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Topic Summary

Posted by: Johann
« on: September 16, 2013, 12:33:39 PM »

As there is still a broad believe, that monasteries are generally owned by monks (today it get's very clear that it will not be possible any more, since there are less places on earth left, where people rein with sovereignty to give rights and releases for duties a owner would have by law. Monks even get very nervous if they face the fact that they actually violate all that could be violated and fear to be dependent of wise people exclusively) it is very useful to bring up also the hints found in ancient scripts that monks would be always requested to come but never force to occupy and mission. So it is with dwells in internet as well... put who cares if there are right to take what is not given and and a believe that acting in beating against karma is a way out for the well-far of many.

We also find such hints in nearly every sutta reporting about the palce of dwelling. His/here monastery... never (as fare as I could see, and I would wonder and doubt it if there is) there is a monastery mentioned that is owned and actually maintained by monks. How could they? That neither possible nor would it be a real intention of one who stays without dependencies.

Next up in the series on Monastery ownership, two posts based on Gregory Schopen’s essay, ‘The Lay Ownership of Monasteries and the Role of the Monk in Mulasarvastivadin Monasticism’ (Originally published in The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 19.1 (1996) 81-126. I am using the reprinted version, Chapter 8 of Buddhist Monks and Business Matters, University of Hawai’i Press, 2004.) This first essay deals with the inscriptions quoted by Schopen; the next, with the passages from the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya. Schopen emphasizes that this study is purely preliminary and is by no means complete or systematic. Here we present only a brief summary of the evidence he presents; the essay, as always with Schopen’s writings, is nuanced and provocative and well worth the read.

Schopen quotes a number of inscriptions from ancient India, which are seal or inscriptions that record the donation or ownership of a monastery. Most of these suggest that in some sense a lay person is the owner of the monastery. In most of the texts that follow, for the sake of clarity we will keep the Indic term vihara, which we have previously translated as ‘dwelling’. One inscription, a late second or early third century sealing from Intwa, near Jugadh, reads:

    Maharaja-rudrasena-vihare bhiksu-sanghasya

    ‘Of (or for) the community of bhikkhus in the vihara of the Great King Rudrasena

In the Wardak Vase Inscription we find ‘in Vagramarega’s vihara’, where Vagramarega is a layman.

Potsherds from Tor Dherai contain an inscription that reads:

    This hall for providing water is the religious gift of the Shahi Yola-Mira, the owner of the vihara, to the Sangha of the Four Quarters, for the acceptance of the teachers of the Sarvastivada in his own – Yola-Mira the Shahi’s – monastery.

This passage emphasizes the ownership by repeating the name, stating that the monastery is ‘his own’ (svakiya) and calling the lay donor the ‘monastery owner’ (viharasvami). Notice also the use of two distinct ideas for the recipients. On the one hand the hall is for the Sangha of the Four Quarters, as in the early texts; on the other hand, a specific sect, the Sarvastivadins, are mentioned as recipients. Here we are seeing the emergence of sectarianism in ancient India, and one of the critical issues for the sects, the ownership of property. The passage as stands it quite ambiguous: it could be that the monks of the Sarvastivada merely accept the property on behalf of the ‘Sangha of the Four Quarters’, and that it was in fact intended and used for all Sangha. But the tendency is clear enough, that offerings came to be conceived in sectarian terms, and that for practical purposes, property came to be owned not by the Sangha as a whole, but by one or other sect. In another inscription referenced below, the reference to the Sangha of the Four Quarters disappears, and the donation is simply for ‘the teachers of the Dharmaguptakas’.

Incidentally, it seems to me that the term acarya here has no connection to the modern Thai usage of ‘ajahn’ to refer to senior monks, but simply refers to the monks of the school.

Schopen quotes a number of other examples of inscriptions:

    We find it said, for example, that a ‘Bodhisattva image was set up by Amohaasi, the mother of Budharakhita, together with her mother and father, in her own monastery’ (sake vihare); or that… a group of merchants made a gift ‘in their own monastery’ (svake vihare); or that Pusyadata, the daughter of Gunda, an owner of a vihara (viharasvamin) also set up an image in ‘her own monastery’ (svake vihare).

In other inscriptions the lay donor does not seem to own the entire monastery, but one part of it, for example a shrine. For example a lay sister (upasika) named Nagapiya set up a Bodhisattva ‘in her own shrine for the acceptance of the teachers (acarya) of the Dharmaguptaka’.

Schopen gives a number of further examples. Clearly this evidence is sufficient to show that in ancient India it was normal for a monastery to be regarded as, in some sense, the property of a lay donor. The terms used, for example, calling the lay donor the ‘sami‘ or ‘svami‘ are the same as those found in the early Pali sources. What is not clear from these brief examples, or from the Pali passages which we have cited earlier (some of which Schopen discusses), is what exactly this notion of ‘ownership’ entails. Is it a purely symbolic notion, or does the lay donor exert practical influence over the monasteries? If this is the case, then what does it actually mean to say someone ‘owns’ a monastery? It is to these questions we will turn in the next post.

In contrary please investigate the compromises and it's natural drawbacks leading the Sangha into domesticated labors of worldly interests:

It is generally understood that monasteries in Thailand are owned by the Sangha as a whole, and administered by the local Sangha, especially the abbot. The Sangha as a whole here is not the ‘Sangha of the Four Quarters’, but the Sangha as legally recognized under the jurisdiction of Thai law, that is, the ‘Thai Sangha’.

In fact the situation is complex. While in Thailand I stayed in formally recognized monasteries, in hermitages in national parks occupied under an agreement  with the national Parks authorities, and in little places that were in fact likely to be just squats. In some cases the land is originally made over to the monastery from the ‘commons’ owned by the local villagers; in other cases it is purchased from a single owner. The actual title owner of the land may not be clear in every case.

The Thai Sangha Act is not particularly helpful in this regard, and seems to take the question as a matter of course. Probably it is handled largely through custom and the decisions of the central authorities.

Here are some of the relevant statements from the first and the current Thai Sangha Acts. I include some passages from the outdated Act of 1902 as it clarifies some points omitted in the later versions. In particular, it clarifies that the ownership of a monastery is transferred from the (presumably lay) donor to the Sangha. And in the critical question of the election of the abbot, it stipulates that the villagers, local Sangha, a local administrative head should meet together to decide. This is still followed in Thailand. No doubt practice varies, but this is what happened in one Wat Pa Pong branch monastery that I was staying near in Nan, northern Thailand.

For your interest, here is the official text of all three Thai Sangha Acts.
Thai Sangha Act 1902

    Article 8.

    The authorities of the State are empowered to look after an abandoned monastery, that is to say, one in which there is no Bhikkhu, – together with its estate.

    Article 9.

    Anybody who wishes to build a new monastery is first to apply for Royal permissiom through the following manners:

    (5 legal criteria)

    In case of the unanimous approval on the part of the State District officer and the eccesiastical District Chief with reference to the five points mentioned above, the latter is authorized by Royal Permission to present the documents in order to be sealed by the former. The owner of the land is to transfer its ownership to the order of Sangha before any building process can be started.

    Article 10.

    There is to be an abbot for a monastery. (the King is to choose the abbot of royal monasteries, and may if he wishes appoint other abbots as well.)

    Article 11.

    (Otherwise, if in Bangkok) it shall be the duty of the Rājāgaṇa District Governor where the monastery is situated to summon a meeting of the Bhikkhus together with the lay devotees of that monastery for the sake of selecting the abbot. If the Rājāgaṇa District Governor has decided in favor of any bhikkhu, he (the former) is empowered to issue a certificate appointing the latter to be the abbot. The certificate of appointment shall also be counter-sealed by the Minister of Religious Affairs.

    Article 12

    (Slightly different procedure for monasteries outside of Bangkok)

    Now all abbots, unless they have been already bestowed a higher Ecclesiastical title, shall bear the title of Adhikāra.

    Article 18.

    An appeal against the abbot’s order, in case it is a monastery in Bangkok, can be filed to the Rājāgaṇa District Chief; in case it is one on the province, can be filed to the Ecclesiastical District Chief.

Thai Sangha Act 2505

    Article 32

    Construction, establishment, combination, removal (from one place to another), abrogation, and applying for official recognition of consecrated boundaries (sīmā) shall conform to the ministerial regulations.

    In case of abrogation, the property of the abrogated monastery shall be annexed to the Central Ecclesiastical property.

    Article 33.

    Land both belonging to a monastery and under control of a monastery is of the following categories:

        Monastery Compound. This means the area wherein various structures of a monastery are situated.
        Monastery Estate. This refers to a piece of land belonging to a monastery.
        Monastery revenue estate. This is a piece of land, the rent or other benefits of which is dedicated to the upkeep of a monastery or of the Buddhist order of Saṅgha as a whole.

    Article 34.

    Transference of ownership of the area wherin various structures of a monastery is situated or of a piece of land belonging to a monastery can be accomplished only through an Act. Nobody shall be allowed to file a case against a monastery by right of prescription concerning the property which is either a monastery compound or a monastery estate.

    Article 35.

    Monastery Compund and Monastery Estate are properties that are not subject to any enforcement by the Court of Law.

    Article 36.

    There shall be one abbot for a monastery. However, when it is deemed proper, there can be a vice-abbot or an abbot’s assistant.

    Article 39.

    In case of the absence of an abbot or his disability an acting abbot is to be appointed, with the same governing power and responsibilities as the abbot himself.

    Appointment of an acting abbot is to conform to the principle and procedure determined in the rules of the Council of Elders.

Short stories kindly provided by or beloved dwelling owner and respons(ibility)er Bhante Sujato.

Tell me, how can a beggar be responsible, how can a one "place under disability" be ever responsible? Believe in ownership and clinging is the root of corruption and suffering. And just thousands of cities of bones:

Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhassa

A city made of bones,
plastered over with flesh & blood,
whose hidden treasures are:
pride & contempt, aging & death.

* Johann have moved this topic form "higher virtue" section into the Vihara. SInce I guess it is very needed that laypeople have to prepare the necessaries and its not the case that a social system will take up the own responsibility.
Posted by: Johann
« on: February 26, 2013, 03:28:06 AM »

Just saw this skin deep article and it seems it is an issue that is preferred to be kept skin deep.

Ownership and Administration of Monasteries

Ajahn Brahmavamso

    Vinaya is the name for the body of monastic rules and traditions that are binding on every Buddhist monk and nun. The Vinaya was established by the Buddha himself and is now preserved in written form, both in the ancient Indian languages and in English translation.

    With so many new people having come into the Society in the last few years, many of our members and friends know very little about the rules of discipline of the monastic community. It is important for the lay community to have an understanding of these rules to ensure that we do not behave in any way which is offensive to the Sangha nor which could create difficulty for them. We have therefore decided to reprint a series of articles in this and forthcoming newsletters, which were written by Ajahn Brahm a number of years ago.

    Ownership and Administration of Monasteries:

    In the time of the Buddha, when a lay Buddhist offered lands of buildings, or money for such things, to establish a monastery, they would dedicate it to The Sangha of the Four Quarters Present and Yet to Come. The Sangha of the four quarters present and yet to come means ALL properly ordained monks and nuns. This would include all legitimate Buddhist monks and nuns, of all nationalities and sects. Today it would probably include most Chinese Mahayana monks and nuns (bhiksus and bhiksunis) but it would exclude some Tibetan lamas and most Zen roshis, the married ones at least! Thus the owners of the monastery are the worldwide and "timewide" community of monks and nuns.

    The administrators of the monastery were those monks or nuns who lived there. They would meet regularly to make any decisions concerning their monastery and all such decisions had to be unanimous. But there are many rules of Vinaya which restrict what the resident monastics may do, in order to safeguard the monastery from corrupt monks. For example, they can't decide to give Sangha property away (unless it is trifling), nor to divide up the goods among themselves, (then disrobing, selling up, and moving to Majorca!). The community at a monastery is bound to preserve and maintain in good order all Sangha property, holding it in trust for the monastics now and in the future.

    In large monasteries, and some had thousands of monks and nuns, the community would delegate some of its responsibilities to competent monks and nuns. Thus there would be a monk in charge of allocating lodgings, and one in charge of building and maintenance. Ven. Maha Moggalana, one of the Buddha's two chief monk disciples, was perhaps the most effective of the building monks. Once the Buddha commissioned him, with the assistance of 500 monks, to build the grandiose dwelling called the "Migaramatu Pasada" at Savatthi, with funds donated by the foremost female lay disciple Visakha. This monastic dwelling had two stories, each with 500 rooms pinnacled with gold! Because of Ven. Maha Moggalana's psychic powers (they didn't have cranes and bulldozers then) it took only 9 months to complete. It makes our efforts at Bodhinyana look puny.

    In conclusion, in the time of the Buddha, the resident monastic community ran their monastery in every respect, maintaining it in good order for the benefit of all monks and nuns, now and in the future. And monastics did get involved in the building, although only now and again. The famous monasteries in ancient India, such as the Jeta Grove outside of Savatthi where the Buddha spent 19 rains retreats, were owned by the Sangha and run by the monks -- there was no Buddhist Society of Savatthi! Then there was no need.

    Ajahn Brahmavamso
    (BSWA Newsletter, October-December 1995)


At the first hand it sounds nice and understandable... BUT at this time there was not much reification and no    cadastral register... and so on.
Ownership today means to have responsibilities. Responsibilities which are suddenly linked with income (which leads to the need of founding as well to the natural problem of corruption out of this need/desire).
In countries like Austria or Germany a land and "reality!" owner is confronted with the nearly to whole laws from the very beginning of ownership. That includes aside of the ever existing laws for everyone the whole spectrum of tax and administrative law as well all costumer protecting laws.
Mostly it would be furthermore impossible that monks do work on a building (what ever) if it is a "public" building. It's absolutely impossible to handle such things while keeping vinaya and everybody who tells such things can be regarded as whether cheater or hopeless optimist.
Not to speak that a owner needs to be a juristic person and even if it is a association, there must be a natural person in charge with would make an offering to the Sangha impossible.

It might be that some countries take it easy (even they have also their laws)

From my point of view, there would be only one possibility (like it was in past time) and that would be if the lastly lord of the land would give it without making the other national laws effective. That means it would require the cession of national territory (maybe somehow equal the Vatican) to the Sangha. I am not sure if such a country would be accepted by the many countries but that should not be a hindrance.

Seems to be a hard time to be without ownership but I guess a great possibility to focus on more important issues.

Of course it could be that I do not see some special supplies to a earnest acceptance of today's commons. Would be great if somebody could give such enlightening hints and tips.