What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?

What do you really think of monks and nuns in the West (an anonymous survey)

I think they are crucial for the establishment of the Buddhadharma here, and have had good experiences
58
60%
I think they are crucial for the establishment of the Buddhadharma here, even though I have had mostly bad experiences
3
3%
I don't have an opinion one way or the other
8
8%
I don't think they are necessary, because the dharma can be transmitted without monastics
15
16%
I just don't think that Westerners are interested in supporting monasticism financially
12
13%
 
Total votes : 96

Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Sep 19, 2013 10:04 am

Having looked through the thread, it seems to be more of a Vajrayana thing and not being a Vajrayana practitioner, I can't comment much on where people are coming from.


Hello Dan,

Actually that is too bad- a broader conversation was what I wanted (that's why I put the pole in this forum). It would be interesting to hear from practitioners of other traditions, in many of the East Asian systems apart from ones rooted in Japan, for example, it seems monks and nuns play a central role.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Ayu » Thu Sep 19, 2013 12:42 pm

JKhedrup wrote:I am interested in people's real opinions...

I put <<I think they are crucial for the establishment of the Buddhadharma here, and have had good experiences>>

Although I know one or two western bikkhus/bikkhunis, who are not able to communicate the Dharma very well for me, i know ONE, who is genius. He has studied so much, and for this he needs to be ordained for to concentrate fulltime on his studies - and he knows the western mind so well... Especially the German mind :roll: We always feel guilty and want to be perfect at once - it is important, that there is someone able to explain Bodhicitta from this point of view. He is a wonderful bikkhu BECAUSE he is German and has personell experiences with this certain German mind. :twothumbsup:
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby muni » Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:32 am

On my walk I met a western monk.

I could feel the peace of his being. He was very humble, his attitude loving. He didn't prove me any thing rather was respectful as to all. He spoke about his master through a radiant way and by him I met his master.

I met a western monk but he was without direction. :namaste:
Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby dzoki » Sun Sep 22, 2013 8:54 am

I think it is very important to have a qualified monastic sangha in the West. Most of the Western monks and nuns whom I met were really sweet people, though I must say that all of them have gone through serious long-time meditation training. So I have no experience with people who were ordained just recently or just a few years ago. But truth to be said most of these monks whom I have met are not monks anymore (some of them after 20 years of being ordained). It seems to me that it is difficult for Westerners to stay ordained - this seems to be especially case with men. Though I only have experience with Tibetan monastic tradition, so I don´t know how it is in Chinese or Korean Mahayana monasticis sangha or in Theravada.
I think it is crucial to have a good and sincere monastic sangha of monks and nuns here in the West, because such sangha is an example of discipline for lay people and is a source of merit. Both of these are needed in order to progress on the path. I hope one day there will be such sangha, but so far it seems that there are only a handful people who are good monks here in Europe and most of them stay in long-time retreat, so it is easier for them to be monks as for their colleagues who are out in the open and have to travel and to deal with all sorts of people including attractive women.
I remember one funny scene showing how lay followers also need an education about monastic rules on their part. One very nice Khenpo visited a town were I used to live, not only is he learned, but he is also very relaxed and warm person. Immediately local sangha girls were trying to get all over him :D Of course Khenpo being monk had to suffer this uninformed assault of these ladies and I later saw him sitting alone and reciting Vajrasattva.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Luke » Sun Sep 22, 2013 10:56 am

JKhedrup wrote:Sometimes, though, I feel that my robes actually get some Western Buddhists making negative assumptions about me despite not even knowing me. Usually, in Western Buddhist settings with people who don't know me, I am either ignored or regarded with suspicion, when they find out I do translation work then people are a little more interested in speaking to me.

Don't worry Ven. JKhedrup, as you can see in this thread, not all of us western Buddhists have negative feelings towards western monastics.

I think it's great that you have dedicated your life to Buddhism! :twothumbsup: So please don't lose heart, and keep on truckin' for the benefit of all beings! :thumbsup:

Hopefully, you will eventually find a Buddhist center/monastery where you will be treated very well.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Sep 22, 2013 4:58 pm

Thanks it is very encouraging!
The centre where I stay at the moment, people are very kind, but I do serve a role, translating the teachings.
When I go to a new place and people don't realize I have a "job"is when I get the strange reactions.

I must say, though, that I am heartened by this thread. It seems a good majority of many of the Western Buddhists, at least here on the board, do see the benefit of Sangha.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Dan74 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:50 pm

Perhaps one day, the vast majority of the people will see no benefit in the ordained Sangha, nor in the Dharma itself. I really hope that people such as yourself don't lose heart then. It maybe worthwhile to gauge public opinion and try to understand it, but I am not sure it is good to be too swayed by it.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Aemilius » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:16 am

There is the legal side of the monk thing to be considered, which will be different in different countries. For example, what does the law say about pension contributions and health insurance payments of monks and nuns? Who pays them? The Centre? What about tax declarations?
In catholic countries there are laws about monks and nuns. Not so much in protestant countries.
Do monks and nuns have bank accounts? Is monkhood credible as a public image?
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby JKhedrup » Wed Sep 25, 2013 8:18 am

It depends. In France, there is a structure called CAVIMAC which insists on pension contribution of 400 Euros per month for monks and nuns. For a large monastery like Plum village, obviously, this became a huge hindrance. Nalanda monastery in France also struggled to negotiate with the government to come to an agreement that was actually affordable. Obviously if you require 400 Euros per month contributions for all monastics you are actively hindering the growth of monasticism. Many argued that it could become a religious freedom issue, but the French government doesn't have a great record on that anyways...
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
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Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Simon E. » Wed Sep 25, 2013 9:15 am

Dan74 wrote:Perhaps one day, the vast majority of the people will see no benefit in the ordained Sangha, nor in the Dharma itself. I really hope that people such as yourself don't lose heart then. It maybe worthwhile to gauge public opinion and try to understand it, but I am not sure it is good to be too swayed by it.

I am not sure that your segue from ' Sangha' to ' Dharma ' would bear too much analysis.
I can easily imagine a situation where the former, in the sense of the ordained Sangha, becomes inviable for a number of reasons, but that the Dharma will simply find new means of expression as it always has.
The world is changing as always, and it may well be that the conditions for the arising of the monastic sangha may cease to exist partially or completely.
It may be that process has already begun.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Wed Sep 25, 2013 10:29 am

kirtu wrote:Secularism is the dominant force in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy too. I'm not sure it's not in Poland as well even though the churches were constantly giving services after the fall of Communism (are they still?) as Catholicism is tied directly to Polish identity.

Kirt


Catholicism is by no means more directly tied to Polish identity than it is to, say, Spanish identity. The Church became a powerful presence (and a powerful player) in Poland after 1989 -- not because people decided they want to 'rediscover the faith of their fathers', though, but due to the results of the brutal implemetation of the neo-liberal 'shock doctrine', i.e., due to the tragically rapid increase in poverty and social inequality. Still, while the countryside may have plenty of time for cassocks and frocks, major Polish cities are as secular as anything in Western Europe.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Aemilius » Wed Sep 25, 2013 10:51 am

JKhedrup wrote:It depends. In France, there is a structure called CAVIMAC which insists on pension contribution of 400 Euros per month for monks and nuns. For a large monastery like Plum village, obviously, this became a huge hindrance. Nalanda monastery in France also struggled to negotiate with the government to come to an agreement that was actually affordable. Obviously if you require 400 Euros per month contributions for all monastics you are actively hindering the growth of monasticism. Many argued that it could become a religious freedom issue, but the French government doesn't have a great record on that anyways...


Do you mean 400€ per each monastic? Pension contribution in Europe is usually in the range of 5% to 10% from your gross monthly income. A 400€ pension contribution assumes a quite substantial monthly salary. Received as a benefit in kind, which would be the basis for these calculations, I assume?
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby JKhedrup » Wed Sep 25, 2013 11:07 am

Do you mean 400€ per each monastic?


Yes.


Received as a benefit in kind, which would be the basis for these calculations, I assume?


I don't think so. Monks at either Nalanda or Plum Village have no base salary- so there would be no basis for a benefit in kind negotiation. Indeed, most have no salary at all. None of them claim benefits from the French state, either. This is not permitted at Nalanda, for example, as they realize the problematic ethical questions it would present.

There is a website that explains the CAVIMAC, but of course it is in French.

- Tous les ministres des cultes qui ne dépendent pas d'un autre régime obligatoire de protection sociale doivent obligatoirement être affiliés à la " Caisse d'Assurance Vieillesse, Invalidité et Maladie des Cultes " (CAVIMAC).
La CAVIMAC (qui remplace la CAMAC et la CAMAVIC) est un organisme de Sécurité sociale à compétence nationale chargé " d'assurer le recouvrement des cotisations et le versement des prestations d'assurance maladie et maternité, d'assurance vieillesse et d'assurance invalidité ". (Article 71 de la loi 99-641 du 27 juillet 1999).


Now, my information is 3 years old so they may have come to some kind of agreement. But at the time 400 Euros a month was what was recommended. If people are interested I can check when I am in France next month.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby tobes » Wed Sep 25, 2013 12:03 pm

Isn't there something to be said for considering the monastic precepts as a form of lineage?

Of course this could itself get romanticised as something pure in itself ~ but surely as a historical unfolding, it is precious, and it is relevant. The vows have been held, generation after generation for over two thousand years.

Why should I not respect and support those of our current generation who step into that and try their best to uphold it?

I don't see how being a lay yogi of a non-monastic tradition is contrary to this. Why must it be either/or? Surely it is both.

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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby tobes » Wed Sep 25, 2013 12:15 pm

What would be contrary to supporting and respecting Western monks and nuns (or monastic traditions more generally): some kind of crude economic utilitarianism which evaluates everything in terms of GDP output.

There's enough people in the world interpreting in those terms.

I would have thought that most Buddhists - of whatever persuasion - would have enough historical, philosophical, ethical, religious and cultural understanding to at the very least appreciate that Western monastics are making a genuine effort in living in/for the Dharma. Isn't that enough?

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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Simon E. » Wed Sep 25, 2013 12:38 pm

Do you mean is it enough, or do you mean should it be enough, Tobes ?

I suspect the answer will be ' probably ' to the latter and ' no ' to the former.
There are processes and changes afoot.
Meritoriousness is but one ingredient in a bubbling pot.
Not to mention the fact that the meritorious nature of the Sangha is far from being universally recognised.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Jikan » Wed Sep 25, 2013 12:49 pm

Simon E. wrote:I can easily imagine a situation where the former, in the sense of the ordained Sangha, becomes inviable for a number of reasons, but that the Dharma will simply find new means of expression as it always has.


We have a number of historical examples of how this has worked and can work. The Vinaya has been nonexistent in Japan for a very long time, but there remains a substantial number of persons and institutions who persist in the Dharma, and a center of gravity in practice is maintained.

For myself, I think more articulations or options is better: there is a strength in diversity of forms (even if not all attempts survive). I think those who ordain under the Vinaya are one important one among many.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Jikan » Wed Sep 25, 2013 12:55 pm

treehuggingoctopus wrote:Catholicism is by no means more directly tied to Polish identity than it is to, say, Spanish identity. The Church became a powerful presence (and a powerful player) in Poland after 1989 -- not because people decided they want to 'rediscover the faith of their fathers', though, but due to the results of the brutal implemetation of the neo-liberal 'shock doctrine', i.e., due to the tragically rapid increase in poverty and social inequality. Still, while the countryside may have plenty of time for cassocks and frocks, major Polish cities are as secular as anything in Western Europe.


I agree completely, but there's one other aspect that is significant to consider. Until recent decades, there used to be a lot more Jews in Poland than there are today. Millions more. Poland is more homogenously Catholic in terms of identification than it would have been otherwise. (Maybe the analogy to Spain holds up here too or maybe not.)

sorry for the somewhat off-topic post.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:47 pm

True that.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby yan kong » Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:51 pm

JKhedrup wrote:It depends. In France, there is a structure called CAVIMAC which insists on pension contribution of 400 Euros per month for monks and nuns. For a large monastery like Plum village, obviously, this became a huge hindrance. Nalanda monastery in France also struggled to negotiate with the government to come to an agreement that was actually affordable. Obviously if you require 400 Euros per month contributions for all monastics you are actively hindering the growth of monasticism. Many argued that it could become a religious freedom issue, but the French government doesn't have a great record on that anyways...


While France is a secular nation I felt when living there that they are more like a de facto athiest nation that marginalises religion. Perhaps this is unintentional but it is the feeling that I got.
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