Monks in Suits

‘When ordinary people praise the Buddha, they do so only on the trivial and petty grounds of mere behavior.’
The Buddha, Brahmajala Sutta, Digha Nikaya 1

In recent days there’s been considerable discussion among Buddhists, especially in Singapore and Malaysia, over the conferring of the respected title ‘Datuk’ to the senior monk Venerable Dhammaratana, abbot of the Brickfields Temple in KL. The controversy is not over the honor, but over the fact that the Venerable received it wearing a suit!

A bit strange, I think. I’ve lived in Malaysia for over a year, and i can’t imagine anyone, including the Malaysian royalty, expecting a monk to wear anything other than his traditional robes. After all, the officials at the ceremony were wearing traditional Malaysian garb, not suits. I’ve met three Prime Ministers and the Queen of England, and it never occurred to me to wear anything other than the same robe I wear every day.

But what’s stranger to me is the emotional reaction of some Malaysian Buddhists. The Young Buddhists Association of Malaysia (YBAM), one of the most important central organizations, said, ‘We were deeply saddened by the failure of Ven. Dhammaratana to set a good example in upholding the dignity of Buddhism.’ The Buddhist Channel published an article where the author Siriminda said: ‘I am disturbed and horrified to know that the venerable donned a complete lay suit to in the investiture ceremony.’

These articles, and others, were careful to acknowledge their pride as Buddhists and respect for the fact that the Venerable had received such an award. But there is no mistaking their very serious concern for the idea of such a senior monk not wearing robes. This is seen as an affront to one of the core symbols of Buddhism.

According to Vinaya, wearing lay clothes is a minor offence, although what this exactly means is not entirely clear. After all, the robes that monastics wore in those days wear, in point of fact, the same as lay clothes, except for the distinctive color and the patchwork pattern.

As with so many other things, the Vinaya issue is a distraction here. Monks break far more rules than this every day and no-one bats an eyelid. The real issue is the robe as a symbols of the Sangha, part of the Triple Gem.

The Venerable is by no means the first bhikkhu to don lay clothes. The respected German monk Ven. Nyanaponika would, so I am told, wear a brown suit when he returned to Germany, as the robs were unknown in his country. It is quite common in the west for Tibetan monastics to wear lay clothes to go to work, then put the robes on when they return to the temple. This is an unfortunate consequence of the lack of support for Tibetan monastics in the west.

In the Brahmajala Sutta I quoted from above, the Buddha makes a strong point about how people will tend to blame or criticize based on trivial details of external behaviour, ignoring that which is of true value. The Buddha was very clear on this, and always kept a sense of ethical perspective. Sadly, we Buddhists have become so attached to the externals of our religion that we tend to judge and condemn someone who has spent a life in service to the Dhamma based on such a trivial thing.

We forget: there is nothing immoral about wearing a suit. It doesn’t harm anyone. There are real, genuine moral issues facing us every day, and we as Buddhists get used to simply living as if they passed us by. But a suit! Now, that’s something to get ‘horrified’ by.

When I see Ven. Dhammaratana wearing a suit I don’t get horrified or saddened. I think, well that’s unusual. I wonder what the circumstances were that caused him to make that choice? And that’s about all it deserves.

The real take-home message of this little kerfluffle is something quite different. What we are seeing is a Muslim raja presenting an award for public service to a Buddhist monk. Just think: in how many countries in the world could something like this happen? The Malaysian people have built a society where interfaith relations are so good that this can happen, and no-one even bothers to notice.

We hear a constant narrative about Muslim ‘extremists’, about Islamic intolerance for other faiths. This honoring of a Buddhist by a Muslim should be an occasion to celebrate. Malaysians should be proudly saying to the world, ‘Look, this can happen!’ Instead, we show the world that all we care about is a suit.

And why has it happened? It is because of decades of work by leaders such as Ven Dhammaratana and his mentor K Sri Dhammananda, who have built a solid foundation for faith relations in Malaysia. I myself witnessed Ven K Sri Dhammananda’s efforts in this regard, and it was one of the things that inspired me to take an interest in interfaith in Australia.

One of the most salient aspects of the late K Sri Dhammananda’s approach to Buddhism was that he kept it real. He told a story once of how a woman in an airport dropped her handbag off a balcony. He was below, he picked it up and brought it to her. She said, ‘I didn’t think monks could touch a woman’s possessions!’ And he said, ‘I didn’t do it as a monk, I did it as a human being.’ When the Chief Rev told that story in KL, there was a spontaneous applause.

Another story. When the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed, he commented on the fact that Buddhists around the world had responded very calmly, without getting upset at the destruction of such a magnificent symbol of Buddhism. And he said, again to applause, ‘And that’s real Buddhism.’

Another time he spoke of when he was a young monk in KL, how he would get just so hungry sometimes in the afternoon – but the Buddhists wouldn’t give him anything to eat, because monks shouldn’t eat in the afternoon. Only the Muslims, responding to him as a human being, not as a symbol, would give him a snack.

It is this attitude, this insistence on humanity as the core of Buddhism, not external behaviors and symbols, that inspired K Sri Dhammananda’s mission, which as all Malaysians know, is the foundation of modern Malaysian Buddhism.

His approach is not the strictest. But it has a flexibility and a sincerity that has allowed Buddhist to flourish in a majority Muslim country, during a time when so many other countries have been overtaken by the spectre of fundamentalism. Perhaps it is this very flexibility, this concern for the other, that lay behind Ven Dhammaratana’s decision.

I can only imagine that wearing lay clothes would feel very strange and uncomfortable. Stepping out, knowing the judgments that others will make. I can’t imagine that he did this for himself. I can only assume he was thinking of what was best for the occasion, to be as gracious and considerate as possible for his host.

As a monk, and even more so, as a human being, Ven. Dhammaratana deserves the benefit of the doubt, not harsh judgments. Let us not forget his role in making Malaysian Buddhism what it is: a diverse, vibrant, relevant community that has helped build and sustain Malaysia as a successful multi-faith nation.

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61 thoughts on “Monks in Suits

  1. While I concur with your comments and admire the great work done by the Chief Venerable, personally I admire the stand taken by people like Mahathma Gandhi in travelling to UK for independence negotiations without having to change the clothes he usually used to wear. I agree, this happened in a different context but how much should be accommodate to please others? Should monks accept drinks at a cocktail party hosted by the King for the sake of religious harmony?

  2. It might help to note that the most respectable, the late Venerable Dr. K Sri Dhammananda, (who was the mentor of the Venerable K Dhammaratana, the monk in lounge suit), was also conferred royal title JOHAN SETIA MAKHOTA- J.S.M ( Companion of the Order of the Crown of Malaysia) by the King of Malaysia in 1991.
    This Order is conferred on those with high social standing and who have shown meritorious service. Venerable Dr. K Sri Dhammananda then did NOT attend the conferment ceremony. Instead a Palace official came to his temple at Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur to present him the award.

  3. TS Low :
    Venerable Dr. K Sri Dhammananda then did NOT attend the conferment ceremony. Instead a Palace official came to his temple at Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur to present him the award.

    What a great example – leaves no room for anyone to complain. Sadhu!

  4. Sadhu 3 times for Bhante’s compassionate comments on the event. But, most Buddhists, disregard for their sects or ways of practice, would be more appropriated this example of the late Ven. Sri Dhammananda, the mentor of Ven Dhammaratana.
    “Venerable Dr. K Sri Dhammananda then did NOT attend the conferment ceremony. Instead a Palace official came to his temple at Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur to present him the award.”
    This should be a sensitive case that we monastics have to learn, specially in public events. We have to respect the sentiments of our supporters because somewhat we are common-wealth or public property, not just act on consideration of our personal ideas of how things should be.

  5. Well said Bhante,

    I realized when visiting my family in Europe not long ago, that they perceived my interest in Buddhism as a ‘hari krishna cult’. Why? Because they didn’t see the content, but only the container and what they said is “bald men in dresses bowing to a statue”, and they thought I was nuts to be interested in that. I wasn’t offended since this was their perception and how can one be offended by the reality of a situation. It’s their culture and upbringing and they did not take Buddhism seriously, let alone listen to the teachings.
    And worse, when they saw the bowing, immediately they thought it was a cult and wanted to run away. I think the westerners can relate to this- the born Buddhists are just too close and don’t have this experience.

    What is more important: keeping to the rituals and the container or sharing the teachings to liberate people from suffering?

    Dhamma is such a good product but in an old container that makes it unappealing to non-Buddhist cultures.

    Now my family was interested in the content of Dhamma since they said that they think too much, have trouble sleeping, need to relax. I then gave them a good book (Ajahn Brahm’s book), but the instance they saw a funny (pali name) with a picture of a bald man in a ‘dress’, they said ‘no thanks’.

    However, beeing sneaky, I gave them a cd and just said “it’s an ‘English ex-physicist from Cambridge giving advice on how to relax and be peaceful”- then they were interested and took it!

    Same product- but a different container- one works, leads to success and propagation of Dhamma and respect, and another container was ignored and not respected.

    It’s indeed a challenge how Buddhism can change to appeal to the west, yet keep it’s essential Dhamma/Vinaya.

    Maybe some possible changes: just saying the teachings rather than chanting them in pali- especially when most of the audience doesn’t understand pali! Ex: after the meal at a monastery, the monks can simply say ‘thank you, may you be happy and well etc’ rather than chanting in pali.

    Another thing, our Australian monks can keep their eyebrows. Shaving eyebrows is not part of the vinaya and eyebrows are needed to keep sweat from burning the eyes. The Buddha had eyebrows.

    Bhante Sujato said “After all, the robes that monastics wore in those days (at the time of the Buddha) were, in point of fact, the same as lay clothes, except for the distinctive color and the patchwork pattern.”

    and I do remember reading somewhere in the suttas, although i can’t quote it so i might be mistaken, that the Buddha said it’s not the appearances that makes one a bhikkhu but their conduct.

    I honestly feel that as well, I respect a person with conduct, whether they are wearing jeans or a robe. Of course I am happy that people live a monastic life, that’s great, but conduct is more important than what they are wearing.
    So if they must change their appearance to fit the situation- what’s wrong with that? Would the Buddha disprove? The Buddha looked ‘normal’ in his time since his outfit was similar to lay peoples’, just more simpler.

    One issue I want to bring up to our western Buddhist community is how to change the packaging to attract ‘normal’ people in the west who are interested in the teachings, but get ‘put off’ by the rituals and appearance.

    And what Bhante Sujato said about giving people the benefit of the doubt- i remember hearing that the Buddha encouraged this :) It’s not only better for the person but harmony amongst the community as well, and better for the person who gives that benefit of the doubt!

  6. If monks are going to accept secular titles they might as well wear secular clothing (I guess).

    I came across this picture which was reported to be of a monk arriving at a refugee camp for Thai refugees from the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia http://yfrog.com/h33rrcjj

    Not sure if it has changed but monks at Amaravati etc. were not allowed to go bare shoulder as it was thought that this could upset English sensibilities.

  7. Thanks, Bhante, I found this post very refreshing. I think it’s a shame that the monk even had to explain that he was trying to help the lady with the handbag incident…it’s surely a ‘normal’ response. I remember when I was an anagarikaa and was helping a nun bring in some bags from the car, and she suddenly said, “that’s your training”. My heart sank. I wasn’t helping her because she was a nun, and senior at that, it’s a response of the heart.

  8. Along with the Dhamma, the book that has shaped my worldview the most is the Pulitzer Prize winning “Denial of Death”, by Ernest Becker. It is a book that pierces through the human condition with astounding clarity.

    In it, Ernest Becker has a lot to say about symbols and why mankind venerates them. His central thesis is that mankind’s central anxiety is his knowledge of his own mortality, for which he creates society to shelter himself. Becker believes that all people have what he calls an immortality project, which is essentially an effort to attain relevance in a frighteningly animalistic, impersonal, and hostile universe.

    Interesting psychological research has been done in this area whereby people’s interactions with sacred symbols such as flags or the crucifix are studied after having received gentle reminders of mortality. The people were much more unwilling to violate the sacredness of these symbols after having received death reminders.

    The monks robe is powerful symbol for the lay community that brings them comfort in their own “immortality project”. From a rational standpoint, a monk not wearing robes is just a monk not wearing robes, no big deal. But the reality is that not wearing robes was a direct affront to the psyche’s of lay community, and in a very freudian kind of way, actually threatened peoples feeling of safety from the hostile universe. People will respond in a predictably hostile manner when their well-being is threatened, and that’s what happened.

    Another consequence of Becker’s hypothesis is that when faced with other cultures, whose collective immortality project is different from our own, we will instinctively be hostile. This is because if their sacred symbols and beliefs are correct, then ours must be wrong, and thus their very existence threatens our quest for relevance/immortality in the universe.

    It’s very interesting stuff. Check it out: http://www.ernestbecker.org/

  9. Great post, Bhante, thankyou.

    Thanks for your thoughts, too, Dania – the question of how best to “dress” or communicate the dhamma in the West (or anywhere, for that matter) is a very interesting one. Your discussion makes me wonder whether Venerable Dhammaratana’s suit could be taken as a gesture of openness to the ways of the West, a signal that he thinks the future of Buddhism lies in such openness (a bit like Thich Nhat Hanh’s decision to learn how to hug and then to develop “hugging meditation”, in order to embrace what he appreciates as valuable in American ways of communicating loving-kindness, and to bring this into productive harmony with Asian contemplative practice – something which you and I might consider had already been spontaneously achieved in tango… :).

    By the way, Bhante, I think you’d look great in a suit.

    • I guess you’ve seen the ‘free hugs’ campaign video?
      67 million views! i guess it does touch something deep in people’s heart- our western gesture of forgiveness and acceptance :)

      i think i cried the first time i saw it a few years ago, since i just needed a hug during that time too.

  10. I guess there are many ways to see a situation.
    As a monk I have always wore my robes and some times this has been quite a challenge, specially when I first returned home, I was just a novice and was quite scared, how all the people that have known me for 20 years would react to me, with my new appearance and new way of living life. But there has always amazing and positive surprises, even with people on the streets that in the past I would shy away from ( like punks,homeless, or rough young kids, etc.) I think the robes represented something different for them and looking them in their eyes,there is a kind of mutual recognition that we are both different ( we are both outside main stream society ). Some times, specially in the US, people have come to me specially because I wear a robe, they have questions, sometimes important questions. Perhaps the robe is a symbol for them, or a recognition of something <>, maybe vital. I have seen this happen in other European countries also, some people recognize the symbol and it may have touched them in some deeper ways. Often I have got perplexed looks, as if I would have come from another planet or worse, in those moments, at times, I do feel some temptation to a jedi impersonation, or something like that, but normally I keep it cool.
    Now there are times where I feel more relaxed and I feel the monk is more established inside, and what ever I wear is not so important, the reference point is more inward, so I will feel equally comfortable not wearing the whole set of short robes ( the one we wear inside our monastery )even that that is our rule.
    Who knows what we would choose to do if we where confronted with a life or death situation ( like maybe the Tibetan monks and nuns confronted when Chinese troops invaded Tibet ) I believe that in that case is not so much what you are wearing but what’s inside.

  11. On robe and dress code, another example of a monk who by protocol necessity has to change his robe into mundane uniform is that of Venerable Ban Ruo in Sydney. Venerable was appointed Buddhist Chaplian by NSW Police and he goes to prisons to counsel inmates. When he is doing his counselling as a Police Chaplain, he ‘disrobed’ and donned his Police uniform which bears a Dharma wheel as a rank insignia.

  12. Bhante, a few years ago, while visiting one of my old university friends, I found myself being a bit apologetic about my strange appearance. What he responded really opened my eyes. He said the robe of a Buddhist monastic is a fairytale in “branding”, a marketing manager’s dream . He said the the positive image most people have of Buddhism coupled with the very distinct appearance of Buddhist monastics is a combination that any business would be willing to pay huge amounts for. In a sense, it is a very distinct and valuable brand.

    After that incident I have looked upon my monastic robes quite differently. I now believe that the beautiful message of Buddha’s teachings in fact is enhanced by our unusual appearance. Our robes can probably help get the message out that there is something worthwhile in these teachings.

    With metta.

    • Thank you Bhante for sharing such a lovely ‘success’ story.
      Hopefully that perception will grow on people:)

      Unfortunately my family in Poland actually cut all contact with me because of my interest in buddhism once they knew i stayed in monasteries. My mother ‘disowned’ me initially when I told her I wanted to live a monastic life. She got so upset that I had to stop my training towards ordination. It took a few years for it to grow on her and now surprisingly she is interested in Buddhism.

      My father had to personally come all the way to Australia from Canada and stay with me at Santi to see what his daughter was up to!
      It’s interesting since he told me after his 1 month stay, he felt so welcomed and felt so good and happy staying at a monastery even though he didn’t have any tv or alcohol! After that 1 long visit, his perception changed and asked if he can come back! He said ‘now i understand why you do this’ and now accepts my involvement, but he said “don’t tell anyone since they won’t understand”. and it’s still true- i am still not allowed to tell any of my family (other than parents) that I am involved in Buddhism, because of their culture and conditioning, they still don’t understand.

      I had such a terrible experience with my family because of my interest in Buddhism: from them ‘disowning me’ and cutting all contact with me, that I’m wondering how other people’s family experienced their interest in Buddhism?

      How is Buddhism perceived in the west?

      • I also had a hard time with my family too when I chose to ordain. My mum freaked out about me shaving my hair. I always wore a hat in my parents presence and wore my work robes at home. I felt really uncomfortable wearing white outside of the monastery. Even now, 8 years after I disrobed, I feel uncomfortable when I remember visits with friends and family.

        That was really brave of your dad, Dania. Very touching. I went to visit friends at a monastery last year for one night and mum got really anxious again. My family never disowned me…they wanted to understand, they just couldn’t. I know that it was a deeply upsetting period for my parents, particularly my mum, and I feel really sad about that.

    • Well said Bhante. This very distinct appearance of Buddhist monastics MUST be backed up in parellel by the manifestation of the integrity and living examples of the Buddha’s disciples. Likewise, it is so crucial to uphold the distinctiveness of the Buddha’s teachings while we try to be all-embracing in the name of interfaith harmony.

  13. After a meal at the monastery, I had to explain to newcomers that the chanting in a foreign language actually means that the monastics are thanking the people who brought food, and wishing them well, happiness etc. The response was ‘well why don’t they just say it?’ since they had no idea what was happening. That was a reasonable point- why don’t they just say the teaching?

    After a situation like this, it made me realize that the Buddha gave teachings while speaking (not chanting), in a language understood by the listeners. Chanting was a method used later for people to memorize the teachings (is that correct those who are historians?).
    So when people come to offer food, do they want a teaching they can understand and learn from?

    I question the efficacy of the ritual of chanting in the west. Something to explore.

  14. The conferment on a monk by the King cannot be construed as “honouring of a Buddhist by a Muslim”. He is the King of all Malaysians, all Muslims alone.

  15. Dear Dania

    Thank you for sharing something that is so obviously right from the middle of your heart.

    I think this is another one of those balancing acts…

    If i may share something of my life too?

    I was recently asked how many towns I had lived in. I counted 14. It’s very possible that there were more. Most of the moving around occured between the ages of 2 and 13. This might not sound like a big deal…but believe me…it was!! I’ve been lucky enough to have met two other adults who have a similar history…I say lucky because suddenly someone else sees and hears me…and we know what we’ve had to do to just function and painstakingly teach ourselves a myriad little mundane things that most people just take for granted as being normal! It was only as an adult and with increasing maturity did I realise the impact this had on my life, personality and psychology!
    It’s fine now but at the time, the suffering of being so blown about, without stability, was overwhelming. And I had no idea what one of the major causes was because i was right in the middle of it. To this day I, as a teacher now, recognise gaps in my academic knowledge. And i certainly missed out on stable social opportunities to learn about dealing with people in even the most ordinary and unimportant situations. Amazingly (to me) i can now see the positives in my travel experiences!

    The most important of these positives is that I understand somethings about human migration. I understand about people being new in situations they don’t understand and among people they don’t know. I understand how group dynamics can play out when there is a new person. I’ve seen all this countless times. I see it still in my work – either I’m new or someone else is new. But the difference is now that it doesn’t hurt me like it did and I’m not paralysed through a lack of knowledge like I used to be and I’ve now built up my confidence through years of making myself learn things I didn’t have the chance to learn before. I know if i can learn these things, those who are new to Buddhism in the west can learn Buddhism and make it their own.

    I also learned that I have the ability to extend kindness to those who are looking lost or out of place. I know the wonder that this can work on a person. I know what it feels like to have where you are coming from validated, mirrored, acknowledged. I remember being told that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. It was a shock. I realise now that my implicit assumption was that there was something wrong with me. I learned to accept myself. I’m flawed and still not sure of myself in so many ways. But that really is okay. I’m not in a mad hurry to be perfect. I’m certainly not going looking for suffering since suffering will invariably find me! It’s kinder to accept myself.

    So returning to those new to Buddhism in the West…

    I think that the best thing to do is to be as present and as loving as possible to the moment. So when we see someone new we can respond with loving presence. Perhaps when asked why the chanting can’t be in English, it is not so much the content of the speech/actions that follow that are important. Perhaps what is important is how that speech flows out…with good humour, acceptance, love. I think, long afterwards, the people you speak with may not remember what you said, but how you said it…or rather, a sense of where you were coming from…from love, humility, gentleness, anger, arrogance or contempt?

    And I do agree that we should do more chanting in English. It’s the teaching itself and should be understandable.

    But I can think of three reasons why we shouldn’t ditch the Pali altogether.

    1. The Pali Canon, the Agamas… We are now told by those who study these things that these are very early. They must be kept alive. I hope that in every age there will be those who study them rigorously and pass their knowledge on to the rest of us. Through being bilingual, I know how so much can be lost in translation. It’s essential that we always have the early Pali to go back to. Also, I think after a while, one may even start to think in Pali and one’s reflections on the Dhamma may then be quite different. It’s like that whole thing about Eskimoes having many many words for ‘snow’. Each word would evoke a different texture, memory, place…etc…

    2. I’m biased, but the Pali chanting sounds awesome. But this is probably because I am biased. But it is so important to cater for this bias!!!!!

    You know, I totally get the whole policy of ‘positive discrimination’. I see human beings moving about (for whatever reason) and coming somewhere new and being so lost and all at sea and suffering because they have had to leave their homes and old countries. To give them an extra sense of love and welcome and a chance to see things and faces and smells…that remind them of ‘home’ and all that is familiar and was once stable…seems like such a small thing to give people. A small stabilising kindness that costs so little compared to what it can give back.

    So give me (and countless others) the chance to still listen to the Pali.

    And as for those who aren’t as biased, well even the most Pali loving of us once started out not knowing anything about it. Perhaps even disliking it! But something else I learned in those very formative years when stability would have been useful, is that people are very very adaptable. We can learn. We don’t stay at that initial place where everything is just alien and strange…if we give people the chance, they’ll move from that place…just not necessarily in the way we want or when we want! I don’t always remember this so I’m grateful that I’m writing this…it’ll hopefully keep me ‘reminded’ for longer!!!

    3. Perhaps we all have listened to Pali chanting in past lives and if we listen deeply we may hear the resonance of this.

    I remember walking along the upper car park of a monastary somewhere, during a Rains Retreat and hearing faint, melodious, beautiful chanting. I crept closer and closer to it, not wanting to disturb anyone or be seen. I realised it was coming from a van parked right outside the workshop. I remember standing near the large water tank and listening. I felt like my heart would stop because it was so beautiful. Standing there I felt/saw the briefest, dreamlike echo of moonlit temple grounds; the white washed buildings and beach sand (underfoot) looking white and pale in the light of a full moon. It felt like somewhere in Sri Lanka. It was not a memory. It was just testimony to the evocative power of what i was listening to.

    The next day I asked the gentleman (who at that time lived in this van) what he had been listening to. It turns out it was a famous recording. I now have my own copy which I’m grateful to have. It’s on an old cassette. It’s scratchy and not the best quality in terms of the audio recording. But the voice and words are clear enough.

    A two or three year old boy spontaneously chanting suttas (such as the Dhammacakkapavatana Sutta) in as style that was not recognised or heard in contemporary Sri Lanka. He did this, regularly and often. The reason we have the recording is because his father had the foresight to tape his son. After investigation, it was later found that the style of chanting was one which had been the norm in Sri Lanka a thousand years ago.

    This is pretty much all I know about the famous Dhammaruwan chanting tape.

    As for the robes…while I appreciate the spirit of Bhante Sujato’s arguments, I must say that as far as these sometimes tatty looking garments are concerned…I love them. I love seeing them. They remind me of my Path. They remind me of metta. They remind me of my spiritual goals.

    I also love how weird they look. It takes courage and faith to look that weird. It is going against the stream of the world to look that weird!

    But perhaps it takes courage and faith to put on a suit?

    Has anyone asked Ven D what his motivations were? Perhaps it really was well meant.

    And symbolism and psychology aside, I’d rather a suited, wise, kind monk than a rascal in robes. Though personally and with rather deep bias, I much prefer the suit was saved for that once in a life time event… ;)

    With Metta

  16. Kanchana :
    I much prefer the suit was saved for that once in a life time event…

    The issue is NOT about wearing a suit or not adhering the vinaya to the word. I am just sad that a person who has spent so many years on a spiritual path saw fit to trade the symbolism of that very path just for the sake of receiving an award from secular person who just happens to be a King.

    One would have thought that ‘once in a life event’ for a spiritual person would be achievement of milestone in the path when one can be justified wearing a suit or not wearing anything at all – if that’s the way to express his or her joy. As to having to wear a tuxedo just to get a piece of metal or a rag from a King or an Emperor is a bit puzzling to me.

    A bit of a let down but that’s life – what more can one expect?

      • U don’t think the blue ‘suits him’;) no pun intended :)
        Maybe there was a ‘formal’ dress code?;)

        Given there is some grudge against Buddhism within Muslim countries, maybe he thought he’d appear leas threatening to them, more approachable. Besides, what’s more important: harmony between the religions and kindness and truth or strict attachment to ‘symbols’.
        I don’t have a personal opinion with either since I’m not a born buddhist and not attached to it’s rituals nor symbols but i am attracted to the Dhamma. I just want to challenge some old habits and ways of thinking. So was he right or wrong? it’s his kamma and judging or blaming him is a negative mind state and whoever doing it is making bad mental kamma.

    • It just came to mind,
      if the Buddha would have thought it was such a big deal, then he would have made it a stronger rule, a greater offense. But if it’s a minor offense, what does that tell us?

      • Hi Dania,

        No, in fact I think the venerable does look very smart in blue suit – smarter than when he is in robes!

        With regards to your comment about the dress code, I would love to see Ajahn Brahm attending a meeting with Hells Angles, with tatoos, torn jeans and stainless steel chains around him!! Wouldn’t that be a sight :-) After all this would be to win the hearts of the members of Hells Angles so should be perfectly OK?!

        On a more serious note, I really do not care whether the venerable went in a business suit or birthday suit – I was just expressing my admiration of people who do not get swayed and change their behaviour or appearance when some trinkets are dangled in front of them.

        I fully concur with you – it is no big deal.

  17. You know, this is really remarkable, that a Muslim King is honouring a Buddhist Monk! I think it’s just hitting home.
    Bhante was right, everyone saw the blue suit but got distracted by the remarkableness of the event.

    I don’t know much about politics or history, but from the little I heard, I got the impression that Muslims were trying to destroy Buddhism, get rid of it, disregard it, and here the king is honouring the senior Buddhist monk! amazing

    I assume from the monk it doesn’t mean much getting the piece of metal, as Guptila rightly pointed out: it’s only a piece of metal.. but looking at the significance of the situation, here is a Muslim king showing an act of respect and appreciation to a Buddhist in front of the whole world!!

    This must have an impact on inter-religious dialogue and on Muslims in the country. Imagine, many Muslims families would probably be watching this on their tv, their attitude to Buddhism might change wouldn’t it? they might think “If our king can respect a Buddhist, maybe Buddhism isn’t that bad, and look, he doesn’t look like an evil freak either, he looks like one of us! maybe we’ll go to a Buddhist temple next week” they might think :) (wishful thinking;)

    Does anyone know how this event was taken in Malaysia and if Muslims are now more accepting of Buddhists, given that the king awarded him?

    What impact did this have on Muslims in Malaysia and around the world?

  18. Qutoing Bhante ” As with so many other things, the Vinaya issue is a distraction here. Monks break far more rules than this every day and no-one bats an eyelid. The real issue is the robe as a symbols of the Sangha, part of the Triple Gem “. However, the circumstances of each deviation from the Vinaya must be seen in its rooted motive. Otheriwse, we run the danger of falling into the trap of explaining away every Vinaya violation as “skillful means” and “all embracing for harmony” which led to slippery slopes in the practice.

    • True, and of course I’m not trying to justify breaking Vinaya, merely pointing out that Vinaya is often broken in fact and no-one makes any fuss. Most of the time it’s not broken for any good reason at all, but just because monastics don’t know or don’t care.

  19. By the way…

    did monastics and laity where the same clothes 2600 years ago?

    was it the same style but different colour? i thought lay people on even the 5 precepts wore white back then.

    and also, i understand that monks and nuns wore the same sort of robe back then…minus the long sleeved under garment that the nuns wear nowadays!

  20. I think you’re right Kancana. (lay people wore robes too, so it was pretty similar) That’s what Bhante Sujato said and I think in a previous post months ago Bhante Brahmali said that it was pretty similar (although I’m too lazy to check since I don’t feel like going back through the hundreds of posts to verify).

    I do remember vaguely vinaya class in Santi when we were going over the clothes and I do remember that it was the same for both, except that nuns have this ‘bra’ type cloth. Yeah, i don’t know why the nuns here have to wear those long sleeved shirts, it’s so hot in the summer! It’s like inflicting torture on them i’d imagine! If the nuns are told to wear it, then the monks should too:) only fair :) I don’t know where this fad of wearing those long sleeved things came from since it’s not in the Vinaya. I am pleased that Santi nuns don’t need to wear those long sleeved shirts under the robes since they follow the vinaya.
    You know what another thing is interesting, that the vinaya says you can keep your hair long up to 2 finger widths or let it grow for a month, whichever is lesser. This seems to make sense especially in the winter! The head does lose a lot of heat and some hair is important. I don’t know why the habit at some monasteries in Australia is to shave the head totally every 2 weeks, it must get cold! Why don’t they just follow the vinaya and keep some hair? the Buddha did say that his teachings were complete and not to add any more rules.
    “As long as monks continue not to make pronouncements that have not been agreed, not to revoke pronouncements that have been agreed, but to proceed in accordance with the precepts that are agreed pronouncements, then they can be expected to prosper, not to decline.” Mahaparinibbana sutta when he talks about the principles to avoid decline.
    So I thought he told the disciples not to add anything to his rules? So isn’t adding more rules leading to decline, according to the Buddha. How does one understand this teaching? if monasteries add rules such as having to shave at a certain day, and shaving eyebrows, according to this sutta- this would lead to decline.. Do I understand correctly?

    • ‘From time to time, venerable sir, we white-clothed lay people also abide with our minds well established in these four foundations of mindfulness.’ Pessa, the elephant drivers son MN 51:4.

  21. Bhikkhu Brahmali :Bhante, a few years ago, while visiting one of my old university friends, I found myself being a bit apologetic about my strange appearance. What he responded really opened my eyes. He said the robe of a Buddhist monastic is a fairytale in “branding”, a marketing manager’s dream . He said the the positive image most people have of Buddhism coupled with the very distinct appearance of Buddhist monastics is a combination that any business would be willing to pay huge amounts for. In a sense, it is a very distinct and valuable brand.
    After that incident I have looked upon my monastic robes quite differently. I now believe that the beautiful message of Buddha’s teachings in fact is enhanced by our unusual appearance. Our robes can probably help get the message out that there is something worthwhile in these teachings.
    With metta.

    Well said Bhante. This very distinct appearance of Buddhist monastics MUST be backed up in parellel by the manifestation of the integrity and living examples of the Buddha’s disciples. Likewise, it is so crucial to uphold the distinctiveness of the Buddha’s teachings while we try to be all-embracing in the name of interfaith harmony.

    • Sadhu to Ajahn Brahmali’s wise words. Let us remind ourselves of Ajahn Chah’s teachings and deeds, which Sandra Bell’s article on “Being Creative With Tradition: Rooting Theravaada Buddhism in Britain” warmly records:

      “By all accounts that have been offered to me, the laity was impressed by the fact that the monks were prepared to venture forth every day in all types of weather wearing only thin cotton robes to walk single file carrying their alms bowls, receiving nothing but jibes or indifferent incomprehension from the majority of members of the public. The monks’ tenacity was viewed as a sign of devotion and obedience to their revered teacher…” (http://www.globalbuddhism.org/1/bell001.html)

      Like many who know Ajahn Sujato, I have the deepest respect for him. I especially remember him once writing “Silence is not option.” So in this spirit, I must say, as someone who has spent much of my youth and monk life in Malaysia (1960-1989s), I am deeply saddened and confused by A Sujato’s article.

      I know a number of people in Malaysia are not happy with the article, too. Suffice to say that during Ven K Sri Dhammananda’s time, local monks and lay workers had to tow the Mahavihara line, or be blackballed (history repeating itself?). The problem that local monks and Buddhists faced could easily fill a volume.

      I console myself by see A Sujato’s article as really a veiled censure against the “monk in suit,” a heavily sugar-coated response in typical forest-monk gentle style. In a way, Bhante, I think want us to think for ourselves. I see the “lady in the hotel” episode like Tanzan’s Zen story of the Zen priest and the Vinaya monk. Frankly, I think it would be more noble of Ven Dhammananda to ask his kappiya to return those women’s things. But hey, why pass a great opp-ortunity for a great PR move! (See:
      http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/RB23-Good-from-bad-100811.pdf &
      http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/RB4-Bodhisattvas-selfish-091028.pdf)

      And I also wonder how other forest monks Ajahn Sumedho or Ajahn Nyanadhammo would respond to this matter. One of the main Thai temples in Singapore, for example, does not allow locals to sing Buddhist hymns and songs (“This is not done in Thailand”). And a Sinhala temple stop local from chanting Pali verse with a plainsong tune (“This is a Sinhala temple.”) and so on. We have yet to see foreign missions actually promoting a “local” Buddhism.

      Dhammaratana’s robelessness is just a symptom, even a sign, of a bigger and darker pattern of things.

      Are we living in denial of the real issues, of things to come. Many of these events clearly reflect the Anagata Bhaya Sutta on “future dangers”?

      Are these signs that the Sangha is slackening rapidly? Will there come a time when the lay Buddhists have to fend for themselves without the third refuge (albeit a conventional one), as our Buddhist “parents” become more dysfunctional?

      I hope we will continue to be inspired by the last vestiges of the Buddha’s forest monks. If the forest monastics become too socially engaged, how much “forestness” would remain?

      Let us plug the leaks in our Dharma boat and bail it out, so that we might sail on more safely and speedily.

      With metta and mudita in those who have showed their concern, and in the simple blissful forest Dharma,

      By the power of our good intentions, may all this come to pass wholesomely and not recur.

      Piya Tan

      • Hi Piya,

        Thanks for the comment, and i’m sorry if some people don’t like what I had to say – another Malaysian said that my little post was the best contribution to the debate; so I guess it’s good that I don’t write these things for the sake of praise and blame!

        Your comment hints at ‘darker pattern of things’, and mentions that people in the past have had to toe the line or be blackballed. In email, others have suggested to me that the situation in Malaysia has deteriorated in recent years in regards religious freedom – which would hardly be surprising, as we similar things happening all over the world.

        None of this, however, has anything to do with a monk wearing a suit, or any of the issues that I discussed. If the problem is really an underlying pattern, then criticize the pattern, not the symptom. I read many statements and comments on the issue by Malaysian Buddhists before writing my piece, and all of them spoke of the ‘symbols’ and ‘dignity’ of Buddhism and so on, not of darker political forces. These were the comments that I was responding to. It was not me who was making a big deal of a symptom – I was trying to put the whole thing in perspective. If there are real, important issues, then let’s discuss them, and not get sidelined by trivia.

        Some have assumed that I have no knowledge of the Malaysian political scene and can be excused for my naivety – and they then go on to talk about things that, for the most part, I am perfectly well aware of. Indeed, i know many even darker things. But this, once more, has nothing to do with what I was saying. Any large scale religious scene has some dark corners. So what? This does not change the fact that the majority of Buddhists in Malaysia go about their practice of Buddhism every day without any problems, and that Malaysian Buddhism on the whole is characterized by an intelligence, understanding, and openness regarding different religious traditions.

        When i have studied Buddhist history, one of my cardinal principles is to seek explanations no deeper than is called for. This is an expression of compassion – that people’s motivations probably are what they say; and it saves us from wasting time following our own projections. In this case, we have an explanation offered by Riglin:

        I’ve heard that during the ceremony rehearsals, Rev. Dhammaratana was in his robe. But when he attended the actual ceremony, palace officials demanded him to change into the lounge suit they provided although Rev. has protested against it.

        True or not, I don’t know, but it sounds perfectly reasonable. As a monk, these kinds of situations come up all the time. Sometimes you just make a choice, and sometimes it isn’t the right one. But whatever: there is no reason to infer from this everyday, trivial choice relating to etiquette to any conspiracy darkening Malaysian Buddhism as a whole. If this account is true, then the ones who actually need criticizing are the palace officials.

        While it is essential to be open to criticism, and I pay deep homage to you, Piya, as one of the most consistently articulate and constructive critics of S-E Asian Buddhism for many years, it is equally essential that our criticism not give way to cynicism, and that it remain focussed on those things that are of real importance.

  22. Vinaya rules should be a means of liberation, according to the Latukikopama Sutta which the Buddha taught to Udāyī. In that sutta, Udāyī recalls how the rules about the proper time for meals were added to and amended until, any meal out of hours was not allowed. He mentions how, though at first these rules involved hardship, in the end they were found to be helpful in dispelling unhappy states of consciousness and replacing those with happy ones. The Buddha agrees, but adds that many people are foolish, and consider such sacrifices insignificant, unimportant, and irritating. Such people may grow discontented when asked to make such a sacrifice until this “insignificant thing” becomes a bond strong enough to hold them back. Some people are like quails caught in traps, unable to escape from their bonds, others like mighty elephants, bursting their bonds and going where they wish. In the sutta there are four types of people, differing as to how strongly they are attached to or detached from their bonds.

  23. This is quite a coincidence, so a few days ago when i started participating in the discussions here, I was in the middle of reading a sutta, the mahaparinibbana sutta. And each time I continue reading it (it’s a long sutta!) I notice points that relate to the discussions we have in this blog! about the Dhamma, the refuges, hierarchy etc.
    Now, after a nice sit, I decided to pick up the sutta again, and the first thing I read relates to this topic:

    “Ananda, I recall in the past approaching an assembly of several hundred rulers, where I sat down, had conversation, and engaged in discussion. IN that aseembly I matched my appearance to their appearance, I matched the sound of my voice to the sound of theirs, and I instructed them with talk abou tthe teaching, encouraging, enthusing, and inspiring them. And while I was speaking they did not know who I was and thought: “Who is this who speaks, a god or a man?” ANd when I had instructed them with talk about the teachings, encouraging, enthusing, and sinpiring them, I desappeared. And when I had disappeared they did not know who I was, and though “What was it that disappeared, a god ora man?” and so with all 8 assemblies: brahmans, householders, ascetics, Gods of the four kings, Gods of the thirty-three, maras and Brahmas.

    Did the Buddha too change his appearance, like indicated in this sutta, to match the appearance of his listeners? :) very cool!
    I don’t think I would have noticed this if it weren’t for the discussion.
    It’s nice discussing about the texts, it makes it become more ‘alive’.

  24. I’ve heard that during the ceremony rehearsals, Rev. Dhammaratana was in his robe. But when he attended the actual ceremony, palace officials demanded him to change into the lounge suit they provided although Rev. has protested against it.

    I believe this left Rev. with two options.
    1. Leave the conferment ceremony
    2. To comply and wear the lounge suit

    What will you do? Buddha, referring to the legislative system of the day, said, “I allow you, monks, to obey kings” (Vin 1.138).

    • Dear Riglin,

      Thanks for the information. I am not surprised to hear that such a difficult situation lay behind this event. Sometimes we’re faced with a hard choice and just have to make the call – and it’s not easy for those who were not there to understand why.

  25. As a Malaysian buddhist, I am appalled by the sight of the Chief Monk in suit. The late K. Sri Dhammananda (his uncle)would never wear anything but the robe. He was a prominent respected figure in Malaysia & Singapore and he met royalties all the time in his robes. What is so wrong wearing the robes to receive an award?Malaysia is a multi-religious country and other religions have no problem with monks in robes. First time in Malaysian monastic history.Quite shocking.Hope this would not set as a precedent for other monks in future.Caput lol.

    • Dear Sunnyata,

      “What is so wrong wearing the robes to receive an award?”
      This good question needed to be directed to the palace officials and demand an answer from them.

      • Dear Riglin

        Do not be too fast to point finger at the palace officials. Being a moderate democratic country which place inter-religious faith paramount, they cannot impose such a rule. It is not a religious award. It is on merits for welfare contribution to society. It is expected when monastic get involved with worldly welfare, fame and money are inevitable. Like the late Chief Monk said, monastics can encourage lay people to get involve in welfare but monastics should not directly be involved. Buddha only involved in 2 things i.e Dhamma teaching and meditation. The 2 things, if followed, will solve all worldly problems i.e there would be no social ills, welfare problems and corruptions.

  26. Riglin :Dear Sunnyata,
    “What is so wrong wearing the robes to receive an award?”This good question needed to be directed to the palace officials and demand an answer from them.

    There is much wisdom in the examples of both the late Venerable Chuk Moh and the late Venerable Dr. K Sri Dhammananda for not attending the conferment ceremony which then “forced” the Palace Official to present their awards to them in their respective temples.

  27. Riglin :I’ve heard that during the ceremony rehearsals, Rev. Dhammaratana was in his robe. But when he attended the actual ceremony, palace officials demanded him to change into the lounge suit they provided although Rev. has protested against it.
    I believe this left Rev. with two options.1. Leave the conferment ceremony2. To comply and wear the lounge suit
    What will you do? Buddha, referring to the legislative system of the day, said, “I allow you, monks, to obey kings” (Vin 1.138).

    If Rev. Dhammaratana had chosen to leave the conferment ceremony, would the Palace Official then has to present the award to him later at his Brickfields temple like what did happen to his uncle, the late Venerable Dr. K Sri Dhammananda?

    • What’s more important, showing those officials who’s boss attitude ‘they won’t tell me what to do’ or just being happy that they are showing a public sign of harmony.

      We can chose what we pay attention to in this event: the clothes or the harmony and celebration between people. No event will be perfect and no sense lingering on the clothes. Look at the beauty of the ceremony. I’m still amazed that the muslim king showed a public symbol of recognition to a Buddhist- just that inspires me :)

      It’s the 2 bad bricks again, some ignore the big picture and are focusing on what he’s wearing (like the gossip magazines where the centerfold is who’s wearing what).

      I don’t think any of us have enough information to judge and make assumptions about the whole deal.

      I liked Bhante Sujato’s reaction. He said he just though ‘oh that’s unusual’ but just left it at that- no going hysteric over a man wearing a suit.

  28. I believe that everyone has a role to play that contribute to society. Monastics who practice the Noble Eightfold Path in full can be guiding lights to teach people about the dhamma to increase welfare and happiness in society. Relevant aspects of the dhamma includes:

    1. Sila and doing good deeds
    When the number of people practice purity in words, thought, and action, increase, naturally, negative actions such as violence and crimes in society might decrease. Also the practice of good deeds can contribute to further eliminating existing problems in society. The need for Sila practice among the lay population is important in reducing the relapse.

    2. Full awareness ( mindfulness) in daily life and Meditation :
    In full awareness of every moment people learn to fully awaken to life and enjoy moment as it is. Being still in meditation enables a person to tap into the energy of joy from within.

    Suitable candidates for this area ( teaching sila, full awareness, and meditation) are the monastics who dedicate full- time to the study and practice of the Noble Eightfold Path. I am not saying all lay disciples wanted to practice for heaven ( sila ) instead of awakening ( sila, samadhi, panna) , but there is a large number of people do. For this purpose, it is important that the monastic motivate these people to do good deeds and practice sila. Also show them how to be fully at ease with each moment ( full awareness) and finding contentment within ( meditation). This is a valuable gift of dhamma that the monastics can share with the lay community because this is the area they specialize in. After all, they do spend a considerable amount of time on the subject (dhamma). Thich Nhat Hanh has done a good job in teaching people to fully awaken to each moment of life. Ajahn Brahm has done much to teach people who come to the monastery how to be still and tap into the joyful energy from within. I believe the monastics should teach these skills to people for their welfare and happiness. Various other types of issues in society come from people in society. If people are not transformed from within , these issues are bound to repeat itself or continue to escalate. When it comes to cleaning up the mess we already have in society, this requires the lay population to get involve and take action. Even if all the monastics abandon their dhamma study and meditation practice to clean up after the mess we made in society, they would never finish since we ( a number of us ) keep on making new mess and only a small percent of people are monastics. Instead, it might divert their time and energy from meditation & dhamma study, as well as teaching meditation & dhamma to the lay population in society, instilling inner peace and contentment. By that I don’ t mean that people who have ordained for many years shouldn’t get involve in projects like feeding the hunger, but just the newly ordained. Those who have ordained for ten or twenty years might have enough time to develop themselves , if they develop themselves. If they consider doing good deeds , teach the dhamma, or both, that is up to them. In my opinion, monastics who have dedicated enough time to fully develop themselves are suitable candidates because they will have sufficient wisdom to guide them in their compassionate work.

  29. Not knowing much about current Malaysian affairs, there are a few things one can know from the heart and general knowledge.

    The first being that this Venerable would understand the controversy generated by wearing a suit and would want to rest as close as possible to the spirit and the letter of Vinaya and the hearts of his wider Sangha brothers and sisters.

    The second, that kings and world leaders bear the responsibility to have knowledge of the customs of others and to honour them most especially during public ceremonies.

    The third, that there are power dynamics between leaders of high public stature (political, religious, etc) (and between leaders of religious movements and trends such as the trends we are finding in Southeast Asia towards a radicalized Islam)

    Was it then a glaring oversight of etiquette on the part of palace officials or the palace itself – in a culture like Malaysia that places high importance on etiquette especially during public functions – protocol is in all formal settings established usually well before the event.

    Or was it a situation created to generate public sentiment that offends the sensibilities of people who support the monk and even publicly discredit the monk himself? The latter is obviously sinister and unrealistic given he was receiving such a high symbol of appreciation – the award is in fact also a powerful gesture of support to religious diversity. If so, then why remove the robes that identify that religion (especially for those who could benefit from an expanded awareness of religious pluralism and of Buddhism)?

    Or it was weighed as an option that would prevent some kind of unsympathetic reaction on the part of an “ignorant” non-Buddhist population that may be becoming increasingly radicalized against religous pluralism?

    It is not a great leap to guess what a blessing it would have been for all Malaysians – especially Malay Buddhists -to see the title of Datuk awarded to a man in the robes.
    How powerful that image would be for raising the Malay people’s awareness and generating a more friendly response towards monastics – perhaps even in the rest of the Muslim world – starting not least with neighbouring Indonesia.

    On the international stage this kind of failure of protocol would be severely criticized. Imagine the U.N. conferring an award to the Dalai Lama and asking him to wear a suit!

    It is very difficult for me to imagine the genesis of the Venerable’s decision outside the context of protocol or other cnsiderations that we may never know about. There simply must be more to this.

    Nevertheless, it appears a sorely missed opportunity. May there be a way to reclaim this opportunity. (Hold another ceremony with the Venerable in his robes? Transform this as a teaching moment? A moment of humour that also restores dignity?)

    My heart to the Malaysian Sangha and may this matter be soon cleared in everyone’s hearts and a deeper understanding come to light.

    (Sincere apologies for any misunderstandings on my part)

    • Very well analysed especially the empathetic comments.

      ” On the international stage this kind of failure of protocol would be severely criticized. Imagine the U.N. conferring an award to the Dalai Lama and asking him to wear a suit! ”

      Likewise, would the Pope or HH the Dalai Lama be receiving the Nobel Prize Peace Award without his robe???

  30. I think the biggest question here is: Did Chief Monk Rev. Dhammaratana breaks the precept in donning a lounge suit? If it’s a no, then there is no issue. If it’s a yes, then he will be answerable for his action.

  31. Dear Venerable Sujato. I find this discussion must interesting. We have been addressing this problem in Cambodia. The Bhikkhus here feel that there should be a pan-Buddhist approach more than just a few Buddhist countries in control. We understand that the Sangha is not a “catholic”institution and the monks have freedom to change things due to changing conditions in time and place in fact many here have done just that. I see nothing wrong in this action since the rule does allows for a change of clothes under certain conditions. We here feel that Buddhism is freedom from attachment and this means to the letter of the law.
    Ven. Dr. Vira Avalokita, Sthera

    • Dear Ven,

      Thanks for the comment. i agree completely, Dhamma always finds a way to adapt to time and place, and part of being a Buddhist community is that we discuss how this should be done, and sometimes disagree with each other! It is always best for this process to happen through respectful dialogue rather than through authoritarian control.

      It’s good to hear of the discussion among the Sangha in Cambodia – we hear too little from our Cambodian friends! Please let us know if you have any other websites, resources, or news of how Dhamma is developing in Cambodia.

  32. To expect a monk not to be wearing a suit…..could that be attachment to the romance of the robe? External appearances are only that…external A venerable remains a monk. It is our expectation that he must wear a robe that obscures the fact that things are only as they seem by our external view. Do you accept that everyone dressed as a policeman actually is one?

  33. Dear all,

    I’m a Malaysian Muslim and have been working closely with Chief Rev Dhammaratana for the past 8 years in interfaith and charitable activities. I met Chief Rev shortly after he received the award for other matters and he took the opportunity to explain to me about the issue of wearing suits although I’m totally not aware about it. Suffice to say that Chief Rev was put in a complicated situation and he had to use his wisdom and deep understanding for the benefit of all. Chief Rev is now leading all Malaysian regardless of race and religion to raise fund to help our Thai brothers and sisters in the recent flood. We are very proud to be associated with him.

  34. Dear Venerable,
    Thank you for very interesting insights.
    We share your views .
    Dr. K. Sri Dhamananda was such a gifted Buddhist Teacher ,
    we have many of his Dhamma books in our library ,
    reprinted for free distribution
    by the Buddha Educational Foundation
    in Taiwan.
    We hope that the Dharma/Dhamma will further flourish in Malaysia
    due to great and compassionate activity of dr. K.Sri Dhamananda
    and his succesors .

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