Buddhist Monk, Buddhist Layman: A Study of Urban Monastic Organization in Central Thailand

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As Donald K Swearer writes:. Although monastic education is still grounded in the study of Buddhist texts, doctrine, and the Pali language, the curricula of monastic colleges and universities also reflect subject matter and disciplines associated with Western education. Buddhist modernist trends can be traced to figures like Anagarika Dhammapala and King Mongkut. Jayatilleke a student of Wittgenstein and Hammalawa Saddhatissa , going on to write modern works on Buddhist philosophy Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge , and Buddhist Ethics , respectively. The colonial clash with Christianity also led to debates such as the Panadura debate and doctrinal works written in defense of Buddhism or attacking Christian ideas, such as Gunapala Dharmasiri's A Buddhist critique of the Christian concept of God Another development has been modern literature promoting socially Engaged Buddhism and Buddhist economics from thinkers such as Buddhadasa , Sulak Sivaraksa , Prayudh Payutto , Neville Karunatilake and Padmasiri de Silva.

Modern scholarship by Western Buddhist monks such as Nyanaponika Thera was also a new development in the modern era. Right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This basic outline is based on the threefold discipline.

A Study of Urban Monastic Organization in Central Thailand

The emphasis is on understanding the three marks of existence , which removes ignorance. Understanding destroys the ten fetters and leads to nibbana. Applying knowledge acquired through direct experience and personal realization is more heavily emphasized than beliefs about the nature of reality as revealed by the Buddha. It is primarily understood through the doctrine of kamma.

Whatever intended actions are carried out will have future consequences, whether in this life or subsequent lives. Actions done with good intentions, even if they have bad results, will not have negative kammic consequences. The "ten wholesome actions" is a common list of good deeds: []. Samatha "calm" consists of meditation techniques in which the mind is focused on a single object, thought, or mantra, leading to samadhi '. The eight and final step of the Eightfold Path, Right Samadhi, is often defined as the four jhanas. Vipassana "insight", "clear seeing" refers to practices which aim to develop an inner understanding or knowledge of the nature of phenomena dhammas , especially the characteristics of dukkha , anatta and anicca , which are seen as being universally applicable to all constructed phenomena sankhata-dhammas.

Vipassana is also described as insight into dependent origination , the five aggregates , the sense spheres and the four noble truths. In western countries, it is complemented with the four divine abidings , the development of loving-kindness and compassion. Vipassana practice begins with the preparatory stage, the practice of sila , morality, giving up worldly thoughts and desires.

If the breath is long, to notice that the breath is long, if the breath is short, to notice that the breath is short. The practitioner also becomes aware of the perpetual changes involved in breathing, and the arising and passing away of mindfulness. Traditionally, the ultimate goal of the practice is to achieve mundane and supramundane wisdom. Mundane wisdom is the insight in the three marks of existence.

Buddhaghosa's commentary on the Satipatthana sutta "Bases of mindfulness discourse" , as well as the source text itself, are also another important source for meditation in this tradition.

Buddhist Monk, Buddhist Layman - Jane Bunnag - Paperback () » Bokklubben

Kate Crosby notes that Buddhaghosa's work also "explicitly refers to the contemporaneous existence of secret meditation manuals but not to their content. In the period between the Visuddhimagga and the present, there have been numerous meditation texts, both manuals and descriptive treatises. Many of the texts found in manuscript collections relate to meditation, some on a single, simple subject such as the recollection of the qualities of the Buddha, others more complex. Little research has been done to assess their variety. One difficulty is that meditation manuals as such are often in a mixture of a classical language, that is, Pali, and a vernacular that may or may not be a currently used language.

Also, actual manuals often contain prompts or reminders rather than an in-depth explanation.


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Other versions contain extensive narratives, explanations of symbolism, and of the somatic locations involved in the practice that make it clear that we are dealing with techniques of practice not described in the Canon or Visuddhimagga. Crosby notes that this tradition of meditation involved a rich collection of symbols, somatic methods and visualizations which included "the physical internalisation or manifestation of aspects of the Theravada path by incorporating them at points in the body between the nostril and navel. These Burmese figures re-invented vipassana -meditation and developed simplified meditation techniques, based on the Satipatthana sutta , the Visuddhimagga , and other texts, emphasizing satipatthana and bare insight.

Similar revival movements developed in Thailand , such as the Thai forest tradition and Dhammakaya meditation. Laypersons and monks also perform various types of religious practices daily or during Buddhist holidays. One of these is keeping a Buddhist shrine with a picture or statue of the Buddha for devotional practice in one's home, mirroring the larger shrines at temples.

Buddhist forms of chanting is also widely practiced by both monks and laypersons, who may recite famous phrases such as the taking of refuge , the metta sutta and the mangala sutta in front of their shrine. Chanting may also be part of the practice of recollection anussati , which refers to contemplating various topics such as the sublime qualities of the Buddha , Dhamma and Sangha or the five subjects for daily recollection.

Another important religious practice for the devout is the keeping of special religious holidays known as Uposatha which are based on a lunar calendar. Laypersons commonly take the eight precepts while visiting a temple or monastery and commit to focusing on Buddhist practice for the day. Study ganthadhura of the Buddhist texts and listening to Dhamma talks by monks or teachers are also important practices.

These categories are not accepted by all scholars, and are usually considered non-exclusive by those who employ them. The role of lay people has traditionally been primarily occupied with activities that are commonly termed merit-making falling under Spiro's category of kammatic Buddhism. Merit-making activities include offering food and other basic necessities to monks, making donations to temples and monasteries, burning incense or lighting candles before images of the Buddha, and chanting protective or merit-making verses from the Pali Canon.

Some lay practitioners have always chosen to take a more active role in religious affairs, while still maintaining their lay status. Dedicated lay men and women sometimes act as trustees or custodians for their temples, taking part in the financial planning and management of the temple.

Others may volunteer significant time in tending to the mundane needs of local monks by cooking, cleaning, maintaining temple facilities, etc.

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Ajahn Sumedho , a disciple of Ajahn Chah , founded the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in Hertfordshire, which has a retreat center specifically for lay retreats. As neither monks nor nuns are allowed to have an occupation, they depend entirely on the laity for their sustenance. In return for this charity, they are expected to lead exemplary lives. In Myanmar and Thailand, the monastery was and is still regarded as a seat of learning. In fact today about half of the primary schools in Thailand are located in monasteries.

Religious rituals and ceremonies held in a monastery are always accompanied by social activities. In times of crisis, it is to the monks that people bring their problems for counsel.

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Traditionally, a ranking monk will deliver a sermon four times a month: when the moon waxes and wanes and the day before the new and full moons. The laity also have a chance to learn meditation from the monks during these times. It is also possible for a lay disciple to become enlightened. As Bhikkhu Bodhi notes, "The Suttas and commentaries do record a few cases of lay disciples attaining the final goal of Nirvana.

However, such disciples either attain Arahantship on the brink of death or enter the monastic order soon after their attainment. They do not continue to dwell at home as Arahant householders, for dwelling at home is incompatible with the state of one who has severed all craving. In the modern era, it is now common for lay disciples to practice meditation, attend lay meditation centers and even aim for awakening.

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The Mahavamsa mentions forest monks associated with the Mahavihara. The minimum age for ordaining as a Buddhist monk is 20 years, reckoned from conception. Novices shave their heads, wear the yellow robes, and observe the Ten Precepts. Although no specific minimum age for novices is mentioned in the scriptures, traditionally boys as young as seven are accepted.

This tradition follows the story of the Buddha's son, Rahula, who was allowed to become a novice at the age of seven. Monks follow rules of discipline, while nuns follow rules.


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In Thailand and Myanmar, young men typically ordain for the retreat during Vassa , the three-month monsoon season, though shorter or longer periods of ordination are not rare. Traditionally, temporary ordination was even more flexible among Laotians. Once they had undergone their initial ordination as young men, Laotian men were permitted to temporarily ordain again at any time, though married men were expected to seek their wife's permission.

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