A matter of being truthfulhttp://www.bangkokpost.com/news/sports/ ... g-truthful
Published: 7/01/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News
What do you do when you are accused of being untruthful, especially when the accuser is a monk?
I asked myself this question after reading the statement of the Wat Nong Pah Pong forest clergy at http://www.dhammalight.org
, accusing my news report for "misrepresenting" their press conference, before introducing an entirely new explanation for the event.
I was first appalled, then angry.
What should I do?
As a Buddhist, my better self told me that the best thing to do is to watch my anger rise, to observe how it grows to engulf my whole body, before it finally dies down.
Honestly, it is not an easy exercise.
After subsiding for a moment, the emotions attacked me in successive waves while thoughts bubbled up to fan my dismay. Although I was boiling within, I took heart in the knowledge that this "dukkha" would not last. That this exercise of detached observation could teach me a bit more about the impermanence of emotion, thought, and eventually the futility of my own attachment to views and sense of self.
Any insight I would gain from this exercise I knew I owe it, too, to the person who has presented me with this challenge. At the end of the day, I am solely responsible for the cultivation of my equanimity. And he his.
As a journalist, however, I am glad that I have the temple's press release to back my news report: .
Following the excommunication of Ajahn Brahm, the abbot of Bodhinyana in Perth, Australia, for sponsoring full female ordination, the forest monk clergy of Wat Nong Pah Pong want the Council of Elders and National Buddhism to help them in exploring ways to get the "Thai temple" back to the "Thai people".
They also want the Council of Elders to issue rules on temple ownership and management to govern temples abroad to prevent Western monks from ordaining more women or violating other mandates from the Thai Sangha.
Nothing was mentioned about an intention to shift responsibility to the Council of Elders to decide about Bhodinyana Temple's ownership and the abbot status of Ajahn Brahm.
I only smelled blood at the press conference which was triggered by Wat Pah Pong's fury with what they saw as the ridicule of Thai monks and Buddhists by Ajahn Brahm during his talk in Singapore.
But being there was eye-opening. We might not agree with the Wat Pah Pong monks' fierce opposition to female ordination, obsession with punishment and control, the unquestioning submission to the feudal hierarchy against the original egalitarian spirit of the Sangha, or their deep attachment to ethnic Thai culture and nationalism.
But we cannot deny they are honest and open about their views and biases.
Come to think of it, how could they view things differently when they are - like most Thais - the products of an authoritarian, hierarchical, ultra-nationalistic culture?
The position of Wat Pah Pong's Thai elders also does not correspond with the portrayal of a rational clergy that upholds consensus decision-making and are open to gradual and timely changes for female monastics as painted in the Dhammalight website, run by Western monks. Obviously, there is a gap between the Thai and Western forest monks. While one is lost in the feudal world, the other is pressured to pacify the Western laity in the 21st century, struggling for balance.
I empathise with the Western monks who are caught between the two different worlds. But with due respect, projecting an inaccurate picture of the situation only compromises one's commitment to truthfulness. Here's the reality:
The Thai Sangha do not accept Bhikkhuni ordination and they have no qualms in crushing dissent.
But there is no stopping change.
The number of Bhikkhunis under the Sri Lankan Bhikkhuni Sangha in Thailand is growing. Their challenge now is to build nurturing, egalitarian communities of female monastics. To do so, it is crucial to face and undo the remaining patriarchal conditioning in one's psyche so as not to repeat the male Sangha's mistakes.
It is a spiritually demanding journey that will benefit many - the male clergy included.
Sanitsuda Ekachai is Assistant Editor (Outlook), Bangkok Post.
Relate Search: Wat Nong Pah Pong, Ajahn Brahm, National Buddhism
About the author
Writer: Sanitsuda Ekachai
Position: Assistant Editor (Outlook)