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

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

Post by James Tan » Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:24 pm

Perhaps

Dhammanando & subharo .

1. Buddhism is negligible / insignificant on the main platform of this world . By 2050 (by estimation) Islam will outnumbered Christian and where is Buddhism ? Probably will disappear from the face of the earth .
2. Nibbana is not nothingness (non existence).
3. Namarupa exact definition .
4. What Buddha never taught doesn't mean Not true (alien species , evolution) .
5. Seniority principle (respect) is in accord with the nature law , similar to filial piety , is a kind of virtue not otherwise .
Last edited by James Tan on Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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

Post by perkele » Sun Jan 14, 2018 5:33 pm

I think senior monks, as well as junior monks or anyone else should discuss whatever they need to discuss in order to further their understanding of the Dhamma.

To do this as a performance of monastics before laypeople would seem likely to be driven by wrong motivation to me, except when they are very sure that their way of discussing is elucidating and not falsifying the Dhamma, or when someone else has gone public with some statements which they see necessary to rectify. But not just for the purpose of entertaining the masses, without some specific matter they want to clarify.
James Tan wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:24 pm
Dhammanando vs subharo
Was there a disagreement between these two in public which would be good to be resolved in public? If not, then why set them up against each other? Seems very un-dhammic to me to stage such a performance.
James Tan wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:24 pm
1. Buddhism is negligible / insignificant on the main platform of this world . By 2050 (by estimation) Islam will outnumbered Christian and where is Buddhism ? Probably will disappear from the face of the earth .
Sounds like discussing politics, rather than Dhamma.
James Tan wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:24 pm
4. What Buddha never taught doesn't mean Not true (alien species , evolution).
And what the Buddha never taught has no bearing on the goal of ending suffering (according to his own words). So he would not have recommended it as a proper subject of discussion for monastics.

The other points, 2, 3 and 5 do look like proper topics for Dhamma discussion.
I don't think there is much lack of open discussion (including monastcis) about 2 and 3, when looking at this forum here in particular, but maybe about 5.

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

Post by James Tan » Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:00 pm

perkele wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 5:33 pm
I think senior monks, as well as junior monks or anyone else should discuss whatever they need to discuss in order to further their understanding of the Dhamma.

To do this as a performance of monastics before laypeople would seem likely to be driven by wrong motivation to me, except when they are very sure that their way of discussing is elucidating and not falsifying the Dhamma, or when someone else has gone public with some statements which they see necessary to rectify. But not just for the purpose of entertaining the masses, without some specific matter they want to clarify.
James Tan wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:24 pm
Dhammanando & subharo
Was there a disagreement between these two in public which would be good to be resolved in public? If not, then why set them up against each other? Seems very un-dhammic to me to stage such a performance.
James Tan wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:24 pm
1. Buddhism is negligible / insignificant on the main platform of this world . By 2050 (by estimation) Islam will outnumbered Christian and where is Buddhism ? Probably will disappear from the face of the earth .
Sounds like discussing politics, rather than Dhamma.
James Tan wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:24 pm
4. What Buddha never taught doesn't mean Not true (alien species , evolution).
And what the Buddha never taught has no bearing on the goal of ending suffering (according to his own words). So he would not have recommended it as a proper subject of discussion for monastics.

The other points, 2, 3 and 5 do look like proper topics for Dhamma discussion.
I don't think there is much lack of open discussion (including monastcis) about 2 and 3, when looking at this forum here in particular, but maybe about 5.
The question itself invite us to suggest , whom
Ideally for discussions and explore any topic .
All of it I think relevant to Buddhism .
Both monks are well equipped and ideal IMO for a proper dialogue . I'm not setting up anyone .
On the contrary , with good and proper intention .
Undhammic , no . If anyone were to suggest or request something like this , it is part of learning dhamma in diverse way .
Whatever concerning Buddhism , should be being part of buddhists attention . Everything in this world is interrelated and interconnected . Small number will affect Buddhism future , whether they can / can't have freedom in religion . For example the people In Brunei where they can't freely practise the dhamma and monks are not allowed to enter the country .
There are many things in this world that have no direct connection with the teachings , however , it may consider as part of human learning process .
Even monks have to learn using computer and internet which cannot bring you to end suffering .
Again , lacking of flexibility in thinking and limiting yourself for further discussions could cause one to live in rigidity only .
Anyway , this is my analysis only , just like your above offered opinions .

Ps . Unnecessary biased and upsets is part of our conditioning which is a hindrance on the path .
Regards .
Last edited by James Tan on Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:27 am, edited 3 times in total.

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

Post by Subharo » Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:08 pm

polarbear101 wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:43 am
I am tantalized into asking, what do you think the long-standing controversies and sticking points are?
... let us know what you think the top 3 are...
  1. Retro's third point, below
  2. What are the prevailing ideas/views of Hinduism and Confucianism that you (the Senior monks) see as having snuck into Theravada Buddhism (as practised in ethnic Asian countries today), which you would carefully distinguish and remove (from wide-spread usage in traditional Buddhism) if you had the opportunity to? ...And selection of said Senior monks is contingent beforehand to being able to see the presence of such Hindu and Confucian views.
  3. Why is Theravada Buddhism so Balkanized?
retrofuturist wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:46 pm
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
Thanks for these, Retro. You would know far better than I do what the regularily-occurring concerns of DW users are, due to your unique position as a moderator.
:group:
mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:02 am
Personally, I question the whole idea of this thread.
After thinking it over, you're probably on the mark here in the sense that the safest thing for Senior monks to do is to keep Theravada Buddhism as Balkanized as it is currently, not really making any bold attempts (like I'm doing here) to try to stitch anything up (even though the Buddha highly praises efforts aimed at uniting divided groups of monks). Then everyone gets to optimally save face, and no one runs the risk of "vomiting hot blood" should they lose in a heated discussion (which started off with the intention of being co-operative and gentlemanly).

I realized this after remembering two things:
- An insightful Bhikkhu I know commented that he noticed (at least in Sri Lanka, where he ordained), that (paraphrasing heavily here) "by the time a Bhikkhu reaches 20 vassas, he's (virtually always) no longer talking to the other 20-vassa monks he knows".

- I used to take a martial art, way back when I was a teenager. I noted that the master would never spar with the students, nor compete in tournaments. His two black-belt sons did those things for him. The explanation I got as to why the Master never competed was this: "because if he ever lost in a tournament, it would make his school look bad, and that might be a heavy financial loss to the school."
Subharo Bhikkhu
"There is but one taste on this path, the taste of freedom" -The Buddha :buddha1:

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

Post by Subharo » Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:20 pm

James Tan wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:24 pm
Dhammanando & subharo .
I'm a Majjhima monk (9 vassas), not a Senior monk. If I were to try to have a discussion (in the Westerner sense of that term) with a monk of, say, 20 vassas, then it probably wouldn't really be a discussion (again, in the Westerner sense of the term). Hierarchy would probably make it such that I'm the Audience hearing a one-way Dhamma talk from the Senior monk.

At most I could manage to be an interviewer, who asks the occasional question, with very long answers from the senior monk, which would likely be an uninterruptable gush of Dhamma, pretty much leaving no opportunity to get any words in edgewise. The Senior monks I've met, for the most part, do not converse in the way Westerners do, where they "take some and leave some" (politely allowing about 50% of talking time to each participant) in a conversation.

One of the main reasons I embedded that Harris-and-Peterson video in the OP was to show an inspiring example of such 50%-and-50% conversation that Westerners often have.
Last edited by Subharo on Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Subharo Bhikkhu
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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by James Tan » Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:55 pm

Subharo wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:20 pm
James Tan wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:24 pm
Dhammanando & subharo .
I'm a Majjhima monk (9 vassas), not a Senior monk. If I were to try to have a discussion (in the Westerner sense of that term) with a monk of, say, 20 vassas, then it probably wouldn't really be a discussion (again, in the Westerner sense of the term). Hierarchy would probably make it such that I'm the Audience hearing a one-way Dhamma talk from the Senior monk.

At most I could manage to be an interviewer, who asks the occasional question, with very long answers from the senior monk, which would likely be an uninterruptable gush of Dhamma, pretty much leaving no opportunity to get in any words in edgewise. The Senior monks I've met, for the most part, do not converse in the way Westerners do, where they "take some and leave some" (politely allowing about 50% of talking time to each participant) in a conversation.

One of the main reasons I embedded that Harris-and-Peterson video in the OP was to show an inspiring example of such 50%-and-50% conversation that Westerners often have.
Sorry for hastily suggested bhante as I thought is a good candidate for stitching up something .
Apologies to bhante Dhammanando for dragging him into this .

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

Post by Subharo » Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:12 am

Subharo wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:08 pm
- I used to take a martial art, way back when I was a teenager. I noted that the master would never spar with the students, nor compete in tournaments. His two black-belt sons did those things for him. The explanation I got as to why the Master never competed was this: "because if he ever lost in a tournament, it would make his school look bad, and that might be a heavy financial loss to the school."
I feel this point is worth dwelling on, as I feel it might explain many things you see in current monastic culture, which the Buddha never taught (or downright taught against).

To take my Martial arts analogy further:
- You couldn't get your black belt until you were willing to demonstrate that you had perfect loyalty to that Martial Arts school (meaning the Master himself). Again, when I indirectly questioned why, the answer I got was "to make sure that no Black Belts splinter off and found Martial Arts schools of their own, which would then compete with the school, threatening the school/Master's financial income." As I thought over how badly I wanted to get a Black Belt (and I was one step short of that, at second-red-belt), I realized that I was taking Martial Arts for the Martial Arts (the exercise, the training, the development), not to become an ethnic Asian, nor anyone's mindless minion for that matter. So I quit going to that Martial Arts School, as I was not out for the status of having a Black Belt.

Perhaps this is why you might perhaps see industrial grade-emphasis on loyalty within Theravada monasticism, which I feel is much more Confucian (or Hindu, take your pick) than Buddhist. In my case (which is an insider's view, unlike many people on this forum who like to think they know a situation that they have never actually been in), the view "you're not grateful until you are loyal" was pressed upon me strongly, however there are but scant traces of this particular message in the teachings of the Buddha (while Confucious pretty much jumps up and down, all but screaming this message). The Buddha even makes statements to the contrary, such as:
All subjection to another is painful;
All sovereignty is Bliss
- Udana 2.9 "Visaka"
...and:
One
should not make an effort everywhere,
should not be another’s hireling,
should not live dependent on another,
should not go about
as a trader in the Dhamma.
- Udana 6:2 Seclusion (Paṭisalla Sutta)
This protect-the-Martial-Arts-school's-income thing might be why you virtually always see new Dhamma teachers and Vinaya teachers installed into positions by Senior monks who are utterly unthreatening to the status quo, pretty much turning a blind eye to any and all obviously violated teachings of the Buddha in a carbon-copy-of-the-teacher kind of way. In other words, you pretty much can't get the job of teacher from the higher-ups until they are confident that you are non-threatening to them. This would serve to prevent the further Balkanization of Buddhism (which is arguably a good thing), but it does nothing to heal the current Balkanization (which to me is what stagnation looks like).

In this regard, please see DN 29: The Delightful/Delectable Discourse.
Subharo Bhikkhu
"There is but one taste on this path, the taste of freedom" -The Buddha :buddha1:

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

Post by binocular » Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:28 am

Subharo wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:08 pm
After thinking it over, you're probably on the mark here in the sense that the safest thing for Senior monks to do is to keep Theravada Buddhism as Balkanized as it is currently, not really making any bold attempts (like I'm doing here) to try to stitch anything up (even though the Buddha highly praises efforts aimed at uniting divided groups of monks). Then everyone gets to optimally save face, and no one runs the risk of "vomiting hot blood" should they lose in a heated discussion (which started off with the intention of being co-operative and gentlemanly).
It's not just about saving face, it's about preserving one's livelihood!
Subharo wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:20 pm
I'm a Majjhima monk (9 vassas), not a Senior monk. If I were to try to have a discussion (in the Westerner sense of that term) with a monk of, say, 20 vassas, then it probably wouldn't really be a discussion (again, in the Westerner sense of the term). Hierarchy would probably make it such that I'm the Audience hearing a one-way Dhamma talk from the Senior monk.
/.../
And a lay person is on principle in a similar position as such a junior monk. Even moreso a lay female.
Subharo wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:12 am
Perhaps this is why you might perhaps see industrial grade-emphasis on loyalty within Theravada monasticism, which I feel is much more Confucian (or Hindu, take your pick) than Buddhist. In my case (which is an insider's view, unlike many people on this forum who like to think they know a situation that they have never actually been in), the view "you're not grateful until you are loyal" was pressed upon me strongly, however there are but scant traces of this particular message in the teachings of the Buddha (while Confucious pretty much jumps up and down, all but screaming this message).
Lay people sometimes get this as well, from other laypeople and from monks. There sometimes develops a clique mentality.
In my experience, this happens mostly indirectly (or in the name of The Truth), so that those who do it can claim plausible deniability.


I smile as I read your posts. I think, "He's so going to get mauled for what he's saying, it's going to cost him his head!" And I'm saying this with both gladness that someone dares to speak up like that, but also with concern over the consequences talking like this will have for him.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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

Post by Bundokji » Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:24 am

I am not against discussion/debating between monks as long as it is not done in public. The vast majority of us think in absolute terms, and two monks might have different vantage points and at the same time be equally (internally) truthful, but the results of the debate (which can be influenced by the skill of each monk presenting his ideas and the personal inclination of the listener) can lead to harm in the sense that one view might appear to be superior than another, but superior does not mean it should to be adopted by each listener.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:45 am

Subharo wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:20 pm

I'm a Majjhima monk (9 vassas), not a Senior monk. If I were to try to have a discussion (in the Westerner sense of that term) with a monk of, say, 20 vassas, then it probably wouldn't really be a discussion (again, in the Westerner sense of the term). Hierarchy would probably make it such that I'm the Audience hearing a one-way Dhamma talk from the Senior monk.

At most I could manage to be an interviewer, who asks the occasional question, with very long answers from the senior monk, which would likely be an uninterruptable gush of Dhamma, pretty much leaving no opportunity to get any words in edgewise. The Senior monks I've met, for the most part, do not converse in the way Westerners do, where they "take some and leave some" (politely allowing about 50% of talking time to each participant) in a conversation.

One of the main reasons I embedded that Harris-and-Peterson video in the OP was to show an inspiring example of such 50%-and-50% conversation that Westerners often have.
Bhante, in the light of this, what do you make of Gombrich's claim that
The Buddha even made a monastic ruling that one of the duties of a pupil towards his teacher is to correct him when he is wrong on doctrine or in danger of saying something unsuitable. That, I think, has few parallels in world history
(What The Buddha Thought, p. 16-17)

I don't know how to locate this within the Vinaya using the references Gombrich supplies, but one of the most appealing aspects of his general interpretation of the Dhamma is the value he places upon intellectual autonomy and the use of infomed debate to amend one's understanding. If true, a sad disparity between theory and practice.

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

Post by Subharo » Mon Jan 15, 2018 11:14 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:45 am
I don't know how to locate this within the Vinaya
BMC 1, Chapter 2 ("Nissaya"), pg. 36 (bottom), Section "Duties", sub-section "The pupil's duties to his mentor" (and "mentor" expands to meaning both Acariya and Preceptor), item 2 ("Assisting the mentor in any problems he may have with regard to the Dhamma and Vinaya. The Mahavagga lists the following examples"), sub-item c).:
If the preceptor begins to hold to wrong views, the pupil should try to pry him away from those views or find someone else who can, or give him a Dhamma talk.
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Re: Which Senior Theravada monks should ideally discuss and explore with each other over which topics?

Post by Subharo » Mon Jan 15, 2018 11:25 am

binocular wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:28 am
It's not just about saving face, it's about preserving one's livelihood!
I've weighed the risks and decided to say something anyway.
binocular wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:28 am
Subharo wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:20 pm
I'm a Majjhima monk (9 vassas), not a Senior monk. If I were to try to have a discussion (in the Westerner sense of that term) with a monk of, say, 20 vassas, then it probably wouldn't really be a discussion (again, in the Westerner sense of the term). Hierarchy would probably make it such that I'm the Audience hearing a one-way Dhamma talk from the Senior monk.
/.../
And a lay person is on principle in a similar position as such a junior monk. Even moreso a lay female.
Agreed.
binocular wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:28 am
Subharo wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:12 am
Perhaps this is why you might perhaps see industrial grade-emphasis on loyalty within Theravada monasticism, which I feel is much more Confucian (or Hindu, take your pick) than Buddhist. In my case (which is an insider's view, unlike many people on this forum who like to think they know a situation that they have never actually been in), the view "you're not grateful until you are loyal" was pressed upon me strongly, however there are but scant traces of this particular message in the teachings of the Buddha (while Confucious pretty much jumps up and down, all but screaming this message).
Lay people sometimes get this as well, from other laypeople and from monks. There sometimes develops a clique mentality.
Majorly. You said it, sister!
binocular wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:28 am
I smile as I read your posts. I think, "He's so going to get mauled for what he's saying, it's going to cost him his head!"
Indeed they will almost certainly try, should they ever get the chance. Hey, Edward Snowden! Do you have a kuti in your back yard I could stay in? Just kidding.
binocular wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:28 am
And I'm saying this with both gladness that someone dares to speak up like that, but also with concern over the consequences talking like this will have for him.
It's very kind of you to voice your concern. One of the highly, highly important parts of Samana life is the ability to freely move on and go elsewhere (you know, go "wandering"), if a monk needs to.

Now that I've spent some time in Asia, I'm seeing that it's actually quite realistic to approach various Vinaya-respecting Theravada monasteries, and they'll let you stay for some time. My life has improved considerably since I decided to start talking this way, which is quite unintuitive.
Subharo Bhikkhu
"There is but one taste on this path, the taste of freedom" -The Buddha :buddha1:

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

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:15 pm

Subharo wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 11:14 am

BMC 1, Chapter 2 ("Nissaya"), pg. 36 (bottom), Section "Duties", sub-section "The pupil's duties to his mentor" (and "mentor" expands to meaning both Acariya and Preceptor), item 2 ("Assisting the mentor in any problems he may have with regard to the Dhamma and Vinaya. The Mahavagga lists the following examples"), sub-item c).:
If the preceptor begins to hold to wrong views, the pupil should try to pry him away from those views or find someone else who can, or give him a Dhamma talk.
Ah, excellent - many thanks for this, Bhante.

And good luck with any prying away from any wrong views!

Could I please ask which lineage/monastery you are in?

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

Post by binocular » Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:32 pm

Subharo wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 11:25 am
Now that I've spent some time in Asia, I'm seeing that it's actually quite realistic to approach various Vinaya-respecting Theravada monasteries, and they'll let you stay for some time. My life has improved considerably since I decided to start talking this way, which is quite unintuitive.
Perhaps they see you as a moralizing busybody and show you mercy! :tongue:

Seriously, I think there's one important factor to consider, and that is when people seem to blindly adhere to the hierarchy, or when they seem to save face, other interpretations of what's going on are possible. Primarily, a concern for hamony. A person could be concerned for harmony, or save face, or blindly adhere to the hierarchy -- and externally, it could all look the same.

Thinking about what you've been saying I remembered a difficult situation I once had with a Asian Buddhist lady. At the time, I didn't put much attention to it, but it comes to me now again. Namely, I was "just being myself", talking to a monk like he's someone I can talk to openly and without restraint, referenced suttas, and such. And this Asian lady criticized me severely for doing so (throwing in the whole, European-white-female, with the implication that whites don't understand Dhamma). She said that she struggles how to explain this to me, and she said the best she can do is to tell the story of the boy who hammered nails into a fence and then pulled them out. (The story goes that a boy hammered nails into a fence. Upon seeing that he shouldn't have done that, he pulled them out. But the woodden planks were damaged anyway. The moral of the story being that one should not hurt people in the first place and that apologizing doesn't really mend things.)

I didn't understand how come she said that then, but I'm beginning to do so now. I think we saw the situation vastly differently. In my view, I was simply being an impostor in a Buddhist establishment; I thought the people there don't care about me and that they consider me expendable; and that I simply need to get what I can and have to fight for and earn even the smallest bit of respect (which is the attitude that seems most prudent in many Western settings). I thought the others saw it that way too. It seems though that she saw it quite differently; that even though I was new and foreign, she accepted me and didn't think me expendable; that simply by being there, I was already part of their group, and therefore should focus on the group's principles, and most of all, harmony.

This is something that I, as a Westerner, find very difficult to understand. And I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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

Post by Saengnapha » Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:50 am

binocular wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:32 pm
Subharo wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 11:25 am
Now that I've spent some time in Asia, I'm seeing that it's actually quite realistic to approach various Vinaya-respecting Theravada monasteries, and they'll let you stay for some time. My life has improved considerably since I decided to start talking this way, which is quite unintuitive.
Perhaps they see you as a moralizing busybody and show you mercy! :tongue:

Seriously, I think there's one important factor to consider, and that is when people seem to blindly adhere to the hierarchy, or when they seem to save face, other interpretations of what's going on are possible. Primarily, a concern for hamony. A person could be concerned for harmony, or save face, or blindly adhere to the hierarchy -- and externally, it could all look the same.

Thinking about what you've been saying I remembered a difficult situation I once had with a Asian Buddhist lady. At the time, I didn't put much attention to it, but it comes to me now again. Namely, I was "just being myself", talking to a monk like he's someone I can talk to openly and without restraint, referenced suttas, and such. And this Asian lady criticized me severely for doing so (throwing in the whole, European-white-female, with the implication that whites don't understand Dhamma). She said that she struggles how to explain this to me, and she said the best she can do is to tell the story of the boy who hammered nails into a fence and then pulled them out. (The story goes that a boy hammered nails into a fence. Upon seeing that he shouldn't have done that, he pulled them out. But the woodden planks were damaged anyway. The moral of the story being that one should not hurt people in the first place and that apologizing doesn't really mend things.)

I didn't understand how come she said that then, but I'm beginning to do so now. I think we saw the situation vastly differently. In my view, I was simply being an impostor in a Buddhist establishment; I thought the people there don't care about me and that they consider me expendable; and that I simply need to get what I can and have to fight for and earn even the smallest bit of respect (which is the attitude that seems most prudent in many Western settings). I thought the others saw it that way too. It seems though that she saw it quite differently; that even though I was new and foreign, she accepted me and didn't think me expendable; that simply by being there, I was already part of their group, and therefore should focus on the group's principles, and most of all, harmony.

This is something that I, as a Westerner, find very difficult to understand. And I'm sure I'm not the only one.
I don't understand what your point is. You tell a story and fill in how you interpret it. So?

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