"The Broken Buddha" by Ven.Dhammika and other scandals

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Jhana4
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by Jhana4 » Thu Jun 16, 2011 7:09 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Ah how unlike the more sophisticated laity in the west who spend their time on Buddhist forums.....
You are here posting in this thread too Valerie :). I do think that most DWers probably know more about the dhamma and meditate more than a number of people in those countries, if the situation is as how Venerable Dhammasika describes it. Have you read the book? Do you any opinion about it?
Last edited by Jhana4 on Thu Jun 16, 2011 7:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by Jhana4 » Thu Jun 16, 2011 7:15 pm

beeblebrox wrote:Good review, Jhana. I just want to point out one thing... the comparison between a Christian missionary and a Buddhist monk isn't really fair. I think that a Christian monk would be closer... and AFAIK they also don't really cater to the public, or even less so when compared to the average Buddhist monk (I could be wrong).
That is true about Christian monks, but I think Ven Dhammika's criticisms of Buddhist monks is fair as they also fill/are supposed to fill the role that Christian clergy do of transmitting the dhamma to the community. Christian monks never had that role. From what I read in the book, Christian monks don't make the same demands upon the community that Buddhist monks do either.
I think the real problem here is that the layperson part of the Sangha is also neglected... it's not just the monks. (Also, where do the monks come from?)
One of the points that stuck at to me was that Venerable Dhammika didn't hold either the laypeople or the Sangha ( in the book this was used to denote the monks only, at least by context ) solely responsible. He wrote that the problems of both were due to lack of proper education and fear of reprisals for going against the status quo.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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mikenz66
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Jun 16, 2011 7:54 pm

Jhana4 wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:Ah how unlike the more sophisticated laity in the west who spend their time on Buddhist forums.....
You are here posting in thread too Valerie :). I do think that most DWers probably know more about the dhamma and meditate more than a number of people in those countries if the situation is as how Venerable Dhammasika describes. Have you read the book? Do you any opinion about it?
Anyone who has spent any time at monasteries in the West or Asia would not be surprised that the vast majority who turn up on holidays appear to be only going through some motions and a significant proportion of the Sangha appear to in the same position. Clearly this is a worry if this translates into a decline.

I think what Sanghamitta is getting at is that it is very easy to overlook that some of those people that might easily be dismissed as "just making merit" are quietly living their lives according to the precepts, turning up early in the morning to feed the sangha, and doing low-key meditation practice.

For Buddhism to become truly established in the West it's my suspicion that "growing" more western people like that is more important than "knowing more about the Dhamma and meditating more". The Dhamma taught by the Buddha is a way of life, not just a collection of techniques. For it to survive I think there is a need a strong, large, laity to support the Sangha (and the laity who do have the good fortune to be able to put a lot of time into meditation or study).

I have a lot of admiration for the the Ajahn Chah western monasteries, so I'm not surprised they get a positive mention. They have been fortunate in being able to tap into ethnic support from Thai and Sri Lankan communities, and at the same time be attractive and welcoming to westerners (it helps having English-speaking Sangha!). Significantly, they have done that by taking a very traditional, back to basics, approach that doesn't alienate the support base.

:anjali:
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by Jhana4 » Thu Jun 16, 2011 8:08 pm

mikenz66 wrote: I think what Sanghamitta is getting at is that it is very easy to overlook that some of those people that might easily be dismissed as "just making merit" are quietly living their lives according to the precepts, turning up early in the morning to feed the sangha, and doing low-key meditation practice.
I don't see how you got that otherwise interesting point from her message. Getting back to the book, the author Venerable Dhammika who has lived in Asia and who spent time with Asians is of the view that most Buddhist lay people are not like that. They do not meditate, have told people like him that it is the province of monks and that they have been taught that by monks.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Jun 16, 2011 9:09 pm

Jhana4 wrote:
mikenz66 wrote: I think what Sanghamitta is getting at is that it is very easy to overlook that some of those people that might easily be dismissed as "just making merit" are quietly living their lives according to the precepts, turning up early in the morning to feed the sangha, and doing low-key meditation practice.
I don't see how you got that otherwise interesting point from her message. Getting back to the book, the author Venerable Dhammika who has lived in Asia and who spent time with Asians is of the view that most Buddhist lay people are not like that. They do not meditate, have told people like him that it is the province of monks and that they have been taught that by monks.
Yes, I'm not really contradicting that. My comments are based on the Asian lay people and bhikkhus that I know, here and in Thailand. As, I presume, are Sanghamitta's. There are certainly a significant number (quite possible the majority) of lay people and bhikhus who have completely lost the plot. However, there are a significant number who I think are essential to the future who are easily confused with the "lost the plot" group. A group who do a good job of practising dana, generosity, and occasional meditation according to the Dhamma. That group is essential to those who aspire to "serious practice" because they provide the support and example without which the Sangha and the "serious practitioners" would have no place to live or practice intensively. As Ven Dhammika says (P67 of http://www.buddhistische-gesellschaft-b ... dhanew.pdf)
Another potentially more serious problem is that all the Ajahn Chah monasteries in the West are largely dependant on funds from Thailand. If this money stops for some reason the movement may be unable to maintain itself.
(This may be inaccurate --- I'm not sure how much support comes from Thailand vs. local Thai and Sri Lankan communities).

In any case Ven Dhammika is quite right, the health of the Dhamma is dependent on sorting out issues with both lay people and ordained Sangha. This is not going to be easy. And I think that it's important not to misjudge the range of lay practitioners who are actually practising very well by using specific meditation practices as the only yardstick.

:anjali:
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by Sanghamitta » Thu Jun 16, 2011 9:14 pm

I think Jnana4 that people have all sorts of ways of working through their doubts and fears and confusions, and thats OK. It wont go any faster than it will go.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by Jhana4 » Thu Jun 16, 2011 10:26 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:I think Jnana4 that people have all sorts of ways of working through their doubts and fears and confusions, and thats OK. It wont go any faster than it will go.
No disrespect, but I don't understand your comment, nor how it relates to your earlier comment or my replies to it. My enthusiasm is for discussing this book so please accept my apology for not continuing with this subthread past this point.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by BlackBird » Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:23 pm

Jhana4 wrote:
According to the Venerable S. Dhammika the Asian Theravada laity is only concerned with making merit. That is, ensuring a good rebirth for themselves by making donations to the monks. They grow up being taught that the maximum amount of merit is to be had by giving to monks, so few make donations or do volunteer work for others. The rest of the time, outside of holidays the laity is unconcerned about Buddhism. They do not read the suttas. They do not meditate. They are discouraged from doing so by the monks. They believe both things are not for ordinary people, but only for monks.
From my experience this is mostly true. The prevailing view in Sri Lanka that I witnessed was that lay people felt that meditation was for monks. A lay person's practice was almost entirely concerned with making merit. There are lay people in Sri Lanka that meditate and take an interest in learning about the Buddha's teachings, and fortunately in recent years this demographic is increasing.

Regarding the sect that only allows the highest caste (and white folks) to ordain - The Siam Nikaya - They do not have a good reputation amongst the educated laity. That's not to say that all Siam Nikaya monks are bad eggs, but that a high standard of vinaya is not followed and meditation is practiced by very few. It's no great loss for those Sri Lankans not of the highest caste because those who are serious about Dhamma would probably seek out monasteries with good reputations. Monasteries with good reputations for meditation and learning in Sri Lanka are almost exclusively of the Ramanna and Amarapura Nikayas.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by retrofuturist » Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:28 pm

Greetings,

There is a big difference between making merit so that "I" may have a good rebirth (in fact, this isn't much different to Christianity - being rewarded in the afterlife for good done in this life - combined with the fear of punishment of being prodded by flaming pitchforks in hell) and making merit as part of an integrated program of sila, bhavana and panna... in other words, making merit as part of, and support for, the fulfilment of the Noble Eightfold Path.

I have no idea which is more prevalent amongst Asian laity, so I won't speculate.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"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: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by DNS » Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:39 pm

BlackBird wrote: Regarding the sect that only allows the highest caste (and white folks) to ordain - The Siam Nikaya - They do not have a good reputation amongst the educated laity. That's not to say that all Siam Nikaya monks are bad eggs, but that a high standard of vinaya is not followed and meditation is practiced by very few.
Speaking of the Siam Nikaya, the North American leader is Bhante Gunaratana. He has an interesting autobiography:

http://www.bhavanasociety.org/resource/ ... _bhante_g/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Image

In his autobiography [spoiler alert] he mentions how he was addicted to betel nuts (a mild stimulant) as were most monks back then and also had migraines. When he mentioned that he was going to try and practice meditation to help alleviate his migraines, other monks thought he was nuts (they did not meditate so saw no value in it). So this autobiography raises some of the issues found in Broken Buddha, too. He of course, did overcome betel nuts and the migraines and became a scholar and practice-oriented famous monk.

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by BlackBird » Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:48 pm

Thanks David, that looks like a really interesting read :)
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:51 pm

retrofuturist wrote: There is a big difference between making merit so that "I" may have a good rebirth (in fact, this isn't much different to Christianity - being rewarded in the afterlife for good done in this life - combined with the fear of punishment of being prodded by flaming pitchforks in hell) and making merit as part of an integrated program of sila, bhavana and panna... in other words, making merit as part of, and support for, the fulfilment of the Noble Eightfold Path.

I have no idea which is more prevalent amongst Asian laity, so I won't speculate.
Yes, that's a very good way of putting it and something to bear in mind when trying to assess the heath of the laity. I have no idea of percentages, but there are certainly people who to me are clearly the "making merit as part of, and support for, the fulfilment of the Noble Eightfold Path" category but don't spend much time reading suttas or meditating.

:anjali:
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by Jhana4 » Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:59 pm

Thanks for the post David. I believe environment makes or breaks most people. Every once in a while I encounter someone with qualities they should not have given where they started from. Like a flower growing out of the crack in a sidewalk. It seems like Bhante G is one of them.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

Jhana4
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Location: U.S.A., Northeast

Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by Jhana4 » Sun Aug 14, 2011 4:43 pm

THE BROKEN BUDDHA
Critical Reflections on Theravada and a Plea for a New Buddhism
by the Venerable S. Dhammika


In a nutshell, the book is by a western born monk and is about criticisms of Theravada Buddhism as he saw it practiced in Asia ( Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma primarily). Venerable S Dhammika is still a monk. I was thinking about this book the other day. First, I was recalling what he wrote ( and what I have observed in ethnic Buddhist communities in the US ) that very few monks are interested in meditation. Some even dismiss it as napping, an activity for old people and discourage it. In his book Venerable Dhammika describes what he thinks a reformed order of Buddhist monks might look like. He includes many pie in the sky rules on his wish list ( if there was such an order, I would support it ). One thing he doesn't mention is meditation.

The way I see it the whole point of being a monk is to get increased time in meditation to do the work of unbinding. Additionally, it is my belief that "the dhamma", the Buddhist spirit, is rooted in and flows out of meditation.

What do you think? If a bunch of people got together to assemble a reformed order of Buddhism and monastics do you think one of the rules should be a minimum weekly amount of time spent in meditation?

How about at least 14 hours a week ( 1 hour in the morning, 1 hour in the evening ) if you want to stay in the order?

Many devoted lay people can and do that much, so it isn't beyond a monk who wants to be a scholar or some kind of community organizer.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Post by Kim OHara » Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:59 pm

daverupa wrote:Mostly correct. The best comparison is between a Buddhist monastic and a Catholic friar.
Or mediaeval Christianity in Europe and modern Theravadin Buddhism in southern Asia.

:namaste:
Kim

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