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I'm a Buddhist and I want to know who is a good monk.

Tell me if I'm wrong but I think that monks

  • Do not request money/things
  • Follow the rules
  • Do not bless for to be rich... (Its passion)

etc...

But how do I explain to a non-buddhist how to recognise a good monk?

  • Welcome to Buddhism SE. I've taken the liberty of editing your question for clarity. But I'm unsure of what 'Do not bless for to be rich... (Its passion)' means. Is it that a monk shouldn't want to be rich? – Crab Bucket Aug 28 '14 at 14:11
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    @CrabBucket I believe they're referring to giving blessings like "may you be rich" to the laity. – yuttadhammo Aug 28 '14 at 14:24
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    This answer is for teachers but you can also get some good guidelines for any kind of monk. It also has useful references that are worth investigating. – Unrul3r Aug 28 '14 at 14:48
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I see the original question as been modified when I went online again. The original question included "hinting/asking" I have included this under wrong livelihood.

How to know who is a good monk is a little more difficult to know than who is a bad monk. People will judge differently on what factors makes one a good monk. We can start with morality according to the monks rules which he has an obligation to follow. There are a few easy signs that one is a bad monk.

When he goes out into the village, if he has one shoulder exposed, this is a very clear sign that he breaks most of the rules. If he has both shoulders covered, that means he follows this rule, but maybe not others. This is just a quick way to throw out the majority of monks into the bad monk pile. Unfortunately, most monks in Myanmar break this rule and that also means that most monks break most of the rules.

Monks need to follow all of the rules 227 rules and also the rules in the Culavagga and Mahavagga. Likewise, they need to follow according to the commentaries as well in most cases.
Most Western Bhikkhus do not like the commentaries. That is where "interpretations" can come. Most of the information below, is from the BMC The Buddhist Monastic Code

Summary: A Bhikkhu cannot use money.

A Bhikkhu cannot point out a kappiya without someone asking, "Who is you kappiya?"

A Bhikkhu cannot accept envelopes presumably with money inside. It is an asannya offence (in the root text). Which means, no perception is necessary for it to be unallowable. That means the monks should not be intentionally ignorant. The BMC debates and allows the modern use of "checks."

A Bhikkhu cannot ask for things from "Just anyone". He needs an invitation from a non-family member ( blood relation)

A Bhikkhu cannot hint to "Just anyone" (as above)

A Bhikkhu cannot do the above for another bhikkhu(s) either.

The BMC says checks are not money but a "promise to pay." Sri Lanka and Myanmar Vinaya traditions call this money. Money is defined as anything accepted as used in trade. A US dollar is a mere bank note too. Google "A Life Free From Money pdf" The same as above is judged with signing checks.

A bhikkhu can ask for a bowl from anyone if it is broken or stolen.

A bhikkhu can ask for a single robe from anyone if he is left with only one (of three).

A bhikkhu can go for alms in the evening for "extra items," usually medicine or oil for light. The donors will offer food and he will refuse. Then the person may ask, "what do you need?" Then he can say.

Lay people or committees can ask "just anyone" for things or money, etc. for monks if it is their own idea. This might be what you are seeing on brochures and websites, etc. A Bhikkhu cannot ask his helper, committee etc, to ask others for money for himself. A bhikkhu must be invited by a committee or kappiya before he asks them for things.

The above list is followed correctly unfortunately by a small minority of monks, known as vinaya monks, or forest monks. Often the other (majority) monks do not know what proper behavior is. They may memorize the rules, but do not think it is something to be practiced since corruption is so wide spread. One of my monastic friends told me he cried when he found out that he was never supposed to touch money. A monk may purify himself at any time. Often, they just do not know.

Traditions often have interpretations which makes items seem "allowable.". Sometimes this is allowed and sometimes one can just be fooling oneself. In the end it is up to them. Often bhikkhus do not reflect or question questionable practices in a tradition because of the wide spread use. Money and medicines are often such topics.

"Monks, strive with heedfulness. Rare is it that Buddhas arise in the world. Rare is it that [one] it that [one] obtains a human [birth]. Rare is it to have the good fortune of [being in the right] time [and place]. Rare is it [that one has the opportunity] to take the Going forth. Rare is it [that one has the opportunity] to listen to the True Dhamma. Rare is it [that one has the opportunity] to associate with good people." (c.f. D.32.33 & A.8:29)

BMC I, 2009 ed. pdf Monks must also practice right livelihood according to not doing things from the list below:

Wrong Livelihood The Cullavagga, in a section that begins with the same origin story as the one for this rule (Cv.I.13-16), treats the banishment transaction in full detail, saying that a Community of bhikkhus, if it sees fit, has the authority to perform a banishment transaction against a bhikkhu with any of the following qualities:

1) He is a maker of strife, disputes, quarrels, and issues in the Community.

2) He is inexperienced, incompetent, and indiscriminately full of offenses (§).

3) He lives in unbecoming association with householders.

4) He is corrupt in his precepts, corrupt in his conduct, or corrupt in his views. 5) He speaks in dispraise of the Buddha, Dhamma, or Saṅgha.

6) He is frivolous in word, deed, or both.

7) He misbehaves in word, deed, or both.

8) He is vindictive in word, deed, or both.

9) He practices wrong modes of livelihood. This last category includes such practices as:

a) running messages and errands for kings, ministers of state, householders, etc. A modern example would be participating in political campaigns.

b) scheming, talking, hinting, belittling others for the sake of material gain, pursuing gain with gain (giving items of small value in hopes of receiving items of larger value in return, making investments in hopes of profit, offering material incentives to those who make donations). (For a full discussion of these practices, see Visuddhimagga I.61-82.)

c) Practicing worldly arts, e.g., medicine, fortune telling, astrology, exorcism, reciting charms, casting spells, performing ceremonies to counteract the influence of the stars, determining propitious sites, setting auspicious dates (for weddings, etc.), interpreting oracles, auguries, or dreams, or — in the words of the Vibhaṅga to the Bhikkhunīs' Pc 49 & 50 — engaging in any art that is "external and unconnected with the goal." The Cullavagga (V.33.2) imposes a dukkaṭa on studying and teaching worldly arts or hedonist doctrines (lokāyata).

For extensive lists of worldly arts, see the passage from DN 2 quoted in BMC2, Chapter 10.

BMC I Lists wrong livelihood extensively starting on page 518 PDF ed.

"Medicines" There are some things in the BMC which I think are very misleading, especially concerning, "medicines" and how "Any Reason" is defined (p232). I could not find any pāli evidence that mentions "hunger and fatigue" as a valid medical reason. I could be wrong, but I asked a couple of knowledgeable monks to verify this and they also agreed with my findings. This would exclude many things which are considered medicines.

I will not cover further with lists of the "medicines." Only that there should be a valid reason for taking them and justifying their use after Noon. The reflection and criteria are below. It is in every monastery chanting book and should be chanted every day. (Nauyana chanting book source)

"Medicine Reflection"

Whatever requisite of medicine for treating illness has been used by me today without reflection was only to ward off painful feelings that have arisen, [and] for the maximum freedom from disease.

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There are two high level qualities you have to look at:

  1. Adhere to the Vinaya
  2. Practice meditation regularly

There are other qualities but the most important of them are the above.

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From the Ajaniya Sutta, we find that the ideal monk should be consummate in beauty, strength and speed (like a thoroughbred horse):

"In the same way, a monk endowed with these three qualities is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, an unexcelled field of merit for the world. Which three? There is the case where a monk is consummate in beauty, consummate in strength, and consummate in speed.

"And how is a monk consummate in beauty? There is the case where a monk is virtuous. He dwells restrained in accordance with the Patimokkha, consummate in his behavior & sphere of activity. He trains himself, having undertaken the training rules, seeing danger in the slightest fault. This is how a monk is consummate in beauty.

"And how is a monk consummate in strength? There is the case where a monk keeps his persistence aroused for abandoning unskillful mental qualities and taking on skillful mental qualities. He is steadfast, solid in his effort, not shirking his duties with regard to skillful mental qualities. This is how a monk is consummate in strength.

"And how is a monk consummate in speed? There is the case where a monk discerns as it actually is present that 'This is stress.' He discerns as it actually is present that 'This is the origination of stress.' He discerns as it actually is present that 'This is the cessation of stress.' He discerns as it actually is present that 'This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.' This is how a monk is consummate in speed.

From the Akkhama Sutta, we find that the ideal monk should be resilient to sights, sounds, aromas, flavors and tactile sensations :

"In the same way, a monk endowed with five qualities is deserving of gifts, deserving of hospitality, deserving of offerings, deserving of respect, an unexcelled field of merit for the world. Which five? There is the case where a monk is resilient to sights, resilient to sounds, resilient to aromas, resilient to flavors, resilient to tactile sensations.

"And how is a monk resilient to sights? There is the case where a monk, on seeing a sight with the eye, feels no passion for a sight that incites passion and can center his mind. This is how a monk is resilient to sights.

"And how is a monk resilient to sounds? There is the case where a monk, on hearing a sound with the ear, feels no passion for a sound that incites passion and can center his mind. This is how a monk is resilient to sounds.

"And how is a monk resilient to aromas? There is the case where a monk, on smelling an aroma with the nose, feels no passion for an aroma that incites passion and can center his mind. This is how a monk is resilient to aromas.

"And how is a monk resilient to flavors? There is the case where a monk, on tasting a flavor with the tongue, feels no passion for a flavor that incites passion and can center his mind. This is how a monk is resilient to flavors.

"And how is a monk resilient to tactile sensations? There is the case where a monk, on touching a tactile sensation with the body, feels no passion for a tactile sensation that incites passion and can center his mind. This is how a monk is resilient to tactile sensations.

"Endowed with these five qualities, a monk is deserving of gifts, deserving of hospitality, deserving of offerings, deserving of respect, an unexcelled field of merit for the world."

The Sotar Sutta describes how an ideal monk should be a listener, a destroyer, a protector, an endurer and a goer.

"In the same way, a monk endowed with five qualities is deserving of gifts, deserving of hospitality, deserving of offerings, deserving of respect, an unexcelled field of merit for the world. Which five? There is the case where a monk is a listener, a destroyer, a protector, an endurer, and a goer.

"And how is a monk a listener? There is the case where, when the Dhamma & Discipline declared by the Tathagata is being taught, a monk pays attention, applies his whole mind, and lends ear to the Dhamma. This is how a monk is a listener.

"And how is a monk a destroyer? There is the case where a monk does not tolerate an arisen thought of sensuality. He abandons it, destroys it, dispels it, & wipes it out of existence. He does not tolerate an arisen thought of ill will... an arisen thought of cruelty... He does not tolerate arisen evil, unskillful mental qualities. He abandons them, destroys them, dispels them, & wipes them out of existence. This is how a monk is a destroyer.

"And how is a monk a protector? There is the case where a monk, on seeing a form with the eye, does not grasp at any theme or particulars by which — if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye — evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail him. He practices with restraint. He guards the faculty of the eye. He achieves restraint with regard to the faculty of the eye.

"On hearing a sound with the ear...

"On smelling an aroma with the nose...

"On tasting a flavor with the tongue...

"On touching a tactile sensation with the body...

"On cognizing an idea with the intellect, he does not grasp at any theme or particulars by which — if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the intellect — evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail him. He practices with restraint. He guards the faculty of the intellect. He achieves restraint with regard to the faculty of the intellect.

"This is how a monk is a protector.

"And how is a monk an endurer? There is the case where a monk is resilient to cold, heat, hunger, & thirst; the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, & reptiles; ill-spoken, unwelcome words & bodily feelings that, when they arise, are painful, racking, sharp, piercing, disagreeable, displeasing, & menacing to life. This is how a monk is an endurer.

"And how is a monk a goer? There is the case where a monk goes right away to that direction to which he has never been before in the course of this long stretch of time — in other words, to the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving, dispassion, cessation, Unbinding. This is how a monk is a goer.

"Endowed with these five qualities a monk is deserving of gifts, deserving of hospitality, deserving of offerings, deserving of respect, an unexcelled field of merit for the world."

The Ajanna Sutta states how an ideal monk should have eight qualities.

"In the same way, a monk endowed with eight qualities is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, an incomparable field of merit for the world. Which eight?

(1) "There is the case where a monk is virtuous. He dwells restrained in accordance with the Patimokkha, consummate in his behavior & sphere of activity. He trains himself, having undertaken the training rules, seeing danger in the slightest faults.

(2) "When given food, whether coarse or refined, he eats it carefully, without complaining.

(3) "He feels disgust at bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, mental misconduct, at the development of evil, unskillful [mental] qualities.

(4) "He is composed & easy to live with, and doesn't harass the other monks.

(5) "Whatever tricks or deceits or wiles or subterfuges he has, he shows them as they actually are to the Teacher or to his knowledgeable companions in the holy life, so that the Teacher or his knowledgeable companions in the holy life can try to straighten them out.

(6) "When in training he gives rise to the thought, 'Whether the other monks want to train or not, I'll train here.'

(7) "When going, he goes the straight path; here the straight path is this: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

(8) "He dwells with his persistence aroused, [thinking,] 'Gladly would I let the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, but if I have not attained what can be reached through human steadfastness, human persistence, human striving, there will be no relaxing my persistence.'"

"Endowed with these eight qualities, a monk is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, an incomparable field of merit for the world."

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ask questions...

but Monks are essentially people also, Your practice isnt dependent on theirs, same for your progress vs. theirs. If you are getting opinions, know that they are simply opinions. if you are getting textual facts... a well studied monk is the place to go. If you are just curious of opinions... this is more appropriate than a Monastery.

but more directly... - they dont usually ask for things, so please offer anything you may think could be useful for them. - They do live according to the Vinaya Pitaka. - What do you mean by bless?... their knowledge is available to all, they dont generally reguard people by economic status and if they do it tends to be focusing on the less fortunate in a helpful way (in my experience). The rich (who are involved) tend to bless them actually...with various things.

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