Home » Features » Safeguarding The Buddhist Community’s Integrity

When one expresses good will,
one is always blameless.
When one bears ill will,
one is already blameworthy.

- Stonepeace

Some friends occasionally speak of feeling troubled when they encounter ‘some dressed as Buddhist monastics’ (as they might not be real monastics?) saying or doing what seems to be morally questionable. They express their exasperation at being ‘unable’ to do anything. My reply, is that there is no need to be unhappy, that they can simply remind them that their behaviour ‘seems inappropriate’. The usual rebuttal would be that this sounds disrespectful. However, it need not be disrespectfully done, as one can simply say something calmly but clearly along this line in private – ‘Excuse me Venerable, may I know if this is in line with the Buddha’s teachings?’ This should be asked respectfully instead of accusingly, with palms together.

This is very different from deliberate fault-finding. It is simply expressing concern on likely mistakes, before they possibly spin out of control. It is sad but true that there have been monastics pampered by unquestioning devotees, to the extent that they become seriously distracted from the path to enlightenment. So long as still imperfect, it makes perfect sense to remind one another to walk the path well. Perhaps some monastics have good reasons for their ‘unconventional’ behaviour? If the question is not received in the good spirit in which it was asked, perhaps that monastic is truly a bogus one, or one who really requires deeper reflection for better practice? On our part, ensuring that we are void of ill will and polite with our speech, there is no harm intended or done.

If right on being wrong, one might be inspired to improve. If not, at least you did your bit to help. Even if wronged on being wrong, an understanding monastic would clarify any misperceptions, thus ‘enlightening’ us. In this way, we learn too. It is exactly because we highly respect the monastic community, that we should safeguard its integrity, and not turn a blind eye to what seems glaringly ‘wrong’. The monastic community in turn respectfully safeguards the lay community with timely Dharma advice. The greater the monastic community is in integrity, the greater will it benefit the lay community. If monastic and lay Buddhists do not take care of one another with good will and understanding, who will? Every effort counts.

When we respect an ideal,
we support those upholding the ideal too,
at least by reminding them of this ideal.

Stonepeace

Related Articles:
Do You Protect Or Endanger The Great Lion?
http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2013/10/do-you-protect-or-endanger-the-lion
How You Can Protect The Triple Gem
http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2013/10/how-you-can-protect-the-triple-gem-2

7 Responses to “Safeguarding The Buddhist Community’s Integrity”

  1. avatar
    wordless March 8, 2012

    [‘Excuse me, is what you are doing in line with the Buddha’s teachings, especially as a monastic?’ This should be asked respectfully instead of accusingly, with palms together.]

    Agreed. However, it also depends on the monastic’s personality and his overall perception of you at that moment.

    In the above suggested response to a monastic which seems to be showing inappropriate, the words themselves can be intrepreted by that monastic as insinuating about his conduct.

    But of course, it’s still worth a try, if we try to be as respectful and mindful as possible.

    [If the question is not received in the good spirit in which it was asked, perhaps that monastic is truly a bogus one, or one who really requires deeper reflection for better practice? On our part, being void of ill will, there is no harm intended or done.]

    Indeed it is possible that either the monastic is truly a bogus one or one that requires deeper reflection for pratice. It can be hard to discern though. And if that monastic is truly a bogus one, I would sincerely like to know what lay Buddhists need to or can do.

    Whether there is no harm intended or done as a result of one’s self-perception of lack of ill-will, cannot be easily discerned at all times in my opinion. One might incur the ill-will of that particular monastic that you have so respectfully admonished and hence naturally creating a rather subtle negative karmic affinity between both parties.

    I can only advise on trying our best to achieve some form of balance between respectful ‘reminders’ and letting things pass while monitoring from behind the scenes.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the view [..because we highly respect the monastic community, that we should safeguard its integrity, and not turn a blind eye to what seems glaringly ‘wrong’.].

  2. avatar
    wordful March 8, 2012

    One can only be as mindfully sure as one can be in the moment that there is no harm intended, while continually working to improve mindfulness via Dharma PRACTICE.

    There will be no harm done if, as the article says, the approach is in private and no ill will is expressed.

    In the respectful wording and body language suggested, it is not even admonishing, but simply asking politely. You can add a half bow before and after too.

    Why think so much? Even in uncertainty, just do what is deemed more appropriate. That’s all. To be needlessly ambivalent about many things is a possible reason why our Dharma PRACTICE progresses slowly. A lot of is learnt through action. Mere speculating and worrying amounts to little.

    On handling bogus monks:
    http://moonpointer.com/new/2009/09/bust-the-bogus

  3. avatar
    wordless March 8, 2012

    Approaching the person in private and taking care not to harbour any ill-will while offering gentle reminder is definitely the route to take; such caution reduces the chance for harm.

    We all assume ourselves to be asking politely and it could indeed be so. It is not about politeness or bowing per se, but about understanding the personality and level of maturity when speaking to a human being; regardless of their social or religious status.

    When we assume others are speculating and worrying, even if we are right, how does that help in the form of a discussion? If our assessment is indeed right, how do we help that person to understand without appearing as trying to cut him off?

    It is not so much about thinking a lot or less. It’s more of how we think or act. How we think affects how we act. This is something most can agree to.

    Action and thought cannot be separated. Any form of speculation and worry should be addressed with tact and compassion from those who are wise.

  4. avatar
    wordful March 8, 2012

    Since we can’t read anyone’s mind to know their character, why think so much? Just be as humble and sincere as you can when asking. The ball will next be in the listener’s court.

  5. avatar
    wordless March 8, 2012

    It’s true we can’t read anyone’s mind, but we can be humble and sincere in trying to understand that person’s personality, values, etc. It’s just as you mentioned when it comes to asking.

  6. avatar
    Sue Ramsey October 20, 2013

    HELLO, OCT.19,2013
    A COUPLE OF TIMES I’VE READ INTERPRETATIONS OF DHARMA THAT EITHER CONFLICTED WITH THE PALI CANON, OR DIDN’T CONTAIN SUFFICIENT INFORMATION TO COMPLETE THE EXPOSITION OF THAT PART OF THE PALI CANON. RECOGNIZING THE WRITER MAY ONLY USE INTERPRETATIONS WRITTEN AS 2ND. OR 3RD. INTERPRETATIONS THROUGH VARIOUS LANGUAGES FROM THE ORIGINAL PALI, OR BELONG TO A BUDDHIST SECT WHICH ONLY STUDYS ONE OR TWO SUTRAS, I FEEL CONCERN FOR ESPECIALLY THE NEWER BUDDHISTS AND THE ONES UNLIKELY TO STUDY. SENDING IN SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH COMPLETE WITH INTERNET ADDRESSES EASES MY DISCOMFORT. IT HAS NEVER BEEN MEANT AS CONDEMNATION OF THE WRITER, ONLY AS ADDITIONAL INFORMATION SOME WILL NEED. IT HAS BEEN MET WITH CALM INTEREST, WITH DEFENSIVENESS AND WITH SOMETHING AKIN TO HATRED. MAY WE ALL HAVE PEACE ON OUR DHARMA JOURNEYS. PEACE, SUE (JERUSHA) RAMSEY

  7. avatar

    What are the parts in conflict? Do enlighten for the welfare of all.

    It is good to know the Buddha’s teachings are not constricted to the Pali Canon too. Do see http://www.tricycle.com/feature/whose-buddhism-truest The idea that the Pali Canon is the absolute authority is now backdated.

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