Shortly after the riots in Sri Lanka in July 1983, in a monastery in the Bandarawela district, whose abbot was well known for his anti-Tamil sentiments, a group of men sat at his feet, excited, talking about the events Recent The abbot was giving his opinion and one of the things he said was that the Tamils should be expelled and that, if they did not leave, they should all be killed. As he progressed, he spoke in an increasingly strong and violent manner. After about an hour of this, a layman in front of the audience caught his attention and touched his watch. The abbot looked at the clock, saw that it was 11.35 am, ended his tirade and hurried to take his Dana.
The audience had clearly agreed with what the abbot had been saying, but there certainly would have been murmurs of disapproval if he had not finished eating before noon.
When the famous monk Buddharakshita was in prison waiting to be judged for the murder of the then prime minister of Sri Lanka in 1959, the routine of the prison was changed so that he could eat his Dana before noon and most people thought that this It was the right thing. This ‘addiction to trivia’, to use the phrase of Thomas More, is omnipresent among the Theravadins and blinds them to what really matters.
To take another more striking example.
It recently came to the public’s attention that some monks in the poor northeast of Thailand help get girls to the brothels in Bangkok. Brothel officers sponsor religious ceremonies in the monasteries, villagers flock to them, recruitment takes place and the abbot receives his court according to the number of girls captured.
To alleviate the girls’ guilt and hesitation, the monks tell them that becoming prostitutes is due to their bad past kamma, which can diminish if they send part of their earnings to the monastery, which many do.
Apparently this kind of thing has been happening for years and it could only happen because the monks and the local population do not see it as contrary to the letter of the Vinaya. And, in fact, the monks who participate in this disgusting business could argue so much. If the money «donated» to the temple is delivered to the steward in the proper way, what rule has been broken? If the Vinaya is in danger of being raped during negotiations with the brothel agents, this can easily be avoided by «writing it correctly». And if the result of all this is exploitation and misery, what does that have to do with the monks?
According to the orthodoxy of the Theravada Vinaya, the monks must work for their own salvation and not get involved in worldly matters. But one thing is for sure. If you see a young monk from one of these monasteries try to shake hands with a tourist, eat a cookie in the afternoon or kick a ball, there would be a protest and you would face considerable disapproval.
But the fact is that these and other shameful or absurd practices continue and no one, including the ecclesiastical authorities, is too concerned about that as long as the external form of the Vinaya is fulfilled. When the controversial founder of Shanti Asoka, Phra Phutirak, defended the unconventional practices of Vinaya, the ecclesiastical council of Thailand quickly resorted to the secular arm and made him undress by force. As far as I know, the pimps monks from the northeast have never been disciplined, although since their exposure by the press they are probably a little more discreet.
The truth is that in the Theravada, following the letter of the Vinaya is more important than teaching Dhamma, it is more important than making others uncomfortable, it is more important than kindness or meditation and it is more important than taking a moral position.
In fact, the Theravada makes it clear that following the Vinaya is more important than life itself. In the comments, the story is told of a nun who fell into a pond where she was seized by a crocodile. A man who saw this ran to help the woman, but when he reached out to grab her and take her out of safety, she refused to take her because of the rule that monks or nuns can not touch anyone. the opposite sex The nun was consequently eaten by the crocodile.
In any other tradition, such a story would be used to illustrate the second of the Ten Shackles, the ritualization of morality and rules, but in Theravada this nun is considered a model of virtue.
It is true that in one place Buddhaghosa says that a monk might consider breaking a minor rule for the sake of compassion. This is one of the few faint flashes of light in his, otherwise, dreary writings.
But the problem is this; If the participants in the First Council could not determine which were the important rules and which were the minor ones, how could an unenlightened monk know?
A much better option is to forget about compassion and to follow inflexibly all the rules, or at least their external form. And this is exactly what Buddhaghosa generally advises.
For example, he says that even if one’s mother falls into a raging river, under no circumstances should she try to save her if that means making physical contact. Again, he says that if a monk falls into a well he should not dig himself up even to save his life, since that would violate the rule of not digging the earth.
Now, when you think that these little rules are more important than the lives of others, even more important than life itself, is it surprising that they are given so much attention that the things that really matter are considered insignificant in comparison?
The Mahayana arose partly as a protest against exactly this kind of petty and insignificant egoism. The Bodhicariyavatarapanjika says that the compassion and well-being of others must always come before adherence to the minor and sometimes even the most important rules.
«When realizing the highest truth, you must commit to the welfare and happiness of other beings.
And if someone should object and say; «How can you avoid committing an offense while doing something that is forbidden?» The answer is that the Lord taught that what is forbidden can be done by someone who perceives with the eye of knowledge the benefits of others in it … But this does not, it does not apply to everyone; only those who practice compassion in the highest degree, who do not have a selfish motive, who are exclusively interested in the interest of others and totally dedicated to this ideal.
In this way, there is no offense for someone who is skillful in the media and who works for the interest of others with wisdom and compassion.