Political involvement of the Sangha

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Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby Cassandra » Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:48 am

Hi folks, are there statements in sangha vinaya which say that monks should not be politically involved in lay life matters?

Thanks
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Mar 20, 2013 12:45 pm

Hi Cassandra

They shouldn't even be talking about it:


"Just now, lord, after the meal, on returning from our alms round, we gathered at the meeting hall and got engaged in many kinds of bestial topics of conversation: conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state; armies, alarms, & battles; food & drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, & scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women & heroes; the gossip of the street & the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity, the creation of the world & of the sea; talk of whether things exist or not."

"It isn't right, monks, that sons of good families, on having gone forth out of faith from home to the homeless life, should get engaged in such topics of conversation, i.e., conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state... talk of whether things exist or not.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

With metta
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby pilgrim » Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:09 pm

rowyourboat wrote:Hi Cassandra

They shouldn't even be talking about it:


"Just now, lord, after the meal, on returning from our alms round, we gathered at the meeting hall and got engaged in many kinds of bestial topics of conversation: conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state; armies, alarms, & battles; food & drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, & scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women & heroes; the gossip of the street & the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity, the creation of the world & of the sea; talk of whether things exist or not."

"It isn't right, monks, that sons of good families, on having gone forth out of faith from home to the homeless life, should get engaged in such topics of conversation, i.e., conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state... talk of whether things exist or not.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

With metta

I think idle gossip about politics is quite different from speaking out against wrong-doings..
Would this be considered political action?
http://www.irrawaddy.org/archives/29133
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby Cassandra » Thu Mar 21, 2013 5:50 pm

pilgrim wrote:I think idle gossip about politics is quite different from speaking out against wrong-doings..
Would this be considered political action?
http://www.irrawaddy.org/archives/29133


Exactly my question. Is it proper (or restricted by vinaya) for a monk to be involved with matters of the lay life such as taking part in demonstrations, chanting slogans etc. even if it is for the right cause. Won't such activities obstruct a monk from their spiritual path or solitude?

On the other hand, should being a monk mean that a person is completely removed from the rest of the world and selfishly pursue his own emancipation. More like a "to hell with the others, environmental pollution, starving kids or world peace; I have better things to do with my time" kind of attitude. :thinking:

This question has frequently bothered me. What do you think is the approach recommended by the Buddha?
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby convivium » Thu Mar 21, 2013 7:19 pm

monks are among the last and strongest forces for rights and liberties in a lot of countries.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Thu Mar 21, 2013 7:39 pm

Cassandra wrote:
pilgrim wrote:I think idle gossip about politics is quite different from speaking out against wrong-doings..
Would this be considered political action?
http://www.irrawaddy.org/archives/29133


Exactly my question. Is it proper (or restricted by vinaya) for a monk to be involved with matters of the lay life such as taking part in demonstrations, chanting slogans etc. even if it is for the right cause. Won't such activities obstruct a monk from their spiritual path or solitude?

On the other hand, should being a monk mean that a person is completely removed from the rest of the world and selfishly pursue his own emancipation. More like a "to hell with the others, environmental pollution, starving kids or world peace; I have better things to do with my time" kind of attitude. :thinking:

This question has frequently bothered me. What do you think is the approach recommended by the Buddha?;




Personally I think this a matter of individual conscience. As for what Buddha taught: there is a sutta in which Buddha describes exactly what he thought in this regard.

resource: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .olen.html

The salient teaching:
[The Buddha addressed the monks:]
Once upon a time, monks, a bamboo acrobat,
setting himself upon his bamboo pole,
addressed his assistant Medakathalika:
"Come you, my dear Medakathalika,
and climbing up the bamboo pole,
stand upon my shoulders."
"Okay, master" the assistant Medakathalika
replied to the bamboo acrobat;
and climbing up the bamboo pole
she stood on the master's shoulders.

So then the bamboo acrobat said this to his assistant Medakathalika:
"You look after me, my dear Medakathalika, and I'll look after you.
Thus with us looking after one another, guarding one another,
we'll show off our craft, receive some payment,
and safely climb down the bamboo pole."

This being said, the assistant Medakathalika said this to the bamboo acrobat:
"That will not do at all, master!
You look after yourself, master, and I will look after myself.
Thus with each of us looking after ourselves, guarding ourselves,
we'll show off our craft, receive some payment,
and safely climb down from the bamboo pole.
That's the right way to do it!"

[The Buddha said:]
Just like the assistant Medakathalika said to her master:
"I will look after myself,"
so should you, monks, practice the establishment of mindfulness.
You should (also) practice the establishment of mindfulness (by saying)
"I will look after others."

Looking after oneself, one looks after others.
Looking after others, one looks after oneself.

And how does one look after others by looking after oneself?
By practicing (mindfulness), by developing (it), by doing (it) a lot.
And how does one look after oneself by looking after others?
By patience, by non-harming, by loving kindness, by caring (for others).
(Thus) looking after oneself, one looks after others;
and looking after others, one looks after oneself.
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby Coyote » Thu Mar 21, 2013 7:53 pm

I think there's a big difference between speaking out against wrong actions, on a general level, as well as pointing out wrong doing on an individual or community level and getting involved with political affairs, which are not the Bhikkhu's concern, especially when this involves inciting violence or religious/racial prejudice.
However, it's hard to condemn those speaking out against injustices going on in thier own counties, especially if they are a spokesperson for a large community of even a whole country. I don't know much about the affairs in Burma, if anything, and I am not a monk. But I think the line gets crossed when violence is incited or monks express political opinions that go above and beyond right/wrong action with regard to the Dhamma. The Buddha, after all, offered advice to kings. What use is that if monks won't speak out against unjust rulers, ect.? Maybe it is the Buddha's job to admonish kings and so on, but I don't think it is that wrong for monks to call out political leaders on unjust actions especially when there is something very wrong going on. Unless there is something specific in the vinaya?

Edit: meant this to go on the thread about monastic violence in Burma, but it can go here as well, it fits.
Edit2: replied to my own post instead of editing. Can the mods delete the first post?
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby SarathW » Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:08 am

I think Sanga can involve with politics with equanimity (Upekka) and not taking sides. Which promote benefit for all.
I remember a story from Buddha that he stop a war between two parties.
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby convivium » Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:12 am

I think the line gets crossed when violence is incited or monks express political opinions that go above and beyond right/wrong action with regard to the Dhamma.
you might do some reading about the saffron revolution and where burma has come (albeit slowly) since then. the monks can't just be totally slaughtered, so they were the only one's that could really do anything (and they did).
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby Coyote » Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:29 am

convivium wrote:
I think the line gets crossed when violence is incited or monks express political opinions that go above and beyond right/wrong action with regard to the Dhamma.
you might do some reading about the saffron revolution and where burma has come (albeit slowly) since then. the monks can't just be totally slaughtered, so they were the only one's that could really do anything (and they did).


Thats great, if they spoke out against injustice. It's not wrong according to the vinaya I don't think, as long as they are still monks first and foremost. Its very much an individual thing IMO, about what each monk is willing/able to do in each situation. I don't think you can make hard and fast rules because true compassion is responding to the needs of others in the moment. But I still think it is fundamentally wrong for a bhikkhu to use his power for politics. For example, in my opinion a group of monks coming together to enlicit political change would be overstepping the boundaries. But an individual or group speaking out against this or that action of the government, army ect. would not be. It's all in the intention. But I guess it is no worse than other vinaya violations that I hear are rampant, and at least they are doing something good.
All of this is in my own opinion, perhaps someone with better knowledge of the vinaya might be able to draw clearer lines.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby convivium » Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:33 am

But I still think it is fundamentally wrong for a bhikkhu to use his power for politics. For example, in my opinion a group of monks coming together to enlicit political change would be overstepping the boundaries. But an individual or group speaking out against this or that action of the government, army ect. would not be. It's all in the intention. But I guess it is no worse than other vinaya violations that I hear are rampant, and at least they are doing something good.
All of this is in my own opinion, perhaps someone with better knowledge of the vinaya might be able to draw clearer lines.

politics are wrong view.
wrong view conditions suffering.
the goal of the buddhist path is to eliminate suffering.
monks are buddhist practitioners.
therefore, while monks cannot engage in politics (tied to wrong view), they can engage in resisting politics (and so resist wrong view).
q.e.d. :geek:
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby Coyote » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:11 am

convivium wrote:politics are wrong view.
wrong view conditions suffering.
the goal of the buddhist path is to eliminate suffering.
monks are buddhist practitioners.
therefore, while monks cannot engage in politics (tied to wrong view), they can engage in resisting politics (and so resist wrong view).
q.e.d. :geek:


I agree. I don't think speaking out against mass injustice is necessarily "politics" though. Take the example of a monk in Nazi Germany, or Stalinist Russia ect. Wouldn't they have a duty to make it known what is right and wrong?

BTW I am not relating my comments at all to the situation in Burma of which I know practically nothing. I can't comment on the justice/injustice of something that I don't know anything about.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby Cassandra » Fri Mar 22, 2013 5:33 am

Okay so speaking out against injustice is fine. But what exactly is injustice? Isn't "justice" :quote: a highly personalized view? I don't think most political activities in society are black and white so that the side a person has to take is clear. When you are on this side, it may seem like you are on the right side while for the person on the side, his circumstances might seem like he is doing justice.

For example, Bin Laden bombed the US. In turn USA had to carry out some mass killings in other countries in the process of controlling terrorism. One man's hero might be another man's villain. :shrug:
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby convivium » Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:14 am

Isn't "justice" a highly personalized view?
we can commonly agree on what is just and unjust on the grounds of whether or not basic needs or primary goods are being met or fairly distributed.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby polarbuddha101 » Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:29 am

Monks can speak about right and wrong in line with the dhamma. Osama and the U.S. government committed unskillful deeds from the perspective of the dhamma. Any killing, any stealing, and any lying is unskillful. Hence, monks should stay out of politics because governments will almost certainly always be engaged in killing and stealing and lying. However, monks can remind people, be they presidents, kings, popes, or peasants about what is skillful and what is unskillful, about what when undertaken leads to longterm harm and suffering and what when undertaken leads to longterm welfare and happiness. The fact is that a samana has seen (on some level presumably) that this world is not worth clinging to and so they leave the world (of everyday life) and work to abandon their craving and clinging.
Last edited by polarbuddha101 on Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby Cassandra » Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:41 am

convivium wrote:
Isn't "justice" a highly personalized view?
we can commonly agree on what is just and unjust on the grounds of whether or not basic needs or primary goods are being met or fairly distributed.

Yes I think I agree with you on that
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby householder » Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:09 am

So some examples for discussion relating to the escalating situation in Meiktila. I have a vested interest in monitoring this situation closely for various reasons, and at the moment I don't believe anyone on either side, nor official or unofficial accounts. It's an utter and dangerous mess!

New York Times reporter's Twitter feed today:

Thomas Fuller ‏@thomasfullerNYT 2h
Myanmar police seem unwilling or unable to stop violence in Meiktila. Mizzima report: http://www.mizzima.com/news/inside-burm ... ktila.html

Thomas Fuller ‏@thomasfullerNYT 2h
Buddhist monk in Meiktila, Myanmar, threatened photographer from the Associated Press with a sword. Photog handed over camera memory card.

Thomas Fuller ‏@thomasfullerNYT 4h
Myanmar rioting update (5): Buddhist monks appear to be leading mob torching Muslim houses in Meiktila Friday, say reporters on the ground.

Thomas Fuller ‏@thomasfullerNYT 4h
Myanmar rioting update (4): Rioting is spreading to surrounding villages; Muslim homes torched.

Thomas Fuller ‏@thomasfullerNYT 4h
Myanmar rioting update (3): Monks seized memory cards from news photographers, according to Burmese photog for Western news agency.

Thomas Fuller ‏@thomasfullerNYT 4h
Myanmar rioting update (2): Journalists report being harassed by Buddhist monks in Meiktila.

Thomas Fuller ‏@thomasfullerNYT 4h
Myanmar rioting update (1): Meiktila continues to burn. Reporter for local newspaper said he saw 15 charred bodies on the streets Friday AM.


On the other side: http://www.mizzima.com/news/inside-burm ... ktila.html

Outspoken Buddhist monk Shwe Nya Wah Sayadaw, who went to Meiktila to help dissolve the tensions, told Mizzima that he thought that the sectarian clashes might be related to political maneuvering, though he did not want to speculate who might be behind it.

He called on the local authorities, residents and Buddhist monks to prevent the riots. “They should not neglect the issue as though it is not related to them,” he said. “That is the message that I tried to convey.”


There's accusations flying on all sides and let's not forget that this is a highly charged situation as well as what's NOT being reported or is bearing little mention - locals offering safe refuge and support for each other, regardless of religion, and trying to defuse tensions where they can.

One Buddhist group is accused by certain advocates of being an extremist group and calling on Facebook for violence and property destruction. A different set of advocates claims the same group are providing safe passage and refuge for Muslims at risk.

Like I say, an utter mess!
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby Cassandra » Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:30 am

What on earth is happening to Asian Buddhist regions which were once living in peace with other races and religions is beyond me.
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby householder » Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:45 am

Cassandra wrote:What on earth is happening to Asian Buddhist regions which were once living in peace with other races and religions is beyond me.


Was always a bit of a veneer here. In Yangon people, especially tourists who aren't here for very long, wax lyrical about the fact that downtown there are several churches, mosques, Hindu temples etc. all in a very close area, which is supposedly an illustration of commingling and tolerance etc. But you don't have to speak to many people for very long to unveil some very strong prejudices that they have been conditioned to hold, particularly when it comes to Islam and Muslims. It's shocking but I don't blame them at the same time - spend even a little bit of time here and you'll see how dysfunctional the place is on almost every level, starting with the education system...
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Re: Political involvement of the Sangha

Postby Coyote » Fri Mar 22, 2013 10:32 am

convivium wrote:
Isn't "justice" a highly personalized view?
we can commonly agree on what is just and unjust on the grounds of whether or not basic needs or primary goods are being met or fairly distributed.


Disagree with this. What I meant by unjust was exactly as polarbuddha put it. Also there's a sutta that deals with a number of virtues that a king should have - honesty, caring for less well off members of society ect.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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