Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Sat Aug 20, 2011 4:30 pm

This is entirely shameless self-promotion, but I penned a brief essay on Saichō's unique monastic reforms. If you're interested please have a look:

https://sites.google.com/site/dharmadep ... os-reforms


:anjali:
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Malcolm » Sat Aug 20, 2011 4:45 pm

Huseng wrote:This is entirely shameless self-promotion, but I penned a brief essay on Saichō's unique monastic reforms. If you're interested please have a look:

https://sites.google.com/site/dharmadep ... os-reforms


:anjali:



Nice article.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Sat Aug 20, 2011 5:06 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Huseng wrote:This is entirely shameless self-promotion, but I penned a brief essay on Saichō's unique monastic reforms. If you're interested please have a look:

https://sites.google.com/site/dharmadep ... os-reforms


:anjali:



Nice article.


Namdrol, what do you think about his reforms? Do you think it wise to relegate the vinaya to a secondary position like he did?
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Malcolm » Sat Aug 20, 2011 5:16 pm

Huseng wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
Huseng wrote:This is entirely shameless self-promotion, but I penned a brief essay on Saichō's unique monastic reforms. If you're interested please have a look:

https://sites.google.com/site/dharmadep ... os-reforms


:anjali:



Nice article.


Namdrol, what do you think about his reforms? Do you think it wise to relegate the vinaya to a secondary position like he did?



Well, no. I think that he did not understand the importance of pratimoksha and did not understand that the consequences of his understanding was to relegate so called monastics to the level of lay people inadvertantly. Because of Saicho, we now have Japanese priests claiming equal status with bhikṣus in Buddhist assemblies just because they shave their heads and wear religious costumes.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Sat Aug 20, 2011 5:27 pm

Namdrol wrote:Well, no. I think that he did not understand the importance of pratimoksha and did not understand that the consequences of his understanding was to relegate so called monastics to the level of lay people inadvertantly. Because of Saicho, we now have Japanese priests claiming equal status with bhikṣus in Buddhist assemblies just because they shave their heads and wear religious costumes.


At least in his time anyway he insisted on celibacy and abstaining from alcohol. The Brahm Net Sutra's precepts prescribe monastic regulations not so different from what a bhiksu would be expected to uphold. That was the case at least when he was alive.

Personally I think even if Japan still had the vinaya it would have went down the route it did. Up until the 19th century most priests were in practice monks, even by law, and it was influence from protestant Christianity that had them drop the whole celibacy thing in favour of hereditary priesthoods. For most Japanese Buddhists precepts are just suggestions, and unless you do something illegal there really are no consequences for deviating from monastic precepts (at least when outside a seminary). I mean technically if you get the Brahma Net Sutra precepts you're swearing yourself to celibacy, though they read it as "no sexual misconduct" which can mean anything really.

I guess it doesn't help that everyone is aware the said sutra was probably penned in China, meaning there is less perceived need to follow any of what it says, even if your whole tradition is founded on it.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Malcolm » Sat Aug 20, 2011 5:37 pm

Huseng wrote:
Namdrol wrote:Well, no. I think that he did not understand the importance of pratimoksha and did not understand that the consequences of his understanding was to relegate so called monastics to the level of lay people inadvertantly. Because of Saicho, we now have Japanese priests claiming equal status with bhikṣus in Buddhist assemblies just because they shave their heads and wear religious costumes.


At least in his time anyway he insisted on celibacy and abstaining from alcohol. The Brahm Net Sutra's precepts prescribe monastic regulations not so different from what a bhiksu would be expected to uphold. That was the case at least when he was alive.

Personally I think even if Japan still had the vinaya it would have went down the route it did. Up until the 19th century most priests were in practice monks, even by law, and it was influence from protestant Christianity that had them drop the whole celibacy thing in favour of hereditary priesthoods. For most Japanese Buddhists precepts are just suggestions, and unless you do something illegal there really are no consequences for deviating from monastic precepts (at least when outside a seminary). I mean technically if you get the Brahma Net Sutra precepts you're swearing yourself to celibacy, though they read it as "no sexual misconduct" which can mean anything really.

I guess it doesn't help that everyone is aware the said sutra was probably penned in China, meaning there is less perceived need to follow any of what it says, even if your whole tradition is founded on it.


The Brahmajala sutra is clearly based on the Yogacara bodhisattva vow tradition which is more formal and more heavily predicated on pratimoksha than the Madhyamaka bodhisattva vow tradition. According to Bhikshu Dharmamitra, in Chinese Buddhism one was not really permitted to take the bodhisattva ordination without being grounded in pratimoksha vows first, which is how the Yogacahara system works. The Madhyamaka system does not require a preliminary ordination. Lay pratimoksha vows are taken along with bodhisattva vows.

However, not drinking and remaining celibate does not make a one monk, nor does a shaved head. The only thing that makes a bhikṣu is receiving bhikṣu vows in a qualified way, as I am sure you agree.

Since there are no Mahāyāna bhikṣu vows, receiving a Mahāyāna ordination cannot make one a monk, in my opinion. Of course, this is a thoroughly Indo-Tibetan attitude.

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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Sat Aug 20, 2011 6:12 pm

Namdrol wrote: According to Bhikshu Dharmamitra, in Chinese Buddhism one was not really permitted to take the bodhisattva ordination without being grounded in pratimoksha vows first, which is how the Yogacahara system works. The Madhyamaka system does not require a preliminary ordination. Lay pratimoksha vows are taken along with bodhisattva vows.


Strictly speaking the precepts in the Brahma Net Sutra are available to anyone, including the laity and in theory non-humans. If one has no preceptor, one may practise confession until auspicious signs appear, whereupon one is a suitable vessel to recite and receive the precepts from "non-manifest preceptors" (the Buddhas of the Ten Directions and select Bodhisattvas). This isn't restricted to bhikṣus.

In practice though many traditions only give certain bodhisattva precepts to the laity, and not the full set. It is perhaps unrealistic to expect married devotees to take celibacy vows.


However, not drinking and remaining celibate does not make a one monk, nor does a shaved head. The only thing that makes a bhikṣu is receiving bhikṣu vows in a qualified way, as I am sure you agree.


In East Asia a "bhikṣu" and a "seng" 僧 are not necessarily one and the same in practice. Saichō (767–822) got his ideas from the mainland, from authors like Mingkuang and others. According to the Vinaya Master Daoxuan in the 7th century there were already people rejecting the śrāvaka vinaya. See the following quote by him:

《四分律刪繁補闕行事鈔》卷2:「今時不知教者。多自毀傷云。此戒律所禁止。是聲聞之法。於我大乘棄同糞土。猶如黃葉木牛木馬誑止小兒。此之戒法亦復如是。誑汝聲聞子也。」(CBETA, T40, no. 1804, p. 49, b27-c1)

In present times many of those who do not know the teachings destroy and injure themselves saying,"These vinaya prohibitions are a śrāvaka teaching. In our Mahāyāna we toss it away just like dirty soil. Just like yellow leaves, a wooden cow or a wooden horse deceive a little child, these precept teachings are like this. They deceive you little śrāvaka!"


However, for various reasons this line of thinking died out as the state demanded all monastics follow the vinaya. This did not of course stop some from flagrantly breaking many of their precepts, like calling booze as "prajñā soup" (般若湯).

Anyway, again a "bhikṣu" and a "seng" 僧 were not necessarily the same in practice. Saichō assumed that a "bodhisattva renunciate" (出家菩薩) was just as much a "monk" or "seng" 僧 as a śrāvaka bhikṣu. Keep in mind his mind the Brahma Net Sutra was just as legitimate as any vinaya. They had no concept of a "historical Buddha", so such a scripture was indeed regarded as true golden words of the Buddha.

Perhaps in his time it worked out, particularly if he could insist his disciples remain isolated on the mountain for the first twelve years of their monastic career. His argument was also derived from the Lotus Sutra which insisted bodhisattva aspirants stay away from anyone having anything to do with the Hīnayāna, which would mean anyone holding a Hīnayāna vinaya ordination. Saichō wasn't being arbitrary as he was citing scriptures to support his reforms.

Since there are no Mahāyāna bhikṣu vows, receiving a Mahāyāna ordination cannot make one a monk, in my opinion. Of course, this is a thoroughly Indo-Tibetan attitude.


This is indeed because bhikṣu is equated to monk in English, but the language parameters are different in Chinese and Japanese. For example a Japanese priest, a Theravada bhikkhu and a Chinese bhikṣu are all called obou-san in Japanese and senglv in Chinese.

Anyway, clearly now the system doesn't work in the way Saichō prescribed, but perhaps in the 9th century such a monastic model worked.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Malcolm » Sat Aug 20, 2011 6:26 pm

Huseng wrote:
This is indeed because bhikṣu is equated to monk in English, but the language parameters are different in Chinese and Japanese. For example a Japanese priest, a Theravada bhikkhu and a Chinese bhikṣu are all called obou-san in Japanese and senglv in Chinese.



Right, and this is source of confusion for many people.

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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Sat Aug 20, 2011 6:30 pm

Namdrol wrote:Right, and this is source of confusion for many people.

N


In Tibetan a Lama is not necessarily a celibate monk, right?
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Malcolm » Sat Aug 20, 2011 6:37 pm

Huseng wrote:
Namdrol wrote:Right, and this is source of confusion for many people.

N


In Tibetan a Lama is not necessarily a celibate monk, right?


Yes, but there is a clear distinction between lay and ordained lamas since lama means "guru". Not all lamas are bhikṣus (dge long) and not all bhikṣus are lamas.

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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Sat Aug 20, 2011 6:45 pm

Namdrol wrote:Yes, but there is a clear distinction between lay and ordained lamas since lama means "guru". Not all lamas are bhikṣus (dge long) and not all bhikṣus are lamas.

N


I was told that Tibetan "monks" are not necessarily all bhikṣus, and that, at least around Kathmandu, most of them are not fully ordained bhikṣus with the 250 vows.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Malcolm » Sat Aug 20, 2011 6:58 pm

Huseng wrote:
Namdrol wrote:Yes, but there is a clear distinction between lay and ordained lamas since lama means "guru". Not all lamas are bhikṣus (dge long) and not all bhikṣus are lamas.

N


I was told that Tibetan "monks" are not necessarily all bhikṣus, and that, at least around Kathmandu, most of them are not fully ordained bhikṣus with the 250 vows.



These are dge tshuls, śramaṇeras. They are rab byungs i.e. pravrajitas, ordained persons. They are therefore part of the ordained Sangha and can participate in posadha. Pravrajitas consist of all śramaṇeras and śramaṇerikas, bhikṣus and bhikṣunis.

Thus the term "rab byung" refers to all ordained persons. The colloquial term is "Trapa" i.e. shaveling.

A pravrajita is someone who has undertaken formal ordination beyond lay pratimoksha. But there is no such a thing as a Mahāyāna pravrajita at least not in any Indian Buddhist tradition with which I am familiar. The reason is that Indian Buddhists held that Mahāyāna vows were held to supplement or transform one's pratimoksha vows, but not that they substituted for them, as it seems some Chinese Buddhists and later Saicho held.

The literature of vows became very important in India after the 8th century because with the proliferation of systems of ethics between various of the shravaka schools, then in the two strands of Mahāyāna vows and finally within the successive layers of tantra series, it all started to become contentious and confusing. Nevertheless, Mahāyāna and later Vajrayāna vows were considered to float on the platform of Hinayāna vows which were considered indispensible.

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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Jikan » Sun Aug 21, 2011 12:34 am

It was strictly a political move on Saicho's part. He needed a reason to justify support for yet another Buddhist venture by the court. The ordination platform was his ruse. Some have suggested (Paul Groner if I remember right) that Saicho intended for the vinaya to be reintroduced at a later date.

Chalk it up to an attempt at upaya.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Sun Aug 21, 2011 8:39 am

Jikan wrote:It was strictly a political move on Saicho's part. He needed a reason to justify support for yet another Buddhist venture by the court. The ordination platform was his ruse. Some have suggested (Paul Groner if I remember right) that Saicho intended for the vinaya to be reintroduced at a later date.

Chalk it up to an attempt at upaya.


I don't think it can be called strictly a political move. He wrote way too much material supporting and defending his position and moreover there are Chinese sources on the mainland which advocated the same thing. Is there any mention at all in his works that he would later reintroduce the vinaya? Again, by his own admission he didn't see the vinaya as desirable or even necessary. Junior ordinands receive the bodhisattva precepts and only after twelve years of training in isolation on Mount Hiei may they "provisionally receive" the vinaya vows.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Jikan » Sun Aug 21, 2011 2:42 pm

I don't know of any source indicating that Saicho intended to reintroduce the Vinaya (and I have good reason to be skeptical about this myself... not sure why I brought it up actually). And you're correct that Saicho was following a Chinese precedent. But why did he make this move? Think in TienTai terms: he was working expediently (upaya).

Where does the vinaya fall in the TienTai classification of the teachings? One could argue that the Brahma Net Sutra precepts are embedded in or are more amenable to an Ekayana view than the vinaya.

Namdrol's correct on the contemporary consequences of this move, several centuries after. If you compare today's practice of shaving your head and calling yourself a Punk Roshi or whatever on the basis of inherent enlightenment post-Tendai rhetoric and doctrine (ultimately in all the single-practice schools, not just Soto Zen) to the twelve-year pedagogy Saicho demanded of his disciples... you might struggle to blame Saicho for those contemporary excesses. This would be like blaming Guru Padmasambhava for Aro gTer, which is clearly beyond the intention of the ngakpa tradition.

Finally, I'm really not sure why so many English-speaking Buddhists are hung up on the word "monk" as a descriptor for people who hold some kind of vows are not bhikshus or bhikshunis. Insecurity? Attachment? Habit?
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Malcolm » Sun Aug 21, 2011 3:05 pm

Jikan wrote:
Where does the vinaya fall in the TienTai classification of the teachings? One could argue that the Brahma Net Sutra precepts are embedded in or are more amenable to an Ekayana view than the vinaya.


Alternately, Saicho may have been reacting against the newly imported Indian Mantrayāna sense of listing teachings in terms of their hierarchy (just as Chan reacted to Mantrayāna by inventing a lineage of patriarchs going back to the Buddha). While Kukai did not resort to the Nine Yanas scheme (yet to be elaborated by the Nyingmapas) both masters (Saicho and Kukai) were clearly aware of the four tenet system in India and the subsequent need to classify Chinese innovations in a progressive scheme, albeit differently and for different reasons. And naturally Kukai selected a nice round number for his progressive ladder of Buddhist and non-Buddhist teachings in China and Japan, with Confucism and Taoism at the bottomg of the rungs.

Kukai's "mantrayāna as the conclusion of all dharma teachings" is one alternative; Saicho's attempting to contextualize all teachings in light of Tien Tai Lotus hermeneutics is another. Of these two, Kukai's approach is ultimately the more Indian Buddhist, and Saicho's more reflective of indegenous developments in Chinese Buddhism.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Sun Aug 21, 2011 7:13 pm

Jikan wrote:I don't know of any source indicating that Saicho intended to reintroduce the Vinaya (and I have good reason to be skeptical about this myself... not sure why I brought it up actually). And you're correct that Saicho was following a Chinese precedent. But why did he make this move? Think in TienTai terms: he was working expediently (upaya).


Judging from his own writings I would say he thought it best for junior Mahāyāna ordinands to avoid anything that could be called Hīnayāna as per the injunction he quoted from the Lotus Sūtra. I think he realized this would be politically detrimental and indeed it was what with the criticism he received. He did not even live to see official sanction for his reforms. I think he was acting in a way he felt would be best for his disciples. He probably had such ideas already while studying abroad on the mainland.

Ennin his disciple also went over to China for a few years (even lived through the great oppression of 845 and reported on it with firsthand observations) and recorded encountering monks who also knew Saichō. They spoke well of him. I'm unaware if mainland Tiantai supported such a system of ordination, but as far as I know the government at the time was insistent upon the vinaya, but upon returning home Saichō was free from such restraints.



Namdrol's correct on the contemporary consequences of this move, several centuries after. If you compare today's practice of shaving your head and calling yourself a Punk Roshi or whatever on the basis of inherent enlightenment post-Tendai rhetoric and doctrine (ultimately in all the single-practice schools, not just Soto Zen) to the twelve-year pedagogy Saicho demanded of his disciples... you might struggle to blame Saicho for those contemporary excesses. This would be like blaming Guru Padmasambhava for Aro gTer, which is clearly beyond the intention of the ngakpa tradition.


Tibetan Buddhism despite supporting both vinaya ordinations and various systems of precepts still has negligent and corrupt monastics. Likewise in Theravada. They don't have the same problems as Japanese Buddhism does, but they have their own set of unique problems to deal with. I will say however that the Japanese system is leading to a rapid decline. There is less and less interest in the religious theatre performed by priests for a handsome personal profit, and people have less money to spend anyway, leading to an economic decline, which will ensure closure of temples. When hereditary priests realize there is no more money to be made, or more money to be made elsewhere, a lot of them will just quit. I know some who ordained and go through seminary just because it is a family obligation when in reality they want to work in a company and lead an ordinary life.

Even some Buddhist universities are suffering financial problems. Komazawa (Soto Zen) made a lot of bad investments that went sour in 2008. They had to increase the yearly enrolment to cover that loss. Koyasan University has a shortage of people enrolling, which lead to the bank issuing a statement of concern that they wouldn't be able to meet their financial obligations.

The hereditary system is a catastrophic failure for Buddhism in Japan. It really turned the whole religion into a fossilized tradition of religious theatre and commercial funeral services (such services ain't cheap). Now the demand for such services is in rapid decline the whole thing is crumbling. I don't think Mount Hiei will be converted into condos anytime soon, but in the coming decades Buddhism in Japan will mostly just be the head temples and a few other historical places which serve as tourist attractions and community graveyards.

I think having celibate monks prevents this kind of thing as the temples would be passed down from master to disciple, which in such a case would mean an individual who presumably ordained because they wanted to live such a lifestyle and served their master well enough to merit inheriting the temple. Moreover, such properties would not be private, but held in trust by the greater community, hence little incentive to turn it into a funeral service business.

That being said, though, in Saichō's system the monks are expected to be celibate and unmarried. This is clearly not being followed anymore.


Finally, I'm really not sure why so many English-speaking Buddhists are hung up on the word "monk" as a descriptor for people who hold some kind of vows are not bhikshus or bhikshunis. Insecurity? Attachment? Habit?


I think the problem stems from a few decades ago when you had Zen practitioners calling themselves monks, meanwhile they charge for their retreats, are married, have kids, drink alcohol and own private property...

Obviously the word "monk" is not by default a bhikṣu. The history of the word:

O.E. munuc, from P.Gmc. *muniko- (cf. O.Fris. munek, M.Du. monic, O.H.G. munih, Ger. Mönch), an early borrowing from V.L. *monicus (cf. Fr. moine, Sp. monje, It. monaco), from L.L. monachus "monk," originally "religious hermit," from Late Gk. monakhos "monk," noun use of a classical Gk. adj. meaning "solitary," from monos "alone" (see mono-).

In England, before the Reformation, the term was not applied to the members of the mendicant orders, who were always called friars. From the 16th c. to the 19th c., however, it was usual to speak of the friars as a class of monks. In recent times the distinction between the terms has been carefully observed by well-informed writers. In Fr. and Ger. the equivalent of monk is applied equally to 'monks' and 'friars.' [OED]


Not all bhikṣus live in isolation as hermits obviously.

Also, the word bhikṣu in Buddhism means one who has ordained via the vinaya, but then there are several. Clearly in ancient India there were differing opinions on how a bhikṣu was to behave. The Buddha also gave permission for the vinaya to be reformed if need be.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Sun Aug 21, 2011 7:19 pm

Namdrol wrote:Kukai's "mantrayāna as the conclusion of all dharma teachings" is one alternative; Saicho's attempting to contextualize all teachings in light of Tien Tai Lotus hermeneutics is another. Of these two, Kukai's approach is ultimately the more Indian Buddhist, and Saicho's more reflective of indegenous developments in Chinese Buddhism.


This makes sense. Saichō was trained in Tiantai, a largely indigeneous development on Buddhadharma. Kukai on the other hand trained under Huiguo, who was a direct disciple of the Indian Amoghavajra. Curiously Amoghavajra was a Central Asian from Samarkand, not India proper.

Mantrayāna was also only really introduced into China around the 8th century, while Tiantai started with Zhiyi in the 6th century.
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Indrajala
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Malcolm » Sun Aug 21, 2011 7:24 pm

Huseng wrote:Curiously Amoghavajra was a Central Asian from Samarkand, not India proper.
.


Vajrabodhi, his teacher, was educated in India.
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Re: Saichō's Monastic Reforms

Postby Indrajala » Sun Aug 21, 2011 7:25 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Huseng wrote:Curiously Amoghavajra was a Central Asian from Samarkand, not India proper.
.


Vajrabodhi, his teacher, was educated in India.


That's true. Still Kukai, Huiguo, Amoghavajra, Vajrabodhi ... several generations removed from India proper.
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