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Worship Should One Worship Shameless and Immoral Monks?
“Should a person, knowing a monk to be shameless or immoral, pay respect and show deference by greeting, bowing, etc? Does he or she get the blessing of reverence (garava mangala), which says that one should pay respect to the worthy? Does this behaviour agree with the teaching that one should pay respect only to those who possess good conduct? The text referred to is in the Kosala Samyutta. By worshipping shameless and immoral monks does one accomplish a reliable refuge? Kindly give evidence or case histories to prove one way or the other the act of honouring bad monks.”

The methods for distinguishing shameless and immoral monks have already been given. In the matter of showing reverence, the case is the same as the act of honouring the worthy ones. So the fifth question is the same as the fourth.

However, some clarification will be given here in connection with the text in the Kosala Samyutta (Dahara Sutta, S.i.170).

"Bhujangamam pāvakañca, khattiyañca yassasinam;
Bhikkhuñca sīlasampannam sammadeva samācare."

The above text means that to avoid disadvantages now and in the future, one must show due respect towards four types of persons. One must avoid disrespect to live safely. This kind of skilled behaviour is called “sammadeva sāmacare — civilised manners.”

Four Beings Worthy of Respect

One must show respect to a poisonous snake, a monarch with his retinue, a monk of good moral conduct, and a fire. By respecting these four, one acts in a civilised manner, that is, by showing due respect.

The essential points for treating each of them properly are as follows:

  1. A poisonous snake must be treated with respect to avoid getting bitten.
  2. A monarch, being a sovereign power, must be treated with reverence and respect, that no danger may arise from him.
  3. A scrupulous monk, because of his power, must be treated with reverence and respect. If not, danger may arise due to unwise association with him. In the past King Kalabu, King Dandaki, King Nālikera, King Ajjuna, etc. treated such monks with disrespect. So they suffered danger and harm leading to ruin.
  4. Everybody must take care with fire because heedlessness may lead to serious accidents. Fire must be given due regard so that one can live safely. All such wise, respectful attitudes amount to civilised manners.

Among the above four, a snake, fire, and a monarch can cause harm at once. A scrupulous monk will not harm others. However, maltreatment and disregard by the laity bring great harm to them in the long term, so a scrupulous monk must be treated with respect.

The above canonical text gives clear guidance for all to be respectful and take heed with those who can cause harm and danger. One must try to avoid danger, and treat these four with circumspection.

The words “harm and danger” and “fear” in this case also convey the meaning of making unwholesome kamma, the arising of evil thoughts in one’s own mind, and a wrong attitude that one may maintain. So in dealing with others, especially immoral monks, if one does not show respect, one will entertain unwholesome thoughts and do unwholesome deeds, and so unwholesome states increase in one’s character. This is a grave danger to be avoided. With this in view one must pay respect to an immoral monk, following the injunction to have civilised manners. So by remembering this text and doing respectful deeds even to an immoral monk, it can be classified as the blessing of worshipping the Dhamma. Paying respect in a proper way, such as treating with civility, greeting with hands held in añjali, thus exhibiting cultured behaviour, are also the good deed of civilised manners.

However, by treating an immoral monk with a skilful attitude and civilised manners, one will not attain the three refuges. This is because an immoral monk is not a genuine member of the Sangha, not a true monk. This disadvantage means that a layman fails to get a reliable refuge by worshipping him as an individual. However if the Sangha selects an immoral monk to receive alms, and if the lay person’s mind is directed to the Sangha, the lay person will obtain the three refuges. In this case the recipient becomes the Sangha and the donor is offering his food to the community of monks. So one gets a reliable refuge due to the right motive.

In making offerings to scrupulous or to shameless monks, the benefits differ. In paying respects too, the advantages differ. The difference being that one monk is scrupulous while the other is shameless. However, in both cases a layman can obtain the blessings of reverence and honouring the worthy if his motive is noble. This is a good action for him.

Civilised Manners

The behaviour of King Kosala shows that one should follow the advice to show civilised manners to all types of persons. All persons should be treated with due respect.

One day, while King Kosala was attending on the Buddha in the Jetavana monastery, some heretics happened to pass through the precincts. When the king saw them he mentioned his name and made obeisance to them in a proper manner. Why did he, a true disciple of the Buddha, do obeisance and express reverence to the heretics? The commentary on the Kosala Samyutta explains that if the king did not show these civilities, the heretics would have borne a grudge against him. They would have thought that the king paid respects only to the Buddha. Being neglected, they could cause trouble for the king. So the king paid homage to them out of courtesy and to avoid possible harmful effects in his country. This homage paid by the king is in accordance with the Mangala Dhamma and the injunction to show civilised manners, which means to treat all with due respect.

The other reason for the king’s conduct was due to State Policy. In his kingdom there were numerous followers of these heretical teachers. If these people knew that the king had neglected and slighted their teachers, they might create disunity or instigate rebellion. To unify his country, the king worshipped these sectarians and heretics for the sake of national unity. This was done to give peace and happiness to a large number of believers of other sects. This also in an auspicious deed.

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Редакция перевода от 09.12.2019 16:28