Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

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

Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Nov 14, 2011 9:47 pm

Greetings Mike,

Not that the question was directed to me, but the intro to the following article might be a useful reminder of how things were done in the olden days...

The Buddhist Missionaries - By Ven. Dr. Rewata Dhamma, 1985
http://www.thisismyanmar.com/nibbana/mission.htm

"Go Ye, O Bhikkhus, and wander forth for the gain of the many, for the welfare of the many, in compassion for the world, for the good, for the gain, for the welfare of gods and men. Proclaim, O Bhikkhus, the Doctrine glorious, preach ye a life of holiness, perfect and pure."

This saying of the Buddha fully contained the missionary spirit. He further said:

"O Bhikkhus, don't go together two in one direction"; and because of this encouragement his disciples travelled in different directions wandering from village to village, country to country.

Two and a half centuries after the passing away of the Buddha, according to the tradition preserved in the Sri Lankan chronicles, the emperor Asoka (third century B.C.) organised a net-work of missionaries to preach the teachings of the Buddha outside India. At that time his son and daughter went to Sri Lanka to teach the Buddha-Dhamma. Also two monks named Sona and Uttara were sent to Suwanabhumi (Burma) to spread the Teachings. According to this tradition Buddhist missionaries went abroad from the third century B.C.

Buddhism was introduced to central Asia 234 years after the passing of the Buddha into Nibbana, i.e. in 240 B.C. China received Buddhism for the first time in the first century BC and within a century it was officially recognized as a religion by the state. Buddhist monks began going to China from the end of the first century B.C., and Buddhism arrived in Korea and in Japan in the fourth century A.D. and in the sixth century A.D. respectively. Tibet received the Teachings of Buddhism in the seventh century while the Buddha-Dhamma has flourished in Thailand from the first or second century A.D.

According to Chinese chronicles and archeological findings, Cambodia became a Buddhist country from the end of the fifth century A.D. A large number of inscriptions discovered in different parts of Malaysia are written in Sanskrit show that Buddhism was already flourishing in this part of Asia at this time.

From this it can be seen that these Buddhist monks travelled to many strange countries without any financial support, facing many hardships during their journeys. They did not know anything about the countries where they were going and relied only on a strong confidence in the teachings of the Buddha.

There were many religions born in India; but only Buddhism was flourishing all over Asia within a few centuries.

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: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby daverupa » Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:29 pm

mikenz66 wrote:OK, since I seem to be completely missing the point, perhaps you could explain what it is that you would like Thai, Sri Lankan, etc, Buddhists to do differently.


From the article:

Sri Lanka has recently brought to an end a civil war which lasted for more than 25 years, a whole generation, and the new government is showing alarming authoritarian tendencies. In Myanmar the central government, which has no democratic legitimacy at all, has been fighting minority populations for even longer than that, and millions of people have fled the country. Thailand of course has a far better record, but here too there has been serious civil conflict, sometimes violent, for much of the last two years; in May this year people seeking refuge in a monastery in the heart of Bangkok were killed by what some call the forces of law and order; the last military coup d’état was only 4 years ago; the far south of the country is not at peace; and there has been sabre rattling in a border dispute with a Theravādin neighbour, Kampuchea. Laos (which I know little about) has not been exactly peaceful, while poor Kampuchea under Pol Pot suffered something close to auto-genocide.


I don’t know how Thai and Burmese Buddhism came to import the notion of female impurity, but in following it they are going against the Buddha, befuddling themselves with superstition, and in the process insulting women.


In Thailand the Vinaya has been changed in a grotesque manner, so that monks may not only not touch a woman, but may not receive anything directly from a woman’s hand. This innovation applies not only to menstruating women, or to women who are of an age when they might be menstruating, but to all females from babies to centenarians. We are therefore dealing not just with a misguided ritual obsession but with true misogyny, a horror and dread of women, a fear that the slightest contact with a female is seductive and may inspire lust.


If there are women who want to restart a Sangha, why should they be stopped?


Going farther afield, what was the cause of the un-negotiated 5 point agreement placed upon the nuns at Chithurst and Amaravati monasteries? Ultimately, parochial nationalism masquerading as Buddhism.

And so on...
    "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 mikenz66 » Tue Nov 15, 2011 1:30 am

retrofuturist wrote:Not that the question was directed to me, but the intro to the following article might be a useful reminder of how things were done in the olden days...

So what has changed?

I (and a number of other people I know) learned the Dhamma from Thai and Thai-trained monks who made the journey to New Zealand.

I don't disagree that there are various changes that would be desirable in the political and religious hierarchies of various Asian countries (and various Western countries for that matter). However, I don't imagine myself as having much influence on politics in other countries and my comments in this thread related specifically to the interaction of Asian monastics with people in Western countries such as my own.

:anjali:
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Nov 15, 2011 1:50 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:I (and a number of other people I know) learned the Dhamma from Thai and Thai-trained monks who made the journey to New Zealand.

That's a good example then of what Gombrich is endorsing.

If this were the norm, however, then he would not have felt compelled to speak.

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: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby alan » Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:04 am

Totally correct. Mike's experience is a good one, but rare. And that is a shame.
Any way you slice it, there is no denying the fact that decades after the exciting developments of Buddhism making inroads on western culture there has been little progress.
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby chownah » Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:07 am

daverupa wrote: No national group is singled out by Gombrich as a more heinous example than another; the criticism is broadly applicable.

Do you think that Gombrich applies this criticism to himself? There he goes...the British Buddhist missionary going off to backwards Asia....a place so primitive that they lack the zeal to go out and convert heathens to the path which is something that western religionists had perfected long long ago (witness the long history of eupropean religiosity)....and selflessly challenges them to get their act together and start that converting....he does his best to convert them to the doctrine of conversion and he does it in English, not in the language of the region......after which her retires to the comfort of his bastion in the civilized land of Engle. (My words here but I'm thinking that this very well might be a charicature of how many Thais might view it.)

Oh!!!! English was the correct choice you say because it is the most widely understood language? Please don't tell this to Gombrich because if this idea is implanted in his head then for the next conference he will come back and insist that all monks everywhere speak English as a requirement for ordination.....British English....none of that ruffian american jive talk allowed....
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:16 am

Greetings,

alan wrote:What we need is a leader. Someone who can speak with authority, and focus the message effectively.

Yes, the Buddha.

:buddha2:

Moreover, it would seem we need people who can learn and actualize the Buddha's teachings and help others to do the same.

There are so many fruitless and confounding divisions which could be dissolved if the Dhamma were to be framed in terms of Buddhavacana wherever possible, rather than by way of sectarian doctrine, nationalism or mysticism.

Sure - people will ask, "What would Buddha have said about (such-and-such thing not known of 2500 years ago)?" and expect answers to their questions, but extrapolation and conjecture should be kept to a minimum.

Adding bits and pieces of one's own Dhamma here and there, becoming a celebrity Buddhist, setting oneself on fire (either literally or as per the Fire Sermon), grandstanding, becoming a teller of jokes etc. all evolve into the "cult of the individual" rather than a bhikkhu being a humble and actualized representative of the Buddha and the Sangha. There's enough warnings in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta about that particular course of action and what the Buddha would make of it.

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: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby alan » Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:26 am

Yay! Love that. And I hope that will become the basis for further action.

What we have is an old, leaking ship. It has made the voyage but has not yet docked and fully delivered the goods. It is listing, and it is rudderless. The crew can't decide what to do about it, and some have decided to swim ashore and see what happens.
The problem is that our ship is carrying precious cargo. We need to see that it is delivered.
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby chownah » Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:57 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,

Not that the question was directed to me, but the intro to the following article might be a useful reminder of how things were done in the olden days...

The Buddhist Missionaries - By Ven. Dr. Rewata Dhamma, 1985
http://www.thisismyanmar.com/nibbana/mission.htm

"Go Ye, O Bhikkhus, and wander forth for the gain of the many, for the welfare of the many, in compassion for the world, for the good, for the gain, for the welfare of gods and men. Proclaim, O Bhikkhus, the Doctrine glorious, preach ye a life of holiness, perfect and pure."

This saying of the Buddha fully contained the missionary spirit. He further said:

"O Bhikkhus, don't go together two in one direction"; and because of this encouragement his disciples travelled in different directions wandering from village to village, country to country.



Back in those days the world was empty of Buddhism except for a tiny region near where the Buddha lived. It was a great strategy and seems to have worked pretty well in that now Buddhism is probably in every country. Back in those days the only way to spread the Dhamma was monks.....today the internet can be accessed by almost everyone not that it is a substitute for monks across the board but familiarity with basic concepts (at least) can be had on the internet. I like to think that I have a practice that is somewhat consistent with what the Buddha taught (perhaps I am completely delusional in thinking this....whatever) and I have never relied on the physical presence of a monk for learning the Dhamma in my life.
What was the Buddha's method for prosletyzing.....it seems to me that mostly he traveled from place to place and just did his daily personal maintenance and then just sat and taught to whoever came to learn. He let it be known (through himself and/or monks)that there was a new religion around and that people could come and learn about it. When people wanted to learn he taught. I think that most Thai temples provide much the same function....if people express an interest in learning then the monks will do what they can to teach.....
Also....this idea that no two should go the same way is a bit bizarre.....it does not allow for ordination......shouldn't he have instructed them to go out in groups of five (or ten in certain places) if he had really wanted to find converts?
chownah
P.S. I think it is good if we all remember that most of the discussion here is concerning one small part of Gombrich's talk when I think that he really wanted people to focus on what they could do about a host of issues.......my view is that the correct mechanism for addressing the host of issues he raises is found with the lay people....not the monks. The monks have the job of running the temple and teaching the Dhamma...they should not alienate anyone and anyone regardless of their stand on any issue should feel comfortable in going to the monks to learn....if monks take sides in disputes then some people will be put off and not even consider going to the temple to learn...the people have the job of putting the Dhamma into practice for worldly issues...not the monks....................all my views....
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:12 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:I (and a number of other people I know) learned the Dhamma from Thai and Thai-trained monks who made the journey to New Zealand.

That's a good example then of what Gombrich is endorsing.

If this were the norm, however, then he would not have felt compelled to speak.

I see it as the norm. The Dhamma is available if people make an effort.

Expecting Asian Buddhists to change the way they are organised to cater for Western ideas seems a bit far-fetched to me. If Westerners want their own version of Buddhism it's really up to them to organise it. Which is what I see the Ajahn Chah students doing.

:anjali:
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby Ben » Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:26 am

mikenz66 wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:I (and a number of other people I know) learned the Dhamma from Thai and Thai-trained monks who made the journey to New Zealand.

That's a good example then of what Gombrich is endorsing.

If this were the norm, however, then he would not have felt compelled to speak.

I see it as the norm. The Dhamma is available if people make an effort.

Expecting Asian Buddhists to change the way they are organised to cater for Western ideas seems a bit far-fetched to me. If Westerners want their own version of Buddhism it's really up to them to organise it. Which is what I see the Ajahn Chah students doing.

:anjali:
Mike


Well said, Mike.
I thought you made another excellent point earlier:
Also bear in mind that "community" is actually very useful part of successful Dhamma practice

If I may...I would say that its not only useful - but essential.

Personally, I feel a very heavy debt of gratitude for the monastic and lay sangha in Asia who maintained the Buddhadhamma for the last two and half thousand years. Without which, none of us would have received the word of the Buddha.
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
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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: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby Mr Man » Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:36 am

O/T Is Richard Gombrich a Buddhist?
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby Ben » Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:44 am

Richard doesn't say he's a Buddhist. But his credentials are impressive:

Richard Francis Gombrich (born 17 July 1937) is a British Indologist and scholar of Sanskrit, Pāli, and Buddhist Studies. He acted as the Boden Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Oxford from 1976 to 2004. He is currently Founder-President of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. He is a past President of the Pali Text Society (1994–2002) and General Editor Emeritus of the Clay Sanskrit Library.
-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Gombrich
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: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:46 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:If Westerners want their own version of Buddhism it's really up to them to organise it.

So you favour Buddhism being demarcated by race and/or nationality, then?

:shock:

I must say - in light of the Buddha's injunction to the Sangha in the post at the top of this page, I'm surprised at such non-universality. The Buddha didn't differentiate, other than to say "gods and men".

He said....

"Go Ye, O Bhikkhus, and wander forth for the gain of the many, for the welfare of the many, in compassion for the world, for the good, for the gain, for the welfare of gods and men. Proclaim, O Bhikkhus, the Doctrine glorious, preach ye a life of holiness, perfect and pure."

not...

"Go Ye, O Bhikkhus, and wander forth for the gain of your countrymen, for the welfare of those who look like you, in compassion for the local community, for the good, for the gain, for the welfare of a select few. Proclaim, O Bhikkhus, the Doctrine of our country, preach ye a life of partiality, discrimination and exclusion."

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: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:54 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:If Westerners want their own version of Buddhism it's really up to them to organise it.

So you favour Buddhism being demarcated by race and/or nationality, then?
Mike's statement is made in this context: "Expecting Asian Buddhists to change the way they are organised to cater for Western ideas seems a bit far-fetched to me."

:shock:
What is shocking is the expectations that Thais, Burmese and others meet our Western expectations of how things should be done.
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.

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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:56 am

Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:meet our Western expectations of how things should be done.

Not Western expectations... the Buddha's expectations.

Westerners didn't write the suttas.

:buddha1:

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: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby Ben » Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:58 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:meet our Western expectations of how things should be done.

Not Western expectations... the Buddha's expectations.

Westerners didn't write the suttas.

:buddha1:

Metta,
Retro. :)


I wonder, Retro, how is Dhamma Wheel any different to a branch of a Thai Wat in Australia or New Zealand?
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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Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:59 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:meet our Western expectations of how things should be done.

Not Western expectations... the Buddha's expectations.
And you now speak for the Buddha? You are still missing the point of what Mike said

Westerners didn't write the suttas.
No they certainly did not, but they certainly do read them through the lenses of their Western Cultural upbringing.
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.

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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Nov 15, 2011 9:01 am

Greetings Ben,

Ben wrote:I wonder, Retro, how is Dhamma Wheel any different to a branch of a Thai Wat in Australia or New Zealand?

Perhaps you could explain the rationale behind this rather vague comparison? I don't understand what it's getting at.

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: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Nov 15, 2011 9:08 am

Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:And you now speak for the Buddha?

The Buddha can do that perfectly well himself...

Go ye now, O Bhikkhus, and wander, for the gain of the many, for the welfare of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, for the gain, and for the welfare of gods and men, Let not two of you go the same way, Preach, O Bhikkhus, the doctrine which is glorious in the beginning, glorious in the middle, glorious at the end, in the spirit and in the letter; proclaim a consummate, perfect, and pure life of holiness. There are beings whose mental eyes are covered by scarcely any dust, but if the doctrine is not preached to them, they cannot attain salvation. They will understand the doctrine. And I will go also, O Bhikkhus, to Uruvelâ, to Senâninigama, in order to preach the doctrine.'

Source: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/sbe13/sbe1312.htm

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!

Oh these naughty Westerners, placing the Buddha's word above national allegience, local culture and the ways of the world. :roll:

tiltbillings wrote:What is shocking is the expectations that Thais, Burmese and others meet our Western expectations of how things should be done.

:strawman:

Sometimes Buddhavacana is awfully inconvenient to some.

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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