Intimacy — Touching
º The modern West has stories of sexual harassment, so the ways that the Buddha dealt with such matters should not seem so very strange.
If a bhikkhu touches a woman in a sexual way, he commits a very serious offence requiring formal meetings of the Community and probation (Sa"nghaadisesa). The scrupulous bhikkhu wants to remain above suspicion so, if he can, he will avoid all physical contact. (Hence his attitude to shaking hands. This also explains why in Thailand a receiving cloth is used to receive offerings from women. (See EN 85)
The rule was first set down by the Buddha after a brahman and his wife had gone to inspect Ven. Udaayin's fine dwelling. As Ven. Udaayin was showing them around, he came up behind the lady and "rubbed up against her limb by limb." After they had left, the husband praised Ven. Udaayin but the wife was critical and explained what had happened. The brahman then complained, "Isn't it even possible to take one's wife to a monastery without her being molested?" This rule was then set down:
"Should any bhikkhu, overcome by lust, with altered mind, engage in bodily contact with a woman, or in holding her hand, holding a lock of her hair, or caressing any of her limbs, it entails initial and subsequent meetings of the Community."(Sa"ngh. 2; BMC p.100)
To be at fault, the bhikkhu must usually do some action to bring contact with a woman while lust overcomes his mind. If he accidentally stumbles and bumps into a woman or vice-versa, or if he is accosted by a woman, as long as there is no intention to come into lustful contact there is no offence. However, the average bhikkhu's mind tends to be so quick and unruly — he is, after all, still in training and therefore unenlightened — that he may prefer to be super-cautious about such situations.
If a bhikkhu touches his mother out of affection, then this is still an offence but the lesser one of wrong-doing (dukka.ta).  While gratitude to parents was strongly emphasized by the Buddha, the bhikkhu having left the home-life and his family should not cling to worldly relationships. The only true way for him to fulfill his filial obligations is by gaining insight into Dhamma and then teaching his parents.
If a bhikkhu is acting with lustful intentions, he incurs a grave (thullaccaaya) offence for making bodily contact with a pa.n.daka ('sex- aberrant') and an offence of wrong-doing for contact with a male. (See BMC p.103)
pilgrim wrote:I think that monks are not only allowed to touch their mothers, but all other women, on the proviso there is no lust. The Vinaya rule is quite clear.
I believe that in Thailand, cultural development has taken the observation of this rule to an unnecessary extreme. A woman is not even allowed to give something directly to a monk's hands but has to place it on an offering cloth. I hope that western descendants of the Thai Forest tradition drop this cultural baggage.
Fede wrote:While I accept that HH the DL is from a different tradition entirely, I believe the rule applies in some Tibetan traditions, also, but I have seen him, personally, with my own eyes, hug a woman.
Context plays a huge part.
fabianfred wrote:The problem with 'lustful intent' is that nobody can know your mind unless they can read minds....so to avoid suspicion it is better simply to avoid contact. In situations where we know there is nobody who is looking for trouble or to find fault then perhaps it is OK. In any audience of the Buddha's when he was teaching the Dhamma, there were those intent upon listening, just along with their friends, and those looking to find fault. Nowadays there are plenty of the latter so we must be careful.
In a similar vein....monks do not raise their hands to 'Wai' laypeople....although they do to other and more senior monks...a matter of showing respect. There is a heirachy to the precepts... 5,8 10 227. But it is OK for a monk to show respect to his parents. They are held in great regard by Buddhism since without them we wouldn't have got this precious human birth....and in Thailand are often referred to as the Arahants at home...being on a par with Arahants in respect to the henious karmic result of killing a parent or Arahant being equally severe.
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