Ajahn Brahm

I have spent the weekend at the Mitra Buddhist conference in Sydney, and it has been the most enlightening couple of days. The quality of speakers was really remarkable, and I was rarely bored, which is really quite a rare thing!
This morning I had the great good fortune to hear Ajahn Brahm speak on the topic of the overuse of Buddha, which was an intriguing concept. He was well worth getting up early for. His honesty, lack of pretension and puckish limey charm make him a gifted teacher, and I will certainly make the effort to go and hear him whenever he comes to Sydney (he is the Abbott of Bodhinyana Monastery in Perth).
He has been one of my heroes for some time now, ever since he was brave enough to ordain a number of nuns into the Theravadin tradition late last year. Such an act is meant to be forbidden in Theravada circles, with most monks claiming that the order of nuns faded out long ago, and that its re-introduction will mark the end of Buddhism. Ajahn Brahm exposed this as the sexist, antiquated bunkum that it is, and went ahead and ordained a group of women to full vows and status as female monastics in the Theravada order.
Such an action caused a huge scandal in the Theravada world. There has been talk of expulsion from the monkhood, and he has been banned from appearing at the United Nations combined Vesak gathering in Thailand this year.
The Ajahn (an honorific title meaning "teacher") seemed unperturbed by it all, and gave a wonderful talk, filled with jokes, challenges and some genuinely unsettling reflections on the danger of blindly accepting tradition in any religion.
I liked what he said about the place of Buddha images in the gardens of the West. Some Buddhists are cagey about this (see the recent scandal about rapper Akon in Sri Lanka), but Ajahn Brahm sees it as a wonderful thing. He says that people react positively to the images at some level, which is why they want them around. So long as the Buddha continues to represent calm, peace and transcendence, Buddhists should be happy about his appearance in unlikely places. Because the essence of Buddhism is NOT statues, or monks and nuns, or even books. The essence is in the lived experience of the Buddha's teachings, and it is impossible to disrespect this.
I am inordinately proud that Australia can boast a spiritual teacher of such originality and bravery.


Journalist M.F. Machado said...

Ajahn Brahm made a schism in the Buddha Sangha of Thailand.

Anonymous said...

Ajahn Brahm did the right thing if a schism was caused it was the karma or the Sangha in Thailand... ... . . . . .

Women and the religious order of the Buddha
Ven. Professor Dhammavihari

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