THE CUNDI MANTRA

 
 
Much has already been written about the Bhikkhuni Ordination controversy. Angie Monksfield, the President of the pro-Ajahn Brahm Buddhist Fellowship, has strongly criticized the anti-ordination camp. In a recent tweet on the website of the Buddhist Fellowship, she wrote: "Even tradition needs to adapt, following tradition blindly and stubbornly only limit our spiritual growth and advancement." Fair enough. But Mrs Monksfield didn't stop there. In a posting on the Facebook group of the Forest Sangha, she wrote: "To the monks who were harsh towards Ajahn Brahm, we acknowledge that... your actions and words were due to defilements and do not represent the purity of the Dhamma." And In a comment on the pro-ordination blog of Ajahn Sujato, someone posting in her name made a reference to Ajahn Sumedho "or other proud and form-grasping senior monks." Ajahn Sumedho is the most senior Western Theravada monk in the world and since Mrs Monksfield has not come out to dispute this comment, I assume the quote is bona-fide.

I do not think that Buddhist monks are above criticism. But while I am personally supportive of the right of women to ordain as Buddhist nuns, I do not think that resorting to hostile rhetoric, nor adopting an us-against-them crusading mentality is helpful to their cause. Buddhists are always harping about compassion for all sentient beings. Taking sides is not conducive for practicing compassion. Here, I am reminded of a passage that I recently read in Paul Knitter's Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian:

This is why Buddhists don't take sides for some people and against other people. It's the same reason we heard in Chapter 2 why Buddhists don't want to call anyone evil. To pronounce them evil is to take sides against them, and to take sides against them is to cut off connectedness - and the possibility of understanding and feeling compassion for them. Once you do that, once you define anyone as an "evil-doer," there's little chance for peace. There's even smaller chance for justice.

Instead of railing against the "traditionalists" and criticizing them with sharp words for being "fundamentalists" or "attached to dogma" (which would probably cause a further entrenchment of their position), shouldn't the compassionate and Buddhist approach be to try to speak out to them peacefully and to call for a dialogue with them?

I once listened to a talk by Venerable Thubten Chodron in which she remarked something to the effect of: 'Sometimes, even if you are right you can still be wrong." Even if what we are advocating is just, we have to be to careful not to end up alienating the very people we need to convince.

Yueheng