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 lama tsewang » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:32 am

cone what I am saying is that Milarepa was following the intention of the Buddhas teaching . Not just the words. He was a greater renunciate than most monks of his time and certainly of these times . A monk is not just something where you wear certain robes , to me it is in the meaning , a renunciate who has left home, and devotes themselves to Dharma totally.

Many times in this and other places I have seen various people make the arguments that Milarepa wasnt a monk and that therefore to practice Dharma , we do not need to renounce anything
I find these arguments to be specioous arguments
Or others say that Marpa was a farmer , they neglect to mentoion him leaving his home in tibet to go to a strange foreign land , for probably at least twenty years , in total devotion to Dharma practice . Or maybe was Marpa travelling around getting dorjes and bells to sell when he got back to Tibet , so he could pay for his trip to India?

While yes we could say they werent monks , yes but I think the argument is not useful.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Adi » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:57 am

conebeckham wrote:...How about the Mahasiddhas-beer sellers, weavers, procurers for prostitutes, court musicians, hunters?....


Have you seen the movie Dr. Strangelove? There's a famous quote from that movie, "Gentlemen! You can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"

Reminds me of mentioning the Mahasiddhas on a thread about monks and nuns. :tongue:

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

Postby Karma Dorje » Fri Oct 18, 2013 5:06 am

lama tsewang wrote:cone what I am saying is that Milarepa was following the intention of the Buddhas teaching . Not just the words. He was a greater renunciate than most monks of his time and certainly of these times . A monk is not just something where you wear certain robes , to me it is in the meaning , a renunciate who has left home, and devotes themselves to Dharma totally.

Many times in this and other places I have seen various people make the arguments that Milarepa wasnt a monk and that therefore to practice Dharma , we do not need to renounce anything
I find these arguments to be specioous arguments
Or others say that Marpa was a farmer , they neglect to mentoion him leaving his home in tibet to go to a strange foreign land , for probably at least twenty years , in total devotion to Dharma practice . Or maybe was Marpa travelling around getting dorjes and bells to sell when he got back to Tibet , so he could pay for his trip to India?

While yes we could say they werent monks , yes but I think the argument is not useful.


Well then, I am glad we are saying the same thing: What we need are quality practitioners and opportunities for both lay and monastic practice. The full set of monastic vows can act as a support for renunciation, or not. Someone can be fully renounced without them. However calling a yogi a monk because they are renounced makes no sense. Yogis by definition have renounced samsara. However, if you want to say that red and blue are the same because they are both colours, knock yourself out.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby conebeckham » Fri Oct 18, 2013 5:19 am

I think we need to be very specific when we talk about monasticism. To do otherwise, to equate some nebulous concept of renunciation with the true fact of ordination is to do a diservice to the truly ordained.

I agree we need truly committed practitioners, both lay and monastic. But we also need to understand the differences between those two, and we need to honor those who have taken formal ordination and maintain their vows.

Two of my brothers-in-law are monks, and I value their disciplined adherence to the vows.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:05 am

This comment by Karma Dorje:

Neither robes nor monastic vows make a teacher.


Is quite telling. Being a monastic does not predispose one to a role of teacher. I myself am very happy as a translator, and at least in the forseeable future have no interest in being a teacher.

The monastic form is essentially a training- I think this is very important to understand. Through application of a set of rules and the influence of a monastic environment (though in the West of course this is not the case except for a few rare exceptions) a simple lifestyle is established. Because one does not have the responsibilities of a family and so forth, one has more time to devote to the dharma. Due to being held to the vows, some major attachments within the mind are targeted. Most simple monks do not have a lavish lama lifestyle, so we can cultivate contentment) and little desire.

Does any of this mean that there cannot be well-cultivated and realized lay practitioners? Not at all. What it does mean though is that monasticism can be a unique support for a few people well-suited to this form of life, to provide simplicity and increased focus in practice. I really think there is a place for both lay and monastic teachers in Western Buddhism. But to be a teacher a lot of special qualities are required- and neither all lay people or all monastics have those.
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 Karma Dorje » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:10 pm

Alfredo wrote:Is it possible to be guilty of the mindless accumulation of mindfulness...?


Of merit and wisdom you mean? No, it's called the Buddhist path.

Alfredo wrote:What you call Calvinism (in the sense of economic neo-liberalism), I call financial reality. However generous you might be, there is such a thing as economic scarcity, so you will inevitably face choices about whether to direct your money--to yourself (perhaps for your own Buddhist study) or to others; and if you choose to support monks or nuns, you will still have to choose which ones. The financing of Caucasian-majority dharma centers is still very ad hoc and experimental. It's not like old Tibet (or modern Japan), where feudal relations determined who supported what monastery (or temple), and spiritual ties typically followed familial or clan-based ones. We're shopping, and the monks and nuns among us are consumers no less than we are.


OK, so economic neo-liberalism for you trumps karma and its results and consumerism is your model for choosing a spiritual path? You must be an academic. No wonder you are talking about economic scarcity. Personally I have never found generosity to be a zero sum game.

Alfredo wrote:How much should one give to religion? A few enthusiastic souls may suggest ten percent, but most of us operate on the collection-plate model, and donate small amounts unless charged for something. Is this wicked? How much is appropriate, and who decides, now that these monies are no longer collected in the form of taxes? (Remember, there are other charities worthy of support, and you could be putting money away towards a house, your children's college fund, or retirement.)


Something tells me you have never seriously considered these questions, except as a dodge for why you aren't more generous. If you care about others, you give and you don't really care to make too much of a calculation about it. Having children is a wonderful way to learn that lesson. I am not sure why you want to toss out speculative questions about something you aren't seriously considering.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Aemilius » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:55 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Aemilius wrote:As Thrangu Rimpoche has pointed out, it is the vows that make one a Bhikshu or a Bhikshuni, and not the one's clothes.


The Vinaya is actually only loosely followed. The punitive measures therein are generally only enforced when you upset the wrong people or an example of justice needs to be made.


What do You mean exactly? It is well known that it is loosely followed, like the rules about not touching money i.e. "gold and silver", etc... but do you mean in regard with the clothes? Shaven head or the robes are not strongly forced in Vinaya, long hair or wearing ordinary european clothes do not consitute a serious downfall. They are merely a well known social custom.
Recently I have read the Abhidharmakosha's explanations of Vinaya, which I find really interesting, and important.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:59 pm

In the monasteries where I have stayed a violation of one of the 4 Root Precepts, or Parajika offence, is considered very serious and is grounds for expulsion. I have directly heard and seen these expulsions carried out at both Sera Monastery and a large Theravada Monastery where I stayed in Thailand.
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 conebeckham » Fri Oct 18, 2013 5:58 pm

I'm one of the ones who said "Western Monasticism is good, even though I've had "bad" experiences."

This thread is an illustration of both of those points.

I believe that Western Monasticism is a good, and necessary thing. But I also believe strongly in a "Lay" (Non-Celibate) group of committed practitioners.

The biggest problem in the West is that most of us do not understand what monasticism really is. Yes, I agree with Lama Tsewang that people can be fully renunciate without "ordination"--but those people are rare as the stars in day time. No one is Milarepa, let's face it.

If we are to form and support monastic centers in the West, they must be true monastic centers, with ordination and discipline. Thus far, I think that is quite rare. Yes, it's even somewhat not the norm in Asia--in some places--but I echo JKhedrup's comments, the monasteries I'm familiar with in Asia are fairly disciplined. Not perfect, granted...but at least there is a framework.

If our so-called "Monastic centers" do not clearly define ordination, and talk only of "full-time practice" or commitment, I am afraid they will end up merely as jokes. Some "Western Dharma Traditions" have already "modified" ordination to the point that it's laughable.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Adi » Sat Oct 19, 2013 9:35 pm

conebeckham wrote:...If we are to form and support monastic centers in the West, they must be true monastic centers, with ordination and discipline. Thus far, I think that is quite rare. Yes, it's even somewhat not the norm in Asia--in some places--but I echo JKhedrup's comments, the monasteries I'm familiar with in Asia are fairly disciplined. Not perfect, granted...but at least there is a framework.

If our so-called "Monastic centers" do not clearly define ordination, and talk only of "full-time practice" or commitment, I am afraid they will end up merely as jokes. Some "Western Dharma Traditions" have already "modified" ordination to the point that it's laughable.


I share this opinion, especially as I note how integral discipline is to making any progress in Dharma practice.

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

Postby Aemilius » Mon Oct 21, 2013 3:17 pm

conebeckham wrote:I'm one of the ones who said "Western Monasticism is good, even though I've had "bad" experiences."

This thread is an illustration of both of those points.

I believe that Western Monasticism is a good, and necessary thing. But I also believe strongly in a "Lay" (Non-Celibate) group of committed practitioners.

The biggest problem in the West is that most of us do not understand what monasticism really is. Yes, I agree with Lama Tsewang that people can be fully renunciate without "ordination"--but those people are rare as the stars in day time. No one is Milarepa, let's face it.

If we are to form and support monastic centers in the West, they must be true monastic centers, with ordination and discipline. Thus far, I think that is quite rare. Yes, it's even somewhat not the norm in Asia--in some places--but I echo JKhedrup's comments, the monasteries I'm familiar with in Asia are fairly disciplined. Not perfect, granted...but at least there is a framework.

If our so-called "Monastic centers" do not clearly define ordination, and talk only of "full-time practice" or commitment, I am afraid they will end up merely as jokes. Some "Western Dharma Traditions" have already "modified" ordination to the point that it's laughable.


Two days ago I came across a passage in the Abhidharmakosha where Vasubandhu mentions white robed Upasakas, in the Chapter about Karma. You must realize that there are, and there have always been, lay buddhists who take the matter seriously. The arising of bodhicitta is anyway as rare as an Udumbara flower, they say. You can't guarantee, or predict, its existence or its nonexistence. You have to possess a divine eye to see the bodhicitta, to see where it is in the world. The seeing of outer signs like yellow robes, grey robes, black robes, red or white robes is much easier to attain.

What I have previously tried to say is that buddhist monasticism doesn't really exist as yet in Europe. For example, the custom of begging doesn't exist in modern buddhism, not in Europe nor much elsewhere either. There has to be a legal alternative to begging. One possibility is that all buddhists pay taxes for the Buddhist Centres and that monks get paid monthly salaries. Monks and nuns would then exist like normal people do. They would be part of the normal society, they wouldn't be criminals or illegals caused by income obscurities.

According to Vasubandhu all buddhists posses the discipline, or should posses it. Vasubandhu distinguishes three main kinds of discipline: bhikshu, upavastha (one day fast ) and upasaka disciplines. The four main commitments, the main precepts, are shared in all three of them, according to Vasubandhu. The ten ways of wholesome action also exist in the three kinds of discipline, says Vasubandhu. It is up to each person himself/herself to take them seriously.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby lama tsewang » Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:20 pm

i want to say something, sometimes i got the feeling when reading things here that some say that the buddhist sangha, the monastics arent relevant to our society , etcetera. WELL MAYBE thats GOOD. I dont think that we could be relevant to this society, we are outside of it
. By seeing us they see an alternative to this society , people whos lives arent dedicated to money , and careers and acquisition, and who dont have ambition.



the buddhist centers , run by caucasians, especially of the tibetan are too influenced by consumerism. i see them run like businesses , not as religious ortganizations.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby KonchokZoepa » Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:31 pm

yes at least some of the centers. i heard that rangjung yeshe center i dont tell you where but charged like 600 dollars for vajrasattva empowerment and staying there for 2-5 nights.
If the thought of demons
Never rises in your mind,
You need not fear the demon hosts around you.
It is most important to tame your mind within....

In so far as the Ultimate, or the true nature of being is concerned,
there are neither buddhas or demons.
He who frees himself from fear and hope, evil and virtue,
will realize the insubstantial and groundless nature of confusion.
Samsara will then appear as the mahamudra itself….

-Milarepa

OMMANIPADMEHUNG

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

Postby invisiblediamond » Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:39 pm

IMHO the only thing that makes sense in the West is 1) dharma as technology and 2) proximity to masters who gained realization using it. Going forward this is what folks will understand and pay for. One can be a monk or not. It won't matter.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby lama tsewang » Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:45 pm

invisible diamond you read my mind!!!
yes!
konchog zopa , tibetan buddhism has a bit of a reputation among other buddhists for being into money
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Oct 21, 2013 6:01 pm

invisiblediamond wrote:IMHO the only thing that makes sense in the West is 1) dharma as technology and 2) proximity to masters who gained realization using it. Going forward this is what folks will understand and pay for. One can be a monk or not. It won't matter.


In most countries monastics exist as such largely because of a widespread belief in them acting as fields of merit.

In the west where most people are generally materialistic by default given the culture, there is little perceived need to fund a field of merit, especially when it is not taboo to go searching for weeds and point them out in public. There's also the matter of monasticism acting as a welfare system in parts of Asia (it used to be nearly everywhere), but nowadays we have the state to look after such matters.

I don't really see a widespread desire or need for monasticism in the west, though a small number of learned and experienced clergy would be useful. They already exist. Ajahn Brahm and Bhikkhu Bodhi are two prominent figures.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Oct 21, 2013 6:20 pm

Aemilius wrote:
Indrajala wrote:
Aemilius wrote:As Thrangu Rimpoche has pointed out, it is the vows that make one a Bhikshu or a Bhikshuni, and not the one's clothes.


The Vinaya is actually only loosely followed. The punitive measures therein are generally only enforced when you upset the wrong people or an example of justice needs to be made.


What do You mean exactly? It is well known that it is loosely followed, like the rules about not touching money i.e. "gold and silver", etc... but do you mean in regard with the clothes? Shaven head or the robes are not strongly forced in Vinaya, long hair or wearing ordinary european clothes do not consitute a serious downfall. They are merely a well known social custom.
Recently I have read the Abhidharmakosha's explanations of Vinaya, which I find really interesting, and important.



The whole Vinaya model is only loosely followed. If it is not in the interests of the community to prosecute an offender, it often seems the case that nothing happens. If you are a lowly monk and you anger the authorities, then of course retribution might be swift, but it isn't equally applied. If you have money and power you can get away with anything. Nobody will dare move against you.

There's also the fact that the Vinaya demands the sangha operate on a democratic model, but almost all monasteries are run as dictatorships. Unwavering obedience to authority is expected and even regarded as a virtue, whereas according to the book all monks are equal and are not supposed to order anyone around. It never works like this of course. You have "discipline masters" or parental figures whose duty it is to scold their underlings like children.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby lama tsewang » Mon Oct 21, 2013 6:22 pm

what do u mean when you say, i dont see a widespresd desire or need for monasticism in the west, what do u mean ,explain it more, there are a lot of assumptions in those statements.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby lama tsewang » Mon Oct 21, 2013 6:26 pm

what you said about the vinaya and consensus community decision making is very true.
Not many monks even understand this. There are places where this is followed ajahn brahm says his community has consensus decision making , my abbot , his temple in taiwan is like this . there are only a few.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Oct 21, 2013 6:28 pm

lama tsewang wrote:what do u mean when you say, i dont see a widespresd desire or need for monasticism in the west, what do u mean ,explain it more, there are a lot of assumptions in those statements.


People don't want to pay for a sangha.

On top of that, not many people will gain emotional satisfaction from directly supporting a sangha, and few really believe in karma and merit anyway, so what do they get out of such arrangements?

In Asia monasticism exists because people believe supporting it will bring them and their family good fortune and blessings. In some countries it is also the only means of social welfare available, so it is quite valuable to the larger community, especially when many families will have a son in robes somewhere.
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