Sila

Author
Topic
#405

I was suprised to hear that a famous monk, Achaan cha used to smoke. It is not specifically banned in the Vinaya, thus technically one can get around it, but definitely goes against the spirit, for the reasons Amara so ably explained. I read once that his teacher Acharn Mun was also a smoker so I guess it was part of the scene in the old days. You dont see many monks smoking now. On the question of laypeople smoking. I think leave this up to conditions. It is not breaking any of the 5precepts – it is simply an unheathy habit. It wont hinder one studying abhidhamma. Sometimes it even helps people concentrate – much as having a coke or coffee can at times. For some of us it is very easy to drop such bad habits, for others very hard. I think we should not put much pressure on smokers, as other things are more important.

Going broader now, and looking at lifestyles. Some cannot even keep the 5 precepts. There was a monk in the Buddha’s time who couldnt cope with the severity of living a monks life so he went back to being a layman. Took to drink in a major way and in no long time was an alcoholic. He remained so until the very day he died – his last breath smelled of alcohol, it is said. When the monks asked the Buddha where he was reborn – expecting to be told in hell or as an animal- they were shocked when the Buddha said he was now in the deva realm and had attained sotapanna at the time of his death. The Buddha expalined that he had great confidence in Dhamma, still listened to Dhamma whenever he could, and had accumulated the conditions for deep wisdom. This is an unusual case but it shows us the great power of Dhamma.

One of the people I admire most in Thailand (apart from the obvious ones) is a pig farmer. He is a student of Khun Thanit. As I mentioned on another post Khun Thanit really hammers home the teachings on sila. It is quite usual for one of his talks to give a detail or two about the terrors of the hell realms and how breaking sila is one way to get there. This mans livelihood is involved in growing pigs and butchering them – a very severe break in sila. However he cannot easily give up his business. It is not so easy to change profession in Thailand if you are a normal working man. But he is interested in Abhidhamma and convinced by the teachings. This is kusala of a very high level. The akusala of killing will bring its results sooner or later but so too the kusala of listening and considering will bring its profound results. he knows this and continues to listen – many in his position would rather not hear about such matters and so lose the chance to accumulate any wisdom.

Robert
_________________________
What is crucial here is to understand just what sila really is. This is where the Abhidhamma is necessary for proper understanding of satipatthana and thus for understanding the vinaya. As I have stressed at different times it is not by outward action that we can judge sila. You once said about a karaoke attendant that we could not tell from looking at him whether he might have sati. Yes, precisely. The monks “job” is to guard the sixdoors and he is reminded about this duty by the vinaya. This guarding is only accomplished properly when there is attention to the kammatthana (meditation object) which as we have said before at this time should usually be the khandas, dhatus, or ayatanas. A monk knows that if he even eats a meal without reflecting wisely that for that much alone he is liable to be born in hell. Anyone can live the monks life if they have the perseverance to endure an austere lifestyle- BUT to live it with RIGHT effort to understand the moment takes wisdom, as garnered from right reflection from the Dhamma.

I see. It’s similar to the idea of taking 5 precepts. The Sila helps the mind clear and peaceful so that it can study Dhamma better.

Your reply may indicate an idea that first we get sila and then comes wisdom. Remember that a moment cannot be held onto. Sila and wisdom can arise together because every kusala citta can be classified as sila. Some people have the same idea about samadhi; they think they will get concentrated and then use this concentration to investigate. Both of these ideas show a belief in permanence and control. You see ekaggatta cetasika, samadhi, arises and passes away COMPLETLY along with the citta that is conascent to it. Because the next citta is conditioned by the preceeding citta if the arammana is the same, as in the development of samattha, then samadhi can become powerful and so upacara samadhi and then jhana attained. However in vipassana it is different. This is more subtle than samattha. It needs that special knowledge that only Buddha’s can teach- the understanding of anatta and its corollary no-control. There cannot be holding to one object with vipassana because satpatthana can only be aware of paramattha dhammas, actual realities. And paramattha dhammas are arising and passing ceaselessly. They have their own conditions for coming into being. No one can control them or hold onto them. Thus samadhi in vipassana is khanika samadhi, momentary. It does not last even for a split second. It has different strengths appropriate to the level of understanding. At the moments of actual vipassana insight the samadhi is very powerful just for those moments. It is conditioned by the panna that arises at the same time and it assists panna because it fixes on whatever parmattha dhammas are being insighted. This is all uncontrollable though and we can’t arrange to have samadhi and the later tack wisdom onto it.

Now, I have a related question: Do we need to study the Vinaya the way we study the Suttanta and the Abhidhamma? I know that the monks study and review the Vinaya thoroughly.

Good to study Vinaya I think.

Also the Bodhisatta had at times to associate with fools. For example, during one of his lives the Bodhisatta belonged to a clan of people with wrong view. In his life as the brahmin youth Jotipaala he was born into a family of people who had wrong view and no confidence in the Buddha 4. Jotip�la followed his parents in their disdain of the Buddha. The brahmins who had wrong view had no confidence in the Buddha Kassapa, who was the last Buddha before the Buddha Gotama.

The Commentary to the “Discourse on Ghatik�ra”, Middle Length Sayings, the “Papaaacasaadanaa”, deals with the accumulation of the perfections by the Bodhisatta until the life he was Jotipaala, when he came into contact with people of wrong view. The Commentary compared the accumulated perfections to a brightly shining fire which during that life came into contact with water and was therefore extinguished by it so that the rays of light disappeared and only black charcoal was left (5.

We do not know our past lives but we can learn from the story of the Bodhisatta as Jotipaala: although he had accumulated the perfections to a high degree, he still associated with fools. We can learn that we should not be heedless and see the danger in association with fools. We read in the Commentary to the “Basket of Conduct”, in the “Miscellaneous Sayings”:
QUOTE
Now comes the method of practising the perfection of virtue (siila). Since the Great Man desires to adorn beings with the adornment of the virtue of the omniscient, at the beginning he must first purify his own virtue. Herein, virtue is purified in four modes:

1. by the purification of one’s inclinations (ajjhaasayavisuddhi);
2. by the undertaking of precepts (samaadaana);
3. by non-transgression (avaatikkamana);
4. by making amends for transgressions (patipaakatikarana).

In this way we can check siila in our daily life. We should know whether our siila is pure. We read:
QUOTE
For someone who is dominated by personal ideals, is naturally disgusted with evil through the purity of his own inclinations and purifies his conduct by arousing his inward sense of shame (hiri). Someone else who is dominated by consideration for the world, afraid of evil, purifies his conduct by receiving precepts from another person and by arousing his sense of moral dread (ottappa) 6). Both establish themselves in virtue through non-transgression. But if, due to forgetfulness, they sometimes break a precept, through their sense of shame and moral dread, respectively, they quickly make amends for it through the proper means of rehabilitation.

In these ways siila is purified. We read further on about the virtue of the Bodhisatta:
QUOTE
When he speaks, his statements should be truthful, beneficial, and endearing, and his talk measured, timely, and concerned with the Dhamma. His mind should always be devoid of covetousness, ill-will, and perverted views. He should possess the knowledge of the ownership of kamma 7), and have settled faith and affection for recluses and brahmins who are faring and practising rightly… By desisting from false speech his word comes to be authoritive for others. He is regarded as reliable and trustworthy, one whose statements are always accepted. He is dear and agreeable to deities. His mouth gives off a sweet fragrance and he guards his bodily and vocal conduct. He achieves distinguished characteristics, and eradicates the mental impressions of the defilements 8) .

Footnotes:

4. See Middle Length Sayings II, no. 81, On Ghataakaara.

5. See also “Milinda’s Questions” II, The Dilemmas , Fifth Division, 6: Birth as Jotipaala.

6. The “Atthasaalinii” ( I, Part IV, Ch I, 125-127) explains that hiri, shame, has a subjective origin; its proximate cause is repect for oneself. Whereas ottappa, fear of blame or moral dread, has an external cause, it is influenced by the world; its proximate cause is repect for someone else. Hiri and ottappa always arise together, but they have different characteristics.

7. Kammassakataa ~na.na, understanding that kamma is the cause of vipaaka, result. Beings will receive the appropriate results of their deeds.

8. The Paali has: vaasanaa. Even arahats who have eradicated all defilements may still have a way of speech or action that is not agreeable to others. This is not motivated by akusala, but it is due to their habits in the past which have been accumulated. Only a Buddha can eradicate vaasanaa.

One should not associate with people who have wrong view. People who do not understand which cause brings which effect, may cling to superstitious omens. They may listen to the Dhamma and have confidence in it, but if they are not firmly established in their confidence of the true Dhamma they may still be carried away by superstitious believes and lack understanding of cause and effect. Siila is twofold: as avoidance (vaaritta) and as performance (caaritta). Siila as avoidance is abstaining from evil. Siila as performance is the right conduct one should follow. We may abstain from akusala and not transgress the precepts, but with regard to siila as performance (caaritta), we should consider the Bodhisatta’s conduct, so that we shall further develop kusala. We read further on:
QUOTE
Herein, at the appropriate time, a bodhisattva practises salutation, rising up, giving respectful greetings (avaajali), and observing courteous conduct towards good friends worthy of reverence. At the appropriate time he renders them service, and he waits upon them when they are sick. When he receives well-spoken advice he expresses his appreciation. He praises the noble qualities of the virtuous and patiently endures the abuse of antagonists. He remembers help rendered to him by others, rejoices in their merits, dedicates his own merits to the supreme enlightenment, and always abides diligently in the practice of wholesome states. When he commits a transgression he acknowledges it as such and confesses it to his co-religionists. Afterwards he perfectly fulfils the right practice. He is adroit and nimble in fulfilling his duties towards beings when these are conducive to their good. He serves as their companion. When beings are afflicted with the suffering of disease, etc., he prepares the appropriate remedy. He dispels the sorrow of those afflicted by the loss of wealth, etc.- Of a helpful disposition, he restrains with Dhamma those who need to be restrained, rehabilitates them from unwholesome ways, and establishes them in wholesome courses of conduct. He inspires with Dhamma those in need of inspiration. And when he hears about the loftiest, most difficult, inconceivably powerful deeds of the great bodhisattvas of the past, issuing in the ultimate welfare and happiness of beings, by means of which they reached perfect maturity in the requisites of enlightenment, he does not become agitated and alarmed, but reflects:

Those Great Beings were only human beings. But by developing themselves through the orderly fulfilment of the training they attained the loftiest spiritual power and the highest perfection in the requisites of enlightenment. I, too, should practise the same training in virtue, etc. In that way I, too, will gradually fulfil the training and in the end attain the same state.

Then, with unflagging energy preceded by this faith, he perfectly fulfils the training in virtue, etc.

  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.