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Monks and non-buddhist books

I was looking for a answer to this question on the internet but I couldn't really find anything conclusive, so, here it is.
I was wondering, are buddhist monks (specialy Theravada monks) allowed to read non-buddhist books, such as Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Suspense or anything of that sort or is it seen as breaking the 7th precept (Refrain from singing, dancing, playing music or attending entertainment programs (performances).)? I'm really confused because even though it's not the same as books, Ajahn Brahm said that he reads comics sometimes. Isn't it equally "entertaining" therefore reading them are seen as breaking the precept? I really want do understand it, It almost seems like a gray zone...


  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    @lKutts -- It may sound irrelevant or flip, but your question reminds me of when my first child, a daughter, was about to be born so many years ago. I was a very nervous person who was anxious to do everything "right." My sister, who had two kids at the time, tried to soothe my anxiety: "Adam," she said, "you can read every book that was ever written about child-rearing or you can read none at all. Either way, you won't know shit."

    Books/texts/tomes/scriptures do not define Buddhism. If they did, we could all go to the library learn all there was to learn. True, you can learn a thing or two from what is written. True, there are fakers and pretenders and those who promise to hand over the "one true Dharma." But Buddhism is about life -- specifically, your life -- and it is up to you to sift out what is relevant and what isn't. Please don't imagine that you could fail. Without your very good efforts, Buddhism would fall flat on its face. So ....

    Poke around. Use what is helpful. Discard what is not. Don't trouble yourself imagining you could be right or fearing you might be wrong. Find a practice and practice it whole-heartedly. If something proves to be wrong, replace it with what promises to be right and then ... FIND OUT if it is right. The whole world will help you, but the whole world (and the scriptures in it) is not responsible for your life ... that's your job. That's Buddhism.

    Best wishes and thanks for your efforts.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    I think a good approach would be to try it, and see if it disturbs your practice. Read a sci-fi book, and test to see if your practice of Buddhism is lessened in some way. Do you find that the influx of new ideas lessens your focus on the dharma? Do you feel pleasure while reading violent parts of the book - a sign you may be watering a 'wrong seed' in your store consciousness? Are you dragged away from your mindfulness by being so absorbed in the entertainment?

    I wouldn't be surprised to see a Buddhist monk reading a non-dharma book, on the odd occasion. Even they must need something to refresh themselves and stay in touch with the people. But I would be surprised to find one with a large sci-fi book collection - that would be a sign of attachment to entertainment which I'd expect them to have given up on.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    In general the precepts are thought of more as guides to help us find real happiness and reduce our suffering, rather than absolute rules to be followed on their own merits.

    Monks are generally more strict about following their precepts. I don't know if the 7th precept is also in the monastic code, though I would imagine it is. From what I know of Ajahn Brahm he is pretty laid back and not a real stickler for the rules so if he occasionally feels like reading a comic book I doubt he's going to loose much sleep over it.

  • Don't worry about what others may or may not be doing. If serious consideration leads you to believe that worldly literature contains no traps for you then read away. In some of the way places I've known worldly literature is frowned on. It all depends on your focus.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    @lKutts , how long have you been practising Buddhism? And how long have you been considering ordination....?

    I ask, because we have a wonderful 'resident' [Theravada] monk, who has been kind enough to permit us to 'accompany' him on his journey from the start, and I can tell you, it is not for the faint-hearted....

  • Hi @IKutts
    Welcome to newbuddhist (not yet available as a comic) ;)

    Monks if they have any sense follow the Middle Way rather than the extremes of lay Buddhist laxity or extreme Theravadin small hearted dharma.

    All dharma and no play makes Buddha a dull gal

    In other words, be human not godly/saintly/impossible ...

    Hope that helps. Sing it Bodhi!

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    Thnk you so much for that insightful response, @lKutts.

    basically, the majority of precepts were originally scribed for the ordained. Most laypersons adhere to the first 5, and include the subsequent three during "High days and Holidays" on the Buddhist calendar.
    But that bit is up to you.
    And while you are a layperson, I think it ok to not be too hard on yourself, or consider matters in such a severe light.

    Ordination - and the strict adherence to the Precepts - is another matter.

    Take a look at this member's discussions, for more insight. He is our resident monk....

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