Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why become a Buddhist ascetic? (King Milinda)

Amber Larson and Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly, "The Questions of King Milinda" [Menander] (Miln), Milindapañha (
Indo-Greco art from Mes Aynak ("Copper Well"), Afghanistan (
Lay Life vs. Monasticism
Greek King Milinda (Menander 1) coin
King Milinda (Greek, Menander) asked the Buddhist sage: "Venerable Nagasena, the Blessed One has said:
"‘Right spiritual progress is praiseworthy for householders and wandering ascetics alike. Both householders and wandering ascetics, when progressing rightly, can accomplish, because of their right progress, the right method, the Dharma, which is wholesome.’ 

"If, Nagasena, a householder, dressed in white, enjoying the pleasures of the senses, inhabiting a house overcrowded with spouse and family, using fragrant sandalwood of Benares, as well as garlands, perfumes, and creams, owning gold and silver, wearing a turban ornamented with gold and jewels, can, if s/he progresses rightly, accomplish the right method, the Dharma, the wholesome, and if a wandering ascetic, bald-headed, clad in saffron robe, dependent on alms offerings for a livelihood, careful to fulfil correctly the four sections of monastic virtue, submitting to the 150 path-to-liberation (pratimoksa) rules, and observing all 13 Sane Ascetic Practices (dhutanga), without omitting any, can also, if progressing rightly, accomplish the right method, the Dharma, the wholesome -- then, venerable sir, What is the difference between the householder and the wandering ascetic? 
"Fruitless is your austerity, useless is the homeless (wandering ascetic) life, barren is the observation of the monastic rules, in vain do you observe the sane ascetic practices! What is the use of inflicting pain upon yourself if you can gain nirvana while remaining at ease?"

UCLA: Save Buddhist-Afghan site (WQ)
Nagasena replied: "You have quoted the Blessed One's words correctly, your majesty. To make right progress is indeed the most excellent thing of all.

"And if the wandering ascetic, in the consciousness of being a wandering ascetic, should fail to progress rightly, then one would be far from the state of an ascetic, far from a supreme life. Still more so would that apply to a householder dressed in white.

"But both the householder and the wandering ascetic are alike in that, when they progress rightly, they accomplish the right method, the Dharma, the wholesome.

Wish-fulfilling gem
"Nevertheless, your majesty, it is the wandering ascetic who is the master of the pure life. To be a wandering ascetic has many and numerous, even infinite, virtues (benefits). To measure the virtues of being a wandering ascetic is not at all possible. It is like a [chintamani] jewel that fulfills all one's wishes; one cannot measure its value in terms of money and say that it is worth so much.
Like the waves in the great ocean, one cannot measure and say that there are so many. All that the wandering ascetic still has to do, one succeeds in doing rapidly and without taking a long time over it. And why is that? It is because the wandering ascetic, your majesty, is content with little, easily pleased, secluded from the world, not addicted to society, energetic, independent, solitary, perfect in conduct, austere in practice, skilled in all that concerns inner purification and spiritual progress.
Beautiful Buddhist jewelry recovered from the Mes Aynak monastic complex/town archeological site, Afghanistan, suggesting that beauty, baubles, and sensual delights were quite popular. Treasure dated from 500 AD to 700 AD (Kadir/Salam Viking).
Such a person is like your javelin, your majesty -- smooth, even, well polished, straight, clean, and shining. When it is well thrown, it will fly exactly as you want it to. In the same way, whatever the wandering ascetic still has to do, one succeeds in doing it all rapidly and without taking a long time over it."
"Well spoken, Nagasena. So it is, and so I accept it."

Nagasena continued: "In any case, your majesty, all those who as householders, living in a home and in the enjoyment of sensual pleasures, realize the peace of nirvana, the highest good, they have all been trained in former lives in the 13 Sane Ascetic Practices peculiar to [Buddhist monastic] disciples, and through them they have laid the foundations for their present realization and attainment. It is because they had purified their conduct and behavior by means of them then that now even as householders, living in a home and in the enjoyment of sense pleasures, they can realize the peace of nirvana, the highest good.

Child plays with novice monk, Leh, Ladakh, Buddhist India (Vincenzo Rossi/
House or Monastery? 
Bad dog! Check your motives.
"But whoever enters the Monastic Order bad motives -- from covetousness, deceitfully, out of greed and gluttony, desirous of gain, fame, or reputation, unsuitably, unqualified, unfit, unworthy, unseemly -- that person shall incur a twofold comeuppance, which will prove ruinous to all one's good qualities.

In this very life, one shall be scorned, derided, reproached, ridiculed, and mocked. One shall be shunned, expelled, ejected, removed, and banished. 

What could account for Sam winning the "Ugliest Dog in the World" contest? (EIT)
Aw, poor baby! (ugliest dog in the world)
In the next life, like foam which is tossed about, up and down and across, one shall cook for many hundreds of thousands of aeons (kalpas, which also be interpreted as meaning "ordinary lifespans") in the great Waveless Deep (Avici) hell, which is a hundred leagues big, and all ablaze with hot, scorching, fierce, and fiery flames. 

"And when one has been released thence, one's entire body will become emaciated, rough, and black, one's head swollen, bloated and full of holes. 

As hungry as a ghost or preta (WP)
Hungry and thirsty, disagreeable and dreadful to look at, one's ears all torn, eyes constantly blinking, entire body one putrid mass of sores, dense with maggots, bowels afire and blazing like a mass of fire fanned by a breeze, helpless and unprotected, weeping, crying, wailing, and lamenting, consumed by unsatisfied longings -- that person who once was a religious wanderer shall then as a large hungry ghost roam about on the earth bewailing that fate.
"But if, on the other hand, a person enters the Monastic Order (Sangha) suitably, qualified, fit, worthy and seemly, content with little, easily pleased, secluded (withdrawing and protecting the senses) from the worldly, not addicted to society, energetic and resolute, without fraud or deceit, not gluttonous, not desirous of gain, fame, or reputation, devout and with confidence (saddha, faith), out of a desire to free oneself from old age and death and to uphold the Buddha's dispensation (sasana), then one deserves to be honored in two ways, by both devas and humans.
The devas find one dear (
Beauty pageant
"One is dear and pleasing to them. They love and seek after one. One is to them as fine jasmine flowers are to a person bathed and anointed with oil, or good food to the hungry, or a cool, clear, and fragrant drink to the thirsty, or an effective medicine [antidote] to those who are poisoned, or a superb chariot drawn by thoroughbreds to those who want to travel quickly, or a wish-fulfilling jewel to those who want to enrich themselves, or a brilliantly white parasol, the [spaceship-like] emblem of royalty, to those who would like to be rulers, or as the supreme attainment of the fruit of enlightenment (arhatship) to those who wish for Dharma.

The 37 Requisites of Enlightenment
  • The Four Foundations (Posts or Pillars) of Mindfulness reach their full development, as do
  • The Four Right Efforts,
  • The Four Roads to [Psychic] Success,
  • The Five Faculties,
  • The Five Powers,
  • The Seven Factors of Enlightenment, and
  • The Noble Eightfold Path.
"One attains to calm and insight, and one's progressive attainments continue to mature, and one becomes a repository of the Four Fruits of the Spiritual Life (Samana Phala), of the Four Analytical Knowledges, the Threefold Knowledge, and the Six Super Knowledges, in short, of the whole Dharma of the spiritual life, and one is consecrated with the brilliantly white parasol of emancipation." More

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