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Buddhadharma : Spring 2010
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2 0 10 60 excited about someone taking ordination, coming to the ceremony, supporting the ordained person, only to have the person quickly step back out again. BuddhadhaRma: How do you see monasti- cism evolving as it develops further in the West? Jan Chozen Bays: The evolution we’re look- ing for is already happening. Peter Gregory says the marks of Buddhist practice in the West are, first, the increased role of women; second, the fact that the canon is accessible and can be studied by everyone; and third, that laypeople are not content to just be financial supporters but also want to be taken seriously as practitioners, including spending some time perhaps in the monastery practicing full time. We also need to increase the interaction of monastics with communities. For example, we need to have people in ordained clothing going into schools occasionally and interacting with children. Bhikkhu Bodhi: A significant aspect about Buddhism in the West is not simply the ordination and greater participation of women, but that the feminine presence is going to transform the expression, understanding, and presentation of Buddhism significantly. It strikes me that the classical presentation of Buddhism has a very masculine flavor. One struggles against the defilements, to defeat them, cut them off. As the feminine aspect becomes more prominent, it’s going to soften the pre- sentation, but not in a compromising way. It will bring to manifestation certain elements already embedded within the Buddhist tradition that have not yet come to full expression. RoBeRt thuRman: Shakyamuni was a little hesitant about female monastics, not because of anything against women. It was because, as a sociologist, he could see the resistance of the chauvinist Brahmins. The release of women into this kind of lifestyle would be resented. Today we have a different economy and a different type of education, and the bhikkhu- nis should be as developed and as honored as possible. There will likely be more of them than the bhikkhus, which will probably be a very good thing. Bhikkhu Bodhi: There’s also going to be much greater interac- tion between monasticism and the world, such that monastics will take on the responsibility of functioning as what I would Bhikkhu Bodhi: In Sri Lanka, where I lived as a monk, it hasn’t been customary to give temporary ordination. In this respect, Sri Lanka is different from other Thera- vada countries like Thailand and Burma, where temporary ordination is an integral part of the Buddhist culture. I don’t have direct experience with it, but it seems that it could be an effective way to help people who are not intending to live as monastics their whole life to acquire some experi- ence of what it means to actually live as a monk, to get firsthand experience of living as a member of the sangha. They’ll come to appreciate the hardships as well as the benefits and pleasures of monastic life, and it could tie them more closely to the monastic sangha. It might also make them willing to throw their support behind those who want to live as monastics full time. ayya tathaaloka: I have many friends who have been monas- tics for a period of time, whether because they took temporary ordination or because they disrobed. Some have gone on to become excellent Buddhist teachers. I appreciate what they say about the usefulness of having ordained. However, I’m not an advocate of institutionalized temporary ordination. I acknowledge the beneficial aspect of it, but I also recognize that there is a detrimental aspect. The temporariness of it can reduce the meaning and sincerity behind undertaking monas- tic ordination—the intention to dedicate oneself fully to the final goal of enlightenment. Without complete renunciation, ordination can become trivialized. Bhikkhu Bodhi: A viable alternative, then, would be to have laypeople live at a monastery for an extended period of time, which we call being an anagarika. ayya tathaaloka: Yes, the Buddha recommended that people take periods of time like that, which we now call temporary monastic retreat. Jan Chozen Bays: I agree completely. Ordaining and then dis- robing can become like collecting another merit badge. Our current scheme is that people have to live here for at least a year before they can even request ordination, and then they’re a postulate for at least a year. It’s a gradual entry into the life, so that they understand what they’re getting into. There’s noth- ing more discouraging for our lay sangha than getting very I’m not an advocate of institutionalized temporary ordination. The temporariness of it can reduce the meaning and sincerity behind undertaking monastic ordination—the intention to dedicate oneself fully to the final goal of enlightenment. —Ayya Tathaaloka Meal prep at Zen Mountain Monastery williamkandoJohnston(top)toudesign,sakrapeetoumeechukant,(bottom)greatvowzenmonastery