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Monks and Martial Arts

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  • Monks and Martial Arts

    Dear Bhante,

    I tried to post this question yesterday but it seems like something has gone wrong and it didn't get posted.

    I want to know if the Vinaya prohibits monks from practicing martial arts. I don't mean practicing it necessarily to hurt others but perhaps as a form of exercise and moving meditation?

    I know that Shaolin monks are allowed to do this and I have seen some Theravada monks in Thailand do Muay Thai, but I am curious to know about this in a vinaya perspective.

    Thanks and much Metta,
    Prageeth

  • #2
    Dear Prageeth,

    The reason your message didn't get posted straight-away is because this forum is moderated. This means that a moderator has to approve the post before it gets posted. I tend to approve a post only as I am about to reply to it. Because I don't access the internet everyday (sometimes only once a week), it may take a few days before your message gets up. Please be patient. Someone recently suggested I was censuring people, but I can assure you this is not the case!

    Regarding your question on martial arts: physical fitness is not emphasized either in the suttas or the vinaya. Walking meditation is really the only sort of physical training ever recommended, although other sorts of physical exercise are not explicitly banned.

    To me the greatest dangers with martial arts is the effect such exercise may have on the mind. Firstly, there is the danger of cultivating aggression, which obviously goes against the Buddhist path. Secondly, there is a danger in cultivating a strong will. A strong will (which normally means a strong ego) will often block progress in meditation. For meditation to get really peaceful, the will needs to be let go of, but if the will has been cultivated this can be very difficult.

    The best sort of physical exercise, in my opinion, is doing work in the monastery, or other charitable work. In this way one combines keeping the body fit with making lots of good kamma.

    With metta.

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    • #3
      Dear Ajahn,

      Thank you so much for the reply. I did not see the "This message will appear after moderator approval" message, thus my confusion.

      Is having a strong will really a hindrance to the path? Is that not what "Viriya" means? I was under the impression that we do need to have a strong will to work towards Nibbana...

      With Metta,
      Prageeth

      Comment


      • #4
        Dear Prageeth,

        The problem is that using the will and identifying with it (and thus attaching to it) usually go together. The more you identify with the will, the more difficult it is to let it go during meditation. Viriya is "energy" rather than will. Viriya is the natural energy that arises due to mindfulness and purity of mind. Viriya does not mean exertion in the sense that you are applying yourself through will. Rather, it is a natural quality of the developed mind.

        There is a bit of room for exertion, but it is important to understand what exertion means according to the suttas. Most people think exertion on the Buddhist path means applying a lot of will-power. But what it really means is using one's wisdom (wisdom-power) to see things in a more skillful way. Have a look at MN19. This sutta shows you how overcoming the defilements is all about developing your perceptions and wisdom.

        With metta.

        Comment


        • #5
          Dear Bhante,

          I think it will take me some time to understand what Viriya really is... Perhaps more meditation then.

          Thank you so much for clarifying.

          With Metta,
          Prageeth

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