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The state of females in thai buddhism....

  • think87

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    So anyone who's been to thailand has either seen a temple or a monk, or you never left the bars :-P

    But how many have seen female monks? if you have, again lay off the beer, you're seeing things.

    Thai monks believe the lineage of women died out centuries ago and cannot be revived, because there are no nuns left to perform a legitimate ordaination which requires 10 nun's. The subject of women in the monkhhod is TABOO inside thailand's monasteries, and the monks want no part of it. They use a single line in the buddhist literature that references that only a male body can attain enlightenment so women should wait until they die and are reborn as a man, then be a monk.

    having stayed in monasteries, i personally am ashamed at the treatment. the women i have met when i could, as there usually in a separate part of the monastery, have been the most pleasant. They meditate, do all the cooking and cleaning with there practice, only to have to sit at the back of the monastery.

    some of this is culture and i do understand that as i have been repremanded for talking alone with a women inside a monastery even though we in plain view of everyone however from my expierence its not a culture thing, its a male monks want the monkhood for themselves thing.

    There are of coarse ordained females, however it more of an oath to follow the five precepts, and a few others like not using money etc which are:

    Harmlessness:

    to refrain from intentionally taking the life of any living creature.
    Trustworthiness:

    to refrain from taking anything that is not given.
    Chastity:

    to refrain from all sexual activity.
    Right Speech:

    to refrain from false, abusive, malicious or disharmonious speech and worldly gossip.

    Sobriety:

    to refrain from taking intoxicating drinks or drugs; smoking is prohibited at all times at the monastery.

    However these women carry a double edged sword. They lose there right to vote as there considered members of the clergy, however monks dont accept them so there left in a limbo. Yet these women DO IT ANYWAY, practice harder, and i think deserve more credit than any other members of the the monkhood.

    Now, where my bantering end's.... come your lovley input :-P

    #1 Posted: 6/10/2009 - 09:03

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  • somsai

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    Well maybe they ought to start a new religion they could call it Theravadanew. Get the ten female monks needed from Urumchi or something, let the boys fetch and clean.

    Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves

    That not killing stuff is for the birds, leads to people getting sent to prisons in Houaphan so they can die of starvation. You know, the same way everybody eats meat they don't kill. Better to just have a suk wan, tie some darn strings around the cow's wrist and be done with it. Spirits come home to roost, lap nua for all, and no passing off the killing duties.

    Still working on understanding this religion stuff.

    #2 Posted: 6/10/2009 - 10:04

  • think87

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    Monks are so steeped in tradition, that the thought of change to there routine is just not even talked about. Theravadanew ( lol ) probably has an introduction date of 3010 at the earliest.

    as with any religion, rules have expeptions. monks only cant eat meat that is " specifically killed as a gift for them ", and nearly 80% of them do eat meat. even thai strict buddhists who want to eat fish wont "kill it" , they just 'forget' to feed it and then cook it after it dies. they have there loopholes for such things.

    religions all take time and effort to understand. thai buddhism at least in the cities, has become more about performing rituals and almost none of them meditiate. for that you have to look to the forests of the northeast.....

    but for me it really should be as simple as just starting over, however it coldnt be further from what will happen

    #3 Posted: 6/10/2009 - 10:14

  • MADMAC

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    Think
    Very interesting. I live right across the street from a temple and I contribute to the contruction of one on a mountain in Kamcha-i. I also am working with one other guy here to build a water purification unit in a temple (to clean the fish pond) in Mukdahan. But honestly I don't know squat about Bhudism. I'm just doing these projects because it seems like the right thing to do, not because I'm some sort of soulful person or anything.

    #4 Posted: 6/10/2009 - 14:45

  • DLuek

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    Yes this is a touchy subject - good to hear your views think87.

    The Theravada tradition is all about preserving the ways that things were done during the Buddha's day. In some ways it's almost a fundamentalist form of Buddhism, and there really is no thought of changing the rules that have been passed down for over 2500 years. Other schools of Buddhism have adapted more with the times, but Theravada prides itself on keeping true to the old ways.

    This said, it is boundless to say that women are alienated, not accepted or not allowed to partake in Theravada Buddhism. Whatever is said about "women not being able to attain enlightenment" is a pretty empty statement to me, I mean, do monks really talk about this and is it really so that most monks or even many monks believe one way or the other? Only one who is enlightened could actually know the answer to this.

    At a temple I stayed at in the Forest Tradition, there were way more female meditators than male, and the ordained women who lived under 8 precepts at all times were shown a great deal of respect. That temple actually contains relics of the Buddha as well as Sariputra and a bunch of Thai meditation masters like Ajahn Mun and Ajahn Chah. Venerated alongside the relics of the famous arhats of Thailand are the relics of a Thai nun who is believed to have reached enlightenment (can't remember her name now), but the monk I was with made a point of telling me this.

    Of course the role of women in Thai Buddhism continues to be relatively the same role it has for centuries, as does the whole structural hierarchy of Buddhism from monk to nun to samanera to prakhao to layman. First the ordained monks collect their food in order of seniority, then the men under 8 precepts, then the ordained women, then the women under 8 precepts, then anyone whose only under 5 precepts. Seniority in the Sangha is based on how long someone has been ordained, not how old or wise they are, and men and women do not come in to contact with each other for the most part. Those ordained a long time sit in the front of the assembly, those a shorter time toward the back. These are the rules that the Buddha himself decided on.

    So, I guess what I'm saying is that it is what it is, and I'd doubt if you found many Thai women who would express much animosity towards this ancient system (I could be totally wrong on this).

    Theravada Buddhism is still an open door of wisdom for anyone, including women, and honestly when considered in the context of the belief in non-self and impermanence, is there really anything other than delusional thought that deems the woman to be any different in nature than the man?

    #5 Posted: 6/10/2009 - 23:12

  • think87

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    MAC

    That's great to contribute like that. I've noticed that since as a westerner your not doing it out of tradition, thai's seem to look upon it with very high gratitude.

    Keep it up :-)

    DL

    very nice to hear your experience. It's true that it varies monastery to monastery, because monks are after all human and all will have different views. Actually the forest tradition is 'better' when dealing with the issue than others. It's the monks in bangkok and the surroundings that follow that supreme patriarch that its a 'no talk' subject. that said, in my stays at forest monasteries in ubon and elsewhere, many monks do truly believe a female cannot be enlightened. Many of them learn from much older monks in their 70's and 80's, who pass there views of female's in the monkhood on to them. Questioning the Ajahn is frowned upon greatly.

    I do not want to discredit your stay, however can I ask how long your stay was? I only ask because you really need to be there for a ew months before the 'politics' of the monastery come to light.

    The scriptures say that even a nun of 100 years must sit behind a novice monk of 1 day. but the nuns then didnt protest this, and your are more than correct to say that thai women in general still dont see an issue with it.

    The issue seems to come from western minds like myself, seeing something that doesnt sit well with them and forget womens rights are different in every country. i bet a great majority of them would tell me to mind my own business :-P but everyone can have their opinion.

    #6 Posted: 7/10/2009 - 07:46

  • neosho

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    I'm glad to see you realize you are looking at it from a western perspective. Smoking may be prohibited but a lot of them do it. At my wife's village anyway. LOL

    #7 Posted: 7/10/2009 - 10:04

  • DLuek

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    Think,

    My stay was just 15 days. I think you're right to make light of the inequalites that exist, but it's also right for you to acknowledge the "western perspective." In the west people are more apt to not accept something and get all worked up in order to change it. We might see something in Asia and say "hey that's not right because it's not considered right in my own country."

    But due to the belief in karma, reincarnation and a circular conception of time, in the east it's more of an attitude of "This is the way things are and I'll just have to wait for the next life for things to be different." Of course this is only true to a point, but Thai women don't seem so bothered by the situation that they would expend any energy to change it. In fact I know several Thai women who are probably the most devout Buddhists I know, and I'm sure they'd support whatever an Ajahn in his 80s would have to say.

    Again, it is what it is, but it's important to consider the situation from the cultural standpoint of Thailand itself, not of some outside place.

    It's interesting sometimes when westerners get all worked up about certain issues, such as the censorship of material deemed defamatory toward the Thai King. In the west we yell and scream, "it's our right to draw your King portrayed as a monkey! It's our freedom and you are bad because you won't allow it to be seen on the internet in your own country!"

    I remember when that whole thing was going on with youtube, and some of these people who fought for their right to make a joke out of the King had never been to Thailand, had absolutely no understanding of what the King really means to the Thai people (in a spiritual leader sense), and showed no cultural sensitivity whatsoever to the actual Thai people. They were comparing the King of Thailand to George W. Bush on account of them both being world leaders - in itself that is an insult to anyone, let alone the longest reigning monarch in the world! But beyond that, it showed that the person who produced that video had no understanding of the role of the deeply meaningful role the King plays in Thailand. Defacing the King is like defacing the Dalai Lama - to do it is to totally disrespect an entire nation, culture and religion... But these youtubers kept doing it just to prove that "they can."

    Well I'm officially rambling now, but cultural sensitivity, I mean how important is that?

    #8 Posted: 7/10/2009 - 11:01

  • somsai

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    DLuek you've described some of the reasons I never believe westerners can never become Buddists. There are differences in background much more fundamental than simply memorizing some Pali chants. It's similar to the way a Thai monk could never become a cowboy even if they bought a can of Skoal and made a worn patch in their jeans while riding horses.

    Good of you to give the $ Madmac.

    #9 Posted: 7/10/2009 - 18:58

  • MADMAC

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    "That's great to contribute like that. I've noticed that since as a westerner your not doing it out of tradition, thai's seem to look upon it with very high gratitude.

    Keep it up :-)"

    I don't know if this is true or not. My neighbors love it. But some of the people I've worked with have actually cheated me in building costs and stolen some of my concrete right out of the Wat. Talk about low... oh well, they're poor people mostly, I guess desperation will do that to you. My wife was furious, but I decided to let it go. It was basically nickle and dime stuff.

    "Good of you to give the $ Madmac."

    Don't start going soft on me now. I wouldn't know how to handle it.

    Anyway, it's probably bad juju to just spend my money on choppers and beer.

    #10 Posted: 7/10/2009 - 21:05

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  • somsai

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    The temple picks up the pieces no one else is willing to. Old folks with no kids, the dying, orphans, aids patients and so on. So ya, I give to the temple too, but for multiple reasons.

    Once a relatively small donations got my name in the single most prominent spot on the entrance stairs. I figure I've shortcut quite a few reincarnations as a soi dog that way.

    #11 Posted: 8/10/2009 - 00:28

  • somsai

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    on the wall next to the stairs just so you don't think folks are stepping on me. Off to try to shoot an elk for a few days, that ought to lose me a few steps on the ladder to nirvana.

    #12 Posted: 8/10/2009 - 00:30

  • MADMAC

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    Is Elk good eating? I can't say I've eaten it. Venison, on the other hand, I love.

    #13 Posted: 9/10/2009 - 12:43

  • Tilapia

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    Elk is excellent!

    #14 Posted: 23/10/2009 - 21:02

  • MADMAC

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    So Somsai, did you bag an Elk?

    #15 Posted: 24/10/2009 - 00:35

  • somsai

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    No. And that's not the worst of it.

    Also the unit I usually depend on to drop one within winching distance of the pickup, was much more limited in # of tags this year, and I didn't draw one. Instead of one sure bet and a possible two animals I'm down to none. The 150 to 300 kilos of meat I usually count on will be zero and the freezer is empty. Still have tags for two deer in November with luck. Otherwise it's beef.

    Elk is much milder than deer, very similar to a quality beef, lean and tender with marbling.

    Back on topic, I suppose women will end this continual reincarnation thing sooner than men as they seldom kill things. ;-)

    #16 Posted: 24/10/2009 - 20:59

  • wanderingcat

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    #17 Posted: 13/11/2009 - 11:08

  • somsai

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    Thanks for the links.

    I tried to figure out what was going on with my limited vocabulary of things Buddhist.

    A Falang Theravada monk in Australia ordained 4 women and was excomunicated from that paticular temple? So he and the women are still monks, just not part of that paticular temple?

    Also trying to understand when they say fully ordained nuns. I think they just don't call women monks as monk is a male name not a female?

    I'm not as interested in the paticular religious signifigance as that on society in general. Just got sidetracked with long discussion with Lao consultant.

    #18 Posted: 13/11/2009 - 20:52

  • wanderingcat

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    still trying to understand the situation myself. never bothered so much with details of which falang monk ordained at which wat in Thailand with which senior Thai monks as his preceptor & teacher...& all that lineage thingy.

    Also trying to understand when they say fully ordained nuns. I think they just don't call women monks as monk is a male name not a female?

    in the Theravada tradition, monks observe 227 precepts, nuns ~300+ precepts (actual no. depends on 'sect'). in Thailand, which is just one out of many countries that have Theravada Buddhists, the official stance = there are no - & therefore can no longer be - any nuns (reasoning: ordination process for nuns requires presence of existing nuns to officiate).

    somehow, in Thailand (& Laos), 'nun' has become very widely used as the English equivalent/term for 'mae chii' - women who dress in all white & observe 8 or 10 precepts (some shave their heads, some don't)...to the point where the Maechii Institute in Thailand is officially known in English as the Nuns' Institute. but mae chii obviously have a status far inferior not just to that of monks, but even novice monks who also observe the same 10 precepts.

    so guess the term 'female monk' has been adopted (esp by falang Buddhists) to avoid confusion when referring to 300+ precept nuns in English...there's no confusion if they use the Pali term 'bhikkuni', automatically understood as '300+ precept nun'.

    I'm not as interested in the paticular religious signifigance as that on society in general

    cat point of view = not so much of a religious issue, more of culture/society (Thai 'worldview', which IMHO has a lot of room for 'broadening') & even political (Thai sangha politics). & a lot of 'clinging' onto traditions & ideas...simply for the sake of 'clinging on'?

    curious, does your consultant subscribe to the belief that in order for a woman to attain enlightenment, she must first be reborn as a man? (if so, why is it that women were able to attain enlightenment in the past? such examples are recorded in the story of Buddha's life, & have seen at least one reflected in Lao temple paintings...shall try to put this question to Lao monk friends during upcoming trip.)

    #19 Posted: 13/11/2009 - 22:45

  • somsai

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    So the women in Australia were being ordained as bhikkuni? And could bhikkuni take part in the morning tak bat, even lead the procession? Would they perform other duties usually associated with senior monks? I'd enjoy seeing all this filter down to the local wats.

    My questions re enlightenment met with bewildered stares. First had to explain in English. Consultant not very interested in matters religious other than showing up at the wat to do various things just as when a child. Teenage years spent in non religious commy home. True believers (in communism) distain superstitious old fasioned beliefs, (except for holidays and when there are bad spirits that need to be got rid of)

    #20 Posted: 14/11/2009 - 19:31

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