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.

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

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Jan 29, 2012 8:54 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:This part?
David N. Snyder wrote: The problem with giving gilāna such a wide interpretation is that it opens the door to eat the evening meal just about everyday and then making the rule on the noon meal moot, which I don't believe was the intention of the rule or precept.


What wrong with that part? :tongue:

I still say it is meant for monks who are ill, not simply mild discomfort. But if you disagree that is fine.

just checking, ;) but I had focused on the 'wide interpretation' part earlier.
but, I certainly don't agree with the precepts (whether loose or tight interpretation) being ignored or abused. certainly the reason for the rules should be born in mind
Mv.1.5.11 Ten Reasons for setting down the Rules of a Mendicant. wrote:Meditators, as this (offence) is so, I will prepare rules of discipline for mendicants (following my) path, basing them on ten reasons!

1 – To protect the excellent (reputation) of well behaved) members;
2 – To protect the comfort (due to respect) of (well behaved) members;
3 – To silence those who are obstinate;
4 – For diligent meditators to have ease (in obtaining requisites);
5 – For meditators to restrain their effluents in the here & now;
6 – For restraining effluents (that condition) future births;
7 – For faith to arise in those who lack faith;
8 – For the conditions to increase the faith of those already with faith;
9 – For the true way (to be visible) for along time;
10 – For assisting the discipline of those in Training.

These are the motivations I shall prepare the mendicants rules of training for!

underlined is the one I believe is the predominant aspect of our discussion, and in bold the other main aspect, although not the only one directly related to this rule.

I personally may of gone with 'having a need for extra support' rather than 'mild discomfort', for instance, if there was work going on, such as building a Kuti, one meal a day may not support the energy needs, or, they had a condition which made it impossible for them to get enough nourishment in the appropriate period, both of which are origin stories if I remember correctly.
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"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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby pilgrim » Mon Jan 30, 2012 1:13 am

Cittasanto wrote:
pilgrim wrote:I feel that definitely the spirit should take precedence over the latter. But when this should be applied should be at the discretion of the individual monk.

Recently I spoke with an Indian monk who lamented that Theravada monks seem to think their central practice is to take their meals before noon. He was at an international religious conference in India. A minute after the President of india took the stage to give his keynote address, all the Theravada monks stood up and walked out of the hall. It was almost noon and they wanted to take their lunch! :thinking:

in that situation I am sure they could of eaten before, and if they couldn't there could of been an understanding that this would happen/arrangement for them?
I have been in situations where I had to leave for a meal invitation when the proceedings hadn't yet finished for the meal, and this was pre-arranged by the organisers of the event.

Whether alternative arrangements could have been made was not the point. The point was that the contingent of monks found themselves in a situation and they chose to stick to the letter of the rule even though they were probably aware it would embarrass the President of India and bring disrepute to the Sangha.
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Jan 30, 2012 1:23 am

pilgrim wrote:Whether alternative arrangements could have been made was not the point. The point was that the contingent of monks found themselves in a situation and they chose to stick to the letter of the rule even though they were probably aware it would embarrass the President of India and bring disrepute to the Sangha.


In a situation like that skipping the meal for one day would probably be the best course. I think most forest/practise oriented monks who don't have health problems should be able to cope with this.

I think the spirit of the rules around eating is to create uncertaintly around whether a monk will get to eat and so loosen attachment to eating, rather than to create a whole lot of inconvenience for the laity.

At the monastery I ordained at it was quite common for monks to fast for a day from time to time, though the thai monk's idea of fasting was to skip the morning meal but compensate by eating more "medicinal food" in the afternoon than usual.
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby pilgrim » Mon Jan 30, 2012 1:34 am

I remember the rule concerning mealtimes was made because a monk went out for alms late in the evening and frightened a villager in the dark.
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Bankei » Mon Jan 30, 2012 2:48 am

Some random points:
- I think the Chinese Mahayanists allow themselves to eat during the evening and call it something like a 'medicine meal'.

The rule about not touching money - isn't the wording about not handling gold and/or silver. The letter of the law may allow monks to handle bank accounts and paper money? What about credit cards.

I knew some Dhammayut monks in Thailand and they were strict not to touch money, but they still had some in envelopes. One asked me to take some money and go and buy him some bandages once.

Other monks refuse to touch money, but they are flying around the world frequently using temple donations.

There is an article somewhere by a Thai monk which runs many pages and analyses the problems monks face when flying internationally (an increasingly common problem these days) with changing time zones. When is noon when flying from Osaka to Thailand for example?

I once stayed at a Sri Lankan temple in Australia and went into the kitchen at night time to get a drink - only to find all the monks in there eating.

When I was a monk in Thailand a senior monk sent out for some soup for me - clear chinese type with wontons in it. The Thai person I was with at the time was shocked, but eventually said I shouldn't eat the chunky bits, but only the soup. The monk was worried I would be hungry being a new monk - thus exhibiting kindness while perhaps breaking a minor rule.
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Jan 30, 2012 3:55 am

pilgrim wrote:I remember the rule concerning mealtimes was made because a monk went out for alms late in the evening and frightened a villager in the dark.


If I recall correctly, it had more to do with a group of monks who went to a festival at the top of a mountain (at the wrong time, i.e., evening) to see a show and while there carried on with talk and food. The Buddha rebukes them more for eating at the wrong time than he does for attending a show.

The Buddha (in other places) also praises the one meal before noon for health reasons and also so that the lay people will not be burdened with preparing several meals for the monks.

I do not eat in the evening and thus I am free from illness and affliction and enjoy health, strength and ease’ (M.I,473)
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby rowboat » Mon Jan 30, 2012 4:26 am

If I recall correctly, it had more to do with a group of monks who went to a festival at the top of a mountain (at the wrong time, i.e., evening) to see a show and while there carried on with talk and food. The Buddha rebukes them more for eating at the wrong time than he does for attending a show.


I distinctly remember listening to Bhikkhu Bodhi, on The MN, explaining how the rule concerning meal times was established after a bhikkhu frightened a woman. The bhikkhu suddenly appeared standing in the darkness after a bolt of lightning crashed and she went to the Sangha to complain about the fright she received.
Rain soddens what is covered up,
It does not sodden what is open.
Therefore uncover what is covered
That the rain will not sodden it.
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Jan 30, 2012 4:33 am

rowboat wrote:I distinctly remember listening to Bhikkhu Bodhi, on The MN, explaining how the rule concerning meal times was established after a bhikkhu frightened a woman. The bhikkhu suddenly appeared standing in the darkness after a bolt of lightning crashed and she went to the Sangha to complain about the fright she received.


Okay, that sounds familiar. But in any event, the Buddha also praises the one meal / no eating after 12 noon for other reasons, including health and not to burden the lay people.

Edit: I found that passage!
A bhikkhu wandering for food while it was still dark frightened a woman who saw him in the lightning flash. She mistook him for a demon and cried out "How terrible! A demon is after me!" (see Majjhima Nikaya No. 66).

Full quote:

Two hours or so will have passed in this way before it is light enough to gather food. Not only must the bhikkhus allow the laywomen (upasika) time to cook food, they also have to consider the dangers of going out while it is yet dark. In countries where snakes, centipedes and scorpions abound, it is wise to be able to see the ground under one's feet; and apart from this quite important fact there are the fears and suspicions of others to consider, as one rather amusing incident in the Majjhima Nikaya shows. A bhikkhu wandering for food while it was still dark frightened a woman who saw him in the lightning flash. She mistook him for a demon and cried out "How terrible! A demon is after me!" (see Middle Length Sayings No. 66).
from: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el073.html


The above refers to a bhikkhu who frightened a woman going out in the morning before dawn, not at night.

And in fact the pacittiya 37 reference to not eating after noon mentions the group of monks going to the festival at "the wrong time" and also mentions that "each mouthful" is another pacittiya offense! (30 mouthfuls would be 30 offenses) Such was the importance laid down to this precept. (PTS, Vinaya Vol. 2, pacittiya 37)
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Re: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jan 30, 2012 8:40 am

pilgrim wrote:I remember the rule concerning mealtimes was made because a monk went out for alms late in the evening and frightened a villager in the dark.

actually there are several origin stories, that particular origin story is about going on alms during the night, or possibly before dawn. when there is not enough light to see properly.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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"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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jan 30, 2012 8:53 am

Bankei wrote:The rule about not touching money - isn't the wording about not handling gold and/or silver. The letter of the law may allow monks to handle bank accounts and paper money? What about credit cards.

I knew some Dhammayut monks in Thailand and they were strict not to touch money, but they still had some in envelopes. One asked me to take some money and go and buy him some bandages once.

Other monks refuse to touch money, but they are flying around the world frequently using temple donations.

18. Should any bhikkhu accept gold and silver, or have it accepted, or consent to its being deposited (near him), it is to be forfeited and confessed.

19. Should any bhikkhu engage in various types of monetary exchange, it (the income) is to be forfeited and confessed.

20. Should any bhikkhu engage in various types of trade, it (the article obtained) is to be forfeited and confessed.

although the wording may be gold and silver it is obviously about money, and it is not the only one. paper, coin, or plastic would be included.
if there is an invitation somewhere the person inviting can arrange the flights etc, so it is not necessarily via temple donations but it may also be by temple donations. but it is the controle of money (also) which the rules deal with.

There is an article somewhere by a Thai monk which runs many pages and analyses the problems monks face when flying internationally (an increasingly common problem these days) with changing time zones. When is noon when flying from Osaka to Thailand for example?

monks I know fast when flying. saves the hassle.

I once stayed at a Sri Lankan temple in Australia and went into the kitchen at night time to get a drink - only to find all the monks in there eating.

When I was a monk in Thailand a senior monk sent out for some soup for me - clear chinese type with wontons in it. The Thai person I was with at the time was shocked, but eventually said I shouldn't eat the chunky bits, but only the soup. The monk was worried I would be hungry being a new monk - thus exhibiting kindness while perhaps breaking a minor rule.

there were other things which are allowable he could of offered you! but the monks eating, is strange, and possible breaking the rule depending on what they ate....
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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"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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jan 30, 2012 8:56 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
pilgrim wrote:I remember the rule concerning mealtimes was made because a monk went out for alms late in the evening and frightened a villager in the dark.


If I recall correctly, it had more to do with a group of monks who went to a festival at the top of a mountain (at the wrong time, i.e., evening) to see a show and while there carried on with talk and food. The Buddha rebukes them more for eating at the wrong time than he does for attending a show.

The Buddha (in other places) also praises the one meal before noon for health reasons and also so that the lay people will not be burdened with preparing several meals for the monks.

I do not eat in the evening and thus I am free from illness and affliction and enjoy health, strength and ease’ (M.I,473)


it is an origin story, but not butrening a vilige with many different alms rounds was the origin story which led to the final rule of between dawn & noon.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 31, 2012 2:23 am

Greetings cittasanto,

Being an "origin story" though doesn't mean that it accurately provides the origin of the rule.

I'm not interested to get into a debate on the historical accuracy of these stories, but if they don't reliably give the Buddha's actual reasons and logic for introducing new rules, then they don't necessarily embody the "spirit" of the rules either. They might well be representing somebody else's "spirit", embodied into a story... and I'd hate to see the "letter" (as decreed by the Buddha) diminished because of a "spirit" designed and interpreted by someone else. It would be Mahayana all over again.

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Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jan 31, 2012 6:43 am

there are a few origin stories which do seam odd to the rule they are in, I can not remember which rule of the example I have in mind they are in, but....

the origin stories clarify the rules, they are not apocryphal literature, and to understand the spirit of a rule they are needed.

they also show how a rule ended up as it is found in the patimokkha list, as some rules were amended, and in some cases several times.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 31, 2012 7:25 am

Greetings Cittasanto,

I know you've studied Vinaya more than I have, so I'm prepared to defer to your judgement to some extent, but in light of all the different "early schools" and their various Vinaya compositions, it's hard to put much stock in any of those early traditions as being in a position to definitively define the "spirit" of the rules within their varying rule sets.

For that, they must in turn defer judgement to the Buddha, and unless they are the Buddha, they have to accept they have only received the letter even if they'd like to each think (in their own different ways) that they have actually grasped "the spirit".

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jan 31, 2012 8:02 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Cittasanto,

I know you've studied Vinaya more than I have, so I'm prepared to defer to your judgement to some extent, but in light of all the different "early schools" and their various Vinaya compositions, it's hard to put much stock in any of those early traditions as being in a position to definitively define the "spirit" of the rules within their varying rule sets.

For that, they must in turn defer judgement to the Buddha, and unless they are the Buddha, they have to accept they have only received the letter even if they'd like to each think (in their own different ways) that they have actually grasped "the spirit".

Metta,
Retro. :)

Yes I see your point better now!
but it is my understanding, and I may well be wrong, but, the origin stories are the same, only where the final rule is different, do they differ.
and on occasion the wording is different also, but this can open up a rule more, or just be a grammar thing?

however within the origin stories the Buddha always clarifies the situation and makes a judgement, not another, so your argument could be applied to the suttas equally, it requires just as much faith.

it is worth remembering that the Theravada set of rules is almost like the basic set all the vinaya lines have (as far as I am aware) with only minor differences. I did share a PDF of a comparison of the Bhikkhu matika which shows the different placement/differences the Dharmagupta (it calls it the mahayana vinaya so I believe it is refering to this school) and Theravada vinaya has.

btw the origin story I am thinking of would be in the sanghadisesa, and involves venerable udayin his wife and sensuality, but the rule and focus is far from that aspect.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: When do the "spirit" and the "letter" come into conflict?

Postby daverupa » Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:48 pm

Origin stories are mostly later than the rules they purport to describe; this is a matter of philology. This doesn't mean they are false, but it does mean there is room for embellishment and, potentially, legend.
    "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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