Some Dhutanga notes:
In MN 12 the Buddha describes his austerities as a bodhisatta, among them “not accepting meal invitations, not accepting fish or meat, not drinking rice gruel, eating only once a day … two days … seven days, wearing coarse rag robes, always standing or always squatting”. He says this was his extreme asceticism, mortifying and tormenting the body. In DN … the list also contains sleeping in the open air and accepting whatever place to stay that is offered (both standard dhutangas). In AN III,151 these practices constitute the way of “burning away” (nijjhāma), but the middle way is the 4 satipatthana. In MN 45 the ascetic practice is described as “the way of undertaking things that is both painful in the present as well as resulting in future suffering.”
In DN 25 the Buddha points out various imperfections of extreme asceticism:
“he elevates himself and disparages others… he becomes intoxicated with conceit, infatuated and heedless… he practises a certain austerity for the sake of gains, honours and fame, thinking: ‘Kings, ministers, nobles, brahmins, householders, religious teachers will honour me!’ … he sees another recluse or brahmin being patronized, honoured, respected and worshipped by families, and he thinks: ‘They are patronizing that fellow living in luxury, but they do not patronize me who lives a rough life!’ Thus he is envious and jealous… he sits in a prominent position… he goes about ostentatiously among the families, as if to say: ‘Look at my asceticism!’ … he is angry and ill-tempered, mean and spiteful, envious and jealous, crafty and deceitful, obstinate and proud, with evil desires and under their sway, holding wrong views and given to extreme opinions, stuck in worldliness and firmly holding on to it…”
In MN 113 the Buddha describes the character of a “true man” (sappurisa) who is free of various kinds of conceit and identification: “An untrue man who is learned … who is expert in the Discipline … who is a preacher of the Dhamma … who is a forest-dweller … who is a refuse-rag wearer … an almsfood eater … a tree-root dweller … an open-air dweller … a continual sitter … an any-bed user … a one-session eater considers thus: ‘I am a one-session eater, but these other monks are not one-session eaters.’ So he elevates himself and disparages others because of his being a one-session eater. This too is the character of an untrue man. But a true man considers thus: ‘It is not because of being a one-session eater that states of greed, hatred or delusion are destroyed. Even though someone may not be a one-session eater, yet if he has entered upon the way that accords with the Dhamma, entered upon the proper way, and conducts himself according to the Dhamma, he should be honoured for that, he should be praised for that.’ So, putting the practice of the way first, he neither elevates himself nor disparages others because of his being a one-session eater. This too is the character of a true man.”
In MN 77 the Buddha is describing the qualities because of which his disciples honour him, respect him, and live in dependence on him. The wanderer Udāyin first suggests that it is because the Buddha 1. eats little, 2. is content with any kind of robe, 3. is content with any kind of almsfood, 4. is content with any kind of resting place, 5. lives in seclusion. The Buddha replies that if that was the case, then those disciples of his who are far stricter in these practices should not really respect him. Among them are “refuse-rag wearers, wearers of coarse robes who collect rags from the charnel ground or rubbish heaps … almsfood eaters who go on uninterrupted almsround from house to house, who delight in gathering food, and having entered among the houses they will not consent (to a meal) even when invited to sit down …tree-root and open-air dwellers who do not use a roof for eight months … forest-dwellers who live withdrawn in remote jungle-thicket resting places and return to the midst of the Sangha once each half-month for the recitation of the Pātimokkha.” Instead of that, says the Buddha, his disciples respect and honour him for his 1. higher virtue, 2. excellent knowledge and vision, 3. higher wisdom, 4. the ability to explain the four noble truths, 5. the skill in proclaiming the path of practice leading to liberation.
In MN 69 we read about a monk called Gulissāni, a “forest-dweller of lax behaviour who had come on a visit to stay in the midst of the Sangha for some business or other.” The scene is in the Bamboo Grove at Rājagaha where Sāriputta and Moggallāna are instructing the community of monks. Sāriputta addresses the group, taking Gulissāni as an example of bad behaviour. Among other things he mentions that when a forest-dwelling monk comes to the Sangha and is living in the Sangha, 1. he should be respectful and deferential towards his companions in the holy life, 2. he should be skilled in using seats so that he does not encroach upon elder monks and does not deny seats to new monks, 3. he should not be haughty and personally vain, 4. he should not be rough-tongued and loose-spoken, 5. he should be easy to correct and should associate with good friends. Otherwise people will say of him: “What has this venerable forest-dweller gained by his dwelling alone in the forest, doing as he likes, since he does not even know what pertains to good behaviour?” Afterwards Moggallāna makes the point that these things apply generally to all monks, town-dwellers as well as forest-dwellers.
Cf. Bakkula Sutta
In MN 5 Sāriputta and Moggallāna were staying with a group of monks at Jeta’s Grove in Sāvatthi. They were discussing the necessity of recognizing one’s internal blemishes, which are described as various kinds of conceit that can manifest in the monastic community, such as wanting to be the leader, the teacher, the first one in line. When a monk does not get what he wants, he becomes angry and bitter because of that: this is called having evil unwholesome wishes. If a certain monk has this kind of blemish in him, then “even though he may be a forest dweller, living in remote abodes, an almsfood eater, a house-to-house seeker, a refuse-rag wearer, a wearer of rough robes, still his friends in the holy life do not honour, respect, revere, and venerate him.” On the other hand, if a certain monk is free from such blemish, then “even though he may be a village dweller, accepting meal invitations, wearing robes given by householders, yet his friends in the holy life honour, respect, revere, and venerate him.”
According to MN 4, “remote jungle-thicket resting places in the forest are hard to endure, seclusion is hard to practise, and it is hard to enjoy solitude.” One could even go mad if one lacks concentration. Before his Awakening, the Buddha reflected that “unwholesome fear and dread” arise in such situations because of 1. unpurified bodily, verbal, or mental conduct, 2. unpurified livelihood, 3. covetousness and lust, 4. ill will and intentions of hate, 5. sloth and torpor, 6. restless and unpeaceful mind, 7. uncertainty and doubt, 8. self-praise and disparagement of others, 9. alarm and terror, 10. desire for gain, honour and renown, 11. laziness and lack of energy, 12. not being mindful and fully aware, 13. being unconcentrated and scattered, 14. being devoid of wisdom, a driveller. While some recluses and brahmins develop distorted perceptions regarding day and night (exchanging one for the other), the Buddha simply perceives them as they are, being free of delusion. At the end of the discourse the Buddha explains why he still resorts to remote jungle-thicket resting places in the forest, even though his mind is already free of defilements: “It is because I see two benefits: a pleasant abiding for myself here and now, and I have compassion for future generations.”
In MN 32 the scene is the Gosinga Sāla-tree Wood where several leading disciples of the Buddha have gathered and exchange their views of the ideal kind of monk. Ānanda for instance praises great learning, Anuruddha the mastery of the divine eye, and Mahā Kassapa the life of forest dwelling, almsfood eating, refuse-rag wearing, triple-robe wearing, being one of few wishes, who is content, secluded, and aloof from society. Then the Buddha reviews their individual responses and says that they have all spoken well, each in his own way, because that is the way they have themselves practised.