Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Nemo » Sat Feb 18, 2012 10:12 pm

Huseng wrote:In western countries, you might not have large monastic organizations, but nevertheless you have plenty of qualified dharma teachers as well as individuals spouting nonsense and even some cults self-identifying as Buddhist.

So, is a hierarchy and orthodox institution really necessary to prevent false teachers and adharma from spreading? Even in places where you have traditional organizations, you still get false teachers and adharma.


I am on the fence if Dharma in the West will even survive unless it becomes adharma. There were very few young people at the Westerner Dharma centres I remember. There was a huge influx of Buddhism with the Tibetans and with succeeding waves of Asian immigration. Culminating with the Hong Kong Chinese just before unification. This migration is slowing down and will likely stop in the next decade or so and start to reverse. It is like the American science community after WWII. Nasa was great in it's day. Without all those German rocket scientists the US would never had made it to the moon. I see something much the same with the incredible generation of Tulkus that lived here. I get an inappropriate feeling in some Dharma centres. The same feeling I get in a museum. I don't think 0.7% of the population is enough to self sustain. I think privately many Lamas don't take the West seriously anymore.

Attracting new students would mean changing the formula. It wouldn't really be Buddhism anymore.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:44 pm

Change will come whether we like it or not. What I am opposed to is change based on ego (forced change to suit our self-centredness) rather than change based on realisation (evolutionary change). By the same token I am against conservation of method/structures for egotistical reasons (money, power, etc...) but am all for conservation if it ensures that it will allow the maximum amount of practitioners to reach liberation.

Do power (and organisational) structures within the sangha need to change to ensure that the structures mirror the Dharma, or do we need to alter the way we view these structures?

I'm not 100% sure of the answer yet.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Feb 19, 2012 1:51 am

kirtu wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
Astus wrote:The concept of equality is another thing, mostly a legal matter and such.


That is not how we Americans view the issue.


My experience with American's and equality is that while Americans verbally venerate equality


It's a process. Once the concept of rights caught hold, human beings started to catch up with the idea.

The American concept of rights does not immediately mean that everyone sees the full implications the notion of equal rights or that there is no injustice. But rights are considered inalienable, and the process of our Democracy inolves discovering those rights as we go along.

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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby kirtu » Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:11 am

Namdrol wrote:
kirtu wrote:My experience with American's and equality is that while Americans verbally venerate equality


It's a process. Once the concept of rights caught hold, human beings started to catch up with the idea.

The American concept of rights does not immediately mean that everyone sees the full implications the notion of equal rights or that there is no injustice. But rights are considered inalienable, and the process of our Democracy inolves discovering those rights as we go along.


Groan! :toilet:

The Dutch and others beat us to it, hands down.

What will equality mean in the context of Dharma?

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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Huifeng » Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:35 am

Huseng wrote:In many modern day societies there is at the least the pretence and belief that everyone is equal no matter their status or background.


Hi Jeff,

This thread is an interesting question and topic of discussion.

In the light of the previous posts, although many of you already know, would just like to state that while originally from a so-called "Western" country that is neither north American nor European, and presently in the area of greater China for the past few years, my point of view may be from a somewhat different angle to most here. (Okay, disclaimer done!)

I think this belief might get transferred over to contemporary Buddhist communities as well to some extent. It wouldn't please people to just outright say that the male monks are chiefly superior followed by the male novices, then female nuns, female novices and following them the laity, even though this is how it is presented on paper. Seating arrangements have always been quite important. Moreover, there is a prescribed hierarchy.


In my time in Chinese Buddhism, I don't recall having heard anyone claim that somehow bhiksus are superior to sramaneras, who in turn ... etc. ... to lay women. In general, whoever has the virtues, compassion, wisdom and so forth, is considered highly.

The issue of seating arrangements has other considerations, too. For the monastics, the genders are separated. But, they are separated "east and west", putting the two genders in parallel. Then, of the men and women respectively, it is from monastic seniority in terms of samgha-varsa. One reason for doing it in terms of varsa rather than attainment, as the Buddha himself pointed out, is that it is clear and unambiguous. One can state a date for receiving precepts, and others in the community know without needing to ask, whereas who is going to spout about their own attainments? Nobody.

So do we run into a situation where everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others? Wouldn't it just be best to do away with such pretences and consent to the existence of a prescribed hierarchy where male monastics are at the top and laity at the bottom?


As described above, I'm not quite sure that it is "male monastics are at the top and laity at the bottom" in my experience.

Or should a monastic have to earn their position of respect from the laity by virtue of wisdom and deeds rather than by putting on robes and formally renouncing?


This is usually what I see being done, anyway. As the disclaimer above, this is just my experience, and everyone's mileage probably differ.

In the end, I think that if we want to see a change, then we have to enact that change ourselves. If we think that virtue and wisdom should be honored more, then we should spend our time on that. Worrying about what others are doing could possibly just detract from that.

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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby tobes » Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:50 am

What kind of equality and how is it to be grounded?

If we're speaking in the language of 'inalienable rights' we need to recognise immediately that such things are grounded - ontologically - in the idea of natural law. Not only is such a concept very foreign to Buddhism, I think that Buddhist metaphysics sharply denies the ontological assumptions which underpin such a premise.

If you read the first article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - "that all humans are born free and equal, and are naturally endowed with reason and conscience" - the quasi Buddhist looks at that and says "beautiful, sign me up." But the more insightful Buddhist will tear it apart; a great sentiment which is not true.

The question is, what remains once the natural law/inalienable rights discourse is recognised to be what it is: just a discourse, empty and constructed.

I say this as an avowed egalitarian - it is extremely difficult to ground a normative principle or aspiration of equality once you do away with the natural law/natural rights story.

In some respects this bleeds into the Batchelor thread - to what extent should Buddhism be reconciled with western moral and political traditions? The overwhelming sense on that thread was that it is ABSOLUTE ADHARMIC HERESY to attempt a reconciliation with western scientific (or should I say pseudo scientific) traditions........but do those same people think that there is perhaps more leeway with moral/political thinking?

If so, why/how?

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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:14 am

Huifeng wrote:In my time in Chinese Buddhism, I don't recall having heard anyone claim that somehow bhiksus are superior to sramaneras, who in turn ... etc. ... to lay women. In general, whoever has the virtues, compassion, wisdom and so forth, is considered highly.


It isn't seniority which dictates who gets the most respect? This is generally how it works in most Buddhist (Chinese or otherwise) organizations.

My point is that the laity are expected to defer to monastics. In the Theravada context, I gather from reading Ven. Dhammika's book, laypeople are even less appreciated. The first day bhikku is regarded more highly and listened to than the layperson of many years of practice and study. I'm not pointing this out because I want respect from anyone as a layperson, but just that the hierarchical system potentially erases the value of a certain demographic who might have something to offer. Laypeople might be valued as scholars, but not as dharma teachers outside of some Tibetan traditions.

In the context of transmitting Buddhism to the west, the lack of a meritocracy will turn off a lot of people.


The issue of seating arrangements has other considerations, too. For the monastics, the genders are separated. But, they are separated "east and west", putting the two genders in parallel. Then, of the men and women respectively, it is from monastic seniority in terms of samgha-varsa. One reason for doing it in terms of varsa rather than attainment, as the Buddha himself pointed out, is that it is clear and unambiguous. One can state a date for receiving precepts, and others in the community know without needing to ask, whereas who is going to spout about their own attainments? Nobody.


Historically wasn't it the case that the women sat behind the males?

If you're willing to change it into two parallel sections of segregated genders, we might as well go for equality and scrap the whole thing. We can all sit together, male and women, lay and not, without concern for seniority or title.

We are all, after all, adults and segregating people based on their gender is a throwback to archaic social systems.


Or should a monastic have to earn their position of respect from the laity by virtue of wisdom and deeds rather than by putting on robes and formally renouncing?


This is usually what I see being done, anyway. As the disclaimer above, this is just my experience, and everyone's mileage probably differ.


There are some eminent teachers nowadays who get respect heaped upon them and because so many people in their organizations are emotionally invested in them, nobody dares criticize them.

Case in point is Ven. Xingyun of Foguangshan who openly supports the death penalty and conscription, but still gets praised as some kind of enlightened bodhisattva. He might be a skilled administrator, but I doubt he has either wisdom or genuine compassion. Nevertheless, he is highly regarded by millions of people and anyone presumably becoming heavily involved in FGS will likewise become emotionally invested in the figure and not question his credentials as a "grand master" or even as a "dharma teacher". By default he has a position of respect simply by his role as an administrator, not because of wisdom. There are others who might not be in so high a role, yet write books about applied dharma, yet are in reality quite bitter and angry individuals. But nevertheless, they get a lot of respect just by virtue of their robes and title. I imagine they get published easier as well.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:24 am

kirtu wrote:
Huseng wrote:Despite having a few very large Buddhist institutions with the old fashioned hierarchy and education systems for monastics, you still have organizations and groups outside the large institutions teaching false dharma in Buddhist garb.


But not inside the major institutions, right?

Kirt



They might not specifically teach it as dharma, but you have some figures condoning the death penalty, conscription, etc... and even defending the state for executing criminals with contrived ideas of how they think karma works.

So, sure, there are outright wrong views being cloaked in Buddhist drag and taught to people.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby maybay » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:52 am

You talk a lot Huseng :smile:
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Feb 19, 2012 12:08 pm

Greetings,

Jnana wrote:
Huseng wrote:The senior administrator still gets more credit than the lowly sweeper of leaves out back.

8 worldly dharmas.

Well said.

Maitri,
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby daelm » Sun Feb 19, 2012 1:29 pm

maybay wrote:You talk a lot Huseng :smile:


it's a buddhist discussion forum.


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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Caz » Sun Feb 19, 2012 1:39 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Caz wrote:There is no such thing as equality in Samsara and as far as I know Buddhists are still within Samsara. :shrug:



Well, that is exactly one kind of equality i.e. being in samsara all sentient beings are equal.


Touche :smile:
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby maybay » Sun Feb 19, 2012 4:32 pm

daelm wrote:
maybay wrote:You talk a lot Huseng :smile:


it's a buddhist discussion forum.

d

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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Jikan » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:08 pm

Nemo wrote:
I am on the fence if Dharma in the West will even survive unless it becomes adharma. There were very few young people at the Westerner Dharma centres I remember. There was a huge influx of Buddhism with the Tibetans and with succeeding waves of Asian immigration. Culminating with the Hong Kong Chinese just before unification. This migration is slowing down and will likely stop in the next decade or so and start to reverse. It is like the American science community after WWII. Nasa was great in it's day. Without all those German rocket scientists the US would never had made it to the moon. I see something much the same with the incredible generation of Tulkus that lived here. I get an inappropriate feeling in some Dharma centres. The same feeling I get in a museum. I don't think 0.7% of the population is enough to self sustain. I think privately many Lamas don't take the West seriously anymore.

Attracting new students would mean changing the formula. It wouldn't really be Buddhism anymore.


I agree with the problem you describe. A better solution would be for everyone who can to practice like there's no tomorrow (because there is none), build the institutions we can build with what we have available, and...

what comes after that?
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby catmoon » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:16 pm

Tea and cookies, of course.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Anders » Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:11 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Astus wrote:"Therefore a bhikkhu ... should not present himself as equal to, nor imagine himself to be inferior, nor better than, another." (Snp 4.5)



Yes, and I wish more bhikṣus would recall this.


Reminds me of the first time I met the venerable Hsin Ting, bumped into him in a hotel lobby. I didn't know who he was at the time and would never have guessed he was the former abbot of Fo Guang Shan and apparently a quite famous monk in Taiwan. He was just telling me about how he had begun teaching Dharma to prisoners and was evidently beaming with joy and excitement at this new venture. It was only after I began seeing his face on CDs, DVDs and book covers I started wondering who the hell that guy was.

I imagine it can't be easy to stay humble given the veneration and adoration many bhikshus are given, but some do seem to manage it quite well. The rest are only human, I suppose.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby edearl » Tue Feb 21, 2012 7:16 pm

All people are born equal--naked and helpless. However, everyone is not equal, there are many differences in people, height, weight, beauty, intelligence, etc. We should, however, treat everyone equally, until they do something to warrant otherwise.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Aemilius » Wed Apr 25, 2012 8:40 am

Huseng wrote:Case in point is Ven. Xingyun of Foguangshan who openly supports the death penalty and conscription, but still gets praised as some kind of enlightened bodhisattva. He might be a skilled administrator, but I doubt he has either wisdom or genuine compassion. Nevertheless, he is highly regarded by millions of people and anyone presumably becoming heavily involved in FGS will likewise become emotionally invested in the figure and not question his credentials as a "grand master" or even as a "dharma teacher". By default he has a position of respect simply by his role as an administrator, not because of wisdom. There are others who might not be in so high a role, yet write books about applied dharma, yet are in reality quite bitter and angry individuals. But nevertheless, they get a lot of respect just by virtue of their robes and title. I imagine they get published easier as well.


In Establishing Pure Land on Earth master Hsing Yun says that death penalty is permissible under certain conditions, which are then enumerated. He is far from supporting it. You must be more accurate when quoting this issue.

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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Apr 25, 2012 8:57 am

Aemilius wrote:In Establishing Pure Land on Earth master Hsing Yun says that death penalty is permissible under certain conditions, which are then enumerated. He is far from supporting it. You must be more accurate when quoting this issue.
And who gives the permission? You see, if a fully enlightened being, capable of seeing the outcomes of any action, was to choose whether another being should be executed or not then, maybe, okay. I may agree with them. But in that instance you may find the enlightened being ordering the execution of various beings that have not even commited a crime... ;)

Leaving it up to government officials to choose who is murdered or not, well that's a different stroy altogether. In that case, to err on the side of caution, I would say that it is probably better for a Buddhist leader to say that the death penalty is never permissible, lest their less than enlightened followers get the wrong idea (which they will).
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Aemilius » Wed Apr 25, 2012 10:45 am

The question is complex. Fact is that no country or state exists, or has come into being, without violence, without war, without the use of weapons. All buddhist communities are dependent on the existence of the State. Therefore buddhist communities are dependent on the violence that has been used, and is being used by states and governments.

German philosopher Hegel has said many interesting things about this dilemma, i.e. that individuals are demanded to behave ethically, but then the history proves us that the larger units of states never exist without war, without violence, stealth and robbery. How do we understand this as buddhists ?

I see Master Hsing Yun as bringing buddhism on a realistic level, when he takes into consideration how states & countries exist. And maybe his thinking has even been influenced by the great philosopher Hegel in this matter.
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