1. The Here-and-Now Interpretation of Dependent Origination - Paticcasamuppada
In the first of the Four Noble Truths the Buddha states that human existence is governed by Dukkha (discontentment, suffering); the second Noble Truth demonstrates the arising or the cause of Dukkha, summarized in a teaching called Dependent Origination or Dependent Arising or Dependent Co- Arising, the Pali expression is Paticcasamuppada.
Various forms and differing explanations of this teaching are given today, the most frequently discussed ones being:
- The Three-Lives-Theory is an explanation covering three lifetimes, a past, the present and a future life, that is, it is used to teach rebirth.
- The Here-and-Now-Theory proclaims that Dependent Origination is concerned with the present life only, with the 'here and now', with the birth and death of the notion of 'self', happening countless times each day.
Both theories aim to explain how Dukkha arises and how to put an end to it. At first a brief idea about the Three-Lives-Theory is given but the main focus of this paper is the Here-and-Now Interpretation.
According to the late Tan Ajahn Buddhadasa, a prominent Thai Buddhist monk and proponent of the Here-and-Now- Theory, the arising of suffering equals the arising of the notions of 'self', 'I', 'me' and 'mine' in the ignorant human mind. Resulting selfishness does not only lead to personal calamities but to problems in society and to the pollution and exploitation of the natural resources of our planet too. The ignorant person thinks it is the same 'self' that is living life from the cradle to the grave; here an attempt is made to show how the mind constructs the concept of a permanent 'self' out of countless momentary 'selfs' arising with sense-contact.
Wherever possible the early Buddhist texts, the Nikayas, have been used for reference. The relevant quotes are given either in the text itself or in footnotes so that readers who do not have the Nikayas at hand can follow up easily.
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2. Karma and Merit in (Thai) Buddhism
The topic is Karma and Merit in (Thai) Buddhism and thus we will define at first the meanings of the terms karma and merit before we investigate in which ways they contribute to the unique form of Thai-Buddhism, but much of the explanation is valid for other Buddhist countries as well.
Karma is intentional action of body, speech and mind based on volition and will bring about a result (vipaka
). Karma is not fate or destiny. According to the early Buddhist texts the result can ripen in this life or in a future life or even in subsequent lives. This is the generally accepted understanding of the Law of Karma, the worldly level, on which the teaching regarding karma and merit is usually offered and this seems to be the level most people prefer.
Complementary to the basic mundane interpretation of karma and merit is the supramundane or spiritual level of the doctrine which clarifies that the teachings on anatta (not-self) and karma do not necessarily contradict each other. The worldly explanation helps people to behave properly in this word while developing their mind to a higher level; the transcendental teaching follows the Noble Eightfold Path to the end of all suffering.
3. Bhikkhuni Ordination Controversy in Theravada Buddhism
The Pali-word for a male monk is Bhikkhu. The female equivalent of a Bhikkhu is a Bhikkhuni. In Theravada Buddhism it is widely but not unanimously accepted that Bhikkhunis (nuns) need to be ordained in a dual ceremony by both the male Sangha and the female Sangha (community of monks and nuns). It is believed that approximately 1,000 years ago the Bhikkhuni lineage died out and there were no more nuns left to ordain new Bhikkhunis and since then until recently Theravada Bhikkhunis did not exist. At the end of the 20th century more and more women voiced interest to revive the Bhikkhuni Sangha and to receive full ordination in Theravada Buddhism again.
In a grand ordination ceremony in 1998 Bhikkhuni ordination in the Theravada tradition was re-established. While this was acknowledged by the Bhikkhu Sangha in Sri Lanka the monks in other Theravada Buddhist countries still do not accept Bhikkhuni ordination.
After a short look at the historical background of Bhikkhuni ordination in Buddhism, some arguments for and against a revival of female ordination in Theravada Buddhism will be presented and, as I'm living in Thailand, we will specifically look at the situation in this country.
"In such cases, if there are [...] no senior disciples among the nuns, ... no middle-ranking or junior nuns, ... no white-robed lay followers, male or female, celibate or otherwise [...], then the holy life is not perfected."
Pasadika Sutta, Digha Nikaya 29.12
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