Posted in Buddhist community activities, Buddhist Culture, Dharma Talks, Sangha Relationships

How to learn from a Master how to be a student too good to not read
Think Like a Thief
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 2011–2012
In Theravada, the relationship between teacher and student is like that between a master craftsman and his apprentice. The Dhamma is a skill, like carpentry, archery, or cooking. The duty of the teacher is to pass on the skill not only by word and example, but also by creating situations to foster the ingenuity and powers of observation the student will need to become skillful. The duty of the student is to choose a reliable master — someone whose skills are solid and whose intentions can be trusted — and to be as observant as possible. After all, there’s no way you can become a skilled craftsman by passively watching the master or merely obeying his words. You can’t abdicate responsibility for your own actions. You have to pay attention both to your actions and to their results, at the same time using your ingenuity and discernment to correct mistakes and overcome obstacles as they arise. This requires that you combine respect for your teacher with respect for the principle of cause and effect as it plays out in your own thoughts, words, and deeds.

Shortly before my ordination, my teacher — Ajaan Fuang Jotiko — told me: “If you want to learn, you’ll have to think like a thief and figure out how to steal your knowledge.” And soon I learned what he meant. During my first years with him, he had no one to attend to his needs: cleaning his hut, boiling the water for his bath, looking after him when he was sick, etc. So, even though I was a foreigner — barely fluent in Thai and probably the most uncouth barbarian he had ever met — I quickly took on the role of his attendant. Instead of explaining where things should be placed or when certain duties should be done, he left it up to me to observe for myself. If I caught on, he wouldn’t say anything. If I didn’t, he’d point out my mistake — but still wouldn’t fully explain what was wrong. I had to observe for myself: Where did he place things when he straightened out his hut? And I had to do this out of the corner of my eye, for if I was too obvious in watching him, he would chase me away. As he said, “If I have to explain everything, you’ll get used to having things handed to you on a platter. And then what will you do when problems come up in your meditation and you don’t have any experience in figuring things out and experimenting on your own?”

So I swallowed my pride and learned to take my mistakes as my teachers. Before, I could never tolerate being in the wrong. But when I could finally admit to being wrong, I started finding the inner resources I needed to start setting things right.

Still, the issue of balancing respect was a problem. Ajaan Fuang was amazingly principled, wise, and compassionate, and I could always trust his intentions toward me. As a result I felt enormous respect for him. Nevertheless, he was a human being with human foibles. Because my Christian upbringing had taught me to reserve my ultimate respect for a supposedly infallible being, I was awkward in handling the occasions when Ajaan Fuang was a little less than perfect. At the same time, I didn’t know quite what to do with my strongly ingrained streak of independence. So one day, out of the blue, Ajaan Fuang told me a story about a time when he had had a disagreement with his own teacher, Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo.

Toward the end of his life, Ajaan Lee had built a monastery in a mangrove swamp on the outskirts of Bangkok. The lay supporters wanted an ordination hall, so that was the first permanent building erected in the monastery. When laying the foundations, they placed a concrete vault under the spot where the Buddha image was to be situated, and filled it with sacred objects: Buddha relics, Buddha images, amulets, pieces of scripture, and so forth. Then they sealed it up for posterity. Traditionally in Thailand, Buddha images always face east — the direction the Buddha was facing on the day of his Awakening — so the vault was placed under the western side of the building, under the spot where the main Buddha image would be placed. Halfway through the construction, though, Ajaan Lee changed his mind and decided to place the Buddha image on the eastern side of the building, facing west. Although he never offered an explanation for this unusual move, his students are generally unanimous in their interpretation of what he wanted it to represent: the Dharma was going West.

Not until the building was finished, though, did anyone realize that the vault was no longer in line with the image. This meant that people entering the building through the western door would be stepping right over the sacred objects in the vault, violating a strong Thai taboo. So one evening Ajaan Lee said to Ajaan Fuang, “Get the monks together and move the vault to the other side of the building.” Ajaan Fuang thought to himself, “That vault is firmly planted in the ground, and the area beneath the ordination hall is nothing but mud.” However, he knew if he said that it couldn’t be moved, Ajaan Lee would say, “If you don’t have the conviction to do it, I’ll find someone else who does.” So the next morning, after the meal, Ajaan Fuang got all the able-bodied monks and novices in the monastery down under the building, with ropes to pull the vault over to the eastern side. They worked all day but couldn’t budge it an inch.

So now was the time to express an opinion — and to suggest an alternative solution to the problem. Ajaan Fuang went to Ajaan Lee that evening and said, “How about if we build another vault under the image, open the original vault, take all the sacred objects out of the old vault, and seal them up in the new one?” Ajaan Lee gave him a brief nod, and thus the problem was solved.

“And that,” Ajaan Fuang concluded, “is how you show respect for your teacher.”

Posted in Dharma Books, On the Path, Precepts Holders, Vinaya

Sangha view Buddhist history different than western scholars

Gandhari Mahayana scroll jar many found in a marketplace in Peshwar, buried and located in a dessert from the 1st c. BCE to 3rd c. CE

Whoes Buddhism is the Truest? by Linda Heuman

Tricyle has published another article on the gandhari sutras found in the dessert.  I do believe this tipifies how westerns try to view Buddhism and it’s history:  For some of these ideas are taken as fact when they are only one-sided viewpoints with limited approaches to the idea of valuing what the historical development actually was; well it’s all opinion due to the fact nobody living was there, and nothing we have now gives us the whole picture only fragments of ideas touching the edge of truly what took place.

Many false ideas are here presented in this article from Tricycle as authoritative fact. Starting with this line in the first paragraph.

Ven. Hong Yang

“Every school of Buddhism stakes its authority, and indeed its very identity, on its historical connection to this original first canon. Buddhists of all traditions have imagined that our texts tumble from the First Council into our own hands whole and complete—pristine—unshaped by human agency in their journey through time. This sense of the past is deeply ingrained and compelling. If our texts don’t faithfully preserve the actual words of the Buddha in this way, we might think, how could they be reliable? Isn’t that what we base our faith on?”

Tricycle article writer.

Grossly over-generalized statement in the first line.  Buddha taught use to use our wisdom to analyze his words testing them for ourselves and our ability to walk the path with our own feet, and what we have that is written down and accessible now are known not to be his exact words; how can we base our faith on what’s written and commented on without trying it out ourselves?  We cannot but we do need to study it, recite it, practice it’s lessons. The Sangha have two traditions, the oral one that is never writtten down and comes with actually living, practicing and studying as monastic Sangha for a lifetime and another that is changing, translated, commented on, repeated over and over again orally for private and public study developing into what we know today as the sutras/suttas. The written tradition is usually used the most to teach Buddha dharma for it’s convenience and is an easy method to transmit.

As a new monastic in the Buddhist Sangha nobody every comes up to you and states that the First Council is the one and only source of infallible unchangeable actual words of Buddha as he spoke them, ever and you don’t accept out words for that being the truth then your not really going to be Buddhist nor a Buddhist Sangha member.  Ludricrous, we are actually taught to live in harmony, learn the sutras that are recited in the temple, learn the daily service; carry out our studies concentratively, perform mundane but necessary tasks for health and harmony in the temple and learn how to be monastic in the temple preparing for the higher ordination in a careful step by step manner to be able to transmit buddha dharma in the future as requested.  Buddhist monastic Sangha does not base its identity on anything but the Vinaya which is varied in language, slightly varied in a few word or order of precepts in different traditions and gender and the collection of sutras/suttas is undestood as varied as there are leaves of grass, written, recorded, translated according to the times of the school of the translator’s and in accordance with their striving on the path, study of the sutras, and gender; undestanding of the solemity of the future needs of the readers of the sutras being worked on.  All the sutras/suttas in the first couple of lines are clearly identitfied with some or all of the names of monastic and laity clearly written as scribe, copyist, translator, editing monastic elder and the location and time of the translation.

The idea of the Tripitaka as whole in content and  pristine is a western fabrication, rather a Christianization of Buddhist thinking of a very narrow type. Infallibility of the bible is imported into the Tripitaka with this wholly fabricated viewpoint mostly by Christian or western secularists.

Ven. Hong Yang

“But as we’re about to see, history works otherwise. And having a view more in line with the facts here frees us from chauvinist views and gives us grounds for respecting differences between and within diverse Buddhist schools. As for undermining our basis for faith, not to worry. To get in line with the facts, we’re not going to abandon Manjushri’s sword of wisdom. We’re going to use it.”

Not really facts, just opinions, theories and guesses.  Without even undestanding what Buddhists do and practice, that sword of Manjusri would be impossible to wield by scholars of this view.

Ven. Hong Yang

“Religious orthodoxy wants to claim that one’s own tradition is the best. To do that, one needs to point to something unique to make it so. Having the sole true version of a singular truth is just such a foothold. And not only for Buddhists. Elaine Pagels, the scholar of religion who brought to light the Gnostic gospels, told Tricycle in 2005:

The Church father Tertullian said,
Christ taught one single thing, and that’s what we teach, and that is what is in the creed. But he’s writing this in the year 180 in North Africa, and what he says Christ taught would never fit in the mouth of a rabbi, such as Jesus, in first-century Judea. For a historically-based tradition—like Christianity, and as you say, Buddhism—there’s a huge stake in the claim that what it teaches goes back to a specific revelation, person, or event, and there is a strong tendency to deny the reality of constant innovation, choice, and change. “

This is wholly out of place and demonstrates what I often say about these types of people claimiing authority on Buddhism, it’s history and Sangha.  They don’t understand how it’s praticed and often delude themselves with ideas of they know what is Buddhist and what is not. You cannot take a western model based on Christianity and view an Eastern religion like Buddhism.  You must view with Buddhist eyes, a Buddhist heart, and Buddhist practice and study. This way of approaching Buddhism from a western Christian influenced academic approach is very poorly done.
Ven. Hong Yang

“The Buddhist canons as they exist today are the products of historical contingencies. They resound with the many voices that have shaped them through time. But orthodoxy requires the opposite, a wall you can’t put your fist through: singular, unchanging, findable truth. Buddhism’s textual root wasn’t singular, and it wasn’t unchanging. As it turns out, it wasn’t so findable, either.

The Buddhist Tripitakas are culminations of practice, translations, study and unending gathering of sutras/suttas by monastic Sangha who travelled, studied and preserved to the best of their ability what they found, studied, and worked on in translations.  There is no orthodoxy, no one group oversaw this process and pronounced it as correct but some of recorded history survived that scholars have access to wrote down that some councils that were occuring in one or a few countries.  This idea of orthodoxy is not the norm, most of what we have today is the result of concentrated self-sacrificing individuals who tried their best to produce good translations and seek out sutras/suttas stored in other coutries, temples, monasteries, collected by the curious and merchants, etc.

Ven. Hong Yang

“That’s the further step that we’re taking, to dispense with the idea of the original because that is a kind of pipe dream or figment of the imagination,” says Paul Harrison, a professor of religious studies at Stanford University and a member of the editorial board for the Schøyen Collection (another recently discovered collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts). Harrison is also a translator. As such, he gives us a hands-on report of how texts weather the practicalities of translation. To the extent that we are still holding onto that tree model, Harrison is about to pull the last leaves from our hands. Translators used to be guided by the notion, he explains, that if you put enough different versions of a sutra together, kept the overlap, and eliminated all the variance, eventually you could reconstruct the prototype. “According to that model,” he says, “it’ll all narrow to a point. But basically what we are finding is that it doesn’t narrow to a point. The more we know, the more varied and indeterminate it is right at the beginning.” Trying to reconstruct the original version of any early sutra—the one that is unmediated, accurate, and complete— is now generally considered, in principle, futile. Indeed, Harrison asks, “What are you aiming at?” Looking for such an original is ingrained, essentialist thinking, he says.

He points out, “We often say, ‘Tibetan translation, Chinese translation, Sanskrit original. As soon as you say Sanskrit original, you drop back into that sloppy but entirely natural way of thinking, that this is the original so we can throw away the copies. But in fact, that Sanskrit original of whatever sutra is just again another version. So the idea that one of them is the original and all the others are more or less imperfect shadows of it has to be given up. But it is very hard to give it up. It’s almost impossible to give it up.” And the irony is not lost on Harrison, who adds, “This is what the teaching of the Buddha is all about.”

This is a laughable viewpoint, there has never been a predominent language in sutra/sutta translations like the one that tries to ascribe first language as recently offered in the west by westerners.  Translation monasteries in the ancient past were few and far between as they required considerable patronage by king/emperorers and time, and most efforts were done mostly in history as they are now word by word, alone and solitary near or absolute hermit/ess of poor economic means. No glory or reward for their work beyond a lucky few who had Buddhist benefactors.

Ven. Hong Yang

One problem with the traditional model of textual transmission, according to Harrison, is that it doesn’t take into account cross-influences—the very real cases of text conflation when scribes or translators might have (for example, when standardizing) copied features from multiple differing versions, thus producing a new version. He continues: “If everything just proceeds in its own vertical line, and there is no crossways influence, that is fine; you know where you are. But once things start flowing horizontally, you get a real mess. Having something old, of course, is valuable because you are more likely to be closer to an earlier form. But notice I’m careful to say now ‘an earlier form’ and not ‘the earliest form.’ A first-century B.C.E. [Gandhari] manuscript is going to give you a better guide to an earlier form than an 18th-century Sri Lankan copy will. But that’s not an absolute guarantee, just a slightly better one.”

Neither can we draw a solid line around different schools. Harrison reports that looking backward in time, already by the first century C.E. boundaries between the Mahayana and non- Mahayana begin to blur. The Gandhari manuscripts probably reflect content of early monastic libraries, and the texts seem to have been intentionally buried. Mahayana and mainstream Buddhist sutras were recovered together and presumably buried together. Harrison believes that the monks who engaged in Mahayana practices were most likely Vinaya-observing; they likely lived in monasteries side by side practitioners of more mainstream Buddhism.

Pure guesses, there has been nothing known about early Buddhism much beyond guesses.  Records of damanged remenents of a few monasteries that have school names are a little more reliable and are the finding of these Mahayana texts, just the last line is a horrible and vague assumption of a sravaka as defined by current schools of Theravada or western view of Theravada history and practices.  Mahayana has always included all schools in it’s collection of sutras. If a school existed that was sravaka nearly like what is the current practice of Theravada most like then it was not unusual to do so then. Chinese Mahayana Tripitaka is inclusive of all available records of sutras from all schools.

Ven. Hong Yang

“These first-century Mahayana texts in the new collections are already highly developed in terms of narrative complexity and Mahayana doctrine. They couldn’t be the first Mahayana sutras, Harrison says. “The earlier stages of the Mahayana go far back. The Mahayana has longer roots and older roots than we thought before.” (Not roots all the way back to the Buddha, though—Harrison agrees with the general scholarly consensus that the Mahayana developed after the Buddha.) Nonetheless, he says, “Probably lying behind these Mahayana texts there are others with much stronger mainstream coloration, where it is not so easy to tell whether it’s Mahayana or Shravakayana.” [Shravakayana means literally ‘the way of the hearers’; those who follow the path with arahantship as its goal.]

Sravaka is a very general term and occurs in Mahayana sutras very often. It’s onlly new to Western scholars and those with curisory knowledge of the richness of variations and commonalitys of all the schools teachings.

Ven. Hong Yang

“During this period of early Buddhism there were many different strands of practice and trends of thought that were not yet linked. “We could have the Perfection of Wisdom strand and a Pure Land strand and a worship of the Buddha strand, and all sorts of things going on,” Harrison remarks. Only later did these threads coalesce into what we now consider “the Mahayana.”

There was no delination into early schools only to teachers who attracted students enough to be able to afford to be in one place and devleop a community.   That is really how it has always been in monastic Sangha commuities.  It’s a fluid situation for many monastics are enroute to seeking a specific teacher they heard about to study a sutra/sutta or a practice that they wish to learn.  This is still how it actually occurs.  All the views for Westerners have been based upon repeated later accounts of schools by the schools themselves after they had reach prominence or in some cases dominance in their geographic area or political situation.  Much later have some of these schools merged into and continues to grow in practice and development of new schools and offshoots as it’s always been. Finally gaining the attention of the Western scholar.

Ven. Hong Yang,2

Reply by bhikshunion May 27, 2011, 11:34 pm

The article is interesting.  However, from a translator’s view and a monastic Sangha member myself, a bhikshuni. I would like to offer another opinion.  Don’t use the models to understand the development of the Tripitakas; there are already many versions out there now.  That’s the way it was and it in Sangha history. Think of what you already discussed.  History provides ideas of what we found out that many schools existed starting with Buddha’s inner circle of disciples who had already started teaching forming schools when Buddha was alive.  Buddha mentions this many times in the sutras giving guidelines of dharma teaching and advice on how one is to view dharma.  Upon his death, many disiciples had their schools already and their students had schools actively as well; then some succeeded, failed, merged; and new ones became popular.

What we have now written down is not the same as the Buddha taught, we know that it’s just various popular schools who have set up standards where there were none and some Sangha Councils voted on it, but not all of them…we know that from many scholarly reports already.  Yet only among Sangha we have very few of us who pull it out of our bags to pronounce it as true, really the only version of correct eact words of the Buddha.  Very, very few do this. Because we have been taught in the Vinaya how to appraoch dharma and Dharma teachings of the Buddha.  The article misreports how Sangha deal with this; it’s usually western people who fight over who is right, and some very devout laity in all the traditions do infact do the same.

Vinaya Sangha are respectful of other traditions and are taught to study as much as they can all the schools that they have access to, they do not promote division among Sanghans (monastic) by touting on as superior over another, those that do this are unsual and maybe using it for platform for personal reasons.

Western articles that I’ve read over the years here and elsewhere with comments claiming secularism in tradtional views as negatives, tradtion, superstition, etc; are not fully understanding or embraced all the Buddhist culture and teachings.  Having different versions or partial versions of the Tripitaka does not make the ones we have at the present time wrong nor invalidates them in any way. In all cases, we know that oral tradition which is accessible to residing monastic Sangha is not available to laity or even to scholars, this oral tradition hasn’t died out, it’s protected by ourselves, we also preserve in our various languages and schools has been handed down very well from our honored monastic elders to us monastics now, that’s our privaledge as monastic Sangha to have received and pass along in the next generations.

Gandhari scroll fragments 1st c. BCE Mahayana earliest written sutras/suttas
Posted in On the Path, Precepts Holders, Vinaya

Common Sangha titles part 2 – use what we tell you


In Buddhism, the Western style of Venerable (also abbreviated as Ven.) is entitled to ordained  Buddhist monks  and  nuns  and also to novices ( shramaneras ). The title of Master may be followed for senior members of the  Sangha . Venerable, along with “” Reverend “” (Rev.) is used as a western alternative to Maha Thera in the  Theravada  branch and Shì (釋, as in “Sakya”) in  Chinese  Mahayana  branch.

法師 fashi is the most common form among the Chinese Buddhist community.  It means Dharma Master, and is used for all ranks of monastics from sramaneras to bhikshus and bhikshuni; this is not a term for married clergy as in the laity or for non-Buddhists.

Source: A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera, Concise Pali-English and English-Pali Dictionary [available as digital version from Metta Net, Sri Lanka]


venerable : (adj.) mahanīya; garukātabba; sambhāvanīya; gāravāraha.

Source: Buddhistdoor


喇嘛A transcription of the Tibetan bla ma, usually rendered in English as lama. A Buddhist priest of the Tibetan tradition. The Through Tibetan cultural influence, the terms is also seen used in Mongolia, Nepal, Northeast India, Bhutan, etc.

Source: A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera, Concise Pali-English and English-Pali Dictionary [available as digital version from Metta Net, Sri Lanka]


Lama:(m.) Tibbatīya-yati.

Wikipedia source:

Lama  ( Tibetan : བླ་མ་;  Wylie : bla-ma; “chief” or “high priest”) is a title for a  Tibetan  teacher of the  Dharma . The name is similar to the Sanskrit term guru    (see  Tibetan Buddhism  and  Bön ).

Historically, the term was used for venerated spiritual masters  or heads of monasteries.  Today the title can be used as an honorific title conferred on a  monk ,  nun or (in the  Nyingma ,  Kagyu  and  Sakya  schools) advanced  tantric  practitioner to designate a level of spiritual attainment and authority to teach, or may be part of a title such as Dalai Lama  or  Panchen Lama applied to a lineage of reincarnate lamas ( Tulkus ).  Perhaps due to misunderstandings by early western scholars attempting to understand Tibetan Buddhism, the term Lama has historically been erroneously applied to Tibetan monks generally. Similarly, Tibetan Buddhism was referred to as Lamaism by early western scholars and travelers who perhaps did not understand that what they were witnessing was a form of Buddhism; they may also have been unaware of the distinction between Tibetan Buddhism and  Bön . The term Lamaism is now considered by some to be derogatory.

In the  Vajrayana  practice path of Tibetan Buddhism, the lama is often the tantric spiritual guide, the  guru  to the aspiring Buddhist  yogi  or  yogini . As such, the lama will then appear as one of the  Three Roots  (a variant of the  Three Jewels ), alongside the  yidam  and protector (who may be a  dakini ,  dharmapala  or other Buddhist deity figure).


Source: A Dictionary of Buddhism, Oxford University Press, 2003, 2004 (which is available in electronic version from



A Tibetan title of respect usually reserved for tülkus. The term means ‘precious guru’.


Rōshi  (老師 ? ) (Chinese  pinyin : Lǎoshī; Sanskrit : ṛṣi ) is a  Japanese  non-official honorific title used in  Zen Buddhism  that literally means “old teacher” or “elder master” and sometimes denotes a person who gives spiritual guidance to a Zen sangha or congregation. Traditionally, it was applied as a respectful honorific to an older (usually over 60) Zen teacher who was perceived by a sangha to have realized a superior understanding of the  Dharma . Despite this, it has come in some modern Zen schools to be applied as a semi-official title that doesn’t have to do with the age of the individual who receives it. This is especially true in the United States. There is sometimes dispute about use of the term rōshi, and there is wide variance in its application.

Most teachers called rōshi have undergone many years of arduous training. In some  Rinzai  organizations, a monastic is sometimes called rōshi after they have received inka  shōmei, meaning they have completed kōan study and received  Dharma transmission  from their master (full authorization to teach and pass on the lineage). In the  Harada-Yasutani  school, a lay organization that combines Soto and Rinzai elements, a person is called rōshi when they have received inka, indicating they have passed the kōan curriculum and received Dharma transmission.

In the  Sōtō  organization, a person is sometimes called rōshi after they have received the title of shike, but this is by no means standard practice.

Many Zen communities in the  United States  confer the title of rōshi to their teachers in deference to perceived Japanese Zen tradition, and in most instances it is used synonymously with the term  Zen master . However, in Japanese tradition the term’s usage has never been standardized. Its use in this way in the U.S. and Europe has at times led to confusion and controversy.

Chinese  Chán Buddhism  uses the semantically related title sifu (師父, literally “master father” or “father of masters”, or 師傅, literally “master teacher” or “teacher of masters”; both pronounced “shīfu”) as an honorific title for the highest masters, but it also may be used in respectful address of monks and nuns generally.

Stuart Lachs has argued that Zen institutions in the West have often attributed a mythic status to the title rōshi with harmful consequences.


Source: Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, G P Malalasekera (1899-1973), which is available as printed version from


Thera.-Name of a monk in Rājagaha. He lived in solitude, the virtues of which state he extolled. Hearing this, the Buddha sent for him and taught him how the solitary life could be perfected in detail (S.ii.282f).

Source: A Dictionary of Buddhism, Oxford University Press, 2003, 2004 (which is available in electronic version from

Description: thera

Pāli honorific term meaning ‘old’ or ‘venerable’, and used with reference to the senior monks of the Buddhist monastic order (Saṃgha). The seniority of a monk is determined not by age but by the time elapsed since ordination. Normally ten years’ standing is required for a monk to be considered as a thera.

Source: A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera, Concise Pali-English and English-Pali Dictionary [available as digital version from Metta Net, Sri Lanka]

Description: thera : [m.] an elder; a senior; a monk who has spent 10 years from his upasampadā. adj. old; elder.

Source: Pali-English Dictionary, TW Rhys Davids, William Stede,


Thera [Vedic sthavira. Derivation uncertain. It may come from sthā in sense of standing over, lasting (one year or more), cp. thāvara old age, then “old=venerable”; (in meaning to be compared w. Lat. senior, etc. from num. sem “one”=one year old, i. e. lasting over one and many more years). Cp. also vetus=Gr. e)/tos, year, E. wether, one year old ram, as cpd. w. veteran, old man. Or it may come from sthā in der. *stheṷā in sthūra (sthūla: see etym. under thūla) thus, “strong= venerable”] t.t. only used with ref. to the bhikkhus of Gotama Buddha’s community. — (a) (adj.) senior, Vin i.47, 290 (th. bhikkhū opp. navā bh.), 159 (th. bhikkhu a senior bh. opp. to navaka bh. a novice), 187; ii.16, 212. Therânutherā bhikkhū seniors & those next to them in age dating not from birth, but from admission to the Order). Three grades are distinguished, thera bh., majjhima bh., nava bh., at D i.78. — See also A ii.23, 147, 168; v.201, 348; D iii.123 sq., 218; Dh 260, 261. In Sangha — thera, used of Bhikkhus not senior in the Order, the word thera means distinguished. Vin ii.212, 303. In Mahāthera the meaning, as applied to the 80 bhikkhus so called, must also have some similar meaning Dīpv iv.5 Psalms of the Brethren xxxvi.; J v.456. At A ii.22 it is said that a bhikkhu, however junior, may be called thera on account of his wisdom. It is added that four characteristics make a man a thera — high character, knowing the essential doctrines by heart, practising the four Jhānas, and being conscious of having attained freedom through the destruction of the mental intoxications. It is already clear that at a very early date, before the Anguttara reached its extant shape, a secondary meaning of thera was tending to supplant that of senior — that is, not the senior of the whole Order, but the senior of such a part of the Sangha as live in the same locality, or are carrying out the same function. — Note. thera in thero vassiko at S iv.161 is to be read tero — vassiko.
— gāthā hymns of senior bhikkhus, N. of a canonical book, incorporated in the Khuddaka — Nikāya. Theratara, very senior, oppd to navatara, novice D ii.154. — vāda the doctrine of the Theras, the original Buddhist doctrine M i.164; Dpvs iv.6, 13.


Source: A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera, Concise Pali-English and English-Pali Dictionary [available as digital version from Metta Net, Sri Lanka]


therī : [f.] a senior nun; and old woman.

Elder Sister:

Source: A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera, Concise Pali-English and English-Pali Dictionary [available as digital version from Metta Net, Sri Lanka]

Description: elder sister : (f.) jeṭṭhabhaginī.

和尚he shang – Buddhist monk (Bhikshu), Sanskrit: upadhyaya/Pali: upajjhaya

和尚尼 heshangni – Buddhist nun (Bhikshuni), Sanskrit: upadhyayani/Pali: upajjhayani (SAME as acaryani)

Posted in On the Path, Precepts Holders, Vinaya

Common Sangha Titles history part 1- use what we ask please

Monks and nuns from all Buddhist traditions have titles, we are taught to use them; all the lay people are taught to use them, nobody but stubborn people with no sense of offering respect would ever think of not addressing a monk or nun by their title or generic name.

Many ppl of this type go to great verbal links to try to justify this deliberate omission or statement of how respect is earned not given crap. means they got issues in life, however, it’s one thing in laity quite another in Sangha communities to try to pull this off is very extremely rude and would upset anyone in earshot.  It’s a clear verbal and written in disrespect of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha; the Triple Jewel to ignore Buddha’s teaching on this!  So here is the common words and their defined meanings for a start to clarify word meaning.


Ajahn – couldn’t find it in the pali or sanskrit dictionaries, looked it up in buddhistdoor glossary which listed variant spellings, thank you Buddhistdoor!

ajahn derives from term acariya meaning teacher; acarya is sanskrit spelling for the same meaning. Thai spellings vary:  ajaan , ajarn , acharn and achaan; a meditation teacher, a teacher.

2. Ācarin
: (page 96)

153, 213 in same meaning. — pp. āciṇṇa. — 2. to step upon,
pass through J v.153.

ĀcarinĀcarin (adj.– n.) [fr. ā + car] treaching, f. ācarinī a female teacher Vin iv.227 (in contrast to gaṇa & in
same sense as ācariya m. at Vin iv.130), 317 (id.).

ĀcariyaĀcariya [fr. ā + car] a teacher (almost syn. with

3. Ācariya
: (page 96)

f. ācarinī a female teacher Vin iv.227 (in contrast to gaṇa
& in same sense as ācariya m. at Vin iv.130), 317 (id.).

ĀcariyaĀcariya [fr. ā + car] a teacher (almost
syn. with upajjhāya) Vin i.60, 61, 119 (˚upajjhāya); ii.231; iv.130 (gaṇo vā
ācariyo a meeting of the bhikkhus or a single teacher, cp. f. ācarinī); D i.103,
116 (gaṇ˚) 238

4. Ācariya
: (page 96)

ĀcariyaĀcariya [fr. ā + car] a teacher (almost syn. with upajjhāya) Vin
i.60, 61, 119 (˚upajjhāya); ii.231; iv.130 (gaṇo vā ācariyo a meeting of the
bhikkhus or a single teacher, cp. f. ācarinī);
D i.103, 116 (gaṇ˚) 238 (sattamâcariyamahāyuga seventh age of great teachers);
iii.189 sq.; M iii.115; S i.68 (gaṇ˚), 177; iv.176 (yogg˚); A

5. Ācariya
: (page 96)

(= ācāra– samācāra– sikkhāpaka PvA 252); Miln 201, 262 (master
goldsmith?); Vism 99 sq.; KhA 12, 155; SnA 422; VvA 138. <-> For
contracted form of ācariya see ācera .   — kula the clan of the teacher A ii.112. — dhana a teacher’s fee S
i.177; A v.347. — pācariya teacher upon teacher, lit. “teacher &
teacher’s teacher” (see ā1 3b) D

6. Ācariya
: (page 96)

For contracted form of ācariya see ācera .   — kula the
clan of the teacher A ii.112. — dhana a teacher’s fee S i.177; A v.347. —
pācariya teacher upon teacher, lit.
“teacher & teacher’s teacher” (see ā1 3b) D i.94, 114, 115, 238; S iv.306,
308; DA i.286; SnA 452 (= ācariyo cɔeva

7. Ācariya
: (page 96)

form of ācariya see ācera .   — kula the clan of the
teacher A ii.112. — dhana a teacher’s fee S i.177; A v.347. — pācariya
teacher upon teacher, lit. “teacher &
teacher’s teacher” (see ā1 3b) D i.94, 114, 115, 238; S iv.306, 308; DA i.286;
SnA 452 (= ācariyo cɔeva ācariya–

8. Ācariya
: (page 96)

see ācera .   — kula the clan of the teacher A ii.112. —
dhana a teacher’s fee S i.177; A v.347. — pācariya teacher upon
teacher, lit. “teacher & teacher’s
teacher” (see ā1 3b) D i.94, 114, 115, 238; S iv.306, 308; DA i.286; SnA 452 (=
ācariyo cɔeva ācariya– ācariyo ca). —


Bhadanta (Bhaddanta) : (page 498) uchigao Pali English dictionary

1] venerable, reverend. mostly in voc. as address “Sir, holy father” etc., to men of the Order. voc. sg. bhadante S i.216 (v. l. bhaddante); voc. pl. bhadantā DhA iii.414. — A contracted form of bhadante is bhante (q. v.). Note. In case of bhadanta being the corresp. of Sk. *bhavanta (for bhavān) we would suppose the change v>d and account for dd on grounds of pop. analogy after bhadda. See bhante. The pl. nom. from bhadantā is formed after bhadante, which was felt as a voc. of an a —

13. Bhadanta (Bhaddanta) : (page 498)

pl. bhadantā DhA iii.414. — A contracted form of bhadante is bhante (q. v.). Note. In case of bhadanta being the corresp. of Sk. *bhavanta (for bhavān) we would suppose the change v>d and account for dd on grounds of pop. analogy after bhadda. See bhante. The pl. nom. from bhadantā is formed after bhadante, which was felt as a voc. of an a — stem with — e for — a as in Prk. Māgadhī.

Bhadantika (adj.) (– ˚) [fr. bhadanta] only in cpd.

Posted in Buddhist community activities, On the Path, Vinaya

Xi Fang Temple – Chinese New Year 2011 stay

It’s an important time of year for all Chinese people who value traditional new years.  And to temples it’s very, very busy.  Almost every holiday we have in here in the USA and lunar events with services and birthdays of Buddha and bodhisattvas are very busy times plus the regular 1st and 15th of the lunar calandars AND sunday services AND any regular programs like chinese school or social services.

What has meant the most to me during this time is the interaction and pleasant visits between myself and the master who is my tonsure master and the residing nuns. There is an air of stability and peace from them during this extremely busy time. Many happy chats in our moments together which were brief due to tirednes. And the fun moments of play and jokes with the 3 tom cats rescued by them.

Next is the laity who offered me bits of welcomes and conversations, something that I lacked in the past when a new to the temple years ago. Overwhelming it was then to memorize Chinese texts and daily services. Much study was needed and very little talking or relationships were established.  These last 4 years spent as a hermitess, I found a striking contrast that left me to deeply appreciate the 2 laywomen who visited with me in Iowa. There were only a few visits but they offered to bow to me and did so each time on the floor even. Very respectful. Rare for me here in Iowa. So when I returned to Xi Fang Temple it was only to renew my relationship with my master. And visit with the residing nuns to establish relationships with them as well.

No, laity bowed in respect to me, they did another thing. They often greeted me palms together with smiles saying their welcomes and offering red envelopes. I was never so generously given with red envelopes before that time.. Their willingness to connect with me by talking to me and then offering me red envelopes helped me feel less isolated and more welcomed by Xi Fang Temple’s disciples and visitors. I never had that sense of welcome before this time, except by my cherished friends from the early days of Xi Fang Temple; these friends who are like rare jewels to me, so often rarely seen but deeply treasured.

So, thank you! A-Hua, Bao Ying, Bai Taitai and so many others in our Brooklyn neighbor hood who I know by face but not by name who took time out from their busy days to say Amituofo! and held their palms together in respect to me. I loved seeing you all! Sorry I couldn’t catch all the time to spend with you but I hope you know how deeply your kindness restored my faith in laity, for I had forgotten what it felt like to be shown respect and how much I needed it!

Master, that offer you made me to return is so very welcome, thank you. I trust that you will not be impatient for me to prepare the time here is overwhelming right now, too many things to do! Too much unexpected stuff this day and this week. It’s going to be hard to raise money to come back since unexpected regular monies did not arriver at the first of the month. I must rely on the red enevelop money until I can figure out what to do next, travel maybe delayed a bit. But I will return as soon as I can.

I want to underscore my appreciation of the masters with the story of what Xi Fang Temple masters really did for me. I had my hip go out due to inflamation of a muscle connected the hip to spine, it swelled so big I couldn’t step on it, and walking was neary impossible, so when it obviously wasnt better, they decided to ask a nearby doctor of Chinese massage and accupunctue to treat me.

Those two nuns had to nearly walk with lifting me up with force because it hurt so much to step on the right leg at all! It was slow and struggle for me and more for them as I am pretty fat right now. The doctor adjusted massage methods because it hurt so bad. Then when he could he got the muscle swelling down. It agnozied me to walk with lots of help back to the temple and he said one day in bed. I did get better but not all the way. But it was due to their kindness and effort that I could bear it better and got on the plane to return to Iowa.

I am preparing to move back to Xi Fang Temple, asap. I’d like to do it in 3 weeks. Should be interesting to see if that happens like we all want or not. I hope the weather is better by then. It’s been really super cold and a high of 9 degrees F here.

And get on for their messanger service is so much fun!  Check google for english website! The temple uses it exclusively to communicate with people who visit them at the temple and the rest of the Buddhists in the area. It’s fun. They suprised me with so muc technology and aptitude, they really know their computers and other stuff so very well! Wonderful!

Posted in Buddhist community activities, Buddhist Health and Wellness, Dharma Talks, On the Path, Precepts Holders, Vinaya

Sangha – laying the foundation

This carries forth the idea of Sangha mind. The words I used in the last post and an attempt to flesh out the idea with what we already know. I am hoping that most still have good memories or notes from their ordination training. I still do!

Stability in our practice was determined by our training, our ability to embrace as much as possible the teachers guidance, our core training while at our preceptors temple learning the ropes and our willingness to stay on the path after ordination.

What we uphold after we ordain is key to our monastic life. How we actually carry out our daily lives is key to our laity that come to us for help and our success in helping them by teaching dharma and our future years as elders in the Maha Sangha.

We individually are responsible for ourselves…en total. Not our teachers or our temples. We are. The sum total of “I” is still here, still doing stuff, still typing at this computer trying to relieve people of doubt about the power of the robes, the stabilizing force of our training, the ability of Vinaya to guide our path and our own power to succeed.

We are even in our dreams monastics. Even in our private moments, spazing out (freaking out) over bills we can’t possible figure out to pay, or facing homelessness in the winter, or seeing our elders decline into babbling fools (not aimed at anyone…love my elders!…respects to you who read this, no harm, prostrating just in case your offended). 

When your in a private moment freaking out, just remember this. Your on a stage in your full robes, freaking out and your elders are there with more invited elders from other temples and so are the laity who came to just see you. Your alone on the stage. Do you still want to freak out? I hope the answer is no.

Keep yourself from freaking out by staying calm, see emotion remove from the situation, then respond to the situation then completely let go of it.  My first monastic friend is a monk a bhikkhu Ven. Zhang Ji who often said in Chinese “Fang Xia” which means let go!. So simple words, so valuable advice.  It saved me. It helped me remember to act on it. Thank you Ven. Zhang Ji.

My next monastic friend was a bhkshuni Ven. Jin Xin who gave me a recitation book. Her advice was to recite the morning service as my mind was jumbled full of interior talking because I was really stressed over separating from my husband with a toddler to support and lots of rejection letters from potential employers! I was scared! I couldn’t calm myself while I was trying to survive. So stabily after a long while happend due to my persistance to use a service in a foreign language which I struggled to pronounce!

I got so much comfort from the morning and evening service, even I didn’t know they were the LengYan Zhou and the Amitabha Sutra. Very good for stabilizing your mind. I stablized my discomfort inspite of the situation not changing for a real long time, but I survived it and my kid grew up very well. I learned to trust the mundane daily practice rather than depend on the glittery fluff of immediate gratification or grandiose events hoping for immediate relief.

Karmas cause and effect well we all got those, but we do not need raise our emotions to such a desparate level to deal with life’s problems. Stable mind relies on practice that is mundane even boring. This is what you do for yourself while you trod that Path. Think of the humbleness of when you were lay person listening to the service enjoying it, gaining benefit from joining it to right now, when you are the one performing the service and enjoying it benefitting from knowing so many people are there with you benefitting from joining in with you. What a treasure life you have!

If you are Sangha and suffering from serious problems like schizophrenia, serious health problems, depression, physical or verbal abuse or other serious problems you must get yourself help. If you need medication then get it. If you need police then call. If you need therapy take it. If you need something in the real life that will ease your body while you cope with your mind then do it! Surgery, medicine, good food, good Sangha community, stable place to live….this is your responsibility to achieve to allow you to cultivate the Path, if you lack in the basics or have one of these or other obsticles you then need to deal with it first.

Created modern things, methods that exist in the world are your tools too. Just because internet was not around in Buddha’s time doesn’t make it no less a poweful tool for dharma teaching.

Medicine has come along way since people suffering from mental health problems were tied to a stake to live out their lives in destitution and shame. Medical advances in treating bodily problems have made for many quick recoveries in what would have never been possible in Buddha’s times.

No excuses for not taking advantage of such things in modern life now.  Shame on you if you don’t, but if you lack money then understandable. But at least there is medicaid for low to no income people in the USA and overseas many national health programs exist. It’s your duty as a Sanghan to take care of yourself so please do it.