The Wat Pa Phong Sangha Disavows Bodhinyana Monastery Over Ajahn Brahmavamso’s Ordination of Nuns

Breaking news from The Buddhist Channel

On Thursday 22nd October 2009, Sisters Vayama, Nirodha, Seri and Hassapañña were ordained as Theravada Bhikkhunis in a dual ordination ceremony held at Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery in Perth, Western Australia.

Ayya Tathaaloka, from the United States, was the Preceptor. Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato performed the certifying acariya chanting in the bhikkhu’s part of the ceremony.


[Ajahn Brahm] was summoned to a meeting in Thailand on Sunday November 1st where, after much harsh discussion, he was given the choice of publicly stating that the ordination was invalid or [Bodhinyana Monastery would be disavowed by the] Wat Pah Pong community.

He refused to recant, as he was not willing to disavow an ordination procedure which was valid according to the Vinaya (the monastic rules established by the Buddha), nor was he willing to go against the wishes of the Australian Sangha Association and the thousands of lay Buddhists from around the world who supported the full integration of women into Theravada Buddhism.

The status of Bodhinyana Monastery was subsequently revoked.

NellaLou at Enlightenment Ward also points us to many reactions to this news in the Buddhoblogosphere.  Of special note among these many reactions, though, are those from Wisdom Publications’ editor David Kittelstrom and Arun at Angry Asian Buddhist, who doesn’t like the way the words “excommunication” and “schism” are being thrown around in this discussion.

My thoughts on all of this?  I simply quote His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

Given that women are fully capable of achieving the ultimate goal of the Buddha’s teachings, in harmony with the spirit of the modern age, the means and opportunity to achieve this goal should be completely accessible to them.

The most effective means and opportunity for achieving this goal is full ordination (Upasampada) as a Bhikshuni and full participation in the life of a community of Bhikshunis, that is, a Bhikshuni Sangha in their practice tradition.

Full ordination for women will enable women to pursue wholeheartedly their own spiritual development through learning, contemplating, and meditating, and also enhance their capacities to benefit society through research, teaching, counseling, and other activities to help extend the life of the Buddhadharma.

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5 thoughts on “The Wat Pa Phong Sangha Disavows Bodhinyana Monastery Over Ajahn Brahmavamso’s Ordination of Nuns

  1. I would like to post a personal comment on the latest controvery re. the Bhikkhuni ordination but it’s in MS Works format. Do you have an e-mail I can send it to?

    I do not wish to appear on Twitter or Facebook.

  2. I think the monks who have decided on this expulsion may have thought that they have preserved tradition and the cohesion of their Thai Sangha but they certainly did not think of its impact on the Dharma and the entire World Buddhist Sangha itself.

    To even hint that it was due to violations of protocol, hence, of form and not substance as the rationale for the expulsion for all the world to behold, was not only detrimental to the members of the World Buddhist Sangha but it also blatantly demonstrates that their decision was guided by the overriding motivation for political control. Indeed, it is clear to see that the substance, or if you like, the spirit of the Dharma, was not kept just so that they can preserve the form, which is the physical “Thai sangha“. How self-serving is that?

    The shameless foot-dragging on the subject by the Thai monks belied their claims of enlightened and discerning member monks and only demonstrated for all the world to see the reprehensible reasons behind their actions.

    The time gap they have given Ajahn Brahm of waiting till December to take action was not only hypocritical but blameworthy in light of the the number of years and even centuries that they have engaged in this foot-dragging on this subject, and now this? Human dignity being lost in the name of protocol? How cruel and silly if seen in the light of day.

    The fact that they have had centuries to examine the harm that this suspension of enlightened action on this very subject of Bhikkhuni ordination upon the concerned sector of human society and the harmful consequences it has inflicted not only on the concerned women populace themselves but also on the entire humanity through this narrow one-sided approach, has obviously not even entered into their decision-making.

    Yes, perhaps the Buddha was reluctant to bestow ordination on women. But he eventually overruled his own personal objections because he knew that it was the enlightened, not to say, humane thing to do. Nobody it seems wanted to look deeply on the human suffering inflicted on these hapless women just so they could follow the Buddhadharma. In doing so, those that have passed judgement against a very Dharmic action through their decision, have forfeited their right to respectability and authority and should therefore take the honorable action for them to undertake in their turn, which is, either recant or leave, although not as a collective decision but as a personal one.

    Some hack may want to question and remark that if the Buddha were indeed the enlightened one he claimed to be, then how come, there was this hesitation on his part and has thus allowed the seemingly regressive conditions to arise? Well, as a devotee of the Lord Buddha, I would say that he did this in order to show an example of wisdom and enlightened behavior in practice not only for Himself but also on the part of the members of the Sangha – and all his actions haveconsistently and amply demonstrated this fact and speak for themselves during and even after his lifetime.

    For indeed, the Buddha did not intend for us to abandon wisdom and compassion just so we could obey a Master or a Buddhist sangha as that would constitute poison to one‘s path.

    He even enjoined that if one cannot practice the Dharma within a Sangha, then one must do so alone.

  3. Pingback: The Controversial Bhikkhuni Ordination at Perth Gets the Downfall Treatment « Rev. Danny Fisher

  4. I really appreciate it very much for your fair but wise comment with compassion. Compassion is key in Buddhism. If we think of others we will not act based soly on our own benifits and interests which we tend to excuse as “according to the rules”.

    The world is still fortunate enough to have the support from Ajahn Brahm, Ajahn Sujato and many other monastics and laities who actually follow the Buddha’s footstep in giving the equal means and opportunity to women for their own spiritual development toward Enlightenment.

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