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24 -30-3-2021 LESSON 3635 Buddha-Sasana- The Monastic Sangha- The Functions of the Discipline- “The excellence of the Sangha”
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24 -30-3-2021 LESSON 3635 Buddha-Sasana- The Monastic Sangha- The Functions of the Discipline- “The excellence of the Sangha” 


Whereas we find the sublime in the Dhamma, we find in the Buddha’sinstitutional teachings nuts and bolts pragmatism. The Sangha (in this chaptertaken to mean, unless otherwise specified, the monastic order) is an institution.The fundamental purpose of this institution is to produce Noble Ones, saints,the finest in admirable friends, now and in the years to come. Its foundingcharter provides the optimal training conditions for the practice that producesNoble Ones, it also sustains a wholesome and inspiring influence on thebroader Buddhist community, and, as we will see, it ensures the futureauthenticity of the Sasana.
The Sangha has striking parallels with science as an institution, the disciplinedcommunity of scientists organized largely within universities and researchinstitutions. Each, the monastic community and the scientific community, is acomplex system responsible for many things: for training its members, forauthorizing its teachers, for maintaining the integrity of its tradition againstmany misguided and popular notions, for upholding pure standards wherebyits results can be assessed, for encouraging the growth, prosperity andlongevity of its functions, for rewarding patience where results are notimmediately forthcoming, for maintaining harmony among its members, fornurturing a positive perception in the public eye. Just as scientific discipline isintrinsic to the practice and perpetuation of science, and science as we know itwould collapse without it, Vinaya is intrinsic to the practice and perpetuationof the Buddha-Sasana, and Buddhism in all its depth would collapse without it.Both institutions are conservative, exhibiting relatively little change over thecenturies, even while their products can be highly innovative. From theseparallels I will draw helpful analogies to better understand the function of theSangha in terms of the (presumably, for most readers) more familiar scientificinstitution. It is not often enough stated that the founding of the Sangha was a truly monu-
mental achievement. Although there were ascetics in India before the Buddha,“… among all of the bodies of renouncers it was only the Buddhists who in-vented monastic life,”37 that is, who provided an organized institution capableof sustaining its teachings. Consider this observation:
The Buddhist Sangha is likely the world’s oldest human organizationin continual existence on the planet.38
What is more, the Sangha is still entirely recognizable in terms of attire, life-style, practice and function after 100 generations. It was there as greatempires, the Roman, Mongolian, Arab, Lithuanian, Mayan and British, aroseand grew. It was still there as each of those empires collapsed. From India itextended its civilizing reach to Ceylon and Southeast Asia and into Indonesia,into Central Asia where it followed the Silk Road eastward into China andEast Asia and westward as far as the Mediterranean. In modern times it hasbegun to board airplanes and to sprinkle down on North America, Europe,Australia, South America and even Africa. Buddhism has never penetratednew lands nor established itself without the Sangha.
Yet in spite of its robustness the Sangha is delicate. Without any centralizedauthority or substantial hierarchy, its governance is based on the consensus oflocal communities (sanghas) of monks and nuns, its regulations are enforcedthrough an honor system and its support is completely entrusted to the good-will of others. The Buddha could have set up a hierarchy, with something likePope and bishops and a range of severe punishments for transgressingauthority, but he did not. Who would have thought it would last? This amazinginstitution is the product of one genius, who cobbled it together from diverseelements at hand which were observed among the ascetics of his time, clearlyarticulated for it a mission and a charter and released it into the world. And thisgenius is the very same person who revealed the Dharma, among the mostsophisticated and skillfully expounded products of the human mind, and thevery same person who attained complete Awakening without a teacher to lightthe way, the threefold genius we call the Buddha.
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The Functions of the Discipline

The Buddha most consistently called the body of his teachings not “Dharma,”
not “Sasana,” and certainly not “Buddhism,” but rather “Dharma-Vinaya,” the
doctrine and discipline. On his deathbed the Buddha refused to appoint a
successor, saying to the surrounding monks,

“… what I have taught and explained to you as Dharma and discipline
will, at my passing, be your teacher,”

The Vinaya is fundamentally about community and about the monastic life
style, the life in accord with the Dharma and thereby the most direct path to
higher attainments. The Vinaya is addressed indeed to monks and nuns, but
throughout it emphasizes the responsibility of the Sangha to the lay
community, and the expectation of support of the Sangha by the lay
community. The Buddha’s teachings on community provide the mechanism
through which the light of the Buddha’s teachings burns brightly, through
which it spreads to attract new adherents and through which it retains its
integrity as it is passed on to new generations.

Here is the Buddha‘s mission statement for the Sangha in ten points:40

The excellence of the Sangha,
The comfort of the Sangha,
The curbing of the impudent,
The comfort of well-behaved monastics,
The restraint of effluents related to the present life,
The prevention of effluents related to the next life,
The arousing of faith in the faithless,

The increase of the faithful,
The establishment of the true Dharma,and
The fostering of Discipline.

Let’s try to understand the functions of monastic discipline point by point in
terms of this mission statement, and to recognize, as a means of further
elucidation, their close counterparts in the discipline of science.

“The excellence of the Sangha”
The Sangha must be excellent because it sustains something quitesophisticated and precious, the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. The nunsand monks are the designated full-time caretakers of the Dharma. The Vinayaensures the conditions for deep practice and study and for harmony within theSangha. Excellence of the Sangha entails that its membership is exclusive. This is acritical point. Although membership is an opportunity offered in principle toall, its members become exclusive through their vows, through the willingness to take on very simple lives of renunciation, a lifestyle fully in accord withDharma but beyond the consideration of most people. Initially to become amember is quite easy, but sustained membership requires enormous trust in theDharma, recognition of the disadvantages of samsaric life and oodles ofpersonal discipline. In most cases it entails rigorous training in Dharma,meditation and Vinaya. Concentrated in this life among the renunciates, theDharma burns most brightly.41 By way of analogy the scientific community must be excellent because itsustains something sophisticated and productive of rapid progress inunderstanding the nature of our universe. Science concentrates people ofexceptional training into a persistent, stimulating and highly cooperative, if notalways harmonious, community. Excellence also entails that its membership beexclusive, in this case ensured through years of intense education, evaluationand training, culminating in apprenticeship under a senior research scientist toacquire the competence to conduct independent research. “The comfort of the Sangha” The Sangha appears to have been planned as the ideal society writ small. Theexcellence of the Sangha makes that feasible. Internally the Sangha asenvisioned by the Buddha observes no class distinctions, provides anexemplary level of gender equality,42 is regulated in a way to avoid conflictsand maintain harmony, observes procedures to negotiate disagreements shouldthese arise, is democratic and only minimally hierarchical. At the same time, the Sangha is embedded in, and dependent on, a greatersociety, whose values may be often contrary but with which it must harmonize.Accordingly it takes care to conform, or at least provide the perception ofconforming to the expectations of the wider society and certainly its standardsof etiquette. It is worth noting that many, perhaps most, rules observed byBuddhist monks and nuns early on were recommended or inspired by laypeople discontented in one way or another with the behavior of somemonastics.43 Some regulations seem to be symbolic and I suspect purely forpublic perception, that is, not necessarily reflective of the values of the ideal society (for instance, laypeople pay respects to monastics but not vice versa).The uniform appearance of the Buddhist Sangha serves to distinguish themfrom ascetics of other traditions who may observe other standards, and fromthe laity, who have a distinct role. As an ascetic renunciate community, monks and nuns depend completely onmaterial support from the lay community. This affords them the leisure ofpractice, study and good works. Remarkably the Buddha not only makesreceipt of this support mandatory (monastics cannot, for instance, grow theirown food or live off their own resources) but then redoubles this dependenceby limiting the monastic’s right to retain offerings, especially of food, forwhich ownership expires at noon on the day it is offered.44 Monastics are notallowed to engage in exchange, such as Dharma talks for food or blessings formoney. This provides a high degree of insularity from the concerns andinfluences of the outside world, including from the need for livelihood,ensuring among other things that the Dharma will not become a commercialproduct, tweaked for popular appeal. It also means that monastics can engagepatiently in long-term practice toward profound but long-term attainmentwithout the pressure to produce identifiable results.
The scientific community analogously receives material support, throughprofessorships, research grants, etc, from the broader society, both to sustainits (much higher) living standards and to offset the costs of researchequipment, publication, travel and so forth that its functions entail. Thispermits its members engage in nearly full-time research, training and teaching,fulfilling the functions of the community. The assumption of academicfreedom and the institution of tenure gives the scientific community a highdegree of insularity from the prevailing concerns of the outside world,unbiased by politics, religion, superstition, other popular notions, practicalapplications or benefits or profitability. It also means scientists can engagepatiently in long-term research with no pressure to produce identifiable results.
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Bhim sir. Mythology says that Yadav Krishna was eloped with Kshatria
Rukmini. But Pejawa Sri, pontiff of Udupi Krishna Temple, laments
against the craze of Brahmin girls for the Shudra & Atishudra boys.
He is worried about the audacity of their girls deserting a great

Jai Bhim sir. In fact, it is we, the Shudra-Atishudras,
should worry about our educated boys going after bleachec Brahmin girls.
This foolishness of our boys is causing great loss to our girls,
innocent parents & our community at large. We wish the pontiff a big
success in restricting his girls.

Jai Bhim sir. Our Finance
Minister Mrs. Nimala Sitaraman said “We are selling the banks because we
want to be in business & I can’t run it efficiently”. Perhaps, she
is the first FM to honestly admit her inefficiency. Now it is for the
people to elect an efficient government with efficient FM. 

Bhim sir. It is disheartening that the India’s economic planners have so
far ignored the thoughts of Babasaheb in the field of economics. But
the time has come to study the importance & relevance of his unique
economic thoughts to lift the country from the persisting allround

Jai Bhim sir. Farmers’ leader Rajesh Tikait says, “We
can win only if Jai Ram & Jai Bhim come together”. All the movements
in India began involving ‘Jai Bhim’ society & achieved great
success. But they all failed moserably at end as they ignored the caste
question of ‘Jai Bhim’ society.

Jai Bhim sir. We have seen the
rise & fall of many movements that of communists, socialists,
Gandhians, etc. But none could bring the desired change in the society
as they are all led by the brahminical leaders who are against the
change. Unless Brahminism is destroyed, change is impossible.

Bhim sir. “The saints in India have never campaigned against caste.
They did not preach that all men were equal. They preached that all men
were equal in the eyes of God - a very innocuous proposition that was 
not difficult to preach or dangerous to believe” Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Bhim sir. “Prof.Foster said, ‘hypothesis was the salt of science;
without hypothesis there is no possibility of fruitful investigation’.
But it is equally true that where the desire to prove a particular
hypothesis is dominant, hypothesis becomes the poison of science”
Babasaheb Ambedkar.

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