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
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.