When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.
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When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jan 27, 2012 7:42 am

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jan 27, 2012 11:49 am

Not that I have been fully ordained, but my sense is that they clash when you know something is wrong yet do it anyway.


some things are not wrong in and of themselves, but are a wrongdoing, and as was mentioned by Ajahn Gavesako in the other thread "no-one can remember all the rules all the time" (my wording sorry if it is out of sync with Ajahns meaning) and it is a matter of remembering ones motivations for an act, sometimes these are pure, yet the action is outwardly wrong, and vice versa.

put simply if there is a dissidence created at some level then there is conflict between the two, or the two and oneself.
take an example of lying to save someone's feelings, it maybe a small lie, but it is still a lie, and we may strongly feel it is the right thing to do, however there are other options we chose not to take, there are always other options btw. the rule is not to lie, the spirit is to be truthful, but we have a dissidence around this area.

at the end of the day the rules are not forced upon anyone, they are taken upon oneself, if this causes problems then the problem is somewhere, not necessarily with the rule or spirit or oneself, but could be from outside, I remember Anandas (and others but not the exact situation or names) example at the first council, even though he didn't see any fault he accepted that there was a perception of fault, and confessed it as such for the greater harmony within the sangha.

this is just from my limited experience from following the Anagarika training, and hope it is not out of place and helpful.


He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Ytrog » Fri Jan 27, 2012 1:37 pm

In The Broken Buddha I read a story about a monk who was very strict in the Vinaya. He received from a lay follower some tea with some milk in it after noon and refused to drink it (not verbally stating that though) while hinting at the follower to get a new cup of tea without milk.

The Vinaya indeed states that it is forbidden to eat after noon and that dairy products are also food, however from what I know about the rule was that the intention is to not inconvenience people by only going on an almsround once a day and to keep your mind from getting drowsy from digesting the food in the evening. Some milk in your tea does not make you drowsy, so that cannot really be the reason for the refusal, but the monk was doing something very inconvenient for the lay follower by getting him another cup without milk.

IMHO this is a good example of strictly following the rules but going completely against the spirit of it.

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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jan 27, 2012 2:54 pm



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Ytrog » Fri Jan 27, 2012 3:58 pm


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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby daverupa » Fri Jan 27, 2012 4:50 pm


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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jan 27, 2012 5:21 pm



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby daverupa » Fri Jan 27, 2012 5:25 pm


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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Jan 27, 2012 6:50 pm

Depending on what lineage you are in you have to follow the letter of the vinaya.

There are things that are not in the vinaya but practising them would be in the spirit of the vinaya, so it makes sense to add them. For example smoking, there is no rule against this and a lot of asian monks smoke, but most western monks don't because to us it's very much in the spirit of the vinaya not to smoke. Most westerners when they first see a monk smoking have difficulty believing what they are seeing I think, whereas I've seen asian lay people offer monks cigarettes as if they were no different from food.

If offering a monk food gives good kamma then I wonder what kind of kamma offering them cancer in a stick gives them.

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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby daverupa » Fri Jan 27, 2012 7:24 pm


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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Fri Jan 27, 2012 7:29 pm

‘Food for the illness’ (gilānabhatta), is an allowance for sick bhikkhus after noon, although the ‘spirit of the law’ is stretched in some vihāras where gilānabhatta or gilānapaccaya has become the euphemism for dinner.
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)


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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby cooran » Fri Jan 27, 2012 7:30 pm

---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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Jan 27, 2012 7:33 pm


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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Fri Jan 27, 2012 8:11 pm

I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)


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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jan 27, 2012 8:43 pm



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Ytrog » Fri Jan 27, 2012 8:48 pm


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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:13 am


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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Jan 28, 2012 9:05 am



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby chownah » Sat Jan 28, 2012 2:44 pm

The Buddha never declared himself to be of the lineage of monks but he did declare himself to be of the lineage of Noble Ones and that he followed the traditions of the Noble Ones. I think that the traditions of the Noble Ones can therefore be taken fairly suredly as being the "spirit" in this matter. The following excerpt from "The Discourse on the Traditions of the Noble Ones" can be taken as the "spirit" and my view is that anything that comes from the "letter" which comes into conflict with this is to be taken as being misunderstood.

chownah
-------------------------
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
AN 4.28 PTS: A ii 27
Ariya-vamsa Sutta: The Discourse on the Traditions of the Noble Ones
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

These four traditions of the Noble Ones — original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning — are not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and are unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives and priests. Which four?

There is the case where a monk is content with any old robe cloth at all. He speaks in praise of being content with any old robe cloth at all. He does not, for the sake of robe cloth, do anything unseemly or inappropriate. Not getting cloth, he is not agitated. Getting cloth, he uses it not tied to it, uninfatuated, guiltless, seeing the drawbacks (of attachment to it), and discerning the escape from them. He does not, on account of his contentment with any old robe cloth at all, exalt himself or disparage others. In this he is skillful, energetic, alert, and mindful. This, monks, is said to be a monk standing firm in the ancient, original traditions of the Noble Ones.

Furthermore, the monk is content with any old almsfood at all. He speaks in praise of being content with any old almsfood at all. He does not, for the sake of almsfood, do anything unseemly or inappropriate. Not getting almsfood, he is not agitated. Getting almsfood, he uses it not tied to it, uninfatuated, guiltless, seeing the drawbacks (of attachment to it), and discerning the escape from them. He does not, on account of his contentment with any old almsfood at all, exalt himself or disparage others. In this he is skillful, energetic, alert, and mindful. This, monks, is said to be a monk standing firm in the ancient, original traditions of the Noble Ones.

Furthermore, the monk is content with any old lodging at all. He speaks in praise of being content with any old lodging at all. He does not, for the sake of lodging, do anything unseemly or inappropriate. Not getting lodging, he is not agitated. Getting lodging, he uses it not tied to it, uninfatuated, guiltless, seeing the drawbacks (of attachment to it), and discerning the escape from them. He does not, on account of his contentment with any old lodging at all, exalt himself or disparage others. In this he is skillful, energetic, alert, and mindful. This, monks, is said to be a monk standing firm in the ancient, original traditions of the Noble Ones.

Furthermore, the monk finds pleasure and delight in developing (skillful mental qualities), finds pleasure and delight in abandoning (unskillful mental qualities). He does not, on account of his pleasure and delight in developing and abandoning, exalt himself or disparage others. In this he is skillful, energetic, alert, and mindful. This, monks, is said to be a monk standing firm in the ancient, original traditions of the Noble Ones.

These are the four traditions of the Noble Ones — original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning — which are not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and are unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives and priests.
--------------------------------

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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:58 pm



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