What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?

What do you really think of monks and nuns in the West (an anonymous survey)

I think they are crucial for the establishment of the Buddhadharma here, and have had good experiences
58
60%
I think they are crucial for the establishment of the Buddhadharma here, even though I have had mostly bad experiences
3
3%
I don't have an opinion one way or the other
8
8%
I don't think they are necessary, because the dharma can be transmitted without monastics
15
16%
I just don't think that Westerners are interested in supporting monasticism financially
12
13%
 
Total votes : 96

Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Aemilius » Thu Sep 26, 2013 3:02 pm

JKhedrup wrote:
Do you mean 400€ per each monastic?


Yes.


Received as a benefit in kind, which would be the basis for these calculations, I assume?


I don't think so. Monks at either Nalanda or Plum Village have no base salary- so there would be no basis for a benefit in kind negotiation. Indeed, most have no salary at all. None of them claim benefits from the French state, either. This is not permitted at Nalanda, for example, as they realize the problematic ethical questions it would present.

There is a website that explains the CAVIMAC, but of course it is in French.

- Tous les ministres des cultes qui ne dépendent pas d'un autre régime obligatoire de protection sociale doivent obligatoirement être affiliés à la " Caisse d'Assurance Vieillesse, Invalidité et Maladie des Cultes " (CAVIMAC).
La CAVIMAC (qui remplace la CAMAC et la CAMAVIC) est un organisme de Sécurité sociale à compétence nationale chargé " d'assurer le recouvrement des cotisations et le versement des prestations d'assurance maladie et maternité, d'assurance vieillesse et d'assurance invalidité ". (Article 71 de la loi 99-641 du 27 juillet 1999).


Now, my information is 3 years old so they may have come to some kind of agreement. But at the time 400 Euros a month was what was recommended. If people are interested I can check when I am in France next month.


Thanks!
I have stayed in France several times, but it is about twenty to thirty years ago, and I have forgotten
the little french I once knew.

"Benefit in kind" means for example food, clothes, lodging, medicine, art and study materials, services like cleaning and washing of clothes, and any means of transportation. All of these are seen as a form of income by the state authorities, this form of income is called benefit in kind.
These same questions should exist it all other countries too, it is not a concern only in France, i.e. pension contributions, health insurance, taxation & income of buddhist monks and nuns.

As far as I know of the modern buddhist monks in european countries, they are officially and legally students, unemployed or employees.
Is France the only country (in Europe) in which there are buddhist monks and nuns in legal terms?
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Simon E. » Thu Sep 26, 2013 3:28 pm

Derek wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Put your money where your mouth is. That is my challenge to all you advocates of monasticism in the west. If you want a monastic Sangha in the West, then pay for it.


That's just the point, isn't it?

In Asia, communities are willing to fund local monasteries, made up of their own children and nephews and cousins and neighbors and so on.

In the West, there isn't that community cohesiveness. All people are willing to pay for is a fee-for-services.

In neither case are people willing to pay for strangers thousands and thousands of miles away, except perhaps as an act of charity. And there are lots and lots of charities competing for your donation dollars.

The fee-for-service model has other impacts, of course. It means the dharma becomes a disposable-income thing for those who have already satisfied their basic needs (Maslow).


Precisely. Which is why Western Buddhists are either the offspring of Asian immigrants, or members of the middle-class elite.
A situation which is in part perpetuated by the attempted wholesale importation of a monastic structure which as its origin in the mores of another and very different culture.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Tom » Thu Sep 26, 2013 4:18 pm

tobes wrote:
Tom wrote:
tobes wrote: but I would like to see a moral argument which establishes that. i.e. something of the nature that notions of merit and virtue are not connected in any way to the path to awakening.


In any case, there are many ways of creating merit, particularly for Mahāyānists, and so I'm not sure where the argument is going here, unless it is simply that we should respect monastics for being serious dharma practitioners or for simply carrying on an ancient tradition. This respect however should extend to all serious practitioners and then we do not get to the necessity of lay practitioners supporting monastics here in the west.



What's wrong with respect on all sides!

I'm not arguing that there is a necessity to support, or that monks/nuns ought to be held in higher esteem than serious lay practitioners. I'm just saying: we should appreciate what monks and nuns are doing.

:anjali:


Nothing wrong with respect on all sides! I don't see anyone suggesting we should not have respect for monastics.

What I see at stake here is not respect for monastics but whether western monastics and their institutions are a crucial component required for Buddhism in the West. You can argue that it is not crucial/required/important and still have respect for the monastic community and their endeavour.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Sep 26, 2013 4:34 pm

mutsuk wrote: tibetan monks are very rarely willing to share that ritual training.


Which, honestly speaking, is not freaking rocket science.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby winstonsalem » Thu Sep 26, 2013 4:50 pm

I tend to feel sorry for them, and find myself having no motivation to see a teacher( even if I am a fan), that is a monastic.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby mutsuk » Thu Sep 26, 2013 4:53 pm

Malcolm wrote:
mutsuk wrote: tibetan monks are very rarely willing to share that ritual training.


Which, honestly speaking, is not freaking rocket science.

Well sure, when one knows tibetan and understands what one is doing, it's pretty easy and repetitive but for those of the majority who do not understand what they are reciting or figure out the various parts of the rituals, it remains boring. Chatting with some Bonpo westerners after retreats, the overall feeling is that they simply get bored during these rituals and impatiently wait for their conclusion. But my point was that the monks consider the Bon western sangha as made of apes (dixit for males) and cows (dixit for females) just good enough to pay for "retreats" (which in my opinion are often only a series of "conferences"...). Western Bonpo monks (and nuns) are completely different: they are not many of them and those I know show a devotion to ethics (tshul khrims) which their tibetan "colleagues" should at least try to mimic...
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:22 pm

mutsuk wrote:But my point was that the monks consider the Bon western sangha as made of apes (dixit for males) and cows (dixit for females) just good enough to pay for "retreats" (which in my opinion are often only a series of "conferences"...).


Well, this is just standard Xenophobia.
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Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Karma Dorje » Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:11 pm

Malcolm wrote:
mutsuk wrote:But my point was that the monks consider the Bon western sangha as made of apes (dixit for males) and cows (dixit for females) just good enough to pay for "retreats" (which in my opinion are often only a series of "conferences"...).


Well, this is just standard Xenophobia.


No, I think that is a special kind of xenophobia when one postures for donations while looking down one's nose at the patrons. It's Tibetan exceptionalism on someone else's dime.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Simon E. » Thu Sep 26, 2013 7:07 pm

Its a roomful of elephant.
The fact that many Asian Buddhists are just as imbued with a sense of racial/cultural superiority as our colonial ancestors were... but in reverse.
Understandable perhaps, but deeply unhelpful.
Akong Rinpoche is one of the most compassionate people I have met. And he freely admits that it took years for him to get past the feeling that he and Trungpa Rinpoche were wasting their time and casting 'pearls before swine'..I am quoting his words, quoting the Bible.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Sep 26, 2013 7:11 pm

Simon E. wrote:I take your point, or rather points.
There is of course a parallel process in the west where Christianity is in decline and the new is represented by Buddhism..not among professionals to any great degree but among the artistic and ' alternative ' community. How much of this is transitory and how much a genuine shift remains to be seen.


One interesting thing I've observed here in Singapore is how the white expats seem to take zero interest in Buddhism, whereas the white expats in Japan and Taiwan normally take some degree of interest, often having Buddhist inclinations themselves.

This probably has to do with the reality that western expats in Japan are more into culture, art and an "alternative" East, whereas in Singapore it is largely success-driven business-oriented types who are less interested in alternative culture or ways of doing things. That's why they maybe settle in Singapore: you make a ton of money and can live a western lifestyle quite easily.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Sep 26, 2013 7:13 pm

Well sure, when one knows tibetan and understands what one is doing, it's pretty easy and repetitive but for those of the majority who do not understand what they are reciting or figure out the various parts of the rituals, it remains boring


Don't the teachers provide commentaries to the rituals, and English translation of the text?

The way you describe it it seems like a bunch of people who can neither read or write Tibetan reading long passages of transliteration, having no idea of its significance.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Sep 26, 2013 7:16 pm

Sherlock wrote:Maybe true only for a subset of the population. Most of the non-Abrahamic population don't think very highly of Christianity as it exists in Singapore.


It is, however, growing as I understand, even amongst professionals.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Sep 26, 2013 7:20 pm

Is it the Evangelical/Fundamentalist/Mega-Church variety that is growing?
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Sep 26, 2013 7:26 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Is it the Evangelical/Fundamentalist/Mega-Church variety that is growing?


From what I understand, yes. They're very hostile to Buddhism, sometimes to the point of requiring state intervention.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Sep 26, 2013 7:31 pm

Bummer.
Well I guess in a way it makes sense. People want security when they are making lots of money and fundamentalist Christianity often provides that. It is a little ironic considering Jesus at several points in the bible praises the meek and poor and scorns money. But there are always ways to work around things.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby PorkChop » Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:20 pm

Indrajala wrote:One interesting thing I've observed here in Singapore is how the white expats seem to take zero interest in Buddhism, whereas the white expats in Japan and Taiwan normally take some degree of interest, often having Buddhist inclinations themselves.


Might depend on who you hang out with and where you are in those respective countries.
I didn't know any white (or otherwise) expats in Japan that were interested in Buddhism.
Even in Japanese language learning circles back here in the west, VERY few are interested in Buddhism.
It's certainly one of the least talked about subjects on online Japanese language-learning forums (Tae Kim's, the Japan Page, etc).
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:28 pm

PorkChop wrote:I didn't know any white (or otherwise) expats in Japan that were interested in Buddhism.


I found there's often passing interest in it because anyone looking at the culture from an informed view has to examine to some degree Buddhism.

There's also all the lovely temples to visit as a tourist, which prompts some interest perhaps.

The expats in Singapore just seem less interested in Asian culture, but then Singapore is more western than Asian in many respects.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby PorkChop » Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:34 pm

Indrajala wrote:There's also all the lovely temples to visit as a tourist, which prompts some interest perhaps.


Maybe that's the difference...
Not so many lovely temples in Okinawa...
To be sure, I never visited one.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Norwegian » Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:37 pm

PorkChop,

Indeed.

I know of no person from the year 2000 til 2013 who went to Japan with any interest at all - however vague - in Buddhism. And they left Japan with zero interest in Buddhism as well.

And from forums online (users who have been in Japan many times or lived there, people who I know of), none have had any interest in Buddhism. Their interest is in Japan as a modern country, with its society, and more importantly sub-culture/entertainment. I think this is what most actually wants to experience there. It's Japan's take on what's Western, except on steroids, and with a Japanese twist, making it all very different from what you're normally used to.

Some go to experience what constitutes as "Japanese" (minus the religion, and looking at temples and taking pretty pictures hardly constitutes as interest in Buddhism I think), and others end up being in Japan for some period of time not actually caring about the "Japanese" things either, just hangs around other expats and doing things they could just as well do in Canada, USA, or anywhere else in The West...
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby mutsuk » Thu Sep 26, 2013 9:21 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Don't the teachers provide commentaries to the rituals,

Nope, at least during the retreats I attended. They would just go on with the rituals without explaining anything. At best you'd get a xerox with some hopeless phonetics...
and English translation of the text?

Not when I used to attend retreats.

The way you describe it it seems like a bunch of people who can neither read or write Tibetan reading long passages of transliteration, having no idea of its significance.

It's a pretty acute description, unfortunately. I had to learn these rituals and their significance with a westerner !
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