tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Kunga » Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:13 pm

kirtu wrote:
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).

Kirt


Hi, K, she was probably talking about Barma Rabjung - the hair cutting ceremony. It isn't monastic ordination but is the prelude to it. I've also encountered people who describe themselves as monks or nuns having gone through this procedure but it's incorrect, they are still lay people but have permission to wear the shantab and zen - but not the monastic upper garment (Yellow/red 'chougou') . In Sakya we don't have temporary monastic ordination like the Theravadins. I'm a Sakya monk.

...Actually, strictly speaking, all vinaya lineages do have provisions for monks and nuns handing back unbroken vows and retaking getsul and gelong ordination a number of times afterwards, but in Tibet this is not the custom as it is in the Southern tradition.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Yudron » Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:47 pm

Welcome Kunga, it's really nice to have you posting.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Kunga » Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:08 am

Yudron wrote:Welcome Kunga, it's really nice to have you posting.


Thanks, Yudron. I've been enjoying reading your clear and informed posts on Dudjom Ter matters on other threads, as I also practice in this lineage. And love it! :-)
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:55 pm

Posted this in another thread but perhaps it is more relevant to the discussion here. Bhikkhu Bodhi on monasticism in the West:http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma13/challenge.html



“The leveling of distinctions”: One important contemporary premise rooted in our democratic heritage might be called “the leveling of distinctions.” This holds that in all matters relating to fundamental rights, everyone has an equal claim: everyone is entitled to participate in any worthy projects; all opinions are worthy of consideration; no one has an intrinsic claim to privilege and entitlement. This attitude is staunchly opposed to the governing principle of traditionalist culture, namely, that there are natural gradations among people based on family background, social class, wealth, race, education, and so on, which confer privileges on some that do not accrue to others. In the traditionalist understanding, monastics and laity are stratified as to their positions and duties. Lay people provide monks and nuns with their material requisites, undertake precepts, engage in devotional practices to acquire merit, and occasionally practice meditation, usually under the guidance of monks; monastic persons practice intensive meditation, study the texts, conduct blessing ceremonies, and provide the lay community with teachings and examples of a dedicated life. This stratification of the Buddhist community is typical of most traditional Buddhist cultures. The distinction presupposes that the Buddhist lay devotee is not yet ready for deep Dharma study and intensive meditation practice but still needs gradual maturation based on faith, devotion, and good deeds.

In modern Western Buddhism, such a dichotomy has hardly even been challenged; rather, it has simply been disregarded. There are two ways that the classical monastic-lay distinction has been quietly overturned. First, lay people are not prepared to accept the traditionalist understanding of a lay person’s limitations but seek access to the Dharma in its full depth and range. They study Buddhist texts, even the most abstruse philosophical works that traditional Buddhism regards as the domain of monastics. They take up intensive meditation, seeking the higher stages of samadhi and insight and even the ranks of the ariyans, the noble ones.

The second way the monastic-lay distinction is being erased is in the elevation of lay people to the position of Dharma teachers who can teach with an authority normally reserved for monks. Some of the most gifted teachers of Buddhism today, whether of theory or meditation, are lay people. Thus, when lay people want to learn the Dharma, they are no longer dependent on monastics. Whether or not a lay person seeks teachings from a monastic or a lay teacher has become largely a matter of circumstance and preference. Some will want to study with monks; others will prefer to study with lay teachers. Whatever their choice, they can easily fulfill it. To study under a monk is not, as is mostly the case in traditional Buddhism, a matter of necessity. There are already training programs in the hands of lay Buddhists, and lineages of teachers consisting entirely of lay people.

Indeed, in some circles there is even a distrust of the monk. Some months ago I saw an ad in Buddhadharma magazine for a Zen lineage called “Open Mind Zen.” Its catch phrase was: “No monks, no magic, no mumbo-jumbo.” The three are called “crutches” that the real Zen student must discard in order to succeed in the practice. I was struck by the cavalier way that the monks are grouped with magic and mumbo-jumbo and all three together banished to the dugout.

I think it likely there will always be laypeople who look to the monastic Sangha for guidance, and thus there is little chance that our monasteries and Dharma centers will become empty. For another, the fact that many laypeople have been establishing independent, non-monastic communities with their own centers and teachers may have a partly liberating effect on the Sangha. Relieved to some extent of the need to serve as “fields of merit” and teachers for the laity, we will have more time for our own personal practice and spiritual growth. In this respect, we might actually be able to recapture the original function of the homeless person in archaic Buddhist monasticism, before popular, devotional Buddhism pushed monastics into a largely priestly role in relation to the wider Buddhist community. Of course, if the size of the lay congregation attached to a given monastery tapers off, there is some risk that the donations that sustain the monastery will also decline, and that could threaten the survival of the monastery. Thus the loss of material support can become a serious challenge to the sustainability of institutional monasticism.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby lama tsewang » Sun Feb 03, 2013 10:48 pm

Hello, I want to add one thing , and maybe revitalize this discussion.
It was said that theres some sort of problem with funding monastic centres here.

i have a response to that. The centres have to teach Dharma , put on programs. Thats how monks have always survived. Theres no mystery toit. What I am really talking about is how the Dharma centres function and work here in the west. . That centers look more to Asian models of temples here in North America, Ethnic temples in North America , are usually run by monks , amd monastics provide guidance for the centers.
Tibetan centers , , many of them , actually are led by monks, but its usually only Asian monks . I am saying tht , such a situation is not agood one , there has to be more attention paid to nurture and foster good training so that North American monks lead these centers.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Parasamgate » Mon Feb 04, 2013 6:24 pm

I just wanted to add one point to this discussion. There is one example of western Tibetan buddhist monasticism thriving: Srvasti Abbey in Washington State.

Due to Venerable Thubten Chodron's incredible stockpile of merit a living and breathing example of monasticism is flourishing in upper Washington State. They seem to be growing at a sustainable rate.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to take this as an example of what can happen when merit is built up and dedicated to others?
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby randomseb » Mon Feb 04, 2013 11:21 pm

This place appears to be attempting to build a western tibetan monastic/community assemble based off the Kagyu tradition.. Does anyone have any first hand experience with them?

http://www.dharmafellowship.org/hermitage/
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby lama tsewang » Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:31 am

to the last post, i dont know of any monks that actually reside at that place , the dharma fellowship.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Kunga » Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:36 am

randomseb wrote:This place appears to be attempting to build a western tibetan monastic/community assemble based off the Kagyu tradition.. Does anyone have any first hand experience with them?

http://www.dharmafellowship.org/hermitage/

I met one Western Bhikshu from there around 2006, when I was attending teachings in Vancouver. Nice guy and seemed very sincere. From what I recall Thrangu Rinpoche had accepted the request to be the abbot of the group (we were at teachings given by Thrangu Rinpoche). That's about all I know.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby lama tsewang » Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:28 pm

Again , that place has no monks living there, as far as I know .its not a monastery.!!!!!!!!!!
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby randomseb » Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:43 pm

lama tsewang wrote:Again , that place has no monks living there, as far as I know .its not a monastery.!!!!!!!!!!


http://www.dharmafellowship.org/hermitage/lamas.htm lists some of the resident lamas/teachers, and http://www.dharmafellowship.org/hermita ... nation.htm is offering the possibility to join that forest. It's a small beginning, perhaps, but that ordination page clearly states that they are trying to get it going, much like how the first monasteries in Tibet had to be built from the ground up.. This little quote talks about the challenge involved in getting something like that going..

It's not easy being a monk or nun in the West. On the whole, our culture does not support the monastic tradition. This means that apart from dedicating themselves full time to the spiritual path, newly ordained Buddhist monks and nuns in the West generally have to find their own means of livelihood. This can create a difficult split between, on the one hand, trying to live the monastic life, and on the other, having to be "in the world" to earn a living.

However, as Buddhist communities evolve in the West, we hope that the monastic Sangha will gradually find ways of supporting itself. We need monastics in the West. The Buddhist tradition has always depended on a monastic heart: an essential core of individuals capable of giving themselves over full time—as the Buddha did—to the spiritual path. These individuals become the inspiration, the shining examples, for the rest of us. We all deeply depend on the prayers and meditations of our ordained monastics to make this world a better place.


And there's this quote:
At this stage, anyone who wishes to adopt the monastic life at the Hermitage has to find means of livelihood to pay for food, heating and any medical needs that might arise. You will be literally "building" the monastic life and Hermitage as you live there. The Hermitage is an incredibly beautiful, serene 60 acres of land, and it's very private, but has almost no infrastructure at present. Monks and nuns will have to work to build accommodation and facilities, and to develop gardens for growing food. They will also be expected to help the lay community by facilitating the meditation retreats that we hold there. So, it's not going to be easy at first.


I suppose what I am wondering is if this is a legitimate linage or if it's one of those controversial things..
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby lama tsewang » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:20 pm

its one of those ,
none of those people teaching there are monks
if you pm me ill tell you more

please dont consider it
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby randomseb » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:47 pm

lama tsewang wrote:its one of those ,
none of those people teaching there are monks
if you pm me ill tell you more

please dont consider it


Then can you recommend any monastic locations on Canada's West Coast?
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby lama tsewang » Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:28 am

pm me, well talk on the phone
go to my website: vancouvervinaya.org
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby lama tsewang » Wed Feb 06, 2013 2:45 am

I have my own monastic center , here, its discussed on my website , and i know the senior monks of several monastic centres in British Columbia. However I do not think , if someone is serious about learning Dharma and renouncing the world and becoming a monk , I dont think such a discussion can be seriously carried out in this venue here , . I can be pmed here.
And afterwards , can establish direct contact with a person.

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby kirtu » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:45 am

In this interview with a Kwan Um monk, Thurman comes out strongly for monasticism as historically the only viable antidote to militarism.

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Vajratantrika » Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:29 am

I think this is a wonderful dialog. I know it has already been mentioned, but I am wondering if the main issue of there not being many Western monks within the Tibetan Buddhist lineages comes down to a lack of finances (rather than a lack of interest)? It seems counterintuitive to expect an ordained monk to work and support themselves while simultaneously attempting to dedicate to a fully monastic life. I think this may be in stark contradiction to the Vinaya as well. I am not certain this is the case, but my understanding is that back in the originating countries (Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan, etc) if someone from within the laity decides they wanted to ordain, they can go to a monastery and make this request. If they are sincere, they might be accepted. Here in the West this opportunity seems less likely. Again, I feel this is perhaps due to monetary concerns. Some of the funds coming into a dharma center are allocated towards supporting the monks - as they very well should be IMHO - for things like living quarters, food, health care, etc. Other funds are allocated to responsibilities and aid for the communities back in the originating countries (which is also as it should be IMHO). It seems like there is typically not much left to take on new monks and nuns, no matter how willing the Abbots and the novices might be. I'm sure there are other considerations and that this is more complex than what I say above, but I do think that finances are on the top of the list. The West doesn't have much of a past of supporting Sangha. The closest thing we have had is in other traditions, like Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Yet with the rising tide of secularism and an increased suspicion of anything 'religious', there isn't much of a supporting base for things like monasticism. I think this is a tragic loss. And I hope something changes in this regard. I would much prefer to see a fully trained and robust monasticism (integrated with both Asians and Westerners) supported by an active laity in place of lone-wolf Western 'teachers' who seem to want to dismiss much of the Dharma to make it more appealing to a modernist/postmodernist worldview (and to increase their book sales, etc).

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby kirtu » Mon Feb 11, 2013 1:43 pm

Vajratantrika wrote: The West doesn't have much of a past of supporting Sangha. The closest thing we have had is in other traditions, like Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Yet with the rising tide of secularism and an increased suspicion of anything 'religious', there isn't much of a supporting base for things like monasticism.


Additionally, Westerners are impoverished, being often deeply in debt, 1 or 2 paychecks away from bankruptcy, and often having only $500 in savings (irrespective of income level). Since the 2007/2008 Depression many people lost their employment and actually became truly impoverished. So this also plays a role.

Historically the rich have supported the Sangha and in that interview Thurman says that he hopes rich Buddhists would support Western monasticism.

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby randomseb » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:42 pm

One of the problems I am having is that the Western society seems designed around producing more desires, from all the of the advertisements and focus on acquiring things and the constant push to buy buy buy!

I suppose this has always been the case in certain respects in all parts of the world, but as everyone says, there isn't much in the way of support here in the West.

I think perhaps a kind of hippy commune style arrangement would work, that is to say monastics and laymen living in a planned community where food is produced locally and so on, and everyone is on the same page.. I think that would be more like what many monastic locations in Asia are like, and a way of getting more people involved in direct participation
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Vajratantrika » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:12 am

kirtu wrote:Historically the rich have supported the Sangha and in that interview Thurman says that he hopes rich Buddhists would support Western monasticism.


Hi Kirt,

Thanks for sharing that link. I watched the full interview earlier today (YouTube has it broken into several sections). I think it is very relevant to this thread. I particularly liked Thurman's advice to Hyon Gak Sunim in response to the latter's question about setting up a Buddhist temple in the West. I am paraphrasing, but he said something to the effect of...'Set up a very traditional Korean style temple, which will draw sincere students and then over time adapt as needed from there'. My understanding of this is that Thurman was saying not to change things from the tradition to begin with, but as the temple grows, there is some flexibility based on the needs of the students. As far as how much to change and how much to keep intact, based on other comments in that interview, I would say Thurman is probably 'right of center' (I don't mean politically, but I'm borrowing the terminology to apply here if 'right' was fully traditional and 'left' was completely innovative).

It was also interesting to hear Hyon Gak Sunim comment about the various perceptions of monasticism in the West, how being a monk is more accepted in parts of Europe for instance (he specifically mentioned Germany, France, Italy and a few other countries) and contrasted this with the United States where he said it is so out of the norm in the culture that one is perceived as an extreme deviant for being a monk. Both Thurman and Hyon Gak Sunim speculated that this may be due to the associated past religious histories of the countries (i.e. Catholic countries are more likely to support monasticism compared to Protestant countries - Germany being an exception). Regardless of the difficult challenges, Thurman was adamant about not letting any of that stand in the way and encouraged Hyon Gak Sunim (and all other monks) to persist. Perceptions can change over time if the efforts continue.
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