Bhikkus: how are relations with your families?

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Bhikkus: how are relations with your families?

Postby Kasina » Mon Mar 24, 2014 2:36 pm

Well, I plan to become a monk, and I have a very tight knit family. The usual gripe I hear about my choice is my mother worrying that she'll never see me again, or rather hardly ever.

Another related question I had; I know there are rules forbidding monks from coming into contact with women... Would these apply, say, to a parent, sister, or grandparent?

Metta, Josh.
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

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Re: Bhikkus: how are relations with your families?

Postby waterchan » Mon Mar 24, 2014 4:47 pm

Kasina wrote:Another related question I had; I know there are rules forbidding monks from coming into contact with women... Would these apply, say, to a parent, sister, or grandparent?


As I understand, the rules that prohibit physical contact and proximity with females is not only for the sake of the monk; it is also to prevent gossip and accusations of inappropriate relations from bystanders. So I would guess that these rules apply to family members and relatives too.
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Re: Bhikkus: how are relations with your families?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Mar 24, 2014 5:16 pm

It is best if your mother comes to terms with the idea of separation sooner rather than later. We are all separated from family members by death, which can happen to either party at any time.

If two people are in the same room, but one is thinking of Dhamma, while the other is thinking about worldly things, they are far apart.

‘The sky is very far from the earth, and the earth is very far from the heavens,
but farther apart than these are the teaching of the wise and the teaching of the foolish.’


Hugging and touching is not permitted. If she hugs you without your consent there is no offence, but Buddhist mothers will usually know better than to do that.
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Re: Bhikkus: how are relations with your families?

Postby pilgrim » Mon Mar 24, 2014 9:21 pm

Bhante , I appreciate if you could elaborate. i thought the Vinaya rule only forbids touching a woman when there is lust in the bhikkhu's mind.
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Re: Bhikkus: how are relations with your families?

Postby cooran » Mon Mar 24, 2014 9:52 pm

Here is a previous thread. Seems it may be a Thai cultural addition?

Are Monks allowed to touch their mothers?
viewtopic.php?f=30&t=7955

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Re: Bhikkus: how are relations with your families?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Mar 24, 2014 10:18 pm

This is the full text from Buddhist Monastic Code:

Intention. The Vinītavatthu contains cases of a bhikkhu who caresses his mother out of filial affection, one who caresses his daughter out of fatherly affection, and one who caresses his sister out of brotherly affection. In each case the penalty is a Dukkaṭa.
The Vibhaṅga does not discuss the issue of bhikkhus who intentionally make active contact with women for purposes other than lust or affection — e.g., helping a woman who has fallen into a raging river — but the Commentary does. It introduces the concept of anāmasa, things carrying a Dukkaṭa penalty when touched; women and clothing belonging to a woman top the list. It then goes into great detail to tell how one should behave when one’s mother falls into a raging river. Under no circumstances, it says, should one grab hold of her, although one may extend a rope, a board, etc., in her direction. If she happens to grab hold of her son the bhikkhu, he should not shake her off, but should simply let her hold on as he swims back to shore.
Where the Commentary gets the concepts of anāmasa is hard to say. Perhaps it came from the practices of the Brahmin caste, who are very careful not to touch certain things and people of certain lower castes. At any rate, there is no direct basis for it in the Canon. Although the concept has received universal acceptance in Theravādin Communities, many highly‑respected Vinaya experts have made an exception right here, saying that there is nothing wrong in touching a woman when one’s action is based not on lust, but on a desire to save her from danger. Even if there is an offence in doing so, there are other places where Buddhaghosa recommends that one be willing to incur a minor penalty for the sake of compassion (e.g., digging a person out of a hole into which he has fallen), and the same principle surely holds here.

So, shaking a woman's hand with the intention to avoid being impolite, or touching a woman to help her, not being lustful, nor out of affection, are no offence. However, touching or hugging out of affection are an offence of wrong-doing.

If a woman tries to shake my hand, I usually explain how to greet a bhikkhu by holding the hands in añjali, if circumstances are
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Re: Bhikkus: how are relations with your families?

Postby waterchan » Mon Mar 24, 2014 10:45 pm

Besides the VInaya, a bhikkhu's conduct also seems to be heavily influenced by the local monastic culture in which he resides. That is the general impression I'm getting here and I can totally understand that. In some sanghas it's considered perfectly normal to accept small amounts of money or watch a cool TV program. I remember asking Ven. Pesala some questions about monks and weight lifting, and he posted that physical exercise is OK in some sanghas, but in others it's best to do it discreetly.

I remember that I went on a group tour to Buddhist sites in India, we were accompanied by a Theravada monk guide. The itinerary was poorly planned, and by the time we found a place to stop for food, it was an hour past midday. I felt really bad for the monk, but he was cool with getting late dana. It was a particularly gruelling journey and I can't imagine him going on without lunch.
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Re: Bhikkus: how are relations with your families?

Postby Kasina » Tue Mar 25, 2014 12:28 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:It is best if your mother comes to terms with the idea of separation sooner rather than later. We are all separated from family members by death, which can happen to either party at any time.


Ha! If I were to tell her that, she'd say that's a stupid way to think, or that it's not worth considering, or that she doesn't care. My parents are by no means bad folks, there are just very worldly. I'm the first Buddhist in my family. Ever.

If two people are in the same room, but one is thinking of Dhamma, while the other is thinking about worldly things, they are far apart.


I absolutely agree.

‘The sky is very far from the earth, and the earth is very far from the heavens,
but farther apart than these are the teaching of the wise and the teaching of the foolish.’


Hugging and touching is not permitted. If she hugs you without your consent there is no offence, but Buddhist mothers will usually know better than to do that.



My mother isn't a Buddhist so it doesn't really apply to her... I really think that if I were to ordain, she would at the very least expect me to hug her if she asks, otherwise I'd make her very sad/upset. Although, I am planning to ordain here in Canada, so I think these rules may be more flexible?

Thank you kindly, Bhante. I look forward to your reply...

:anjali:
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

Wilbur Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
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Re: Bhikkus: how are relations with your families?

Postby Virgo » Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:11 am

With Westerners I think it is understandable.

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Re: Bhikkus: how are relations with your families?

Postby Jayantha-NJ » Sat Mar 29, 2014 8:38 pm

like the OP I also have a tight knit family with two sisters in addition to my mother and father. I am leaving in two months now to ordain and I do feel bad in a way for them regarding this issue. While i'm to the point where metta seems to be starting to overtake filial and eros types of love in my mind, of course my parents and family are human beings who express their caring via hugs and the like. It will take a lot of getting use to on their part I'm sure.

the family of a monastic definitely goes through a loss, but it's nothing compared to the loss of death, at least to those who truly understand and contemplate these things. I am beginning to see my renunciation as not only a gift to myself, but to everyone else who knows me as well, a well needed lesson in loss that will hopefully propel them even that little inch closer to seeking the dhamma in future lives.
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