I posted this orginally in the Academic thread but moved it here as I thought it veered too much from the original topic.
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I guess the Chinese monasteries are concerned about their monks and nuns maintaining 威儀 weiyi, or dignified form. However, if the rules and regulations means lower numbers of monks and nuns, should they be changed? I cannot answer that as a lay practitioner without the knowledge and wisdom, but if the decision makers of the monastic orders can look at that it'd be great.
My opinion is that the monastic sangha exists in relationship with the lay community. If forms established due to certain cultural conditions rather than scriptural reasons alienate the lay people in a modern context, that needs to be examined.
The difficult questions these Buddhist organizations must ask themselves is the one of continuity. While the weiyi or dignified form may inspire faith in the Chinese diaspora, what about their children? Do the kids born in Western countries feel comfortable enough with the stern flavour to continue coming to the temple or is a more casual approach warranted? The Youth Groups developed by several of the big temples are aimed at addressing this problem but once kids are married or moved out of the house, without the influence of pious parents, they often stop attending. In many cases these groups seem not to be delivering Buddhism to the young people anyways, but seem to act more as a place for overseas Chinese youth to interact (a needed thing, but not dharma).
There is a crisis in Buddhist countries- you see this in Tibetan and Theravada Buddhism too but at the moment it seems more pronounced in the East Asian countries. The crisis is that young people perhaps participate during their student years, but often only if they come from a strong Buddhist family. Young adults simply do not come to the temple- it is for older women and kids whose parents force them to go. (This is what I was told by several young Chinese-Canadians at a temple where I worked for a short period). When kids from traditionally Buddhist families marry out of their religion, the prevailing trend is for them to convert to (usually Christianity) of the other partner. This would be unthinkable for most, for example, Thais who often marry outside of their culture but maintain their Buddhist faith as a cornerstone of their identity in the new environment.
If the status quo in the temples does not change you could see a degeneration of Chinese Buddhism similar to that in Japan. I am of course speaking about places outside the PRC. If there is a change of regime within the PRC, there could be great potential as the people have been separated from real Buddhist practice for so long, but in HK/Taiwan/Singapore and the Chinese diaspora it seems to me that Buddhism is in decline.
To me this is a shame because unlike perhaps some of my Vajrayana brethren I have a really strong appreciation of many of the unique practice traditions included in Chinese Buddhism.