| As some of you may know, besides the work I do teaching Buddhism to mothers I am also
working to support female Buddhist monastics. The link between these two concerns is that both
efforts support women’s full flowering on their spiritual path. Recently there have been some
events related to bhikkhunis that are of pertinence to women, regardless of their religious
First a little background. A bhikkhuni is a female monk in the Theravadin Buddhist tradition. In
Korea and Taiwan, countries that practice Mahayanin Buddhism, the nuns are called bhikksunis,
but both bhikkhunis and bhikksunis follow the same structure, or monastic rules laid out in the Vinaya. The Buddha’s
teachings are placed in three sets of writings, called the Three Baskets. They are the Suttas, or stories of the Buddha’s
teachings, the Abhidhamma, which lay out Buddhist psychology in great detail, and the Vinaya, which are the rules of
conduct for the monks and nuns. These are the rules that support both male and female monastic communities.
In the Buddha’s time there were both female and male monastics. In fact, the Buddha, towards the end of his life, said
that Buddhism would not take hold in a country until there were female monastics, male monastics, laywomen and
laymen who are all well versed in their understanding and practice of the dhamma. This four-fold sangha was
established by the Buddha and took root in the countries where Buddhism migrated in the early days. The story begins
to get complex and disputed at this point. Due to war and internal affairs the bhikkhuni orders died out in Sri Lanka and
other countries. There is dispute about whether or not there ever were bhikkhunis in Thailand but if there have never
been bhikkhunis there than, according to the Buddha, Buddhism never really took hold as envisioned by the Buddha.
There is much discussion about the verity of the facts here. Honestly, it starts sounding to the non-scholar like “How
many angels can dance at the tip of a pen?”
Fast forward to the 21st century. In Korea and Taiwan the bikksuni order is thriving. Yet the Theravadin bhikkhuni
orders have been undergoing difficult birthing pains. Thanks to the support of some fair minded bhikkhus, male monks,
and some very brave and determined women, the bhikkhuni order in Sri Lanka has been reestablished and is growing,
although it does not yet enjoy governmental recognition. Burma and Thailand is another story. In these countries there
have been local laws developed to prohibit women from ordaining. Burma, being a closed system, does not currently
allow for any movement at all on this issue. However, in Thailand there have been recent events that have challenged
the all male monastic system. Last month Ajahn Braham, a bhikkhu ordained in the Thai forest tradition of Ajahn Chah,
went ahead and ordained four women in his monastery in Australia against the wishes of the Thai elders and many of
the western monks trained in the Ajahn Chan lineage. For this he was excommunicated and the WPP who voted for this
excommunication also declared that the ordinations are null and void. In the same month Ajahn Sumedo of England, a
western monk who is also ordained in the Ajahn Chah tradition, developed his “5 Points” which basically puts female
monastics in a lower position than male monastics and does not allow the women to become fully ordained bhikkhunis.
The significance of this is that a western monk is not only importing the old rules excluding women but creating new
As Buddhism comes to the West it is essential that we do not import the old, cultural misogynistic views along with the
beautiful, relevant teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha was a civil rights advocate in his day. By ordaining
“untouchables and women” he went as far as he could go at the time to include all people. Now is a time when women
all over the world are being lifted up high enough to stand side by side with their brothers. Women are becoming
ordained as priests and rabbis in the western traditions. In Buddhism women are also moving into roles of spiritual
leadership and have similar battles as their western sisters. There is much back and forth about laws and traditions but
bottom line, women are moving into positions of equality and, predictably, many Buddhist males enjoying positions of
power are fighting this movement. As St. Augustine wrote, “An unjust law is no law at all.” In the highest regards no laws
were broken when Ajahn Brahm ordained the four new bhikkhunis and, actually, the Buddha’s laws are being broken
wherever females are excluded from full ordination.
Following is a petition being sent around to support our Theravadin sisters as they move into the place assigned to
them by the Buddha over 2500 years ago. If you are interested in more information on bhikkhunis you can find it at
The petition can be found at:
These are interesting times for Buddhism. It is an honor to join you on this journey westward.
Happy, happy holidays to you and your families!
|From The Hearth
The Hearth Foundation is dedicated to the spiritual growth and well-being of mothers through study, practice and
community building activities. While our core philosophy is very much shaped by Buddhist principles and practices,
we are a non-sectarian organization which draws on all Wisdom traditions to further positive mothering experiences
through spiritual awareness and enlightened actions.
IN THIS MONTH'S ISSUE:
|Copyright (c) 2009 by Hearth Foundation. All articles are the copyright of the particular writers and cannot be reprinted without their expressed
permission. All rights reserved. International copyright laws prohibit reproduction of or distribution of this page by any means whatsoever, electronic or
otherwise, without first obtaining the written permission of the copyright holder.
Any advice given is for informational purposes only.
|JACQUELINE'S DHARMA TALK
BHIKKHUNIS IN THAILAND AND THE WEST
by Jacqueline Kramer
|MONTHLY REFLECTION: DECEMBER - GENEROSITY
"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared."
COUNSELING SERVICES: Jacqueline is available for
one-on-one counseling via phone or in person. In order
to set up an appointment email Jacqueline directly.
ANNOUNCEMENT: The Hearth Foundation will soon be
going by a new name: Radiant Hearth! We are looking
for an image for our new foundation! If you see
something that looks interesting for our cards, brochures
and other materials, please email Jacqueline.
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reflection based on that month's theme. Don't hesitate -
we could use submissions right away!
As with all submissions, The Hearth Foundation reserves
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January: Beginner's Mind
|UPCOMING EVENTS AND CLASSES:
EVENTS: If you know of an upcoming local, national or
international event which fits in with the Mission of the
Hearth Foundation, such as spirituality, meditation,
pregnancy and birthing, Buddhism, parenting, women's
issues, ecology, education and homemaking, please
submit it by emailing Wendy Myers, so that we may all
ONLINE BOOK GROUP:
VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY: With these difficult economic
times, many of us are looking at how we can simplify our
lives and our finances. Voluntary Simplicity by Duane
Elgin, is a book about how one family deliberately
simplified their lives. If you are interested in doing a book
group on this book, with the possibility of other similar
books to follow, please email Heather.
~MEDITATION CLASS: For those who have finished the
Shrine Series and what to take your meditation practice
further, this is the class for you. Please email Heather to
~KOAN GROUP: This has been going very well! More
participants are welcome! A six-week "salon-style
group" designed to enhance your meditation practice by
the use of Koans. John Tarrant, of Pacific Zen, is
initiating the class with Jacqueline facilitating. For more
information, contact Jacqueline. To sign-up, please
~FAMILY HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS: REOPENED! With
the upcoming holiday season, we are reopening the
discussion on celebrating the holidays in a seemingly
Christian-centered society. Visit the Family Holiday
Celebrations forum - Christmas 2009 to discuss what
your family does during the holidays! (At the time of
publishing, the current discussion is on Santa Claus.)
Registrations for all classes are taken year-round. When
a class fills up, it begins. To sign up for any of the classes
or with further questions on the specific classes, please
email Heather Thornton.
|As with all submissions, The Hearth Foundation reserves the right to decide which events and articles are to be published.
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If you would like to change your email address or unsubscribe, please CLICK HERE.
It is the Buddhist tradition to offer teachings freely. This comes from a heartfelt desire for the happiness
of all beings. There is another complimentary Buddhist tradition for the recipients of the teachings to
offer dana, or generosity upon receiving the teachings. It is our pleasure to offer From The Hearth
and introductory classes free of charge. We are able to do this thanks to a core of dedicated volunteers
and a strong commitment to keeping Hearth’s services available for you, regardless of your ability to pay.
If this newsletter, the classes or any other Hearth offerings have been helpful to you we are happy to
receive your appreciation in the form of donations or services. As it is also a customary "season of giving"
during December, it is an excellent time to donate to the Hearth Foundation in honor or memory of
Your tax-deductible donation makes Hearth services available to moms all over the world.
Everyone has something to give and it takes many hands and eyes to create a vital community.
Thank you for your support!
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