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.