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 Konchog1 » Thu Sep 26, 2013 9:54 pm

Norwegian wrote:re. 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.
It could be argued that Japanese Buddhism is Japan's take on what's Indian with a Japanese twist.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Alfredo » Fri Sep 27, 2013 2:01 am

Indrajala wrote:
In the late 19th century Europeans were aware that Buddhism was probably the largest identifiable religion in the world. However, over the course of the 20th century the number of Buddhists was rapidly diminished. Communism, secularism and numerous other factors has seen the vast decline of Buddhist sangha members.


A bit off-topic, but where is this information coming from? I recall a National Geographic special devoted to religion (from a year or two ago), one of whose maps gave 19th-century percerntages for various religions. What struck me most was that according to them, the Chinese folk religion has declined the most, and seems to have been displaced mainly by irreligion and/or Buddhism proper. (Of course this raises difficult questions as to how one defines adherence in the Chinese folk religion and/or Buddhism.)
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Indrajala » Fri Sep 27, 2013 2:17 am

Alfredo wrote:A bit off-topic, but where is this information coming from? I recall a National Geographic special devoted to religion (from a year or two ago), one of whose maps gave 19th-century percerntages for various religions. What struck me most was that according to them, the Chinese folk religion has declined the most, and seems to have been displaced mainly by irreligion and/or Buddhism proper. (Of course this raises difficult questions as to how one defines adherence in the Chinese folk religion and/or Buddhism.)


See page 531 of The Popular Science Monthly, February 1891:

... yet that it still lives and thrives as the most widely accepted religion none can deny.

http://books.google.com.tw/books?id=jCA ... sm&f=false

The writeup is clearly condescending and misinformed, but it does reveal that in the late 19th century it was understood that Buddhism was the largest religion on earth. I get this sense from other sources as well. China was one of the most populated countries and a good chunk of it was Buddhist. Everywhere from Mongolia to Java, Japan to Tibet one could find Buddhists.

I doubt any accurate statistics for religion exist in the late 19th century. We can however infer that Buddhism was the largest religion. The statement cited above confirms this from a period source text.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby PorkChop » Fri Sep 27, 2013 2:50 am

Konchog1 wrote:
Norwegian wrote:re. 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.
It could be argued that Japanese Buddhism is Japan's take on what's Indian with a Japanese twist.

Isn't that true for any form of Buddhism these days?
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby tobes » Sat Sep 28, 2013 2:17 am

Simon E. wrote:What I am saying does is not posited on a cosmological argument.
Lets forget the Kali Yuga bit for the sake of this discussion..
I am making three basic points.
1) The Sangha is no longer universally seen as meritorious per se among Buddhists.
2) Simple entropy and the reality of Anicca is enough to explain its partial or complete demise.
3) The fact that the Sangha is in decline and that it is likely to be a terminal decline can be seen in Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Tibet in exile, Korea, Japan etc.
The fact that a tiny minority of westerners have adopted the lifestyle of the ordained Sangha notwithstanding.


I'm not sure I fully understand 1). Why do you think Buddhists no longer see people who undertake precepts and vows as meritorious? That's what I was trying to get at with my questions about ethics: on what basis are contemporary Buddhists denying the logic of punya, or denying any connection between punya and monastic vows? Tom suggested the 'transcendency thesis', which I think is very plausible. I suggest maybe the increasing influence in the mindfulness/therapy/happiness/cognitive science project. What do you think?

As for 2) - we could say this about all Buddhist phenomena. What is specific to monastic sangha which indicates that its natural impermanence is kicking in right now? (Whereas other elements of Buddhism seem to be arising or at least strongly abiding in these times i.e. publishing of dharma, spread of diverse teachings across the globe).

And for 3) - I would put this down to rapid social-political-economic changes in Asia through the 20th/21st century. Particularly the rise of capitalism. It begs the question: if the global capitalist order is replacing traditional social-religious orders, is this really an expression of anicca? Or is it an expression of an ideological contestation? And if it is the latter, surely some kind of resistance is necessary, rather than just a meek acceptance that the old order 'has reached its use by date.' I mean, what if the old order is better than the new one? Shouldn't it be defended?

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

Postby disjointed » Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:40 am

People want assurances above all that a monastic has pure ethical discipline before they will contribute.

I have found out over time that the majority of contribution I have made has gone to monastics that were not living ethically, and I regret giving to them. For that reason I am more hesitant to give.
If I have some reason to be assured that a monastic is holding pure ethical discipline that hesitation is lessened.
If there is a radical inconsistency between your statements and the position you claim to hold,
you are a sock puppet.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Hickersonia » Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:47 pm

disjointed wrote:People want assurances above all that a monastic has pure ethical discipline before they will contribute.

I have found out over time that the majority of contribution I have made has gone to monastics that were not living ethically, and I regret giving to them. For that reason I am more hesitant to give.
If I have some reason to be assured that a monastic is holding pure ethical discipline that hesitation is lessened.

I think the point of generosity is to practice giving in all cases regardless of one's knowledge (or lack thereof) of the recipient's purity. Not that this is easy -- I find that I am constantly making judgments as to others' worthiness to receive my help... and it is rather disgusting at times to delve into the reasons the mind uses to discriminate against another human being (let alone an animal). :namaste:
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby disjointed » Sat Oct 05, 2013 1:43 am

Carelessness is the road to death.
If there is a radical inconsistency between your statements and the position you claim to hold,
you are a sock puppet.
Make as many accounts as you want; people can identify your deception with this test.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Oct 05, 2013 7:57 am

The merits one accumulates are very much connected with one's motivation/intention (though of course that is not the only factor). While I would never advocate supporting charlatans, if one supports someone with a good intention and later finds out they were not fulfilling their obligations, one still has the merit from the generosity.

In short, if one finds out the particular Sangha member is not upholding their ethics and responsibilities then of course one should withdraw support, but the previous support does not become "useless" karmically.

Also, just because some monks and nuns are not upholding their precepts does not mean this is the case with the majority of us.

In terms of carelessness being the road to death, judgemental attitudes can also fuel the afflictive emotions.
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 » Sat Oct 05, 2013 9:34 am

disjointed wrote:I have found out over time that the majority of contribution I have made has gone to monastics that were not living ethically, and I regret giving to them. For that reason I am more hesitant to give.
If I have some reason to be assured that a monastic is holding pure ethical discipline that hesitation is lessened.


I guess I'm different. To me, the monastic is trying their best. Maybe they fail. Maybe they don't. I feel that at least I'm trying to support those who are trying. Whether it works out or not, is out of my hands, but at least I'm doing what I can to leave the option of a pure path open to them. I know that in my life, I'm not ready for such a commitment, unless my life takes a rather tragic turn and I hope it wouldn't come to that. My teacher had a life as a lay person. As he got older, it didn't work out the way he planned and so he ordained. He's not really at risk for falling back, but can we really expect the same from those who ordain as children?
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby tidathep » Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:29 pm

[quote="JKhedrup"]

Sawaddee Ka ..JKhedrup :namaste:

May I ask you about the picture....are they Tibet monks/nun...what is crowning ? Why ?

Image

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

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:39 pm

Hi there Tidathep,

Yes the monks and nuns are wearing Tibetan robes, though one of them looks like a Westerner.

The crown is special and rarely worn- I have only seen people wear it during empowerments, long life pujas and self-initiation rituals.
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 tidathep » Tue Oct 08, 2013 1:06 am

JKhedrup wrote:Hi there Tidathep,

Yes the monks and nuns are wearing Tibetan robes, though one of them looks like a Westerner.

The crown is special and rarely worn- I have only seen people wear it during empowerments, long life pujas and self-initiation rituals.

-----------
Sawaddee Ka.. JKhedrup,

Very interesting tradition.

Thank you very much,
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby smcj » Tue Oct 08, 2013 4:03 am

The crown is special and rarely worn- I have only seen people wear it during empowerments, long life pujas and self-initiation rituals.

Ya know, I'm pretty traditional when it comes to Dharma. But I've gotta say, the whole fancy hat/headress thing turns me off--except the Vajra Crown of course. If the hat is going to actually do something, well then it's a different matter.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Aemilius » Tue Oct 08, 2013 11:49 am

Hat is a head covering. It can be worn for protection against the elements, for ceremonial or religious reasons, for safety, or as a fashion accessory. In the past, hats were an indicator of social status. In the military, they may denote nationality, branch of service, and/or regiment.

About the meaning and diversity of hats: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hat


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

Postby Adi » Thu Oct 17, 2013 6:53 am

How curious. I wander off for four years and come back and find this thread.

The title interested me and caused me to think: is there some kind of disconnect between real thoughts and those actually expressed by people here or at large? Is there a secret public praise and private disdain, or perhaps the reverse, for this category of "Western" sentient beings?

All makes for interesting reading.

JKhedrup wrote:The merits one accumulates are very much connected with one's motivation/intention....


Precisely so. Whatever one's thoughts about Westerners in robes, all I can say is that whether one has a real jewel or a dog's tooth on your shrine, I think one's motivation and intentions are just about the beginning of everything.

That being said, I think since the Dharma has only recently come to the West there is much cultural turbulence, something like there was in Tibet when the crazy people from India showed up in weird clothes. The traditions begun by Shakyamuni Buddha will likely continue in a form adapted to the needs of these new lands. Probably lots of monks and nuns in the future in some form or another though the robes will probably not be dark red, will have velcro closures, and will ironically enough be made in India.

As it was often uttered and muttered on the reincarnation of Battlestar Galactica, "This has all happened before and it will all happen again."

And again and again and again....

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

Postby Aemilius » Thu Oct 17, 2013 4:31 pm

As Thrangu Rimpoche has pointed out, it is the vows that make one a Bhikshu or a Bhikshuni, and not the one's clothes.

In India the buddhist laity used wear white clothes, which is little known now adays, but this tradition continues to some extent in certain buddhist countries. For example, Milarepa's white cotton clothes may have been a symbol of his lay status, and as such part of the new tradition that Marpa had brought from India.

What do You think of the buddhist Pastors at Tsem Tulku's institute, and about their clothes?
http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/ask-the-pastors
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Oct 17, 2013 4:35 pm

Aemilius wrote:As Thrangu Rimpoche has pointed out, it is the vows that make one a Bhikshu or a Bhikshuni, and not the one's clothes.


The Vinaya is actually only loosely followed. The punitive measures therein are generally only enforced when you upset the wrong people or an example of justice needs to be made.
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby lama tsewang » Thu Oct 17, 2013 5:57 pm

well i am not good at typing . please indulge me and forgive me for typos .
First of all , I am a Bhikshu , so thatestablishes some context for any contributions i will make to this discussion.

If western people ( and probably most of the people saying this are from western Vajrayna style centers.)see lots of neurotic monks. Its because these monks and nuns , have not been traained , because there are very very few places for them to train . And secondly , in light of this , their position is almost untenable ,they become a focus of lay peoples attention and criticism , with very little support, from said persons. Also very very little support, respect, or training from many tibetan s who come here to teach .

Contrary to Malcolm , a big contrary , big contrary , if you want lots of half baked teachers , you will not support the establisment of a strong monastic order in the west.
If you wants lots of god teachers , and also lots of good western teachers who can preserve and perpetuate here in this partb of the world in western languages to western people , for western people , then you MUST MUST MUST support a WESTERN SANGHA run by western people , trained by WEstern monastics

Lama Tsewang

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www.bc-vinaya.com

its not done yet
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Re: What do you really think of Western monks and nuns?

Postby lama tsewang » Thu Oct 17, 2013 6:02 pm

its pretty obvious what is being portrayed in the picture with all the people wearing crowns . they are in the midst of an elaborate empowerment . Within this they areintroduce to one of the five buddhas and they are given the crown to wear, indicating their transformation and their confidence in that.
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