Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bad monks in a Buddhist country (video)

The inclusive rainbow Buddhist flag flies over a nation for virtue, meditation, wisdom.

Thailand's Tainted Robes: Misbehaving Monks
Al Jazeera EnglishAs scandals involving misbehaving Buddhist monks rock the Southeast Asian nation of tourist-friendly Thailand (possibly the most Buddhist country in the world), 101 East examines if the nation can save its moral character.

Why is this happening? Could it be that forcibly sending males into the monastery necessarily creates rebellion, discontent, and misbehavior?

Most of the misbehavior is due not to actual "monks" (bhikkhus) but to novices (samaneras) who temporarily ordain and so undertake fewer rules than fully ordination entails for a few days or months by Thai custom. A person's ordination is only as good as one's underlying motivation for undertaking the eight to 227 training rules of a Buddhist monastic.

Four of these 227 or more training rules (many of which are minor etiquette guidelines that number 1,000 or so) are so important that breaking them leads to immediate and irrevocable "defeat" (parajika). They are: killing, stealing, sex, falsely claiming spiritual attainments.

The whole purpose of the rules is to facilitate meditation and to preserve the Dharma as a living tradition in the world for as long as possible -- through study, teaching, and most of all intensive practice that ensures that at least some people (lay and monastic) gain the stages of enlightenment.
Wheel of the Dharma
There is, of course, misbehavior higher up. Most novices are sincere and studious for the short time they are ordained. Some long time monks are the ones abusing the system set up by the Buddha for producing enlightened beings (arhats) in the world, which constitute the supreme field of merit for the world.

Some Buddhists, particularly adherents of the much larger latter-day Mahayana school, feel it is wrong to speak ill of the community. They invented an additional precept against it. One should hide the dirty laundry? We disagree because sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Dysfunctional communities, such as cults, need to keep secrets. If a community will not clean up its act in silence then saying something becomes necessary. If molestation were happening at home, would you keep silent? Most of us would. But silence makes it possible for it to keep going on. Speak up.

Two chedis (pagodas) near the summit of Doi Inthanon (Lester Mathias Andersson)
Why is there Buddhism if no one seeks a path to enlightenment and nirvana? Altars, like this one in Thailand's Doi Inthanon, would be worthless (Charlie Owen/binbagger/flickr.com).

Is Mara leering his hideous head again?
There are rules -- monastic guidelines known as The Vinaya (Monastic Disciplinary Code) and Patimokkha (direct "Path to Liberation" rule recitation).

Unfortunately, most lay Buddhists have no idea what the rules are.

And most monastics feel it is none of laypeople's business what goes on inside the monastic system. The rules lay out the enforcement of the rules, but they are not enforced. The guidelines are there, but no mechanism exists to see to it that they are carried out.

So instead of cleaning up its own act, unless some pressure comes from outside, the whole system could become corrupted to the point that we lose the third gem or guide of Buddhism, the Sangha (monastic community) like we lost most of the female monastic community and the noble community, both of which are currently on the rise again. The first gem, the Buddha, is no longer here.

The second and arguably the most important, the Dharma (the Teaching of the complete path to enlightenment) is on shaky ground as no one seems to know what it is. It is preserved in the ancient Theravada tradition as the bodhi-pakkhiya-dhamma or "37 Requisites of Enlightenment," which few know exists.

More from AJ's 101 East on

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