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Dhamma Wheel • View topic - A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby SDC » Wed Mar 07, 2012 5:38 pm

Virgo wrote:You must be from the city. :) :tongue:

Where I live, being a lay-Buddhist and being open about your religion-- absolutely not a problem at all, people are very accepting. However, walking around begging for alms with strange, unseen before religious robes on and a shaved head? You would get your first gun drawn on you within a few days, no b.s. and would be very lucky to not get shot.

In my county, I could easily see a rifle being drawn on me on my first alms round, no problem.

Kevin


Indeed I am. :) However I have lived in a few places, some which are far from NYC.

Of course there are many places where it would be foolish to attempt it. Rural Arkansas would not be a good place to start.

Virgo wrote:I am not trying to scare anyone though. I am sure there are many areas in the States where it is safe to go on alms round.


This is more of what I was referring to. I think there are many places that would embrace it if it were introduced properly.
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby hermitwin » Wed Mar 07, 2012 6:28 pm

You post interesting questions.
yet there are no answers to your questions.
people who wish to ordain will go wherever they please.
personally, i will go to a faraway country just be away
from the life i have known.
people keep their lineage alive bcos they believe it is
the good teacher that have guided them to where they are.
having a western monastic tradition will neither be good
nor bad, it all depends on the monastics themselves.
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:10 pm

From what I've heard when Buddhism went to China the monks realised there was no way the Indian medicant tradition would survive, in China the inportance of hard work would see people looking down on monks for not working for what they eat. I guess Mahayana monks are free to do this wheras Theravada ones are not.

In the West we have the same emphasis on hard work and standing on your own two feet, so I think it's a mairacle that Theravadin monks have established themselves and are doing as well as they do, or perhaps not so much a miracle as being reliant on the large immigrant population most western countries have.

I think it's a privilige to be able to live the medicant live, but I'm not sure this privilige will survive long term in the West paricularly as in the West there is more emphasis on lay people meditating that there is in Asia.
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Zom » Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:46 pm

What can be done to develop a larger monastic tradition in the west? Where do we go from here?


Western buddhists should learn from asian buddhists how to develop generosity and make dana on the permanent basis ,) At the present moment this is a problem and almost every western theravada monastery/temple is largely supported only by asian immigrants. If there were none, I guess, there would be no monasteries in the West. 8-)

Ajhan Sumedho speaks:

It was during the separation of East Pakistan (later to be known as Bangladesh) from West Pakistan when I arrived in Calcutta. There were a lot of refugees streaming into the city. And beggars were everywhere. Then a thought occurred to me: I was just one of them. An alms seeking monk was no different than a beggar on the street.

But even in the land of the Buddha’s birth, there was not much opportunity for the locals to support a monk, what more a monk from the forest tradition. For proper support, I had to travel from Calcutta to Bodh Gaya, and devotees of the Mahabodhi temple there arranged for pindapata (alms giving), the first time since I arrived India.

After five or six months in India, I had this sudden realization recalling all that was given to me by Luang Poh Chah, the Thai people and the Thai immigration (who gave me a permanent Visa). There was this overwhelming sense of gratitude for all the requisites, encouragement and respect given to me by the people of Thailand. It was a realization that who – and all - that I had become then was a result of the generosity and kindness of others. So in a way, this was not just any realization, but an opening of the heart, of giving up self-centeredness.
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby squarepeg » Thu Mar 08, 2012 7:54 pm

I live in rural indiana, and even in the bible belt i attend a temple once a week supported by western lay people. we have one monk in residence but raise enough funds to house other monks from surrounding states once a month or so. its a house. with a monk that lives there. nothing special. even in the bible belt i see this as a budding oppurtunity. that the buddhist monastic tradition will survive here, not in fancy ornamented temples spaning 100 acre plots of land. but in the simple requisites afforded by a meditating lay comunity, basic rent, utilities and one meal a day. this is how buddhism can flourish,at least in my country.
What the united states needs is realized individuals, realized members of the community, lay or ordained. people who can teach meditation and incourage a persistant practice. In my opinion, and too my knowlage the buddha spoke thusly, a person who can spread metta in at least the 1st jhana can greatly change those around him, will be "field of merit" to those around him. If an honast practicioner is virtuious, follows the percepts and devolops good will then he is a monastary to every one he meets, every where he goes he affords oppurtunity for others to practice dana, then positive merit will over come negitive and buddhism will surive.
We cant think "oh i cant practice i have a job" or "ill wait until i go to a monastary to take the 8 percepts" or "i have to ordain to follow the buddha" because then there will be no merit in our communities. If we in the west keep strict practice regardless of work, ordination, culture, (sila bata pramasa, sakayaditthi) if we focus on our mind and devolop the path every day regardless of any situation, if we are true to the path then we will shape our communities, its not something you have to will, all we have to do is "practice dhamma in line with dhamma" regardless of how we sustain our bodies. The merit created by this will change our communities, this is how buddhism spreads and how it stays alive. :soap:
"Yadisam vapate bijam tadisam harate phalam" — as we sow, so shall we reap
Maranam Bhavissati - "death will take place"
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby appicchato » Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:29 am

squarepeg wrote:If an honast practicioner is virtuious, follows the percepts and devolops good will then he is a monastary to every one he meets, every where he goes he affords oppurtunity for others to practice dana, then positive merit will over come negitive and buddhism will surive.


:thumbsup:
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby thaijeppe » Fri Mar 09, 2012 1:50 am

squarepeg
:goodpost:
A great post that shows, how it can be done in a simple way.
What is important is The Theaching and the Practice, not fancy buildings.
Only a few dedicated individuals can make a big difference.
I think this is the way ahead for Buddhism in the west.
:anjali: Jeppe
If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you
let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely,
you will know complete peace and freedom.
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby SDC » Fri Mar 09, 2012 2:22 am

squarepeg wrote:I live in rural indiana, and even in the bible belt i attend a temple once a week supported by western lay people. we have one monk in residence but raise enough funds to house other monks from surrounding states once a month or so. its a house. with a monk that lives there. nothing special. even in the bible belt i see this as a budding oppurtunity. that the buddhist monastic tradition will survive here, not in fancy ornamented temples spaning 100 acre plots of land. but in the simple requisites afforded by a meditating lay comunity, basic rent, utilities and one meal a day. this is how buddhism can flourish,at least in my country.


This is very encouraging to hear.

squarepeg wrote: We cant think "oh i cant practice i have a job" or "ill wait until i go to a monastary to take the 8 percepts" or "i have to ordain to follow the buddha" because then there will be no merit in our communities. If we in the west keep strict practice regardless of work, ordination, culture, (sila bata pramasa, sakayaditthi) if we focus on our mind and devolop the path every day regardless of any situation, if we are true to the path then we will shape our communities, its not something you have to will, all we have to do is "practice dhamma in line with dhamma" regardless of how we sustain our bodies. The merit created by this will change our communities, this is how buddhism spreads and how it stays alive. :soap:


Excellent advice for those in the lay life.
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby polarbuddha101 » Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:58 am

good posts. I think buddhism will grow in america (and the west in general) no matter what happens but here is a little daydream i just had that perhaps one day could be a viable alternative to traditional monkhood...

maybe if wandering monks in America wore sweats and a t-shirt or coat instead of robes, and just let their hair grow in whatever way, not caring about keeping it shaved, not caring about letting it grow long (basically just letting lay practitioners cut it for them if they, the lay practitioners, want) and instead of a big alms bowl they had a camping style style metal cup, a tarp and nylon cordage for shelter, (this way there'd be less culture shock) and offered to work for food on the condition that they would teach mindfulness to the lay follower that needs help with work then it could be successful. They could travel around, spending time in forests, spending time with lay followers and spending time teaching homeless people the dhamma. Anyway,what i just said is far-fetched and improbable but still, it sounded neat to me
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:27 pm

so you would like monastics to be nothing like a monastic?
sound like a hobo to me, the monastics are striving for enlightenment not for lay peoples favour.

polarbuddha101 wrote:good posts. I think buddhism will grow in america (and the west in general) no matter what happens but here is a little daydream i just had that perhaps one day could be a viable alternative to traditional monkhood...

maybe if wandering monks in America wore sweats and a t-shirt or coat instead of robes, and just let their hair grow in whatever way, not caring about keeping it shaved, not caring about letting it grow long (basically just letting lay practitioners cut it for them if they, the lay practitioners, want) and instead of a big alms bowl they had a camping style style metal cup, a tarp and nylon cordage for shelter, (this way there'd be less culture shock) and offered to work for food on the condition that they would teach mindfulness to the lay follower that needs help with work then it could be successful. They could travel around, spending time in forests, spending time with lay followers and spending time teaching homeless people the dhamma. Anyway,what i just said is far-fetched and improbable but still, it sounded neat to me
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Justsit » Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:43 pm

Sounds like 1968. :group:
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby polarbuddha101 » Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:22 pm

Cittasanto wrote:so you would like monastics to be nothing like a monastic?
sound like a hobo to me, the monastics are striving for enlightenment not for lay peoples favour.

polarbuddha101 wrote:good posts. I think buddhism will grow in america (and the west in general) no matter what happens but here is a little daydream i just had that perhaps one day could be a viable alternative to traditional monkhood...

maybe if wandering monks in America wore sweats and a t-shirt or coat instead of robes, and just let their hair grow in whatever way, not caring about keeping it shaved, not caring about letting it grow long (basically just letting lay practitioners cut it for them if they, the lay practitioners, want) and instead of a big alms bowl they had a camping style style metal cup, a tarp and nylon cordage for shelter, (this way there'd be less culture shock) and offered to work for food on the condition that they would teach mindfulness to the lay follower that needs help with work then it could be successful. They could travel around, spending time in forests, spending time with lay followers and spending time teaching homeless people the dhamma. Anyway,what i just said is far-fetched and improbable but still, it sounded neat to me


I stand corrected, monks shouldn't be striving for lay peoples favor, but by the way, monks are hobos, they just don't smoke crack or have schizophrenia. At least they are supposed to be, it is called "going forth into homelessness". Traditionally, monks spent a lot of time living in the woods, abandoned huts, fields, and gardens; at least from what I've read so far in the suttas. Obviously, being a hobo back then was different since it was considered noble (if you did it for spiritual reasons). And yeah, nowadays alot of monks live in monasteries all the time, but there are still countries where monks can basically wander wherever (into the forest, a good cave, different villages) and my suggestion was just an unlikely way that I figured american sentiments towards bald people in orange robes could be circumnavigated. I mean, why cling to traditions like orange robes if it means you can't travel freely or that you're gonna get shot with a shotgun for looking outta place. And this isn't my opinion, its just a thought that popped in my head, I just think it would be great if eventually monks in America had the same freedom to travel that monks have in southeast asia.

I hope this isn't misconstrued as argumentative, and you I'm sure you know all the things i just said about monks, I'm just brainstorming
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Apr 27, 2012 7:18 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:I stand corrected, monks shouldn't be striving for lay peoples favor, but by the way, monks are hobos, they just don't smoke crack or have schizophrenia. At least they are supposed to be, it is called "going forth into homelessness". Traditionally, monks spent a lot of time living in the woods, abandoned huts, fields, and gardens; at least from what I've read so far in the suttas. Obviously, being a hobo back then was different since it was considered noble (if you did it for spiritual reasons). And yeah, nowadays alot of monks live in monasteries all the time, but there are still countries where monks can basically wander wherever (into the forest, a good cave, different villages) and my suggestion was just an unlikely way that I figured american sentiments towards bald people in orange robes could be circumnavigated. I mean, why cling to traditions like orange robes if it means you can't travel freely or that you're gonna get shot with a shotgun for looking outta place. And this isn't my opinion, its just a thought that popped in my head, I just think it would be great if eventually monks in America had the same freedom to travel that monks have in southeast asia.

I hope this isn't misconstrued as argumentative, and you I'm sure you know all the things i just said about monks, I'm just brainstorming

A Bhikkhu is not a migratory worker, they have relinquished the home life, i.e. the responsibilities that go with the home, they havn't become wandering workers, which is a hobo btw. you seam to be thinking of the vagabond, a traveler.
They actually would of built a simple hut, or one would of been made for them, the robes distinguish them from any old homeless person, it is a banner of the arahants, and their ability to travel is not defined by the wearing of robes as far as I can see, they are afforded the same travel rights anyone else is.
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby tesator12 » Fri Apr 27, 2012 8:11 am

:namaste:
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby SDC » Fri Apr 27, 2012 5:58 pm

polarbuddha, I somewhat agree with your overall point (minus the working and hair growing), and I think it would be nice to have a respected wandering tradition here in the US. Although we have a massive amount of wanderers in the US, it is not considered a respectable lifestyle choice and they are all seen as bums for the most part. Being a very materialistically driven nation, it is difficult for many to embrace the idea of someone that doesn’t want to participate. So the wanderer has no place, let alone a Buddhist wanderer.

And as far as robes go, I would not want to see that tradition ever go away. I have seen monks in the colder parts of N. America wear sweatpants and sweatshirts under their robes, which may be something you would be more comfortable with.
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby polarbuddha101 » Sat Apr 28, 2012 3:37 am

A Bhikkhu is not a migratory worker, they have relinquished the home life, i.e. the responsibilities that go with the home, they havn't become wandering workers, which is a hobo btw. you seam to be thinking of the vagabond, a traveler.
They actually would of built a simple hut, or one would of been made for them, the robes distinguish them from any old homeless person, it is a banner of the arahants, and their ability to travel is not defined by the wearing of robes as far as I can see, they are afforded the same travel rights anyone else is.[/quote]




I don't see how living in a tarp and going to soup kitchens is somehow drastically different than living in a hut and walking to people's homes or businesses for alms. It's all about the attitude. The main point is renunciation and how to do it in america where wouldn't be forced to stay in one small geographical location due to the current status quo

so what do you think is the best option

:?: .
Last edited by polarbuddha101 on Sat Apr 28, 2012 7:37 am, edited 2 times in total.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:08 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote:I don't see how living in a tarp and going to soup kitchens is somehow drastically different than living in a hut and walking to people's homes or businesses for alms. It's all about the attitude. The main point is renunciation and how to do it in america where wouldn't be forced to stay in one small geographical location due to the current status quo

so what do you think is the best option

:?: .

The aspect you are focusing on is the only similarity! the big difference is why they are doing it, it is the intention. the attitude has little to do with it. the monks are not suppose to ask for things except in certain circumstances,
the monks operate on invitations to set up a monastery in the west, and in the east if there is an invite and enough support within the local community to support them materially with the four requisites, they go, this is how monasteries Ajahn Sumedho founded and their branches including Abhayagiri came to exist. The monks are free to travel on tudong if they wish, there is no restriction except that imposed by the vinaya, so I am not sure of what status quo you are referring to? there are enough monasteries in the US, UK and Europe for monks to travel around if they so wished.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby polarbuddha101 » Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:46 pm

alright,
Cittasanto wrote:
polarbuddha101 wrote:I don't see how living in a tarp and going to soup kitchens is somehow drastically different than living in a hut and walking to people's homes or businesses for alms. It's all about the attitude. The main point is renunciation and how to do it in america where wouldn't be forced to stay in one small geographical location due to the current status quo

so what do you think is the best option

:?: .

The aspect you are focusing on is the only similarity! the big difference is why they are doing it, it is the intention. the attitude has little to do with it. the monks are not suppose to ask for things except in certain circumstances,
the monks operate on invitations to set up a monastery in the west, and in the east if there is an invite and enough support within the local community to support them materially with the four requisites, they go, this is how monasteries Ajahn Sumedho founded and their branches including Abhayagiri came to exist. The monks are free to travel on tudong if they wish, there is no restriction except that imposed by the vinaya, so I am not sure of what status quo you are referring to? there are enough monasteries in the US, UK and Europe for monks to travel around if they so wished.



(i meant intention by attitude by the way) alright, well everything i've said earlier i guess just violates the principles of true renunciation so I'll stop making statements and just ask questions

so, will america ever be capable of supporting lone forest monks or a class of wandering monks? or do we already have that? or can we already do that and monks just don't?

by class i mean that becoming a wandering monk would a viable option for any monk that wanted to do that. I'm sure there are a few traveling monks in america giving meditation lessons and whathaveyou but not to a great extent
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby PTa » Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:42 pm

nn
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:58 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:

(i meant intention by attitude by the way) alright, well everything i've said earlier i guess just violates the principles of true renunciation so I'll stop making statements and just ask questions

so, will america ever be capable of supporting lone forest monks or a class of wandering monks? or do we already have that? or can we already do that and monks just don't?

by class i mean that becoming a wandering monk would a viable option for any monk that wanted to do that. I'm sure there are a few traveling monks in america giving meditation lessons and whathaveyou but not to a great extent

I can only work with what you say, not what you mean but do not say!

it is fully capable now, and bhikkhus do do it, the fact that there are not more is due to the monks not doing it more. I do not know if there are monks who go off for any period for tudong in the US regularly but there are monks in europe who do. Ajahn Sucitto is quite famous for it, and spent 3 month out and about only a couple of years ago, and a number of mendicants went on Tudong during my time at Amaravati. Ajahn Amaro (former Co-Abott of Abhiyagiri) has a book of his Tudong trip called Long road North, and a former Bhikkhu has published a book called blistered feet, blisful mind.
I can not see any issue for those who want to do it who are over 5 vassa to do it except for their inclination to go and do it.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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