Gerontocracy seems to work

From the Review of: “The Forest Monks of Sri Lanka, An Anthropological and Historical Study by MICHAEL CARRITHERS. Oxford university Press,1983.”
By GANANATH OBEYESEKERE Princeton University 1985.

One interesting question that Carrithers poses is how individualism and self-cultivation, the hallmark of hermits, can be articulated into an organization with a set of rules and a system of authority. A radical emphasis on self-reliance is essential to ancient Buddhism, and the Buddha himself explained that when he died, authority should not lie with a person but with the Dhamma (the doctrine) and Vinaya (the discipline). This tradition continued into present times. There are no offices as such in the monk order but rather relationships: authority is exercised on the basis of age and familial models (p. 249). No fixed hierarchy with real authority ever existed in Buddhism. By preventing the routinization of charisma and the institution of offices, the Buddhist monk order “allowed tor the preservation, or revival, of its original emphasis on self-cultivation” (p. 249). This is not to deny the presence of conflict between the principle of age authority (”the gerontocratic principle”) and individual autonomy, but the monk, after a period of dependence on a teacher, eventually becomes his own master.

Carrithers discusses in detail how decisions are actually made in concrete cases and how disputes are resolved. Primarily it is by following a principle enjoined in the old texts, “full and frequent assemblies.” “In the absence of formal office and formal procedures of decision-making, the guidance of the Sangha is left to a small, learned group of rugged individualists who must act harmoniously through reasoned face-to-face discussions” (p. 252). One can imagine how this system can lead to endless bickering; yet, in the long run, the principle of gerontocracy seems to work by ensuring a form of age grading in the monasteries. The system of training is such that “by the time a pupil became a fully ordained monk his teacher would be twenty years ahead of him in both physical age and in years from ordination . . . old enough to be his father” (p. 253). As in the family, so here, too, tyranny and revolt occur but one can leave the order and revert to lay status, or join another monastery, or found a new one, or, I presume, remain in the fold and conspire to “kill” the father, or more likely to patiently await his death or bodily decrepitude.

What are your ideas on the gerontocratic principle?

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One of the blessings and curses with the intention for keeping harmony is that there has not really been any saṅghakamma for disciplinary actions in any saṅgha that I or anyone alive knows of in maybe the past 100 years. If monks get out of line, there is no disciplinary action done. At best, we have the disenfranchisement of Ajahan Brahm and Ajahn Kukrit. People in their lineage usually say, Ajahn Sujato was never in and that is why he was never officially kicked out.

I think that is the best you will get in the past 50 or 100 years.
There were also some issues in Galduwa with nissaranavanna, but it was sort of fixed superficially.

When full actions are taken, that is when a saṅghabheda split in saṅgha can happen. It is also the reason why saṅgha has lost its flair for vinaya and meditation. Furthermore, the “mixers of dhamma” have not been officially sanctioned by saṅgha as well. So we have peace, but there is a price that has been paid for it.

Nevertheless, seniority does work… and perhaps that is why they call it “the order” because we definitely know our place in our own society. It does work and we do need to respect our elders. Although I am somewhat senior, I personally went through a resetting ordination and understand the respect to elders and how it works. Immediately after I re-ordained, I need to pay respect to monks who were very very junior. I didn’t really want to… but I did.

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Okasa bhante,

By preventing the routinization of charisma

Is this the main purpose of the rule? For an example, to prevent the powers of monks who claim superhuman qualities (who are fake in most cases)

Bhante, is it allowed by Vinaya to ignore performing saṅghakamma for the sake of peace (unless there is a tendency for a literal saṅghabheda)? Or is the ignoring the best way these days?

What should a genuine Theravada monk is expected to do when he meets a modern fake Theravada monk (but has not been formally expelled)?

I have not heard of it. I think it is just respect for elders. Maybe.

I think there are 7 ways to settle disputes (adhikaraṇa). But this is also different with actually accusing monks to see their offences and other saṅghādisesa which need three promptings. It is just not done.

Not sure what this is according to your intention.
Fake monk is several ways.
bad sīmā
or just putting on robes

By modern fake monk, you might mean something else… If they are still a theravāda monk and it is just wrong view or spreading wrong dhamma, they just let it happen.

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