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How to hold a broom?

Hey SC,

I was wondering if there is a prescribed way of holding a broom in the Vinaya or other texts?

And if so please provide the text.

With Metta
Ven. Viccagaro

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hatthehi, presumably :upside_down_face:

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@Brahmali any info on this?

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"What is the right way to hold a broom?"

That’s the kind of question that could lead to Enlightenment

Then the Exalted One took Cūḍapanthaka by the hand, returned with him to the vihāra and had him sitting down on the spot and holding a bamboo broom, saying to him, “What do you call this object? Pronounce the word for it.”

Now Cūḍapanthaka managed to pronounce “bamboo”, but he could not remember the word “broom”, and while he managed to pronounce “broom”, he forgot the word “bamboo”.

Venerable Cūḍapanthaka continued enunciating “bamboo broom” for several days. Consequently the defects in his pronouncing “bamboo broom” were gone, and he thought to himself, “What is this dispelling like, and what are defects like?

I wish you much luck on your search Venerable!! :anjal: :smiley:

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If the broom handle is made of fresh green bamboo that might conceivably be eaten if boiled long enough, then one probably shouldn’t hold the broom in one’s teeth during the vikāla.

But seriously, the Vinaya Piṭaka doesn’t actually contain any ordinances governing how brooms are to be held, but only a clause making brooms allowable for bhikkhus and directives on the occasions when sweeping should be done.

As for the Vinaya Atthakathā (Samantapāsādikā), its commentary on pācittiya 10 (the prohibition against digging the earth) states that it’s improper to use a broom for earth-levelling:

Visamabhūmiṃ samaṃ karissāmīti sammuñjaniyā ghaṃsitumpi na vaṭṭati.
(Vin-a. iv 757)

Then there are several clauses relating to the storage of brooms, including a quotation from the Mahāpaccarī making it a dukkaṭa offence to leave one out in the open if one knows that it’s going to rain.

There is also mention of two kinds of brooms: the muṭṭhisammuñjanī (“fist-broom”) which is short, and the yaṭṭhisammuñjanī (“staff-broom”) which is long. The commentary to the Cūḷavagga’s Senāsanaggāhakathā contains the instruction that in the run-up to vassa the bhikkhus who plan to reside together should be told to make both types of broom for themselves. If there’s a plentiful supply of broom-making materials, then each bhikkhu should make 5-6 muṭṭhisammuñjanīs and 2-3 yaṭṭhisammuñjanīs. But if supplies are scarce, then they should economize, limiting themselves to just 2-3 muṭṭhisammuñjanīs and one yaṭṭhisammuñjanī:

Vassūpagatehi antovasse nibaddhavattaṃ ṭhapetvā vassūpagatā bhikkhū ‘sammuñjaniyo bandhathā’ ti vattabbā. Sulabhā ce daṇḍakā ceva salākāyo ca honti, ekekena cha pañca muṭṭhisammuñjaniyo, dve tisso yaṭṭhisammuñjaniyo vā bandhitabbā. Dullabhā ce honti, dve tisso muṭṭhisammuñjaniyo ekā yaṭṭhisammuñjanī bandhitabbā.
(Vin-a. vi 1231)

There are no directives, however, as to how either kind of broom ought to be held. From the phrase ekena hatthena muṭṭhisammuñjaniṃ ādāya in the Dhammapada Atthakathā (Dh-a. ii 184) we may infer that a broom of this type would normally be wielded with just one hand, but there isn’t any Vinaya requirement to do so. I would guess it was probably an Indian version of one of these:

mutthi

As for the yaṭṭhisammuñjanī, the word yaṭṭhi (‘staff’ or ‘pole’) in its name probably suggests something like one of these:

yatthi

In which case one would necessarily have to use two hands on account of its weight and length. But here too there’s no Vinaya requirement to do so.

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One other thing that comes to mind is the Visuddhimagga’s account of how to diagnose people’s character type (carita) so as to give them an appropriate meditation subject. One of the methods Buddhaghosa reports (though he doesn’t himself approve of it) is to observe how they go about their daily activities. Including how they wield a broom:

“One of greedy temperament grasps the broom well, and he sweeps cleanly and evenly without hurrying or scattering the sand, as if he were strewing sinduvāra flowers.
One of hating temperament grasps the broom tightly, and he sweeps uncleanly and unevenly with a harsh noise, hurriedly throwing up the sand on each side.
One of deluded temperament grasps the broom loosely, and he sweeps neither cleanly nor evenly, mixing the sand up and turning it over.”

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This is amazingly arbitrary! :sweat_smile:

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Since it’s a diagnostic system that Buddhaghosa doesn’t approve of, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of there being an element of humorous caricature in his representation of it. Especially in his account of that unfortunate wretch, the mohacarita:

One of deluded temperament spreads his bed all awry and sleeps mostly face downwards with his body sprawling. When woken, he gets up slowly, saying, “Hum.”

One of deluded temperament has no settled choice. When eating, he makes a small un-rounded lump, and as he eats he drops bits into his dish, smearing his face, with his mind astray, thinking of this and that.

When one of deluded temperament sees any sort of visible object, he copies what others do: if he hears others criticizing, he criticizes; if he hears others praising, he praises; but actually he feels equanimity in himself—the equanimity of unknowing.

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That’s very interesting, Bhante. It’s easy to overlook!

Vism III.96. However, these directions for recognizing the temperaments have not been handed
down in their entirety in either the texts or the commentaries; they are only expressed
according to the opinion of the teachers and cannot therefore be treated as authentic.
For even those of hating temperament can exhibit postures, etc., ascribed to the greedy
temperament when they try diligently. And postures, etc., never arise with distinct
characteristics in a person of mixed temperament. Only such directions for recognizing
temperament as are given in the commentaries should be treated as authentic; for this
is said: “A teacher who has acquired penetration of minds will know the temperament
and will explain a meditation subject accordingly; one who has not should question
the pupil.” So it is by penetration of minds or by questioning the person, that it can be
known whether he is one of greedy temperament or one of those beginning with
hating temperament.

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Dear @faujidoc1 Thanks for that sutta, it’s fabulous :smiley:

Could you briefly say where the ekottarikāgama falls within the EBT’s.

I have long felt that the Path is characterised by realisations of ‘absence’, and this sutta puts it so beautifully :pray:

Added: I just found the answer my question The EA is the Chinese equivalent of the AN :slight_smile: But I can’t find it in the AN - Does it appear there as well?

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Yes, it’s quite extraordinary how many readers of the Visuddhimagga manage to completely overlook the passage you quote. And I don’t just mean the usual culprits (Tricycle columnists, Spirit Rock teachers, Amaravati monks, and suchlike) but even writers whom you’d expect to be careful textualists. In North American Buddhist studies you’ll even find peer-reviewed academic papers in which the carita-diagnostic methods are represented as something that Buddhaghosa advocated, rather than merely reported.

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Culapanthaka appears in the Pali EBT canon too… he was a monk who had literally zero theoretical knowledge, but whose practical ability was off the charts! as was his steadfastness. The EA story of the broom is probably drawn from the venerable’s own account of his awakening.

IMO, the real lesson here is that anything can be an opening to Enlightenment… what is necessary is proper attention, mindfulness and persistent investigation with equanimity (one should definitely not get sidetracked by Mara!). :anjal:

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I believe the story of the bhikkhu who quit sweeping has been posted here before, but it may be worth a re-run for any ergasiophobes or eutaxophobes who missed it the first time.

The Monk with a Broom

  1. He who, heedless before…

This religious instruction was given by the Teacher while he was in residence at Jetavana with reference to Elder Sammuñjani.

Elder Sammuñjani, it appears, went about sweeping continually, both in the morning and in the afternoon, taking no account whatever of the time. One day he took his broom, went to the cell where Elder Revata spent the day, and found him sitting there as usual. Thereupon he thought to himself, “This great idler enjoys the pious offerings of the faithful, and then returns and sits in his cell. Why should he not take a broom and sweep at least one room?”

Elder Revata thought to himself, “I will give him an admonition.” So he said to him, “Come here, brother.” “What is it, Reverend Sir?” “Go and bathe and then return to me.” Elder Sammunjani did so.

On his return he seated himself respectfully beside Elder Revata, who thereupon admonished him as follows, “Brother, a monk ought not to go about sweeping all the time. Early in the morning he should of course sweep the rooms, and then he should go forth for alms. Returning from his alms-pilgrimage, he should enter the monastery, seat himself either in the night-quarters or in the day-quarters, and rehearse the Thirty-two Constituent Parts of the Body, grasping firmly the thought of the perishableness of the body. In the evening he should rise from his seat and sweep the rooms again. But he should not spend the whole day sweeping; rather should he allow himself a certain amount of leisure,” Elder Sammuñjani adhered scrupulously to the admonition of Elder Revata, and in no long time attained Arahatship.

After that, however, all the rooms remained full of rubbish. Therefore the monks said to Elder Sammuñjani, “Brother, all the rooms remain full of rubbish; why do you not sweep them?”

“Reverend Sirs, I used to do that in the days when I was heedless; now, however, I have become heedful.”

The monks reported the matter to the Teacher, saying, “This Elder does one thing and says another.”

But the Teacher replied, “Monks, my son the Elder spoke the truth; formerly, in the days of his heedlessness, my son spent the whole time sweeping, but now he spends his time in the enjoyment of the bliss of the Paths and the Fruits, and therefore sweeps no more.”

So saying, he pronounced the following Stanza:

"He who, heedless before, heedless is no more,
Illumines this world as does the moon freed from a cloud."
(172)

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Indeed he does, but to my knowledge the story with the broom does not. However his conversation with the Buddha that led to his enlightenment does:

It’s quite famous, but it involves a cloth.

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I don’t mention this story to talk about myself, because there’s nothing more boring than someone talking about themselves. But, on the subject of brooms and sweeping, I thought back to when I was allowed to ordain as a samanera in Fang, Chiang Mai, Thailand. The ordination was very solemn and important to me, and when it was over and I was in robes, there was this moment in my mind of “what to do next?” What occurred to me was to pick up a broom, and just start sweeping the wat grounds. It was my way to express gratitude to the abbot, and to perhaps reflect that, for me, the ordination was about being of service. I didn’t want congratulations, or to celebrate. I just wanted to get to the practice of being mindful and being of service to these kind and generous Thai friends and families that were supportive of all of us that ordained that day. So, the Thai wat broom has a very special significance to me.

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It’s a symbol of humility and service to me too. Another remembered story of the same country, but one in which the sadhus go not to myself:

A taxi driver picked me up from a Bangkok hotel, no doubt expecting to drive me to a well-known attraction. Instead I passed him a slip of paper with an address written on it in Thai. He looked extremely doubtful, but eventually was persuaded to set off, and after a very long time in BKK traffic we left the city behind. We reached a certain village and he asked me if this was the right place. I indicated that I had no idea at all, and that he should trust the slip of paper. He got out and found a local to engage in discussion and received some sort of reassurance. A couple of km outside the village we drew up outside a monastery, and I got my bag and offered him the fare. He declined it and indicated that he’d watch my bag while I went and investigated, that I could pay him later. My tourist mind told me that here was a man grasping at a large double fare.

When I came back accompanied by the nun who was to show me where to sleep, I saw that he had got out of his taxi, found a broom somewhere, and was humbly sweeping the driveway outside the monastery. Clearing the road and his mind at the same time. :heart:

(I felt ashamed of my cynicism and absolutely trusted that he would return in the middle of the night to take me to the nearby airport a couple of weeks later. He did indeed do this with no reminder, and I caught my flight back to work. :pray: )

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This is such a beautiful story, Gillian. Glad that you were in BKK and glad you were able to find the monastery. The Thais are not perfect, but they are amazing people. I went to Thailand over 10 years ago for the first time, and went back every year since. I now have a home there. That western “tourist mind” is hardwired, and I go to Thailand almost to periodically inoculate myself against all that is American, all that is western, and cynical, and hurried, and greedy. Lovely stories like yours today remind why I have such respect and love for the Thai people.

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I was swept away this morning when I found this video…

Overthinking is a problem many people are now facing more and more. There are both positives and negatives to living in a capitalist world; however, a big side effect is having an active mind. Because of its nature, the mind is always wandering and very active. The issue then becomes - how do you turn in off? Here at Papae in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the monks make it a daily practice to get out in nature and work with their hands. They switch off the intellectual part and allows the mind to rest. This is one of our solution to overthinking and having an active mind. When one gets out in nature, slowly the mind begins to settle. Nature automatically course corrects.

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I see what you did there :joy_cat:

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