Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

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Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby Jikan » Thu Aug 19, 2010 3:40 pm

I'm looking around for examples of utopian social thinking in modern (industrial period and after) Buddhism. The two easy examples are the Human Revolution concept in the writings of Josei Toda (still expressed in certain ways in Soka Gakkai), and of course the Shambhala vision of Trungpa Rinpoche, which imply the fulfillment of an enlightened society.

Stephen Bachelor touches on the concept of a culture of awakening in Buddhism without Beliefs, but as with the rest of that book, it's thin soup. There are some other suggestive comments on the nature of sangha in the writings of Peter Hershock, but not really approaching a vision for an authentically Buddhist society.

Are there others?

:reading:
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby Jikan » Wed Sep 15, 2010 3:11 pm

Bump.

Any takers on this one? I've snooped around a bit in the scholarship and turned up the interesting case of Seno Giro (sometimes spelled Seno'o to get the long "o" right), but that's about that.
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby Indrajala » Wed Sep 15, 2010 6:09 pm

Humanistic Buddhism (particularly Foguangshan) has in their ideology an idea of "creating the Pure Land on Earth". They essentially have a vision of a human utopia.

If you want an academic account of the organization, please consider the following work:

Establishing a Pure Land on Earth: The Foguang Buddhist Perspective on Modernization and Globalization (Topics in Contemporary Buddhism) by Stuart Chandler (May 30, 2004)

http://books.google.com/books?id=OkEy4_ ... &q&f=false

Venerable Xingyun's work is also readily available in English (and of course Chinese and to some extent Japanese as well).

Foguangshan does a lot of charity work and focuses heavily on humanism (hence the name Humansitic Buddhism or 人間佛教). You'll find Foguangshan temples all over the world, but they're mostly by and large for Chinese people. They might have a few non-Chinese members, but Foguangshan is essentially tailored for Chinese people. I don't know of many non-Chinese who really think highly of Venerable Xingyun the founder either, but then a lot of Chinese people, both young and old, find him charismatic and his teachings quite appealing.

Still, that is changing. They're in the process of training monks and nuns who are competent both linguistically and culturally in non-Chinese cultures. I don't know how successful that will be for the foreseeable future because like I said Foguangshan despite their all embracing humanistic ideology at the end of the day is Chinese Buddhism for Chinese people. They're quite benevolent, compassionate and generous, but there are huge cultural barriers that exist if Humanistic Buddhism as they teach it is to be really recognized by western Buddhists.
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby Jikan » Thu Sep 16, 2010 2:40 pm

Thanks Huseng! I've not yet read the books on this one, but I've skimmed some articles and book reviews about it. This is helpful.
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby Huifeng » Fri Sep 17, 2010 5:28 am

I was going to post much the same as Huseng, above.

Some of Chandler's stuff in that book is rather dated now. I also think that he has emphasized some points far beyond how they are presented in the organization.

Note: This notion of a "Pureland in the Human World" is not exclusive to Foguang Shan, but is a basic model of all the Humanistic Buddhism forms, eg. Dharma Drum, etc. Sometimes the wording in Chinese differs a little, but usually not much.

I find it interesting that this sort of idea cropped up in China around the end of the Empire / start of the Republic period, into the start of the People's Republic. Highly ideological time for China as a whole, not just Buddhism.

If you would like more info on FGS, please email me. :smile:
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby Luke » Sat Oct 16, 2010 9:44 am

If His Holiness the Dalai Lama was back living in the Potala Palace in Lhasa, that place would become a modern Buddhist utopia for sure!

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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Sat Oct 16, 2010 12:12 pm

Luke wrote:If His Holiness the Dalai Lama was back living in the Potala Palace in Lhasa, that place would become a modern Buddhist utopia for sure!

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Free Tibet!
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While I very much am on the side of the Tibetans when it comes to the question of their right to Tibet vs the communist Chinese govt's, and while I personally regard HH the Dalai Lama as Avalokiteshvara himself, I still must say that Rinpoche would have his work cut out for him in making Tibet a Buddhist utopia. It was so very far from that long before the Chinese invasion. It's mind-blowing sometimes how much the Tibetan culture can contradict the Dharma that is so thoroughly associated with it. Just read the writings of great lamas like Patrul Rinpoche and Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and it's quite apparent that it was no Buddhist utopia. Perhaps some of the only real advantages, in terms of culture, about being a Buddhist in Tibet before the Chinese invasion versus being a Buddhist in America today would be that the predominant culture wouldn't consider you strange for being a Buddhist rather than some other religion and male monastics enjoyed a lot of support from the lay community.
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby catmoon » Sat Oct 16, 2010 12:26 pm

Pema Rigdzin wrote: while I personally regard HH the Dalai Lama as Avalokiteshvara himself, I still must say that Rinpoche would have his work cut out for him in making Tibet a Buddhist utopia.



Thank you for this post Pema. I was going to write something similar, but where I failed to find a nonconfrontational path, you have succeeded. :)
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby Luke » Sat Oct 16, 2010 4:01 pm

Pema Rigdzin wrote:...I still must say that Rinpoche would have his work cut out for him in making Tibet a Buddhist utopia. It was so very far from that long before the Chinese invasion.

To clarify what I meant, I didn't mean that the whole of Tibet would instantly become a Buddhist utopia simply by HHDL returning there. I just meant that the Potala Palace itself and the buildings and monasteries in the surrounding area would become like a Buddhist paradise if the Dalai Lama returned and had the freedom to practice his religion there without any restrictions from the Chinese.
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby Aemilius » Fri Dec 17, 2010 2:55 pm

Jikan wrote:Bump.

Any takers on this one? I've snooped around a bit in the scholarship and turned up the interesting case of Seno Giro (sometimes spelled Seno'o to get the long "o" right), but that's about that.


I think this general quietude refelects the atmosphere of self-denial, or cencorship towards one's own thoughts, knowledge and experience, I just don't believe no one knows about this subject !!!! It seems to be like raising a question in a chinese communist meeting about european or american values, I guess ??
The few answers are in the correct partyline too!! You can't take any risks here, it seems.
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby catmoon » Fri Dec 17, 2010 3:25 pm

Seno who?
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby Chaz » Fri Dec 17, 2010 3:49 pm

Luke wrote:
Pema Rigdzin wrote:...I still must say that Rinpoche would have his work cut out for him in making Tibet a Buddhist utopia. It was so very far from that long before the Chinese invasion.

To clarify what I meant, I didn't mean that the whole of Tibet would instantly become a Buddhist utopia simply by HHDL returning there. I just meant that the Potala Palace itself and the buildings and monasteries in the surrounding area would become like a Buddhist paradise if the Dalai Lama returned and had the freedom to practice his religion there without any restrictions from the Chinese.



That's not much of a reach considering Potala is a name given to Avalokiteshvara's Pure Land.

However, I have to agree with others that HH's return to the Potala may not necessarily make it a "Buddhist Utopia". Heck, as much as I admire the Vidyadhara, I'm not conviced his vision of Shambhala is workable or even practical.

Perhaps I'm simply too cynical to be a Buddhist Utopian :shrug:
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby Heruka » Sat Dec 18, 2010 10:00 pm

problem with utopias is someone will always want to be on top.

people have vertical relationships in power structures. if you think you are not affected by this vertical social program, try and go meet and get to know your neighbours, that would be a horizontal relationship.
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby Indrajala » Sat Dec 18, 2010 10:12 pm

Heruka wrote:problem with utopias is someone will always want to be on top.

people have vertical relationships in power structures. if you think you are not affected by this vertical social program, try and go meet and get to know your neighbours, that would be a horizontal relationship.


...and the larger groups become the more complex the power structure becomes.

You have classes and ranks develop. Factions and popularity. Grudges and alliances.

Before long unquestioning obedience to the powers that be is regarded as a virtue.
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby KeithBC » Sat Dec 18, 2010 10:43 pm

I think that utopian communities have fallen apart more often from degeneration at the bottom than corruption at the top.

One of the common issues that any community, utopian or not, has to deal with is how to keep the riff-raff out. Someone always wants more than his fair share, to take without giving, or to trash someone else's work. It is to deal with that universal problem that rules and leaders are invented, leading to trouble at the top.
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby Luke » Sun Dec 19, 2010 3:40 am

I think Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh's Plum Village qualifies as a modern Buddhist utopia. However, I don't know much about it. But I did find an article titled "Reflections on twenty years of Plum Village life" by TNH.
http://www.plumvillage.org/history-of-p ... -life.html

Aemilius wrote: I think this general quietude refelects the atmosphere of self-denial, or cencorship towards one's own thoughts, knowledge and experience, I just don't believe no one knows about this subject !!!! It seems to be like raising a question in a chinese communist meeting about european or american values, I guess ??
The few answers are in the correct partyline too!! You can't take any risks here, it seems.

Why don't you start a thread of your own which will be what you're looking for then? This site is only what the members make it. If you think this forum is missing something critical, then post it. Perhaps a few other people may see things your way, as well.
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby kirtu » Sun Dec 19, 2010 7:34 pm

I think we should actively create little Buddhist lands/places/communes where people can go and live and practice for life.

For example this seems beautiful.

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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby Heruka » Mon Dec 20, 2010 3:37 am

if you build it, they will come.
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby justsit » Mon Dec 20, 2010 4:18 am

Buddhist community in progress here. Not utopian, though.

There has been some discussion in our study group about purchasing a defunct small Catholic convent for Buddhist community use. Would already have shrine room (chapel), large kitchen and living room, small single bedrooms (cells), and maybe a garage or outbuilding. Some of the larger properties even have "hermitages" or individual retreat cabins. As the economy worsens, communal living becomes more attractive, keeps costs down. Great for single celibates, and seniors, too.
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Re: Modern Buddhist Utopias & Alternative Communities

Postby kirtu » Mon Dec 20, 2010 4:40 am

In the PA/DE/NJ area? Let's start it up.

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