Lay followers correcting venerables

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Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby Mexicali » Fri Apr 24, 2009 6:44 pm

Let me heavily qualify this question. What is the etiquette for a lay follower to correct a venerable on a point of factual inaccuracy when relevant? I ask only because on a couple different occasions with Chinese monks, one would say something that was simply not true and generally outside the realm of dharma study. In one case it was a claim that homosexuality caused AIDS; I was respectful and mindful that this was a question of epidemiology, not Buddhist teaching, but I was shouted down by other people for contradicting a teacher. Another occasion, a nun was using "Hinayana" interchangeably with "Theravada" and was obviously not aware of the inaccurate and pejorative content of the word. I tried to educate her on this point linguistically and was treated like an idiot. I don't go looking for arguments, but I do think some points need to be addressed. And when addressing someone in a position of knowledge above me, I'd like to know the correct way to proceed. Thanks!
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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby clw_uk » Fri Apr 24, 2009 6:49 pm

I think there is a difference in opinion on this between schools, mahayana and particulary Vajrayana seem to discourage correcting a Venerable, however in Theravada (in my understanding) one is allowed to do so with being looked down on, as long as its not done without intent to humiliate or some other unwholesome intention ( i must stress though i may be wrong and unaware of some convention)


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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby pink_trike » Fri Apr 24, 2009 7:19 pm

It's good to remember that we're honoring the robe, not the body/personality in the robe. Anything can be said as long the robe and what it represents is respected.
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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby cooran » Fri Apr 24, 2009 8:44 pm

Hello mexicali,

I would not 'correct' or argue with a Venerable of any tradition in front of others. What I would do, is make my point by asking polite and interested questions. "Venerable - my understanding is that the original derivation of the word 'hinayana' rose out of sectarian conflict in the early days in India, and that it means 'inferior vehicle' ... is this your understanding?" If they respond with the way they have been taught in their tradition, and you know it is incorrect, simply bow and say, "Thank you venerable, for letting me know your understanding." And drop the matter. or - "Venerable - that is very interesting. Could you point me to any article or medical research that proves homosexuality causes AIDS? "

It would be better, if you are Theravadin, to only attend teachings by Theravada teachers. If you are a guest in a Mahayana or Vajrayana teaching, keep silent - you know what their Tradition believes.

With my own Theravada tradition, Bhante sets aside two sessions each weekend for questions from lay followers. Everyone learns from them, and all join in the discussion.

metta,
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Last edited by cooran on Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby Ordinaryperson » Fri Apr 24, 2009 9:02 pm

I think you have to be really diplomatic without offending if you intend to correct or alternatively search for other venerables.
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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby Jason » Fri Apr 24, 2009 9:09 pm

Mexicali,

Mexicali wrote:Let me heavily qualify this question. What is the etiquette for a lay follower to correct a venerable on a point of factual inaccuracy when relevant? I ask only because on a couple different occasions with Chinese monks, one would say something that was simply not true and generally outside the realm of dharma study. In one case it was a claim that homosexuality caused AIDS; I was respectful and mindful that this was a question of epidemiology, not Buddhist teaching, but I was shouted down by other people for contradicting a teacher. Another occasion, a nun was using "Hinayana" interchangeably with "Theravada" and was obviously not aware of the inaccurate and pejorative content of the word. I tried to educate her on this point linguistically and was treated like an idiot. I don't go looking for arguments, but I do think some points need to be addressed. And when addressing someone in a position of knowledge above me, I'd like to know the correct way to proceed. Thanks!


I don't know if it's "the correct way to proceed" when addressing a Buddhist monk, nun or lay-teacher, and this is just my personal opinion, but I see nothing wrong with questioning questionable assertions by others, regardless of their social position. I would do the same whether it was a Buddhist teacher claiming that homosexuality caused AIDS, or whether it was the Pope claiming that condoms increase the problem of AIDS in a country where 22.5 million people are living with HIV. I think you're right that certain points need to be addressed, especially when people's health and well-being are at stake. If we don't, then I think all those people who generally accept whatever is said by a religious authority as fact will be poorer for it. Don't be afraid to do what you feel is right.

Jason
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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Apr 24, 2009 9:47 pm

if Ajahn Chah (I think it was) can be corrected by a young novice about his appearance and accept it graciously, then if they want to take offence the offence if theirs not yours.
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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby clw_uk » Fri Apr 24, 2009 9:49 pm

Manapa wrote:if Ajahn Chah (I think it was) can be corrected by a young novice about his appearance and accept it graciously, then if they want to take offence the offence if theirs not yours.



What a wonderful post :)


:bow: Ajahn Chah :bow:


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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:10 pm

Manapa wrote:if Ajahn Chah (I think it was) can be corrected by a young novice about his appearance and accept it graciously, then if they want to take offence the offence if theirs not yours.

Certainly, but keep in mind that any Bhikkhu will do their best not to take offence no matter how outrageous the behaviour that they are confronted with is. Therefore I would caution against using lack of visible disapproval as an excuse for boorish behaviour...

Another thing to keep in mind is the state of one's own mind. One takes the Noble Sangha as a refuge and the regular Bhikkhu Sangha as representatives of that. From my point of view being argumentative with a Bhikkhu and feeling superior about my knowledge is detrimental to my feelings of respect.

I would therefore advocate Chris' approach of non-argumentation. And if I were completely disillusioned with Monastery I would simply stop going there...

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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby Ben » Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:20 pm

Well said, Mike!
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in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

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sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Apr 24, 2009 11:03 pm

Greetings,

I find that if you preface your comments with something like "It is my understanding that...." and provide what you believe to be true, you give the other person the opportunity to accept your view if they come to see it as correct, and you don't put them in the awkward position of having to be formally corrected (if in deed you are correct). This applies to everyone, ordained or otherwise.

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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby salmon » Sat Apr 25, 2009 3:14 am

Mexicali wrote:Let me heavily qualify this question. What is the etiquette for a lay follower to correct a venerable on a point of factual inaccuracy when relevant? I ask only because on a couple different occasions with Chinese monks, one would say something that was simply not true and generally outside the realm of dharma study. In one case it was a claim that homosexuality caused AIDS; I was respectful and mindful that this was a question of epidemiology, not Buddhist teaching, but I was shouted down by other people for contradicting a teacher. Another occasion, a nun was using "Hinayana" interchangeably with "Theravada" and was obviously not aware of the inaccurate and pejorative content of the word. I tried to educate her on this point linguistically and was treated like an idiot. I don't go looking for arguments, but I do think some points need to be addressed. And when addressing someone in a position of knowledge above me, I'd like to know the correct way to proceed. Thanks!


Same etiquette as with any other person. Do it tactfully, and not in public.

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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby Mexicali » Sat Apr 25, 2009 5:30 am

Thank you, I will take this all under advisement. Do we have any words of the Buddha on the subject?
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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Apr 25, 2009 5:43 am

Mexicali wrote:Thank you, I will take this all under advisement. Do we have any words of the Buddha on the subject?

I can't think of any Suttas that talk specifically about how to correct a teacher, but here are some references to Right Speech: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... index.html

And here are some references to Teachers: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index-su ... l#teaching

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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Apr 25, 2009 5:45 am

Exactly

mikenz66 wrote:
Manapa wrote:if Ajahn Chah (I think it was) can be corrected by a young novice about his appearance and accept it graciously, then if they want to take offence the offence if theirs not yours.

Certainly, but keep in mind that any Bhikkhu will do their best not to take offence no matter how outrageous the behaviour that they are confronted with is. Therefore I would caution against using lack of visible disapproval as an excuse for boorish behaviour...

Another thing to keep in mind is the state of one's own mind. One takes the Noble Sangha as a refuge and the regular Bhikkhu Sangha as representatives of that. From my point of view being argumentative with a Bhikkhu and feeling superior about my knowledge is detrimental to my feelings of respect.

I would therefore advocate Chris' approach of non-argumentation. And if I were completely disillusioned with Monastery I would simply stop going there...

Metta
Mike
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby karuna_murti » Sat Apr 25, 2009 12:08 pm

How about that Samanera that told Ven. Sariputta about his robe?
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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby vitellius » Sat Apr 25, 2009 3:06 pm

Do we have any words of the Buddha on the subject?


Here a layman corrected a monk, and Buddha on this occasion said only that both opinions are true:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby Individual » Sat Apr 25, 2009 6:39 pm

pink_trike wrote:It's good to remember that we're honoring the robe, not the body/personality in the robe. Anything can be said as long the robe and what it represents is respected.

Dhammapada 9-10

He who is stained (with defilements) without self-control and truthfulness, is not worthy of wearing the yellow robes.

He who is purged of all stain, is well-established in morals and endowed with self-control and truthfulness, is indeed worthy of the yellow robe.

What is more important is whether the person correcting is in the right. If they are rightly correcting a monk, that's a good thing and the monk should be grateful. But they might also simply be arrogant and unduly critical. In that case, one should remember...

Dhammapada 158
Let one first establish oneself in what is proper, and then instruct others.
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Re: Lay followers correcting venerables

Postby salmon » Mon Apr 27, 2009 3:27 am

Individual wrote:
pink_trike wrote:He who is purged of all stain, is well-established in morals and endowed with self-control and truthfulness, is indeed worthy of the yellow robe.

What is more important is whether the person correcting is in the right. If they are rightly correcting a monk, that's a good thing and the monk should be grateful. But they might also simply be arrogant and unduly critical. In that case, one should remember...


May I also add (or rather simplify) that one should be watching one's ego before correcting a Venerable. We need to make sure we are not trying to prove anything before we open our mouths.
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