Is an Upasaka at liberty to discuss the Sangha?

Is an Upasaka at liberty to discuss the Sangha?

Postby Zhen Li » Thu Apr 11, 2013 2:07 am

This may have been addressed elsewhere, but I believe I remember reading in text, a very long time ago, something about an Upasaka abstaining from discussing Sangha affairs.

It certainly was not referring to the extent of causing a schism or spreading sectarian views, but more or less speaking in any manner which might be construed as negative with regards to the Sangha. I believe it was translated from a Chinese text, but I am not sure, so feel free to redirect this thread.
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Re: Is an Upasaka at liberty to discuss the Sangha?

Postby Huifeng » Thu Apr 11, 2013 4:56 am

Ben Yuan wrote:This may have been addressed elsewhere, but I believe I remember reading in text, a very long time ago, something about an Upasaka abstaining from discussing Sangha affairs.

It certainly was not referring to the extent of causing a schism or spreading sectarian views, but more or less speaking in any manner which might be construed as negative with regards to the Sangha. I believe it was translated from a Chinese text, but I am not sure, so feel free to redirect this thread.


Hi,

I wonder what is meant by "at liberty", exactly?
In the end, we are responsible for our own actions, of body, speech and mind.
Positive or negative results are our own making.

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Re: Is an Upasaka at liberty to discuss the Sangha?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 11, 2013 5:07 am

One of the bodhisattva precepts is to refrain from speaking of the faults (transgressions) of the renunciate assemblies (monks, nuns, novices...).

That means you basically don't announce it when someone breaks their precepts. That's supposed to be handled inside the sangha using the appropriate procedures. According to the Vinaya, the layperson has no right to formally bring up the precept violations of a monk or nun. It is supposed to be an internal matter.
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Re: Is an Upasaka at liberty to discuss the Sangha?

Postby Zhen Li » Thu Apr 11, 2013 5:26 am

I wonder what is meant by "at liberty", exactly?

I meant with regards to imperatives made by texts against such actions. Either in terms of formal rules as Huseng points out, or as informal suggestions.
One of the bodhisattva precepts is to refrain from speaking of the faults (transgressions) of the renunciate assemblies (monks, nuns, novices...).

That means you basically don't announce it when someone breaks their precepts. That's supposed to be handled inside the sangha using the appropriate procedures. According to the Vinaya, the layperson has no right to formally bring up the precept violations of a monk or nun. It is supposed to be an internal matter.

I wonder, could you possibly provide a direct quotation or link to the text which includes this?

Thank you both.
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Re: Is an Upasaka at liberty to discuss the Sangha?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 11, 2013 5:48 am

Ben Yuan wrote:I wonder, could you possibly provide a direct quotation or link to the text which includes this?

Thank you both.


See #6 and #10 of the Major Precepts:

http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhi ... sframe.htm

As I understand it, the idea is that you don't go around announcing that someone has broken their precepts. You can still criticize them and their ideas, but just don't bring up the matter of their precept violations. There is a proper procedure for dealing with this within the sangha itself where collective confession is carried out. The laity are not permitted to participate.

I think some people mistake this as meaning you cannot criticize monks and nuns, or say that they're wrong about something, as if some dreadful karmic retribution will be suffered for having said anything negative in respect to a sangha member.

I heard of one Chinese nun who was criticized to her face by some Christian missionary. All she could do was pray for him because of all the nasty karma he had generated for having criticized her.

Actually I often think the Chinese sangha, especially in Taiwan, is sheltered too much from criticism. They discourage it both internally and externally. In Chinese culture, generally, to criticize someone or even outright disagree with them is rather offensive, but in a Buddhist context it takes on a degree of religious neurosis. Within your organization you don't criticize your superiors. Externally it is bad form to criticize other Buddhists, especially monastics.

What this means is that bad ideas flourish and remain unchallenged. You get chiefs with bizarre ideas that waste time and money getting to do whatever they want to without being really challenged.

But then despite all the ostensible support for democracy from Humanistic Buddhism, their organizations don't really reflect democratic principles. The leadership are in a position akin to lèse-majesté. It is really interesting to see how that developed. Chinese Nationalism in Taiwan nominally wanted to introduce democracy and a lot of the eminent monks after WWII were on that bandwagon, but those principles were not really introduced so deep into their own organizations that they built up. The head administration calls the shots and everyone below follows.

I noticed this as a huge difference with western Buddhism. In western Buddhism the new guy of a few months might not be taken too seriously, but he at least has a voice. He has the right to stand up, offer his criticism and be heard with all due dignity and respect. You don't really see that in contemporary Chinese Buddhism in Taiwan. It'd be laughable for a newer lay member to offer his opinion in a formal capacity, supposing he had formulated one.
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Re: Is an Upasaka at liberty to discuss the Sangha?

Postby plwk » Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:07 am

It's amusing to recall that the many Vinaya rules have their source in the laity bringing up issues to the Lord & the Community, so I wonder where the tradition of staying mute and dumb or a 'no eye see' mentality (to borrow a Chinese idiom), on the conduct of the ordained started? Whilst I agree that 'fault finding' is akusala but under what context is it allowable, for instance in the cases of abuse and misuse?

Here's one parallel I recall from the Theravada Vinaya...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... e.html#faq
FAQ 14: "When a monk commits a paaraajika offence, do the lay people have the right to ask him to disrobe? What is the usual procedure as stated in the Vinaya?
What happens when a monk has been proven to have committed a paaraajika offence, yet refuses to disrobe in spite of demands from lay devotees and there is no Sangha Council to enforce the demands, as is the case in non-Buddhist countries? Under such circumstances, what do the lay people do?"

A: If a bhikkhu commits a paaraajika offence he is 'defeated' and no longer a bhikkhu even if he is wearing robes.
The Community of bhikkhus will have nothing to do with him and will expel him. (See Disrobing and End Note 31.)
However, if the accused 'bhikkhu' does not admit to the offence and it cannot be proved, the results of kamma must be allowed to run their own course. Buddhism has never engaged in violent witch hunts. (See Strictness and Blaming Others.) And for how lay people dealt with stubborn monks in the Buddha's time, see Disputes.

And from the late Ven Master Xuan Hua...
http://cttbusa.org/vajrastrikes/masterhua.asp
Q : The Master always says “To truly recognize our faults and do not discuss the faults of others. Others’ fault are simply my own. That is great compassion.”
However, the Venerable Master often criticizes others (in the Vajra Bodhi Sea). Doesn’t that mean you don’t practice what you preach?

A : If what I say is true, then I’m not finding fault with them; if what I say were false, then I would go to hell.
You know the person who said, “Great cultivators are not affected by cause and effect,” had to face the consequence of being a fox for 500 lives.
I would go to the tongue-pulling hell if I were wrong or have twisted the facts by treating black as white, white as black, true as false, and false as true.
If what I say is correct, I am not guilty. Why do I talk about the ways in which others are right or wrong? It is because there is too much gossip in the Buddhist community, calling this one the Black Sect, that one the White Sect, Yellow Sect, Red Sect.
There are so many colors that they blind people’s ability to tell them apart. They can’t tell that black is black and white is white.
Therefore, I must say what others dare not say.
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Re: Is an Upasaka at liberty to discuss the Sangha?

Postby Zhen Li » Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:25 am

I shall play the conservative on this one.

I do have faith in some of the aspects of this notion. Fundamentally it comes down to harmony, which I believe is more important for the preservation of the sangha and avoiding schism than a decrease in efficiency due to autocracy - and of course in the end, at least in many cases it is elected autocracy. But I know there are arguments to be made otherwise.
Huseng: As I understand it, the idea is that you don't go around announcing that someone has broken their precepts. You can still criticize them and their ideas, but just don't bring up the matter of their precept violations. There is a proper procedure for dealing with this within the sangha itself where collective confession is carried out. The laity are not permitted to participate.

I think some people mistake this as meaning you cannot criticize monks and nuns, or say that they're wrong about something, as if some dreadful karmic retribution will be suffered for having said anything negative in respect to a sangha member.

Criticizing ideas in the right forum, I suppose is not wholly unacceptable.

I am not sure the Sixth Major Precept really is only referring to the breaking of precepts.
6. Sixth Major Precept: On Broadcasting the Faults of the Assembly. A disciple of the Buddha must not himself broadcast the misdeeds or infractions of Bodhisattva-clerics or Bodhisattva-laypersons, or of [ordinary] monks and nuns -- nor encourage others to do so. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of discussing the offenses of the assembly.

Misdeeds or infractions, I take it, is ambiguous, but if I perceive or am victim of a Bodhisattva-cleric or layperson doing something which I am not fond of, even if it is not a violation of the Vinaya (in fact, especially if it is not a violation of the Vinaya) doesn't seem to be a necessary topic of discussion and is probably best left unspoken. Of course if it violates the Vinaya, the community has it's own ways of dealing with that issue.

It's not such a harsh notion in the end, just consider the fact that, if something happens, you can put it behind you forever and not talk about it with the justification of harmony!

And yes, in the end, I agree with Master Xuan Hua's comments, very wise.

I am sure there will be some objections to this.
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Re: Is an Upasaka at liberty to discuss the Sangha?

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:33 am

Huseng wrote:In Chinese culture, generally, to criticize someone or even outright disagree with them is rather offensive, but in a Buddhist context it takes on a degree of religious neurosis. Within your organization you don't criticize your superiors. Externally it is bad form to criticize other Buddhists, especially monastics.
Really? The Chinese laity at the temple I attend like to gossip about the failings of other members. But, it's never to their faces. Is that what you meant?
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Re: Is an Upasaka at liberty to discuss the Sangha?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:38 am

Konchog1 wrote: But, it's never to their faces. Is that what you meant?


Yes, that's what I mean. You keep it hush hush and don't say it out loud. It'll make people "lose face" which is often unforgivable.
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