Paññāsikhara wrote:I think that one of the difficulties in discussing the differences across cultures on the level of "buddhist teaching", is that what we may call the "sample groups" in both (or more) cultures are not necessarily on a par. eg. to take a group of Thai or Sri Lankan Buddhists for example, they may largely reflect a general sample of the Thai or Sri Lankan population as a whole. However, to take a group of Western Buddhists, more often than not, they are not that indicative of the population as a whole. It is sometimes the very non-norm characteristics of some Westerners that makes them look into Buddhism in the first place. On the other hand, a sample population of Western Christians may be more normative. So, I don't think that we can necessarily extrapolate any findings to the differences between cultures as a whole. As time progresses, and Buddhism becomes more normative in Western society, things may change viz this point, somewhat.
I also agree with MikeNZ, about "Asian vs Westerner", as if both were largely homogeneous groups. Both groups include a large range of different cultures. Maybe we may wish to narrow it down here to "Thai vs North American (?)". My own experiences as a Kiwi in China (where Taiwan, the PRoC and HK all also all quite different in many ways) doesn't suggest some of the points raised above, for example.
I agree that it is not easy to analyse cultures, neither one's own nor those that are alien to oneself, but I think this is a worthwhile topic nevertheless.
Oh, I definitely agree that it is a worthwhile topic, but just wanted to be careful about defining the parameters, so to speak.
It seems to me some aspects can be discerned and need to be understood (at least I need to understand because it bothers me). For example the issue of the Bhikkhuni order. Thais stress the point "respect" against it. But from the point of view of my culture the fact that women are treated differently and expected to behave differently (not to mention this wrong idea that women have to be better socially and men mentally) is already so deep in the disrespect realm that any argument of respect to anything borders on the absurd. That is - when I use the term respect in the German sense. But things are probably very different if the Thai meaning of respect is meant. As Ajahn Sucitto wrote Thais have already a problem adressing a Bhikkhu in english - what should they do if suddenly they have to adress a bhikkhuni in Thai? There is no set pattern of Thai respect how to behave to a bhikkhuni, maybe they wouldn't just not know how to behave, bow, address and speak and even how to think about her. And the same for any Thai who became bhikkhuni. Maybe she just wouldn't know what to identify with. She never saw a Thai bhikkhuni, and thus she wouldn't know what to be, she has no role model she can act according to.
In the West we would just say: "construe a ceremony and adress her in a female form of bhante" and that would be it. Life would go on as usual. There would be no need for all the complicated and sublte changes in the culture itself. Every change would just grow by itself after a while just as it did when women were allowed to study. But as far as I understand it this won't work for the Thais.
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.
As such, as a westerner in a Chinese tradition, I usually have no problem at all with bhiksu/ni status or things like that. I don't have to put myself in a position whereby I am against the generally held Chinese Buddhist lay or monastic attitudes towards these things.
So, again, not a matter of "Asian", because it an issue where there are several very different "Asian" points of view on the subject.