Why academics value Buddhism?

Re: Why academics value Buddhism?

Postby GarcherLancelot » Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:40 pm

Huseng wrote:
GarcherLancelot wrote:Why are there more male dropouts?.. .


I don't know if the proportion is statistically higher than with the female ordinands, though I suspect it is.

I haven't really asked too much about this.

Living as a monastic isn't always so easy, and in modern Chinese Buddhism you'll probably be very busy from dawn till dusk. Unless you're really set on it and feel quite connected to your dharma brothers and the institution, then it might not seem so appealing once you've had a taste of the busy monastic lifestyle.

In the old days becoming a monk was often the optimal course of action. In rural communities where the eldest son would inherit most of the land and property, the younger brothers were not left with much. Without land they were limited in their future options. Monasticism was definitely an option and one that most communities respected.

Most monks in previous times took the tonsure in their childhood or teenage years, and hence were locked into that lifestyle, so to speak, for the rest of their lives. If you're trained to be clergy, it wouldn't be realistic to up and leave and take up a trade, especially in pre-modern times. So, they spent the rest of their lives as monks. There were few practical alternatives.

Now adult men who are given the option of becoming monks have ample opportunities available to them. If you're educated and healthy, the world is open to you. This is quite different from when in the old days when novices were mostly children and had skills tailored specifically for the temple setting, so doing anything else in life was impractical.

Becoming a monk in Chinese culture also has had a negative image. It was, and perhaps still is, often thought that adult men who become monks do so because they've failed at life. Maybe they're financially ruined or failed at romance, and as an alternative to killing themselves they go become monks instead. Master Sheng Yen writes about this negative stereotype in his work.



But for some reasons I think there are more japanese and korean monks?.. .
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Re: Why academics value Buddhism?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:43 pm

GarcherLancelot wrote:But for some reasons I think there are more japanese and korean monks?.. .


In Japan it is mostly a hereditary priesthood where the son normally inherits the establishment from his father.

I'm not familiar with Korean Buddhism. I hope someone can comment.
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Re: Why academics value Buddhism?

Postby Namgyal » Thu Nov 08, 2012 3:14 pm

Huseng wrote: That's one reason why I haven't become a monk in Taiwan. The option is on the table and I've even discussed it with some people before, though having come to know what it entails I'm reluctant to sign up.


Go for it Jeff!!! :sage:
(Not because of what they can offer you, but because of what you can offer them.)
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Re: Why academics value Buddhism?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Nov 08, 2012 4:32 pm

Raksha wrote:
Huseng wrote: That's one reason why I haven't become a monk in Taiwan. The option is on the table and I've even discussed it with some people before, though having come to know what it entails I'm reluctant to sign up.


Go for it Jeff!!! :sage:
(Not because of what they can offer you, but because of what you can offer them.)


Perhaps in due time, but it shall not be here in Taiwan.
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Re: Why academics value Buddhism?

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:33 pm

Jeff would be a tremendous asset to the Taiwanese Sangha, but I can understand his reluctance. If he entered the sangha unless special allowances were made he would lose a lot of the freedom he has to do his own translation projects/research/practice. I strongly doubt he would be able to moderate this forum if he were to enter the monastic college.
There are very few who can "make it work" for themselves in the full sense. Ven. Hui Feng comes to mind as someone who had the patience to go through the entire formation period and eventually earned the trust of his monastery and was able to study for a graduate degree at HKU. Now he is a fully qualified scholar who teaches at a university connected with his monastery. Personally, I think it takes a special kind of person to do this, and also someone who had an understanding of and can live in traditional Chinese culture.
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Re: Why academics value Buddhism?

Postby Indrajala » Fri Nov 09, 2012 1:09 am

Personal autonomy is the key thing. I like helping people and offering my service to the greater sangha, but when it comes to deciding my own future and how I'll spend my time, that's for me to decide. Not the powers that be. This comes down to practice as well. I'm too ecumenical for the sectarianism I see here.

Culturally I'd be incompatible in too many ways. Even the little things. I don't care about Chinese New Years, but they spend a lot of time preparing for it. I'd prefer to quietly sit somewhere and read rather than put up decorations.

I tend to be a kind of dark albeit jolly person, too, so constantly reminding people about the horrors of saṃsāra wouldn't go over well here either.

If I became a monk in Taiwan I'd probably become even more jaded and I don't imagine I'd be popular with people.

It just wouldn't be a wise course of action.
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Re: Why academics value Buddhism?

Postby Huifeng » Fri Nov 09, 2012 3:39 am

Let's put away the whole idea of giving up any autonomy for life in the Chinese sangha. The decision to stay in a given monastery / system and / or with the same teacher is entirely up to the individual. Probably the majority of Chinese monastics go independent or to small groups which allow a large amount of autonomy. Many will stay in a monastery with a given teacher, studying at a Buddhist college, long enough to get ordination and then spend a few years learning the ropes and essentials - and then leaving to another group or going alone. This can happen from very soon after ordination. As such, the decision to stay with a monastery / teacher for life, or to go independent, or somewhere in between, is all up to the person themselves.

Likewise, that one will only ever be constantly busy. This depends on what monastery one is at, and what one's role is. The are many places where one is "busy" (using the word loosely) doing meditation all day, or studying scripture, or otherwise. One often doesn't start doing this, because at the beginning, one needs to go through the basics applicable to all monastics. But later, and this may just be a couple of years down the track, there is much room for specialization in a given area of interest or expertise.

Putting the two together, I know a number of monastic brothers and sisters who have started at a monastery, done their basic training there for a number of years at a Buddhist College, ordained somewhere along the way, then spent a bit of time in a particular job in that or related monastery in an area in which they specialize and have strong interest, and then later they leave and set up their own monastery or join another smaller group of monastics where together they run the place. I write this to balance out some of the comments that have been given above, which are otherwise fairly accurate but not complete. It may be hard to comment on this sort of thing if one hasn't gone through the process oneself.

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Re: Why academics value Buddhism?

Postby Indrajala » Fri Nov 09, 2012 3:56 am

Huifeng wrote:Let's put away the whole idea of giving up any autonomy for life in the Chinese sangha. The decision to stay in a given monastery / system and / or with the same teacher is entirely up to the individual.


Yes, of course, but the concern is that in order to remain in a given system you might have to surrender your autonomy and time, possibly doing something you don't really want to do. The alternative could be disrobing for lack of support elsewhere.




Probably the majority of Chinese monastics go independent or to small groups which allow a large amount of autonomy.


Do you mean Taiwan or the greater Sinosphere (Hong Kong and Singapore, etc...)? Both males and females?
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Re: Why academics value Buddhism?

Postby Huifeng » Fri Nov 09, 2012 6:19 am

Even to stay in an organization one can have more or less input depending on a number of factors. In general, it is probably about the same as working for a large company (in this regard). If you are talented and competent, you can call more of your own shots, if you are an incapable idiot, well, ... you get the idea. I have never heard of a monastic in the Chinese traditions who had to disrobe due to lack of support, either in Asia or elsewhere (entirely anecdotal). However, unlike a job, unless you break some major precepts, nobody gets fired / expelled from the monastery. In this sense, it is more like a family operation. You could check out Berzin's description for the Tibetans, which is actually quite close (here): "Household-member disciples may choose to leave their mentors' homes; but no matter how poorly they serve or behave, Tibetan mentors rarely ask them to leave. They merely assign their duties to other members of the household." At FGS, even young graduates from the Buddhist College indicate what area(s) they want to work in after graduation, and a fair number get something in that general area.

General sinosphere. Just check total numbers versus numbers in very large organizations. Most are in small organizations, which tend to have more space for personal input, because each person is a greater proportion of the whole.

In the end, the ultimate decision is up to the individual. Which is just like any other life path decision.

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Re: Why academics value Buddhism?

Postby icylake » Sat Nov 10, 2012 11:39 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Ah it is a far cry from the old days of "cloud and water" when monks could wander from monastery to monastery, checking into a Vinaya academy to learn conduct and then spending a year on doctrines at a Tian Tai place, followed up by a Chan retreat. Indeed it seems that in the past a Chinese monk had less affiliation/identification with his monastery than those in the Tibetan tradition.
Any way, back to OT.


in korean jogye order, those traditions are preserved very vividly. after retreat, you can go pilgrimage, visit various zen masters to ask dharmas and ask for Inka, oganize zen debate to test your level with other zen monks, even engage social movements, orgnize sutra-abhidharma semminars, or engage art-movements...you can stay any monastery or temples belonged to jogye order up to 3days as a visitor(of course nuns for nuns, monks for monks)as you leave , the host monastery give some pocket money for journey. so my uncle, a zen monk said to me, there are over 3000 Jogye order temples all around south Korea, and Korean zen monks just like gypsys or little prince wandering around 3000 stars. :lol:
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Re: Why academics value Buddhism?

Postby icylake » Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:32 am

of course if you want to stay at a monarstery even in non-retreat season, you can make bang-bu(榜簿:traditional apply) then you can stay up to next retreat. or some occasions there are gyul-sa(結社 an oath-association)

if practition atmosphere was too good to stop, the whole members make a decision to countinue the practice up to next retreat. there are 300days oath, 600days oath, sometimes 1000days oath. take my uncle for example.when he started retreat he was in the primary practitioner group who sitting 10hours a day(and there are strengthened practitoners for 12-14hours, brave practitoner(勇猛精進 ) over 16hours a day,in fact they don't lay their body during whole retreat, because during retreat, monks must do daily monastery works, between them, some of monks even maintain hwadu while they sleep) but the retreat atmosphere was too good. so all of members decided 200days oath, then host temple dosn't close zen hall. after 200days, my uncle said he developed to brave practitoner group. some original brave practitoners were permmited to enter isolated retreat(mumungwan 無門関) for 3years. (because zen-desease and illusions, less deveoped monk can not enter mumungwan practice)

this is the way korean monastery operates. so korean monks has very distictive characteristics. that is: sometimes very traditional, sometimes very independent, sometimes very authentic, sometimes very flausible. and there still are many monk poets and writers in Korea. monk literature still is specific genre in modern korean literature.
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Re: Why academics value Buddhism?

Postby icylake » Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:12 am

But for some reasons I think there are more japanese and korean monks?.. .[/quote]

over 40 persent of the korean monastics are nuns. in fact korean nuns are very active in many fileds along with taiwan nuns. but i think there are big difference between Korean sangha and taiwanese sangha. korean Jogye order itself is very traditional buddhhist groups. it's like great assembly composed of several grat monastery clans which has their own dharma linages, vinaya linages, sutra scholary linages retroacted to hundreds yeas ago, some times really lack of efficiency and flausiblity. but famous taiwanese sangas are very modernized foundations. i think their modernity and efficiency must be appreciated. they provide new model of reform for all old, out of date sangas in other countries.
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Re: Why academics value Buddhism?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:24 am

icylake wrote:But for some reasons I think there are more japanese and korean monks?.. .


over 40 persent of the korean monastics are nuns. in fact korean nuns are very active in many fileds along with taiwan nuns. but i think there are big difference between Korean sangha and taiwanese sangha. korean Jogye order itself is very traditional buddhhist groups. it's like great assembly composed of several grat monastery clans which has their own dharma linages, vinaya linages, sutra scholary linages retroacted to hundreds yeas ago, some times really lack of efficiency and flausiblity. but famous taiwanese sangas are very modernized foundations. i think their modernity and efficiency must be appreciated. they provide new model of reform for all old, out of date sangas in other countries.[/quote]

Thanks for clarifying the details about contemporary Korean Buddhism. :smile:
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