How to understand and react to non-responses.

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Alobha
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How to understand and react to non-responses.

Postby Alobha » Sat Aug 11, 2012 12:01 am

Perhaps somebody already encountered the situation, that a monk is asked a question and he doesn't respond to it, seemingly acts as if he would ignore what was said or ignore the person.
The Suttas are full of situations where laypeople would need to ask a question three times before a monk would respond.

Can anyone tell me how to understand this kind of behavior?
What does it mean when monks don't respond in a) the suttas and
b) how does it differ when monks act like this nowadays?

Personally, I find it hard to understand why monks act like this in modern times. It easily comes across as rude and depreciative and doesn't help with solving conflicts if something unskillful was said. I mean, if people ask you something, you answer the question or at least say "I can't answer that." / "I won't answer that". Are there common reasons for monks to react with non-responses when asked something ?

And also: How to react to those non-responses? just ask two times more?

Best wishes,
Alobha

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retrofuturist
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Re: How to understand and react to non-responses.

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Aug 11, 2012 12:38 am

Greetings Alobha,

Sometimes the unwilingness to respond may be because the person being questioned knows or suspects that the answer will give rise to suffering, confusion, conflict, or some other unpleasantness... things they do not wish to be accountable for bringing unto others.

By asking three times, it means that the questioner really wants to know, and in doing so they are prepared to accept and own the consequences, and to wear any fallout, from the response that is eventually given.

There may be other reasons, but that is one.

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: How to understand and react to non-responses.

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Sat Aug 11, 2012 12:50 am

Also it should be pointed out that the "ask three times" system for framing a sermon is a common setup in Indian literature. I wouldn't take it too literally.

Retro is right. Either the monk is being a jerk, or more likely, he knows that the question you're asking isn't going to help you escape suffering. Try and respect his decision and reflect on what drives you to want the answer. Is it simply curiosity and distractive theorizing or is it applicable and beneficial instruction?

If you feel as though the question really is important, or if the question is something like, "Hey, what did you do with all the donations?" then it's best to push, but overall, I think "Sit and watch the breath" is all you really need to know :smile:
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

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Re: How to understand and react to non-responses.

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Aug 11, 2012 5:46 am

Alobha wrote:Perhaps somebody already encountered the situation, that a monk is asked a question and he doesn't respond to it, seemingly acts as if he would ignore what was said or ignore the person.
The Suttas are full of situations where laypeople would need to ask a question three times before a monk would respond.

Can anyone tell me how to understand this kind of behavior?
What does it mean when monks don't respond in a) the suttas and
b) how does it differ when monks act like this nowadays?

Personally, I find it hard to understand why monks act like this in modern times. It easily comes across as rude and depreciative and doesn't help with solving conflicts if something unskillful was said. I mean, if people ask you something, you answer the question or at least say "I can't answer that." / "I won't answer that". Are there common reasons for monks to react with non-responses when asked something ?

And also: How to react to those non-responses? just ask two times more?

Best wishes,
Alobha

hi Alobha,
Something I find useful to remember when engaging with others, but couldn't find the source when looking for it recently
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/power_of_judgment.html wrote:In passing judgment on your faults, an admirable friend is like a trainer. Once, when a horse trainer came to see the Buddha, the Buddha asked him how he trained his horses. The trainer said that some horses responded to gentle training, others to harsh training, others required both harsh and gentle training, but if a horse didn't respond to either type of training, he'd kill the horse to maintain the reputation of his teachers' lineage. Then the trainer asked the Buddha how he trained his students, and the Buddha replied, "In the same way." Some students responded to gentle criticism, others to harsh criticism, others to a mixture of the two, but if a student didn't respond to either type of criticism, he'd kill the student. This shocked the horse trainer, but then the Buddha explained what he meant by "killing": He wouldn't train the student any further, which essentially killed the student's opportunity to grow in the practice.

this may not always be the case especially when it is a discussion. But it is useful to remember.

Not all monks will act like this and not all follow the guidelines of the Buddha - there are good and bad monks after-all - but this does not mean that it is or can be a good framework to use to look at the situation.
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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Alobha
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Re: How to understand and react to non-responses.

Postby Alobha » Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:09 am

Sadhu! thanks people :anjali:


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