Thursday, March 10, 2011

Atha Nibbindati Dukkhe

Being a monk, being this monk anyway, is a funny thing. You leave the world, and then you turn around and try to help others do the same. Then you realize the result is you're just bringing the world with you. What do you do?

I make some videos for YouTube, trying to answer questions people have about Buddhism, meditation and the monastic life. Sometimes people ask easy questions, sometimes difficult ones. I try to answer as best I can; I'm probably not the best for the job, but I do try. I think the biggest problem is the distance between myself and the people who watch my videos. Not saying that one of us is above the other, just that we live generally very different lives.

Recently I posted a video about ordaining women that seems to have crossed some line somewhere. It's since appeared in several places on the web, and has elicited more response than my post on Brahmavamso's Jhanas. As usual, I was speaking off-the-cuff, and made some comments that seem to have insulted more than one person.

Honestly, honestly, honestly, whether there is anyone who believes it or not, I didn't expect and didn't want that any of my videos receive this much attention. It seems that quite a few people found even this video helpful; that is all I hope for from these videos. If they are solely harmful, I will remove them.

That being said, my views are my views. What are my views?

1) That putting heterosexual women and men together makes celibacy more difficult. I have never expressed the view that men or women of any inclination are more or less sexually active than another.

2) That putting homosexual men or women together with others of the same gender (homosexual or not) makes celibacy more difficult. My comment about men in skirts was a joke; a politically incorrect one, it seems, but what do you want? I live in a cave.

3) I am not against the ordination of either women or homosexual men. The former seems to pose little problem, given that it is done according to the Buddha's words. The latter is split into two categories; those who ordain to overcome their desires and those who ordain to indulge in them. The former type of man is welcome, the latter is not. Whether you believe there exist those people who ordain for perverse reasons or not is up to you. It has to be noted, too, that the checks that exist between monks of different gender do not exist between monks of the same gender. This should be cause for caution in this regard.

4) Ordaining women is not equivalent to causing a schism in the sangha, no matter what anyone says. If some monks are against ordaining women, power to them. If some monks are for it, power to them. It is when we say either that refusing to ordain women is wrong or that agreeing to ordain women is wrong that we begin the process of schism. As far as I know, I have done neither. The funny thing about this all is that I am being attacked by both sides of the debate. Well fine, attack away. The earth returns to the earth, the air to air, the water to water, the fire to fire.

5) After spending ten years in and out of more Buddhist monasteries than I can count, I have enough direct experience supporting the above views to make me feel comfortable dismissing more-or-less out-of-hand comments from people who have never lived in a monastic environment for any length of time.

So, for now, that's what I'm doing. Dismissing. Our focus should not be bickering and name-calling. It seems that the anger directed towards my video has spilled over into bickering and in-fighting among my detractors. I am sorry for this, but it should serve to remind us that anger, like desire, is a fire that knows no boundaries.

Something people don't realize is that monks teach out of kindness, not obligation. Ordaining others, be they men or women, is likewise an act of kindness, not an obligation. If you have never been involved in the process, it is easy to forget the incredible burden involved in raising a fledgling monk. This is explicit in the ordination act itself:

"Ajjataggedāni thero mayhaṃ bhāro; ahampi therassa bhāro."

"From this day forth, the elder will be my burden; I also will be the elder's burden.

If a monk, or group of monks, decide not to ordain this or that person or even type of person, who are we to judge? Perhaps they wish to live in peace and practice meditation alone according to the Buddha's instruction; perhaps they are mean, lazy, or ignorant, in which case better to go elsewhere anyway. Demanding ordination from anyone is a good way to chase away potential preceptors, or worse, cause a schism in the sangha.

Likewise, if a monk, or group of monks, decide to ordain women, who are we to judge? This whole thing is reminiscent of the problems Ven. Sirivijaya (ครูบาศรีวิชัย) had just trying to ordain men without permission from a group of monks in Bangkok; he was even arrested for it. Suffice to say, I'm happy in Sri Lanka :)

As always, I am not looking for debate. I'm trying to meditate; helping others is a part-time job :) If these words help to cool emotions, well and good. If they do not, feel free to go talk about it on your own blog. Commenting here, as always, is subject to moderation.