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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...


  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands 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 Don't believe everything you think the liminal space 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... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt 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... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt 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....

  • LucianaLuciana Pacific Northwest New

    There are many schools of Buddhism, and many sub-groups of those schools. I think that an ordained monk or nun, especially in Asia, would probably not read any books for entertainment. Many Buddhist retreats, even in the US, and especially Theravadin retreats, do at least request that you not read any books except for dharma books, and sometimes not even those. S.N Goenka's popular mindfulness retreats rule out any reading or writing of any kind. I attended a one-week silent retreat in the '80s with a Tibetan group which generally was known for its easy-going mores, but entertainment of any kind, including secular reading, was verboten. I think that the precepts become more literal at retreats of limited duration, and for monks and nuns of the more fundamentalist schools.

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