Thursday, March 5, 2009

Damed if they're monks; damned if they're gay

SERIOUS allegations must be backed up by serious evidence. Unfortunately, two combustible ingredients - sensitivity around Buddhism and underlying homophobia - have been mixed by those with a personal agenda and blown up into a national obsession. Even after the northern abbot at the centre of a controversy had already left the monkhood, new spurious claims of homosexual acts are being made to destroy the reputations of several senior monks. This is absurd in a society where most people no longer bat their eyelids at heterosexual monks' violations of the same celibacy vow.

Now that the dust of homophobia is stirred up, many Thais seem to be out on a witch hunt, demanding the "purging" from the monkhood of all monks with effeminate traits, whose mannerisms allegedly breach the monastic rules, the Vinaya.

While monks must be held in high esteem and Vinaya violations must be addressed, none of the 227 precepts for monks explicitly addresses gender-specific mannerisms or the effeminate stylising of monks' robes. In fact, categorical defrocking, regardless of the nature of an offence, follows neither the letter nor the spirit of the Vinaya.

This whole episode reminds of the general intolerance towards female "monks" - yet to be recognised due to poor ethical reasoning. Fear of the unfamiliar reigns over reason. Most worrying is when blame is levied at senior monks for having ordained effeminate monks in the first place.


There is a reference to Elder Soreyya. I found this story at LINK

A Well-Directed Mind is of Great Benefit

    What neither mother, nor father, nor any other relative can do,
    a well-directed mind does and thereby elevates one.

A Story of Sex Change

While going to bathe with a close friend, a millionaire with two sons harboured a lustful thought on seeing the body of Mahākassapa, who was putting on his robe to enter Soreyya for alms. He thought, “May this elder be my wife, or may my wife’s body be like his.” As that thought arose, he changed into a woman. She was so embarrassed that she ran away and made her way to the distant city of Taxila. There she married and had two sons. Thus she was mother of two, and father of two.

Some time later, the millionaire’s close friend went to Taxila on business. Recognising him, the millionaire had him invited to his mansion and after treating him to the usual hospitality, inquired about his own parents. Then she revealed her former identity and confessed the thought that had caused the sex change. The friend advised the millionaire to ask the elder for forgiveness. As Mahākassapa was living nearby, she invited him for alms and asked for foregiveness. As soon as Mahākassapa forgave her, she changed back to a man. He took leave of the father of his sons in Taxila, kissed his sons goodbye, and became a monk. He was known as the Elder Soreyya.

Travelling with Mahākassapa, Soreyya Thera arrived back at Sāvatthī. Hearing about his past, the people of the country asked him repeatedly which two sons he had the most affection for. He replied patiently that had more affection for those two sons of whom he was the mother.

Soreyya went into solitude and soon attained Arahantship. Later, when asked the same question again he replied that he no affection for anyone. The monks wondered whether this was true, and reported it to the Buddha who confirmed that Soreyya was now free from affection. The Buddha praised him and recited the verse saying that a well-directed mind was of even greater benefit than a mother or a father.

No comments:

Post a Comment