Buddhism and Culture - East and West

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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Zhen Li » Tue May 07, 2013 9:18 am

Yes, in the west the Sangha will have to take on different forms eventually.

But for the present, on an individual level, those interested in the Dharma still have avenues of thinking which will allow them to benefit immensely within the norms currently in place. Individuals must rely on themselves, and shouldn't feel entitled because of their preconceptions and attachments. But the onus is also on westerners who complain to learn Chinese and help to adapt the Sangha appropriately from the inside out.
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby JKhedrup » Tue May 07, 2013 9:38 am

But the onus is also on westerners who complain to learn Chinese and help to adapt the Sangha appropriately from the inside out.


I mean my complaints are made because I would actually like to see Chinese Buddhism be more successful in the West. I think it has a lot to offer. I'd also be sad if temples have to start closing because the second generation isn't interested and there is no support.

I have to disagree with your statement though. When Chinese monastics come to Western countries they also have to adapt. It has to work both ways. If there is no willingness to adjust cultural norms to teach Buddhism in a new environment, we might as well as stop wasting our time and throw in the towel right now.

And Westerners have to have an attitude of forbearance and acceptance as well, of course. We have to be willing to humble ourselves to learn the traditions at the source. The message and discipline should not be watered down. But the presentation has to be adapted.

As I said, if things continue as they are even 2nd generation Chinese kids will begin to think of the temples as not something very relevant to their lives.

I feel CTTB is a good example of a temple that presents traditional Chinese Buddhism with uncompromising discipline and scholarship, but at the same time is open enough to trying to develop an ''American Buddhism" that many Westerners are able to nourish themselves their spiritually with some level of comfort.

It is also worth again noting ven. Indrajala's and my conversation with people from South Asia and Africa who had similar struggles and experiences, lest people have the idea of "'spoiled white Westerners complaing'' (which can also be a very real problem, don't get me wrong).
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Huifeng » Tue May 07, 2013 10:48 am

I advocate double standards:

When I'm in someone else's home, I try to follow their ways of doing things.
But when others are in my home, I try to treat them as honored guests.

Doing the reverse serves no purpose in my experience.
I have more success in changing myself, than I ever do in changing others.

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby JKhedrup » Tue May 07, 2013 11:58 am

Ven. Hui Feng,

This is very much the ideal to which we all strive. Your being able to think like that is in part due to the study and cultivation available to you through the Chinese monastic system. I just want more people to have access to that training so that they can hold to the same ideals. Not everyone is as intelligent and determined as you are. I want the system to be open not just to extraordinary Westerners (maybe with good East Asian imprints?) but ordinary Westerners and second generation Asian kids who, with a slight change in paradigm and conditions that nurture their unique circumstances, could be of great service not only to the West but also to the dharma and their home monasteries.

I have a deep respect for much of Chinese Buddhism and that is why I am concerned about this. Otherwise, what would it have to do with me, right? Geshe Sonam also respects the Chinese tradition, hopefully this summer he will be able to see it on its home soil in Taiwan!
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby plwk » Tue May 07, 2013 1:13 pm

So, Ven Indrajala, it's quite obvious isn't it? Our way or the highway in the end analysis...
And I was wondering why then are some of those who showed others the highway are complaining about when Theravada, Vajrayana and Zen have more people and resources....
Oh the poor poor Chinese Tradition.... left to their own devices and private clubs... What do they call this in the corporate world? :mrgreen:
How soon they forget how China was at one time carved up like a watermelon by the foreign powers...
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Indrajala » Tue May 07, 2013 3:25 pm

plwk wrote:So, Ven Indrajala, it's quite obvious isn't it? Our way or the highway in the end analysis...


Yes, and I feel that approach lacks compassion and understanding. It also sabotages one's own efforts if and when there is an interest in internationalization and accommodating new generations of local youth and foreigners. You end stubbornly refusing to really listen to others and then wonder why nobody sticks around. Anyone who complains is told they're ungrateful and lacking in manners.
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Indrajala » Tue May 07, 2013 3:54 pm

Huifeng wrote:Doing the reverse serves no purpose in my experience.
I have more success in changing myself, than I ever do in changing others.


And how many foreigners leave your organization and never look back (nevermind that they're person non grata after leaving)? How successful has your seminary program been in foreign lands? Why are western monks called pandas?
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Luke » Tue May 07, 2013 5:18 pm

JKhedrup wrote:I find your state about adaptation when living in another country very ironic in the context if this discussion. Why? Because these organizations based in Taiwan also run their overseas temples according to exactly the same system. One has a feeling Taiwan has been transplanted to Australia, Canada, USA etc. It is a bit short sighted, because the second generation after they are married usually decrease their participation. This means that the generation born in the west is no longer interested once it is their choice whether to go or not....

Ah, I see what you mean now. If this is true, then it's obvious that Chinese temples in non-Chinese countries will need to adapt more to the local cultures in order to survive and hopefully sometime thrive.

@Ven. Indrajala:
I guess my main point was that perceptions are relative and that one person's hell could be another person's heaven.

But yes, it would be great to see Buddhist universities and monasteries spread to western countries and operate in western languages (not just English, but Russian, French, Brazilian Portuguese, etc., too).
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby JKhedrup » Tue May 07, 2013 5:55 pm

Perhaps the elephant in the room is that the organizations themselves are not really that interested in Westerners becoming sangha members, but out of politeness do not state this directly. Perhaps the feel they resources are better spent with Chinese people, whom Chinese Buddhism naturally suits.

As a person outside the culture who doesn't speak much of the language, I guess I'll never know. Somehow I keep thinking I am missing a key piece to trying to understand this puzzle. It would be great to be a fly on the wall when the important seniors of some of the larger Taiwanese temples are discussing localization/propagation in the West. Are Westerners seen as high maintenance? Or is there just no one who understands our way of thinking?

Thank goodness for CTTB and Master Hua, though. Although these days the monks and nuns are mostly Chinese, there are a few Western sangha around from the old days and a good Western community of practitioners who attend Master Heng Sure's lectures, for example.

When you have a Sangha that truly integrates Western and Asian members, it can be a powerful force. Think Plum Village and the Ajahn Chah tradition.

I prefer to be in Sanghas that have members born into traditional Buddhist families as this gives context for practice, if this is mixed with Western members you have a really good combination.
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Zhen Li » Tue May 07, 2013 7:58 pm

Doesn't this also just come down to determined and far sighted individuals? It is a western trait to blame things on 'systems' and establishments, when in reality, what we need aren't massive overhauls, but just someone with insight in a key position who can both inspire and lead. In my own experience, temples have attracted and kept dozens of westerners when teacher A was present, and then when teacher A is replaced by teacher B who may lack even basic interpersonal skills, the numbers dwindle. Regardless of the fact that the institution as a whole made no massive overhaul, the mere presence and then return of teacher A displayed that it is the individual who can make the difference.

That's on an external level, but we are all Buddhists here posting in a Buddhist forum (a sign of interest and intelligence with regards to the Dharma), that at least is enough for the advice for us to cultivate our individual welfare to be sufficient on an internal level.
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Huifeng » Wed May 08, 2013 1:01 am

Indrajala wrote:
Huifeng wrote:Doing the reverse serves no purpose in my experience.
I have more success in changing myself, than I ever do in changing others.


And how many foreigners leave your organization and never look back (nevermind that they're person non grata after leaving)? How successful has your seminary program been in foreign lands? Why are western monks called pandas?


Thank you for pointing out our faults and failures.
We hope to learn from your guidance and wisdom.

:namaste:

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby dharmagoat » Wed May 08, 2013 2:58 am

The line between right speech and sarcasm can be subtle. Sometimes not.
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby plwk » Wed May 08, 2013 3:48 am

It depends dg-la. In some communities, when that line is made of a monastic garb, it comes with a privileged immunity... :popcorn:
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Huifeng » Wed May 08, 2013 3:59 am

Sometimes people are just genuinely happy to hear of criticism.
Every time my faults are revealed, I can work to correct them.
Every time I correct a fault, I draw one step nearer to awakening.
Every time I draw nearer to awakening, I come closer to being able to help suffering beings.

:namaste:

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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby dharmagoat » Wed May 08, 2013 4:01 am

:namaste:
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby plwk » Wed May 08, 2013 4:12 am

Better than a thousand useless words is one useful word, hearing which one attains peace.
Better than a thousand useless verses is one useful verse, hearing which one attains peace.
Better than reciting a hundred meaningless verses is the reciting of one verse of Dhamma, hearing which one attains peace.
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Indrajala » Wed May 08, 2013 4:33 am

Huifeng wrote:Thank you for pointing out our faults and failures.
We hope to learn from your guidance and wisdom.


Passive-aggressive sarcasm doesn't really address the concerns issued above, especially that of individuals like Ven. Khedrup.

If you have a standing policy like this...

Doing the reverse serves no purpose in my experience.
I have more success in changing myself, than I ever do in changing others.


... then how do you expect to really succeed in keeping and retaining people when you demand soul-crushing conformity and obedience to authority? Clearly the system hasn't worked so well, so hopefully instead of simply saying "I have more success in changing myself" you'll seriously listen to criticism, especially from people like Ven. Khedrup.

And let's be honest - a lot of what we're talking about here relates to FGS.

I met some ex-FGS nuns not so long ago, and I thought it'd be nice if their concerns were taken seriously, especially since more of their relatives and friends will probably be recruited to go to Taiwan, maybe to experience the same disappointment and hardship.

In my travels I have met some ex-FGS monastics (they're still monks/nuns) and they all generally say the same things. They ran away. It wasn't a negotiated departure on good terms, because they couldn't leave without being permanently banished and ostracised. They just up and left, sometimes with great hardship because of their poverty and their family situation being no better financially.

FGS for better or worse is a representative of Chinese Buddhism and a substantial element in the global Buddhist world as I've come to discover even in India. I met an Indian monk who told me all about his former interactions with FGS, and this was out in the sticks! So what FGS does really matters.

If you start reading Chinese Buddhism or getting involved in some organization, you'll inevitably have to know about it as it is one of the largest Chinese Buddhist organizations in the world. FGS hosts academic conferences and has the Woodenfish program. It also recruits youth from Africa and the subcontinent, so again it is a significant element in the greater Buddhist world. The results of its decisions are not limited to FGS alone as it affects the outside world, too. In some cases quite a lot.

So hopefully criticism will aid in reforming things for the better. However, if you just react negatively to criticism instead of addressing it then people will just throw their arms up in disgust and maybe write FGS off as some kind of cult.
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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Huifeng » Wed May 08, 2013 6:55 am

All I can say is thank for your pointing out the problems. Barely a day goes by when I do not think of how much work we have to do, how many people need help, yet we are not able to provide it. I could easily forget about this, just do my own thing, but reminders are there. So, thank you for that. One who points out one's faults is a teacher. So, those are the people to whom I ask for guidance and direction. My faults are many, so fortunately I have many teachers. Thank you all for that.

My lack of skill in expression also lets me down. Some think that I am being sarcastic, passive aggressive. My words written on a page have no tone, no emotion, no feeling behind them. So, that may be hard to tell.

Seems I've let everyone down. Unfortunately, my best is simply not good enough. I do not know what else to say. Sorry.

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Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby JKhedrup » Wed May 08, 2013 7:16 am

Don't take it all on yourself ven huifeng. I was actually hoping to keep the discussion in generalities, as i knew naming organizations might make things too personal.

I did not mention much before as i could have just been written off as someone not committed enough to Buddhism. Now that i function quite well in a tradition, with a position of some responsibility, people will see i am not hopeless, so might put more weight into what i say.

If i can get geshe la's papers for taiwan together fot a visit this summer, this is a conversation i would be glad to have. Because i see the potential, i actually do care. There are also on a personal level many kindnesses i remember. I really feel it isjust about empowering the right people who can nourish westerners despite the cultural disconnect.

That you had the fortitude to thrive in such a tough system is a testament to you. It is just not everyone is so strong, but if given a little leeway they could still make a good contribution.
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: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Luke » Wed May 08, 2013 6:22 pm

What about Korean Buddhism? Nobody has really talked about that yet...

Are westerners successfully living as monks and nuns in South Korea? Have Korean Buddhist sanghas successfully integrated with the local communities in the west?
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