Monastics & their family

Re: Monastics & their family

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Dec 17, 2012 8:47 am

Dear Ven. Huifeng,
I think Huseng, like many of us, is not fond of institutions in general. They are a very necessary development in modern Buddhism, in my opinion, but do in some ways go against the traditional notion of the wandering sramana. Along with larger organizations go a lot of politicking, people seeking their own advantage, competition and other problems. This is just part of being a big organization in general, and I don't think is specifically related to Chinese Buddhism or a particular temple at all- but to people's minds, which are under the control of karma and affliction, and the associated behaviours that brings out when we are put in a competitive situation. The best of us can use that reality to challenge our afflictions and use the power of the organization to bring maximum benefit, which is what exceptional people do.

I always keep in mind that without the organizational structure of FPMT there would have been no translator school in Dharamasala, I probably would never have learned Tibetan, and never been able to work with and serve Geshe Sonam and the centres as an interpreter. The smaller, loosely organized centres are what I am attracted to in many ways, but more limited resources mean more limited reach and opportunities.

And the ethical issues around donations I think could be said not only for the large Chinese Buddhist organizations like FGS, DDM, Chung Tai etc. But also many of the larger organizations in my tradition- such as FPMT, Tergar, Shambhala etc. Sometimes Tibetan lamas think of this but usually only in retrospect- because the needs of the large monasteries, feeding many monks and so forth, are so great that donations often come just in the nick of time to prevent disastrous organizational cosequences. But one lama did tell me for example that he feels accepting Michael Roach's money, which could have in part come from transactions involving conflict diamonds, problematic. He said there could be consequences to MR's work later on for that sort of livelihood. But this seems more of a personal thing, he did not mention the possible impact on the organizations where the money went. (And certainly it went to some great projects, whatever people want to say about MR, like having refugees digitize important portions of the Tibetan canon.

In terms of the FGS home for the aged, I cannot feel cynical at all about that. I think it is wonderful. Even if it serves a practical function of helping monks and nuns stay in the temple, it is an amazing service and touches my heart. I know I should be perfectly renounced, but I do have some level of fear for my old age (wordly concern I know). The fact is Tibetan organizations generally just don't think about offering people who devoted their whole lives to the centres and projects any sort of security in their old age. This does lead to worry. I've thought about it- will there be any space on the social housing lists when I'm old? Will I be going to food banks? Out on the street? If FGS can offer freedom from these worries to its clergy and their families that is a cut above.

Osel (who was designated as the reincarnation of Lama Yeshe and is just now returning to active FPMT involvement) made these comments in an open letter to FPMT:
http://www.fpmt.org/fpmt/osel/news/1092 ... amily.html

While our goal is to benefit as many living beings as possible, and while the scope of that is so vast, we must not allow that to blind us to our immediate responsibility of showing appreciation, kindness, and concern for each other and each other’s welfare within our own community. Unfortunately sometimes our rapid growth has caused a number of situations where we haven't measured up in this respect.

It is my intention to make sure that in the next phase of FPMTs growth we focus on looking after each other. Some of our teachers and students who pioneered the early days of our development are now in their 60s and 70s. While one of our priorities is education for the youth of our world today, as our organization matures, we also have to take care of those who have contributed so much and who are now reaching the stage where they require care and consideration.


It seems like FGS is doing that.
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Indrajala » Mon Dec 17, 2012 9:06 am

Huifeng wrote:While the rise of Taiwanese business people in China is now at a high, the economic booms really only kicked in during the 1980s. But, even at that time, the Taiwanese were not allowed to work like that in China. The rise in Taiwanese business people in China really only comes in the late 1990s onwards. By your argument, you'd have to show that such buildings and events only occurred after FGS had money, and that the money comes from these sources. Obviously, the dates of these things show otherwise.


Unless the financial accounts are made public, we can only speculate.


But even then, you have yet to prove whether any donations to FGS come from sources in China that are "slave labor". Can you provide some examples, please, in evidence of your claim? (Note, see MN citation below.)


My assertion is based on my conclusion that if people have large sums of money to donate to a religious organization, generally speaking in our present day it was unearned and/or made dishonestly. This is of course just Huseng's opinion and to be taken with a grain of salt. Taiwan earned most of its money through manufacturing and perhaps finance. The manufacturing of course damages the environment (people, animals and plantlife) and the finance is just a game of the global aristocracy which hurts working class people (the proletariat). If Taiwan's wealth was earned honestly and cleanly, the country would be a hell of a lot poorer owing to the fact it has little natural resources and wealth. If someone has a lot of money to sink into a religious project in our present day (especially in Taiwan), you can be generally assured it wasn't earned honestly just given how wealth is generated in the global capitalist system.



FGS does not rely on a small number of corporate donors, as you suggest.


I never said that. A private individual offering a few million dollars is still a private individual.

Was it all devout working class Buddhist families who funded that Buddha Tooth Memorial?




"There are, Ananda, four kinds of purification of offering. What four? ... There is the offering that is purified by the receiver, not by the giver. ... And how is the offering purified by the receiver, not by the giver. Here the giver is immoral, of evil character, and the receiver is virtuous, of good character. Thus the offering is purified by the receiver, not by the giver. ... The receiver's virtue purifies the offering. ..."




Right, but that was in the context of offering cloth and food to homeless monks who lived out in the wilderness, not offering up wealth generated through dishonest means on the backs of the proletariat.


Massive Buddhist organizations can only exist as such because of the capitalist model upon which they depend. The capitalist system is exploitative and harmful to the environment. This is my point. If we accept this for what it is in our present age, then we move towards a greater level of morality (i.e., accepting our faults and the negative karma we create just to survive) instead of pretending we're all pure and noble.

If we become emotionally invested in a given institution, then we will be unable to bare the samsaric realities associated with it.
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby catmoon » Mon Dec 17, 2012 9:43 am

If Huifeng is then an evil exploiter of the downtrodden, if a man who has dedicated his life to the Dharma is irrevocably contaminated and if his home temple is tainted, abusive, and living off the suffering of others then there is quite simply no point in trying to be good and we should all pack our bags and go to Vegas and drink ourselves to death before we do any more harm. In this world view, no organization, individual or pursuit can be free of these taints.


Or maybe it is not so. Maybe Huifeng is a good fellow, his temple beneficial to many, and this view of taintedness is just the result of cynicism running amok.
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Dec 17, 2012 9:49 am

I remember Lama Zopa Rinpoche one time mentioning that unless we are realized merely just living in samsara creates negative karma. Being aware of that, we cultivate as much virtue as possible.
I think it is good to recognize the realities that Huseng mentions and keep them in the back of our minds- that awareness. But I do think we have to go on living and make the best of a bad situation- trying to transform it into an opportunity to make as much merit as possible and benefit others as much as possible.
I think that this is what FGS, FPMT, DDM or any other big organizations try to do. We shouldn't deny reality, but we have to try to work with it.

My respect to Huseng for reflecting on these issues :namaste:

My respect to Ven. Huifeng who continues to translate valuable texts into English, reach out to Westerners interested in Chinese Buddhism, and serve selflessly with the aim of preserving the Buddhadharma. :namaste:
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby PorkChop » Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:07 pm

Finally got to check out the video over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised.
Very nice message and good things being done.
Wish Ven Shen Yen was still around; would've been nice to take the boat over to Taiwan from Ishigaki the next time I go visit my wife's family.
As far as the other discussion, I think if it were possible to be pure in Samsara, then it wouldn't be called "Samsara" now would it?
I tend to agree with catmoon.
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby kirtu » Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:12 pm

JKhedrup wrote:I remember Lama Zopa Rinpoche one time mentioning that unless we are realized merely just living in samsara creates negative karma. Being aware of that, we cultivate as much virtue as possible.


Why doesn't just living in samsara create just neutral karma?

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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby icylake » Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:17 pm

why are only modern buddhist institutes problem ? , except the Sangha in the buddha's times, forest tradition, or isolated hermatages, all of types of monasteries are guilty then. in pre-industrial period, monasteries received donations from the royal family, the nobilty, literaties who exploited the peasants' excessive value severely. all of material products have been the consequences of karma. and i've heard, Fa gu Shan's running and supporting group are quite different from those of Fo Guang Shan or Tsu Chi. the two latters are typical broad institutions. their donators are including all of social classes. but Fa Gu Shan's donators are mainly concentrated in middle class, high colors, especially education workers, official workers. so a Taiwanese friend of mine told me that there are less businessmen (sheng yi ren)in Fa Gu Shan. even if Fa Gu Shan's karma still existed, but it would be far more lighter than other traditional monasteries in Korea, China.
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Indrajala » Tue Dec 18, 2012 1:04 am

icylake wrote:why are only modern buddhist institutes problem ?


I would argue that pre-modern institutions had many problems of their own to contend with. For example, if associated with and influenced by the ruling aristocracy, there would have to be a lot of accommodations made for them. In the Chinese Tang Dynasty this was especially notable because monasteries were often directly controlled and funded by the state. This meant having to take orders and make questionable doctrinal accommodations. If you read Japanese, I wrote my MA thesis about this topic:

https://sites.google.com/site/dharmadep ... s/mathesis
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Dec 18, 2012 10:45 am

Why doesn't just living in samsara create just neutral karma?


I will try to find LZR's quote and its context when I have some time next week. But my guess is that what propels our existence in samsara is karma and affliction. We know that these are the causes of our aggregates. So due to that fact, even if we are a relatively good person who doesn't harm others, due to the afflictions it is nearly impossible that our actions of Body, Speech and Mind do not sometimes fall into negativity.
And also from the other perspective- while intention is one of the crucial factors related to karma, it is not the only one. So for example when we ride in a car or aeroplane, the insects that are killed still do cause some negative karma. Of course, we hope our practice of the dharma, our pratice of kindness and so forth generate enough merit to counteract that.

I could go on but this would derail the topic of the thread. Perhaps this is a good question for one of the more general sections of the forum.
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby icylake » Tue Dec 18, 2012 2:31 pm

Huseng wrote:
icylake wrote:why are only modern buddhist institutes problem ?


I would argue that pre-modern institutions had many problems of their own to contend with. For example, if associated with and influenced by the ruling aristocracy, there would have to be a lot of accommodations made for them. In the Chinese Tang Dynasty this was especially notable because monasteries were often directly controlled and funded by the state. This meant having to take orders and make questionable doctrinal accommodations. If you read Japanese, I wrote my MA thesis about this topic:

https://sites.google.com/site/dharmadep ... s/mathesis


thank you Huseng. my Japanese reading is better than english. i appreciated your article a lot.

but, i still think your criticism toward modern Taiwanese monasteries is too excessive. in fact, being organized into institutes maybe the only solution to spread dharma in a large scale. and in fact Taiwanese monasteries are still very clean in dealing financial tasks, compared with other traditions have thick historical burdens which prohibits modern calculation system, participation of lay people. takes a example. Taiwanese institutions would release receipt for your donations. but in Korea using credit cards or receipt for donations can be seen "impious, blasphemous' attitude.

at the same time, taiwanese Sanghas are quite small compared with catholic church or other traditional snaghas , have ten's of thounsands monks belongs in it. i think it guarantees visible connection in the sangha, which prevent over-bureacratic controls. to the contrary to your view point, many Korean buddhists feel that Taiwanese sanghas are very democratic, lay people friendly, non-authoritarian, non-formalism compared to Korean sangha.

and with such small members, can doing such successful world wide movements itself can prove the efficiency and non-authoritarian tendency taiwanese institutions have. i think. even if this kind of modern monasteries are to be criticized, then what type of monasteries could be accepted? only "dharma-center" communities in western countries can be passable.
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Indrajala » Tue Dec 18, 2012 3:00 pm

icylake wrote:but, i still think your criticism toward modern Taiwanese monasteries is too excessive. in fact, being organized into institutes maybe the only solution to spread dharma in a large scale.


I think past models of having a lot of autonomous temples worked well enough. They didn't have the same access to resources, money and staff, but then the point of Buddhadharma is in the teachings on liberation. Whether or not everyone was readily pursuing it or not aside, the opportunity to do so and not be bogged down with a lot of mundane affairs was more readily available it seems.

In present Taiwanese Buddhism they have this idea that "work is practice" and that you can somehow cultivate yourself while bogged down in mundane tasks as long as you have the right attitude.

Well, if that works for you, go for it. I have a lot of doubts of course. The greatest practitioners I ever met are the ones who stay away from work and cultivate themselves in long-term retreat and study.

In any case, the current model might have appeared quite viable, but the statistics in Taiwan, at least one set, are showing a declining number of people self-identifying as Buddhist. The older generation which takes a special interest in Buddhism is dying off. I have heard anecdotal evidence that in general the number of participants are fewer than a decade ago, though that's not reliable of course. The younger generation of Taiwan, and Singapore and Hong Kong of course like Korea and Japan, are quite secular minded and unlikely to take the same interest in Buddhism as their parents or grandparents have. If in a decade or two the number of people participating in Buddhist organizations drops off substantially, we'll have huge institutions with few people and a lot of largely empty buildings. The same thing happened with the Catholic Church in the west a few decades ago.

Institutions have their pros and cons. Once you get them going you have to spend a lot of resources and mental energy just maintaining and perpetuating them, so instead of focusing on liberation, you might end up having to deal with a lot of mundane affairs. Etiquette, petty social customs, maintaining the harmony of a hierarchy and having meetings becomes essential to keeping the thing going. At that point you can't have a lot of your skilled people doing nothing visibly productive out in a meditation hut.

Time will tell whether the reformed models of institutional Buddhism will really last and thrive or not.
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby PorkChop » Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:42 pm

Huseng wrote:I would argue that pre-modern institutions had many problems of their own to contend with. For example, if associated with and influenced by the ruling aristocracy, there would have to be a lot of accommodations made for them. In the Chinese Tang Dynasty this was especially notable because monasteries were often directly controlled and funded by the state. This meant having to take orders and make questionable doctrinal accommodations. If you read Japanese, I wrote my MA thesis about this topic:

https://sites.google.com/site/dharmadep ... s/mathesis


Very nicely done!
Your Japanese is amazing! Even if there was some "akapen sensei" type input, it's still spectacular!
Did you get EJU or JLPT 1?
Barely got through the first sentence of the preface before I had to break out Rikaikun.
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Devotionary » Tue Dec 18, 2012 6:07 pm

Huseng wrote:
icylake wrote:but, i still think your criticism toward modern Taiwanese monasteries is too excessive. in fact, being organized into institutes maybe the only solution to spread dharma in a large scale.


I think past models of having a lot of autonomous temples worked well enough. They didn't have the same access to resources, money and staff, but then the point of Buddhadharma is in the teachings on liberation. Whether or not everyone was readily pursuing it or not aside, the opportunity to do so and not be

Institutions have their pros and cons. Once you get them going you have to spend a lot of resources and mental energy just maintaining and perpetuating them, so instead of focusing on liberation, you might end up having to deal with a lot of mundane affairs. Etiquette, petty social customs, maintaining the harmony of a hierarchy and having meetings becomes essential to keeping the thing going. At that point you can't have a lot of your skilled people doing nothing visibly productive out in a meditation hut.

Time will tell whether the reformed models of institutional Buddhism will really last and thrive or not.


I have to agree, all institutions have problems, and yes, focusing on non-essential tasks and wasting resources is a challenge to overcome.

But you're absolutely right: we will only know definitively with the passing of time.
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Indrajala » Wed Dec 19, 2012 1:05 am

PorkChop wrote:Very nicely done!
Your Japanese is amazing! Even if there was some "akapen sensei" type input, it's still spectacular!
Did you get EJU or JLPT 1?
Barely got through the first sentence of the preface before I had to break out Rikaikun.
Appreciated the comments about studying research topics in a foreign language.
Definitely motivated me to get back into language studies, it's been years... thanks!


I never took the Japanese exams. I never really had to. Learning to write academic Japanese was a long process of writing mini essays which I had friends correct. I didn't really learn it from textbooks.

That being said, if I ever do a PhD I'm writing the dissertation in English. :smile:
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Namgyal » Wed Dec 19, 2012 2:12 am

Huifeng wrote:it started with a monk with nothing more than the robes on his back and a big heart.

That's true...but then what happened? No one disputes that the FGS founder is a great master, or indeed the founders of the other Taiwanese schools, but I question just how much supervision there is now over these vast institutions. I understand that donations facilitate a great many valuable projects but for my part I would prefer temples to set their sights on rather more humble projects, and utilize more appropriate fund-raising techniques.
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Indrajala » Wed Dec 19, 2012 2:29 am

Raksha wrote:
Huifeng wrote:it started with a monk with nothing more than the robes on his back and a big heart.

That's true...but then what happened? No one disputes that the FGS founder is a great master, or indeed the founders of the other Taiwanese schools, but I question how much they are now able to supervise their vast institutions. In the Theravada Dhammakaya tradition it is the same; great founder, lots of fantastic monks, but its aggressive money-making orientation is a disgrace.
:namaste: R.


Another issue is that in these large Taiwanese organizations there is only one Shifu or Master and everyone is a disciple of them.

So, how does a single master manage to teach and guide thousands of disciples? That's a far cry from having an abbot whose quarters you could call upon in the middle of the night if you had some pressing question to discuss.
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby PorkChop » Wed Dec 19, 2012 5:49 am

Huseng wrote:I never took the Japanese exams. I never really had to. Learning to write academic Japanese was a long process of writing mini essays which I had friends correct. I didn't really learn it from textbooks.

That being said, if I ever do a PhD I'm writing the dissertation in English. :smile:


lol
Still amazing to me.
Rushed through my first 100 kanji in my first Japanese class in my junior year of high school in Okinawa.
After that I didn't really touch kanji for the next 10+ years; but kept on speaking it & learning through that.
Only started studying kanji seriously for JLPT tests and because I kinda hit a brick wall with my advancement - I need to read to get better.
Have a ton of Japanese novels to go through whenever I get off my butt and start studying again.
Think I'll start with your paper.
Having a few issues with some of the Chinese sections & some of the Japanese versions of Buddhist terms, but really only a google search away.
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby plwk » Fri Dec 21, 2012 3:27 am

If anyone here knows on the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, is a monastic allowed to take care or attend to family members in grave situations or even for a funeral?
And if so, under what conditions/extent can that care be given?
Or if no such provision is available in the Vinaya, as a Mahayana based monastic, do they use the Bodhisattva Vows as a 'supplement'?

I recall the tale of the Great Arhat & Elder Sariputra who at the of his life met his own mother, the Lady Sari in his own birthplace, to establish her in the Dharma and she gained the fruit of a Srotapanna.
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Huifeng » Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:01 am

plwk wrote:If anyone here knows on the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, is a monastic allowed to take care or attend to family members in grave situations or even for a funeral?
And if so, under what conditions/extent can that care be given?
Or if no such provision is available in the Vinaya, as a Mahayana based monastic, do they use the Bodhisattva Vows as a 'supplement'?

I recall the tale of the Great Arhat & Elder Sariputra who at the of his life met his own mother, the Lady Sari in his own birthplace, to establish her in the Dharma and she gained the fruit of a Srotapanna.


IIRC, the Vinaya (in general) while stating that alms (of whatever type) collected by monastics should not be given with those who are not sanghins, the parents of monastics are an exception.

This question is not so much one of "in the Vinaya", but what is considered socially acceptable for monastics. In Chinese Buddhism at least, such actions are perfectly normal and quite common. No hard rules about under what circumstances.

Maybe the question should be the reverse - why would such a thing be prohibited?

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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby plwk » Fri Dec 21, 2012 6:32 am

Thank you Fa Shi.
This question is not so much one of "in the Vinaya", but what is considered socially acceptable for monastics. In Chinese Buddhism at least, such actions are perfectly normal and quite common. No hard rules about under what circumstances.
Conversely, I guess there's also the side of the 'Vinaya purists' who would question on how much does the general society understand on what is the Discipline for monastics and regard such attitudes as contributing to the decline of the Buddha Dharma when monastics have to start pandering to changing social norms? One most common example I can think of is 'norm' of giving the common and convenient monetary hóngbāo as dana to monastics and another on the not donning of the three piece robes at all times cited as inconvenience by some?
Maybe the question should be the reverse - why would such a thing be prohibited?
Perhaps, in the case of accomodating to one's parents/family even in exceptional situations by a monastic might be misinterpreted by some as a 'weakness' of still clinging to the family life, perhaps conditioned by romantic and lofty ascetic ideals and ideas of what a monastic should/not be? As a layman, I don't share this assertion so as long as it's a grave/exceptional situation but am not sure if my view is shared by anyone else...
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