Why Ordain Unenlightened People?

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.

Why Ordain Unenlightened People?

Postby yuttadhammo » Thu Sep 23, 2010 4:59 am

Just a passage that I thought might be interesting for those debating whether to require lengthy training periods for ordination applicants, from the Milindapanha:

DILEMMA THE FIFTY-SIXTH. THE BACKSLIDERS.

23. 'Venerable Nâgasena, this doctrine of the Tathâgatas is mighty, essentially true, precious, excellent, noble, peerless, pure and stainless, clear and faultless. It is not right to admit a layman who is merely a disciple 1 into the Order. He should be instructed as a layman still, till he have attained to the Fruit of the First Path 2, and then be admitted. And why is this? When these men, still being evil, have been admitted into a religion so pure, they give it up, and return again to the lower state 3, and by their backsliding the people is led to think: "Vain must be this religion of the Samana Gotama, which these men have given up." This is the reason for what I say.'

24. 'Suppose, O king, there were a bathing tank 4, full of pure clear cold water. And some man, dirty, covered with stains and mud, should come there, and without bathing in it should turn back again, still dirty as before. Now in that matter whom would the people blame, the dirty man, or the bathing tank?'

'The dirty man, Sir, would the people blame, saying: "This fellow came to the bathing tank, and has gone back as dirty as before. How could the bathing tank, of itself, cleanse a man who did not care to bathe? What fault is there in the tank?"'

'Just so, O king, [247] has the Tathâgata constructed a bathing tank full of the excellent waters of emancipation 1,--the bath of the good law. Whosoever of conscious discerning beings are polluted with the stains of sin, they, bathing in it, can wash away all their sins. And if any one, having gone to that bathing tank of the good law, should not bathe in it, but turn back polluted as before, and return again to the lower state, it is him the people would blame, and say: "This man entered religion according to the doctrine of the Conquerors, and finding no resting-place within it, has returned again to the lower state. How could the religion of the Conquerors, of itself, cleanse him who would not regulate his life in accordance with it? What fault is there in the system?"

25. 'Or suppose, O king, that a man afflicted with dire disease should visit a physician skilled in diagnosis 2, knowing an efficacious and lasting method of cure, and that that man should then not let himself be treated, but go back again as ill as before. Now therein whom would the people blame, the sick man or the doctor?'

It is the sick man, Sir, they would blame, saying: "How could the physician, of himself, cure this man, who would not let himself be treated? What fault is there in the doctor?"'

'Just so, O king, has the Tathâgata deposited in the casket of his religion the ambrosial medicine (of Nirvâna) which is able to entirely suppress all the sickness of sin, thinking: "May all those of conscious sentient beings who are afflicted with the sickness of sin drink of this ambrosia, and so allay all their disease." And if any one, without drinking the ambrosia, should turn back again with the evil still within him, and return once more to the lower state, it is he whom the people will blame, saying: "This man entered religion according to the doctrine of the Conquerors, and finding no resting-place within it, has returned again to the lower state. How could the religion of the Conquerors, of itself, cure him who would not regulate his life in accordance with it? What fault is there in the system?"

126. 'Or suppose, O king, a starving man were to attend at a place where a mighty largesse of food 2 given for charity was being distributed, and then should go away again, still starving, without eating anything. Whom then would the people blame, the starving man, or the feast of piety?'

'It is the starving man, Sir, they would blame, saying: [248] "This fellow, though tormented with hunger, still when the feast of piety was provided for him, partook of nothing, and went back as hungry as before. How could the meal, of which he would not eat, enter, of itself, into his mouth? What fault is there in the food? "'

'Just so, O king, has the Tathâgata placed the most excellent, good, auspicious, delicate ambrosial food, surpassing sweet, of the realisation of the impermanency of all things 1, into the casket of his religion, thinking: "May all those of conscious sentient beings who feel within them the torment of sin 2, whose hearts are deadened by cravings, feeding upon this food, allay every longing that they have for future life in any form, in any world." And if any one, without enjoying this food, should turn back, still dominated by his cravings, and return once more to the lower state, it is he whom the people will blame, saying: "This man entered religion according to the doctrine of the Conquerors, and finding no resting-place within it, has returned again to the lower state. How could the religion of the Conquerors, of itself, purify him who would not regulate his life in accordance with it? What fault is there in the system?"'

27. 'If the Tathâgata, O king, had let a householder be received into the Order only after he had been trained in the first stage of the Excellent Way, then would renunciation of the world no longer indeed be said to avail for the putting away of evil qualities, for purification of heart--then would there be no longer any use in renunciation. It would be as if a man were to have a bathing tank excavated by the labour of hundreds (of workpeople 1), and were then to have a public announcement made: "Let no one who is dirty go down into this tank! Let only those whose dust and dirt have been washed away, who are purified and stainless, go down into this tank!" Now would that bath, O king, be of any use to those thus purified and stainless?

'Certainly not, Sir! The advantage they would have sought in going into the bath they would have already gained elsewhere. Of what use would the bath be to them then?'

'Just so, O king, had the Tathâgata ordained that only laymen who had already entered the first stage of the Excellent Way should be received into the Order, then would the advantage they seek in it have been already gained. Of what use would the renunciation be to them then?

28. 'Or suppose, O king, that a physician, a true follower of the sages of old 2, one who carries (in his memory) the ancient traditions and verses 3, a practical man 4, skilled in diagnosis, and master of an efficacious and lasting system of treatment, who had collected (from medicinal herbs) a medicine able to cure every disease, were to have it announced: [249] "Let none, Sirs, who are ill come to visit me! Let the healthy and the strong visit me!" Now, would then, O king, those men free from illness and disease, healthy and jubilant, get what they wanted from that physician?'

'Certainly not, Sir! What men want from a physician, that would they have already obtained otherwise. What use would the physician be to them?'

'Just so, O king, had the Tathâgata ordained that only those laymen who had already entered the first stage of the Excellent Way should be received into the Order, then would the advantages they seek in it have been already gained elsewhere. Of what use would the renunciation be to them then?

29. 'Or suppose, O king, that some had had many hundreds of dishes of boiled milk-rice prepared 1, and were to have it announced to those about him: 'Let not, Sirs, any hungry man approach to this feast of charity. Let those who have well fed, the satisfied, refreshed, and satiated 2, those who have regaled themselves, and are filled with good cheer,--let them come to the feast." Now would any advantage, O king, be derived from the feast by those men thus well fed, satisfied, refreshed, satiated, regaled, and filled with good cheer?'

'Certainly not, Sir! The very advantage they would seek in going to the feast, that would they have already attained elsewhere. What good would the feast be to them?'

'Just so, O king, had the Tathâgata, ordained that only those laymen who had already entered the first stage of the Excellent Way should be received into the Order, thus would the advantages they seek in it have been already gained elsewhere. Of what use would the renunciation be to them?

30. 'But notwithstanding that, O king, they who return to the lower state manifest thereby five immeasurably good qualities in the religion of the Conquerors. And what are the five? They show how glorious is the state (which those have reached who have entered the Order), how purified it is from every stain, how impossible it is for the sinful to dwell within it together (with the good), how difficult it is to realise (its glory), how many are the restraints to be observed within it.

31. 'And how do they show the mighty glory of that state? just, O king, as if a man, poor, and of low birth, without distinction 1, deficient in wisdom, were to come into possession of a great and mighty kingdom, it would not be long before he would be overthrown, utterly destroyed 2, and deprived of his glory. For he would be unable to support his dignity. [250] And why so? Because of the greatness thereof. just so is it, O king, that whosoever are without distinction, have acquired no merit, and are devoid of wisdom, when they renounce the world according to the religion of the Conquerors, then, unable to bear that most excellent renunciation, overthrown, fallen, and deprived of their glory, they return to the lower state. For they are unable to carry out the doctrine of the Conquerors. And why so? Because of the exalted nature of the condition which that doctrine brings about. Thus is it, O king, that they show forth the mighty glory of that state.

32. 'And how do they show how purified that state is from every stain? just, O king, as water, when it has fallen upon a lotus, flows away, disperses, scatters, disappears, adheres not to it. And why so? Because of the lotus being pure from any spot. Just so, O king, when whosoever are deceitful, tricky, crafty, treacherous, holders of lawless opinions, have been admitted into the religion of the Conquerors, it is not long before they disperse, and scatter, and fall from that pure and stainless, clear and faultless 1, most high and excellent religion, and finding no standing-place in it, adhering no longer to it, they return to the lower state. And why so? Because the religion of the Conquerors has been purified from every stain. Thus is it, O king, that they show forth the purity of that state from every stain.

33. 'And how do they show how impossible it is for the sinful to dwell within it together with the good? just, O king, as the great ocean does not tolerate the continuance in it of a dead corpse 2, but whatever corpse may be in the sea, that does it bring quickly to the shore, and cast it out on to the dry land. And why so? Because the ocean is the abode of mighty creatures. Just so, O king, when whosoever are sinful, foolish, with their zeal evaporated, distressed, impure, and bad, have been admitted into the religion of the Conquerors, it is not long before they abandon that religion, and dwelling no longer in it--the abode of the mighty, the Arahats, purified, and free from the Great Evils 1--they return to the lower state. And why so? Because it is impossible for the wicked to dwell in the religion of the Conquerors. Thus is it, O king, that they show forth the impossibility of the sinful to abide within it together with the good.

34. 'And how do they show how difficult a state it is to grasp? just, O king, as archers who are clumsy, untrained, ignorant, and bereft of skill, are incapable of high feats of archery, such as hairsplitting 2, but miss the object, and shoot beyond the mark. And why so? Because of the fineness and minuteness of the horse-hair. [251] just so, O king, when foolish, stupid, imbecile 3, dull, slow-minded fellows renounce the world according to the doctrine of the Conquerors, then they, unable to grasp the exquisitely fine and subtle distinctions of the Four Truths, missing them, going beyond them, turn back before long to the lower state. And why so? Because it is so difficult to penetrate into the finenesses and subtleties of the Truths. This is how they show forth the difficulty of its realisation.

35. 'And how do they show how many are the restraints to be observed within it? just, O king, as a man who had gone to a place where a mighty battle was going on, when, surrounded on all sides by the forces of the enemy, he sees the armed hosts crowding in upon him, will give way, turn back, and take to flight. And why so? Out of fear lest he should not be saved in the midst of so hot a fight. Just so, O king, when whosoever are wicked 1, unrestrained, shameless, foolish, full of ill-will, fickle, unsteady, mean and stupid, renounce the world under the system of the Conquerors, then they, unable to carry out the manifold precepts, give way, turn back, and take to flight, and so before long return to the lower state. And why so? Because of the multiform nature of the restraints to be observed in the religion of the Conquerors. Thus is it, O king, that they show forth the manifoldness of the restraints to be observed.

36. 'As on that best of flowering shrubs, O king, the double jasmine 1, there may be flowers that have been pierced by insects, and their tender stalks being cut to pieces, they may occasionally fall down. But by their having fallen is not the jasmine bush disgraced. For the flowers that still remain upon it pervade every direction with their exquisite perfume. Just so, O king, whosoever having renounced the world under the system of the Conquerors, return again to the lower state, are, like jasmine flowers bitten by the insects and deprived of their colour and their smell, colourless as it were in their behaviour, and incapable of development. But by their backsliding is not the religion of the Conquerors put to shame. For the members of the Order who remain in the religion pervade the world of gods and men with the exquisite perfume of their right conduct.

37. 'Among rice plants that are healthy [252] and ruddy there may spring up a kind of rice plant called Karumbhaka 2, and that may occasionally fade. But by its fading are not the red rice plants disgraced. For those that remain become the food of kings. Just so, O king, whosoever having renounced the world under the system of the Conquerors return again to the lower state, they, like Karumbhaka plants among the red rice, may grow not, nor attain development, and may even occasionally relapse into the lower state. But by their backsliding is not the religion of the Conquerors put to shame, for the brethren that remain stedfast become fitted even for Arahatship.

38. 'On one side, O king, of a wish conferring gem a roughness 1 may arise. But by the appearance of that roughness is not the gem disgraced. For the purity that remains in the gem fills the people with gladness. And just so, O king, whosoever having renounced the world under the system of the Conquerors return again to the lower state, they may be rough ones and fallen ones in the religion. But by their backsliding is not the religion of the Conquerors put to shame, for the brethren who remain stedfast are the cause of joy springing up in the hearts of gods and men.

39. 'Even red sandal wood of the purest sort, O king, may become in some portion of it rotten and scentless. But thereby is not the sandal wood disgraced. For that portion which remains wholesome and sweet scatters and diffuses its perfume all around. And just so, O king, whosoever having renounced the world under the system of the Conquerors return again to the lower state, they, like the rotten part of the sandal wood, may be as it were thrown away in the religion. But by their backsliding is not the religion of the Conquerors put to shame. For the brethren who remain stedfast pervade, with the sandal wood perfume of their right conduct, the world of gods and men.'

'Very good, Nâgasena! By one appropriate simile after another, by one correct analogy after another have you most excellently made clear the faultlessness of the system of the Conquerors, and shown it free from blame. And even those who have lapsed make evident how excellent that system is.'

____________________________

(Here ends the dilemma as to those who have lapsed.)


Source: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/sbe36/sbe3604.htm
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Re: Why Ordain Unenlightened People?

Postby Ytrog » Thu Sep 23, 2010 6:04 am

Thanks for sharing this Bhante :anjali:

So, in brief it is that there isn't much use for ordaining if you're already enlightened similar to the fact that it's no use to bathe if you're already clean (to use the metaphor from the text). How does the first year as a samanera before ordaining as a monk fit in this? Was this common practice in the days of the Buddha too?
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Re: Why Ordain Unenlightened People?

Postby yuttadhammo » Thu Sep 23, 2010 11:20 pm

Ytrog wrote:Thanks for sharing this Bhante :anjali:

So, in brief it is that there isn't much use for ordaining if you're already enlightened similar to the fact that it's no use to bathe if you're already clean (to use the metaphor from the text). How does the first year as a samanera before ordaining as a monk fit in this? Was this common practice in the days of the Buddha too?

No, I don't think it was. There is a four month samanera ordination for those who were previously ordained in another religion, so why would one require a year for those who were not?
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Re: Why Ordain Unenlightened People?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Sep 24, 2010 2:10 am

And if I'm not mistaken the novice period was only for those under the age of 20. And even that rule developed over time. The Ven. Sopaka attained enlightenment at the age of 7 and was given the full / higher ordination even though he was under 20. (Khuddaka Nikaya, Theragatha 486)
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Re: Why Ordain Unenlightened People?

Postby fabianfred » Fri Sep 24, 2010 3:01 am

It is only extreme places such as WPN and satellites which require the aspirant to ordain as a Pahkow for six months followed by Novice for a year before allowing full ordination.
Certainly if I attained to Sotapanna I would consider disrobing. One would then be safe from creating any karma which would cause reirth in the lower realms, and nowadays people are more inclined to learn the dhamma from lay followers than monks.
Being a good monk and living by the vinaya is difficult when surrounded by less enthusiastic ones....one tends to get ostracised by them.
If you are only interested in going off to quiet places and getting on with yor own practice then there isn't a problem, but if you want to share the good news with others and teach, then as a monk you cannot let anyone know if you have attained to any degree, and surely people want to learn from those who have already succeeded??
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Re: Why Ordain Unenlightened People?

Postby Ytrog » Fri Sep 24, 2010 7:43 am

nowadays people are more inclined to learn the dhamma from lay followers than monks.

Well, I'm not one of them and I think most people would rather learn the Dhamma from a monk than a lay follower. I think it's more a symptom of the scarcity of monks (in the west) than that people really are inclined to listen to lay followers more than to monks.
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: Why Ordain Unenlightened People?

Postby yuttadhammo » Sat Sep 25, 2010 4:48 am

fabianfred wrote:It is only extreme places such as WPN and satellites which require the aspirant to ordain as a Pahkow for six months followed by Novice for a year before allowing full ordination.
Certainly if I attained to Sotapanna I would consider disrobing. One would then be safe from creating any karma which would cause reirth in the lower realms, and nowadays people are more inclined to learn the dhamma from lay followers than monks.
Being a good monk and living by the vinaya is difficult when surrounded by less enthusiastic ones....one tends to get ostracised by them.
If you are only interested in going off to quiet places and getting on with yor own practice then there isn't a problem, but if you want to share the good news with others and teach, then as a monk you cannot let anyone know if you have attained to any degree, and surely people want to learn from those who have already succeeded??

Though this is a bit off-topic, that seems like a pretty crazy thing to say... it was precisely because the Buddha felt that teachers should not be bragging about their attainments that he imposed this rule. If lay teachers go around broadcasting their attainments, I would consider it similarly improper. We teach the dhamma, and that is why people follow us.

On the other hand, monks can share their attainments with other monks, though I would still consider that merely a convenience, rather than an order to do so. I can think of no better explanation of this fact than given by the Mahasi Sayadaw in the beginning of his commentary on the Sellekha Sutta:

A true follower of the Buddha should have few desires. He should be content with what he has and he should try to lessen his defilements. He should have little desire for material possessions or attendants. He should not want to speak of his accomplishments in the study of scriptures or in the practice of meditation. He should keep the depth of his learning or his spiritual attainments to himself. A true noble one does not reveal his spiritual insight although he wants to share it with other people. It is only the religious impostor who calls himself a noble one or an Arahant.

http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Sallekha/Introduction/introduction.html


Additionally, given the sotapanna's increased desire to attain final emancipation, one would think that if you ever do attain it, you will be even less inclined to disrobe than you are now. But, hey, to each their own :)

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Re: Why Ordain Unenlightened People?

Postby Ben » Sat Sep 25, 2010 5:15 am

fabianfred wrote:then as a monk you cannot let anyone know if you have attained to any degree,

Which is a very good idea.
fabianfred wrote:and surely people want to learn from those who have already succeeded??

Certainly for many people, they want to study under the guidance of an 'enlightened' person, though I think if those people were questioned, they may not be able to ascertain how to tell an enlightened person from an unenlightened person, and apart from snob-appeal, how being a student of an enlightened person is going to help them.
I think for most people who have matured a bit in their practice, they recognize that there are certain qualities which set a good dhamma-teacher appart -whether the teacher is lay or ordained. A good dhamma teacher will have faultless conduct, humility, self-effacing, gratitude to the lineage in which he has received the teaching, and the Buddha, and the Dhamma he teaches will be in accordance to the Buddhadhamma. And any announcement of this or that ariya or jhana attainment is a good indication that something is not quite right.
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Re: Why Ordain Unenlightened People?

Postby Sobeh » Sun Sep 26, 2010 12:10 am

fabianfred wrote:Certainly if I attained to Sotapanna I would consider disrobing.


What a strange thing to believe. The last words of the Buddha would seem to offer advice against such a plan.
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