When the Starbucks employee hands me the muffin (between dawn and noon), it’s at that time the muffin gets offered, “vinaya-legally.”
What I am saying is if I give your a gift card today and you use it tomorrow, it is illegal.
If you offer me food between dawn and noon, and I don’t “relinquish ownership” of it before noon, that’s “vinaya illegal”. But a gift card is not food. A gift card is a gift card. I might also decide to redeem credit at Starbucks for, say, a travel coffee mug, which is not food. So you cannot equate the gift card and food.
I think monks are allowed to keep only ten items.
You can’t keep even a mobile phone.
Again I am not blaming the monks who keep many items which may be required for a modern monk.
What I am saying is we should not try to justify them.
Person who break the precept knowingly is more admirable than a person who break precepts unknowingly.
A monk could technically have a credit card or debit card in their posession, but at the momemnt of actually using them to buy something, they commit NP 19 (see pg. 208 in BMC 1).
Also note how credit cards and debit cards are not “locked” to one particular store (or franchise), whereas a gift card is.
Care to prove that in either the Patimokkha, or Suttavibhanga (which makes up the Vinaya in my tradition)?
BTW: good luck surviving as an Independant monk these days (at least in the Western world, or countries which are not primarily Buddhist) with no smartphone. I held out as long as I absolutely could (which was 3 months ago).
I may be wrong.
Perhaps the minimum ten items.
I still feel there are some restriction of owning things.
There are monks in Sri Lanka who work on paid employments (teaching Buddhism in schools) and have chauffeur driven cars etc.
What I am talking about is a monk who really strive to realise Nibbana.
See pg. 193 in BMC 1 (starting at "Non-monetary funds for…"), for a list of “other articles that a bhikkhu consummate in virtue does not receive.”
So I’m allowed to own, say, a travel coffee mug, but no female slaves (that was meant to be humorous).
Edit: I also recall mention somewhere or other (maybe in BMC 2) that any sort of weapon (like a gun, sword or spear) is something not even to be touched by a Bhikkhu (or a dukkhata is incurred), much less owned.
The ideal possessions of the bhikkhu are just his basic requisites: three main robes (described in the following section); alms bowl; waistband; needle and thread; razor and water filter.
It is indeed ideal to own that little, however it is not vinaya-illegal to own more than that, as long as you don’t own the above-mentioned “adhammic” (“not-dhammic”) things, nor “gold and silver” as mentioned in NP 18.
As I understand it, the distinction between a gift card and a credit card is this.
When you pay for something with a credit card, you are ordering the transfer of money. The person receiving the money won’t relinquish what they have until they are confident the money has been or will be transferred.
But with a gift card, the money has already been transferred. The donor has given the money to the final recipient. So when you get a coffee, no money changes hands, only a cup of coffee. The gift card merely acts as a record of a transaction that has already been made.
This is essentially similar to the case allowed in the Vinaya where a donor makes an arrangement with a robe shop, paying for cloth to be prepared for a monastic, which they can later obtain.
Personally I find the drinking of Starbucks more problematic than the transfer of funds.
While the context of a coffee card seems a little trivial (to some, anyway) there are much more significant examples, most obviously use of public transport. Having a card you can swipe to catch trains and so on is fantastic—something I appreciate more than ever after spending some time in Hong Kong, which has the best public transport I’ve ever seen.
Thank you for the clarification, Ajahn. In light of that, it occurred to me that my bitcoin-programmed-to-be-locked-to-one-store idea (above) couldn’t be used like a gift card could. Why? Because the “currency” (or what is tantamount to currency) would transact at the time of spending the bitcoin-programmed-to-be-locked-to-one-store, not at the time of programming said bitcoin to be “locked” to one store.
PS: I drink like one Starbucks coffee per year.
Right, it has to be prepaid.
As to whether bitcoin qualifies as money, that is a separate question. I’m not sure that it does, although it feels like it should.
In any case, the whole bitcoin-o-sphere is so messed up right now that it’s basically failed for what it was meant for, a medium of exchange, and has morphed into a get-rich-quick scheme. Now that the Chinese government is getting out of the biz, who knows what will happen.
IMHO, a phone is a luxury, compared with food, clothes and other basic essentials. A wandering ascetic with nothing more than a bowl and a robe can survive in India - the general mindset of the lay populace still venerates the saffron cloth. One can spend the entirety of life in the Ganges valley, starting from Haridwar, Rishikesh and moving on upto Uttarkashi, Gangotri etc. People would give you food, shelter with absolutely no concern about what doctrine or creed you hold dear. All they would see is a seeker and they would share the little they have, even though their own lives may be mired in poverty and hardship. Some pilgrims walk barefoot all the way from Rishikesh to Gaumukh (they call it yatra) with a staff and a bowl. Things have changed from the time of Buddha, but a humble ascetic still invokes veneration in people.
In case food is a problem, there are places like these:
What about a monk living in Australia?
What if a monk receive a gift card for a super market?
He can give the gift card to someone else for exchange of something else.
If he trades it for money it is an offence. But if he redeems it for its intended purpose, it isn’t.
Why cant we apply the same rule to money?
I’m not sure what you mean, this is precisely what the rule is about. If you use money, or order it to be transferred, it is an offence. If someone else uses money, and you provide evidence that that money has been used, there is no offence.
Maybe some innate goodness will arise in people and the monk would be helped by the laity. But I agree, things would be different.
Substitute gift card for the money:
The rule about a bhikkhu not accepting money came to be made when Ven. Upananda went to visit his regular supporters on alms round. The meat that had been set aside for him that morning had instead been given to the family’s hungry son. The householder wished to give something else to make up for it and asked what he could offer to the value of a Dollar coin. Ven. Upananda inquired if he was making a gift of a (one dollar gift card) kahaapana coin to him, and then took the (gift card) money away. Lay people were disgusted with this, saying, “Just as we lay people accept (gift cards) money, so too do these Buddhist monks!.”