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"The Broken Buddha" by Ven.Dhammika and other scandals - Page 3 - Dhamma Wheel

"The Broken Buddha" by Ven.Dhammika and other scandals

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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zavk
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby zavk » Sat Nov 14, 2009 11:14 am

Hi Poto

Let me clarify that I do not think that you are suggesting that modern Buddhists should impose their views on traditional Buddhists. I understand that you are merely hoping to see the Dhamma presented from different angles.

But I agree with Mike that this is already happening. In fact, this has been happening since around the mid-nineteenth century. The encounter between Buddhism and modernity has brought about a rapid reconfiguration of the way the Dhamma is understood--a process greatly facilitated by Western attempts to harmonise the Dhamma with modern modes of understanding.

This process of 'Buddhist modernism' has in turn triggered a reconfiguration of the Dhamma in traditional Buddhist Asian countries. We have seen figures like Anagarika Dharmapala of Ceylon, Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma, and Bhikkhu Buddhadasa of Thailand (just to name a few) repositioning the Dhamma within a modern framework.

These figures from traditional Asian Buddhist countries, along with Western Buddhists scholars like Thomas Rhys-Davids, have been very influential in de-emphasising the religious, ritualistic aspects of (Theravada) Buddhism and reconfiguring it as a pragmatic and rationalist system. Their influence persists today in various lay oriented approaches to the Dhamma. In fact, without their efforts many of us probably wouldn't even have discovered Buddhism and we probably wouldn't even have a forum like DW, discussing the Dhamma in the way we do .

The aim of my previous post was simply to raise some rhetorical questions for further reflection.

Modern Buddhism has allowed us to engage with the Dhamma from 'different angles'. But this is possible only because of various historical, cultural, and social conditions coming together. This modern approach to the Dhamma has proven very effective for many modern folks in non-traditional Buddhist Asian countries. I am immensely grateful for that. I do find this modern approach more relevant to my experience and more 'effective' than certain traditional approaches. Like you, I find some traditional activities irrelevant to my experience. However, I also recognise that this modern approach is (as I've been trying to show) a thoroughly contingent one. It is not inherently more effective but is only so within certain contexts.

As I see it, this means that the modern approach does not--cannot--set the normative standard against which traditional forms of Buddhism are judged. This is something that I try to be mindful of as much as possible. The modern approach like the traditional one is context dependent. I understand that those traditional approaches evolved in response to the needs of different people under different circumstances. In the same manner, the modern approach is evolving in response to the needs of contemporary people under contemporary circumstances.

So as much as I prefer the modern approach, whenever I encounter more traditional expressions of Buddhism I try to use it as an opportunity to reflect on the conditionality of my understanding of the Dhamma. When I encounter aspects of the Dhamma that seem irrelevant to me, I take it as an opportunity to reflect on the boundaries of my Buddhist practice, to understand how it has come to be so, and also to question what I might have taken for granted or left out.

Once again, I have gone on spiel... I apologise. But I agree with what you have said, that we should by no means abandon rituals and tradition. I think they can tell us much about our own modern approach to the Dhamma, about how we ought to or ought not proceed. This is where ethnic Buddhists communities play a vital role in the ever-evolving ecology of the Dhamma. But to learn from these traditional expressions of the Dhamma, I believe we need to also see the conditionality of our own approach.


:anjali:
Last edited by zavk on Sat Nov 14, 2009 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
With metta,
zavk

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 14, 2009 11:24 am


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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Nov 15, 2009 1:03 am

:goodpost:

Good post, Zavk.
To me, I see most of the problems are not with a given approach per se, eg. traditional, modern, rational, religious, etc., but with the unexamined assumption that the given approach transcends context, and is universally applicable. Or, in more traditional Buddhist lingo, is paramattha (vs sammutti, not paramattha vs pannatti).
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: .

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby catmoon » Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:57 am

Reading this thread really makes me wonder what an early Dalai Lama would make of the Western Buddhism of today. Would he find it horrifying? I wonder just how much things have changed.

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Nov 17, 2009 8:29 am

The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Nov 17, 2009 8:30 am

The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby JeffR » Sun Nov 22, 2009 4:03 am


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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby alexx_2010 » Wed Nov 25, 2009 3:15 pm

Thanks for this post.

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby bodhabill » Sun Nov 29, 2009 10:12 am

"Complaining is finding faults, wisdom is finding solutions" Ajahn Brahm

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retrofuturist
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S.Dhammika's "The Broken Buddha"

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Mar 22, 2010 4:57 am

[EDIT: Merged into existing topic]

Greetings,

I was wondering if anyone here had read...

THE BROKEN BUDDHA: Critical Reflections on Theravada and a Plea for a New Buddhism
By S. Dhammika.
http://www.buddhistische-gesellschaft-b ... dhanew.pdf

... and what they thought of it.

I think the link above points to the latest version of this document, but there seem to have been a few iterations so I'm not entirely sure. (It could still do with a good proof read).

It certainly raised a few interesting points, and while it is unashamedly focusing on the negative (stating that there are already plenty of materials focusing exclusively on the positive) I think it provides a bit of a welcome wake-up call (though I'm not too thrilled about his suggestions for what this 'new Buddhism' might look like).

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: S.Dhammika's "The Broken Buddha"

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Mar 22, 2010 6:20 am

i swear we've had this thread already... or was that the old forum?
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: S.Dhammika's "The Broken Buddha"

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 22, 2010 6:22 am


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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby christopher::: » Mon Mar 22, 2010 6:49 am

Many excellent posts in this thread! Very helpful to read.

:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Re: S.Dhammika's "The Broken Buddha"

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Mar 22, 2010 6:52 am


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retrofuturist
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Mar 22, 2010 7:18 am

Greetings,

Aha... I thought there was an existing topic on this... but I wasn't sure if I was getting confused with the old topic(s) at E-Sangha.

What I found most disconcerting about this was that rather than the relationship between laity and monks being symbiotic, much of it seems to have become self-destructive through the institutionalization of merit-making. Another concern I saw was the inability for there to be a Buddhism that's not inextricably linked to local customs, behaviours and sensibilities... with the Dhamma often taking a back-seat to these regional beliefs. It's certainly given me a thing or two to think about.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Kim OHara
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:56 pm

Okay, Retro, I've read it now. :smile:
As I guessed (above) it has a lot in common with Harrison's Naked Buddha - he even quotes Harrison - but Dhammika is mostly concerned with Theravada in Theravadin countries, while Harrison is mostly concerned with Buddhism in the West.
My response to The Broken Buddha?
(1) It's very, very negative - too negative for enjoyable reading and surely too negative to be accurate: any system with that much against it would have fallen in a heap long ago.
(2) Regretfully, I think there is a lot of truth in it. I think all these flaws do exist, though I doubt that they are as pervasive as claimed.

I was lucky enough to visit Thailand and Cambodia for a few weeks late last year. It was my first real visit to a Theravadin country, and I was struck by the parallels between Buddhism as practised there and Christianity in mediaeval and renaissance Europe. (That is not a comparison that might come automatically to many people but in my day job I have specialised in very old music, so I have a better-than-usual knowledge of the culture of that period.)
Once you get out of Bangkok, you see hundreds of poor, basically subsistence-farming, villages each supporting a Wat - ditto Europe around 1400.
The religious language is not the local language, so ordinary people do not understand the liturgy - ditto Europe around 1400.
The Church/Wat is a (or the only) centre of education and learning, and maybe healing - ditto Europe around 1400.
The Wat is usually the largest and richest building in the village - ditto Europe around 1400.
Villagers spend an inordinate amount of their money supporting it - ditto Europe around 1400.
The monastery is all-male - ditto Europe around 1400.
The culture is male-dominated - ditto Europe around 1400.
Boys enter the monasteries as novices before they are old enough to make an informed commitment - ditto Europe around 1400.
...and so on.
With all that in mind, the distortions and abuses that Dhammika itemises come as no surprise because they are exactly the same distortions and abuses that one religious reformer after another attacked in Europe. I feel that monasticism per se has structural imperatives of its own, regardless of the religious doctrine on which it is centred.
So perhaps the fate of monasticism in Europe can give us some pointers to what is likely to happen to it in Theravadin countries - though the process is, IMO, likely to be much quicker this time because of the pressures from our post-monastic, post-feudal, post-authoritarian, almost-post-masculinist society. Local people can see a well-developed alternative, which wasn't true in Europe at the end of feudal times.

Two final comments:
I don't particularly like Dhammika's vision for a 'Buddhayana': I think it is fatally corrupted by reliance on the old model.
I did enjoy my time in Thailand and Cambodia, and I did like and respect almost all the people I met there. My feeling was that Buddhism has produced a fundamentally nicer society than Christianity, in spite of any failings of the monastic system.
:namaste:
Kim

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby appicchato » Sun Mar 28, 2010 12:31 am

:thumbsup: Interesting comparisons Kim...and ones probably not considered by many...I, for one, personally don't readily see a (workable) solution...hopefully someone (much) brighter will...although human nature being what it is I wouldn't wager on it...

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Mar 28, 2010 12:46 am


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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Mar 28, 2010 2:53 am


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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Mar 28, 2010 4:06 am



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