Proof of Purity?

Ajahn Jayasaro

Proof of Purity?

Although the number of Dhammayut monks was relatively small (it has never exceeded a tenth of the Sangha as a whole), the lineage’s close links to the royal family ensured that within a short time it possessed formidable prestige, influence and resources. King Chulalongkorn, King Mongkut’s son and successor, appointed Dhammayut monks to the top administrative positions in the monkhood throughout the country, using them both as agents of reform in the Sangha nation-wide and also politically, as an important tool in what has been referred to as Bangkok’s ‘colonization’ of the provinces. Unsurprisingly, since this new order was established as a specific response to the alleged corruption of the old, thus usurping much of its prestige, it provoked widespread resentment.

Although overt conflict between the two orders was rare, room for serious discord was not hard to find. The reformers’ view of the existing Sangha was a demeaning one. They held that a significant number of monks had, over the years, committed unconfessed expulsion offences. Consequently, as every Ordination ceremony in which those illegitimate monks had participated as members of the quorum were automatically rendered null and void, the existing lineage was irredeemably corrupt.

Serious doubts had to be entertained as to whether any of the members of the Mahānikāya were, technically speaking, monks at all. The Dhammayut movement began with King Mongkut requesting Ordination afresh – on this second occasion, from a quorum of Mon monks whom he believed to be ‘pure’ in Vinaya. This action set an important precedent. The new order was to define and legitimize itself by the asserted ritual correctness of its members’ formal entrance into the monkhood.

Critics might argue that there could be as little proof that the Mon lineage was historically pure, as there was that the Mahānikāya lineage was not. They might assert that reform from within would be more in line with the Vinaya and less threatening to the long-term harmony of the Sangha than the creation of a new order. But such voices were few, and the Dhammayut Order went from strength to strength.

This reflection by Ajahn Jayasaro is from the book, Stillness Flowing, (pdf) pp. 58-59.