December 31, 2009

Are Women Equal to Men in Buddhist Clergy?

From the Buddhist Channel:

Bangkok, Thailand— The forest monks of Wat Nong Pah Pong want the Council of Elders and the Office of National Buddhism to impose stricter controls on Western monks to stop them from ordaining women.

They also want the properties of Thai temples in the West to come under the ownership of the Thai Sangha to ensure complete control.

The monks are seeking the changes after the recent ordination of two women at Bodhinyana Temple, a branch of Wat Nong Pah Pong in Perth, Australia.

The Ecclesiastic Council is opposed to female ordination. The Wat Nong Pah Pong clergy have excommunicated the dharma teacher Phra Brahmavamso, popularly known as Ajahn Brahm, for sponsoring the ordination.

His temple has also been stripped of its status as a Nong Pah Pong branch monastery.

They council says it “wants the temple back”. It claims Bodhinyana Temple was built primarily with money donated by the Thai disciples of the late Luang Por Chah.

I’ve largely kept my mouth shut about the recent ordination of Theravada Bhikkhuni .  Mostly because I have no real background in the Theravadan tradition and I know that they take the monastic codes very seriously.  However, since I have a few moments today, I would like to bring this controversy to your attention and particularly this line…


Office of National Buddhism to impose stricter controls on Western monks to stop them from ordaining women.

The Office of National Buddhism.  I think I speak for many practitioners when we say that we have very little concern over what “The Office of National Buddhism” has to say concerning the religious rights of women.  In fact, I could absolutely care less about their opinion especially if it keeps the monastic life as sexist and misogynist as it is in most other religious traditions.

Temples in the West should operate as Temples in the West wish to operate and not at the whim of an organization halfway across the globe.  “Stricter control” means less freedom allowed to Buddhist practitioners as well as progressive Buddhist clergy.  Maybe it is time to break free from some of the more archaic Buddhist traditions…

It would be difficult for the Thai public and the clergy to accept the Siladhara order, he said, because the presence of women creates unnecessary problems for the monks’ vow of chastity.

Maybe it is difficult for the Thai public and clergy but the Australians seem perfectly fine with it.  Break it off with them!  I’m terribly sick of the archaic view of women being blamed for a monk’s inability to keep monastic vows.  That “temptress” mentality is something that should have been thrown out with the garbage long ago.  To blame a monk’s inability to keep the precepts or to remain mindful around women is a fault of their practice and not the nature of having a woman around.

From BuddhaNet.net

The Buddha clearly denied the caste system which was a social measure to divide people into different castes. He, instead, emphasised that a brahmin is not one who is born from brahmin parents but becomes one through his righteous action.

Then he made his standpoint very clear to announce that men and women are equal in their potentiality to achieve spiritual enlightenment. A woman’s spiritual achievement came from her own action, not through devotion to her husband. Once women were admitted to the Order, they enjoyed equal opportunity to practice dharma. Many vinaya rules were laid down so that the bhikkhus will not take advantage of the bhikkhunis, e.g. monks are not to ask the bhikkhunis to wash their robes, rugs, etc.

In this portion of materials we find the Tripitaka supports and promotes women. We should take this as a true spirit of Buddhism. It is indeed social reform in an attempt to uplift women to share the responsibility as one of the four groups of Buddhists equally responsible for the growth or decline of Buddhism.

In conclusion, we can say that it is true that there are certain passages in the Tripitaka which are suppressing to women but that they do not represent the true spirit of Buddhism.

Women have every right to walk the Buddhist path at the same level as men.  If archaic and outdated modes of thought still float around in the monasteries then it is time for more progressive elements to start speaking their minds.  If the only valid excuse they can provide is that it makes it more difficult for monks then I have one thing to say…

“Suck. It. Up. Monks.”



Many great blog posts and articles on the ordination controversy.  Read more at The Buddhist Channel:

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