Ajahn Brahm for sale?

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James the Giant
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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by James the Giant » Sat Mar 16, 2013 3:19 am

Ajahn Brahmali has replied to questions on the Dhammaloka forum, and has given permission to repost this.
He also said he simply does not have the time to enter into a discussion here.

Ajahn Brahmali is the second most senior bhikkhu at Bodhinyana, and has known and lived with Ajahn Brahm for almost 20 years.
Dear David, Stuart, Jerrod and All,

Just to make the obvious clear: it is of course perfectly fine to question whether what Ajahn Brahm is doing is appropriate or even in accordance with the vinaya. In fact, reasonable questioning or criticism should always be welcome.

Let me try to respond to some of the concerns, starting with the question of whether this auction might contravene the vinaya. I have had a look at the posts on Dhamma Wheel that David is referring to and, frankly, some of them are misleading. One poster quotes the following from the monastic vinaya:
... but by no means do I say that money may be consented to or sought for in any way at all.

18. Should any bhikkhu accept gold and silver, or have it accepted, or consent to its being deposited (near him), it is to be forfeited and confessed.
What the poster does not mention is that this concerns becoming the owner of money oneself. Clearly, this is not what Ajahn Brahm is doing.

The same poster then quotes the following, again from the vinaya:
19. Should any bhikkhu engage in various types of monetary exchange, it (the income) is to be forfeited and confessed.

20. Should any bhikkhu engage in various types of trade, it (the article obtained) is to be forfeited and confessed.
The first of these rules, number 19, again concerns becoming the owner of money. The second one, number 20, is defined in the vinaya as “one's own goods gone to the hand of another, the goods of another gone to one’s own hands; this is a nissaggiya offence”. For those who are interested, let me also quote the Pali:
attano bhaṇḍaṃ parahatthagataṃ parabhaṇḍaṃ attano hatthagataṃ, nissaggiyaṃ hoti.
What Ajahn Brahm is doing is giving up some of his time for anyone willing to support the nuns' monastery. He is not receiving anything in return himself and thus the conditions for "trade" are not fulfilled. There is no problem here from a vinaya point of view. From my perspective, Ajahn Brahm is simply doing charity work, and charity work is an important part of monastic life: any talk or teaching is essentially just that.

Whenever Ajahn Brahm travels somewhere, especially in Asia, he normally gets substantial donations. His main motivation in teaching is certainly not the donations, but when you have a large Buddhist organisation to run it obviously matters whether people support you financially or not. If you know that you are likely to get a significant donation in a particular location, then you will probably be more willing to accept an invitation from there, all other things being equal. It is the unfortunate reality that money matters, and this is true of all Buddhist monasteries.

I have no doubt that the outcome of this auction will be entirely positive. It is a way of raising people's awareness and getting them to contribute to an important project. It may involve Ajahn Brahm having to teach the Dhamma in a place he otherwise wouldn't have visited, but more likely it will simply mean that he will go to a place that he would have visited anyway, and then the whole thing is hardly different from just giving a donation. In the end, to me this is just a clever and fun way of raising money. That it is clever is clear from the level of interest, even controversy, that the idea has already created.

Lastly, for those who think this may be a precedent for things to come, I am pretty sure this will be the one and only time he does such a thing.

With very best wishes and metta to everyone,
Ajahn Brahmali
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by Ben » Sat Mar 16, 2013 3:34 am

James,
Please pass on our thanks to Ajahn.
with metta,

Ben
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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Mar 16, 2013 5:29 am

There's a Burmese saying, “If you know the Vinaya well enough, you can kill a chicken.”

Its just the kind of answer I was expecting. Clearly, Ajahn Brahm has stepped over the line and no longer cares what others think of his behaviour.

He is the Spiritual Director of the Dhammasara Nun's Monastery — so he is a beneficiary of donations to it. He will no doubt give talks in the new meditation hall that was built with the help of his trading. It is not as if he is fund-raising for Tsunami victims or something like that, where he clearly has no vested interest.

Even where one has no vested interest, the way of raising funds must be with “No Strings Attached.” Let those who wish to give, donate. Whether they donate or not, I will give my time freely to any who wish to learn the Dhamma respectfully.

There is no point discussing this further. All beings are heirs to their own kamma, and any more discussion will only to lead to more unwholesome kamma from **** Buddhists accusing ****-***** Buddhists of having no sense of humour, etc.

Moderator note: Unnecessary adjectives removed.
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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by Cittasanto » Sat Mar 16, 2013 5:28 pm

As Ajahn Brahmali is using my post I am responding. If he does or does not see this, respond or not, both are good. But I would of replied to this post on their forum where this was made but as a donation seams to be required and I am not being forced to pay to see one thread and reply to one post. But if anyone does wish to share this there please do so in it entirety below the line.
I have tried to correct a quote error but it hasn't worked for some reason
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear David, Stuart, Jerrod and All,

Just to make the obvious clear: it is of course perfectly fine to question whether what Ajahn Brahm is doing is appropriate or even in accordance with the vinaya. In fact, reasonable questioning or criticism should always be welcome.

Let me try to respond to some of the concerns, starting with the question of whether this auction might contravene the vinaya. I have had a look at the posts on Dhamma Wheel that David is referring to and, frankly, some of them are misleading. One poster quotes the following from the monastic vinaya:
... but by no means do I say that money may be consented to or sought for in any way at all.

18. Should any bhikkhu accept gold and silver, or have it accepted, or consent to its being deposited (near him), it is to be forfeited and confessed.
What the poster does not mention is that this concerns becoming the owner of money oneself. Clearly, this is not what Ajahn Brahm is doing.
This is misleading as the quote here, is actually two separate quotes in the same post (one from the sutta and one from the vinaya), and have been cut up & merged. And what I did also quote was what I was responding too. Here I was showing the basis of where my objection is from.

Although I did believe each rule (quoted together) could be a possibility for different reasons, without looking properly at each rule I chose the likely candidates to demonstrate what I had in mind when my objection arose.
All I mentioned was “he is trading himself for money to build.” Whether he is the receiver or not was not relevant to my choice of rules (I will explain why I chose the three rules at the end of this post).

The first portion is snipped by Ajahn for some reason. But to quote the full quote previously made...
SN 42.10 Maniculaka Sutta: To Maniculaka wrote:"Now I do say that thatch may be sought for by one needing thatch, wood may be sought for by one needing wood, a cart may be sought for by one needing a cart, a workman may be sought for by one needing a workman, but by no means do I say that money may be consented to or sought for in any way at all."
This is not part of the Vinaya as can be clearly seen. Although this is within the Suttas it is about how a monastic goes about getting requisites for buildings, which is demonstrated in the origin story of the second pārājika.
The same poster then quotes the following, again from the vinaya:
19. Should any bhikkhu engage in various types of monetary exchange, it (the income) is to be forfeited and confessed.

20. Should any bhikkhu engage in various types of trade, it (the article obtained) is to be forfeited and confessed.
Numbers 18; 19; & 20 were all part of the same quote, and Ajahn has separated them in a way I had not for some reason so I only quoted once the vinaya. This was not part of a explanation of the rules. The quotes can be seen on page two (and six) of this thread, with the post I was replying too, which should of made it clear that it was not part of any .
I had also included other quotes & references later on on the same pages.
The first of these rules, number 19, again concerns becoming the owner of money. The second one, number 20, is defined in the vinaya as “one's own goods gone to the hand of another, the goods of another gone to one’s own hands; this is a nissaggiya offence”. For those who are interested, let me also quote the Pali:
attano bhaṇḍaṃ parahatthagataṃ parabhaṇḍaṃ attano hatthagataṃ, nissaggiyaṃ hoti.
What Ajahn Brahm is doing is giving up some of his time for anyone willing to support the nuns' monastery. He is not receiving anything in return himself and thus the conditions for "trade" are not fulfilled. There is no problem here from a vinaya point of view. From my perspective, Ajahn Brahm is simply doing charity work, and charity work is an important part of monastic life: any talk or teaching is essentially just that.
The rules do not have to be completely broken for an act to be against the spirit of them, hence we have the “great standard” and rules (first parajika as an example) which include dukata violations deferral to other rules (Saṅghādisesa), Thullaccaya or the full offence, and other rules have lesser offences also, and this is all within the vinaya itself. The rules are not always completely broken for an offence to happen in regard to that rule.

So bearing in mind the Vinaya itself allows for lesser offences within the rules, and the great standard being the way to judge this particularly when a rule is not specific for different contexts, and Ajahns own quote from the Vinaya, with the SN42.10 quote.
The conditions for trade is that there is an exchange. Ajahn Brahm is part of this exchange with his consent. This is a trade in human beings with financial gain. And even though it is for a temporary basis it is still wrong livelihood. DN2 points out that this is not just wrong livelihood for lay-people (previously referenced on page six where I re-post through a quote the post Ajahn has used).
Whenever Ajahn Brahm travels somewhere, especially in Asia, he normally gets substantial donations. His main motivation in teaching is certainly not the donations, but when you have a large Buddhist organisation to run it obviously matters whether people support you financially or not. If you know that you are likely to get a significant donation in a particular location, then you will probably be more willing to accept an invitation from there, all other things being equal. It is the unfortunate reality that money matters, and this is true of all Buddhist monasteries.

I have no doubt that the outcome of this auction will be entirely positive. It is a way of raising people's awareness and getting them to contribute to an important project. It may involve Ajahn Brahm having to teach the Dhamma in a place he otherwise wouldn't have visited, but more likely it will simply mean that he will go to a place that he would have visited anyway, and then the whole thing is hardly different from just giving a donation. In the end, to me this is just a clever and fun way of raising money. That it is clever is clear from the level of interest, even controversy, that the idea has already created.

Lastly, for those who think this may be a precedent for things to come, I am pretty sure this will be the one and only time he does such a thing.

With very best wishes and metta to everyone,
Ajahn Brahmali
As pointed out in this thread, there is a difference between freely offered donations & specifically seeking money. Thainissaro Bhikkhus essays provide one interpretation of this. And personally I see no issue with monastics encouraging a user friendly donation system or a system where the donations for a specific “job” is more obvious so that resourses are used where the donor intended first before any form of diversion happends, or, for that matter, talking about projects which require funding, but there is a difference between these and saying “bye me for a week” or "give money".


To explain my choice of these rules the great standard should be born in mind.
18. Should any bhikkhu accept gold and silver, or have it accepted, or consent to its being deposited (near him), it is to be forfeited and confessed.
Due to the clause “or have it accepted, or consent to it being deposited (near him)” I felt agreeing to being “sold” off in what I see as a bachelor auction style was close enough for this rule to be relevant, as there is a knowledge that money need deposited to participate in the auction and further money is involved in getting the 7 day prize.
19. Should any bhikkhu engage in various types of monetary exchange, it (the income) is to be forfeited and confessed.
As there is going to be a monetary exchange for the 7 days, and the Auction needs a $450 entry fee, and as (recently pointed out) the Spiritual Director of the BSWA which covers the Nunnery where the Building work will eventually take place this was also seen as close enough for relevance.
20. Should any bhikkhu engage in various types of trade, it (the article obtained) is to be forfeited and confessed.
A trade is happening, and I am sure Ajahn Brahm wont be going somewhere the bid winner did not make available for the 7 days.
Last edited by Cittasanto on Sat Mar 16, 2013 5:42 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by m0rl0ck » Sat Mar 16, 2013 5:33 pm

My complaint is with those who are pretty much maligning Ven B because they think that a fairly innocuous attempt at fund raising is a thing of figner wagging opprobrium. Ven Brahm deserves better than that.
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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by Cittasanto » Sat Mar 16, 2013 5:49 pm

Instead of focusing on what you think people are doing try correcting the points if they are in error! :focus:
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by LonesomeYogurt » Sat Mar 16, 2013 7:24 pm

As I said before, I don't know enough about the actual Vinaya to be certain about this. However, I do think that monks should perhaps avoid doing things that are certain to appear as Vinaya violations. It seems that Brahmali had this explanation cocked and ready, and something about that really bothers me. I agree with Tilt that there is a bit too much finger-wagging here, but I also feel as though monks should err on the side of caution instead of doing things that really do seem to be rule-breakers, justification at the ready.

I like Brahm, and Brahmali, and I don't really care about this either way. Something does seem off though. Perhaps this could have been handled better.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by Modus.Ponens » Sat Mar 16, 2013 7:56 pm

I was extremely reluctant to comment on this thread and I haven't even read it all, but I'll give my 2 cents.

The worst case scenario is the scenario where Ajahn Brahm broke a vinaya rule. Although I think this is very unlikely, is it such a terrible thing? It wasn't a parajika. Ajahn Brahm is human so he is bound to break the vinaya. Even the Buddha, when he promised a heaven full of consorts to a disciple if he practiced the path thaught by the him, the Buddha (in my interpretation; I may be wrong) lied. The Buddha, the supreme example to all of us, wasn't exempt of breaking the vinaya. Ajahn Chah also read the palm of the hand of a disciple, breaking a vinaya rule. So this, I think, is such a subtle issue that it should be left to bhikkhus to decide the best course of action, if any at all. We, as lay people who haven't experienced what it is living acording to the vinaya should only express indignation if the situation is severe, like a parajika, or a schism, or a big event like the bhikkhuni ordination, for example. I would even understand comments if there were bad intentions in Ajahn Brahm's heart that were discernible to us. This is clearly not the case. When we're not even sure if it was a breaking of the vinaya, why be judgemental?

As a member already said, Ajahn Brahm deserves better.
"He turns his mind away from those phenomena and, having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.' " - Jhana Sutta

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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by Stiphan » Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:01 pm

Does anybody lose anything from this? Does this lead to harm and suffering for anyone? Does it lead to anyone's benefit? Is there any unwholesome intention involved here?

Something is unwholesome if (1.) it springs from greed, hatred, or delusion and (2.) it leads to harm and suffering for oneself or another or both.

I don't see any unwholesome intentions here and I don't see any harm for anyone involved.

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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by manas » Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:29 pm

Modus.Ponens wrote:Even the Buddha, when he promised a heaven full of consorts to a disciple if he practiced the path thaught by the him, the Buddha (in my interpretation; I may be wrong) lied.
Hi Modus,

I know your intentions are good here, but that wasn't a lie; crafty or even a little bit tricky, maybe ;) but I am quite sure that, had the said disciple practiced assiduously as instructed but not attained any state beyond stream-entry, that he would indeed have ended up in such a heaven. with such consorts. So, the promise would have held true. But something happened on the way to heaven...and I think the Buddha knew about that, as well. But either way, He still would not have been lying. But maybe, being just a little bit crafty, to save yet another being from the perils of samsara...

(I also am hoping that if I'm mistaken here, that someone corrects me!)

:anjali:
Last edited by manas on Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by Cittasanto » Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:39 pm

manas wrote:
Modus.Ponens wrote:Even the Buddha, when he promised a heaven full of consorts to a disciple if he practiced the path thaught by the him, the Buddha (in my interpretation; I may be wrong) lied.
Hi Modus,

I know your intentions are good here, but that wasn't a lie; crafty or even a little tricky, yes, :) but I am quite sure that, had the said disciple practiced assiduously as instructed but not attained any state beyond stream-entry, that he would indeed have ended up in such a heaven. with such consorts. So, the promise would have held true. But something happened on the way to heaven...and I think the Buddha knew about that, as well. But either way, He still would not have been lying. But maybe, being just a little bit crafty, to save yet another being from the perils of samsara...

So, when the Buddha said, "I am your ticket to 500 dove-footed nymphs" he was speaking truthfully. He just didn't mention that the desire for the 500 nymphs would fade and utterly cease along the way :lol:

(I also am hoping that if I'm mistaken here, that someone corrects me!)

:anjali:
that is correct to my knowledge.
it was the story of Nanda, who basically said when he went to the Buddha after that he wouldn't know what to do with them and declined the "prize".
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by manas » Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:52 pm

Cittasanto wrote:...
that is correct to my knowledge.
it was the story of Nanda, who basically said when he went to the Buddha after that he wouldn't know what to do with them and declined the "prize".
I can recall another occassion. where (as I recall) the Buddha promised to (heal or bring back to life?) the child of a grief-sticken mother, if she could bring him a mustard seed from a house (ie, in those days, family) in which no-one had ever died. Note the presence of the word 'IF'...which meant that the Buddha was never going to have to fulfil that one, because there is no such house / family.

So once more, that was a clever, yet truthful, use of words, was it not? :anjali:

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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by Cittasanto » Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:59 pm

Modus.Ponens wrote: Ajahn Chah also read the palm of the hand of a disciple, breaking a vinaya rule.
Ajahn Chah had his palms read once, but I have never heard of him reading palms, he had this strange scoff apparently when asked to see his palms so it is strange!
can you provide a reference?
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by SamKR » Sat Mar 16, 2013 9:25 pm

No doubt about Ajahn Brahm's good intentions and no doubt that he has contributed a lot and that he is just trying to work for the benefit of many. Also, this may not be against Vinaya.

But would the Buddha (Gotama) approve this? Probably not.
Just an opinion based on a handful of suttas I've read so far.

:namaste:

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Re: Ajahn Brahm for sale?

Post by James the Giant » Sat Mar 16, 2013 11:10 pm

This debate reminds me of the Devadatta schism...
A group of people holding monks to a higher standard than what the vinaya actually requires.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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