Are Theravadins Simpler ?

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Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby arijitmitter » Fri Oct 25, 2013 6:34 am

My question is rather delicate. Mahayana is often criticized for being more commercial than Theravada.

My sister returned from Bangkok few hours back. She said some monks flew back in business class to Bodh Gaya (we live in Calcutta and flights to Gaya from Bangkok pass through Calcutta). I had the YouTube forest tradition idea of Thai Buddhism.

Are monks supposed to fly business class ? Is Theravada not supposed to be simpler ? This does not look very Buddhist !!
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby reflection » Fri Oct 25, 2013 7:53 am

Theravada is not one big group of people that all act the same. It is cluttered up and the boundaries are unclear. Some monks/nuns live a very renunciate life somewhere hidden in the forests, with only a bowl and robes. Others live a more westernized life, use money, things like that. But to me Buddhism, whether Theravada or Mahayana, is about looking at our own actions, our own thought patterns. It is not really about judging others. So what Buddhism is, is only what you make it. It doesn't really exist outside of you. Don't look for the Buddha outside of you, that kind of idea.
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby Kare » Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:52 am

:goodpost:
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:22 am

Sandalwood is expensive, about £300 for 15kg (story), and I am sure that it was equally expensive in the Buddha's time. One might use it to make a jewellery box, but no one would use it to make tables and chairs. However, the Buddha's Gandhakuṭi was made entirely of the best quality sandalwood. In today's money it would have cost millions just for the timber.

The point is that wealthy donors can offer luxurious gifts to monks or the Saṅgha if they wish. If a wealthy business person or film-star wanted to invite a monk to give a blessing, would they buy them an economy class ticket or a business class ticket? If they themselves usually travel business class, to buy an economy class ticket might be regarded as mean.

From the monk's point of view, we should not care whether donors offer plain or luxurious requisites. If we reflect as we should then we will remain content with the bare minimum required to sustain the holy life. If donors offer excellent things, then we can rejoice in their generosity and faith in the Dhamma.
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby Dan74 » Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:59 am

I appreciate your point, Bhante, but much of Vinaya is concerned with maintaining an image appropriate to a renunciate monastic. To me it seems that accepting such gifts goes against such spirit. Sometimes it can be a delicate situation and one would not want to upset a good benefactor who is likely to donate more money for worthwhile things. So I am not passing judgment on these monks, just wondering if this accords with the Vinaya.
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby robertk » Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:10 am

dear dan
as the venerable explained, it accords perfectly with The vinaya.
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:13 am

Dan74 wrote:So I am not passing judgment on these monks, just wondering if this accords with the Vinaya.

In most cases it will accord with the Vinaya to accept luxurious gifts (but not gold etc.)

Aṅgulimāla declined the offer made by King Pasenadi to provide him with the four requisites because he had undertaken the ascetic practices. The forest monks generally follow one or more of the ascetic practices. These are optional extras, and most monks do not observe them.

Venerable Ānanda accepted 500 sets of robes from a wealthy donor. Some householders blamed him for not knowing the limit in accepting requisites, until he explained how they would be distributed, and that nothing would be wasted.

Since I live alone, and have no novices or lay attendants to share left-overs with, I often decline requisites, and frequently have to remind my donors not to offer so much as it causes problems for me to have more than I need.
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby arijitmitter » Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:43 am

reflection wrote:Theravada is not one big group of people that all act the same. It is cluttered up and the boundaries are unclear. Some monks/nuns live a very renunciate life somewhere hidden in the forests, with only a bowl and robes. Others live a more westernized life, use money, things like that. But to me Buddhism, whether Theravada or Mahayana, is about looking at our own actions, our own thought patterns. It is not really about judging others. So what Buddhism is, is only what you make it. It doesn't really exist outside of you. Don't look for the Buddha outside of you, that kind of idea.


Buddhism is not about judging others but it is certainly about judging monks flying business class. Theravada's USP is simple living, high thinking.

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The point is that wealthy donors can offer luxurious gifts to monks or the Saṅgha if they wish. If a wealthy business person or film-star wanted to invite a monk to give a blessing, would they buy them an economy class ticket or a business class ticket? If they themselves usually travel business class, to buy an economy class ticket might be regarded as mean.


They were on their way to attend some kind of conference of Buddhism in Gaya. So one might assume it is usual Buddhist work and not for a devotee. There were several monks. The two senior ones were seated up in business class.

I am not judging Theravada by the actions of these monks just like one does not judge Catholic Church by actions of pedophile priests. But I have been deeply disappointed and humiliated by the story. Theravada is my own belief and I will practice it correctly is one way of looking at it. But actions of a few tar all. If image of Catholic Church can be hurt by pedophile priests, then certainly fellow travelers will look down on a monk for travelling business class.

And I think if I was a Theravadan monk and a rich devotee invited me, I will have specified that he send me an economy class ticket and ask he send an ordinary sedan to pick me up and also ask the driver not to turn on the AC. If I am not going to do that then why on earth am I a monk. It is a lame excuse to say he gifted me riches and so I took it.

Further it breaks the 8th precept to travel in business class where seats van be converted into beds (not exactly but almost) Uccasayana-mahasayana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami (I undertake the precept to refrain from lying on a high or luxurious sleeping place.) Same may also apply to economy class but seats can be slightly extended there and after all there is no less expensive way to travel across oceans except via economy class. If there was, then a monk should have chosen that.
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:01 am

arijitmitter wrote:Buddhism is not about judging others but it is certainly about judging monks flying business class. Theravada's [unique selling point] is simple living, high thinking.

If you misjudge others, then that is your unwholesome kamma. Without knowing who bought the tickets and why, one is not in a position to judge. One should make no assumptions.
arijitmitter wrote:I am not judging Theravada by the actions of these monks just like one does not judge Catholic Church by actions of pedophile priests.

So now you're comparing these senior monks to pedophiles :jawdrop:

Even if they bought the tickets themselves with money accepted from donors contrary to the training rules, it does not even come close to sexually molesting children. If the donors bought the tickets from their own generosity, without any hinting, the senior monks are completely blameless.
arijitmitter wrote:And I think if I was a Theravadan monk and a rich devotee invited me, I will have specified that he send me an economy class ticket and ask he send an ordinary sedan to pick me up and also ask the driver not to turn on the AC. If I am not going to do that then why on earth am I a monk. It is a lame excuse to say he gifted me riches and so I took it.

You're not a monk, and you do not know the monks' training very well at all.The purpose of the monks' training is to remove attachment, and that includes removing attachment to views and opinions.
arijitmitter wrote:Further it breaks the 8th precept to travel in business class where seats van be converted into beds.

It doesn't. Monks can use seats that are provided by householders. Haven't you ever seen monks preaching from high, gilt covered, Dhamma preaching thrones?
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby arijitmitter » Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:06 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:If you misjudge others, then that is your unwholesome kamma.


A monk travelling in business class. Where is the misjudgement ? If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, I will assume it is a duck, unwholesome Kamma or not.

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:So now you're comparing these senior monks to pedophiles


No I am not. Venerable Sir you are putting words into my mouth. I just quoted an analogy of uncontrolled behavior by another set of monks.

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:It doesn't. Monks can use seats that are provided by householders. Haven't you ever seen monks preaching from high, gilt covered, Dhamma preaching thrones?


No. Monks at my monastery sit on the floor. And so do all the monks I have seen on YouTube. And yes appearances matter. Will one respect a monk if he does not live like a monk.

I maintain I am deeply hurt by actions of these monks regardless of how high they are on the hierarchy. They had to have prior knowledge of their travel plans. And if somehow they did not know, then the senior monks should have gone to economy class and the junior monks to business class.
Last edited by arijitmitter on Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:21 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:18 am

arijitmitter wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:It doesn't. Monks can use seats that are provided by householders. Haven't you ever seen monks preaching from high, gilt covered, Dhamma preaching thrones?


No. Monks at my monastery sit on the floor. And so do all the monks I have seen on YouTube. And yes appearances matter. Will one respect a monk if he does not live like a monk.

Here is a Typical Preaching Throne. It may be high and covered in gold leaf, but it's far from comfortable to sit on.

By the way, Taung Pulu Sayādaw, one of the most revered dhutanga monks of Burma followed the Sitters practice for 13 years, but even he used a comfortable reclining seat
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby arijitmitter » Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:27 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Here is a Typical Preaching Throne. It may be high and covered in gold leaf, but it's far from comfortable to sit on.

By the way, Taung Pulu Sayādaw, one of the most revered dhutanga monks of Burma followed the Sitters practice for 13 years, but even he used a comfortable reclining seat


Thankfully I do not learn from the monk in the video. I learn by myself and should I ever have a teacher, he will not be on a throne. This video is the most un-Buddhist thing I have seen.

This is correct if a monk wishes to relax http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqogOU-UJHA

And this is how a monk should preach http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyXQFsDcGmA
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby Anagarika » Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:58 pm

There may be an assumption on this thread that the Bhikkhus purchased business class tickets. In Thai airports, Bhikkhus and Samaneras are afforded some special treatment, such as roped off seating areas away from the rest of the travelers. The monks in business class were more than likely placed there by the airline, either to give them some space, or as dana to the monks.

When my son and I were traveling to Thailand last month, we were plucked out of the pack and given business class seats. Why, I do not know. So if the airlines to Thailand are free to upgrade people, why not upgrade the Bhikkhus if the seats are open? Why make them sit in the back of the plane, shoulder to shoulder with women?
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby plwk » Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:16 pm

Is Theravada not supposed to be simpler ?
Theravada is what it is. Must it be 'simpler' or more 'complicated' according to what one fancies?
This does not look very Buddhist !!
And exactly what is 'Buddhist' suppose to look like?
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If this single thing is recollected and made much,
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby Benjamin » Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:56 pm

Even if you knew for a fact that the monks chose the seats themselves, how does judging them contribute to your own practice?






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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby arijitmitter » Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:24 pm

Buddha was an ascetic (Shramana) so I doubt if it looks correct if his follower monks travel business class which is a sign of luxury. What looks Buddhist ? Well simple living and high thinking for one.

If an airline gives business class tickets as Dana it can be refused. That seems to be like saying silk ties and scarves and single malt whiskeys are given as Dana to Christian padres.

It does seem a trifle odd to see a Buddhist Bhikkhu in business class. They lead a life of renunciation and that is why we attach the title Venerable before their name.

I apologize for bringing up a touchy topic and hurting anyone's sentiments,

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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby Anagarika » Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:42 pm

I feel that without knowing these monks' intention, it's difficult to judge this situation. Again, in Thailand from my experience, it's not unusual for monks to be given deference in certain matters. Giving monks a seat in the front of the plane may have been simply to avoid having them in close quarters with women for a long flight. It may have just been a way for the airline staff to make some merit, such as giving monks good almsfood, instead of the dregs. If the monks otherwise refused food after midday, and acted properly within Vinaya rules under the circumstances of being stuck in an airplane for hours, then it's hard to judge them.

On the other hand, if these monks were buying expensive tickets with dana from their temple, eating meals after midday, enjoying the pampering in business class, then it might be said they could leave their robes on the plane, and disembark as lay people.

It all goes to intention and Vinaya observance, IMO. In 2013, it can be difficult for Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis to be in the world without being seen as being a nonrenunciate. Should Bhikkhus wear handmade, ill fitting shoes? Should they refuse good medical care at a private hospital if it is offered? When traveling to New York for a meeting or retreat, should they sleep in the streets, or can they accept hotel accommodations? If a hotel is offered, must it be the 1 star with bedbugs, or is the 3 star Hilton OK? Again, it all goes to intention.
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby Hickersonia » Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:50 pm

arijitmitter,

I have to wonder, friend, if you would be so insistent on your position if you were in the position to confront these Bhikkhus face-to-face? Most of us wouldn't be, even if we were truly offended, I think.

I should much rather bow at their feet than possibly offend a noble one.

May you find peace with your views and opinions, friend. :anjali:
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby kmath » Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:10 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:You're not a monk, and you do not know the monks' training very well at all.The purpose of the monks' training is to remove attachment, and that includes removing attachment to views and opinions.


:goodpost:

If lay people want to give a monk luxurious gifts, that's their kamma, not the monks. The monk can accept those gifts and therefore ALLOW the lay people to make merit. If the monk insists on less luxurious gifts, where's the renunciation in that? It's just attachment to views all over again.
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Postby cooran » Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:22 pm

Well said!

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