Can Monks read non dhamma books?

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Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby Mao » Tue Apr 01, 2014 5:26 am

Well, not the entertaining tabloid or seventeen or some teen fiction, but whatabout good fictional that somehwat teach about human value, something like from paolo coelho? or anys suggestion
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby culaavuso » Tue Apr 01, 2014 5:33 am

Being A Monk: A Conversation with Thanissaro Bhikkhu by Rich Orloff wrote:Are you allowed to read for pleasure?
You get so that you're not interested in fiction. The only fiction that I read nowadays is by my friend Jeanne Larsen [Class of 1971, the author of three historical novels set in China] and Harry Potter.

Why Harry Potter?
I thought the books taught good lessons about loyalty, integrity, and such things.

So Harry Potter's okay, Robert Ludlam's not okay?
I have to use my judgment. Is what I'm reading getting in the way of my meditation? If I find myself closing my eyes and seeing visions that are not helping me at all, then it's obviously something I should be not be reading.

Do you keep up with the world?
Only in the last year or two. I get The Nation and The Guardian Weekly. I really liked all those years in Thailand when I didn't get any news. For my first eight years, the only international news that came out to the monastery was "Elvis Presley died" and "Skylab is falling."
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby James the Giant » Tue Apr 01, 2014 6:46 am

I know three monks who read fiction. Their fellow monks frown on it, and they keep it a bit quiet.
I could pull up some quotes from the Monastic Code, but I'm not going to attempt that on this tiny phone screen.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby binocular » Tue Apr 01, 2014 6:11 pm

Mao wrote:Well, not the entertaining tabloid or seventeen or some teen fiction, but whatabout good fictional that somehwat teach about human value, something like from paolo coelho? or anys suggestion

Paulo Coelho teaches sensual passions.
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby daverupa » Tue Apr 01, 2014 7:23 pm

How is fiction any different than e.g. attending shows & plays & theatre? This is time that should be spent in empty huts, jungle thickets, under trees, and so forth.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby binocular » Tue Apr 01, 2014 9:09 pm

I also think that to a monk, worldly literature would mostly be too boring to bother with it.
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby Dan74 » Wed Apr 02, 2014 2:32 am

binocular wrote:I also think that to a monk, worldly literature would mostly be too boring to bother with it.


Why? Are they not in this world, dealing with people, teaching them? Besides truly good literature has profound ideas that can open one's outlook, question and probe deeper into matters. It can in fact assist liberation.
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby binocular » Wed Apr 02, 2014 6:34 am

Dan74 wrote:
binocular wrote:I also think that to a monk, worldly literature would mostly be too boring to bother with it.


Why?

Because it's just the same old, same old regurgigated greed, anger and delusion; granted, each time (in each book or author) in a somewhat new variation, but the same old anyway.

Are they not in this world, dealing with people, teaching them?

Do you find that for this, they need worldly books and films etc.?

Besides truly good literature has profound ideas that can open one's outlook, question and probe deeper into matters. It can in fact assist liberation.

Can you give some examples?
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby Dan74 » Wed Apr 02, 2014 10:02 am

binocular wrote:
Dan74 wrote:
binocular wrote:I also think that to a monk, worldly literature would mostly be too boring to bother with it.


Why?

Because it's just the same old, same old regurgigated greed, anger and delusion; granted, each time (in each book or author) in a somewhat new variation, but the same old anyway.

Are they not in this world, dealing with people, teaching them?

Do you find that for this, they need worldly books and films etc.?

Besides truly good literature has profound ideas that can open one's outlook, question and probe deeper into matters. It can in fact assist liberation.

Can you give some examples?


Wow, I am not quite sure where to begin... Are you really saying all the books you've read have been regurgitation of greed, anger and delusion?

Whether Shakespeare, Kafka, Calvino, Tolstoy, Borges, Dostoyevsky, Hesse, Blake, classics like Don Quixote, Faust, the Divine Comedy, these and many others are fanstastic eye-opening moving and profound works.
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby beeblebrox » Wed Apr 02, 2014 1:30 pm

binocular wrote:
Dan74 wrote:
binocular wrote:I also think that to a monk, worldly literature would mostly be too boring to bother with it.


Why?

Because it's just the same old, same old regurgigated greed, anger and delusion; granted, each time (in each book or author) in a somewhat new variation, but the same old anyway.


Hi Binocular,

I've found that good books are conscious of these. (This consciousness being from the author, or the reader, not the book itself.) These books could help us to recognize these three things, in all different possible configurations... which is helpful in preparing to recognize them in the real world setting.

Of course, there are books that are junk. Some are even written in a way that intends to take your mindfulness away... but not all of books are like that.

This doesn't mean that the Bhikkhus have to read them... but it doesn't make any sense to try discredit books.

:anjali:
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby binocular » Thu Apr 03, 2014 6:23 am

Dan74 wrote:Wow, I am not quite sure where to begin... Are you really saying all the books you've read have been regurgitation of greed, anger and delusion?

Pretty much, yes.

Whether Shakespeare, Kafka, Calvino, Tolstoy, Borges, Dostoyevsky, Hesse, Blake, classics like Don Quixote, Faust, the Divine Comedy, these and many others are fanstastic eye-opening moving and profound works.

Really? Those books are - in their nature - "fanstastic eye-opening moving and profound"? And I'm just too blind and too dumb to see how they "really are"?
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby binocular » Thu Apr 03, 2014 6:34 am

beeblebrox wrote:I've found that good books are conscious of these. (This consciousness being from the author, or the reader, not the book itself.) These books could help us to recognize these three things, in all different possible configurations... which is helpful in preparing to recognize them in the real world setting.

There's an old Charlie Brown cartoon where the conversation goes in roundabout like this:

Lucy: You know what your problem is, Charlie Brown?
Charlie: No. What?
Lucy: Your problem, Charlie Brown, is that you are you.
Charlie: So what can I do about it?
Lucy: I don't pretend to know the solution, I'm just pointing out the problem.


And in a similar manner like Lucy, there are many worldly books (and films, songs etc.) that point out problems, and sometimes, I think they have quite a good understanding of the problem. But the solutions they offer are incomplete, lead to more suffering, more greed, anger, and delusion.

I get frustrated by worldly books, films, etc. because they seem to me that they are beating around the bush, that they don't go into a real in-depth analysis of the problem they are presenting, they hover on the surface - and what is so frustrating is because I cannot figure out whether that superficiality, that beating around the bush is deliberate or not.

This doesn't mean that the Bhikkhus have to read them... but it doesn't make any sense to try discredit books.

There's a difference between discerning and jumping to conclusions (if this is what you mean by "discrediting").
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby Aloka » Thu Apr 03, 2014 7:40 am

I don't know about what's allowed for monks, but I haven't read fiction books or watched films which are made for 'entertainment' for a long time.

It happened naturally, not deliberately. I just don't have any interest in reading/watching other peoples emotional dramas and fantasies.This isn't a criticism of those who do, I think "different stokes for different folks" probably sums it up.


:)
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby appicchato » Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:27 am

Just watched a YouTube of Ajahn Brahm, in which, while telling one of his many stories, says: 'I read this one in a book of jokes'...there ya go...
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby Dan74 » Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:34 am

binocular wrote:
Dan74 wrote:Wow, I am not quite sure where to begin... Are you really saying all the books you've read have been regurgitation of greed, anger and delusion?

Pretty much, yes.

Whether Shakespeare, Kafka, Calvino, Tolstoy, Borges, Dostoyevsky, Hesse, Blake, classics like Don Quixote, Faust, the Divine Comedy, these and many others are fanstastic eye-opening moving and profound works.

Really? Those books are - in their nature - "fanstastic eye-opening moving and profound"? And I'm just too blind and too dumb to see how they "really are"?


I could equally say 'were these people but pointless fools who spent their lives scribbling nothing of use or interest to an enlightened personage like binocular?'

The truth may well lie in neither of these two extremes.
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby imagemarie » Thu Apr 03, 2014 11:02 am

I can't recall the reference, but in one of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's talks, he recommends

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sirens-Titan-Ku ... 556&sr=1-4

for it's ideas, which echo the dhamma. I'm grateful he did. It's a terrific book.

:anjali:
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby daverupa » Thu Apr 03, 2014 1:21 pm

imagemarie wrote:it's ideas, which echo the dhamma


Maybe if the echo is enough of an echo to teach Dhamma, it's a Dhamma book, while if the echo is not enough to teach Dhamma, it's not a Dhamma book.

Maybe good literature always discusses existential themes, and this relatively similarity with aspects of dukkha is the key component. But if so, why is an echo to be preferred over a sutta? The words of artists and poets...

And what about strictly non-Dhamma books? Maybe an example will help:

Image

What's to be said about a monastic who goes about reading this sort of thing, of an afternoon?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby appicchato » Thu Apr 03, 2014 1:33 pm

Image

What's to be said about a monastic who goes about reading this sort of thing, of an afternoon?


Really?...
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby daverupa » Thu Apr 03, 2014 1:49 pm

appicchato wrote:Really?...


It seems obviously inappropriate, of course. I just wanted to set up one end of the spectrum, so we could find a place where non-Dhamma books that didn't broach Dhamma themes were acceptable undertakings for monastics. This example doesn't seem to qualify as such a thing. Is there any fiction that does?

---

Surely some philosophy works or psychology works or certain works of history could all be put to good use, while a nonfiction book on ancient Mesopotamian economics probably couldn't be.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Apr 03, 2014 2:55 pm

binocular wrote:And in a similar manner like Lucy, there are many worldly books (and films, songs etc.) that point out problems, and sometimes, I think they have quite a good understanding of the problem. But the solutions they offer are incomplete, lead to more suffering, more greed, anger, and delusion.


I don't believe that books with incomplete solutions are what lead us to more suffering, or greed, anger and delusion. That isn't in accord with what the Buddha taught.

I get frustrated by worldly books, films, etc. because they seem to me that they are beating around the bush, that they don't go into a real in-depth analysis of the problem they are presenting, they hover on the surface - and what is so frustrating is because I cannot figure out whether that superficiality, that beating around the bush is deliberate or not.


So, what does the Buddha have to say about this problem? I don't think the frustration actually comes from the books themselves... would it make sense to you if someone said the same thing about some of the Pali Canon? (Whether you believe this or not, there are actually people who get frustrated, or confused, with what the Buddha say in the Canon.)

:anjali:
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