Monastery rebuked over ordination of women

A Buddhist monastery in Serpentine is at the centre of an international row over the ordination of two women.

Thai Buddhist religious authorities have backed moves by a Buddhist temple community in eastern Thailand to expel the monastery.

The Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery is overseen by a British-born abbot, known as Phra Brahmavamso, who allowed the ordination in October.

A ruling from Thai Buddhist authorities revokes Phra Brahmvamso's right to register believers into the Thai Buddhist religious order.

The temple was set up as a branch of a forest-based monastery community, the well known Wat Nong Pah Forest Sangha, set in the eastern province of Ubon Ratchathani 630km from Bangkok.

The most senior Buddhist religious body in Thailand, known as the Sangha Supreme Council, said it upheld the decision by the temple in Ubon Ratchathani to exclude the Australian temple from its community.

Reports in Bangkok said the decision, however, does allow the Australian community to maintain its temple status.

An adviser to the head of the Buddhist faith in Thailand, Somdet Phutthacham, said women could only be ordained into the Mahayana sector of Buddhism, practised in Burma, but not the Theravada sect in Thailand.

The Australian-based abbot, Phra Brahmvamso, a former Cambridge University physics graduate, had argued he had recovered religious teachings that allowed the ordination of women into Theravada Buddhism.

Phra Brahmvamso is reported to have trained for nine years under a well known monk at the Thai temple before establishing the Serpentine monastery.

In a statement on a Buddhist website,, the adviser, Somdet Phutthacham, dismissed a claim by the WA abbots that the Thai authorities had granted permission for the ordination to go ahead.

"I do not have the authority to allow anyone to ordain (women monks). Ajahn Brahmvamso is misrepresenting me based on his own understanding of my words," Phutthacham said.

"As Ajahn Brahmavamso and Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery have had their membership of the Wat Nong Pah Pong Sangha revoked, this constitutes the end of all their official links with Wat Nong Pah Pong. Whether Ajahn Brahmavamso decides to stay or leave Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery is now up to him," the statement read.

The adviser said monks living in Thailand or abroad had to follow the laws and rulings set down by the Thai Elders Council.

He also criticised the WA abbot for failing to follow the traditions set down under the Theravada sect that rules against the ordination of women into the monkhood.

Some 95 per cent of Thailand's 65 million population profess the Buddhist faith.