What happens when the Buddha Sneezes? rules get made.
Did you know monastics aren’t allowed to say “bless you” to each other? One of those interesting rules you find when you deep dive the Vinaya :
Now at that time the Lord, surrounded by a large assembly, sneezed while he was teaching dhamma. Monks, saying: “Lord, may the Lord live (long), may the wellfarer live (long),” made a loud noise, a great noise; the talk on dhamma was interrupted by this noise.
Then the Lord addressed the monks, saying: “Now, monks, when (the phrase) ‘Long life’ is spoken to one who has sneezed, can he for this reason live or die?” “That is not so, Lord.” “Monks, ‘Long life’ should not be said to one who has sneezed. Whoever should say it, there is an offence of wrong-doing.”
Now at that time people said “May you live (long), honoured sirs” to monks who had sneezed. The monks, being scrupulous, did not respond. People … spread it about, saying: “How can these recluses, sons of the Sakyans not respond when (the phrase) ‘May you live (long), honoured sirs’ is being spoken to them?” They told this matter to the Lord.
He said: “Monks, householders like lucky signs. I allow you, monks, when (the phrase) ‘May you live (long), honoured sirs’ is being spoken to you by householders to say, ‘Long life’ (to them).”
So as you can see responding to someone who sneezes is very very ancient, and to the Buddha superstitious, as this will not effect whether the person lives or dies, but out of compassion and courtesy, monastics can respond back when someone else says it to them.
While I know some monastics don’t see it this way, I always encourage laity to read the vinaya and know at least the basics of the rules, as this will inform you on how a monastic should act and what rules constrain them. Plus reading the Vinaya gives you an interesting glimpse into the culture of the time in ancient India, with plenty of shock and giggles.
I’ve had a few people message me recently wondering why I was no longer on the list of residents at Bhavana. I was not going to make this an official public announcement until closer to the end of the year due to covid and the like, but since as they say : the cat is out of the bag…
I have left Bhavana Society and am now a bit of a wandering orphan as it were :).
Last year I told Bhante G that I would be leaving Bhavana. I came to this decision for a variety of reasons, but the main reason was that I felt I needed to be able to visit and be at other monasteries for my own personal growth in the Dhamma and growth as a junior monastic. This is not uncommon for monks after 3-4 years to visit other places and branch out.
This year was to be the year I visited a variety of monasteries to stay a week and to learn and practice, but alas with the pandemic those visits are all on hold until next year.
I did want to wait to finish off my dependence at Bhavana. For those who do not know it is a tradition that goes all the way back to the Buddha for a junior monk to stay under dependence(to live with) a senior monastic for the first five years of their monkhood. There are exceptions given for that not to occur, of which I believe I personally count as two of those, but in general you should be residing with a senior monastic.
left Bhavana at the end of March thinking I would be in lockdown for a month or two and then continue on with my journey, to return by July for Vassa, but things have changed and Bhavana is officially closed down until next year.
I was asked not to return to Bhavana until next year. So I made the decision, thinking it would be silly for me to return next year for a few months and then leave, to just end my tenure at Bhavana now and return once its open to pick of the rest of my things there and move on.
So as of now I don’t have any official place to live long term. One of the things I want my second five years as a monastic to be is free of any major responsibilities and duties like I had at Bhavana which kept me locked down there. The metta sutta says to have few duties and to live lightly, it was the opposite for me at Bhavana, I had many duties and responsibilities that impacted my practice and growth as a monastic.
It’s a bit scary being a lone monastic not living at a well supported place, but on the other hand I am excited for the future and the genuine uncertainty of who knows where I may end up. I have setup ways for people to support me now on my blog(maggasekha.org), something I didn’t have to worry about living at Bhavana, so its a new way of monastic living to experience.
That being said I will be open to any opportunities, invites, and suggestions that come my way.
I have been with family the last few months, for now I am spending a few weeks with my friends Bhante Suddhaso and Ayya Soma at Buddhist Insights, and after that for my vassa I believe im going to spend a few months on a secluded farm in the West Virginia mountains.
Whenever I am in a place where good internet is available I will continue to do things like my live stream and uploading Dhamma videos.
I still am open to doing travel teaching once the country opens back up again and people feel safe to gather for dhamma. Traveling the country and sharing dhamma with so many people was honestly the best time I had in the past few years. as Kathy, the former office manager of Bhavana would say to me when I would leave ” have fun being a monk!”.
For now I am trying to focus on my own healing, development, and growth and finding the love and zeal I once had for my practice, and to restore the balance in my monastic life between helping others, and helping myself, which went so far to helping others that I neglected myself.
These days I am working on myself so that I can get back firmly on the path to awakening to realize my own freedom. and so that I can be of better service to everyone who looks to me to share Dhamma with them. Remember the airplane safety speech simile I always use, you have to make sure your own mask is secure before helping others.