There are unstated rules when it comes to Buddhism. Especially rules within the temple, monastery or Buddhist centres.
Some of us may mistaken that the rigid rules are set by foggy old monks and nuns who have lost touched with the modern world. ( I am reminded of the movie Sister Act)
In reality, the do and don’t were already established during Buddha’s time. Some of them were cultural manners while some were taught as inappropriate by Buddha.
For example, do you know that during the Buddha’s time, his good lay disciples “tone down” when they visit the Buddha? Jewellery and lavish headdress were removed prior to their visits. Those who knows Dharma and are serious lay disciples, made an effort to be as modest as possible. This is contrary to putting on your Sunday best. Carriages were stopped a distance away and they walked to the monastery. The idea is to curb personal pride and attachment to status. This is done also with the intention of being seen as ordinary people in front of other fellow Buddhist (rich or poor). In the hall of Dharma, there is no social status. Everyone is an equal victim of Samsara, trying to seek a cure.
Another taboo in Buddhist places of worship is merry making. (Specifically temples, Dharma centres, monastery etc)
When we place a symbol representing the Buddha in a room that is meant for religious gathering, that room is meant to mimic or commemorate the audience hall during Buddha’s time. This is the place where Buddha would teach the Dharma, admonish errant disciples or meditate.
According to scriptures, the presence of Buddha is awe inspiring, tranquil and peaceful. HE was never caught being non mindful in action and speech. (Faultless One) We can easily imagine the peaceful and dignified aura that pervaded the hall when Buddha was sitting there. (In the above picture, this meditation hall always seems to exude a powerful silent vibe whenever I visit.)
Modern people may not understand this concept easily because people perceive the Dharma centre as a place for social gathering too. A place for making new friends and being happy.
Most would think that good clean fun is ok.
For example, playing ice breaking games to welcome new member. Team building events. Children games like passing the parcel or musical chairs seems like good clean fun. Chatting and joking seems like good social catch up.
All these are considered good clean fun by most people. What would Buddha say?
Here’s what the Buddha did when a few ladies were not being mindful.
During the Buddha’s time, a group of men went to seek audience with Buddha. Their female companions decides to have a picnic instead; chatting and drinking wine.
After some time, they became listless and bored, so they decided to join their husband and boyfriends. As they were merry making at the picnic, everyone was high, happy and joyous. This created an opportunity for Mara to influence their mind. Consequently, their behaviours became more rowdy as they joke and jostle amongst themselves. In this manner, they approached the monastery.
Imagine a group of beautiful ladies laughing and chatting, joking and merry making as they enter the monastery compound. (A religious place that is meant for cutting away craving, aversion and ignorance.)
Buddha knew that the merry making ladies were under the influence of Mara. According to scripture, he emitted blue rays in all directions. The ray was so powerful that it darkened the sky and all beings (the world) fell dead silent.
The ladies who were chattering happily were startled by this phenomenon. They became mindful and checked their surrounding. Realising that they were within the holy compound already, they checked themselves and realised that their garments had became untidy. (some even in disarray) They hastily tidied themselves and bowed to Buddha.
One interesting note is that Buddha did not banish Mara. Instead, he caused the ladies to regain mindfulness. Their mindfulness automatically banished Mara. This seems to imply that the influence of evil requires a willing participant. (being non mindful)
We are not saying that Buddhist cannot have fun. However, there is a right place and time for everything.
For example, in Thailand, the monastery is a village usually serves as a place for social gathering. Festivities and celebration are carried out near the temples, but never in the temple.
If we went through much trouble to set up a Dharma place or Buddhist worship place, then I think it is worth the additional effort to create and maintain an atmosphere that is unique from the mundane world. A place that impresses with tranquility, peace and dignity. Let that place be saturated with those kind of vibes and energy. It will become unique and serve its intended purpose.