The Urban Dharma Newsletter - November, 2009

In This Issue: Ajahn Brahm excommunicated…

1. Ajahn Brahm excommunicated…
2. Bhikkhuni Ordination at Bodhinyana Monastery
3. How Australia’s first Theravada bhikkhuni ordination
4. Open Letter To All From Ajahn Brahm



This newsletter is about Ajahn Brahm and a Bhikkhuni Ordination in Australia.

Peace… Kusala

1. Ajahn Brahm excommunicated for performing Bhikkhuni Ordination in Australia
The Buddhist Channel, Nov 5, 2009


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- 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.

The ordination of Theravada Bhikkhunis in Australia was fully supported by the Australian Buddhist community.

However, no such support came from the Western monks in Europe associated with Thailand. Indeed, the leading Western monks in England, together with the Western monks in Thailand, formally requested Ajahn Brahm to be excommunicated from Wat Pah Pong, which is the monastery where he was trained under Ajahn Chah.

He 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 else be excommunicated from 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.

In many people's opinion, it is a sad day when monks who believe in the ordination did not speak up to support Ajahn Brahm's courageous act. Instead, a group of monks at Wat Pah Pong who lacked foundation in the monastic rules laid down by the Buddha, use excommunication as a means for imposing control and to preserve "tradition".

However, support for Ajahn Brahm from around the world is building up, including Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, the translator of the Buddha's suttas, Majjhima Nikaya, and the author of "The Buddha's Words", and his large following in Singapore, the members of the Buddhist Fellowship.

2. Bhikkhuni Ordination at Bodhinyana Monastery, a Response to Ajahn Chandako and Others / By Ajhan Brahmali and the Bodhinyana Sangha


It is a good thing that the issue of bhikkhuni ordination, particularly within the Western Sangha connected with Ajahn Chah’s monastery Wat Pah Pong, is finally being discussed openly. I welcome Ajahn Chandako’s contribution, which is clearly well-intended, and I have no doubt that he is telling the truth as he sees it.

Unfortunately, the issues are quite complex, and there is a long historical process that has led to the present developments. It is only by understanding this process that one can fully appreciate why Ajahn Brahm and the Sangha at Bodhinyana Monastery decided to go ahead with bhikkhuni ordination on October 22nd. Below I will directly respond to most of the points raised by Ajahn Chandako and others.

Ajahn Chandako says he supports bhikkhuni ordination, and I have no doubt that he is sincere. He then mentions that he taught monastic training to bhikkhunis in California (in June 2009). What he does not mention is that during an interview in conjunction with the training he stated that “There are no serious obstacles coming from Western bhikkhus, as long as the bhikkhunis are independent. If you talk about having bhikkhunis in the Ajahn Chah sangha, that is another matter.” That ordaining bhikkhunis in the Ajahn Chah Sangha is “another matter” is identical to the conclusion I had reached, and it is the main reason why it seemed necessary to do the ordination in Perth without first consulting the monks of the Wat Pah Pong tradition, including those in the West.

Ajahn Chandako next brings up the ‘secrecy’ with which the ordination was planned and performed, and then says that this has damaged the sense of trust within the Wat Pah Pong Sangha. I feel that the discretion we felt compelled to exercise was unfortunate but necessary, and I wish it could have been otherwise. It is important to realize, however, that ‘secrecy’ with regard to women renunciates, of whatever kind, has been the norm in many of the monasteries connected to Wat Pah Pong. In Bodhinyana Monastery, for example, we have been almost completely in the dark as to the developments in some of these monasteries, developments that were important in regard to the monastic training for women. More importantly discretion, regrettably, appeared unavoidable when the opposition to what we were proposing seemed so strong. Again, Ajahn Chandako himself had implied that bhikkhuni ordination within the Wat Pah Pong Sangha would be difficult and this was also my view.

Of course, I agree wholeheartedly with Ajahn Chandako that openness and consultation is preferable to doing things quietly. But when we perceived that openness and consultation could only hamper bhikkhuni ordination – most likely making it impossible – then there was little choice but to keep it quiet, regardless of how that might be viewed by others.

To understand how difficult it is to get bhikkhuni ordination taken seriously, some background information is useful. Some monks have tried to raise the issue of bhikkhunis within the Wat Pah Pong Sangha for many years, but have essentially been ignored. The Wat Pah Pong Sangha has itself stated, in minuted meetings, that it does “not agree” with bhikkhuni ordination. In at least one monastery the women were told that they would no longer get the support of the bhikkhu Sangha, including no future ordinations, unless they agreed that the practice they were undertaking does not lead to bhikkhuni ordination. Given all this, and other things that I have not mentioned, is it not quite obvious why we did not choose to consult with the greater Wat Pah Pong Sangha? From our perspective any such consultation could only lead to an outright ban on performing bhikkhuni ordinations, and thus make it virtually impossible for us to go ahead. I do not see how we can be blamed for ‘secrecy’ when, as Ajahn Chandako himself has admitted, the conservative forces within the Wat Pah Pong Sangha are so strong.

Ajahn Chandako states that Ajahn Brahm was given the choice of either considering the bhikkhuni ordination performed at Bodhinyana Monastery as null and void or being cut off as a Wat Pah Pong branch monastery. It is important to realize, however, that not even a handful of monks were pushing for such a cutting off. I have been told that the vast majority of monks were quite placid and would probably have settled for a guarantee that Ajahn Brahm would not conduct any further bhikkhuni ordinations. Significantly, Ajahn Brahm was willing to give such a commitment for the sake of ending the disharmony. The large majority of monks at the Wat Pah Pong meeting seemed quite amenable to a compromise solution, but this was not enough for the small number of monks pushing for a complete cut-off.

In any case, and regardless of what actually happened at that Wat Pah Pong meeting, it would have been impossible for Ajahn Brahm to declare the ordination as null and void. An ordination properly performed cannot in retrospect be rendered void; this is a fundamental principle of the monastic Vinaya. In fact, according to pacittiya rule 63 of the bhikkhu Patimokkha it is an offense to agitate for the reopening of Sanghakamma (in this case an ordination) that has been properly performed. The simple fact is that Ajahn Brahm did not have the option to act in this way.

Another charge levelled against Ajahn Brahm is that, although he has lived in Australia for the past 26 years, he is expected to abide by Thai Sangha Law. As far as I know, this is simply not true. I have never seen any document or law to this effect, nor even heard of any verbal agreement of this sort. The reality is that most Western monasteries, including Bodhinyana Monastery, have adapted to local requirements, often in direct opposition to the practices followed in Thailand. One example is the use of jackets, which I understand the Western monasteries were specifically told by the Thai Sangha hierarchy they could not use. Moreover, what the Thai Sangha Laws actually say seems to be shrouded in myth. It is often stated that such laws prohibit bhikkhuni ordination, but the information I possess is that no such law actually exists. Nor does one agree to uphold Thai law by accepting the Chao Khun status, and no such thing is written on the Chao Khun certificate.

Ajahn Chandako claims that all the Western abbots of the Ajahn Chah lineage condemned Ajahn Brahm’s actions. This is too simplistic. I have personally been present when Ajahn Brahm has received phone calls from other Western abbots saying that this was no cause for breaking the bonds of friendship. Ajahn Brahm replied that as far as he was concerned no bonds of friendship were broken. Moreover, a number of senior members of the Western Sangha were saddened by the sequence of events, evidently not supporting the expulsion of Bodhinyana Monastery from the Wat Pah Pong group of monasteries. In sum, there seems to be much diversity of opinion among the Western Sangha about this issue.

There is also the idea that the ordination in Perth will make the bhikkhunis pariahs in certain places and that they will therefore become more isolated. Apart from a few monasteries, particularly in Thailand, I very much doubt that this will be the case. I think the opposite is much more likely, since bhikkhuni ordination is something many in the West and elsewhere have been striving for.

Then there is the claim that Ajahn Brahm did this to go down in history as the reviver of the Theravada bhikkhuni Sangha. Firstly, the Theravada bhikkhuni order is already thriving in certain places, notably in Sri Lanka. Secondly, the reason Ajahn Brahm chose to be part of the ordination is that some of the nuns who were ordained were his direct disciples. It would be an abrogation of his responsibility to these nuns to hand over the ordination to a bhikkhu Sangha located somewhere else. Further, it is hardly likely that there would have been no reactions from other monks simply because the ordination was performed in this way. Ajahn Brahm would still have been regarded as having played a central part, and it is quite possible that the subsequent sequence of events would have been the same, or similar.

Ajahn Chandako states that if each monastery in the Ajahn Chah tradition had simply decided to go its own way this would have led to a much weaker and disjointed lineage. But our true lineage goes back to the Buddha, not just to Ajahn Chah. And according to the Buddha’s instructions, which must take precedence over any other instructions followed by Buddhist monks, all monasteries are independent in their governance. Indeed, it may legitimately be asked how a strong centralized decision making body at Wat Pah Pong is in line with this principle. The weakness or strength of the lineage is ultimately related to the degree to which one follows the Buddha’s Dhamma and Vinaya, not the degree to which one follows the rules laid down by a small subsection of the Sangha.

To summarize, the ordination of bhikkhunis at Bodhinyana Monastery happened as it did because it seemed clear that any consultation with the Wat Pah Pong Sangha would have led to it being blocked. It is indeed regrettable that the ordination had to happen in this way, but sometimes, as in the present case, there is no good alternative. However, I do not believe that any irreparable rift in the Sangha has been created. There is a storm right now, but like all storms it will pass. I firmly believe that in the long run this decision to ordain bhikkhunis will be regarded as appropriate given the difficult circumstances. Now we all need to act for conciliation and understanding, to look to the future good of Buddhism and let go of any remaining bad feelings.

3. How Australia’s first Theravada bhikkhuni ordination happened / October 31, 2009 – Sujato


22nd October 2009: remember that date. That’s when it all changed. That’s when the Sangha of Bodhinyana Monastery and Dhammasara Nun’s monastery, with the support of an international group of bhikkhunis, performed the first Theravada bhikkhuni ordination in Australia, and the first bhikkhuni ordination in the Thai Forest Tradition anywhere in the world. Here’s how it all came about.

Bhikkhuni ordination has been a live topic in international Buddhism since at least the 1970s, when Tenzin Palmo took full ordination. Actually, it was discussed long before that, as shown by the support for bhikkhuni ordination given by Jetavan Sayadaw in his paper of 1949, where he referred to contemporary discussions on the topic.

The Western, or more accurately, English-speaking bhikkhu community of Ajahn Chah started in the 1960s and gained momentum in the 1970s with the establishment of the first Western monastery in Thailand, Wat Pa Nanachat (International Forest Monastery), and in the 1980s with a number of overseas branches.

The question of how to support women’s ordination aspirations became pressing in the new environment, and the English communities responded by developing an entirely new ordination platform called the sīladharā. This is superficially similar to the canonical sāmaṇerī platform for young girls, or the modern Sinhalese dasasīlamātā, but in fact is based on a new system of rules, invented by Ajahn Sucitto in discussion with the English community in the 1980s. These new rules are structured around the canonical pāṭimokkhas for the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, but introduce many changes of substance. This sīladharā platform has survived in Amaravati and Chithurst monasteries, and currently numbers around 15 nuns.

At the time, the English Ajahns new little about bhikkhuni ordination, and while it was sometimes said that the sīladharā ordination was intended to be a stepping stone to bhikkhuni ordination, there has been no signs of any actual effort to make this possible. Rather, the question of bhikkhuni ordination has been silenced every time it is raised.

Meanwhile, the community of Ajahn Jagaro and later Ajahn Brahm in Perth had the long term intention to establish a nuns’ community. This became possible in the late 1990s, when Ajahn Vāyāmā was invited to establish a community at Dhammasara. Ajahn Vāyāmā, while having a respectful connection with the English community, was not ordained there, but in Sri Lanka. I was present at some of her initial discussions with Ajahn Brahm, and she made it clear that she did not wish to follow the English model. Ajahn Brahm responded by saying that Bodhinyana was not a branch of Amaravati.

The Dhammasara community was based on the 10 precept sāmaṇerī ordination, which they supplemented with their own monastery rules.

The international community had, meanwhile, been making great strides forward in bhikkhuni ordination. The first Theravadin bhikkhunis were ordained in the 1980s, with perhaps the first being Ayyā Khemā, who was incidentally was one of Ajahn Vāyāmā’s first teachers, and was an original trustee on the land that has now become Santi Forest Monastery. Many more followed, and during the 1990s a series of well-publicized and large scale bhikkhuni ordinations took place in India and Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan bhikkhuni order received a lot of opposition in the early days, but now there are several hundred bhikkhunis, and now that the hooha has blown over they just get on with their lives.

Chatsumarn Kabalsingh, a prominent Thai academic and media figure, took bhikkhuni ordination in Sri Lanka in 2003 under the name of Dhammanandā, becoming the first of a new generation of Thai bhikkhunis. Many have followed, and there are now perhaps 20-30 bhikkhunis in Thailand.

Cambodia, too, has a small bhikkhuni community, with a group of around 20 bhikkhunis supported by one of the Sangharajas there.

Burma has the most shameful record in their oppression of bhikkhunis. Bhikkhuni Saccavadī ordained in Sri Lanka and on her return to Burma was thrown in jail, abused and traumatized, and finally forced to disrobe. I should add, though, that most of the Burmese monks who I know overseas fully support bhikkhuni ordination and have gone out of their way to express this. In addition, ‘Mahayana’ bhikkhunis are at least allowed to stay and practice in the Burmese meditation monasteries, which they are still denied in the Thai forest tradition.

While all this was going on, and progress was being made internationally in almost all Theravadin lands, the Ajahn Chah tradition did nothing. There was no dialogue, no inquiry, no talk of change.

From around 2002 or so, I started to speak to the monks about this, in person and in letters raising it as an issue that needed addressing. With the exception of Ajahn Brahm and to some extent Ajahn Sucitto, I got no response from the leadership, although many of the junior monks, and also senior monks who did not have institutional roles, were receptive. I kept talking, writing, and researching. I focussed on three issues: the purported technical Vinaya objections to bhikkhuni ordination; the psychological problems informing the debate; and the practical business of setting up a nuns’ community.

I think it was in 2006 that Ajahn Brahm told me that he was now fully convinced that bhikkhuni ordination was the way to go. He was supported by his monks, especially Ajahn Brahmali, and started to encourage Ajahn Vāyāmā to take bhikkhuni ordination. Meanwhile, Ajahn Vāyāmā and the nuns at Dhammasara had visits from several bhikkhunis, allowing them to have discussions, find commonalities, and see what a future as bhikkhunis could become.

By this time, Santi FM had become well known as a center for support of bhikkhunis internationally. We had many women candidates interested in bhikkhuni ordination, but for one reason or another none of them proceeded to full ordination. It’s not an easy thing, and it’s made so much harder by the bad vibes radiating from much of the bhikkhu Sangha. For a time we were discussing holding a joint bhikkhuni ordination with the Dhammasara nuns, perhaps in February 2010. But our potential candidate decided she was not ready for that step. In addition, the Dhammasara community wanted to do a quiet ceremony, which focussed on the real meaning of the ordination – acceptance within the Sangha – rather than making a media event out of it.

During the vassa of 2009, Ajahns Brahm and Vāyāmā had a series of discussions, where they decided they wanted to go ahead with bhikkhuni ordination. They felt their communities were ready, and did not want to have to deal with the kinds of organized opposition that would inevitably follow an announcement of the date. They invited an international group of eight bhikkhunis to participate, who were: Venerables Tathāālokā (preceptor), Sucintā & Sobhanā (reciters of the formal Act), Ātāpī, Satimā, Santinī, Silavatī, and Dhammanandā (Vietnam). Ajahn Brahm and myself were the reciters of the Act on the bhikkhus’ side. All four of the nuns from Dhammasara were to be ordained, that is, Venerables Vāyāmā, Nirodhā, Serī, and Hassapaññā.

The bhikkhunis had all received their ordination from the Theravadin tradition, and are well known as sincere practitioners. It was decided not to include any bhikkhunis from the Mahayana tradition, since some conservative Theravadins might object to this. For the same reason, the two Korean bhikkhus who were staying at Bodhinyana were respectfully asked to remain outside the sīmā boundary. This by no means implies that the presence of Mahayana Sangha would in any way affect the ordination. On the contrary, as qualified bhikkhus and bhikkhunis ordained according to the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, they are clearly saṁvāsa (in communion) according to the Vinaya, and none of the monastics who took part in the ordination had any problem with including them. Nevertheless, many Theravadin Sangha perceive Mahayanists as belonging to a fundamentally different order, if not indeed a different religion, and could use their inclusion as a way of criticizing the procedure.

In the days leading up to the ordination, the Sangha at Bodhinyana was repeatedly consulted as to whether they were supportive. This happened at the uposatha meeting on the previous Sunday; I spoke with them again on the Wednesday; and Ajahn Brahm consulted them again on his return from overseas shortly before the ordination itself on Thursday. All the relevant messages from the various Ajahns that were received were printed out and made available, and the monks were encouraged to read them so they could make an informed decision. All of the monks remained unified in their support of bhikkhuni ordination. However, one monk asked to be excused from the ceremony itself as he was ordained by Ajahn Sumedho, and would have preferred if the ordination had gone ahead following the planned WAM in December.

In this time Ajahn Brahm was away, visiting his sick Mum in England, as well as taking on several teaching engagements in England, Norway, and Singapore. On the Sunday before the ordination, he visited Amaravati, where he paid respects to Ajahn Sumedho and told him they were to do bhikkhuni ordination the following Thursday. Ajahn Sumedho advised against it. Following that meeting, it seems that emails were sent to the Western Ajahns around the world, and there was an instantaneous reaction against the ordination.

Most of the Ajahns responded in a reasonable manner, expressing their respects and stating their view that it was not wise to go ahead with the ordination without consulting the wider Sangha. The majority of the messages we received expressed support for bhikkhuni ordination in principle, but not the way it was done. Ajahn Brahm responded to this immediately by pointing out that he had in fact consulted widely with his broad community, including Wat Pa Pong. I also responded with a letter detailing how discussion on bhikkhuni ordination had been comprehensively silenced in the Western Ajahn Chah Sangha.

A few responses were much more aggressive, with implied and explicit threats from Ajahns expressed in email, fax, and phone calls. I called their bluff in emails on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the threatening, aggressive messages stopped cold.

I raised a number of important issues in those emails, and since then have received not a single substantive response. The Ajahns were lightning fast to point out a couple of factual mistakes in Ajahn Brahm’s email, and to try to point out a mistake in mine (which was in fact just a misreading of my original letter). But they continue their total, blank silence in the face of the real questions: discrimination against women in the Sangha and the transformative potential of bhikkhuni ordination.

The communities in Perth were coping well with this pressure. We were all relieved to speak with Ajahn Brahm on the phone on Tuesday evening, when he said he felt happy and calm and that the opposition was pretty much what he expected. The nuns were coping well and remained firm and clear – they’re used to this kind of pressure.

There was some discussion about the exact details of how the two Sanghas should be arranged in the limited space in the Bodhinyana hall. Eventually it was decided to have the bhikkhunis on one side of the shrine, and the bhikkhus on the other side. Each Sangha was arranged in two rows, so that the candidates could come inside the Sangha. The ceremony was conducted precisely in accordance with the Pali Vinaya, with the addition at the beginning of a few ceremonial flourishes as in the Thai tradition.

The ordination ceremony began at 7.15pm, Perth time. Ayyā Tathāālokā, a respected bhikkhuni of 13 years standing, was formally appointed as the preceptor (pavattinī) by the bhikkhuni Sangha. Since no more than three should be ordained at one time, the candidates were ordained in two groups of two. The full procedure is carried out by the bhikkhuni Sangha, with the candidates requesting their preceptor, being instructed outside the Sangha and questioned inside the Sangha, before the final ‘Motion and Three Announcements’ (ñatticatutthakamma), which is the ordination proper.

When the two pairs had been ordained among the bhikkhuni Sangha, they were led in pairs to the bhikkhu Sangha. The ordination in front of the bhikkhus is much simpler, as there is no questioning of the candidates or appointment of a preceptor. The role of the bhikkhu Sangha, according to the Pali Vinaya, is simply to confirm the ordination, stamping it with their seal of approval, and acknowledging the acceptance of the candidates. Ajahn Brahm and I did the chanting, and I confess to more than one shower of rapture as the auspicious words finally came true: evam etaṁ dhārayāmi – thus I will bear it in mind. The ceremony concluded around 9.00pm.

Then the new bhikkhunis sat in the midst of the two Sanghas as we all recited the Metta Sutta in blessing. It is impossible to describe the feeling of joy and exultation that filled the hall – unforgettable. There was a light and a clarity which felt just so right under the crystal clear Perth sky that I remember so well from my childhood. Since the ordination, a flood of support and rejoicing has poured in from around the world. The future has never been brighter.

4. Open Letter To All From Ajahn Brahm On His Exclusion by Wat Pah Pong


A Theravada Bhikkhuni Ordination was held in Perth on Thursday 22nd
October. The decision to proceed with the Bhikkhuni Ordination was
finalised only on 20th September 2009, when the Committee of The
Buddhist Society of Western Australia unanimously gave their support.
We did realise this was a sensitive matter and resolved to keep it
in-house for the next month as we finalised the preparations. On
Wednesday 13th October, 24 days after the decision was finalised, I
informed Ajahn Sumedho in Amaravati, as a matter of courtesy, during
my brief visit to the UK to see my mother (who has severe dementia).

The matter of Bhikkhuni Ordination had been discussed in Wat Pah Pong
about two years ago and, as I recall, they resolved to follow the lead
of the Mahatherasamakom (the supreme Monks’ Council of Thailand). I
was and remain under the impression that the ordination of Bhikkhunis
outside of Thailand was not contravening the rulings of the
Mahatherasamakom. This is because I had consulted with the acting
Sangharaja, Somdej Phra Pootajarn, well beforehand to ask him
precisely his opinion on the ordination of Bhikkhunis outside of
Thailand. His response, which I have circulated amongst the Western
Sangha for a long time now, was “Thai Sangha law does not extend
outside of Thailand”. He repeated this another two times to make his
intention clear.

Even though my ordination as a monk was in Thailand, I understood that
my obligations were to the Dhamma and Vinaya, not to the Thai state.
Nor was allegiance to Thailand part of the advice given to me by the
Acting Sangharaja who presented me with the Thai ecclesiastical honour
of Tan Chao Khun. The certificate that I received at the ceremony
merely states that “Phra Brahmavamso of Bodhinyana Monastery in
Australia is a monk of Royal Grade with the title of Phra
Visuddhisamvarathera. May he accept the duty in the Buddha’s
dispensation of teaching, settling Sangha business and looking after
the monks and novices in his monastery in an appropriate manner. And
to develop happiness and well being in the Buddha’s Dispensation.”

At the meeting in Wat Pah Pong on Sunday 1st November 2009, to which I
was summoned at very short notice, it was apparent that the senior
Thai monks had a poor understanding of the Vinaya rules concerning
sanghakamma (formal acts of Sangha governance). For example, it took a
long time to convince them that a Bhikkhuni Ordination is a double
sanghakamma.The first part being performed by a gathering of
Bhikkhunis presided over by the Preceptor (“Upajjhaya” or “Pavattini”
-Ayya Tathaaloka from the USA) and the second part where the new
Bhikkhunis approach the Bhikkhu Sangha to have their ordination
confirmed by a ñatticatutthakamma (a formal motion followed by 3
announcements). I was one of the two Bhikkhus who chanted the
ñatticatutthakamma in the Bhikkhu Sangha.

Once the senior Thai monks understood that I was not the Upajjhaya,
they were willing to let the matter drop, provided I would promise in
the midst of the Sangha not to participate in the ordination of any
more Bhikkhunis. Remembering the example of Venerable Ananda at the
First Council, I made that promise to the assembled Sangha three
times. It looked as if harmony would be restored.

However, some senior monks raised the question of the status of the
four women who had received Bhikkhuni Ordination. I accepted that they
would not be regarded as Bhikkhunis in Thailand under the present
climate, but the ordination was legitimate and they were Bhikkhunis. A
senior monk then claimed that the ordination was invalid because of
“ditthi vipatti”, which he explained as meaning without the approval
of the Sangha of Wat Pah Pong. As anyone with a basic knowledge of
sanghakamma knows, this is nonsense. However, that unfounded view held
sway and the meeting came down to a single clear choice: If Ajahn
Brahm would state in the midst of the Sangha that the four women were
not Bhikkhunis then there would be no penalty, otherwise Bodhinyana
Buddhist Monastery would be removed from the list of branch
monasteries of Wat Pah Pong. I paused for a minute to reflect and,
considering that I could not go against the Vinaya and state the
Bhikkhunis were not properly ordained, nor could I go against the
wishes of the Sangha of Bodhinyana and the thousands of lay Buddhists
that support the Bhikkhuni Ordination, I refused to recant.

As a result, Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery was removed as a branch
monastery of Wat Pah Pong. I emphasise that this decision had nothing
to do with the process, secretive or otherwise, through which the
ordination took place. The decision to excommunicate Bodhinyana
Buddhist Monastery rested solely on my refusal to state that the
Bhikkhuni Ordination was invalid.

After the meeting formally concluded I paid my respects to many of the
senior monks who reminded me of their continued friendship. For
example, one old friend said to me “meuan derm” (meaning “just as
before”). I hope that a similar attitude will prevail among all my
friends in the Western Sangha.

With mega metta,

Ajahn Brahm

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