Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Ajahn Brahm talk on Bhikkhuni Ordination

Don't know how I missed this one, but here is Ajahn Brahm's Opening Talk to the Bhikkhuni Seminar at Santi Forest Monastery back in 2008.

Friday, 27 August 2010

A Quote, "for Today"

I came across this quote from this mornings edition of Radio 4's Today program. There was a report by Mike Thomson on the double humanitarian disaster in Niger, the world's poorest country, which is appealing for international aid as floods devastate a country stricken with famine.

At the end of the report Today's presenter, Justin Webb said,

"a report on appalling suffering..... I was going to say that it's another world,(slight pause).. it's not another world, it's our world"

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

More "Firsts" for Women in Buddhism

A couple of stories caught my eye recently. The first "first" is the Dalai Lama who said at a talk in Himachal Pradesh's Lahaul district on Friday that, there is no gender bias in Buddhism and nothing prevents a woman from becoming his successor. He then goes on to say that the woman should be attractive in order to be more "effective". As his holiness is talking about "his" reincarnation I think we can cut him some slack on that one; the tongue was definitely in the cheek!

The second "first" was from a piece from CNN on Myokei Caine-Barrett who is the first woman of African-Japanese descent, and the only Western woman, to be ordained as a priest in the Nichiren Order. She is the resident priest and guiding teacher for the Myoken-ji Temple, home of the Nichiren Buddhist Sangha of Texas.

"My journey of faith began at age 11 when I began to study the Bible, inspired by Audrey Hepburn in "The Nun's Story" and enamoured of Jeffrey Hunter in "King of Kings."

I yearned for the passion and devotion of faith, as expressed Hollywood-style, to deal with my isolation as a child of mixed ethnicity in a black and white world. I did not fit anywhere, and the path of faith seemed to offer the greatest sense of belonging.

My African-American father, a lifelong Methodist, and my Japanese mother, without a particular faith, insisted that my siblings and I attend church regularly -- even if they didn't. Because we were in the military, we were exposed to various religions: I explored Catholic and Protestant traditions, as well as Judaism. I had many questions and could not accept faith without understanding. Then, when I was 13, my mother's friend invited me to a Buddhist meeting.

Monday, 23 August 2010

A Poem That I Like


If I could live again my life,
In the next - I'll try,
- to make more mistakes,
I won't try to be so perfect,
I'll be more relaxed,
I'll be more full - than I am now,
In fact, I'll take fewer things seriously,
I'll be less hygienic,
I'll take more risks,
I'll take more trips,
I'll watch more sunsets,
I'll climb more mountains,
I'll swim more rivers,
I'll go to more places - I've never been,
I'll eat more ice creams and less (lime) beans,
I'll have more real problems - and less imaginary
I was one of those people who live
prudent and prolific lives -
each minute of his life,
Of course that I had moments of joy - but,
if I could go back I'll try to have only good moments,

If you don't know - that's what life is made of,
Don't lose the now!

I was one of those who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer,
without a hot-water bottle,
and without an umbrella and without a parachute,

If I could live again - I will travel light,
If I could live again - I'll try to work bare feet
at the beginning of spring till
the end of autumn,
I'll ride more carts,
I'll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
If I have the life to live - but now I am 85,
- and I know that I am dying ...

Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, 20 August 2010

Ajahn Sucitto on the Nuns’ Situation

The following is taken from the Cittaviveka Newsletter August 2010 and is Ajahn Sucitto's thoughts on the Nuns’ situation at Chithurst and within the wider "Western" forest tradition.

"The unfortunate news regarding the nuns is that our two senior nuns have left or will be leaving the community. Ajahn Thitamedha revised her plan to live as a nun outside this community to one of disrobing altogether. Ajahn Kovida has decided to leave Cittaviveka in November, spend some time in Burma and then take up life as a solitary nun in Britain. Many of you will have read their farewell letters and are understandably shocked or saddened by this news, especially as they point to perceived problems in the community dynamic. It’s a sensitive area, and because rumours and interpretations abound, I offer a few thoughts for consideration. To speak in general terms, each of us requests permission for the Going Forth and entrance to this lineage after careful consideration, and many choose to leave it after a similar process. The sense of how needs, aims and directions change is part of the changing nature of spiritual life. This is nothing new; nor is the sense of loss and disappointment that occurs, especially when a monk or nun of long-standing leaves the group. To my knowledge, even amongst senior monks, more have left our group than now remain. To address the nuns’ situation more specifically, I will speak from my own limited understanding of the situation. It seems to me that at this time our lineage sits at the edge where a conservative Asian tradition meets
a liberal Western one, and that brings with it the crunch point of gender equality - which is the aspired aim of the West, but which is in direct contradiction to the fact that in all Buddhist monastic lineages, the male line is held to be ‘senior’ to the female. Seniority is a way of forming line-ups and protocols within a group, to avoid competition or jealousy - so that who goes first is not a matter of who’s wisest, but who’s senior. This too is nothing new here, and it is so much the standard that to change that would require broad Sangha consent.

Another crucial point is that men and women experience and relate to the world in distinctly different ways. Over time, these differences can bring with them a frustration that we’re not on the same wave-length, and interpretations that so-and-so is not following the agreed-upon norms, or that so and-so isn’t listening or is out of touch. In situations when a man and a woman live together, I’d imagine that these issues can get sorted out (though not always), because of the intimacy that is part of the commitment to live with a chosen partner. When such issues occur amongst 25 people, who haven’t chosen to live in a close relationship, and who are in many ways barred from forming one, and who incline towards silence and solitude, resolving these differences is a major challenge. Some feel that more dialogue is needed; greater separation is also a considered option - either through
creating another vihara, or, regrettably, through a more complete leave-taking. At Cittaviveka we have attempted to give the Rocana Vihara a good degree of autonomy, with the nuns being in charge of their routines and internal governance. Recently this has extended to having meal offerings for the sisters down at Rocana on the last Friday of each month (you are all very welcome to make offerings there to the sisters). We are also establishing an inter-monastic committee to look into how sharing these wonderful places can become smoother. Naturally after all the time and effort that’s gone into establishing a training for women in the west, I’m keen to find a satisfactory resolution."

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Womens Equality Keeps Ruffling Up Those Feathers

In the past we have not had many comments on our various postings and as a result I've been a bit remiss in checking if we've had any recent ones and moderating them. So I was quite surprised to find that we had a whole crop, the vast majority of them in relation to postings on the issue of Bhikkhuni ordination.

The split has been almost 50/50 between supportive comments and those taking offence. Several of the comments have been in the form of people taking the opportunity to wish the sisters well and are attached to the following posts....
Sister Kovida to Leave Chithurst
Sister Thitamedha to Disrobe because of the "Five Points"

As to the "adverse" comments I will let you make up your own minds, all I will say is that most of the commentators don't appear to have read the actual posts very carefully. One correspondent, Freethinker, states "Please do not make out that this is a gender and discrimination issue, because it is not. It is a Thai cultural issue....."
well, that's all right then.

These comments can be found on the following posts....
More on "Nun" Ordinations at Amaravati (plus a good riposte!)
Our Visit to Cittaviveka (there's also a nice one there, thank you Medhina)
A Visit to Chithurst & a Letter from Perth
More Bhikkuni News - not good (I just couldn't "let that one go")
All Change at Amaravati, I Wonder Why? (Interesting to point out that this entire post is a repeated report from Thanissara so the comment seems just a tadge off the mark).

The comment on the post "Vandalism at Chithurst" is just beneath contempt.

I repeat.........

"It is Not the purpose of this site to campaign on political issues, however as a Buddhist site we will continue to promote peace and the welfare of all beings by any appropriate non-violent means".

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

2010 Island Sangha Picnic, Where is it?

It's now only two and a half weeks until the 2010 Island Sangha Picnic and it occurred to me that those of you who couldn't make it last year may not be au fait with where in the gardens we'll be meeting.

No worries, the picnic area is by the Play Area which can be seen on the map on the extreme left hand side.

Click on the map to enlarge for easier viewing.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Vandalism at Chithurst

Apparently the night after Sister Thitamedha disrobed a brick was thrown through the door of the Chithurst Dhamma Hall. The assailant then hammered on the door of Ajahn Sucitto's kuti before driving off hurriedly in a car. Fortunately nobody was injured in the attack.

From Chithurst

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Yet Another Nun to Disrobe

Sister Sumedha is to leave Amaravati and disrobe. In the following letter she explains her decision.

"Dear Venerable Sisters, Brothers and friends, having lived in the communities of Amaravati and Chithurst for 12 years, I am writing to let you know of my intention to leave the Siladhara training. I will go to Aloka Vihara in San Francisco until mid-November and disrobe after my return to the UK at the end of the year.

This decision comes with sadness. Many of you are aware that there is a spate of sisters either disrobing or stepping outside the Siladhara order (wishing to continue to live as nuns outside of our current structural framework). My own decision to leave is very much related to my sense of practice and that the the ethos of our community as it has been evolving is not one I can align myself with. What I have learnt as a Siladhara includes a lot about focus and discipline and I do very much appreciate having a container that encourages the reflective heart. Meditation and the teachings and

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

New Talk & New Video

In our Audio Section I've just put up the latest talk in our series of "Thursday Talks"; MP3 talks that I have taken along to the Newport Soto Zen group. It's entitled "Dogen's Instructions To The Cook" and is by Larry Rosenberg. While cross referencing it I came across a fascinating little video on how to deal with ones food and bowls in a Zen monastery or when one is on retreat. I've posted it on our Video Section, it is called "Ōryōki (Zen Style Three Bowl Cuisine)."

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Ajahn Brahm asks Fellow Monks to "Explain Themselves" on the Question of Bhikkhuni Ordination

Further to a previous posting "The Inequality of Women in Buddhism", I came across an item on Ajahn Sujato's blog where he features a comment by Ajahn Brahm. The comment is in response to a post by Ajahn Sujato on the article in BuddhaDharma, "The Time has Come". This article is the subject of our above mentioned post!

“What would it look like to relocate the ‘problem’ of bhikkhuni ordination and gender equity within Buddhism to where it really belongs? … with those who fear women’s full participation

Having read the comments in this thread with interest, as I am inextricably involved, I think they have drifted away from the main thrust of the Buddhadharma magazine article as expressed in the quote above. That is, for too long Ajahn Sujato, myself and the participating Bhikkhunis, have been asked to justify our actions in facilitating the Perth Bhikkhuni ordinations.

Now it is the time for those Western monks, and Thai monks who either live in the West or regularly travel there, to either show their support for Bhikkhuni ordination in the West,or justify their opposition to it.

Ajahn Sumedho is leaving Amaravati at the end of this year, so is the Thai monk Ven Pannyasaro who, I was told, drafted the notorious Five Points. Ajahn Amaro, currently at Abhayagiri Monastery in California, is to take over leadership of the Amaravati group. It seems appropriate that he makes his position on Bhikkhuni ordination clear, in plain English not in Amaravati-speak, to the supporters of his future monastery. Other influential monks such as Ajahn Vajiro of Amaravati, Ajahn Nyanadhammo in Thailand, Ajahn Pasanno of Abhayagiri, the Thai monk Ajahn Preecha in Italy, Ajahn Tiradhammo in New Zealand, the Thai monk Ajahn Anan who visits the West regularly, they should also be pressed by their lay supporters to publicly explain their position, not as a group but as individuals. If they have nothing to be ashamed of, they should have no fear in articulating their position in public clearly and independently. I ask this because I understand that straightforward honesty, not deafening silence, is necessary for moving forward on this painful issue.

Unfortunately, I do not have the power to compel these good monks to explain whatever position they hold on Bhikkhuni ordination, or to question them on why they refused my genuine offer of forgiveness and reconciliation. But you, the lay people who feed these monks and provide the funds that support their other needs, do have that power. Maybe it is the time to exercise that power.

It is now the time, as a result of The Buddhadharma magazine’s article, for them to personally explain themselves to the Buddhist world.

With Mega Metta, Ajahn Brahm.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Sister Kovida to Leave Chithurst

Sister Kovida, a senior nun at Chithurst Buddhist monastery, is to leave because of the situation and difficulties for nuns within the Thai Forest tradition. Here is her letter explaining her reasons..........

Dear All,

I hope you are all well and coping well enough.

I am writing sadly to share some more news....After much soul searching I have come to a place where I now feel the need to move on from our community. I have decided to leave in November when I go to Burma for a month. I still feel very committed in my heart to being a nun so do not intend to disrobe. I imagine this will not come as a complete surprise to you as some of you know I have been wavering.

The whole series of developments over the last 2 years has been very difficult and challenging for many of our whole community, lay and monastic. In my 15 years as a nun the idea of leaving these communities hadn't seriously occurred to me until last Vassa.

Since then I have inquired into that impulse to find what feels most true. Over these past months I have gradually come to a deeper sense of important areas personally and collectively which we struggle to address as a monastic community. The result of not addressing these areas feels like it to leads to a breakdown in communication and relationship which then makes clearing of misperceptions harder to acheive.

It feels essential to me to be receptive to what arises as best I can, and then listen and respond. Of course I don't always manage this as you well know, but it has been and still is what I most want to develop.

I feel very very sad but also clear in my heart about this step and I will miss you all very much and will definitely stay in touch.

I am deeply grateful for the Teaching and Training and what I have learned from living together within this vehicle which has so many blessings.

with much love and gratitude,
Sister Kovida

Our Visit to Cittaviveka

As reported in a previous post "A Visit to Chithurst and a Letter from Perth" the West Wight Sangha and the Newport Zen group got together for another visit to Cittaviveka, the Theravada Buddhist monastery just outside Chithurst. We were privileged to have Ajahn Succito, the abbot, lead the lay forum. It was the first time that he had done so and as he said, "I aught to find out what it's all about"!

Earlier he had explained the reason for the sudden appearance of numerous "safety" signs everywhere, the monastery had been inspected by the local council! Apparently they had been "missed" so the council was catching up on "health and safety" big time. Part of this was that the monastery is now classed as a "catering establishment" and as a result we were all asked to take any uneaten food home with us!

As Ajahn said "life's too important to take seriously".

On a "serious" point the nuns were noticeable by their absence, at the midday service I counted thirteen monks and anagarikas whereas there were only two nuns plus two female anagarikas.

On the following Friday some of us travelled into Newport  to join with the Soto Zen group for a day retreat led by Rev. Alicia, the new Prior at Reading Priory. Within this tradition gender specific titles are not used, all monastics are monks with the title Reverend and the head of a priory is a Prior!