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Forest Monks of Sri Lanka - Part 3

by Sangharakshita


is a sort of subtle echo of it still persisting.

Kulamitra : Is what's chanted just Buddhist texts.

S: Oh yes! Sometimes, non Canonical texts, just verses of praise to the Buddha, but usually it is actual Suttas, especially those Suttas which are
considered to have a particular effect as regards magical protection. This happens in all Buddhist countries in one way or another. Tibetan
monks are often invited to lay people's houses to read the scriptures, and their chanting is much less musical than that of the Sinhalese Bhikkhus,
it is much more like a sort of regular 'sing-song'. But the Sinhalese bhikkhus have got different ways of chanting and even different melodies, or
semi melodies to which they chant. It is much more stylish than the Tibetan chanting.

It's the same with the Chinese and Japanese, in all these countries, in all forms of Buddhism, you find a sort of 'pirit' a chanting of the scriptures
or reading of the scriptures, in the houses of the lay people for the sake of blessings.

[End of Side One Side Two]

Sinhalese bhikkhus have a lot of fun chanting, I have seen a bit of this. They often chant very, very fast and they keep all together, and there is
always a leader. They almost always chant by heart, they scorn to use a book!

The old monk is usually leading, and when they come to the end of the text, he gives the lead to the next one, and the others think "what Sutta's
this?" and you can see them thinking, then they think "Ah that's the one," and they join in, they know it! Sometimes you find that some
bhikkhus know it and some don't. Sometimes the old monk is left chanting all by himself, and then he's very pleased! (laughter) He has beaten
them, he has beaten all the lads, and he is chanting all by himself! And in the end he takes pity on them and comes back to a fairly well known
one that they can all join in, and then they are really happy because they can join in that one. You see all these sort of little games going on, and
they all enjoy it very, very much. So there is a very pleasant atmosphere, it may not always be highly spiritual, but there is a quite pleasant
joyful atmosphere, and lay people are often greatly inspired by this.

And as I said they keep it up all night, and offerings are made to the monks at the end, and the holy water is sprinkled all the way round and so
on. It does help keep up the interest of the lay people in the religion.

Kulamitra : Do you think that people actually take in the meaning of the words?

S: Oh no! I think usually they pay no attention whatever to the meaning of the words, they don't even think about it, no.

Kulamitra : This is why I used the word 'spiritual', I can imagine it having a pleasant and even psychologically beneficial effect, but is it really


S: Devotional, but if by spiritual one understands to be included an understanding of the teaching, well no it does not enhance that. Though of
course in conjunction with 'pirit' they may well have expositions of Jataka stories and things like that. The bhikkhus in many of the Theravada
countries have developed all sorts of techniques of telling Jataka stories. In Thailand for instance, they have two bhikkhus, one seated on one
side of the altar, and one on the other, I've mentioned that before, and they tell the story between them. One is saying "and what happened next,
and, what did the Buddha do then," or, "what did the Bodhisattva do then." The other elaborates on it and they make it more interesting in that
way, and some bhikkhus have a sort of talent for a bit of clowning, and that comes in and the lay people enjoy that too. But nonetheless, some
lesson is taught regarding the paramita which that particular Jataka story illustrates. So in that way teaching is put across.

But it is not the Visuddhimagga type teaching. It is definitely the more inspirational, quasi-Mahayana type teaching almost, because the Jatakas
are involved, the paramitas, the Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva ideal, what the Buddha did for us. The suffering that the Buddha underwent in
previous lives, so that he could gain enlightenment, so that he could preach the Dharma for everybody's benefit.

There is a definitely Mahayanistic flavour when it comes to the exposition of the Jataka stories, even in Theravada countries. It is that type of
Buddhism which appeals quite strongly to the lay followers, to those who take their Buddhism more seriously. Not the so much Visuddhimagga
type Buddhism. There are those two strands, running more or less parallel, not perhaps touching very much.

Padmavajra : Do you think that we could employ more of those techniques?

S: I think we could, but with caution. I mean supposing that Kulamitra decided that he was going to recite some Sutras in the shrine room, and
hand out red ribbons to everybody at the end, and sprinkle them with holy water, you'd get people flocking. You would! (Laughter) Yes, but I am
not so sure that we should do it quite in that way. Our more, as it were, popular devotional practices should be much more integrated, with the
teaching and our overall spiritual approach than is usual in Buddhist countries in the East.

You notice how people enjoy name giving ceremonies very often. They are quite happy to come along to these things in many cases.

Padmavajra: I was thinking that instead of lectures being the main way of communicating the Dharma, maybe we could have two people up, and
they could do something between them.

S: You can experiment.

Devamitra : The next question comes from Padmaraja. We have just been talking about the Jatakas, and it comes from the Jataka quoted in the

Padmaraja : It is not so much moving on, it is moving back as well, also descending back into hell. On page 74, there is a reference to a Jataka
story, that had a very strong influence on Pannananda. I will just read the extract. "It describes a birth of the Buddha previous to his

enlightenment, in which he was the heir to the King of Benares. While still an infant in arms, he realised the pains of hell that awaited him if he
were to inherit the kingdom, and be forced to mete out justice to criminals." I believe that somewhere, in the Ten Pillars I think, you have said it
can be a expedient to function in the power mode, if it is subordinate to the love mode. Even so, can there still be harmful karmic consequences?

S: I think there can be, though I am answering in very general terms. I think it is unfortunate that one is, so to speak, obliged to function
sometimes in accordance with the power mode. But I think that, let's say, the karmic consequences are not as positive, as when you function in
accordance with the love mode. If your exercise of the power mode has definitely subordinated your exercise of the love mode, then that is a
strongly mitigating circumstance. I think the karmic consequences of functioning in accordance with the power mode in that way, would not be
the same as they would be if you were functioning in accordance with the power mode simply, so to speak, for the sake of functioning in
accordance with the power mode. But the point made by this Jataka story is quite interesting, because as compared with that, in quite as few
Suttas it is stated that the Dharmaraja, the Chakravatiraja, does so to speak enforce almost the observance of the Ten Precepts, and does punish
those who infringe them. In those Suttas, so far as I remember, nothing is said about the untoward consequences, in the case of the Dharmaraja,
of such enforcement. Perhaps there is a slight difference in point of view between these two kinds of texts.

It does suggest though that even that exercise of the power mode, or even when you exercise the power mode in subordination to the love mode,
you must exercise it with extreme caution.

Devamitra : Dharmapriya now has a question of the death of Pannananda.

Dharmapriya: This is based on the quote at the end of the Chapter. I will just read that part in my question. It begins : "It seems that three days
before his death, his Reverence Pannananda, saw a dream, this is the dream: 'A certain person with a splendid beautiful body came through the
sky in a gold chariot. Leaving the chariot in the sky, he came down to earth, came before his Reverence, bowed, and said, "So that's enough time
for your Reverence here, please come." Then he got back in his chariot and left."

Would it possibly be fair to understand this as a Deva visitor, promising Pannananda a Deva rebirth? Could you comment on this perhaps as any
indication of Pannananda's attainments, or in any other way?

S: ...

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