The 7th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Sangha - Monastic Tradition
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The Sangha of monks and the Sangha of nuns were originally established by Gautama Buddha in the 5th century BC in order to provide a means for those who wish to practice the Dhamma full time, in a direct and highly disciplined way, free from the restrictions and responsibilities of the household life.
Between midday and the next day, a strict life of scripture study, chanting, meditation, and occasional cleaning forms most of the Sangha's duties . Transgression of rules carries penalties ranging from confession to permanent expulsion from the Sangha.
In Kamakura Era, many sects (Zen, Pureland and Nichiren) that originated from Tendai sect abolished vinaya entirely. Therefore Japanese Zen, Pureland and Nichiren, are led by priests (or minister) rather than by monks.
Monks and nuns may own only the barest minimum of possessions due to their samaya as renunciates (ideally, three robes, an alms bowl, a cloth belt, a needle and thread, a razor for shaving the head, and a water filter).
In practice, they often have a few additional personal possessions.
Traditionally, Buddhist monastics eschew ordinary clothes and wear robes. Originally the robes were sewn together from rags and stained with earth. The idea that robes were dyed with saffron seems unlikely to be true since it was and still is a very expensive commodity, and monks were poor.
According to the Mahayana Sutras, the Buddha does not eat meat. The Buddha allowed Sangha members to eat whatever food is donated to them by laypeople, except that they may not eat meat if they know or suspect the animal was killed specifically for them.
Consequently, the Theravadan tradition (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Burma) which follows the Pali scriptures does not practice vegetarianism though an individual may do so at his or her personal choice .
In particular, East Asian monastics take on the bodhisattva vows from the Brahma Net Sutra which has a vow of vegetarianism as part of the Triple Platform Ordination where they receive the sramanera/sramanerika, bhikshu/bhikshuni and bodhisattva vows, whereas the Tibetan lineages transmit the bodhisattva vows from Asanga's Yogacarabhumi, which does not include a vow of vegetarianism.
Here, monastics teach and counsel the laity at request while laymen and laywomen offer donations for their future support. This inter-connectedness serves as a marriage and has sustained Buddhism to this day.