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


@dzt I have read your response, and decided not to engage.

May you, and all, be happy and peaceful and ultimately freed from all suffering.


Would you ask a man this question? Would you ask a monk this question?


Perhaps Theravāda needs a Pope-toaster.

There was a legend of a lady Pope named Joan, in medieval Europe, who snuck into the Papacy in drag. The story is almost definitely ahistorical.

The legend goes, and I don’t doubt there is Protestant colouring of this legend from the years of sectarian warfare in Europe, but the legend goes that every new Pope is hoisted into the air on a chair, and the Pope-toaster toasts the Pope by sticking his hands up his robe to make sure there are the appropriate genitals underneath.


Ack! :see_no_evil:


And probably also reduce the criticism faced by the bhikkhunīs. As far as I know, respect for the Dharmaguptaka order is part of the political-correctness.

Saying ‘it is not allowed (to eliminate the minor rules)’ when the Buddha actually said ‘it is allowed’, wouldn’t it be a distortion of the Vinaya?

A dispute about livelihood or about the Pātimokkha would be trifling, Ānanda. But should a dispute arise in the Sangha about the path or the way, such a dispute would be for the harm and unhappiness of many, for the loss, harm, and suffering of gods and humans.


The Buddha obviously did not describe this kind of issue as ‘for the harm and unhappiness of many’. In fact, he said it is ‘trifling’.


I’ve also been following the exchange between Ven. Analayo and Ven. Thanissaro. My take away is that Ven. Thanissaro is concerned about the consequences of contemporary bhikkhuni ordination because the bhikkhuni lineage in the Theravada tradition had been broken. He is a firm believer in what he calls the apprenticeship model of Buddhist monasticism and practice. If the bhikkhuni sangha had been uninterrupted from the time of Mahapajapati, I doubt he would have any concerns beyond whatever concerns one might have about any other practice community. That’s why he mentions “unqualified” bhikkhuni teachers. (And he also thinks bhikkhus are unsuitable teachers for bhikkhunis because of their separation in the Vinaya).

He probably believes the Vinaya supports this view by forbidding, in his interpretation, unilateral ordination of bhikkhunis by bhikkhus. If the Vinaya didn’t support this view, then while he might still object to the quality of instruction received, I don’t think he would consider it invalid.

Of course, that’s just my understanding based on what he’s written and spoken about in a number of places.

As for the topic of bhikkhuni ordination, as a lay man, I see what the big deal is, and I also don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

Like Ven. @brahmali says, I think Ven. Thanissaro sees himself as protecting an institution tasked with disseminating the Dhamma for the benefit of all beings. That’s no small responsibility. If he simply cared about his own monastery in the hills, it would be a non-issue. But he feels compelled to speak out about things that will affect the Buddhist community. Yes, good intentions are not enough, as @Viveka points out. But I see where he’s coming from. (In some ways it’s still a non-issue because he has no power over what monastics outside his jurisdiction do or don’t do—though he does speak from a platform of considerable influence.)

But in a lot of ways the whole debate is already moot. Theravadan bhikkhunis are a reality. There are some that I really admire, respect, and support when I can. If bhikkhuni ordination means more women can get access to the Dhamma, then I’m all for it. The question is, now what? What role does the bhikkhu sangha play, if any? Those are the questions that I think need to be addressed now. (Though not in this thread, of course!)

Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu says, perhaps ineloquently, “We are bums, let us be bums.” Let anyone called to a life wide open embark on that path with sincerity. We’re all bumbling along the path to Awakening the best we know how, and, as others have noted, monasticism in the West is still young. Its establishment is where, I think, our efforts should be focused.


[edit for correct reference @TamHanhHi ] ahh your most recent post seems to clarify something to me; when lineage involves magical thinking, qualified includes “unbroken” transmission concept. And there’s no direct arguing with that, except by challenging the magical / supernatural thinking itself.

What a painful mental trap! No wonder discussions often seem to go nowhere; not on the same playing field or plain…

However… @zhangyixuan this might be a topic which affects the path or the way, with those stomping on aspirations to ordain on (imo) a wrong side. May all be harmless!


I don’t think you are referring to me :face_with_monocle:


Correct, it was @TamHanhHi 's comment. Thank you, @Mat


Ajahn, with all due regard you are making a third category in the same vein as all the other monk made categories developed for women that have been tried and found wanting. It is best to accept women as full members or not at all.


This is not me “making a third category”. As I mentioned in my post, this was the approach chosen by the women who were ordained as bhikkhunīs in Bodh Gaya in 1998. This procedure does make them “full members”, at least in the eyes of those who consider the procedure valid, of which I am one. The problem is that regardless of which procedure you use, there will always be some who consider it invalid.


Alex sometimes ad hominem is justified as per Oxford Uni"

‘But let’s say that a psychologist makes an argument, Y, about race and IQ (i.e., that black people are less “intelligent” than white people), and his opponent points out that he used to be a member of the KKK. Well, it’s still useless in one sense, in that the psychologist’s prior membership in the KKK can’t by itself disprove his argument; but it does seem useful in another sense, in that it might give us at least a plausible reason to be a little bit more cautious in interpreting the psychologist’s results.’


Thanks Ajahn but a ‘strengthening procedure’ sounds like a third way to me. With metta.


Of course. When the ad hominem is germain to the topic, based in evidence, etc. When it’s merely a nonsequitor, etc though it’s a problem.

But in this case I feel people are already taking it personally, so avoiding ad hominems is (I believe) an appropriate form of de-escalation in this situation. Your thoughts, Ocean?


A “strengthening procedure” is a standard procedure used for monks who wish to change nikāya, ordination lineage. It is true, however, that it does not occur in the earliest vinaya material.


I have questioned Ajahn Thanissaros motivation in the past on this issue of ordination of bhikkhunis. In lieu of your previous comment about ad hominem I had to reconsider this approach but after some reflection I still question his motivation. Since it is a gender based issue it is difficult not to disregard the possibility that there is some inherent bias in his orientation. As a general principle I agree with you.


Would you ask a man this question? Would you ask a monk this question?

Depending on circumstances, sure :slight_smile:

Anyway, this is a very political topic, so I myself should stay away from it. Buddhism and politics should not mix, even if they do today. I said everything I wanted to say regarding this, I cannot add anything more. I just really wish everyone aiming at Nibbana reach it.


Why would you ask a monk that question?

“So you can’t practice the most effective way without an orange robe?”

The question contains a lot of presuppositions.


The venerable may well be a “firm believer” in this, but it’s a belief that seems to be most unevenly expressed by him and with no sense of proportion at all.

There are in Asian Theravadin countries tens of thousands of city monks who undergo only the most minimal sort of training and hundreds of thousands of village monks who undergo no training whatsoever. Even in Ajahn Thanissaro’s own tradition —the Eastern Seaboard branch of the Ajahn Mun tradition— it’s only in a minority of monasteries that anything like an apprenticeship model prevails.

So rather than worrying his head about the possibility that a few dozen bhikkhunīs might not get properly trained, why is the ajahn not publishing polemical tracts calling for an end to the ordination of bhikkhus in those monasteries where it’s a certainty they won’t be properly trained?