respecting sangha

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Sam Vara
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Re: respecting sangha

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:59 pm

binocular wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:18 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:54 pm
1) Traditional authority. Applied to the sangha, this is when people offer them respect and tend to accept their advice because it is the customary way of doing things; people cannot or are reluctant to do things differently because it is what they are used to. I have known Sri Lankans and Thais to be somewhat in awe of monks, and to accept correction and even scolding from them, whereas (as per David's point above) Westerners find this alien. They have not lived in the tradition which makes it feel "natural".
Coming from a traditionally Catholic country, I don't find this alien at all. "The Catholic priest is always right" goes the motto. Even if he is known to have illegitimate children, to be a drunkard etc. and does other things that go directly against his duties as a Catholic priest, he is still (supposed to be) regarded as an absolute authority who decides How Things Really Are and what The Truth is, and he is allowed to do whatever he wants with the lay folk. Catholic priests also have a long history of physically beating children in religious classes (that are held in churches or adjacent buildings). Adults are expected to cower before him.
It is only recently (since some 20 years or so ago) that some people, even Catholics, started to take issue with that.
Yes, that's a good point. I suppose the Catholic Church would represent the last remnants of this type of authority in parts of Europe.

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by binocular » Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:12 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:59 pm
Yes, that's a good point. I suppose the Catholic Church would represent the last remnants of this type of authority in parts of Europe.
It looks like some Buddhists are aspiring to that type as well, making Buddhism a total institution.

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by binocular » Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:18 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:49 pm
I'm not Asian, I've got default respect for a monk and have no difficulty offering homage to them ideally, but I have an entirely different concern to think about. I'm a woman, and monks have a vow of celibacy to keep. While I do not think I'm anything appealing (because I have veeeeeery little sense of sexual attraction) I understand some struggle with that so it's less about the respect I pay and the worry that I will carelessly lead a good venerable into painful or difficult mind-states.
Aren't men supposed to be strong, invincible? And women who think they might have a bad effect on men are just overestimating themselves?

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Sam Vara
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Re: respecting sangha

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Apr 23, 2018 6:25 pm

binocular wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:12 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:59 pm
Yes, that's a good point. I suppose the Catholic Church would represent the last remnants of this type of authority in parts of Europe.
It looks like some Buddhists are aspiring to that type as well, making Buddhism a total institution.
Well, in sociological terms (i.e. Erving Goffman, etc.) a monastery is a classic "total institution". It's meant to be. Outside of that, certain forms of Buddhism retain elements of "traditional authority", but I have heard that even that is fading in the countries where monastic authority was once unchallenged. Of course, there might be people who wish to reinstate some kind of authoritarian relationship regarding lay supporters in the West, but one of the great advantages of the modernisation process which has eroded traditional authority is that such people are now easily ignored and avoided.

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by Wizard in the Forest » Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:46 pm

binocular wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:18 pm
Aren't men supposed to be strong, invincible?
No. Men are as fragile and subject to Saṃsāra as much as anyone. It's why protecting their celibacy vows matters at all, and it's up to the community to guard monks against defeat and their vows as well. I thought that much was obvious to everyone.
And women who think they might have a bad effect on men are just overestimating themselves?
I have no estimation of my own attractiveness, I do know as a matter of guarding monks, it is considered to be moral not to touch them in Thailand, for example. It's all a precaution, and I respect it as a lay follower for their sake. The reasoning given is that it may have a bad effect on men.
"One is not born a woman, but becomes one."- Simone de Beauvoir

binocular
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Re: respecting sangha

Post by binocular » Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:54 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:46 pm
binocular wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:18 pm
Aren't men supposed to be strong, invincible?
No. Men are as fragile and subject to Saṃsāra as much as anyone.
I'll believe that when I see it.
I have no estimation of my own attractiveness, I do know as a matter of guarding monks, it is considered to be moral not to touch them in Thailand, for example. It's all a precaution, and I respect it as a lay follower for their sake. The reasoning given is that it may have a bad effect on men.
I'm quite sure they think that most women are hags anyway.

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by binocular » Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:59 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 6:25 pm
Well, in sociological terms (i.e. Erving Goffman, etc.) a monastery is a classic "total institution". It's meant to be. Outside of that, certain forms of Buddhism retain elements of "traditional authority", but I have heard that even that is fading in the countries where monastic authority was once unchallenged. Of course, there might be people who wish to reinstate some kind of authoritarian relationship regarding lay supporters in the West, but one of the great advantages of the modernisation process which has eroded traditional authority is that such people are now easily ignored and avoided.
Which, however, doesn't solve the many problems of religious epistemology that a reflecting person sooner or later faces.

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JamesTheGiant
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Re: respecting sangha

Post by JamesTheGiant » Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:05 pm

binocular wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:54 pm
I'm quite sure they think that most women are hags anyway.
Sorry Binocular, you're quite wrong here.
Monks are men, like any others. They certainly are affected by women who visit the monastery.
I can speak from experience! Western monasteries and Thai monasteries both.

There is also a story told by Ajahn Chah, where he saw an attractive woman, and then for weeks afterwards had a massive erection which was very frustrating. The slightest touch of his robe against his "parts" meant he was in danger of sanghadisesa. So he went to a secluded kuti in the forest, where he could walk around pulling his robe away from his lower body, without anybody laughing at him.
Ajahn Chah said lust is one of the very last things to be overcome on the path, and the strongest hindrance.

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by DNS » Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:24 pm

JamesTheGiant wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:05 pm
There is also a story told by Ajahn Chah, where he saw an attractive woman, and then for weeks afterwards had a massive erection which was very frustrating. The slightest touch of his robe against his "parts" meant he was in danger of sanghadisesa. So he went to a secluded kuti in the forest, where he could walk around pulling his robe away from his lower body, without anybody laughing at him.
Ajahn Chah said lust is one of the very last things to be overcome on the path, and the strongest hindrance.
Oh my goodness! How old was he when that happened? :D I hope that was his earlier days, but as you say lust is not fully eradicated until very far along the path (only by anagamis and arahants).

Some men will have sex with any beautiful woman, if given the opportunity and notice I say IF because many don't because they don't have the opportunity. Just look at the me too movement and all of the sexual harassment (and worse) done to women by men in positions of power, income and wealth. Men in high positions of power (executives, bosses, politicians, some clergy) have opportunities to exploit that power in unwholesome ways and some of them do just that (not all though).
Last edited by DNS on Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: edited out some of the harsh language I used (self-moderation)

binocular
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Re: respecting sangha

Post by binocular » Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:29 pm

DNS wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:24 pm
Some men will have sex with any beautiful woman,
The operative term being "beautiful".

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Sam Vara
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Re: respecting sangha

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:29 pm

binocular wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:59 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 6:25 pm
Well, in sociological terms (i.e. Erving Goffman, etc.) a monastery is a classic "total institution". It's meant to be. Outside of that, certain forms of Buddhism retain elements of "traditional authority", but I have heard that even that is fading in the countries where monastic authority was once unchallenged. Of course, there might be people who wish to reinstate some kind of authoritarian relationship regarding lay supporters in the West, but one of the great advantages of the modernisation process which has eroded traditional authority is that such people are now easily ignored and avoided.
Which, however, doesn't solve the many problems of religious epistemology that a reflecting person sooner or later faces.
That's right. It simply means that one is not at the mercy of authoritarians unless one chooses to be. Epistemology is another matter entirely. You need to start another thread if you want to go in that direction.

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JamesTheGiant
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Re: respecting sangha

Post by JamesTheGiant » Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:32 pm

This thread has now gotten way off topic, and has become sexist. Back on topic!

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by binocular » Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:37 pm

JamesTheGiant wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:32 pm
This thread has now gotten way off topic, and has become sexist. Back on topic!
It's still about respect for monks. In this case, about how a woman can or should respect a monk. Esp. if she knows he despises her (kind).

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by Wizard in the Forest » Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:46 pm

Basically the best way to respect the Sangha is to ensure that the Sangha is helpful at producing the best conditions for liberation for everyone involved. Layfolk should be able to acquire merit by willingly offering requisites to the Sangha, providing gifts, hospitality, and reverential salutations. The monks themselves should be provided the best possible conditions to use their requisites and not let their requisites use them. They should be able to have a safe place to guard their sense doors and eventually be liberated. That's why it's up to layfolk to try and understand the conduct of monks, the spoken and unspoken rules. That is a matter of respect, and I think it's not ultimately too hard to do. The cultural trappings that worry me are the ones where I'm actually ignorant of what I need to do to ensure the respect of the sangha is upkept. I never grew up in a Buddhist country, and I didn't have a Buddhist family. I found the Dhamma from deep discovery of literature by myself, and it's why I also fear my own ignorance of these matters, but for me it's less about being hung up about the personal character of monks, and whether I compare him to how he's supposed to be, it's about how I behave and help him as a lay follower.
"One is not born a woman, but becomes one."- Simone de Beauvoir

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Sam Vara
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Re: respecting sangha

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:57 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:46 pm
Basically the best way to respect the Sangha is to ensure that the Sangha is helpful at producing the best conditions for liberation for everyone involved. Layfolk should be able to acquire merit by willingly offering requisites to the Sangha, providing gifts, hospitality, and reverential salutations. The monks themselves should be provided the best possible conditions to use their requisites and not let their requisites use them. They should be able to have a safe place to guard their sense doors and eventually be liberated. That's why it's up to layfolk to try and understand the conduct of monks, the spoken and unspoken rules. That is a matter of respect, and I think it's not ultimately too hard to do. The cultural trappings that worry me are the ones where I'm actually ignorant of what I need to do to ensure the respect of the sangha is upkept. I never grew up in a Buddhist country, and I didn't have a Buddhist family. I found the Dhamma from deep discovery of literature by myself, and it's why I also fear my own ignorance of these matters, but for me it's less about being hung up about the personal character of monks, and whether I compare him to how he's supposed to be, it's about how I behave and help him as a lay follower.
:goodpost: :thumbsup:

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