Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Seishin » Fri Feb 18, 2011 6:42 pm

Why isn't Tendai popular in the West? :shrug:
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby kirtu » Fri Feb 18, 2011 6:56 pm

Seishin wrote:Why isn't Tendai popular in the West? :shrug:


It was a victim of people thinking with blinders on that non-Asian's were not interested in Buddhism and also as a means of protecting the community (Japanese, Chinese, Japanese-Americans and Chinese-Americans faced terrible persecution in the US and settled into fairly insular communities even to some extent in Hawaii).

Tendai lacked the interest until recently to actually open up to the wider community, it sort of remained ensconced on Mt. Hiei forcing people to come to Japan and it seems to have lacked any kind of "charismatic" teacher to present Tendai to the outside world (but I don't think this is literally true - it has just been a factor of basically remaining closed).

Now that Tendai has opened up and these factors are no longer at play, over time Tendai will become popular in the West.

Kirt

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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Jikan » Fri Feb 18, 2011 7:13 pm

Great question.

I think Kirt's comments are spot-on here (as they so often are!), especially as regards the situation in Hawaii... Here's another way to think about it:

Tibetan Buddhism got a foothold in the English speaking world because of the disaster of diaspora. The political situation was such that Tibetan masters no choice but to engage with English speakers, and they did. If you read Chagdud Tulku's autobiography, you can see how this happened in India... it was just a matter of getting by. Not long after, however, various forms of dialogue and discipleship emerged through the medium of the English language.

This didn't happen for the established Japanese schools such as Tendai. When earnest seekers came to Hiei-zan, they were not turned away (the example of Fenalossa & Bigelow come to mind immediately, as does Ganshin in the UK), but their presence was hardly a material necessity. Only now, with the danka system in deep trouble in Japan, does the institutional and practical future of the school begin to look more global by necessity.

This means the question won't be "Why isn't Tendai popular outside Japan," it will be "in what terms will non-Japanese engage in Tendai teachings and practice"? Working on that.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Will » Fri Feb 18, 2011 9:12 pm

Here is a sign that Tendai is getting less unpopular: http://www.caltendai.org/
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby plwk » Fri Feb 18, 2011 10:46 pm

The West aside, other than Japan, is its presence even 'popular' in other parts of the East?
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Seishin » Sat Feb 19, 2011 10:39 pm

Jikan wrote:...."in what terms will non-Japanese engage in Tendai teachings and practice"? Working on that.


Hmmm, that IS an interesting question to ponder upon. Thanks Jikan :twothumbsup:

PS: I also find the lack of Tendai teaching in english to be somewhat frustrating.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Tatsuo » Sat Feb 19, 2011 11:40 pm

Jikan wrote:...."in what terms will non-Japanese engage in Tendai teachings and practice"? Working on that.


Hmm why not teach that, which made Tendaishū so popular in Japan? The vast variety of methods: Lotus Sutra, Esoteric Buddhism, Meditation and Precepts (圓密禪戒 enmitsuzenkai) together with the Nenbutsu. :)
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby kirtu » Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:55 am

plwk wrote:The West aside, other than Japan, is its presence even 'popular' in other parts of the East?


I was surprised to find that it still exists in China. It has representation also in Korea and apparently Vietnam.

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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Su DongPo » Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:58 pm

plwk wrote:The West aside, other than Japan, is its presence even 'popular' in other parts of the East?


I learned today that there is a Tiantai (Tendai) temple/school in the southern city of Kaohsiung in Taiwan, but I don't know anything else about it.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Mr. G » Sun Feb 20, 2011 2:14 pm

I don't think Tendai, Shingon, or Jodo Shu are popular in the west due to one or more of the following factors:

1. Lack of translated materials in English
2. Lack of interest by Japanese-Americans in sponsoring temples. (Perhaps this is due to the majority of followers involved with Jodo Shinshu?)
3. In regards to Tendai and Shingon, tantric practice from Tibet has a very strong base that has already been developed...this was due to the Tibetan diaspora and more importantly....Tibetan monks learned English.
4. Perhaps others would disagree, but it seems that Japanese culture in general is xenophobic. So perhaps this is not a characteristic that would lend well to missionary work.

I however, would love to see Tendai and Shingon flourish here in the West.
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Jikan » Sun Feb 20, 2011 3:45 pm

Tatsuo wrote:
Jikan wrote:...."in what terms will non-Japanese engage in Tendai teachings and practice"? Working on that.


Hmm why not teach that, which made Tendaishū so popular in Japan? The vast variety of methods: Lotus Sutra, Esoteric Buddhism, Meditation and Precepts (圓密禪戒 enmitsuzenkai) together with the Nenbutsu. :)


Working on that. It's slow, because there's not much money and few people able to do the translation work and training. But it's underway.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Jikan » Sun Feb 20, 2011 3:49 pm

plwk wrote:The West aside, other than Japan, is its presence even 'popular' in other parts of the East?


Doctrinally? Yes, because (at least in my understanding) T'ien-Tai forms a foundation for much of Ch'an and Zen discourse and practice. As the first integrally Chinese school of Buddhism, it established the frame for what a Chinese school of Buddhism would look like. So in this sense, the legacy of T'ien Tai is inescapable.

Institutionally? That's another story. But I would also submit that the "single-practice" schools that emerged from Tendai (the Nichiren schools, the Pure Land schools, Soto & Rinzai Zen...) bear a number of hallmarks of Tendai. I can go into that a bit if anyone's interested.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Jikan » Sun Feb 20, 2011 3:51 pm

Will wrote:Here is a sign that Tendai is getting less unpopular: http://www.caltendai.org/


This is an amazing place, a pure land. Keisho Leary knows what he's doing. If anyone's seriously interested in renunciate practice, I would not hesitate to send that person to this temple.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Jikan » Sun Feb 20, 2011 3:56 pm

Last thing at the risk of threadjacking this discussion:

If anyone's seriously interested in Tendai practice and its development internationally and in English: this is a good way to access the teachings in English.

http://www.tendai.eu/82.html

It would also help to study the Lotus Sutra (the Murano translation is still the most workable), and to make a solid connection with the good people at the Tendai Buddhist Institute (www.tendai.org). PM me for more ideas.


Enough from Jikan already.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Tatsuo » Sun Feb 20, 2011 6:57 pm

Seishin wrote:I also find the lack of Tendai teaching in english to be somewhat frustrating.

Well there already are translations of some key texts of Tendaishū like texts from Zhiyi, Saicho's The Candle of the Latter Dharma, Gishin's Collected Teachings of the Tendai Lotus School and passages from Genshin's Ojoyoshu in the book "The teachings essential for rebirth: A study of Genshin's Ojoyoshu" by Allan A Andrews. I guess there are more texts translated, but these are the ones I can think of at the moment.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Jikan » Sun Feb 20, 2011 10:20 pm

Yes. I think Snellgrove's book on T'ien-Tai philosophy, while a bit prolix and lumbering in the prose, is also really useful reading.

What I'd really like to see are more people committed to practice and are able and willing to do the travel it takes to learn these teachings. And I don't think this necessarily has to come at the individual level. I know of at least one non-affiliated Buddhist sangha electing to become a Tendai sangha. It might be most efficient for an extant meditation group seeking more formal leadership to pool their resources and send one of their members to training and study at the Betsuin.

I should have posted this link earlier, on how Tendai priests are trained in North America (students from Europe come here too:

http://www.tendai.org/index.php?id=46
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby plwk » Mon Feb 21, 2011 3:25 am

I was waiting for someone to mention this but so far none so....
Every now and then on Youtube for the past few years, there have been a fair bit of vids posted by the younger generation, those in high school or college / university, where they made videos on Tendai for their school projects, assignments or sharing experiences of their travels to places where they encounter Tendai. Perhaps there is after all a growing influence/popularity of Tendai in the West, specifically the US?

Now I am not saying that any of that is reliable nor 100% accurate (yes I found one using a pic of a Theravada Bhikkhu with the caption 'Tendai Monk' LOL) but here's some thoughts/findings...on the 'popularity' of Tendai in the West from one angle...
1. They could have chosen the more 'popular' forms of Buddhism such as Theravada, Zen/Ch'an, Pure Land or even Nichiren and for that matter Vajrayana forms found in the Tibetan/Japanese traditions but they chose Tendai
2. Possibly, their parents, siblings, relatives, friends and community might have a play in this?
3. Most profiles of the Youtube users who posted are mainly from the US and hardly from Europe/Australia/NZ
4. Randomness? Affinity? Love for the 'uncommon', 'exotic' or 'cool'?
5. Most of the vids did a fair bit on the Great Patriarchs like Zhi Yi, Saicho with a sprinkle of its Japanese history and the Lotus Sutra philosophy all the way to how a Tendai temple altar looks like and what do they practice.
Whilst some may take it at face value, I would see a potential in this saying,
"The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next - Abraham Lincoln"

What do you think? :popcorn:
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby kirtu » Mon Feb 21, 2011 4:27 am

plwk wrote:Perhaps there is after all a growing influence/popularity of Tendai in the West, specifically the US?


I think it is growing and has been growing since Stevens' book "Marathon Monks of Hiei" circa 1988. There was also a self-styled Tendai group that floated around and had some interaction with Shunryu Suzuki's zendo in the late 60's.

It seems that not Tendai philosophy per se but practices like walking nembutsu + kaihogyo are perfect as a start for the American mindset because of the athleticism. And Tendai is also an outer tantra school (or has outer tantra) so it seems like an expression of Mahayana that will likely become quite popular.

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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Seishin » Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:18 am

Tatsuo wrote:
Seishin wrote:I also find the lack of Tendai teaching in english to be somewhat frustrating.

Well there already are translations of some key texts of Tendaishū like texts from Zhiyi, Saicho's The Candle of the Latter Dharma, Gishin's Collected Teachings of the Tendai Lotus School and passages from Genshin's Ojoyoshu in the book "The teachings essential for rebirth: A study of Genshin's Ojoyoshu" by Allan A Andrews. I guess there are more texts translated, but these are the ones I can think of at the moment.


That's a good point there Tatsuo, I forgot about those. I have "The Candle of the Latter Dharma" and "The Collected Teachings of the Tendai Lotus School" is on my amazon wish list. I will look around for Genshin's book. Thank you. :)
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Seishin » Mon Feb 21, 2011 2:08 pm

Recently found this: http://www.youtube.com/user/Tendaihokkebrasil Tendai-shu in Brazil. :twothumbsup:
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