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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Calling for Buddhist Monks to Observe the Monastic Code

The Ren Ci episode is hugely disappointing.  It's time to go back to the basics.
 
This, together with so many others, just puts one off charity.
 
Religiously, I am increasingly considering myself agnostic, or even atheist. 
 
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From: Angie Monksfield <gimlengchew@ yahoo.com>
Subject: Calling for Buddhist Monks to Observe the Monastic Code
To: stforum@sph. com.sg
Date: Sunday, 5 April, 2009, 7:25 PM

Dear Editor

As a lay-Buddhist group of 3,000 members, we are greatly concerned when we hear of monks or nuns who have chosen the path of a renunciant only to accept a salary or payment for services they render. Receiving a salary or payment is certainly not in keeping with the spiritual pursuits of a renunciant, a path these individuals have chosen to take of their own free will.
 
The Buddha clearly laid down in the Vinaya (18th Section of the Code of Discipline for monks and nuns), that Buddhist monks (bhikkhus) and nuns (bhikkhunis) are not allowed to accept money for themselves, nor allowed to instruct someone else to safe-keep it for them (e.g. keeping a personal bank account) to spend as they like or to invest in businesses, financial instruments or properties.
 
In addition, the 19th Section of the Vinaya states that monks or nuns are not allowed to buy and sell things for themselves using money.
 
The intent of the above rules was to set renunciants apart from the vast majority of people and thus become a constant reminder to all that a life based on materialism is not the only way to live. Through giving up money, the ability to manipulate the world and to satisfy one's worldly desires diminishes.
 
In the Suttas (Samyutta Nikaya volume 4), it was documented that when The Buddha was specifically asked whether money was permissible for the monks and nuns, he replied:
'Whoever agrees to gold or money also agrees to the indulgence in sensual pleasures, and whoever agrees to the indulgence of sensual pleasures you may take it for certain that this is not the way of a recluse, that this is not the way of a Buddhist monk.'
 
However, if an organization or individual wishes to appreciate a monk's or nun's contribution, the honorarium or donation can be given to the monastery or the  organisation that provides him/her with support. 
 
As some argue that times have changed and that monastics have to adapt, we should pose the question: "Is it not better to be an exemplary lay-Buddhist by observing the 5 precepts of not harming, lying, stealing, consuming intoxicants and committing adultery than to be a less than exemplary monastic who is unable to adhere to the monastic code".
 
It is timely that we, as lay-Buddhists, should take stock of how we need to support our monks and nuns in order to help them stay on the spiritual path while they serve the community. It is also important that monastics must not be above being questioned nor being challenged whenever they deviate from the code of discipline they have voluntarily chosen to live by.
 
Over time monastic groups have relaxed many of the Vinaya rules and like all things, left unchecked, the relaxation may have been taken a step too far, to the point where there is little difference between some monastics and lay-Buddhists.
 
 
Angie Monksfield
President, Buddhist Fellowship Singapore
 

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