State control of the Sangha

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State control of the Sangha

Postby Jayantha-NJ » Fri Feb 21, 2014 1:31 am

[Split out of this topic: Theravada robes] mikenz66

Bhante if you don't mind me hijacking the thread a little for a somewhat related topic since we are talking about Bangkok. I'm reading "Forest Recollections" currently and learning about the last 100 years of Thailand monastic history with the two sects and Bangkok attempting to control monastics and the populace and all this. it just seems so... un buddhist to me to have this controlling central government of monastics making national rules like that even down to the color of the robes. it's hearing these kinds of things that are one of the reasons I have no desire to visit Thailand or Sri Lanka.

what kind of "enforcements" do they have for monks who follow the vinaya, but not necessarily the government rules? and why do the monks allow such control over their lives? It's just all kind of confusing and disheartening to me, as someone with much respect for monastics and who is planning to renounce.
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Re: Theravada robes

Postby James the Giant » Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:12 am

Jayantha-NJ wrote:Bhante if you don't mind me hijacking the thread a little for a somewhat related topic since we are talking about Bangkok. I'm reading "Forest Recollections" currently and learning about the last 100 years of Thailand monastic history with the two sects and Bangkok attempting to control monastics and the populace and all this. it just seems so... un buddhist to me to have this controlling central government of monastics making national rules like that even down to the color of the robes. it's hearing these kinds of things that are one of the reasons I have no desire to visit Thailand or Sri Lanka.

what kind of "enforcements" do they have for monks who follow the vinaya, but not necessarily the government rules? and why do the monks allow such control over their lives? It's just all kind of confusing and disheartening to me, as someone with much respect for monastics and who is planning to renounce.

Wow coincidence... I was going to start a new thread about this question this very evening.
Would you mind if we started a whole new topic on it?
You could do it or I could do it.

The questions I was going to ask are similar to yours but include where this Supreme Sangha Council gets its authority, and why the monks go along with it. For example recently they threatened to disrobe a monk for helping organise the protests in Bangkok. How can a monk be forcibly disrobed for non parajika things? I was under the impression that even parajika offenses required the offending monk to disrobe himself.
They also threatened disrobing for monks who hitch-hiked.
Is their authority grounded in the suttas, or it's it a purely secular thing designed to exert state control?
If the latter, why do monks tolerate it, or even cooperate or support it?
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Re: Theravada robes

Postby James the Giant » Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:17 am

And why don't they tackle the serious stuff, such as monks being involved in sex abuse, child abuse, , let alone other such things like selling amulets and charms, and telling the future.
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Re: Theravada robes

Postby Mkoll » Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:24 am

Jayantha-NJ wrote:Bhante if you don't mind me hijacking the thread a little for a somewhat related topic since we are talking about Bangkok. I'm reading "Forest Recollections" currently and learning about the last 100 years of Thailand monastic history with the two sects and Bangkok attempting to control monastics and the populace and all this. it just seems so... un buddhist to me to have this controlling central government of monastics making national rules like that even down to the color of the robes. it's hearing these kinds of things that are one of the reasons I have no desire to visit Thailand or Sri Lanka.

what kind of "enforcements" do they have for monks who follow the vinaya, but not necessarily the government rules? and why do the monks allow such control over their lives? It's just all kind of confusing and disheartening to me, as someone with much respect for monastics and who is planning to renounce.


Prof. Gombrich's theorizes in his book Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo that the monkhood has needed state support in order to survive. I can't summarize his argument and I don't have the book with me. But one of the reasons he gave is that when the monks kick out another monk from the Sangha, they have no way of actually enforcing it. So the king or government steps in and takes care of business.

And if you look at the big religions in the world today, all have or have had massive state support. State support seems endemic to a successful religion, at least at some point in time. Even during the Buddha's life, the Sangha had state support. And its easy to deduce (and observe by studying history) that if monks or religious elites become corrupt, they will collude with politicians. Those two are the most powerful social forces in human life: the state and the religion. Power corrupts.

I'll end with saying that we're looking at this from a Western perspective where separation of Church and State has been enshrined for hundreds of years, at least in the US. Societies without this have a much more continuous social system where its harder to differentiate where one function ends and the other beings.

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If mods want to move these conversations to another thread, please do so.
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Re: Theravada robes

Postby Sokehi » Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:30 pm

this whole clergy thing in thailand .... moreso with that apparent massive influence by the dhammakaya ... seems to be very deluded. In what way is the western forest sangha dependent/independent from such rulings, and I don't mean "just" the robes color?
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What does womanhood matter at all, when the mind is concentrated well, when knowledge flows on steadily as one sees correctly into Dhamma. One to whom it might occur, ‘I am a woman’ or ‘I am a man’ or ‘I’m anything at all’ is fit for Mara to address. – SN 5.2

If they take what's yours, tell yourself that you're making it a gift.
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Re: Theravada robes

Postby Jayantha-NJ » Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:40 pm

James the Giant wrote:
Jayantha-NJ wrote:Bhante if you don't mind me hijacking the thread a little for a somewhat related topic since we are talking about Bangkok. I'm reading "Forest Recollections" currently and learning about the last 100 years of Thailand monastic history with the two sects and Bangkok attempting to control monastics and the populace and all this. it just seems so... un buddhist to me to have this controlling central government of monastics making national rules like that even down to the color of the robes. it's hearing these kinds of things that are one of the reasons I have no desire to visit Thailand or Sri Lanka.

what kind of "enforcements" do they have for monks who follow the vinaya, but not necessarily the government rules? and why do the monks allow such control over their lives? It's just all kind of confusing and disheartening to me, as someone with much respect for monastics and who is planning to renounce.

Wow coincidence... I was going to start a new thread about this question this very evening.
Would you mind if we started a whole new topic on it?
You could do it or I could do it.

The questions I was going to ask are similar to yours but include where this Supreme Sangha Council gets its authority, and why the monks go along with it. For example recently they threatened to disrobe a monk for helping organise the protests in Bangkok. How can a monk be forcibly disrobed for non parajika things? I was under the impression that even parajika offenses required the offending monk to disrobe himself.
They also threatened disrobing for monks who hitch-hiked.
Is their authority grounded in the suttas, or it's it a purely secular thing designed to exert state control?
If the latter, why do monks tolerate it, or even cooperate or support it?


yes lets make another topic :), I'll let you do it as you may be a bit more knowledgeable and qualified to ask it correctly.

also the first inklings I had of this kind of stuff was when Ajahn Brahm was "excommunicated".... I thought to myself WTF? that only happens in Catholicism and is based on your eternal soul going to hell.. how does that work in Buddhism? lol... then I came to realize that humans are humans regardless of religion or tradition or practice... oi.


Mkoll wrote:
Jayantha-NJ wrote:Bhante if you don't mind me hijacking the thread a little for a somewhat related topic since we are talking about Bangkok. I'm reading "Forest Recollections" currently and learning about the last 100 years of Thailand monastic history with the two sects and Bangkok attempting to control monastics and the populace and all this. it just seems so... un buddhist to me to have this controlling central government of monastics making national rules like that even down to the color of the robes. it's hearing these kinds of things that are one of the reasons I have no desire to visit Thailand or Sri Lanka.

what kind of "enforcements" do they have for monks who follow the vinaya, but not necessarily the government rules? and why do the monks allow such control over their lives? It's just all kind of confusing and disheartening to me, as someone with much respect for monastics and who is planning to renounce.


Prof. Gombrich's theorizes in his book Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo that the monkhood has needed state support in order to survive. I can't summarize his argument and I don't have the book with me. But one of the reasons he gave is that when the monks kick out another monk from the Sangha, they have no way of actually enforcing it. So the king or government steps in and takes care of business.

And if you look at the big religions in the world today, all have or have had massive state support. State support seems endemic to a successful religion, at least at some point in time. Even during the Buddha's life, the Sangha had state support. And its easy to deduce (and observe by studying history) that if monks or religious elites become corrupt, they will collude with politicians. Those two are the most powerful social forces in human life: the state and the religion. Power corrupts.

I'll end with saying that we're looking at this from a Western perspective where separation of Church and State has been enshrined for hundreds of years, at least in the US. Societies without this have a much more continuous social system where its harder to differentiate where one function ends and the other beings.
.


the needing state support to survive thing is interesting. As far as looking at this "through a western perspective".. I'd rather like to think I'm attempting to look at this through a vinaya/pali sutta perspective, but it is hard for us to escape our backgrounds of course. Yes the Buddha set it up so that elder monks played an important role in growing the sangha, but I'd like to see how something like how the sangha is setup in Thailand fits into that original message. I'm certainly no scholar or expert on the matter but it doesn't seem to jive with my perception and perspective of what I do know.
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Re: Theravada robes

Postby appicchato » Fri Feb 21, 2014 9:40 pm

Thai monks are, first, human...then Thai...then monks...that's basically how one can see where this stuff comes from...
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Re: Theravada robes

Postby Sokehi » Fri Feb 21, 2014 10:03 pm

Jayantha-NJ wrote:
also the first inklings I had of this kind of stuff was when Ajahn Brahm was "excommunicated".... I thought to myself WTF? that only happens in Catholicism and is based on your eternal soul going to hell.. how does that work in Buddhism? lol... then I came to realize that humans are humans regardless of religion or tradition or practice... oi.


He didn't get excommunicated from the "religion". His monastery lost the status of being a branch monastery of wat pah pong. That's it I guess and as far as I know (offtopic). Might be bad enough but that's certainly not to be called excommunication in the catholicist way. Besides that I'm pro bhikkuni ordinations.
Get the wanting out of waiting

What does womanhood matter at all, when the mind is concentrated well, when knowledge flows on steadily as one sees correctly into Dhamma. One to whom it might occur, ‘I am a woman’ or ‘I am a man’ or ‘I’m anything at all’ is fit for Mara to address. – SN 5.2

If they take what's yours, tell yourself that you're making it a gift.
Otherwise there will be no end to the animosity. - Ajahn Fuang Jotiko

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Re: State control of the Sangha

Postby gavesako » Mon Feb 24, 2014 8:20 am

If you wish to understand this whole issue, rather than just reading Sutta translations you should delve into the history of Buddhism in SE Asia starting with king Ashoka who first set the precedent for state patronage in exchange for state control of Buddhism. All the later rulers took him as an example basically.
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Re: State control of the Sangha

Postby James the Giant » Fri Feb 28, 2014 11:41 pm

This article, first posted by Cooran in another thread, is a really good read for those interested in the State/Sangha organisation.
http://www.prachatai.com/english/node/3883
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Re: State control of the Sangha

Postby suriyopama » Wed Mar 05, 2014 4:25 am

Jayantha-NJ wrote:... it's hearing these kinds of things that are one of the reasons I have no desire to visit Thailand or Sri Lanka.


Please, don't be discouraged. All the monasteries of the Thai Forest Tradition that I have visited so far are a source of inspiration for the practice.

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Re: State control of the Sangha

Postby gavesako » Wed Mar 05, 2014 6:52 pm

Professor Tambiah’s second Thai study, World Conquerer and World Renouncer (1976) examines Thai Buddhism from the opposite perspective. Whereas the first study took, in Tambiah own words, a “worm’s eye view”, the second adopts a “bird’s eye view, (“bird” and “worm” incidentally conveying to us the subtleties of evocation characteristic of Professor Tambiah’s writing). World Conquerer is a complex work of detailed historical documentation and ethnography that runs into 550 pages. I can here mention only one of its major facets, the distinction between two different types of polity, “centre-oriented” and “centralized”. The traditional polity of Thailand had no fixed centre or bounded territory. It consisted of a multiplicity of pulsating centres whose fortunes waxed and waned. In this system of inherent instability, a conquering hero emerges periodically from some corner of the political universe, and succeeds in bringing a considerable expanse of territory under “one umbrella”, without ever gaining effective control, but claiming ritual dominion. This claim is made on the model of the ideal Buddhist ruler, the “wheel-rolling emperor” (cakravarti) who, according to myth, conquers the directions by rolling the auspicious wheel in each direction, only to renounce the territory thus conquered, giving it back to the local ruler who in return accepts the wheel-roller’s ritual sovereignty. Parallels with Sri Lanka are clear, as in the case of Dutugamunu, emerging from the peripheral south, and marching on victoriously to bring the whole island under “one umbrella”. Such periodic concentrations of power enabled the king to support the Sangha economically and organizationally, giving rise to a pattern of simultaneous rise or fall in political and ecclesiastical fortunes. The effect on the Sangha is paradoxical: the king’s enhanced power meant that he could ensure the Sangha’s hierarchical authority, but it also gave him the ability to control the Sangha, for example, by staging “purifications” (sasanavisodhana).

In contrast to this centre-oriented polity with ritual dominion but no effective control, and no bounded territory, a centralized polity came into being as the Chakri kings established themselves in Bangkok in the nineteenth century. Economic and administrative measures were taken to strengthen the country as a centralized state. Such centralization meant the introduction of a modern rational bureaucracy to administer the entire the country. These formal measures have been followed up with state sponsored “rural development” programmes led by monks and located in peripheral regions inhabited by tribal peoples who do not subscribe to Buddhism. Implications of the transition from “centre-oriented” to “centralized” for the tribal groups and other minorities are clear: they enjoy only so much cultural autonomy as the centralized state is willing to confer. Later, in his work on Sri Lanka, Professor Tambiah was to pursue this theme further.

https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index. ... d-patriot/


You can download "World Conqueror World Renouncer" here: http://lib.freescienceengineering.org/v ... ?id=636407
World Conqueror and World Renouncer is the first comprehensive and authoritative work on the relationship between Buddhism and the polity (political organization) in Thailand. The book conveys the historical background necessary for full comprehension of the contemporary structural relationship between Buddhism, the sangha (monastic order), and the polity, including the historic institution of kingship. Professor Tambiah delineates the overall relationship, as postulated in early Buddhism, between the monk's otherworldly quest on one side and the this-worldly ordinating role of the monarchy on the other. He also examines the complementary and dialectical tensions that occur in this classical relationship, the king's duty to both protect and purify the sangha being a notable example.
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Re: State control of the Sangha

Postby Gabriel » Sat Mar 08, 2014 8:29 pm

Is the Thai forest tradition away from all those politics? From what I understood, the founder where always counter-cultural, they where going to the forest to escape from those political and hierarchical involvement. But they eventually formed Monastery, so, I guess, at some point, the government came to try to rule them. Do they got corrupted or if it is still fairly pure?
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Re: State control of the Sangha

Postby gavesako » Sun Mar 09, 2014 5:42 pm

It is no longer possible to live apart from the centre somewhere out in the jungle totally independently. The state Sangha system is rather bureaucratic and it is necessary to maintain good links with the centre in Bangkok. Just today, many of the forest monks (not Dhammayut) will be attending the funeral of Somdet Buddhajahn, the previous acting Sangharaja at Wat Saket who passed away last year.
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Re: State control of the Sangha

Postby Sokehi » Sun Mar 09, 2014 7:39 pm

I'm just curious, why not Dhammayut?
Get the wanting out of waiting

What does womanhood matter at all, when the mind is concentrated well, when knowledge flows on steadily as one sees correctly into Dhamma. One to whom it might occur, ‘I am a woman’ or ‘I am a man’ or ‘I’m anything at all’ is fit for Mara to address. – SN 5.2

If they take what's yours, tell yourself that you're making it a gift.
Otherwise there will be no end to the animosity. - Ajahn Fuang Jotiko

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Re: State control of the Sangha

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Mar 09, 2014 7:45 pm

Sokehi wrote:I'm just curious, why not Dhammayut?


Because Dhammayut have their own Sangharaja.
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Re: State control of the Sangha

Postby Sokehi » Sun Mar 09, 2014 8:14 pm

Ah I strangely thought both have the same. Thank you, silly me :D
Get the wanting out of waiting

What does womanhood matter at all, when the mind is concentrated well, when knowledge flows on steadily as one sees correctly into Dhamma. One to whom it might occur, ‘I am a woman’ or ‘I am a man’ or ‘I’m anything at all’ is fit for Mara to address. – SN 5.2

If they take what's yours, tell yourself that you're making it a gift.
Otherwise there will be no end to the animosity. - Ajahn Fuang Jotiko

https://www.youtube.com/user/Repeataarrr
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Re: State control of the Sangha

Postby gavesako » Mon Mar 10, 2014 8:22 am

The (Dhammayut) Sangharaja Phra Nyanasamvara has also recently passed away, but his funeral will take place a bit later on. While he was hospitalized, Somder Buddhajahn (Mahanikaya) was the acting Sangharaja. He was not very respected by the Dhammayut forest monks because Luangta Maha Boowa criticized him.
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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