Inappropriate Items Including Money
T.V.’s and videos for entertainment should not be used by a monk. Under certain circumstances, a Dharma video or a documentary programme may be watched. In general, luxurious items are inappropriate for a monk to accept. This is because they are conducive to attachment in his own mind, and excite envy, possibly even the intention to steal, in the mind of another person. This is unwholesome Kamma. It also looks bad for an alms mendicant, living on charity as a source of inspiration to others, to have luxurious belongings. One who is content with little should be a light to a world where consumer instincts and greed are whipped up in people’s minds.
Although the Vinaya specifies a prohibition on accepting and handling gold and silver, the real spirit of it is to forbid use and control over funds, whether these are bank notes or credit cards. The Vinaya even prohibits a monk from having someone else receive money on his behalf. In practical terms, monasteries are financially controlled by lay stewards, who then make open invitation for the Sangha to ask for what they need, under the direction of the Abbot. A junior monk even has to ask an appointed agent (generally a senior monk or Abbot) if he may take up the stewards’ offer to pay for dental treatment or obtain medicines, for example. This means that as far as is reasonably possible, the donations that are given to the stewards to support the Sangha are not wasted on unnecessary whims.
If a layperson wishes to give something to a particular monk, but is uncertain what he needs, he should make an invitation. Any financial donations should not be to a monk but to the stewards of the monastery, perhaps mentioning if it’s for a particular item or for the needs of a certain monk. For items such as travelling expenses, money can be given to an accompanying anagarika (dressed in white) or accompanying layperson, who can then buy tickets, drinks for a journey or anything else that the monk may need at that time. It is quite a good exercise in mindfulness for a layperson to actually consider what items are necessary and offer those rather than money.