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Dhamma Wheel • View topic - Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby Abandon » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:28 am

Regarding Thailand:
Have you seen that Sanitsuda - an aging writer at the Bangkok Post - has been launching more acidic articles aimed at Buddhism in Thailand. Writing about a particular story is one thing, but she springboards every story into a generalised and bitter attack on Thai Buddhism.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/blogs/index. ... ry?blog=64

Sure Buddhism in Thialand has its share of problems, but on the whole it is pretty sound, and at the end of the day Thailand is a mainstay of Theravada Buddhism. It is sad that even here such gutter press stories abound and paint wholly derogatory picutres of a whole society. In fact this particular writer's bitterness seems not to be mere coarse gutter press instincts, but simply spiteful. If there is anything good about Buddhism in Thailand (and there is) then it such peurile articles only poison it.
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby cooran » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:37 am

Hello abandon, all,

There are always bad monks, and those who publicise it. Don't join the latter yourself.

BTW, Thailand isn't the mainstay of Theravada Buddhism.

Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), and Thailand all do there part - as does Buddhism in many other countries.

Indeed, with regard to the promotion and protection of the divisions of the Tipitaka ~
there is a saying in the Sangha that ~

Thailand = Vinaya;
Burma = Abhidhamma;
and Sri Lanka = Suttanta.

metta
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby nathan » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:46 am

I'd appreciate hearing more about what is good about Theravada in Thailand these days. I realize that these kinds of attitudes have become more and more mainstream in the media in recent years. It is hard to imagine, however, that journalism is in a total and permanent state of decline. I plan to go to Thailand very soon and find somewhere to 'join up' with the Sangha there, so anything, anyone or anywhere that you think would be good to check out, please let me know either in this thread, the ordaining in thailand thread in the general forum or by pm. Glad to know that one more person sees much good still in Thai Theravada. Now that we have western teachers, westerners tend to rely on them, surely there are still great Asian saints to be found in Theravada as well who have something more to offer us who are from elsewhere, we just don't see the trees for the forest that has come up in the foreground, thanks of course, to the benevolence of the Asian peoples in the first place.

:anjali:

Thailand = Vinaya? Perfect. Exactly what I am most keen to develop and improve on in my body, speech and mind. :bow: :bow: :bow:
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby Abandon » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:37 am

Well, I did say Thailand is a mainstay of Theravada, not the mainstay.

It is odd how polite Thai people can be, but give them a newspaper column (in this case) or a car and politelness is replaced with something less endearing.

Nathan - good luck for when you are in Thailand. Around Bangkok if there is anything going on in English then it is usually at littlebang. You will always have to let a certain amount wash over you, but I have found great monks in practically every temple, and I focus on the good. The monks university in Ayutthaya is not a bad place, especially if you are looking to study anything other than Pali or Abhidhamma. But generally you are best finding somewhere stable and self contained to hack out early years in the ordained life.
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby gavesako » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:44 am

I heard it different: Laos = Vinaya ;)

Sanitsuda's articles are often a bit provocative, especially when discussing the issue of women and their status in Thai society (not just the Sangha), but it surely reflects the opinion of at least a section of educated Thai society influenced by Western democratic ideals. It is not just her, to be sure, there are many similar voices pointing out the urgent need for reform of the monastic education system and the Sangha hierarchy in Thailand (both remnants of nationalistic policies adopted at the beginning of 20th century).

Here is a good article for you:

Buddhism for the Next Century
Toward Renewing a Moral Thai Society
by Phra Phaisan Visalo
http://www.bpf.org/tsangha/phaisan.htm
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby nathan » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:29 pm

gavesako wrote:I heard it different: Laos = Vinaya ;)
Well, after three months, if I can't sort something out they are going to toss me out of Thailand anyways. How is it for foreigners who would like to enter the Sangha in Laos? Where would I go and who would I look up in Laos Ven. Gavesako? I suppose I would have to learn... Laoatian... is that right?
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby clw_uk » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:33 pm

Since the abbot had already quit the monkhood, the issue was considered closed. As a matter of procedure, the Office of National Buddhism has advised abbots nationwide to be more strict with ordination since it is against the vinaya to ordain the "pandaka," which is routinely translated as "homosexuals".



I dont agree with this, i thought pandaka didnt mean homosexual?
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby SeerObserver » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:49 pm

Many say they have noticed a stark increase in the number of "katoey" novices who show little restraint in expressing themselves, including the use of cosmetics, the readjusting of robes for a fashionable look, and the public display of feminine gestures. Could this suggest rife sexual abuse of minors in the temple, too?

Has anyone actually witnessed first-hand this outright breakage of the 8th precept? It is difficult to believe that this occurs out in the open like that and that it would be tolerated by abbots/elder monks as well as temple benefactors.

How many "real" monks do we have left nowadays, given the widespread sex scandals, temple corruption and commercialisation of Buddhism?

This is a bit much. While it is true that these phenomena she mentioned occur, she seems to be suggesting that this is the majority and that is far from true. We should look foremost at the Sangha as the followers of the path who contribute to carrying on and spreading the Dhamma, and we should see them for the merit field that they are.

It would behoove myself and the rest of us to be mindful of this so that we will buck the societal trend of fault-finding in others, especially of others' Buddhist practice or the Sangha. It would be better if we were to spend more effort to address the faults that hinder our progress along the path the most...our own.
Last edited by SeerObserver on Wed Mar 18, 2009 6:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby Abandon » Tue Mar 17, 2009 4:27 am

Well put Seery.

Sanitsuda likes to take a current (and real) incidnet and make sweeping generalisations under the cover of journalism, deliberately trying to poison the public opinion. She paints pictures of rife homosexuality, drugs, corruption, greed etc.. and endlessly calls for change, without any positive suggestion of how it might come about. Basically likes to tear down the Sangha without purpose - I can only call it spiteful.


Regarding the effeminite monks, what she says is in fact true, and it is widely tolerated. The robe style, of the kind with the sash tied about the waist, is varied to go across the breast and under the shoulder rather than over. Also colouring is applied to lips, which although failry subtle, when added to the overall effect, is very clear. This seems to be tolerated for the most part, albeit with some gentle ridiculing.

I should add that most such monks are ordained muchly against their wishes. There is often pressure on youths to ordain in hope of sorting out their problems - sexuality, drugs, gang mentality etc.. So they do their term and disrobe accordingly, usually after finishing the monastic education levels. They introduce the, ahem.. style changes .. bit by bit so it is difficult for the Sangha to really draw the line as it starts to occur.


Still, people are only people, and as groups go, Thai Buddhism is in a very healthy state. Reading the Vinaya, much worse things used to happen in the Buddha's time. The fact that so called 'scandals' are so tame is indicative of a good Sangha IMO
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby SeerObserver » Tue Mar 17, 2009 6:50 am

Abandon wrote:..and endlessly calls for change, without any positive suggestion of how it might come about. Basically likes to tear down the Sangha without purpose - I can only call it spiteful.

It does indeed seem spiteful. Criticism, when unaccompanied by suggestion of reform, cannot really be called constructive. The constant teardown combined with the lack of any proposals or ideas can only be called what you have labeled it...spiteful.

What is her background? It seems like she has a vendetta of some sort. Maybe the vendetta goes back beyond this lifetime even. What she does approaches the realm of anantarika-kamma. It creates a schism between the lay and the ordained. Mercy be upon her if it ever created a schism between the ordained Sangha.
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby gavesako » Tue Mar 17, 2009 4:14 pm

nathan wrote:
gavesako wrote:I heard it different: Laos = Vinaya ;)
Well, after three months, if I can't sort something out they are going to toss me out of Thailand anyways. How is it for foreigners who would like to enter the Sangha in Laos? Where would I go and who would I look up in Laos Ven. Gavesako? I suppose I would have to learn... Laoatian... is that right?


Hello Nathan,

I guess the people who said this about "Laos" meant specifically the forest monk tradition of Ajahn Mun, many of whose disciples came from the ethnic Lao part of present-day Thailand but also spent time on the other side of the Mekong. They were known for being rigorous with certain aspects of the Vinaya discipline.

These days Laos is hardly a viable alternative for ordination, I should think.
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:58 pm

Chris wrote:Indeed, with regard to the promotion and protection of the divisions of the Tipitaka ~
there is a saying in the Sangha that ~

Thailand = Vinaya;
Burma = Abhidhamma;
and Sri Lanka = Suttanta.

No wonder I like the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis from Sri Lanka so much!

I like all of the above of course, but have a special affinity for the Suttanta.
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby pink_trike » Tue Mar 17, 2009 11:18 pm

Chris wrote:There are always bad monks, and those who publicise it. Don't join the latter yourself.


Hi Chris,

Are you saying that monastic corruption shouldn't be revealed? If so, I find this view to be harmful to the monastic institution. In practice, it is "co-dependent" that those who see corruption in the institution shouldn't speak it out loud...which simply enables it to spread further and makes it seem "normal". :anjali:
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Mind is Empty
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Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby pink_trike » Tue Mar 17, 2009 11:41 pm

Abandon wrote: Sure Buddhism in Thialand has its share of problems, but on the whole it is pretty sound, and at the end of the day Thailand is a mainstay of Theravada Buddhism.


Interesting that you think that Buddhism is "sound" in Thailand. I'd like to hear more about what you think makes it sound.

Imo, it only appears sound - if we take a long view, there are well-formed patterns in Thai society that suggest that while Buddhism will remain the official "religion" likely for decades to come, in everyday life it will become even more meaningless than it already is perceived by much of Thai society.

I have many Thai Buddhist friends living all over Thailand in the 25-45 age range, in all economic brackets...from rural farmer to BKK urban sophisticate. About half of them identify as Buddhist simply as a matter of habit and social expectation, and the other half don't identify with any "religion". Nearly all of them laugh at my interest in the Dharma, and call me "monk man"...in humor, but not entirely. Because of my interest in the Dharma, I am regarded as odd to this demographic who are to Thailand what my generation (late 60s - 70s) was to the U.S. - questioning and rebelling against bloated self-serving institutions.

In Thailand, higher education is widespread (here's a bit of history):

http://education.stateuniversity.com/pa ... ATION.html

I think it is safe to say that education (and conspicuous consumption) is the new "religion"...the new "way of life"...more so for each new generation - especially with growing internet access.

The other half of my thai friends that do identify as "Buddhist" think that Buddhism means making donations to a temple or some other kind of occasional merit, or attending various Buddhist celebrations that often seem to have very little to do with Buddhism as many of us here may understand it.

Neither half seem to know very much about Buddhism or the Dharma. Both halves have contempt or indifference for Buddhism, referring to it as "country" or "old-fashioned" or "for old people" - and express scorn or indifference to a Buddhism that lives in fear of ghosts and other non-human beings harming them, practices amulet fetishism, blesses mercedes benzes, and the fairly obvious sexual, intellectual and financial/political corruption that is widespread and spreading fast through the Thai Buddhist institution. Many of them express Western ideas of individualism such as "finding myself", "being myself" and "finding my voice"...emphasis on the "myself".

In sum, in the 25-45 demographic (more so the younger we look), male and female, of all classes, Buddhism is widely perceived as having no meaning - other than a general belief in "be good". When I hear my Thai friend's speak dismissively or angrily of Buddhism I'm reminded of how my generation found nothing of interest in Christianity in the 70s, leading to a major decline in Christianity and Christian influence in much of the U.S.

Personally, I don't think this bodes well for Buddhism in Thailand. Corporatism planted some potent seeds in Thailand about 25 years ago, and the current yournger/middle generations are the flowers of that seeding. They want a Western lifestyle, and have no time for a "religion" that doesn't know how to speak to them (or that they can't hear over the roar of Capitalism).

This isn't to say that meaningful Buddhism, ethical knowledgeable monks, and well-managed :rules: temples and monasteries can't be found in Thailand...they can be...quite a lot of it still - but choose carefully. And it doesn't mean that Buddhism doesn't have a positive effect on Thai society...for now, it still does (though indirectly and far below potential).

I didn't find the author's attitude to be "bitter", "spiteful, and "coarse". If nobody talks about the gaping cracks in the institution, where is the incentive for change?
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby gavesako » Wed Mar 18, 2009 3:28 pm

SeerObserver wrote:Has anyone actually witnessed first-hand this outright breakage of the 8th precept? It is difficult to believe that this occurs out in the open like that and that it would be tolerated by abbots/elder monks as well as temple benefactors.

How many "real" monks do we have left nowadays, given the widespread sex scandals, temple corruption and commercialisation of Buddhism?

This is a bit much. While it is true that these phenomena she mentioned occur, she seems to be suggesting that this is the majority and that is far from true. We should look foremost at the Sangha as the followers of the path who contribute to carrying on and spreading the Dhamma, and we should see them for the merit field that they are.

It would behoove myself and the rest of us to be mindful of this so that we will buck the societal trend of fault-finding in others, especially of others' Buddhist practice of the Sangha. It would be better if we were to spend more effort to address the faults that hinder our progress along the path the most...our own.


The Western monks at Wat Pah Nanachat, for example, are advised not to spend the night in typical village or town monasteries precisely for these kind of reasons. The monks there, apart from not keeping many other Vinaya rules, have also been known to be sexually attracted to "Phra Farang" and one monk has experienced that type of assault. The fact that such things go on in monasteries which function as schools for young novices who have no interest to be in the robes in the first place surprises nobody anymore. I myself once had to stay in such a monastery-school in northern Thailand for one night (we made sure to lock the door well -- always recommended in Thai monasteries) and in the morning there was a used syringe with needle lying not far from out room so that I almost stepped on it. The novices had to be subjected to a certain amount of regimentation in that place in order to keep them under control. I heard pretty bad stories about study temples in Bangkok, in this particular case for Bangladeshi monks who are living there. There seems to be a rather dark scene among them (I know this from a somewhat naive laywoman who was cheated by one of them and lost quite a bit of money). So be careful where you go...
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Mar 18, 2009 6:34 pm

gavesako wrote:The monks there, apart from not keeping many other Vinaya rules, have also been known to be sexually attracted to "Phra Farang" and one monk has experienced that type of assault. . . . So be careful where you go...

Wow, that is pretty bad. I have heard some bad things and about some of the corruption, but assault is really bad.

I have not heard of any scandals among the communities of monks and nuns that have sprouted-up in non-Buddhist lands, but in defense of the Asian communities, they have been around a lot longer than those in the U.S., UK, Australia, for example.

Also, perhaps there are too many monks in some of these Asian countries? I think there is something like 300,000 monks or more in Thailand. Does the country really need that many? I probably would rather see fewer numbers, but with greater quality (like the monks we have here at DW who study, meditate, know the Dhamma-Vinaya, follow the Dhamma-Vinaya, and teach the Dhamma-Vinaya). When the numbers are too high (of anything) then there is a greater likelihood of corrupt people joining or even criminal acts.
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Wed Mar 18, 2009 7:09 pm

SeerObserver wrote:
Many say they have noticed a stark increase in the number of "katoey" novices who show little restraint in expressing themselves, including the use of cosmetics, the readjusting of robes for a fashionable look, and the public display of feminine gestures. Could this suggest rife sexual abuse of minors in the temple, too?

Has anyone actually witnessed first-hand this outright breakage of the 8th precept? It is difficult to believe that this occurs out in the open like that and that it would be tolerated by abbots/elder monks as well as temple benefactors.

How many "real" monks do we have left nowadays, given the widespread sex scandals, temple corruption and commercialisation of Buddhism?

This is a bit much. While it is true that these phenomena she mentioned occur, she seems to be suggesting that this is the majority and that is far from true. We should look foremost at the Sangha as the followers of the path who contribute to carrying on and spreading the Dhamma, and we should see them for the merit field that they are.

It would behoove myself and the rest of us to be mindful of this so that we will buck the societal trend of fault-finding in others, especially of others' Buddhist practice or the Sangha. It would be better if we were to spend more effort to address the faults that hinder our progress along the path the most...our own.


Agreed. It strikes me as a bit of sensationalism.
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby christopher::: » Thu Mar 19, 2009 9:26 am

gavesako wrote:
The Western monks at Wat Pah Nanachat, for example, are advised not to spend the night in typical village or town monasteries precisely for these kind of reasons. The monks there, apart from not keeping many other Vinaya rules, have also been known to be sexually attracted to "Phra Farang" and one monk has experienced that type of assault. The fact that such things go on in monasteries which function as schools for young novices who have no interest to be in the robes in the first place surprises nobody anymore. I myself once had to stay in such a monastery-school in northern Thailand for one night (we made sure to lock the door well -- always recommended in Thai monasteries) and in the morning there was a used syringe with needle lying not far from out room so that I almost stepped on it. The novices had to be subjected to a certain amount of regimentation in that place in order to keep them under control. I heard pretty bad stories about study temples in Bangkok, in this particular case for Bangladeshi monks who are living there. There seems to be a rather dark scene among them (I know this from a somewhat naive laywoman who was cheated by one of them and lost quite a bit of money). So be careful where you go...


Wow, that is a problem, big problem. Here in Japan we have something different that's happened with Zen Buddhism and other schools. People don't send "troubled youth" to temples for training, but rather its the sons of Buddhist priests who are sent to carry on the family tradition, which in many cases has become more like a business. This leads to a similar situation in that many of those training to become the central figures in Buddhism are often not truly motivated by a deep and sincere desire to understand and realize the dharma.

How can this be addressed?

:shrug:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby cooran » Thu Mar 19, 2009 10:13 am

pink_trike wrote:
Chris wrote:There are always bad monks, and those who publicise it. Don't join the latter yourself.


Hi Chris,

Are you saying that monastic corruption shouldn't be revealed? If so, I find this view to be harmful to the monastic institution. In practice, it is "co-dependent" that those who see corruption in the institution shouldn't speak it out loud...which simply enables it to spread further and makes it seem "normal". :anjali:

Hello Pink, all,

Exactly what good do you think you are doing by anonymously gossiping about unknown bhikkhus on the internet for thousands to read, about supposed happenings mentioned in a newspaper of a country far away?

My take is ~ If you personally observe wrong doing by a bhikkhu, which contravenes the law of the country, or breaches the vinaya ~ there are channels to take it further. "Oh, ain't it awful" chatting on an internet group isn't one of these channels - it simply incurs akusala kamma for the participants.

The Buddha taught:
"There are these ten topics of [proper] conversation. Which ten? Talk on modesty, on contentment, on seclusion, on non-entanglement, on arousing persistence, on virtue, on concentration, on discernment, on release, and on the knowledge & vision of release. These are the ten topics of conversation. If you were to engage repeatedly in these ten topics of conversation, you would outshine even the sun & moon, so mighty, so powerful — to say nothing of the wanderers of other sects."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

and

"When you have gathered you have two duties: either Dhamma-talk or noble silence."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Bangkok Post Writer's endless acidity

Postby gavesako » Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:07 am

That is true, but also compare this statement by the Buddha:

"The Dhamma and the Vinaya proclaimed by the Tathagata shine forth when they are displayed, and not when they are concealed."


And:

Brahmajala Sutta

The sutta starts with the Buddha travelling with his disciples between the cities of Rajagaha and Nalanda. At the same time, a brahmin called Suppiya, with his young apprentice, Brahmadatta, were also travelling in the same direction, tailing the convoy of the sangha. Suppiya uttered some insulting words about the Buddha, his teachings, and his disciples. However, Brahmadatta praised and revered the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. The two continued debating until they arrived at the King's resting place in Ambalatthika.

Hearing this conversation, some monks discussed the nature of conflicting students and teachers the next morning. They wondered how marvellous it was that the Buddha knew the various kinds of views to be found in people. The Buddha arrived and asked what they were discussing. As a monk finished telling him, the Buddha responded, "Monks, if anyone spoke words which insult me, the Dhamma, and the Sangha, don't let this thing prompt you to hate, take revenge, and turn against them. If, because of this, you become angry or annoyed, then it will become an obstacle in your quest to liberate yourself, and cause you upset. However, if someone speaks insulting or false accusations about me, the Dhamma, and the Sangha, then you should state which is wrong and point out the mistake by explaining that because of this proof and that, then that is not true, or it is not like that, that kind of thing is not us, or occurring in us.".

"But if someone praises me, the Dhamma, or the Sangha; don't let this thing make you feel proud, joyful, and happy. If you act like that, then it will become an obstacle in your efforts to achieve your own final liberation. If someone speaks like that, you should state which is right and show the fact by saying, 'Based upon this and that fact, it is indeed so; that thing does indeed exist in us, or is true about us.' Even only due to small matters, worthless, or even due to the Precepts (Sila)."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahmajala ... (Theravada)
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

ajahnchah.org - Teachings of Ajahn Chah in many languages
Dhammatube - Videos on Buddhist practice
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
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