jrzen wrote:I'm also a bit confused by your comments thus far but I do appreciate your attempts to clarify. Considering how controversial the Taego Order is, trying to justify one's involvement with them and defending their policies must be a very daunting and lonely task.
I cannot stress enough that, as I see it, the Taego Order alone isn't controversial. All of Asian Buddhism is. All of Asian Buddhism discriminates against women, homosexuals and the disabled. I'm still confused about why there's a fixation on the Taego Order here. Tibetans have branched out into the West, as has the Theravada tradition and the Jogye Order. (I know of more than one Chinese/Taiwanese group that is trying to branch out in the West, but as far as I can tell they haven't been particularly successful.) However, if I was a member of the Jogye Order, for example, no one would bat an eye.
Perhaps it's because there's an assumption among Westerners that Asian Buddhism is the liberal, inclusive religion we want it to be but these issues have come to light for the first time in relation to the Taego Order? In any case, if you're going to raise these issues in relation to the Taego Order, you have to ask everyone ordained in the Theravada tradition, everyone in the Tibetan tradition, everyone in the Korean tradition, etc... the same questions.
jrzen wrote:Is there any point at which you would feel it irresponsible to be part of any Asian lineage trying to spread into the West? If the Taego Order didn't allow people of color to fully ordain as monks, would you still belong to it? If not, why is it ok to be part of an order that openly discriminates against women and other groups of people?
That's a very good question and I don't have a good answer. I feel caught in the middle. But what is my choice? I was born to be a monk - I really believe that - but I need to engage in a practice with which I feel connected and be with a teacher who will actually teach me. I have had other teachers (in traditions that haven't been taken to task for these issues), but they made it clear through their actions that they didn't really care whether or not those they ordained or those monastics within their community were supported, trained and educated or not. In fact, I experienced a lot of judgement from lay people and even some other monastics over the years for not having formal training and education. And as I wrote earlier, I can't pick an order simply because it fits my own liberal views. I feel no connection with the practices of the more liberal, Westernized groups.
You know those teachers that have created more inclusive institutions started out in traditions that discriminate. I wonder if anyone would ask them how they could have done that, given the discrimination. Lawrence Grecco, who brought all this to light in the Taego Order last fall, went on to ordain originally with the International Order of Buddhist Ministers founded by Venerable Chao Chu, a Sri Lankan monk ordained in two traditions that discriminate (Sri Lankan Theravada and the Chinese tradition).
As an aside, did you know the monastic sangha has caste in Sri Lanka? There's a Sri Lankan monk who lives at the Vietnamese temple where I am currently living (he's also a student at the same university where I study). He said there's one ordination lineage or order in Sri Lanka reserved for low caste people. The Newari Buddhist tradition in Nepal has a caste system as well, though they no longer have monastics. But I digress....
jrzen wrote:Also, I am wondering who your teacher in the Taego Order is exactly? Are you engaged in some sort of regular, ongoing, teacher/student dialogue with him?
My teacher is Bishop Jongmae Park. I live near him and see him once or twice per month, given our busy schedules. I'm hoping to see him more once I graduate this coming December. I'm also looking into the possibility of going back to S. Korea in the near future for additional training, albeit for just a few months.
jrzen wrote:As I understand it, people are able to join the Taego seminary program just as long as they pay the tuition and then they choose a teacher with whom they have very little, if any, regular contact.
This is not uncommon in the Tibetan tradition either, for example. You might not see your teacher for months or even years on end. The Five Mountains Order is also spread out and uses an online seminary to educate people for ordination. Some of us in the Taego Order have been discussing this issue and see the need to develop regional centers where there's more face-to-face time. Personally, I wouldn't have the skill to have disciples from afar.
jrzen wrote:And you are clear that it is clearly stated in the Vinaya that monks are to be celibate? Which means that the vast majority of Taego monks are not considered valid monks based on the rules set forth by the Buddha.
Of course I am! I've been a monk (celibate) for ten years and a Buddhist for more than 20. Personally, I don't care about the celibate / non-celibate thing. How someone else sees a non-celibate member of the Buddhist clergy doesn't concern me, though I am well aware they are not recognized as bhikshu by other orders.