If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

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If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby Indrajala » Sat Feb 27, 2010 5:43 am

Some time ago I was invited by a group of Japanese priests to go to a year-end drinking party. :cheers:

I politely declined and one said, "Well, if you change your mind give me a call."

Now, here is the question:

Is it better to remain silent, or to remind them that their drinking is inappropriate and contrary to the Buddha's teachings? :rules:

One thing that complicates things is that most Soto priests (they were all Soto I think) it seems don't take a precept specifically stating they are not to consume alcohol, but rather it states not to engage in the sale of alcohol. On the other hand, I was speaking to one fellow and he said he thinks as a youth he took Bodhisattva precepts which specifically designate the consumption of alcohol as inappropriate.

In any case, the Buddha and most of Japan's Buddhist leaders in history all instructed their disciples to refrain from alcohol consumption.

I think they're aware of this, but truth be told if a Japanese priest were to refrain from alcohol for religious reasons they'd probably be made a mockery of. Peer pressure seems to demand that they drink, get married and eat meat. If they don't they'll be thought of as a weirdo or something. It is really ironic that doing a lot of things contrary to what the Buddha taught is indeed readily encouraged.

I just have the standard five precepts. One of my colleagues even grinned once when consumption of alcohol was brought up in a conversation, jokingly saying, "Jeff is keeping his precepts". I generally keep silent, but sometimes I feel the need to remind them that as representatives of the sangha, be they bhiksu or not, they probably should behave a bit better.

I'm in no position of respect or authority, so I think anything I say would fall on deaf ears even if I point to the scriptures or in their case the actual writings of Dogen.

It just pains me to see how Japanese Buddhism is doing a nose dive into the cement.
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Feb 27, 2010 5:57 am

Greetings Huseng,

Huseng wrote:Is it better to remain silent, or to remind them that their drinking is inappropriate and contrary to the Buddha's teachings? :rules:


I would remain silent, and not accept their invitation.

Surely they know at some level it is not right, and being told this by someone who is not their teacher or one of their peers will create only discord.

Maintain your own sila, and let them face the consequences of their lack of it.

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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby Indrajala » Sat Feb 27, 2010 6:01 am

Hi retro :spy:

On the other hand there is this secondary precept in the Brahma Net Sutra:

5. On Not Teaching Repentance

If a disciple of the Buddha should see any being violate the Five Precepts, the Eight Precepts, the Ten Precepts, other prohibitions, or commit any of the Seven Cardinal Sins or any offense which leads to the Eight Adversities -- any violations of the precepts whatever -- he should counsel the offender to repent and reform. (46)

Hence, if a Bodhisattva does not do so and furthermore continues to live together in the assembly with the offender, share in the offerings of the laity, participate in the same Uposatha ceremony (47) and recite the precepts -- while failing to bring up that person's offense, enjoining him to repent -- the disciple commits a secondary offense.



I think one is justified in politely reminding them of certain commitments, though silence is perhaps preferable in many cases.
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Feb 27, 2010 6:15 am

Greetings Huseng,

I suppose it's complicated also by the fact that they are priests and you are not.

Many things for you to take into account!

Best wishes for whatever action you deem most suitable.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby Huifeng » Sat Feb 27, 2010 7:11 am

Huseng wrote:Some time ago I was invited by a group of Japanese priests to go to a year-end drinking party. :cheers:

I politely declined and one said, "Well, if you change your mind give me a call."

Now, here is the question:

Is it better to remain silent, or to remind them that their drinking is inappropriate and contrary to the Buddha's teachings? :rules:


First, ask yourself:
Am I myself absolutely rock-solid in regard to this precept?
Can I express it in a manner that will not cause anger?
Can I express it in a manner that will help them transform?
Can I express it in a manner without pride or conceit when I so speak?

If you have a firm "YES!" to all of these, then, maybe ... carefully ...

One thing that complicates things is that most Soto priests (they were all Soto I think) it seems don't take a precept specifically stating they are not to consume alcohol, but rather it states not to engage in the sale of alcohol. On the other hand, I was speaking to one fellow and he said he thinks as a youth he took Bodhisattva precepts which specifically designate the consumption of alcohol as inappropriate.


On one hand, the actually precept statement is important.
On the other hand, the spirit of the precepts is probably more important.

In any case, the Buddha and most of Japan's Buddhist leaders in history all instructed their disciples to refrain from alcohol consumption.


Then maybe you should think about becoming a Japanese Buddhist leader. It'll take some doing.

I think they're aware of this, but truth be told if a Japanese priest were to refrain from alcohol for religious reasons they'd probably be made a mockery of. Peer pressure seems to demand that they drink, get married and eat meat. If they don't they'll be thought of as a weirdo or something. It is really ironic that doing a lot of things contrary to what the Buddha taught is indeed readily encouraged.


Teach by example. What if, for instance, you stated this ... and then 5 years later you end up married? Can you guarantee that this will not happen?

I just have the standard five precepts. One of my colleagues even grinned once when consumption of alcohol was brought up in a conversation, jokingly saying, "Jeff is keeping his precepts". I generally keep silent, but sometimes I feel the need to remind them that as representatives of the sangha, be they bhiksu or not, they probably should behave a bit better.


Well, they are not bhiksus to begin with, but have bodhisattva precepts. Teach by example.

I'm in no position of respect or authority, so I think anything I say would fall on deaf ears even if I point to the scriptures or in their case the actual writings of Dogen.

It just pains me to see how Japanese Buddhism is doing a nose dive into the cement.


Then work on that position of respect and authority. Then you may roar the lion's roar, and frighten the jackals of the Dharmic jungle.

All the best. Make sure to protect yourself, well, first, before engaging in bodhisattvic feats of teaching.
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby Indrajala » Sat Feb 27, 2010 11:09 am

Venerable :smile:

On one hand, the actually precept statement is important.
On the other hand, the spirit of the precepts is probably more important.



Do think alcohol consumption and meat eating can be justified for the sake of leisure and fellowship?

I understand vegetarianism and abstaining from alcohol have been casually tossed out the window from time to time in various East Asian countries (I'm sure you know about prajna soup 般若湯), but even if the historical precedent for ignoring such precepts is there, I don't think it is justified.


Then maybe you should think about becoming a Japanese Buddhist leader. It'll take some doing.


I don't want to sound pessimistic, but I honestly don't know if anything can be done. One Japanese bhiksu I know (he was ordained in India) told me in no uncertain terms he thinks Japanese Buddhism will die out, but that new forms will come to be.

I've been shocked more than a few times also with some priests' lack of knowledge.

I kid you not -- at a dinner party one Soto priest with a glass of red wine in one hand insisted that Buddha was agnostic about rebirth. He doesn't believe in rebirth and he has the freedom to think as he will, but insisting Buddha denied rebirth might as well be slandering the tathagata. This guy is also an MA student and will go overseas soon and probably start teaching. Worse yet he remarked that some professor has been going around teaching the same thing to students!

We'll see what the future holds. :sage:


Teach by example. What if, for instance, you stated this ... and then 5 years later you end up married? Can you guarantee that this will not happen?



I'm not the one in robes (then again most of the time neither are they).


Then work on that position of respect and authority. Then you may roar the lion's roar, and frighten the jackals of the Dharmic jungle.

All the best. Make sure to protect yourself, well, first, before engaging in bodhisattvic feats of teaching.


Well, if I can't help, then the next best thing is to not harm anyone. Still, it is disappointing when I see what is going on and the foreseeable future. It hurts to see the Buddha's teaching in decay.
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby plwk » Sat Feb 27, 2010 11:09 am

Ah huseng...
What Ven Huifeng and retro have pointed out has wisdom in it and this situation is another good reminder of one that I myself have experienced many many years ago...when I was a volunteer with one temple...

A certain young shramanerika had just joined the temple. One night, after a long week of activities, the temple's lay helpers and workers decided to 'chill out' and it was around 11:30pm-midnight...
When this shramanerika heard about the plan, she too wanted to join the gang and among reasons cited were 'fellowship and boredom' and they agreed to include her in. When I heard that, I was apprehensive as I was told of certain monastic rules involved on monastics going out at 'unseeming hours' but could not confirm in details as these rules seem to vary from one temple to another. So I shared my concerns with one close friend who was the senior temple lay staff and she too agreed that she felt the same way but we kept it to ourselves. The next day, I found out that the shramanerika was summoned by the Chief Abbess on the incident and she was counselled on the matter. Since then, the shramanerika never joined us again.

I found these quotes of the late Ven Master Hsuan Hua useful..and at times 'thought provoking'.. :reading:
http://cttbusa.org/other/quotes.htm
If you have not reached the state of being able to accord with conditions without changing, you must be very careful not to indulge in idle thoughts at any time.
One may not carelessly scold those who study and practice the Buddha's teachings.
Always be honest and open in your speech and actions. Don't be sneaky or evasive with anyone.
A straight mind is the Bodhimanda.
The only way we can influence people is to set a good example for them and win their respect for our integrity and values

http://cttbusa.org/vajrastrikes/disciples_2.asp
Q : What can we say to show respect?
A : You don’t need to say anything, just do it.
Q : Please explain, “One’s character is naturally noble when he seeks nothing. All the victories that have been won since ancient times happened solely because of patience.”
A : Don’t expect anything from people. Patience means that one bears what one cannot bear. However, a master cannot be completely tolerant of his disciples, he has to use both kindness and strength. He spoils his disciple by being too patient with them.
Q : When I first joined the profession of nursing, I had compassion, plenty of forgiveness, and diligence that never quit just as I did when I first got a taste of the Buddhadharma. But once I truly and deeply entered nursing, I had feelings about sickness and suffering that could not be resolved. That refreshing feeling for the Buddhadharma also disappeared for me, which became a frustrating quandary that sat in my heart. I’m too weak to be able to comfort living beings completely. I don’t seem relieved by reciting the Buddha’s name either. What is this all about?
A : Don’t be a clay Bodhisattva [who takes on more than he/she can handle].
Q : I am really upset! Somebody criticized the Master!
A : Did you thank him for me? How can we cultivate if we can’t even let go of that ego?
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby Indrajala » Sat Feb 27, 2010 11:19 am

plwk wrote:Ah huseng...
What Ven Huifeng and retro have pointed out has wisdom in it and this situation is another good reminder of one that I myself have experienced many many years ago...when I was a volunteer with one temple...

A certain young shramanerika had just joined the temple. One night, after a long week of activities, the temple's lay helpers and workers decided to 'chill out' and it was around 11:30pm-midnight...
When this shramanerika heard about the plan, she too wanted to join the gang and among reasons cited were 'fellowship and boredom' and they agreed to include her in. When I heard that, I was apprehensive as I was told of certain monastic rules involved on monastics going out at 'unseeming hours' but could not confirm in details as these rules seem to vary from one temple to another. So I shared my concerns with one close friend who was the senior temple lay staff and she too agreed that she felt the same way but we kept it to ourselves. The next day, I found out that the shramanerika was summoned by the Chief Abbess on the incident and she was counselled on the matter. Since then, the shramanerika never joined us again.


I honestly wonder what the senior leadership of the various sects think. A lot of the oldschool leadership still alive today seem to have lived unmarried and devoted their life to their practise. It seems after Sawaki Kodo Roshi's generation the trend towards secularization of the priesthood accelerated and before long Buddhism became a funeral business in Japan.

Usually the response I get when I bring up these topics with my Japanese friends is like, "Oh well! It can't be helped. This is just a characteristic of Japanese Buddhism."
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby Huifeng » Sat Feb 27, 2010 12:08 pm

Note the subtle form of "identity view"?
It's my / our "nature", therefore there is nothing we could / should do about it.

Where I am from, a sramanera/ika would also get into serious trouble for "going out" like that, too. Actually, we seldom have novices at branch temples, but almost all are at the main temple. Very strict lifestyle there, I assure you.

plwk - your response was very good. Remember, for those of us who wish to uphold the Dharma, if, in a caring and compassionate way, we remind each other of our precepts, then that is a very good thing. A serious practitioner will thank a Dharma friend for such a reminder.
For those who obviously disregard the teachings, well ... as I posted earlier, it is a different story.
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby catmoon » Sat Feb 27, 2010 10:10 pm

Something to bear in mind:

These priests probably have given considerable time and thought to the matter, and have certainly not overlooked it. It is probably something that someone or other mentions to them every day. In which case, they are probably pretty tired of listening to preaching on the subject.

I say this as a smoker, who has to endure the "wisdom" of every Tom Dick and Harry day after day, and every one of them thinks they are telling me something I have never heard before. I try to be polite.

Why don't they listen and act on such preaching? Simply because they have decided that they have more important and pressing matters to deal with, I'd bet. So I think you have a very difficult task before you. I can think of nothing you could say, that would not result in them simply seeing you as an irritant.
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 28, 2010 1:57 am

catmoon wrote:Something to bear in mind:

These priests probably have given considerable time and thought to the matter, and have certainly not overlooked it. It is probably something that someone or other mentions to them every day. In which case, they are probably pretty tired of listening to preaching on the subject.



Probably not.

You ever lived in Japan?

Most of them are born in temples (which are family property, and so a lot of sons become priests even if they couldn't care less about Buddhism), and as far as their experience goes drinking, meat eating, marriage, fashionable lay clothes and mockery of precepts are all normal.

Like I said, if you were completely sober and maintained your vows you'd probably be stigmatized for it. Peer pressure dictates that you conform to the status quo, which in Japan means doing a lot of things contrary to what Buddha taught.

I've sat down to dinner with priests before and had honest frank conversations with them. It often sounds to me like they're completely unaware that they're violating precepts, or that there is anything at all wrong with what they're doing. Their superiors live the same lifestyle, so there isn't really anyone pointing out the inappropriate behaviours. The general attitude towards precepts in Japan is one of, "Well, if you want to follow them, then follow them, and if not, then don't."

Buddhist practise in Japan is like taking karate lessons or something. When you feel like it, do it. When you don't feel like it, don't bother.

Unfortunately, this kind of attitude spreads overseas and just because it is coming from Japan it somehow makes it legitimate in the eyes of many.
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 28, 2010 2:00 am

Huifeng wrote:Where I am from, a sramanera/ika would also get into serious trouble for "going out" like that, too. Actually, we seldom have novices at branch temples, but almost all are at the main temple. Very strict lifestyle there, I assure you.


They kind of have the same lifestyle going on at main temples in Japan too, but you're only expected to behave a certain way when you're "on duty" which means when you're off temple grounds drinking your face off and eating BBQ is fine. Though regulations might exist, I've heard even at Dogen's ol' Eihei-ji at night time the cans of ham and beer come out at night.

When you go home the robes come off and it is back to the regular samsaric programming.
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby Huifeng » Sun Feb 28, 2010 3:03 am

Huseng wrote:
Huifeng wrote:Where I am from, a sramanera/ika would also get into serious trouble for "going out" like that, too. Actually, we seldom have novices at branch temples, but almost all are at the main temple. Very strict lifestyle there, I assure you.


They kind of have the same lifestyle going on at main temples in Japan too, but you're only expected to behave a certain way when you're "on duty" which means when you're off temple grounds drinking your face off and eating BBQ is fine. Though regulations might exist, I've heard even at Dogen's ol' Eihei-ji at night time the cans of ham and beer come out at night.

When you go home the robes come off and it is back to the regular samsaric programming.


Where I am from, there is no "robes come off", there is no "going home". It's 24/7.

A wild night at the monastery is a vegetarian hot-pot with friends, drinking too much tea, maybe even a can of coca cola, and watching a movie about Xuanzang crossing the Gobi desert or Jianzhen crossing the sea to spread the Dharma in Japan. At New Year, we'll even have (lay volunteers and students) doing theatric renditions of classic Dharma stories, and maybe some classical Chinese music performance.

It's crazy, wild stuff, I tell ya! :P

That's why the more modest monastics will be either studying, or meditating, somewhere quiet under the trees or in the library.

So, if a Chinese monastic asks you to "go drinking with them", first make sure whether it is green tea or black tea or coffee. :thumbsup:
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby eijo » Sun Feb 28, 2010 7:25 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Huseng,

Huseng wrote:Is it better to remain silent, or to remind them that their drinking is inappropriate and contrary to the Buddha's teachings? :rules:


I would remain silent, and not accept their invitation.

Surely they know at some level it is not right, and being told this by someone who is not their teacher or one of their peers will create only discord.

Maintain your own sila, and let them face the consequences of their lack of it.

Metta,
Retro. :)



From long, long experience dealing with this matter, this is by far the best answer.
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 28, 2010 9:23 am

Huifeng wrote:
Huseng wrote:
Huifeng wrote:Where I am from, a sramanera/ika would also get into serious trouble for "going out" like that, too. Actually, we seldom have novices at branch temples, but almost all are at the main temple. Very strict lifestyle there, I assure you.


They kind of have the same lifestyle going on at main temples in Japan too, but you're only expected to behave a certain way when you're "on duty" which means when you're off temple grounds drinking your face off and eating BBQ is fine. Though regulations might exist, I've heard even at Dogen's ol' Eihei-ji at night time the cans of ham and beer come out at night.

When you go home the robes come off and it is back to the regular samsaric programming.


Where I am from, there is no "robes come off", there is no "going home". It's 24/7.

A wild night at the monastery is a vegetarian hot-pot with friends, drinking too much tea, maybe even a can of coca cola, and watching a movie about Xuanzang crossing the Gobi desert or Jianzhen crossing the sea to spread the Dharma in Japan. At New Year, we'll even have (lay volunteers and students) doing theatric renditions of classic Dharma stories, and maybe some classical Chinese music performance.

It's crazy, wild stuff, I tell ya! :P

That's why the more modest monastics will be either studying, or meditating, somewhere quiet under the trees or in the library.

So, if a Chinese monastic asks you to "go drinking with them", first make sure whether it is green tea or black tea or coffee. :thumbsup:




I've been to one of those wild Foguang temple parties.

It was Disney songs sung by the choir and vegetarian dinner downstairs.

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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 28, 2010 9:26 am

eijo wrote:From long, long experience dealing with this matter, this is by far the best answer.


Eijo-san, you must be a Bodhisattva or something to live in a Japanese monastery for so long without having a nervous breakdown. :buddha1:
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby Huifeng » Sun Feb 28, 2010 10:11 am

Huseng wrote:
I've been to one of those wild Foguang temple parties.

It was Disney songs sung by the choir and vegetarian dinner downstairs.



:jumping:

Actually, if I'm not mistaken, that "Disney song" is a Disney tune, but with Buddhist lyrics in Chinese. :tongue:

Huseng wrote:
eijo wrote:From long, long experience dealing with this matter, this is by far the best answer.


Eijo-san, you must be a Bodhisattva or something to live in a Japanese monastery for so long without having a nervous breakdown. :buddha1:


Of course he's a bodhisattva!!
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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 28, 2010 11:58 am

They had ballet dancers too:

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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby kirtu » Mon Mar 01, 2010 9:06 pm

Huseng wrote:Some time ago I was invited by a group of Japanese priests to go to a year-end drinking party. :cheers:

I politely declined and one said, "Well, if you change your mind give me a call."

Now, here is the question:

Is it better to remain silent, or to remind them that their drinking is inappropriate and contrary to the Buddha's teachings? :rules:


Well on the one hand they were kind to invite you. On the other hand upholding the precepts is vital to the continued vitality of the Dharma. Of course they didn't invite you to other activities.

Phillip Kapleau was "invited" by his teacher to go to a geisha house of some sort and he made it sound actually like a house of prostitution (so maybe it wasn't a geisha place). He avoided as best he could consuming too much alcohol but of course that wasn't so successful. He did realize that there were positive aspects to the visit: the people who worked there exercised devotion to the Dharma and were deeply grateful for the visit. This story is in the Three Pillars of Zen book.

When in Rome, you have to get along with the Romans (to some extent). Yesterday a Tibetan teacher mentioned in his talk "When you go to a foreign country, you have to drink their water."

Having said that, there aren't any Buddhist priests upholding the precepts purely? I would find that amazingly improbable. After all Suzuki Roshi was a clear contrary example and there have been other Zen monks who were similarly contrarian. And they were made fun of.

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Re: If Buddhist priests ask you to go drinking with them...

Postby Indrajala » Tue Mar 02, 2010 4:45 pm

kirtu wrote:Having said that, there aren't any Buddhist priests upholding the precepts purely? I would find that amazingly improbable. After all Suzuki Roshi was a clear contrary example and there have been other Zen monks who were similarly contrarian. And they were made fun of.

Kirt


Suzuki was from what is now a very long and different time period. The Japanese Buddhism of his time doesn't reflect the reality of now.

I've never met a priest from a Japanese sect who was completely vegetarian, sober, celibate and refrained from wearing lay clothes. Not one. I've met Japanese bhiksus from other traditions (like Theravada) who live the Vinaya so to speak, but as far as Japanese sects go I've never met one who even refrained from alcohol and meat.

My experience is mostly with Soto Zen, but then I've also never heard of anyone alive today matching the above criteria from another sect either (okay, Eijo is the one exception! :smile: ).

People have this image of Japanese Buddhist priests being all strict and serious, but it is quite the opposite nowadays. Even from a position of doctrine there are a lot of revisionists who are trying to retailor Buddhist doctrine to suit a very materialist and nihilistic worldview. One example is a rejection of rebirth and samsara.

Unfortunately like I said such wrong views spread and because it comes from a Japanese source a lot of westerners think it must be valid and correct. The whole exotic unquestioned "wisdom of the east", though tainted with materialism, is uncritically consumed by the unknowing westerner looking for Zen.
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