Reading this thread over a period of several days; it got me thinking about the impact of all that on actual bhikkhunis! It’s not all abstract and academic isn’t it? I mean there are women who have already gone forth! How is someone supposed to practice in peace with all this going on around them?! And you don’t know what to say! Nearly every opinion or advice one could voice will involve some unpleasant consequence or another, on the part of Bhikkhunis! Are they to get involved and fight on the expense of their tranquility? Do they ignore it all and persevere in their practice on the expense of protecting and developing their sangha? You don’t know what to say!
It is a very “non-Buddhist” situation, very unfortunate, and to witness all the nonchalance and perfunctory opinionatedness of how some others engage with it! You will agree that this is so unfair, when you juxtapose this situation with how everyone readily celebrates and is proud of the ordination of a new bhikkhu, and seek to offer their immediate support! And having written those lines just now, I hesitate to post them not knowing whether they will give consolation to those bhikkhunis who might read them, or rather do nothing other than stir dissatisfaction or frustration in their hearts. But they must persevere! It is a really difficult situation, and I am appreciative to the general input of Venerable @sujato and Venerable @brahmali in this debate (being well known bhikkhus and all!). It is a fortunate thing for us to have access to you on this forum!
The real purpose of going forth is to grow in one’s practice and make progress toward one’s goal, that will always be the case. So all I could say is that I just hope that, those bhikkhunis gone forth in faith, will not be so negatively effected in their practice, despite of all this ambient and unpleasant cacophony that surrounds them, and despite of their involvement in it.
And about Vinaya, particularly regarding some of the concerns that Ayya @vimalanyani had raised early on in the thread:
Who today tells another what to do about vinaya?! Even if you have to follow the ways of this or that sect because you live dependent on their support and have to comply with their ways, privately, who can “with authority” tell you what to do if you were not convinced? Inwardly and privately, you will always be on your own!
Venerable Mahakassapa had done his duty, the Dhamma and Vinaya are declared, and ever since the departure of the Buddha, practitioners have gone their own separate ways!! Since then it has become the responsibility of each practitioner, of “you”, to develop the best possible understanding and appreciation of Dhammavinaya. How else can we explain all the sects and varying vinaya standards within Theravada in South East Asia, even within the same country, even within the same monastery?! The text is there for us as a reference, and it is obligatory for us to study it, as much closely as possible. The vinaya is easy, it is not rocket science! It is good also to listen attentively to what the teachers of today have to say. But having done your duty, you are on your own, and you will never find two practitioners following vinaya in the same way, with the same appreciation, and for the same purpose. Even since the time of the Buddha, in practice there has never been “one right vinaya”, there simply cannot possibly be such a thing in practice, even amongst those strict and constipated practitioners who grasp hold of the vinaya as a starving lioness of its prey!
Friends, we do not leave the lay life and become mendicants in order to live in fear, uncertainty, hesitation, and self-mistrust! We leave the lay life and become mendicants to rid of precisely these strange ghosts within our hearts! So go forth and be free and enjoy the incomparable freedom of pabbajja!
It requires one lots of courage to acknowledge these ghosts rule our lives since we acquired (again) the sketchy sense of self lay lives are mostly built upon.
It requires even greater courage to give a real try to Buddha’s call to action and, through the proper embracing of the path, leave behind the fragile masks and titles lay life is all about, taking on the robes and seeking for a way to make peace with not only the ghosts living in the house but the tireless workers who keep building up new houses here and there, lifetime after lifetime, life stage after life stage, for old and new ghosts to take shelter…
May the bhikkhu and bhikkhuni sanghas last for much long more!
What kind of astonishes me, is how modern people – including Buddhists! - are centred on the current state of affairs, prevalent ideas and default thinking patterns. The Blessed One, Supreme Buddha proclaimed his Dhamma for liberation of every living being that can comprehend it. He also started an order of his followers, so His teaching can stay for a while for others to grasp. He established clear rules and principles for this to be as effective and as durable as possible. Let’s revisit the Gotami Sutta and see why exactly He did not want initially to ordain women: because he foresaw that it will shorten the lifespan of the pure Dhamma, and not because of some kind of sexism. On the contrary, several times he emphasized that for a striving person it does not matter whether this person is male, female, brahman, khattiya or anyone else: in the face of Dhamma all are equal.
But in order to preserve the Teachings, He set rules. We don’t suppose that we here are cleverer than Him in this respect, do we? Then why do we have any right to cancel or amend the rules because of our likings or ideas that are prevalent? First of all, there is no sexism whatsoever in the Buddha’s Dhamma, because Dhamma is for everybody. If someone sees it there, I would suggest careful reflection into own mind. Vinaya rules may be a different thing – but! Again, the same question, why are we cleverer than him in terms of what rules to keep, what rules to bend, and what rules to cancel completely? Because it does not fit the modern society, or maybe because it’s against someone’s tanha to “have” things go their way? Well, it has to be noted here that for some reason Buddha appeared among humans in “unequal” and “primitive” India 2500 years ago, not now among our equality movements and other wonders – hence, now it’s worse time for Dhamma than it was then.
My post is not about whether it’s “legal” or not to ordain bhikkunis, my post is about a way of thinking where we are the clever ones, and Buddha and ancient Indians – his followers – are not. We absolutely should not adapt His teachings and rules for the sake of adaptation, because for us it “does not make sense”. If we do that, the only thing we do is bring the end of the Dhamma closer.
I do not understand why this issue with nuns’ ordination has arisen in the first place. Suppose the Theravadin bhikkhuni lineage is broken, and there’s no valid way to ordain. Then why violate the Buddha’s rules and ordain in the Theravada tradition in the first place? If East Asian Mahayana’s claim for the unbroken lineage is true, why just not ordain there? (Another question of course is why all different branches do not recognize each other if they all stem from Buddha) Or stay as a lay follower, but keep all the percepts and practice, after all, it’s not the robe and status that drive you on the Path, it’s the belief in the Triple Gem, Four Noble Truths, virtue, views, practice. But it seems that people are obsessed with what they shouldn’t be if they claim to understand the Teaching. I doubt that kammic consequence of breaking Vinaya, seeding disagreement in Sangha and lay community and very probable shortening of Dhamma’s lifespan in this world in attempt to override Buddha’s directives is somehow justified. Women today would not be barred from reaching the Fruits of the Path by the fact that they can’t wear orange robes.
Once again: it’s not the ordination which is wrong or not, it’s the disrespect for the Buddha’s word for the sake of “fitting” into the modern agenda and conditioned ideas and views in our minds. For you see, it does not have to fit. It is not it’s purpose. Such a voluntaristic approach and open advocacy of “let’s change it because it’s not nice” sets a very dangerous precedent. The next step would be to reject everything from the teaching that does not fit current scientific models, for example.
I do not intend to show any disrespect to anyone, and I wish everyone willing to establish themselves firmly on the Path. The Path is not about modern understanding of equality, social justice movements or any other views and ideas. Don’t allow Mara to cloud your vision with all this, shift your attention away and create unwholesome states. It’s not some harmless discussion like the location of Mount Meru, it directly concerns how Dhamma is spread and taught, and it is a very serious matter.
P.S. I realize it is not exactly clear how Buddha ordered to ordain women, because there are discrepancies between various sutta parallels. But it means also we should be double-cautious, because evidently someone already tried to tamper with the process. Trying to do better we in fact may do worse, and in the areas we never anticipated.
So…I do just want to say…I’ve not read the OP nor the preceding comments and I don’t intend to. Nor will I be in a wild hurry to check in here to argue my position…
I happened to click on this topic and was directed to this comment and 'am moved to make a counter comment.
I utterly disagree. I do not see a worse way.
Out of respect for the Buddha, please desist from viewing this issue as a “modern” issue. Out of respect for the Buddha, the Compassionate one, view this issue as an issue of Compassion. Out of respect for the Fully Enlightened One, view this issue as one that gives others a greater chance of achieving this Full Enlightenment.
Further, if monks in robes don’t think robes are necessary to develop the highest of goals, I invite them to return to lay life.
To be quite clear, because it’s very difficult, when we are basically not interacting with each other, but with words on a screen, to get a good handle on where people are coming from…I’m not speaking from negativity, rather from surprise.
I only hope that you did not intend to use the expression “agenda” in a disrespectful way! That aside, you actually do not bring anything new to the discussion, neither that taking place in general or even that unfolding in this very thread!
You speak of “fitting” as if it was a sin; apparently you are either totally unaware, or choose to turn a blind eye, to the incredible Vinaya fitting that is being continuously done by the great majority of Buddhist monastic communities in the whole world, to make ends meet in what you conceive to be a “modern” context, whereas, to me, it is only the contemporary one! (unfortunately it is hard to live at any time other than that which is contemporaneous!!). Examples of such “fitting” abound, and they range from the necessary and reasonable, to the absurd. So the arguing actually has rarely been about “fitting” in itself, but rather about “which fitting”. So, and I’m sorry to be the one who informed you, what you are afraid of happening, has already been happening, and for quite a long time now!
Secondly, in the case of nuns ordination in particular, there isn’t really all that much fitting that you are talking about in the first place. As mentioned so many times before, if the Buddha did not revoke ordination of nuns in one stage by monks, then it is at the very least reasonably arguable that there is no bending or “fitting” of any Vinaya rules here. You may still disagree, for whatever reasons (and i’m not saying “agendas”) that you may entertain; but to accuse others of taking disrespectful measures to serve their ends, and in this particular case; that my friend is very inaccurate and misinformed; especially given that it takes someone to be totally blind in order not to see all the other kinds of fitting-leaps which are made in so many other areas of monastic life, including using money for example; a fitting which, unlike nuns ordination, couldn’t even in any way be reconciled with the Vinaya that you contend should, and can, be upheld whole and to the letter.
Further, there is in fact nothing wrong in doing such fitting if it was “necessary” and motivated by compassion and what is beneficial to oneself and others. Not doing that would be the thing to criticise and be astonished by! What is disrespectful to Buddha is to intentionally depart from his teachings; and becoming dogmatic is one of those thing that the Buddha never taught, and openly cautioned us against! And so long we do not seek to “impose” anything on others, then whatever “faulty fitting” we are doing, that will be our own suffering (for which you may, if you wish, show compassion!). Likewise, you have no idea how your clutch on tradition, if imposed on others, can deeply harm them!
I have met many practising women who were not only disinterested in the matter of nuns ordination, but even opposed it! Have I complained about it? Have I denounced them along with the traditions which they believe in? No! And to do that would be offensive and arrogant; a testimony of how deep goes one’s own prejudice and cruelty, and obsession with control!
Finally, speaking of disrespect to Buddha bears the same marks of self-obsession, like holding the banner of some holy war against what one perceives to be “infidels”! But what you fail to understand is that we are not toying with reality here; this concern is no joke or opportunity for excitement to those involved in it; it is a very serious matter; and, for your information, it offers nothing but “trouble” to both monk and nun who get involved in it and express themselves openly about it (and many are those who have swallowed their tongues, against the inclination of their very hearts and judgement of their very conscience!). You see, those supporting nuns ordination are not “evil” or “prodigal” as you might imagine; they do believe in what they are thinking, feeling and doing, against a lot of trouble on which you are only piling up! I grant you that sometimes they may take offensive positions as well, which is unfortunate too, but aside from this, those who speak of them as followers of some “agenda” that disrespects Buddha, have totally misunderstood and misjudged them.
And so I wonder, what would you have them do then? To deny their reason and judgement, and sense of conscience too?! THAT, would be disrespectful to one’s own self, and quite unbefitting, of a follower of Buddha! You may still disagree, but you don’t have to denounce! Because I am only honoured to be involved in such “fitting” which enhances the vibrancy and vitality of Dhamma and Vinaya against the transformation of time, and which is not only important, but also necessary, in order to prevent the Buddha’s teachings from becoming a stranger to this world and to its ever changing and progressing societies. I conceive this to be my duty as a fully ordained monastic; and I would actually feel rather uneasy, if not even guilty, if I neglected doing just that. But there is nothing in it “for me”! For I am continuously aware that all these matters are mundane, and we must guard against becoming infatuated with them. I already know the splendour of this Dhamma and have no confusion about what derives me towards it. And no earth could shake beneath my innermost respect, gratitude, and adoration, to its transcendental nature.
I understand your point, but it is a little bit more complicated than that. Compassion does not mean satisfying every person’s need. Making the barrier to entry lower does mean increasing chances of success.
Fair point, bhante. Could you please describe how exactly this is happening? Are these communities actually changing the (written) Vinaya, or do they just “ignore” certain rules and “add” custom ones?
Actually, bhante, I with my position do not oppose the ordination per se. After all, the pali rule requesting a woman to get permission from both sanghas is questionnable in its genuinity (right?), and there are also nuns lineages which are not broken, even though in different brances of the buddhism. What I was discussing here is that some people say that 8 garudhammas are not needed anymore (even thought they are universal in all schools), and that nuns’ Vinaya is “too hard”.
I also would like to say that here in writing it may seem that I have a hostile position. It is not like this. It just seems that people from different parts of the world tend to have very different ways of thinking, and it may be really hard to understand the other’s point.
Very well then! All the more reason to be careful what one says!
No one wants to change any text; but only to change the way we interact with it when there is a reasonable purpose to do so. This is already happening across the board as I said earlier, and you might find out that the resistance to nuns ordination is not so much motivated by Vinaya devotion as much as … well … who knows!! In order for one to speak about Vinaya at present, one needs to learn and study the Vinaya (which is easy by the way), and at the same time travel around and observe various monastic communities - only then can you see how there is no more “Vinaya”, but only “vinayas”! You have no idea how far and wide rules can be stretched, or dropped altogether! There are so many communities which don’t even know how to undertake a formal meeting of Sangha or correctly enforce a Sanghadisesa anymore! These things are forgotten, and not necessarily out of disrespect to Vinaya, but also because decision-making processes and admonishment methods have taken different forms at present, comparing to the past! I hope that answers your question.
No not right! The Vinaya does prescribe a two-stage ordination procedure for women; first in a Sangha of nuns, and then again in a Sangha of monks. The problem is that there came a time when the nuns Sangha disappeared and the line was broken, thus making it impossible for any further ordination of women. This is the argument of those who oppose nuns ordination today. However, in the same Vinaya we find that originally, women used to ordain directly in one stage under a Sangha of monks; and though the Buddha later introduced the two-stage ordination, he never formally or informally revoke the earlier one-stage procedure or annulled its validity, and thus there came to be the reintroduction of a nuns Sangha today. Simple!
In all fairness, the fact that you are arguing about nuns ordination, and a strict mode of Vinaya observance, while you are not even aware of these facts and confused about such basic information, does not speak so highly of you! But be patient with me here, because I have been patient with you! I have taken time to provide the information and to answer your questions and concerns, although you could have found it all by yourself had you really read the posts in this thread, before expressing your “astonishment” at the views of others.
Now what do you know about the Garudhammas?! What do you know about Vinaya, as text and as practice? It is not a very complex matter, not rocket science, but it takes an effort of examination also, and of at least familiarising oneself of what has already been written by others, from both sides, before one can take sides and speak about the matter as confidently as you do! With all due respect, quite honestly I find it demeaning and undignifying that those supporting egalitarian values in Sangha, have to be the object of criticism by someone who is as totally uninformed as you are, even if you mean well!
And we know that the world is unfair! But we still live expecting others, expecting ‘you’, to be fair!
I meant this, from Ven. Analayo:
“At the same time, comparative study shows that some of the garudhammas would have one through a change of wording. This holds for the case of the garudhamma on ordination, which in the Pāli version stipulates that a female candidate who has gone through a period of probationary training should receive ordination from both communities, that is, a community of bhikkhus and a community of bhikkhunīs. From a comparative perspective it emerges that the reference to both communities is not found in all versions, as some only refer to a community of bhikkhus.”
I think we underestimate the Buddha when we think he was somehow ‘forced’ to ordain women against his wishes …somehow. When we contemplate the qualities of the Buddha we aren’t talking about an ‘ordinary’ person. He faced down serial killers, ‘devils’ and ‘Gods’. I think he would have refused his step-mother if he felt it would cause inestimable damage to the dispensation.
On the other hand the sutta about Mahapajapati requesting ordination sounds like it is for appeasing male egos. I wondered if this sutta is actually meant to prolong the sasana, rather than what is happening in the sutta itself, but I don’t know for certain.
The general dumbness of ceasing bhikkhuni ordination to stick rigidly to a rule, is sadly found in most places of work, where any change to the routine is heartily challenged …and in places where being a bhikkhu has become a kind of a priest’s job, rather than a training ground for enlightenment.
In any case, women are ordained and bhikkhuni ordination is back. This is water under the bridge. We need to move forward. No sasana will last forever and I’m certain the Buddha would have been aware of this. At least the metteyya Buddha will have no shortage of possible bhikkunis this way.
Yes there is that too. When you read the Vinayapitaka as a whole, you will naturally sense that there is something not quite right about passages and rules that are nuns-specific. The Venerable Analayo has made an effort in showing how these passages differ from the rest of the text, when compared to other Vinaya texts; which in a certain sense reinforces the view that they are to be handled with carefulness and not to be taken for granted, or that they are inauthentic.
But, in truth, what i’m wondering about and that seems more important to me, is why historical revisionism and justification is that much needed to negotiate with rules concerning exclusively the lives of nuns, while they are never needed in the case of even totally abandoning rules concerning the lives of monks? For example, the rules concerning using money are very strict, no one is doubting their authenticity; yet only a tiny minority are following them today, and those [monks] who no longer follow them feel not the slightest need to justify themselves. To me that discrimination matters much more than historical analysis! So my concern regarding Garudhamma is not really that they are inauthentic, but rather that, in certain cultural contexts, they constitute an obstacle for monastic women today, which far exceeds in its seriousness that which will trouble monks if they had to abide by the money rules, and which yet they are free to abandon as they please.
Everything you mentioned in the thread completely agree with my learning and practice of Dhamma/Vinaya as taught and trained by my teachers.
When one really tastes Dhamma, such one will be happy with what he experienced directly and when in conformity with Suttas.
No one is asking you to change your views, but just to have compassion and not be an obstacle in the path of others! That is all.
For if you find, say … a frog … that through some miracle speaks to you and tells you that it has awakened to the message of Buddha and seeks to practise all the way and attain deliverance; wow! you will feel so moved by this, you will be overcome by saṃvega, you will have tears in your eyes. I am sure you will help this frog at once, without thinking twice, without even taking the time to wonder whether it is male or female! “I will help you in every way I can, O frog!” I’m sure you will speak like this even before it asks for any help! I am sure you will build a safe home for it. I am sure you will be full of viriya and chanda the following morning in your alms round, because this time, and ever after, you will share part of your meal with the frog. I am sure this will inspire you in your own practice. I am sure you will be sad if any harm befalls this frog, and deeply worried if it one day suddenly disappears. I am sure you will be a faithful supporter to this frog. I am sure it will never occur to you to challenge or place obstacles in the path of this wondrous frog! I am sure you will utter a decisive “NO” to someone who tries to dissuade you from helping the frog, and that you will not stop helping it even if all other people in the world hate the frog! I am sure that your conscience will torture you that very day you stop helping the frog and leave it struggle in this dangerous world on its own. And it will be good of you, it will be right of you, son of Buddha, to feel and act in just this way.
How then do we feel and act differently, when the being that awakens to Dhamma and seeks liberation, is a HUMAN BEING ?!?!?! Just like you and me, venerable! How could any one not feel compassion, then?!?! And, moreover, how does compassion comes so readily for a frog but, for a human being, it turns into aversion and cruelty?!?! And of all people on earth, those not feeling compassion, those not caring, those even actively placing obstacles and challenges before women so as not to follow the Buddha’s Path, are themselves, ironically, “sons of Buddha”!! It’s mind boggling to me! It doesn’t make any sense to me! And it is nightmarish to me!!
The guiding principle in all our judgements and actions, whether over Vinaya or anything else whatever it may be, is compassion. And if because of the ignorance and fever that still reigns in our hearts, we sometimes forget this guiding principle, or neglect to apply our hearts to it, then at least we should make amends for it and strive to become more established in compassion. But to become alienated from compassion, and to rationalise indifference and cruelty; that is certainly not the task and duty entrusted to us by Buddha.
Satto saṃsāramāpādi, dukkhamassa mahabbhayan.
The hearts of all beings, are grasped by horror and fear of this realm of perpetual suffering. All beings without exception, including you and me venerable, seek nothing but protection and refuge from this unending hail of suffering, that haunts us even in our sleep! No one, man or woman, would seek to go forth, and stay gone forth, for any other reason, or without true faith in their heart, that Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, are just that protection and refuge.
I wonder; what kamma there is which accumulates in the heart of one who actively challenges and prevents the going forth, even of a frog?!