[Buddha-l] Vinaya and mobile phones

Stefan Detrez stefan.detrez at gmail.com
Thu Dec 6 08:32:03 MST 2007

Hello there,

I recently saw a documentary on the life of Tibetan Buddhist monks. I
suppose for some of you, not to speak most of you here, this will be a known
In the monastery, as we might assume, material possessions not mentioned in
the Vinaya Allowed Luggage List are forbidden. Yet in this monastery one of
the senior monks was being phoned all the time throughout an interview he
was giving, not bothering with the extremely loud jingle he had set his
phone to. When asked about this, a younger monk said you are allowed to
possess a mobile phone when you are ten years or more in the monastery. For
this particular monk it was waiting another 3 years before he too could
start phoning around. That's an interesting given: I now have the impression
that Vinaya rules are being given a modern interpretation which would allow
for such 'adaptations' or 'recontextualisation' - as some postmodernist
apologists love to call it. I suppose 'ancienité' plays an important role
here, too, meaning it has probably been a decision of senior monks to
introduce this new understanding of the Vinaya. Maybe Charles Prebish who's
known to know the Vinayas thoroughly knows where this comes from, but if
someone else can trace this juridical relaxation, I'd love to hear it. 

Another thing which struck me is that monks who chit-chat during prayers
were said to get beaten with iron bats to refocus on the prayers. It seems
they turned in the da.ndas for iron ones. Maybe those are used to toughen
them up next time the police pops in. 



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