MIght social stigma disqualify one from going forth?

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

MIght social stigma disqualify one from going forth?

Postby pulga » Wed Mar 02, 2011 4:25 pm

I don't mean to stir up trouble, but from my modern Western perspective this passage from the Mahavagga of the Vinaya Pitaka has always both troubled me and has interested me as well:

"Na bhikkhave, hatthacchinno pabbàjetabbo. - Pe - na pàdacchinno pabbàjetabbo - na hatthapàdacchinno pabbàjetabbo. - Na kaõõacchinno pabbàjetabbo. - Na nàsacchinto pabbàjetabbo. - Na kaõõanàsacchinno pabbàjetabbo - na aïgulicchinno pabbàjetabbo - na aëacchinno pabbàjetabbo - na kaõóaracchinno pabbàjetabbo - na phaõahatthako pabbàjetabbo. - Na khujjo pabbàjetabbo - na vàmano pabbàjetabbo - na galagaõói pabbàjetabbo - na lakkhaõàhato pabbàjetabbo. - Na kasàhato pabbàjetabbo - na likhitako pabbàjetabbo - na sãpadã pabbàjetabbo - na pàparogã pabbàjetababo - na parisadusako pabbàjetabbo - na kàõo pabbàjetabbo - na kuõi pabbàjetabbo. - Na kha¤jo pabbàjetabbo - na pakkhahato pabbàjetabbo. - Na chinniriyàpatho pabbàjetabbo - na jaràdubbalo pabbàjetabbo - na andho pabbàjetabbo - na mågo pabbàjetabbo - na badhiro pabbàjetabbo - na andhamågo pabbàjetabbo - pe - na andhamågabadhiro pabbàjetabbo. Yo pabbàjeyya, àpatti dukkañassà"ti. [ PTS Page 091]

http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/1Vinaya-Pi ... -01-p.html

At that time the bhikkhus conferred the pabbajjà ordination on a person whose hands were cut off, on a person whose feet were cut off, whose hands and feet were cut off, whose ears were cut off, whose nose was cut off, whose ears and nose were cut off, whose fingers were cut off, whose [\q 225/] thumbs were cut off, whose tendons (of the feet) were cut, who had hands like a snake's hood (176), who was a hump-back, or a dwarf, or a person that had a goitre, that had been branded, that had been scourged, on a proclaimed robber, on a person that had elephantiasis, that was afflicted with bad illness, that gave offence (by any deformity) to those who saw him, on a one-eyed person, on a person with a crooked limb, on a lame person, on a person that was paralysed on one side, on a cripple (177), on a person weak from age, on a blind man, on a dumb man, on a deaf man, on a blind and dumb man, on a blind and deaf man, on a deaf and dumb man, on a blind, deaf and dumb man.

I can understand why someone crippled or disabled might be forbidden from entering the order, but to disqualify one "who gives offense to those who see him" (especially given Buddhaghosa's commentary on the word parisadúsaka) is a disappointment to me.

"Parisad³sakoti yo attano vir³pat±ya parisa½ d³seti; atid²gho v± hoti aññesa½ s²sappam±ºan±bhippadeso, atirasso v± ubhayav±manabh³tar³pa½ viya, atik±¼o v± jh±pitakhette kh±ºuko viya, accod±to v± dadhitakk±d²hi pamajjitamaµµhatambalohavaººo, atikiso v± mandama½salohito aµµhisir±cammasar²ro viya, atith³lo v± bh±riyama½so, mahodaro v± mah±bh³tasadiso, atimahantas²so v± pacchi½ s²se katv± µhito viya, atikhuddakas²so v± sar²rassa ananur³pena atikhuddakena s²sena samann±gato, k³µak³µas²so v± t±laphalapiº¹isadisena s²sena samann±gato, sikharas²so v± uddha½ anupubbatanukena s²sena samann±gato, n±¼is²so v± mah±ve¼upabbasadisena s²sena samann±gato, kappas²so v± pabbh±ras²so v± cat³su passesu yena kenaci passena oºatena s²sena samann±gato, vaºas²so v± p³tis²so v± kaººikakeso v± p±ºakehi kh±yitaked±re sassasadisehi tahi½ tahi½ uµµhitehi kesehi samann±gato, nillomas²so v± th³lathaddhakeso v± t±lah²rasadisehi kesehi samann±gato, j±tipalitehi paº¹aras²so v± pakatitambakeso v± ±dittehi viya kesehi samann±gato, ±vaµµas²so v± gunna½ sar²re ±vaµµasadisehi uddhaggehi kes±vaµµehi samann±gato, s²salomehi saddhi½ ek±baddhabhamukalomo v± j±labaddhena viya nal±µena samann±gato."

http://www.tipitaka.org/vriroman/vin02a ... 2-frm.html [section 38]

P.S. Sorry about the poor transfer of Pali fonts. I've provided links to help track down the passages in Pali.
Last edited by pulga on Wed Mar 02, 2011 5:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: MIght social stigma disqualify one from going forth?

Postby beeblebrox » Wed Mar 02, 2011 5:30 pm

I'm deaf (and also "dumb" in real life), so I think that's really a shame. :tongue: (I have absolutely no problem in leading a layperson's life, though.)

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Re: MIght social stigma disqualify one from going forth?

Postby pulga » Wed Mar 02, 2011 5:45 pm

I'm severly limited in my ability to decipher Commentarial Pali, but it appears that Buddhaghosa extends the meaning of parisadúsaka to those whose skin is too dark or too light. Just the sentiment in general is a little disappointing.

The Sri Lankans are sometimes criticized for introducing caste into their ordination procedure, but perhaps they are carrying on the spirit of the discipline more than some of us are aware of.

Any help in translating Buddhaghosa's commentary would be appreciated.
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Re: MIght social stigma disqualify one from going forth?

Postby beeblebrox » Wed Mar 02, 2011 8:39 pm

I can't help you with Buddhaghosa's commentary... but I wouldn't be surprised. Saṃsāra is saṃsāra. It's a really big mess, no matter how much Vinaya rules the Buddha would've put on the monks, or taken away, and whether you're ordinated or not.

For example, if an "hearing" monk turns out to be unable to communicate with a deaf person, even though this deaf person knows sign language, and is even eloquent in it... that monk would actually be the "deaf and dumb" one... from that deaf person's perspective.

If the Saṅgha was located in a large deaf community, where sign language was predominant, someone would've commited a dukkaṭa offense in ordinating this person. Hope that this clears up what I think the actual purpose of these Vinaya rules were.

The following was what the venerable Yunmen had to say about it: (He's zen I know... but still pretty relevant):

A monk asked his teacher Yunmen, "There are three kinds of sick people in the world... the blind, deaf, and mute. How am I to teach them Buddhism?"

"Since you have come to ask for instruction,” Yunmen said, “Why don’t you bow before me?"

The monk bowed before him, and then the moment he lifted his head... Yunmen took a swipe at him. The monk jumped back, surprised.

"You’re not blind," laughed Yunmen. "Come here, don’t be afraid. Come before me."

The monk obeyed, and then took a few steps forward.

"You can hear!" laughed Yunmen. "You’re not deaf. Can you give me a Dhamma talk?"

"No, I can’t."

"Oh, so you’re not mute," roared Yunmen with laughter.

Notice that the implication here was that this monk was blind, deaf and dumb to start with! :tongue:

And three cases from the Blue Cliff Records: (Still zen, but still pretty relevant):

Case #70

Kuei Shan, Wu Feng, and Yun Yen were together attending on Pai Chang. Pai Chang asked Kuei Shan, "With your throat, mouth, and lips shut, how will you speak?"

Kuei Shan said, "Please, Teacher, you speak instead."

Chang said, "I don't refuse to speak. I'm afraid that if I did, I will not have any descendants ahead of me."

Case #71

Pai Chang also asked Wu Feng, "With your throat, mouth, and lips shut, how will you speak?"

Feng said, "Teacher, you too should shut up."

Chang said, "Ah, when there's no one, I might shade my eyes and gaze out towards you."

Case #72

Pai Chang also asked Yun Yen, "With your throat, mouth, and lips shut, how willl you speak?"

Yen said, "Teacher, do you have a way to, or not?"

Chang replied, "Seems like I have lost my descendants!" (i.e., no more monks according to the vinaya.)

BTW, I'm really deaf... and many of my deaf friends would actually say that hearing people are the clueless ones. (Though I don't think in this way... that everyone else are the clueless ones.)

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Re: MIght social stigma disqualify one from going forth?

Postby pulga » Thu Mar 03, 2011 12:00 am

In light of the achievements of the Ven. Bhaddiya, and the praise he received in the suttas, it's odd that such a rule would be laid down.

Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was dwelling near Sàvatthi, in Jeta's Wood, at Anàthapindika's monastery.

Then Venerable Bhaddiya the Dwarf, following behind many monks, approached the Blessed One.

The Blessed One saw Venerable Bhaddiya the Dwarf approaching from a distance, ugly, unsightly, and deformed, following the monks who for the most part ignored him.

Having seen (that), he addressed the monks, (saying): "Do you see, monks, that monk coming from afar, following behind many monks, ugly, unsightly, and deformed, ignored for the most part by the other monks?"

"Yes, Venerable Sir."

"That monk, monks, is one of great power and great majesty. There is no well-gained attainment which has not been already attained by that monk, (including) that good for which sons of good family rightly go forth from home into homelessness, that unsurpassed culmination to the spiritual life, in which he dwells having known, directly experienced, and attained for himself in this very life."

Then the Blessed One, having understood the significance of it, on that occasion uttered this exalted utterance:

"With faultless wheel, with a white covering, the one-spoked chariot rolls on,
See the untroubled one coming, who has cut off the stream, who is unbound."

Udána VII, 5
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Re: MIght social stigma disqualify one from going forth?

Postby meindzai » Thu Mar 03, 2011 12:26 am

Whenever questioning something from the Vinaya, it is really probably best to find (if it is possible) the origin story for such a rule. You have to remember that the Buddha laid down these rules one by one, almost always in response to some particular fiasco. A good source is Thanissaro Bhikkhu's "The Buddhist Monastic Code:

Parts I and II

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... intro.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... intro.html

I don't have time to sort through at the moment, but see if that helps.

Another point to consider is that some people are simply not "cut out" for ordination, since it is a very difficult and restrictive life. There might be certain conditions in a persons life that just make it impossible, or at least very difficult, to ordain. One who is able to ordain is actually very fortunate to be able to do so.

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Re: MIght social stigma disqualify one from going forth?

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Mar 03, 2011 5:42 pm

pulga wrote:In light of the achievements of the Ven. Bhaddiya, and the praise he received in the suttas, it's odd that such a rule would be laid down.


I think he was ordinated very early on, when the Saṅgha was still small. It was only when there started to be a large number of bhikkhus ordinated, that the Buddha started to add the Vinaya rules. Of course, everyone knows what happens when a large number of people are put together in a group.

It might be more useful to look at the word "dukkaṭa," the so-called "offense" that this is put under. (As opposed to thullaccaya; thulla = massive, fat, gross; caya = mass, piling, heap.) It seems like dukkaṭa is usually translated as "wrong-doing," or even "evil-doing," but I think it's really more like "badly done," or even closer, "an action that is difficult, or stressful." It comes from the same root as dukkha.

Du = difficulty, not good.
Kaṭa = pp. (past participle) of karoti; done, made, acted, built.

Is it really accurate to view the dukkha as "wrong" or "evil"? Or is it really more like "stress"? I don't know if this interpretation still holds with dukkaṭa as it is used in the Vinaya... because I'm not really an expert. As you can see... the Buddha made these rules, because the bhikkhus (non-arahant) couldn't handle it, apparently.

Be it far from me to try dilute the rules, though... they're not my rules.

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Re: MIght social stigma disqualify one from going forth?

Postby pulga » Fri Mar 04, 2011 2:51 pm

I think you make a very good point. In recounting his experience with Ajahn Sumedho, Paul Breiter wrote:

'One time when he read the Vinaya to us, he explained that the rules weren’t absolute principles that incurred punishment if violated. “It’s not like God is watching over your shoulder, and if you pee standing up, He calls out, ‘Abat dukkot! (dukkhata apatti, a minor infraction),’” and he had a good laugh at his own joke.'

http://www.abhayagiri.org/main/newslett ... 79/2007/06

Since there is no mention of the validity of such a pabbaja being rescinded, the gravity of such an infraction is probably determined by context and culture.
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