How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

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How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby Aemilius » Tue Feb 01, 2011 2:02 pm

I am disappointed at the kind of discussion that takes it for granted that monkhood is defined by the question whether you have sex or not. It is nearly ridiculous, I think.
The whole question should be seen in terms of life-style. Life-style is something people can see. People at large can't see your ideas or your right views, but your life-style is something clearly visible.
Begging daily for alms is not considered essential for modern buddhist life-style.
The practice of begging was a daily interface between buddhist community and the wider society.
If you discard daily begging as not being an essential element of monkhood you lose an important interface with the wider human community. And buddhism needs communication more than anything else. There is no Dharma if you only sit and meditate somewhere, and you have a private sponsor to finance it.
Monkhood, or being a practicing laity, is defined by your visible life-style.
Whether you like it or not, there will always be something that people can notice, if you are a practitioner of Dharma. Most likely you yourself don't know or see it.
If you don't beg, what prevents you from working? ( as a monk or a nun).
A monk could equally well be defined by not killing, or by not stealing, or by not lying, or by not slandering, or by some other major precept.
Shramanas constitute an indian life-style, that is quite nonexistent in modern world. You must remenber that Buddhism started as a branch in a wider movement that has been called by the name Shramanas.
Is there anything that somehow or loosely corresponds to Shramanas, in our modern world ?
Maybe the New Age? -Or the Unemployed? -Or the Homeless Vagrants?
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Re: How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby Jikan » Wed Feb 02, 2011 2:37 am

Generally a monk (bikshu) is defined by the vows he took at ordination.
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Re: How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Wed Feb 02, 2011 3:34 am

While it's quite certain that monkhood is by definition a celibate lifestyle in Buddhism, vows of celibacy are not unique to monastics. As I'm sure you know, it's the Vinaya that lays out the variety of personal liberation vows for monastics and lay householders; in addition to the 5 lay precepts we're all familiar with, each lineage of Vinaya also includes a category of lay householder who has vowed to be celibate for life. So it cannot be the question of celibacy alone that sets monastics apart from lay people. As Jikan has said, it is the full array of vows a monk takes at his ordination that defines him as a monk.
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Re: How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby mudra » Wed Feb 02, 2011 12:32 pm

Jikan wrote:Generally a monk (bikshu) is defined by the vows he took at ordination.


That's about it. As Pema Rigdzin points out, celibacy is not the defining line. There are laymen's (upasaka/genyeng) vows
which also include celibacy.

The term monk is misleading anyway, it doesn't make the proper distinction between what one would call a fully ordained monk (bhiksu/ge-long) and a novice monk (samanera/getsul).

Outside of these six you have the one day (uposottha) vows and then the probationary nun's (sorry term slips my mind) vows.

These are all part of what are called self-liberation vows (prati-moksha) which of course also include the female upasika/genyeng-ma, samanerika/getsulma, bhiksuni/gelongma.

Of these 8, only novices up to fully ordained monks+nuns are included in the sangha, with the exceptions of those who have reached Aryahood. The monks' or nuns' robes are to be worn only by those who have taken the corresponding vows from the correct number of monks/nuns etc.

The hundreds of vows that the fully ordained monks and nuns take definitely govern lifestyle, all aspects of conduct, attitude etc. It is certainly one of restraint and mindfulness, and decorum.

That is not to say that lay people's vows don't cover conduct, but 5 vows (or 8 for the 24 vows) really doesn't hold a candle to the proper application of vinaya. When the vinaya is observed well it really creates an aura, something one can trust oneself to.
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Re: How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby Nosta » Wed Feb 02, 2011 6:50 pm

[quote="Aemilius"]There is no Dharma if you only sit and meditate somewhere[quote]

I agree with that. We should remember that buddhists want to: 1) Reach Nirvana and 2) Help others doing that too.

Staying in a temple all the time means to care only with himself. We should avoid that. Mother Teresa was more bhikshu than many buddhists!
Being a bhikshu means to have a life following the Noble EightFold Path.
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Re: How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby Blue Garuda » Wed Feb 02, 2011 8:12 pm

How do we define 'monk' if we don't simply use the Vinaya'?

- A monk who lives in a monastery
- A monk who lives outside of monastic life in seclusion or as a wanderer
- A monk who lives outside of a monastery and is active in the community where he lives
- A monk according to the Vinaya
- A monk (priest?) according to Bodhisattva vows but not Vinaya
- A monk ordained according to a modern interpretation and summation of Vinaya
- A monk ordained on the internet who selects 'Buddhist' from the options menu
- A monk who exercises his legal right to call himself a monk, a priest or a reverend or whatever title he chooses
- A monk who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of enlightenment and accepts the 3 Jewels as his Refuge and is guided by the 4NT & 8FP, and seeks to eradicate desires which conflict with that aim, and takes vows to do that.

Then we have a huge list of expectations, as mentioned already, in terms of moral discipline, assessing both vows and behaviour.

Sometimes we may fall into the trap of saying that someone isn't a worthy monk becuase they fail in this or that respect.
I'm sure there are some wonderful exemplars of perfect adherence to all of the Vinaya, but for most wasn't it always aspirational, a benchmark of perfection in a monk, rather than their reality as imperfect humans?

I'm sure there are some ancient and very fixed lists of attributes and vows which defines a bhikkhu, but I wonder how many today adhere to the letter of them, or simply do their best to adhere to the spirit.

I have to admit that I used to see a shaven head and robes and think this person must have attained something precious, or possess special qualities, or have great devotion. Nowadays, ordained or lay, I assume nothing and simply accord the respect that their order expects as long as I know what that is, and it is in accordance with my own vows and practices.

That's a really long-winded way of saying I haven't a clue!! LOL :)
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Re: How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:56 am

Nosta wrote:
Aemilius wrote:There is no Dharma if you only sit and meditate somewhere

I agree with that. We should remember that buddhists want to: 1) Reach Nirvana and 2) Help others doing that too.

Staying in a temple all the time means to care only with himself.


This is only true if one remains retreated from the world due to selfishness, laziness, and lack of compassion. In order to truly help beings, one has to have not only compassion but wisdom, or one is just as likely to do harm even when intending to be of benefit. At best, without discerning wisdom or the wisdom of emptiness, one will often have no clue how to help others, or one may think one knows but be mistaken, and one is subject to getting burnt out and emotionally exhausted. Also, having no realization or liberation, even if one is able to do some good for others in this life, it will be short lived, and then one dies and becomes swept up in the tides of samsara again for who knows how long. And then what help can one be to anyone, when one is back among those needing saving?

Staying in isolated retreat with the proper motivation and instructions and practicing diligently night and day, one can more swiftly do away with the bonds of obscurations and passions and realize the enlightened state where one will have both the wisdom and compassion to benefit beings, the true and unshakeable bodhicitta resolve to do so, and the ability the emanate as many forms as necessary to get the job done. And one will not be disrupted by birth, old age, sickness, or death.

On the other hand, with practitioners being at all levels of capacity and readiness on the path, there's a wide spectrum of roles to fill and needs of others to address... Some practitioners will be ready for serious retreat and make incredible progress towards more ultimate benefit of beings, while others of us will be more suited to engaging our bodhicitta resolve by way of volunteering and doing good works to help beings in a more limited and temporary, but nonetheless very worthwhile way. This world needs both of these kinds of people, so I see no reason to devalue either.
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Re: How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby Tilopa » Thu Feb 03, 2011 6:57 am

As others have correctly said a monk (or nun) is traditionally defined by whether or not they have taken Vinaya precepts.
There are 5 types: novice monk and nun, probationer nun, fully ordained monk and nun.
Only the latter are referred to as Bikshu or Bikshuni.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pratimoksha

www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/vin/sv ... -pati.html

www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/vin/sv ... -pati.html
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Re: How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby Aemilius » Fri Feb 04, 2011 1:48 pm

Thank you for all the replies. For Jikan I would say that according to Vinaya shaving one's hair is not among the four defeats, so you could have as long hair as you wanted and still be a good Bhikshu. Am I not right ?
There are a thousand other things that are not among the four defeats, so you can be a good monk or a good nun anyhow.
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Re: How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby Aemilius » Fri Feb 04, 2011 3:12 pm

Tilopa wrote:As others have correctly said a monk (or nun) is traditionally defined by whether or not they have taken Vinaya precepts.
There are 5 types: novice monk and nun, probationer nun, fully ordained monk and nun.
Only the latter are referred to as Bikshu or Bikshuni.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pratimoksha

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... -pati.html

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... -pati.html


Thank you for the links, they are most useful. Still I would say that a Monk is, and is not, defined by the Vinaya.
The ancient indian State, indian Government and indian Laws accepted it (Bhikshuhood) to be a legal occupation, a legal livelihood. But let's say, as an imaginary example, that you live somewhere in Europe, like in Britain, France, Germany or elsewhere, and that you have what you call vows of a novice monk, now what do you say in your tax declaration ?
What are your legal sources of income ?
Who is paying your yearly pension fees?
-the health insurance, etc...?
You don't exist without money, do you? -in Europe that is. In India the monks did live without money.
The Vinaya describes equally a human society and a state. It is not just about individuals, it presupposes a state, a government, and a society.
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Re: How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby plwk » Fri Feb 04, 2011 3:30 pm

One definition here..... Bhikshu
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Re: How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby Tilopa » Fri Feb 04, 2011 11:49 pm

Thank you for the links, they are most useful. Still I would say that a Monk is, and is not, defined by the Vinaya.
The ancient indian State, indian Government and indian Laws accepted it (Bhikshuhood) to be a legal occupation, a legal livelihood. But let's say, as an imaginary example, that you live somewhere in Europe, like in Britain, France, Germany or elsewhere, and that you have what you call vows of a novice monk, now what do you say in your tax declaration ?
What are your legal sources of income ?
Who is paying your yearly pension fees?
-the health insurance, etc...?
You don't exist without money, do you? -in Europe that is. In India the monks did live without money.

What does it matter? If you've taken the relevant precepts you can label yourself monk. Whether that's novice or fully ordained is probably irrelevant outside the monastic community itself. If you live in the west as a monastic I suppose you do have to think about money, taxes and health insurance in a way that traditional Asian monks and nuns don't but again so what? That's just the conventional reality people have to deal with but is it necessarily a barrier to being a good monk?

The Vinaya describes equally a human society and a state. It is not just about individuals, it presupposes a state, a government, and a society.

I'm not sure this is correct. I think the Vinaya describes the rules for Buddhist monastic communities, not the wider human society or state in which those communities exist.
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Re: How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby Aemilius » Mon Feb 07, 2011 2:37 pm

Tilopa wrote:
Thank you for the links, they are most useful. Still I would say that a Monk is, and is not, defined by the Vinaya.
The ancient indian State, indian Government and indian Laws accepted it (Bhikshuhood) to be a legal occupation, a legal livelihood. But let's say, as an imaginary example, that you live somewhere in Europe, like in Britain, France, Germany or elsewhere, and that you have what you call vows of a novice monk, now what do you say in your tax declaration ?
What are your legal sources of income ?
Who is paying your yearly pension fees?
-the health insurance, etc...?
You don't exist without money, do you? -in Europe that is. In India the monks did live without money.

What does it matter? If you've taken the relevant precepts you can label yourself monk. Whether that's novice or fully ordained is probably irrelevant outside the monastic community itself. If you live in the west as a monastic I suppose you do have to think about money, taxes and health insurance in a way that traditional Asian monks and nuns don't but again so what? That's just the conventional reality people have to deal with but is it necessarily a barrier to being a good monk?

The Vinaya describes equally a human society and a state. It is not just about individuals, it presupposes a state, a government, and a society.

I'm not sure this is correct. I think the Vinaya describes the rules for Buddhist monastic communities, not the wider human society or state in which those communities exist.


It matters very much. Dependent origination means also that you are something only in relation to everything else, like short is true only if there is long, light is true only because there is darkness, and so on... In this context you are a monk in relation to the the rest of the human society, or in relation to non-monks..
All the rules describe behaviour that exists only in the wider human society. Therefore these rules are really defined
in the context of a human society. You can't steal if there is no property, and so on... see? You don't need clothes if everyone is nude, etc...
You should really read the Vinaya books in their original form, they always describe the situations that gave rise to these rules, they are very accurate and valuable, and sometimes also amusing and humorous stories. The links above only give the rules in a condensed form, in the Vinaya books there is ten or twenty times more material to them. Many rules are directly about the society and the demands imposed by the state and the society.
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Re: How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby Aemilius » Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:04 pm

plwk wrote:One definition here..... Bhikshu

Thanks, I appreciate the Dharma Realm.
It is also true that bhikshu or mendicant predates buddhism. Shramanahood and ascetics existed in India when Prince Siddhartha saw his four important visions, ( in which an ascetic is the fourth item).
Bodhisattva Gautama was twice a member in an organisation ascetics.
Having left those organisations he was a free wanderer or an individual shramana. And such seem to have been accepted and supported by the indian society. And also by the indian states, this is evident when the Shramana Gautama meets a king, or other high officials.
Thus we can conclude that the basic principles of the bhikshu organisation are something that Buddha Gautama inherited from the indian society, and from the indian states where it was an accepted form of vocation and livelihood.
When Buddha Gautama taught the first five disciples he didn't have to teach them the rules of vinaya, because they were already familiar with the common principles involved in the lifestyle of a shraman. The rules of vinaya developed later, gradually their number increased more and more.
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Re: How a Monk or a Bhikshu is defined?

Postby CSEe » Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:14 pm

Just sharing my views .

I want to belief base on gossip on Siddharta story on net that he was a monk even before he understood Buddha . So it could be monk with thier unique lifestyle was Mr Siddharta's local culture .
Mr Siddharta maybe was a monk before and after he introduced Buddha to human but I want to belief we should learn from his fear / his search and try to see what he saw BUT NOT to follow hs lifestyle .

He in whole his life is a human to me and as human we all makes mistake .

So monk is a maybe Northern Indian culture exist maybe long before Siddharta time so is limited to a group of people including Mr siddharta-The introducer of Buddha unique way of self exploration in search of thier own Buddha .

Each of us can / will and should have our own way as also the dogs / cat/cows or plant too have thier own way in finding thier Buddha .

I want to belief even Siddharta wish us to belief in our own common sense not solely belief in him .
As I could be ego just to say that in Buddha I can choose to belief what I think is common sense .

Maybe for thousand of years monk could mis-lead Siddharta's finding and wrongly quote Mr Siddharta's finding .
you see ,
I belief before Siddharta found Buddha is common sense to say that he was in extreme fear OF NOT KNOWING on old age/ sick & death but after he found Buddha ,he really understood and he was free of all suffering of not knowing of aging / sickness and death . So ALL SUFFERING OF THESE FEAR SHOULD END AFTER MR SIDDHARTA INTRODUCE BUDDHA TO HUMAN . Why after 2500 years , I still cry on my father funeral , why there are billions people cry on sickness on death and fear aging . Perhaps monk wrongly quote Siddharta finding / mis-leading human ?
Perharp monk / scriptures / text should promote self exploration NOT AS REFERRAL to Buddha .
Lets discuss....sincerely
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