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Buddha Mind - get one, be one.



eight items


no gun


no worries

This section looks at the things that monks and nuns 'own'. It is an odd one as it touches on material included in several other sections: vinaya, lifestyle, shrines, scriptures - even architecture if you allow that the buildings of a monastery are owned by the Sangha. The decision to create a separate section was based on the thought that many of the items have a clear cultural origin - most notably Indian - and that some of them have developed as a distinct art form.
The emphasis is on personal ownership with the aim also being to try and convey something of the monks everyday life in relation to the use of these items. Much of that everyday life is guided by the vinaya and although there is a general vinaya discussion in LIFESTYLE - MONASTIC it is such a key factor that it is worth considering further in relation to these everyday day elements of monastic life.
The traditional list of requisites allows the monk eight items: 3 robes, an alms bowl, a waistband, a razor, a sewing kit and a water strainer but the list has been gradually extended to accommodate social changes and varied climatic locations. Nevertheless, the overall reflection on simplicity and fewness of needs is still a valuable one as a curious paradox can sometimes manifest around monastics who maintain good vinaya discipline, practice meditation and live a simple life: they move into their modest forest dwelling only to find inspired and generous lay people filling it up with all mod. cons.!
There are four primary requisites - the necessities of life: clothing (robes), food (related to the bowl), a dwelling and medecine.

There are some items specifically mentioned in the vinaya which monastics are not allowed - e.g. gold and silver (this covers money), poisons (including alcohol), weapons, musical instruments, etc. These items either contravene the vinaya or are seen as leading to unskillful behaviour; i.e. having a weapon in hand will increase the chances of harming. There is also the matter of how a monk 'looks' in a society, with the image ideally being one of a calm, peaceful, wise and trustworthy being and monks with guns, bottles of grog, etc. belie that image - even if these things are not 'in-use'.

Generally, it should be remembered that the whole point of (monastic) life is to realise enlightenment. It is not about judging things to be good or evil but using whatever is necessary to be awake and to bring awareness to the nature of one's relationship with all the things of this world. What is it about money (or food, or sex, or guns, or cars, or ... ) that so often makes us compromise our moral values and affect the way we relate to other people? In our consumer society there is a lot of emphasis on the material - 'you should have this and really do need one of these' - and it is often difficult to make a clear distinction between 'need and greed'. The body needs to be maintained - according to the circumstances it is in - and our requisites should be enough to do that. For lay people life is usually more complex than it is for monastics but the same, simple standards can be used for reflection.