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'.
That was very good advice. The question is whether Kwan Um can really do it. They basically thought they did but they have a tendency to eschew scholastic training (and to some degree sutric practice, even for Zen) and to relegate some aspects of the liturgy to traditional superstition.
Thurman is fully traditional in this respect, even with his sometimes wild translations.
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.
That was interesting. When I was a kid, one would often see nuns in particular on the street in Germany. As non-Catholics we knew exactly who they were (of course I and possibly my older sister had gone to German kindergarden run by nuns). I am still surprised by this view of monasticism as deviant and can't agree at all (perhaps because my family on my father's side does have Catholkics and they said positive things about monks and nuns growing up) although I have to agree with his observation. I hadn't really realized that before.
Still I was surprised to hear that Western Buddhist monasticisn is being viewed positively because in the past in Germany in particular there has been a tendency to dismiss eastern religious involvement as a dress up show.
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).
Interesting observation. Germany is not an exception BTW - that was one of the issues in the central event in German history (now really the second central event unfortunately) - the 30 Years War. Germany is fully Catholic and Protestant just broadly in regions - so the south and the Rhine are heavily Catholic with parts of the former east and the rest of Germany is solidly Protestant. Bavaria in particular has monasteries galore.
I was stunned by Thurman's statement that monasticism is the only historical force that has subdued militarism. This may necessitate a rethink as I have thought that yogic practice is more appropriate for the west as well as instituting temporary ordination.
_________________Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes
"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche