Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Travel, wander like a Buddhist shraman (sutra)

Dhr. Seven, Crystal Quintero, Amber Larson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Ven. Khantipalo (The Buddhist Monk's Discipline: Some Points Explained for Laypeople (WITH COMMENTARY)
Tibetan women in traditional Himalayan wear caps, temple in background (Massimo)
Buddhist monks, Ganden monastery, Himalayas (Miciomacho/

New Year, New Magick (and a love secret!): new Moon, new year, new secrets, new plans and visions… Instead of writing down a list of "feeling-bad-I-don’t-achieve-them" goals…I’m focusing on what kind of experiences I desire to enjoy (
Ancestral lands of the "Middle Country," Majjhima-desa, East/West, Central Asia

The Wandering Shamans of Buddhism
Bhikshus are shramans.
Since a Buddhist monastic keeping strictly to the Disciplinary Code (Vinaya) will not handle money, if being invited to teach or to stay in one location, it is customary in Buddhist countries for a layperson to act as a steward, a host, someone who makes arrangements.

Where distance prevents this, bus, train, or plane tickets may be secured and used for the purpose of travel. If the journey is a long one, the monastic may be accompanied by a layperson who will make arrangements, buy tickets, and help secure food for the wandering ascetic at the right times. When traveling alone, it is usual to meet the wanderer at the station.
Magic meditation trinkets (Bohopage)
A monastic, whether a monk or a nun or still a novice-in-training, commits an offense if an arrangement is made with a member of the other sex to go on a journey with a that person. So if one is to be accompanied, the companion must be of the same gender.

(Where the appropriate companion is present, other sex members may be in the party as well; the point is not be alone or to seem to be alone with a person where an indiscretion may occur, as much to strengthen the confidence of others in the monastic Sangha as to keep one's own peace of mind that the liberating Code is being adhered to, for it protects one who protects it).

This is another provision to prevent offenses and to stop the wagging of slanderous tongues. When the monastic travels by car, a member of the other sex should not sit alongside, but of course same-gender person may. It is preferable that one not travel alone in a car with a person of the other sex even if that person is driving.
There are also several places to which it is not proper to take monastics, such as the following, which are called the "wrong resort" for them: namely, crowded places, places of entertainment, theaters, concert halls, cinemas, stadiums, game fields, exhibitions, fairs, casinos, nightclubs, brothels, military parades, or fields of battle. The thinking is that monastics have no need of the various sorts of common distractions and sense-stimulation provided by such places.

Beware, Ancient Travelers (sutra) 
Dhr. Seven and Amber Larson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Ven. Thanissaro and Andrew Olendzki (trans.) "The Monkey" (Makkata Sutra, SN 47.7)
A path winding up into the wilds of the Himalayas that extend from the Caucasus to Bhutan
"There are in the Himalaya (Himavanta), the King of Mountains, difficult and uneven areas where neither monkeys nor humans wander.
"There are difficult and uneven areas where monkeys wander, but not humans.
"There are level stretches of land, delightful, where both monkeys and humans wander. In such spots hunters set a tar trap in the monkeys' tracks to ensnare some monkeys. Those monkeys who are not foolish or careless by nature, when they see the tar trap, avoid it from afar.
Monkey, be careful, beware the hunter!
"But any monkey, foolish and careless by nature, comes up to the tar trap and grabs it with its paw. That monkey gets stuck there. Thinking, 'I'll free my paw,' it grabs it with its other paw. It gets stuck there. Thinking, 'I'll free both of my paws,' it grabs it with its foot. It gets stuck there. Thinking, 'I'll free both of my paws and my foot,' it grabs it with its other foot. It gets stuck there. Thinking, 'I'll free both of my paws and my feet as well,' it grabs it with its mouth. It gets stuck there.
"So the monkey, snared in five ways, lies there whimpering, having fallen on misfortune, fallen on ruin, prey to whatever the hunter wants to do with it. Then the hunter, rather than releasing the monkey, skewers it right there, picks it up, and goes off as the hunter likes.
"This is what happens to anyone who wanders into what is not one's own proper range but is the territory of others.
Himalayan desert, Zanskar river, Ladakh
"For this reason, one should not wander into what is not one's own proper range but is the territory of others. Within one who wanders into what is not one's own proper range but is the territory of others, Mara gains an opening. Mara gains a foothold. And what, for a wandering ascetic, is not one's own proper range but is the territory of others? The five strands of sensuality. What are the five?

"Forms cognizable by the eye -- agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Sounds cognizable by the ear... Fragrances cognizable by the nose... Flavors cognizable by the tongue... Tactile sensations cognizable by the body -- agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. These, for a wandering ascetic, are not one's proper range but are the territory of others.
Chorten, Tengboche, Himalayas (fkehren/flickr)
"Wander, meditators, in your own proper range, your own ancestral territory. Within one who wanders in what is one's own proper range, one's own ancestral territory, Mara gains no opening. Mara gains no foothold. And what, for a meditator, is one's own proper range, one's own ancestral territory? The Four Foundations of Mindfulness. What are the four?

"There is a case where a meditator remains focused on the body in and of itself -- ardent, alert, and mindful -- setting aside greed and grief with regard to the world. One remains focused on feelings in and of themselves... mind in and of itself... mental phenomena in and of themselves -- ardent, alert, and mindful -- setting aside greed and grief with regard to the world. This, for a meditator, is one's own proper range, one's own ancestral territory." More (See also SN 47.6)
Maybe we should trade fashion for saffron robes? Nah. *Giggle, giggle* (Meadham-Kirchoff via Bhakti Omwoods/
But Buddhist meditators do travel
On being no one going nowhere
The Buddha arranged it so that laypeople who were ordained as nuns and monks would become travelers, spiritual wanderers not tied to families, donors, or locations. They went all over northern India and deep into Central Asia (the Buddha's own ancestral land in what is modern Afghanistan and the other stans).

Viharas or monastic retreat houses, hermitages, communal living spaces, hostels, monasteries were established far and wide. Buddhism began in the forest outside of Varanasi, in a suburb called the Deer Park. There the newly enlightened Buddha set rolling the wheel of the Dharma to five ascetics, who went on to spread it.

In addition to them, the Buddha ushered 60 ascetics to full enlightenment and sent them out as history's first recorded "missionaries." They went far and wide with the message, such that the western-most point the Buddha's liberating message reached was Scythia, Kalmykia (Europe), and apparently the Near East.

Ancient Buddha on the Silk Route at Dafo si Zhangye, China (
The joy and ease of being like a Brahmin priest
When the message came, it did not establish itself as a new religion. It influenced all the others throughout ancient Greece (Hellenized parts of Asia such as Bactria), eventually traveling on to China and the Far East. There are great Buddha statues little known existing in Tajikistan. And the imprint of the Dharma on literature, culture, lore, and philosophy made it all the way to the geopolitical Middle East and to Israel, where it influenced Christianity greatly and the Vatican's Mithraism and later Roman Catholicism.

Why did the Buddha encourage monastics to wander, to travel, to go forth from home into the nomadic spiritual homelessness of shramanas/shamans rather than the Brahminical custom of becoming temple priests and priestesses wedded to a temple, a god, a community, and one or more donor families?

There were plenty of roads to wander.
It was partly to liberate them from colloquial or provincial thinking, to impress upon them how reality really was when we reach out of our comfort zone of assumptions and "how-could-there-be-any-other-way-to-do-it" habits. We can all benefit from that by simply traveling even as we maintain a residence and the lifestyle of a householder.

The life of a wanderer is open like a deer's habitat
The life of a householder, after all, is dusty and burdensome. But most of us never realize that as we cling to a false sense of safety until it is too late, regretting that we did not do more to do good and free ourselves at least partly from the terrible fourfold contamination of greed, aversion, fear, and delusion.

In Buddhist countries, such as those in Southeast Asia, where the kind of Buddhism the Buddha and his first disciples practiced in India and the "Middle Country" (Majjhima-desa, to the northwest of Indian janapadas), the general conduct of laypeople in the presence of wandering ascetics is very reverent.

Such mendicants existed even before Prince Siddhartha saw one and thought, "I should live like that if I want to awaken from the delusion and suffering of the world!" It is modeled on the discipline followed by monastics and novices (bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, samaneras, and samaneris). Lay Buddhists have a kind of layperson's Buddhist Discipline in the lengthy Sigalovada Sutra (DN), a compilation text.

One could wander into the Himalayas (BO).
When laypeople are in the presence of "elders" (theras), they comport themselves to give monastics every advantage in achieving their goals of being able to concentrate, meditate, remain calm and undistracted, teach, and attain enlightenment even in this very life.

Temple monk fights police power (S).
A monastic is a terrible person engaged in a great offense if he or she squanders that rare opportunity or engages in defeat-behavior and carries on pretending to be a member of the monastic Sangha dressed in robe, like a wolf in sheep's clothing taking from those with confidence in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha while not meriting it. There are a minimal number of things one does to remain in good standing in the Sangha, which is not a lifelong commitment and always allows one to resort to lay life if one should so wish.

But one generally takes on much more and actually uses the gifts of others, subsisting on the bare requisites to survive perhaps in addition to spreading or clarifying the Dharma, and the opportunity for rapid intentional spiritual evolution.

Much of this "code of good conduct" is contained in the articles of the 75 Trainings (sekhiya) found in the Path to Emancipation (Patimokkha, a Pali term which in Sanskrit means "path to moksha," or supreme liberation.

Monasticism is a hardship...unless one is seeking enlightenment in this life. Then it is an extreme blessing setting the optimal environment for the practice of the supreme way of living and the realization of what's real (Bird_beckman77/Homam Alojail/flickr).
Why did the Buddha make "rules"?
Karma. It's everywhere we're going to be.
That's not "cool," right? He should have been all like, "Yeah, man, groovy, Jack Kerouac's got the right idea, get out on the road, get crunchy, then tune in, turn on, and drop out. Then head on over to Harvard to find Ram Dass and Timothy Leary and score some primo hallucinogens to pretend you're all enlightened and nirvanered and such. Namaste, hip brothers and sisters."

The Buddha did not take drugs, did not encourage delusion, did not simply take leave of conventional society and norms for the sake of living like a "Dharma Bum," surfer, or shoestring backpacker with all the same sensual cravings just a less cumbersome way of trying to satisfy them. And namaste is a Hindu greeting popularized by yoga permeating the West, not a Buddhist thing, which might instead say Metta while holding the same Asian anjali mudra and smiling.

The Buddha gave the reasons for establishing a Disciplinary Code, rules for the governing of wandering ascetics living in communal settings as disparate individuals having to cooperate and get along in harmony for the sake of each other, for the preservation of the Dharma, and for establishing the conditions most suitable for calm-and-insight leading to enlightenment and liberation. Here they are as preserved in the Theravada Vinaya:

I want to be a spiritual hero (Dietmar Temps).
These teachings of the Buddha have been preserved and practiced up to the present day. They are known in the ancient texts as the Dharma-Vinaya, which we loosely translate and the Doctrine and Discipline.

Although there is a great loss of meaning when translating these two terms into English, they may be also be rendered as the Teaching and the Training (template for skillful and optimal conduct). Many books are written trying to explain aspects of Dharma, but perhaps because of its monastic connotations the Discipline (Vinaya) is neglected unless one goes to a good retreat.

It was the task of a Western Buddhist monk living in Thailand to write a booklet to examine the Discipline from the point of view of the Buddhist layperson (unfortunately written in archaic sexist language aggravated by the fact that Thailand, wonderful Buddhist country that it has been, never developed an Order of Buddhist Nuns (Bhikkhuni Sangha) like all of the other Buddhist countries until recently.

So why were the "training rules" laid down? Many times in throughout the Discipline the Buddha says: "On account of (some event necessitating action), O monastics, I shall make known the training rule for monastics." (Sometimes he said in addition), This Discipline is "founded upon these ten reasons:
  1. For the welfare of the Sangha (monastic community),
  2. For the comfort (smooth operating) of the Sangha,
  3. For the control of unsteady monastics,
  4. For the comfort of well-behaved monastics,
  5. For the restraining of the defilements (asavas) in this present life,
  6. For guarding against defilements liable to arise in future lives,
  7. For the contentment of those not yet contented (with the Dharma),
  8. For the increase of those contented,
  9. For the establishment of true Dharma (Teaching), and
  10. For the benefit of the Discipline (Vinaya)."
  • In the Numerical Discourses (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of the Twos), two further reasons are found. The first is "for sympathy with householders" (a very important consideration) and "for the breaking up factions of unskillfully-minded monastics" (stressing how the Discipline has kept the Sangha that keeps it).
    The wandering ascetics are coming through town. Let's prepare the sala to hear them!
    The great monastic and Buddhist commentator Ven. Buddhaghosa gives the following verse-definition of the Discipline in the Atthasalini:

    This Discipline (Vinaya) is called the Discipline
    By those knowing the meaning of discipline
    Because it disciplines (actions/karma of) body and speech, 
    (Since it consists of) various and excellent principles.

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