What is holding you back from ordaining?

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

Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby Vardali » Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:16 pm

BlackBird wrote:
Vardali wrote:I mean, a whole lot of practise is aiming at guarding the sense-doors. One way obviously is by strengthening the "internal" guards and level of awareness. The other is by minimizing exposure. That to me, this latter part feels a bit like a cop-out, like removing options to ensure that one doesn't pick the "wrong" choice. :


How is it a cop out? I understanding your explanation, but I don't understand why that's a bad thing...

metta
Jack :heart:

It might not be a bad thing at all, it might actually be the smart thing to do. It just doesn't sit right with me (yet), though, it feels to me like not facing what "is".
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby Guy » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:21 pm

Hi Vardali,

Vardali wrote:Perhaps my opinion - and it is nothing more than that ;) - is biased from the impression I have gotten from my Christian background, but it appears to me that a key component of monastic life is to minimize "temptation". And while I'm aware that there is much more to practise, I hope the following example illustrates my personal unreadiness with the monastic approach.

I mean, a whole lot of practise is aiming at guarding the sense-doors. One way obviously is by strengthening the "internal" guards and level of awareness. The other is by minimizing exposure. That to me, this latter part feels a bit like a cop-out, like removing options to ensure that one doesn't pick the "wrong" choice. :) By doing so, you may start feeling confident that you have mastered some restraint, even though this is just based on lack of opportunity. I want to be sure I can overcome craving and clinging while it is a very real "threat", or I cannot feel I have safely mastered this challenge.


Recently I heard a good simile (one of Ajahn Chah's) regarding meditation, but I think it applies just as well here.

When you have a path which is covered in leaves then you won't even notice if another leaf falls and lands on that path. When you have a newly swept path and a leaf falls on it, that leaf will stand out clearly. The simile was refering to the way the mind notices objects much more easily when the mind is still an peaceful, like the newly swept path whereas a scattered mind will hardly notice another object arising.

Using the simile in this context I would say that lay life is like the path covered with leaves - full of stimulating sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch sensations - we have our work cut out for us when it comes to guarding the sense doors. Not to say it's impossible, but it is obvious why the monastic life is more conducive to meditation practice since us lay people are constantly bombarded with the preliminary work. Perhaps only getting some deep meditation during retreat periods.

:soap:

(Going off on a tangent a bit here) I would say that many lay people don't guard the sense doors as well as they might like to think they do (myself included) or else why wouldn't we ordain if we were REALLY restrained already? Instead we might think "I'll guard my sense doors for those things that I don't like, but the things I do like...well...maybe not so much". I know this from watching my own mind, how it takes things up and proliferates about them due to selectively guarding the sense doors.

End of :soap:

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:37 pm

Vardali wrote:It might not be a bad thing at all, it might actually be the smart thing to do. It just doesn't sit right with me (yet), though, it feels to me like not facing what "is".


Actually a large part of human activity is designed to stay one step ahead of what is, one step ahead of loneliness, one step ahead of boredon, one step ahead of insecurity, one step ahead of restlessness, one step ahead of anxiety, one step ahead of pain. All we do is attach to things that take our attention off the things in life we don't want to face, we buy the latest toy, find the latest romance, watch the latest blockbuster.

The point of the monastic life is that it restricts your options to keep one step ahead of these things, you have to face them, when you face them you have the opportunity to gain freedom from them.
"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: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby Northernbuck » Wed Mar 10, 2010 2:57 am

That's just about the easiest question that I can answer. I am not strong enough.
But if this neutral feeling that has arisen is conditioned by the body which is impermanent, compounded and dependently arisen, how could such a neutral feeling be permanent? - SN 36.7
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby RayfieldNeel » Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:52 pm

I have 2 things that hold me back from becoming a monk of some stripe:

1)Family obligation: I have a wife and 2 fairly young kids; my interest in Buddhist teachings didn't really sink in 'til just the last couple of years.

2)I'm still figuring out my path. I'm focusing on teachers rather than schools...the problem is that my 3 favorite teachers/authors represent 3 very different schools. :tongue:

If my wife dumps me for some reason, I will be giving this a lot of thought once my kids are grown.
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby cooran » Sun Mar 14, 2010 12:05 am

Lack of opportunity.

I don't care about the Bhikkhuni title - being a ten precept nun would be very acceptable. I once contacted Ajahn Vayama a few years back - there was little opportunity with only the slim chance of a single vacancy occuring, and that would result in a tidal wave of applications from all over the world.

And from what I've seen and heard, the fantasised idea of what ordaining is like is very different to what actually occurs. Very high rates of westerners disrobe witin a year or so, male and female. It can be lonely and westerners can be cut off by language problems in south asian countries. Monastic life may not measure up to the fantasy.

And at the physical level, daily physical work has to be done, one doesn't just sit and meditate and have dhamma talks. Health care may be a factor. Thailand is O.K. with its' Bhikkhu Hospital but elsewhere .....
I know a woman who was under 10 precepts (in Oz) and was continually unwell with stomach problems from living on Dana - no ability to ensure the hygience under which the food had been prepared, and this was in a monastery in Oz with a kitchen. Thailand, at least, has good medical care for the Bhikkhus - not so in some other countries.
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby Freawaru » Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:44 pm

Wind wrote:How about you guys? Have you thought about ordaining? What is holding you back?


Some of my reasons were already mentioned, such as family. But there is another reason: I am not convinced it would be productive in my case.

Years ago, I met a young woman from Thailand (she is now a friend). She came to Germany for her PhD in physics. She told me then that she came to Germany to learn physics, not to become German. I knew what she meant and I didn't have a problem with that.

Ordaining is more than choosing to learn and practice Dhamma. It means to change one's culture. Monasteries and the monks there come from a culture and this culture has not only influenced their language and behaviour but also their way of thinking. Ordaining means to learn languages, and behavioural patterns, whom to bow to in what way, whom to address in what way, how to live, how to sleep, what to wear, the culture, the ideologies. I don't see why this should be necessary to learn Dhamma just as I don't see why it should be necessary to be German to study physics.

So I say: I want to learn the Buddha's Dhamma but I don't want to become Thai (or Burmese, etc).
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby appicchato » Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:04 pm

It's all part of the program...
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby BlackBird » Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:48 pm

cooran wrote:And from what I've seen and heard, the fantasised idea of what ordaining is like is very different to what actually occurs. Very high rates of westerners disrobe witin a year or so, male and female. It can be lonely and westerners can be cut off by language problems in south asian countries. Monastic life may not measure up to the fantasy.


It's interesting to see that when we strip away all the distractions of daily living, what we find is boredom, the ever present tedium of not having sense stimulation that we have become so accustomed to. I think a portion of Monks and Nuns disrobe because the boredom get's to them. But what is the boredom really? It's dukkha in a very pure, unadulterated form. It's a complete dissatisfaction with having nothing to worry about. We want the drug of sense stimulation, we don't care that it burns us up from the inside because at least it manages to distract the mind from that underlying dukkha, which has been there all along.

I think perhaps some people are not ready to face up to the fact that this is how life is, it's always been that way, and it always will be. We can continue to distract ourselves right up until we breath our last if we choose, but in reality the distractions are more painful than the boredom itself. Craving and delusion play some cruel tricks on the minds of mankind.

metta
Jack
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'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Mar 14, 2010 11:01 pm

Greetings Jack,

Nice post.

"She refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn't boring" - Zelda Fitzgerald

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby Guy » Mon Mar 15, 2010 12:27 am

Hi Freawaru,

Freawaru wrote:
Wind wrote:How about you guys? Have you thought about ordaining? What is holding you back?


Some of my reasons were already mentioned, such as family. But there is another reason: I am not convinced it would be productive in my case.

Years ago, I met a young woman from Thailand (she is now a friend). She came to Germany for her PhD in physics. She told me then that she came to Germany to learn physics, not to become German. I knew what she meant and I didn't have a problem with that.

Ordaining is more than choosing to learn and practice Dhamma. It means to change one's culture. Monasteries and the monks there come from a culture and this culture has not only influenced their language and behaviour but also their way of thinking. Ordaining means to learn languages, and behavioural patterns, whom to bow to in what way, whom to address in what way, how to live, how to sleep, what to wear, the culture, the ideologies. I don't see why this should be necessary to learn Dhamma just as I don't see why it should be necessary to be German to study physics.

So I say: I want to learn the Buddha's Dhamma but I don't want to become Thai (or Burmese, etc).


Have you considered that by living according to rules which you might not always like or agree with there is the potential benefit of getting a good look at craving and thereby understand it's unsatisfactory nature? Surrendering to the Vinaya might not be pleasant, but it certainly produces a lot of good monks and nuns (both Asians and Westerners) who have developed a deep understanding of the Four Noble Truths.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby Wind » Mon Mar 15, 2010 7:25 am

Freawaru wrote:
Wind wrote:I don't see why this should be necessary to learn Dhamma just as I don't see why it should be necessary to be German to study physics.


To learn Dhamma it is not necessary to ordain but to practice Dhamma to the fullest, then ordaining is beneficial.
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby Freawaru » Mon Mar 15, 2010 8:45 am

Hi Guy,

Guy wrote:Have you considered that by living according to rules which you might not always like or agree with there is the potential benefit of getting a good look at craving and thereby understand it's unsatisfactory nature?


Yes, I have. Been there, done that. Time to move on.

I have already used plenty of effort to become German, to act German, to think German. I don't agree or like everything German if that is what you think. But it is the culture I happen to live in so I considered it useful. To become, say, Thai, I would have to brainwash myself and program my personality anew. I have had lots of long discussions with my Thai friend to have a good idea of the differences. Some can be pretended easily, such as behaviour and language, but others really require a complete inner change.

For example, one of the most important aspects of the German culture (and it is one I like because I see the benefits regarding developing awareness) is Artistic licence. The Thais don't have it. On the other hand they have an aspect in their culture that is completely missing in the German one, usually translated as "respect" (don't know the Thai name) but it is something else than what we call respect in Germany, it does not exist here. And worse, it does not go well with Artistic license. Some years ago there was this incident of the movie "Anna and the king of Siam", an never ending offence to the Thais because they don't understand Artistic license. Discussing the movie and the problem with my Thai friend and others (both Thai and not Thai) on an internet forum I did what I always do when I try to understand and analyse a problem: I used samadhi. In this case, samadhi with the Thai way of thinking and feeling. But for the duration of it I had to completely detach from my "German" personality, including Artistic License. It was an interesting experience and I would not want to miss it but I don't see any benefits to practice it for a longer duration. Personalities, cultures, and so on, they are all exchangeable.

Surrendering to the Vinaya might not be pleasant,


It would be pleasant if one would understand it correctly. There are many suttas that point out that to change from householder to bhikkhu is utterly pleasant. The fact that is is considered and experienced as hard only shows that the interpretation of the Vinaya rules is not correct.

The lack of pleasantness is one of the reasons why I think that today's defintion of bhikkhu is not correct. Bhikkhu is an inner change, implying a steadfastness of awareness (among other things)

Not blaming, not harming;
Restrained by the code of Dhamma-Vinaya,
Moderate in eating, remote lodging;
Exertion in Meditation;
This is the teaching of all the Buddhas ..
http://what-buddha-said.net/Canon/Sutta ... tm#Chapter VII The Arahat - Arahanta


Now, what is "eating", what is "remote lodging"? I agree with Buddhadasa Bhikkhu that "eating" refers to "experiencing" because that is how the suttas make sense, a Bhikkhu experiences only awareness, because all the rest is the object of insight, thus he is moderate. Similar for "remote lodging": awareness distances one from all experiences, all absorptions, all feelings, and so on. Thus it is a "remote lodging".

Here is one regarding the sangha:

Pleasant is the arising of a Buddha.
Pleasant is the teaching of the Dhamma.
Pleasant is peace & unity in the Sangha.
Pleasant is the harmony of those united.


Ever heard of the social sangha to be united? They argue and argue and argue. This is not the Sangha of the suttas.

Not merely from receiving alms is one a Bhikkhu.
The one attached to forms and rituals is not
truly to be regarded as a Bhikkhu.


Today, the vinaya is interpreted in terms of forms and rituals and a Bhikkhu is supposed to attach himself to them. But attaching himself to forms and rituals means he is not a Bhikkhu as defined in the suttas.

Whoever drops both good and bad action,
lives celibate, walks through the world aware,
untouched and clever, such one is indeed a Bhikkhu.


Dropping both good and bad action means to let them happen on their own, automatically. It refers to all those activity our personality does. Awareness separates us from this activity, thus the "I" that is identified with awareness is not acting either good or badly. "Celibate" refers to the abstinence from absorption, the identification with the states, the non-lucid part of samadhi. "Walking through the world aware": one does not loose awareness in any of the lokas. "Untouched": Awareness is not touched by whatever is experienced, the distance, remember? "Clever", control, insight, wisdom.

So, for me "ordaining", "going forth" means something else than a social change or reprogramming one's personality to fit the forms and rituals of a different culture. It means an inner change, more profound than any social commitment can ever be.

but it certainly produces a lot of good monks and nuns (both Asians and Westerners) who have developed a deep understanding of the Four Noble Truths.


Are you sure it was this that produced them? Or were they already there due to good kamma and only used it because it is a social requirement?

Don't get me wrong. Anyone who wants to ordain socially I would tell: go ahead. But use this chance not only to alter your personality but to be aware of the inner mechanisms that alter them, the mental and physical processes, the how. Because in this way one can become not just a Bhikkhu in the social sense but a Bhikkhu in the sense I accept.
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby Guy » Mon Mar 15, 2010 10:51 am

Hi Freawaru,

Interesting views, some of them I agree with. However, I'd like you to clarify one thing:

Freawaru wrote:Today, the vinaya is interpreted in terms of forms and rituals and a Bhikkhu is supposed to attach himself to them. But attaching himself to forms and rituals means he is not a Bhikkhu as defined in the suttas.


By this are you implying that the rules of training are not essential? My understanding is that the fetter of "sīlabbata-parāmāsa" means that we wrongly believe that simply by keeping the precepts we will get enlightened whereas the right view is that although we actually do need to keep the precepts there is still more work to do yet.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby Freawaru » Mon Mar 15, 2010 12:19 pm

Hi Guy,

Guy wrote:
Interesting views, some of them I agree with. However, I'd like you to clarify one thing:

Freawaru wrote:Today, the vinaya is interpreted in terms of forms and rituals and a Bhikkhu is supposed to attach himself to them. But attaching himself to forms and rituals means he is not a Bhikkhu as defined in the suttas.


By this are you implying that the rules of training are not essential? My understanding is that the fetter of "sīlabbata-parāmāsa" means that we wrongly believe that simply by keeping the precepts we will get enlightened whereas the right view is that although we actually do need to keep the precepts there is still more work to do yet.


It depends on what you mean by "precepts". Of course, the precept "celibacy" as I described (aka, restraining oneself from full identification/unification with any state) it is essential but in itself it is not enough to reach Liberation. Something more is required. As to the "celibacy" in the biological/social sense I don't think this is essential, just convenient if one does not want the possible social responsibilities.

Think of the practice of kayanupassana:

And how does a monk dwell contemplating (the nature of) the body in the body in regard to himself?

Idha bhikkhu ajjhattaü kàyaü -
Here a monk in regard to himself -

uddhaü pàdatalà, adho kesamatthakà, tacapariyantaü,
from the sole of the feet upwards, from the hair of the head down, bounded by the skin,

påraü 01 nànappakàrassa asucino 02 - paccavekkhati:
and filled with manifold impurities - reflects (thus):

Atthi imasmiü kàye:
There are in this body:

kesà, lomà, nakhà, dantà, taco,
hairs of the head, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin,

maüsaü, nahàru, 03 aññhi, 04 aññhimiÿjà, 05 vakkaü,
flesh, sinews, bones, bone-marrow, kidney,

hadayaü, yakanaü, kilomakaü, pihakaü, papphàsaü,
heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs,

antaü, antaguõaü, udariyaü, karãsaü,
intestines, mesentery, undigested food, excrement,

pittaü, semhaü, pubbo, lohitaü, sedo, medo,
bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat,

assu, vasà, kheëo, siïghàõikà, 06 lasikà, muttan-ti. 07
tears, grease, spit, mucus, synovial fluid, urine.
http://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/T ... assana.htm


This does not change during biological sex. For someone who can directly be aware of and discern those organs it does not make a difference whether he has biological sex or not. He will simply discern and analyse the different activity of the lungs, heart, intestines and so on during the different physical activities just as he does during walking and resting. Same with vedananupassana, such a person would just contemplate the pleasant feeling of the orgasm, detached, aware, knowing, discerning.

Idha bhikkhu sukhaü vedanaü vediyamàno 02
Here a monk when experiencing a pleasant feeling

sukhaü vedanaü vediyàmãû ti pajànàti;
knows I experience a pleasant feelingû;
http://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/T ... assana.htm
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby Guy » Tue Mar 16, 2010 1:23 am

Hi Freawaru,

As to the "celibacy" in the biological/social sense I don't think this is essential, just convenient if one does not want the possible social responsibilities.


So are you saying that celibacy is motivated by an avoidance of responsibility?

I understand celibacy to be supportive of entering Jhanas (since the mind of a person who is celibate in body, speech and mind is not inclined towards sensual desire/the first hindrance) and to the development of wisdom, ultimately leading to Nibbana. This is why it is impossible for Arahants and Anagamis to even think a thought motivated by lust, let alone commit a sexual act since they have irreversibly removed the hindrance of sensual desire.

...but now I've gone quite off topic...

Bringing this back to the original topic...is it possible that we "conveniently" interpret the Suttas and the Vinaya in such a way that suits our pursuit of sensuality in an attempt to have the "best of both worlds"?

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby Vardali » Tue Mar 16, 2010 3:15 am

Just wanted to thank Freawaru for some interesting food for thought that has resonated with me. :)

At the end of the day, we cannot know until we find out, and this to me seems an extremely individual task with only some pretty rough signposts ...
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby Freawaru » Tue Mar 16, 2010 9:13 am

Hi Guy,

Guy wrote:
As to the "celibacy" in the biological/social sense I don't think this is essential, just convenient if one does not want the possible social responsibilities.


So are you saying that celibacy is motivated by an avoidance of responsibility?


One of the possible reasons. I mean, when one intends to spend years in caves the responsibility to feed small mouths can become quite a problem. The Visuddhimagga describes the best "monastery" one can choose to practice jhana and kasina meditation - as a summary the best are those without distractions and responsibilities. There is a difference between concentration meditation and mindfulness meditation. To reach higher states of concentration one needs to concentrate, right? Concentration means to block out everything but the object of concentration for certain durations of time. How to do that if one has to attend to babies? How to do that when one has to struggle within a community and argue? Mindfulness meditation on the other hand is different, because it bases on an already reached distance to the mind and body processes. Mindfulness meditation means one has to develop this awareness and distance to the mind and body processes to longer and longer periods and into more and more difficult situations and states of mind and to more depth and discernment. Usually, the awareness is first experienced during samatha, when the mind is calm and concentrated. But it is necessary to let this grow into more difficult states and situations, too, to tame the mind, to conquer. If one cannot keep awareness and practice the four foundations of mindfulness during an orgasm it means that awareness (sampajanna) is not stable during wake, yet. More practice in this regard is required. What I want to say is that I would not call anyone an arahat who cannot stay aware and knowing just because body and mind are in a state of orgasm. Or just because there is a baby that needs to be attended to and there is nobody else. How should that be Liberation? But as the suttas state that arahats are celibates the term "celibate" cannot possibly refer to it's every-day biological meaning.

I understand celibacy to be supportive of entering Jhanas (since the mind of a person who is celibate in body, speech and mind is not inclined towards sensual desire/the first hindrance) and to the development of wisdom, ultimately leading to Nibbana.


We have had a discussion regarding this topic: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3479

This is why it is impossible for Arahants and Anagamis to even think a thought motivated by lust, let alone commit a sexual act since they have irreversibly removed the hindrance of sensual desire.


They don't cling, but there are still body and mind processes. Like described here http://what-buddha-said.net/drops/II/Bo ... eeling.htm

They are not robots, you know.

Just stumbled on this sutta: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

As you can see the five clinging-aggregates are still there for an arahant. An arahant just does not cling to them.

...but now I've gone quite off topic...


If you want we can discuss this on a more fitting board.

Bringing this back to the original topic...is it possible that we "conveniently" interpret the Suttas and the Vinaya in such a way that suits our pursuit of sensuality in an attempt to have the "best of both worlds"?


It is my observation that people (including me) interpret the Suttas and the Vinaya in the context of their present development. How could it be otherwise?
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby Guy » Tue Mar 16, 2010 9:25 am

Freawaru wrote: How should that be Liberation? But as the suttas state that arahats are celibates the term "celibate" cannot possibly refer to it's every-day biological meaning.


I can't see how you draw that conclusion. :thinking:
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: What is holding you back from ordaining?

Postby BlackBird » Tue Mar 16, 2010 9:54 am

If a patient declined to take a certain course of treatment, would they be in a credible position to argue about it's efficiency as a medicine?

metta
Jack
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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BlackBird
 
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Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:07 pm
Location: New Zealand

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