|เนื้อหาวารสารยโสธรา เล่มที่ 70 ประจำเดือน มกราคม - มีนาคม 2545 หน้า 2|
do you think of the appropriateness of bringing up the issue of Bhikkhuni
at the present time? It's their right to do so. The problem is that if
they are ordained in the Mahayana sect, they will be treated as such. It
is like being a Chinese Buddhist monk in Thailand. But they cannot use the
Mahayana ordination to make them Bhikkhuni under the Theravada observance.
This is where the problem arises. As I see it, we should accept the facts realistically. If we are ordained in the Mahayana faith, so be it. We must rely on our own practices and behaviour to win respect and recognition from the public.
- It was reported there have been some movements in the West to raise this issue and that those involved have already contacted some high-ranking monks in Thailand to ask for advice.
I don't know very much about this. I've heard, however, the women were also ordained in the temples in England, But they are called by a different name, not Bhikkhuni. This is one of the efforts to set up a new institution to answer women's religious needs. It is like our own nunhood but now under several different names such as " Dasasila-Mata ", meaning the mother with 10 precepts, or another group call ' sila-carini '. Such efforts are normal. When there exists a real need on the part of women to live an ascetic life and they cannot be Bhikkhuni, new institutions are set up. So far, This new institution has not proven very successful in Thailand, but that might not be the case in England where the social environment is different.
The question of Bhikkhuni is twofold, involving both spiritual ability and social acceptance. The lack of social acceptance and the implicit unequal status, however, does not affect women's spiritual capability. In some places where social conditions are more favourable towards women, social acceptance of women's ordination can be a lot easier.
- Do you personally support the ordination of women?
I agree with the setting up of an appropriate institution. I myself think that there should be some reconsideration of this issue if there exists a real need for women to lead a clerical life.
However, this is not something that can be decided in haste. It needs cautious consideration all the positive and negative factors.
- What do you think is better in terms of social acceptance, nunhood or the setting up of a new organization under a new name?
The improvement of nunhood is more effective in terms of social acceptance because it would be the continuation of a tradition.
The situations in Thailand and abroad are different. Over there, they can set up a new institution because the whole thing is new.
But no matter what it is called, it can be considered as one form of nunhood although they do not wear white robes. In Thailand, some groups of nuns also wear saffron robes. But this is still seen as another development of traditional nuns. This feeling of traditional continuity makes it easier to win acceptance from the more conservative sector of Thai society.
Beside, we should also consider if the setting up of a new institution apart from nunhood might lead to subsequent factionalisation and disharmony. The institutional improvement of nunhood, however, can include both the old and the new and maintain religious harmony.
- To what extent has the acclesiastical hierarchy given assistance to Buddhist nuns?
A : The nuns have received very little official support. However, there have been efforts to raise the status of nuns through such means as the setting up of the Nun Institution of Thailand at Wat Bovom Nives Temple. Nuns can receive an education up to the level of Parien Nine (Grade 9 in Pali, the highest level that monks can study).
The improvement of nuns image and status is necessary to win public acceptance. There should be no beggar nuns left. Meanwhile, the nuns must be well educated and knowledgeable. Actually, there are many highly able nuns right now. Their knowledge in the Abhidhamma (third section of the Pitaka) is even sought after by monks.
Self-improvement and dignified behaviour are necessary to correct the tainted image. But to be frank, monks are also not free of criticism on grounds of inappropriate behaviour. The image of the monks is also tainted, not only that of the nun. It takes a lot of work to correct this. Apart from self-improvement on the nuns part, society, too, must help, especially as regards laws. At present, the status of nuns has not yet been legally recognised.
Do you think the new generation of women who are conscious of women's rights will be disillusioned with Buddhism if they are denied an equal opportunity to enter religious life?
There is no need to feel that way. The problem is not that difficult. We only have to look at where the problem lies and solve it. In this case, it comes from society. Since the problem arises from the lack of social acceptance and from unfavourable social conditions-we only have to find social means to correct it. Women's spiritual capacity in not in question.
- How would you analyze the problem of male/female relationships and their consequent conflicts?
The problem is threefold. Firstly, biological difference. Secondly, social values and conditions. And thirdly, the spiritual and mental aspect, including one's capabilities.
There is no question on the third point. For women, too, can reach ultimate Truth and become " Arahant " (enlightened ones). But even Arahant cannot remove themselves from the world. That's why we have to take into account what determines our place in society.
Nature and social conditions are correlated. Women's biological nature has placed them socially at a disadvantage. And because of this biological predestination, it is more difficult for women than men to live a life that is free and independent from society.
- According to feminist thinking. Differences between women and men mainly come from culture and socialization.
But the truth of biological difference is indisputable. Women are childbearers. And women are immediately in a difference social position for this reason alone. Women have to be constantly cautious whenever they go because they are easy targets of attack. Even today, when society has made much progress in other difficult areas, this problem of women's safety has no been solved.
- There are arguments that given the dynamic social changes and technological advances of recent years, the sharp division of sex roles is already blurred, and because of this change women's roles, including those in religion, should be reconsidered.
I have read articles about the women's rights movement. I think it is going too far if men and women are busy fighting over their own self-interests and becoming enemies instead of cooperating for the common good of their children.
- How is the problem of women's rights seen from the point of view of Buddhism?
It is simply seen from reality, from what is. For example, we have to look at women's actual social and biological conditions realistically. However, I think society has improved so much that the use of physical force to maintain power is decreasing, which effects the relationship of men and women. Changes are needed to fit the new social reality. If society is less violent, women's status will be better and make their ascetic life easier. All is inter-related.
- Do you think that campaigns to correct social injustices, especially the women's right movement, are still hampered by emotional considerations?
It is still a problem. But it is also understandable. It is natural that men, or any other human group, will hold on to their privileges and will not want to see their interests compromised. But among them, there must be some with good intentions who want to cooperate in bringing about change. Also, the end should be consistent with the means. If we are pursuing a virtuous goal, the means must be virtuous. Anger and hatred only evoke strong reactions that will only make our efforts to change thing more difficult. More often than not, we still rely on dominance and aggression to solve problems. This ironically shows that humans have not made much progress in this sense.
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