Actually, we do use this term. It’s used to describe the more ascetic practitioners in many Buddhist cultures. Of course, we still have Samaneras (‘little Samanas’ or novice monks). And many Buddhists would be aware of the book
of teachings of Ajahn Maha Boowa (compiled by a bhikkhu) which is called Samana and has long been found on the free distribution shelf everywhere and—for better or worse—has shaped several generations’ ideas about Buddhist practice.
Christie, I’ve read several of your posts here and checked out your website and you look like a fun person. I have nothing personally against you at all. I understand you consider yourself “gone forth” in your own fashion and that you’re pursuing your own path. Good luck to you!
Of course, choosing ones own path is nothing new and that’s always been an option throughout Buddhist history, albeit with varying levels of success… Today we see plenty of people doing their own version of Buddhism; there’s secular Buddhism, mindfulness movements, internet arahants (we even have people live streaming their awakening experiences whilst eating pizza), and then there’s the ‘psychedelic sanghas’.
Going one’s own way is fine of course and, like you, I would never dream of telling people what to do with their lives. There is a danger, of course, when people start to promulgate views not in accordance with the Dhamma. So when people say things like—for example—the secular Buddhists do, who suggest there is no need for the Sangha, and that there is no rebirth or kamma. Or when folks say things like have been said here; that there are no enlightened beings, or need for refuge in the triple gem, or that generosity is not important… well… these things actually are labelled as part of wrong view in Buddhism.
I’ve noticed with iconoclastic teachers and those extolling their own path, or those trying to change Buddhism generally, that they chop off one bit of Buddhism after the next because it doesn’t please them and in the end their path has very little of Buddhism left. It seems their own path actually is just that, more like a reflection of themselves.
A bigger danger is when people teach these things to others. Surely if there is genuine concern about the amount of kammic debt a monastic owes society, then there should certainly be concern about the consequences of wrong view and leading others deeper into darkness??
One of the underated aspects of the Sangha as an institution is it’s corrective power to preserve orthodoxy in doctrine and right view. Sure, there’s disagreements and different interpretations from time to time but there is always peer supervision—from teachers, from individual communities and from the Maha Sangha generally—which has the ability to correct wrong views that are harmful, within its own ranks.
This is generally not the case with solo practitioners who go their own path. Often they reject any scrutiny. In any case, I’ve noticed that these people are often doing things their own way because it suits their personality (edit: or defilements!) and because they are resistant to corrections. Both of these things—getting rid of attachment to personality view me/my/mine (i.e. my way of doing things) and learning to accept compassionate admonishment—are features of monastic training and have been since the time of the Buddha.
Your several comments about generosity to monastics and how it has brought ruin to whole nations seems a little short sighted in a historical sense.
There have been great Buddhist empires and Buddhist nations throughout history, that have flourished and continue to flourish today.
It seems a long bow to draw that Buddhist alms giving leads to ruination and poverty. There are many poor nations in the world, some of which are Buddhist, but many more that aren’t; can those latter nations’ poverty also be blamed on Buddhist’s almsgiving too? Things are likely to be a bit more complex than your argument but if we want to make things simple, we can just blame poverty and inequality on greed, hatred and delusion!
Of course it’s our wellbeing in the big picture of samsara that the Buddha had in mind when teaching. He said giving alms brings benefits here and now, and is further associated with rebirth in the heavenly realms where beings enjoy long life, beauty, bliss and strength.
If we take the Buddha as our teacher and as someone who saw things we presently can’t see ourselves, it’s probably good to listen to his teachings and try to understand them as they are, not as we would wish them to be or invent our own versions of what Buddhism is. Certainly one would think we should take care not to lead others astray.
I wish you the very best in your journey.