Buddhism: How a Monastic Answers the ‘Call of Nature’

Author’s Note: A Bhikkhu maintains an awe-inspiring deportment at all times, but what does this practically mean? It means that the mind is calm and the body relaxed, as greed, hatred and delusion are continuously ‘uprooted’ through an even and deep meditative awareness. Non-attachment to all sensory stimulation is the key to maintaining a peaceful and ‘still’ mind which ‘reflects’ all phenomena. Conscious awareness should be empty, all-embracing and contain all things without exception. This self-cultivation generates loving kindness, compassion and wisdom in the mind and through all bodily behaviour. There is no activity that lies outside of the Dhamma, or is not beyond the scope of self-control (although the imagination during ‘sleep’ is difficult but not impossible to ‘control’). Monks and nuns do not live together, do not sleep in the same building, do not dress in the same building, do not beg or work together, and do not eat together (unless under ’special’ conditions). This is a practical matter that prevents any sight of a naked body which might spark ‘desire’ in the mind and body, which could lead to an ‘Offence’ against the Vinaya Discipline. Buddhist monks and nuns must not give rise to ‘sexual desire’ in word, deed or thought and must remain psychologically and physically celibate. On ‘Moon Days’, lay-people may apply these strict Vinaya Rules and live in a pure manner, as should wandering ascetics who might not be formally Ordained but live outside of society. Ascetics should also continuously uphold the Vinaya Discipline, with lay-people adjusting their behaviour according to the Buddha’s Rules of Morality. Obviously, going to the toilet is a natural activity that every monk and nun must attend to. Even the Buddha went to the toilet and this is an activity regulated by the Vinaya Discipline. Going to the toilet must become a meditative activity with no rushing, no prolonging, and no attachment to the physical activity or associated with ‘bodily feelings’. The mind must remain balanced and calm. The act of going to the toilet should not be ‘feared’ or greeted with undue ‘enthusiasm’. Of course, if there is ‘illness’ in the mind and body of a monk or nun, then the Community will organise ‘special’ compassionate care which will involve washing and cleaning the body, and clearing away urine and faeces without allowing the mind (and body) to react with repulsion. All should be loving kindness, compassion and wisdom. ACW (10.3.2020) 

Samannaphala Sutta:  Mindfulness and Clear Comprehension – 

‘65 “And how, great king, is the bhikkhu endowed with mindfulness and clear comprehension? Herein, great king, in going forward and returning, the bhikkhu acts with clear comprehension. In looking ahead and looking aside, he acts with clear comprehension. In bending and stretching the limbs, he acts with clear comprehension. In wearing his robes and cloak and using his alms bowl, he acts with clear comprehension. In eating, drinking, chewing, and tasting, he acts with clear comprehension. In defecating and urinating, he acts with clear comprehension. In going, standing, sitting, lying down, waking up, speaking, and remaining silent, he acts with clear comprehension. In this way, great king, the bhikkhu is endowed with mindfulness and clear comprehension.” 

Bhikkhu Bodhi: The Samannaphala Sutta – The Discourse on the Fruits of Recluseship, (Translated from the Pali), BPS, (2004), Page 43 

Commentary: Mindfulness and Clear Comprehension – In Defecating and Urinating 

“Therein, if one does not defecate and urinate when the time come, sweat breaks out from one’s entire body, one’s eyes reel, the mind does not become one-pointed, and various kinds of illness arise. But if one does so, none of this happens. That is the purpose here, and clear comprehension of purposefulness should be understood by way of that. If one defecates or urinates in an improper place, one falls into a disciplinary offence, acquires a bad reputation, and may meet an obstacle to life. But if one defecates and urinates in a proper place, none of this happens. That is what is suitable here, and clear comprehension of suitability should be understood by way of that.  

Clear comprehension of the resort should be understood as the non-relinquishing of the meditation subject.  

Clear comprehension of non-delusion should be understood by way of the following line of reflection: ‘Internally there is no self which defecates and urinates. Defecation and urination occur through the diffusion of the air element (resulting from) mental activity. Just as, when a boil comes to a head, it bursts open and pus and blood come out without any will; and you as, when a water vessel is excessively full, water comes out without any will – in the same way, when excrement and urine have accumulated in the bowels and the bladder, they are pressed out by the force of the air element and come out without any will. The excrement and urine which have thus come out do not belong to the bhikkhu himself or to anyone else, they are merely bodily excretions. How is that? It is the same as when dirty water is thrown out from a waterpot: it does not belong to the one who throws it out himself or to others, but is merely old washing water. 

Sub-Commentary: 

‘They come out without any will’ (akamataya) This is said to reject any foolish conceptions that there is a self which makes them come out, and that they come out through the will of that self. What is meant is that they come out solely through the diffusion of the air element, without any desire or effort of self.’ 

Bhikkhu Bodhi: The Samannaphala Sutta – The Discourse on the Fruits of Recluseship, (Translated from the Pali), BPS, (2004), Page 139-140 

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