Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The 18 faults of a monastery - Visuddhimagga

In Buddha's day, when he announced he was about to pass away, some of his Monks described the place where it was to happen as "this mean place, this uncivilised township in the midst of the jungle, a mere outpost of the province!" They thought the Buddha should go to a large rich city to pass away so there would be expensive arrangements made for the funeral. The Buddha rebuked them:

'In times long past, Ananda, there was a king by the name of Maha Sudassana, who was a universal monarch, king of righteousness, a conqueror of the four quarters of the earth, whose realm was established in security, and who was endowed with the Seven Jewels. And that King Maha Sudassana, Ananda, had his royal residents here at Kusinara, which was then called Kusavati, and it extended twelve yojanas from east to west, and from north to south, seven.

'And mighty, Ananda, was Kusavati, the capital; prosperous and well populated, much frequented by people, and abundantly provided by food. Just, Ananda, as the Royal residents of the Deities, Alakamanda, is mighty, prosperous and well populated, much frequented by Deities and abundantly provided by food, so was the Royal capital of Kusavati.

'Kusavati, Ananda, resounded unceasingly day and night, with the ten sounds - the trumpeting of elephants, neighing of horses, rattling of chariots, beating of drums, and tabours, music and song, cheers, clapping of hands and cries of "Eat, drink and be merry!"'

The Buddha explained that persons should avoid a monastery unfavourable to the development of concentration and laid a map of the 18 faults of a monastery.....

The 18 faults of a monastery are:

"Herein, one that is unfavourable has any one of eighteen faults. These are largeness, newness, dilapidatedness, a nearby road, a pond, (edible leaves), flowers, fruits, famousness, a nearby city, nearby timber trees, nearby arable fields, presence of incompatible persons, a nearby port of entry, nearness to the border countries, nearness to the frontier of a kingdom, unsuitability, lack of good friends. One with any of these faults is not favourable. He should not live there. Why?

1. Firstly people with varying aims collect in a large monastery. They conflict with each other and so neglect the duties. The Enlightenment-tree terrace, etc., remain unswept, the water for drinking and washing is not set out. So if he thinks 'I shall go to the alms-resort village for alms' and takes his bowl and robe and sets out, perhaps he sees that the duties have not been done or that a drinking-water pot is empty, and so the duty has to be done by him unexpectedly. Drinking water must be maintained. By not doing it he would commit a wrongdoing in the breach of a duty. But if he does it, he loses time. He arrives too late at the village and gets nothing because the almsgiving is finished. Also when he goes into retreat, he is distracted by the loud noises of novices and young bhikkhus, and by acts of the Community (being carried out). However, he can live in a large monastery where all the duties are done and where there are none of the other disturbances.

2. In a new monastery there is much new building activity. People criticize someone who takes no part in it. But he can live in such a monastery where the bhikkhus say 'Let the venerable one do the ascetic's duties as much as he likes. We shall see to the building work'.

3. In a dilapidated monastery there is much that needs repair. People criticize someone who does not see about the repairing of at least his own lodging. When he sees to the repairs, his meditation subject suffers.

4. In a monastery with a nearby road, by a main street, visitors keep arriving night and day. He has to give up his own lodging to those who come late, and he has to go and live at the root of a tree or on top of a rock. And next day it is the same. So there is no opportunity (to practice) his meditation subject. But he can live in one where there is no such disturbance by visitors.

5. A pond is a rock pool . Numbers of people come there for drinking water. Pupils of city-dwelling elders supported by the royal family come to do dyeing work. When they ask for vessels, wood, tubs, etc., (120) they must be shown where these things are. So he is kept all the time on the alert.

6. If he goes with his meditation subject to sit by day where there are many sorts of edible leaves, then women vegetable-gatherers, singing as they pick leaves nearby, endanger his meditation subject by disturbing it with sounds of the opposite sex.

7. An where there are many sorts of flowering shrubs in bloom there is the same danger too.

8. Where there are many sorts of fruits such as mangoes, rose-apples and jack-fruits people who want fruits come and ask for them, and they get angry if he does not give them any, or they take them by force. When walking in the monastery in the evening he sees them and asks "Why do you do so, lay followers?", they abuse him as they please and even try to evict him.

9. When he lives in a monastery that is famous and renowned in the world, like Dakkhimagire, (1) Hatthikucchi, Cetiyagiri or Cittalapabbata, there are always people coming who want to pay homage to him, supposing that he is an Arahant, which inconveniences him. But if it suits him, he can live there at night and go elsewhere by day.

10. In one with a nearby city objects of the opposite sex come into focus. Women water-pot carriers go by bumping into him with their jars and giving no room to pass. Also important people spread out carpets in the middle of the monastery and sit down.

11. One with nearby timber trees where there are timber trees and osiers useful for making framework is inconvenient because of the wood-gatherers there, like the gatherers of branches and fruits already mentioned. If there are trees in a monastery, people come and cut them down to build houses with. When he has come out of his meditation room in the evening and is walking up and down in the monastery, if he sees them and asks "Why do you do so, lay followers?", they abuse him as they please and even try to evict him.

12. People make use of one with nearby arable fields, quite surrounded by fields. They make a threshing floor in the middle of the monastery itself. They thresh corn there, dry it in the forecourts, (2) and cause great inconvenience. And where there is extensive property belonging to the Community, the monastery attendants impound cattle belonging to families and deny the water supply (to their crops). (121)

Then people bring an ear of paddy and show it to the Community saying "Look at your monastery attendants work". For one reason or another he has to go to the portals of the king or the king's ministers. This (matter of property belonging to the Community) is included by (a monastery that is) near arable fields.

13. Presence of incompatible persons: where there are bhikkhus living who are incompatible and mutually hostile, when they clash and it is protested "Venerable sirs, do not do so" they exclaim "We no longer count now that this refuse-rag wearer has come".

14. One with a nearby water port of entry or land port of entry (3) is made inconvenient by people constantly arriving respectively by ship or by caravan and crowding round, asking for space or drinking water or salt.

15. In the case of one near the border countries, people have no trust in the Buddha, etc., there.

16. In one near the frontier of a kingdom there is fear of kings. For perhaps one king attacks that place, thinking "It does not submit to my rule", and the other does likewise,thinking "It does not submit to my rule". A bhikkhu lives there when it is conquered by one king and when it is conquered by the other. Then they suspect him of spying, and they bring about his undoing.

17. Unsuitability is that due to the risk of encountering visible data, etc., of the opposite sex as objects or to haunting by non-human beings. Here is a story. An elder lived in a forest, it seems. Then an ogress stood in the door of his leaf hut and sang. The elder came out and stood in the door. She went to the end of the walk and sang. The elder went to the end of the walk. She stood in a chasm a hundred fathoms deep and sang. The elder recoiled. Then she suddenly grabbed him saying "Venerable sir, it is not just one or two of the likes of you I have eaten".

18. Lack of good friends: where it is not possible to find a good friend as a teacher or the equivalent of a teacher or a preceptor or the equivalent of a preceptor, the lack of good friends there is a serious fault.

Early Buddhist Monastic Tradition and Today

The Path of Purity


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