Wednesday, August 23, 2006

HHDL "Drops Bomb" on Mongolia's Monastic Community

As reported by Ulaanbaatar correspondent (and American monk) Konchog Norbu at Gandantegchenlin Monstery, the center of Mongolia’s Buddhism on on Wednesday, 23 August 2006

I see that the global media are nicely covering His Holiness’ visit to Mongolia . . . but through my being a monk . . . I can tell you what no one else can: His Holiness dropped the bomb on Mongolia’s monastic community today.

During the Communist era, Gandan was the only monastery permitted to function, though under tight scrutiny (including monastic spies) and constant interference.

The few who were allowed to serve there were constantly “encouraged” (read: just short of forcibly compelled) to marry and maintain households.

Precious few were able to resist.

And it is these “married monks” who became the teachers of the post-independence generation.

As a result, there’s this pervasive idea that “Mongolian Buddhism is different” and that it’s really not that big a deal to have a secret girlfriend, or even a wife and family, and still maintain the appearance of a monk. As far as I can tell, this idea has its roots mostly in Communist propaganda.

His Holiness exposed this thinking today to the bright glare of the Vinaya, the Buddha’s teachings on a monk’s discipline.

He began by remarking that during his 1997 visit, there were about 150 monks, but now there were hundreds more in robes. He said that the number of monks is not at all important, however, it’s the purity of their lives that matters.

In fact, if they’re not keeping their precepts, the number of monks is pointless.

Then he said it straight out: if you have girlfriends or wives or are not keeping the precepts of a monk in other ways, you should disrobe.

Do it 100% or don’t do it. Period.

Stop wearing the clothing of a monk altogether and confusing people and staining the lineage. Try to be a good lay Buddhist but stop pretending to be a monk.

Before 1990, there was some excuse. But for those who chose a monastic life after 1990, there’s no excuse.