greentara wrote:maybay, I found your post very interesting but what do you mean by 'and the invention of childhood?'
Children play, experiment, learn and should have the good manners to apologise for the mistakes it is expected they will make.
Adults on the other hand have a contractual obligation to work, are expected to know everything, have sex like its a chore, and aren't allowed to make mistakes. (Is it any wonder ethics is so difficult for modern adults?)
Children shouldn't have sex, drink, or vote for political parties. But these are the same expectations we have of monks and nuns.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche was fielding questions after one of his talks. A Western man was complaining to Rinpoche about the routine of young monks. He was concerned that they weren't "having a childhood", that they would look back on their time in the monastery and decry their lost youth.
It seems he was voicing his own fears: feeling like an adult who has lived out his alotted youth.
The division between childhood and adulthood wasn't always so well recognized. Medieval societies, like exiled Tibetan communities, didn't think of children in the same way we do. The modern world may imbue children with all their cherished hopes, as a medieval community would do with their renunciates. The attitude to children however, is that they are always under the guidance of, and beholden to, their guardians: adults, whom they are destined one day to become.
This understanding doesn't work with monks. Its the other way around. Monks are there to guide the lay people. Lay people are destined to become monks. The result is that lay people try to control monks, and consistently underestimate their experience, and their ability to empathise with lay people. Its just like you wouldn't go to a 14 yr-old and tell them about all your problems at work. When we meet Tibetan monks, who come from an agrarian feudal society with no understanding of the complexities of modern life, and without the vocabulary to express the little they do know, we feel validated. We think: they mean well, but they're just children. This is a difficult perception to encounter as a monks looking for support. How do you change how people think about you? The tendency is just to ignore insulting western lay people, or, to let them treat you like a child—fancy technology gifts, trips to luxurious restaurants—this only reifies the lay person's perverted sense of being an adult.
Some history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Childhood#History