Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Role of Buddhist Monk in Developing Sustainable Society

In this paper I described about the role of Buddhist monk in social action, social activities and social work for the development of society. There are many possible ways Buddhist monks can help society and can do in different kinds of social activities to be sustainable development. For all Buddhist monks in all Buddhist countries, we can divide them into to three groups. 1 forest monks who love to meditate and sharing, teaching of meditation practice to others. 2 Pali literature monks who like to study Pali Tipitaka and teach to new generation monks and novice to last long of Buddhism and 3 general monks who mostly like and consider to involve in social activities, and social action for the development of society. So that there are many possible ways that Buddhist monks involve in social activities with only purpose of development society.

The Buddha's first order, given five months after his enlightenment was to go out and reach the people, to proclaim the Dhamma, the way of life for the people. The Buddha taught that people could not find peace if they did not listen to the Dhamma. We all know that Buddhist monks in all Theravada Buddhist countries have traditionally relinquished their worldly attachments in favor of a simple life devoted to the three trainings of Buddhism.
1.     Precepts: Ethical conduct
2.     Concentration: Meditation practice
3.     Wisdom: Dharma study and direct spiritual insight
Time passed and condition changed today world. In the past, monk’s responsibility is just to give Dhamma talk to lay people, disciple and devotee and monk himself have to practice meditation and teach to others about meditation and also monk’s responsibility is to study Pali tipitaka. But nowadays just doing these three things is not good enough to be sustainable development of society.
The Buddhist monks have played important roles to Buddhist societies in every Buddhist countries from generation to generation. Here we may know how the Buddhism influences to Buddhist way of life. And in the field of social work, we can see now Buddhist monks involve and doing social works to develop of society.
And in this paper I am going to write about the role of Buddhist monks who actually involving in social activities and social actions. And also I am going to describe the Buddhist monks who really like sharing Dhamma and teaching about meditation to reduce of one’s stress, depression and to get real happiness, peace. And at the last I am going to describe the role of Buddhist temple in Buddhist community. If we mentions about Buddhist monks, we also have to mention about temple too.
The role of Buddhist monk to community
The role of Buddhist monks in society today are very important and helping society with different ways in order to develop of our society. There are many Buddhist monks doing differently, some are giving Dhamma talk, social works, teaching meditation, and teaching Pali to maintain last long of Buddhism in the world. Some Buddhist monks dedicate their lives to the pursuit of happiness and inner peace. They live through charity, limited to their temple and village. And the other hand, majority of Buddhist monks are doing nothing for society, and to propagate of Buddhism. They are just enjoying relaxing life and luxury life by earning money from donors and enjoying with material thing.
By "social action" we mean the many different kinds of action intended to benefit mankind. These range from simple individual acts of charity, teaching and training, organized kinds of service, "Right Livelihood" in and outside the helping professions, and through various kinds of community development has well as to political activity in working for a better society.[1]
To be a better society, the role of Buddhist monk sector is very important part in our society especially in distance area. And we can observe now many Buddhist monks doing different kind of social actions intended to benefit of mankind. Mostly we can see that many Buddhist monks functioning the teaching, training and even involve the political issue helping to development of community. And many orphanage centers are nowadays run by Buddhist monks so that we can clearly know how Buddhist monks are vital to development of our community and to spread Buddhism inside and outside of the country. This is why the role of Buddhist monks in every Theravada Buddhist countries is very important. And the Buddhist monks show the way of life according to the teaching of the Buddha. And in daily life of working hard, Buddhist monks explain detail about Right Livelihood to be a peaceful society and to be good profession in society.
From a Buddhist perspective, anything to do with other people can be considered social action: how we relate to the individuals close to us such as family or neighbors, to society at large, and to the world around us. The field of social action expands out, but it begins with ourselves and our relationships to others. The individual is at the core of all relationships between any parts of society.[2]
Individual development is the most important and after that try to help to develop others and society. Everything is connected each other and we cannot live alone in this world. People might think that monks are isolated from society, living alone, practice meditation and living in simple way without any attachment and cling but it is not actual true and monks and laity should going, working together to be sustainable development.
The role of monks in rural districts is even more important, for there the local temple is not only the religious but also the social center of the community. It is at the temple that people come together and experience a sense of comradeship. Religious rituals and ceremonies held at temples are always accompanied by social activities.[3]
In Theravada Buddhist countries, the role of Buddhist monks in rural area are very important and whatever people want to know and have doubt regarding on the Buddhist teaching, coming to temple and ask the monks to get solution and even the people approach to monks to solve social problem. So  temple in rural area is not just for place where monk live but also the center for all youth, adult and old age to find of religious knowledge, and also it is the center for all religious function event, and ceremonies.
Some people believe that Buddhist monks should live only in the pagoda and pray eight to 10 hours a day, rather than involve themselves in daily life. But monks have in fact been engaged for a long time, just in an unsystematic way. Monks have built schools and hospitals, but nobody realized that it was social engagement because the term wasn't there. The way forward is to let them do it in a more systematic way or to look for extensions of the activities that they can do.
Comparative between city monk and country side monk have slightly different regarding doing social and development of society. In the rural the role of monks are very important in society and monk’s speech and order are very effective to society so that monks influence the particular area because monk help to develop to society and everyone listen and follow monks in rural area.
Acting as a moral and ethical example, monks are the most venerated persons in the countryside Buddhist society, remaining very close to the hearts of the people. In times of crisis, it is to monks that people bring their problems for counsel and encouragement. With few exceptions, the Sangha has well justified this attitude of respect and honor shown to it on the part of the laity and, on the whole, has lived up to the dignity of the Faith.[4]
Monks in rural area are venerated person and sometime just like counselors, because every time people have some problem, approach to monks and ask some good advice, encouragements and suggestions to get best solution with right way. So that the role of Buddhist monks in rural district is more important and monks could lead society as leaders in countryside to be sustainable development of commumity.
In Buddhism, Buddhist monks involve various functions in Buddhist life. They participated in all religious festivals, ceremonies, marriages, and funerals. They also might have participated in ceremonies to name infants and in other minor ceremonies or rites of passage. Monks did not lead the ceremonies, however, because that role was given to the master of ceremonies; the monk's major function was to say prayers of blessing.
In Buddhist countries, monk traditionally occupied a unique position in the transmission of Buddhist culture and values. By the way of life, monks provided a living model of the most meritorious behavior a Buddhist could follow and also provided the laity with many opportunities for gaining merit. For centuries monks were the only literate people residing in rural communities; they acted as teachers to temple servants, to novices, and to newly ordained monks. But the situation changed time by time; today monks were also encouraged to become involved in many religious events, and functions for the community development and also to build up of  stable, and peace community, Buddhist monks have fully responsibility for that and to create a good environment. In countryside of Buddhist community, the role of Buddhist monks are very important sectors to be sustainable development of Buddhist community.  

In the modern Buddhist society, Buddhist monks are more important to strengthen and promote the social morality. The members of the Orders are like nurses who help us take the medicine of Dhamma. The nurses remind us when we forget which pills to take. If we have difficulty swallowing huge pills, the nurses break them into smaller pieces for us. Similarly, the Sangha helps us practice the Dhamma correctly when we are confused. Any fellow practitioner who is more advance than us can be our spiritual friend who can help us.

The role of Buddhist temple in Buddhist community
The temples are not only places where the Buddhist monks live and practice the teachings of the Buddha, but they are also places where people come and learn the Buddhist doctrines for daily practices. One fascinating aspect of Buddhism in Buddhist countries, the role temple play in development and poverty alleviation.
In Myanmar, many children from lower class families especially in countryside live at temple as temple boys serving of temples cleaning, doing what the abbot need and want to do. So temples provide something like a safe-house for youth, where they have education and companionship. And temple education is much better than government school in rural area. In government school of rural area in Myanmar, teachers very often absent to come to school and do not care about education well, so people send their sons and daughters to temple instead of sending government school. So everyone can imagine how temples are important for society. And male students come to temple for their better education; later on some students become novices and monks. This is the fact that 100% of Buddhist monk’s population is come from rural area in Myanmar. There are about five hundred thousands of Buddhist monks are existing in Myanmar today. This number is quite big and if all of them do something to develop of society, the society going to be develop.
So the role of temple in Buddhism is very important sector. Temples perform most of the major festivals which are connected with Buddhist observances.
In Buddhist countries, the monasteries play so important roles to the society both in the past and in the present. Monasteries are like the hospitals where people come and get cured the physical and mental diseases. Monasteries are also schools where people come and learn several skills of living. Monasteries are the courts of Buddhist people too. People get resolved the problems while they get in the monasteries.

In my view, the world conditions are calling for a new Sangha of social action to come together. Today Buddhist world, Monks and laity should work together more than current Buddhist monks working to develop of all parts of Buddhist society in every Buddhist country. Buddhist monks should not satisfy just teaching Pali language, teaching meditation and giving Dhamma talk but monks definitely should involve in the field of social activities and social actions to be sustainable development. We all can see the real situation in Buddhist countries concerning social work. Majority of Buddhist monks are still ignored and conceal involving of social actions. Just few of monks are doing this with lots of difficulty and some people do not recognized Buddhist monks to involve social activities. So that to be a sustainable development and to build up of  beautiful environment we all Buddhist monks have responsibility with heart and compassion and to do so we all Buddhist monks should struggle to be a sustainable development society.


[1] Ken Jones, Buddhism and social actions, Buddhist Publication Society, London,1975, P 43
[2] Pasanno, Ajahn, Lying Foundation for Social Action, Fearless Mountain, CA, 1998,P 68

[3] Karuna Kusalasaya, Buddhism in Thailand Its Past and Its Present, Mental House Publishing House, Kandy, 1983, P 35

[4] Karuna Kusalasaya, Buddhism in Thailand Its Past and Its Present, Mental House Publishing House, Kandy, 1983, P 34


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