Can Monks read non dhamma books?

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

Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby binocular » Fri Apr 04, 2014 12:53 pm

Dan74 wrote:Dave, on first reading this sounds like Buddhist fundamentalism to me. We are human beings, monks included, not some sort of plaster saints. I mean would you really judge a Venerable for reading Moby Dick or browsing through The Inferno?? I hope not.

If he or she would read such things "for fun" - yes.

Aloka, I practice the Dharma/Dhamma, I hope, but yes, I tend to find the most affinity with the Zen/Seon/Chan traditions. That said I have known, brought dana to, driven around, a number of Theravada monks (and nuns) over the years, some quite well-known. They were all (as far as I could tell) exemplary monastics but then again, I would not begrudge them an hour of snuggling up in bed with a good novel. Maybe this is a result of my slack Mahayana morals, I don't know.

Binocular, firstly I don't equate reading good books with 'seeking worldly pleasure'. Like I've tried hard to explain I see them as being very much in line with practice - understanding the human condition is essential if one is to attain liberation. And secondly, no I think most monks and nuns, even many of the very good ones, still enjoy many things and prefer a good meal to a bad one, enjoy a rest at the end of a long day and a beautiful view. Just because one ordains doesn't mean they stop being human, does it? I think there is a great disconnect whenever one tries very hard to be someone they are not. It just doesn't ring true. There is far less wrong with a little pleasure than with cruel puritanism foisted upon oneself and others, IMO. Best to pay attention and develop insight.

Oh well.

There's that Buddhist inside joke comparing the different traditions -

Imagine that enlightenment is like reaching a target 100 meters away.
Vajrayana is like swirling around in many many colors until one finally bumps into the target.
Zen is like shooting an arrow high up in the air, and then watching as it hits the target on its way down.
Theravada is like the army, crawling the 100 meters.
(And then depending on one's dislike for Theravada, one can add, "through mud, in full gear, under barbed wire, with gas masks, on a hot summer day.")


Just because one ordains doesn't mean they stop being human, does it?

One certainly stops being an ordinary worldling, or at least makes an effort to do so.


The Buddha's is a gentle way, is it not?


/.../"Kesi, I train a tamable person [sometimes] with gentleness, [sometimes] with harshness, [sometimes] with both gentleness & harshness.

"In using gentleness, [I teach:] 'Such is good bodily conduct. Such is the result of good bodily conduct. Such is good verbal conduct. Such is the result of good verbal conduct. Such is good mental conduct. Such is the result of good mental conduct. Such are the devas. Such are human beings.'

"In using harshness, [I teach:] 'Such is bodily misconduct. Such is the result of bodily misconduct. Such is verbal misconduct. Such is the result of verbal misconduct. Such is mental misconduct. Such is the result of mental misconduct. Such is hell. Such is the animal womb. Such the realm of the hungry shades.'

"In using gentleness & harshness, [I teach:] 'Such is good bodily conduct. Such is the result of good bodily conduct. Such is bodily misconduct. Such is the result of bodily misconduct. Such is good verbal conduct. Such is the result of good verbal conduct. Such is verbal misconduct. Such is the result of verbal misconduct. Such is good mental conduct. Such is the result of good mental conduct. Such is mental misconduct. Such is the result of mental misconduct. Such are the devas. Such are human beings. Such is hell. Such is the animal womb. Such the realm of the hungry shades.'"

"And if a tamable person doesn't submit either to a mild training or to a harsh training or to a mild & harsh training, what do you do?"

"If a tamable person doesn't submit either to a mild training or to a harsh training or to a mild & harsh training, then I kill him, Kesi."
/.../
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby binocular » Fri Apr 04, 2014 1:02 pm

Dan74 wrote:Is this a reasonable or realistic expectation to keep of the Sangha? And is this a reasonable or realistic expectation for the monastics to hold themselves to?

Absolutely.

Having a very rigid approach would be counterproductive, IMO, would it not?

What to one person seems like rigidity, to another is basic and necessary effort.
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby beeblebrox » Fri Apr 04, 2014 1:40 pm

Aloka wrote:
Dan74 wrote:Dave, on first reading this sounds like Buddhist fundamentalism to me.


Huh ?


Hi Aloka,

I think Dan74 was referring to Dave's use of "hellish-bad." That seems like an over-reaction to me for reading a book. Usually it's not quite conducive for having a reasonable discussion... but probably wasn't what Dave intended.

binocular wrote:There's that Buddhist inside joke comparing the different traditions -

Imagine that enlightenment is like reaching a target 100 meters away.
Vajrayana is like swirling around in many many colors until one finally bumps into the target.
Zen is like shooting an arrow high up in the air, and then watching as it hits the target on its way down.
Theravada is like the army, crawling the 100 meters.
(And then depending on one's dislike for Theravada, one can add, "through mud, in full gear, under barbed wire, with gas masks, on a hot summer day.")


Venerable Huineng (the "sixth patriarch" of Zen) was famous for being illiterate... I think this is like shooting the arrow up in the air, indeed.

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

Postby daverupa » Fri Apr 04, 2014 2:02 pm

beeblebrox wrote:...I think Dan74 was referring to Dave's use of "hellish-bad." That seems like an over-reaction to me for reading a book. Usually it's not quite conducive for having a reasonable discussion... but probably wasn't what Dave intended, though.


We'll come back to that.

Kare wrote:
...engage 24/7 in strictly Dhammic activity??


That is the job they signed in for and are paid for.


This is what I am emphasizing, a passage which dovetails with the broader context of monastic recreation I mentioned earlier.

Kare wrote:"Whereas some recluses and brahmins, while living on food offered by the faithful, indulge in the following games and recreations: ... he abstains from such games that are a basis for negligence."

The main point is not the details of the games and recreations, whether it is gaming, reading or whatever. The main point is that the monk is living on food offered by the faithful and therefore has an obligation to do the job he is paid for, and nothing else.

If he wants to do something else than strictly Dhammic activity, the honorable thing is to quit the job and derobe.

On the other hand, if he reads a non dhamma book not as entertainment, but for gaining a better understanding of world and the society outside the monastery, so that he may be better able to help people, I would regard that as a Dhammic activity not to be criticized.


---

Now please note the context of my comment:

Is it sensual entertainments they seek? Yeah, that's hellish-bad.


MN 45 wrote:"Thus they meet with their downfall through sensual pleasures. Then, having met with their downfall through sensual pleasures, with the break-up of the body, after death, they go to a bad bourn, destitution, the realm of the hungry shades, hell. There they experience sharp, burning pains. They say: 'This was the future danger concerning sensual pleasures those brahmans & contemplatives foresaw that they spoke of the relinquishment of sensual pleasures and described the full comprehension of sensual pleasures. It's because of sensual pleasures, as a result of sensual pleasures, that we're now experiencing these sharp, burning pains.'


---

AN 9.41 wrote:"Then the thought occurred to me: 'If, having seen the drawback of sensual pleasures, I were to pursue that theme; and if, having understood the reward of renunciation, I were to familiarize myself with it, there's the possibility that my heart would leap up at renunciation, grow confident, steadfast, & firm, seeing it as peace.'

"So at a later time, having seen the drawback of sensual pleasures, I pursued that theme; having understood the reward of renunciation, I familiarized myself with it. My heart leaped up at renunciation, grew confident, steadfast, & firm, seeing it as peace. Then, quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.
    "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 » Fri Apr 04, 2014 2:14 pm

Hi Dave,

I agree with this, thanks for clarifying. I personally wouldn't think of recommending "Sirens of Titan" to a Bhikkhu (or a Bhikshu, for that matter). I think Kurt Vonnegut is a good writer (I like him), and he is a moral writer (quite so), but the style is a bit frivolous. It is also pessimistic.

I would recommend something like "Wonder" by R.A. Palacio. It is a young adult book. (It's the genre name... not my term.) I think it is a nice book. It shows a lot of wholesome behavior, is quite touching, but at the same time it also shows the difficulty of life, very well. It's about a boy with deformed face going to the school for the first time. That is something I would feel comfortable with a Bhikkhu reading.

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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby Aloka » Fri Apr 04, 2014 3:36 pm

Its ridiculous to think about what kind of fiction one would approve or disapprove of a monk reading, according to one's own tastes and preferences.

If monks can read novels, what's to stop them reading "Fifty Shades of Grey" for 'research' purposes, or, as recommended by Dan74 in connection with novels, for "understanding the human condition."
Last edited by Aloka on Fri Apr 04, 2014 3:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Apr 04, 2014 3:46 pm

Dan74 wrote:How about to music played by a street musician? How about to a radio?


The 7th precept of the 10 precepts for monks and nuns, anagarikas, and even lay people on retreat:

Nacca-gita-vadita-visuka-dassana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing,singing, music, going to see entertainments.


In general, novels are meant to be entertaining, but they can also be educational. There are some that have Dhamma themes to them, for example, Siddhartha by Hesse (not about the Buddha, but a monk of the time) or The Razor's Edge. But I agree with others that reading and studying the Suttas is much more valuable and in line with the duties of a monastic.

Dan74 wrote:How about a game of chess with a computer?


Actually, it's mentioned (I believe DN 1) that 8 sided board games are not to be played, apparently referring to chess and "chess in the air" meaning blindfold chess, for monastics. That is why I am not a monk (just kidding).

It would look unseemly if a lay person rushes over to provide lunch dana to the monks from a hard day's work, only to find the monks sitting around reading novels and playing chess.
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Apr 04, 2014 3:56 pm

binocular wrote:There's that Buddhist inside joke comparing the different traditions -

Imagine that enlightenment is like reaching a target 100 meters away.
Vajrayana is like swirling around in many many colors until one finally bumps into the target.
Zen is like shooting an arrow high up in the air, and then watching as it hits the target on its way down.
Theravada is like the army, crawling the 100 meters.
(And then depending on one's dislike for Theravada, one can add, "through mud, in full gear, under barbed wire, with gas masks, on a hot summer day.")


You forgot to mention the Suttanta Buddhist:

He/she picks up an air target pistol (Suttas) and hits the target in a nanosecond. :tongue:

Couldn't resist. :guns: :mrgreen:
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby beeblebrox » Fri Apr 04, 2014 3:59 pm

Aloka wrote:Its ridiculous to think about what kind of fiction one would approve or disapprove of a monk reading, according to one's own tastes and preferences.


Hi Aloka,

I apologize if my post was unsettling... I only wanted to make a comment about "Sirens of Titan" that was brought up.

If monks can read novels, what's to stop them reading "Fifty Shades of Grey" for 'research' purposes, or, as recommended by Dan74 in connection with novels, for "understanding the human condition."


I haven't heard of that book... what's it about?

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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby Mr Man » Fri Apr 04, 2014 4:03 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:
He/she picks up an air target pistol (Suttas) and hits the target in a nanosecond. :tongue:

More like picks up the pistol and studies the pistol.
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Re: Can Monks read non dhamma books?

Postby Aloka » Fri Apr 04, 2014 6:47 pm

beeblebrox wrote: I haven't heard of that book... what's it about?


I haven't read it myself because I don't read novels any more.


"Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 erotic romance novel by British author E. L. James. It is the first installment in the Fifty Shades trilogy that traces the deepening relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism (BDSM). Originally self-published as an ebook and a print-on-demand,[1][2] publishing rights were acquired by Vintage Books in March 2012.[3][4]

The second and third volumes, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, were published in 2012. Fifty Shades of Grey has topped best-seller lists around the world, including the United Kingdom and the United States.[5][6] The series has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into 52 languages,[7] and set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty_Shades_of_Grey


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