Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:04 am

Greetings,

Gombrich wrote:How, then, can Theravāda Buddhism be disseminated? How can it even be saved? I find the answer obvious. We have to return to the Buddha’s teaching. ... Yes; we have to take the Buddha seriously!

:thumbsup:

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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby alan » Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:15 am

I agree with both of you. And thanks to tiltbillings for the link.
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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby Dan74 » Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:30 am

There are of course exceptions (not sure how common or uncommon). A local Burmese venerable Sayadaw U Pandita is very active with non-Burmese.
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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby chownah » Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:50 am

Concerning Gombrich's aritlce "Comfort or Challenge? "....it saddens me that in my view Gombrich's display of ignorance of the attitudes of the vast majority of Buddhists in Thailand has undermined is attempts to promote some good ideas about improving the world.

This article is so off the mark and lacking in reasoning supported by knowledge of the world and the Buddha's teachings that I really don't know where to start.......it really appears that he thinks that his having expereinced the literati of Theravada scholars that he can from knowing them understand the attitudes of the bulk of Thai Buddhists....MOST Thai Buddhists don't even know that the International Conference on Dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in the 21st Century happened and frankly if they knew they wouldn't care....on the other hand Gombrich's nancing around with the Buddhist "hi-so" probably has in his mind been a day of researching the attitudes of the common asian buddhist.....this sort of thing is a common mistake made by westerners but I am really very surprised that a man so adored by many and so in the limelight would write such an uninformed article......perhaps I'll re-read some of it and if I can distill out something worth focusing on I'll post some more......but for now I think I prefer the Comfort of just forgetting all about this fiasco rather than the Challenge of trying to straighten out this twisted presentation.
Sorry that this is so negative....but really this is my impression....please forgive me in my ignorance.
chownah
P.S. Perhaps if someone wants to bring up specific issues I would give my comments...for me to tackle the entire article would take way to much time and effort for me and frankly I do not see the article as worth that much effort.....too much bath water.....not enough baby....
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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby chownah » Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:57 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Gombrich wrote:How, then, can Theravāda Buddhism be disseminated? How can it even be saved? I find the answer obvious. We have to return to the Buddha’s teaching. ... Yes; we have to take the Buddha seriously!

:thumbsup:

Metta,
Retro. :)

Is Gombrich joking?
or
Yes indeed.....we should take the Buddha seriously when he taught that all things are impermanent (I guess this includes Theravada Buddhism) and that his sasana would assuredly end.......I guess......is this how Gombrich wants us to take the Buddha seriously?
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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby alan » Sat Nov 12, 2011 3:25 am

If Its so wrong, and is so upsetting that you don't know how to start, well, you could start at the beginning.
What upsets you the most?
Tell us how your reasoning process is superior. Where did Gombrich make logical mistakes? How would you have done better?
Spitting out a criticism of something you haven't fully read, and barely understand, is extremely arrogant.
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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby Ben » Sat Nov 12, 2011 3:28 am

chownah wrote:Concerning Gombrich's aritlce "Comfort or Challenge? "....it saddens me that in my view Gombrich's display of ignorance of the attitudes of the vast majority of Buddhists in Thailand has undermined is attempts to promote some good ideas about improving the world.

This article is so off the mark and lacking in reasoning supported by knowledge of the world and the Buddha's teachings that I really don't know where to start.......it really appears that he thinks that his having expereinced the literati of Theravada scholars that he can from knowing them understand the attitudes of the bulk of Thai Buddhists....MOST Thai Buddhists don't even know that the International Conference on Dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in the 21st Century happened and frankly if they knew they wouldn't care....on the other hand Gombrich's nancing around with the Buddhist "hi-so" probably has in his mind been a day of researching the attitudes of the common asian buddhist.....this sort of thing is a common mistake made by westerners but I am really very surprised that a man so adored by many and so in the limelight would write such an uninformed article......perhaps I'll re-read some of it and if I can distill out something worth focusing on I'll post some more......but for now I think I prefer the Comfort of just forgetting all about this fiasco rather than the Challenge of trying to straighten out this twisted presentation.
Sorry that this is so negative....but really this is my impression....please forgive me in my ignorance.
chownah
P.S. Perhaps if someone wants to bring up specific issues I would give my comments...for me to tackle the entire article would take way to much time and effort for me and frankly I do not see the article as worth that much effort.....too much bath water.....not enough baby....
chownah


Greetings Chownah,
My reading of Gombrich is that its a little different to the arrogant western Buddhist who decry the Buddhism practiced in Asia as deficient.
In fairness to Gombrich, I believe his observations are valid and I think it speaks of a lack of willingness within the leadership of the Sangha to address issues such as the Sri Lankan civil war, the monk's protest (and massacre) in Myanmar in 2007 and resistence to the reintroduction of the Bhikkhuni Sangha.
Living in a Theravada-country full time I think you are in a position to offer some very valuable insights and I look forward to you responding to some (or all) of Gombrich's claims if and when or if you want to. Certainly, when I was in Myanmar I felt closer to the Burmese Buddhists than the vast majority of opinionated western Buddhists.
kind regards,

Ben
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


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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby appicchato » Sat Nov 12, 2011 4:56 am

Well, there were certainly a few darts thrown in his presentation...and, if I were asked, rightly so...every point he made I found to be valid...if someone disagrees, show us the holes...

I was sitting a few rows back that day, and my one recurring thought was that of the several hundred sitting in the auditorium (roughly fifty fifty monks and lay people), a mere handful had a working knowledge of English (no exaggeration)...handouts of the speaker's text were given out beforehand, but again, in English (Thais are so averse to criticism I cringe at the thought of what a Thai translation would have incurred…can't speak for Sinhalese, Burmese, Lao, or Khmer)…so I asked myself: what's the point?...virtually no one in attendance would ever know what he was saying, or why...

I don't really know why I'm relating this, maybe it's just part of the problem he's referring to…rites and rituals...
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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby Ben » Sat Nov 12, 2011 5:28 am

Thank you, Bhante.
I wonder whether Gombrich knew that the vast majority of his audience during that talk were non-English speakers?
Interesting...
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
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 12, 2011 6:47 am

Actually, I am sorry I referenced that talk. What is of more intertest is the websit itself. Lots of interesting things there for those who find lots of interesting things interesting.
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: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby Ben » Sat Nov 12, 2011 7:55 am

Hi Tilt,
tiltbillings wrote:Actually, I am sorry I referenced that talk. What is of more intertest is the websit itself. Lots of interesting things there for those who find lots of interesting things interesting.


Indeed it is. I just downloaded the paper: mindfulness, depression and modes of mind for my wife.
kind regards,

Ben
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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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby chownah » Sat Nov 12, 2011 8:52 am

I have reread the article and think that my previous post was too harsh in saying that there was not enough substance.....infact he broaches alot of important issues and although I do not agree with all that he said concerning all of them I think it is good that he raised those issues and I'm sure that it did take a bit of courage to say those things to those in attendance....perhaps he actually got some relief in knowing (if he knew) that most there would not understand him. I think in my previous post I did not properly take into account the audience to which he was speaking. It may very well be that his attempts to characterize the attitudes of the majority of Buddhists was actually a way to not be pointing the finger of blame too directly at any group of people....and it is his statements about the attitudes of the majority of buddhists that I feel are grossly wrong at least in my experience of Thai Buddhists.....everything that I have seen of Thai Buddhists (which is actually based on a pitifull small percentage of the population) indicates that they think that every country has its own style of Buddhism and that this is just fine and good.....I think that most Thai people would say that Lao Buddhism is the best thing for Lao people and Burmese Buddhism is the best thing for Burmese people and Thai Buddhism is the best thing for Thai people....Thai people are by and large quite nationalistic but they do not seem to extend this to Buddhism....again my expereince is based on a very tiny tiny percent of the population and I do not claim to have the knowledge to make a declaration about the majority of Thai people....I don't think that Gombrich has the knowledge either but I very well could be wrong.

Anyway if apologies are in order for my previous harshness then consider apologies as being offered all around.
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby Richard » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:46 pm

I have read the lecture, and think Gombrich makes a good point when he says that Thai and other Theravada temples in the West function primarily as ethnic cultural centers, and don't really make an effort to introduce Theravada to peoples around the world. As he says in his most recent book, Gombrich is not actually a practicing Buddhist, but he is a sympathetic scholar who wants people to live up to their religious principles. As someone noted above, the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies has good website with a number of interesting papers worth reading.
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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby daverupa » Mon Nov 14, 2011 12:33 am

appicchato wrote:so I asked myself: what's the point?...virtually no one in attendance would ever know what he was saying, or why...


Well, but it's on the internet now, and that's a primary source for those with a burgeoning interest in the Dhamma, as well as long-term practitioners. I think this speech trumps The Broken Buddha by couching the key problem - parochial nationalism - amidst very important modern ethical and moral issues (women, bhikkhunis, political murder, war, etc.).

These are essential points, worth addressing with great tenacity.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby appicchato » Mon Nov 14, 2011 12:43 am

daverupa wrote:
appicchato wrote:so I asked myself: what's the point?...virtually no one in attendance would ever know what he was saying, or why...


Well, but it's on the internet now, and that's a primary source for those with a burgeoning interest in the Dhamma, as well as long-term practitioners.


Beg to differ but, for those who wield the power (in the primarily Buddhist countries (already mentioned)), and the real ability to change the status quo, it's not...there's a large chasm beween the Eastern and Western 'kingpins'...hopefully things will change, sooner rather than later...
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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby daverupa » Mon Nov 14, 2011 1:15 am

appicchato wrote:
daverupa wrote:
appicchato wrote:so I asked myself: what's the point?...virtually no one in attendance would ever know what he was saying, or why...


Well, but it's on the internet now, and that's a primary source for those with a burgeoning interest in the Dhamma, as well as long-term practitioners.


Beg to differ but, for those who wield the power (in the primarily Buddhist countries (already mentioned)), and the real ability to change the status quo, it's not...there's a large chasm beween the Eastern and Western 'kingpins'...hopefully things will change, sooner rather than later...


I think that "the real ability to change the status quo" is of course in the hands of the fourfold Sangha. (Thinking here how most of the Vinaya was formed.) I can understand the massive inertia here, but stranger things have happened. It's worth spending quite a bit of time on solving these deep problems; "hopefully things will change" can only occur when people comprise the change, a fact which demands earnest personal engagement.

This ought to be part of modern Dhamma discourse, especially (but definitely not solely) among the laity.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby chownah » Mon Nov 14, 2011 1:50 am

Richard wrote:I have read the lecture, and think Gombrich makes a good point when he says that Thai and other Theravada temples in the West function primarily as ethnic cultural centers, and don't really make an effort to introduce Theravada to peoples around the world. As he says in his most recent book, Gombrich is not actually a practicing Buddhist, but he is a sympathetic scholar who wants people to live up to their religious principles. As someone noted above, the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies has good website with a number of interesting papers worth reading.
Richard

It might be good for people to undestand that Thai temples IN THAILAND have as a primary purpose to provide social centers.......the main focus of life in small Thai villages (about half of he population live in small villages or grew up in one) is the temple....all events and celebrations whether Buddhist related or not take place at the temple...community services are offered there.....if the national gov't wants to provide free blood tests to check for pesticide levels then the blood drawing will happen at the temple for instance.....just a few days ago was the Loy Kratoong festival which is not Buddist in nature and he focus of festivities was at the temple for instance....If a hail storm hits and alot of roof tiles are broken around the village and the gov't distributes free replacements the center of operations to coordinate the effort will be at the temple.......so does it come as any surprise that Thai temples overseas provide the same functions?....for me it would be surprising if they didn't.
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Nov 14, 2011 2:17 am

Greetings Chownah,

I don't think it's that those sort of things are a problem - they only become a problem where they inhibit the proliferation of the Dhamma.

For example - the nearest Theravada vihara to me (albeit still 30-40km or so away) is Sri Lankan. All the Dhamma services given are in Sinhalese only. Seeing a gap in my local area, monks from another vihara have started doing a bit of a Dhamma circuit, where they visit different locations to teach the Dhamma on a rotating schedule... but once again - Sinhalese only. The choice of language for the Dhamma talks and other services presented by both institutions underpin their intent -i.e. servicing Melbourne's Sri Lankan community (comfort) - not servicing Melbourne's potential Theravada community (challenge).

This is the kind of thing that Gombrich is speaking about - how can Theravada spread (other than via the Internet?) if "missions" to other countries aren't up for the "challenge" of disseminating the Dhamma into new domains? If they opt for "comfort", they're only ever going to be "preaching to the converted", and even then... the choice of language utilised by their institutions demonstrates quite clearly their primary purpose for being there, and it's not to extend the Dhamma out to the natives.

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby daverupa » Mon Nov 14, 2011 2:23 am

:goodpost:

chownah wrote:It might be good for people to undestand that Thai temples IN THAILAND have as a primary purpose to provide social centers


Yes; this is a problem.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Nov 14, 2011 2:37 am

daverupa wrote::goodpost:

chownah wrote:It might be good for people to undestand that Thai temples IN THAILAND have as a primary purpose to provide social centers


Yes; this is a problem.
For whom?
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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