respecting sangha

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Wizard in the Forest
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Re: respecting sangha

Post by Wizard in the Forest » Tue Apr 24, 2018 1:09 pm

I could be wrong, but the issue here seems to arise from a pretty Western notion for the culmination of religious life. The life of a Christian is meant to result in "being saved" by someone else, placing the savior role in someone else's hands. The Buddha made it pretty clear that we are meant to save ourselves by practicing. No monk can make us correct our bodily, verbal, or mental conduct; they can tell us what this misconduct is, and how to avoid it through Dhamma practice and personal experience.

On a literal level though to assign blame to monks for not saving the life of another puts a pretty heavy duty on monks for something that not even regular people can typically do. It's as I said before about my practice with learning CPR, saving a life requires an immense amount of training that most people just don't have and add a mental stressor like the potential death of someone from any effort made, and it becomes a pretty ghastly situation and it can lead to simple inaction or calling for help as being the better choice. It's why in a dangerous situation we're typically told to call the authorities and not try and handle it ourselves.

We've gotten off topic though.

The best possible way to respect a monk is to remember they're also regular people like us striving for liberation by taking many strict rules of restraint meant to cultivate mental discipline. If we don't expect something from a regular person, one shouldn't expect it from a monk. They're not Supermen.
"One is not born a woman, but becomes one."- Simone de Beauvoir

James Tan
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Re: respecting sangha

Post by James Tan » Tue Apr 24, 2018 3:54 pm

Perhaps there is a feeling of distance but not towards the monk/nun form , just some aversion at some one personality , attitude , thinking or probably distaste towards a person appearance . It may be monk/nun shortcoming or it could be our shortcoming also .
:reading:

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by justindesilva » Tue Apr 24, 2018 3:58 pm

James Tan wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 3:54 pm
Perhaps there is a feeling of distance but not towards the monk/nun form , just some aversion at some one personality , attitude , thinking or probably distaste towards a person appearance . It may be monk/nun shortcoming or it could be our shortcoming also .
May I say it is our shortcoming of aversion ( vyapada).

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by binocular » Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:36 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:41 pm
Indeed. It seems to be a situation which is hypothetical (i.e. highly unlikely to arise) as well as based on a misconception.
Whether it's a rule in the folk vinaya, or the actual Vinaya, my point was that there is a culture of an absence of any real-world concern among religious/spiritual people. How widely that culture is spread, I don't know, but it's there.
I'm, for example, quite sure that if I were to help in some physical work around a monastery, slip and fall, sprain an ankle or even break a leg, nobody would help me, because they're "too spiritual" for that. In the light of this, I find it hard to respect them.
Quite possibly. When I attend the local monastery and listen to a dhamma talk, I'm not expecting to be saved. If I had that expectation, and the monks had led me to believe that they were there to save me, I might be upset when I heard that. But as I have never expected monk-borne salvation, I'm perfectly OK with the situation.
As for salvation in the metaphysical sense, the situation in Buddhism is actually no different than in, say, Christianity. God doesn't save people, Jesus doesn't save people, people save themselves by adhering to the right religion. It's the same in Buddhism.
How a person is supposed to pick the right religion -- that is taboo.
Lay supporters working with monks in the forest might put their lives in the hands of monks - they use some fairly dangerous machinery like chainsaws, chippers, and tractors. But when I accept a monk's exposition of the dhamma, I'm just looking to pick up some advice on how to improve my practice.

Do you really think that monks are happy to have put in thousands of hours of studying, chanting, pujas, and meditation, so that then you can take their words as mere suggestions?

When monks, and many lays, give Dhamma talks, it is in the language of full conviction, there is no hint of "Oh, but that's just my unenlightened opinion" in the way they speak.

The monks might say that they are merely pointing to the moon, but they have no doubt that they are in fact pointing to the moon. This is the part that has to be taken blindly on faith, just like in Catholicism, one has to take blindly on faith that the RCC is the only true representative of God on earth.
You seem to be labouring under some assumptions about monastics that I (and the monastics I know) just don't share. Have you actually met any monks? Did they ask you to do anything that was tantamount to putting your life in their hands? And if they did, why didn't you feel free to discount what they said?
When questioned directly, few monks would say something to the effect of "nobody gets to nirvana except through me".
But otherwise, when they speak, they speak in a manner that suggests total conviction, like they're sure that what they're saying is The Absolute Truth (and everything else is worthless).

That aside, you don't think it would be grossly disrespectful to actually ask a monk a question like, "What is the normative status of the statements that you make in your Dhamma talks?"
You seem to be labouring under some assumptions about monastics that I (and the monastics I know) just don't share.
Perhaps.
Have you actually met any monks?
They don't actually talk (much) to me, because I'm female. Will you be my adult male chaperon and then we can go and visit some monks and ask them questions like the above?
Did they ask you to do anything that was tantamount to putting your life in their hands?
And if they did, why didn't you feel free to discount what they said?
Because I don't operate within the dichotomy of "either guru worship, or extreme individualism".

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by binocular » Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:44 am

Wizard in the Forest wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 1:09 pm
I could be wrong, but the issue here seems to arise from a pretty Western notion for the culmination of religious life. The life of a Christian is meant to result in "being saved" by someone else, placing the savior role in someone else's hands.
No. In Christianity, you still save yourself, by picking the right religion. Jesus becomes your savior only after you've made the right choice of religion and only after you adhered to it adequately.
The Buddha made it pretty clear that we are meant to save ourselves by practicing.
Similar in Christianity.
No monk can make us correct our bodily, verbal, or mental conduct; they can tell us what this misconduct is, and how to avoid it through Dhamma practice and personal experience.
Similar in Christianity.
On a literal level though to assign blame to monks for not saving the life of another puts a pretty heavy duty on monks for something that not even regular people can typically do.
Read again what started this:
binocular wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:20 pm
A monk has no qualms about letting you die, even if he could help you; for example, if you're drowning and he could save you.
It's not about obligating them to physically save you. It's about them being indifferent when in fact there's good reason to believe they, as able-bodied adults, could have done something.
The best possible way to respect a monk is to remember they're also regular people like us striving for liberation by taking many strict rules of restraint meant to cultivate mental discipline. If we don't expect something from a regular person, one shouldn't expect it from a monk. They're not Supermen.
When they talk like supermen, they should walk like supermen, or fly, for that matter.

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Apr 25, 2018 12:49 pm

binocular wrote:
Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:36 am
Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:41 pm
Indeed. It seems to be a situation which is hypothetical (i.e. highly unlikely to arise) as well as based on a misconception.
Whether it's a rule in the folk vinaya, or the actual Vinaya, my point was that there is a culture of an absence of any real-world concern among religious/spiritual people. How widely that culture is spread, I don't know, but it's there.
I'm, for example, quite sure that if I were to help in some physical work around a monastery, slip and fall, sprain an ankle or even break a leg, nobody would help me, because they're "too spiritual" for that. In the light of this, I find it hard to respect them.
You might be quite sure of it, but it sounds as if you are extrapolating from a fantasy or a tiny oddment of behaviour here. At my local monastery, people in distress - psychological as well as physical - are met with waves of concern and practical help. The sangha sometimes turn out in the middle of the night to help neighbours with storm damage.
As for salvation in the metaphysical sense, the situation in Buddhism is actually no different than in, say, Christianity. God doesn't save people, Jesus doesn't save people, people save themselves by adhering to the right religion. It's the same in Buddhism.
How a person is supposed to pick the right religion -- that is taboo.
Again, unwarranted extrapolation which discounts Universalism and grace within Christianity, but there is no "taboo" about how one is supposed to pick the right religion. Some people might not want us to make informed choices about religion, but nobody is stopping you from doing it. Do you seriously expect someone to do your thinking for you?
Do you really think that monks are happy to have put in thousands of hours of studying, chanting, pujas, and meditation, so that then you can take their words as mere suggestions?
Yes, absolutely. Last year I attended a talk by Ajahn Brahm where he explicitly said that he was happy for us to take or leave whatever he had said. Monastics regularly make a similar point at the end of dhamma talks. Never in many years of associating with monastics have I been asked to take something as "true". It has always been "ehipassiko".
They don't actually talk (much) to me, because I'm female. Will you be my adult male chaperon and then we can go and visit some monks and ask them questions like the above?
Different lineages have different rules for monks talking to females, and what counts as the kind of secluded spot that could be the basis for gossip, etc. At my local monastery, you wouldn't need a chaperon in anything like the normal sense of the term. Provided you didn't insist on sitting in solitude with a monk in his kuti, you could ask them questions like all the other female lay supporters do here. It happens every week outside of retreats. If you want the full kuti experience, you could of course always talk to a nun!
When monks, and many lays, give Dhamma talks, it is in the language of full conviction, there is no hint of "Oh, but that's just my unenlightened opinion" in the way they speak.
I've often heard monastics use that very phrase, or one similar in meaning. I've never heard the converse, i.e. "That's my enlightened opinion".
This is the part that has to be taken blindly on faith, just like in Catholicism, one has to take blindly on faith that the RCC is the only true representative of God on earth.
Here we are at the nub of the issue, and my guess is that it is due to an extrapolation from Catholicism filling the void of your lack of contact with Sangha. I doubt if you can find a single injunction from Theravadans that you have got to take anything on blind faith. Much more importantly, even if there were such an injunction, you don't have to follow it. You can think for yourself. That's why it is ehipassikadhamma.

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by rightviewftw » Wed Apr 25, 2018 1:46 pm

Imho this thread would make the basis for a very funny sitcom, is that disrespecful of me to say :thinking:
How to Destroy any addiction
How to Meditate: Satipatthana Mahasi
Медитация Сатипаттхана Випассана
How To Develop Factors of Enlightenment & Perceptions
Ven. Kutukurunde Nanananda's (Developing Metta)
Tyranny of Words - An Introduction to General Semantics
Dhammatalks categorized by topic @ video.sirimangalo.org/
Ledi Sayadaw's Anapana Dipani (Samatha) @ ffmt.fr/articles/maitres/LediS/anapana-dipani.ledi-sayadaw.pdf
Parallel Dhammapada @ myweb.ncku.edu.tw/~lsn46/tipitaka/sutta/khuddaka/dhammapada/dhp-contrast-reading/dhp-contrast-reading-en/

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binocular
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Re: respecting sangha

Post by binocular » Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:20 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Apr 25, 2018 12:49 pm
You might be quite sure of it, but it sounds as if you are extrapolating from a fantasy or a tiny oddment of behaviour here.
Look at some posters here: they aren't even willing to refrain from strawmanning. They're too spiritual for that.
At my local monastery, people in distress - psychological as well as physical - are met with waves of concern and practical help. The sangha sometimes turn out in the middle of the night to help neighbours with storm damage.
Well, that's nice.
Again, unwarranted extrapolation which discounts Universalism and grace within Christianity,
God thinks we, by default, all deserve to burn in hell for all eternity. If it weren't for this belief of God's, there'd be no need or use for Jesus.
but there is no "taboo" about how one is supposed to pick the right religion. Some people might not want us to make informed choices about religion, but nobody is stopping you from doing it. Do you seriously expect someone to do your thinking for you?
Have you used up all your metta for the day?

Millennia of philosophy down the drain.

In the same way that it is not and cannot be up to me to decide how much 2 + 2 is, it is not and cannot be up to me to decide what the ontological and epistemological Truth is. Choosing a religion is an epistemologically unintelligible action. One cannot unilaterally make choices about that which precedes or contextualizes one (and religions are typically about that which preceds or contextualizes one). Throughout history, most people never chose their religion.

Unless you downgrade religion to a mere hobby or accessoire.
Do you really think that monks are happy to have put in thousands of hours of studying, chanting, pujas, and meditation, so that then you can take their words as mere suggestions?
Yes, absolutely.

Well, you don't have self-esteem issues, that's for sure!
Last year I attended a talk by Ajahn Brahm where he explicitly said that he was happy for us to take or leave whatever he had said.
Ajahn Brahm ...
Monastics regularly make a similar point at the end of dhamma talks. Never in many years of associating with monastics have I been asked to take something as "true". It has always been "ehipassiko".
Of course they say that. But what is it actually supposed to mean? Isn't it just a polite way of saying, "If you try hard enough, you'll see that what I'm saying is true"?
Different lineages have different rules for monks talking to females, and what counts as the kind of secluded spot that could be the basis for gossip, etc. At my local monastery, you wouldn't need a chaperon in anything like the normal sense of the term. Provided you didn't insist on sitting in solitude with a monk in his kuti, you could ask them questions like all the other female lay supporters do here. It happens every week outside of retreats. If you want the full kuti experience, you could of course always talk to a nun!
Doesn't change that my questions would most likely be perceived as rude, as blatant disrespect. Knowing I'm on their turf, I wouldn't ask those questions anyway.
When monks, and many lays, give Dhamma talks, it is in the language of full conviction, there is no hint of "Oh, but that's just my unenlightened opinion" in the way they speak.
I've often heard monastics use that very phrase, or one similar in meaning.

I have never heard them say such things. Some monks even get furious if their words aren't taken for gold.
Here we are at the nub of the issue, and my guess is that it is due to an extrapolation from Catholicism filling the void of your lack of contact with Sangha. I doubt if you can find a single injunction from Theravadans that you have got to take anything on blind faith.
Catholics, other Christians, and many others, will say the same thing about their religion.
Much more importantly, even if there were such an injunction, you don't have to follow it. You can think for yourself. That's why it is ehipassikadhamma.

It's not up to you to give such permissions.
And again, your solution to the problem of religious choice is on the level of a popular women's magazine. Sorry.

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Sam Vara
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Re: respecting sangha

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:58 pm

binocular wrote:
Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:20 pm
....
But apart from those few minor issues, I'm sure that you continue to find Buddhism a source of great happiness and joy.

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Wizard in the Forest
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Re: respecting sangha

Post by Wizard in the Forest » Fri Apr 27, 2018 2:14 pm

binocular wrote:
Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:44 am
No. In Christianity, you still save yourself, by picking the right religion. Jesus becomes your savior only after you've made the right choice of religion and only after you adhered to it adequately.


Picking a religion, as a belief system you will find among people here (because the majority of people including myself are Theravada Buddhists), doesn't make an impact on your personal happiness. Taming the mind does. Doing this requires that we don't actually turn our happiness to an outside source.
Similar in Christianity.


Actually they're not the same at all. Christian belief system expects God to do the correcting for you. You ask for forgiveness and your mind is supposedly to remain sinful forever because that's a feature of man in Christian beliefs. You're expected to be forgiven of trespasses that will never cease occurring because no man is free of sin and man's depravity makes freedom from taint impossible without divine intervention etc. The belief system and practice is exceptionally different. Saying they are the same is generally a result of misunderstanding both religious systems.
Read again what started this: A monk has no qualms about letting you die, even if he could help you; for example, if you're drowning and he could save you. It's not about obligating them to physically save you. It's about them being indifferent when in fact there's good reason to believe they, as able-bodied adults, could have done something.


I bolded this because I wanted to make sure I didn't misrepresent you a second time. I admit I made a mistake with interpreting this, for that I apologize. I was under the impression you meant that a person was required to put saving others as a priority simply because they are monks which is something I definitely contest, and then the second notion is that a person is required to save another in circumstances simply because they have certain modifiers of responsibility.

I firmly contest the notion that a spiritual adviser of any faith has a heavier burden to save others from threats of physical danger, because as a person who has taken classes of First Aid and who has worked with people in distress, it's actually unreasonable to expect someone to do that because they're not trained to do it.

Regular average people can't in fact respond in most situations regarding life or death scenarios, and because of this many who attempt to intervene can overestimate their ability and hurt themselves or others. You can see this when someone thinks they're strong enough to save another drowning simply because they can swim and they end up being pulled under by the weight of another person who is panicking and it ends up with both people drowning. This is the danger people have to understand about trying to be a hero in a lifeguarding situation.

This doesn't even begin to take into account that certain rivers are just downright impossible to save people from. Let's remember WHERE the rules of this Vinaya we are talking about originates from, namely the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna riverway. Those rivers and tributaries flow at 38,129 square meters a second and are the third fastest in the world. The rule is meant to discourage people from trying to be pointlessly killed by a rushing river because it would matter very little if the person being carried away by the rushing current was a man or a woman, there would be little that could be done to save them in general as a robed monastic.
When they talk like supermen, they should walk like supermen, or fly, for that matter.
... Seriously? What do you expect from monastics? They're trying to eliminate unsatisfactoriness, not become EMTS or Lifeguards. You don't sign up for that in Monastic discipline. I'm sorry, but I don't understand what you're expecting from monks with regard to respect between monks and layfolk here.

I want to be able to understand you, but maybe this needs to be another topic entirely.
"One is not born a woman, but becomes one."- Simone de Beauvoir

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by anthbrown84 » Fri Apr 27, 2018 4:22 pm

Im surprised, not judgementally, but surprised so many of you find it hard to be respectful. If someone is walking the reunciate path and giving up their comforts of lay life, then that alone deserves respect.

Some show lack of restraint, well thats on them. Behind that may well be the insight to see that as very hard on our selves westerners we need a bit of comdort and openness?

And everyone of them is human, so grant them a slip here and there, its actualy ok to be a human, even as a monk believe it or not.
"Your job in practise is to know the difference between the heart and the activity of the heart, that is it, it is that simple" Ajahn Tate

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by binocular » Fri Apr 27, 2018 6:18 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 2:14 pm
The belief system and practice is exceptionally different. Saying they are the same is generally a result of misunderstanding both religious systems.
There is an epistemic component that is the same in most major and minor religions, and in many other, non-religious belief-systems, regardless of whatever else they say and do.
But that's for another thread.
... Seriously? What do you expect from monastics? They're trying to eliminate unsatisfactoriness, not become EMTS or Lifeguards. You don't sign up for that in Monastic discipline. I'm sorry, but I don't understand what you're expecting from monks with regard to respect between monks and layfolk here.
I expect the same from everyone who walks around talking like they know The Absolute Truth. Doesn't matter which religion or secular system they adhere to.
In short, I expect that everyone who walks around mimicking the Buddha, would actually be as the Buddha. Restoring plucked-out eyeballs, if needs be.
I want to be able to understand you, but maybe this needs to be another topic entirely.
Certainly.

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by binocular » Fri Apr 27, 2018 6:28 pm

anthbrown84 wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 4:22 pm
Im surprised, not judgementally, but surprised so many of you find it hard to be respectful. If someone is walking the reunciate path and giving up their comforts of lay life, then that alone deserves respect.
The problem is that being polite to someone often pulls along the need to agree and to submit; and that the person toward whom one is polite, takes this to mean agreement and submission.

Merely referring to a monk with "Venerable" can make the person feel like they are fully and unquestioningly agreeing with the monk and submitting to him.

In a culture of gentlemen and gentlewomen, this would not happen. But it can happen in plebeian cultures filled with ruthless competition and fear. Many of us learned in elementary school that being nice to someone means "They own yo' a**". And in that culture, this is precisely what it usually means (except when it indicates manipulation).

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Sam Vara
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Re: respecting sangha

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:00 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 6:28 pm
Merely referring to a monk with "Venerable" can make the person feel like they are fully and unquestioningly agreeing with the monk and submitting to him.
It can do, I guess. Just like merely seeing a harmless pet can make the person feel that their life is in danger; or merely referring to a different race can bring up feelings of hatred or fear.

These problems are to do with the individual, though, and although we should be sympathetic to the plight of that individual, we must be careful that we don't think that there is a problem with the thing that triggers them. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to a lot of things in life.

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by binocular » Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:21 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:00 pm
These problems are to do with the individual, though, and although we should be sympathetic to the plight of that individual, we must be careful that we don't think that there is a problem with the thing that triggers them. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to a lot of things in life.
Of course. I think it would help, though, if the monks and lays would understand this. So that instead of just criticizing people for being disrespectful toward the sangha, they'd find some better approach, something more effective, instead of just telling people, directly or indirectly, that they're bad and wrong. Because scolding people and forcing them into being respectful actually just exacerbates the very problem it was supposed to undo. Instead of assuming the worst about those oh so disrespectful lay people, the Buddhist monks and lays could actually consider that those disrespectful lay people may have a good reason for being the way they are.

That would be nice .. but no pressure ...

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:47 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:21 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:00 pm
These problems are to do with the individual, though, and although we should be sympathetic to the plight of that individual, we must be careful that we don't think that there is a problem with the thing that triggers them. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to a lot of things in life.
Of course. I think it would help, though, if the monks and lays would understand this. So that instead of just criticizing people for being disrespectful toward the sangha, they'd find some better approach, something more effective, instead of just telling people, directly or indirectly, that they're bad and wrong. Because scolding people and forcing them into being respectful actually just exacerbates the very problem it was supposed to undo. Instead of assuming the worst about those oh so disrespectful lay people, the Buddhist monks and lays could actually consider that those disrespectful lay people may have a good reason for being the way they are.

That would be nice .. but no pressure ...
Yes, I think there are two groups of lay people to whom this applies. Firstly, there are Thai, Sri Lankan etc. supporters who grew up with the religion and who can have strong views about giving respect. They don't appreciate Westerners showing disrespect, because they can still see it as "their" culture. I don't know what can be done about that situation, as it is very deep-rooted, and there is also the point that I don't want to be disrespectful to these people and will do as much as I can not to upset them. Generally, it's easy enough, and if I can cope in foreign countries then I can cope in a small foreign "enclave" in my own country. And by going along with their wishes, I learn about my own resistance and develop humility.

Second, there are sometimes Westerners who use their familiarity with the monastery to assert status. If find them much more annoying because I can understand them more, and can see some of my own objectionable behaviours in them. Years ago, for example, there was a self-appointed "shoe policewoman" who took great delight in chasing up visitors to the monastery and giving them a lecture about "holy ground". Such people can, of course, be profitably challenged from time to time, but in general I have also found that they are also a great resource for developing humility and forbearance.

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Re: respecting sangha

Post by justindesilva » Sat Apr 28, 2018 4:44 am

binocular wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:21 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:00 pm
These problems are to do with the individual, though, and although we should be sympathetic to the plight of that individual, we must be careful that we don't think that there is a problem with the thing that triggers them. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to a lot of things in life.
Of course. I think it would help, though, if the monks and lays would understand this. So that instead of just criticizing people for being disrespectful toward the sangha, they'd find some better approach, something more effective, instead of just telling people, directly or indirectly, that they're bad and wrong. Because scolding people and forcing them into being respectful actually just exacerbates the very problem it was supposed to undo. Instead of assuming the worst about those oh so disrespectful lay people, the Buddhist monks and lays could actually consider that those disrespectful lay people may have a good reason for being the way they are.

That would be nice .. but no pressure ...
Imho , if anybody disrespects any clergy of any religion, then that ' anybody' does it as a result of turning down morality of the world. Whether atheist or non atheist or buddhist priests are bent on correcting the world. As a result of ' asavas' any priest can be inclined to do wrong but not wilfully. This we must understand, instead of blaming clergy.

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