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I noticed some buddhist monks spend a lot of their time teaching and giving dhamma talks, while other monks spend minimal time on these things.

I was wondering if there are any rules in the monastic code for monks regarding how much time a monk should spent on teaching?

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    Merely becoming a monk does not make one qualified to teach, just like joining medical school does not make one a surgeon. Some can have valid reasons for not teaching, others can just be lazy or needing encouragement. It is up to their teacher or abbot to enforce. I am not going to actually mark this an answer, since I am not a monk. – Buddho Jun 25 '15 at 7:31
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    Hello @Sri Lanka. Venerable Yuttadhammo gave an interesting dhamma talk tonight regarding teaching. I thought you might like it. meditation.sirimangalo.org/live/20150712_0101_livestream.mp3 The passage he is referring to is the one from July 11 of this book: buddhanet.net/pdf_file/words_of_buddha.pdf Be well. – Robin111 Jul 12 '15 at 2:54
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    Thank you Robin both for the dhamma talk and the book. I appreciate it. I will take a look at it. I found a dhamma talk for you regarding one of your question about why anyone would want to go to the Heavenly Realms. I think it were Sankha K. who mentioned the Buddha and Tavatimsa Heaven. Here is a dhamma talk by Ajahn Punnadhammo (teaches the Mahasi-method) called The Buddha in Tavatimsa Heaven. I have not listened to it yet but i think there might be something interesting in it. – Lanka Jul 12 '15 at 12:27
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    Thank you very much! Looking forward to listening to it. :) – Robin111 Jul 12 '15 at 13:11
  • Welcome Robin:) – Lanka Jul 12 '15 at 13:52
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As a Zen Monk I can answer the question regarding worldly participation in the following way. There is no definitive suggestion or rule within the Monastic Code of a Mahayana Monk. A Monk or Nun has no requirement to teach or not teach. Often the suggestion may come from the Senior Abbot that one should follow the teaching path. This is what happened in my case. Naturally the Abbot has to feel that the particular Monk or Nun has the required personal experience before they can teach others. I teach as often as I can and I am also the Buddhist Chaplain to a number of Hospitals. One should always direct the teaching at a level that would match the understanding of the audience. Thank you. Thay Tam Thien.

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The main role of the monastic community is to preserve the Buddha's teaching, but I don't think that the Buddha gave a prescription on how exactly to do that. It's been left to each community to set rules of teaching and the level of community interaction. I don't think you're going to find one magic answer. In my tradition, you're expected to have some mastery over the subject matter before giving Dharma talks. It also helps to practice the Eightfold Path enough to where you are without reproach when you enter the community with instruction.

I don't believe it's wrong to participate and reach out to the community at any time. It just may not be helpful. Maybe like this post ;-) Then again, mastery is hard to see from the outside.

"Before Enlightenment chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment chop wood, carry water."
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    Thank you for the answer Bhante. Could you elaborate on the enlightenment-quote? – Lanka Jul 24 '15 at 18:46
  • What is your tradition Bhante? – Ryan Jul 24 '15 at 21:18
  • @Lanka The quote is a Zen proverb: you might want to ask about it as a new/separate question. I wonder if it could be relevant to point to the tenth of the "Ten Bulls" as an illustration of it. – ChrisW Jul 18 '16 at 15:57
  • @Thanks Chris. I asked a question but only regarding the quote. – Lanka Jul 19 '16 at 11:11
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In Christianity, priests generally do not meditate. Often, the sole role of a Catholic priest is to preach the religion to devotees.

In Asian Buddhism, the role of many monks is similar, which is why they devote most, if not all, of their time to teaching & conducting ceremonies. There are even Western monks, in Asia, that mostly teach & translate.

While I have never read it myself, I have heard the Buddha stated that monks who primarily meditate should not criticise monks who primarily study & teach. If this is true, then the dichotomy between 'meditation monks' & 'study/teaching monks' goes back to the time of the Buddha. A good example is Venerable Ananda, who often gives the impression in the suttas of not being a particularly adept meditation practitioner.

In my monastic experiences, I have not observed any correlation between teaching & practising the eightfold path. Often it is those that are seriously practising the eightfold path that do not teach.

There are highly reputed monks (eg. Ajahn Jayasaro) that spent many years as a (highly reputed) meditation monk before teaching extensively to the public.

  • "In Christianity, priests generally do not meditate" -- I'm pretty sure they're expected to "pray", at least, whatever that means. TBH I think it's often better to avoid saying things about non-Buddhist religions on this site. – ChrisW Jul 18 '16 at 15:41
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No. Of course it can be a heavy attachment and diversion of the main task one has. Older say, sharing about 10-20% of time for lay people teaching is a proper way in training.

Don't forget, that the Buddha and some of his Arahat Disciple spend the rest of the life with teaching. On the other hand, there are other kind of arahats who do not teach at all, some can, some can and do, some do but can not...

There is how ever, not duty to teach at all.

To understand the "jumping point", it's possible good to ask the Buddha in this regard:

"'A person living alone. A person living alone,' thus it is said. To what extent, lord, is one a person living alone, and to what extent is one a person living with a companion?"... Migajala Sutta: To Migajala

[Note that this is not given for trade, exchange, stackes... but for release from this wheel by proper use]

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From AN 5.73 (quoted below), the Buddha advised monks to not just participate in study, description, recitation and thinking of the Dhamma, without meditation. He advised them not to neglect meditation.

Then a certain monk went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One, "'One who dwells in the Dhamma, one who dwells in the Dhamma': thus it is said, lord. To what extent is a bhikkhu one who dwells in the Dhamma?"

"Monk, there is the case where a monk studies the Dhamma: dialogues, narratives of mixed prose and verse, explanations, verses, spontaneous exclamations, quotations, birth stories, amazing events, question & answer sessions. He spends the day in Dhamma-study. He neglects seclusion. He doesn't commit himself to internal tranquillity of awareness. This is called a monk who is keen on study, not one who dwells in the Dhamma.

"Then there is the case where a monk takes the Dhamma as he has heard & studied it and teaches it in full detail to others. He spends the day in Dhamma-description. He neglects seclusion. He doesn't commit himself to internal tranquillity of awareness. This is called a monk who is keen on description, not one who dwells in the Dhamma.

"Then there is the case where a monk takes the Dhamma as he has heard & studied it and recites it in full detail. He spends the day in Dhamma-recitation. He neglects seclusion. He doesn't commit himself to internal tranquillity of awareness. This is called a monk who is keen on recitation, not one who dwells in the Dhamma.

"Then there is the case where a monk takes the Dhamma as he has heard & studied it and thinks about it, evaluates it, and examines it with his intellect. He spends the day in Dhamma-thinking. He neglects seclusion. He doesn't commit himself to internal tranquillity of awareness. This is called a monk who is keen on thinking, not one who dwells in the Dhamma.

"Then there is the case where a monk studies the Dhamma: dialogues, narratives of mixed prose and verse, explanations, verses, spontaneous exclamations, quotations, birth stories, amazing events, question & answer sessions. He doesn't spend the day in Dhamma-study. He doesn't neglect seclusion. He commits himself to internal tranquillity of awareness. This is called a monk who dwells in the Dhamma.

"Now, monk, I have taught you the person who is keen on study, the one who is keen on description, the one who is keen on recitation, the one who is keen on thinking, and the one who dwells in the Dhamma. Whatever a teacher should do — seeking the welfare of his disciples, out of sympathy for them — that have I done for you. Over there are the roots of trees; over there, empty dwellings. Practice jhana, monk. Don't be heedless. Don't later fall into regret. This is our message to you."

In SN 9.5 (quoted below), Ven. Ananda was advised to not spend too much time informing the lay people, neglecting meditation:

Now at that time Ānanda was spending too much time informing the lay people. Then the deity haunting that forest had compassion for Ānanda, wanting what’s best for him. So they approached him wanting to stir him up, and recited these verses:

“You’ve left for the jungle, the root of a tree,
with quenching in your heart.
Practice absorption, Gotama, don’t be negligent!
What is this hullabaloo to you?”

Impelled by that deity, Venerable Ānanda was struck with a sense of urgency.

On the other hand, the Buddha did say that teaching others should not be neglected in SN 10.2 (quoted below), as it is a duty of compassion:

Then a spirit named Sakka went up to the Buddha, and addressed him in verse:

“You’ve given up all ties,
and are fully freed.
It’s not a good idea for you, ascetic,
to be instructing others.”

Buddha:

“No matter what the apparent reason
why people are together, Sakka,
it’s unworthy for a wise person
to not think of the other with compassion.

If you instruct others
with a mind clear and confident,
your compassion and empathy
don’t create attachments.”

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