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Question: Does Buddhism advocate materialistic pursuits? If not, why do some monastics collect angbaos (red packets with money offerings)?  Do they give them to the temples they are from after taking them?

Answer: The Buddha was not against the moral accumulation of wealth for laypeople, especially if it is put to good and generous use to benefit others for wholesome purposes. However, he warned against feeding greed, which is a spiritual defilement. Often, much focus on making money leads to less focus on spiritual learning and practice.

The Buddha instructed that monastics should focus on spiritual cultivation; not material accumulation. That said, there are costs of living to meet for monastics not of the alms-seeking tradition. Unless already with ample support via other means, money is a very practical resource for clothing, food, lodging, transport, medicine and other necessities.

Proper monastics do not keep openly demanding for more and more money, while those who already have enough can reject or channel donations to appropriate causes and organisations, such as those they are supported by. As more cautious lay supporters who do not wish to accidentally ‘feed greed’, cash need not always be given, as what needed can be sponsored in kind instead, as a direct practice of thoughtful generosity.

Related Article:
What We Should Not Offer Monastics
http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/09/what-should-we-not-offer-monastics

4 Responses to “Why Do Some Monks Take Angbaos?”

  1. amenlai August 24, 2015

    The statement : proper monastic do not keep openly demanding for more n more money—-
    People can n will take this – not openly wrong
    Not openly, then you can give ” not openly”
    Monks are NOT TO RECIEVED CASH OR WEALTH OF ANY KIND.
    EXCEPT OF THE FIVE REQUSITES.
    TO ME MONKS NEVER ASK OR WISH FOR ” ANG POA”
    PEOPLE WRONG PRACTICE AND NO KNOWING THE VINAYA IS THE ROOT OF THE CHAIN ACTION
    SO BUDDHIST NEED TO KNOW THE DHAMMA AND RULES OF THE MONKS.
    DO MORE MEDITATION AND GAIN PEACE AND WISDOM

  2. Ideally, all monastics should not handle a single cent at all. These days, even some from the Theravada tradition have to use money. It actually takes quite a bit of good karma to be able to not need to handle even a single cent for a bus ride. They must live in communities that provide well enough for them materially, even for a bus ride. Imagine if a monk needs to travel from point A to B and does not have a single cent, and cannot find a sponsor. What is he to do?

  3. Nowadays you do’t need to handle cash for such a need.
    Where do a monk need to go? Monks are supported for all their daily need, food and all.
    If a monk need to go out, what is his purpose of the trip.
    Shopping or getting anything of need?
    His need should all be taken care of in the center or temple.
    If he needs to take a bus or MRT, he don’ t have to handle, let along touch or come in contact with cash.
    The center or temple or devotee can purchase an MRT care for his need. Tell the monk to inform you if it run low. Given the permission , he now can tell or request you for topping up.
    Yes, MRT is also money, you may argue. BUT NOT DIRECT CASH.
    Nornally if a monk is invited for house Dana, he should be pick up by the devotee. No transport cost needed.

  4. Monastics might need to travel for study and visits to devotees who might be poor and have no means of transport. Not all temples are well provided for materially in terms of clothing, food, lodging… Even donations will need lay people to handle if money is not to be touched. Yes, as mentioned, it takes good karma to have a personal accountant for all money matters.

    I have seen popular local Theravada monastics in proper temples who receive red packets too. I don’t wish to name them, but to highlight here that I do not know of a single monastic here who does not handle money at all. Surely, this does not mean they are all wrong. Most I believe are just being practical. After all, they are not living in a forest.

    If you feel that it is feasible for every monastic of every tradition worldwide with various cultural, environmental and social conditions to not handle a single cent in actual or token form (e.g. MRT card IS money, that can be used for non-transport purposes nowadays), do go forth to propose your idea. Think none of us here are monastics who can relate to their day-to-day lives.

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