Who owns a monastery in the Pali Vinaya?

Here we go, part two of an occasional series on monastery ownership and relevant legal issues. This installment I’ll have a look at some of the relevant passages from the Pali Vinaya. Since this is an ongoing work, I’ll not do too much analysis here, mainly just present and explain the references.

I’ve skimmed the Pali Vinaya to find these passages. I think they are reasonably complete, but I may well have missed some things, so help me out!

All references are to volume and page number of the PTS edition of the Pali text. I have not looked into other Vinayas on this point, or the commentaries.

Terminology

It’s not always entirely clear what the Pali terms refer to, and they may have different meanings in context. Generally, though, this is my understanding of the terms.

Ārāma: originally ‘park’, then ‘monastery’, since parks (like the Jetavana or Veḷuvana) were frequently offered as monasteries.

Āvāsa: ‘residence’. The most common and general term for a place where monastics stay.

Vihāra: ‘dwelling’. A building, usually in an ārāma/āvāsa where monastics dwell.

Vatthu: ‘site’. The piece of land on which a monastery or dwelling is built.

Kuṭi: ‘hut’. A small dwelling. There are a large range of other kinds of dwelling specified.

The Great Paradigm

1.39

Shortly after teaching the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta the Buddha returned to Rajagaha, where King Bimbisāra became a supporter. He offered the first monastery, the Veḷuvana, or ‘Bamboo Grove’.

‘May I give this Bamboo grove pleasure park to the Sangha of bhikkhus with the Buddha at its head?’

etāhaṃ, bhante, veḷuvanaṃ uyyānaṃ buddhappamukhassa bhikkhusaṃghassa dammī’ti. Paṭiggahesi bhagavā ārāmaṃ.

This passage is an essential part of the ‘grand story’ of the Buddha’s life, and is clearly intended by the redactors to be the main paradign for offering a monastery. The king ‘gives’ (dadati) the monastery to the Sangha of bhikkhus, with the Buddha as head. The same procedure is found at 1.233, where Ambapālī offers her grove in same words as Bimisāra.

2.164

Anathapindika offers Jetavana, using a different formula.

Anāthapiṇḍiko gahapati bhagavato paṭissutvā Jetavanaṁ āgatānāgatacātuddissa saṅghassa patiṭṭhāpesi…

Note that the idea of the ‘sangha of the four quarters, past and future’ has appeared. This is a very significant notion, showing an awareness of the Sangha as spread out in space and lasting in time, rather than simply ‘the group of monks with the Buddha’.

The offering itself uses the word patiṭṭhāpeti (‘establish’) rather than dadati (‘give’); however the verse immediately following refers to ‘giving’ (dadati) a monastery, so the two phrases probably mean the same thing.

A monastery ‘specially for the Sangha’

Another phrasing is used in a passage that discussing the gift of a monastery at length. This deals with the situation where someone wants to offer a place for the Sangha during the vassa, and the Buddha allows that they break their vassa for up to seven days to received the offering.

1.139-142

A dwelling is built by a lay follower specially for the Sangha… [he said:] ‘I wish to give…’

upāsakena saṅghaṁ uddissa viharo kārāpito…. icchāmi dātuṁ…’

The passage is repeated for every possible type of building, monastery (ārāma and ārāmavatthu). It may be offered to a sangha of bhikkhus, a Sangha of bhikkhunis, a group of bhikkhus or bhikkhunis, or a single bhikkhu or bhikkhuni (or indeed, sāmaṇera, sāmaṇerī, or sikkhamānā). The person offering may be a lay man, lay woman, or a monastic.

The phrasing saṅghaṁ uddissa (specially for the Sangha) might be ambiguous – perhaps it could mean simply ‘for the use of the Sangha’; but the passage also says that the donor ‘wishes to give’, icchāmi dātuṁ, so this is clear enough.

Ownership of requisites of departed monastics.

1.303-4

The bowl and robes of departed monastics revert to the Sangha as the owner (sāmī) after the death. But from gratitude, the Sangha should offer them to those monastics who were nursing the sick person.

1.305

If there are other requisites left by a departed monk, those that are light requisites (lahubhaṇḍa) should be offered to the present (sammukhībhūta) Sangha; however heavy requisites (garubhaṇḍā) must be for the Sangha of the four quarters, past and future, and are not to be disposed of or divided up.

3.90

Garubhaṇḍa includes ārāma, ārāmavatthu, vihāra, vihāravatthu.

2.170

Repeats the above principle, saying that a monastery or site or dwelling cannot be given away

Miscellaneous

3.66

This rule is sometimes interpreted to refer to a monastery offered by a lay follower. However it seems to me this is not quite right. It’s not entirely clear to me how it should be rendered, but I would go with something like like this.

bhikkhū aññatarassa upāsakassa vihāraparibhogaṁ senāsanaṁ aññatra paribhunjanti.

A bed & chair that belonged to a certain lay follower was [meant] for use in one dwelling, but the monks used them in another [dwelling].

In other words, a layman brings along a bed or chair, invites the monks in a certain dwelling to make use of them, while not actally giving them to the Sangha; later, the monks take them away from that dwelling and use them elsewhere. If this interpretation is correct, this passage does not refer to a monastery owned by a lay person.

3.102

This passage explicitly refers to a dwelling owned by a lay person. A monk says to a layman, ‘Whoever lives in your dwelling (tuyhaṁ vihāre vasati) is an arahant’; of course, it was that monk himself who lived in the dwelling.

3.149, 3.156

Two saṅghādisesa rules discuss the case where a hut or dwelling is built, which may either have an owner (sāmika) or not. The owner may be a woman or man or layman (gahaṭṭho) or one gone forth (pabbajita).

In this context, sāmī mainly means one responsible for the costs of building.

3.201

Refers to a variety of places that may be of ‘one family’ (ekakula) or ‘many families’, including a monastery. Does not clarify whether this is a family or clan of lay people only, or could include a monastic family, Sangha.

4.40

Talks of a ‘Sangha dwelling’, presumably implying that there might be non-Sangha dwellings. Sangha dwelling is defined as one that has been gifted to the Sangha.

saṅghika nāma saṅghassa dinnaṁ hoti paricattaṁ

Sanghika’ means, it is given and relinquished to the Sangha.

The rule analysis contrasts saṅghika with puggalika, ‘individual’. But it does not clarify whether this individual is a lay person or monastic.

Discussion

The main paradigm is that of a monastery given to the Sangha of the Four Quarters. This means all Buddhist monastics, past and future.

However, it would seem that there are a variety of options and the Vinaya does not legislate on what is possible. A monastery might be owned by the Sangha as a whole, a group of monastics, a single monastic, or by a lay follower.

In the Cūḷasīla section of the Dīgha Nikāya and elsewhere, which constitutes an early description of monastic ethics, a monastic is said to refrain from accepting ‘fields and land’ (Khettavatthupaṭiggahaṇā paṭivirato…). However at 3.50 khetta is defined as a place where grains are produced; in other words, monastics may not accept farmland.

It should be noted that the Vinaya refers to a ‘Sangha’ as either the Sangha as a whole, or the monastics actually within a sīmā (monastic boundary). There is no concept of a ‘Sangha’ consisting of a partial organization within the greater Sangha. When monastics start to think of their group as different from, separate from, and (inevitably) better than, other Sangha members, then sects start to form. When those sects claim exclusive usage over monastery property originally intended for the Sangha of the Four Quarters we are a long way from the Vinaya.

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21 thoughts on “Who owns a monastery in the Pali Vinaya?

  1. dear Sujato, I am really enjoying yhis blog and i hope to hear more. i shall send you a recent piece i did here
    warm regards
    yours in the dharma
    malcolm

  2. Dear Bhante,

    I think it may be possible to define ārāma and āvāsa more precisely. Firstly, it needs to be pointed out that both of these words occur in two quite distinct usages: the common usage and the technical Vinaya usage. Here I will deal only with the technical Vinaya usage.

    The evidence in the Vinaya suggests that an ārāma always belonged to someone: a king, a wealthy individual, or indeed the Sangha. Thus ārāmas concern land that is legally owned, in accordance with secular law. It seems to me that the Sangha may own ārāmas in this sense.

    An āvāsa, on the other hand, is quite clearly a monastery in the technical sense of the Vinaya. An āvāsa is the land within a sīma, the monastery boundary, and this is the legal definition of a monastery according to Vinaya law. For example, all sanghakamma – that is, all formal actions of the Sangha – always relate to individual āvāsas within a legally established sīma. But an āvāsa is not limited to land that is legally owned by a monastery; it may include, it seems, any land whatsoever: villages, towns, and wilderness areas. Moreover, I would think that in the early days of Buddhism the majority of monasteries were not situated on land that was owned by the Sangha, but were simple buildings erected in the wilderness. Thus the Sangha does not need to own land to establish a monastery.

    I would suggest therefore that an ārāma normally refers to monastery land which is legally owned by a monastery according to secular law, while an āvāsa is the legal extent of a monastery according to Sangha Law. Both words can thus mean monastery, but have slightly different connotations.

    Regarding your quote from 3.66, the main point to me of this passage is that something used by monastics was owned by a lay supporter, whether it was the furnishings of a dwelling or the dwelling itself. The very fact that monastics used lay supporters’ property in this way supports the idea that this may have been an arrangement used in many areas, including for buildings and land.

    You then quote sanghādisesa rule 7, which quite clearly says that a vihāra may be owned by anyone, including lay supporters. You then say that owner here “mainly means one responsible for the cost of the building”. This seems to be a common view, but what is the evidence for this? The literal meaning of the passage is that the vihāra can be owned by a lay supporter, and the idea of “one responsible for the cost of the building” is such a significant movement away from the immediate meaning that it really needs to be substantiated.

    These passages, and the one you quote from 3.102, are enough in my opinion, to assume that buildings used by the Sangha were sometimes owned by lay supporters. And, as I have already argued, the Sangha often did not own the land on which dwellings were erected. This being the case, I would argue that the contemporary model of ownership of monasteries whereby a legal entity is the owner, not the Sangha, should not pose a problem from a Vinaya point of view.

    Lastly, you mention that according to Cūḷasīla section of the Dīgha Nikāya monastics should refrain from “accepting khetta and vatthu”, and then state that khetta refers to fields. This still leaves out vatthu, which normally would seem to mean land; see for example the compound ārāmavatthu which, as you mention, means “site for a monastery”. There is also pācittiya 84 which, on one reading, forbids one from accepting ratanasammatam (that which is considered valuable), which could well be regarded as including land. I would argue that at present, when land often is very valuable, it would be reasonable to regard it as falling under the scope of pācittiya 84.

  3. Dear Ven,

    Thanks so much for the clarifications.

    I would suggest therefore that an ārāma normally refers to monastery land which is legally owned by a monastery according to secular law, while an āvāsa is the legal extent of a monastery according to Sangha Law. Both words can thus mean monastery, but have slightly different connotations.

    A useful distinction, thanks.

    You then say that owner here “mainly means one responsible for the cost of the building”. This seems to be a common view, but what is the evidence for this?

    I was referring to the background story, which give as one of the reasons for the rules that the monks were constantly begging for stuff for building. Obviously a monastery ‘with owner’ avoids this problem. In the offering of the Jetavana, for example, Anathapindika not only offers the land but prepared all the dwellings and so on. I was not meaning to imply that ‘ownership’ did not extend further than the initial building costs, merely that this was the main focus of the rule in question.

    Lastly, you mention that according to Cūḷasīla section of the Dīgha Nikāya monastics should refrain from “accepting khetta and vatthu”, and then state that khetta refers to fields. This still leaves out vatthu, which normally would seem to mean land; see for example the compound ārāmavatthu which, as you mention, means “site for a monastery”.

    Well, it depends how we construe the compound: ‘farms and lands’, or ‘farmlands’. I took -vatthu when used in a compound to have the same function as aramavatthu or viharavatthu, hence ‘farmland’. It seems to me this is in the spirit of the surrounding clauses, which prohibit things like various farm animals, grain, and so on.

    There is also pācittiya 84 which, on one reading, forbids one from accepting ratanasammatam (that which is considered valuable), which could well be regarded as including land. I would argue that at present, when land often is very valuable, it would be reasonable to regard it as falling under the scope of pācittiya 84.

    O, no, i think this is pushing it. The rule is about ‘picking up’ valuables ‘inside a monastery’ or ‘inside a dwelling’, the examples being jewellery that is left behind in the monastery by visitors, etc. I really don’t think this can be stretched to include monastic ownership of land, particularly when there seems abundant evidence from the Vinaya and later that monastics did, in fact, own land. Fair enough, the relative value of land has changed, so one could argue that it was worthless in those days. But i think this would be better argued simply on a basis of principle, that monastics shouldn’t get into ownership of valuable things, with all the legal responsibilities that entails, rather than forcing poor little pacittiya 84 to shoulder a burden she was never built for…

  4. Thanks for your reply, bhante.

    Regarding the meaning of āvāsa, it is also relevant that the Thai word Wat is derived from this term.

    Concerning khettavatthu, I believe the most natural thing is to read it as a dvanda compound (i.e., khetta and vatthu). The Cūḷasīla section list a number of things not allowable for monastics, and you will notice that there are a large number of dvanda compounds on that list. In my opinion, it would be natural to read khettavatthu in the same way. The commentary also reads it as a dvanda compound.

    Also, considering the steep price Anāthapiṇḍika had to pay for the Jetavana, it would seem reasonable to suppose that ownership of land even then was not deemed suitable for renunciants.

    Regarding pācittiya 84, please allow me to push my argument a little bit further. I do not think it is correct to say that this rule is about “‘picking up’ valuables ‘inside a monastery’ or ‘inside a dwelling’”; rather this is just the exemption in the rule. The rule – that is, the action for which one commits an offence – concerns the uggaṇhāti of ratana or ratanasammata, and it all depends on how these three Pali words are understood.

    The word uggaṇhāti seems to be used quite broadly, and can perhaps be translated as ‘take’. In NP18 – which is about the ownership of money – uggaṇhāti must mean to receive, i.e., to become the owner of the item that is ‘taken’. Indeed, in the Vibhanga to that rule it is defined patigaṇhati, which quite regularly means receive. I hold, therefore, that uggaṇhāti in pācittiya 84 includes the idea of receiving something in the sense of becoming its owner.

    A vatthu is clearly not ratana, a ‘jewel’, but I believe it may well come under ratanasammata. Ratanasammata is defined in the Vibhanga as upabhoga-paribhoga, which seems to mean any valuable belonging. At Jāt. VI 361,20 this compound is further described as including things like elephants and horses, and also ‘women’, perhaps referring to slaves. It seems to me that it is not a big stretch to argue that land also should be included here.

    I did notice your reference to 1.139-142, where an individual monastic is offered a monastery etc. However, it is not clear that ownership is meant here: the Pali simply has uddissa, which could mean that monastery was meant for the use of that monastic without necessarily implying ownership. Moreover, these sort of passages that list all possible permutations of owner with what is owned have a strong feeling about them of being ‘redacted’. I would tend not to give such passages too much weight, particularly if they are contradicted by other passages.

  5. I just wrote a detailed reply and then deleted it, so here’s a shorter one!

    Wat is not from āvāsa. It’s a Thai word, which in Pali would be spelt vad. The Thai from āvāsa is awat, as in ‘chao awat‘, ‘abbot’ (=āvāsādhipati).

    Re. khettavatthu, it can really be read either way, but at the end of the day the most decisive thing for me is that vatthu as the second member of a compound is normally used to qualify the preceding term.

    If the Buddha wanted to ban bhikkhus from owning monasteries, surely he would not have used a term that is nowhere else used of a monastery, and which is found in a Sutta passage rather than Vinaya.

    Also, considering the steep price Anāthapiṇḍika had to pay for the Jetavana, it would seem reasonable to suppose that ownership of land even then was not deemed suitable for renunciants.

    Whether it’s a good thing or not doesn’t affect the legality.

    It seems to me that it is not a big stretch to argue that land also should be included here.

    I’ll continue to differ on this one. It does seem to me a big stretch, indeed a series of stretches, to go from a rule that is talking about what to do when a monk recovers random valuables left behind in a monastery and similar situations, to a principle about monastic ownership of monastery properties. Again, surely such an important principle should be expressed in more explicit terms.

    I did notice your reference to 1.139-142, where an individual monastic is offered a monastery etc. However, it is not clear that ownership is meant here: the Pali simply has uddissa, which could mean that monastery was meant for the use of that monastic without necessarily implying ownership. Moreover, these sort of passages that list all possible permutations of owner with what is owned have a strong feeling about them of being ‘redacted’. I would tend not to give such passages too much weight, particularly if they are contradicted by other passages.

    I agree that uddissa is, by itself, ambiguous, but as I noted the stock passage has the donor saying ‘icchāmi dātuṁ‘, ‘I wish to give’, which i think makes the meaning clear. Of course these kinds of permutation passages are generally regarded as a sign of lateness, but that pertains more to the form of the passage than the content.

    I was not attempting a serious text-critical study here, which would require first of all a search through all the Vinayas before being able to say anything with confidence about the authenticity of relevant passages. So I’m pretty much just taking the Pali on its face value. The text as it stands does say that laypeople wished to give monasteries to individual monastics, and the Buddha said they should accept.

    Moreover, to repeat some of the other passages I referred to in the original article, an individual monk is said to own garubhaṇḍa, which definitely includes monasteries; and a kuti or vihara may be owned by ‘one gone forth’ pabbajita.

    Given that these passages are actually in the Vinaya, as opposed to a Sutta passage; and that they actually deal explicitly with monastery ownership, I think they must take precedence in terms of what the extant Pali Vinaya allows. Whether this represents a change from the early ideal is a matter for further research.

    Just to make my own position clear, I don’t think its, generally speaking, a good idea for individual monastics to own monastery buildings and land; nor do I think it was particularly encouraged. But the Pali Vinaya is pretty vague on the topic, and it cannot be said that there’s a clear case that monastics are not allowed to own monasteries. Rather the opposite; the tendency is to accept that there were a variety of ownership possibilities.

  6. You are quite right, bhante, that it is not possible to find a legally binding argument, based on Vinaya, that disallows the ownership of monasteries. My point, rather, is that it goes against the spirit of the Dhamma, at least as far as ownership of land is concerned. I think this is a rather important point; perhaps more important than legal niceties.

    Re. Khettavatthu – the second member of a compound does not qualify the preceding term in dvanda compounds. Without having investigated the matter in detail, it seems to me that khetta is normally used on its own to mean field, and that khettavatthu is never used in a way where it clearly is a non-dvanda compound. Again, the usage in DN1 – a listing of items – suggests that this is a dvanda compound. And I am not saying that vatthu refers to a monastery, but simply to land in general.

    Of course, the fact that vatthu is listed in this way in the suttas does not mean that monks are prohibited as such from owning land, in a Vinaya sense. Nevetheless it becomes a principle of Dhamma that concerns what is suitable for monastics and what is not. Although such principles cannot be binding, they must surely be considered important.

    Much the same is true of pācittiya 84. I would agree that it is impossible to pin down the meaning of this rule precisely enough to make a watertight argument that the ownership of land is included in it. Still, the rule makes it perfectly clear that ratanasammata is not to be ‘taken’ by a monk, and the implication, to my mind, is that for a monk to own something valuable is against the spirit of the Dhamma.

    Thus when you say that “I don’t think its, generally speaking, a good idea for individual monastics to own monastery buildings and land; nor do I think it was particularly encouraged”, I would agree with that, although I would put it in stronger terms. I would suggest that the ownership of land was directly discouraged. The ownership of buildings by monastics is a much greyer area. But again, if a building is considered valuable by lay standards (i.e., not a small kuti in the forest) then it seems to me that monastic ownership of such a building would go against an important principle of Dhamma.

  7. Dear Bhantes

    I may have missed it in all the above analyses, but what do you think about ownership of land by a Sangha (as in the siima-defined sangha)?

    Such a sangha is really quite ephemeral under the Vinaya, given the freedom of the monastics to leave or to be welcomed to the fold. How would such an ephemeral association hold lands under the Vinaya, if possible?

    Hmm, I wonder if we will see such enthusiasm in a discussion regarding cheese and chocolates after noon?

    With metta _/\_

  8. Dear Bhante and Sylvester,

    One more point on khettavatthu: at 1.150 (Cūlavagga, p.150) and in the Latukikopamasutta (MN 67, para. 152 in the online World Tipitaka) khetta and vatthu occur as individual terms in lists that seem to be similar in intent to the one in the Cūlasīla section at DN1; that is, they concern things that are generally considered as belonging to non-monastics. To me, this makes it quite clear that khettavatthu must be read as a dvanda compound. This is important, because it establishes a clear Dhamma principle that monastic ownership of land should be avoided.

    There is one other issue that I think shows the inappropriateness of monastics owning land. The basis for the monastic institution of Sanghakamma – that is, the Vinaya legal procedures by which monasteries are run – is that each monastic has an equal say when any particular decision is made. If one monastic, or a group of monastic, owns a particular monastery, this decision making process may very well fall apart. Private ownership means that you have the full rights over something (at least in the present day), and that you have full authority over that monastery. The owner becomes the effective Abbot, and everyone else is subject to the owner’s whims. In other words, the legal process of Sanghakamma becomes dysfunctional, and one of the central aspects of monastic Vinaya ceases to work. The best way to avoid such an undesirable outcome would seem to be for the complete Sangha to own land and monasteries. Alternatively, ownership by legal entities such as trusts and societies seems to work, provided that the Constitution of such entities does not give disproportionate power to any individual or group of monastics.

    There you are, Sylvester. That, at least, gives my point of view regarding ownership by any group of monastics that is smaller than the complete Sangha. As I see it, it renders the Vinaya defunct in many respects.

    And I can assure you that the allowability or otherwise of cheese and chocolate in the afternoon, particularly cheese, is a very hotly debated topic in most monasteries. There are those who would say that this is much more interesting than debating ownership of monasteries…

    With much metta.

  9. Dear Bhikkhu,

    Reg. cheese & chocolate, when we attend 8-precept retreat for lay people, we were told to strictly observe non-solid food i.e. anything that need chewing with the teeth after noon, only liquid food. Is cheese considered liquid food? Maybe chocolate is, because it can melt in mouth so no chewing involved.Maybe there is leniency depending on climate like cold countries would perhaps need cheese n chocolate to keep body warm.Is that so?

  10. RE: “to strictly observe non-solid food i.e. anything that need chewing with the teeth after noon, only liquid food.”

    This is an interesting way of putting it… if this were the determining factor, then why wouldn’t pureed soup or pureed fruit, for example, be allowed, or milk, or innumerable other unallowable liquid things? Would probably be healthier, not that dark chocolate doesn’t have its health benefits :), though I realize this wasn’t the reason for the rule in the first place (but I seem to remember in one sutta the Buddha says something about this benefit to some monks who were complaining about it?? Not sure if I’m remembering this correctly).

    I don’t know the Vinaya but I thought allowable foods had to do with them being considered medicinal, not food (and that the rule was originally intended to not cause lay people the trouble of having to feed the monastics at all hours of the day) Is this at all correct, Bhante Brahmali and/or Bhante Sujato? And how did cheese come to be accepted in some places, anyway?

  11. Dear Bhante Sujato and Ajahn (or Bhante, whichever you prefer!) Brahmali,

    I want to thank you very much for this dialogue between you (and thanks to others who have joined in). It’s very educational and interesting from a Dhamma point of view.

    With metta and appreciation,
    Linda

    P.S. How would you say Dear Bhantes (i.e. the plural in Pali) or would that even be a correct way to address you both together?

  12. Typo error: i.e. anything that do not need chewing with the teeth.

    I think Linda, you are right. No solid food after noon to avoid inconvenience to lay people (according to Buddha).Imagine, if monks/nuns are allowed to chew the whole day then this defeats their purpose of renunciation and most importantly their meditation as eating propels desires(unless one is sick). Cheese n chocolate can make one fat and lethargic esp monks/nuns who do not burnt off energy but conserve energy from long hours meditation.Puree and fruit juices need chewing too. Drinks like cocoa, Milo should be allowable. What about stimulant drinks like coffee and tea or Red Bull?

  13. Question for either of the Bhantes or someone equivalent.

    It’s a bit off the topic of monasteries, but on the topic of getting out of this whole mass of suffering.

    I was reading a bit of Mun-Keat’s book and the following was pointed out:
    SN & SA differ in the dependent cessation.
    SN starts it by abandoning craving
    and SA by the cessation of contact.

    However the way to cessation is the Eightfold path, which starts with Right View. (with the views of anicca, dukkha, anatta conditioned into us by the teachings, it might influence our perceptions and lead to less craving until we finally gain REAL right view after seeing the Dhamma. right?

    Which is correct?
    I am guessing that the SN is correct by abandoning craving and the way to abandon craving is through the Eightfold path which starts with Right View.. Is that the way Buddha wanted us to understand this?

    I doesn’t seem that the SA is correct since how can we stop contact?!

    How did the Buddha want us to understand this?

  14. The first thing I thought of when you mentioned SA and cessation of contact was, “Oh of course, they mean paticcanirodha begins with the jhanas.”

    I have a vague recollection that SN was rather vippassana-heavy, while SA had more samatha-flavour. I may easily be mistaken on these points, but it does address the difference…

  15. That’s a good point.
    I thought maybe the dependent cessation teaching was a theoretical one and practically it’s the Eightfold path which of course has jhanas as it’s eighth factor. So the way to practically end craving is gradually through Eightfold path (which includes jhanas). But if that’s correct then we still have the SN and SA difference.
    Maybe if this is just a theoretical understanding it’s not so essential if we know it?

  16. Thanks David and Dania. Interesting what you pointed out David, and I have not read Mun-Keats book, but I also don’t really see a contradiction between:
    “SN & SA differ in the dependent cessation.
SN starts it by abandoning craving
and SA by the cessation of contact.”

    This also makes me think of the Kalahavivada Sutta (in the Sutta Nipata, the Chapter of Eights) which discusses contact and it’s cessation and as related to craving (see esp. verse 872). Oh, I just looked it up:
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.4.11.than.html
    and see that Thanissaro’s translation does not have the lines numbered so here’s his translation of 872:

    “Conditioned by name & form
    is contact.
    In longing do graspings,
    possessions have their cause.
    When longing isn’t
    mine-ness does not exist.
    When forms have disappeared
    contacts don’t touch.”

    The verses follow the general dependent co-arising “model”, but in a slightly different way. More nuances and poetic, in my view, and very beautiful!

    There are other translations(eg. by K.R. Norman and H. Saddhatissa and John Ireland). They’re all different, and some seem better than others. If anyone who knows Pali has any comments or suggestions for translation, I would be most interested (I love this sutta and the Pali is way beyond me)! Or any comments from anyone who reads this sutta…

  17. Hi Linda,

    I have copied the first part of your link here, for our reflection on all our quarrels and disputes.

    “From where have there arisen
    quarrels, disputes,
    lamentation, sorrows, along with selfishness,
    conceit & pride, along with divisiveness?
    From where have they arisen?
    Please tell me.”
    “From what is dear
    there have arisen
    quarrels, disputes,
    lamentation, sorrows, along with selfishness,
    conceit & pride, along with divisiveness.

    **Tied up with selfishness
    are quarrels & disputes.
    **In the arising of disputes
    is divisiveness.”

    “Where is the cause
    of things dear in the world,
    along with the greeds that go about in the world?
    And where is the cause
    of the hopes & fulfillments
    for the sake of a person’s next life?”

    “Desires are the cause
    of things dear in the world,
    along with the greeds that go about in the world.
    And it too is the cause
    of the hopes & fulfillments
    for the sake of a person’s next life.”

    Note:
    ** – the answer to all our disputes and divisiveness.

    Sadhu to you for the link to this important Sutta.

  18. Dear Lee-Ann,

    In brief, for anyone who practices at least eight precepts, the Buddha allowed certain types of ‘medicines’ that are allowable even when ordinary food is not. These medicines include medicinal leaves (e.g. tea) and non-substantial fruits (e.g. coffee beans and cocoa beans), known as lifetime medicines, but also certain ‘tonics’ known as seven-day medicines: ghee, navanita, oil, honey and molasses (or sugar). Juice drinks are also allowable outside the ordinary meal time. Chocolate is considered allowable because its ingredients are allowable: dark chocolate consists mainly of fats (oil), cocoa and sugar. If the medicine contains a small quantity of non-allowable foods this is not a problem, as long as the product is still considered to go by the same name.

    Cheese is more controversial, and whether it is allowable depends on the understanding of the Pali word navanita (which I have left untranslated in the list of ‘tonics’ above). The Thai forest tradition has traditionally (perhaps starting with Ajahn Mun) understood navanita to mean cheese. Most monks, however, would understand it to be closer to butter. Since there is disagreement on the meaning of this term, it makes sense not to take a dogmatic position on what it means. Whether one eats cheese or butter in the afternoon – as long as it is used wisely to assuage discomfort due to hunger – is not going to be an impediment in one’s practice. At Bodhinyana Monastery in Perth we take neither cheese nor butter in the afternoon or evening, but it is up to each individual monk how he wishes to practice when he is outside the monastery.

    Sometimes the arguments that can result from different standards of what is allowable can be more disturbing to medotation practice than adopting standards that might be considered controversial by some. If something falls within a grey area of Vinaya, I believe it is better to accept that others may see the matter differently and not make a big issue out of it. Harmony is one of the factors required for meditation to be successful.

    With best wishes.

  19. Dear Linda,

    There does not seem to be any text in the Pali Canon that explains exactly why the Buddha laid down the rule against eating after mid-day. However, MN66, the Simile of the Quail, gives some indication that it may have been to spare the lay people. (See the first few paragraphs of that sutta.) Presumably it also has to do with simplicity and avoiding indulgence.

    As for cheese, see my reply to Lee-Ann above.

  20. Dear Dania,

    Dependent cessation shows how the links of dependent origination cease when ignorance is abandoned. This is not about practice but how samsara unravels when one reaches Awakening.

    Once ignorance is abandoned, craving comes to an end. Because craving comes to an end, one makes no kamma that can result in future rebirth. Thus, when one dies, contact comes to an end. It seems to me, therefore, that SN and SA are simply different perspectives on the same process.

  21. I’ve toyed with the idea that the Buddha ate one meal a day based on his chronic pain condition, and in noticing that there was a wholesome benefit he brought it to the Sangha as a general measure.

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