By Dharma Master T’ai-Hsu: The Practice of Bodhisattva Dharma | Sramanera And Bhiksu

According to the Buddha’s Teaching, the Five Precepts and the Ten Virtues constitute what is called the Upasaka or Upasika Dharma. The Upasaka/Upasika is a man or a woman who practices the Buddhadharma in lay life and who protects and serves the Triple Jewel. These two categories of lay-disciples together with the Sramaneras and the Bhiksus become the four-fold assembly of Buddha’s disciples.

The Sramanera is a novice monk, and the Bhiksu is a fully ordained member of the Buddhist Sangha. After taking the complete education and training of a Sramanera, one is eligible to become a Bhiksu. The Sramanera depends upon a Bhiksu master to administer the higher ordination, and it is the responsibility of the master to train and educate the Sramanera fully since he will become the guardian of and heir to the Dharma in the future. This education consists of the following: the Vinaya, or essential rules of monastic deportment and behavior; the Buddhist Sutras; the commentaries of later Patriarchs and teachers, called Sastras: and the essentials of meditation practice. Unless the Sramanera is well-grounded in these teachings, the Dharma master should not take the responsibility involved in conferring ordination upon the Bhiksu. A traditional saying states: “A Dharma master must not have any dumb sheep,” i.e., a monk who cannot comprehend and spread the Dharma. The term Sramanerapossesses several meanings. One meaning is to cease in the sense of achieving a state of mind wherein one’s craving, aversion and delusion cease. Another meaning is kindness in the sense of achieving a state of mind wherein one can practice loving-kindness, or Maitri.

One who desires to leave home-life and practice as a Sramanera must be able to observe the Ten Precepts. These are as follows: not killing, not stealing, celibacy (Brahmacarya), not lying, not taking intoxicants, not using garlands of flowers, jewelry, perfumes, etc., not listening to music or attending movies, operas, etc, not sleeping on high or broad beds, not eating food after twelve noon, and refraining from acquiring money jewelry and other valuables.

The first five precepts are the same as those held by lay disciples, with one notable exception. The third lay precept of refraining from adultery or sex which causes trouble is changed to the observance of complete celibacy for Sangha members.

The sixth precept is to refrain from the use of flower garlands, makeup, perfumes and other manner of personal adornment. To enhance one’s personal attractiveness to the opposite sex has no place in the lives of Sangha members, who are trying to attain the knowledge and vision of Reality.

The seventh precept is to refrain from taking part in dancing, singing, musical and theatrical performances, etc. Disciples who have left home should not view or listen to such things, for the places in which they are taking place usually have no connection with spiritual life. The subject matter of popular music and drama only serves to perpetuate illusions about the nature of this world and has little or nothing to do with the practice path to Bodhi.

The eighth precept is to refrain from sleeping on a high or broad bed. One who has renounced the life of luxury and the priorities of personal comfort and sense pleasure has no need for a high or broad bed. For the disciple who has left home, a simple seat and a low bed or mat should be more than sufficient.

The ninth precept is to refrain from eating after midday. One who has left home should try to imitate the great Patriarchs and teachers of the past, who usually took only one meal a day, which was in the forenoon. Satisfaction with one full meal before noon has many benefits, one of which is that a disciple has more time to study and practice Dharma. Another benefit is that one is not plagued with tiredness and lethargy due to overeating and can enjoy better health. It is also said that the hungry ghosts, or pretas seek their nourishment in the evening; and when they hear the sounds of the monk’s bowl, their hunger and suffering increase. Therefore, out of compassion for them the disciple who has left home does not eat in the evening.

The tenth precept is to refrain from acquiring money, jewelry, and other valuables. An increase of greed and desire for fame will surely occur if one acquires these things. Those disciples who have left home should live a tranquil life without the desire for worldly gain, and their needs should be met by the offerings of the lay disciples.

The first five precepts form the Sila, or moral discipline–the basis of the four varga, or groups–of the Buddha’s disciples. The Sramanera must, in addition to the first five precepts, observe and maintain these five additional precepts, the first four of which are concerned with abandoning the lifestyles of laymen. The tenth precept is to abandon the wealth that laypeople depend on. In this way the monk’s life is devoid of personal property, and he truly lives up to the designation–homeless one.

The Bhiksu, then, is the disciple who has taken the higher ordination in the Buddhadharma. The term Bhiksucomes from the Sanskrit root-verb bhiksa,meaning to beg. Bhiksu means one who is without home and property and is dependent on alms food to support the body. A Bhiksu should enjoy a tranquil life of renunciation, possessing only three robes and a bowl. Like a bird flying anywhere, devoid of property and possessions, so the Bhiksu goes. Travelling anywhere, observing strictly the monastic Vinaya, the Bhiksu spreads the Dharma and maintains the Buddha’s Way in this world.

The Bhiksu precepts number 250 and include the Sramanera discipline. They constitute a code of refined conduct and discipline concerning the Bhiksu’s deportment while he is walking, standing, sitting, sleeping. talking, silent, etc. If the Bhiksu maintains his Vinaya, his respect-inspiring deportment is complete, and he is competent to maintain the Buddhadharma in this world. The discipline of Bhiksus is complete; that of Sramaneras is partial. However, both have as their basis the Ten Precepts, which are called the perfect discipline of one who leaves home.

The Sramanera is a novice monk, and the Bhiksu is a fully ordained member of the Buddhist Sangha. After taking the complete education and training of a Sramanera, one is eligible to become a Bhiksu. The Sramanera depends upon a Bhiksu master to administer the higher ordination, and it is the responsibility of the master to train and educate the Sramanera fully since he will become the guardian of and heir to the Dharma in the future. This education consists of the following: the Vinaya, or essential rules of monastic deportment and behavior; the Buddhist Sutras; the commentaries of later Patriarchs and teachers, called Sastras: and the essentials of meditation practice. Unless the Sramanera is well-grounded in these teachings, the Dharma master should not take the responsibility involved in conferring ordination upon the Bhiksu. A traditional saying states: “A Dharma master must not have any dumb sheep,” i.e., a monk who cannot comprehend and spread the Dharma. The term Sramanera possesses several meanings. One meaning is to cease in the sense of achieving a state of mind wherein one’s craving, aversion and delusion cease. Another meaning is kindness in the sense of achieving a state of mind wherein one can practice loving-kindness, or Maitri.

One who desires to leave home-life and practice as a Sramanera must be able to observe the Ten Precepts. These are as follows: not killing, not stealing, celibacy (Brahmacarya), not lying, not taking intoxicants, not using garlands of flowers, jewelry, perfumes, etc., not listening to music or attending movies, operas, etc, not sleeping on high or broad beds, not eating food after twelve noon, and refraining from acquiring money jewelry and other valuables.

The first five precepts are the same as those held by lay disciples, with one notable exception. The third lay precept of refraining from adultery or sex which causes trouble is changed to the observance of complete celibacy for Sangha members.

The sixth precept is to refrain from the use of flower garlands, makeup, perfumes and other manner of personal adornment. To enhance one’s personal attractiveness to the opposite sex has no place in the lives of Sangha members, who are trying to attain the knowledge and vision of Reality.

The seventh precept is to refrain from taking part in dancing, singing, musical and theatrical performances, etc. Disciples who have left home should not view or listen to such things, for the places in which they are taking place usually have no connection with spiritual life. The subject matter of popular music and drama only serves to perpetuate illusions about the nature of this world and has little or nothing to do with the practice path to Bodhi.

The eighth precept is to refrain from sleeping on a high or broad bed. One who has renounced the life of luxury and the priorities of personal comfort and sense pleasure has no need for a high or broad bed. For the disciple who has left home, a simple seat and a low bed or mat should be more than sufficient.

The ninth precept is to refrain from eating after midday. One who has left home should try to imitate the great Patriarchs and teachers of the past, who usually took only one meal a day, which was in the forenoon. Satisfaction with one full meal before noon has many benefits, one of which is that a disciple has more time to study and practice Dharma. Another benefit is that one is not plagued with tiredness and lethargy due to overeating and can enjoy better health. It is also said that the hungry ghosts, or pretas seek their nourishment in the evening; and when they hear the sounds of the monk’s bowl, their hunger and suffering increase. Therefore, out of compassion for them the disciple who has left home does not eat in the evening.

The tenth precept is to refrain from acquiring money, jewelry, and other valuables. An increase of greed and desire for fame will surely occur if one acquires these things. Those disciples who have left home should live a tranquil life without the desire for worldly gain, and their needs should be met by the offerings of the lay disciples.

The first five precepts form the Sila, or moral discipline-the basis of the four varga, or groups-of the Buddha’s disciples. The Sramanera must, in addition to the first five precepts, observe and maintain these five additional precepts, the first four of which are concerned with abandoning the lifestyles of laymen. The tenth precept is to abandon the wealth that laypeople depend on. In this way the monk’s life is devoid of personal property, and he truly lives up to the designation-homeless one.

The Bhiksu, then, is the disciple who has taken the higher ordination in the Buddhadharma. The term Bhiksu comes from the Sanskrit root-verb bhiksa, meaning to beg. Bhiksu means one who is without home and property and is dependent on alms food to support the body. A Bhiksu should enjoy a tranquil life of renunciation, possessing only three robes and a bowl. Like a bird flying anywhere, devoid of property and possessions, so the Bhiksu goes. Travelling anywhere, observing strictly the monastic Vinaya, the Bhiksu spreads the Dharma and maintains the Buddha’s Way in this world.

The Bhiksu precepts number 250 and include the Sramanera discipline. They constitute a code of refined conduct and discipline concerning the Bhiksu’s deportment while he is walking, standing, sitting, sleeping. talking, silent, etc. If the Bhiksu maintains his Vinaya, his respect-inspiring deportment is complete, and he is competent to maintain the Buddhadharma in this world. The discipline of Bhiksus is complete; that of Sramaneras is partial. However, both have as their basis the Ten Precepts, which are called the perfect discipline of one who leaves home.

[ Next: The Eight Precepts ]

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Source: Young Men’s Buddhist Association of America

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