The latest from Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project

Newsletter 4, Oct. 2016

Dear friends,

Ahead of his visit to the UK at the end of this month, on 6 October Ajahn Brahm was interviewed by Anastasia Hoeng (of The Buddhist Fellowship, Indonesia) at Jhana Grove (Perth, Australia). Venerable Candā was also present and all three found several of opportunities to join in laughter, as well as turn their attentions to more thoughtful reflection on the need for a bhikkhuni's monastery in the UK. We thought we'd share a few extracts from the interview with you here; a longer version can be listened to on our website

Ajahn Brahm on Anukampa

What are you most looking forward to?
The reason why I'm going over to the UK is I was born there, I have a sense of responsibility to the place of my birth. They educated me and brought me up. It was a very wonderful society and inculcated many values in me. One of those values was fairness, where people are given equity. I was given a chance, and I see in the UK right now, the women in Theravada Buddhism are not given a chance. Because of their birth they are not permitted to take full ordination in Theravada Buddhism which, personally because of my upbringing, is unacceptable. And also because of my upbringing, I always said, "don't just complain about things, do something!" ...

Of course, the first thing which is necessary, of all the requisites which are necessary for any monastic, the requisite of lodgings is primary, and that's the hardest one to get. So to get a place, where say a good nun like Bhikkhuni Candā, when she is in the UK she knows she has a bed for the night, and she has a place to stay, and a place to teach. At the moment she has nowhere, really absolutely nowhere to stay. So a place which can be for bhikkhunis, Theravada bhikkhunis. So that's one of the goals and then, actually, to see it grow.

How about the guidance?
The main guidance is the main teacher, which is the Buddha, so it's the Vinaya. The Dhamma and Vinaya, as taught by the Buddha. ... [That's] where we bring in the training as put down by the Buddha. The guidelines of simplicity, frugality, kindness, compassion, mindfulness and all those are part of the Vinaya training. So that would be the core part of [monks' and nuns'] training.

When it comes to the other training, I'd say in this interview, I have full confidence in Venerable Candā to be a leader. She doesn't have that confidence in herself yet, but I do. It's a case of, you take these people, put them in the deep end of the water, and my goodness, they swim! And no one is more surprised than themselves that they can keep their heads above water.

So then, it's like training for her?
It's also training. She's good enough to survive and then eventually she'll just start something. That's how I started! When Ajahn Jagaro disrobed, I wasn't ready to be the boss, but there was no choice. I was dumped with being an abbot. And at first you're not that good, you make all sorts of mistakes. Like being a control freak. ... And after a while you realise that's not the way to teach, so you tend to relax and then you find everything flows far more smoothly and your monastery starts to grow and prosper.

Is there a lot of interest in monastics?
AB: Heaps! Heaps! I know that because, again, as soon as you start to talk about this, people get very excited, and very happy. They want to help.

I guess there are a lot of retreat centres in England already?
Retreat centres are for lay people. They are wonderful but this is for taking it to the next level. You have just been on retreat for a couple of months here at Jhana Grove but as the Buddha said that when your meditation, your Samadhi is supported by sila, then it’s a great benefit, huge power and the sila, the precepts and restraint of the bhikkhuni, of the monastic, that takes your meditation to another level. Unfortunately, with all the skill of a lay person, you can never match the depth of meditation of a monastic simply because the foundation, the precepts, are so much stronger.

What is your support for this monastery?
It’s 100%. In other words, it’s going to happen and I’m going to make it happen. You don’t have to worry it’s just a matter of time. That’s why, anyone listening to this, I am going to start putting the hard word on all my disciples. ...

The fourth leg of the chair of Buddhism, this is what the Buddha kept on saying, and it was the Buddha’s mission. After he became enlightened under the Goatherd’s Banyan tree, Mara came to him and said, “Okay, you’re enlightened, I admit it, now don’t go teaching it’s just too burdensome. Just enter parinibbana now, just disappear”. The Buddha said, “No, I will not enter parinibbana. I will not leave this life until I have established the bhikkhu sangha, bhikkhuni sangha, laymen, and laywomen Buddhists: the four pillars of Buddhism”. 

Forty-five years later, at the Capala shrine, Mara came again and said, “You’ve done it! There are lots and lots of bhikkhunis enlightened, lots of bhikkhus enlightened, great laymen and laywomen Buddhists so you have done it, so keep your promise and he said, “Okay, in three months, I’ll enter parinibbana”. 

What those two passages from the suttas demonstrate is that it was the Buddha’s mission; it was why he taught, to establish those four pillars of the sangha. We have lost one, so every Buddhist who has faith in the Buddha should actually help the Buddha to re-establish the bhikkhuni sangha. It was his mission and because of history his mission has been thwarted. So now we have to help the Buddha re-establish what was part of his teaching mission.

Looking forward to Ajahn Brahm's arrival,
Warm regards,
Anukampa Team
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