Re: asceticism

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Posted by Savaka ( on November 10, 2000 at 14:18:54:

In Reply to: asceticism posted by Susan Garvey on November 09, 2000 at 15:59:25:

Sergio's right...asceticism (in its popular terminology) doesn't exist in Buddhist practices.

But there are 13 practices of monks in the Theravada tradition that is called the dhutangga practices. The Western world has chosen to translate dhutannga as ascetic. Hence, there are so-called ascetic monks.

(Please do not imagine that ascetic monks sleep on beds of nails or otherwise torture themselves.)

I cannot remember all the thirteen. But I will type now what I can recall.

1. The single robe wearer. This practice requires the monk to possess only one set of robe. No spare.

2. The rag-robe wearer. This practice requires the monk to make his robe/s from rags obtained from refuse heaps, cemeteries, old clothes, etc. The practitioner cannot wear specially sewn robes offered by devotees.

3. The single bowl eater. This practice requires the monk to eat from only his single alms bowl. He may not partake in a meal that is spread out over several dishes. Hence, if he is offered fruits, baked potatoes, vegetables, candy, and bread, he is obliged to placed them all into his single alms bowl and eat from it. But if someone offers him soup or broth, he may contain this in a separate dish because if he puts the soup into his alsm bowl, it would make his meal very soggy and he would have trouble scooping his food in a dignified fashion.

4. The one-sitting eater. In this practice, the monk settles for his meal of the day and eats. When he gets up, he may no longer accept food until the next day.

5. The forest-dweller. He dwells in a forest.

6. The tree-dweller. He dwells under a tree.

7. The sitter. He never lies down, even to sleep.

I'm afraid that's all I can remember. It's been a long time since I last thought about the ascetic practices. From what I've written, you'll notice that there is nothing degrading or torturous about the practices. They are meant as tactics for controlling passion. The only one that looks painful is the Sitter's practice, but it's good for developing energy and keeping Sloth and Torpor at bay.

The method of undertaking the ascetic practices is a sober and solitary process, done by the monk in a sacred chapter house.

If you really want a comprehensive desctiption of the practices, obtain the Visuddhimagga. Here is the link for you to go buy it:

And here is the synopsis of the book from the link:

"Path of Purification, The: Visuddhimagga (Softcover)
Acariya Buddhaghosa
by Bhikkhu Nanamoli"

"The most esteemed commentary in all of Pali literature, The Path of Purification, or Visuddhimagga is a systematic examination and condensation of Buddhist doctrine and meditation technique. The various teachings of the Buddha, found throughout the Pali Canon, are organized in a clear, comprehensive path leading to the final goal, nibbana, the state of complete purification. In the course of his treatise Buddhaghosa gives full and detailed instructions on the forty subjects of meditation aimed at concentration, an elaborate account of the Buddhist Abhidhamma philosophy, and explicit descriptions of the stages of insight culminating in finalliberation.

"The author, Bhadantacaryia Buddhaghosa, composed the Visuddhimagga in the early part of the 5th century A.D. The India-born monk-scholar travelled to Sri Lanka to translate into Pali the extensive Sinhalese commentaries preserved there. His crystallization of the entire Pali Canon reinvigorated Theravada Buddhism in India and Sri Lanka. It still shines as clearly today, in this brilliant 1956 translation by the British-born monk, Bhikkhu Nanamoli that in itself is considered an outstanding achievement of Pali scholarship of the 20th century.

"This book is from BPS Pariyatti Editions of Seattle, which co-publishes classic and contemporary titles from the Buddhist Publication Society of Kandy, Sri Lanka.

"The Path of Purification is the first text in this new series dedicated to making available in the Americas the finest in Buddhist Literature.

"Also available in hardcover.

"Price: $38.00
Paperback, 950 pages
Published by BPS- Pariyatti Editions
Publication date: 2000
ISBN 1-928706-01-0"

I have read this no-nonsense book from cover to cover time and again. Sadly, I have lost this book. But I'll buy it again soon.


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