November 25, 2009

Theravada Reformers

In response to a certain line of criticism over the Australian bhikkhuni ordination, Ajahn Sujato provides some context into how some recent Theravada reforms went about.
We’ve been told by so many people that the Sangha needs to go ahead by consensus, that we need to wait for agreement before we can do bhikkhuni ordination. What this means is by no means clear – exactly whose agreement is required? Wat Pa Pong? Thai Buddhism? International Theravada? […] But how does this entirely theoretical ‘Sangha’ play out in the real world? How does change actually come about? I’d like to share just a few examples of major changes that have helped to form modern Buddhism as we know it.
He discusses the Dhammayuttika, the Thai Forest Tradition, Mahasi Sayadaw, Pa ‘Auk Sayadaw and the phenomenon of modern translation. I implore you to read this (very long) post because, like Wandering Dhamma, Ajahn Sujato opens a window into the Theravada, which from without is often depicted as uniform and ossified. I was surprised at the extent to which his words echoed opinions I’ve privately held on these subjects. There are certainly points where I disagree, but they are inconsequential to the many shared conclusions. While at times seeming backward and moribund, the Theravada has also routinely cultivated agents of change who renew the tradition generation after generation. The bhikkhuni revival is but another chapter in this great tradition of reform.

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for this Arun. I have experienced the dismay from other when I say I follow the Theravada vehicle. I have never considered it stultified or archaic, yet I realize how some of the politics of the more influential Sangha's might feed that perception. If I recall correctly, it was a Thai monk who walked out of the forest to tell the Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra that he was full of the substance out of which Lotus Flowers grow.