Halemalu wrote:FYI: I have been to the Dhammakaya Temple in Bangkok. My fiancee is a member. I have attended their meditation retreats. I have attended many of their ceremonies. I have toured the facilities extensively. I have had monks in my home here in Hawaii. I even have met with both the Vice Abbot and the Abbot. We are also currently looking to establish our retreat center here in Hawaii as a branch of the Middle Way Retreats under the Dhammakaya Foundation.
There is much discussion if the organization can be considered truely Buddhists. Let me assure you that it is. The inner direction is purely Buddhist. The problem is that because of it's size it has to handle things a bit differently than most Buddhists Temples.
With up to 100,000 attending a normal Sunday meditation service and more than 300,000 attending special holidays, things need to be done a bit differently. Modern technology needs to be used like big screen TVs and massive sound systems just to cover the audiances. The structures are simply designed but are massive as to accommodate so many people. There seems to be huge amounts of money donated, but that is to be expected with so many people attending.
The Temple started off modestly many years ago but the message and technique they offer to the public is so accessable and beneficial the crowds just grew larger and larger. With larger crowds and greater donations they were obligated to build structures that could accomodate all those people and develope alternate ways to give the people what they desired.
Because of all of this, it does look like on the surface to be just a money obsessed cult. But believe me it is not. It has become so popular because they emphasize the importance of meditation to gain merit and have encouraged laypeople to learn and share in the benefits of meditation. Unlike other Theravaden groups that mostly promote a monastic life, scripture and alms giving, the Dhammakaya Temple has put a greater importance on meditation for not only the Monks but also the laypeople. The laypeople have embraced this concept and that is why we see such hugh numbers attending the Dhammakaya Temple.
In modern times with so many followers different techniques are required to accommodate and satisfy the spiritual hunger of all those individuals. It is these "new" techniques that are frowned upon and misunderstood by so many traditionalists. Believe me though, the message is still the same. The Dhammakaya foundation has just wraped it in a new package!
If you have any specific questions just let me know and I will be glad to answer them the best I can.
In the above you have said that this is purely Buddhist but you yourself do not seem to understand the basics of the Buddha’s dynamic and innovative teachings. Admittedly this is difficult and perhaps made more so by many wrong teachings being available. The teachings are, that life for all, is impermanent, unsatisfactory and non self.
Non self does'nt mean that you have one and need to get rid of it, it means you don’t have one to start with! Therefore the idea of giving dana which they encourage to the hilt, is undesirable. Someone who wishes to attain a true knowledge of reality does’nt want any kamma –good or bad, both of which keeps one in samsara! Furthermore to pursue the dana aspect in this manner can endorse the self-view that is there already. Who is it that gives the dana and who is it that receives the benefit? Getting right view is important for your practice.
The method of practice is interesting certainly it is not the Buddha’s teachings though they like to maintain that it is. I believe that they have done much research in order to provide links to the Buddha, but have failed up to now as there are’nt any. It was started by Aj Sot and below is an extract from an in-depth analysis.
Extract Catharine Newell thesis April 08
meditaton: analysis of content
Mettanando Bhikkhu provided the first useful analysis of possible precursors of dhammakaya
meditation. Generally dhammakaya
meditation is written about in uncertain, cautious tones, as Jackson shows here:
Luang Phor Sot’s interpretation of the term dhammakaya
and his meditation
system, which involved meditations on psychic centres inside the body
55 Mackenzie (2007), p11-12
56 Mackenzie (2007) p112.
resembling Yogic cakras, appear to have been influences either by Mahayana
Buddhism or by Yogic meditation systems.57
The assumption that dhammakaya
meditation must have something to do with Mahayana or tantric Buddhism is common. Such an assumption leads us to question how it was that Sot, a Thai monk in the Theravada tradition, taught a system based on certain premises regarding the nature of embodiment unknown in modern Thailand other than in immigrant communities.58 Jeffrey Bowers compares dhammakaya
meditation and Tibetan Tantric practices (and specifically concepts of the body) and notes that there
are “strong similarities.”59 The only possible explanation for this, Bowers suggests, must
be a direct personal influence on Sot in the years before he presented his “rediscovery”
to the world:
It is known that Luang Phor Sodh spent many years studying at Wat Phrachetupon, or Wat Po, and other temples in Bangkok. Wat Po is well known for being a school, and is considered by some to be Thailand’s first university. It is likely that monks from different countries, including those practicing Tantric Buddhism, could have been present with Luang Phor Sodh, and taught him about Tantric ideas such as mantras, mandalas, bodily centers etc.60 Mackenzie is more cautious, describing such a scenario as “just within the realms of
possibility.”61 Yet as I have shown above there is already a considerably body of (albeit
in part somewhat inaccessible) literature describing Theravada practices sharing just such concepts as “mantras, mandalas, bodily centers etc.” There is no doubt that dhammakaya
meditation is based upon the broader yog_vacara tradition in its content.
Even without depending upon Mettanando to draw out the comparisons, it is clear that
there is a relationship between the practices described as part of the Suk tradition and
meditation. Both systems recognise the location of the same bases in the
body. Both make use of the samm_ araha_ mantra. They also share the use of nimittas.
In the case of dhammakaya
meditation this takes the form of a kind of adapted kasi_a of
light. The Sot system does not feature the visualisation of bodies, thus we may assume
that this key element was either adapted from another system as yet uncovered, or was
the creation of Sot himself, grafted onto an existing, preparatory system of concentration.62
57 Jackson, (1989), p201.
58 i.e. Mahayana Buddhism is practised by some Chinese Buddhist communities in Thailand
59 Bowers (1996), p43.
60 Bowers p45
61 Mackenzie, (2007) p108.
Below I show two different illustrations of the bodily bases, one from Suk’s system (from the Yas_tharat text) and one from Sot’s, which shows clearly the borrowing of Sot’s dhammakaya
from Suk’s system.
Left: map of the bodily bases as found in the Suk Kai Theuan system (as reproduced in Chai Yasotharat text, p394). Right: Map of the bodily bases as found in the dhammakaya
system, here represented by Wat Dhammakaya
's (Thai language?) Kham son ruang kan sang barami khong wat thammakai (page 86)63. The correspondences are clear.
6. The origin of the use of “dhammakya”
Although the dhammakaya
system clearly owes a great deal to the preceding Suk
system, the phrase “dhammakaya
” is notably absent from any of the texts I have seen
from the Suk tradition. There are however accounts of the phrase from a number of
The Aj Sot meditation practice may be useful and may produce good results certainly in terms of concentration. I don’t know as I’ve never tried it, much preferring the traditional Theravada practices of anapanasati – concentration and insight.
Unfortunately the concentration produced, if used unwisely can serve to increase the defilement's of greed and hatred.
The group on the face of it looks very much like a spiritual Monsato. This is a shame as they obviously attract many to meditate – albeit for the wrong reasons (for ME to gain merit and ME to have a good life, or worse still afterlife!). This is the opposite of the Buddha’s teachings.
Furthermore many Theravada groups including monks encourage lay people to meditate and it’s ludicrous to say otherwise.