Sunday, September 17, 2006

Corruption of the Chinese Sangha

The Vinaya mentions that:

"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."

A recent study of the state of the Chinese Sangha in China's big cities revealed that almost 90% of its monks have violated major Vinaya rules in one way or another. These "monks" have wives, girlfriends, even children. In actual fact they have committed a Parajika (defeat) offence and must be disrobed immediately, but so far only those discovered to be married with kids were expelled. Many others with unofficial partners still continue living in a wrongful way unchecked. The situation is so widespread that it becomes almost impossible to censure so many of them.

The Buddha also said to the monks:

"And what is wrong livelihood? Scheming, persuading, hinting, belittling, & pursuing gain with gain. This is wrong livelihood."

And also to abstain from:

"running messages ... from buying and selling ... from dealing with false scales, false metals, and false measures ... from bribery, deception, and fraud."

Besides personal misconduct, the famous temples in metropolitan cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuxi, Tianjin, Yantai etc. are all well known for auctioning the rights for striking the Chinese New Year gong (a rite performed for good luck) to high ranking government officials, rich businessmen and even ordinary devotees for thousands of yuan per strike. The same auctioning process goes on for the rights to offer the first joss stick on Chinese New Year (another rite of good luck), which can be bid up to over 10 thousand yuan at least. Competiton among the different temples is fierce and politicking becomes inevitable. Temple accounts are also never revealed to the public and corrupt practices fester uncontrolled. All these commercial practices are considered wrong livelihood for monks and considered Dukkata & even Sanghadisesa offences. But again they are so popular & profitable that nobody really cares whether what they are doing accords with the Vinaya or not.

How did Chinese Buddhism come to such a state? Decades of religious suppression under Mao Zedong, followed by over 20 yrs of economic reforms set forth by Deng Xiaoping are to blame. Great strides in material progress transformed the minds of not only the ordinary people, but the monks & nuns among them as well. The pursuit of prosperity in modern Chinese society is so important that it becomes the norm, such that even religious beliefs are bended & moulded to fit into this all powerful norm. Some of these monks try to justify their misconduct by saying that they are merely adapting to the greater enviroment in order to survive, & if others are also doing it, how can they be blamed as individuals? This type of rationale, even though wrong, is very much understandable. For those few who do keep to the Vinaya rules, it is also impossible for them to influence the majority, so they have no choice but to leave the cities and go practice in some faraway mountain monastery that still remains untainted. Otherwise it will surely be a case of, "if you can't beat them, join them."

In the current Dhamma Ending Age, when the Vinaya & Dhamma is slowly eroding away, true Bhikkhus & Bhikkunis will become fewer & fewer, until a time where the monastic code might be forgotten altogether. Lay followers will no longer have a qualified Sangha to look up to, not to mention an Ariya Sangha. When the Vinaya is corrupted, the Dhamma cannot survive on its own as well. Woeful it will be for us to be born in a time where the right Dhamma can no longer be heard. Blinded like bats we will be, depraved of the light of the doctrine. The signs of such a time are already evident in Sanghas around the world, not just the Chinese Sangha. Let us try our best to work towards our own enlightenment while there are still some real monks & nuns around, & the correct path to Nibbana can still be learned. If we missed this opportunity as humans in this life, the next time we are reborn as humans will definitely be too late. Take heed!


Anonymous said...

Never allow the rise of rotten apples to wreck the buddha work!

If one do not have the any intent to protect the Buddha work, why the heaven and 10 direction buddhas and bidhisavttas need to protect you and your interest ?


Anonymous said...

As lay buddhists, we should refrain from escalating the issue publicly. It will only make non-believers and those who have not develop strong faith in the Triple-gem start questioning their spiritual choice. Let Sangha issues be dealt within the Sangha.


耀慧居士 said...

I have been living in China for more than 7 years, and after taking refuge in the Tirple-gem, I started maintaining close contacts with the Sangha community in different places. Yes, like what you have said in the article, many places are turning so commercialized that they are more like tourist spots than places of spiritual pursuits. But there are still many great Sangha members I have come across in my dealings. The news report, if not seen in the right context, may unnecessarily make the issue seem beyond redemption.


Anonymous said...

The Dharma Ending Age or Kali Yuga doctrine is certainly a reality. Not only for the Buddhist Sangha, this terrible thing is universal. Just look at the frightful disintegration of the Roman Catholic Church these past 50 years, or the growth of stupid fundamentalist fanatics in all religions! Spirituality is becoming treated as another commodity anymore.