Thursday, 22 March 2007

Shut that door

Everybody has their own inherent set of rules of acceptable conduct. Things we consider appropriate, and things we wouldn’t (under normal circumstances) do. However these intrinsic rules are by themselves insufficient. To survive society needs to define additional codes of conduct - without these there would be anarchy with everybody doing their own thing.

On Monday I made reference to probably the most controlled group - Buddhist monks (bhikkhus). In the Theravadian tradition which predominates in Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka, monks have to comply with 227 rules. The rules literally control every aspect of a monks life, what he wares, when and what they eats, etc. They were proscribed by the Buddha over 2500 years ago, and they evolved out of necessity. An event occurred that could have disrupted the harmony of the Sangha (community of monks) and the Buddha proscribed a rule.

A full description can be seen in “The Patimokkha Training Rules Translated and Explained by Thanissaro Bhikkhu”

Remember each rule came into being following an incident. Given that, the mind boggles at some of the things that must have occurred to produce the following rule, quote:

Should any bhikkhu — participating in the training and livelihood of the bhikkhus, without having renounced the training, without having declared his weakness — engage in the sexual act, even with a female animal, he is defeated and no longer in communion.


Detailed commentaries were produced to interpret the rules, I quote Bhikkhu Thanissaro:

The term sexual act refers to all kinds of sexual intercourse.

The full penalty under this rule applies to any voluntary sexual intercourse with a human being, a "non-human", or a common animal, whether female, male, neuter, or hermaphrodite.

Performing the sexual act with a dead body — even a decapitated head — also entails the full penalty if the remains of the body are intact enough for the act to be accomplished.

The rule also includes two examples of "self-intercourse": A bhikkhu with a supple back takes his penis into his mouth, and a bhikkhu with an unusually long penis inserts it into his anus. Both cases carry the full penalty, which shows that one's own anal and oral orifices can fulfil the factor of object here.


The key factor in applying the rules is intention.

I quote again from Bhikkhu Thanissaro:

Lastly, the Vinita Vatthu (commentary) to this rule includes an interesting case that formed the basis for an additional rule:

"At that time a certain monk had gone to the Gabled Hall in the Great Wood at Vesali to pass the day and was sleeping, having left the door open. His various limbs were stiff with the 'wind forces' (i.e., he had an erection). Now at that time a large company of women bearing garlands and scents came to the park, headed for the vihara. Seeing the bhikkhu, they sat down on his male organ and, having taken their pleasure and remarking, 'What a bull of a man!' they went on their way, taking up their garlands and scents."

The bhikkhu incurred no penalty, but the Buddha gave formal permission to close the door when resting during the day.


So let that be a lesson, if you are having a little nap in your garden shed, make sure the door is closed.

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