Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 02, 2014 7:10 pm

Zhen Li wrote: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.



Like a journalist, you put the pieces together from multiple sources.



As for the tooth relic's origins, you seem to be endowing the Tibetan race with a mystical super knowledge.


This is nonsense. I have done no such thing.

I am saying there is no historical record of such a relic and moreover the Tibetan representatives who would have known about such a thing were baffled when asked.

If you can't appreciate that fact, then feel free to live in a land of make believe.




Just because the tooth relic comes from Namgyal Monastery, does not imply that all Tibetans will know about it.


At least some major figures should have known about it.



... 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?


Or it was convenient to claim a Tibetan monk as a Rinpoche to legitimize the claim it was an authentic tooth. There is also this group of Rinpoches who apparently attested to its authenticity. Who were they?


Better to have a tooth relic than no tooth relic,



It is beliefs like this that make me want to distance myself from a lot of Buddhists.



What standard of truth has there been in the past for tooth relics?



There was none. They've dug up crystal bones from old stupas. I can't appreciate that either.


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..


If the motive behind claiming to have a relic is to make money, I feel this is ultimately an issue and undermines the credibility of those behind such claims.



There are serious difference between trainee vows and full vows that imply a greater amount of discipline,


Are you unaware that the Vinaya also includes all manner of karma proceedings and democratic mechanisms for sangha administration?

Good luck finding a sangha that actually doesn't function as a dictatorship or oligarchy.


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:


China has never fully implemented the Vinaya. Arguably nobody ever has anywhere. I mean in East Asia everyone eats dinner and calls it medicine meal. There's also the cookies in the afternoon and evening. On top of that, there's more to the Vinaya than vows.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Feb 02, 2014 7:54 pm

You choose what you want to believe. If you prefer a world without relics, myths and the Vinaya, then you might as well disrobe like Batchelor and just attend Vipassana retreats. You're a protestant Buddhist basically, you prefer cathedrals without the smell of incense and dripping wax. That's all fine by me. Heck, you could probably practice Mahayana as a protestant Buddhist using only the descriptions of Bodhisattas in the Pali Canon.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 02, 2014 8:05 pm

Zhen Li wrote:You choose what you want to believe. If you prefer a world without relics, myths and the Vinaya, then you might as well disrobe like Batchelor and just attend Vipassana retreats.


I'm not a secularist, atheist or materialist. I'm a fairly religious polytheist panpsychist. I'm fine with credible relics (like building a stupa for a relatively recently deceased master). I cherish many myths, especially those related to the gods, both Buddhist and otherwise. As for the Vinaya, I am inclined to follow Jizang's line of thought:

    若依篇聚令捨罪修福。此為凡夫薄福鈍根人說。
    Relying on the Vinaya articles to cast off transgressions and cultivate merit is taught for ordinary beings who have sparse merit and dull faculties.



Your statement above is simply nonsense and hardly reflects my beliefs or path.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 02, 2014 8:06 pm

Zhen Li wrote:You're a protestant Buddhist basically, you prefer cathedrals without the smell of incense and dripping wax. That's all fine by me. Heck, you could probably practice Mahayana as a protestant Buddhist using only the descriptions of Bodhisattas in the Pali Canon.


Complete misrepresentation of me. Knock it off.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Feb 02, 2014 8:16 pm

So, for you myths are distant stories that aren't connected to everyday life, and the only relics that can be considered such are material ones which have been passed off with scientific accuracy :thinking:. Not protestant? You'll find that MOST stupas in Nepal and North India, will be lacking in these two areas -- particularly the most revered of all. As for Jizang, he's talking about relative and ultimate. Most people have dull faculties, I have dull faculties. We need discipline more than ever these days. Jizang is not telling people not to follow the Vinaya, and he's not saying that it's not useful nor worthy of reverence.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 02, 2014 8:30 pm

Zhen Li wrote:So, for you myths are distant stories that aren't connected to everyday life, and the only relics that can be considered such are material ones.


I appreciate the evidence based approach. Take for example the relics in the India National Museum which I saw a few days ago. They were found inside jars that date from around the Buddha's era. That lends some credibility to the claim they might be from the Buddha.

My real issue is not so much with the purported relic itself, but simply that the whole narrative behind it is dodgy and simply doesn't add up. If people want to follow along, fine, but I will speak my mind on the issue and warn people about the organization. I know that offends FGS sympathizers and probably burns a lot of future bridges (FGS is influential in some areas of academia), but I am morally obligated to speak.


As for Jizang, he's talking about relative and ultimate. Most people have dull faculties, I have dull faculties. We need discipline more than ever these days. Jizang is not telling people not to follow the Vinaya.


Jizang wasn't big on the Vinaya. He seems to have thought a loose implementation and moderate regard for it was sufficient. I agree with him. Daoxuan predictably did not. I think we need rules and obligations (like monks need to be celibate otherwise they shouldn't carry on with such an identity), but just keep it simple. Mahāyānists especially need to remain flexible. If a goddess showers you with flowers, don't go into a panic and try to brush them off.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Feb 02, 2014 8:39 pm

So the Buddha is just a lump of flesh? Is that what Mahayana has taught you after all these years?

Doesn't the whole narrative of the father telling his children in the burning house about the presents he has for them not add up? That's Upaya for you.

As for Vinaya, if one vows to uphold it, it is laudable, and one need not be flexible. It is better than a lay life for most but those of immense vīrya. It makes life and practice dozens of times more easy. It is more simple - if you are going around living as a householder, or even trainee, life is not simple. The Newar liturgy for returning the Vinaya, while maintaining the status of monastic as householder, states that the life without the vows makes everything harder, in order to achieve the same level of attainments as one would be able to otherwise, one has to maintain a practice many times more intense at the same time as upholding the household life, not least because of the potential for attachment where sex is involved. Upholding the Vinaya is better.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 02, 2014 8:51 pm

Zhen Li wrote:So the Buddha is just a lump of flesh? Is that what Mahayana has taught you after all these years?


No, there are multiple aspects to the Buddha. We can discuss this elsewhere if you wish.


Doesn't the whole narrative of the father telling his children in the burning house about the presents he has for them not add up? That's Upaya for you.


I have reservations about "relics" in stupa compounds (with Starbucks and Seven Eleven inside) leading people out of the burning house.

Just sayin'.


It is more simple - if you are going around living as a householder, or even trainee, life is not simple.


It depends. A lot of monastics I know lead crazy lives and are constantly busy, occupied with multiple tasks and bear great responsibilities. Then plenty of common Buddhists have time to practice, read, relax, waste time in cafes for hours on end. Just go to Boudha in Kathmandu.

Family life isn't such a big deal in much of India. Kids take care of themselves mostly and not a lot of time or resources are put into them necessarily. Family life isn't simple in the first world, I grant you.

We also need to remind ourselves that Vimalakīrti was a layman and superior to all the renunciate disciples. His message was that if you realize emptiness, the formalities of organized religion are no big deal.


Upholding the Vinaya is better.


It depends. In Mahāyāna saṃsāra is more caused by intellectual fault than moral fault. If you understand emptiness to some extent, then ecclesiastical law isn't such a big concern.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Feb 02, 2014 9:14 pm

Atisa says people come with three different levels of motivation. The Starbucks in the BMC appeals to those of the least level of motivation, by saying, you can come and enjoy this wonderful sight without having to wait for the monastic meal time to eat. At the same time, they will learn something about Buddhism, and maybe even plant the seeds of "enlightenment by seeing," through observing the art and imagery. They'll also some way or other make some proceeds towards the Sangha, which is some of the greatest merit a layperson can make. Most people don't have "just a little dust on their eyes," most people have a lot, and they all matter. Just seeing such a sight once can plant seeds that will lead to fruition later. Myself, for example, was first interested in Buddhism because I found the art very beautiful.

With regards to Vinaya, the question isn't whether family life is a big deal or not a big deal, whether it is busy or not busy, the question is whether it is difficult to attain enlightenment. Vimalakirti realised emptiness, saying "if you realise emptiness, the formalities of organized religion are no big deal," is not a small condition. I do take exception to the idea that only understanding emptiness to "some extent" makes Vinaya less of a concern, understanding it to "some extent" really doesn't have a profound impact upon your life such that the kinds of lifestyle being advocated by the Vinaya are without fruit. Otherwise, we'd have plenty of religious studies undergrads who are superior to monks in their attainments.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby rory » Mon Feb 03, 2014 2:24 am

Don't you find it the least bit appalling that a modern org builds a stupa for a relic it basically knows is inauthentic? I'm not talking about centuries ago, I'm speaking of today. I love relics, the various deities, incense, the entire works but I don't retire my brain. You could also build a Disneyworld as well as a Starbucks and that doesn't encourage knowledge of the Dharma. It's fatuous. If you have a worthwhile message: the 4 noble truths and preach it, people will want to do something.

Building a Pure Land on earth isn't the answer either; just look at Soka Gakkai they've been preaching this for decades and a more corrupt culty power-hungy political org is hard to find. Buddhism should not encourage afflictions.

I'm a single lay Buddhist and I have tons of time to practice and talk to teachers for instruction. Modern conveniences, a good job, no children give me much free time to study the Dharma.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Feb 03, 2014 3:15 am

Rory, I don't believe that they believe it is inauthentic. Every shrine in Taiwan has a Buddha relic, many of which will have all sorts of stories about them. They don't all have to verify the authenticity.

If you don't think the centre can teach people about Dharma, please go there, and say that again (unless you have, then tell me some more about why you think it's lacking). Speak from experience, please don't speculate about what is there, and what is not there, without actually being there about what it is like. I don't even know if Indrajala has been there, if I am not correct, he was in Taiwan before it was completed. My impression is that there's a lot of unjust slander going on here, and there's a serious credibility issue here.

If you think all we have to do is preach "the four noble truths," then that's protestant Buddhism, ideas are the only thing that matters, all the imagery has no purpose for you, regardless of whether you say you think it does.

People are drawn the dharma through many means, we shouldn't selfish and think that 'our' way is the only way.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Indrajala » Mon Feb 03, 2014 3:31 am

Zhen Li wrote:I don't even know if Indrajala has been there, if I am not correct, he was in Taiwan before it was completed. My impression is that there's a lot of unjust slander going on here, and there's a serious credibility issue here.


No, I visited it three times. Twice while it was under construction, and once when it was completed. I had a tour of the whole place while it was under construction on two separate occasions.

If you don't think the centre can teach people about Dharma, please go there, and say that again (unless you have, then tell me some more about why you think it's lacking).


There are probably more cost effective and moral or credible ways to teach people Dharma than building a stupa complex with a Starbucks and Seven Eleven inside.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Feb 03, 2014 9:03 am

The story of Fo Guang Shan is a complex one, just like with any other large organization. While its public expression may not be to my taste, the large scale events, "Buddhism for Daily Life" emphasis, and role that it plays as a custodian of Chinese culture seem to appeal to and nourish the aspirations of a broad swathe of Chinese people in Taiwan, the Chinese diaspora and increasingly Chinese on the mainland. The growth of the organization has been exponential- rapid over a short period of time. The industrialization of Taiwan took off at the same time- this has meant the real possibility of FGS becoming the primary global expression of Chinese Buddhism. But it has also meant many challenges, especially if FGS wishes to truly localize and participate in the cultures within which its branch temples operate, and not exclusively within the Chinese diaspora.

Even though it has a large base and global reach, FGS' resources are not unlimited and therefore tough decision have to me made about where to allocate resources - of time, money and education. FGS receives by far the majority of its financial support from people of Chinese heritage, and Stuart Chandler in his essay "Globalizing Chinese Culture" argues that even then, most branch temples rely on donations from families resident in Taiwan to be able to meet all of their expenses. Just as Westerners who give to Dharma organizations have a set of expectations and needs when they give money, so do the Taiwanese and Chinese devotees who give to FGS. This means FGS temples must to some degree act as an outpost of Chinese culture in foreign lands, where the diaspora can re-connect with their roots, and introduce their children to the heritage of their family:
The identity crisis felt by many in Taiwan is experienced in an even more acute form by those who have emigrated abroad, thereby leaving even the margins to enter lands with virtually no cultural connection with China. It then becomes imperative to find a means to return to one's heritage, at least to selective aspects of that heritage. Many who frequent the overseas branch temples do so, not so much as devote Buddhists, as expatriates seeking the familiar tastes, sounds, and sights of their mother country. Weekly services, monthly retreats, and large-scale Dharma functions are religious and social events. The Chinese language schools run at many of the temples are a major drawing card. Parents regard these schools, as well as the Boy Scout troops and other Foguang children's programs, as effective means to steep their children in the ethical values and cultural legacy of what otherwise would be a far removed birthright.

Venerables serve as important symbols for this reconstructed sense of home. Master Xingyun likes to quote the phrase, "By leaving home, one gains a myriad homes." In the past, this saying pointed to the fact that all bhikshus had the right to take up temporary lodging in any public monastery. So long as the monk had a certificate of ordination and pledged to abide by the monastery's rules, he could not be turned away. He was both homeless, and yet benefited from countless abodes throughout the country (Welch 1967, 306-310). For Foguang venerables, their own organization provides the myriad homes. These clerics, in turn, act as the channels to transmit traditional Chinese culture to the laity. Just as monks and nuns by leaving their biological relatives join a larger monastic family, Foguang devotees are told that, although they may have strayed far from the Chinese homeland, through joining BLIA, they have actually become part of a family that extends around the world. Each Foguang temple, as a center of Chinese culture, is home. It is not only a miniature pure land, but also a microcosmic, archetypal homeland.
http://www.globalbuddhism.org/3/chandler0201.htm


So we should respect the community that FGS serves, and expect that their needs will be stressed as of course, they are the major supporters of the organization. There are many similar instances of this I can think of in my home city of Toronto- the Filipino Catholic Church where my cousin's boyfriend went with his family, the Viet Namese temple down the street from my university, the Ethiopian Coptic Church near my favourite restaurant, the Persian (don't call these guys Iranian) Mosque that rented out the gymnasium in my old elementary school to hold talks and lectures.

So how does FGS reach beyond this model, and is it really necessary or desirable for it to do so? If it does, how much resources should be allocated to such an endeavour? My feeling is that the FGS branch temples overseas will struggle to appeal to the broader communities outside their culture. Persons with exceptional interest in Chinese culture and language, or non-Chinese with a Chinese girlfriend or boyfriend, husband or wife, might find the temples important in their lives. But for the average non-Chinese Westerner, the cultural emphasis of FGS' program (Promoting Buddhism Through Culture is part of its mission statement), might be too much for them to take on, when Tibetan and Theravada groups tend not to have such a strong cultural flavour- and other East ASian organizations, like that of Thich Nhat Hanh, seem far more willing to meet Western culture halfway.

FGS will eventually face a crisis of identity if Chinese migration numbers drop-off. The vast majority of the children of devotees, who may identify more with the culture of the country of their birth, rather than the culture of their ancestry, tend not to stay involved after marriage and moving away (according to what I have been told). The Youth activities in part address this but once kids are grownups and parents themselves, mom and dad cannot tell them they have to go to the temple. Something needs to be offered that is relevant to their lives.

FGS' response in one aspect has been very smart, in my opinion. It has entered the field of academia as the sponsor of courses on Chinese Buddhism within the Budddhist and East Asian studies departments of respected universities, most notably the University of Hong Kong, but also at the University of Toronto in Canada. It has also sponsored a small liberal arts college, called University of the West, in California.

Due to the respect for education in Chinese culture, devotees are willing to sponsor such projects. Due to the fact that these projects function within academic institutions of the host culture, they do not have to include the role of cultural expression and preservation that is demanded in the temples. Chinese Buddhism is a rich and under-represented field in academia, so it is wonderful that FGS has helped with these programs.

So what about the Westerner, or non-Chinese Asian person who seeks to enter monastic life? This is something I can speak to from experience. The first thing to understand is that FGS has, and does, make allowances (great allowances in its own estimation) for cultural differences amongst Sangha members. However, the college system in its present expression will be very difficult not only for most Westeners, but also Asians of other ethnicities (Cambodian, Ladakhi, Viet Namese) and Africans (from South Africa and the Congo) to endure.

“Master Xingyun believes that the people most competent to resolve these issues are natives of the respective non-Buddhist countries who have gone through intensive training in a Foguang college, preferably on the campus at the headquarters. Most ideal of all is to find such individuals who aspire to renounce. The Foguang Buddhist College has a special department to tend to the education of such candidates. As with all monastic college students, tuition, room, and board are provided free of charge. For those who come from an underprivileged background, airfare to Foguangshan is also taken care of. To date, however, Foguangshan has not been very successful in keeping such venerables within the organization. Non-Chinese monastics typically voice two frustrations: either they find it too difficult to acclimate to Chinese customs and values or they feel that their Chinese brethren do not take them seriously. The rate of attrition is consequently very high, many leaving within a few months of matriculating in the college, others making it through the period of training, but disappearing soon thereafter. Of the approximately one dozen Europeans and Americans who have tonsured under Master Xingyun, only two may still be found in the Foguangshan order. Efforts in Africa and India have also had very limited success. Fewer than half of the ten young men who in 1994 became Foguangshan's first shramanera from the Congo lasted through the year-long program at Nan Hua Temple Seminary and only one continued on afterwards. Of the sixty-three students brought to Nan Hua Seminary from Tanzania and Malawi in 1998, not even a dozen remained by year's end, of whom three persisted for two years.(29) The arrangement to bring young men and women from Ladakh, India to Foguangshan to be groomed as monastics has also suffered a high drop out rate.”http://www.globalbuddhism.org/3/chandler0201.htm


My experience was that people tried to be kind, but there was a deep belief that the solution to acclimatizing to the culture was through assimilation. From the POV of discipline I can understand this. Classes were all held in Chinese and though I was given language instruction, I was so tired from the rest of the routine (and trying to learn to fold that darned quilt to the standard required by our dorm monitor!) that it was very difficult to penetrate the language deeply. I was also the only beginner in the class (a repeat of my university experience with Chinese!-dropped the course after 3 months despite it being advertised as being for people with no background in the language).

In their kindness when I indicated feeling overloaded I was given a job helping edit English texts and talk to people on tours, and was quite happy to continue. However, I met one day a senior bhikshu of some clout who told me to enjoy my holiday but fully expect to re-enter the college and conform to the life there. For my own benefit, of course. This, along with many misunderstandings and I felt heavy-handed authoritarianism, made me eventually inclined to leave.

I would recommend the experience only for those with a very strong affinity for Chinese culture and ability to adapt to an extremely regimented lifestyle. With my low-self confidence at the time, having struggled with visas and lack of instruction in India, I needed more of a helping hand. The two Taiwanese monks who I felt closest to, one fluent in English (with an American accent), the other who I could speak to in Tibetan (he trained at Penor Rinpoche’s monastery for several years) both left. So I felt very much disconnected- I had only one friend, an older Western monk, but was the rest of the time reporting to and working with middle aged Chinese nuns- a huge cultural and gender divide- and trying to do this most of the time in broken, halting Chinese!
If one is a confident, strong and sharp person like Ven. Hui Feng, for example, FGS does offer many rewards and opportunities. An advanced degree at a university, and a role as an educator at a Monastically sponsored university.
Certainly in FPMT I would not have access to such opportunities. FGS also cares for its older monastics- one never has to worry about being out on the street or forced to work at a Coffee Shop to support oneself. If I ever lose my translation job, that could be a reality for me.

In short, FGS is a complex organization of many facets that takes deep patience and investigation to really understand. I certainly don’t think my 7 months at the HQ and 4 months at a branch qualify me for this.
If what Ven. Indrajala says about the Ladakhi nuns not being able to keep personal images on their shrines because they were Tibetan iconography, this is cultural chauvinism at its worst and FGS should apologize. This is exactly what the Chinese govt. tries to impose on Tibetans.

However, I know FGS well enough not to blame the entire organization for such a misstep. I imagine it was one overzealous person, young and new in their position, who acted in such a manner. I know several kind and nurturing monastics in the org. who would have been horrified.
In closing, if FGS were more forgiving of people who have left the fold, I would fully consider pursuing an advanced degree at one of its universities. They are of high quality and I would be spared a graduate studies debt I cannot afford on my translators salary of 200 Euros/month. However, one weakness of FGS is its inability to forgive those who leave, so I know this is a pipe dream.
That being said, I appreciate FGS in its full complexity- including the very good things it offers. Even one Ven. Hui Feng can work miracles in increasing the understanding of Chinese Buddhism in the broader academic community.
FGS provides a home away from home for many immigrants. As a foreigner living outside my country for the last 10 years, I understand how grounding and crucial this is.
I wish FGS all the best in its endeavours and with that I had the capacity of Ven. Hui Feng, then I would have been able to make more out of the experience. But for the average run of the mill Westerner like me, I would say that it is very difficult to really be able to fit into the organization.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Seishin » Fri Feb 07, 2014 1:42 pm

Thread locked for a short while. Sorry for any inconvenience. It will be back soon :smile:

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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Seishin » Fri Feb 07, 2014 10:11 pm

As you were :smile:
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Seishin » Fri Feb 07, 2014 10:14 pm

Topic for discussing Ordinations here viewtopic.php?f=66&t=15527&start=0

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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Qianxi » Sat Feb 08, 2014 7:43 pm

Indrajala wrote:They will regard...meditation as selfish and not terribly beneficial to others.

I believe Dharma Drum Mountain and Shengyan are considered as part of the tradition of Humanistic Buddhism, and they place lots of importance on meditation. I've got a whole stack of books by Shengyan on Chan meditation. Yinshun and his followers (eg. Tzu Chi organisation) are less interested in meditation, it's true.
Indrajala wrote: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.

Helping others is at odds with the Boddhisattva path?
Indrajala wrote:[The Taiwanese organizations'] Achilles's Heel is that they've become very capital intensive and were built when Chinese around Asia got rich quick... if there is a serious long-term financial crisis, they won't have the money or capital to support their operations.

So what? Without donations of money all charitable organisations would have to rely on donations of other goods. There's no need to live as if the apocalypse has already happened. Think of all the temples in Buddhist history that have been erected and then fallen to dust. Does the fact of impermanence make all action futile?
Indrajala wrote:Humanistic Buddhism has never been tested under trying circumstances like war.

It was created as a response to foreign invasion, grew during the Second World War and was taken to Taiwan by war refugees. Lots of their monastic colleagues and family members were killed during the war or during the Cultural Revolution. How much more war and death is needed to complete the test?

In general terms, human concern for the society around us has already outlasted all wars. Our ability to cooperate to kill large prey is what initially separated us from other apes, and what in turn produced our complex language and other enhanced mental faculties. Just because it's hardwired doesn't make it right, but Indrajala seemed to be arguing that charity is a novel idea that may not last.

Indrajala's assertion that Humanistic Buddhists in Taiwan don't talk about death and suffering also doesn't ring true. I recently watched a video of Dharma Drum Mountain's 水陸法會 Water and Earth Ceremony, which is a hugely complex Buddhist/traditional Chinese folk ceremony for the spirits of the dead and all beings in the universe! It includes lots of demons, hungry ghosts, pictures of dead relatives, mourners etc.

The difference between Humanistic Buddhism and other Buddhisms is just one of emphasis and not one of kind. Even Yinshun meditated and taught others to meditate. And the Buddha of the Pali canon spent plenty of time teaching laypeople, trying to improve contemporary society and not just retreating from it.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Feb 09, 2014 2:20 am

Right, at Fo Guang Shan too you won't have any trouble finding books on meditation both by FGS members and others, and as far as I have seen Theravada temples and Tibetan ones, there are far more resources and places for meditation at FGS.

And I'd be curious really to know what war experiences are lacking, Buddhists in China experienced lots of persecution just as they did in Tibet, and Master Hsing Yun's own teacher was killed by the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution. The kind of total war that Indrajala was talking about really aren't likely to occur any time in the near future, and have become more rare these days everywhere in the world.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Feb 09, 2014 4:29 am

Qianxi wrote:Indrajala's assertion that Humanistic Buddhists in Taiwan don't talk about death and suffering also doesn't ring true. I recently watched a video of Dharma Drum Mountain's 水陸法會 Water and Earth Ceremony, which is a hugely complex Buddhist/traditional Chinese folk ceremony for the spirits of the dead and all beings in the universe! It includes lots of demons, hungry ghosts, pictures of dead relatives, mourners etc.

Yes, I'm puzzle by that too. I recently attended a talk by Venerable Huei Kai, Deputy Abbot of Fo Guang Shan Headquarters, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. This is a description of the public talk: http://www.fgs.org.nz/south_en/content.aspx?id=9065 and this is a description of a talk he gave so FGS members the previous day: http://www.fgs.org.nz/south_en/content.aspx?id=9059. I did not attend that, but I did get invited to a small-group session after the public talk, which had a lot of discussion of death, particularly Huei Kai's observations about looking after the dying.

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

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Feb 09, 2014 7:38 am

and as far as I have seen Theravada temples and Tibetan ones, there are far more resources and places for meditation at FGS.


Here you do reveal a slight bias. I don't think you have been to many Theravada or Tibetan temples if this is the case. While I wouldn't argue that FGS has no meditation, I would not say that is offers a lot. Even compared to other Chinese Mahayana organizations like City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and Fa Gu Shan (Dharma Drum), it is lacking in this regard.

There is the meditation hall in HQ for long-term training, but apart from this I am not aware of any long-term training facilities (in South Africa there was an excellent facility one time, but Ven. Hui Re is no longer in the order and AFAIK the project is not continuing, though please correct me if I am wrong). In the Buddhist college there are some days of retreat, but at least the male students still had to leave the meditation hall 2-3 times a day in order to serve the food in the extremely busy (hundreds of people!) canteen which I am not so sure was conducive).

Many Tibetan organizations provide facilities and sponsorships for 3 year retreats. Even more scholastically inclined organizations, like FPMT, insist on a one year retreat for completion of the 5 year Master's Program, for example. Kagyu organizations generally require retreats of several years in order for students to be able to take on teaching roles.

In Theravada amongst various groups there is a huge variety, but the groups functioning in the West such as the Forest Tradition, Bhavana Society and Goenka all emphasize meditation far more than FGS. This is not an attack, but I think that your comment doesn't reflect reality which is why I am challenging it. FGS does many good things, but I would not say that it emphasizes meditation. If, as Ven. Huifeng mentions, there is a month long retreat for ordained Sangha, perhaps things are moving more in that direction and I am really happy about that. Still, I can't imagine ALL the Sangha would attend- how would the temples function?

but I did get invited to a small-group session after the public talk, which had a lot of discussion of death, particularly Huei Kai's observations about looking after the dying
.

FGS is good at this type of care and community building. Groups of lay members often organize Pure Land Chanting and other activities at the bedside of those who are ill and dying. There are also extensive resources available for funeral functions and rites for the dead.
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
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