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Buddhadharma : Spring 2010
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2 0 10 56 other monastic traditions, there are adaptations of that, but we all have a rule and that’s vital. I once asked Ajahn Amaro what happens when you have someone who’s so clearly enlightened, like Ajahn Chah, and then in the next generation there’s nobody who seems to have that power or that clarity. In response, he emphasized the importance of the Vinaya. As long as people are subject to living that life, it becomes a field of cultivation for enlightened beings of various grades to arise. One of the functions of the monastery is to keep the dharma wheel turning, to honor and preserve traditions that have been time-tested over thousands of years. Through how we carry our body, speech, and mind, we’re keeping the dharma wheel turning so that enlightened human beings can keep appearing. BuddhadhaRma: Is a charismatic figure like Ajahn Chah needed to lead a monastic tradition? Bhikkhu Bodhi: It seems there are two models of monastic life. One model, which is very common in Asia, originates because a monastery centers around a deeply experienced, realized, and skillful teacher. He attracts students and ordains them, or he attracts those who are already ordained. Then, he becomes the de facto leader, the decider, the one who runs and controls the whole monastery. As long as he’s a wise, accomplished teacher, the monastery will run smoothly and everybody will conform to his desires and live together harmoniously. But sometimes the person who winds up in the position of power in the monas- tery is obsessed with power and tries to dominate and suppress others. In that case, the monastery will often fall apart. RoBeRt thuRman: The Tibetan tra- dition is steeped in the charismatic approach. Their system of reincarnate teachers is unique among Buddhist societies. We are all a reincarnation of somebody, of course, but Tibetan Buddhism makes an institution out of it. When reincarnate lamas were brought up as monks, which was typical, that was usually beneficial. Conforming to the Vinaya kept them from becoming too powerful. But in the diffusion of Tibetan Buddhism Monastics need not be solitary hermits, or paccekabud- dhas, off in a mountain with no contact with anyone. Rather, they may be visible in the world and have a connection with everyone in it. The way of monastic life laid out by the Buddha in the Vinaya is not only an expression of his great wisdom but of his great compassion for everyone. The monastic life is not only an excellent way of living for people in training. It is equally so for highly accomplished practitioners. It’s a wonderful way for them to share themselves with the world. BuddhadhaRma: One of my teachers said monasticism is impor- tant because it’s clean and complete. It’s like a canvas back- drop that gives us a frame of reference for complete devotion to practice. Jan Chozen Bays: Ideally it’s clean, but not always. BuddhadhaRma: Naturally, like any path, it has its own ups and downs. ayya tathaaloka: It is also possible for monasticism to be done improperly, such as when monastics, or even whole monaster- ies, start living for reasons other than the practice or become involved with other businesses. Although the form of monastic life might still be there, something else is going on. Bhikkhu Bodhi: We shouldn’t cherish too many romantic illu- sions about the monastic life. There are many monasteries in which monks misbehave and become involved with other things besides the practice, study, and transmission of the dhamma. Jan Chozen Bays: Such as selling lucky lottery numbers. BuddhadhaRma: Some people have come into monastic institutions and been disillusioned with what they found there. What ensures that the monastic container is maintained and that what happens there really is the complete renunciation you’ve been speaking about? Jan Chozen Bays: First of all, disillu- sionment is part of training. Everyone comes into monastic training with illu- sions about what will happen, what they’ll become, what the teachers are like. To maintain the container, there has to be a monastic rule. In Thera- vada Buddhism, it’s the Vinaya. In Monasticism is an important alternative way of living in which distractions, pressures, and temptations are significantly reduced. On a normal day we end up with four hours devoted to meditation, and during retreats it’s eight to ten hours, which you can’t possibly do in lay life. —Jan Chozen Bays Shika Gento calls monastics to lunch at Mount Baldy Zen Center, in California’s San Gabriel Mountains. myosenJuliesprottaaronklokeid