Monks hugging kids...

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Monks hugging kids...

Postby fabianfred » Sun Jan 15, 2012 8:16 am

“I feel so sorry for the Western monks who has no idea of the Dhammavinaya and distorts the Teaching of the Buddha. It is just so sad when the monk has no idea that holding a little girl on his arm is against the Vinaya. It is just so sad. People really got to study the Dhamma before they are ordained into the Dhammavinaya.“

Somebody posted the above comment on my friend's Facebook page (my friend is also a monk...and the comment was later deleted by the OP presumably)...... after seeing a photo of monk holding a young girl.



Is it an offence against the vinaya for a monk to hug a child?
The Vinaya states “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 is an offence.”
Assuming that the bhikkhu is acting with lustful intentions and is perceiving his object in that way, he incurs an offence for making bodily contact with a female deva, or a dead woman, and a lesser offence for bodily contact with a man, boy, wooden doll, or a male or female animal.

I think that in Thailand this has been taken to an extreme where both monks and lay-people will do almost anything to avoid contact. The use of the cloth for receiving things from females is an example, not practised in Burma or Sri Lanka.

So any monk seen stroking the head of a dog could be said to be at fault!!

Since there are always people who are suspicious, looking to find fault, eager to gossip, it is often best for a monk to simply avoid any contact.
If the contact is quite innocent and where the people are not offended because of their ignorance of the vinaya or understand the contact is innocent, there should be no problem.....IMHO.

What do you think?

I'm sure the Dalai Lama hugs anyone and everyone...I know that is Mahayana...but still....

If one is an Ariya and therefore unable to do anything which would cause one to go to the lower realms then there could be no problem.
Last edited by fabianfred on Sun Jan 15, 2012 7:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Jan 15, 2012 8:51 am

I find the photograph quite shocking. It is such an obvious display of affection by a bhikkhu. I understand it to be an offence of wrong doing — one of the clauses to Sanghadisesa 2.
Intention. The Vinita-vatthu contains cases of a bhikkhu who caresses his mother out of filial affection, one who caresses his daughter out of fatherly affection, and one who caresses his sister out of brotherly affection. In each case the penalty is a dukkaṭa.

The other consideration is that of wrong livelihood as a corrupter of families under Sanghadisesa 13.
3) He lives in unbecoming association with householders.

You may think that affection is a wholesome dhamma, but if so, please explain how it could lead to grief and fear. Piya Vagga — Dhammapada.

Of course, there is no harm in loving-kindness (metta), compassion (karunā), or sympathetic-joy (muditā), which are wholesome dhammas, but there is no need to cuddle children to show them kindness and compassion. If a very young girl touches a bhikkhu, there is no need to push her away for fear of being accused of a Sanghadisesa offence, but there no reason to actively take hold of and hug a child. Perhaps there might be if a young child is very distressed or injured, and in need of reassurance. I take it to be self-evident that if a woman is drowning there is no offence in pulling her to safety.

Although the receiving cloth is not used in Burma, well-informed female lay supporters take care to avoid touching bhikkhus when offering things to them.

Even eye-contact is avoided — though we westerners find that very difficult when talking to people. While listening to the Dhamma, ladies sit with their hand in anjali, and their eyes downcast — not making eye-contact at all.

If you want further clarification, I advise visiting Sayādaw U Dhammānanda in Wat Tamao, Lampang, which is not far from you. I hope that the Sayādaw is still living — he is an exemplary Dhamma teacher. I don't think he speaks much English, but I assume he knows Thai quite well as he has lived in Thailand for many years.
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby fabianfred » Sun Jan 15, 2012 9:37 am

Thank you Bhante for your clarification. :anjali:
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Jan 15, 2012 10:19 am

Hi Venerables,
I am no Vinaya Expert but have had some Vinaya Lessons, where this rule was dealt with in detail.

part of the Sanghadisesa rule (if I remember it correctly) advises not touching women at all if it can be avoided!
Women being any female, even one born that day.

The Vinaya after all deals with the appearance (to avoid suspicion, Aniyata rules as an example) as well as the actual fault and thus gives differing 'penalties' for similar things in line with the great standard, the commentaries and manuals do this also but not always accurately, as can be seen in some of Thanissaro Bhikkhus notes in the Buddhist Monastic code or Ajahn Brahms Notes, particularly when these are cross referenced with the Vinaya itself.

It would be best not to assume a mula-sarvastivada monk and a theravadin monk from different societies hold the rules in the same way. your observation on the offering cloth is a case in point, and should show how seriously Thai Society sees chastity for monastics.

Again this is just my understanding, and sorry for misrepresenting any information.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby Fede » Sun Jan 15, 2012 12:25 pm

I saw the photograph before it was taken down, and I must confess i had a mixed reaction...

but I would put my own confused thinking down to upbringing and self-development in two separate religious disciplines...
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Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby gavesako » Mon Jan 16, 2012 10:27 am

Just to give you the perspective on Sangha problems in Thailand:

Bringing things out in the open

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/2 ... n-the-open

:?
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby DarwidHalim » Mon Jan 16, 2012 12:33 pm

This story really reminds me the ancient story:

Two monks were returning to the monastery in the evening. It had rained and there were puddles of water on the road sides. At one place a beautiful young woman was standing unable to walk accross because of a puddle of water. The elder of the two monks went up to a her lifted her in his alms and left her on the other side of the road, and continued his way to the monastery.
In the evening the younger monk came to the elder monk and said, "Sir, as monks, we cannot touch a woman ?"
The elder monk answered "yes, brother".
Then the younger monk asks again, " but then Sir, how is that you lifted that woman on the roadside ?"
The elder monk smiled at him and told him " I left her on the other side of the road, but you are still carrying her "

-----
In the past this kind of things have happened. Now, it happens again. :jumping:

Things will happen again the future.

This is the difference between people who see the dharma from the words and people who see the dharma from the meanings.
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I am not right nor wrong.
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby Ytrog » Mon Jan 16, 2012 5:58 pm

gavesako wrote:Just to give you the perspective on Sangha problems in Thailand:

Bringing things out in the open

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/2 ... n-the-open

:?

Interesting article. I agree with the argument that everyone has equal spiritual potential indifferent of someones sexual/romantic preferences. I cannot imagine the Buddha making a problem out of a conditioned state (either way).

Why was the clergical structure in Thailand centralised btw? How did people react to it? Doens't such a system has a high chance for corruption by tempting people (in this case monks) with power?
Suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.


mindfulness, bliss and beyond (page 8) wrote:Do not linger on the past. Do not keep carrying around coffins full of dead moments


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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby daverupa » Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:06 pm

Ytrog wrote:Why was the clergical structure in Thailand centralised btw? How did people react to it? Doens't such a system has a high chance for corruption by tempting people (in this case monks) with power?


"The details of the history of Buddhism in Thailand from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century are obscure, in part because few historical records or religious texts survived the Burmese destruction of Ayutthaya, the capital city of the kingdom, in 1767. The anthropologist-historian S. J. Tambiah, however, has suggested a general pattern for that era, at least with respect to the relations between Buddhism and the sangha on the one hand and the king on the other hand. In Thailand, as in other Theravada Buddhist kingdoms, the king was in principle thought of as patron and protector of the religion (sasana) and the sangha, while sasana and the sangha were considered in turn the treasures of the polity and the signs of its legitimacy. Religion and polity, however, remained separate domains, and in ordinary times the organizational links between the sangha and the king were not close.

"Among the chief characteristics of Thai kingdoms and principalities in the centuries before 1800 were the tendency to expand and contract, problems of succession, and the changing scope of the king's authority. In effect, some Thai kings had greater power over larger territories, others less, and almost invariably a king who sought successfully to expand his power also exercised greater control over the sangha. That control was coupled with greater support and patronage of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. When a king was weak, however, protection and supervision of the sangha also weakened, and the sangha declined. This fluctuating pattern appears to have continued until the emergence of the Chakri Dynasty in the last quarter of the eighteenth century."

from wiki
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby gavesako » Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:54 am

However, I would like to state that in practical terms it's impossible to know the Vinaya completely, because some things, whether we know them or not, are still offenses. This is tricky. And yet it is stressed that if we do not yet understand any particular training rule or teaching, we must study that rule with enthusiasm and respect. If we don't know, then we should make an effort to learn. If we don't make an effort, that is in itself an offense.

For example, if you doubt... suppose there is a woman and, not knowing whether she is a woman or a man, you touch her4. You're not sure, but still go ahead and touch... that's still wrong. I used to wonder why that should be wrong, but when I considered the practice, I realized that a meditator must have sati, he must be circumspect. Whether talking, touching or holding things, he must first thoroughly consider. The error in this case is that there is no sati, or insufficient sati, or a lack of concern at that time.

Ajahn Chah -- Understanding Vinaya

http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Understanding_Vinaya1.php
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby daverupa » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:42 pm

gavesako wrote:we must study that rule with enthusiasm and respect.


Indeed, per AN 3.85: "Those who are partially accomplished attain a part; those who are wholly accomplished, the whole. The training rules, I tell you, are not in vain."

However,

AN 3.85 wrote:With reference to the lesser and minor training rules, he falls into offenses and rehabilitates himself... But as for the training rules that are basic to the holy life and proper to the holy life, he is one of permanent virtue, one of steadfast virtue.


This evokes the lines about minor rules in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta. It seems some rules are fundamental - we can say "dear to the Noble Ones" - but not all are so, despite appropriate contrition being performed by ariyapuggala over a minor rule offense.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby Anagarika » Wed Jan 18, 2012 2:49 pm

The Vinaya states “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 is an offence.”

I am not a Vinaya scholar, but the text above seems to be able to be read that the intention of the Bhikkhu is important in determining whether there is a offense. The phrase "overcome by lust, with altered mind" seems to me to suggest that the intention of the actor is fundamental to the determination as to whether an offense has been committed. The phrase is a precondition to the determination of fault.

I have spent some time in Thailand, and observed some Ven. Bhikkhus in the company of small Shan refugee kids, at a school in northern Thailand. These kids' parents work in the citrus fields all day, and the kids are left alone, and but for the Wat sponsored school, these kids would have no attention, and likely no food, at all.

I have seen these noble Bhikkhus pick up a small child and give her a hug, and seen the beaming smile on the child's face. It's the smile you might see on the face of the drowning female after being rescued. What I am saying is that sometimes in life, a hug can be the only thing that separates a child from despair and hope. A hug from a monk, in my mind, to a refugee child, is a noble and kind act. It's an act that can bring these small children closer to the Buddha Dhamma and the Sangha.

It's much about intention. It's my opinion (worth two baht) that great merit is gained from such kindness to a child, in these circumstances.
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:33 pm

Hi BuddhaSoup
You may wish to read the rest of the rule in the Vibangha, the section of the Vinaya which clarifies the rules and provides the origin stories.

the rule wording doesn't always give a clue as to the full extent the rule covers.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby daverupa » Wed Jan 18, 2012 5:09 pm

Cittasanto wrote:Hi BuddhaSoup
You may wish to read the rest of the rule in the Vibangha, the section of the Vinaya which clarifies the rules and provides the origin stories.

the rule wording doesn't always give a clue as to the full extent the rule covers.


The origin stories appear to have been mostly composed after the fact; the lateness of the Vibangha gives room to wonder if much is being made of mere trifles.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jan 19, 2012 1:00 pm

it is canonical literature which spell out the rules it isn't really up for historicity debate!
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby Ben » Thu Jan 19, 2012 1:32 pm

Cittasanto wrote:it is canonical literature which spell out the rules it isn't really up for historicity debate!


I agree. Members please remain on topic.
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby Anagarika » Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:38 pm

My own view is that it is very important that the Vinaya rules be followed, such that the concern that the Dhamma will erode over time is not realized.

I also feel that the Dhamma could be subject to erosion if the Dhamma is made so rigid and so colorless so as to not allow for basic human kindness expressed out of only the most positive of intentions. If a monk giving a hug to a lonely and hungry child is seen with shock, and perceived as an offense, my worry is that Dhamma will be left as the domain for only the strictest of views.

The Dhamma must be guarded carefully and the intent of Buddha must be followed, but not at the expense of making this living and breathing practice so inflexible that few choose its path.

Just as a Bhikkhu would not let a woman drown in a lake for fear of touching her, I believe that some latitude is required for (nonsexual) loving and compassionate acts. Again, the intent of the actor is paramount. I believe that the Dhamma will not only survive, but it will live and breathe with vibrancy for eons if some reasonable, ethical, and compassionate latitude is embraced by those lay and ordained that practice it.
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby cooran » Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:14 pm

Hello all,

The Vinaya must be kept strictly. One has only to consider the mess in the Roman Catholic Church with tens of thousands of once hidden offenses against children and women by ''celibate'' clergy. n.b. I am definitely not impugning our Sangha members whom I respect, but absolute adherence to the Vinaya is needed to prevent any rot setting in.

with metta
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:49 pm

cooran wrote:Hello all,

The Vinaya must be kept strictly. One has only to consider the mess in the Roman Catholic Church with tens of thousands of once hidden offenses against children and women by ''celibate'' clergy. n.b. I am definitely not impugning our Sangha members whom I respect, but absolute adherence to the Vinaya is needed to prevent any rot setting in.

with metta
Chris

:goodpost:
I know of places (mahayana) who follow the Vinaya (I assume it is Dharmagupta) and have actually changed the sanghadisesa rule about touching women lustfully to a paccitia, I personally find that strange for somewhere to do that yet say they follow the Buddha as Mendicants.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Monks hugging kids...

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Jan 27, 2012 2:44 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:My own view is that it is very important that the Vinaya rules be followed, such that the concern that the Dhamma will erode over time is not realized.

I also feel that the Dhamma could be subject to erosion if the Dhamma is made so rigid and so colorless so as to not allow for basic human kindness expressed out of only the most positive of intentions. If a monk giving a hug to a lonely and hungry child is seen with shock, and perceived as an offense, my worry is that Dhamma will be left as the domain for only the strictest of views.

The Dhamma must be guarded carefully and the intent of Buddha must be followed, but not at the expense of making this living and breathing practice so inflexible that few choose its path.

Just as a Bhikkhu would not let a woman drown in a lake for fear of touching her, I believe that some latitude is required for (nonsexual) loving and compassionate acts. Again, the intent of the actor is paramount. I believe that the Dhamma will not only survive, but it will live and breathe with vibrancy for eons if some reasonable, ethical, and compassionate latitude is embraced by those lay and ordained that practice it.

Agreed - particularly the bit I have bolded. Compassion, care for those in need, is more important than legalism.

:namaste:
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