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Looking for a sutta about wise monks retreating to remote places when they are outnumbered

As titled.

Iirc the text is in the Anguttara but i am not sure.

I think it says that when then the righteous monks are outnumbered they retreat to remote forests & mountains.

Thanks.

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AN 2.39 When bandits are strong, kings are weak, etc.

The good monks are silent in the sangha or leave for outlying regions.

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Thanks, an2.39 it is

…at a time when bad mendicants are strong, good-hearted mendicants are weak. Then the good-hearted mendicants continually adhere to silence in the midst of the Saṅgha, or they stay in the borderlands. This is for the hurt and unhappiness of the people, for the harm, hurt, and suffering of many people, of gods and humans.

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It sounds like an2.39 is not saying wise monks should retreat to remote places… it says that is a bad thing to do. “This is for the hurt and unhappiness of the people…”

Then the good-hearted mendicants continually adhere to silence in the midst of the Saṅgha, or they stay in the borderlands. This is for the hurt and unhappiness of the people, for the harm, hurt, and suffering of many people, of gods and humans.

It is when the bad mendicants leave (and good mendicants stay), where it is good for the community:

Then the bad mendicants continually adhere to silence in the midst of the Saṅgha, or they leave for some place or other. This is for the welfare and happiness of the people, for the benefit, welfare, and happiness of gods and humans.

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It isn’t about what the monks should do, it’s much moreso the case that monks must do it, out of self-preservation (as the corrupt monks know what they can get away with, and can effectively punish, out of the sight of laypeople, any upstart monks who challenge them).
Although clearly an unideal situation, self-preservation (escaping corrupt monks) outweighs bringing corrupt monks to justice. This sutta carefully and diplomatically reveals this dynamic as existing, without saying too much. These unfortunate sociological patterns, where the politically strong monks prey on the politically weak, (which will also be found in any other long-standing, relatively wealthy, institutionalized religion you care to examine closely enough - not to mention, in the societies of gorillas, orangutans, bonobos and chimpanzees), are also explained in several other fields of study as well. Don’t get me started… :wink:

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The point was that staying silent or retreating from corruption leads to “the hurt and unhappiness of the people”… it is bad for the entire community. Whether staying silent or retreating are the only options, could surely be debated.

Isn’t Buddhism about getting rid of attachments like self-preservation?

I think this sutta is saying that if we want to continue practicing, we must do it away from corruption (or just stay silent and ignore them). If we spend all day engaging in debates with corrupt monks, we are not practicing the dhamma.

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Yes. Please convince the corrupt monks of this. Thanks.

Just because someone acts out of physical and psychological self-preservation, doesn’t necessarily mean they are unwholesomely attached to self-preservation (you know, the egotistical kind of self-preservation). They would simply rather not be unjustly abused.

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If they stayed it would lead to more hurt for everyone because if the good monks allow themselves to be abused then they are disturbed from training themselves and the bad monks make even more demerit in harassing the good monks and thus preventing the human generation from developing good qualities.

If people are abusing you in their general bewilderment and you can not restrain them then you should obviously get out of the way as to not enable the abuse.

Is it better that the bad monks kill the good monks or is it better that the good monks leave? In which of the two cases do the good monks truly disappear?

The bad monks are dangerous, you should not underestimate the evil thinking that it is a trifle, thinking they won’t assinate the good ones, even the Buddha had attempts on his life.

Here is an example of good monks becoming silent;

There Venerable Sāriputta addressed the mendicants:

“Reverends, take a mendicant who is accomplished in ethics, immersion, and wisdom. They might enter into and emerge from the cessation of perception and feeling. That is possible. If they don’t reach enlightenment in this very life, then, surpassing the company of gods that consume solid food, they’re reborn in a certain host of mind-made gods. There they might enter into and emerge from the cessation of perception and feeling. That is possible.”

When he said this, Venerable Udāyī said to him, “This is not possible, Reverend Sāriputta, it cannot happen!”

But for a second … and a third time Sāriputta repeated his statement.

And for a third time, Udāyī said to him, “This is not possible, Reverend Sāriputta, it cannot happen!”

Then Venerable Sāriputta thought, “Venerable Udāyī disagrees with me three times, and not one mendicant agrees with me. Why don’t I go to see the Buddha?”

Then Sāriputta went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to the mendicants:

“Reverends, take a mendicant who is accomplished in ethics, immersion, and wisdom. They might enter into and emerge from the cessation of perception and feeling. There is such a possibility. If they don’t reach enlightenment in this very life, they’re reborn in the company of a certain host of mind-made gods, who surpass the gods that consume solid food. There they might enter into and emerge from the cessation of perception and feeling. That is possible.”

When he said this, Udāyī said to him, “This is not possible, Reverend Sāriputta, it cannot happen!”

But for a second … and a third time Sāriputta repeated his statement.

And for a third time, Udāyī said to him, “This is not possible, Reverend Sāriputta, it cannot happen!”

Then Venerable Sāriputta thought, “Even in front of the Buddha Venerable Udāyī disagrees with me three times, and not one mendicant agrees with me. I’d better stay silent.” Then Sāriputta fell silent.

Then the Buddha said to Venerable Udāyī, “But Udāyī, do you believe in a mind-made body?”

“For those gods, sir, who are formless, made of perception.”

“Udāyī, what has an incompetent fool like you got to say? How on earth could you imagine you’ve got something worth saying!”

Then the Buddha said to Venerable Ānanda, “Ānanda! There’s a senior mendicant being harassed, and you just watch it happening. Don’t you have any compassion for a senior mendicant who is being harassed?”

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Well that escalated quickly…

I was thinking more that the meetings had probably became something like this:

[Chaotic parish council zoom meeting goes viral - YouTube](https://Chaotic parish council zoom meeting goes viral)

But yes, maybe assassination would be the next stage.

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I was just trying to draw out the most extreme circumstance as to show him the logic behind the strategic retreat of the good monks.

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I feel like you are completely ignoring the part about staying silent… the sutta definitely does not say the only option is to run away. It also does not talk about murder… you are really stretching this sutta into saying things that it does not say.

I believe the part about monks staying silent leading to bad outcomes is the point of the sutta. It does not say monks must retreat (there is no word “must”, “should” or any of that). But, it does say if/when they retreat, it will be bad for the entire community.

Doesn’t this sutta imply that monks should NOT stay silent when being harassed by bad mendicants?

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There are many other suttas that should, IMHO, be read in conjunction with this one above, to paint a larger picture of what the Buddha did say on these sorts of highly-nuanced, hard-to-summarize matters, of how the monks should and should not reprimand each other, or should and should not stay with each other.

Some examples: MN 17, AN 5.167, AN 5.103, MN 103, MN 108, AN 1.320-332, AN 2.42-44, AN 2.47-49, AN 2.63, AN 3.27, AN 3.78, AN 3.101, AN 4.100, AN 5.83, AN 5.106, AN 5.115, AN 5.224, AN 8.10

So in summary, one shouldn’t make assumptions, and one should do one’s homework by reading the EBT’s, before drawing conclusions about what the Buddha very likely authentically did and did not say.

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Those who witness a senior monk being abused should not stay silent.

The monk being abused should stay silent if he has been harassed three times and nobody defends him. Note it isn’t Sariputta who is being rebuked.

Did you read the text?

The point is clearly that the monk’s retreating & staying silent is the consequence of the bad monks being strong.

Therefore the root cause of the bad situation is the circumstance of the power balance.

There is an analogy to people not being at ease when the land is overrun by bandits, the bandits being strong whilst he King is weak.

Being forced to retreat and being silent is what happens when the bad monks are strong, it is the consequence of bad monks gaining power and a weakening of the good ones.

This is like the rise of crime & unease of the kingdom is a consequence of the bandits being strong whilst the king is weak & unable to protect the householders & merchants.

Your argument is parallel to saying that a weak king should fight off the strong bandits so that people can be happy. He would if he could…

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Are you sure this is the effect and not the cause of “bad monks being strong”?

How did the bad monks get strong unless the good monks remained silent or left on retreat?

According to the second part of the sutta, if the good monks had not stayed silent or retreated, then the sanga would not be corrupt… is this the chicken or the egg? Which came first?

I believe the cause of the corruption is the good monks staying silent, not the other way around, as you see it.

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That is not what the text says.

The text says that when bad monks are strong the good monks retreat.

It doesn’t say that the bad monks are strong because the good ones retreat.

That’s like saying

When it rains people tend to take out their umbrellas.

It doesn’t infer that it rains because people take out the umbrellas.

You are free to make that inference if you want.

Furthermore the good monks are per definition flawless, therefore they are ‘good monks’ but you are assigning them blame for unhappiness of many as if you know better what good monks should do.

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It says:

at a time when good-hearted mendicants are strong, bad mendicants are weak.

Doesn’t this imply that the way to ensure that bad mendicants are weak (and do not take over and corrupt the sanga), is to make sure good-hearted mendicants are strong, do not retreat, and do not stay silent?

How did the sanga become corrupt if the good-hearted mendicants were strong?

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Many people wanted to ordain and Sangha expanded. People that joined needed training and were delusional by default. It is not easy to do the training and many newcomers had bad behavior because they were untrained. For this reason rules were established to protect the good monks and as to restrain the bad monks.

“Venerable sir, what is the reason, what is the cause, why formerly there were fewer training rules but more bhikkhus were established in final knowledge, while now there are more training rules but fewer bhikkhus are established in final knowledge?”

“It is not the earth element, Kassapa, that causes the true Dhamma to disappear, nor the water element, nor the heat element, nor the air element. It is the senseless people who arise right here who cause the true Dhamma to disappear.

“The true Dhamma does not disappear all at once in the way a ship sinks. [313] There are, Kassapa, five detrimental things [314] that lead to the decay and disappearance of the true Dhamma. What are the five? Here the bhikkhus, the bhikkhunīs, the male lay followers, and the female lay followers dwell without reverence and deference towards the Teacher; they dwell without reverence and deference towards the Dhamma; they dwell without reverence and deference towards the Saṅgha; they dwell without reverence and deference towards the training; they dwell without reverence and deference towards concentration. [315] These, Kassapa, are the five detrimental things that lead to the decay and disappearance of the true Dhamma.

The Blessed One has pointed out five perils that are a cause of corruption

What five? In a future time there will be mendicants who have not developed their physical endurance, ethics, mind, and wisdom. They will ordain others, but be unable to guide them in the higher ethics, mind, and wisdom. They too will not develop their physical endurance, ethics, mind, and wisdom. They too will ordain others, but be unable to guide them in the higher ethics, mind, and wisdom. They too will not develop their physical endurance, ethics, mind, and wisdom. And that is how corrupt training comes from corrupt teachings, and corrupt teachings come from corrupt training. This is the first future peril that has not currently arisen, but will arise in the future …

Furthermore, in a future time there will be mendicants who have not developed their physical endurance, ethics, mind, and wisdom. They will give dependence to others, but be unable to guide them in the higher ethics, mind, and wisdom. They too will not develop their physical endurance, ethics, mind, and wisdom. They too will give dependence to others, but be unable to guide them in the higher ethics, mind, and wisdom. They too will not develop their physical endurance, ethics, mind, and wisdom. And that is how corrupt training comes from corrupt teachings, and corrupt teachings come from corrupt training. This is the second future peril that has not currently arisen, but will arise in the future …

Furthermore, in a future time there will be mendicants who have not developed their physical endurance, ethics, mind, and wisdom. In discussion about the teachings and classifications they’ll fall into dark ideas without realizing it. And that is how corrupt training comes from corrupt teachings, and corrupt teachings come from corrupt training. This is the third future peril that has not currently arisen, but will arise in the future …

Furthermore, in a future time there will be mendicants who have not developed their physical endurance, ethics, mind, and wisdom. When discourses spoken by the Realized One—deep, profound, transcendent, dealing with emptiness—are being recited they won’t want to listen. They won’t pay attention or apply their minds to understand them, nor will they think those teachings are worth learning and memorizing. But when discourses composed by poets—poetry, with fancy words and phrases, composed by outsiders or spoken by disciples—are being recited they will want to listen. They’ll pay attention and apply their minds to understand them, and they’ll think those teachings are worth learning and memorizing. And that is how corrupt training comes from corrupt teachings, and corrupt teachings come from corrupt training. This is the fourth future peril that has not currently arisen, but will arise in the future …

Furthermore, in a future time there will be mendicants who have not developed their physical endurance, ethics, mind, and wisdom. The senior mendicants will be indulgent and slack, leaders in backsliding, neglecting seclusion, not rousing energy for attaining the unattained, achieving the unachieved, and realizing the unrealized. Those who come after them will follow their example. They too will become indulgent and slack, leaders in backsliding, neglecting seclusion, not rousing energy for attaining the unattained, achieving the unachieved, and realizing the unrealized. And that is how corrupt training comes from corrupt teachings, and corrupt teachings come from corrupt training. This is the fifth future peril that has not currently arisen, but will arise in the future …

These are the five future perils that have not currently arisen, but will arise in the future. You should look out for them, and try to give them up.”

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One should of course try to protect the good monks. This is why Buddha admonished Ven. Udayi when he was contradicting Ven. Sariputta.

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I don’t see how it could be taken as advice to remain silent or retreat when Buddha clearly says this will lead to a bad outcome for the entire community. When does Buddha ever give advice that leads to a bad outcome for the community?

at a time when bad mendicants are strong, good-hearted mendicants are weak. Then the good-hearted mendicants continually adhere to silence in the midst of the Saṅgha, or they stay in the borderlands. This is for the hurt and unhappiness of the people, for the harm, hurt, and suffering of many people, of gods and humans.

To me, this is just another way of saying, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to remain silent”… this is not advice, it is specifically mentioned as a bad thing that leads to hurt, unhappiness, harm, and suffering of many people. This is not advice from Buddha that we should follow… I suppose we have to agree to disagree here.

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I understand what you are saying but you shouldn’t see it like this.

Suppose 10 people are trapped in a bad circumstance by evil people and a person plans an escape, ideally he wants to bring all 10 people to freedom but when he is weak and the administrators are strong then he might not be able to free everyone and can only escape alone. It is not his fault that he didn’t free the rest, he simply couldn’t and if he tried to bring everyone then nobody would get free.

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