Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby zavk » Fri Jul 08, 2011 11:53 am

Thanks for the links Bhante. This is something I'm very interested in and have written some longwinded posts about Protestant Buddhism in the past. The author of the blog says that the book, The Making of Buddhist Modernism, 'has changed the way I think about Buddhism more than any book I’ve read in years'.

I too highly recommend the book to anyone who wishes to be more critical reflexive about the cultural influences on Buddhism in the past two century--IMO we contemporary Buddhists have a responsibility to be more critically aware of this. The book goes some way towards addressing some of the recurring discussions here about modern/contemporary/Western Buddhism; it does demonstrate how these sometimes heated discussions are really quite beside the point.
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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby nathan » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:12 pm

Also on this topic:

Western Self, Asian Other:
Modernity, Authenticity, and Nostalgia for "Tradition" in Buddhist Studies

by Natalie E. Quli

Journal of Buddhist Ethics

Volume 16, 2009

http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethi ... e-16-2009/
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:38 pm

Thanks Bhante,

As some of the comments reveal, the author tends to take a rather one-sided (western colonial) view of the issues (all knowledge of meditation had been lost in the 1800's and it took western influence for it to be reinvented). However, his discussions are definitely thought-provoking and worth reading.

:anjali:
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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby gavesako » Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:46 pm

Yes, I also think he over-states this point. It is hard to know, but I would think that monks and laypeople did meditate in those days, although perhaps not strictly according to the Satipatthana Sutta. Even these days, there are lots of laypeople in Theravada countries who will do some form of meditation, not based on "reformed Buddhism" ideas. But what is officially presented and taught tends to be the version based on the scriptures.
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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:00 pm

gavesako wrote:Yes, I also think he over-states this point. It is hard to know, but I would think that monks and laypeople did meditate in those days,...

Yes, I think it's hard to say, especially from such a distance in time and space. Even today, I think it is very easy for outsiders to misjudge what Dhamma is actually going on in various institutions.

:anjali:
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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby zavk » Sat Jul 09, 2011 12:49 am

Hi friends

If I may extend upon some of those blog posts:

It is certainly true that Western colonialism was influential in shaping some of the key characteristics of Buddhism we have today, but it is important to note that Asian Buddhists didn't passively absorb Western interpretations, and it is certainly important NOT to think that Asian Buddhists were 'in the dark' until Western knowledge came along to 'restore' a proper understanding. Reflecting colonial paternalism and Eurocentric arrogance, Western interpreters of Buddhism of the time did take such a condescending view towards Asian Buddhists, but with the benefit of historical hindsight we really shouldn't slip into such an attitude today. Without going so far as to accuse the author of slipping into such an attitude, I'd like to quickly highlight the AGENCY of Asian Buddhists and their roles in rearticulating Buddhism.

The book The Making of Buddhist Modernism stresses clearly at the start that Buddhist modernism is a ‘cocreation of Asians, Europeans, and Americans.’ Though it was the case that the West's 'discovery' of Buddhism (through a somewhat fetishistic fascination with 'the Orient') led to a heavily textualised approach to Buddhism which ignored and denigrated the practices of Asian Buddhists. Emphasising its 'philosophical' and 'ethical' aspects over its 'religious aspects, such an approach prompted a reconsideration of Buddhism in Asian lands. Asian Buddhists, however, were NOT merely capitulating to Western ideals. Rather, as Gombrich notes, in the case of Ceylon for example the trend of Protestant Buddhism developed as ‘both a protest against the Protestant missionaries (and the colonial power behind them) and in many ways a mirror image of their attitude and activities.’ Gombrich and Obeyesekere also notes, ‘Religion is privatized and internalized: the truly significant is not what takes place at a public celebration or in a ritual, but what happens inside one’s own mind or soul.’ Protestant Buddhism, in other words, was a means for the colonised and marginalised Asian Buddhists of Ceylon to resist imperial domination over their culture, beliefs, and practices--interestingly, by mirroring the attitudes and activities of the colonial West, but reconfiguring them for their own nationalist interests.

These developments influenced the way meditation is understood and practiced. Indeed if not for such developments--which laicised Buddhist teachings and shifted spiritual authority from the monastic clergy to 'individual experience'--meditation would not have been made accessible to a wide audience. But it is important to stress that we shouldn't attribute too much influence to the West, nor think that it was the West that came along to 'restore' meditation practice. To adopt such a view is to slip back into arrogant, condescending attitudes. Rather, it was the coming together of various conditions--and conditions belong to no one--that prompted such a development.

:anjali: :group: :smile:
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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Jul 09, 2011 6:12 am

Hi all,

Many western lay people (Olcot) and monks (Bikkhu Bodhi, Nyanamoli, Nyanaponika etc) did rejuvenate Buddhism in Sri Lanka and from there to the world. Even in ancient times Sri Lanka wads hub for Buddhist rejuvenation - we sent 'missionaries' to other countries like Thailand, when the local Buddhism was faltering, and brought it alive again. From what I have seen, since the introduction of Burmese meditation techniques to Sri Lanka in the 1950's, there has been a massive surge of interest. You could say that the colonial 'protestant' movement set the back drop for it by introducing everything from Buddhist schools, Buddhist Sunday school, Buddhist caroling and Buddhist festivities in which everyone could enjoy themselves! In any case, cross fertilisation of ideas and methods is always (well, I say 'always'..) helpful, at least in this case. It must also borne in mind that this article also recognises the detrimental effect of colonialism on Buddhism- it was nearly wiped out in Sri Lanka. But the dharma has a way of resurfacing. I think with the advent if world wide instant communication and travel, Buddhism faces major challenges and opportunities. I think they need to reconcile their differences, become better organised and much more proactive.
:anjali:

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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby gavesako » Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:57 pm

A good example: the Irish-born monk U Dhammaloka, a truly protestant Buddhist:

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opi ... 31516.html
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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby gavesako » Wed Sep 21, 2011 9:44 am

This is a related article:

Bourgeois Buddhists: Do Americans Miss the Point of Buddhism?
Owen Flanagan, Ph.D.

This question arises in a serious way for American Buddhists. What kind of Buddhists are American Buddhists? ... Most Americans who say that they are Buddhist mean they meditate, possibly regularly. The code for this is to say that one "practices." If you ask why a person who "practices" practices, typical answers involve vague new-agey and self-satisfied slogans about "centering," "mind clearing," serenity -- possibly, if they are really bullshiting that they are "getting in touch with their Buddha nature." If you ask what kind of meditation they do, most only know about mindfulness meditation, which unlike lovingkindness meditation, is almost entirely self-centered. ... Americans love happiness. We have a right to pursue it. If a spiritual tradition offers happiness, we are all over it. But really, how important is happiness? ... One wonders whether American Buddhists, especially those who think that Buddhism is largely about meditation, and the personal psychological goods, the self-satisfaction on offer from sitting in, what has become, a laughably bourgeois pose, aren't missing something essential about Buddhism, about what Buddhist philosophy is mainly and mostly about, namely, wisdom and goodness.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/owen-flan ... 64188.html
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby danieLion » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:57 am

gavesako wrote:This is a related article:

Bourgeois Buddhists: Do Americans Miss the Point of Buddhism?
Owen Flanagan, Ph.D.

This question arises in a serious way for American Buddhists. What kind of Buddhists are American Buddhists? ... Most Americans who say that they are Buddhist mean they meditate, possibly regularly. The code for this is to say that one "practices." If you ask why a person who "practices" practices, typical answers involve vague new-agey and self-satisfied slogans about "centering," "mind clearing," serenity -- possibly, if they are really bullshiting that they are "getting in touch with their Buddha nature." If you ask what kind of meditation they do, most only know about mindfulness meditation, which unlike lovingkindness meditation, is almost entirely self-centered. ... Americans love happiness. We have a right to pursue it. If a spiritual tradition offers happiness, we are all over it. But really, how important is happiness? ... One wonders whether American Buddhists, especially those who think that Buddhism is largely about meditation, and the personal psychological goods, the self-satisfaction on offer from sitting in, what has become, a laughably bourgeois pose, aren't missing something essential about Buddhism, about what Buddhist philosophy is mainly and mostly about, namely, wisdom and goodness.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/owen-flan ... 64188.html

:goodpost: Bhante.
I'll get back to the thread after I read your links.
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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby daverupa » Wed Sep 21, 2011 12:13 pm

The article makes overarching population claims, uses anecdotes as data, and fails to distinguish Mahayana and Theravada practitioners accordingly. It's a sloppy editorial piece, and while it asks a good question ("Do most American Buddhists know about the philosophy or enact the moral message of Buddhism?") it fails to answer it according to social scientific rigor, which therefore leads to sweeping claims based on "in my experience".
    "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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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Sep 21, 2011 1:04 pm

Ok, sure, many if not most Buddhists in Asia are not that focused on meditation. I'll buy that.

But what are they focused on? Karma and rebirth -- which he dismisses as "hocus pocus" in paragraph 5. So I don't quite see the point of the cultural comparison. He seems to undercut his own argument.
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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby danieLion » Thu Sep 22, 2011 11:28 am

The blogs were kind of bumpy and I'll take your words on the HP article and forgo reading it. One of the blogs mentioned Brad Warner which made me wonder things like is he Protestant Hardcore Zen ? ...wait, Punk's a reaction to the Protestant ethic? wait, he's an American and probably has lots of Protestant values by cultural conditioning, so maybe he is Protestant Punk Zen or some shit like that...?
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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby gavesako » Wed Dec 07, 2011 6:47 am

Another nice summary:

A Tale of Three Buddhist Modernisms
http://drwillajahn.blogspot.com/2011/10 ... rnism.html
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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Dec 08, 2011 5:46 am

gavesako wrote:Another nice summary:

A Tale of Three Buddhist Modernisms
http://drwillajahn.blogspot.com/2011/10 ... rnism.html

Thanks, gavesako,
Some food for thought there. Here's some (if only a snack :tongue: ) in return.

In defence of "Modern Buddhism" (if it needs defending, which I'm not too sure about), how else could anyone have introduced Buddhism to the west except in a stripped-down form? There is no way that any single teacher in any western country could have gotten ten or twenty curious but dubious westerners to adopt the whole-of-culture Thai, Chinese or Japanese Buddhism, because the students would have had to adopt the whole culture - while still living in their own. It doesn't work - ask any immigrant.
So what does the teacher do? Teaches what is (or what he sees as) central and authoritative, and as much of the rest as the students can easily assimilate.
If we could go back 1400 years or so and watch the first Buddhist teachers in China, I think we would see just the same.
I was going to suggest that the Christian missionaries in the Pacific Islands in the 19th century would have done the same but it's not quite true - but the only reason it's not true is that they were in a position of economic/military power.

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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 23, 2012 3:35 am

I came across the "meanginess" blog again, today, thanks to this post: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=12903


Problems with scripture
http://meaningness.wordpress.com/2011/0 ... scripture/
  • Traditional Buddhism: Scripture is mostly ignored; the monastic sangha has ultimate spiritual authority
  • Protestant Buddhism: Scripture is the ultimate authority
  • Politically-correct Buddhism: Scripture is mostly ignored; each individual has ultimate spiritual authority

Bad ideas from dead Germans
http://meaningness.com/metablog/bad-ide ... ad-germans
Outside of traditional Christianity, most of what counts as religion and “spirituality” in America nowadays is actually recycled German academic philosophy from two hundred years ago. This might sound absurd, or irrelevant. In this metablog series, I hope to show that it is true, and that it matters.


:anjali:
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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby gavesako » Sat Sep 08, 2012 9:51 am

Interesting article:

The History and Complexity of Buddhism in Asia

http://crcs.ugm.ac.id/interview/31/The- ... -Asia.html


"Buddhism is merely a minor belief system, a Buddhist is just the same as a Pacifist, and Buddhists are peaceful people..." that is what people in Indonesia or some other countries, where Buddhists are considered a minor community, say about Buddhism. But, what would happen when Buddhists are the major society in a country as in Sri Lanka and Thailand? How do they deal with one another? How do they manage conflict amongst them? How do they deal with diversity?

This would be more interesting if we extend the questions to a conversation about the internal issues of Buddhist communities nowadays. For instance, how are Buddhist knowledge and customs transferred from one nation to another, like the case of Buddhist education and ordination for monks and nuns? Are there any problems on power and gender relation in this regard? And, why do Buddhists consider the concept of "Early Buddhism" and "Engaged Buddhism" as alternative solutions in their everyday life in facing contemporary world and its complexity?

Those questions have been answered by A/P Anne M. Blackburn, an expert on the history of Buddhism in Asia, in an interview by Jimmy Marcos Immanuel. They talked about Blackburn's framework in her research on Buddhism in Asia. They also talked about Buddhism in the colonial and post-colonial periods, some issues of Buddhism in diversity, Buddhists' knowledge transfer, and gender and power relations in Buddhism. It ended with a conversation about the concept of "early Buddhism" and "engaged Buddhism." Below is the interview between Jimmy (CRCS) and Blackburn (AMB).
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby m0rl0ck » Sat Sep 08, 2012 10:28 am

gavesako wrote:This is a related article:

Bourgeois Buddhists: Do Americans Miss the Point of Buddhism?
Owen Flanagan, Ph.D.

This question arises in a serious way for American Buddhists. What kind of Buddhists are American Buddhists? ... Most Americans who say that they are Buddhist mean they meditate, possibly regularly. The code for this is to say that one "practices." If you ask why a person who "practices" practices, typical answers involve vague new-agey and self-satisfied slogans about "centering," "mind clearing," serenity -- possibly, if they are really bullshiting that they are "getting in touch with their Buddha nature." If you ask what kind of meditation they do, most only know about mindfulness meditation, which unlike lovingkindness meditation, is almost entirely self-centered. ... Americans love happiness. We have a right to pursue it. If a spiritual tradition offers happiness, we are all over it. But really, how important is happiness? ... One wonders whether American Buddhists, especially those who think that Buddhism is largely about meditation, and the personal psychological goods, the self-satisfaction on offer from sitting in, what has become, a laughably bourgeois pose, aren't missing something essential about Buddhism, about what Buddhist philosophy is mainly and mostly about, namely, wisdom and goodness.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/owen-flan ... 64188.html



You know when i read this i had just finished "practicing" and was feeling somewhat tranquil and, dare i say it, happy :jumping:
I have no idea what sort of stick this guy has up his butt on the subject of happiness, but the fact of the matter is that happy people are much more likely to be kind people and much less likely to break the precepts.

Edit: Reading this article a second and third time im struck at the differences between what he says and my own experience. Most of the american buddhists i have met on the internet, at the local zendo and at the local bca franchise, seemed to be quite aware of buddhisms teachings of anatta and compassion. He just seems like a sourpuss to me. Maybe he should practice more :)
Last edited by m0rl0ck on Sat Sep 08, 2012 11:13 am, edited 2 times in total.
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Protestant Buddhism in Asia and the West

Postby m0rl0ck » Sat Sep 08, 2012 10:49 am

gavesako wrote:Some interesting ideas about recent historical developments on this blog:

http://meaningness.wordpress.com/2011/0 ... -buddhism/



Some of this is just obviously wrong, at least for traditional chan/ zen buddhism, he should at least make the distinction what kind of buddhism he is talking about. Given that the guy doesnt seem to know what he is talking about, i dont think i need to read that blog any more.
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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