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

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

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

zavk wrote:
Once again, I have gone on spiel... I apologise.

Absolutely no need to. Thanks for the above; it was well worth reading.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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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.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.
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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

Paññāsikhara wrote::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).



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

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

catmoon wrote: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.


Which is of course only relevant to those who see a Dalai Lama as one who has authority for them. Otherwise it is no different to wondering what St Augustine of Hippo would make of modern Buddhism.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

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

poto wrote:I will say though, that it's not just that one Thai temple, there's also a local Sri Lankan temple that is pretty much all Sri Lankan with almost no Westerners. This is the problem I'm talking about. Temples that serve one ethnic group and only cater to that culture. I'm not saying that it's impossible to learn Dhamma at the ethnic temples, just that the way it's presented can push people away. It doesn't seem suited to the West and I would hope that one day it will be reformed.


The temple is typically the cultural and social center in these cultures, as well as a place to perform merit and be reminded of sila and mindfulness. Much the same as churches were for the new immigrants of 100-150 years ago. If you want to consider this a "problem", rest assured it is a problem with the view being taken or just plain ignorance.

There are many communities in the rural midwest that will have two or more churches 100-150 years old of the same denomination, built to serve their different and respective cultures (French/German, etc.) of the new immigrants of THAT time period.

I haven't read the book that is the topic of this thread; however, there is no benefit in criticizing people coming to live in a strange land for bringing their culture with them. I have been to local Lao, Thai, and Cambodian temples and have always been welcome. Great places for cultural learning and learning the basics of Buddhism as practiced in the culture of the country represented. For practicing the Dhamma, I've found it more beneficial to stick with non-cultural based centers. Even these have rules, such as removing shoes and being quiet during meditation sessions.

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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

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

poto wrote:I will say though, that it's not just that one Thai temple, there's also a local Sri Lankan temple that is pretty much all Sri Lankan with almost no Westerners. This is the problem I'm talking about. Temples that serve one ethnic group and only cater to that culture. I'm not saying that it's impossible to learn Dhamma at the ethnic temples, just that the way it's presented can push people away. It doesn't seem suited to the West and I would hope that one day it will be reformed.

The temple is typically the cultural and social center in these cultures, as well as a place to perform merit and be reminded of sila and mindfulness. Much the same as churches were for the new immigrants of 100-150 years ago. If you want to consider this a "problem", rest assured it is a problem with the view being taken or just plain ignorance.

There are many communities in the rural midwest that will have two or more churches 100-150 years old of the same denomination, built to serve their different and respective cultures (French/German, etc.) of the new immigrants of THAT time period.

I haven't read the book that is the topic of this thread; however, there is no benefit in criticizing people coming to live in a strange land for bringing their culture with them. I have been to local Lao, Thai, and Cambodian temples and have always been welcome. Great places for cultural learning and learning the basics of Buddhism as practiced in the culture of the country represented. For practicing the Dhamma, I've found it more beneficial to stick with non-cultural based centers. Even these have rules, such as removing shoes and being quiet during meditation sessions.


Agree JeffR

I attended Thai and Laotian monasteries and found it to be a wonderful cultural experience and a good introduction to Buddhism

But due to the cultural / ritual veneer I had to finally seek out a non cultural monastery to further my Dhamma studies, I was extremely lucky to have a monk from the local Laotian temple who understood my needs and introduced me to a monastery in the Thai tradition run by western monks

With Metta
Bill

PS Agree, excellent topic, and I'm off to read the book now
"Complaining is finding faults, wisdom is finding solutions" Ajahn Brahm
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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. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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

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

jcsuperstar wrote:i swear we've had this thread already... or was that the old forum?
There certainly was one on the Gray Forum.

And one here:

viewtopic.php?f=14&t=2698&hilit=Broken+Buddha
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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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

tiltbillings wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote:i swear we've had this thread already... or was that the old forum?
There certainly was one on the Gray Forum.
And one here:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... ken+Buddha

Perhaps this thread should be tagged on to the older one?
There's another one that is relevant but can be allowed to sleep in peace - Two Naked Buddhas http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=3058.
The relevance is that Harrison's Naked Buddha is very similar in origin and intent to The Broken Buddha, from what I've read of the latter. (I missed the older thread - now making up for it but have only read the first 10 pages or so.)

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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. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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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:
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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

Kim O'Hara wrote: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


I think you need to spend a bit longer there then. I spent over two years there of and on and am married to a Thai. Once you scratch below the surface of the smiles and happy go lucky charm of the people I don't find their society nicer at all.

Your comparison with medieval europe is interesting, but I haven't seen much evidence that there might someday be a radical reform as the west had, it's just been too deeply ingrained in the culture for too long I think.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

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

Hi Goofaholix,
Goofaholix wrote:I think you need to spend a bit longer there then. I spent over two years there of and on and am married to a Thai. Once you scratch below the surface of the smiles and happy go lucky charm of the people I don't find their society nicer at all.

I don't have that depth of experience, but I would agree. It's not necessarily less nice either, but there is all kinds stuff that goes on in the background that is hard to see at first, and I would say many would never see if they just go there as a tourist (or meet a few Thai people socially from time to time in their own country). Unless you can speak the language, or have someone like a spouse who can pass on the gossip, it's really hard to tell what is going on... As I tried to point out on the thread about "cultural differences and teaching": viewtopic.php?f=14&t=3937&p=58492#p58492

Actually, I think this is true of most countries. I'm now very aware when I'm a tourist somewhere that what I am experiencing is not "the real XXX". Which is fine - if I'm on a vacation on a tropical island I don't necessarily want "the real xxx", I might just want to relax....

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

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

Goofaholix wrote:Your comparison with medieval europe is interesting, but I haven't seen much evidence that there might someday be a radical reform as the west had, it's just been too deeply ingrained in the culture for too long I think.

Hi, Goofaholix,
Here's some food for thought on that question: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissolution_of_the_Monasteries,_England_and_Wales
How many of these motives and strategies for reducing monasticism might be applicable in Theravadin countries in the next, say, twenty years?
:juggling:
Change doesn't have to come from within, and Dhammika suggests that it's very unlikely to do so.

:namaste:
Kim
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