SuttaCentral

Meddling monastics?

I tried to word the proposal with a narrower brush so as to be in agreement with you.

I am thinking that for socially engaged action a very appropriate skillful means is to …

Is there a way I could have worded this better?

This modern “precept” as it were, is only for those who want to practice what is called socially engaged action or socially engaged Buddhism. Which, at least in the form I see it, is something that is only hinted at in the EBT’s as far as I know. It’s not for the monastics and others who follow the other (original?) noble path.

On the other hand, when the Buddha sought his own enlightenment he sought out a diversity of teachers and practices. That diversity was the basis for the “middle way”.

I am thinking that for socially engaged action a very appropriate skillful means is to be sure the sangha (both lay and monastic) are informed by a diversity of perspectives /viewpoints.

Yes, I know what you mean here.
In Japan, people bow to each other as just a ritual.
As a tourist, I caught up with this habit and just involuntarily I was bowing to everybody.

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It may be the case - and it often is - that people may have heartfelt convictions based on deep inquiry and learning. It may not be a lack of understanding of a diversity of views that makes people decide on a particular course of action - that causes them to make one political choice over another. You ‘seem’ to be saying that anyone with a political opinion that leans one way or another is a source of difficulty that needs to be ‘nullified’ for the inconvenience and disruption of communal harmony this may cause. I don’t think it is a bad thing that there is a diversity of views in academic life or, in society at large. I don’t believe that we all have to agree on how things should be as that would be a stifling of the democratic process. What is being referred to as political heterodoxy could easily be used as a tool of suppression. In Australia we have this thing called the ‘tall-poppy syndrome’.

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“[Periander] had sent a herald to Thrasybulus and inquired in what way he would best and most safely govern his city. Thrasybulus led the man who had come from Periander outside the town, and entered into a sown field. As he walked through the wheat, continually asking why the messenger had come to him from Cypselus, he kept cutting off all the tallest ears of wheat which he could see, and throwing them away, until he had destroyed the best and richest part of the crop. Then, after passing through the place and speaking no word of counsel, he sent the herald away. When the herald returned to Cypselus, Periander desired to hear what counsel he brought, but the man said that Thrasybulus had given him none. The herald added that it was a strange man to whom he had been sent, a madman and a destroyer of his own possessions, telling Periander what he had seen Thrasybulus do. Periander, however, understood what had been done, and perceived that Thrasybulus had counselled him to slay those of his townsmen who were outstanding in influence or ability; with that he began to deal with his citizens in an evil manner.” - Herodotus, The Histories, Book 5, 92-f

Bhante, what about all the vinaya rules regarding not teaching dhamma to a person wearing a hat or carrying an umbrella, not sitting or standing at a lower height than the audience when giving a dhamma talk, are those in the same minor category as well?

The way I was taught, those rules seem to be categorized as important. They made a lot of sense to me, because anyone wearing the robes is a walking advertisement and a representative for the Buddha and Dhamma and Sangha. Just as many people would react with horror if they see their country’s flag disrespected, even more so when a monastic wearing the Robes, who looks just like the EBT Buddha , is not treated with the highest honor that a Buddha deserves. In one of the suttas, a lay person invites a Bhikkhu over to offer a meal. After the meal, she requests a Dhamma talk, but he refuses without giving a reason (at least no reason that made any sense that I recall). She asks her friend later who explains to her she behaved too casually (or something like that), something that seemed to violate protocol for requesting and receiving a Dhamma talk. So after being educated, she invited the same monk for a meal on another day, followed protocol, and this time received a Dhamma talk. There’s another sutta where a monk is deathly ill and bedridden, and even though the Buddha was not even in the vicinity, the monk, when visited by his friends, bowed (or did some other respectful gesture to the extent he was able to in the deathly ill condition) in the general direction of the Buddha. Pardon the errors in details of these descriptions, they’re just from memory, but these kind of accounts of the Buddha tend to make me think bowing, and protocols for when it’s allowable to teach Dhamma, are serious rules and not optional.

Could you clarify please?

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Of course lots of people have studied the rules in detail and these debates have been ongoing through the centuries and millenia, since the earliest times of Buddhism! But there is no chance of any international agreement to modify the Buddha’s words. Nobody today has the authority to do something like that. Therefore, most nuns find workable solutions in their own monastery and then get on with their meditation practise.

Every monastery is independent in their decision how they keep the vinaya. So you’d have to start on the local level. If you are involved in the group of monasteries associated with Ajahn Brahm, then talk to your local monastics. The Ajahn Brahm “lineage” is known to be a fairly strict vinaya tradition, so I’d be surprised if they were in favor of rewriting the vinaya. But I am not associated with them and really can’t speak for them at all.

I have presented my suggestion of how to make the vinaya gender-free in this thread (Genderless vinaya thought experiment).

As other people have mentioned already, most bhikkhunis are really just struggeling to survive and to keep their monastery running. Investing much time and effort in international vinaya reform is not a very high priority.

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I understand if it is a ‘hierarchy of needs’ situation where basic survival comes before ‘actualisation’ - with an emphasis on (deepening in the Dhamma). ‘Maslow’ believed ‘transcendence’ was the penultimate human-need. As long as the ‘struggle for existence’ is not used as a pretext for avoiding the issue because it would be ‘criticised’ by those who would never support the ending of patriarchy - in any shape or form.

The Buddha did teach that we should carefully scrutinise his teachings - along with any other teachings that come our way. He encouraged us to practice those teachings that we have found to be beneficial and, reject teachings that do not serve a useful or beneficial purpose.

“So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, “This contemplative is our teacher.” When you know for yourselves that, “These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness” — then you should enter & remain in them.” - Kalama Sutta

There are different ways we can honour and respect our teachers - past and present. We can be grateful for the wonderful things that they have helped us to understand that have transformed our lives in beneficial ways. However, if we find out that aspects of what they have taught - assuming they ‘actually’ taught everything that has come down to us - are not beneficial and helpful then, there would be no point in taking that on board.

We don’t live long enough to be wasting our time with practices that are redundant, meaningless or, harmful. Again, this seems self-evident IMO. Therefore, I would encourage and support meaningful reform of the monastic-discipline in order to remove all sexist discrimination.

In the past, there may have been a reason for some practices that are no longer relevant. We need to pay attention to ‘anicca’ (changing circumstances) and not cling ‘mindlessly’ to the past out of fear, or misguided loyalty. The Buddha would have approved of his students if, they found good-reasons to change behavioural-norms and, acted accordingly. I don’t think we should underestimate the Buddha’s awakened intelligence. He would have been filled with joy when he saw his disciples acting in beneficial ways.

The Buddha wanted us to use our critical thinking skills - develop them. It is our ability to go beyond the surface of things - mere appearances - which enables the realisation of the ‘Dhamma’ (that which sustains and liberates).

It would not take international vinaya reform - if that is what is in the way then forget about it- - it ain’t gonna happen! This is not like having to climb a mountain or lift up a heavy weight or, a ‘trial in the wilderness’ type of thing - is it?

Lets get ‘real’ about this, all it actually would take is somebody- anybody - just, doing it! They would not even need to move from the spot they presently occupy - and it’s done. However, the mind might throw up all sorts of ‘obstacles’ for various reasons. All that needs to happen is for somebody to recognise the need and do it!

Ajahn Brahm didn’t wait for his friends to catch-up - wake-up! He decided, these sincere aspirants have waited long enough for my support and just went ahead and did it! Then, we all waited for the fall-out - and here we are! The sky did not fall and the sun came up the following day - just like before.

We have a precedent here of what is possible when people recognise the need - bhikkhuni ordination in the ‘Ajahn Brahm tradition’! Someone had to take the time and the trouble to make it happen - just a few good people - that’s all it took. This is completely within the realm of do-ability - if a few committed individuals make it happen - simple!

Please don’t ‘shoot the messenger’ but the 2 issues - discussed above - may be related. If you resolve one - as a community - you may solve the requisites and support issue (at the same time). It may need a bit more reflection on the correlation between support and the lived expression of beneficial principles.

It may be the case, that the degree of monastic support and interest - given to it by the laity - would increase a great deal if, it did not have sexism enshrined in its code of discipline. This would be a clear signal to many lay-people that the monastics are listening to their heart-felt needs and concerns and this invites reciprocity - more warmth and appreciation. Sounds like a win/win situation to me? What is the alternative and how does this help the monastics - as a field of merit for the world - to thrive and grow in relevance?

People express interest in and, support causes that resonate with their own values. The values - precepts - that they have found to be fair and beneficial for one and all. This is as it should be - recognise the problem and do something about it!

We do love the monastic-sangha but some of us are concerned about a few bad-habits that the Sangha needs to give-up. Its a health-issue not a personal one - a healthy and vibrant Buddhist community is something we all wish to contribute to - rejoice in - together.

This is constructive criticism and if it is acted on it may change the face of Buddhism - and its relevance in the ‘worlds’ we now inhabit. A Buddhism that has relevance in this ‘century’ - apparent here and now - inviting one to come and see - to be known by the wise, each for themselves?

Why are some people, lay or monastic, so preoccupied about if such-and-such a nun follows the garudhammas (is this not an indication of their own defilements)? Are most monks really out to control nuns? In a way, are the garudhammas not a burden for monks as well? Would completely separate communities of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis be better (wouldn’t that possibly entail negative and new problems)? If some nuns want to keep the garudhammas, should they be forced to abandon them? Why the us vs. them mentality (does it not only make things worse)?

(Rhetorical questions)

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No force is being suggested - but the question is why anyone would continue to practice anything that discriminates against women? Especially, if you are a woman and you believe in equal rights - its a no brainer! Your other questions have been answered earlier in the thread. :heart_eyes:

It seems reasonable to ask what this kind of a change would actually involve - the basic requirements - not a big song and dance routine with fireworks at the end of the season! All it would take is a few bhikkhunis to stand together and drop the redundant practices. If they felt the need they might mention it to someone or, it might come up in conversation. Let others talk about it, agree or disagree, praise or blame, suggest success or failure, talk about loss or gain, pleasure or painful consequences etc. Then cordially reply, thank you very much friend/friends - lay or ordained - Buddhist or otherwise, and extend to them unconditional loving-kindness. Those who offer unwanted gifts that are not required - the Buddha taught us what to do in that situation - explain to them that they can keep their gift as you have no use for it - beautiful. Problem solved! If the lay community hear about it, those who are lucky enough to see the significance of this simple and straightforward change in behaviour, they will provide support that comes from the heart - why hesitate - do it for those yet to arrive on the scene. :anjal:

Every generation is taught by the preceding generations. They learn by observing more than listening.

If what we teach is damning for us, it is damning for them. All, with heads down.

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Exactly.

Exactly

The problem is some monks and nuns never learn by observing and listening.

Observing and listening ‘carefully’ involves a lot more than conformity to an existing norm. An inability to give appropriate and care-full attention to matters of great consequence is a common human failing. This is one of the main problems we face when it comes to the realisation of meaningful change.

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We have to become a good student before become a good teacher.
Buddha changed his teachers teaching after fully comprehending what teacher taught him.

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Word.

Well said, @Brenna. It is indeed a delicate art.

Having said that, the world does need calm, non-sensationalist, rational, carefully-speaking, whistleblowers like Edward Snowden from time to time.

And ideally, they would actually dwell in a Brahmavihara as they speak. I think each member of this forum should ask themselves wether they dwell in such a divine abode before hitting that “post” (or “reply”) button.

Myself included.

If no Brahmavihara, then quietly admit to yourself that you speak as a hindered person.

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Agree.

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Agree.
I have sympathy for you that sometimes you have to put up with male chauvinist young monks who think that they are Arahant because they wearing a yellow robe. But this is not an excuse for you to slam the whole monk order.
It is not wise to throw the baby with the bad water.

Is this a general remark or a reply to me? I have said nothing of that sort.

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Yes this is a general remark.
I know you did not say that but that is what I gathered from seen previous discussions.
Not particularly this thread but discussion about this topic is going for some time.