Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

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

Postby Indrajala » Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:08 pm

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



For the same reason that Yoga Tantra is not popular in Tibet -- anuttarayoga tantra is alive and well in the West.

N


I think Shingon, which is yoga-tantra, would be found appealing to many people outside of Japan if it were actively translated and taught outside of Japan. It isn't anuttarayoga-tantra (I don't think it was even developed in India at the time Shingon was being transmitted to Japan from China), but the model presents a path to Buddahood in a single lifetime. It is a model of tantra without Bon elements like in Tibet, though the Chinese influences are clearly present.

Like Tendai, I don't think there is a strong inclination to actively take Shingon overseas. The leadership of the numerous Tendai and Shingon sects in Japan are not pushing for it to be taught outside Japan as far as I've ever seen or heard, though they don't object to it being taught overseas.

It might actually be what spells the end of Tendai and Shingon in Japan in the future. The Japanese population is declining and interest in Buddhism is rapidly waning. As the social function of Buddhism disappears within society there will be less funding and finances available. As the economy worsens people will ask themselves if they really want to bother paying stupid sums of money for traditional funerals and just go with the cheaper generic funeral option via an ordinary company rather than a temple. A lot of temples will close down and those who would have become priests due to familial obligation will just join ordinary society. Temples will close down, the sect HQs will have less incomes and assets will be liquidated.

You're already seeing this actually. Koyasan University is suffering financial hardship because of a lack of enrolment. This is the university for Koyasan Shingon Buddhism, too. The bank was apparently worried about whether they could pay their bills or not. I don't know if the situation has been resolved or not. But not a lot of people want to go to university in the small town of Koyasan on top of a mountain. Here is a university with superb resources for the study of not just Japanese Shingon, but Tibetan and Sanskrit tantric literature as well.

I think if they pushed for internationalization they would flourish, but this won't happen. It doesn't matter which sect really. Even Soto Zen in Japan itself isn't really interested in overseas activities even though thousands of people dream of practising at Eihei-ji. There is a lot of conservative attitudes and pride which blind Japanese Buddhist organizations to the fact that they're in rapid decline and in a few generations they'll probably be financially and culturally crippled. Permanently.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jul 03, 2011 3:04 pm

ryokai wrote:
Jion Prosser is no longer teaching.


Largely because he was exposed on E-Sangha to be someone who falsely claimed to be a Tendai Acharya.

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

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jul 03, 2011 3:11 pm

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



For the same reason that Yoga Tantra is not popular in Tibet -- anuttarayoga tantra is alive and well in the West.

N


I think Shingon, which is yoga-tantra, would be found appealing to many people outside of Japan if it were actively translated and taught outside of Japan. It isn't anuttarayoga-tantra (I don't think it was even developed in India at the time Shingon was being transmitted to Japan from China), but the model presents a path to Buddahood in a single lifetime. It is a model of tantra without Bon elements like in Tibet, though the Chinese influences are clearly present.


There are no Bon elements in Buddhist tantra in Tibet. There are a few rites, such as sang offerings, etc. that Tibetans use that ultimately derive from bon, but that are not "tantric". Many local deities were absorbed as protectors,however this phenomena is common in all Buddhist countries and is not unique to Tibetan Buddhism.



But not a lot of people want to go to university in the small town of Koyasan on top of a mountain. Here is a university with superb resources for the study of not just Japanese Shingon, but Tibetan and Sanskrit tantric literature as well.


Yoga tantra requires a kind of ritual specialization for regular practice not needed in Anuttarayoga tantra. This is the main reason why it declined in Tibet. Yoga Tantra is more external.

Also I agree that in general, the elitism of the Japanese priesthood around Mikkyo in general will contribute to its eventual decline.

On the other hand, there is also a growing interest in Anuttarayoga tantra and so on in Japan too.

N
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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

Postby Indrajala » Sun Jul 03, 2011 3:37 pm

Namdrol wrote:There are no Bon elements in Buddhist tantra in Tibet. There are a few rites, such as sang offerings, etc. that Tibetans use that ultimately derive from bon, but that are not "tantric". Many local deities were absorbed as protectors,however this phenomena is common in all Buddhist countries and is not unique to Tibetan Buddhism.



I stand corrected. Thank you for pointing this out.




On the other hand, there is also a growing interest in Anuttarayoga tantra and so on in Japan too.



And this can only come from Tibetan Buddhism as it does not exist in traditional Shingon.

Image

Image


While Tibetan Buddhists are generous with their tantric teachings, Japanese Mikkyo priests are not really inclined to teach it to anyone outside their own circles. Let's hope they might learn from Tibetan Buddhism...


Also I agree that in general, the elitism of the Japanese priesthood around Mikkyo in general will contribute to its eventual decline.



They are quite insistent that you will receive no serious training unless you ordain. It prevents ordinary people from engaging in any serious practice if they are not going to be taught anything unless they put on robes and go through monastic boot camp of some sort. Also one attitude I've encountered is one where the untrained and uninitiated beginners are treated like scum, being the lowest of the low. This is somehow supposed to foster humility.

This same model exists in a lot of places in Japan like on university sports teams. The juniors clean the toilets and do all the grunt work in the dorm while the seniors enjoy leisure time and educate their subordinates. When the subordinates become seniors they earn the right to leisure time and to scold and enslave the new juniors. This doesn't really lead to humility. It just leads to beginners being mistreated while they wait for the day they graduate to a higher level in the hierarchy and can seat themselves in a position of authority.

I don't think any of this will change unless Shingon or Tendai gets charismatic leadership. As it stands they don't have anyone like HHDL, the Karmapa, Ayang Rinpoche, etc.., who have international appeal and actively work outside their home territory teaching Vajrayana to everyone. Japanese Mikkyo is kept away from anyone but the initiated. However the problem is that the numbers of priests is in decline. If a generation of initiated fail to pass on their transmissions to a younger generation, it dies. All that will be left will be cool statues and some old temples.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jul 03, 2011 5:16 pm

Huseng wrote:
They are quite insistent that you will receive no serious training unless you ordain.


In general, Yoga tantra on down arose in monasteries. Anuttarayoga tantra arose in the margins of the monasteries.


Japanese Mikkyo is kept away from anyone but the initiated.



I think it is fair to say that Shugendo was a reaction against this - but if one were to make a parallel with Bon, it would be Shugendo.

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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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

Postby jikai » Mon Jul 04, 2011 3:14 am

Namdrol wrote:
ryokai wrote:
Jion Prosser is no longer teaching.


Largely because he was exposed on E-Sangha to be someone who falsely claimed to be a Tendai Acharya.

N


I am unfamiliar with the posts Jion Prosser sensei may have made on E-Sangha and as I say I have not personally met him. However, being connected to the Hawaii Betsuin and Ara Ryokan Sensei, I have only heard good things about him.

I would really appreciate it if someone may be able to direct me to the posts Jion Prosser sensei made as to his being an Acharya? as I am unfamiliar with E-sangha in general.

As far as i am aware, Jion Prosser sensei did not stop teaching for this reason however. From my understanding he made the decision to stop teaching due to a variety of reasons some personal and others perhaps more mundane such as his career.

Regardless of whether or not he made such comments (if he did so and these comments were in fact a falsity then I of course disagree with them), he does have extensive experience with Tendai and has served at many reputable temples under many reputable teachers. Considering Tendai's relatively small base in the West, I think he is still perhaps one of the more reputable sources of Tendai related information in the West- his completion of GyoIn on Hieizan is certainly an admirable step that almost all of the other Tendai teachers in North America have not done (of course some have). As far as I am aware (and please correct me if I',m wrong guys) many of the Tendai teachers in North America, perhaps even those affiliated to the New York Betsuin (I may be wrong) have done a Gyo more adapted to a Western student?

Please dont get me wrong,, my desire is not to sing the praises of Jion Prosser sensei on this matter as I really do not know if he made such claims and I have no 'concrete contact with him anyway. I also do not desire to call into question the 'validity' of other teachers training, I merely wish to suggest that Jion Prosser sensei may very well be a knowledgable Tendai teacher. Also, please correct me if i'm wrong on the situation in North America as, living in Australia i'm really only relying on little bits and pieces i've heard here and there- i'm really sorry if i'm wrong on some of these details so please forgive me if i am :)
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Seishin » Mon Jul 04, 2011 9:48 am

Hello Ryokai,

The priests in America (Jikan included) are currently at their annual Gyo training. The Gyo training in America is 2 weeks annually. It can take up to 6 years or more to become a Soryo. More information can be found here http://www.tendai.org/index.php?id=46

You are right in the sense that the training has been "westernised". The reasons for this are manifold, only a few which I know.... the training is two weeks a year to make the training open to as many as possible. Most people in the west cannot afford to take off 2-3months in one year, some would even lose their jobs. So the training is split. The training is in English, which Gyo in Japan cannot offer, meaning very very few westerners can ordain in Japan.

A few points about Gyo in America;
Rev Monshin, the abbot, was ordained in Japan under Rev Prof Ichishima Sensei (I am unsure of whether Monshin attended Gyo on Mt Hiei).
The Tendai Betsuin of America is an officially registerred institute outside Japan to train and ordain priests. Meaning, any priest ordained at the Tendai Institute is officially registerred on Hieizan as a priest.
Although the training has been "westernised", it is by no-less easier than in Japan.
The Tendai Institute retains a constant and close relationship with Hieizan and with many promenant priests in Japan, including Ichishima Sensei, with frequent visits to and from Japan.
They are also working hard to translate materials.
Monshins blog: http://monshin.us/

I'm sure Jikan can fill in the blanks and correct any mistakes I'm made.

Also, I don't know Rev Jion Prosser, and missed the whole e-sangha thing, so I can't comment.

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

Postby jikai » Mon Jul 04, 2011 12:05 pm

Hi Seishin,

Thanks for the info, its much appreciated. I like that attempts have been made to make the Gyo more accessible and perhaps, something of the like will one day be possible in my corner of the world :) .

Also i'm sorry if my comments may have sounded as if i was suggesting such modified Gyo was any 'lesser' than that practiced in Japan- it was not my intention and I have nothing but respect for such programmes, I hope that my comments were not recieved in any other light.

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

Postby Jikan » Mon Jul 04, 2011 12:49 pm

This turned into a really interesting thread fast. Some odds and sods to catch up:

*It's true that gyo at the NY Betsuin is different from the training on Mt. Hiei. It's structured differently: instead of doing kegyo and shidokegyo in one 60 day swoop, it's broken up into ten day chunks over several years, with correspondence work in between. There are different resources available, and the students are different: non-Japanese simply have a lot more to learn about temple life and Buddhist practice generally than do the fortieth-odd inheritors of family temples. And we wear different shoes: no getta here.

*Re: Ara Sensei and Prosser: Don't expect Japanese teachers to make many criticisms in public or with outsiders, even when one of those former students (Prosser) was in fact exposed making fraudulent and self-aggrandizing claims about his own status within Tendai-shu among other things. Generally, if you have questions about a particular Tendai group or teacher in North America (Prosser is an American), the person to contact is Monshin Naamon sensei, who is the administrative head of this district. I'm not sure who to contact in Australia, frankly.

*One of the consequences of there being so little material available on Tendai practice in English is that the gap gets filled in by fantasy and people looking to make a quick buck. You can see that at work in this stuff:

viewtopic.php?f=64&t=3949

*Thanks for the kind word, Seishin!
Last edited by Jikan on Mon Jul 04, 2011 1:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jul 04, 2011 1:10 pm

ryokai wrote: The New York Betsuin



If you want to know the story on Prosser, talk to Monshin.


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

Postby Jikan » Mon Jul 04, 2011 1:26 pm

Should also have mentioned that the period of training I alluded to before (60 days on Hiei-zan) is intended to qualify one to practice mikkyo (not teach it) and do the basic work of running a temple. In the TBI version (New York), there's a different understanding of what running a temple means, because Buddhist groups and centers in North America and Europe have different needs & expectations from those in Japan.

Put differently, you do not graduate from this as any kind of vajra master. I've had very little training in mikkyo after four summers, but I can lead a public service, sing passable shomyo, discuss sutra, and so on. You come out with a foundation to build on. Your training continues.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Seishin » Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:54 pm

Here is a great description of Gyo in Monshin's own words http://monshin.us/97/gyo-2011/

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

Postby klqv » Sun Sep 11, 2011 6:54 pm

hi,

i know that there are tendai group[s?] in the UK but alas it seems one has to travel into europe to be taught meditation face to face...
which is a pain because i don't travel well.


i don't know why that is! i have read some books that call Zhiyi's pianchao too sectarian so maybe that doesn't help?
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Seishin » Mon Sep 12, 2011 8:55 am

Hi klqv,

Where abouts do you live?
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby klqv » Wed Sep 14, 2011 11:56 pm

his seishin,


i'm close to oxford. i think we have talked before :) ?
i am also quite shy [as well as bad at getting places, i mean]; sorry for the late reply!!
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Seishin » Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:15 am

It's more than likely we've spoken before, but I have a terrible memory, sorry. :emb: But you are right, our elderly teacher can't offer what you are looking for. I am sorry. I wish you well in your practice.

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

Postby klqv » Thu Sep 22, 2011 3:22 pm

ah that's a shame. no other ideas or advice or anything along those lines?
i meet with a relatively accessible zen group once in a blue moon...

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

Postby Seishin » Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:57 pm

Jikan's nlog has some great instructions on contemplative meditation http://dctendai.blogspot.com/2010/07/ho ... ation.html

There are also some great resources available on this forum. However, if it's one-to-one practice you're after, I'm afraid we can't offer that at this time.

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

Postby klqv » Thu Sep 22, 2011 7:02 pm

ok, thanks for replying :)

hope that i have not done anything wrong and i look forward to any time in which you might be able to help me...
:)
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Seishin » Fri Sep 23, 2011 8:53 am

Oh no, you haven't done anything wrong at all :smile: There are a number of other people in your position too, you are not alone. PM if you have any more questions.

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