunīs.

To me it’s obvious that we should preserve the vinaya. And I think this is quite compatible with bhikkhunī ordination.

Indeed. But with more well-practising monastics, we might keep the Dhamma alive a little bit longer. Bhikkhunīs who practice the vinaya properly may well inspire some of the slacker monks to up their game, which would be a great result. A bit of competition can be a good thing.

I don’t like the idea of some winning and some losing; it creates too much division. I think this is going to be good for the Dhamma. We are all going to win. We may disagree on some issues, but in the end I hope we can all work together.


#14

The heart recognises only what the eyes can see, and to recognise the whole picture, you have to step back, far back, from what you seek to grasp!

The question is, why can’t people go about their monastic business, showing their inspiring success and, indeed, victory, and showing their virtue, restraint, and wisdom, without denigrating and ridiculing those with whom they disagree and oppose in the bhikkhu sangha, if not even the bhikkhu-sangha at large across Theravada history? And how is it that you can’t celebrate the ordained bhikkhunis of Asian societies without placing them in direct opposition to those who oppose their ordination in their own societies, as if they represent the defeat and overcoming of conservative monks, and with whom those bhikkhunis themselves have to continue to coexist, and to whom their own societies continue to pay the highest respect? Would that not expose those bhikkhunis to much danger and harm rather than protection? Would that not vex those, in both monastic and lay communities, to become either less tolerant, or even more antagonistic to them? Would not that fuel conflict rather than calm it? Does any one here really care about those bhikkhunis, two hundred of them by number in Thailand, I hear, whose precarious existence is unfolding in an environment which you yourselves recognise as intolerably hostile to them? And if you [“you” being a figure of speech, no one in particular] are indeed victorious, successful, happy and contented with what you have accomplished, why can’t you support the bhikkhunis without antagonising those who don’t, especially when this means antagonising the majority of the Theravada tradition in which bhikkhunis seek to be recognised? Which is the deluded barking puppy here, and which is the lion that is ignoring it?!

Indeed, to those whom the Buddha used to call “people of faith”, that is, people of faith specifically in the Triple Gem, the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, the description of the bhikkhu-sangha as being

would only be afflictive, perhaps even deeply so, and particularly in the occasion when it is being uttered by one who himself dons the monastic robes and receives every requisite from, “people of faith”, and further when the description is being mentioned simply as yet “another reason” to support the cause of bhikkhunis, as if that will be what it takes to resuscitate sangha from the brink of extinction, and revivify it into a healthy existence, “or else let it die and rot”, as if that would be the consequence which a bhikkhuni-less sangha deserves!

The strangest thing is that it is not even true that this is the case: the Theravada tradition as we find it presently in the world, may well be regarded as “flourishing”, and the spread of any sangha in the West testifies par excellence to such flourishing. Well, at least Theravada is doing quite fine! But you don’t get to make this simple straightforward observation by comparing sangha to an abstract concept of justice and correctness that may come about at a certain point in its future, or in world’s future, but only in comparison to other religious communities around the world as they factually exist today, including those which ordain women, and also in comparison to Theravada’s own past, given that it had witnessed episodes of severe decline across its rather long history, including in times when Bhikkhunis were still in existence, and in comparison to which the present moment for Theravada could only be regarded as a miraculous rebirth rather than a near-death experience, as is purported here! And if you think that I am exaggerating, take a swift look on the state of affairs of such religions as Taoism, Manichaeism, Gnosticism, and even Jainism, and myriad other religions which present existence is only frail, and despite of the fact that they were once upon a time vastly influential on a social and even global scale, by the standards of their times.

Is the Theravada tradition perfect? Certainly not! Are there serious challenges facing it? Certainly yes! But any discourse on the identification of those challenges, their prioritisation, and proposing solutions to them, must be founded on sila-samadhi-pañña, if the dialogue and debate on these issues themselves can be regarded as founded in a Buddhist practice and devotion. And though it is perfectly valid for one who does not identify with the Theravada Sangha to use the harshest and cruelest of words in his criticism of it, and to denigrate and degrade those who constitute its supposedly foundering members - it is yet truly astonishing to me to see people who have chosen to ordain in that tradition, and continue to make that choice, yet at the same time give expression to the most severe states of discontent, alienation, and even contempt with regard to it as it actually exists, and as it has existed for long, and further ignore the Buddha’s own pedagogy in their categorical criticisms of the monastic order which he established, and resolve rather to such mundane views and, even ideologies, which are presently indeed wrecking havoc through out the Western world!

Then I will here laud some of the words of friend @dzt, which he bravely utters, out of tune, in the midst of a chorus that has been mostly singing the same tune again and again unto itself. There are many people in this world who are deprived of the generosity and magnanimity of heart with which, to listen, and to understand, and to seek to listen and understand; it is a deprivation of a receptive kind of yearning! For “wrecking havoc” into the Vinaya which has been upholding the Theravada tradition has been the fear of those who have opposed any official reestablishment of the bhikkhuni order; the integrity of such Vinaya being precisely that which allowed for the official ordination of those monks who now seek to transcend or modify it, without being able to address the possible serious negative ramifications of such modification on the bhikkhu sangha at large, in its original Asian home. I myself have likewise failed too, in demonstrating with any degree of confidence that no such negative ramifications may indeed ensue. But I have recognised my failure and didn’t blame the listener for it, and whether I now agree or not with either those who support or oppose bhikkhuni ordination, I am not so dumb and deaf as to disregard the concerns of those with whom I disagree, and at least I try to listen to and understand both sides, with equal attention and sympathy, even when what is being said does not immediately, or at all, blend with the frequencies of what I personally might find likeable or desirable.

It’s quite understandable when a layperson fails to grasp the traditional high station of Vinaya in official Theravada life, or to understand anything about Theravada monastic life at all, but I do take issue when a monk reinforces the misunderstanding rather than reduces it. With respect to the debate on bhikkhuni ordination, it’s all about the Vinaya, this is the argument and here is the knot: the Vinaya! Any other talk about hating renunciate women, or fearing their rise into officialdom, only deflects from the main argument and the one knot, and bears the marks of the mundane agony that is presently taking place in the West, and which is indeed wreaking the havoc in Western societies as we speak, far from Asian culture and history, unique and different as they are comparing to Western ones, and in the midst of which the Theravada tradition was preserved and evolved!

Friend @dzt is correct, and there is no religious reform in all human history, not only that which was conceived as progressive, but equally those which were fundamentalist, which did not exercise a degree or another of destruction, if not even total collapse, on those religious structures which existed before them, and in reaction to which they were developed. But instead of reasoning with these concerns, and listening, and understanding, not only their rationale but also the possible emotions which arise along with them - those who are driven by yearnings that are neither receptive, nor self-reflective, at least ignore them, and at worst ridicule and denigrate them, and instead of being able to identify and sympathise at least with the worry and concern for the future of Sangha which their opponents repeatedly mention as the foundation from which they make their evaluations and come to their conclusions, the protagonists of social justice will themselves commit the gross injustice of liberally depicting those who disagree with them as bigots whose arguments are driven by nothing beyond hate for women and greed for power, and will remain silent in relation to, if not even celebrate such blatantly sexist remarks as this:

And meanwhile other urgent challenges loom in the horizon of Theravada still, facing Buddhist men and women alike, including the mounting inter-religious strife, and the challenges facing Buddhist practitioners in their ability to pursue with actual, substantial Dhamma practice and renunciate experience, in a world that is becoming increasingly and continually buzzing with various forms of enticing excitements and stimulations. For in the final analysis, Sangha is itself a mundane phenomenon, a phenomenon of the world, and a true practitioner who is devoted to the teachings, will know that even here, he should wear the gloves, the gloves of dispassion and self-regulation, before attempting to handle the mess! And though Sangha may now have various different functions in the various Asian societies in which it thrives, the ultimate bliss associated with it is that it has been indeed a medium through which the teachings of the Buddha were preserved, and not just as text, but as a lived experience, and the very gate through which many have found their way to the other transcendental shore, nibbana, where we can at last become free from the world, never to return to it.

I agree however that, perhaps indeed the hour for any meaningful dialogue or debate is now late, perhaps I have been a fool to think that it wasn’t so all along, and that one camp was in need for a more spacious space to express itself, than another! Alas! Go ahead and celebrate your victory - though the prize seem to me to be like a poor deer that is in the clutches of a hungry tiger, rather than a lasting bliss that is residing deeply in the deer’s heart and shining forth from its tranquil face!

The heart recognises only what the eyes can see, and to recognise the whole picture, you have got to step back, far back, way back! And then you may indeed find it appropriate to finally turn your back and leave, rather than return to what the eyes used to see.

Good luck!


#15

Who is the “poor deer” here? Monastics who support the bhikkhunīsaṅgha? Or the bhikkhunīsaṅgha itself at present? Or does the deer represent all of Theravāda now that there are nuns?


#16

For me these intelligent words of Ajhan Brahmali is everything. All those people who oppose ordination of women just need to reflect on those words to get over the negative sentiments they have towards women.

I would in fact go a little further by saying that those who oppose do not realize that unbeknown to them they are harboring ill will towards women the very defilement which they purport to dissociate with.

Secondly, we, men, must ask ourselves the question “who are the women?”. They are our own mothers, sisters, daughters and friends. How can we deny them what is good for us.

Thirdly, the Buddha’s solution to Samsaric suffering is universal. It does not discriminate.

May all living beings be well, happy and peaceful.
With Metta


#17

Despite the fact that I have been practicing Buddhism for only a short while, or perhaps because of that, I don’t understand why ordaining women would in any way jeopardize Buddhism. Buddhist teachings pertain to the extinguishing of suffering which is a universal human experience. Everything in life is impermanent, including physical bodies, regardless of their physiological attributes. Clinging to notions of gender is like any other attachment; it is a hindrance to comprehending that letting go of attachments is essential for achieving Nibbana.

At the Wat I attend the majority of individuals who participate in periodic retreats are women. I have learned an incredible amount from their deep practice.

But, then again, I am new to all of this, so what do I know?


#18

Which parts of the essay have led you to believe/make the above statement. I haven’t come away from reading the essay with this impression.

Are you implying that Ajahn Brahmali has been “dumb and deaf” and disregarded the arguments that Ajahn Thanissaro and others have put forward in order to pursue a personal agenda of what is “likeable or desirable”? Indeed, you yourself say that

If persons persist in clinging to fear about possible ramifications, what should be done in a circumstance like this? Apart from acknowledgement, should it have a bearing on the outcomes of learned discussions?

In my reading of the debate so far, I think both parties have responded directly to the issues put forward, based directly on Vinaya. Just because there is not agreement, doesn’t mean that the process is flawed (within the limitations of samasara), unjust or dishonourable, as your below statement would seem to imply.

Victory and battle seem such strange concepts to apply here, tigers eating deer - who is the tiger and who is the deer? Is this useful or likely to lead to greater harmony? Perhaps you may have a suggestion on the points that others have failed to ‘see’, to elucidate the points you seem to feel have not been picked up on and suggest a better way to move forward or diffuse a situation of apparent conflict, from a perspective of

With compassion and metta


#19

In thinking further about this, it strikes me that All involved in this issue do so from a position of right intention.

However, right intention does not automatically lead to right actions.

The most beneficial outcome is one of right action - and thank goodness it is not up to me to try to determine what that is!

However, the process is one fraught with difficulties and challenges. It activates all the elements of attachment to views, of habitual and conditioned beliefs, of comparisons and affiliations. These are all dangerous waters.

Compassion to all beings who swim in this lake of suffering!

But still I have confidence that whatever will occur is fine, and adaptation to change/impermanence of all things, including rules and beliefs, will give all an ample opportunities for deeper reflection and practice, and to break through the multitudinous layers of delusion in Samsara.

May all beings be free of suffering

:anjal:

added later

Please forgive me if I have over-stepped my competence in these matters, in making such an overarching statement. I am the first to admit my imperfect understanding :pray:


#20

[Doubts and suspicions are in general the product of an unreliable imagination, and as such, a cultivated person refrains from giving expression to them in a purposeless or idle manner. Not every last statement I make here is meant as a response to what came in the OP, nor correspond to its author. I intentionally avoid making references to any person in particular, and prefer to address attitudes rather than persons; after all, our attitudes are, neither a self nor coming from a self. Whom so ever should have doubts about the intentions or purport of my figurative speech, or whether it is meant as a reference to someone in particular, should rely on his, or her own imagination, to solve the puzzle!]


You see, right there is the absence of understanding! No one is saying that ordaining women hampers “Buddhism”, in fact we know that the opposite is the case, and that it would have been better if bhikkhunis can ordain. The trouble is that such ordination is now regarded by some as a compromise of the vinaya, the monastic code which is so vital in the Theravada tradition to the extent of constituting the core of its very historical identity. Women were once ordained, but they later disappeared, no more nuns existed under historical circumstances of which we are ignorant, and there were times in the early sangha when even monks are said to have declined in number too. The question has nothing to do with the worth of women, it is exclusively related to whether the monastic law allows for the revival of their ordination again, as the explicit text states that only a nun can ordain another, and there are no nuns any more. But you don’t understand that, you think it is about Theravada’s value judgement of women and womanhood.

Well, you are wrong! And you would be more wrong, and even unjust, if your verdict on the issue was based on your wrong understanding, and even if you were driven in your pronouncement of your verdict against Theravada by a benevolent desire to empower the disprivileged women. And you would be more wrong to think that monks are happy with the difficulty of reinstating the official place of nuns, and are gloating over the disappearance of their lineage, or that they think ill of women or of anyone in particular or at all. The depiction of monks who don’t support bhikkhuni ordination as a group of evil misogynists is incredibly cartoonish, and embarrassingly so, suggesting strongly that one who thinks that way did not mature a notch from the state of childhood, when his unwary parents let him watch too much Walt Disney cartoons, where good and evil are strictly and constantly separate and distinct, and where good triumphs only by, wrecking havoc, in the world of evil, up to its total, final, and irreversible destruction.

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Are there some monks who are thus afflicted by hate and cruelty toward women? Probably, but those don’t take part in the conversation, and they themselves know better than to express their dark passions openly, exceptions you might find will only prove the rule. Are there also some bad nuns? Most probably! Are there “bad ones” in every group of people who are short of saints? Definitely. But they have never been a part of the conversation, not until you bring them on board, even if just in your own mind and imagination.

But …

… is a good starting point, exhibiting humility, self-awareness, and sincerity, while at the same time directly paving the way to what one should do next, vimaŋsa!

When I found myself baffled by how scientists disagreed among themselves about something so evidential, so observable, so calculable, as “global warming”, and when I realised that the difference in views was not in the details, but in whether it is the greatest threat looming upon human survival, or a non-factual phenomenon that doesn’t really exist - well, I thought about whatever has become of the legacy of the Renaissance in the West, but I looked into the matter, I investigated it, I concerned myself with the truth, I asked questions and had conversations with people about it. And it wasn’t just once or twice that I encountered people with little cultivation, with no wisdom, with a shallow-depth beneath their outspoken certitude, who affirmed the existence of global warming simply because “the majority of scientists” believed such and such; as if consensus rather than evidence was the standard of scientific truth, and as if those who opposed Nicolas Copernicus and Giordano Bruno, were right because there was more of them! Alas!

You see, consensus is a dangerous thing …

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… and it is altogether inappropriate for a true Buddhist practitioner to be swayed by its morbid power, not even for a single moment. And so it is not difficult for you to put some effort in understanding the history and identity of the Theravada tradition, and then you will be at least more informed when the time comes for you to formulate an opinion and pronounce a verdict for this and against that.

But effort, as the Buddha teaches, is conditioned by interest - and not only will those who haven’t your humility and sincerity, recklessly and mindlessly pass all sorts of severe judgements on all sorts of phenomena which they don’t understand, but further they will not make the slightest effort to understand those phenomena simply because they are not really interested and don’t really care - yet they will continue to pass judgements still. Such is the nature of untrained, untamed minds, which know neither self-restraint nor authentic and sincere sense of purpose. It is evidently not investigation and the effort of understanding that gives rise to pleasure in the conditioned mind, but rather engagement in an act of transformation, transformation of the world or of something in it, rather than transforming the filth that accumulates one layer after another in the depth of one’s own heart, but rather engaging in the world, in action, winning, emerging up by bringing the other down - it is such a thing that gives rise to pleasure, to passion, to feeling, to excitement, to bhava. Welcome, to saŋsāra!

When you have made the effort to understand, and relieved yourself from the prejudice and blindness of mundane passions, discontent, and resentment, then you may be able to observe, and appreciate, the mutual support and respect which is evident for every one to see, between monks and unordained renunciate women in Asian societies; contemplate how is it that those who are said to hate women could at the same time exhibit all that generosity, and expend all that effort, in the support of even a single woman, let alone the thousands of them.

But the trouble for some is that man and woman, or even man and man or woman and woman, or even human and animal in some accounts(!), are not perfectly equal, [although in their ignorance, blindness, and vastness of ego, perfectly equal they are!], and the Theravada sangha is strictly hierarchical, and we are looking at Western societies that are afflicted by postmodernestic resentment and discontent with anything that does not generate a reality where every one is equal to the other! And this doesn’t make those postmodernestic voices bad or wrong, you may agree or disagree with them as you please, and currently Westerners are biting the flesh off each other’s bones over these matters in their own societies. But certainly these attitudes and inclinations at least make some of those Western Buddhists incompatible with the nature and identity of the Theravada tradition, being fundamentally conservative and traditional. And then the question becomes, “why do they choose to ordain in it?” especially when they are already fully aware, and outspokenly so, of what they regard as its limitations and shortcomings, and of their own already established dissatisfaction, alienation, and even contempt for it.

This is finally how we arrive at the situation where a monk in robes who received his own ordination in an official ceremony by other monks, and by strictly following a detailed ordination procedure as prescribed in the Vinaya, the slightest deviation from which may lead to the nullification of his official monastic status, ends up himself and while still in robes, sparing no chance to denigrate and degrade about everything in the monastic world with which he disagrees: this monk and that, this monastic community and that, this Dhamma thought and that, this Dhamma practice and that, and before all, criticises with astonishing audacity both the vinaya according to which he received his own ordination, and those “brothers” of his without whom he could not be ordained, and the bhikkhu sangha itself as a historical community, and everyone else who identifies with it without sharing his discontent and antagonism with regard to it.

And despite of all this deplorable misery, which departs from the basic manners of conduct and etiquette that even Asian children know how to comply with, if you had the magnanimity of heart with which to listen receptively and attentively, and sympathetically, to such excessive, resentful voices, you might eventually understand the urgent need of these Western Buddhists of an egalitarian sangha in their own Western societies, or their need to develop a sangha of their own that is no longer affiliated with Theravada. But then if you were to listen receptively and attentively, and sympathetically, to the concerns of Asian Buddhist communities also, then you would likewise discern the arrogant, imperialistic pride and egotism, in the desire of some of those Westerners to reshape and refashion the sangha of the East according to their own image too, and without the slightest regard to the high cost which this may indeed inflict on Theravada societies and the future of the sangha there, in its original Asian cultural home.

A most unfortunate attitude that so much contrasts with what you expect from those who herald the cause of justice, and who would have developed themselves and related to those who support them independently and in peace, and without need to demonise any external “other”. Had been their success and victory indeed independent and inward, and free from the desire to see every other community dancing to their liberal tune, we would not have found all these negative attitudes against the bhikkhu sangha, or which react so aversively, so emotionally, so passionately, to whatever that a Theravada monk said about bhikkhuni ordination, and they would have found reason to secede from Theravada a long time ago, and especially if they were indeed successful and independent, and regarded themselves as pioneers of a more just, upright, and righteous sangha.

As I said previously, the picture is bigger than what the eyes can readily see. And the truth is that what many people here so vehemently celebrate or lament over, hasn’t really come so much under the radar of the various bhikkhu sanghas in Theravada countries, and the saddest part is that, whenever it does, it only undermines rather than reinforces the position of the emerging bhikkhunis in these countries. One could here indeed argue, that it is only of great benefit, precisely for the flourishing of those very bhikkhunis in Asia, that many of the resentful melodies which are being trumpeted ceaselessly by those who are discontented with Theravada in the West, do not find those to echo them in the East. For in general, lay and renunciate women in Asia, exhibit a far greater degree of contentment and appreciation with the possibilities and supports of practice and renunciate life that their societies offer them alongside that which they offer to the bhikkhu sangha. This may not be a perfect situation, but what fool is it that thinks the pursuit of salvation goes by a path of perfect conditions?!