When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.

Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Jan 28, 2012 7:33 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:I did not know this thread was intended to be about offerings to monastics!
I thought it was about monastic practice of the rules.


Yes, and as lay people surely we have a responsibility to support them in maintaining the spirit and the letter of the rules, rather than putting temptation in front of them just because we want merit regardless of the negative affect the gift may have on the monk.


as was said to me, "we are the ones expected to know the rules not the lay people, we have the option to accept or not."
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Jan 28, 2012 8:13 pm

Cittasanto wrote:as was said to me, "we are the ones expected to know the rules not the lay people, we have the option to accept or not."


That's how it is in asia where it is commonly giving for the sake of giving for the sake of merit and monks end up with all this stuff that they don't need or want.

I don't think westerners are like that, I think we are more interested in taking personal responsibility for our actions rather than relying on the monks to refuse whatever isn't appropriate.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Jan 28, 2012 9:28 pm

Cittasanto wrote:
Ytrog wrote:The Vinaya indeed states that it is forbidden to eat after noon and that dairy products are also food,

Sorry where does the Vinaya say dairy is food, and not allowable?
milk is a gray area, i.e. it isn't specified as off limits or allowable, unless one is travelling, but Ghee is specified as allowable, (a derivative of Butter which is derived from....) and cheese certainly is allowable, although the cheese 2500 years ago would possibly be closer to soft cheese by today's standards.


Should any bhikkhu chew or consume staple or non-staple food at the wrong time, it is to be confessed.
Pācittiya 37

From what I understand, the tonics for health including milk and dairy products are only for a bhikkhu who is ill. Otherwise, they are not allowed to be eaten / drank after noon.

Perhaps right here we see the letter and spirit coming in conflict. The Vinaya cannot specify every possible food that is not allowed. It does not specify many foods that are around today, but we can use the spirit of the teachings to see that anything with substance, i.e, with calories, would not be allowed.

As for juice drinks, the five tonics, and medicine, there is a dukkaṭa for accepting them at the wrong time to be used as food, and another dukkaṭa for eating them at the wrong time as food.


23. There are these tonics to be taken by sick bhikkhus: ghee, fresh butter, oil, honey, sugar/molasses. Having been received, they are to be used from storage seven days at most. Beyond that, they are to be forfeited and confessed.
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:07 pm

Hi David,
the context for this rule is quite loose, it can mean anything from hungry to bed riden. I can not remember the word used g... but Ajahn Brahm gives a detailed breakdown of it in his notes and I think Ajahn Thanisaro also does.

(EDIT - I think it is gilana??)
David N. Snyder wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:
Ytrog wrote:The Vinaya indeed states that it is forbidden to eat after noon and that dairy products are also food,

Sorry where does the Vinaya say dairy is food, and not allowable?
milk is a gray area, i.e. it isn't specified as off limits or allowable, unless one is travelling, but Ghee is specified as allowable, (a derivative of Butter which is derived from....) and cheese certainly is allowable, although the cheese 2500 years ago would possibly be closer to soft cheese by today's standards.


Should any bhikkhu chew or consume staple or non-staple food at the wrong time, it is to be confessed.
Pācittiya 37

From what I understand, the tonics for health including milk and dairy products are only for a bhikkhu who is ill. Otherwise, they are not allowed to be eaten / drank after noon.

Perhaps right here we see the letter and spirit coming in conflict. The Vinaya cannot specify every possible food that is not allowed. It does not specify many foods that are around today, but we can use the spirit of the teachings to see that anything with substance, i.e, with calories, would not be allowed.

As for juice drinks, the five tonics, and medicine, there is a dukkaṭa for accepting them at the wrong time to be used as food, and another dukkaṭa for eating them at the wrong time as food.


23. There are these tonics to be taken by sick bhikkhus: ghee, fresh butter, oil, honey, sugar/molasses. Having been received, they are to be used from storage seven days at most. Beyond that, they are to be forfeited and confessed.
Last edited by Cittasanto on Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:25 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:as was said to me, "we are the ones expected to know the rules not the lay people, we have the option to accept or not."


That's how it is in asia where it is commonly giving for the sake of giving for the sake of merit and monks end up with all this stuff that they don't need or want.

I don't think westerners are like that, I think we are more interested in taking personal responsibility for our actions rather than relying on the monks to refuse whatever isn't appropriate.

it is still up to them to refuse offerings, we can decide what to offer them, but they can still refuse if they see fit.

I see no need in this thread to be going down this line of what is offered.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:43 pm

The "spirit" of the teachings can be used (incorrectly) to justify just about any behavior or violation of a precept. The "letter" of the teachings can be used (incorrectly) to take a rigid, almost fundamentalist stance to the detriment of the Dhamma.

There are plenty of examples in Ven. Dhammika's Broken Buddha.

In my opinion, precepts dealing with food are pretty hard-core where the 'letter' is meant. Things dealing with the image of Buddhism and compassion; then the 'spirit' becomes important. For example, when Bhikkhu Pesala and other monks accepted the hand shake of the Queen when she reached out to the monks.
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:51 pm

Cittasanto wrote:the context for this rule is quite loose, it can mean anything from hungry to bed riden. I can not remember the word used g... but Ajahn Brahm gives a detailed breakdown of it in his notes and I think Ajahn Thanisaro also does.

(EDIT - I think it is gilana??)


gilana : [nt.] swallowing. || gilāna (adj.), sick; unwell; a sick person.
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Jan 29, 2012 1:06 am

Cittasanto wrote:it is still up to them to refuse offerings, we can decide what to offer them, but they can still refuse if they see fit.

I see no need in this thread to be going down this line of what is offered.


I think it's very material to the subject of this thread, as not being fussy is an important part of mendicancy, and not being seen to be fussy is important to maintain good repute.

Monks being put into the position of having to refuse offerings creates an awkward situation, a situation that may cause embarrassment to the lay person, a situation where monks appear to not be practising in the spirit of non-preference and not maintaining good repute.

Not so much where the offering is clearly in the wrong, as then it's an opportunity for the monk to teach the lay person.

However when it's a grey area, or one where in some cultures or monasteries or circumstances it's acceptable and others not, then I think it's important for lay people to be sensitive to what is or is not in the letter of the vinaya and also what is or is not in the spirit of it. From what I've observed in these circumstances monks generally graciously or awkwardly accept the offering then later try to find a way of quietly giving away or getting rid of the item offered.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:03 am

David N. Snyder wrote:The "spirit" of the teachings can be used (incorrectly) to justify just about any behavior or violation of a precept. The "letter" of the teachings can be used (incorrectly) to take a rigid, almost fundamentalist stance to the detriment of the Dhamma.

There are plenty of examples in Ven. Dhammika's Broken Buddha.

In my opinion, precepts dealing with food are pretty hard-core where the 'letter' is meant. Things dealing with the image of Buddhism and compassion; then the 'spirit' becomes important. For example, when Bhikkhu Pesala and other monks accepted the hand shake of the Queen when she reached out to the monks.

how do you mean hardcore?

and yes the second gila(a)na
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:04 am

Goofaholix wrote:
I think it's very material to the subject of this thread, as not being fussy is an important part of mendicancy, and not being seen to be fussy is important to maintain good repute.

so you are going to dictate what people want to offer?
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Jan 29, 2012 4:21 am

Cittasanto wrote:how do you mean hardcore?

and yes the second gila(a)na


In my opinion, the precepts regarding food (for bhikkhus and bhikkhunis) are very specific and not meant to have any leeway or adjustment. There is no need for any changes due to cultural reasons or to keep with modern times or any other reason, except perhaps some logistical things relating to alms rounds. But otherwise, not eating after noon means just that. Not requesting or demanding certain choice foods means just that. Graciously accepting what is offered and not hinting for more or something different is just that and still a timeless and wholesome precept. Being ill and taking some food or medicine in the evening is for those who are truly ill, not just because they are hungry.

Some of the precepts relating to food: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .html#food
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Jan 29, 2012 8:51 am

Cittasanto wrote:so you are going to dictate what people want to offer?


No, all I'm going to do is discuss the issue, that's what a discussion board is for.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Jan 29, 2012 10:39 am

Hi David,
Have you read the Vinaya or only the manuals or commentaries?
there are medicines, which should be used as such, but these are to stave off hunger in some instances, gilāna is a wide encompassing word.

Ajahn Brahm Vinaya Notes volume 1 pp186/7 wrote:The Use of the Five Tonics
The Five Tonics were allowed by the Buddha for the use of monks who were ‘Ill’
(gilana). However, in the Vinaya the Pali word ‘gilana’ has a very wide meaning
covering any physical disorder from mild discomfort to ‘life-threatening’ diseases.

To illustrate the least forms of physical discomfort which still count as ‘gilana’, here
are some examples from the Vinaya:
• A monk having been invited to a meal may eat something beforehand when he
is ‘gilana’ which is defined here as ‘he is not able to eat as much as he pleases
in one sitting’. (from pacittiya 33)
• A monk may ask for and then eat ‘sumptuous’ foods when he is ‘gilana’, here
defined as ‘for whom there does not come to be comfort without a fire’. (from
pacittiya 39)
-----
• A monk may light a fire for the sake of warmth whin he is ‘gilana’, here
defined as’ for whom there does not come to be comfort without fire’. (from
pacittiya 56)
• A monk may bathe more than once a fortnight in the ‘Middle Country’ (the
Ganges Valley) when he is ‘gilana’, here defined as ‘if there cones to be no
comfort for him without bathing, he may bathe thinking ‘this is a gilana
occasion’. (from pacittiya 57)
These examples show that ‘gilana’ at its least can be merely physical discomfort.
Furthermore, there is the following story which shows that a monk who has not had
enough to eat that day is counted as ‘gilana’ and may if he wishes, take any of the
Five Tonics in the afternoon:
A certain monk, as a result of some bad kamma in a previous life, never once got
enough to eat. Every day he went hungry. Ven. Sariputta, having compassion for
this hungry monk, invited him to accompany him on alms round so that at least
once in his life the hungry monk would get a decent meal. Ven. Sariputta had
many supporters and his bowl was soon filled. But, when they both returned to
the monastery, Ven. Sariputta found that, although the hungry monk had followed
behind him, he had received absolutely nothing, So Ven. Sariputta poured the
whole contents of his alms bowl into the hungry monk’s alms bowl. As soon as it
entered the hungry monk’s alms bowl, the food disappeared. Ven. Sariputta was
determined to get this unfortunate monk something to eat and so he went back
into the town again to get an alms bowl full of the Five Tonics for the hungry
monk. When he returned to the monastery, Ven. Sariputta’s resolute attempt to
feed the hungry monk was found to be of no avail. When Ven. Sariputta was
away the hungry monk had died.
This story, and the examples from the Vinaya given before, show that when a monk
has not had enough to eat in the morning (for one reason or another!), or he feels run
down, or he is tired after doing some hard physical work, then in these and similar
situations he is considered ‘gilana’ and may consume any of the Five Tonics at any
time. Of course, when the discomfort takes the form of a sickness such as a cold, or
the flu, or malaria say, then he may also consume any of the Five Tonics at any time.
Because of the way these Five Tonics are used, I have called them ‘Tonics’ rather
than medicines.

The tonics shouldn't be used as a invitation for a meal, but, if they are available and one is gilāna they can be used, and everywhere has different practices due to the WIDE range of interpretation, even with the rules on food. milk as an example is not specifically unallowed, so some temples have it available in the afternoon, Soya milk is used, even though not every temple agrees it is allowed by the great standard.
no adjustments? then the great standard would specify food in an exception.
no leeway? then those doing more work and need some extra energy, or not getting enough food during alms round, would have a very hard time of it.

the rules are not there with no regard for situations, (every rule has its exemptions).
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby pilgrim » Sun Jan 29, 2012 1:17 pm

I feel that definitely the spirit should take precedence over the latter. But when this should be applied should be at the discretion of the individual monk.

Recently I spoke with an Indian monk who lamented that Theravada monks seem to think their central practice is to take their meals before noon. He was at an international religious conference in India. A minute after the President of india took the stage to give his keynote address, all the Theravada monks stood up and walked out of the hall. It was almost noon and they wanted to take their lunch! :thinking:
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Jan 29, 2012 4:58 pm

pilgrim wrote:I feel that definitely the spirit should take precedence over the latter. But when this should be applied should be at the discretion of the individual monk.

Recently I spoke with an Indian monk who lamented that Theravada monks seem to think their central practice is to take their meals before noon. He was at an international religious conference in India. A minute after the President of india took the stage to give his keynote address, all the Theravada monks stood up and walked out of the hall. It was almost noon and they wanted to take their lunch! :thinking:

in that situation I am sure they could of eaten before, and if they couldn't there could of been an understanding that this would happen/arrangement for them?
I have been in situations where I had to leave for a meal invitation when the proceedings hadn't yet finished for the meal, and this was pre-arranged by the organisers of the event.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Jan 29, 2012 5:26 pm

Cittasanto wrote:Hi David,
Have you read the Vinaya or only the manuals or commentaries?


Hi Cittasanto,

All 6 volumes, cover-to-cover, several times.

The tonics shouldn't be used as a invitation for a meal, but, if they are available and one is gilāna they can be used, and everywhere has different practices due to the WIDE range of interpretation, even with the rules on food. milk as an example is not specifically unallowed, so some temples have it available in the afternoon, Soya milk is used, even though not every temple agrees it is allowed by the great standard.


The problem with giving gilāna such a wide interpretation is that it opens the door to eat the evening meal just about everyday and then making the rule on the noon meal moot, which I don't believe was the intention of the rule or precept.

no adjustments? then the great standard would specify food in an exception.
no leeway? then those doing more work and need some extra energy, or not getting enough food during alms round, would have a very hard time of it.

the rules are not there with no regard for situations, (every rule has its exemptions).


The great standard can be used to ensure the precept does not get broken, for example, the Patimokkha could not possibly list every possible food, so using the great standard we could interpret any food of substance, i.e., with calories as not allowable after noon for a monk who is not ill.

I think there can be some adjustments and leeway and the Vinaya allows this, for example for a monk who is ill. But allowing the tonics which could easily become a meal itself for mild discomforts opens the door for the whole precept to go out the window. Too much leeway I think may be the reason we are starting to see over-weight and sometimes even obese monks.

I also think there can be some leeway and adjustments for monasteries in non-Buddhist countries who don't have a supportive community for regular alms rounds. In some cases, the monks may need to purchase and prepare food, but the meal could still be eaten before noon.
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Jan 29, 2012 7:44 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:The problem with giving gilāna such a wide interpretation is that it opens the door to eat the evening meal just about everyday and then making the rule on the noon meal moot, which I don't believe was the intention of the rule or precept.


Well the 'wide interpretation' does come from the vinaya, and the origin stories, not just a commentary interpretation of what ill is. those who want to gain a evening meal are going to interpret it the way they want, or ignore it completely, regardless, some use money but this is against the precepts completely, and how many lay people interpret the 5th precept to be in moderation? there are even monks (Dharmagupta) who consider touching a woman with lustful intent as a Pācittiya even though it is a sanghadisesa. people will use things inappropriately regardless of the actual rule. but it is considering the well behaved Mendicants, those who don't mistreat the rules the 'wide interpretation' is possible for.

The great standard can be used to ensure the precept does not get broken, for example, the Patimokkha could not possibly list every possible food, so using the great standard we could interpret any food of substance, i.e., with calories as not allowable after noon for a monk who is not ill.

Could we???
Sorry but the tonics are or can be of substance, and do have calories.

If we look at another precept, on intoxicants, they are not allowed at all, even unintentionally. yet there is an allowance to take alcohol in very specific conditions, i.e. medicine, which has lead to morphine being allowed in medical situations, even though technically it shouldn't be. but it is only used in specific situations so is accepted, not exactly with the letter, but with the spirit, I believe.

I think there can be some adjustments and leeway and the Vinaya allows this, for example for a monk who is ill. But allowing the tonics which could easily become a meal itself for mild discomforts opens the door for the whole precept to go out the window. Too much leeway I think may be the reason we are starting to see over-weight and sometimes even obese monks.

well regarding the obese monks you can get obese from eating only during the appropriate time. it happened to me, just eating in the morning I was 13st which isn't overweight for my height & build, but considering I levelled of at between 11.5St-12.5St (my weight fluctuates about a stone normally).
but then I was particularly hungry at the time for about a month.

I also think there can be some leeway and adjustments for monasteries in non-Buddhist countries who don't have a supportive community for regular alms rounds. In some cases, the monks may need to purchase and prepare food, but the meal could still be eaten before noon.

so you would advocate breaking two rules for one?
there is the famine allowance which using the great standard should be allowable for that situation; and then there is the allowance to be able to ask for the tonics if one is not getting enough food. so there are potentially (the famine allowance may cover this situation also in the vinaya?) two allowances which enable all the rules to be kept.

unfortunately I do not have a copy of the Vinaya so am relying on memory from my studies, so apologies for any inaccuracies.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Jan 29, 2012 8:23 pm

Cittasanto wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote:The great standard can be used to ensure the precept does not get broken, for example, the Patimokkha could not possibly list every possible food, so using the great standard we could interpret any food of substance, i.e., with calories as not allowable after noon for a monk who is not ill.

Could we???
Sorry but the tonics are or can be of substance, and do have calories.


Yes, tonics have calories. They are allowed for a monk who is ill (see my post above, which you quoted too).
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Jan 29, 2012 8:26 pm

This part?
David N. Snyder wrote: The problem with giving gilāna such a wide interpretation is that it opens the door to eat the evening meal just about everyday and then making the rule on the noon meal moot, which I don't believe was the intention of the rule or precept.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Jan 29, 2012 8:31 pm

Cittasanto wrote:This part?
David N. Snyder wrote: The problem with giving gilāna such a wide interpretation is that it opens the door to eat the evening meal just about everyday and then making the rule on the noon meal moot, which I don't believe was the intention of the rule or precept.


What wrong with that part? :tongue:

I still say it is meant for monks who are ill, not simply mild discomfort. But if you disagree that is fine.
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David N. Snyder
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