Monasticim and parental permission

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

Postby vitellius » Thu Apr 23, 2009 4:20 pm

Dear friends,

I was following threads on this topic on E-Sangha, but I've recently found an interesting opinion that wasn't mentioned there.

Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw said that there is no need for parental permission to become a monk if parents are not Buddhists.

I'm interested in a ground in Dhamma-Vinaya and the Commentaries for such practice.

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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Apr 24, 2009 3:22 am

Oleksandr wrote:Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw said that there is no need for parental permission to become a monk if parents are not Buddhists.


It's the first I've heard of this. Whenever I've helped westerners to get ordained in Thailand, all the abbots required evidence of parental consent even though the parents were Christians or Jews. The religion of one's parents isn't a relevant factor in any of the scenarios described and adjudicated in the Vinaya Piṭaka and the Samantapāsādikā.

Below I append my translation of the relevant passages.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu

_____________________________________

The Vinaya Piṭaka's Mahāvagga states:

    na, bhikkhave, ananuññāto mātāpitūhi putto pabbājetabbo. Yo pabbājeyya, āpatti dukkaṭassa.

    "Monks, a son must not be given the going forth without permission from his mother and father. Should one do so, it is an offence of wrong-doing." — Vin. i. 83

The Atthakathā comments:

    sace dve atthi, dvepi āpucchitabbā.

    "If both exist [i.e. are alive], then leave must be obtained from both." — VinA. v. 1011

But there are also quite a number of exceptions given in the Vinaya Atthakathā (Samantapāsādikā. v. 1011-12)

    (1) Here, the phrase "from his mother and father" was said in regard to the man and woman who conceived him. If both are living, then leave must be obtained from both of them.

    If the father or mother is deceased, then leave must be obtained from [the parent] who is still living.

    Even if they have themselves gone forth, leave must still be obtained from them.

    * * * *

    (2) When obtaining leave, he may either go and obtain it himself, or may send another person, saying to him, "Go to my mother and father and having obtained their leave come back."

    * * * *

    (3) If he says, "I am one who has obtained permission," he may be given the going forth if it is believable.

    * * * *

    (4) A father has himself gone forth and wishes his son to go forth; having obtained leave of the mother, let him go forth; or, a mother wishes her daughter to go forth; having obtained leave of the father, let her go forth.

    * * * *

    (5) A father, not concerned for the welfare of his wife and son, runs away. The mother gives her son to some monks, saying, "Let him go forth." When asked, "Where has his father gone?" she replies, "He has run away to disport himself." — It is suitable for him [the son] to be given the going forth.

    A mother has run away with some man or other. The father gives [his son to some monks, saying], "Let him go forth." The principle in this case is just the same as above.

    The Kurundī* states: 'A father is absent. The mother gives her son permission, saying, "Let him go forth." When asked, "Where has his father gone?" she replies, "I shall be responsible for whatever is due to you from the father." — It is suitable for him [the son] to be given the going forth.'

    [* Kurundī: one of the Sinhalese commentaries most frequently cited by Buddhaghosa as the source of his Vinaya exegesis.]

    * * * *

    (6) The mother and father are deceased. Their boy has grown up in the company of [relatives] such as his maternal aunt. When he is being given the going forth, his relatives start a quarrel or criticize it. Therefore, in order to stop the quarrel, he should obtain their leave before being given the going forth. But if given the going forth without having obtained their leave there is no offence.

    They who undertook to feed him in his childhood are called "mother" and "father", and with respect to these the principle is just the same as above. The son [is reckoned as] one living dependent on himself, not on a mother and father.

    * * * *

    (7) Even if he be a king, he must still obtain leave before being given the going forth.

    * * * *

    (8) Being permitted by his mother and father, he goes forth, but [later] reverts [to being a householder]. Even if he goes forth and reverts seven times, on each occasion that he comes [to go forth] again he must obtain leave [from his mother and father] before he may be given the going forth.

    * * * *

    (9) If [his mother and father] say: "This [son of ours], having reverted and come home, does not do any work for us; having gone forth he will not fulfil his duty to you; there is no point in him obtaining leave; whenever he comes to you, just give him the going forth." When [a son] has been disowned in this way, it is suitable for him to be given the going forth again without even obtaining leave.

    * * * *

    (10) He who when only in his childhood had been given away [by his mother and father, saying], "This is a gift for you; give him the going forth whenever you want," may be given the going forth whenever he comes [to ask for it], without even obtaining leave.

    But [a mother and father], having given permission [to their son] when he was only in his childhood, afterwards, when he has reached maturity, withdraw their permission; he must not be given the going forth without obtaining leave.

    * * * *

    (11) An only son, after quarrelling with his mother and father, comes [to the sangha, saying], "Let me go forth." Upon being told, "Come back after you have obtained leave," he says, "I'm not going! If you don't let me go forth, I shall burn down your monastery, or stab you with a sword, or cause loss to your relatives and supporters by cutting down the plants in their gardens, or kill myself by jumping from a tree, or join a gang of robbers, or go to another country!"

    It is suitable to let him go forth in order to safeguard life. If his mother and father then come and say, "Why did you let our son go forth?" they should be informed of the reason for it, saying, "We let him go forth in order to safeguard life. You may confirm this with your son."

    * * * *

    (12) Then, [one saying] "I shall jump from a tree," has climbed up and is about to let go with his hands and feet. It is suitable to let him go forth.

    * * * *

    (13) An only son, having gone to another country, requests the going forth. If he had obtained leave before departing, he may be given the going forth.

    If he had not obtained leave, having sent a young monk to get [the parents] to give their leave, he may be given the going forth. If it is a very distant country, it is suitable to just give him the going forth and then send him with other bhikkhus to inform [the parents].

    But the Kurundī states: 'if [the country] is far away and the way to it is [across] a great wilderness (or desert), it is suitable to give him the going forth, [thinking], "having gone there [later] we shall obtain leave [of the parents]."'

    * * * *

    (14) If a mother and father have many sons and speak thus: "Venerable sir, may you give the going forth to whichever [one] of these boys you choose," then having examined the boys, he may give the going forth to the one he chooses.

    If an entire [extended] family or an entire village is given permission [by someone, saying], "Venerable sir, may you give the going forth to whichever [one] of the boys in this family or this village you choose," he may give the going forth to the one he chooses.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,

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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby vitellius » Fri Apr 24, 2009 8:56 am

Thank you, Bhante.

Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw is known for quite strict observance of Vinaya, and there must be some ground for this. I will try to find out through his kappiya.

Anyway, has anyone else got any suggestions?

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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby vitellius » Tue Apr 28, 2009 4:32 am

The ground is Dhammapada Commentary to
98. Gāme vā yadi vāraññe, ninne vā yadi vā thale;
Yattha arahanto viharanti, taṃ bhūmirāmaṇeyyakaṃ.

98. In the village or in the forest, in the valley or on the hill -
wherever Arahants live, that place is pleasant.


It says on the topic:

http://www.tipitaka.org/romn/cscd/s0502a.att7.xml

Āyasmā hi sāriputto sattāsītikoṭidhanaṃ pahāya pabbajitvā cālā, upacālā, sīsūpacālāti tisso bhaginiyo, cundo upasenoti ime dve ca bhātaro pabbājesi. Revatakumāro ekova gehe avasiṭṭho. Athassa mātā cintesi – ‘‘mama putto upatisso ettakaṃ dhanaṃ pahāya pabbajitvā tisso ca bhaginiyo dve ca bhātaro pabbājesi, revato ekova avaseso. Sace imampi pabbājessati, ettakaṃ no dhanaṃ nassissati, kulavaṃso pacchijjissati, daharakāleyeva naṃ gharāvāsena bandhissāmī’’ti. Sāriputtattheropi paṭikacceva bhikkhū āṇāpesi ‘‘sace, āvuso, revato pabbajitukāmo āgacchati, āgatamattameva naṃ pabbājeyyātha, mama mātāpitaro micchādiṭṭhikā, kiṃ tehi āpucchitehi, ahameva tassa mātā ca pitā cā’’ti. Mātāpissa revatakumāraṃ sattavassikameva gharabandhanena bandhitukāmā samānajātike kule dārikaṃ vāretvā divasaṃ vavatthapetvā kumāraṃ maṇḍetvā pasādhetvā mahatā parivārena saddhiṃ ādāya kumārikāya ñātigharaṃ agamāsi. Atha nesaṃ katamaṅgalānaṃ dvinnampi ñātakesu sannipatitesu udakapātiyaṃ hatthe otāretvā maṅgalāni vatvā kumārikāya vuḍḍhiṃ ākaṅkhamānā ñātakā ‘‘tava ayyikāya diṭṭhadhammaṃ passa, ayyikā viya ciraṃ jīva, ammā’’ti āhaṃsu. Revatakumāro ‘‘ko nu kho imissā ayyikāya diṭṭhadhammo’’ti cintetvā ‘‘katarā imissā ayyikā’’ti pucchi. Atha naṃ āhaṃsu, ‘‘tāta, kiṃ na passasi imaṃ vīsavassasatikaṃ khaṇḍadantaṃ palitakesaṃ valittacaṃ tilakāhatagattaṃ gopānasivaṅkaṃ, esā etissā ayyikā’’ti. ‘‘Kiṃ pana ayampi evarūpā bhavissatī’’ti? ‘‘Sace jīvissati, bhavissati, tātā’’ti. So cintesi – ‘‘evarūpampi nāma sarīraṃ jarāya imaṃ vippakāraṃ pāpuṇissati, imaṃ me bhātarā upatissena diṭṭhaṃ bhavissati, ajjeva mayā palāyitvā pabbajituṃ vaṭṭatī’’ti. Atha naṃ ñātakā kumārikāya saddhiṃ ekayānaṃ āropetvā ādāya pakkamiṃsu.

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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby Dhammanando » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:33 pm

Hi Oleksandr,

Thanks for investigating the matter, but I don't agree that the passage supports the sayadaw's view. Since Sāriputta's brother, Revata, is only seven years old, the Dhp-a narrative concerns his going forth as a sāmaṇera, not his full acceptance as a bhikkhu. As such it has no bearing on the Vinaya issue of obtaining parental permission if one wishes to obtain upasampadā.

When Sāriputta says, mama mātāpitaro micchādiṭṭhikā, kiṃ tehi āpucchitehi ("my mother and father are holders of wrong view, so why bother taking leave of them?"), as I see it he is not abbrogating the Vinaya obligation to obtain parental permission (for it doesn't apply here), nor introducing any amendment to the Vinaya (something that he as a disciple would have no authority to do), but merely announcing his intention to dispense with conventional courtesies.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,

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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby Dhammanando » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:59 pm

A further point that occurs to me is that the saydaw's implied equation of "holders of wrong view" (micchādiṭṭhiko) with "non-Buddhists" is to say the least problematic. In the Pali commentaries followers of non-Buddhist doctrines who hold to kammavāda are not classed as micchādiṭṭhiko.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,

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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby vitellius » Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:03 am

Thank you for telling your vision, Bhante.

Dhammanando wrote:Since Sāriputta's brother, Revata, is only seven years old, the Dhp-a narrative concerns his going forth as a sāmaṇera, not his full acceptance as a bhikkhu.


Has this story happened at the time when Buddha had already banned children from becoming bhikkhus?

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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby vitellius » Wed Dec 09, 2009 9:14 pm

In Ratthapala sutta (MN82) a young man declares a "hunger strike" to gain parental consent for his ordination:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

I wonder, if he would die, his starvation would be a kusala or akusala (like other suicides) kamma?

(Please don't take this question too serious ;) )

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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby Bankei » Thu Dec 10, 2009 1:53 am

I recall reading of a 'loophole' whereby if the applicant threatens to harm himself, such as climbing up a tree and threatening to jump, then it is allowable for monks to ordain him without the permission.

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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby BlackBird » Thu Dec 10, 2009 2:01 am

The most venerable Sariputta, Marshal of the Dhamma did not have his mother's permission to ordain, IIRC.
How should we see this in light of the rule?
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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Dec 10, 2009 2:20 am

BlackBird wrote:The most venerable Sariputta, Marshal of the Dhamma did not have his mother's permission to ordain, IIRC.
How should we see this in light of the rule?


Technically, the Buddha didn't have permission either, at least according to some of the legends and stories, with his father wanting to shelter him from the outside world so that he would not seek the spiritual homeless life as a samana. The rule came later.

Another way of seeing it could be that a samma-sam-buddha and his closest monks must ordain otherwise there would be no Dhamma dispensation for that period. But in today's world, an argument could be made that one does not have to ordain to seek the spiritual life and could become an accomplished upasaka or upasika.

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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby suanck » Thu Dec 10, 2009 8:17 am

In the present day, I wonder if this rule of seeking parents' permission is strictly applied, especially for mature adults who live independently from their parents?

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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:04 am

suanck wrote:In the present day, I wonder if this rule of seeking parents' permission is strictly applied, especially for mature adults who live independently from their parents?

In the present day, I sometimes wonder if any of the rules are strictly applied.

Living apart as a mature adult makes no difference. To understand this rule, you need to understand the Buddhist idea of indebtedness. Our parents give us life and endure great hardship in raising us and having us educated. Our debt to them is immeasurable.

It is not permissible to grant ordination to a candidate who is not free from debt. One's parents may rightly be expecting that they will be supported and cared for by their children in their old age. That is the duty as explained in the Sīgalovāda Sutta.
"In five ways, young householder, a child should minister to his parents as the East:

(i) Having supported me I shall support them,
(ii) I shall do their duties,
(iii) I shall keep the family tradition,
(iv) I shall make myself worthy of my inheritance,
(v) furthermore I shall offer alms in honor of my departed relatives. [9]
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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:58 am

I am wondering
if a father left home, and gave up custody to the mother would the adult son or daughter need to get permission of them also?

I have a suspicion they wouldn't.
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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby Paññāsikhara » Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:32 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
Living apart as a mature adult makes no difference. To understand this rule, you need to understand the Buddhist idea of indebtedness. Our parents give us life and endure great hardship in raising us and having us educated. Our debt to them is immeasurable.

It is not permissible to grant ordination to a candidate who is not free from debt. One's parents may rightly be expecting that they will be supported and cared for by their children in their old age.



Yes, Bhante, that is well said.
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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby vitellius » Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:08 pm

Anyway, has anyone got any ideas about this question?

I wonder, if he [Rathapala of MN82] would die, his starvation would be a kusala or akusala (like other suicides) kamma?

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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby vitellius » Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:11 pm

Manapa wrote:if a father left home, and gave up custody to the mother would the adult son or daughter need to get permission of them also?


According to the Commentary, in such case one needs permission from mother only.

It was cited earlier in this thread:

(5) A father, not concerned for the welfare of his wife and son, runs away. The mother gives her son to some monks, saying, "Let him go forth." When asked, "Where has his father gone?" she replies, "He has run away to disport himself." — It is suitable for him [the son] to be given the going forth.

A mother has run away with some man or other. The father gives [his son to some monks, saying], "Let him go forth." The principle in this case is just the same as above.

The Kurundī* states: 'A father is absent. The mother gives her son permission, saying, "Let him go forth." When asked, "Where has his father gone?" she replies, "I shall be responsible for whatever is due to you from the father." — It is suitable for him [the son] to be given the going forth.'

[* Kurundī: one of the Sinhalese commentaries most frequently cited by Buddhaghosa as the source of his Vinaya exegesis.]

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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby Paññāsikhara » Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:45 pm

Oleksandr wrote:Anyway, has anyone got any ideas about this question?

I wonder, if he [Rathapala of MN82] would die, his starvation would be a kusala or akusala (like other suicides) kamma?


The issue of types of "death kamma" is a tricky one. Though they seem to be more common in some tradition, the idea that it is the very last moment which determines the death kamma / mental event, I personally think that this is somewhat simplistic. More factors have to be considered.

We need to keep in mind, that from his first decision not to eat, up to his (hypothetical situation of) death by starvation, several days, if not weeks, may take place. During that time, there are a vast number of mental states.
In general, his intention is to ordain, which is wholesome.
However, his method may not be particularly skillful, there may have been other ways to convince his parents. It is not his aim to die, though, and this we must keep in mind.

Then, at the actual moment of death, there could be any one of a number of possibilities. I am familiar with traditions that outline three main ones:
1. Powerful kamma. Had Rathapala enacted any particularly powerful kammas during his life? eg. entering jhanas? killing of a human being? etc.
2. Habitual kamma. What was Rathapala's habitual state of mind. Was he usually a positive, wholesome type of man? Or, was he selfish and greedy, etc.? If he had maintained his wish to ordain very strongly during the days / weeks preceding (hypothetical) death by starvation, this would also start to form a habit.
3. General thought. Or, at death, was he thinking about just any old thing? eg. oh, I wonder if my friend Tissa will visit me today ... <zip> ...?

Although the decision to starve had a general wholesome intention, it may form some quite troublesome habits in future lives. This would be particularly so if he had regrets about it, at the time of death. This may lead to eating disorders, etc. and other problems. If these were obstructions to the path, then the basic cause would be mostly likely unwholesome / unskillful.

There is a lot to keep in mind for this. And my ramblings above should be seen as just ramblings, throwing around some basic Dhamma ideas. Please don't take them too far, or too generalized!
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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby pink_trike » Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:58 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Although the decision to starve had a general wholesome intention, it may form some quite troublesome habits in future lives. This would be particularly so if he had regrets about it, at the time of death. This may lead to eating disorders, etc. and other problems. If these were obstructions to the path, then the basic cause would be mostly likely unwholesome / unskillful.

There is a lot to keep in mind for this. And my ramblings above should be seen as just ramblings, throwing around some basic Dhamma ideas. Please don't take them too far, or too generalized!

This would be particularly so if he had regrets about it, at the time of death. This may lead to eating disorders, etc. and other problems.


Hi Paññāsikhara,

Is there sutra support for this specific correlation between a regret about starving to death and a possibility of eating disorders in a forthcoming incarnation? Are you speculating to make a point? A couple of my teachers have stressed that these types of associations are pointless and impossible because there are too many unknown variables.
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Re: Monasticim and parental permission

Postby Bankei » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:39 pm

I ordained in Thailand without my parents permission. It was never asked if I had the permission, other than in Pali during the ceremony where I was instructed to just answer yes to everything (and 1 no if I remember correctly). I did have a 'surrogate' mother in the form of a Thai aunty at the ceremony, so maybe this was taken as being enough.

Re the issue about the tree I mentioned above, I cannot find anything at the moment, but have found a reference to an article (I don't have a copy):

Crosby, Kate 2005 "Only if you let go of that Tree: Ordination without Parental Consent according to Theravada Vinaya." Buddhist Studies Review


Hope this helps

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