Self-Ordained Monks

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Self-Ordained Monks

Postby ananda » Fri Aug 12, 2011 8:18 am

Found an article on self-ordained monks anyone know more the subject ?
http://homepage.mac.com/kemlo/Mukyoho/page27/page27.ht

Hi I just noticed that the link wasn't working so here it is again if all else fails then simply google self-ordained monks
http://homepage.mac.com/kemlo/Mukyoho/p ... age27.html
Last edited by ananda on Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby Jikan » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:11 pm

Hi Ananda,

That link doesn't seem to be working. Would you please post it again?

To your question though: there are no self-ordained monks in Buddhism. It's a contradiction in terms. Check this out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinaya
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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby simhanada » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:24 pm

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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby Indrajala » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:29 pm

Jikan wrote:Hi Ananda,

That link doesn't seem to be working. Would you please post it again?

To your question though: there are no self-ordained monks in Buddhism. It's a contradiction in terms. Check this out:

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


That's not entirely true. In East Asia it used to be the case one could self-ordain.There is some Mahāyāna literature that supports this idea.

It became a problem in ancient Japan where monks were tax and labour exempt, so they clamped down and demanded ordination documentation from everyone wearing robes. Keep in mind, too, around the Tang Dynasty both in China and Japan there were voices calling for the abandonment of the śrāvaka vinaya, to be replaced with an updated Mahāyāna version. Saichō himself rejected the vinaya in favour of a Mahāyāna rule set for monks, which became standard in much of Japan. He got his ideas from the mainland. For various reasons such a Mahāyāna ordination system fell out of favour in China and they maintained, and still maintain, the śrāvaka vinaya.

I used to disagree with Saichō's ideas on the matter, but I read the work of a certain Tiantai author in the Tang Dynasty named Mingkuang 明曠 who hinted at the same idea. The Buddha himself as scriptures tell us gave permission for the sangha to modify the vinaya accordingly and to do away with the minor rules. Therefore provided the main rules are maintained (such as celibacy, non-violence and so on...), is it really necessary to maintain rules that only made sense in ancient India? Saichō was actually quite innovative and progressive by offering up an updated version of the disciplinary rule set. The problem, however, is that the Buddhist world does not necessarily accept such an updated set of rules, even though it may be in spirit not divorced from the spirit of the numerous vinaya systems compiled in India.
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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby Jikan » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:45 pm

That's an important point historically and doctrinally, Huseng. How many exceptions to that rule exist at present? There are many new and emerging forms of lay practice, but how many self-ordained practitioners are accepted as legitimate monastics within any Dharma community at present? Surely this is very, very rare. One is much more likely to encounter cases like this: http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=64&t=3949
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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby Indrajala » Fri Aug 12, 2011 3:05 pm

Jikan wrote:That's an important point historically and doctrinally, Huseng. How many exceptions to that rule exist at present? There are many new and emerging forms of lay practice, but how many self-ordained practitioners are accepted as legitimate monastics within any Dharma community at present? Surely this is very, very rare. One is much more likely to encounter cases like this: http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=64&t=3949


According to the Brahma Net Sūtra 梵網経 one can, provided no suitable preceptor is available, do confession practices until signs appear, upon which one is a suitable vessel to receive the precepts, and therefore recites the precepts and thus receives them. The text states anyone, be they man, woman or slave, may receive the precepts, which generally include all the important rules that you would find in the vinaya such as celibacy and abstaining from violence, alcohol and music. Strictly speaking any valid preceptor is obligated to transmit the precepts if anyone comes asking, though in my experience so far I've never seen it actually work that.

So, technically if we consider the said sūtra as valid, we also can accept the existence of self-ordained monks, though in English we tend to call non-vinaya practitioners of this sort as "priests", though in East Asian languages this distinction is not made. A Theravada bhikkhu and a Japanese priest are both still called senglv or souryo 僧侶 in Chinese and Japanese respectively. However, in the west there is little knowledge of the vinaya, so the word "monk" is generally applied to anyone wearing robes and proclaiming themselves Buddhist.

There may be no physical preceptor behind such an ordination, but according to the text it is just as valid as if they did have a real person transmitting the precepts. Whether you accept their vision as a legitimate sign from the Buddhas of the ten directions that such a transmission took place or not is up to you. In history however it was generally not accepted because of the state and Buddhism being so closely tied. A self-ordained monk defied the rules of the state which sought to manage for themselves the sangha so as to prevent too many individuals from escaping mandatory civil service, which in ancient Japan and China would have been construction and agriculture.

I can see the value, especially having lived in Japan for three years, in a strict system of monastic rules, but then on the other hand it can lead to something akin to legal wrangling where there is all too much attachment to minor rules of the vinaya which only made sense in ancient India. Most of the rules were kind of "house rules" that were designed with young males between the ages of fifteen and thirty in mind. There were also a lot of crazies who ordained under the Buddha and as a result prohibitions on various activities were made only because of them. For example there is a prohibition in the Dharmagupta vinaya against bestiality because one crazy monk offered some food to a female monkey and then proceeded to rape her. As the vinaya explains this monk developed a relationship with the monkey where he would feed her in exchange for food. The other monks did not know if this violated the rules concerning sexual activity or not, so they went to the Buddha to ask. Of course he laid down the rule and said bestiality was forbidden.

This just goes to show you how some crazies signed up for the early sangha and as a result many many rules had to be laid down as a result.
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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby Astus » Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:23 pm

Huseng wrote:This just goes to show you how some crazies signed up for the early sangha and as a result many many rules had to be laid down as a result.


Many such cases in the Vinaya were invented by the writers rather then actual cases remembered by tradition. See on this Bernard Faure's "The Red Thread", first few chapters where he discusses Vinaya.
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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby Indrajala » Fri Aug 12, 2011 5:16 pm

Astus wrote:
Huseng wrote:This just goes to show you how some crazies signed up for the early sangha and as a result many many rules had to be laid down as a result.


Many such cases in the Vinaya were invented by the writers rather then actual cases remembered by tradition. See on this Bernard Faure's "The Red Thread", first few chapters where he discusses Vinaya.


I'll have to look into Faure's work on the matter. Thanks.

Though this goes to show you that strict adherence to the vinaya is not only unnecessary, but not necessarily based entirely on what the Buddha prescribed and prohibited. There are of course several renditions of the vinaya, so sorting out which one is right will be problematic.
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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby rory » Sat Aug 13, 2011 7:59 am

I second Astus' recommendation of Faure's "The Red Thread" - an excellent book, with a lot to say about misogyny. I regard Honen and Shinran and some other monks as the tiny few who cared actively about women. Look at the bikkuni debate in Thailand, pretty sad to see so many clinging to forms over substance. But then, as in most orgs it's about power and prestige.
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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby Indrajala » Sat Aug 13, 2011 9:49 am

rory wrote:I second Astus' recommendation of Faure's "The Red Thread" - an excellent book, with a lot to say about misogyny. I regard Honen and Shinran and some other monks as the tiny few who cared actively about women. Look at the bikkuni debate in Thailand, pretty sad to see so many clinging to forms over substance. But then, as in most orgs it's about power and prestige.
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The problem with Thailand is the monasteries are not just for renunciates, but also for those in need of social assistance and those doing their cultural duty of being a monk for a bit. If you introduce women into that system in a large way it might prove unsustainable.

It doesn't justify the resistance to ordaining nuns, but it does help in explaining it somewhat.
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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby cj39 » Mon Oct 17, 2011 1:13 am

Huseng wrote:
Jikan wrote:Strictly speaking any valid preceptor is obligated to transmit the precepts if anyone comes asking, though in my experience so far I've never seen it actually work that.


I was actually just wondering this today, what actually makes a valid preceptor? Does one have to have the authorization from the one gave the precepts to pass them on or does that come with receiving the precepts themselves? And how does this relate to authorization to teach, if at all? This has a been a bit of a gray area for me and I am not sure how it all actually works, either in theory or practice.
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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby Huifeng » Mon Oct 17, 2011 4:49 am

cj39 wrote:
Huseng wrote:
Jikan wrote:Strictly speaking any valid preceptor is obligated to transmit the precepts if anyone comes asking, though in my experience so far I've never seen it actually work that.


I was actually just wondering this today, what actually makes a valid preceptor? Does one have to have the authorization from the one gave the precepts to pass them on or does that come with receiving the precepts themselves? And how does this relate to authorization to teach, if at all? This has a been a bit of a gray area for me and I am not sure how it all actually works, either in theory or practice.
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10 years of full ordination (varsa), with no breaches of the major precepts. Pretty simple, really.
Not really any formal such thing as "authorization to teach" in the first 1000 yrs of Buddhism.

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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby Indrajala » Sun Nov 20, 2011 6:37 am

cj39 wrote:
Huseng wrote:
Jikan wrote:Strictly speaking any valid preceptor is obligated to transmit the precepts if anyone comes asking, though in my experience so far I've never seen it actually work that.


I was actually just wondering this today, what actually makes a valid preceptor? Does one have to have the authorization from the one gave the precepts to pass them on or does that come with receiving the precepts themselves? And how does this relate to authorization to teach, if at all? This has a been a bit of a gray area for me and I am not sure how it all actually works, either in theory or practice.
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Venerable Huifeng explained the vinaya, but with East Asian Bodhisattva precepts the text says anyone with the precepts may transmit them to anyone who should request them (man, woman, slave, etc...).
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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby Huifeng » Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:56 am

Huseng wrote:
Venerable Huifeng explained the vinaya, but with East Asian Bodhisattva precepts the text says anyone with the precepts may transmit them to anyone who should request them (man, woman, slave, etc...).


Note (just in case anyone missed it): Huseng's comment is with respect to the bodhisattva precepts, my comment, and what I understood to be of the original post, was with respect to the bhiksu/ni precepts. Two distinct issues.

I also know that Huseng is well aware of this, and was offering it as point of comparison.

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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby Will » Wed Nov 23, 2011 4:14 pm

Off the precise topic, but did you know that these lay precepts, 6 major & 28 minor are still being given? The preparation for, and qualifications for taking them are serious and extensive. I doubt many moderns could pass these ethical tests or even want to. And these are just upasaka precepts.

Study chapter 14: http://www.sutrasmantras.info/sutra33c.html
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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby Indrajala » Sat Nov 26, 2011 8:07 am

Will wrote:Off the precise topic, but did you know that these lay precepts, 6 major & 28 minor are still being given? The preparation for, and qualifications for taking them are serious and extensive. I doubt many moderns could pass these ethical tests or even want to. And these are just upasaka precepts.

Study chapter 14: http://www.sutrasmantras.info/sutra33c.html


In my research of precepts and Buddhist ethics in history, I found it easy to conclude that, in reality, monastic or lay most Buddhists don't follow all the precepts they take on. More often than not you have a few vinaya proponents who condemn with harsh language everyone else who doesn't live up to the same standard they do and precepts just become one huge ego trip.

Don't come under the illusion that in the past people were somehow more pure with their precepts. They weren't. The vinaya master Daoxuan in his biographies of eminent monks was very harsh in his criticism of various monastics who didn't care much for upholding to the letter the vinaya. Huayan Fazang also took a very practical approach to bodhisattva precepts and even under certain conditions permitted state sanctioned violence against dissidents. He called it "taming sentient beings".

See this:

https://sites.google.com/site/dharmadep ... nd-slavery

If you go all the way back to the first sangha and read the accounts given in the vinaya, you read of a monk getting wasted on liquor and passing out despite being a yogi capable of placating a great evil naga. At that point there was no prohibition against alcohol, but even in the early sangha you still had a lot of misfits and in some cases crazies (there is a prohibition against bestiality for a reason).
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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby ground » Sat Nov 26, 2011 8:53 am

So is there a "certificate of renunciation" or shall we renounce even that?

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Re: Self-Ordained Monks

Postby Indrajala » Tue Nov 29, 2011 5:45 am

TMingyur wrote:So is there a "certificate of renunciation" or shall we renounce even that?

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Technically most traditions issue paperwork certifying that you are a renunciate.

That's often a part of formal paperwork when dealing with one's government.

Renunciation from samsara is the point of Buddhism and you don't need to have a certificate to make this one's own personal goal.
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