Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Subharo
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Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by Subharo » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:45 am

I was inspired to post this question after listening to the following (which mentions Buddhism several times):



I was so impressed with Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson. Please note how even though they seriously challenged each other's core assumptions and beliefs a whole bunch of times, observe how they utterly kept their cool at all times, and found many points to agree over. :thumbsup: Near the end of the discussion, they even complimented each other's strengths.

If you could have your way and have certain living Theravada Senior monks engage in gentlemanly, frank discussion and co-operative exploration over various controversies and sticking points in Buddhism (in a similar way demonstrated here), who would talk to whom? If you could have the above discussion happen with living Buddhist monks, whom would you put into the positions of Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson, as they explore where "truth" lies, in the context of Buddhism?

BTW: If two monks simply don't get along for personality reasons, that's not really the topic of a good discussion. But then again, if it's just two harmonious monks simply "gladhanding", that might not be all that "juicy"; there needs to be some significantly differing perspectives, like I would say Harris and Peterson had. So almost like a debate, but not quite, in the sense that it remains constructive and positive. The discussion should be over some sort of Buddhist doctrine or discipline, where they take up opposing, or at least significantly differing views.

No doubt Ajahn Brahm will get mentioned (what with the whole Bhikkhuni thing), but can you think of others? Let's not get stuck on that one issue, please. I would like to disarm that bomb before it explodes.
Last edited by Subharo on Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:11 am, edited 3 times in total.
Subharo Bhikkhu
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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally debate each other over which topics?

Post by DNS » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:54 am

There was a pretty good debate between Ven. Thanissaro and Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and I believe another debate over anatta / not-self by these same monks, with good points from both sides. A poll here showed DW members about equally divided between which bhikkhu's arguments they felt was correct (in the War issue).

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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally debate each other over which topics?

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:59 am

Greetings ven. Subharo,

I can think of one instance of a debate, although it wasn't a live debate. Moreover it was one monk writing an article and another responding to it. I am thinking here of Thanissaro Bhikkhu and Bhikkhu Bodhi expressing their respective views on whether there is scope for a "just war", in light of the Buddha's teachings. (I see David mentioned it as I was typing my post)

I can't say it all did the cause of Dhamma propagation much good though, and seemed only to encourage some people to praise their preferred bhikkhu, and cast aspersions upon the other. Partisanship was ossified and discord arose.

Frankly, I think the best outcomes are achieved when people comment on the Buddha's Dhamma, as they see it, and leave it for the reader or listener to adjudicate, based on their priorities, the understanding, their views, and their practice.

The head to head combative nature of debate is too inclined towards notions of victory and defeat, and these are things that the Buddha said in the Dhammapada should be relinquished.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by Subharo » Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:07 am

OK, agreed. "Debate" is a confrontational word. I changed the title from having "debate" to "discuss and explore". Also softened the wording, emphasizing having a constructive, positive tone, yet isn't just a bunch of "non-juicy" gladhanding. There needs to be at least some challenging-ness to it to make it more juicy and interesting.
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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by Subharo » Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:18 am

I too read those exchanges between Ajahn Thanissaro, and Bhikkhu Bodhi. Whomever squares off with Ajahn Thanissaro had better be as clever as about 25 foxes and as sharp as a samurai sword.
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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by Subharo » Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:35 am

This goes outside the scope of my own question (apologies), but I would like to hear a discussion between Thanissaro Bhikkhu and Sam Harris, over assertions Sam Harris made in his Essay "KIlling the Buddha"

Here are some of Sam Harris' spicy assertions he made there:
"The wisdom of the Buddha is currently trapped within the religion of Buddhism."
While it may be true enough to say (as many Buddhist practitioners allege) that “Buddhism is not a religion,” most Buddhists worldwide practice it as such, in many of the naive, petitionary, and superstitious ways in which all religions are practiced.
So insofar as we maintain a discourse as “Buddhists,” we ensure that the wisdom of the Buddha will do little to inform the development of civilization in the twenty-first century.
one of the greatest challenges facing civilization in the twenty-first century is for human beings to learn to speak about their deepest personal concerns—about ethics, spiritual experience, and the inevitability of human suffering—in ways that are not flagrantly irrational. Nothing stands in the way of this project more than the respect we accord religious faith.
There is much more to be discovered about the nature of the human mind. In particular, there is much more for us to understand about how the mind can transform itself from a mere reservoir of greed, hatred, and delusion into an instrument of wisdom and compassion. Students of the Buddha are very well placed to further our understanding on this front, but the religion of Buddhism currently stands in their way.
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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by Polar Bear » Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:43 am

Subharo wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:18 am
I think the West is going to frankly require open, transparent discussions such as this, over virtually all the long-standing controversies and sticking points (that most monks are too cowardly to make a peep about)
I am tantalized into asking, what do you think the long-standing controversies and sticking points are? And I'd also be interested in getting a peep on your views regarding them. If you think there are too many controversies for you to mention, then please, let us know what you think the top 3 are or might be, and your views on them, or if not your views on them, then your views on how we might go about discussing them so as to encourage growth in wisdom. Thank you for the topic Venerable Subharo.

:anjali:
"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: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by Subharo » Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:57 am

I will wait three days, and see what others say, then I will answer your question(s), Polar Bear. I think I need to cool off my chin wagging here a bit.
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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by Polar Bear » Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:09 am

Subharo wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:57 am
I will wait three days, and see what others say, then I will answer your question(s), Polar Bear. I think I need to cool off my chin wagging here a bit.
Fair enough Bhante, sounds good.

:anjali:
"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: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by SarathW » Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:09 am

My observation is most of the Buddhist monk maintain status quo.
None of them want to rock the boat.
I have never seen two monks disagree in SC or DW.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by binocular » Fri Jan 12, 2018 12:14 pm

SarathW wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:09 am
I have never seen two monks disagree in SC or DW.
Yes ... There are monks on DW that I would love to see engage in confrontation, especially on the topic of how monks treat laypeople. I suppose they won't, already because of seniority issues and such ...

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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:46 pm

Greetings,
Subharo wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:57 am
I will wait three days, and see what others say, then I will answer your question(s), Polar Bear. I think I need to cool off my chin wagging here a bit.
Were I to guess...

- Legitimacy of Theravada bhikkhuni ordination
- Meaning and significance of dependent origination, nibbana and rebirth
- The respective authority of Sutta, Abdhidhamma, traditional Commentary, modern commentary (incl. "national" perspectives) and personal opinion

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:05 am

Luang Por Sumedho debating "consciousness is permanent"/"awareness itself is not conditioned" with, er, well, with any other monk outside the tradition of Ajahn Chah.

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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:02 am

Subharo wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:18 am
I too read those exchanges between Ajahn Thanissaro, and Bhikkhu Bodhi. Whomever squares off with Ajahn Thanissaro had better be as clever as about 25 foxes and as sharp as a samurai sword.
Do you really think so, Bhante? I like listening Ajahn Thanissaro from time to time - he has some interesting perspectives. However, when he criticises others he often seems to me to have not have read their work particuarly carefully. I would much rather he stuck to what he does well, which is explaining his own perspectives.

Personally, I question the whole idea of this thread. In my opinion, there are thousands of people out there worth interacting with, and the idea that the opinions and knowledge of certain people are vastly superior to the others, and that them "having it out" together will "decide an issue" strikes me as a little far fetched.

However, if I were to be witnessing such a discussion, I'd like it to be between teachers such as Ven Analayo, who are careful to explore various points of view without jumping to conclusions, or claiming some sort of authority.

:heart:
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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by DNS » Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:10 am

I suppose it might be nice to see a panel discussion of esteemed bhikkhus and bhikkhunis on "What is original Buddhism?" which texts, which interpretation of the teachings, Suttas, nature of nibbana, etc but as others have noted I imagine the rest of us will end up resonating with the ideas of the monastic we most like or to the views we already hold from our own studies, analysis, and / or insights.

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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by Saengnapha » Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:26 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:02 am
Subharo wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:18 am
I too read those exchanges between Ajahn Thanissaro, and Bhikkhu Bodhi. Whomever squares off with Ajahn Thanissaro had better be as clever as about 25 foxes and as sharp as a samurai sword.
Do you really think so, Bhante? I like listening Ajahn Thanissaro from time to time - he has some interesting perspectives. However, when he criticises others he often seems to me to have not have read their work particuarly carefully. I would much rather he stuck to what he does well, which is explaining his own perspectives.

Personally, I question the whole idea of this thread. In my opinion, there are thousands of people out there worth interacting with, and the idea that the opinions and knowledge of certain people are vastly superior to the others, and that them "having it out" together will "decide an issue" strikes me as a little far fetched.

However, if I were to be witnessing such a discussion, I'd like it to be between teachers such as Ven Analayo, who are careful to explore various points of view without jumping to conclusions, or claiming some sort of authority.

:heart:
Mike
:goodpost:

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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by Saengnapha » Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:28 am

DNS wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:10 am
I suppose it might be nice to see a panel discussion of esteemed bhikkhus and bhikkhunis on "What is original Buddhism?" which texts, which interpretation of the teachings, Suttas, nature of nibbana, etc but as others have noted I imagine the rest of us will end up resonating with the ideas of the monastic we most like or to the views we already hold from our own studies, analysis, and / or insights.
Never going to happen. This is one of the main reasons practitioners follow particular teachers because they are not getting 'it' from the books.

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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by Circle5 » Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:38 am

During Buddha times, every village had a Debating Hall and monks were trained for being good in debates. Having monks good in debates was one of the 5 things Buddha enumerated every time there came the question if weather he should die or not.

Unfortunatelly english culture it totally different from other cultures, being probably the most anti-debate one in the world. Egos are big and having a debate is seen as an assault on ones ego, it's not something that can be taken light-hearthed. I can't even picture 2 western monks having a serious debate about buddhist issues. They can have that on other topics but not on buddhism, cause that would be like a super ego-battle where being wrong would mean being lower than the bhikkhu who won the debate or something like that. Forget about that honest and healthy attitude towards finding the truth that we see in the debating halls described in the suttas, where big religious leaders would easily change their opinion when refuted in a debate.

There was not a single debate on buddhist issues, between famous western buddhist monks that I know of. The more famous, the more difficult it is for the bhikkhu to ever be wrong.

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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by Saengnapha » Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:52 am

Circle5 wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:38 am
During Buddha times, every village had a Debating Hall and monks were trained for being good in debates. Having monks good in debates was one of the 5 things Buddha enumerated every time there came the question if weather he should die or not.

Unfortunatelly english culture it totally different from other cultures, being probably the most anti-debate one in the world. Egos are big and having a debate is seen as an assault on ones ego, it's not something that can be taken light-hearthed. I can't even picture 2 western monks having a serious debate about buddhist issues. They can have that on other topics but not on buddhism, cause that would be like a super ego-battle where being wrong would mean being lower than the bhikkhu who won the debate or something like that. Forget about that honest and healthy attitude towards finding the truth that we see in the debating halls described in the suttas, where big religious leaders would easily change their opinion when refuted in a debate.

There was not a single debate on buddhist issues, between famous western buddhist monks that I know of. The more famous, the more difficult it is for the bhikkhu to ever be wrong.
Do you think there are any Arahants alive, either in East or West?

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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by Circle5 » Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:21 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:52 am
Do you think there are any Arahants alive, either in East or West?
Why are you asking ?

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