Dhutanga, and where to "really" begin?

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Dhutanga, and where to "really" begin?

Post by Myst » Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:48 am

Well, this is a two part question. Firstly, I'm very interested in this side of Buddhism... But I'm not sure where to really begin. Do I read books? Is it alright to practice alone? Surely it would be hard to find others who practice this, unlike having a church in every town.

And for the second part, exactly who does dhutanga practices? Is anyone who follows the standard practices a 'monk?' And if I'm interested, then should I follow standard dhutanga practices? Including going on almsrounds, and if I am permitted, then is any town an 'almsground?'

So obviously I'm confused about two basic points ... Where do I begin at? It's obviously difficult to find a mentor. And in many places dhutanga is still practiced, I'm very interested in many points it has but I'm not sure who exactly follows it; considering the complexity of the points using terms such as monk and almsground.

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Re: Dhutanga, and where to "really" begin?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Nov 12, 2011 11:17 am

The practice of the austerities (dhutanga) is an optional extra training for monks, and is still practised by forest monks and others. It was never intended for lay people.

Even one of the easier dhutanga practices such as eating only one meal a day would be self-mortification for a lay person who has to work. For a full-time meditator its not especially arduous, but it does require considerable mental discipline.

The practice of collecting alms is not suitable for a lay person, unless you really have nothing to eat, and no money to buy food.
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Re: Dhutanga, and where to "really" begin?

Post by Goofaholix » Sat Nov 12, 2011 6:14 pm

Myst wrote:So obviously I'm confused about two basic points ... Where do I begin at?
You begin by becoming a monk. Being interested in dhutanga before other aspects of Buddhist practise is like taking the cart before the horse. It's a bit like going to the dentist and asking for a root canal when you haven't even had a checkup yet.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Re: Dhutanga, and where to "really" begin?

Post by manas » Sun Nov 13, 2011 12:11 am

Hi myst,
I've always had a wish for the simple, austere lifestyle this practice would entail. And one day, if I were already ordained as a monk (and in a culturally supportive setting), I would like to give it a try. But as has been pointed out, we need to start from where we're at. So as laypeople: once five precepts are easy to keep, we can then extend into eight precepts. At first we could just do them on full and new moon days, then more often. But I can vouch for the eight precepts as already very purifying, if undertaken with the correct motivation. And fortunately, because you can still eat between dawn and noon, you are able to obtain enough energy, even if you have to go out and work (I do mental work, teaching etc though; I'm not sure how a physical labourer would cope). So, I heartily recommend the eight precepts if you are a layperson, rather than worrying about dhutanga for now. (Unless you are plannning to ordain, of course. But in that case, I think one gets the permission of one's preceptor before doing it...so we are quite a few steps away at this stage, I'd say!)

"With regard to internal factors, I don't envision any other single factor like appropriate attention as doing so much for a monk in training, who has not attained the goal but remains intent on the unsurpassed safety from bondage. A monk who attends appropriately abandons what is unskillful and develops what is skillful."
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Re: Dhutanga, and where to "really" begin?

Post by alan » Sun Nov 13, 2011 2:15 am

Examine your motivations. What is your goal, and why did you choose it?

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