Wednesday, May 15, 2019

No alcohol and no worldly amusements in the temple


As you may probably know, in many Buddhist temples around the world, Jodo Shinshu or not, members organize parties with music, alcohol, and dancing. Some say it relaxes people and brings them together. I say it is a smart trick of internal maras (one's own blind passions and ignorance) and/or external maras to make people forget the Dharma in the exact place where they have the chance to deepen its meaning, a subtle way of distracting them from Dharma and keeping them focused on their worldly passions and preoccupations.

Don't get me wrong, I do not forbid members to go to parties, drink, socialize or dance. They have all the time for entertainment, but the temple is not a social club, not a bar, and not a disco. It is also not karate, yoga, taichi or ikebana club, not a bazaar and not a platform for various worldly ideologies, as some use it from time to time. The temple is and must remain a place for Dharma. Here we come for a different purpose - to listen to the Amida Dharma, become aware of the delusional nature of samsara, of death and impermanence, and of the need to aspire for the liberation in the Pure Land of Amida Buddha. 

No matter how distracted we are in our daily life, we must not allow ourselves to be distracted at the place where we hear the Dharma. Here we must be focused on asking questions and solving our doubts, reading and contemplating the Dharmic truths, saying Nembutsu and keeping a Dharmic atmosphere where others are encouraged and supported to do the same.
If a sangha does not remain an exclusive place for Dharma, and I mean a 100% place for Dharma, it will sooner or later become a cause of spiritual downfall for its members. Unfortunately, many so-called temples of our days are partly or totally in this situation.
We must be very careful indeed with what we do at the temple. Worldly music and entertainment strengthen our worldly passions and may give rise to improper behavior among members. Soon, people will come to the temple for fun and worldly enjoyments, like going to a disco club. Fights or rivalry may also occur which destroys Dharma friendship, the only friendship that matters in a sangha.

Keeping the temple free of any worldly entertainments is the best way to check the dedication of members or aspirants. Having nothing else to do than Dharma listening and Dharma practice, only those truly interesting in the Dharma will remain.

Question: Should meals be taken inside the temple?
Answer: Of course, members can eat together at the temple during retreats or religious celebrations and we do this at Amidaji, but the discussions should always be religious, while alcohol and any intoxicants that cloud the mind must be strictly avoided.

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