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Buddhadharma : Winter 2013
WINTER 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 57 UDDHADHARMA: We want to explore the role of renunciation in Buddhist practice and what it means for modern-day practitioners, but to put it in context, perhaps we could start by looking at how renunciation has been understood historically. AJAHN AMARO: Well, in the Theravada tradition, as in the Bud- dha’s own sangha, the monastic order follows the Vinaya, training rules based on the way of life of the wandering yogis of India. The basic mode of life for any kind of yogi in the Buddha’s era was a renunciant one—living without an abundance of personal possessions, having only the robes that you’re wearing, not using money, and being celibate. In a Theravada country, that same model of simplicity and renunciant way of life is still upheld today, though to varying degrees of refinement. In most Theravada countries, there’s a tradition whereby the lay community, either on the full moon of each month or on the four lunar quarters, adopts a simpli- fied renunciant form for the day and takes up the precepts to refrain from killing, stealing, sexual activity, false speech, and using intoxicants. They would also take on the precept of refraining from eating in the afternoon or the evening, wear- ing decorative clothing, seeking amusement, using any kind of distractions, or lying on a high or luxurious sleeping place. ELIZABETH MATTIS-NAMGYEL: In the Mahayana, the emphasis is on motivation. Renunciation has to do with moving out of a contracted sense of self, the ego; we use our relation- ship with others to do that, renouncing self-care and moving more toward serving others. In the Vajrayana, renunciation B PHOTO | COURTESY OF SRAVASTI ABBEY