The Poor Health of Monks
Posted on November 12th, 2012

Priyantha Hettige

Dr. R. A. Gunasena has a letter in the Sri Lankan “ƒ”¹…”The Island’ (11th October 2012), entitled “Poor Health of Monks”. He gives us the startling figure that 20% of BuddhistMonks suffer from Diabetes and 80% of Monks die of Heart disease.  He tells us that devotees give Dana that is rich in salt, oil and sugar; all potentially harmful substances “”…” oil and sugar are best avoided and salt as a minimum.

In the “ƒ”¹…”West’ the harmful effects of these additives has been well known for years. American scientists have analyzed the effects on the human body of these additives and their harmful effects have been widely reported upon (- in English) over recent years*. The fructose content – part of all sugar, is little short of poison. But the Sinhalese remain blissfully ignorant and carry on with their old bad habits. Didn’t Venerable Piyadassi Maha Thero write that ignorance is the highest form of corruption? Well, in this case it is killing the monks!

Venerable Bodhi Dharma found the same problem; when, in 540 CE, he finally came down Mount Song to Shaolin Temple he found listless monks. These were strong, powerful soldiers who had retired from the Emperor’s army “”…” all gone to seed. He developed a set of exercises that later became the foundation for the specialized interpretation of martial arts at Shaolin. The Martial arts proved useful, especially when robbers came to steal the monastery’s assets.

I understand that thousands of student monks and their teachers were slain in cold blood at Taxila University. And the same happened at Narlanda University, too, and some of these were burned to death “”…” a perfectly dreadful end to a noble aspiration. Thousands, literally, of monks were killed in every case. The powerhouse of Buddhism had been gutted. The Muslims call Buddhists stupid. Well, if leadership in today’s affairs of the Buddhist community derives from listless monks, this may well be so.

The point of this letter is to strongly recommend that all monks be physically fit and active. This brings several benefits not least the benefit of having better blood circulation. This circulation is important as the brain needs oxygen and nutrients to work well.

Countering threats to Buddhism, this person recommends being pragmatic in the face of today’s problems. Ahsima in the face of life-threatening forces should not be taken to an extreme, or to be clung to, tightly: take the middle way “”…” get healthy, get strong, face the challenges “”…” survive to tell the tale!

PH. 12/10/2012

(*Most Americans know about the bad effects of these condiments, but are addicted to their junk food!)

One Response to “The Poor Health of Monks”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    We thank Priyantha for his well founded concern.
    Very good idea : ” The Martial arts proved useful, especially when robbers came to steal the monastery’s assets”. It is also a keep fit program.

    As we suggested earlier, we remind once more that Buddhist priests learn various Sciences too, even study Law, and make wonderful contributions to society.
    With their discipline, concern and good ethics, they ought to be able put their keen minds to serve the societies they live in and earn admiration and awards for such work.

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