I would have preferred to have the title be "A Discussion of Therevadan Buddhist Monasticism in the West", but I couldn't fit it.
I decided to start this thread after reading the paper posted here:
I felt that what I wanted to bring up from that paper belonged in this forum, so here we are. You don't have to read the paper in order to be in this discussion, obviously, but it was definitely a good read. In fact, only a few things of which I am about to ask relate to the paper. Mods, although I do feel this topic fits in well here, it could work in the "Therevada in the Modern World" forum. Please move it if you feel it would be better suited there.
I would like to bring up a few questions about ordination and monasticism in general that I've been having for as long as I have been studying and practicing Buddhism (3 years). Specifically I would like to discuss how men and women from Europe, North/South America, Australia go about choosing where
they ordain as a Therevadan monk or nun. Within this, I would like to discuss the current state of the overall Buddhist monastic tradition in western countries as it applies to the native people of those countries and what the options are for ordination in their own country.
This thread is for all of us. I do have opinions of what I am about to ask and I do have a few answers to these questions. I will gladly state them as this thread goes on, though I am by no means a scholar on the subject. In fact I know relatively little about most of this. Mainly, I just think that this is something that we can all benefit from, and correct me if I am wrong, I do not think we have a thread in which all these questions are addressed together.Firstly
...why does it seem, I say "seem" because it is the impression I've gotten from many directions, why does it seem that for serious ordination one must go to Southeast Asia (Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, etc.)? Why not in their own country? What are the difficulties of ordination in these western countries? Limited number of Therevadan monasteries? Lack of space? Lack of monasteries that accept westerners? Or is there such a limited amount of westerners looking to ordain and therefore there are few options in these western countries? Is it just that the western monastic tradition is still in its infancy?Secondly
...and this question has spawned from the paper in the other thread - what are the opinions of monasteries in western countries, with mostly western monks, that have abbots of western origin that maintain cultural traditions from the Southeast Asian countries in which they were trained? Do the junior monastics upset by these cultural influences have a good reason to be critical? Should they try to change the way the abbots run the monasteries to make them less culturally influenced? Or should they move along to a situation that better suits what they are looking for considering they knew they were entering a monastery in which is rooted in the Thai forest tradition?Thirdly
...what can be said of the overall western monastic tradition within western countries? Is there one to speak of? It seems very limited. Does it lack anything as compared to the eastern tradition? If so, why? Would the lack of awareness and participation by the majority of laypeople in these countries pose a problem? Although we are primarily concerned with Therevada, perhaps some information on the status of other Buddhist traditions can help this aspect of the discussion.Fourthly
...what does everyone think about the establishment of a less culturally influenced monastic tradition in these western countries. Is there one? Should there be one? In my very humble opinion, Buddhism has been affected by the different cultures in the various countries in which it is practiced. And therefore the monastic community in the different countries do have some differences. How does/will western culture positively or negatively affect the western monastic tradition/community as it develops? It begs the question - should culture be separated from monasticism as much as possible? Lastly and a tad hypothetically speaking
…would you rather ordain in your own country if you could? Would it be more comfortable? Would it be easier? What are some of the things you would like to see in a monastery in your own country? What can be done to develop a larger monastic tradition in the west? Where do we go from here?
I hope I have stated all these questions in a polite and uncomplicated manner. Feel free to expand beyond what I have asked as long as it pertains somewhat to the overall point of this thread.
So what say you, good people of dhammawheel?