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Vows and Conduct for Newly Ordained Monk

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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A newly ordained monk asked Rinpoche for some advice on vows and conduct. Rinpoche replied as follows.

You asked whether there is a time when it is appropriate to wear sleeves, for example, when you go to Europe, to look more normal, or in cool weather. Generally, it is better not to wear sleeves. But if it's unbearably cold, then sometimes wear them.

Otherwise, try not to, OK? Otherwise, what happens is, you get habituated to wearing sleeves and wear them most of the time, even when there's no need.

Sometimes you see people wearing them even though there's no need. You have to remember, before taking the 36 vows, the getsul vow, there is an intermediate ordination.

Before that, you make a request to the abbot, and before that is the upasaka vow. Intermediate ordination involves avoiding the lay marks and signs.

Renouncing the lay marks and signs, which have the motivation of attachment, means not wearing white or black, sleeves, or having long hair. The main aim is to renounce attachment.

The Buddha chose to wear red and yellow colors because in the Buddha's time those were considered bad colors.

So he chose those in order to tame and subdue the mind, have less delusion on the path to liberation and quickly achieving enlightenment, and to have a happy and generous mind. Therefore, you shouldn't follow other Sangha who are not following the Buddha's example.

Anything that fits with the vinaya, the Dharma, and is a good example should be taken. So, if the cold is unbearable, then it’s OK to wear sleeves, but otherwise, try to avoid it.

You have to analyze whether living in the vow or not living in the vow is more beneficial. Do what's more beneficial for developing the mind.

At first, you have to abandon certain things in order to develop the mind. You have to see what is to be avoided and what is to be practiced.

Then, later, when the delusions are gone, then you go back to those things you had to abandon at the beginning.

Beneficial doesn't mean beneficial for all time, forever, it means in order to develop your mind. There are the examples of eating meat and drinking alcohol.

When one reaches a high level of tantra, with control over the winds and channels, and one has realizations of clear light, then alcohol cannot affect you; alcohol helps you develop the clear light.

Meat helps you develop the illusory body; it develops sperm seed, so there's benefit in eating it at that time, like garlic and black foods.

It doesn't become dangerous for you.

At that time, you will have already practiced tantra, with the realization of guru devotion, seeing the Buddha as the guru, one guru as all buddhas, and one buddha as all gurus, and have a stable renunciation of samsara and attachment.

When attachment is gone, totally eliminated, then there is no self-cherishing thought, only cherishing others.

Then, there is the realization of emptiness and the realization of the clear light, which is already the mind. We have to achieve enlightenment.

Before these later stages, your body/mind doesn't have control, and you have to abstain from the dangers. But your mind will develop and change.

So, to return to your question, you need to take the vows seriously.

If you follow the vinaya, you become an inspiration and example to others. You inspire others to practice the vinaya and morality.

Without saying anything, if you take your vows seriously, you become a teaching for others.

Inspiration comes from that. Otherwise, it can make others degenerate the vinaya. You need to respect the abbot like Lord Buddha. According to the Hinayana, you don't see him as Buddha, but you respect him as Buddha, like a father.

The abbot should help and guide you like a son.

Regarding your question about sometimes having to eat after 12:00, if you have taken the eight Mahayana precepts, but you have a job or something, and you can't have lunch before 12:00, there's still benefit in keeping the vow, even if you have to eat after 12:00.

After lunch, then don't eat. So, that's still fasting, that's still the vow. In the morning, don't say, “I'll fast after 12.”

If you're not sure what time you’ll be able to eat, say “After lunch I won't eat.” Make the vow in that way.

Sometimes something happens and you have no choice over whether you can eat before 12:00 or not, for example, if you are traveling. This is not due to laziness or a mistake, but due to circumstances.

Try, if you have the freedom, to practice the fasting vow for one year. That doesn't mean after a year you never keep that vow, but at least keep it purely for some time, so in your life there's a certain period where you kept it purely. The general idea is to keep it as much as one can.

It helps in monasteries or communities where there is a group doing the vinaya practice.

Then, there's a proper lunch but no dinner. Individual people who are hungry can have dinner, but the community doesn’t have it.

Sometimes I tell Sangha, if you are settled in one place, then try to fast. It's not just for you, but for other sentient beings, to free them from the cause—delusions and karma—and bring them to enlightenment.