Q&A On Other Matters

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Q-01Q-01: Bhante, I’m just curious; we know that the monks cannot travel during the rainy retreat, vassa. But I quite often find the monks travelling. Is there any valid reason for them to travel during vassa?
An MV Devotee
A-01A-01: I believe that you know and understand why monks observe vassa. While it is true that monks are discouraged to travel during vassa without a valid reason, there are times and occasions when it is necessary for a monk to travel. Examples of occasions are when a monk has to travel
1. to do charity work,
2. to listen to the Dhamma,
3. to pay homage to the Buddha,
4. when a fellow monk is not well and he has to look after him,
5. when a fellow monk is not happy in monkhood and is considering to disrobe to leave the Order of Sangha. Thus, the monk must travel to counsel and to remind him to consider carefully before he makes the decision,
6. when a fellow monk is having a wrong view and he has to correct and teach him,
7. when his parents are not well (even without invitation), and
8. when his siblings are not well.

The monk concerned must return to the temple where he would observe vassa before the dawn of the seventh day (morning). (Vassupanayikkhandhaka, Vinaya Mahavagga)
With Metta,
Bhante U Cittara
Q-02Q-02: Dear Bhante, I've the following enquiries on chanting which require your kind advice:
1. Nowadays, many chanting verses are accompanied by melodious music. By doing so, do they lose their effects?
2. Does chanting aloud and chanting within ourselves give the same effects?
With metta
Terence Lee
A-02A-02: 1. First and foremost, I want to tell you the story of Visakha, in the Dhammapada Story. She was chanting some verses on the day she donated Puppharama Monastery to the Buddha and Sangha. Some people did not understand or realise why she was doing that. They thought that she was merely singing. Thus they criticized her saying that the old lady did not mind her age. The Buddha had to explain to them that she was not singing but chanting verses because she had fulfilled her wish.

This story tells us that Visakha was chanting verses in a very musical way and the Buddha did not denounce her action at all. So we think there is nothing wrong for a lay person to chant verses accompanied by melodious music or whatever.

Do they (verses) lose their effect? Yes. It does appear to show disrespect to the Dhamma. So our conclusion is that if verses are chanted to invoke the blessing to others, it is not very appropriate to do that way but if verses are chanted for other purposes, then there is nothing wrong doing it with the accompaniment to music.

For your wider knowledge, we need to let you know other traditional views too. There are two ways of expressing the Dhamma in order to make it more attractive:
a) the Dhammic music and
b) musical dhamma.
The Dhammic music means, like what you have asked, chanting or singing verses (from Tipitaka) accompanied by melodious music.

Musical Dhamma means some verses or poems or songs composed by someone, not from Tipitaka, to introduce the Dhamma in musical way.

Our teachers do not encourage the creation of the Dhamma music though they did not say anything about musical Dhamma.
So the final conclusion lies with you.

2. Chanting aloud and within oneself depend on time, occasion and situation. Of course, one should not chant aloud late at night and disturb others who are sleeping. One should also not chant to loudly when other people are concentrating and doing something. Last but not least one should not chant in the presence of others who have different faith. This is fundamentally showing respect and practising social responsibility.

However, chanting aloud (not too loud) can be more effective because:

a) when we chant aloud, we can concentrate better,
b) when we chant aloud, we are performing all three actions, physical, verbal and mental. (When one chants within oneself, it lacks verbal action.)
c) if beings (visible and invisible) are around, they will have the chance and opportunity to listen to the Dhamma. It is an act of sharing the Dhamma.

So if time, occasion and situation allow, you should chant reasonably loudly.
With Metta,
Bhante U Cittara
Q-03Q-03: Bhante, I’m very confused. Some say that one should not cut or trim a Bodhi tree for whatever reason and some say that one can do this in a positive way. Please advise.
An MV Devotee
A-03A-03: Four Citiyas are found in the Buddhist literature. They are

1. the relic of the Buddha, pagoda or stupa where the Buddha’s relic is enshrined (dhatu-cetiya),
2. the teachings of the Buddha including books, CD, VCD of the Dhamma (dhamma-cetiya),
3. the Buddha image, Buddha statue and painting of Buddha (Uddissa-cetiya), and
4. requisites of the Buddha like robe, bowl, Bodhi tree etc. (paribhoga-cetiya).

Should a Bodhi tree, paribhoga-cetiya, be cut or trimmed? The answer totally depends on one’s attitude.

Stories of Physician Jivaka and Devadatta are perfect examples to illustrate this.
Physician Jivaka shed the blood of the Buddha when he was operating on the Buddha to heal his illness and Devadatta also shed the blood of the Buddha when he wanted to take the Buddha’s life. Shedding the Buddha’s blood is the same as cutting or trimming the Bodhi Tree and the only difference is the volition which motivated the two actions. So what Jivaka had done was considered a great meritorious deed while what Devadatta had done was a great evil deed.
The Buddha also said, “Oh monks, volition is kamma, I declare (cetanaham, bhikkave, kammam vadami).”

Come to think of it, if one can shed the Buddha’s blood with a positive attitude, why cannot he or she cut or trim a Bodhi tree?

However, one should perform some religious services like paying respect and asking for forgiveness before he cuts or trims a Bodhi tree because it is a cetiya which deserves respect.
With Metta,
Bhante U Cittara
Q-04Q-04: I am writing an article about “Paritta Chanting.” Last year I learned the chanting practice of Sri Lanka. Now can you kindly talk about chanting practice of other Theravada countries?
All the best,
Sylwia Gil
A-04A-04: Now we can tell you something about Myanmar chanting practice. In Myanmar, paritta recitation is performed throughout the country for the purpose of protection, good health and wealth. Chanting practice in Myanmar is particularly significant on Myanmar New Year Day. This is also for the same purpose of protection, health and wealth. Additionally, on New Year Day, a special kammavaca is recited to drive out evil spirits. This kammavaca is not from the Tipitaka like other kammavacas used by monks who perform their vinaya acts. This is a scholarly composition of ancient monks. In this case paritta and kammavaca are recited by monks, and typically include the Mangala Sutta, Metta Sutta, Ratana Sutta, Vatta Sutta and the attributes of the Three Gems.

Parittas are also recited by monks during all religious ceremonies. On such occasions, the Metta Sutta and attributes of the Three Gems are usually recited. Lay people often invite monks to recite parittas at their social celebrations like a wedding or the occupation of a new house. Many monks and many lay people recite paritta on a daily basis. In Myanmar a compilation of 11 suttas selected from the Tipitaka are well known as The Great Parittas (Pa-yeik-kyi), and the Pali suttas are learned by young monastic boys and novices aged about ten, by heart.

Paritta thread, usually made from sewing thread and paritta water and paritta sand are prepared on New Year recitations and new house blessings. On other occasions they are rarely prepared. For protection, the thread is put around the house, and some children wear the thread around their wrists and neck and the paritta water is sprinkled and the paritta sand spread throughout the house.
This may not be good enough information for you now. If you have any further questions related to this subject, feel free to raise it with us.
With Metta,
Ashin Acara
Q-05Q-05: We offer alms food and fruits in the morning to the Buddha image at the altars. In the afternoon, we usually remove such offerings from the alter. On this, I would like to know whether the food and fruits could be consumed after we remove it from the altars.
A Lay Devotee
A-05A-05: Alms food and fruits which are leftover from an offering to the Buddha may be consumed by monks and lay people. According to the Dhammadayada-sutta of Majjima Nikaya, the Buddha’s heritage for monks (and lay devotees) is of two kinds: (1) that of material (amisa-dayada), which includes alms food, robes, etc. and (2) that of dhamma (dhamma-daya) which is the Buddha’s teaching. The latter heritage is very much appreciated by the Buddha. And in the sutta the Buddha allowed monks to partake in his leftover alms food.

Moreover, in the Mahavagga-atthakatha (Vinaya), it’s also mentioned that the Buddha was having alms food brought by Ven Maha Moggalana from Sona, a rich man. That alms food was sweet smelling. At that time King Bimbisara was visiting the Buddha at His monastery, and he wanted to taste the sweet smelling food. The Buddha noticed the king’s wish and gave the king a suitable amount of the food.

From the above it may be concluded that even today leftover alms food and fruits offered to the Buddha may be consumed by monks and lay people alike. However some of today’s Buddhists believe that such leftover alms food and fruits should not be consumed by anyone while some are consuming them.

We are taking time to observe this practice in the daily life of the Buddhists. Different views and practices will soon be shared with our readers. And different views and practices are welcome.
With Metta,
Ashin Acara
Q-06Q-06: Dear Venerable Resident Monk, I can't believe in life after death. I want to believe it. But in my mind there'll be no life after death. No hell and no heaven at all. What should I do? Can I be a good Buddhist without believing in life after death?
All the best,
A-06A-06: I have a counter question before I answer your question. You don’t believe in life after death because you don’t believe there is heaven and hell or you can’t simply believe in life after death?
To believe in life after death, we don’t need to believe in heaven and hell because we can understand this nature without heaven and hell. Let’s say we do not believe in heaven and hell because these cannot be seen and cannot be experienced now. But we cannot deny that there are two kingdoms, human and animal, because they truly exist. Suppose, there is no hell or heaven after death but there would be man or animal life after death.

If you do not believe in life after death, then, do you believe in cause and effect operation? I think we cannot deny the cause and effect relationship. If we believe in cause and effect relation, then we must believe the continuation of cause and effect as well. In fact, life after death is nothing but the continuation of the cause and effect operation. So long as we are creating causes, we will definitely have to face the future consequences of our actions. So I believe we do not need heaven or hell to believe in life after death.

What should you do? I’d like to suggest that you read the book “Many Lives Many Masters” by Dr. Brian L. Weiss. This book is helpful because it approaches this issue scientifically.
Can you be a good Buddhist without believing life after death? I believe so. Belief or non-belief is the product of one’s philosophy. Philosophy has some influences on our actions but sometimes it is hard to say that all actions are the reflections of one’s philosophy. I say this practically and not literally.

I have come across people who said that they do not believe in life after death just like you. However their actions are better than some others who said that they believe in life after death. If one’s right philosophy cannot correct one’s wrong doings, then what does this philosophy mean?
What the Buddha said about the nihilism (not life after death) is that if someone holds this view, he would seek for his happiness through ways and means with total disregard for others.
According to your letter, I understand that you are trying to be a good man and a good Buddhist. So you can be a practical good Buddhist not a philosophical Buddhist.

So regardless of whether you believe in heaven and hell, it is the way you decide to take, that will inevitably lead you to heaven or hell one day. These existences should not be called hell or heaven since you do not believe in them. However, these experiences would be as enjoyable or as miserable as heaven or hell, respectively. This is the law of cause and effect.

Finally, I have to pass the Buddha’s teaching to you. The Buddha stated that the three views, nihilism, eternalism and Theism are the primary cause of all wrong views. So I wish some knowledge and personal experiences would help you to believe in life after death.
With Metta,
U Cittara
Q-07Q-07: Venerable Sir, a friend of mine said: “to eliminate craving (tanha) one must eliminate feeling (vedana)." He was referring: “craving is ceased on the cessation of feeling (vedana nirodha tanha nirodho)” of Dependent Origination.
I told him that as long as there is consciousness (citta) there will be feeling (vedana), and consciousness (citta) will be there throughout the life circle of a person (samsara), except on two occasions: when the person enters into nirodha-samaapatti which is attainment of cessation of consciousness and cessation of matters caused by consciousness, and when the person attains final liberation (nibbana).
The problem is I maintain that feeling (vedanaa) cannot be eliminated. My friend maintains that feeling (vedanaa) must be eliminated so that craving (tanha) will not arise. Can you tell us who is right and who is wrong?
Dr Han Tun
A-07A-07: Dr Han Tun, both of you are right. Feeling arises in all conscious beings. Because feeling is a universal mental property (sabbacittasadharanacetasika) associating with all types of consciousness. Where there is consciousness there will be feeling. And, according to the Dependent Origination, craving ceases on the cessation of feeling. Moreover it is true that craving arises depending on feeling.

In this case "feeling and craving" should be focused. And I understand that the most important thing is "cessation of craving."

As said above craving arises depending on feeling. However this is a general truth. In other words, this is true for ordinary people. Actually craving can never arise in arahants who have eradicated inherent tendencies (anusaya). In this regard feeling is a condition for craving, but it (craving) cannot arise without inherent tendencies.

As for meditators, a feeling can be a meditation object (vedananupassana). For them, liberation is possible when feeling is meditated with mindfulness and wisdom. If they are successful in this meditation, any kind of feeling will never be a cause of craving. But a certain feeling can lead them to the attainment of the highest wisdom (arahatta-magga-panna) with which they attain the final liberation (nibbana).

Suppose you are practicing Vipassana meditation and you are making notes of your present feeling. For example you have a pleasant feeling and you make notes of this feeling. You note: "feeling, feeling, feeling . . ." By this, you understand that this feeling arises and disappears. You see the true nature of this feeling. But you do not have craving for this feeling. This is your momentary success.
This subject matter is a part of the Dependent Origination which is profound. You are recommended to learn more about the Dependent Origination. Some more explanation of this subject matter will be given by Bhante U Cittara.
With Metta,
Ashin Acara
Q-08Q-08: Venerable Sir, now I have two questions.
1. In MN 140 Dhatu-vibhanga Sutta translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, the Buddha explained about the akasa-dhatu as follows.
"And what is the space property? The space property may be either internal or external. What is the internal space property? Anything internal, belonging to oneself, that's space, spatial, and sustained: the holes of the ears, the nostrils, the mouth, the passage whereby what is eaten, drunk, consumed, and tasted gets swallowed, and where it collects, and whereby it is excreted from below, or anything else internal, within oneself, that's space, spatial, and sustained: This is called the internal space property. Now both the internal space property and the external space property are simply space property. And that should be seen as it actually is present with right discernment: 'This is not mine, this is not me, this is not my self.' When one sees it thus as it actually is present with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the space property and makes the space property fade from the mind."
In the above sutta, the internal space property (ajjhattika-akasadhatu) was explained. But I do not know what the Buddha meant by the external space property (bahira-akasadhatu). Could you kindly tell me the examples of what the external space properties are?

2. And in Milinda-panha, Nippapanca-vagga, Akammajadi-panha, I read the English translation by N.K.G. Mendis as follows:
King Milinda said: “Revered Naagasena, things produced by kamma are seen in the world, things produced by cause, things produced by physical change are seen. Tell me what there is in the world that is not born of kamma (akammajo), not born of cause (ahetujo), not born of physical change (anutujo).”
“In the world these two, sire, are born neither of kamma nor of cause, nor of physical change. What two? Space (akasa) and Nibbana.”

I would be grateful to know whether the space (akasa) mentioned in Milinda-panhaa is the same as the external space property (bahira akasadhatu) or the combination of both internal and external space property, as mentioned in MN 140?
Dr Han Tun
A-08A-08: Dr Han Tun, here are my answers to your questions.

1. Anything in your physical body is your internal property. Anything outside of your physical body is your external property. Any space outside of yourself is your external space element. For example my ear holes, my nose holes etc. are your external space elements. Similarly the hole of my alms bowl, the hole of your pocket and the space between you and me are our external space elements (external space elements of you and me).

2. And a space is just a space wherever it is. All spaces (mentioned in Majjima-nikaya and Pilindapanha) are same.
With Metta,
Ashin Acara
Q-09Q-09: When I enquired about higher ordination, I received differing answers. One temple commented that I could not be conferred immediate Higher Ordination while another indicated otherwise. Both are Theravada Buddhist temples. Please advice:
1. Why is it that these Theravada Temples have different traditions or practices?
2. Is the termporary Higher Ordination Program available in Mangala Vihara?
3. Can a monk disrobe after ordination?
A-09A-09: Dear James,
1. I need to clarify a little more than you asked. Renunciation is classified into two types:

a. faithful renunciation (Saddhapabbajjita) and
b. fearful renunciation (Bhayapabbajjita).

Faithful renunciation is caused by one’s faith while fearful renunciation is caused by improper reasons such as laziness to struggle and complacency towards lay life. While the first is welcomed the latter is not.
According to the Vinaya rules, anyone who attain the age of twenty can become a monk if he is physically and mentally sound. It is pertinent that he must possess the aspiration to seek for liberation (samsaravattadukkhato mocanatthaya).
In some temples, temporary ordination (higher ordination/ noviciation) is permitted. This is to accommodate the wish of some male Buddhists who aspired to spend at least a few weeks or months as monks. These Buddhists believed that in their life time they should be ordained at least once even if the duration for their monkhood is for a short period. The purpose of temporary ordination is to cultivate the good habits of monkhood which is considered a noble act. They often related the example of the Buddha-to-be, who was ordained only nine times while he was fulfilling his perfections throughout samsara, round of birth and death. Therefore, we should seize the rare and noble opportunity to do so in this lifetime. Indeed there are several famous monks who had undergone temporary ordination prior to becoming permanent monks.
However, there are some who believed that one should not be ordained as a temporary monk if he has prior intention to revert to lay life thereafter. Their view is that temporary ordination conducted with the full intention of returning to the lay state within a short duration amounts to no real renunciation at all. Hence, the practice of temporary ordination is merely a social ritual rather than a genuine act of ordination.
In effect, both traditions or practices are correct and meaningful in their own ways. Fundamentally, it is a matter of differing views and opinions.

2. Now Mangala Vihara does not have a higher ordination program
3. Yes. Monks are allowed to disrobe at any time if:

a. they are unhappy to live as monks and
b. they cannot adhere to the monastic rules and practices.

In the Dhammapada story, a monk named Kudalapandita was ordained and disrobed for seven times. He achieved his aspiration only on the seventh and last occasion.
With Metta,
U Cittara
Q-10Q-10: Bhante, I’m referring to Q-A No. 05 above (offering alms food and fruits to the Buddha). I’ve other related questions:
1. Must alms food be vegetarian (that is non-meat)?
2. Is there any type of fruits which should not be made as offerings?
With Mudita
A-10A-10: 1. Alms food need not be vegetarian. The Buddha is impartial about the food that he received as alms. He has eaten meat and he permitted his disciples and fellow monks to eat meat as well (Parajika Pali, Paragraph No. 181, 508; 582 etc.). Hence, meat is allowable except under the following circumstances:

a. the monks witness the actual slaughtering of the animal(s) for the purpose of providing meat for them (monks);
b. the monks hear that the people had killed the animal(s) for the purpose of providing meat for them (monks); and
c. the monks suspect that the people had killed the animal(s) for the purpose of providing meat for them (monks).

In fact, on the occasion that Venerable Devadatta asked the Buddha to lay down a rule requiring all monks to be vegetarian for their entire life, the Buddha did not approve of it (Parivari Pali, Paragraph No. 343). In the Vinaya rules (Mahavagga Pali, Paragraph 280-281) relating to the practice of offering alms food , it was also stated that monks are prohibited from eating ten kinds of meat - that of a human being (manussa), elephant (hatthi), horse (assa), dog (sunakha), snake (ahi), lion (siha), tiger (byaggha), panther (Dipi), bear (accha), hyaena (taraccha). Thus, these are not to be offered to the Buddha and to the monks. In practice, none of these are usually cooked for our daily meals. Hence, we need not worry about them being made as offerings.

Whilst the Vinaya rules did not mandate vegetarianism in alms offerings, the practice of giving vegetarian alms food to Buddha and the monks is however, very prevalent nowadays. Amongst the Buddhist community and temples, many restricted the offerings to vegetarian food only. This is taken more in line with a commitment to discourage killing of any kind for food consumption. In fact, our temple, Mangala Vihara Buddhist Temple is no exception. Since its inception for nearly 50 years, only vegetarian food is offered to the Buddha and served to the monks (no meat, no eggs, no fish etc.).

An important point related to the practice of offering captured in the Vikalabhojana-sikkhapada (Pacittiya Pali, Paragraph 247-251) prohibits monks from eating solid food (bhojana) after noon time. Thus, alms food and fruits are offered to the Buddha and the monks only in the morning and consumed before noon. No food or fruits are to be offered in the afternoon or evening.
2) On the question of fruits, there is no prohibition to the type of fruits that can be offered to the Buddha. Any edible fruits can be offered to the Buddha. However as mentioned above, similar to the offer of solid food, fruits are not to be offered after noon.
With Metta,
Ashin Acara

Dhamma Questions are answered by Bhante U Cittara, resident monk of Mangala Vihara, and his assistant monks. Questions and comments on given answers are welcome.