Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

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Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby Hickersonia » Tue Oct 08, 2013 12:53 am

On one hand, I have noticed that every single monastic I have met handles money.

On the other hand, about 1/2 of these monastics are Mahayana rather than Theravada, and are ordained in a school that doesn't appear (so far as I can ascertain) to have any prohibition on it anyway.

So, in one tradition I have found monks who take on a precept (or vow, if you will) to abstain from bartering and the use of whatever is a medium for business but appear to disregard it almost entirely and in the other the precept is not taken at all; they just dispense with the rule entirely.

Sometimes I'm okay with what I have observed... although I do not give money directly to them, I can still support them indirectly (by donating to the temple). Other times, I feel like it is such a contradiction to live the Buddhist monastic life while still handling money that I choose to not give at all...

And at other times, I think to myself "at least the Mahayana monks don't pretend like they aren't handling money."

I don't much like "hearing" myself think such snide remarks; I really don't like being overly critical. I mean... who am I to find fault with anyone in the first place?

How do you reconcile this sort of thing with your understanding of Dhamma and Vinaya? Am I wrong to be a little troubled? I almost think that if I ever stumbled across, in-person, a Dhamma teacher from any tradition that honestly seemed to keep the first ten precepts (dasa-sila) as I understand them, I would follow him (or her) around the world if so asked.

Sorry for the jumble of thoughts... Please be well. :anjali:
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby Virgo » Tue Oct 08, 2013 1:03 am

You actually associate with those monks? What can you possibly learn from them if they recite the patimokkha every fortnight knowing they will break it at a moment's notice with no regret or shame?


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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:00 am

The reality is that most monks do have cash and handle money and many even have bank accounts. About the only exceptions are some forest monks, especially those from the Ajahn Chah tradition.

See also: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=17916
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby reflection » Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:38 am

Always easy to judge others, that's one thing. Especially if we don't observe their rules ourselves.

But it's also very difficult to get by in today's society without money. Think of things like transport and so. In monasteries without money there is always a lot of arrangements with who drives who where and such. Can't just take a cab. Also if they run out of a simple item like toilet paper or toothpaste, they can't just get it. So there is something to say for monks handling money. I don't think monks without money are better monks per se. Of course it can happen out of attachment to money and to some form of self control, but in many cases I think that's not what's going on and they simply handle money because it just makes things a bit easier. Or, because that's simply how things go. And admittedly, me myself I do so many things because that's simply the way society is.. so I am certainly not in a position to judge somebody else on such things. ;)
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby chownah » Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:59 am

I'm ambivalent about monks having money. I don't think that it is a make or break sort of thing.....but I can't help pointing out that while toilet paper and toothpaste have been used as examples of essential items, it is actually the case that both of them can be replaced with water. Having lived in Thailand for a number of years I have adopted the Thai way and use water and not toilet paper and I much prefer it as water does a much much better job. And the American dental association did a study of brushing without paste and found it to be just as effective at reducing dental caries as brushing with paste.....the one caveat in this is that the study was done before the advent of fluoridated tooth paste and especially for young people the fluoride in tooth paste does provide extra protection above and beyond brushing.
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby Hickersonia » Tue Oct 08, 2013 3:08 am

Virgo wrote:You actually associate with those monks? What can you possibly learn from them if they recite the patimokkha every fortnight knowing they will break it at a moment's notice with no regret or shame?

For what it is worth, this is precisely the sort of reaction I'm trying to prevent myself from having.

reflection wrote:Always easy to judge others, that's one thing. Especially if we don't observe their rules ourselves.

Yeah, that is kinda part of my thought process here. I have very little room to complain.

David N. Snyder wrote:The reality is that most monks do have cash and handle money and many even have bank accounts. About the only exceptions are some forest monks, especially those from the Ajahn Chah tradition.

That might explain why I have gravitated toward the teachings of Ajahn Brahm, although I cannot say with any certainty whether he handles money or not -- I'm thousands of miles away.

chownah wrote:while toilet paper and toothpaste have been used as examples of essential items, it is actually the case that both of them can be replaced with water.

Interesting thought too... While I'm not sure how I feel about the use of water alone for cleaning my posterior (how do I get the water there without contorting myself into weird positions or using my hands?) I do use cloth for this function and do not "require" paper. I suppose if one is ever in the situation where he lacks something thought to be essential, it is a good skill to be creative enough to find "less conventional" solutions using whatever is actually available.

I appreciate the thoughts. Thank you, friends. :anjali:
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Oct 08, 2013 3:20 am

Hickersonia wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote:The reality is that most monks do have cash and handle money and many even have bank accounts. About the only exceptions are some forest monks, especially those from the Ajahn Chah tradition.

That might explain why I have gravitated toward the teachings of Ajahn Brahm, although I cannot say with any certainty whether he handles money or not -- I'm thousands of miles away.


I can tell you that Ajahn Brahm does not accept money. When he was at my place, some people tried to give him money and he refused it, directing them to his website where they could make donations online if they wished and where lay stewards handle the money in Australia. It was very nice to see/hear that compared to some other temples I have been to where the monks openly accept cash directly into their hands and others where they accept cash if it is put into an envelope (as if that sanitizes it from "touching" their fingers). But I understand that traveling in the modern world is not the same as 6th century BCE so I don't judge those that accept some donations and knowing that many also put it in the temple fund which pays electricity and other utilities.
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby Sylvester » Tue Oct 08, 2013 5:01 am

Some hair-splitting about "money", as Ven T opines that the rule essentially is against the accepting of currency - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... h07-2.html

See rule 18 onwards. According to Ven T, a cheque made out to another is OK for the monastic to handle. A grey area where the cheque is made out to the monk; see -

Checks. There is some controversy over the status of checks under this rule. In legal terms, a check is a notice to a bank to provide funds for the payee. Because banks are corporate individuals and not "places," a check made out to a bhikkhu is thus equivalent to a notice from a donor to a steward to provide funds on the bhikkhu's behalf. Because the funds in question do not change ownership until the recipient cashes the check, this strengthens the similarity to funds placed with a steward: The funds still belong to the donor until they are used, and the steward is responsible if they become lost in the meantime. Thus the simple act of receiving a check counts not as an act of receiving money but as an acknowledgement of the notice. In passing the notice to someone else, one is simply informing them of the donor's arrangement. Only if a bhikkhu cashes a check or gives an order to someone else to do so does he commit an offense under this rule.
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Oct 08, 2013 5:42 am

Even in Burma, I didn't come across many monks who refrain from using money. Chanmyay Sayādaw, being from the stricter Shwegyin sect, was always scrupulous about it, which is why I preferred to stay in Chanmyay Yeikthā rather than Mahāsi Yeikthā.

While the Mahāsi Sayādaw was alive, any monk found to break the rule was sent away, but after his demise the standards slipped. Sayādaw U Paṇḍita is also scrupulous, but he left to start his own branch centre. You will still find scrupulous monks at Mahāsi Yeikthā, but I got the impression that most are not.

Given that most monks don't observe that rule nowadays, just as most lay Buddhists do not observe the five precepts scrupulously, one has to cultivate a skilful attitude to avoid making unwholesome kamma due to spiritual pride. What others do is their business, what we do is what really matters.

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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby SarathW » Tue Oct 08, 2013 7:00 am

Sadhu, Sadhu , Sadhu
:anjali:
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby cooran » Tue Oct 08, 2013 7:10 am

Hello all,

Ven. Dhammasiha at Dhammagiri Forest Hermitage which I attend, near Brisbane, does not handle money. He strictly keeps all the monks' rules.
http://www.dhammagiri.org.au/

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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby SarathW » Tue Oct 08, 2013 7:28 am

Thanks Cooran
I have no doubt that there were at least few monks who follow the 227 Vinaya rules.
But this is the first time I heard of one of them.
I hope I will meet him one day!
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby lyndon taylor » Tue Oct 08, 2013 8:05 am

If we're going to practice rationalization, cash is bad but checks are OK, we might as well let all the monks have credit cards, after all there's nothing in the Buddhist Vinaya where monks were told they couldn't use credit cards!!!
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Oct 08, 2013 8:09 am

Most of the centres in Cincinnati seem to be Mahāyāna. There is one Sri Lanka Vihāra.
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby pegembara » Tue Oct 08, 2013 8:24 am

I use a simple guide to see if the teacher is following the Buddha's teachings.

[The teachings that promote] the qualities of which you may know, 'These qualities lead to passion, not to dispassion; to being fettered, not to being unfettered; to accumulating, not to shedding; to self-aggrandizement, not to modesty; to discontent, not to contentment; to entanglement, not to seclusion; to laziness, not to aroused persistence; to being burdensome, not to being unburdensome': You may categorically hold, 'This is not the Dhamma, this is not the Vinaya, this is not the Teacher's instruction.'

[As for the teachings that promote] the qualities of which you may know, 'These qualities lead to dispassion, not to passion; to being unfettered, not to being fettered; to shedding, not to accumulating; to modesty, not to self-aggrandizement; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to entanglement; to aroused persistence, not to laziness; to being unburdensome, not to being burdensome': You may categorically hold, 'This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher's instruction.'

— AN 8.53
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby Derek » Tue Oct 08, 2013 1:03 pm

Hello, folks,

The actual precept is:

Jatarupa-rajata-patiggahana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami

I undertake the precept to refrain from accepting gold and silver

So monks only undertake not to accept silver and gold. Refusing to accept paper money and cupro-nickel coins is only an interpretation of this precept.
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby Ben » Tue Oct 08, 2013 1:22 pm

Derek wrote:Hello, folks,

The actual precept is:

Jatarupa-rajata-patiggahana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami

I undertake the precept to refrain from accepting gold and silver


Maybe, but gold and silver was used as money. The intent of the precept is to refrain from accepting and handling money.
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby Dan74 » Tue Oct 08, 2013 1:44 pm

I'd worry more if the monk or nun were motivated by money, were attached to money, were greedy for money. Monastics don't always get the support they need to survive and besides practical considerations sometimes dictate that in order to be there to teach you the Dhamma, they need to make compromises. As long as they strive to be free of greed, hatred and delusion, the outward form matters little, IMO. True renunciation is in the mind.
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby daverupa » Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:53 pm

I found that it's very easy for the possession of money to generate the mindset of storing up sensual pleasures as a householder; it feels like having a piece of security, as well as opening up the ability to buy food or entertainment, etc., with great ease when living becomes difficult or stressful, rather than addressing these issues directly.

In short, I think it can easily lead to a palliative approach to life, rather than a curative one, at the individual level; this sort of social lubrication is the function of lay stewards, and ought not be accomplished through relaxation of this rule, I think.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Monks and Money; trying to figure out my feelings...

Postby Hickersonia » Tue Oct 08, 2013 7:50 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Most of the centres in Cincinnati seem to be Mahāyāna. There is one Sri Lanka Vihāra.

Thank you Bhante.

Most of the centers I have found in the area are indeed Mahayana, and I have been to a couple. The Khmer Temple I recently visited isn't even on the list. I have met the Sri Lankan monks also. Ultimately they all seem like nice people even after considering they inadvertently prompted the creation of this thread by their behaviors...

There aren't a whole lot of Buddhist temples or monasteries (not just "centers" but places where there might be monastics present) in the area, unfortunately. Most are lay-only centers and seem to have no real foundation with any particular monastic tradition.

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Given that most monks don't observe that rule nowadays, just as most lay Buddhists do not observe the five precepts scrupulously, one has to cultivate a skilful attitude to avoid making unwholesome kamma due to spiritual pride. What others do is their business, what we do is what really matters.

Thank you again... I think this is really the "big point" I need to drill home in my mind. I'll try to let this issue go, but I think I'll still be very, very impressed when I come across a monk who eschews money entirely.

Thank you all, friends, for your input. I really appreciate not being made to feel stupid about this. It looks like a wide variety of opinions on the matter.

Please be well. :anjali:
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