Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

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Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jan 30, 2014 2:56 am

BBC has a report on Humanistic Buddhism in Taiwan:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25772194
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby shaunc » Thu Jan 30, 2014 4:09 am

Personally I think it's great & there should be a lot more of it. Dana doesn't mean only donating to monks, nuns & temples.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby greentara » Thu Jan 30, 2014 12:48 pm

"And although Buddhist groups have traditionally been less active, compared to Christian counterparts, in spreading their religion, that is changing"
Living in Australia and walking through the CBD I was accosted by a group of moslem men with mufti beards, they had set up a trestle table and had heaps of pamphlets on Islam which they were attempting to distrubute to people walking by.
So Islam has jumped in and joined the fray on busy city streets, attempting to proselyetise and win the hearts of the feckless, wordly and ne'er-do-well.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jan 30, 2014 1:00 pm

shaunc wrote:Personally I think it's great & there should be a lot more of it. Dana doesn't mean only donating to monks, nuns & temples.


There is more to it than just giving to the greater community a bit more. They will regard work as practice, and meditation as selfish and not terribly beneficial to others. If you can work for your Buddhist organization (preferably as a volunteer), then this is considered really meritorious and a true reflection of the bodhisattva path, as compared to sitting in a mountain hall meditating. In Taiwan I was told the bodhisattva path is basically community service, which is at odds with the models proposed in ancient India and China.

The Taiwanese organizations have revived their numbers and education, but I actually think their Achilles's Heel is that they've become very capital intensive and were built when Chinese around Asia got rich quick. Like Buddhism in India in the third and fourth centuries, if there is a serious long-term financial crisis, they won't have the money or capital to support their operations. They build such massive massive temples. So what happens when the money stops rolling in? And I do believe that day is coming sooner or later given our energy crisis with oil.

I also have to wonder if the younger generation will be as enthusiastic about Humanistic Buddhism as the baby boomers were.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jan 30, 2014 1:08 pm

One other thing is that Humanistic Buddhism has never been tested under trying circumstances, like war.

The idea of building a Pure Land on earth might not be so convincing or realistic to people suffering a lack of food or having to bury their sons. Humanistic Buddhism doesn't really talk about suffering, death, impermanence and so on very much. They talk about building a utopia on earth, by purifying one mind at a time. For Taiwanese and diaspora Chinese having gone from war and rags to having a lot more wealth and security than they could ever remember, it is a convincing message given the development they've enjoyed over the last few decades.

However, what happens if all that development unravels and suddenly people are thrust into the poverty of their grandparents?
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Huifeng » Thu Jan 30, 2014 7:22 pm

Taixu's "buddhism for human life", the precursor to "humanistic buddhism" was started during times of war, both foreign invasion and internal civil war. And much of the start of "humanistic buddhism" started and continued under the cross channel cold (sometimes hot) war. And it was strongly supported by refugees from those wars.

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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jan 30, 2014 8:33 pm

Huifeng wrote:Taixu's "buddhism for human life", the precursor to "humanistic buddhism" was started during times of war, both foreign invasion and internal civil war. And much of the start of "humanistic buddhism" started and continued under the cross channel cold (sometimes hot) war. And it was strongly supported by refugees from those wars.

~~Huifeng


As I said, Humanistic Buddhism has never been tested under war. The predecessor ideology was not so widespread during the Sino-Japanese war.

Actually it might even be said that Humanistic Buddhism blinds people to the realities of life by providing an unrealistic vision of a paradise available on earth if only everyone would behave themselves and purify their minds.

It is an easy ideology to follow, perhaps, but easy ideologies only flourish in easy times.

My concern is that Humanistic Buddhism pays little attention to the horrors of life which humanity generally has to deal with. When the hard times come back (and they will), will even the nuns and monks be able to really speak sensibly about death, impermanence, loss and agony?

One aspect of modern western thought that has been adopted in Asia is the belief in perpetual progress, which would have been alien to a lot of people not so long ago. Humanistic Buddhism takes on this idea as well, assuming history can and ought to proceed towards better times if only we work hard enough and fulfill our vows. It does not really account for the fact that you can't actually fix saṃsāra, and that inevitably things will fall to pieces no matter your best intentions. Sooner or later evil prevails over virtue. Shadow overtakes the light. It is best to recognize and prepare for this, unappealing as it might sound to common people.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Sherlock » Thu Jan 30, 2014 11:51 pm

Shakyamuni Buddha's original teaching also originated in a time of relative peace in India. The main base for Indian Buddhism was also largely urbanized until a fairly late period (the period of the late tantras).
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jan 31, 2014 2:56 am

Sherlock wrote:Shakyamuni Buddha's original teaching also originated in a time of relative peace in India. The main base for Indian Buddhism was also largely urbanized until a fairly late period (the period of the late tantras).


I don't think that's true. The Buddha's own clan was massacred. During the Buddha's time a lot of small states were being assimilated into empires, which eventually gave rise to the Nanda and Maurya empires. Within a few generations you had figures like Candragupta waging war against the Selucid dynasty on the western frontier.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Feb 01, 2014 8:58 am

I'm really not sure what you are expecting of Humanistic Buddhism Venerable sir. Permanence? Imperturbability to war? I am certain that no one within the tradition is claiming that it will last until Maitreya. The teachings of the Dharma are not denied. Buddhism, if it lasts long enough, will eventually fall out of the phase of engagement, and revert to non-engagement. Prior to being non-engaged it was engaged at a point. All of these states will change and are subject to eventual disappearance. A lot of the organisations are very active in disaster relief, and are not strangers to real human strife - somehow they do manage not to be disillusioned. As for size, the massive new temples built by these organisations aren't made out of solid stone, they're clearly only made to last for a bit over a century at most. The fact that they'll have to eventually rebuild and renovate will allow for an adaptation to demand and the supply of donations. And if big temples aren't used? So what? It's just what happens, come what may.

As regards these claims:
Indrajala wrote:There is more to it than just giving to the greater community a bit more. They will regard work as practice, and meditation as selfish and not terribly beneficial to others. If you can work for your Buddhist organization (preferably as a volunteer), then this is considered really meritorious and a true reflection of the bodhisattva path, as compared to sitting in a mountain hall meditating. In Taiwan I was told the bodhisattva path is basically community service, which is at odds with the models proposed in ancient India and China.

Yes, work is regarded as practice, but everything in life is regarded as practice. Can't you meditate and work at the same time? That's Ch'an isn't it? Even the Pali Tripitaka provides a myriad of meditative templates, other than sitting crossed legged with the spine erect. I highly doubt you'll find anyone in Fo Guang Shan, at least, who will deny that. Meditation is encouraged, and considered part of the path. Really volunteers are volunteers, and people who sign up for frequently held meditation retreats, do meditation retreats. And how much can we really say about what happened in ancient India and China? You're knowledgeable enough about the scholarship to know that we can't think of any era in Buddhism as being a golden era from which we have slipped. More important to this question is, how did Humanistic Buddhism transform Chinese Buddhism as it existed in the 19th century?

Fundamentally, the real reason why I think it's worth toning down some of the rhetoric in these regards is that many of these claims more or less amount to the idea that the very basic tenants of Buddhism are being denied by Humanistic Buddhism, e.g. that they're blind to the three marks, or that they view meditation as selfish. It is possible that one may be generalizing based upon individual experiences, and I don't think these claims can be made universally, though they may at times be made particularly. In my experience, this isn't the case, and doctrinally, when you get beyond the public presentation and talk to real disciples and teachers, they're as orthodox as any other Mahayana school, and as far as I can see, they are extremely dedicated and put in an immense amount of energy. That's not to say other traditions don't, but Humanistic Buddhism doesn't really allow one to sit back and relax, and doesn't allow you to stay melancholy and inactive - but that doesn't mean meditation isn't important.

Have you by any chance read Only a Great Rain: A Guide to Chinese Buddhist Meditation by Master Hsing Yun? If so, do you find that it in anyway denigrates the role of meditation?

You don't need to go into any personal details of course, but you know most of these institutions do offer frequent meditation retreats, with very good facilities. Have you by any chance tried any of them and found them to be lacking? Personally, I have, and the only things I found lacking were in my own mind.

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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Sat Feb 01, 2014 10:02 am

Zhen Li wrote:I am certain that no one within the tradition is claiming that it will last until Maitreya.


The premise of "bringing the pure land here" or "building a pure land on earth" effectively assumes you can fix saṃsāra. This is understandably more appealing than more realistic prospects about our planet earth. Perhaps nobody is saying their proposed pure land will last forever, but again if you understand pure land ideas, a pure land is not supposed to revert back to a messier state. Progress past a certain point is assumed to be permanent and irreversible.

This idea of building a pure land on earth is a reflection of the modern belief in perpetual progress, be it technological or moral. It is a belief that sees history as linear and progressive. It is also widely unquestioned in the world today, yet it underpins a great deal of modern thought and ideas. Take for example the march towards equal rights, democracy and so on which are assumed to have to happen in the "developing world".



The teachings of the Dharma are not denied.



Sure, but they don't talk much about the harder, uglier realities of saṃsāra, at least in my observations. They have a very positive and appealing message about improving oneself and the world, but in my estimation this is leading to unrealistic views about life and the world.


A lot of the organisations are very active in disaster relief, and are not strangers to real human strife - somehow they do manage not to be disillusioned.



Most natural disasters are inconsequential to long-term warfare or economic hardship. Arguably economic collapse stings more than a tsunami. Just look at how many people died of alcoholism when the USSR collapsed and all their hopes and dreams were shattered.

Rebuilding homes and distributing food in a disaster area is actually probably cause for happiness. It is an uplifting experience (I volunteered in Tohoku after the tsunami in Japan). It gives hope and reassurances. However, warfare and economic collapse can rob people of the capacity to really aid others as throughout there's usually no light at the end of the tunnel.


As for size, the massive new temples built by these organisations aren't made out of solid stone, they're clearly only made to last for a bit over a century at most.



If they built them out of stone, the costs would be astronomical. In any case, it would probably be difficult to hire and retain enough masons to do such a job adequately. It isn't really feasible to build like that anymore unless people really want it.


Yes, work is regarded as practice, but everything in life is regarded as practice. Can't you meditate and work at the same time?


Personally I don't think you'll cultivate much dhyāna running a reception or cooking rice.

The quaint idea of chopping firewood mindfully is different from running a Buddhist Sunday school service. In any case, if you look at Chan or Zen, the meditation cushion has normally been given precedence over manual chores. There of course needs to be a balance especially in the communal setting where works needs to be done collectively, but in the premodern context it was rather different. People didn't work in an office nine to five. You can't really equate spending a few hours in the afternoon drying mushrooms in a silent rural monastery in Fujian in the 13th century to working in a noisy tourist reception at a massive monastic complex in Taiwan in 2014.


Meditation is encouraged, and considered part of the path.


It isn't really seen as a theoretical priority as far as I've observed. I know that most Buddhists never meditate, even monks and nuns, but at least in TB and Theravada, in theory you're supposed to do long-term sustained retreat, whereas in Humanistic Buddhism you'll be hard pressed to find sangha members who could do such things because of all the responsibilities they have. Their organizations probably wouldn't allow them more than a week or two. Humanistic Buddhism organizes their labor rather skilfully, including the sangha members. Humanistic Buddhism, as far as I've asked around, doesn't really appreciate the idea of a three year retreat, whereas TB still does. Arguably on the mainland before the Reds the Buddhism there also could appreciate it.


That's not to say other traditions don't, but Humanistic Buddhism doesn't really allow one to sit back and relax, and doesn't allow you to stay melancholy and inactive - but that doesn't mean meditation isn't important.


It isn't given the same priority in the theory as compared to earlier times (again most Buddhists won't meditate, but at least on paper you have the theory).



Have you by any chance read Only a Great Rain: A Guide to Chinese Buddhist Meditation by Master Hsing Yun? If so, do you find that it in anyway denigrates the role of meditation?


No, but I've seen Xingyun in person and asked him a question or two. I actually don't have much respect for him or his organization. Some of their academic books are alright though.

I've also heard a lot about him (personal details too) from ex-FGS members, one of whom was a favorite before falling out with him. In my travels I've met seven ex-FGS monks and nuns, all of whom are still sangha in good standing. All but one reported mental and emotional abuse at the hands of their superiors in the organization, and subsequently left (or ran away by the sounds of it). The other one was kicked out of the organization for reasons unspecified. One insider in FGS has also told me at length about what really goes on in the organization behind the scenes, especially regarding the planning of things.

I also have issues with that supposed 'buddha tooth' of highly highly questionable origins. It speaks to the qualities of the administration. They either never asked serious questions about a relic from Tibet that the Tibetans themselves never heard of, or they were well aware it wasn't real and provided misinformation to the public about it and this "Kunga Rinpoche" guy. I wrote about this here:

http://huayanzang.blogspot.com/2013/07/ ... dhism.html

As a representative of Humanistic Buddhism, none of this reflects well on the ideology.

Have you by any chance tried any of them and found them to be lacking? Personally, I have, and the only things I found lacking were in my own mind.


Yes, I spent about a month with FGS when I was a student. They have a nice retreat hall.

Again, when it comes to Humanistic Buddhism the basic theory doesn't emphasize meditation. Their understanding of the bodhisattva path isn't the traditional one in the scriptures.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Huifeng » Sat Feb 01, 2014 6:21 pm

Ven. Indrajala,

When you participated in the Humanistic Buddhism Monastic Life Program at Fo Guang Shan back in 2010, which included a 7 day Chan retreat in a 21 day program, you don't think that was enough emphasis on meditation? How much emphasis would you think appropriate? Half the time? Full time? (Next month the monastery is holding a one month retreat for FGS monastics from worldwide, FYI.)

Do you think that the monastics and lay staff of the program, under the support of the whole monastery, arranged such a program which included daily meditation, chanting, vegetarian meals, Buddhism classes, Buddhist studies classes, and other such activities, all for free (uniforms aside), is not an example of the bodhisattva path? What specifically would you consider to be engagement in the bodhisattva path, other than doing what it takes to lead others in the practices of giving, morality, patience, effort, meditation and insight?

I'm curious to understand what FGS can do to further others' engagement in the Dharma.

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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby dzogchungpa » Sat Feb 01, 2014 7:11 pm

:popcorn:
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Sat Feb 01, 2014 7:20 pm

Huifeng wrote:When you participated in the Humanistic Buddhism Monastic Life Program at Fo Guang Shan back in 2010, which included a 7 day Chan retreat in a 21 day program, you don't think that was enough emphasis on meditation?


It was clearly tailored to western youth who have an interest in meditation. For university age youth Buddhism is basically equal to meditation.


What specifically would you consider to be engagement in the bodhisattva path, other than doing what it takes to lead others in the practices of giving, morality, patience, effort, meditation and insight?


A pauper cannot pay the debts of a debtor. Without wisdom and strong mental cultivation, we can only really expect to generate merit. Liberation is not achieved on merit alone. Meritorious deeds, while commendable, are merely palliative care if uninformed by wisdom. Wisdom requires practice and life experience that charitable enterprises cannot provide.

To be frank, judging from the questionable behavior of FGS administration and their internal policies which I've been made aware of from multiple ex-FGS sources, I don't think Xingyun or the decision makers display much wisdom or genuine compassion (that "Buddha tooth" and the money that went into it raises serious alarm bells). There are too many dodgy aspects to the organization. I have no choice but to discourage people from having anything to do with it. Here in India I've advised Ladakhis to stop sending their daughters to FGS after hearing firsthand stories from nuns who left the place. Tibetan organizations are better for them and will grant them personal autonomy.

I've only scratched the surface. I've heard of many dodgy issues related to FGS and Xingyun around several Asian countries from sometimes even somewhat eminent figures. This leads me to have a lot of doubts regarding Humanistic Buddhism as proposed by the leading institution behind it: FGS.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Huifeng » Sat Feb 01, 2014 7:43 pm

Thanks for your criticisms, and all the best to you in doing a better job!
When you've reached liberation, please don't forget to come and lead the rest of us along the way!

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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Feb 01, 2014 7:45 pm

Some interesting replies. I think they're all worth responding to.

Pureland on earth is not a physical thing. It's a mental thing. It's only fair to quote Master Hsing Yun on this one,
The Amitabha Sutra and the Pure Land School wrote:An example of the Pure Land on Earth is the one
described in the Vimalakirti Sutra. It is said in the
sutra that although Vimalakirti lived in the saha world,
his state of mind was that of the Pure Land. ...

If we want to construct a pure land on Earth, we
have to start with our minds because “when the mind
is pure, the land is also pure.”
...

Once, Sariputra asked the Buddha, “The Buddha
lands of the ten directions are all very pure. Why is
our saha world so corrupt and filthy?"

The Buddha replied, “You cannot comprehend
the world in which I live.” With this, the Buddha
pressed the earth with his toe. Immediately, the world
became brilliant, pure, and magnificent. The Buddha
then continued, “This is the world in which I live.”

From this, we can see that while we may be doing
the same task in the same place at the same time, we
all react differently. The worlds within our minds are
all different.

So, because your mind has different conditions from my mind, we both perceive FGS differently, Buddhism 101. But when it's claimed that the pureland is being built on earth, it's not fair to misread that as meaning something physical, especially when the organization's literature makes it quite clear what is meant.

As regards an unrealistic, ungritty view of life, there's not really any reply, since your situation is a hypothetical. If FGS were in such a situation, what would happen is entirely contingent. Partially I think there's some cultural differences between the USSR and Taiwan that would make such a situation unlikely. What do you think would happen? And really, what is the difference with any other Buddhist tradition? Sure, they're a bit more upbeat, that's for certain. I think that has a lot to do with their success contrary to the single hermitage or city temple - if people see happiness they want to join and want to partake.

As regards work and Ch'an. I think your view of Ch'an looks a bit too much like it's being conflated with Zen. They're really quite different and have a different heritage and inheritance. Ch'an hasn't been just about sitting, as it might be in Soto, since the Song dynasty. Ch'an is a shorthand for all sorts of Mahayana rolled into one now. Every individual practices how they feel fit, not how the lineage practices by tradition. One thing you find at FGS in particular, is that frequently individual monks will have a specialised area of expertise from Mahayana in general.

As for dhyāna, it's generally held that with mastery in dhyāna, one can enter and abide in it whenever and wherever. As per the first two of the five masteries: Mastery in adverting, mastery in attaining.
Paṭisambhidāmagga, I, 100 wrote:He adverts and attains to the first jhana where, when, and for as long as, he wishes; he has no difficulty in adverting and attaining; thus it is mastery in adverting and attaining.

Visuddhimagga, 133 wrote:The venerable Maha-Moggallana's ability to enter upon jhana quickly, as in the training of the royal naga-serpent Nandopananda, is called mastery in attaining.

If you committed yourself to training in meditation, it'd really be no problem to enter into dhyāna wherever you want, it's all a question of training and practice. You don't even need to be an arhat to be able to practice remaining in dhyāna all day. It takes a lot of energy, but that's one of the key factors of the path.

Similarly, for rebirth in Brahmalokas: for the first three dhyāna there are three parts of their equivalent Brahmalokas, and rebirth in each level depends upon your ability to enter each dhyāna, i.e. if you only enter the dhyāna by luck from time to time that's the lowest level of the Brahmaloka, if you can enter the dhyāna regularly after a long set up in meditation, but pretty regularly, that's the middle level of the Brahmaloka, and if you can enter whenever and wherever you want (i.e. master of adverting), then that's the highest level of the Brahmaloka. As for the fourth jhana there are two levels, the first is focusing on the equanimity and the second is the ability to see dependent origination.

So, to say "I don't think you'll cultivate much dhyāna running a reception or cooking rice" is not a claim that I would second.

As for actual practice, I know for a fact that the claim that "Humanistic Buddhism, as far as I've asked around, doesn't really appreciate the idea of a three year retreat" is not true. I appreciate that of course you state that this is as far as you have asked around, but I can inform you otherwise. I know that when a trainee monk with FGS you can choose to spend three years in meditation retreat, or at the college. I know a monk who told me that he did this from FGS, and I am sure if you want the details about that you can ask Venerable Huifeng. Similarly, when on assignment at a particular place, it really depends on the individual monk as to where and when they meditate - I knew monks who would meditate three times a day for many hours, and I also knew some who claimed they hadn't sat down for meditation in months. I think this is probably the case in every tradition.

As for FGS falling outs, remember you're only hearing one side of the story if you're getting these reports from the people who fell out themselves. People who aren't dissatisfied simply aren't going to approach you and start talking to you about their non-dissatisfaction. So you're going to be getting one side of the story either way. For the people who don't get embroiled up in controversy, their lives may appear to outsiders as extremely mundane and boring, there'd be no story to tell, and no interest would be aroused in you to learn it. In other traditions, there's plenty of politics, but any wise practitioner who understands the way the Sangha works will know that discussing the politics to those who aren't on a need to know basis is just fermenting the seeds for schism - so if you're going around hearing these confessions, you're also selecting for a particular type of individual who may not have a great intuition for right speech as regards Sangha affairs. If there's a discipline issue, it should be raised to a superior, not to the general public. As for people being expelled, every Sangha has the right and duty to do that.
Indrajala wrote:Again, when it comes to Humanistic Buddhism the basic theory doesn't emphasize meditation. Their understanding of the bodhisattva path isn't the traditional one in the scriptures.

I don't think you really believe this. The Mahayana sutras don't give rules for organising everything in a sangha from the ground up. If you want to provide quotations and specific examples contradicting them, go ahead, but for every such example, Mahayana is flexible enough that there'll be a dozen counter examples.
Indrajala wrote:To be frank, judging from the questionable behavior of FGS administration and their internal policies which I've been made aware of from multiple ex-FGS sources, I don't think Xingyun or the decision makers display much wisdom or genuine compassion (that "Buddha tooth" and the money that went into it raises serious alarm bells).

... I've only scratched the surface. I've heard of many dodgy issues related to FGS and Xingyun around several Asian countries from sometimes even somewhat eminent figures. This leads me to have a lot of doubts regarding Humanistic Buddhism as proposed by the leading institution behind it: FGS.

You seem to be restraining from saying anything specific, perhaps wise, but the Buddha tooth, even if everything you claim is true, is just like any relic, a way for people to generate merit and a way of skill in means. The concern about it's authenticity strikes me as somewhat materialistic. After all, isn't the real Buddhasarira the mind united with Prajnaparamita? Externally, plenty of relics and caityas have all sorts of legends and stories about them -- Svayambhunath was probably historically a site for worshipping a demoness, or the site of a rock cult, that doesn't mean that it isn't important to also maintain in your mind that it is also the centre of the universe, from which everything sprung, within which dwells the five dhyani Buddhas. Never ruin a good story with the truth, especially when it makes for good upaya.

But without saying anything specific about FGS and the misdemeanours you keep alluding to, you're just skirting around a potential issue and expressing dislike - which isn't really useful to anyone but yourself, for observation in meditation.
Indrajala wrote:There are too many dodgy aspects to the organization. I have no choice but to discourage people from having anything to do with it. Here in India I've advised Ladakhis to stop sending their daughters to FGS after hearing firsthand stories from nuns who left the place. Tibetan organizations are better for them and will grant them personal autonomy.

It all depends on what people are looking for. I know you don't really value the Vinaya beyond the trainee vows, but many Buddhists actually see upholding the Vinaya as an act of great merit, bravery, and compassion, and worthy of respect.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Sat Feb 01, 2014 9:02 pm

Zhen Li wrote:Pureland on earth is not a physical thing. It's a mental thing. It's only fair to quote Master Hsing Yun on this one,


It depends. The literature will allude to transforming the planet through people individually transforming their minds. In any case, the running assumption is that you can fix saṃsāra, which I think is problematic.


So, because your mind has different conditions from my mind, we both perceive FGS differently, Buddhism 101. But when it's claimed that the pureland is being built on earth, it's not fair to misread that as meaning something physical, especially when the organization's literature makes it quite clear what is meant.



Isn't the implication, however, that by purifying minds the collective society is simultaneously transformed for the better?


As regards an unrealistic, ungritty view of life, there's not really any reply, since your situation is a hypothetical.



As I said earlier, Humanistic Buddhism has never been tested under trying circumstances like war. We'll see how it works in the future. There's nothing wrong with making such statements.

As for dhyāna, it's generally held that with mastery in dhyāna, one can enter and abide in it whenever and wherever. As per the first two of the five masteries: Mastery in adverting, mastery in attaining.


So, to say "I don't think you'll cultivate much dhyāna running a reception or cooking rice" is not a claim that I would second.



I still don't think you'll get far in dhyāna working a reception or cooking rice.



As for actual practice, I know for a fact that the claim that "Humanistic Buddhism, as far as I've asked around, doesn't really appreciate the idea of a three year retreat" is not true. I appreciate that of course you state that this is as far as you have asked around, but I can inform you otherwise. I know that when a trainee monk with FGS you can choose to spend three years in meditation retreat, or at the college.



Yes, I know one monk who was in the Chan hall for a few years and had a good experience there, but in general Humanistic Buddhism does not generally seem to appreciate the idea of a lot of their trained monks and nuns going into isolated retreat and not actively contributing anything for several years. Socially engaged Buddhist in principle is supposed to be active in society. One is not supposed to withdraw from it. I can see stark differences between this and modern TB where three year retreat is often mandatory and such facilities are widespread.



As for FGS falling outs, remember you're only hearing one side of the story if you're getting these reports from the people who fell out themselves.



They never approached me really. We got onto the subject in conversation somehow and they told me about their experiences.

I find it remarkable how I've met these several individuals over the course of my travels. I've never heard such things about other major Buddhist organizations. It does strike me as alarming. The fact that they had no personal autonomy over their lives and felt compelled to run away for various reasons, and that they're not supposed to associate with their former co-monastics still in FGS, is likewise all a concern.


For the people who don't get embroiled up in controversy, their lives may appear to outsiders as extremely mundane and boring, there'd be no story to tell, and no interest would be aroused in you to learn it.



These are all sangha members in good standing and I have no reason to believe they're seeking attention by telling me their stories in private.


If there's a discipline issue, it should be raised to a superior, not to the general public.



Being told Buddhist artwork from your non-Chinese culture is heretical is hardly a matter of discipline. It is cultural chauvinism.



You seem to be restraining from saying anything specific, perhaps wise,


Well I won't name names and go into too many details as it concerns personal affairs.

but the Buddha tooth, even if everything you claim is true, is just like any relic, a way for people to generate merit and a way of skill in means.


That's BS.

Justifying questionable behavior in the name of skilful means, especially in this day in age when we can investigate the origins of purported relics, is hardly moral.

An FGS insider told me the real reason the "Buddha tooth" project was started was because after Xinyun dies the donations are expected to drop and consequently having a relic stupa is expected to secure future funds.


The concern about it's authenticity strikes me as somewhat materialistic. After all, isn't the real Buddhasarira the mind united with Prajnaparamita?


I really hope you're playing the devil's advocate here.


It all depends on what people are looking for. I know you don't really value the Vinaya beyond the trainee vows, but many Buddhists actually see upholding the Vinaya as an act of great merit, bravery, and compassion, and worthy of respect.


Um, no. The Vinaya has nothing to do with this. The Vinaya has nothing to do with making decisions about your future education. In the sangha (at least the male sangha) everyone is supposed to be autonomous and free.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Feb 01, 2014 9:18 pm

As regards Pureland, it doesn't matter what you think the running assumption at FGS is. If it's only discussed as being a mental transformation, then there's no problem, and Samsara is fixed. And Samsara is fixed anyway: Nirvana is always there, so even if FGS claimed it was material, it doesn't deny basic Tathagatagarbha doctrines. The more dharmic the surroundings, the more likely you are to remember it.

As for dhyāna, it's really a matter of personal practice. Maybe you won't be able to attain master of adverting, but if you have been through daily meditation for years, and you're doing it properly, it's really not unrealistic to expect that someone should be able to enter and exit at least the first dhyāna at will anywhere. And as regards mandatory retreats, you first complain about there being a lack of autonomy at FGS, and then you praise a system where only one approach is promoted - that seems somewhat contradictory. If you're preferential path is one of sitting meditation, that doesn't mean everyone's will be. Sitting meditation is only one way, you know the Sutras well enough to know this.

I think your personal experiences are not productive to talk about, since you won't go into specifics, and shouldn't, so I won't ask you any more about them.

As regards rumours and speculation about why the BMC was built, you'll hear everything under the sun if you stick around long enough. You'll hear enough divergent stories to know that they're probably all vast simplifications. Sure, securing donations might be one, but so what? It's important to secure donations for the Sangha. And I really don't see why you have trouble with the idea of using upaya to attract people to the Dharma, practice a pure mind, and generate merit.

Do you think Svayambhunath is genuine? Do you not agree that someone at one time made up a story that became the Svayambhupurana? But don't you agree that at the same time, believing the Svayambhupurana, is both more beautiful, more fun, and more meritorious, than having a bleak historicist view of the world. In these affairs, history really doesn't matter, nor does material truth, what matters is mastering and purifying your mind - the more opportunities are created for that, the better.

As regards your comments about the Sangha, I really don't follow you there. I was talking about providing opportunities for women to uphold the Vinaya. I happen to believe, as many other Buddhists do, that upholding the Vinaya is about more than just freedom, it's really something worthy of reverence, it's courageous and requires great discipline. If I had the choice of recommending a Ladhaki woman between upholding the Siksamana (not even trainee) vows, and the full Vinaya at FGS, I can't see myself being able to value the former over the latter.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 02, 2014 7:36 am

Zhen Li wrote:As regards rumours and speculation about why the BMC was built,...


No, this was an insider. A present member of FGS. They told me this. Not someone out of the loop.


Sure, securing donations might be one, but so what? It's important to secure donations for the Sangha.



Claiming to have a Buddha tooth from Tibet that the Tibetans have absolutely no knowledge of and were rather baffled by is not the ideal way of securing future finances.


But don't you agree that at the same time, believing the Svayambhupurana, is both more beautiful, more fun, and more meritorious, than having a bleak historicist view of the world. In these affairs, history really doesn't matter, nor does material truth, what matters is mastering and purifying your mind - the more opportunities are created for that, the better.


I prefer to live in reality than a make believe world.


I was talking about providing opportunities for women to uphold the Vinaya.



As I'm sure you're aware, nobody actually follows even half the Vinaya.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Feb 02, 2014 5:11 pm

There are all sorts of loops within such an organisation. You don't think that a monastery with the population of a small city is going to have more than one story floating around? Your trust wavers and is inconsistent in different areas - at once you trust the 'loops' at FGS to report faithfully the inside dealings to you, and at the same time you mistrust the 'loops' at FGS to report faithfully whether they believed Kunga Dorje was a Rinpoche.

As for the tooth relic's origins, you seem to be endowing the Tibetan race with a mystical super knowledge. Just because the tooth relic comes from Namgyal Monastery, does not imply that all Tibetans will know about it. Similarly, you are endowing FGS administration with mystical super knowledge, just because Kunga Dorje represented himself as a Rinpoche, doesn't mean that anyone at FGS will know he was not, and if they knew he was not, would they consider it skilful to say anything? Better to have a tooth relic than no tooth relic, and the only people who will complain are those who are so cynical about absolutely and utterly everything that they don't even think you can enter dhyana when cooking. :lol: (just teasing)

Moreover, what's the point in having relics if you can't believe they're the relics of the Buddha? Just be honest. Anyone looking at pictures of relics out there will believe that either magic is involved or it's not from a human. What standard of truth has there been in the past for tooth relics? What about the Sutras written centuries after the Buddha's parinirvana? Why is there suddenly being expected of Buddhism a standard of historical truth, where formerly for all history, mythology and, frankly, make believe, was the rule of the day? If you can't make believe, you certainly mustn't be a Vajrayana practitioner. The question of what is accepted after the fact fundamentally has nothing to do with historical veracity, but whether it is consistent with the Sutras and Vinaya, upheld and praised by the wise, etc..

As for the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, I really think you tend to sensationalise a lot. There are serious difference between trainee vows and full vows that imply a greater amount of discipline, that are, to the best of my knowledge, upheld, not least of which is the fact that expulsion is not necessary for engaging in the equivalent of defeat for a Sramanera. A monk observing the full Vinaya and living in a monastery under the constant supervision of a superior is clearly expected to observe greater discipline than a trainee. To say that half the Vinaya isn't followed is really to ignore the fact that half of the rules are never going to come up in a thousand years, for example, more than half of it is stuff like this:
Forfeiture and Confession 尼薩耆波逸提, 13 (I am using Ven. Huifeng's translation) wrote:If a bhiksu is making a new felt blanket or rug, two parts of pure black wool are
to be incorporated, a third part of white, and a fourth of brown. If a bhiksu
should have a new felt blanket or rug made without incorporating two parts of
pure black wool, a third of white, and a fourth of brown, it is to be forfeited and
confessed.

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