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To wear a mask in the covid pandemic is not a precept in Buddhism. I noticed many lay person and even many high level monks not wearing mask when talking to a stranger.

Q1) How do i politely persuade them to wear a mask ? Bhante said since i already double masked with a face shield then Bhante not require to wear mask. Some Bhante will say can we move from outdoor to indoor so nobody noticed we're not wearing mask and no police catching. Indoor infectivity rate is about 20 times higher. I am trying to have conversation with Bhante at outdoor to reduce the infectivity rate.

Q2) I am thinking always keep extra high quality mask to offer to someone or Bhante when i need to talk to them. How if they refuse to wear it then what should i do?

Q3) In Buddhism, precepts are so difficult to practice but can follow, vice versa i don't understand why simple SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) or simple wisdom and compassion cannot do like a wearing mask. Isn't Buddhism fundamental is a path of wisdom and compassion with good deed for well being even not written in any Sutta ? Isn't not wearing a mask may against the precept #1 in Buddhism yet cause and effect may multiples to a billion people in very short period of time? Cause of infection found very frequent and high at Temple/Church/Mosque.

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  • Maybe say that you watched too much TV and now seeing people not do as the TV says makes you anxious.
    – user22125
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 19:13

6 Answers 6

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In general it might be polite to phrase it as an "I" message -- like, "I heard [explanation about wearing masks]" -- instead of as a "you" message, like, "You ought to wear a mask because X".

A lot of suttas begin this way: "Thus I heard."

As well as avoiding accusation ("You're wrong!"), that focus helps to keep the topic fact-based -- e.g. you really did hear such-and-such, and you're relaying what you heard. Narrating a message as you yourself originally received it might be better than narrating your understanding or interpretation of the topic. And you're not commenting on whether what you heard is true, only that you heard it, and where you heard it from and so on, so the other person has the same "input" as you and can (or may not) come to the same conclusion as you did.

Another tip for being respectful of the other's opinion might be to phrase what you say as a question. "Given that I heard these things about masks, how should I act? How should we (you and I) act?" -- and maybe, "Is there something I can do to help?" Or, "Is there any monastic policy, can you tell me, to avoid catching and spreading Covid in these times?"

You might also review Right speech -- "spoken affectionately", "spoken at the right time", and so on.

Generally I don't think it's my job to persuade other people to act as I do. And one of the most highly-upvoted rules of this site says,

In general, unless you actually are the questioner's teacher, don't assume a teacher's mantle.

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  • Generally I don't think it's my job to persuade other people to act as I do--> guess to protect yourself also like offer someone a mask especially stranger that you need to talk to? Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 14:42
  • I don't know, perhaps that would be appropriate, if not to any stranger then at least to a monk who can't be assumed to have any possessions such as that unless they are offered -- that was in my mind behind a question like, "Is there something I can do to help?" -- I'm not sure which is more polite, i.e. a direct offer of something specific (a mask), or a more general offer/invitation to ask. I think politeness i.e. the vinaya prevents a monk from asking for something unless you, first, offer it or invite them to ask.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 14:48
  • I'm not sure that's to "protect myself", however, perhaps that could be to help them if they desire to have a mask in order to protect others. I haven't been in exactly your situation but perhaps we can already protect ourselves -- by keeping polite distance when talking, and by remaining outside (in the fresh air), or only entering enclosed public spaces if they're very well-ventilated or where people wear masks, and by being vaccinated.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 14:55
  • hospital is full. People are very tense. Well, me move to outskirt till this covid thing ease. No or minimal covid there. People higher compassionate there n surrounding with nature like a total different world. See this Pastor, he has a lot of supporter n guess me better dont bother them youtu.be/WRdxwu_Z99Y Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 15:23
  • I know there are "populists" in the States pushing anti-mask messages -- and as you showed they are reported on news channels. Given how "social media" works -- google.com/… -- perhaps you need to be careful not to get too upset about it.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 15:41
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Well, all you can do, really, is remind the person in question that it is against Buddhist precepts to take a life, and that this is as true of acts of omission as it is of acts of violence. At the very least, it will open an interesting philosophical debate. Monastics are likely not overly concerned with the state of the physical body, but people who attend then are still caught in that ignorance. Monastics ought to respect that.

Carrying extra masks is a fine, compassionate idea. Some will take them, some won't. Those who don't have a desire they are not willing to address, and may not even understand, so show them compassion.

If someone refuses to wear a mask, they refuse. Remember that the goal of buddhists isn't to put an end to disease; the goal is to put an end to ignorance and its karmic manifestations. Don't allow their refusal to become grounds for increasing ignorance; don't allow it to disturb your own equanimity. They are fighting against something illusory, and you don't want to get drawn into that world.

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  • I'm just curious where in the vinaya it states that acts of omission are acts of violence?
    – user20272
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 18:47
  • @000: I didn't say that acts of omission n are acts of violence. I said that the proscription against taking life applies as much to acts of o mission as to acts of violence. Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 1:59
  • @000 it's invisible violence. dad been almost 2 months at hospital for covid. He still not understand what was his problem. I thinking now how to cover the medication cost. i.e. of violence? when i fetched him to hospital, he shouted in the car for something not important and covid all over inside car. I did keep remind him to keep silence for many times or only talk if emergency Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 2:19
  • Not to quibble, but that's your opinion. In no Buddhist scripture does the proscription against taking life apply to acts of omission. In fact, the intentionality of the act determines its karmic consequences. Only if the monk was not wearing his mask for the explicit reason of giving someone else COVID, and if that person died, would he be breaking the first precept.
    – user20272
    Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 14:03
  • To put this another way, if someone was about to be hit by a truck and you didn't dive in to save them, I wouldn't consider you guilty of murder for your decision not to save that person. That act of omission does not make you culpable.
    – user20272
    Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 14:09
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Nobody forces one to be next someone or something one doesn't like. So what's the real problem? It's to assume that the monk wouldn't run after good little RED, and his reasons are his. It seems that good householder forgets that demanding is always caused by wrong view, lacks of metta and path as whole. Right?

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  • persuading is a wrong view? not wearing a mask is an offense in many countries, my country could lead to a 6 months jail ? Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 21:46
  • mum is very old and blur. Always not wearing mask, then she will say, Bhante not wearing then why should i? Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 0:39
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The monastic rules of the Vinaya has rules pertaining to food, lodging, medicine, conduct etc. There are rules pertaining to medical care. The Buddha ate, slept, wore robes, took medicine when he was ill etc.

The Middle Way of the Buddha avoids both extreme indulgence and extreme asceticism. It includes moderation in food, healthcare and living. To neglect healthcare is to go against the Middle Way of moderation.

From Kucchivikara-vatthu of the Vinaya, the Buddha taught:

"A sick person endowed with five qualities is hard to tend to: he does what is not amenable to his cure; he does not know the proper amount in things amenable to his cure; he does not take his medicine; he does not tell his symptoms, as they actually are present, to the nurse desiring his welfare, saying that they are worse when they are worse, improving when they are improving, or remaining the same when they are remaining the same; and he is not the type who can endure bodily feelings that are painful, fierce, sharp, wracking, repellent, disagreeable, life-threatening. A sick person endowed with these five qualities is hard to tend to.

"A sick person endowed with five qualities is easy to tend to: he does what is amenable to his cure; he knows the proper amount in things amenable to his cure; he takes his medicine; he tells his symptoms, as they actually are present, to the nurse desiring his welfare, saying that they are worse when they are worse, improving when they are improving, or remaining the same when they are remaining the same; and he is the type who can endure bodily feelings that are painful, fierce, sharp, wracking, repellent, disagreeable, life-threatening. A sick person endowed with these five qualities is easy to tend to.

Based on this Vinaya quote, I would say that the Buddha himself would have wanted his followers to practice moderation, and accept the advice of healthcare professionals and the government when dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also, spreading misinformation about Covid-19, masks and vaccines is against the fourth precept of not speaking falsehood.

Wearing a surgical mask is more for the wearer to avoid spreading pathogens to others, than for the wearer's own protection from contracting an infectious disease. As such, wearing a mask with the explicit intention of reducing others' suffering, is also an expression of compassion (karuna).

The quote from DN 26 below, also shows that the Buddha did not promote anarchy. He stated that the wheel-turning monarch should provide just protection and security to his subjects and also care for their welfare.

‘But sire, what are the noble duties of a wheel-turning monarch?’

‘Well then, my dear, relying only on principle—honoring, respecting, and venerating principle, having principle as your flag, banner, and authority — provide just protection and security for your court, troops, aristocrats, vassals, brahmins and householders, people of town and country, ascetics and brahmins, beasts and birds. Do not let injustice prevail in the realm. Pay money to the penniless in the realm.

I would even say that a responsible Buddhist should support his or her government and follow its advice, if the government is discernibly doing the right thing, and if its advice is in accordance with the five precepts, Right Action, Right Speech and Right Livelihood. For e.g. conscription into military service is against Right Livelihood.

You can use these arguments to politely persuade monks and lay Buddhists.

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  • this is quite a big issue as the leaders not following simple rule and basic precepts with their own thoughts as not written in the Sutta/Quran/Bible. Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 22:13
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Once upon a time, monks, a bamboo acrobat, setting himself upon his bamboo pole, addressed his assistant Medakathalika: "Come you, my dear Medakathalika, and climbing up the bamboo pole, stand upon my shoulders." "Okay, master" the assistant Medakathalika replied to the bamboo acrobat; and climbing up the bamboo pole she stood on the master's shoulders.

So then the bamboo acrobat said this to his assistant Medakathalika: "You look after me, my dear Medakathalika, and I'll look after you. Thus with us looking after one another, guarding one another, we'll show off our craft, receive some payment, and safely climb down the bamboo pole."

This being said, the assistant Medakathalika said this to the bamboo acrobat: "That will not do at all, master! You look after yourself, master, and I will look after myself. Thus with each of us looking after ourselves, guarding ourselves, we'll show off our craft, receive some payment, and safely climb down from the bamboo pole. That's the right way to do it!"

This is the teaching of the Buddha. You wear your mask, and let the others take care of theirs. No need to fix them.

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  • facebook.com/HPDPMalta/photos/… after a session with Bhante, there is a possibility my cloth, my hair, my shirt all covered with covid. So, i gotta avoid face to face with Bhante. Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 0:35
  • mum is very old and blur. Always not wearing mask, then she will say, Bhante not wearing then why should i? Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 0:38
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One isn't either forced nor asked to seek refuge in the Gems, yet monks would offend if teaching to those who have no respect and if one's wearing a cover that would be a outer sign of no respect and actually not seeking refuge, still to little and RED (sign of greed, anger, strong attachments to views and world: marxist/materialist) and yes, actually not proper to wear things similar like householder.

One is free to seek refuge elsewhere and even avoid the Gems.

Yet, of course, aging, sickness, death can not be overcome by else then the Noble Path. Gross the pandemic of wrong view, ingratitude, demand....

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  • user22118 @user22117 guess these two are same person Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 6:18

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