Vows, commitments and modern life: Root downfalls of the Bodhisattva Vows, Taking away saffon robes.

Taking away saffron robes. 

This can be incurred only by those in positions of power in monastic communities.  If such a person, with a bad motivation, expels monks or nuns from the monastery by taking back their robes they incur a root downfall, even if those whom they have expelled have broken their ordination vows.

Fortunately, in modern times, instances of this happening are quite rare and extreme.  The reality is we don’t need somebody else to expel us, we implode upon ourselves just fine! 

In reality, though, there are subtle forms of this that happen in centers all of the time.  It doesn’t take the form of expelling ordained people or taking away their robes, but it can take more subtle forms of making certain sangha members feel like they are not welcome, or not part of the “in crowd” at the center.  If we look at the life of Jesus, we see one constant pattern:  whatever situation he was in, he would find the person who was the most excluded and disdained and he would go straight to them and cherish them with particular attention.  He wouldn’t hang out with his most loyal and devoted students, but he would actively show the example of active inclusiveness by seeking out the most despised (tax collectors, prostitutes, gentiles, etc.).  We should be just like that.

It is very easy and very natural for us to spend most of our time hanging out with the people we like, talking behind the backs of the people we don’t like, and generally ignoring everybody else.  But is that consistent with what we are being taught?  Is that the best way to use the very limited time we have to be with Sangha?  Now of course we shouldn’t go to the other extreme of ambushing en masse every new person who walks through the door or every wall flower who is quietly observing from the corner.  We, of course, need to be skillful.  But the point is in every moment of every day, whether we are in a center, at work or amongst friends, we should have a special radar on the lookout for anybody who might be feeling excluded, and we should make a special effort to be kind to them and make them feel included.  They just want to be happy too. 

This vow also advises us to cut others some slack.  Dharma is a mirror with which we can identify our own faults not a magnifying glass for judging other people for their faults.  If we don’t understand how the Dharma is supposed to be used as a mirror, there is a real danger that the more Dharma we learn the more we become judgmental of others.  People often feel guilty about their mistakes and their delusions, and if we judge them for their shortcomings they will most likely just go away so they don’t have to confront our judgment.  This is another subtle form of exclusion. 


2 thoughts on “Vows, commitments and modern life: Root downfalls of the Bodhisattva Vows, Taking away saffon robes.

  1. Kadam Ryan: Main points: Dharma is a mirror. We should actively show an example of inclusiveness, we seek out those who might feel excluded, we make special effort to be kind to them and make them feel included.

    DG: I’ll try not to go off on too much of a tangent! The nature of mind is clarity, being clear enough to perceive and know objects. We are experiencing a mirror-view of the reality of our mind, like a reflection on the mirror. When we look in a mirror, we say we see our self, but in reality it is just a reflection. In a similar way, in the field of our awareness we impute self and other and judge these projections of mind based on our mistaken idea that they (others flaws) somehow belong to others yet are perceived entirely by our mind, characteristics are imputed by mind. Sidenote: we are all judgemental, we need judgement There is no such thing as non-judgementalism, only suspended judgement.

    Exclusions & Inclusion are popular concepts which I have studied in the dynamic of groups. What I have observed is that amongst groups, there is much ‘Rescuing’ – this should be understood as detrimental to an individual since it dis-empowers them. It is common Buddhist trait. I myself have suffered with it. Real cherishing others allows them to be completely themselves without the notion of rescuing them from any type of suffering. This may seem to contradict the idea of having compassion and practically helping others but it does not. Cherishing is more of an inner thing. Although, obviously, it does extend to external practicalities.

    The point is this: The easiest and most powerful way to make others feel included is to exchange self. They are our self. Our notion of them being truly separate is evidence of our own self-grasping, which we have created, not them. We are creating them over and over as separate, alone and excluded. On a more practical level, see others as self and get your self involved without clinging to the idea that they are separate or excluded.

  2. Kadam Ryan & DG……THANK YOU so much for your kindness in passing on your knowledge. I am new to Bhuddist study and am currently studying a Foundation Program on The New Heart of Wisdom by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. This post has clarified several points for me with regard toe cherishing others and exchanging self. I find this so very helpful and thank you sincerely.

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