Tuesday, 30 May 2017

"Making investigation in the topic from different angles."

The following narrative continues the story of a Mexican meditator who has been in Burma for many years. This is the 11th entry, with her story starting here.

"Making investigation in the topic from different angles."

Later on, I decided to gain more information because I thought that perhaps my perception here in Myanmar, about Buddhism and women, was wrong. So I asked to some Burmese monks that I thought were suitable for help. Most of them were surprised even by the questions, and others did not know how to address the questions, while some got a bit uncomfortable even a bit angry. But generally speaking they tried to help as much as they could. So from these interactions I tried to learn as much as possible and try to understand and to practice as much as I could.

I started to read many journals about the topic from many angles and I found a suitable book that explained many aspects that I had never been aware of before. I came to recognize that in most religions, critical thinking is not present. Religion is also used as a way to organize society and give structure to it. Form the a sociological point of view, religion is a system of belief that gives order to society, it develops structure and the way the society will operated (Durkheim, 1997). So it should not be questioned because it will disorganize much of what already has order. Critical thinking normally is not present in many religions. Most of the time it is used as a social convention. Also, in a system of hierarchies it is even more difficult to develop critical thinking because systems of hierarchies are based on fear. Fear will not allow critical thinking to flourish, will supress it. So is difficult to find this critical thinking in very religious books.

I could also find some books about gender topics written by monks that were academic. They will go through many suttas from many traditions to find out the reason behind the behaviours towards women. Also they will look for historical evidence and they investigate how history changes the religious beliefs. The teachings of the Buddha have change a lot since the time he died and that is normal, it is nature.

Also these monks have pointed out the contradictions in behaviours and in precepts in Bhikkhus. Thanks to these books, I could get more information and more perspective of the situation. From the historical point of view, one passage that I find very useful to understand how Buddhism have evolve in history is the follow one:

“Taking all the little hints together, it seems possible that the bhikkhunis did maintain a quiet presence. One of the latest and clearest mentions of bhikkhunis in Burma is discussed by Maung Paw:

In January 21, 1788, the kings made another proclamation stating that: Any male or female who are of age 19 and who are:

• free of any incurable disease

• free from any criminal offenses or fugitive from law

• free from financial indebtedness – not bankrupt person 
Those free of the above could be permitted to be ordained as Bhikkhu for male and Bhikkhuni for female. There is another proclamation forbidding any king’s slave from taking ordination as Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni. Who ever so monk ordained the king’s slave will be harshly punishable by law. (March 30, 1810). 
In the same month, the king made another proclamation stating that all legally ordained Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni be monitored by the king’s men to check on the legal status of their Sangha life and their orderly observation of the rules of the Monks.

If our source does not mislead us, until recent years the bhikkhunis were present in Burma, and possibly in Thailand as well. Buddhism in those lands was diverse and often did not have a strong central control. Local customs flourished, and many regions owed little allegiance to the putative government. It was not until the challenges of the colonial era that cohesive nation states in the modern sense were formed. And as these states were formed under western influence, western models lay behind the new forms that Buddhism was shaped into.

In Thailand, for example, the modern reform movement was shaped by the towering figures of King Mongkut and his son Vajirañāṇavarorasa. As a Prince, Mongkut ordained as a bhikkhu in 1824 and went to practice meditation. However, he was disappointed that the monks did not understand what they were doing and could only repeat what had been passed down by the tradition. He criticized this attitude, calling it āciṇṇakappikavāda. This term harks back to the Second Council, where one of the contested issues was whether it was allowable to follow what had become customary. Mongkut became convinced that contemporary Thai Buddhism had become a mass of superstition and was in need of reform. Mongkut had an incisive, analytical mind, and he embarked on a detailed study of the Buddhist texts, always pointing back to the rational teachings of original Buddhism as found in the Pali Canon. During his time in the Sangha he was zealous in his study of western knowledge. He developed a friendship with a certain Bishop Pallegoix, who lived nearby in Bangkok, and they exchanged lessons in Pali and Latin. He had many discussions on religion with western missionaries, who he impressed with his skeptical and questioning attitude. Later, as king, he corresponded with Pope Pius IX, emphasizing the spirit of religious tolerance found in Thailand. Mongkut began to re-envisage Thai Buddhism along the western lines of the Vatican hierarchy.

Following on from the reforms instituted by Mongkut, Thailand eventually adopted a Sangha Act in 1902, under the guidance of Vajirañāṇavarorasa, then head of the Dhammayuttika Nikāya. Thailand thus became the first Buddhist country to attempt to control the Sangha using a modern, western-style legal instrument. A Council of Elders was established as the ruling body of the Sangha; their decisions were absolute and could not be appealed or disputed. The Sangha Act was modeled on the structure of secular Thai society, and successively remodeled to reflect the changes as Thailand went from being a monarchy to a democracy (1941), then in 1962, a military dictatorship. Subsequent democratic reform has failed, however, to result in a democratic reform of the Sangha Act.

The current Sangha Act defines the Sangha as male-only, and sets up a Vatican-style system of titles, positions, and bureaucratic administration, all with the avowed intent to protect the Vinaya and serve the Sangha. It may be more than simple coincidence that both the Vatican and the Thai Sangha have a problem accepting ordained women within their ranks. In insisting that bhikkhunis can have no place within the Thai Buddhism, the Sangha is placing more emphasis on the modern legal structures derived from western models, rather than the Buddhist scriptures which their tradition, and the modern reform of that tradition, is supposed to be based. And while bhikkhuni ordination is sometimes decried as a western, feminist interpolation in the Asian tradition, the reality is that the four-fold community, including the bhikkhuni Sangha, is the authentic heritage, while the insistence on a male-only Sangha is a modern, western-derived innovation. History, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.” ( Sujato, 2010, p. 13-15).

These paragraphs helped me a lot to understand how history, politics and culture change behaviours in religion and in almost all aspects. As I went on in this research, I was also surprised to know the eight rules that Bhikkhunis needed to follow. Some of these rules I found against humans rights as Bhikkhu Aggacitta mention: “It is unlikely that modern women, who enjoy so much more privileges and are seeking equal status with men, can acquiesce to such discriminative and humiliating conditions and rules.” (Aggacitta, 2003, p.5) I often thought that how come, someone that compassioned, wise and sharp like the Buddha could develop such hard conditions for half of the population of the world? That was something strange, because some of the teachings of the Buddha are possible to see if the practitioner keep practicing, but this kind of rules I felt were not part of the practice. Those rules are as follow:

1. “ A bhikkhunī with even 100 vassas (years of seniority) must respect, in every way, a bhikkhu ordained but that day.

2. A bhikkhunī must not spend the vassa (rainy season retreat) in a locality where there is no bhikkhu.

3. Every half-month a bhikkhunī must ask the Bhikkhu Saṅgha the Uposatha Day and [permission for] coming for exhortation […].

4. After the vassa, a bhikkhunī must invite both Saṅghas [Bhikkhu and Bhikkhunī] for criticism on her conduct in respect of what was seen, heard or suspected.

5. A bhikkhunīs who has committed a grave offence must undergo penance (mānatta) for half a month under both Saṅghas.

6. A sikkhamānā who has successfully completed her two-year probation should seek bhikkhunī ordination from both Saṅghas.

7. A bhikkhu must not be scolded or reviled in any way by a bhikkhunī.

8. Bhikkhunīs cannot admonish bhikkhus, but bhikkhus can admonish bhikkhunīs.” (Bhikkhu Aggacitta, 2003 p. 4-5).

Regarding the first rule, Bhikkhu Sujato mention that:
“ This rule startles with its abruptness, its immediate and total exclusion of the possibility for any other way in which the male and female monastic communities might relate to one another. It stands in stark contrast with the Buddha’s reasoned and balanced approach throughout the rest of the Vinaya, where he refuses to lay down a rule until it is needed. This is why we respect the Vinaya and wish to follow it: it is reasonable, a contingent and pragmatic means for people to live in community and develop good behavior. When the Vinaya appears unreasonable, we must ask ourselves: is this our problem, or the text’s? […. ] is it possible that our ancient texts do not issue unsullied from the penetration into perfect wisdom, but result from a lengthy and complex historical process, a process that involved both good and bad, wisdom and folly, compassion and cruelty?” (Sujato, 2010, p. 52).
Sujato mention that this rule was made mainly to respect elders from different Vinayas. 

“There is, however, another passage in some Vinayas that reinforces the message of this rule, and which extends it to a general principle that monks should never bow to any women. The Mahāvihāravāsin Vinaya elsewhere in the Khandhakas has a group of 10 avandiyos (those who should not be bowed to), which includes women. But the context the rule appears in raises doubts as to the formation of this passage. It follows the well-known story of the partridge, the monkey, and the elephant, where the three animals lived harmoniously by respecting the eldest among them. This story is found in all Vinayas.

However the different Vinayas each follow this story with a very different text. The Pali appears, on purely internal criteria, to be an originally independent passage. It changes from the specific list ‘bow down, rise up, make anjali, and behave properly’ mentioned in the story, to the general term ‘not bow’. Not only that, but the content sends a completely different message: the whole point of the three animals story is that we should respect elders, but now we are being told to not respect women, even if they are elder. Taken together, these suggest that the sequel is not intrinsic to the story.” (Sujato, 2010, p. 53)
He mention more arguments and the general idea is that this rule may be add later when the Buddha died as a rule for all Bhikkhunis. At the moment when the Buddha was a live, it may be for respecting elders and rules of good behaviour at that historical moment. He also mention that this rule probably was copy from Jainism. Jainism have an exact rule. 

“The following is taken from the Yuktiprabodha with the Svopajñavṛtti of the Svetambara Upadhyāya Meghavijaya. Dated from the 17th Century, this presents an argument on the status of women between the two main Jain sects.

• “Even if a nun were initiated for a hundred years and a monk were initiated just this day, he is still worthy of being worshiped by her through such acts of respect as going forward in reverential greeting, salutation, and bowing down […] Jaini, Chapter 6 #18. The Yuktiprabodha, as well as insisting on the ritual 
humiliation of women, argues that they cannot be enlightened because of their wanton, crooked nature, as well as the vile impurities of their bodies, especially menstruation.” (Sujato, 2010, 60).

So perhaps, the ideas and behaviours of Jainism are deep rooted in Buddhist because it was the same idea that the Lay Myanmar men told me when he mention that I have the perfecto condition for the practice, I just need to be reborn as a man.
Sujato continuous mention that: “The identical wording makes it obvious that here we are seeing not just a generic similarity but a direct copy. While Jainism is older than Buddhism, the Jain texts are, as here, typically younger; so it is not easy to decide whether this rule, as it stands, was copied by the Buddhists from the Jainas or vice versa. Nevertheless, the main point remains: this rule is one that, as claimed by the Buddha, is found among other Indic traditions. The key thing to notice is that the Buddha specifically invokes contemporary social conventions to justify his position, in exactly the same way as the laywoman in the Sarvāstivāda Vinaya story.” (Sujato, 2010, p.60-61)

Sujato also mentions that this rule may be apply only to his step mother to avoid pride for been Sakyan and to avoid attachment to the Buddha himself because he was her son. Sakyan that joined the Sangha. According to the story of Mahapajapati asking the Buddha to avoid this rule, he mentions that that was the custom in the time.
“The story refers to the garudhammas as already existing. There is, however, no question of an offense arising from them. It is as if the status of the garudhammas at the time this rule was formulated was of some recommended trainings in etiquette, like, say, the sekhiya rules, with no specific penalty attached. The Pali version of the garudhammas describes the acts of respect that must be shown by the bhikkhunis to the bhikkhus in this way: abhivādanaṁ paccuṭṭhānaṁ añjalikammaṁ sāmīcikammaṁ, which I render as ‘bow down, rise up, make anjali, and behave properly’. This phrase occurs twice elsewhere in contexts crucial for understanding the garudhammas. First is when the Sakyan princes, including Ānanda, asked for Upāli, the former barber and Vinaya expert-to-be, to ordain first, so they can reduce their Sakyan pride by ‘bowing down, rising up, making anjali, and behaving properly’ to him.68 Elsewhere, we are often told of the problems caused in the Sangha by the Sakyans and their pride: Nanda, who famously went forth on account of 500 pink-footed celestial nymphs, and who wore make-up as a monk; Channa, the Buddha’s incorrigible charioteer, who on the Buddha’s deathbed was given the ‘Supreme Punishment’ (i.e., the silent treatment); Upananda, who constantly harassed the lay supporters for fine requisites; and of course Devadatta, who tried to kill the Buddha. Tradition says that pride caused the Sakyans to grievously insult Viḍūḍabha, king of Kosala, who in revenge destroyed the Sakyan republic and scattered the clan. Thus the Sakyan pride has become a byword in Buddhist culture. This suggests that the purpose of emphasizing bowing in the garudhamma, just as for the Sakyan princes, was to reduce pride. Given that it was Mahāpajāpatī and the Sakyan ladies who were seeking ordination, we might be forgiven for thinking that it was specifically Sakyan pride that is at issue here.” (Sujato, 2010, p. 58-59

However, it seems that this rule were made only for the step mom of Buddha. In the original narrative it does not mention that is for all Bhikkhunis:

“ Now, the Buddha is supposed to have said that the acceptance of these rules was Mahāpajāpatī’s full ordination. Sometimes what is omitted is ignored, and yet may have a decisive importance, so I must bodily lift the next fact into consciousness: nowhere in this narrative are the bhikkhunis explicitly told that they have to keep these rules. The rules are laid down for Mahāpajāpatī. It is true that the rules are phrased in the general sense of all bhikkhunis, and elsewhere the Vinaya expects the bhikkhunis to keep these rules. But in the core of the primary narrative, it is never directly said that these rules are a part of general bhikkhuni ordination. Nor is the adherence to these rules a part of the ordination procedure in the Mahāvihāravāsin Vinaya, or indeed the procedures of other Vinayas. Since the text explicitly says that the garudhammas are intended to be Mahāpajāpatī’s ordination, and since there are plausible reasons why they should be relevant for her, there seems every reason to think the garudhammas were originally laid down for Mahāpajāpatī alone.” (Sujato, 2010, p. 59-60

Sujato mention that this rule also was conceived as a rule of etiquette at that time. However, they do not consider it suitable at the present moment.
“ The key thing to notice is that the Buddha specifically invokes contemporary social conventions to justify his position, in exactly the same way as the laywoman in the Sarvāstivāda Vinaya story.
This raises the contentious issue of the degree to which Vinaya rules and procedures may be adapted according to time and place. As a practicing bhikkhu, I believe that, in general, the essential aspects of the Vinaya remain as true and relevant today as they were 2500 years ago. I do not think we should use, as a blanket excuse, changes in social customs to justify abolishing or ignoring Vinaya rules, even if they may be inconvenient, or we don’t understand their purpose. But in instances where the text specifically invokes contemporary social conventions to justify the rule, and where that convention has demonstrably changed, we must question whether such a rule should be kept. And when, in addition, the rule causes unnecessary suffering, I think it is unjust and cruel to insist upon keeping it.
Here we would do well to remind ourselves of the fundamental ethical principles embodied in the United Nations ‘Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’
Article 1: Discrimination against women, denying or limiting as it does their equality of rights with men, is fundamentally unjust and constitutes an offense against human dignity.

Article 2: All appropriate measures shall be taken to abolish existing laws, customs, regulations and practices which are discriminatory against women, and to establish adequate legal protection for equal rights of men and women...
Article 3: All appropriate measures shall be taken to educate public opinion and to direct national aspirations towards the eradication of prejudice and the abolition of customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority of women.
This garudhamma, and some others, are manifestly ‘laws, customs, regulations and practices which are discriminatory against women’. Discrimination against women is ‘fundamentally unjust and constitutes an offense against human dignity.’ If bhikkhus wish to maintain the ethical standards expected in our international community, they must take ‘all appropriate measures’ to abolish these practices.
There are those who would wish to argue that such provisions are a ‘Western’ imposition on Buddhist cultures, and do not represent the values of Buddhist peoples themselves. But when Buddhist peoples are given the chance, they too show that they adhere to such values. For example, here are some excepts from the draft Thai Constitution of 30 April, 2007.
Part 2 : Equality
Section 30: All persons are equal before the law and shall enjoy equal protection under the law.
Men and women shall enjoy equal rights.
Unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of the difference in origin, race, language, sex, age, physical or health condition, personal status, economic or social standing, religious belief, education, or constitutional political views, shall not be permitted.
Part 3 : People’s Rights and Liberties
Section 37: A person shall enjoy full liberty to profess a religion, a religious sect or creed, and observe religious precepts or exercise a form of worship in accordance with his or her belief.

Chapter IV : Duties of Thai People
Section 70: Every person shall have the duty to defend the country and obey the law.
According to this document, Thai people, including all Thai monks and Western monks living in Thailand, have the duty to obey the law of Thailand." [This was emphasized by Vajirañāṇavarorasa : ‘Although monks are already subject to the ancient law contained in the Vinaya, they must also subject themselves to the authority which derives from the specific and general law of the State.’ Quoted in McDaniel, p. 103.” (Sujato, 2009, p. 62)] The fundamental law of the nation, superseding all others, is the Constitution. Under the Constitution, men and women have equal rights, and unjust discrimination, such as that expressed in garudhamma 1, is illegal. Thai women have the right to ‘observe religious precepts’ in accordance with their beliefs, which includes taking ordination as bhikkhunis and practicing the bhikkhuni Vinaya as they see fit. In addition, Thai monks, according to this constitution, are permitted to practice their religion according to their beliefs, and this would include performing ordination for bhikkhunis. Prohibiting Thai monks from performing bhikkhuni ordination would transgress their one of their basic rights according to the Thai constitution. The tension between a progressive social movement and conservative religious forces is negotiated in various legal contexts. For example, the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (amended 6 July 2009) section 56 provides a blanket exemption for religious bodies from the anti-discrimination laws that apply to everyone else. The fact that such an exemption was considered legally necessary implies that if it were not present the discriminatory practices of the Church could be considered illegal and subject to prosecution. Here is the relevant section.
Perhaps this is why, despite the widespread belief that bhikkhuni ordination is forbidden in Thailand and opposed by the Thai Sangha, the Council of Elders who rule Thai Buddhism (Mahatherasamakhom) have not made any pronouncement regarding bhikkhunis. The Thai Sangha Act defines its sphere of concern as the bhikkhus, and has no jurisdiction over bhikkhunis.
So now the rude shock of this rule has been softened a little. This garudhamma, if it is authentic at all, is best seen in context as a curb for the pride of Mahāpajāpatī. The status of this as a rule in general for the bhikkhunis is dubious, since it is only occasionally found in the pāṭimokkhas, and where it is found it is in very different forms and settings. But those stories do at least demonstrate a reasonable context within which such a rule might have arisen. In the current form, however, the rule is clearly discriminatory and contravenes accepted national and international principles of equity. Following the basic Vinaya principles that the Sangha should not act in ways that contravene the laws and customs of their culture, and should not act in a way that leads to harm, this rule should be rejected by the contemporary Sangha.” (Sujato, 2010, p. 61-64).
The seventh rule is also very interesting. Sujato mention that:
“ The origin story is at Vesālī. An elder of the group of six nuns dies. They make a stupa for her, and hold a noisy mourning ritual. Upāli’s preceptor, Kappitaka, who was living in the cemetery, was annoyed at the sound, and smashed the stupa to bits – somewhat of a distasteful overreaction, one might think. Anyway, the group of six nuns say: ‘He destroyed our stupa – let’s kill him!’ Kappitaka escapes with Upāli’s help, and the nuns abuse Upāli, thus prompting, not a rule against noisy funerals, or smashing stupas, or attempted murder, but against abusing monks. Other Vinayas tell the story differently […] This rule is similar to the next, and evidently the Mahāsaṅghika/Lokuttaravāda tradition has collapsed the two together, and created an extra garudhamma to make up the eight: the bhikkhus should get the best lodgings and food.” (Sujato, 2010, p. 73).
Finally, the last rule is interesting to see form a critical point of view. Rather than be a rule that affirm that nuns cannot teach monks, is a rule that emphasis right speech between monks and nuns. The way they should approach each other is with kindness. Not allowing nuns to teach perhaps can be seen as an unkind and discriminatory behaviour that is against humans rights as well.
“ The operative word here is vacanapatha, which I have translated as ‘criticize’. It is often interpreted as ‘teach’, and in Thailand and other places it is assumed that a bhikkhuni can never teach a monk. But this has no basis whatsoever. I find it difficult to believe that any Pali scholar could actually think that vacanapatha meant ‘teaching’, since it is never used in that way.
Etymology is of little help here: vacana means ‘speech’ and patha literally is ‘path’, hence ‘ways of speech’. […]The formulation of this garudhamma in the Lokuttaravāda/Mahāsaṅghika reinforces the association with this Sutta. This rule is a little confusing, for this school does not have an equivalent to the garudhamma prohibiting a bhikkhuni from abusing bhikkhus. Rather, they seem to have collapsed that rule into the present one, so while the rule formulation seems to deal with criticism, the explanation deals more aggressively with abuse:
‘It is not allowed for a bhikkhuni to aggressively speak to a bhikkhu, saying: ‘You filthy monk, you stupid monk,111 you childish monk,112 you wicked,113 doddering, unintelligent incompetent!’
The rule itself, in clear distinction from the Pali, says that a bhikkhuni is forbidden to criticize a bhikkhu about what is true or untrue (bhūtena vā abhūtena vā), while a bhikkhu is forbidden to criticize a bhikkhuni about what is untrue, but may criticize about what is true. The terms ‘true or untrue’ clearly link up with the Kakacūpama Sutta.114 While the phrasing of the rule clearly discriminates against the bhikkhunis, the rule explanation mitigates this, for the actual explanations of how criticism is to be done by monks and nuns to each other is effectively the same. Both are permitted to admonish a close relative in a gentle and encouraging way, but are not permitted to use abusive language […]
The two aniyata rules found in the bhikkhu pāṭimokkhas establish a protocol enabling a trustworthy female lay disciple to bring a charge of serious misconduct against a bhikkhu, which must be investigated by the Sangha and the appropriate punishment levied. This protocol is only established for the female lay disciples, not the male. Are we to believe that the Buddha made one rule supporting admonishment by lay women, and another prohibiting it by nuns? […]
Saṅghādisesa 12 lays down a heavy penalty for bhikkhus or bhikkhunis who refuse to be admonished, saying: ‘Thus there is growth in the Blessed One’s following, that is, with mutual admonishment and mutual rehabilitation.’120 Garudhamma 8 directly contradicts this, and stands in sad contrast with the broad stream of the Buddhist teachings on admonishment. […]

There seems little evidence that Buddhist communities through history felt that it was wrong for a bhikkhuni to teach or even justly criticize a bhikkhu. I have elsewhere gathered a series of stories that present nuns as criticizing monks in various ways, and nowhere is this rule brought up.121 While these stories may not all be strictly historical, they tell us about how Buddhist monastics interpreted the rules at different times. Given the nature of actual relationships between groups of people, the rule prohibiting admonishment of bhikkhus by bhikkhunis can never have been anything other than a dead letter. That the rule books tell a different story is unsurprising. Rule books, ancient and modern, tell us what the rule-writers wanted, not what was actually done. What is perhaps more remarkable is that I cannot find a single example where a nun is criticized or disciplined for admonishing a monk. The conclusion seems inescapable that either this rule was an alien interpolation, or its original scope was very narrow. In any case, the mainstream of the traditions tells us that it is perfectly okay for a bhikkhuni to teach, exhort, or admonish a bhikkhu in a way that is gentle and kind. In doing so, she will be not merely keeping the letter and the spirit of the Vinaya, she will be fulfilling her practice of right speech as part of the noble eightfold path.” (Sujato, 2010, p. 73-78)Nevertheless, these teachings sometimes are saturated by culture of the time and place where they were develop. The culture itself is a support for the teachings to carry on generation to generation. However, they can also be an obstacle if the culture decides to pay more attention into forms rather than meaning.

Section 56 Religious Bodies

Nothing in this Act affects:

(a) the ordination or appointment of priests, ministers of religion or members of any religious order,

(b) the training or education of persons seeking ordination or appointment aspriests, ministers of religion or members of a religious order,

(c) the appointment of any other person in any capacity by a body established to propagate religion, or

(d) any other act or practice of a body established to propagate religion that conforms to the doctrines of that religion or is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of the adherents of that religion. (Sujato, 2010, p. 63)