No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Exploring the Dhamma, as understood from the perspective of the ancient Pali commentaries.
Suddh
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by Suddh »

Also worth noting is that people with long tongues - so long one's stretched out tongue can reach the tip of one's nose - are viewed by the Commentary as deformed disgracers of the assembly, forbidden from ordination.

Recall, however, one of the thirty-two marks of the mahāpurisa:
And the Blessed One so bent round his tongue that he touched and stroked both his ears, touched and stroked both his nostrils, and the whole circumference of his forehead he covered with his tongue.
https://suttacentral.net/dn3/en/tw_rhys ... ight=false
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Coëmgenu
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by Coëmgenu »

I wouldn't trust Gene Simmons in my Saṃgha either.

In all seriousness, however, these proscriptions are not generally a factor in ordination. They are a curious historical artifact that points to an interesting time in the past, but these passages are not treated as the heartwood of the Vinaya in the modern day in Theravāda, save for perhaps in some antiquated village backwaters that we can imagine.

It's kind of like getting upset over an old bylaw that you're not allowed to ride a bicycle at night if you're a woman wearing trousers. There are plenty of odd and curious bylaws like this on the books at various locales, and they are not enforced by either law enforcement or the local bylaw officer.
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by Suddh »

Ṭhānuttamo wrote: Thu May 23, 2024 12:38 pm ..
One odd thing about the allowance for Ionians is that it is framed as a blanket one and not mentioned at all in the context of their skin colour. Thus if very white Ionians/foreigners are allowed then it would seem to follow all "deformed" (by Commentarial standards) foreigners should be accepted. E.g. foreigners with monobrows, red hair, cowslicks, enormous testicles...
“A sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die... He has nothing whereby he would be born. Not being born, will he age? Not aging, will he die?"
MN 140
Suddh
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by Suddh »

Coëmgenu wrote: Sun May 26, 2024 3:38 am I wouldn't trust Gene Simmons in my Saṃgha either.

In all seriousness, however, these proscriptions are not generally a factor in ordination. They are a curious historical artifact that points to an interesting time in the past, but these passages are not treated as the heartwood of the Vinaya in the modern day in Theravāda, save for perhaps in some antiquated village backwaters that we can imagine.
Careful now! We're in CT territory here.
It's kind of like getting upset over an old bylaw that you're not allowed to ride a bicycle at night if you're a woman wearing trousers. There are plenty of odd and curious bylaws like this on the books at various locales, and they are not enforced by either law enforcement or the local bylaw officer.
You might be missing the point and purpose of my bringing the issue to light...
“A sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die... He has nothing whereby he would be born. Not being born, will he age? Not aging, will he die?"
MN 140
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by Neo »

Let's say I go & able to establish on noble path at body, speech, mind level and create my own community of buddhist teachings then I would think like this :

Those who can follow 5 precepts at body, speech and mind level are welcomed as monk, those can follow at body and speech are welcomed as student.

But in reality it becomes difficult to judge and it would take too much time that would be risky too for a layman as there will be possibility of rejection and hence wastage of time in terms of worldly stuffs.

But that's how I would do, no matter if time is wasted. It's better to practice & learn at home if you don't wanna waste your time.

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But how would someone, who is not established, decide in ancient times?

They can say as population is less so influence of one on another is great so Go and checkout people who can be identified on the basis of particular distinctive feature, how maximum among them behave?

Accordingly create rules.

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I believe this might have happened.
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by pulga »

Suddh wrote: Sun May 26, 2024 3:13 am
1) Whether or not to take the allowance for Ionians to include all foreign nationalities.
2) Whether or not to exclude dark-skinned/ light-skinned/monolid-eyed Asians from ordination based on the Commentary's clear-cut prohibitions.
I think all ethnic Europeans would be acceptable since it is of their nature (sabhāva) to be of fair complexion. As for Asians it comes down to whether their features are stigmatizing in some way. The Buddha bent over backwards to placate the laity, establishing and amending rules to assuage the pettiest of complaints. It's clearly evident that the early Indians were sensitive to skin tone amongst themselves, perhaps even more so than what we moderns would feel comfortable with.
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by Suddh »

pulga wrote: Sun May 26, 2024 10:04 am
Suddh wrote: Sun May 26, 2024 3:13 am
1) Whether or not to take the allowance for Ionians to include all foreign nationalities.
2) Whether or not to exclude dark-skinned/ light-skinned/monolid-eyed Asians from ordination based on the Commentary's clear-cut prohibitions.
I think all ethnic Europeans would be acceptable since it is of their nature (sabhāva) to be of fair complexion. As for Asians it comes down to whether their features are stigmatizing in some way. The Buddha bent over backwards to placate the laity, establishing and amending rules to assuage the pettiest of complaints. It's clearly evident that the early Indians were sensitive to skin tone amongst themselves, perhaps even more so than what we moderns would feel comfortable with.
Yes, and I would agree, but I suspect that you - like me - are not one who thinks the Commentary is 100% true & accurate and thus to be fundamentally adhered to in its entirety. That's the kind of person I think might face difficulty in answering the questions raised by this passage, among others.
“A sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die... He has nothing whereby he would be born. Not being born, will he age? Not aging, will he die?"
MN 140
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by pulga »

Suddh wrote: Sun May 26, 2024 10:23 am
Yes, and I would agree, but I suspect that you - like me - are not one who thinks the Commentary is 100% true & accurate and thus to be fundamentally adhered to in its entirety. That's the kind of person I think might face difficulty in answering the questions raised by this passage, among others.
Certainly. Just look at the way some are evading what is really quite obvious.
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by Ṭhānuttamo »

Suddh wrote: Sun May 26, 2024 10:23 am That's interesting to know their opinion. Do you not think that very white skin and blonde hair would have been considered "abnormal characteristics" in the Commentary's day?
Abnormal in the sense of deviating from propriety, I think not; striking and unusual, no doubt. Even today, whites get frequently stared at by Indians and Sri Lankans :) ... This doesn't, of course, mean that they find them a disgrace, disgusting (see below), or in any other way abnormal due to that external feature.
Suddh wrote: Sun May 26, 2024 10:23 am "Albinos fall under accodāto." Probably do, but that wouldn't necessarily mean that very white non-albinos don't. The term seems to be referring exclusively to skin complexion: vaṇṇa, which could undermine the notion that albinism is being referred to. Another category, "White hair since birth", would look to me a much more likely candidate for albinism. Oxford definition: Albino: a person or animal having a congenital absence of pigment in the skin and hair (which are white) and the eyes (which are usually pink).

Further, the fact that there is no opposite condition to albinism in humans seriously undermines the idea that the Commentary is talking about anything other than plain skin colour here. Both blacks and whites are mentioned.
Agreed; based upon grammar alone, it wouldn't necessarily mean that, although the larger context and the commentary's brief definition (see below) can be read in a way that would only include strikingly abnormal white or black people (I mean those that don't have it as their natural features but rather due to some kind of disease, etc.). It's definition of paridūsaka is: "One who spoils the community with their own ugliness" (yo attano virūpatāya parisaṃ dūseti). Elsewhere, the term "ugly" (virūpo) is explained by means of the word bībhaccho, meaning "repulsive," "disgusting," or "horrible to behold," suggesting that the features under discussion would evoke rather strong emotions of disgust, which is different from the curiosity to be expected when seeing a naturally white (but otherwise regular or perhaps beautiful) white person in a crowd of Indians, for example.

Just to remain with the question if naturally whites or blacks would be allowed to ordain as per the commentary: I think its definitions of "excessively white" and "excessively black" come close enough to refer specifically to or at least approximate albinism and melanism (not wanting to quibble about modern definitions too much, though, if you'd indulge me). For excessively black skin color, the commentary sugegst the image of a burned tree stump (jhāpitakhette khāṇuko), which is entirely black. For excessively whites, its description of their skin tone ("the complexion of copper burnished by rubbing with curd, buttermilk, etc." – dadhitakkādīhi pamajjitamaṭṭhatambalohavaṇṇo) fits quite well with the depictions of albino Indians or Africans as revealed by an easy internet query. The blood (copper) shimmers through the skin rid of pigmentation (milk products).

In any case, I think it is unfair to denigrate the commentary on this issue to such a degree here. As the matter falls in the category of offenses that are acts of wrong doing (dukkaṭāpatti), there may be quite some flexibility possible, even according to the commentaries' own standards, when circumstances demand it. So, let's assume that they refer to natural whites and blacks as a disgrace to the community (which I think they don't). Since times have changed to such an extent that would make such a prohibition nowadays highly counterproductive for the longevity of the sāsana and go against the spirit of what the Buddha was obviously intending when putting restrictions based upon certain physical characteristics in place, I think we are justified in applying some latitude.
pulga wrote: Fri May 24, 2024 12:31 pm Perhaps in modern India it's uncommon for Indians to think of themselves as being too fair in complexion, but consider this passage from the Mahādukkhakkhandha Sutta:
Ko ca, bhikkhave, rūpānaṁ assādo? Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, khattiyakaññā vā brāhmaṇakaññā vā gahapatikaññā vā pannarasavassuddesikā vā soḷasavassuddesikā vā, nātidīghā nātirassā nātikisā nātithūlā nātikāḷī nāccodātā paramā sā, bhikkhave, tasmiṁ samaye subhā vaṇṇanibhāti?
‘Evaṁ, bhante’. Yaṁ kho, bhikkhave, subhaṁ vaṇṇanibhaṁ paṭicca uppajjati sukhaṁ somanassaṁ—ayaṁ rūpānaṁ assādo.
And what is the gratification in the case of form?
Suppose there were a girl of Warrior-noble caste or Divine caste or householder stock, in her fifteenth or sixteenth year, neither too tall nor too short, neither too thin nor too fat, neither too dark nor too fair; is her beauty and loveliness then at its height? ‘Yes, venerable sir.’ Now the pleasure and joy that arise in dependence on that beauty and loveliness are the gratification in the case of form -- MN 13.
Even the same Pali word (accodāta) is being used by Buddhaghosa.
It is interesting to note that the commentary to this passage uses the same explanation as with the other where these terms occur. Would you say that nātikāḷī and nāccodātā (neither too dark nor too fair respectively) in the above text couldn't refer to or approximate the absence of albinism and melanism (again ditching precision in modern terminology)?
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by SecretSage »

Suddh wrote: Sun May 05, 2024 5:50 am Do the CTs therefore agree with the Commentary that white people shouldn't ordain? Or black people? Do you agree that such people disgrace the assembly? (For clarification's sake albino is further down the list.)

Also, how does the view that someone too tall might corrupt or disgrace the Sangha - the commentary calls it a deformity - stand with the commentarial position that the Buddha was three times the height of a medium-sized person? Does this mean the Commentarial position is that the Buddha was extremely deformed?
Well some things in commentary fit into Theravada suttas and others don't...make your own decision.

In Support:
  • Physically better traits caused by good kamma, and good kamma makes achieving arahantship easier

    Many people with bad physical traits may be beings who came from hellish realms prior to this existence and have such bad kamma that the chance of achieving arahantship is very low so it would be better not to ordinate them.

    The Buddha himself had special physical traits because of his special kamma

    "‘Truly, Sirs, the Samaṇa Gotama is handsome, pleasant to look upon, inspiring trust, gifted with great beauty of complexion, fair in colour, fine in presence, stately to behold" - DN 4
  • Can physical abnormalities cause schism in the sangha?

    "Furthermore, there’s a schism in the Saṅgha. When the Saṅgha is split, they abuse, insult, block, and reject each other. This doesn’t inspire confidence in those without it, and it causes some with confidence to change their minds. This is the fifth thing that leads to the decline and disappearance of the true teaching." - AN 5.156

In Opposition:
  • In the caste system debate MN 93 The Buddha doesn't mention light skin or dark skin as mattering much he mentions male vs. female mattering much. Theravadins shouldn't support females being viewed as like equals or feminism.
  • Says to spread the dhamma everywhere

    "Go wandering, monks, for the benefit and happiness of humanity, out of compassion for the world, for the good, benefit, happiness of devas and humans. You should each go a different way. Proclaim the Teaching that is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, that has a true goal and is well articulated. Set out the perfectly complete and pure spiritual life. There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are ruined because of not hearing the Teaching. There will be those who understand. I too will go to Uruvelā, to Senānigama, to proclaim the Teaching.”
    ...
    “I allow you to give the going forth and the full ordination in those various regions and countries. - Kd 1
My personal opinion if I was an arahant and trying to get the Sangha to have as many arahants as possible I would ordinate some and not others based on whatever is better for more arahants in the world.

Based on modern biology there would be certain physical traits that would make achieving arahantship harder (especially things linked to the brain) and the physical difference between male and female is bigger than the difference between male and male in different ethnicities. But in modern biology it's been found that skin color is controlled by few genes so many people physically similar can have different skin tones and many people physically different can have similar skin tones.
"You yourselves must strive; the Buddhas only point the way"
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by pulga »

Ṭhānuttamo wrote: Thu May 30, 2024 10:36 am
It is interesting to note that the commentary to this passage uses the same explanation as with the other where these terms occur. Would you say that nātikāḷī and nāccodātā (neither too dark nor too fair respectively) in the above text couldn't refer to or approximate the absence of albinism and melanism (again ditching precision in modern terminology)?
Undoubtedly albinism and melanism would be sufficiently stigmatizing to prevent anyone suffering from those conditions from ordaining, but I don’t think Buddhaghosa had them in mind when he wrote his commentary. He and the Buddha were applying the same meaning to the words, though the Buddha wasn’t implying any sort of ostracism.
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by Ṭhānuttamo »

pulga wrote: Fri May 31, 2024 4:28 am Undoubtedly albinism and melanism would be sufficiently stigmatizing to prevent anyone suffering from those conditions from ordaining, but I don’t think Buddhaghosa had them in mind when he wrote his commentary. He and the Buddha were applying the same meaning to the words, though the Buddha wasn’t implying any sort of ostracism.
Hmm, do you think the simile Buddhaghosa gave about the charred tree stump when explaining excessively black (atikāḷo) doesn't approximate melanism? I don't see how we could fit anything significantly less than this extreme carbon blackness under what is suggested by the imagery. In contradistinction, wouldn't excessively white (accodāto) suggest at least something approximating albinism? The imagery seems to fit her as well, although it isn't as lucid.
pulga wrote: Fri May 31, 2024 4:28 am He and the Buddha were applying the same meaning to the words, though the Buddha wasn’t implying any sort of ostracism.
In reference to the MN 13 passage, I would agree. There, features that preclude ordination aren't implied, but in the vinaya, this is of course what it is about.
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by Suddh »

Ṭhānuttamo wrote: Thu May 30, 2024 10:36 am ...
Many reasonable points. Melanism, however, apparently does not exist in human beings.
“A sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die... He has nothing whereby he would be born. Not being born, will he age? Not aging, will he die?"
MN 140
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by Ṭhānuttamo »

Suddh wrote: Mon Jun 03, 2024 1:15 pm Many reasonable points. Melanism, however, apparently does not exist in human beings.
Agreed. Ven. Buddhaghosa was, of course, thinking outside of modern Western categories and merely thought of something that would approximate melanism as we understand it.
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Re: No Blacks, No Whites? Commentarial ordination restrictions

Post by Jim34152 »

When I was a monk I met a lot of white monks and one of the monks who was one of the two monks who was the assistant to the monk who ordained me was black.
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