Noble Speech and Sarcasm

Tongue In CheekOn one of my posts from last week, I swung the spotlight over to another post without realizing it was written tongue-in-cheek. The author complained: “I would have thought that my ‘tongue-in-cheek’ joking was fairly clear.” And this brought me back to something that I’ve been struggling with for months now: sarcasm/verbal irony.

I’ve been trying to avoid sarcastic comments and verbal irony, mostly because I’ve come to believe that these are essentially breaches of the fourth precept.

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Real Conservatives

A little over a month ago, I got an email from Kusala Bhikshu’s Urban Dharma devoted to an article by Bhikkhu Bodhi titled: How will the Sangha fare in North American Buddhism? (You can also link via Abhayagiri.) Now after tearing through a backlog of work and mending a dislocated elbow, here are my thoughts.

First off, I really appreciate Bhikkhu Bodhi’s article because he raises questions that really do need to be addressed, and he did so very respectfully. He asks the question, Are there forces at work that might actually undermine the survival of Buddhist monasticism? While he characterized different approaches and responses as either conservative or liberal, he emphasized that he was not taking a stand with one camp or another.

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And then the Buddha said, “Get out of my face, monks.”

Or an analysis of Lay Responsibility

Earlier today I picked up my copy of Bhikkhu Bodhi’s Majjhima Nikaya and saw an index card jutting out from within the pages. I flipped to the proper place and found MN 67, the Catuma Sutta, and remembered I had set it aside because I wanted to talk about it here.

There isn’t a satisfactory translation available online, so let me summarize: The Buddha is residing near the city of Catuma when he overhears a group of monks being particularly noisy. He calls the monks before him and dismisses them, telling them to leave because they are too loud.

As the group of monks is leaving, the local villagers see them walking away with their heads hung low. Some of these villagers then go before the Buddha and implore him to allow the monks to return, so that they can live near the Buddha and be trained properly. The Brahma Sahampati shows up and makes a similar plea to add a divine component – the Buddha relents, lets the monks return, and then gives a more formal teaching on some of the dangers of the monastic life.

What I love about this sutta is the way it depicts the relationship between the lay and monastic communities, and how it speaks to certain responsibilities that modern communities somewhat neglect.

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