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Buddhadharma : Spring 2018
COMMENTARY 17 Still, we must not overlook the fact that there have been many problems in traditional monasticism: sometimes it has left out laypeople and made them merely adjuncts; it has often placed women and nuns in an inferior position; it has even fueled ethnocentrism and feudalism. Today, most centers sup port Tibetan lamas while charging Western monastics room and board. As a result, we are hemorrhaging young monastics who have no financial support. Western nuns in particular, even if they overcome the many significant obstacles to ordination, carry secondclass status for reasons supported by both the cul ture and the tradition. Many are simply overwhelmed, running dharma centers for no pay, counseling and teaching while also raising money for Tibetans. Any system made by unenlightened beings is imperfect, but real dharma practice is about facing hard things and stripping away what is untrue—even our fantasies about how Buddhist institutions should be. We need to renew the fourfold sangha. We don’t need to internalize or perpetuate dysfunction. There have been many impressive lay practitioners through out history; there is no doubt that laypeople can attain enlight enment. But if we are to preserve the full teachings, we also need people who can practice—and facilitate the practice of oth ers—full time. Even Padmasambhava, a householder guru who gave incredible empowerments to his lay students, said that “the monastics will carry the lineage.” One of the first things he did in Tibet was to establish a monastery—exactly what Tibetans did in exile in India to preserve the dharma. There will never be the great numbers of monastics in the West that there were in Asia. The modern world has too many distractions. But it will always be crucial to have a stable group of people who can practice and study full time, who live accord ing to a strong code of ethics, and who have very few other demands on their time. It’s an investment in the future of the dharma in the West. It would be a shame if someone were to go into a Western temple in a hundred years, see an image of the Buddha, and then be told that no one lives like him anymore. The Buddha created the fourfold sangha to preserve the dharma. Isn’t it time for us to accept the work of maintaining it? AYYA YESHE is an Australian Buddhist nun ordained in the Tibetan tradition. She is the director of Bodhicitta Foundation and the Kalyanamitra Fund, which supports Western and non-Himalayan monastics.