Just as the Buddha referred to those who achieved the goal as "My Son", I am wondering if the Buddha made any similar distinctions between monks who lived by the precepts and practiced according to the teachings, and those who were there for reasons of their own, not in line with the teachings of the Buddha?

Did he give any teachings on how to deal with monastics who abuse their position for unwholesome motivations i.e. monks amassing wealth, gaining political influence, acting as antagonists for violence.

Just as high-profile leaders in other religions have given their respective faith a tarnished reputation with shady dealings in the past, is there anything to be done to protect the dignity of the Buddhas teaching from those with less than wholesome intentions?

  • Could you cite an example of the Buddha calling anyone "my son" under any circumstances? In many years of reading Buddhist texts I've never come across this.
    – Jayarava
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 17:40
  • 1
    here is one source, I know I've seen it in many other instances. I don't have the time at the moment to provide more references, perhaps someone else could provide some links :) tipitaka.net/tipitaka/dhp/verseload.php?verse=029
    – Ryan
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 19:15
  • "Though you are lazy and negligent you claim to be diligent and ever mindful; but you have made the other bhikkhu appear to be lazy and negligent though he is diligent and ever mindful. You are like a weak and slow horse compared to my son who is like a strong, fleet-footed horse."
    – Ryan
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 19:19
  • 1
    @ChrisW No, the "fake monk" was figuratively speaking. I'm referring to ordained monks who do not conduct themselves according to the Buddha's teaching
    – Ryan
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 0:35
  • 1
    @GottfriedHelms It seems that your "comment" is really an "answer", perhaps you would consider posting it as an answer? I was being a little pedantic about the "son" part, but it cannot hurt to get ones facts right. Also I might learn something of value if the claim can be substantiated.
    – Jayarava
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 9:59

3 Answers 3


What you can do to protect the dignity of the Buddha's teaching is to practice the noble eightfold path to the best of your ability while the true Dhamma can still be heard in the world. There is nothing else to be done. The teaching will inevitably become corrupt and disappear from the world. There is nothing that you or anybody else in the world can do to prevent that. It's only a matter of time.

When you witness others acting in ways that dishonor the Buddha's teaching, your mind will likely respond with aversion. Identify this aversion and let go of it. If you cling to this aversion and let it be a basis for further action you're only working against yourself, even if you think that you're trying to protect the dignity of the Buddha's teaching. Mindfully recognize the impermanence of the teaching itself and use that to cultivate samvega (urgency).

Cultivate compassion towards those who, intentionally or otherwise, dishonor the Buddha's teaching. Recognize how helpless these beings are. Recognize that under different circumstances you also have the capacity to act in similar ways due to delusion. Recognize that you're just as helpless as these beings because you aren't yet free from delusion. Then work towards realizing the Dhamma in this very lifetime because you can't help anybody else without helping yourself first. Otherwise it'll be the blind leading the blind.

  • Hi and welcome to Buddhism SE. We have put together a Guide and a Resource section for new users that you might find useful.
    – user2424
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 21:09
  • Thanks... I can understand that going to far with aversion caused understanding is just as bad as going too far with attraction caused understanding.. Noble Action must arise from understanding the Truths then..
    – Ahmed
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 1:38

The question is:

"Did he give any teachings on how to deal with monastics who abuse their position for unwholesome motivations i.e. monks amassing wealth, gaining political influence, acting as antagonists for violence."

And the answer is yes! The five books of the Vinaya aim to do exactly this.


This answer is not about the ["my son"-or-not] part, but about a monk which developed later as a "fake monk" (your term, I think it is not the best here for my example).

Would the story about Devadatta(wiki,accesstoinsight.org, palikanon.com) fit your question? Devadatta was a long time much respected bhikkhu, part of the sangha, but then built community with the son (Ajatasattu (?)) of the local king Bimbisara (the latter a friend of the Buddha) to overtake the order resp. the kingdom (the latter was successful for Ajatasattu).
One sutra is for instance A 5.100 in German in english, but there are several ones which -in my view- together show how the Buddha handled that problem.

Following Jayarava's request: I remember what I'd read about the process only roughly today, but some milestones might be interesting [and/or also correct ;-)] .
[update] here is a link to a german translation of the Culla Vagga, chap 7. and here to the pali-text at palikanon.com (the pali version seems to begin at chap 331 or 333, but I don't know for sure: I can't read Pali except that I recognize some names). I didn't find english translations at access-to-insight.org, perhaps this wiki provides a full source in english

First, Devadatta (also cousin of the Buddha) was much respected in the sangha. When now the Buddha was reported that Devadatta wanted to overtake the order, he advised his Bhikkhus to spread the word to the country, that Devadatta would no more speak for the order, that he's no more to be seen as a follower of the Buddha. Some monks were afraid (maybe even Sariputta) to tell now in the open, that the so long high valued monk would now be disrespected, because: what light would this shed on the order?! But the Buddha said: no way, we always must say the truth about the case.
Next (or before, I don't know the actual timeline at the moment), Devadatta collected a non neglectable number of followers in the sangha and made separate teachings. The Buddha seemed not to react. But Sariputta and Mogallana went to the place - seemingly let it happen, that Devadatta and his friends assumed they came as interested ones and possibly followers. Having such eminent arhats at his place they were allowed to teach, and the legend tells, that Devadatta was tired and fell asleep. While he was sleeping, Sariputta and Mogallana managed to change the mind of the monks with their talk and to lead them back to the Buddha's sangha.

Part of Devadatta's initiative had been to claim that the order's rules (for collecting food, for eating etc) were too weak, too little ascetic (today we would say "too little radical") and challenged the Buddha openly. But the Buddha defended the rules as the appropriate middle path - but left it to the taste of each one to behave individually the more ascetic way. (Ironically, that ascetic way was not what Devadatta in company with Ajatattu lived later on, if I recall the tellings in the sutras correctly).
Devadatta undertook also a life-threat to the Buddha, trying to kill him with a rock falling down the hill. The Buddha stayed "easy" after that, saying, that Devadatta would never be able to kill a Buddha. Well, this was an attack at the person, not one focusing the order, so this might be a little less relevant for your question.

In summary, what I've got from it, was that the Buddha let him do things until it would come out from the deeds themselves what's going on. Which does not mean he did him allow to proceed in secrecy - as far as the order was concerned the Buddha was not silent about the dissens, even although he had to correct a widely spread opinion about that monk and his high reputation.
And later, after Ajatattu had overtaken the kingdom (from the Buddha's friend and his own father Bimbisara) and even had put Bimbisara in jail to let him die there by starving, the Buddha still accepted (again later) an invitation of the ruthless new king - but even managed to make him regret his deeds.

  • 1
    Could you say a little more about how - in your view - the Buddha handled the problem? perhaps a summary of what's in those suttas for a more complete answer?
    – Jayarava
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 11:02
  • I think this is an English version (towards the bottom of the page, numbered "10" and named "Kakudhatherasuttāṃ - The elder Kakudha").
    – ChrisW
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 11:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .