Football and Renunciation

Wednesday June 14, 2006

World Cup

I’ve never been one for football, personally. This is not out of any high moral objections, but simply because I was never particularly good at it. To be honest, when I say that I was never particularly good at football, I am understating the case somewhat. Whilst at school I was, in fact, astonishingly inept at the game, my failure to grasp the rudiments almost total, my lack of grace upon the pitch breathtaking. All of which makes me think that I might make a perfect candidate for the Buddhist monkhood.

Entering the monkhood is not an idea that often occurs to me. I’d probably have trouble even remembering the 227 rules of the vinaya (by the way, is there an offside rule in the Vinaya?), let alone following them – rules have never been my thing. But when it comes to football, I’m right up there with the best of them.

You see, leading authorities have been stressing of late that football and monkhood do not mix. Leading Cambodian Buddhist figure Non Nget has reluctantly permitted the country’s forty thousand or so Buddhist monks to watch the World Cup, but only if they maintain a monk-like calm throughout. Any watching of the games in public, cheering or betting will lead to their immediate dismissal from the monkhood. Meanwhile over in Thailand, the government has ruled that monks there may also watch the World Cup, on the grounds that a knowledge of worldly affairs is beneficial to their religious education. Again, however, gambling and cheering are ruled out.

Any football-loving Buddhists thrown into a deep moral quandry by these apparently mixed messages should get hold of a copy of The Forbidden Team – a documentary that follows the Tibetan national football team all the way to Denmark where (despite strenuous efforts to prevent the match from the Chinese government and FIFA) they play their first international match. Against Greenland, who win 4-1.

I’ve not seen the film myself, but apparently it provides sufficient religious justification for football-mad Buddhists. In the film, a monk who is living on a hillside near to the Tibetans’ training-ground where he is dedicating himself to meditation explains that football and Buddhism are remarkably similar. In football, he says, the ball is controlled, whilst in Buddhism it is the mind. And teamwork in football, striving to keep the ball away from the goal, acts as a fitting metaphor for how the elements of Buddhism work together to keep unwholesome thoughts away from the mind.

But tell that to Non Ngat…

# · Nacho

Aaah! : ) Crazy, crazy I tell you. I think this is an example of getting very dogmatic, and seems to me the worst of religious thought—the controlling of minutiae under the guise of piety. I can understand why gambling is an activity that the monks ought to stay away from. It is after all a dreaded addiction, and a practice of attachment, but cheering and joyful expression? To what else would this kind of thinking be applied?

In the Church of the Latter Day Saints, members wear an “inner garment” (underwear) that is said to protect the wearer from impure thoughts, and that some saints believe even grants them physical protection. Many others who have renounced Mormonism make the case that it is simple and subtle way to exercise control over the members’s “physicality,” and sexual personhood.

Tragic to see that kind of thinking in Buddhism, but I am not surprised.

As for Soccer, or futbol, I also never played growing up. Mostly because growing up in Puerto Rico, a colony of the U.S., Soccer was just ignored, perhaps a bit too European you know?

A little cheering would be good for those monks.

Thanks Will,


# · Jayarava

You don’t mention The Cup – a film by Norbu Khyentse (tulku of Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche) – in which a group of young monks manage to get a TV for the monastery so they can watch the world cup. They, having been kicked out of the towns only public TV parlour for being too rowdy, have only one option if they are not going to miss the most important event of their short lives The Cup final: and that is to convince the, very old school, abbot. It’s very entertaining, and there is none of the reserve expected by Non Nget.

... Judging by the noise coming in my bedroom window England just scored against Sweden…


# · ray

Beckham shrine image has to be seen….

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