The Great Section on Virtue
The following abstinence being prescribed would reflect the intention of Buddhism; being a modern, dynamic and superstition-free way of living. Many a times, superstition is created to deal with incomprehensible situations in life. From a failed business venture to a serious illness; ignorant people would rather blame the supernatural rather than face reality. Consequently, there is much money to be won from superstitions.
As far as Buddha is concerned, Buddhist contemplatives shouldn’t earn a living by preying on such weaknesses.
On the other hand, some Buddhist teachers are capable of teaching dharma through such weaknesses. I guess it is our duty to keep an open mind and determine if someone is exploiting people’s superstitions or helping people by using their superstitions.
He abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these
reading marks on the limbs [e.g., palmistry];
reading omens and signs;
interpreting celestial events [falling stars, comets];
reading marks on the body [e.g., phrenology];
reading marks on cloth gnawed by mice;
offering fire oblations, oblations from a ladle, oblations of husks, rice powder, rice grains, ghee, and oil (fire puja);
offering oblations from the mouth;
making predictions based on the fingertips;
laying demons in a cemetery;
placing spells on spirits (example, Kumantong in Thailand);
reciting house-protection charms (house blessings);
snake charming, poison-lore, scorpion-lore, rat-lore, bird-lore, crow-lore;
fortune-telling based on visions;
giving protective charms;
interpreting the calls of birds and animals (omen reading) —
determining lucky and unlucky gems, garments, staffs, swords, spears, arrows, bows, and other weapons; women, boys, girls, male slaves, female slaves; elephants, horses, buffaloes, bulls, cows, goats, rams, fowl, quails, lizards, long-eared rodents, tortoises, and other animals (In our modern time, people seek out lucky property, apartments, and etc)
He abstains from wrong livelihood such as forecasting
the rulers will march forth;
the rulers will march forth and return;
our rulers will attack, and their rulers will retreat;
their rulers will attack, and our rulers will retreat;
there will be triumph for our rulers and defeat for their rulers;
there will be triumph for their rulers and defeat for our rulers;
thus there will be triumph, thus there will be defeat —
there will be a lunar eclipse;
there will be a solar eclipse;
there will be an occultation of an asterism;
the sun and moon will go their normal courses;
the sun and moon will go astray;
the asterisms will go their normal courses;
the asterisms will go astray;
there will be a meteor shower;
there will be a darkening of the sky;
there will be an earthquake;
there will be thunder coming from a clear sky;
there will be a rising, a setting, a darkening, a brightening of the sun, moon, and asterisms;
such will be the result of the lunar eclipse… the rising, setting, darkening, brightening of the sun, moon, and asterisms
there will be abundant rain; there will be a drought;
there will be plenty; there will be famine;
there will be rest and security; there will be danger;
there will be disease; there will be freedom from disease;
or they earn their living by counting, accounting, calculation, composing poetry, or teaching hedonistic arts and doctrines (example Kama Sutra)—
He abstain from calculating auspicious dates for marriages, betrothals, divorces; for collecting debts or making investments and loans; for being attractive or unattractive; curing women who have undergone miscarriages or abortions;
reciting spells to bind a man’s tongue, to paralyze his jaws, to make him lose control over his hands, or to bring on deafness;
getting oracular answers to questions addressed to a mirror, to a young girl, or to a spirit medium;
worshipping the sun, worshipping the Great Brahma, bringing forth flames from the mouth, invoking the goddess of luck —
He abstain from promising gifts to devas in return for favors; fulfilling such promises (acting as intermediary between supernatural forces and man);
teaching house-protection spells;
inducing virility and impotence;
consecrating sites for construction;
giving ceremonial mouthwashes and ceremonial bathing;
offering sacrificial fires;
preparing emetics, purgatives, expectorants, diuretics, headache cures;
preparing ear-oil, eye-drops, oil for treatment through the nose, collyrium, and counter-medicines; curing cataracts, practicing surgery, practicing as a children’s doctor, administering medicines and treatments to cure their after-effects —
“A monk thus consummate in virtue sees no danger anywhere from his restraint through virtue. Just as a head-anointed noble warrior king who has defeated his enemies sees no danger anywhere from his enemies, in the same way the monk thus consummate in virtue sees no danger anywhere from his restraint through virtue. Endowed with this noble aggregate of virtue, he is inwardly sensitive to the pleasure of being blameless. This is how a monk is consummate in virtue.
From this sutta, it is apparent that Buddha intended his monks and nuns to focus their daily affairs on practicing and attaining enlightenment. It is a very disciplined lifestyle that guarantee enlightenment within this lifetime. Naturally. such a frugal and disciplined lifestyle is not for everyone; and the best way for a layman to “participate” in the affairs of enlightenment, would therefore be the sponsoring of the monastic community.
Having said this, the reality on the ground defers from the ideal situation. Mostly because there is a demand for the hocus pocus by the lay community. Most of the Buddhist in Buddhist countries cannot be bothered with enlightenment. Asking them to practice is like asking them to sit on hot iron plate. Sitting through a Buddhist sermon would be plain torture.
On the other hand, rituals or prayers for good luck would see the entire monastery crowded to the brink. It is on such occasion that these Buddhists actually donate money or make some offerings to monks and nuns. It is on these occasion that monks and nuns can perhaps gain an audience who will listen to dharma.
May all be well and happy.