tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby kirtu » Fri Dec 28, 2012 5:21 am

kirtu wrote:As you know Vajrayana is the pinnacle of the Mahayana lineages and Indo-Tibetan-Himalayan Vajrayana has some differences with Japanese Vajrayana. Furthermore as you know there are distinct lineages within Indo-Tibetan-Himalayan Vajrayana so I don't think we will see a western ecumenical Buddhism distinct from the Buddhist lineages that currently exist.


Huseng wrote:I mean, for example, do you take Śākyamuni's teachings as more critical than a terma text?


The two teachings have entirely different purposes (although not ultimately) and audiences. The audience for the terma text is small and restricted. The audience for almost any of Shakyamuni Buddha's teachings is larger (although this was not always the case - see the Anthill Sutta for example - the Pali canon clearly records teachings originally intended for one person and does it in more than one place) and is unrestricted.

Another view is that most of Shakyamuni Buddha's teachings were for beings on the Shravaka path and secondarily on the Bodhisattva path. The Vajrayana is intended for beings on the higher Bodhisattva path and the Vidyadhara path.

Huseng wrote:Right, but much of the rest of the Mahāyāna world is taking an interest in classical Śrāvakayāna,


Tibetan Buddhism also has an interest in the classical Sravakayana. It's just that people in the past didn't make that their main focus and still don't.

Huseng wrote:If you understand the academic side of Buddhism especially (and this is more and more a critical aspect of how western Buddhism collectively perceives and values things), then the teachings of the historical Śākyamuni Buddha hold great precedence.


The teachings of the historical Shakyamuni Buddha are also of great interest in Tibetan Buddhism. However in this view this of course includes the Bodhisattvayana.

I think the lineage forms will continue for quite a while.

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Indrajala » Fri Dec 28, 2012 5:35 am

kirtu wrote:I think the lineage forms will continue for quite a while.

Kirt


I think they'll continue among Tibetan and related communities, though unlike the Himalayas and Mongolia, the rest of the world is a lot more cosmopolitan. In any major western city, or even Hong Kong or Singapore, you have access to every spectrum of "Buddhism".

For educated folks who have access to academic works, which are specialist works though readable, they'll inevitably encounter the academic view of how the Vinaya, Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna and so on all developed after the Buddha died, and if they accept it then there might be a kind of cognitive dissonance with the orthodox narrative in their given tradition.

This can be escaped by having revised narratives that incorporate contemporary scholarship with tradition. To do so would entail having to develop in new directions.

The other thing is that Tibetan lineages are largely made up of folks from Asia. In a few generations unless you have recognized and legit lineage holders from western backgrounds who get the same respect as their counterparts in Asia, a lot of people will just go their own way once they have the canon available in reliable translation and many facilities for practice. I know Vajrayāna requires initiations, but that won't stop people from simply taking it in new directions and dropping the Tibeto-centric narrative.

I think it is inevitable actually.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby lama tsewang » Fri Dec 28, 2012 5:46 am

To Khedrup , with respect to what you said about a conference , I think this is a very good idea , of course , I have two things to add, first of all such a conference , should not be just about the future of monasticism here . I think the topic really is about how to secure the future of our lineages here. The Sangha has always been the ones who have the reponsibility for preserving the teachings , and for propagating them . Sangha members are beings who have dedicated all their activities for this purpose. To prcatise , preserve and propagate the teachings is their sole occupation . So, such aconference is really about how to create better circumstances here for more and more Western Dharma teachers . Teachers Teachers , who teach not just from words , but from how they live every day .

Thats the first thing.
Second , on talking about such aconfernce, in the past with an Abbot locally here , who was originally trained in Vietnam ( he leads a monastery of around 20 monks and nuns here , including several teenage monks and nuns) he told me that the way in which we would make very consequntial decisions , should not be in the ordinary conceptual way. He said that since we are monks and nuns we should gather ourselves together , and practise together for sopme weeks , and solutions will start to come out of that . Think about this advice, i like it. He offered that we could do it in his space . Talk with me about this more if Necessary start to PM me. I do want to communicate more with you about many things again.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Huifeng » Sat Dec 29, 2012 2:57 am

I would like to mention the "Western Buddhist Monastic Conference" which has been held for many years now in the US. Not restricted to the Tibetan tradition, but very much relevant to the topic of discussion here. eg.
http://www.sravastiabbey.org/gallery/20 ... rence.html
http://www.urbandharma.org/shasta05/index.html
etc.

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Sherlock » Sat Dec 29, 2012 5:00 am

Huseng wrote:
kirtu wrote:As you know Vajrayana is the pinnacle of the Mahayana lineages and Indo-Tibetan-Himalayan Vajrayana has some differences with Japanese Vajrayana. Furthermore as you know there are distinct lineages within Indo-Tibetan-Himalayan Vajrayana so I don't think we will see a western ecumenical Buddhism distinct from the Buddhist lineages that currently exist.

Kirt


Right, but much of the rest of the Mahāyāna world is taking an interest in classical Śrāvakayāna, especially with scholarship, archaeology and translations making a lot of the ancient material available. The meetings between many cultures (especially within Asia) is making a lot of past sectarianism less relevant.

If you understand the academic side of Buddhism especially (and this is more and more a critical aspect of how western Buddhism collectively perceives and values things), then the teachings of the historical Śākyamuni Buddha hold great precedence.

I mean, for example, do you take Śākyamuni's teachings as more critical than a terma text?

I think the practice lineages will remain, but strictly Tibeto-centric models will be hard to intentionally maintain in the future for the reasons given above.


Actually for most Vajrayana practitioners, treasure teachings (both Indian and Tibetan) are more critical than the shared early sutras, at least for practice. For shared dialogue, the early canon is of course important.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby catmoon » Sat Dec 29, 2012 7:27 am

kirtu wrote:
As you know Vajrayana is the pinnacle of the Mahayana lineages...




Well I'm sure the vajrayanists will agree with you. Not so sure about Zen and Purelanders though.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Indrajala » Sat Dec 29, 2012 2:06 pm

Sherlock wrote:Actually for most Vajrayana practitioners, treasure teachings (both Indian and Tibetan) are more critical than the shared early sutras, at least for practice. For shared dialogue, the early canon is of course important.


Right, but that might change in the new environment.

I often get the sense that Tibetan Buddhists are the most reluctant to embrace ecumenical ideas. When it comes to monasticism, however, unity is to everyone's benefit.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Dec 29, 2012 4:42 pm

I think that this varies from lineage to lineage.

For Gelugpas,for example, both the Sutras and Tantras are considered important, as well as the Vinaya. There are revealed teachings as well, not exactly termas but very similar. These are considered important, but the foundation and focus always remain on the sutras and the shastras from the Nalanda tradition. When discussing tantra in general, a presentation based on for example the Guyasamaja tantra and its commentaries is favoured over, for example, a revealed teaching like Chittamani tara, which would be emphasized more in a practice retreat.

Gelugpa is very much Paramitayana Mahayana with Tantra as the advanced practice. Lama Zopa says tantric practice is like the icing on top of the cake.
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Yudron » Sat Dec 29, 2012 7:27 pm

JKhedrup wrote:I think that this varies from lineage to lineage.

For Gelugpas,for example, both the Sutras and Tantras are considered important, as well as the Vinaya. There are revealed teachings as well, not exactly termas but very similar. These are considered important, but the foundation and focus always remain on the sutras and the shastras from the Nalanda tradition. When discussing tantra in general, a presentation based on for example the Guyasamaja tantra and its commentaries is favoured over, for example, a revealed teaching like Chittamani tara, which would be emphasized more in a practice retreat.

Gelugpa is very much Paramitayana Mahayana with Tantra as the advanced practice. Lama Zopa says tantric practice is like the icing on top of the cake.


My experience, on-line, is that the Sakyas know more about the Nyingma Kama lineage than the Nyingmapas do. They strongly value the ancient Indian roots of the entire Tibetan tradition. As I understand it, they had a lot of original Indian texts in their library at Sakya, it was perhaps the greatest loss (not including lives, of course) of the Cultural Revolution when it was destroyed. However, I just learned from Wiki--and it sounds true--that those crafty Sakyas managed to hide thousands of texts from the mob:

A huge library of as many as 84,000 scrolls were found sealed up in a wall 60 metres long and 10 metres high at Sakya (Ch: Sagya) Monastery in 2003. It is expected that most of them will prove to be Buddhist scriptures although they may well also include works of literature, and on history, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics and art. They are thought to have remained untouched for hundreds of years. They are being examined by the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences.[6]


That's amazing!

Every lineage has its specialties, so each is precious to the whole.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Dec 30, 2012 9:12 am

Exactly, and one of the good aspects of this difficult exile of the Tibetans from their homeland is that the different lineages are developing an increased appreciation of eachothers special qualities/characteristics.

Geshe Sonam said to someone the other day that the most important in the peak of the mountain-the goal is the same for all the lineages. The path you choose to reach it has to be determined by what kind of shoes you are wearing.

:tongue:
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby elfin » Sun Dec 30, 2012 3:17 pm

I feel there are a lot of issues why Westerners are kind of reluctant to ordinate. The obstacle of insufficient funding was already mentioned. As well that Tibetan Buddhism to this day is run by Tibetan monks.

In addition to that I believe it is not attractive for Western women to ordain in that tradition as they still haven't resolved the issue around full ordination for women. Who in their right mind would want to join a club that doesn't even give them equal rights and discriminates against them?

Organised religion as such has historically shown a tendency to have issues with power, money and sex. It seems that Tibetan Buddhism is not immune to that. Kalu Rinpoche, who grew up in a monastery, only recently claimed that he had been sexually abused there by fellow monks and a tutor of him attempted to kill him.
You can watch it yourself on youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5Ka3bEN1rs

Now, wherever people come together all kind of things might happen. But for me and many other westerners it is important to have a climate of openness, transparency and clear rules regarding those topics in order to prevent abuse in the first place and once it happened nevertheless, to protect the victim, to educate the person who did something wrong and learn as a community from the events.
I am not sure whether Tibetans and Westerners are on the same level in this regard.

And another thing. Many western monastics are great and admirable people. But once in a while you meet a monastic where at least I have the impression that they were unable to make it in real live and so, among other reasons certainly, they ordained. E.g. I personally know one monk who has very bad social skills, doesn't reflect himself and still considers himself the great Vajrayana guru. Whenever things get terribly out of hand, letters are written to the teacher of that person. But nothing happens. Unfortunately there were quite a few scandals happening in the Tibetan tradition in the past from which the community could have learned that those are situations that have to be dealt with and should not be ignored as those situations don't tend to go away by themselves but keep causing pain to many people in the course of time and keep them from making progress on their spiritual path.

All these reasons I feel are not conducive for westerners to seriously contemplate monasticism as a way of life for themself as they are rather off-putting. And let's not forget it is all about the quickest way to reach enlighenment for the benefit of all. Is it not easier to do this in a more conducive environment than monasticism in the Tibetan tradtion can currently provide?
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby lama tsewang » Mon Dec 31, 2012 12:36 am

Elfin, what you write in your letter , is very common, from laypeople.
I feel sad for that monk, he is probably constantly in the public eye , being watched, and every fault is noticed.
As i said this a hazard for monks allover , not just Western ones here , but i here abou this all the time with Asian monks being pushed out of their by laypeople who exaggerate their faults. Very sad .
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby windsweptliberty » Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:34 am

This is an interesting thread, lots of good comments. I hope that all those obstacles do not obstruct and only slightly hinder the movement of monasticism in the west.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Yudron » Mon Dec 31, 2012 6:50 am

Honestly, I think even if you took out all the obstacles, and did not require celibacy, very few people want to pursue immaterial wisdom and compassion full time as a vocation.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby tomamundsen » Mon Dec 31, 2012 9:09 am

Not trying to derail the conversation going on, but I have a legitimate question that applies to the title of the thread. Are there any monasteries in the West for Nyingma, Kagyu, or Sakya? The only one I know about is Samye Ling.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Yudron » Mon Dec 31, 2012 9:27 am

In North America: Karma Triyana Dharmachakra and Kagyu Thubten Choling in Upstate New York both call themselves monasteries. Do any of you know if they have been able to maintain a significant monastic population there? Kunsang Palyul Choling in Maryland is not a monastery but it has a bunch of long-term monastics. Gampo Abbey in Halifax. Sakya Monastery in Seattle. Vajra Dakini Nunnery in Vermont.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby elfin » Mon Dec 31, 2012 2:08 pm

lama tsewang wrote:Elfin, what you write in your letter , is very common, from laypeople.
I feel sad for that monk, he is probably constantly in the public eye , being watched, and every fault is noticed.
As i said this a hazard for monks allover , not just Western ones here , but i here abou this all the time with Asian monks being pushed out of their by laypeople who exaggerate their faults. Very sad .
Tsewang


Dear Lama Tsewang,

Thanks for replying to my post. No, I don't think that my comments are common for laypeople only. There are monastics who have issues with the points I described as well.

As to that individual monk I wrote about I don't think his faults are exaggerated at all. People tried to be very understanding and some even happened to cover up for him. In my view there are some co-dependency issues at work as well. The case you describe might, of course, be totally different.

My issue with that in general is, that in every profession there will be people who have serious issues. Those people, if they can't help themselves, should not be left to their own devices and be supported, e.g by their teachers. And if people can not be integrated at all in the end, either a niche should be found for them in buddhism or maybe a plan be developed in which other environment they are better able to thrive. That would in my view be as well the most compassionate thing to do as otherwise the costs for the people concerned as well as for the whole community are too high. Please bear in mind that those difficult situations often go on for years. And I don't think western buddhist environments are very critical environments. Most buddhists in the West are very relaxed, non-judgmental, laid-back, liberal, educated, tolerant people and have themselves already seen a lot. Many people even come from counselling or other social professions. So if you run into big issues in an environment like that, it's probably not a good sign.

Best wishes,
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby catmoon » Mon Dec 31, 2012 2:57 pm

tomamundsen wrote:Not trying to derail the conversation going on, but I have a legitimate question that applies to the title of the thread. Are there any monasteries in the West for Nyingma, Kagyu, or Sakya? The only one I know about is Samye Ling.


Check dis baby out http://thrangumonastery.org/the-monaste ... in-canada/
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Sherlock » Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:01 pm

Huseng wrote:
Sherlock wrote:Actually for most Vajrayana practitioners, treasure teachings (both Indian and Tibetan) are more critical than the shared early sutras, at least for practice. For shared dialogue, the early canon is of course important.


Right, but that might change in the new environment.

I often get the sense that Tibetan Buddhists are the most reluctant to embrace ecumenical ideas. When it comes to monasticism, however, unity is to everyone's benefit.


I think that this varies from lineage to lineage.

For Gelugpas,for example, both the Sutras and Tantras are considered important, as well as the Vinaya. There are revealed teachings as well, not exactly termas but very similar. These are considered important, but the foundation and focus always remain on the sutras and the shastras from the Nalanda tradition. When discussing tantra in general, a presentation based on for example the Guyasamaja tantra and its commentaries is favoured over, for example, a revealed teaching like Chittamani tara, which would be emphasized more in a practice retreat.

Gelugpa is very much Paramitayana Mahayana with Tantra as the advanced practice. Lama Zopa says tantric practice is like the icing on top of the cake.


That's why I used the term "treasure teachings" instead of "termas". Mahayana sutras are technically treasure teachings too. :smile:
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby justin.hudgins » Mon Dec 31, 2012 11:53 pm

Huseng wrote:
Sherlock wrote:Actually for most Vajrayana practitioners, treasure teachings (both Indian and Tibetan) are more critical than the shared early sutras, at least for practice. For shared dialogue, the early canon is of course important.


Right, but that might change in the new environment.


Why should it?
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