By Sister Uppalavanna’s translation, to me it seems to imply that it is dwelling on the ideal of the Sangha rather than the actual Sangha (that is a community comprised of specific blameable and praiseworthy individuals) that generates mind-pleasantifying properties, but I do wonder if this is a stable interpretation and if it is, how exactly the mind-pleasantification process works in this set up.
For some reason when I clicked on the link I did not find the translation of that sutta. However, looking at the Pali it seems to me the sutta is very practical - how to identify a monk worthy of alms, concluding with the advice that giving to the sangha will brighten the citta and lead to a happy rebirth. What is the wording of the translation that suggests an ideal?
I would say that the implication of the descriptions of blameable and praiseworthy qualities suggests that you not settle for an ideal, but find yourself an actual real-life good monastic and put actual food in his/her bowl. I think, but this is just me, that what counts for brightening the mind is your own good intention. So if your monk turns out to be a bit lazy or whatever, that’s not so important as that you were supporting the good effort you saw at the time.
Going for refuge to the Sangha on the other hand, seems to me to require some abstraction. For me it’s about taking refuge in the fields of practice and friendliness. But maybe that is because I didn’t grow up in a Buddhist country where “the Sangha” was available right down the street.
The link wouldn’t have taken you directly to Sister Uppalavanna’s translation as it’s one of the off-site ones (here it is, #5).
Going by this version, I find it a bit difficult to agree with the idea of this sutta encouraging layfolk to find a ‘real-life good monastic’ as it’s very point seems to be that 1) because of the householder’s sense-pursuing distorted perception, and 2) the fact that there are well- and ill- practising mendicants all over the shop it’s basically impossible for one to determine who is and isn’t practising in a good way.
At the same time, I couldn’t agree more that what seems to be of paramount importance in this sutta is brightening the mind, and likewise think it is makes a lot of sense to link this to good intention. Sister Uppalavanna puts it as:
Householder, give gifts to the Community of bhikkhus and make your mind pleasant.
It is from this that I arrived at the idea of the ideal. There seems to be a very explicit connection between making the mind pleasant and giving to the Sangha, and if (for the reasons given above) it is not for the belief/knowledge that we are giving to those practising sincerely as we simple don’t know, then the only other option I can see left (in the context of this sutta) is that it is a more abstracted notion of the Sangha that is ‘inherently worthy’ of giving to that powers the gladdening of the mind.
As for the “taking refuge in the fields of practice and friendliness”, what a lovely thought-tool, many thanks.
There I highlighted fragment found in the Vinaya which shows the Buddha agreeing with the reasons put by Visākhā Migāramātā (aka Visākhā, Migāra’s mother) for the offering of an eightfold support to the Sangha at Sāvatthī.
In this case no need for abstraction around an ideal Sangha is needed. Just the certainty that bhikkhus will benefit from one’s generosity should be enough to get the joy-driven / joy-supported development of the awakening factors.
“But having what advantage in mind do you, Visākhā, ask the Tathāgata for eight boons?”
“If they say to me: ‘Sāvatthī was previously visited by this monk,’ I shall come to the conclusion that undoubtedly cloths for the rains or food for those coming in or food for those going out or food for the sick or food for those who tend the sick or medicines for the sick or a constant supply of conjey was enjoyed by this master.
On my calling that to mind, joy (pāmujja1) will arise in me;
from joy, rapture (pīti) will arise in me;
with a rapturous mind my body will be tranquil (passaddha);
with the body tranquil, I will experience pleasure (sukha);
because I will be feeling pleasure and ease, my mind will be still (samādhi);
by thus I will develop the five dominant factors or faculties (indriya)1
by thus I will develop the five strengths (bala)1
by thus I will develop the seven factors for Awakening (bojjhaṅga).
I, Lord, having this advantage in mind, am asking the Tathāgata for the eight boons.”
“It is very good, Visākhā, it is good that you, Visākhā, having this advantage in mind, are asking the Tathāgata for the eight boons. I allow you, Visākhā, the eight boons.” Source: https://suttacentral.net/en/pi-tv-kd8/280-
But if, householder, a forest monk is balanced (plus a whole lot of good qualities) … then on account of that he is praiseworthy.
And then it goes on with other kinds of monks, village monk, etc. but with the exact same list of qualities. So I am taking it as way to determine if a monk is worthy of gifts - not whether he is a forest monk or a village monk for instance, but whether he has the characteristics of someone sincerely practicing.
That said, now that I look, some of the items on the list are not necessarily that easy to spot since they are mental qualities. So maybe you are right. Maybe the point is that you should give and not worry overly about how worthy the recipient is. Or maybe it is a little of both! How to spot a worthy monastic, and an assurance that giving will benefit you regardless.
Here’s a nice sutta about the different intentions behind giving (ascending order):
I could be mistaken, but I think in the vinaya there are guidelines for receiving an offering, that a bhikkhu should receive with a mind of mettā. Speaking practically, I think there is a very clear difference in effects between giving a gift to an ungrateful person with a sour mind and one who is virtuous, happy, with a positive mind, shining.
@Suravira your translation - huge thanks - really casts things in a completely different light. “If” changes everything and I totally see why you initially said it was a straightforward, practical instruction.
However, having started to pull at the thread, I really am quite intrigued by what precisely (particularly, as per the texts) it is that’s meant to stimulate joy production in the act of giving to the Sangha. I think the post you’ve linked to @Gabriel_L may be marvellously helpful to that end (I did actually read it at the time, but am clearly suffering from a spat of sieve-brain) and it also clearly sets out the process of brightening the mind; much thanks for the reminder!
Referring to the Kd8 (PTS p.293-4) section you’ve highlighted, gnlaera, Visākhā, Migāra’s mother (who, I once heard someone explain, is actually supposed to be Migāra’s wife, but is thus called because she introduced Migāra to the Dhamma), explains:
“Now, Lord, monks who have passed the rains in (various) places will come to Sāvatthī so as to see the Lord; having approached the Lord, they will ask: ‘Lord, such and such a monk has passed away; what is his bourn, what his future state?’ The Lord will explain this saying: ‘It is in the fruit of stream-attaining or it is in the fruit of once-returning or it is in the fruit of not-returning or it is in the fruit of perfection.’ I, having approached these, will ask: ‘Honoured sirs, was Sāvatthī previously visited by this master?’
“If they say to me: ‘Sāvatthī was previously visited by this monk,’ I shall come to the conclusion that undoubtedly cloths for the rains or food for those coming in or food for those going out or food for the sick or food for those who tend the sick or medicines for the sick or a constant supply of conjey was enjoyed by this master. On my calling that to mind, delight will be born
The implication here seems to be that Visākhā’s delight (all the way up to the development of the bojjhangas) is generated by and based upon her sense of her own participation in renunciates attaining to stream-entry and beyond. By this case, the idea might be that in giving to the Sangha a layperson establishes their own quassi-link to supreme peace and it is that, that provokes great joy. The role the Sangha performs in the act of giving in this picture would perhaps be of a slightly symbolic nature that keeps a person connected to the ultimate goal and gladdened by their contribution to manifestations of this great potential.
At the same time, I think
is an excellently grounded and very helpful way to look at the question, my thanks to you, too. It also invites a little flip of emphasis to the end of also noting the difference in effects of a giver giving with a sour, or a happy mind which may, very entertainingly lead, back to the pickle of working out who is and isn’t ‘worth’ giving to. Doubt flavoured, hesitant giving probably isn’t quite as good a joy-maker as a giving born of security and the ease of confidence.
Fully agree. It is because of this that usually people say that helping with the requisite of lodgings (i.e. building kutis, viharas, etc) is one of the best bets for a layperson willing to practice generosity towards the Sangha.
The longer the buildings are preserved the higher the chance that someone may attain to some sort of fruition within and while enjoying the comfort and protection brought by it!
By coincidence I came by AN4.190 and trusting that Sister Uppalavanna (#10) is on the mark here there seems little doubt that you’re spot on! As you say though, particular by the indicators of a good community outlined in this one, there remains an intriguing question as to how to determine these things from an outside point of view.
It seems in AN4.190 the Buddha is using his knowledge from being the bhikkhus’ teacher to commend their progress and encourage them. I certainly can’t tell whether a monk can attain jhana by looking at him on alms round! Plus he is putting a bit of pressure on the monastic hearers of the sutta - you need to be worthy too! And here’s how - and it’s a pretty high bar. You know, as great as it would be to have the Buddha for a teacher, it would be pretty unnerving too!
Interesting! Never really thought of it that way - if anything considered that it might be taken as an expression of the sectarian rivalry, so to speak, oft hinted at.
Of course, declaring attainments outside of the sangha is prohibited, exactly for the reason of avoiding unduly extracting provisions from the lay community by showing off fancy-pants tricks, but I don’t know, maybe some Dulux colour chart system of robes can be adopted out of compassion for layfolk and their logic conundrum here.
I hadn’t thought of that! The country mouse and the city mouse - oops - I mean the forest monk and the city monk. It does seem to be saying that the concentration wallahs are the worthy ones - but what about the last paragraph? It’s describing arahants, but as those who have had the deepest insights into the four noble truths. I don’t know enough about the sectarian rivalries to know what the code-words are for describing their views. I should re-read Bhante Sujato’s History of Mindfulness.
Hmm. I’ve amused myself on retreats (when I should have been meditating) by imagining what colors the auras of those who have various attainments would be (if only I could see them). I rather fear that a robe-color system would prove divisive - though potentially aesthetically pleasing.
Ooooh and aura system! Or perhaps just a plain old badge stating “I am a verified source of joy”, kinda like being a registered electrician or something. Shucks, alright I conceded they’re entirely desperate proposals!
More seriously though, I remain a bit curious as to how the internal logic of the recommendation made in AN6.59 is meant to pan out: a person is to find mind brightening joy by giving to a robe-wearer who has made the breakthrough to one of the stages of awakening, or are on the way to doings so. However, said person is in no position to make an assessment of who has/is on account of having a sense-desire addled mind, and that all but two (being sportive & not loose in speech) of the qualities that one might make an assessment by cannot be observed.
I suppose, to put it frankly, in the context of these times, this world and my location in it, it’s a bit of a stretch to me to find something stable enough in this guidance to offer a solid basis for joy and instead highlights the opportunities for doubt and its associated miserable agitation. At my end it’s all the more tricky as I’ve always found it a bit counter intuitive to link the joy of giving to the recipient rather than the act and spirit of giving itself. At the same time, the Buddha seems pretty clear about on point (AN8.34 sets it out well) and the ‘field of merit’ thing is obviously found all over the place.
Trying to develop a meaningful route into the teaching here, I find that the only thing I feel sturdy or trustable enough to be a genuine source of joy is the notion of nobility or the resolute intention towards it.
I’m totally with you on it’s being counter intuitive to find the joy in the worthiness of the recipient. What gives me joy is supporting and encouraging someone trying to wake up and help others to wake up. Actually the joy in giving is selfless - no giver, no recipient, just the field of beautiful intention which benefits everyone.
Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than myself can chime in and correct me if I’m mistaken, but I think the word “Arahant” is usually translated as meaning “worthy one”. Worthy of what? respect, veneration, gifts?
In chanting/recitation practice of the Thai forest tradition there are the ‘9 virtues of the sangha’:
of good conduct is the Blessed One’s order (of monastics)
of upright conduct is the Blessed One’s order
of wise conduct is the Blessed One’s order
of dutiful conduct is the Blessed One’s order
that is — the four pairs of persons, the eight individuals (4 stages of awakening, path and fruition of each)
this, is the Blessed One’s order (of disciples)
worthy of offerings, worthy of hospitality, worthy of gifts, worthy of veneration
an incomparable field of merits in the world
I think this expresses one sense of what worthiness is. Those who have developed to some stage of awakening, are most worthwhile to support in every way. If the monastic sangha, and even moreso the ariya sangha were unsupported what would happen to the Buddha sāsana?
I must say I’ve also experienced some hesitation towards what sometimes seems to be saying “step over and push out of the way drug-addict beggars, insane beggars, or the otherwise needy in a desparate rush to give to the ariya sangha”. To reiterate what I said earlier, I think that in terms of conditioning the mind and providing positive feedback to the development of virtue it is much more beneficial to give in person to the virtuous (or at least those who seem virtuous). I would think a person conditioned by the joy in such an act would be more likely to give to those less virtuous and in general be a better person. In other words, giving to the virtous is a more powerful mental conditioner.
So we have the Buddha in different places sometimes saying it’s about the giving intention; and sometimes saying it’s about supporting the highest ideal of practice, the ariya sangha. Perhaps there is no conflict between the two. That among recipients, the most karmically fruitful to give to are the ariya sangha; and that among the intentions for giving, that the purest is to beautify and adorn the mind (“bling” for the mind so to speak).
I think @Suravira 's insight is correct in saying that in this sutta it’s more about the internal intention behind giving. Don’t worry so much about who is truly worthy that you neglect the internal quality of your mind.
Isn’t that exactly what charity towards those developed (or developing) further along the path than oneself is all about? As an external expression of that same goal within oneself?
Agreed! But that was never in question. The trouble at hand is that those of us with a defiled mind have no way of recognising who has made the breakthrough, and those is earnestly committed to doing so if they haven’t yet. The matter (fundamentally anchored to the initially referenced sutta) doesn’t concern whether or not it is worth giving to ‘worthy’ ones (that is assumed), but rather how a person can know they they are giving to such an individual when 1) they are perpetually drunk on their own mental disturbances and 2) the are those who wear robes and practice in a bad way (recognised as existing in the Buddha’s time, and I don’t think the picture has got any better since).
Right up to the bracketed note, again we’re in full agreement. However, once the bracketed caveat is introduced the I think its power for cultivating wholesome mental qualities can be significantly diminished and even tip over to being a negative force if doubts start to brew over the virtue of the recipient (this point is entirely mitigated if we say what we are giving to is the principle of virtue as merely represented by the robe-wearer and the actual virtue of the recipient is the recipient’s own concern).
I don’t believe there’s any conflict at all between these two things, but rather that they are entirely complementary. So far as I recall from the relevant suttas I’ve come across (in fact, I think it’s also in the one you linked above) the highest intention for giving is to brighten the mind. The Kd8 text clearly links giving to the awakened ones and gladdening the mind.
Again, there’s really at the heart of the question, if the Buddha is saying it’s about the ideal of practice, wonderful, the issue is completely resolved. But, as I read it, it kinda looks like he’s saying it is the actual, specific people who have awoken, or are on the straight and narrow towards awakening through which the mental benefits come about. It is in this respect that room for doubt arises as, well… who knows about this person or that?
That’s an image I’m not going to be able to get out of my mind anytime soon. I’m not 100% that’s the best way to brighten my mind. Although… it is very shiny. Maybe it’ll work.
Quite so. Very much! However, in no way to negate the point, this inquiry has come out of trying to understand and make relevant a teaching given by the canonical Buddha. It is the text itself (and there are others) that highlight the legitimacy of the question of how to know (to have trust, to have stable grounds from which gladness can spring) that one is giving to (and relatedly, taking instruction from) one who is worthy.
By my thus far understanding of the texts, I’d say, yes - see the post above re the Kd8 text where a similar conclusion is drawn.
Ahhh ok, due to my own defilements I couldn’t grasp what the question even was, haha.
Yea, that’s a good question in general. I think it would take a long time observing a suspected awakened one’s behavior for any clue of lust or ill-will/anger. Maybe even testing them by trying to make them angry. Personally, one of my favorite monks nearby is one who I’ve never seen get angry when there have been plenty of situations that would’ve driven others to some degree of frustration.
There’s got to be a sutta about how to assess the qualities of a good monastic, no?
Brilliant! Hilarious as it is, I’m pretty sure such a plan would stray a little from the intention of safeguarding my own mind.
I think MN47 is the most comprehensive thing I’ve come across, although it’s method is not just for assessing a monastic, but a Tathāgata! It would also cover an arahant and probably stretch to someone who’s made the breakthrough.
However, here our ‘threshold’ is just someone who is rightly intent on the goal and so when eg. in step 1 the recommendation is to check for defiled states that can be detected by eye and ear, I think uncertainty arises again as defilement appearing in one who has not uprooted greed, hatred and delusion is basically a given, but by no means should be taken as an indicator of insincere practice. I truly love how making mistakes is incorporated in the teaching, and how it’s only the most coarse behaviour that will actually get a person kicked out of the order - it is after all a training.
Oh and by the way, as stated we have to do all of our assessing work through the fog of our own delusion… can we be certain that we observed questionable behaviour rather than projected questionable behaviour?
Saying all that, I do think you’re suggestion of checking for signs of lust and ill-will/anger is quite right (and also totally inline with MN47) and the only practical method available.