Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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arijitmitter
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Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by arijitmitter » Fri Oct 25, 2013 6:34 am

My question is rather delicate. Mahayana is often criticized for being more commercial than Theravada.

My sister returned from Bangkok few hours back. She said some monks flew back in business class to Bodh Gaya (we live in Calcutta and flights to Gaya from Bangkok pass through Calcutta). I had the YouTube forest tradition idea of Thai Buddhism.

Are monks supposed to fly business class ? Is Theravada not supposed to be simpler ? This does not look very Buddhist !!

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reflection
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by reflection » Fri Oct 25, 2013 7:53 am

Theravada is not one big group of people that all act the same. It is cluttered up and the boundaries are unclear. Some monks/nuns live a very renunciate life somewhere hidden in the forests, with only a bowl and robes. Others live a more westernized life, use money, things like that. But to me Buddhism, whether Theravada or Mahayana, is about looking at our own actions, our own thought patterns. It is not really about judging others. So what Buddhism is, is only what you make it. It doesn't really exist outside of you. Don't look for the Buddha outside of you, that kind of idea.

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Kare
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by Kare » Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:52 am

:goodpost:
Mettāya,
Kåre

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:22 am

Sandalwood is expensive, about £300 for 15kg (story), and I am sure that it was equally expensive in the Buddha's time. One might use it to make a jewellery box, but no one would use it to make tables and chairs. However, the Buddha's Gandhakuṭi was made entirely of the best quality sandalwood. In today's money it would have cost millions just for the timber.

The point is that wealthy donors can offer luxurious gifts to monks or the Saṅgha if they wish. If a wealthy business person or film-star wanted to invite a monk to give a blessing, would they buy them an economy class ticket or a business class ticket? If they themselves usually travel business class, to buy an economy class ticket might be regarded as mean.

From the monk's point of view, we should not care whether donors offer plain or luxurious requisites. If we reflect as we should then we will remain content with the bare minimum required to sustain the holy life. If donors offer excellent things, then we can rejoice in their generosity and faith in the Dhamma.
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Dan74
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by Dan74 » Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:59 am

I appreciate your point, Bhante, but much of Vinaya is concerned with maintaining an image appropriate to a renunciate monastic. To me it seems that accepting such gifts goes against such spirit. Sometimes it can be a delicate situation and one would not want to upset a good benefactor who is likely to donate more money for worthwhile things. So I am not passing judgment on these monks, just wondering if this accords with the Vinaya.
_/|\_

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robertk
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by robertk » Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:10 am

dear dan
as the venerable explained, it accords perfectly with The vinaya.
robert

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:13 am

Dan74 wrote:So I am not passing judgment on these monks, just wondering if this accords with the Vinaya.
In most cases it will accord with the Vinaya to accept luxurious gifts (but not gold etc.)

Aṅgulimāla declined the offer made by King Pasenadi to provide him with the four requisites because he had undertaken the ascetic practices. The forest monks generally follow one or more of the ascetic practices. These are optional extras, and most monks do not observe them.

Venerable Ānanda accepted 500 sets of robes from a wealthy donor. Some householders blamed him for not knowing the limit in accepting requisites, until he explained how they would be distributed, and that nothing would be wasted.

Since I live alone, and have no novices or lay attendants to share left-overs with, I often decline requisites, and frequently have to remind my donors not to offer so much as it causes problems for me to have more than I need.
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arijitmitter
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by arijitmitter » Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:43 am

reflection wrote:Theravada is not one big group of people that all act the same. It is cluttered up and the boundaries are unclear. Some monks/nuns live a very renunciate life somewhere hidden in the forests, with only a bowl and robes. Others live a more westernized life, use money, things like that. But to me Buddhism, whether Theravada or Mahayana, is about looking at our own actions, our own thought patterns. It is not really about judging others. So what Buddhism is, is only what you make it. It doesn't really exist outside of you. Don't look for the Buddha outside of you, that kind of idea.
Buddhism is not about judging others but it is certainly about judging monks flying business class. Theravada's USP is simple living, high thinking.
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The point is that wealthy donors can offer luxurious gifts to monks or the Saṅgha if they wish. If a wealthy business person or film-star wanted to invite a monk to give a blessing, would they buy them an economy class ticket or a business class ticket? If they themselves usually travel business class, to buy an economy class ticket might be regarded as mean.
They were on their way to attend some kind of conference of Buddhism in Gaya. So one might assume it is usual Buddhist work and not for a devotee. There were several monks. The two senior ones were seated up in business class.

I am not judging Theravada by the actions of these monks just like one does not judge Catholic Church by actions of pedophile priests. But I have been deeply disappointed and humiliated by the story. Theravada is my own belief and I will practice it correctly is one way of looking at it. But actions of a few tar all. If image of Catholic Church can be hurt by pedophile priests, then certainly fellow travelers will look down on a monk for travelling business class.

And I think if I was a Theravadan monk and a rich devotee invited me, I will have specified that he send me an economy class ticket and ask he send an ordinary sedan to pick me up and also ask the driver not to turn on the AC. If I am not going to do that then why on earth am I a monk. It is a lame excuse to say he gifted me riches and so I took it.

Further it breaks the 8th precept to travel in business class where seats van be converted into beds (not exactly but almost) Uccasayana-mahasayana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami (I undertake the precept to refrain from lying on a high or luxurious sleeping place.) Same may also apply to economy class but seats can be slightly extended there and after all there is no less expensive way to travel across oceans except via economy class. If there was, then a monk should have chosen that.

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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:01 am

arijitmitter wrote:Buddhism is not about judging others but it is certainly about judging monks flying business class. Theravada's [unique selling point] is simple living, high thinking.
If you misjudge others, then that is your unwholesome kamma. Without knowing who bought the tickets and why, one is not in a position to judge. One should make no assumptions.
arijitmitter wrote:I am not judging Theravada by the actions of these monks just like one does not judge Catholic Church by actions of pedophile priests.
So now you're comparing these senior monks to pedophiles :jawdrop:

Even if they bought the tickets themselves with money accepted from donors contrary to the training rules, it does not even come close to sexually molesting children. If the donors bought the tickets from their own generosity, without any hinting, the senior monks are completely blameless.
arijitmitter wrote:And I think if I was a Theravadan monk and a rich devotee invited me, I will have specified that he send me an economy class ticket and ask he send an ordinary sedan to pick me up and also ask the driver not to turn on the AC. If I am not going to do that then why on earth am I a monk. It is a lame excuse to say he gifted me riches and so I took it.
You're not a monk, and you do not know the monks' training very well at all.The purpose of the monks' training is to remove attachment, and that includes removing attachment to views and opinions.
arijitmitter wrote:Further it breaks the 8th precept to travel in business class where seats van be converted into beds.
It doesn't. Monks can use seats that are provided by householders. Haven't you ever seen monks preaching from high, gilt covered, Dhamma preaching thrones?
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arijitmitter
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by arijitmitter » Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:06 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote: If you misjudge others, then that is your unwholesome kamma.
A monk travelling in business class. Where is the misjudgement ? If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, I will assume it is a duck, unwholesome Kamma or not.
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:So now you're comparing these senior monks to pedophiles
No I am not. Venerable Sir you are putting words into my mouth. I just quoted an analogy of uncontrolled behavior by another set of monks.
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote: It doesn't. Monks can use seats that are provided by householders. Haven't you ever seen monks preaching from high, gilt covered, Dhamma preaching thrones?
No. Monks at my monastery sit on the floor. And so do all the monks I have seen on YouTube. And yes appearances matter. Will one respect a monk if he does not live like a monk.

I maintain I am deeply hurt by actions of these monks regardless of how high they are on the hierarchy. They had to have prior knowledge of their travel plans. And if somehow they did not know, then the senior monks should have gone to economy class and the junior monks to business class.
Last edited by arijitmitter on Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:21 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:18 am

arijitmitter wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote: It doesn't. Monks can use seats that are provided by householders. Haven't you ever seen monks preaching from high, gilt covered, Dhamma preaching thrones?
No. Monks at my monastery sit on the floor. And so do all the monks I have seen on YouTube. And yes appearances matter. Will one respect a monk if he does not live like a monk.
Here is a Typical Preaching Throne. It may be high and covered in gold leaf, but it's far from comfortable to sit on.

By the way, Taung Pulu Sayādaw, one of the most revered dhutanga monks of Burma followed the Sitters practice for 13 years, but even he used a comfortable reclining seat
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arijitmitter
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by arijitmitter » Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:27 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote: Here is a Typical Preaching Throne. It may be high and covered in gold leaf, but it's far from comfortable to sit on.

By the way, Taung Pulu Sayādaw, one of the most revered dhutanga monks of Burma followed the Sitters practice for 13 years, but even he used a comfortable reclining seat
Thankfully I do not learn from the monk in the video. I learn by myself and should I ever have a teacher, he will not be on a throne. This video is the most un-Buddhist thing I have seen.

This is correct if a monk wishes to relax http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqogOU-UJHA

And this is how a monk should preach http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyXQFsDcGmA

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Anagarika
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by Anagarika » Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:58 pm

There may be an assumption on this thread that the Bhikkhus purchased business class tickets. In Thai airports, Bhikkhus and Samaneras are afforded some special treatment, such as roped off seating areas away from the rest of the travelers. The monks in business class were more than likely placed there by the airline, either to give them some space, or as dana to the monks.

When my son and I were traveling to Thailand last month, we were plucked out of the pack and given business class seats. Why, I do not know. So if the airlines to Thailand are free to upgrade people, why not upgrade the Bhikkhus if the seats are open? Why make them sit in the back of the plane, shoulder to shoulder with women?

plwk
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by plwk » Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:16 pm

Is Theravada not supposed to be simpler ?
Theravada is what it is. Must it be 'simpler' or more 'complicated' according to what one fancies?
This does not look very Buddhist !!
And exactly what is 'Buddhist' suppose to look like?

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Benjamin
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Re: Are Theravadins Simpler ?

Post by Benjamin » Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:56 pm

Even if you knew for a fact that the monks chose the seats themselves, how does judging them contribute to your own practice?






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