The freed mind: Chit Wang

14/09/2012

Buddhadasa Bhikkhu used the term “chit wang” in Thai for the void mind as we find it in the texts attributed to Huangpo and Huineng (which Buddhadasa translated himself from the English). From this liberated Buddha-mind the power for any social revolution may arise. As we clearly see in most of Southeast Asian countries, they are in need of reform. What seems to be important for a society’s identity (like the Thai’s or Burmese’s), the lay-monk distinction, can be clearly detected as the main obstacle for change. It is always the more traditional and easy-to-chew Buddhism that is popular here, and it is infiltrating people’s mind for quite a while through a TV channel called DMC. The monk behind it is called Luang Phaw Dhammajayo, and (a parallel to the Vietnamese described in last week’s blog entry) he is quite a rich landlord, too. His greasy talks rely on superstition, a simple understanding of kamma and rebirth, and thus do just the opposite of Buddhadasa’s teachings – they bind and create illusions. Of course, this is required to collect money from his followers who have to dress in white and move up the ladder of this “Dhammakaya” movement.

When the people of Southeast Asia do not question their support for the orange-robed who justify their laziness with rules and regulations of the Vinaya – the first part of the Palicanon and thus a fundament of Theravada Buddhism – the doors for guys like Dhammayo are opened. For some, this is an inevitable part of a nation’s tradition and identity, for others the lay-monk distinction is just another possibility to create classes, differences, hierarchies, and to abuse power in the name of a Lord. A monk who would have to feed himself and lead the life of a farmer – one of the most honorable ways to exist – when not meditating (and perhaps studying scripts from time to time) could not so easily be lead to DMC’s abstractions.  A monk’s life cannot be a role model for humankind (whereas the farmer’s life is just that) and would, due to his celibacy and inability to take care of himself, just cause the extinction of mankind (and therefore the dhamma). Instead of sucking on others and nevertheless denouncing their average behaviour he’d have to take full responsibility of his own life and be criticized on the same level.

Of course, abolishing the monk-layhood distinction is impossible without reading and understanding even the Vinaya not literally but metaphorically. Buddadhasa called this “phasa tam”, the dhamma language, an interpretive and revealing reading of the canon, as opposed to “phasa kom”,  everyday language and a literal understanding. Thus e.g. the precept not to unroot a vegetable would become the rule for mindful agriculture. Monks nowadays are able to use airplanes instead of walking thousand of miles but they refrain from giving up anything in the Vinaya that contradicts their right to a rather comfortable life of social welfare. They think this is justified just by sharing their limited knowledge and insight in the dhamma, and in the case of DMC they even get sponsored for leading people astray. It has come so far that the robe is nothing in the eye of a wise man anymore, it rather makes one puke when in sight. One should look at a robed person in the way the Buddha is said to have taught impermanence: See the skull of the person, watch the decaying flesh, smell the stinking fluids he or she is made of. And only then listen carefully to what is said and find out if it is anything else than the filth you have just imagined.

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