How did the monastics practice at the Buddha's time?

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How did the monastics practice at the Buddha's time?

Postby starter » Sun Dec 15, 2013 9:19 pm

Greetings!

I was reading MN 27 and MN 122 again, trying to figure out how the monastics practiced at the Buddha's time. Based upon these two and some other suttas, it seems to me that a monastic on the noble path first lived a commune life to receive monastic training, until "Possessing this aggregate of noble virtue, and this noble restraint of the faculties, and possessing this noble mindfulness and full awareness", then "he resorts to a secluded resting place: the forest, the root of a tree, a mountain, a ravine, a hillside cave, a charnel ground, a jungle thicket, an open space, a heap of straw" to practice the restraining of the five hindrances and jhana:

“On returning from his almsround, after his meal he sits down, folding his legs crosswise, setting his body erect, and establishing mindfulness before him. Abandoning covetousness for the world, he abides with a mind free from covetousness; he purifies his mind from covetousness. Abandoning ill will and hatred, he abides with a mind free from ill will, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings; he purifies his mind from ill will and hatred. Abandoning sloth and torpor, he abides free from sloth and torpor, percipient of light, mindful and fully aware; he purifies his mind from sloth and torpor. Abandoning restlessness and remorse, he abides unagitated with a mind inwardly peaceful; he purifies his mind from restlessness and remorse. Abandoning doubt, he abides having gone beyond doubt, unperplexed about wholesome states; he purifies his mind from doubt.

“Having thus abandoned these five hindrances, imperfections of the mind that weaken wisdom, quite secluded from sensual desires, secluded from unwholesome states, he enters upon and abides in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by initial application and sustained application of mind (to meditation object), with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion ..."

-- MN 27 The Shorter Discourse on the Simile of the Elephant’s Footprint

"2. Then when it was morning, the Blessed One dressed and taking his bowl and robe went into Kapilavatthu for alms. After he had returned from his almsround, after his meal, he went to spend the day at the dwelling of Kāḷakhemaka the Sakyan. On that occasion, however, there were many resting places prepared in the dwelling of Kāḷakhemaka the Sakyan. When the Blessed One saw this, he thought: “There are many resting places prepared in the dwelling of Kāḷakhemaka the Sakyan; do many bhikkhus live there?”

3. But on that occasion the Venerable Ānanda was engaged with many bhikkhus in making robes at the dwelling of Ghatā the Sakyan. Then when it was evening, the Blessed One rose from meditation and he went to the dwelling of Ghatā the Sakyan: on arriving there he sat down on the appointed seat; when he had done so, the Blessed One said to the Venerable Ānanda: “There are many resting places prepared in the dwelling of Kāḷakhemaka the Sakyan; do many bhikkhus live there?”

“Many resting places, Venerable Sir, are prepared in the dwelling of Kāḷakhemaka the Sakyan; many bhikkhus are living there. A time for making robes is permitted to us, Venerable Sir.”

5. “A bhikkhu, Ānanda, does not shine forth by delighting in company, enjoying company, devoted to delight in company, delighting in society (socialization?), enjoying society, finding satisfaction in society.

6. “Indeed, Ānanda, that a bhikkhu delighting in company, enjoying company, devoted to delight in company, delighting in society, enjoying society, finding satisfaction in society should come to obtain the bliss of renunciation, the bliss of seclusion, the bliss of peace, the bliss of enlightenment at will, without trouble and in full, that is not possible. But when a bhikkhu lives alone, apart from society, that he may be expected to obtain the bliss of renunciation, the bliss of seclusion, the bliss of peace, the bliss of enlightenment at will, without trouble and in full, that is possible.

7. “Indeed, Ānanda, that a bhikkhu delighting in company, enjoying company, devoted to delight in company, delighting in society, enjoying society, finding satisfaction in society should enter upon and dwell in either the temporary, or the permanent and unshakeable, delectable mind deliverance, that is not possible. But when a bhikkhu lives alone, apart from society, that he may be expected to enter upon and dwell in the temporary, or the permanent and unshakeable, delectable mind deliverance, that is possible."

-- MN 122. The Greater Discourse on Voidness


I wonder if the monastery setting and so on at our time permits monastics with such a secluded resting place and life for the second stage (samadhi) practice, without community duties/activities and etc. It's probably only possible during vasa and silent retreats, I suppose, which wouldn't be long enough to obtain deep samadhi. In Mahayana tradition, there is the "Bi Guan 闭关" practice (complete seclusion without leaving the kuti); those who practice in seclusion were provided with food/medicine and etc. It might be good to introduce this practice into the Theravada monasteries, especially the Western monasteries where going on almsround isn't yet possible?

Metta to all!
Last edited by starter on Sun Dec 29, 2013 6:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How did the monastics practice at the Buddha's time?

Postby cooran » Sun Dec 15, 2013 9:50 pm

There are some virtuous Monks who practice as the Buddha taught, living apart from the hustle and bustle of the world, and dependent on Lay people for alms food and support- Venerable Dhammasiha at Dhammagiri Forest Monastery near Brisbane, for example. He will not have a mobile phone, he will not have computer Internet.

http://www.dhammagiri.org.au/more-about-dhammagiri.html

With metta,
Chris
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---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: How did the monastics practice at the Buddha's time?

Postby starter » Tue Dec 17, 2013 12:44 am

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the interesting information. The periodic "Bi Guan 闭关" practice (complete seclusion without leaving the kuti) in Mahayana tradition is different from the practice done in Dhammagiri Forest Monastery. The monastic in "Bi Guan 闭关" can stay in his kuti in a monastery, with food and etc. sent to him without even speaking to him, so that he can live a completely secluded life for a period necessary to practice samadhi. This is an ideal setting for the second stage of practice, after perfecting sila, sense restraint, mindfulness and full awareness.

I suppose Venerable Dhammasiha at Dhammagiri Forest Monastery still has to manage the affairs of the monastery, such as accommodating and teaching the visiting lay, and can't really live a more secluded life?

Metta to all!

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PS: I wonder why there's a sudden, dramatic increase in the number of visitors to Dhamma Wheel. Good development!
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Re: How did the monastics practice at the Buddha's time?

Postby starter » Sun Jun 08, 2014 5:48 pm

Greetings!

The following sutta gives us a glimpse of how the monastics practice rightly at the Buddha's time:

MN 128 Upakkilesa Sutta - Imperfections [The Minor Defilements]

8. Now on that occasion the venerable Anuruddha, the venerable Nandiya and the venerable Kimbila were living at the Eastern Bamboo Park. The park keeper saw the Blessed One coming in the distance and told him: “Do not enter this park, recluse. There are three clansmen here seeking their own good. Do not disturb them.”

9. The venerable Anuruddha heard the park keeper speaking to the Blessed One and told him: “Friend park keeper, do not keep the Blessed One out. It is our Teacher, the Blessed One, who has come.” Then the venerable Anuruddha went to the venerable Nandiya and the venerable Kimbila and said: “Come out, venerable sirs, come out! Our Teacher, the Blessed One, has come.”

10. Then all three went to meet the Blessed One. One took his bowl and outer robe, one prepared a seat, and one set out water for washing the feet. The Blessed One sat down on the seat made ready and washed his feet. Then those three venerable ones paid homage to the Blessed One and sat down at one side, and the Blessed One said to them: “I hope you are all keeping well, Anuruddha, I hope you are comfortable, I hope you are not having any trouble getting almsfood.”
“We are keeping well, Blessed One, we are comfortable, and we are not having any trouble getting almsfood.”

11. “I hope, Anuruddha, that you are all living in concord, with mutual appreciation, without disputing, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with kindly eyes.”
“Surely, venerable sir, we are living in concord, with mutual appreciation, without disputing, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with kindly eyes.”
“But, Anuruddha, how do you live thus?”

12. “Venerable sir, as to that, I think thus: ‘It is a gain for me, it is a great gain for me that I am living with such companions in the holy life.’ I maintain bodily acts of loving-kindness towards these venerable ones both openly and privately; I maintain verbal acts of loving-kindness towards them both openly and privately; I maintain mental acts of loving-kindness towards them both openly and privately. I consider: ‘Why should I not set aside what I wish to do and do what these venerable ones wish to do?’ Then I set aside what I wish to do and do what these venerable ones wish to do. We are different in body, venerable sir, but one in mind.”

The venerable Nandiya and the venerable Kimbila each spoke likewise, adding: “That is how, venerable sir, we are living in concord, with mutual appreciation, without disputing, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with kindly eyes.

13. “Good, good, Anuruddha. I hope that you all abide diligent, ardent, and resolute.”
“Surely, venerable sir, we abide diligent, ardent, and resolute.”
“But, Anuruddha, how do you abide thus?”

14. “Venerable sir, as to that, whichever of us returns first from the village with almsfood prepares the seats, sets out the water for drinking and for washing, and puts the refuse bucket in its place. Whichever of us returns last eats any food left over, if he wishes; otherwise he throws it away where there is no greenery or drops it into the water where there is no life. He puts away the seats and the water for drinking and for washing. He puts away the refuse bucket after washing it, and he sweeps out the refectory. Whoever notices that the pots of water for drinking, washing, or the latrine are low or empty takes care of them. If they are too heavy for him, he calls someone else by a signal of the hand and they move it by joining hands, but because of this we do not break out into speech. But every five days we sit together all night discussing the Dhamma. That is how we abide diligent, ardent, and resolute.”

15. “Good, good, Anuruddha. But while you abide thus diligent, ardent, and resolute, have you attained any superhuman states, a distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones, a comfortable abiding?”
“Venerable sir, as we abide here diligent, ardent, and resolute, we perceive both light and a vision of forms. Soon afterwards the light and the vision of forms disappear, but we have not discovered the cause for that.”

16. “You should discover the cause for that, Anuruddha. Before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, I too perceived both light and a vision of forms. Soon afterwards the light and the vision of forms disappeared. I thought: ‘What is the cause and condition why the light and the vision of forms have disappeared?’ ...

30. “When, Anuruddha, I understood that doubt is an imperfection of the mind and had abandoned doubt, an imperfection of the mind; when I understood that inattention is an imperfection of the mind and had abandoned inattention…abandoned sloth and torpor…abandoned fear…abandoned elation…abandoned inertia…abandoned excess of energy…abandoned deficiency of energy…abandoned longing…abandoned perception of diversity…abandoned excessive meditation upon forms, an imperfection of the mind; then I thought: ‘I have abandoned those imperfections of the mind. Let me now develop concentration in three ways.’

31. “Thereupon, Anuruddha, I developed concentration with applied thought and sustained thought* [*initial application & sustained application (to the meditation object)]; I developed concentration without applied thought but with sustained thought only; I developed concentration without applied thought and without sustained thought; I developed concentration with rapture; I developed concentration without rapture; I developed concentration accompanied by enjoyment; I developed concentration accompanied by equanimity.

32. “When, Anuruddha, I had developed concentration with applied thought and sustained thought…when I had developed concentration accompanied by equanimity, the knowledge and vision arose in me: ‘My deliverance is unshakeable; this is my last birth; now there is no renewal of being.’”

[http://www.yellowrobe.com/component/content/article/120-majjhima-nikaya/302-upakkilesa-sutta-imperfections.html]

From the story of this sutta it appears that before the monks obtained the three-way Samadhi, they were trying to overcome minor defilements of the mind, and were living and practicing together (though their individual dwelling place must be secluded). And the small community of three seems to be good size.

Metta to all!
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Re: How did the monastics practice at the Buddha's time?

Postby LXNDR » Thu Jun 12, 2014 7:14 pm

hermit way of life is a recurrent theme in Thera- and Therigatha

there's also an expressive Khaggavisana sutta (Sn 1.3)

just some quotes

For a sociable person
there are allurements;
on the heels of allurement, this pain.
Seeing allurement's drawback,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros.

One whose mind
is enmeshed in sympathy
for friends & companions,
neglects the true goal.
Seeing this danger in intimacy,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros.

They are hard to please,
some of those gone forth,
as well as those living the household life.
Shedding concern
for these offspring of others,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros.

If you gain a mature companion,
a fellow traveler, right-living & wise,
overcoming all dangers
go with him, gratified,
mindful.

If you don't gain a mature companion,
a fellow traveler, right-living & wise,
wander alone
like a king renouncing his kingdom,
like the elephant in the Matanga wilds,
his herd.

We praise companionship
— yes!
Those on a par, or better,
should be chosen as friends.
If they're not to be found,
living faultlessly,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros

"There's no way
that one delighting in company
can touch even momentary release."
Heeding the Solar Kinsman's words,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros.



http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: How did the monastics practice at the Buddha's time?

Postby gavesako » Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:03 pm

For Theravada monks going on the daily almsround involves at least a minimum of social contact. Also there might be a need to communicate with other monks regarding matters of Vinaya, etc. In Thailand in the 20th century the practice of complete isolation ("khao hong", lit. entering a room) has been introduced in some places, but it is far from universally accepted. When a monk from Ajahn Chah's monastery wanted to go there, Ajahn Chah was not inclined to let him do it and he advised to go on almsround every day. Also walking meditation is done regularly in forest monasteries. In the Vinaya there is the case of a group of monks who made an agreement not to speak for a whole Vassa (3 months). The Buddha afterwards questioned them about it and expressed his disapproval with such practice.
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: How did the monastics practice at the Buddha's time?

Postby LXNDR » Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:39 pm

gavesako wrote:In the Vinaya there is the case of a group of monks who made an agreement not to speak for a whole Vassa (3 months). The Buddha afterwards questioned them about it and expressed his disapproval with such practice.


it's remarkable as he was called Sakyamuni, where muni (a seer, a sage) is derived from or at least cognate with mauna - silence

do you remember whether he argued his disapproval? the circumstances may be important

from above

Upakillesa sutta (MN 128) wrote:14. [...] If they are too heavy for him, he calls someone else by a signal of the hand and they move it by joining hands, but because of this we do not break out into speech [...]


and the Buddha didn't reprimand them for this
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Re: How did the monastics practice at the Buddha's time?

Postby starter » Fri Jun 13, 2014 6:45 pm

Hello Bhante gavesako, LXNDR, and other friends,

Thanks for the input. I think it's all depending upon one's stage of practice. If he were still perfecting his sila, then of course he should not practice alone in silence. However, if he had already perfected his sila, sense restraint, mindfulness and clear comprehension, and were practicing Samadhi, then he should better practice alone in seclusion as taught by the Buddha:

“Possessing this aggregate of noble virtue, and this noble restraint of the faculties, and possessing this noble mindfulness and full awareness, he resorts to a secluded resting place: the forest, the root of a tree, a mountain, a ravine, a hillside cave, a charnel ground, a jungle thicket, an open space, a heap of straw." (MN 27)

At the Buddha's time the monastics went on almsround to live such a secluded life, with minimum interaction with others. Nowadays in countries outside of Thailand, Burma, Srilanka, living on almsround is hardly a possibility. So the "Bi Guan" practice might be a solution for seclusion. It doesn't have to be in a small closed room without possibility for walking meditation. The seclusion practice of Ven. Sona at Birken could be an example of modern "Bi Guan" practice. Of course, ordinary practitioners can hardly get such opportunities and facilities.

Metta to all!

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