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

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

Postby Perry » Tue Nov 10, 2009 7:53 pm

Hi everyone,

I've been interested in getting hold of the book The Broken Buddha by Venerable Shravasti Dhammika for a while now and finally found a copy on eBay the other day which was delivered to my house this morning.

I've heard it's a very controversial book that is quite destructive in regards to some of Buddhism's traditions, but I've also heard that it has built a large amount of support. Bhante Dhammika himself seems to express some regret for publishing it in the preface.

I'm yet to start reading it so I'm not aware of the exact content, but I have a lot of respect for Bhante Dhammika, his book Good Question Good Answer was what introduced me to Buddhism in the first place. I am also a follower of his blog, and he has treated me with great generosity and kindness in our correspondences together.

Has anyone here read it? What are your thoughts?

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

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Nov 10, 2009 8:34 pm

Hi Perry,

It is also available as a PDF: http://www.buddhistische-gesellschaft-b ... dhanew.pdf

I've only skimmed it. It's not difficult to find examples of all the things he criticises, but I don't think the criticisms apply universally (he's obviously not the only "exception" ...).

Strangely I hadn't actually realised it was the same Dhammika as the other books and the blog. I'd assumed that an author so disillusioned would have disrobed. But he quotes from it here:
http://sdhammika.blogspot.com/2009/11/e ... vamso.html

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

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Nov 10, 2009 8:40 pm

Perry wrote:Has anyone here read it? What are your thoughts?


When I first read it, I didn't like it. I felt it was too critical of Theravada and the Sangha. But after re-reading it and discussing it with him, I notice that he does mention it is not all monks and more importantly, he offers some solutions at the end.

I also follow his blog and communicate regularly with him. He is well-versed in the Pali Canon and the Pali language. His books have also done much good, distributed throughout the world and many of them available online.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Nov 10, 2009 8:43 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Strangely I hadn't actually realised it was the same Dhammika as the other books and the blog. I'd assumed that an author so disillusioned would have disrobed. But he quotes from it here:
http://sdhammika.blogspot.com/2009/11/e ... vamso.html


Hi Mike,

He never disrobed, but he has since stopped calling himself a "Theravada monk" and prefers the title "Buddhist monk."

His teachings are all based off of the Pali Canon and he uses the Pali extensively and rarely discusses Mahayana concepts or Sanskrit. He never became disillusioned with the Pali Canon, so I see his teachings as still valuable.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Nov 10, 2009 8:58 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for the clarification on Ven Dhammika's status.

Here's an old discussion of the book: http://www.bswa.org/modules/newbb/viewt ... 28&forum=7

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

Postby BlackBird » Tue Nov 10, 2009 9:05 pm

To be frank I think Ven. Dhammika spends a lot of time bemoaning an inevitable situation. The Buddha Sasana was always going to decline and I think the deplorable behaviour of some Monks in Thailand and Sri Lanka mentioned in the book is just a reflection of this. I would say the Sasana has actually been in an upswing in the past 100 odd years. What with with Buddhism coming to the West, an array of excellent and learned meditators and scholars, and the advent of the internet.

But nevertheless, the solution offered by Ven. Dhammika to the problems he outlines is like applying a band aid to a wound the size of a fist - It's not the appropriate solution.

Is there an appropriate solution? Well, in the short to mid-term it's for each and everyone of us to practice the Noble Eightfold Path to the best of our abilities.
:anjali:
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Ben » Tue Nov 10, 2009 9:10 pm

BlackBird wrote:Is there an appropriate solution? Well, in the short to mid-term it's for each and everyone of us to practice the Noble Eightfold Path to the best of our abilities.
:anjali:


Well said, Jack!
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
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e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby zavk » Tue Nov 10, 2009 10:47 pm

Hi Perry

I have a copy of the book. In fact, Ven. Dhammika generously gave it to me when I met him in Singapore in June/July. I had a nice chat with him. I've only read half of the book--got distracted by other stuff and never got round to finishing it. I more or less agree with what the others have said.

Based on what I've read, it can be seen in Ven. Dhammika's arguments that he is speaking from a perspective of modern liberalism. As I'm sure you are aware, liberalism (generally speaking) asserts that free persons act according to their own inner mandates, critically reflect on their own ideals, and resist blindly following social customs--particularly customs that reinforce authoritarianism.

Such an attitude permeates much of contemporary approaches to Buddhism. In fact, this attitude can be identified in many, many discussions here on DW and other forums. Ven. Dhammika comes from a cultural context that highly values such liberal social ideals. So it is not surprising that he gives emphasis to individual critical reflection and criticizes rigid traditionalism.

His book certainly reveals some pressing issues facing Theravada Buddhism as it moves from traditional contexts to modern ones. While he does make some good arguments that might appeal to our contemporary sensibilities, I don't think that he is suggesting that traditional forms of Buddhism are 'inferior' or 'backward'. As I see it, he is just pointing out that the conditions enabling those forms of Buddhism are passing away (or at least changing). A new set of conditions are arising in contemporary times. Hence, Buddhism needs to adapt itself to these shifting conditions.

If we read his arguments this way, the question of whether Buddhism is on the decline or on the rise, or if one form is inferior the other superior, becomes a moot point. It is rather a matter of how we recognise change and relate to it skillfully. Whether the solutions Ven. Dhammika offers would work or not, I cannot say. But he is at least drawing attention to some pressing issues or 'hindrances' facing contemporary Buddhism. As in meditation practice, the recognition of hindrances is an important first step before dealing with them.
With metta,
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby vinasp » Wed Nov 11, 2009 11:59 pm

Hi everyone,

An excellent read, thank you for the link. Is there any way that the founder of a religion can prevent it from turning into the opposite of what he intended ?

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

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Nov 12, 2009 1:16 am

Hi Vincent,
vinasp wrote:Is there any way that the founder of a religion can prevent it from turning into the opposite of what he intended ?

Since, going from my contact with monastic (and lay) practitioners, in real life and on various Forums such as this one, I do not think that this is the case, the question does not apply...

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

Postby BlackBird » Thu Nov 12, 2009 2:42 am

Ben wrote:
BlackBird wrote:Is there an appropriate solution? Well, in the short to mid-term it's for each and everyone of us to practice the Noble Eightfold Path to the best of our abilities.
:anjali:


Well said, Jack!


Just repeating what I've heard :anjali:

I have found an elaboration which might be of value.
From the Debate of King Milinda (translated by Ven. Bhikkhu Pesala) emphasis mine:

“If a tiny drop of water were to fall on the ground would it flow over ten or twelve leagues?”

“Certainly not, it would only affect the spot where it fell.”

“Why is that?”

“Because of its minuteness.”

“Just so, O king, unwholesomeness is a mean thing and because of its minuteness affects only the doer and cannot be shared. However, if there was a mighty cloudburst would the water spread around?”

“Certainly, venerable sir, even for ten or twelve leagues.”

“Just so, O king, wholesomeness is great and by reason of its abundance can be shared by gods and men.”

“Venerable Nāgasena, why is it that unwholesomeness is so limited and wholesomeness so much more far-reaching?”

Whoever, O king, gives gifts, observes the precepts and performs the Uposatha, he is glad and at peace, and being peaceful his goodness grows even more abundantly. Like a deep pool of water from which as soon as water flows away on one side it is replenished from all around. Just so, O king, if a man were to transfer to others the merit of any good he had done even for a hundred years the more would his goodness grow. This is why wholesomeness is so great. However, on doing evil, O king, a man becomes filled with remorse and his mind cannot escape from the thought of it, he is depressed and obtains no peace, miserable and despairing he wastes away. Just, O king, as a drop of water falling onto a dry river-bed gains not in volume but is swallowed up on the very spot where it fell. This is why unwholesomeness is so mean and minute.”

- http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Pesala/Mil ... ra.html#23

The results of wholesomeness spread far and wide.

:anjali:
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby poto » Fri Nov 13, 2009 1:26 pm

I just finished reading The Broken Buddha, and I agree with what Ven. Dhammika has written. Personally, even as a lay person I have been disillusioned and put off by some of the cultural traditions, rituals and ceremonies that I've encountered over the years. I've long felt that Buddhism in the West would greatly benefit if it were freed from Asian cultural traditions and customs that are irrelevant to the actual Dhamma.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Gharchaina » Fri Nov 13, 2009 2:00 pm

poto wrote:I just finished reading The Broken Buddha, and I agree with what Ven. Dhammika has written. Personally, even as a lay person I have been disillusioned and put off by some of the cultural traditions, rituals and ceremonies that I've encountered over the years. I've long felt that Buddhism in the West would greatly benefit if it were freed from Asian cultural traditions and customs that are irrelevant to the actual Dhamma.


Which Asian cultural traditions would those be?
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby poto » Fri Nov 13, 2009 2:49 pm

Gharchaina wrote:
poto wrote:I just finished reading The Broken Buddha, and I agree with what Ven. Dhammika has written. Personally, even as a lay person I have been disillusioned and put off by some of the cultural traditions, rituals and ceremonies that I've encountered over the years. I've long felt that Buddhism in the West would greatly benefit if it were freed from Asian cultural traditions and customs that are irrelevant to the actual Dhamma.


Which Asian cultural traditions would those be?


How many would you like me to list? Ritualized offerings and ceremonies that I do not see as being relevant to my practice and I have no interest in. Bowing and dressing "properly" are among the things that I find superfluous.

I hope you don't take it as disparaging to Asian traditions and culture. I mean no disrespect...

I don't particularly care for Western culture or traditions either. I find the handshake to be equally irrelevant.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby poto » Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:40 pm

To illustrate my point and that of Ven. Dhammika, here are two photos from 2 different local Buddhist congregations.

The first is that of a local Theravada congregation.

Image

Notice, all are dressed in white. Very few Westerners present, and I suspect the 3 Westerners that are present are only there because they are married to Thai women. That congregation serves the local Thai expatriates and not much else. There is little hope of growth among local Westerners there so long as it remains fixed to Thai culture.


The second is from a local Tibetan Buddhist temple.

Image

Notice, the less formal casual dress and abundance of Westerners. As was pointed out in The Broken Buddha, the Tibetans have grown and drawn locals while the Theravadins for the most part remain bogged down with cultural traditions that drive Westerners away.

Both of these are in the same city, less than an hour drive from me. Which one do you think is more inviting to the average Westerner interested in Buddhism?
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:54 pm

I have seen, in the USA, Tibetan and Zen groups just as culturaly rigid as the Thai group in the photo and I have seen Theravadin groups as relaxed as the Tibetan group photo. What basis do we use for making a generalization?
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 PeterB » Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:58 pm

In my ( fairly extensive ) experience of both , Tibetan groups tend to be a lot more rigid and conservative than those associated with Thai temples, dont let the jeans and tees fool you.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby poto » Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:18 pm

tiltbillings wrote:I have seen, in the USA, Tibetan and Zen groups just as culturaly rigid as the Thai group in the photo and I have seen Theravadin groups as relaxed as the Tibetan group photo. What basis do we use for making a generalization?


I didn't mean to present it as universal.

There are other Theravadin groups locally that are much better and more relaxed. Perhaps I should have mentioned that as well. I didn't mean to represent it as only or all Theravadin groups, just as an example of a widespread problem that exists here and that I have encountered personally.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:20 pm

poto wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:I have seen, in the USA, Tibetan and Zen groups just as culturaly rigid as the Thai group in the photo and I have seen Theravadin groups as relaxed as the Tibetan group photo. What basis do we use for making a generalization?


I didn't mean to present it as universal.

There are other Theravadin groups locally that are much better and more relaxed. Perhaps I should have mentioned that as well. I didn't mean to represent it as only or all Theravadin groups, just as an example of a widespread problem that exists here and that I have encountered personally.

Some Theravadin temples are really meant for ethnic groups they serve - a little bit of home in a strange land.
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 poto » Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:26 pm

PeterB wrote:In my ( fairly extensive ) experience of both , Tibetan groups tend to be a lot more rigid and conservative than those associated with Thai temples, dont let the jeans and tees fool you.


I agree. I was first drawn to Tibetan Buddhism, but have since moved away due to that underlying rigidity. I still have a lot of respect for the Tibetans and their teachings, but it just wasn't right for me.

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.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis
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