tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

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tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby lama tsewang » Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:33 pm

I would like to start a thread , I am not sure where to put it but ill start here , maybe ven. khedrup , will give it its own space later.Iwant to start a discussion about monasticism in the west First of all I would like to share experiences and network with other monks and nuns, within tibetan stlee traditions. Id like to also get a lot of things I have experienced off my chest and maybe others have things to share about problems they have faced.
Also Id like to have a discussion with respect to Dharma transmission here in the west.
I think it is traditional for the SAngha to be a bearer of Dharma teachings and central to its propagation and preservation. It has always struck how tibetan traditions in the west have not done much about this here, while other traditions of Buddhism have established the means where interested persons can practice Dharma as their lifetime commitment.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby windsweptliberty » Thu Dec 20, 2012 9:02 pm

I'm not a monk nor a nun but I would be interested in hearing what you have to say. Forgive my ignorance, but I was wondering what stlee tradition is?
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby bryandavis » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:48 pm

Greetings,

Here is a stream of babble on the subject from me:

I have gone back and forth thinking about a monastic life path. To be completley honest I think a big reason ( not the only reason, a lot of other attachments and fear as well) is though I have a deep connection to Buddhism as practiced in Tibet, I am a westernerner. For examples sake, Lets use Thich Naht Hanhs sanga. Sure there is some Vietnamese culture, like the robes and im sure some other things but in english spreaking countries the dharma is transmitted in english, prayers and chants etc are in a language connected to the culture it is operating in. In france it is the same for his group, other countries etc.

Of course to preserve the language the sutras and tantras are in is one thing, but just as Chinese Buddhism is in chinese, Japanese in their language etc.... It has to take hold in that way for sure in the west. That is one thing for me.

The whole "the blessing of the languare are lost" or 'it wont have the same meaning" I dont buy that at all. If a lineage holder blesess his students to translate something and their blessings are are that request then the new translation holds it weight. Will there ever be a consensus on dharma language? probably not. could there be? sure, why not.

For example once more, the melody and metre of a the ensapa chod lineage, has been translated into english. The Yamantaka Drubchen by as tranmitted through Garchen Rinpoche has been translated, in meter and melody by his disiple Ari Kiev.

This is only one small issue, I it does not discuss "monasticism" per se but things like this allow me, with out being a translator, as not all peole are inclined to or should have to be so, to participate in a way vastly more full and at least relativly meaningful. I can connect to my sangha members who cant rely on the Tibetan language to understand the verbatim. Even if speak antother language, I studied cantonese for a while, not fulent, but day to day usage, I always have to refrence my original languge to some extent.

I'm sort of draggin this out I guess, but I think yall can get the feeling.

This leads a bit into the Dharma transmission thing as well, at least in future times, maybe lung will be given in a language of the peoples be it itallian, french, english, etc.

At that point it would be Tibetan Inspired Buddhism I suppose.

Hope that at least sets off some more discussion.

:cheers:
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Dec 23, 2012 6:21 pm

I really see the monastic life as being an essential support to the tradition, if I didn't I wouldn't still be in robes. If one wants to see what happens when monasticism is completely removed from a Buddhist tradition one need look no further than Japan, where Buddhism is waning at an alarming rate.
Other societies such as Thailand are also struggling with modernization, but because the Sangha is there at least on the surface Buddhism is still present in daily life, although it is degenerating the degeneration has not been as fast.
In terms of helping the Western Sangha to remain in their vows the local centres have to find roles in which Western monks and nuns can be nurtured. If there is no role for them to play in the centres laypeople will not support them. I wish that Western laypeople could sponsor monks and nuns for a lifetime of study or retreat but Buddhism is not well established enough here to facilitate that.
The other thing is that we Western monks and nuns from our side have to inspire support through our conduct and also by developing skills that can benefit the dharma and our teachers.
The truth is that I notice fewer and fewer Westerners interested in ordination these days. This means that the monastic tradition might never work here, which is a shame. At the same time, it is better to be a good and ethical lay practitioner rather than a poor example as a monk/nun.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Dec 23, 2012 6:34 pm

Tsewang I hope it is okay with you, I moved the topic to the Tibetan Buddhism forum, as you asked for feedback from all the traditions.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby kirtu » Sun Dec 23, 2012 7:19 pm

JKhedrup wrote:The truth is that I notice fewer and fewer Westerners interested in ordination these days. This means that the monastic tradition might never work here, which is a shame.


Two major barriers to ordination in the West is the reluctance to endorse temporary ordination and setting upper age limits for ordination at around 50 (just like many American's are fearful that unemployed people are trying to live off of society it seems that many Buddhist organizations are fearful that older Western people want to ordain as a kind of nursing home project and to lay around all day - so basically Westerners are traumatized by fears and projections of laziness and their deeply internalized age discrimination).

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby heart » Sun Dec 23, 2012 7:24 pm

kirtu wrote:
JKhedrup wrote:The truth is that I notice fewer and fewer Westerners interested in ordination these days. This means that the monastic tradition might never work here, which is a shame.


Two major barriers to ordination in the West is the reluctance to endorse temporary ordination and setting upper age limits for ordination at around 50 (just like many American's are fearful that unemployed people are trying to live off of society it seems that many Buddhist organizations are fearful that older Western people want to ordain as a kind of nursing home project and to lay around all day - so basically Westerners are traumatized by fears and projections of laziness and their deeply internalized age discrimination).

Kirt


Temporary ordination? Hardly a tradition that comes from the Buddha, or? I never heard of the upper age limit at 50, who use that?

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Dec 23, 2012 7:32 pm

I never heard of the upper age limit at 50, who use that?


The Chogye order in Korea, from what I understand, as well as several Mahayana Buddhist temples in Taiwan, but certainly not all. The idea behind it I think is that at 50 it becomes very difficult to change one's habits and adjust to living a communal lifestyle, which is what monasticism in the traditional context is partly about.

Temporary ordination is a hot button issue. Certainly we see in Buddhist history some cases of monks disrobing and returning to the sangha. But not people ordaining for two weeks as in some Theravada countries.

All these cultural and social considerations aside, if the Tibetan Buddhist organizations want good Western monks and nuns then proper education in Vinaya and foundational dharma is essential. To just send people out to work during the day and then expect them to come to the centre and behave perfectly without monastic formation and education just isn't fair. It would only work for exceptionally strong people.

A good monastic training system requires some sort of funding. This is the unfortunate reality.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby kirtu » Sun Dec 23, 2012 7:48 pm

heart wrote:Temporary ordination? Hardly a tradition that comes from the Buddha, or?


Temporary ordination is obviously found in the Southern School. I had thought that it was entirely absent in the Mahayana. Pema Chodron's group in Halifax does offer temporary ordination. I was talking to a Sakya nun about this and mentioned the lack of support for temporary ordination in Tibetan Buddhism and she told me that actually temporary ordination is practiced as a possibility. She further mentioned that one or two people who had ordained at an ordination ceremony that we had both been to had ordained temporarily and this was an all Sakya event.

I never heard of the upper age limit at 50, who use that?


About 50-55 - Pema Chodron's group. About the same age limit is used for a Western Theravadin training monastery in Thailand (I can look them up - they are apparently the main Western training monastery in Thailand).

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby bryandavis » Sun Dec 23, 2012 8:55 pm

I think that sponsorship/funding is going to be one of the major issues, if not the major issue. Totally agree on that. At the same time self sufficent and sustaining mechanisisms are a must to alleviate the need for full support.

Maybe smaller communities/properties are a good way. Monastic houses with a limited amount of people in one setting. That would make for an easier time to find outside help on funding. That fact is if you have acres and acres of property, it is so costly. If you do smaller scale community it would be less financial strain. With current technology, confrencing and gathering of the sangha acroos large swaths of the courtry is not that difficult.

FPMT in my opinion is the best example as far as how organized and structured their system is.

Also more outreach in the communities the orders would be in would help. Going to yoga events, or job fairs (dharma is hard work) or things like that. Going into local schools and colleges and offfering to be a guest speaker in philosphy, psychology or religion classes so that younger people can see a living example of what books talk aobut.

And allowing westerners to have critical roles in expounding the dharma, which some organizations do.

Not sure temporary ordination is really that crucial, there are other methods such as temporary full upasaka vows like in nyungnay, lets face it, the most difficult for most people is going to be the no sex part. Full upasaka vows take care of that.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Dhondup » Mon Dec 24, 2012 3:17 am

Lama Tsewang, as a young man from America who has made it his goal to ordain in the next few years, I would love to hear you share your thoughts and experiences.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby lama tsewang » Mon Dec 24, 2012 7:47 pm

Well, lets investigate this question.
Why is it that other traditions of Buddhism dont see m to have this problem . ZEn , Theravada all have monks in the west . The Theravadins and Zen monks all have western people as aboots and all have westerners have westerners giving the precepts to new trainees.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby byamspa » Wed Dec 26, 2012 7:34 pm

I think the sponsership issue is a huge one.

i maintain a monthly sponsership for a nun in my teacher's sangha, but even that is ending up in India!

If we want modern western people doing this too, where they don't have to travel to India or Asia, we have to have the means available for them. The conditions have to be set out so they can succeed. That means those of us who are not monks need to be willing to support those who are if we can.

just my 2 c.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby lama tsewang » Wed Dec 26, 2012 10:51 pm

ok , this kind of idea is spread around . it sounds right , but , as I said, Theravada and Zen traditions have set up facilities around North America, how is this possible if theres no money.?
I think among other things , its a question , of where theres a will theres a way.
I just dont see the Tibetans who have come here from Asia directing there mind to this need. Many have not put their attention to really effectively telling their followers here that we need to have Dharma taught completely by people who are from here. Taught in the local language here. Administered and led by locals.

i remember the story I read , of the Arhat who was the son of King Ashoka. He went to Sri Lanka to bring the teachings there . He was aked by the King , when will we know that the Dharma has been really brought here to our country . The monk answered: " when a n assembly of Sri lankan monks on their own makes a Sri lankan person a monk , then the Dharma will have been fully brought here."

There has to be, in my humble opinion, a rethink , on the part of the Tibetan Buddhists here , that sees that its important to support and nurture and assist local people here who have received extensive teaching , to share it with others here . There are already many of them , and I see that we are not utilizing them fully.
There also has to be a greater understanding perhaps, that really absorbing the teachings, is not just a matter of doing one three year retreat , but that it is a lifelong way of being.

Contrary to what many may think, monastic centres are not isolated places that are just for lifetime monks to lock themselves away , asking for lots of money and sponsoship. Rather I think they are the most effective model of Dharma centre there is , where a community of fulltime career practitioners creates the space for people to come and practise daily or weekly and or do short or long retreats.

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:21 am

Contrary to what many may think, monastic centres are not isolated places that are just for lifetime monks to lock themselves away , asking for lots of money and sponsoship. Rather I think they are the most effective model of Dharma centre there is , where a community of fulltime career practitioners creates the space for people to come and practise daily or weekly and or do short or long retreats.


:good:

I agree with you completely Lama Tsewang. But it is very difficult to convince Western Vajrayana practitioners that a Western monastic sangha is worth supporting. I have tried to find a way that doesn't sound demanding, or entitled, or pushy, but so far have not been successful. So in the meantime, I just carry on with my practice and work as an interpreter and hope that one day I will meet someone who wants to support the Western Sangha and then direct them towards my monastic brothers and sisters in need.

It takes extraordinary merit to establish in a stable way the community of monks and nuns in a country. Perhaps the West so far does not have the merit and conditions necessary. Hopefully, as we follow the advice of our teachers, this situation will change.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Yudron » Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:25 am

Also, the monk lamas who visit here from TIbet, Nepal and India have a financial responsibility to their monastery back home--so, when funds come in, they are understandably directed there.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:28 am

This is a good point Yudron, and certainly with the situation in Tibet as it is the lamas must continue to carry this responsibility.

I do not envy the Tibetan monks in India, Nepal, Tibet etc. support because I feel that the preservation of Tibetan culture is something that will help the dharma remain longer in this world.

I wish there were the resources for both, it will be interesting to see how the situation changes with time. If the plight of the Tibetans improves, opportunities for the sponsorship of a Western sangha may open up.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby lama tsewang » Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:32 am

but , one thing , i need to mention again again and again. The other traditions of Buddhism have done this, and are doing this and consequently they are led by noth americans and europeans etc.. in their own individual countries.

monastic centers should be the focus , and place for people to come for practice.
most of the centers here for asian people are led by several monks .
And all , or most of these monastics , have their own monastic students who they teach , to in turn run their centers.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:35 am

The other traditions of Buddhism have done this, and are doing this and consequently they are led by noth americans and europeans etc.. in their own individual countries.


This is true but as Thais/Chinese/Koreans are no refugees and in fact their countries are fast-growing economies, they have far more resources than the Tibetans.

As long as the Tibetans are in exile I don't thing we can really compare the two situations.

It is interesting to note that while the Chinese Buddhist organizations have members who really believe in generosity and a stable financial situation (in most cases), they have not been very succesful in attracting Western monastics or monastic aspirants.

So one wonders if financial resources are the key factor or one of several.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Indrajala » Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:52 am

JKhedrup wrote:It is interesting to note that while the Chinese Buddhist organizations have members who really believe in generosity and a stable financial situation (in most cases), they have not been very succesful in attracting Western monastics or monastic aspirants.


It might be because they haven't really thought about it. There isn't a widespread desire to internationalize in a real sense. As a foreigner you can ordain in Taiwan quite easily, but you'll have to submit to the hierarchy, conduct yourself exclusively in Chinese and tow the party line. Conformity is demanded, which for individualistic westerners is often quite problematic. Criticism is unacceptable, which for someone from a democratic society is again problematic.

It is changing somewhat. I have heard about international monastic programs being drafted here in Taiwan (in at least two organizations), but we'll see if it ever happens.

I think Tibetan lineages are a better option because despite their lack of funding they seem more open minded and accommodating.
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