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Feed back  on 4-week International Monastic Training from Monica


Some years ago I got across this strangely familiar book. I had always been fascinated by previous lives stories but never really had the chance to read anything of that kind.
During the time I was going through ‘The dance of 17 lives’, the only thing I could think of was that the reality I had lived in wasfinally put into words. The author and Iwere using the same language.


From that moment on, it all went very smoothly,approaching to Tibetan Buddhism at first (it was all I could find at that time) and turning to Theravada as soon as I got to taste the teachings of theThai forest monks.  Ajahn Chah’words are still wide awake among his disciples. I am most grateful to AjahnBrahm, who has definitely worked as an eye-opener and helped (and still does) to put many things in the right place.


Is there any other way of looking at life?
The curiosity in the monastic life led me to understand the issue I was unaware of.
I knew that four women were ordained as Bhikkhunis at Bhodinyana monastery in Perth in 2009. At that time Bhodinyana was still a branch monastery of Wat Nong Pah Pong Sangha. After the ordination,Ajahn Brahmavamso, the abbot, got excommunicated.


It is a fairly complicated issue that needs a little patience and information gathering but a little education on the Tipitaka can help to solve the problem and understand that there is no opinable matter in this case. It is all very clear.
Only last year I got determined to make a step forward, as soon as I learned that full ordained Bhikkhunis had been present for some years in Thailand struggling to be recognized by the government and by the Sangha, I could get in touch with Ven. Dhammanandā through Thai Bhikkhunis.org.
The information was clear, and the international monastic training was going to be held in June for 28 days with the acceptance of laywomen as well.


I was willing to know this issue in a proper way. Of course it was not just information I was looking for. The interest of conducting a lifestyle following the Buddha’s teachings had driven me for quite a few years and this would have been a good opportunity for me to see how the Bhikkhunis’ livelihood was like in their specific environment.
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Thai people don’t know how to make you feel uncomfortable and wide smiles and wais are the perfect welcoming to make you feel right at home. That is all you can see at fist. However, the moment you look a little more closely the very discipline they follow comes up naturally and many things can be learned just by looking attentively around.
A well-organized proper training. I must say, the academic spirit has never left Ven. Dhammanandā, so that she can conduct easily and diligently everystep of the program.The main goal is to develop a strong Bhikkhuni  community, capable of facing the disagreements and misunderstandings within the Sangha. A system of supportive relationships which creates its strong roots through international cooperation and sincere commitment to their goal.


All the crucial points a monastic should be aware of have been touched, starting from the discipline (Vinaya) to the main historical facts related to Buddhist history and Bhikkhunis’ history in Asia.We learned from the past experiences that only a well-educated Bhikkhuni can deal with daily challenges in an appropriate way without fear or shame.


The training is mostly centered in forming the Bhikkhunis in Theravada Buddhism who need education to be part of the Sangha as female monks, and in showing the requisites they should possess as teachers, as part of the four-fold Assembly. Particularly this point is put into practice every night after chanting: one monastic participant is asked to give a Dhamma talk on a subject they had a direct experience of.  And the young Vietnamese Samaneris who also joined the program have shown their dedication giving a real feedback on the effectiveness of the training.


I must mention the Senior monk’s detailed talks on the Brahmaviharas: as prescribed by the Vinaya on full moon and dark moon a Senior monk is invited to the monastery to give a Dhamma talk to the Bhikkhunis, prior reciting the Patimokka.
The intensive training does not prepare you just on a theoretical level but on a practical one too. Frontal classes and daily activities go together as a whole. It was a good learning experience to be part of the daily routine and mostly a confortable way to get to know each other outside the classroom.


Also Ven. Dhammanandā scheduled three very fascinating visits outside the monastery: the first one was to the NakhonPathom Pagoda and the Sanam Chandra palace, on the second we headed to Bangkok and the third one at Kanchanaburi. A little note on how stimulating the visit at Wat Pho was. The mural painting about Bhikkhunis around the reclining Buddha cannot be missed during the visit.
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There is a gap in Theravada Buddhism that needs to be filled. And this is mostly felt by the women who experience the same urgency to study their own mind and understand the nature of things.
The righteous need that women share they should have their own space among the Buddhist Sangha probably comes after the necessity felt by laypeople to hear a differentlanguage in order to make the place we live in complete.The presence of women as Bhikkhunis among the Sangha would serve as a real example of fairness and respect to the outside world that still has got a long way to go in achieving equality for women.


It should not surprise how easy and natural it feels for a woman having to relate to a female monk instead. And this feeling of acceptance and understanding is not to be underestimated.  The opportunity to a more accessible way to the Buddha’s teachings opens up.


I need to express my gratitude to Venerable Dhammanandā for the energy she spends putting  her intentions into practice and giving a chance to the Theravada Bhikkhunis in Thailand to be properly established.
Last but not least, I need to return some of the metta all the monastics and laywomen of Songdhammakalyani have given me for the last month. I bow to you and to the loving-kindness I have received.

July 26th,2016

MONICA  NOVELLETTO (Italy)

TravelBlog: www.travelblog.org/Asia/Thailand/Central-Thailand/Bangkok/blog-876027.html