In this case, I think of Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho because I associated with them, but I hope you have your own, because the world is a. Born in London in , Ajahn Sucitto entered monastic life in Thailand in He subsequently took bhikkhu ordination there in , but returned to Britain. We are pleased to announce that Ajahn Sucitto, the former abbot of the Cittaviveka (Chithurst) Buddhist Monastery in England, will be visiting.
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Monday, 17 December The power: Spiritual power carries an effective potential for good or for bad. In this case, I think of Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho because I associated with them, but I hope you have your own, because the world is a tough place without that light. But it can get even tougher when the guiding light has been seen to ajahhn deep shadows: Grim and very sad — but not unusual.
Gurus, prelates and even presidents ajahhn seen, rightly or not, as bearers of qualities that enable them to support the collective. On account of this, followers grant effective power to the leader. In fact it’s difficult for a collective to arise, as a body that can move beyond individual self-interest, without the charismatic embodiment of the greater good.
And although the source of that goodness may be couched in terms of a national myth, or wucitto god, or a god-given destiny, the terrestrial agent of that good embodies that through their personal charisma: Yet, given the fallible nature of all human beings, and considering the damage caused by charismatic leaders of spiritual communities let alone of political institutionsalong with the resultant loss of faith, meaning and orientation for millions of people, this is a major issue.
Its ramifications extend beyond the flaws of particular individuals. The Buddha was evidently richly endowed, and thus a source of charisma and authority.
His five former ascetic associates, having just made a pact to not acknowledge him, found themselves involuntarily rising up and offering him a seat and homage as soon as he, then newly-awakened, came into their presence. The Buddha lived up to that on account of his authentic realization and through passing on a wealth of teachings. His insistence was that he had rightly seen the Dhamma, the Way leading to liberation, and that Way was the proper focus to attend to.
However the teacher-disciple relationship was aahn vital part of that Way. So for those who had committed to his Dhamma and yet were deviating from it, his instructions took on the qualities of command: In the teaching quoted above the innate wisdom that the listeners were missing out on was the understanding that they hadn’t completed the Way, and hence should listen to someone who had — and through whom they had taken up discipleship.
Yet although the Buddha was authoritarian at times, he never abused his power. Creating codes of moral and relational integrity —’Vinaya’— was a major part of his life’s work.
Vinaya covers protocols around gaining, possessing and sharing material requisites, around topics such as relationships between householders and samanas especially with reference to sexuality and between teachers and disciples.
Accordingly, the Sangha still sees sicitto Buddha and the teachings he laid down as the highest authority, followed in descending order by the entire Sangha as a spiritual entity, then by a group of elders, and for local and circumstantial matters, a single elder. In practical terms, this arrangement weighs against the abuse of charismatic power — the highest levels of authority are either dead or absent, and thus incapable of abusing anyone.
They should also understand power. A wise follower should therefore check the validity of the authority, internalize the charismatic effect, and thereby take personal responsibility with regard to following the command. The hinge point then is how charisma is referred to and used. Because in spiritual matters, when faced with either scripture or legal structure on one hand, and relationship to someone’s radiant presence on the other, most people will follow the living being.
Dead texts aren’t going to respond, sympathize, cheer or scitto. The effect is palpable: When such people spoke words that went to the heart and resonated with truth, the effect was bound to be awesome.
Just as they did, all teachers and exemplars need to cultivate personal restraint, modesty and awareness of influence. Vinaya helps with this in sucitot and judicial ways. As an obvious example, a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni can only speak a few words of Dhamma to a member of the opposite sex unless they are in a public place or accompanied by another male or female respectively.
Reflections: Ajahn Sucitto
But still, minor inclinations, such as around choice of food can get translated into imperatives by devotees. Thus any abbot or senior nun in our monasteries has to work within the structures supervised by the Wat Pah Pong sangha, by the local group of elders and by the lay trusts and committees that manage the monasteries, as well as in accordance with their community.
But still, occupying a leadership position is one factor through which charisma can arise — whether one wishes for it or is even aware of this happening. Personally speaking, since I resigned from abbotship, I incline to taking a back seat. But still, as a teacher, although from my point of view, I muddle along with a wish to serve and the energy of commitment, from another’s viewpoint I may seem to be intruding and taking over.
Some people are grateful and express that; while to others, these followers seem to be attached and jockeying for access to the Master. Living with Ajahn Sumedho for over a decade gave me a precious view of how these forms of influence and power arise and with what care they need to be managed. He effortlessly carried a huge sense of presence, just by sitting still. It was a natural result of his own mental depth and stillness.
When addressing people, he spoke from his own conviction a Dhamma that went to the heart; this, coupled with the authority that any speaker is given had profound effects. He manifested concern for people’s welfare along with good humour and an accessible manner. Especially in the bleak pioneering days when the community was young and fragile, his ease and unstoppable vitality held things together. All these have been priceless blessings — made even more remarkable given the apparent austerity of the monastic background and the dry approach of Theravada scriptures that are his source.
In brief, I don’t think sucjtto it would be an over-estimation to say that at least nine monastic communities, and thousands of lay people’s practice, have been auahn founded on Luang Por Sumedho’s teaching, example and sheer presence.
Suxitto then there’s the management. In terms of the daily life of the community, Luang Por never concerned himself with the details of work, but focused on the sucittl, the pujas and the protocols. Working out details was never his forte. Consequently, over a couple of decades, there was a careful, slow and at times faltering separation between him as director of ‘spiritual’ affairs and overseer of management; faltering because some decisions — such as who enters the community, and how to train newcomers; or whether to create a new monastery and who was sufitto be its senior incumbent — cross these boundaries.
And at times people found it easier to circumvent the management and go directly to the spiritual director — who would give a go-ahead without considering all the details. So the development of a painstaking and non-charismatic power base, out of necessity, through discussions, trials and a range of views was at times a taxing matter. To question and even disagree with the spiritual director’s opinion, and with those of one’s fellow samanas, without losing faith or harmony is a delicate and educational process.
It was a matter of basing decision-making on Vinaya principles of consensus, respect for elders and for the tradition — even when neither the business at hand, nor the opinions of others, nor the actions of some elders nor even aspects of the tradition were interesting or agreeable. But this is what makes management a spiritual practice.
Cittaviveka – Ajahn Sucitto – The Wisdom Vehicle
To work with the tedious, the opinionated, the quirky and the antiquated brings forth skills and strengths that few people get to realize. And it is through such patience, dispassion and relinquishment that there is growth in terms of liberation and a cooperative community.
It’s a process that brings deep and resilient awareness into how ajahnn operate; and that’s more precious than having a fixed management plan, or even one talented individual.
This Dhamma-Vinaya is the Refuge, the resource and the guide when the Teacher passes away; properly sucittto, it is capable of handling the world of success and failure, acclaim and disrepute. Yes, success and accomplishment need to be managed; otherwise there is the grandiosity and inflation of unbridled charisma. That energy arises out of what happens between people anyway: It’s an energy that can arise at the sight of gone-forth people living a life focused on liberation; the sight of samanas is heart-warming.
We also naturally feel grateful to those who sucitgo us. And when Dhamma is shared, the heart-mind can light up with a steady radiance — for good reason. Sucotto … a noble disciple listens to the Dhamma with eager ears, attending to it as a matter of vital concern, directing his whole mind to it, on that occasion the five hindrances are not present All the more reason then, to internalize the potency that has been thus aroused.
When I am glad, I shall be happy. When my mind is happy, my body will be tranquil. When my sucito is tranquil, I shall feel pleasure. When I feel pleasure, my mind will become concentrated. Wisely managed, inspiration and gratitude result in liberation. But don’t take any of it personally. So the duty of the teacher, lay or in robes, is to recognize that their position and Dhamma will give them power — whether they wish for it ajahhn not.
Thus my advice to disciples: Posted by Ajahn Sucitto at Links to this post Email This BlogThis!