A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.
Virgo
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by Virgo » Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:22 am

tiltbillings wrote: That is a sad thing. Fortunately the monks in England were treated a bit better.
Plus the robes are the color of deer, which makes it worse! They could easily say, "I thought he was a deer" :tongue:

I am not trying to scare anyone though. I am sure there are many areas in the States where it is safe to go on alms round.

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thaijeppe
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by thaijeppe » Wed Mar 07, 2012 4:12 am

Hello all.

Another interesting question in this discussion would be: How can Buddhist Monasticism develop in western countries?

There is a lot of interest for Buddhism in the west and there are some monasteries shattered around, but they are still few compared to how many
people in the west who are interested in Buddhisme.

Is it possible to transplant a South East Asian model to the west or would it be better to build a new Monastic tradition more aligned to western
traditions, of course without doing anything that goes against the Teaching.

And from a western perspective, you can also ask the question: Do we need Monasticism to practice Buddhisme?

It would be interesting to hear your views about the above mentioned.

I personally don't know so much about it, because I live in Thailand, and we have enough monasteries here, but I still think it is an interesting
question, due to the spread of Buddhism.
:anjali: Jeppe
If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you
let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely,
you will know complete peace and freedom.
Ajahn Chah

Virgo
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by Virgo » Wed Mar 07, 2012 4:42 am

thaijeppe wrote: There is a lot of interest for Buddhism in the west and there are some monasteries shattered around, but they are still few compared to how many
people in the west who are interested in Buddhisme...
Here in the U.S. there are a few major issues. First of all, the government does not sponsor monasteries, they are only tax exempt, which makes them much harder to build and maintain than in other places. Adding to this, is the fact that our economy is in the hole. Thirdly, monks either have no health coverage or must somehow pay for it without an income. This is very problematic. Also, many Western monasteries will insist that the monks have some form of healthcare, to prevent being put in a tight spot when one of their bhikkhus comes down with a serious illness. Ironically, monasteries cost a lot of money, because of the society we live in. It's not like old India, ie. rich lay supporter (or a King) puts up the money for a monastery, they pay no taxes because the King supports religious sects, doctors/physicians who are faithful visit them and treat them, there is a large supply of food because of so many devout lay practitioners, etc. (and in general people can wander freely without breaking the laws of the land by doing so).

Here it is a situation where not many rich lay supporters can afford the huge costs of building and maintaining monasteries now, the government sees us as numbers not as important people, modern medicine and treatment can be expensive, there are fewer lay supporters to offer food and other requisites, and (in some places) you might get shot.

Kevin

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daverupa
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by daverupa » Wed Mar 07, 2012 11:06 am

The only time I entertain the possibility that this is a degenerate age is when it turns out to cost money to go forth into homelessness.

:meditate:
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Cal
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by Cal » Wed Mar 07, 2012 11:28 am

daverupa wrote:The only time I entertain the possibility that this is a degenerate age is when it turns out to cost money to go forth into homelessness.
:goodpost:

Re. Tudong in the UK, this is an interesting site produced by a now-former Forest Sangha monk : -
http://www.blisteredfeet-blissfulmind.net/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I enjoyed the book of Tudong stories he wote.

Metta
Cal
Right Speech: It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will. [AN 5.198]

Personally, I seem to gain the most insight when I am under the most pressure, when life is at its most unpleasant. There is something in me on those occasions which feels that there is nothing left but to be aware of 'this'. Ajahn Sumedho - Don't Take Your Life Personally, p288

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SDC
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by SDC » Wed Mar 07, 2012 5:38 pm

Virgo wrote:You must be from the city. :) :tongue:

Where I live, being a lay-Buddhist and being open about your religion-- absolutely not a problem at all, people are very accepting. However, walking around begging for alms with strange, unseen before religious robes on and a shaved head? You would get your first gun drawn on you within a few days, no b.s. and would be very lucky to not get shot.

In my county, I could easily see a rifle being drawn on me on my first alms round, no problem.

Kevin
Indeed I am. :) However I have lived in a few places, some which are far from NYC.

Of course there are many places where it would be foolish to attempt it. Rural Arkansas would not be a good place to start.
Virgo wrote:I am not trying to scare anyone though. I am sure there are many areas in the States where it is safe to go on alms round.
This is more of what I was referring to. I think there are many places that would embrace it if it were introduced properly.

hermitwin
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by hermitwin » Wed Mar 07, 2012 6:28 pm

You post interesting questions.
yet there are no answers to your questions.
people who wish to ordain will go wherever they please.
personally, i will go to a faraway country just be away
from the life i have known.
people keep their lineage alive bcos they believe it is
the good teacher that have guided them to where they are.
having a western monastic tradition will neither be good
nor bad, it all depends on the monastics themselves.

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Goofaholix
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by Goofaholix » Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:10 pm

From what I've heard when Buddhism went to China the monks realised there was no way the Indian medicant tradition would survive, in China the inportance of hard work would see people looking down on monks for not working for what they eat. I guess Mahayana monks are free to do this wheras Theravada ones are not.

In the West we have the same emphasis on hard work and standing on your own two feet, so I think it's a mairacle that Theravadin monks have established themselves and are doing as well as they do, or perhaps not so much a miracle as being reliant on the large immigrant population most western countries have.

I think it's a privilige to be able to live the medicant live, but I'm not sure this privilige will survive long term in the West paricularly as in the West there is more emphasis on lay people meditating that there is in Asia.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Zom
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by Zom » Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:46 pm

What can be done to develop a larger monastic tradition in the west? Where do we go from here?
Western buddhists should learn from asian buddhists how to develop generosity and make dana on the permanent basis ,) At the present moment this is a problem and almost every western theravada monastery/temple is largely supported only by asian immigrants. If there were none, I guess, there would be no monasteries in the West. 8-)

Ajhan Sumedho speaks:

It was during the separation of East Pakistan (later to be known as Bangladesh) from West Pakistan when I arrived in Calcutta. There were a lot of refugees streaming into the city. And beggars were everywhere. Then a thought occurred to me: I was just one of them. An alms seeking monk was no different than a beggar on the street.

But even in the land of the Buddha’s birth, there was not much opportunity for the locals to support a monk, what more a monk from the forest tradition. For proper support, I had to travel from Calcutta to Bodh Gaya, and devotees of the Mahabodhi temple there arranged for pindapata (alms giving), the first time since I arrived India.

After five or six months in India, I had this sudden realization recalling all that was given to me by Luang Poh Chah, the Thai people and the Thai immigration (who gave me a permanent Visa). There was this overwhelming sense of gratitude for all the requisites, encouragement and respect given to me by the people of Thailand. It was a realization that who – and all - that I had become then was a result of the generosity and kindness of others. So in a way, this was not just any realization, but an opening of the heart, of giving up self-centeredness.

squarepeg
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by squarepeg » Thu Mar 08, 2012 7:54 pm

I live in rural indiana, and even in the bible belt i attend a temple once a week supported by western lay people. we have one monk in residence but raise enough funds to house other monks from surrounding states once a month or so. its a house. with a monk that lives there. nothing special. even in the bible belt i see this as a budding oppurtunity. that the buddhist monastic tradition will survive here, not in fancy ornamented temples spaning 100 acre plots of land. but in the simple requisites afforded by a meditating lay comunity, basic rent, utilities and one meal a day. this is how buddhism can flourish,at least in my country.
What the united states needs is realized individuals, realized members of the community, lay or ordained. people who can teach meditation and incourage a persistant practice. In my opinion, and too my knowlage the buddha spoke thusly, a person who can spread metta in at least the 1st jhana can greatly change those around him, will be "field of merit" to those around him. If an honast practicioner is virtuious, follows the percepts and devolops good will then he is a monastary to every one he meets, every where he goes he affords oppurtunity for others to practice dana, then positive merit will over come negitive and buddhism will surive.
We cant think "oh i cant practice i have a job" or "ill wait until i go to a monastary to take the 8 percepts" or "i have to ordain to follow the buddha" because then there will be no merit in our communities. If we in the west keep strict practice regardless of work, ordination, culture, (sila bata pramasa, sakayaditthi) if we focus on our mind and devolop the path every day regardless of any situation, if we are true to the path then we will shape our communities, its not something you have to will, all we have to do is "practice dhamma in line with dhamma" regardless of how we sustain our bodies. The merit created by this will change our communities, this is how buddhism spreads and how it stays alive. :soap:
"Yadisam vapate bijam tadisam harate phalam" — as we sow, so shall we reap
Maranam Bhavissati - "death will take place"

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appicchato
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by appicchato » Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:29 am

squarepeg wrote:If an honast practicioner is virtuious, follows the percepts and devolops good will then he is a monastary to every one he meets, every where he goes he affords oppurtunity for others to practice dana, then positive merit will over come negitive and buddhism will surive.
:thumbsup:

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thaijeppe
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by thaijeppe » Fri Mar 09, 2012 1:50 am

squarepeg
:goodpost:
A great post that shows, how it can be done in a simple way.
What is important is The Theaching and the Practice, not fancy buildings.
Only a few dedicated individuals can make a big difference.
I think this is the way ahead for Buddhism in the west.
:anjali: Jeppe
If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you
let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely,
you will know complete peace and freedom.
Ajahn Chah

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SDC
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by SDC » Fri Mar 09, 2012 2:22 am

squarepeg wrote:I live in rural indiana, and even in the bible belt i attend a temple once a week supported by western lay people. we have one monk in residence but raise enough funds to house other monks from surrounding states once a month or so. its a house. with a monk that lives there. nothing special. even in the bible belt i see this as a budding oppurtunity. that the buddhist monastic tradition will survive here, not in fancy ornamented temples spaning 100 acre plots of land. but in the simple requisites afforded by a meditating lay comunity, basic rent, utilities and one meal a day. this is how buddhism can flourish,at least in my country.
This is very encouraging to hear.
squarepeg wrote: We cant think "oh i cant practice i have a job" or "ill wait until i go to a monastary to take the 8 percepts" or "i have to ordain to follow the buddha" because then there will be no merit in our communities. If we in the west keep strict practice regardless of work, ordination, culture, (sila bata pramasa, sakayaditthi) if we focus on our mind and devolop the path every day regardless of any situation, if we are true to the path then we will shape our communities, its not something you have to will, all we have to do is "practice dhamma in line with dhamma" regardless of how we sustain our bodies. The merit created by this will change our communities, this is how buddhism spreads and how it stays alive. :soap:
Excellent advice for those in the lay life.

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Polar Bear
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by Polar Bear » Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:58 am

good posts. I think buddhism will grow in america (and the west in general) no matter what happens but here is a little daydream i just had that perhaps one day could be a viable alternative to traditional monkhood...

maybe if wandering monks in America wore sweats and a t-shirt or coat instead of robes, and just let their hair grow in whatever way, not caring about keeping it shaved, not caring about letting it grow long (basically just letting lay practitioners cut it for them if they, the lay practitioners, want) and instead of a big alms bowl they had a camping style style metal cup, a tarp and nylon cordage for shelter, (this way there'd be less culture shock) and offered to work for food on the condition that they would teach mindfulness to the lay follower that needs help with work then it could be successful. They could travel around, spending time in forests, spending time with lay followers and spending time teaching homeless people the dhamma. Anyway,what i just said is far-fetched and improbable but still, it sounded neat to me
"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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Cittasanto
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Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Post by Cittasanto » Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:27 pm

so you would like monastics to be nothing like a monastic?
sound like a hobo to me, the monastics are striving for enlightenment not for lay peoples favour.
polarbuddha101 wrote:good posts. I think buddhism will grow in america (and the west in general) no matter what happens but here is a little daydream i just had that perhaps one day could be a viable alternative to traditional monkhood...

maybe if wandering monks in America wore sweats and a t-shirt or coat instead of robes, and just let their hair grow in whatever way, not caring about keeping it shaved, not caring about letting it grow long (basically just letting lay practitioners cut it for them if they, the lay practitioners, want) and instead of a big alms bowl they had a camping style style metal cup, a tarp and nylon cordage for shelter, (this way there'd be less culture shock) and offered to work for food on the condition that they would teach mindfulness to the lay follower that needs help with work then it could be successful. They could travel around, spending time in forests, spending time with lay followers and spending time teaching homeless people the dhamma. Anyway,what i just said is far-fetched and improbable but still, it sounded neat to me
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