cultural differences and teaching

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

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Freawaru » Sat Mar 27, 2010 9:09 am

PeterB wrote:Does this differ from the habitual identifications made by western Buddhists Freawaru ?
I would suggest only in kind, not in degree.


Exactly. Thus it might be necessary to reconsider some techniques that work in one culture but not in the other.
Freawaru
 
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Freawaru » Sat Mar 27, 2010 9:31 am

Hi again, :smile:

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Freawaru,
Freawaru wrote:I think I would take years to learn how to bow and say "yes" while thinking "you have no idea" and still regard the teacher in question with respect (in the German sense, I mean). With politeness, yes, but not respect. And politeness is just not enough to learn from a teacher. Does anybody have a solution to this problem?

This seems a bit hypothetical. If you think a teacher has "no idea", why would you continue to interact with him/her?


I wouldn't - and a very "western" reaction it would be, right? I mean, I could be wrong....

Also, you seem to be making an assumption that all of the adaption is going to occur on one side (the Western). Asians are capable of seeing through cultural differences too...

Mike


You know some conditionings are very hard to see through and respect (in the Thai sense) is one of them - for the Thais I mean. We have been discussing "Anna and the King of Siam" for, what?, half a year or so on the internet and the best results were that some Thais accepted that the insult was not intended on the western side - and this only in those Thais who had intense and prolonged contact with the western culture (such as living in one for several years). The very idea that westerners don't have the concept of respect is unthinkable to most and there were very, very few who were willing to even consider western concepts such as poetic licence. Too much emotion. And this was just a movie! Respect to Buddha, respect to Dhamma, respect to Vinaya - who can detach from one's own conditioning and emotional responses to consider that neither Buddha nor Dhamma nor Vinaya are about respect in the first place?
Freawaru
 
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Freawaru » Sat Mar 27, 2010 9:45 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Oh, I definitely agree that it is a worthwhile topic, but just wanted to be careful about defining the parameters, so to speak.


i don't know much about the Chinese culture (well, I like martial arts movies and the cuisine and things like that but nothing really deep). I only know about the "respect" problem because my Thai friend and me had so many discussions about it and the issue with the "Anna and the King of Siam" story. Do you know wether the Chinese have artistic licence in their culture (or something similar to the Thai respect at that?)

Well, this is a another major difference between Thai, and Chinese, for example. In China, there are more bhiksus than bhiksunis, by a large difference in some places. Most places in China, esp. in the more rural PRoC, the higher status is still given to the bhiksus, but NOBODY is saying that there should not be a bhiksuni tradition or anything even remotely close.

And, this is even pretty much the case for Chinese women who take Dharmagupta ordination, but effectively train with Theravada teachings (whether Nikayan or Agama). The rest of the lay and monastic communities have no problem at all with accepting them as bhikkhunis.


Thank you for your observations :smile:
Freawaru
 
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Mar 27, 2010 9:50 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Freawaru wrote:Are you sure this is not just due to the fact that westerners have less body-awareness in general and thus the breath (or nostrils) are more difficult objects to focus on than for people from at least some Asian cultures? It is my observation that using focus on auditive signals such as music or mantra leads to access concentration with relative ease in the case of westerners. And for jhana the object of focus to reach access concentration is irrelevant.


I think it's because they know how to relax and let go, they are not constantly striving to make something happen as we do.

i think the average Asian is about equal to the average westerner as to whether or not they'll be any good at meditation or not.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
User avatar
jcsuperstar
 
Posts: 1915
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:15 am
Location: alaska

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Freawaru » Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:01 am

jcsuperstar wrote:just to add something about pi. pe .pee how ever you want to spell it, it means older sibling, younger sibling is nong. everyone in thai society is pretty much either a pi or nong.


As far as I understood it one is both, depending on whom one communicates with. A bit like we are son or daughter to our parents and mother or father to our children. But it goes deeper than that. I recall I asked my friend what a Thai does if he or she does not know the age of someone they just met. The answer was that one has to do everything possible to get out of this awkward situation. It is more easy in a group - in this case one can pay attention to how the others address this person and because one know who is pe and who is nong to oneself one finally finds out.

monks would be luang pi- venerable brother and older monks' luang por- venerable father, older than that you have luang ta venerable grandfather.
thai people pretty much know their status in society and act accordingly. it's about respect.


Yes, but respect in this sense does not exist in the West. Can you describe the reason why it is so important in Thailand?
Freawaru
 
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Freawaru » Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:07 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote:Thai people pretty much know their status in society and act accordingly. it's about respect.

...and when they don't know, they ask.


Indeed. Can lead to awkward situation with Westerners. In my culture it is not considered polite to ask the age of a woman.

I was amused during my (only) visit to Thailand by their need to know my age - which turned out to be a 'place in society' question: all else being equal, the younger of two people interacting should show respect to the older.
As a democratic, egalitarian Aussie I tended to sidestep the issue. :shrug: It might have seemed important to them but I never wanted it to shape the relationship.

:namaste:
Kim


A typical western reaction. I felt strange about it at first, too, until I realized that I had no idea what this was all about.
Freawaru
 
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Mar 27, 2010 7:49 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:I think it's because they know how to relax and let go, they are not constantly striving to make something happen as we do.

i think the average Asian is about equal to the average westerner as to whether or not they'll be any good at meditation or not.[/quote]

We weren't discussing whether they were good at meditation or not but whether they could achieve jhana. One can be very good at meditation and never achieve jhana simply because one is not interested in achieving jhana and is practicing an insight oriented technique.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
User avatar
Goofaholix
 
Posts: 1874
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Mar 27, 2010 8:20 pm

Freawaru wrote:Hi again, :smile:
Hi Freawaru,
mikenz66 wrote:Hi Freawaru,
Freawaru wrote:I think I would take years to learn how to bow and say "yes" while thinking "you have no idea" and still regard the teacher in question with respect (in the German sense, I mean). With politeness, yes, but not respect. And politeness is just not enough to learn from a teacher. Does anybody have a solution to this problem?

This seems a bit hypothetical. If you think a teacher has "no idea", why would you continue to interact with him/her?

I wouldn't - and a very "western" reaction it would be, right? I mean, I could be wrong....

I don't think it's particularly Western. Thai people are quite good at making the views felt in indirect ways.

And they certainly are not shy about complaining about people they don't like when they get a chance.

I think you might be confusing the surface stuff with how things really work.

Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10139
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Mar 28, 2010 3:06 am

Goofaholix wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote:I think it's because they know how to relax and let go, they are not constantly striving to make something happen as we do.

i think the average Asian is about equal to the average westerner as to whether or not they'll be any good at meditation or not.


We weren't discussing whether they were good at meditation or not but whether they could achieve jhana. One can be very good at meditation and never achieve jhana simply because one is not interested in achieving jhana and is practicing an insight oriented technique.[/quote]
this hasnt been my experience either.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
User avatar
jcsuperstar
 
Posts: 1915
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:15 am
Location: alaska

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Freawaru » Mon Mar 29, 2010 9:01 am

Hi Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:I don't think it's particularly Western. Thai people are quite good at making the views felt in indirect ways.

And they certainly are not shy about complaining about people they don't like when they get a chance.


Oh, I didn't want to imply that the Thais are not good at this. In my experience they know what they want and how to get it. In fact it is my impression that in some regards they know this better than the Germans who tend to follow their traditional views even when they are against common sense or political correctness at that. My impression due to that discussion about "Anna and the king" story was that the Thais are quite outspoken about their views. Guess I think of the Thais as more "western" than the Germans in this regard - and yes, I am aware of the irony of it.

No, what I referred to was this observation that I heard already several times and also from Asians:

Goofaholix wrote:I think how they approach practice is different also. Westerners want to understand, define, categorise, compare, and contrast, and so we have endless discussions on the Internet about whether this or that teaching is true, whether this or that is correct doctrine etc.

Asians don't approach it that way, they just accept the teaching as best they understand it and trust their teachers and get on with it. Of course this has lead to a lot of superstitions getting in there and the vast majority of Asian Buddhist aren't so much interested in practiciong the path to awakening but I'm not talking about them. I think practice oriented Asians generally just accept the teaching as best they understand it and trust their teachers and get on with it.


Coming back to the question of how to teach what: According to Ajahn Sucitto

Like paying respect, this separation is emphasised in monastic life.


"Paying respect" in the Thai way is emphasised in monastic life. Also for Westerners? How could this work as westerners have no idea about respect. What is the use of emphasising something unknown? As far as I understand it in Thai Theravada "respect" is part of the training (both lay and ordained) and I suspect there is a reason for it. But could this part of the training work for Westerners? Dunno, but when I look at the Thais when they "pay respect" it just looks completely different than when the Westerners do it. It is ... how can I put it ... aware, focused, full of something not completely dissimilar from pride, beautiful, at peace with the universe ... something along those lines. But the Westerners make it look like an exercise in the gym. Maybe I am wrong but this is my impression so far: there is something missing when the westerners do it and if this "something" is part of the training the training just won't work for Westerners as for Thai.

So what I would like to know is what *exactly* is conveyed and trained by "paying respect" in the Thai sense and to find something similar to replace it in my culture.
Freawaru
 
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Mar 29, 2010 9:48 am

Freawaru wrote:"Paying respect" in the Thai way is emphasised in monastic life. Also for Westerners? How could this work as westerners have no idea about respect. What is the use of emphasising something unknown? As far as I understand it in Thai Theravada "respect" is part of the training (both lay and ordained) and I suspect there is a reason for it. But could this part of the training work for Westerners? Dunno, but when I look at the Thais when they "pay respect" it just looks completely different than when the Westerners do it. It is ... how can I put it ... aware, focused, full of something not completely dissimilar from pride, beautiful, at peace with the universe ... something along those lines. But the Westerners make it look like an exercise in the gym. Maybe I am wrong but this is my impression so far: there is something missing when the westerners do it and if this "something" is part of the training the training just won't work for Westerners as for Thai.


Huh?!?!

Sorry, I really cannot agree with these comments at all!
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.
Paññāsikhara
 
Posts: 980
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 5:27 am

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Freawaru » Mon Mar 29, 2010 10:13 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Freawaru wrote:"Paying respect" in the Thai way is emphasised in monastic life. Also for Westerners? How could this work as westerners have no idea about respect. What is the use of emphasising something unknown? As far as I understand it in Thai Theravada "respect" is part of the training (both lay and ordained) and I suspect there is a reason for it. But could this part of the training work for Westerners? Dunno, but when I look at the Thais when they "pay respect" it just looks completely different than when the Westerners do it. It is ... how can I put it ... aware, focused, full of something not completely dissimilar from pride, beautiful, at peace with the universe ... something along those lines. But the Westerners make it look like an exercise in the gym. Maybe I am wrong but this is my impression so far: there is something missing when the westerners do it and if this "something" is part of the training the training just won't work for Westerners as for Thai.


Huh?!?!

Sorry, I really cannot agree with these comments at all!


As I said: maybe I am wrong. After all I have not seen all Thai and all Westerners do it ...
Freawaru
 
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Chloe9 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:40 am

This is a very interesting subject, one which I have been talking about and debating over recently. I didn't realize I stumbled upon a "Western" Buddhist forum [meaning that most Theravadins here are of Western descent]. I've never known or had a dialogue with a Westerner who is a Theravadin. Most Americans [I live in California] here who are Buddhists are more into the Tibetan stuff or even the various schools of Mahayana.

First about Asian vs. Westerner on who is better at Jhana. I don't believe one's melanin count and eye shape has anything to do with one's ability/capability to practice/achieve jhana, samadhi, etc. I believe mastery of meditation, vipassana, and so on is based on a person's inner condition/state-of-Mind. If one has learned or cultivated the Will and art of Taming or Controlling one's own Mind. Mastery of one's Mind takes time as it is not an inherent/default function of the human Mind, or rather, it is not a default function of beta wave consciousness.

For example if we take two teenage people and two 50 year old people and see which age group can meditate and concentrate better than the other, we can reasonably deduce that the 50 year olds - no matter what their ethnicity is - would win, because of the fact that Consciousness [chitta] - like a flowing river - is in a constant state of movement, evolution, growth, and self awareness. Thus the teenagers' Chitta is not in the right default condition for stillness and silence :) We've all been teens before I assume.

The difference would be in outer factors and in general Dhukka [here meaning Worry and Unpleasantness] a person is experiencing in his/her life. It would be reasonable to assume that the more heartache and worry a person has - no matter the ethnicity - the less stillness and Sukkha [here meaning Peace, and Pleasantness] the Mind experiences. If the Mind is lost in Unpeace, and mental worry, it cannot think or concentrate on anything but such things that causes Dukkha - which is born from a fixation or attachment of Consciousness - Concentration - on the "wrong" things.

As for the other topics in this thread, I have direct experience - being raised in a Traditional Khmer family - to offer an "Asian" perspective and apprehension of things.

When I talk to the bikkhus and Bikkhunis in my own life [who are my own relatives] I pay the same amount of social respect to them as I would any of my civilian elders. We [Khmer] don't call monks "Venerable Brother," as the Thais do. We call them "Lok Ta" which. "Lok" means a "Sir" or maybe "Reverend," and "Ta" means Grand Father. We call the Bikkunis "Yay-ji." "Yay" in Khmer means a Grand Mother, and I don't know what "Ji/Gee/Chee" means.

It's so weird because I never realized the Yay-jis were "nuns" until a few years ago when I began studying Theravada Buddhism where I keep on running into the word "Nun" beings used? And I couldn't figure out what the text and writing were talking about because I've never seen a lady in a saffron robe before? All I've ever seen were the Bikkhunis who in my family and at our Wats are just old ladies who shave their hair and dress in all white. I asked my family what those Yay-jis are, and they just tell me that they are old ladies who take vows and live at the Wat to collect "good karma" for the next life.

Anyways. When we do go to a Wat where the monks are not related to us, then the respect is really given. By this I mean that we can't speak to them with our register of Khmer, we have to use a very different register of Khmer that has more Sanskrit and Pali words, which only the old ladies in my family seem to know how to speak. And there are other things you have to observe such as never sitting with your head above a monk's, or when you approach a monk you have to "Lune" which means to walk on your knees with your head lowered, and then you "Sapi Soo-ah" or "Crabtool" them which is when you claps your hand and prostrate to the floor 3 times.

I go to the Wat a lot with my grandmas so I pick up words they use in the sacerdotal register. For instance, when you want to say "I Greet You," you have to say: "Kana/Gana Twai Onkhum Lok." Kana is the sacerdotal register for "I/me," "Twai-onkhum" means to greet a monk or royal person. Kana also means "Yes." "Chan," means "to eat" when talking with a monk. Then when they refer to themselves they say: "Atma," instead of Kana or the low register "knyom" [me in common Khmer].

I didn't know what an "Atma" was. I always thought it just mean "me" for monks. But recently from my studies, I dis-covered that Atma is the Sanskrit word for Self/Soul. In Pali it is "Atta." This then presents a small problem: Anatta, which is the teaching/doctrine of Non-Self, states that that the Brahmanistic meme of Atma/Atta/Self/Soul is a reific [reification being the logical fallacy of treating something Abstract for something concrete/real] illusion. But yet every monk in Cambodia [at least] when speaking their register uses the term Atma to refer to themSelves. But this can be a topic for another time :)

In my own Theravada Culture, asking for a persons age to try and figure out "where" they fit into context to our social order, has nothing to do with "respect" per se. It has to do with the fundamental Essence of the Third Jewel of Buddhism which many Westerners forget: Sangha [sangham saranam gecchami]. To be a "Buddhist" one must take refuge in all 3 Jewels. What is exactly meant by "sangha?"

Sangha refers to 2 things: 1) Bikkhu-Sangha, and 2) Ariya-Sangha. The Bikkhu Sangha is the Order of monks and nuns who teaches Dhamma to the people. Dhamma is useless in text format, and is useless if all one does is recite, argue, debate, and study it. Dhamma must be a Way of Life: a Praxis. It must be translated from theory and principle into Action in daily Life. The Ariya-Sangha is the "vehicle" in which Dhamma is executed. Ariya Sangha refers to all the men and women who take refuge in the 3 Jewels and who seek Sama-Sambuddhi, which in Southeast Asian countries like Cambodia and Thailand means virtually everybody. It is through your family, your clan, your community, via your behaviour, your relationships, your interactions, that Dhamma is expressed as a way of Life in our Culture(s).

If as a Buddhist I believe in the cessation of Dukkha, whose Dukkha must I then relieve and help comfort if not people I see in real life: my Community [sangha], beginning with Family. This idea/concept is so important in our Culture that this way of life IS our Buddh-ism. As opposed to a Buddhism grasped/apprehended via texts and writings.

In the social class that my family belongs to [upper], this concept of "oneness of sangha" is so important that we aren't allowed to use personal pronouns when we speak to our family members [in our register at least]. Only peasants, the barbaric, and uncultured people use pronouns [I, you, he, she]. This is because pronouns creates an emotional and psychological condition of SEPARATION. Meaning that one person is automatically an "I," and the other is a "you" thus there is no Relation. I's and You's don't exist in Sangha: broherhood/sisterhood/community.

All of us in my family are raise in this culture where personal pronouns are as vulgar as cuss words. You can get into serious trouble if you call your mom or grandma a "you," or a "she." We use what we are to each other as pronouns instead. So for example if I wanted to ask my mom to drive me to the mall, I would literally ask her: "Can the Mother take the Daughter to the Mall, please?" Or if I wanted to ask a boy cousin older than me I would have to say: "Can the older brother take the little sister to the mall?" This is only in our register.

People from my social class use this same way of talking and referring to anybody out side out family, which is also common practice. Every body old is a grandma or grandpa. Everybody your father's age is an uncle. Everybody your mom's age is an auntie. Everybody your age is a sibling.

This culture of using familial titles as pronouns conditions your Mind [our language we think in defines our reality and weltanschauung: how we see and interpret the world] to "see", feel, and understand that everybody is closely related to you and are family.

So when you are born and raised with your Mind saturated in this culture where everybody you meet is family, you are in Heart open to everybody as a family member. You automatically pay your respects to all old people, and you automatically are conditioned and opened to loving, caring, and helping everybody. Thus, Dhamma through this Culture, Flows through our relations, interactions, and actions with everybody. In our Culture Buddhism is not an -ism, not a religion, not something you study or read. It is how you live and what you do and are to everyone around you.

So if and when we do ask for a "Westerner's" age it has nothing to do with "respect" or "disrespect." It is just our attempt to bring you into, or emotionally include you into our Living Cultural Buddhism's Sangha: Community/Family. And if your are going to be included into this Family, you will need a title of some kind. Knowing your age, helps us figure out if you are a Sibling [Bong and Pa-on], an young aunt/uncle (Mieng and Mia) [younger then our mother/father], and older aunt/uncle (Om srey and Om pros) [older aunt/uncle], or a Yay or Ta.

Referring to someone as a "you" - in the class culture that I come from - is like calling them a cuss word. I personally had a hard time when I first went to grade school because I didn't know what to call my teacher when I spoke to her. Because when I used the word "You" with her it makes me feel like I have done something bad, and that I want nothing to do with her as a person. It's like me saying: "Ok, you're you, and I'm Me, and we have nothing to do with each other, so stay out of my life."

When you're born and raise in a culture where pronouns don't exist, it hurts very bad and it makes you cry when your mom yells at you and instead of using the word "Daughter" to refer to you she uses "You," because it makes you feel as if she wants nothing to do with you. You feel a division where there was no division or feeling of separateness before. I can't explain it really.

So this is my main contention with Buddhism spreading in the West. I think it's a wonderful and beautiful thing, but it's spreading "backwards" into the Occident, with the wrong End first. And I mean no disrespect by this, nor do I mean that one group is a better Buddhist then another. By this I mean that Dhamma in the form of textual writings goes first, the Buddha goes in second, and Sangha can't be found anywhere. Because of this backwards spreading, the Western Buddhist knows more about Buddhism, as it is on paper and writing, than the general Asian Buddhist, who have never seen a Tipitaka or read a single verse.

Some Westerners may ask me: "Well, how can you be a Buddhist if you are ignorant of the Buddha's written teachings, if you're so smart?" To which I may answer: "Because it's a Living Culture and Tradition thousands of years old. It's embedded in our languages and ethnic identity. It's who we live our lives and how we live for others. Because Buddhism is our family, our mothers, aunties, and grandmothers. Because Dhamma has had centuries in areas like this to jump out of text to become living praxis. And because: What did the Buddha read to achieve Sambuddhi?

By Sangha not being anywhere I don't mean a lack of Western bikkhus. I mean that people in the West are very Individualized. Families are even commonly described as being "dysfunctional." People don't even like each other enough here in California to smile at each other when walking past each other on the street. Taking the bus here in California is a mental trip in sociology. Everybody on the bus has some strange "leave-me-alone" force field around them and don't even look at each other. Everybody has their face buried in their lap-tops, iPhones, and iPod earbud in their ears. There is a feel of great emotional and psychological distance between two people, even if you are seated right next to them.

My other contention is related to my first contention. There is actually no such thing as the suffix -"ism" in Khmer, Thai, Pali, or Sanskrit denoting a book based religion. It's called PreahPut Sasna; or Buddhadhamma. Sasna means an Instruction, or set of orders to be followed. Dhamma doesn't really mean a religion.

Many Westerners apprehend Buddh-ism like they learn Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. They approach it with this conditioned state of mind of grasping for written text and reading, and contemplating on the meaning, and when they talk about Buddhism with other Occidental Minds, they argue and debate their interpretations and understandings of what they have read with each other. There's like a tug of war game where everyone is pulling and tugging on dead letters, dead, words, and written text, to see whose got the greatest, biggest, and most stupendous interpretation and understanding, as if the written text is going to Enlighten them. They forget that the Buddha never read the Tipitakas :) But yet he was Enlightened. And for 200-300 years after the Buddha's Tra [when he mortally expired] the Tipitakas weren't yet written, so how were the early Buddhists, Buddhists without written texts, debates, arguments, and literary chest beating contests?

I'm not saying that Occidental Buddhism is wrong. It is imbalanced. Too left brained, too book and text based.

But at the same time, being from the Orient, I can honestly say that what we may call "Oriental Buddhism" is also imbalanced. Too right brained, and ethereal. No lay person that I know in my family and Culture - who are devout Theravadins - knows what the Buddha and his Disciples taught as is written in the Tipitakas beyond the 5 precepts. It's so Life oriented that nobody besides monks has read anything.

I hope that someday, "Eastern" and "Western" Buddhism can merge to give birth to something balanced: a Buddhism that is a Way of Life, that is Community oriented, and also a Buddhism that is knowledgeable in its own written aspects and texts.

I prolly rambled off topic.
Last edited by Chloe9 on Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
“Do not believe in anything because you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observing and analysis, when you find anything that agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all then accept it and live up to it.” – Buddha (Anguttara Nikaya, Vol1, 188-193)
User avatar
Chloe9
 
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:59 pm
Location: California, USA

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Dan74 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:55 am

:goodpost: and I've heard some similar comments before, in particular from a Sri Lankan friend. They are generalisations of course, but there is some important truth to them, I think. To what extent they apply, each one of us should examine him or herself. It has certainly been true of me.
_/|\_
User avatar
Dan74
 
Posts: 2617
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:32 am

Hi Chloe,

Thanks for the interesting post. It brings up some useful points. As far as I can grasp the no-pronoun thing is standard Thai as well (not just Hi-So, either, most of the Thai I know are not...).

Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10139
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Apr 28, 2010 6:12 am

Great post, Chloe :smile:
Can I just comment on one section?
You said, "So this is my main contention with Buddhism spreading in the West. I think it's a wonderful and beautiful thing, but it's spreading "backwards" into the Occident, with the wrong End first. And I mean no disrespect by this, nor do I mean that one group is a better Buddhist then another. By this I mean that Dhamma in the form of textual writings goes first, the Buddha goes in second, and Sangha can't be found anywhere."

I agree that it has happened the way you say, but I don't think it could have been any other way.
With just a few Westerners interested in the teachings and coming to it later in life instead of growing up with it, there was no possibility of beginning with a religious community. The first few people in each city had to learn it from books and the occasional visiting teacher, then practice alone until they met others to practice with, and then establish community (meditation) centres to begin making a community. It will be a very long time before most Westerners grow up with Buddhism as a normal part of their culture, or even a normal minority choice within their culture. But at least we do have the chance to learn about the dhamma - previous generations of Westerners didn't have that chance.

Afterthought (two minutes later!): Is it really 'backwards'?
It does mean that we are making a conscious choice to follow the dhamma and know what we are committing ourselves to, and that we are likely to seek a reasonably good grasp of the teachings. And isn't that the way the Buddha's own disciples must have approached it?
:meditate:


:namaste:
Kim
User avatar
Kim OHara
 
Posts: 3009
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Chloe9 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 7:34 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:Great post, Chloe :smile:
Can I just comment on one section?
You said, "So this is my main contention with Buddhism spreading in the West. I think it's a wonderful and beautiful thing, but it's spreading "backwards" into the Occident, with the wrong End first. And I mean no disrespect by this, nor do I mean that one group is a better Buddhist then another. By this I mean that Dhamma in the form of textual writings goes first, the Buddha goes in second, and Sangha can't be found anywhere."

I agree that it has happened the way you say, but I don't think it could have been any other way.
With just a few Westerners interested in the teachings and coming to it later in life instead of growing up with it, there was no possibility of beginning with a religious community. The first few people in each city had to learn it from books and the occasional visiting teacher, then practice alone until they met others to practice with, and then establish community (meditation) centres to begin making a community. It will be a very long time before most Westerners grow up with Buddhism as a normal part of their culture, or even a normal minority choice within their culture. But at least we do have the chance to learn about the dhamma - previous generations of Westerners didn't have that chance.

Afterthought (two minutes later!): Is it really 'backwards'?
It does mean that we are making a conscious choice to follow the dhamma and know what we are committing ourselves to, and that we are likely to seek a reasonably good grasp of the teachings. And isn't that the way the Buddha's own disciples must have approached it?
:meditate:


:namaste:
Kim



Thank you Kim :) [and everybody else],

You're right, I shouldn't have used the word "backwards." It conveys a very bad meaning and quality. How do I explain how I see things?

I'm using generalizations, but the generalized difference between East and West in regards to Buddhism [as I see it, which is only one of many different perspectives] is where our Minds are attached to or fixated on, and the Cause and Effect results of such fixation of awareness.

By this I mean that - generally speaking - in Khmer Theravada Buddhism on a social laity level we our minds is more fixated on DOING Dhamma. And from that doing via our actions and how we live for one another Ariya Sangha is born.

Sangha [here meaning the Order/Community of laity] is only the visible symptom of a Cause: the cause being an awareness or focus of mind on doing Dhamma or expressing it thru action to the people around us, you see?

Whereas - generally speaking - in the West the Mind is more aware of or fixated on the STUDY of Dhamma. And from this Study of Dhamma, such Minds do develop insightfully and intellectually, but when Mind is fixated on Study and not Doing, the visible symptom of such fixation will not be Sangha, you see?

Backwards was not the right word. But the presents of a "religious community" being first established "somewhere" is not the causal fruit of a study or philosophication or intellectualization of Dhamma. Sangha as in Community - or rather: the Essence, Ethos, Elan of Community - is the causal fruit of living Dhamma and doing dhamma with people around you. And from that Ethos grows Sangha when Dhamma is reciprocated and Flows between people. But It looks like you figured this point out first already :) !
“Do not believe in anything because you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observing and analysis, when you find anything that agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all then accept it and live up to it.” – Buddha (Anguttara Nikaya, Vol1, 188-193)
User avatar
Chloe9
 
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:59 pm
Location: California, USA

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Apr 28, 2010 7:52 am

It's all right, Chloe, I do understand and (mostly) agree with what you are saying, and I certainly didn't take your 'backwards' as being in any way critical or negative.
:namaste:
Kim
User avatar
Kim OHara
 
Posts: 3009
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby Freawaru » Wed Apr 28, 2010 11:39 am

Hello Chloe,

thank you for your insights into your culture. :smile:

Chloe9 wrote:By this I mean that - generally speaking - in Khmer Theravada Buddhism on a social laity level we our minds is more fixated on DOING Dhamma. And from that doing via our actions and how we live for one another Ariya Sangha is born.

Sangha [here meaning the Order/Community of laity] is only the visible symptom of a Cause: the cause being an awareness or focus of mind on doing Dhamma or expressing it thru action to the people around us, you see?


I can't speak for America but here in Germany this aspect is already covered by Christianity. Especially the Lutheran church is mainly about how to do good to your neighbour. How to help those in need. How to be a whole family and community/parish . How to tend to the old and help the young to develop as best as possible. How to be tolerant. Thus people who are mainly interested in this go to church as the cultural and social background for it is already well established and traditional.
Freawaru
 
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: cultural differences and teaching

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Apr 29, 2010 10:39 pm

Hi Freawaru,
Freawaru wrote:
Chloe9 wrote:Sangha [here meaning the Order/Community of laity] is only the visible symptom of a Cause: the cause being an awareness or focus of mind on doing Dhamma or expressing it thru action to the people around us, you see?

I can't speak for America but here in Germany this aspect is already covered by Christianity. Especially the Lutheran church is mainly about how to do good to your neighbour. How to help those in need. How to be a whole family and community/parish . How to tend to the old and help the young to develop as best as possible. How to be tolerant. Thus people who are mainly interested in this go to church as the cultural and social background for it is already well established and traditional.

I think that this brings up the interesting point that the any religious community can be a very unifying force in society. Presumably some of the positive aspects that we can see in Asian Buddhist communities used to be more widespread in the West.

Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10139
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

PreviousNext

Return to Theravāda for the modern world

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests